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Jesse Little, a third-generation NASCAR driver, broke into the K&N Pro Series at Richmond International Raceway in April of 2012 where he set a record as the youngest driver to ever qualify for a series event.
"Every time we go to Richmond I will always remember the day I made the field for my first NASCAR K&N Pro Series event and set the record as the youngest driver to do so. I know it's been broken over time but for me it's something that has led Team Little Racing and myself to where we're at today. I dreamed of racing in one of NASCAR's top series and following in my dad's footsteps as K&N Pro Series driver and it all started at Richmond. I can't wait to add to our accomplishments at this track," Little said.
Little heads to Richmond as the reigning NASCR K&N Pro Series East Rookie of the Year and fresh off his first top-5 finish of the 2014 season. That run allowed the 17-year old to crack the top-10 in championship points standings as the series heads to Friday's running of the Blue Ox 100.
Playing a role in Little's preparation for the Blue Ox 100 is the team's need to maintain the momentum of strong finishes.
"To win races and be in a position for the championship we know that it will take good runs each week. Our race at Greenville-Pickens (on March 22) got us moving in that direction as we had a solid car all night long. We're going to go into Richmond very prepared after multiple testing days over the last two weeks and expect a solid performance. That first series victory is just around the corner for this team and Richmond would be a great place to make that happen," Little said.
Known for being one of the most exiting tracks on the series schedule, Little's approach to Richmond will be focused on carrying speed through the corners, he explained.
"Keeping as much speed in the car through the corners is important. If you lose momentum and have to get back to the gas later then everyone else you're just going to lose ground. With only 100 laps you don't' have the option to pit for adjustments. Posting a top 5 in qualifying then having a solid race set-up in the car is what our NASCAR Technical Institute team will work on this weekend."
Jesse Little PR
While the venue is changing for the third time, one thing that remains constant for the seventh annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown is that Kyle Busch was one of the first competitors to commit to the event and is sure to be at the top of the list of the names to beat. Busch collected victories in the first two runnings of the event, which is held to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at the Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU, when it was held at Southside Speedway in Midlothian, Va. and dominated last year's race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway (RIR). Now, "Rowdy" will strap into his No. 51 JEGS.com Camry Thursday night at South Boston (Va.) Speedway for 200 laps around the .4-mile oval in an attempt to claim his fourth Showdown win at the third different venue.
"I'm looking forward to getting to South Boston on Thursday and seeing how our JEGS.com Camry stacks up against a great field that includes NASCAR drivers like Denny (Hamlin) and Matt (Kenseth) competing in a different type of vehicle and some of the guys that race these cars every weekend like Lee Pulliam, Peyton Sellers and C.E. Falk," said Busch, the event's only multiple-race winner. "I think we have a strong shot to get our fourth Showdown victory, but regardless it will be a great event because of all the money it raises for the Denny Hamlin Foundation to contribute to the research in the fight for people with Cystic Fibrosis."
Last year Busch, who was driving the first-ever late model stock car built in-house by KBM Chassis, put his No. 51 Camry at the front of the field on lap eight of the 75-lap race and never looked back en route to his first win in the event since it was moved from Southside Speedway to RIR.
The Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) late model team will be brining that same chassis to this year's event. With Busch partaking in NASCAR Nationwide Series practice at RIR on Thursday afternoon, Erik Jones will get behind the wheel of the No. 51 JEGS.com Camry for the lone practice session on Wednesday and the first two of three sessions on Thursday. Jones, the youngest winner in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history, also raced the same Toyota in the weekly Twin 75 races earlier this month at South Boston, finishing eighth and third respectively.
"After renting cars for the Showdown for a few years, last year we decided to build the first-ever late model stock out of the KBM chassis shop," Busch said. "The guys did an awesome job with it and all of their hard work paid off as I was able to get my first win in the event since they moved it from Southside to Richmond. This year we're bringing that same Camry with a body from Five Star Race Car Bodies and an UltraTech engine powering it, so I expect it will be fast again. I'm confident that when I get to the track for final practice on Thursday, Erik and the guys will have a good baseline setup and we can just fine tune it and get ready for the race."
