Sunday, Mar 26
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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FIRST TIME WE’VE SEEN YOU SINCE DAYTONA. HOW EXCITED ARE YOU FOR THIS WEEKEND AND HOW ARE THINGS GOING THIS YEAR AS A TEAM OWNER?

“I’m really excited for this weekend. I’ve personally always wanted to race at this track. To have an opportunity to come back and compete on this track, it’s so technical and really a lot of fun to drive around here. Thankful we ended up with a few more laps of practice this weekend with rule changes to the car that led to a practice session today that we’re taking advantage of. I had a great time out there. I’m trying to figure the car out. It has a lot less grip than I remember a Cup car having and certainly a lot less grip than what I’ve been driving over the last two years. Trying to dial that all in and also understanding what this car might respond to from an adjustment standpoint. So there’s still a ton of learning going on but a great experience today and excited about this weekend.”

 

ARE YOU GETTING MORE INTO THE COMPETITION SIDE OF THINGS NOW OR ARE YOU STILL DOING MORE OF THE BUSINESS MARKETING?

“My focus point still really has been on the business marketing aspect of the team. I sit in on plenty of meetings and debriefs and have a pulse of what is going on in our competition department. If you would have asked me four or five months ago where I’d probably spend most of my time I’d think naturally on the competition side, but there’s really been more on the business side.”

 

CAN YOU EVALUATE WHERE THE COMPANY IS SO FAR THIS EARLY IN THE SEASON WHERE THE GROUP IS RIGHT NOW?

“So much changes from year to year. We’re trying not to overreact to the first couple of races and performances. You go to Daytona and we all feel like we all had good cars and were competitive. California is after that. We had some weird stuff go on with the splitter and all that dirt and rock and all the debris that was at the track that the splitters delaminated on our cars. It’s really easy to look at that and say that’s the reason why our performance wasn’t where it needed to be. Vegas, Atlanta, Phoenix… we’re at a point now where we have enough styles of tracks that we can better evaluate where we’re to start the year. We’re not where we want to be, but there’s endless work going in the shop. I’m very thankful for the crew chiefs, for Joey Cohen (VP, Racing Operations) and his hard work and focus that’s gone into it and all the engineering that’s behind it. We’re digging along. We haven’t hit our peak for the season yet and I think we now have an idea of where our short-track cars are, what we need to work on – mile-and-half stuff and certainly the restrictor-plate tracks.”

 

INAUDIBLE

“Much less, without a doubt. I think there’s almost 400 pounds of weight out of the Garage 56 car and around double the downforce. Much bigger tires. Carbon brakes. The Garage 56 car has a lot more grip than a Cup car does around here, to say the least. Just looking in the rearview mirror and seeing how big the spoiler here is this weekend compared to the Garage 56 car, it’s got to be a foot difference in just rear downforce alone. It’s just a much different experience.”

 

OTHER TRACKS YOU’D BE INTERESTED IN GOING TO THAT HAVE BEEN ADDED TO THE SCHEDULE.

“I will go to the Chicago race. I want to be a part of that. In the last two seasons racing in IndyCar and racing on so many street circuits… I grew up around a street race in Long Beach as a kid and just loved that energy and environment and what street racing’s all about. I want to be a part of that this year. Honestly looking at the Chicago race… Nashville, you’re talking about the oval, right, because they aren’t doing downtown. I raced there a long time ago in a Busch car and I really enjoyed the track and had a lot of testing laps there back when we were allowed to test. I’d love to go to Nashville. It’s not on my radar as of now, but fun cities, fun places and great energy… that’s where I can really help our race team is to help our team shine in those bigger markets to bring in more eyeballs, more corporate dollars, more partnerships. I think that’s somewhere I can really help.”

 

HOW FUN IS IT THAT YOU GET TO RACE WITH JORDAN (TAYLOR) AND JENSON (BUTTON) THIS WEEKEND AFTER WORKING ALONGSIDE WITH THEM ON GARAGE 56?

“I’m excited for it. It’s going to be fun. We've been talking trash like crazy on text so it’s been a lot of fun already. If we could just have Rocky (Mike Rockenfeller) out there somewhere, it would be nice having all four of us bouncing around.”

 

INAUDIBLE.

“I think international attention for any form of motorsport is super-helpful. I think the regulars in NASCAR knew that they needed to lock it down from a driver standpoint and car standpoint to get their cars right. There’s still points on the board. Stage racing and championships and how they’re determined now are more important than ever. Ringers could come in and take the money pretty easily in the past or at least take the podium spots away. The regulars are just buttoned up now. It doesn’t matter if it’s the team, the car or the driver. That doesn’t mean having ringers come in or very well-accomplished road-course racers and drivers from different disciplines don’t bring a ton of importance and star power to it. To have the names we do in the field and in the starting lineup is super-impressive and I think it’s going to bring more eyeballs to the sport. It’s harder now to be a ringer and show up and expect to be on the podium, but they’re in the field and their fanbases will be watching.”

 

WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET READY FOR LE MANS AND WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS?

“Thankfully we’ve had a lot of simulator time and a lot of testing time. We’ve been able to work through our driver changes, which are pretty unique in a stock car vehicle versus sports cars; having a door is a big difference than climbing in and out of a window and a window net and all that goes to it. Hendrick has done an amazing job. So has GM to give us all the simulator time that we need. We still have another test session or so out there for us and some more sim time. I’m spending time in my home sim. All the racing I’ve done in sports cars, I’ve always been in the fastest category and didn’t have to worry about many cars approaching from behind. It’s going to be a much different experience, especially with headlights. So in my home sim, I’ve been loading up as many prototypes as I can in the session and just have them in my mirror all the time and trying to get used to where to look, why I should look in certain areas and where I should expect those cars. That would be the only twist to it – spending a lot more time on iRacing and also on rFactor 2 getting used to traffic.”