The Las Vegas native has raced at South Boston twice in his career. He scored a 10th-place finish in the 2002 American Speed Association (ASA) National Tour stop at the Virginia track and ran the Pro All Star Series (PASS) Super Late Model Mason-Dixon Meltdown in 2006. Busch won his heat in the PASS event, but was unable to finish the feature due to an engine issue.
Joining primary sponsor JEGS.com as associate sponsors on Rowdy's Camry for Thursday's event are Arnette Sunglasses, Axalta Coating Systems, ADP Careers, Monster Energy and Sunglass Hut.
Richmond International Raceway...Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) heads to Richmond International Raceway for the Blue Ox 100, the fifth race of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (NKNPSE) season. After a short break, TSM will look to add to the success they obtained at Greenville-Pickens Speedway during their most recent trip to the racetrack. TSM won the 21 Means 21 Pole award with Ben Rhodes at Greenville-Pickens, marking four-straight poles for the team in 2014. Rhodes went on to visit victory lane in the event, capturing the first win for TSM in the NKNPSE in 2014. This weekend marks a return visit for some of TSM's drivers to Richmond International Raceway: Ben Rhodes, Brandon Jones, Scott Heckert and Cameron Hayley have all made one career start at Richmond International Raceway, while it will mark Kaz Grala's debut on the track in the NKNPSE.
Kaz Grala...Grala is coming off a career-best finish of seventh at Greenville-Pickens and will look to build upon that heading into his first NKNPSE start at Richmond International Raceway. Grala led his first career laps at Greenville-Pickens and has made gains each week as the season has progressed. He will look to continue that trend at Richmond International Raceway. Although he does not have any NKNPSE experience at the 0.75-mile oval, Grala has laps at the track, running in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown in 2013. Grala heads into the Blue Ox 100 sitting seventh in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.
Kaz Grala on Richmond International Raceway:
"We are coming off of our best qualifying effort and our best race this season at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. With our recent success, I am ready to get back into the No. 31 OzLINK Chevrolet at Richmond. I feel we will be at less of an experience disadvantage going into the weekend than in previous races this season, due to my previous experience at Richmond in the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. I'm excited to get to another big track with Turner Scott Motorsports, especially after having a few weeks off."
Brandon Jones...Jones heads into the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway looking to get his 2014 NKNPSE season back on track after a 23rd-place finish at Greenville-Pickens. The 17-year-old has one-career start at Richmond, which came in 2013 with TSM. Jones qualified sixth for the race, but was forced to retire early after suffering an engine failure eight laps into the event. Jones will look to improve upon that finish this weekend with his No. 33 Wolfpack Energy Serivces team. Jones comes into the Blue Ox 100 sitting 11th in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.
Brandon Jones on Richmond International Raceway:
"We've had an up-and-down start to the season so far in 2014, but I'm excited to get things back on track this weekend in our No. 33 Wolfpack Energy Services Chevy. The entire team has been working hard to build us fast racecars each race this season, and I don't think anything will be different at Richmond International Raceway. Hopefully we can find our way back into the top five and compete for our first win."
Scott Heckert...Heckert heads into Richmond International Raceway coming off a 17th-place finish at Greenville-Pickens in the NKNPSE's most recent race. Heckert has one career start at Richmond International Raceway, coming in 2013 where he finished 28th. However, this weekend marks Heckert's first start at Richmond with TSM. Heckert looks to use the knowledge gained in his previous race at Richmond and bring home a solid finish. Heckert comes into the Blue Ox 100 sitting 20th in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.
Scott Heckert on Richmond International Raceway:
"It feels like an entire season has gone by since our last race, and I'm ready to get back in the racecar. We've had our ups and downs this year so far, but we have been fast at all the bigger tracks this season, so I am looking for us to be quick and up front all race."
Ben Rhodes...Rhodes is coming off his first-career NKNPSE victory at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. The NASCAR Next driver has put together a solid season to start off the 2014 campaign, compiling three 21 Means 21 Pole awards along with the win at Greenville-Pickens. Rhodes looks to continue that success as TSM heads into Richmond International Raceway this upcoming weekend. Rhodes raced at Richmond International Raceway one year ago for TSM, while completing a limited schedule, and brought home a 35th-place finish following an engine failure. The 17-year-old will utilize that experience as he heads to Richmond International Raceway for a second time. Rhodes comes into the Blue Ox 100 leading the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings by seven points.
Ben Rhodes on Richmond International Raceway:
"I'm really excited to be heading back to Richmond International Raceway. Richmond is one of my favorite tracks due to the feeling that it creates, and the racing that takes place. The combination of my experience at Richmond and winning my last K&N race has really boosted the confidence of the entire No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Team heading into the race weekend."
Cameron Hayley...Hayley comes into the Blue Ox 100 with quite a bit of momentum. Hayley was able to lead laps and run up towards the front at Greenville-Pickens, closing out his night with a third-place finish. Hayley comes into Richmond looking to build upon his first-career start in the NKNPSE, which came at Richmond International Raceway in 2013 where he finished 32nd. Hayley hopes to use the knowledge gained in 2013 to capture his third top-10 finish of 2014. The 17-year-old currently sits fourth in the NKNPSE Driver Point Standings.
Cameron Hayley on Richmond International Raceway:
"Richmond is one of the few tracks on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East schedule that I have raced on before, and I am definitely ready to get back to the track. We haven't had the luck we needed to win races yet this season, but we have had a fast car at every race. I think we have a really good game plan heading into the weekend, and our No. 98 Cabinets by Hayley Chevy should be at the top of the board by the end of the race."
Kenzie Ruston heads to Richmond International Raceway with redemption in mind. After having one of the fastest cars at Greenville Pickens Speedway a few weeks ago, Ruston is ready to perform at Richmond.
“I am ready to get back on the track in Richmond. We had one of the best cars, certainly a top 3 car, at Greenville Pickens last month and had a good run taken away from us. I think that will be a huge motivating factor for the team and certainly myself when we get to RIR.”
Redemption for the Greenville Pickens race isn’t the only thing Ruston will be using as motivation. Last season at RIR, Ruston had climbed to sixth position after starting fifteenth. An unfortunate situation occurred late in the race when a fellow competitor missed a shift on the restart. Ruston found herself spinning as she was caught in a chain-reaction accident.
“We got caught in something that wasn’t our fault last year,” said Ruston. “I went to the back and managed to work back up to thirteenth before getting the black flag because we were smoking.” The black flag would drop Ruston to a nineteenth place finish in the Blue Ox 100.
Similar to Ruston, when Crew Chief Mike Fritts was asked about Richmond, he had this to say: “We’ve been fast the last couple of times at Richmond, just getting caught up in other peoples wrecks costs us solid finishes. We have one top 10, but we have had a top 10 car every time at Richmond.”
Fritts says, “The key to Richmond is having a car that can really rotate through the sweeping turns, but not so well that it wears out the right rear tire too early in the event. A driver has to understand that they are going to start the race a little tight, but as the race goes on and the right rear goes away, the car will start to loosen up. You have to save enough in your car for the last 20 laps of the race. I think that will play into Kenzie’s strengths.”
After starting the season with two top 10 finishes, Ruston has battled some horrendous racers luck. After battling hard at Bristol, a top 10 finish evaporated after another competitor got loose coming of Turn 2 with only three laps remaining.
Running in the top 5 most during the majority of the Kevin Whitaker 150 at Greenville Pickens Speedway, Ruston found herself spinning after questionable contact from another competitor. Ruston feels confident that her team will put her in a position for the win on Friday night.
“The guys have given me a strong car everywhere this year,” said Ruston. “Things outside our control have cost us top 5 finishes and a shot at a win. Hopefully we have our bad luck out of the way, and we are going to start getting the solid finishes we’ve earned. I know the guys at Ben Kennedy Racing work way to hard, and they deserve way more than what we have been getting this year.”
Ben Kennedy Racing PR
Global Force Wrestling is pleased to welcome former NASCAR driver and current Fox Sports NASCAR analyst Hermie Sadler to its Board of Directors.
Sadler, who turns 45 later this week, is a lifelong wrestling fan who also has promoted live wrestling events. A 1991 graduate of the University of North Carolina, he was the 1993 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year. Sadler has a diverse portfolio away from the race track, including restaurants, finance companies and franchises.
"I've been excited from the moment I heard the vision of GFW, and I know fans are, too," Sadler said. "Not only am I looking forward to serving on the board but to helping foster a relationship between the fan bases of GFW and NASCAR and watching them interact."
Jeff Jarrett, the CEO of GFW and a 12-time world champion, and his wife, Karen, have continued their travels around the world laying the groundwork for Global Force Wrestling.
"Hermie and I have been friends for more than 20 years," Jarrett said. "Yes, he has been a great driver for years, but I have always admired him for his business acumen. He also fits with GFW because he understands the importance of fan interaction as clearly all of NASCAR does.
"Hermie is a dedicated family man, and Karen and I and everyone at GFW could not be happier to have him on the board."
Jeff and Karen will continue their search for the best new talent in professional wrestling in the coming weeks as their travels will take them to Canada, Pennsylvania, New York and Kentucky. You can follow them on GFW's web series "The Journey" at www.globalforcewrestling.com and on Twitter at @GFWWrestling.
Global Force Wrestling PR
Rev Racing’s Daniel Suarez began the 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East season by sweeping the first two races. The Monterrey, Mexico native managed to garner both victories within a matter of three days.
Since then, Suarez has accumulated an additional pair of victories in the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, in which he also competes. He races in both series with the mindset that more seat time, no matter the car, will lead to a better understanding of the sport and contribute to his development as a driver. As a result, his work ethic has produced four victories in seven total races this season.
Suarez’s 2014 season has shown that he is a force to be reckoned with in the world of automobile racing. In February, Suarez’s accomplishments earned him the NASCAR Diverse Driver Award, an industry-wide recognition of his on-track success. His achievements have not only caught the attention of the NKNPSE competition, but have also landed him an invitation to compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series(NNS). This weekend at Richmond International Speedway, Suarez will attempt to outshine his back-to-back wins in Daytona by completing a trifecta. In addition to driving in the NKNPSE for Rev Racing, he will make his NNS debut with Joe Gibbs Racing, before flying to Mexico to compete in the NTS.
Suarez is fully aware of the daunting task ahead of him, but heads into the weekend with the same calm, optimistic and humble demeanor that has gotten him to this point:
“I am grateful to Joe Gibbs Racing for this opportunity and very thankful with Telcel, Silent Circle and Telmex for putting their confidence in me. This is one of the most important steps in my career. Also, I want to say thank you to NASCAR and Rev Racing for giving me the opportunity to race and learn about everything in this world.”
Suarez, 22, joined Rev Racing and the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Program in 2013. Suarez ran a full season in the NKNPSE, garnering a team-high six top 5, and nine top 10 finishes. The highlight of his 2013 season was his first ever NKNPSE victory at the Columbus Motor Speedway. Additionally, Suarez earned three 2nd place finishes in his final four races, propelling him to 3rd in the final 2013 season rankings. Suarez is currently 2nd in the 2014 NKNPSE standings.
“Daniel is Rev Racing’s fourth driver to participate in a National Series Event. He is very talented, and has shown continuous progress. We are proud to play a major role in Daniel’s development,” said team owner, Max Siegel.
While Suarez’s Nationwide Series debut is a testament to hard work and dedication, it is also a testament to the mission of Rev Racing and the Drive for Diversity Program. Rev Racing houses an academy-style program that provides young minority drivers with the resources to succeed in the sport of NASCAR. On Friday, April 25, 2014, Suarez will be the next minority driver to utilize the resources that Rev Racing has provided and make it to the National Series.
Rev Racing PR
Practice makes perfect.
Athletes in every sport say there is no better preparation than under “game” conditions. For Ryan Gifford at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway the process was incremental and came in three prior NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts at the .75-mile oval. That experience paid off in spades a year ago in the Blue Ox 100.
“Each time there, I’ve learned more and more,” said Gifford. “My first time there, I learned how the track transitions from day to night. My second time we had the car in position at the end, but I spun the tires on a late-race restart which kind of ruined it. And last year, we were able the put it all together.”
Putting it together meant getting his first K&N Pro Series East victory. The Drive for Diversity product racing out of the Rev Racing stable had been in position to win on more than a few occasions, but one thing or another untied the bow and left the Winchester, Tenn., native wondering if it would ever happen.
In last year’s race, Gifford completed a pass of Cole Custer with 23 laps to go and held off eventual runner-up Brandon Gdovic on a late restart, a place in which he came up short in 2012, to drive his No.2 Toyota Racing Development Toyota to Victory Lane for the first time.
“I was super excited,” Gifford said. “I was just happy to make it happen and find a way to win. We had found, I think, all of the ways not to win.”
Just over a month after that initial triumph, Gifford was named to the 2013 class for NASCAR Next, which spotlights the sport’s emerging stars. Later in the season Gifford got another opportunity and capitalized. In August, he made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa in a Richard Childress Racing entry and finished ninth.
This time around in the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond Gifford hopes to draw upon his experience at the track and successfully defend his victory in the Old Dominion State.
“I think my experience is an advantage,” he said. “I know what it takes to win there and how best to get into position to do it.
“The Richmond track is definitely one of my favorites. It’s real racy with top and bottom grooves that give us room to pass. The fans in Richmond are as good as anywhere and they’ll have a good show to watch on Friday night.”
NASCAR announced two new hires today as part of the company’s commitment to implementing strategic growth plans for several critical segments, including youth, millennial and multicultural.
Peter Jung joins NASCAR as Senior Director of Growth Segment Marketing, reporting into Managing Director of Brand and Consumer Marketing Kenny Mitchell. Jung, most recently from MasterCard International, served as vice president of global consumer marketing, responsible for youth segment strategies and programs designed to drive a greater preference for the MasterCard brand. In this role, he oversaw the delivery of global consumer insights, innovation and marketing plans that supported youth segment priorities in the U.S. and several international markets.
Jung led the launch of core consumer marketing platforms Priceless Surprises and Priceless Music, targeting millennials and other multicultural segments. He joined MasterCard in 2004 and has also held positions in partner marketing, strategy and planning. Jung graduated from the University of Dayton with a BA in Marketing and Communications.
Nicole Smith will serve as Director of Growth Segment Marketing at NASCAR, reporting directly to Jung. Smith joins NASCAR from her most recent post at the San Diego Padres, where she served as Director of Brand Development. At the Padres, Smith was responsible for leading all marketing and branding activities with a focus on growing sales and attendance among key demographics including youth and multicultural segments.
Smith previously worked at Hewlett-Packard where she explored international business models and the impact of digital innovation, and The Walt Disney Company, where she focused on marketing and branding initiatives. Smith holds a B.A. from UCLA and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
“We are thrilled to welcome two new talented members to the NASCAR team,” said Vice President of Marketing Kim Brink. “Peter’s extensive background in global consumer marketing will provide further momentum for our ongoing marketing initiatives. In addition, Nicole will contribute invaluable expertise that will propel our millennial and youth outreach efforts forward.”
Jung and Smith will be based in Daytona and begin work at NASCAR on April 22.
Nishikawa Rubber and NISCO will be joining Hattori Racing Enterprises as sponsors for the No. 11 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East car for the Blue Ox 100 at Richmond International Raceway on April 25th. Nishikawa and NISCO have an existing relationship with Hattori Racing Enterprises as they sponsored the No. 11 for 2013’s North American Power 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and DRIVE4COPD 125 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Two representatives from NISCO will also be joining HRE as guests for the entire weekend of racing at Richmond.
The Nishikawa and NISCO sponsorship is especially important to HRE driver Lee Pulliam. “As a racer, sponsors mean everything. I am very pound and fortunate to be driving the No. 11 Nishikawa/NISCO Toyota. I want to get a win for all the sponsors on board, for Shige [Hattori, team owner], and for the entire team. Without sponsorship it would be impossible to compete at a competitive level, so without sponsors like Nishikawa and NISCO, I wouldn’t be able to compete in the series. This opportunity means everything to me, so they do too.”
Nishikawa Rubber Co. LTD (formerly known as NRC) is based in Hiroshima, Japan, and specializes in the manufacture and distribution of various sealing products, mainly for automotive applications. They produce automotive door weatherstrips and joints for the outer walls of housing. Nishikawa supplies high quality weatherstrips to car makers and house builders both at home and abroad.
Nishikawa Cooper LLC (NISCO) is a joint Japanese-American venture between Nishikawa Rubber Company and Cooper Standard of Novi, Michigan. Founded in 1986 in Topeka, Indiana, the company is a Tier I supplier of dynamic rubber weather-stripping to the automotive industry.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will take the green flag at Richmond directly following the NASCAR Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250. The Blue Ox 100 will air on Fox Sports 1 on May 2nd at 4:30 P.M. EST.
Hattori Racing PR
A stellar start to his NASCAR K&N Pro Series season on both the east and west coasts has earned Patrick Staropoli (@97patrickstar) a ride in Saturday’s Pro All Star Series (PASS) Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway (HMS).
Staropoli, a native of Miami, Florida won last year’s inaugural PEAK Stock Car Dream challenge and has since stormed into the spotlight by virtually flawless performances in 2013 and 2014.
In fact, in just the 24 year’s old sixth career K&N start, Staropoli netted his first career victory at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway edging series veteran David Mayhew for his first stock car triumph driving for Bill McAnally Racing (BMR). In addition to the win, he has also netted three top-10s in four starts thus far this season.
On Saturday, the rising star is hoping that some of his K&N success will translate to the super late model, a division where he has competed in over the last several years in his home state of Florida.
“I’m really thankful that Jimmy Doyle has given me the opportunity to race this weekend at Hickory,” said Staropoli, driver of the No. 71 General Auto Repair and Tire / @97patrickstar / PEAK entry. “We’ve discussed doing this for a long time and for this deal to come together for a race as prestigious as the Easter Bunny 150 just makes it even more special. I’m really excited to get back behind the wheel of a late model, and with Jimmy’s car running as competitively as it has this year, I feel like we have a lot to look forward to heading into the weekend.”
Since 2010, the former Harvard University graduate has garnered three poles, four wins, 12 top-fives and 19 top-10s in 24 starts in his own super late model. However, this will be his first trip to the historic Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
“I’m expecting forward bite and tire conservation to be key,” sounded Staropoli. “After watching some videos, it looks like the track has a lot of character and the groove seems to widen out as the race goes on. It’s going to be a very competitive race, but I think the driver who still has the drive off the corner after Lap 100 will probably be in the best position to win it. Hopefully that will be us.”
Following the annual event at HMS, Staropoli will return to NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition at Iowa Speedway on May 17. At this time, it is also his last scheduled race in the PEAK sponsored Toyota Camry. While he is continuing to seek additional marketing partners, if Staropoli’s hardcore background and early season success is any indication, next month’s contest won’t be the last time he’s behind the wheel this season.
The Easter Bunny 150 is set for Saturday, April 19 scheduled to lift off shortly after 6:00 p.m.
Chris Knight PR