 

WITH THE VARIATIONS OF RACECARS THAT YOU’VE DRIVEN, DO YOU THINK ONCE YOU’RE BETTER ACCLIMATED TO THIS CAR THAT IT WILL BE ONE THAT YOU REALLY LIKE TO DRIVE?

“I love a car that turns. I love a loose racecar, and I had a lot of that today. I was surprised that the lateral rear grip of the car was as low as it was, and that could certainly be on us and what we’re trying to do with the racecar. I was sideways more than I was ever straight today.”

 

ARE YOU CONSIDERING GOING TO NORTH WILKESBORO FOR THE ALL-STAR RACE?

“I’ve thought about it, but it’s too close and we’re not prepared for it. Maybe next year.”

 

INAUDIBLE.

“It depends on the crash. That one, there thankfully wasn’t much to it. I got home and back to the swing of things. Physically, the act of recovery is something I’ve believed in. Cold plunges help quite a bit and just trying to work out areas that are sore and just getting the blood circulating and pumping through there. Certainly more severe injuries require proper physical therapy and other aspects of that. Thankfully today, most impacts you just have a sore spot or something that you need to work out. It’s not too bad.”

GM PR

JENSON BUTTON, No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang – WHAT WERE YOUR FEELINGS GETTING OUT OF THE NEXT-GEN CAR, AND WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO? “First of all: Good afternoon. It’s lovely to be here. This is a great opportunity for me. I never thought, in my wildest dreams, I’d be racing in a Cup car. So, this is a lovely opportunity. I got to thank Mobil 1 for it. As you probably know, I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving and stock car racing at Le Mans for later this year. But we don’t really have so much competition in that, so this is exciting. I get to race against 30 other crazy guys out there. I’m really, really looking forward to the challenge – and it definitely is a big challenge. Jumping in the car for a 50-minute practice session – and that’s it – before we go qualifying and racing. It’s tough I think for anyone who is not used to big, heavy cars with low downforce. I’m enjoying the process. The team has been great, and I’m looking forward to a good, solid weekend. The car felt pretty good out there, and I think tomorrow in qualifying – when it really counts to get a lap in – there’s a bit more pressure. We’ll see how it goes. Setup wise working with my guys, improving it… yeah, we’re going in the right direction.”

 

WHAT WAS YOUR PREPARATION FOR LE MANS WITH GARAGE 56, AND WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET READY FOR THAT? “Testing – lots of testing. I’ve done six days in the car now. But, it’s very different to this. People are like, ‘ You know, this is very useful for the Garage 56 program,’ but it’s not. It’s very different – paddle shift, it’s got downforce, it’s lighter and kind of like eight seconds a lap quicker. But they both have their place. I enjoy both of them equally. It’s fun with a project you’re involved in in terms of development, but it’s also fun jumping into a stock car that’s the same pretty much as everyone else’s on the grid. I’m a racing driver, and I love racing – whatever it is. Racing at Le Mans is spectacular, and it’s such a special place. If you haven’t been, you’ll have to go. But, for me, going wheel-to-wheel here is pretty special.”

 

YOU DID 13 LAPS TODAY AND A FEW MORE TOMORROW. HAVE YOU EVER HAD A RACE WHERE YOU ONLY COMPLETED 15 OR SO LAPS IN THE CAR? WAS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT THE CAR YOU REALIZED IN PRACTICE THAT YOU DIDN’T EXPECT? “No, I pretty much expected everything I felt. I think it’s a lot more extreme in some ways than others that I expected. I mean, position in the car feels good. The weirdest thing for me is that there’s so much on the windscreen. So focusing out of the windscreen is very difficult. There’s all sorts of different pillars and different angles, the windscreen wiper. Getting your head around that and your eyes to focus passed that definitely takes time. I’m used to having a visor and that’s it. It’s opened me. So, that took a bit of time and it’s still not there – you know, that feeling. But, I’m confident in what the car is doing – it’s moving a lot, and riding curbs is something I’m not used to as much as most of the boys here. So, it’s new and it’s a challenge, but I followed a few guys out there, and I’m doing most things right. It’s just the fine-tuning: I’m not there with my driving yet or the car. I’ve never jumped into a car for 13 laps and gone qualifying. That’s different than what I’m used to – it takes a bit of time. I’m not a guy that jumps in a car and goes immediately quick. I need to work with it a little bit, work with the engineers and build it around me. Tomorrow will be fun. The race is Sunday. But I still think qualifying can be relatively competitive.”

 

CODY WARE, YOUR TEAMMATE, HAS QUITE A BIT OF CUP EXPERIENCE AND ALSO SOME OPEN-WHEEL EXPERIENCE. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN GELLING WITH HIM, AND HOW IS THIS EXPERIENCE DIFFERENT TO HAVING A TEAMMATE IN F1 DURING A RACE WEEKEND? “The first thing I noticed compared to F1 is that he’s a big dude. He is tall. So yeah, you don’t get that in F1. I’m like six-foot and the tallest driver in F1. Six-foot, four [inches] – it’s tall. Even to squeeze yourself into a stock car. So, that was the first thing. I think with his experience of racing different cars, he knows how competitive Cup car is. That’s the big thing, really. A lot of people come here and think, ‘Oh, it’s easy. I’ve raced cars my whole life around circuits. Why would it be any different in the Cup series?’ But it is. It’s heavy and lazy in some ways. It doesn’t make it less exciting, but it just makes it different. It’s tough. I don’t expect to go out there and qualify top-three tomorrow, or to finish top-three on Sunday. I expect a challenging race, but a race where I’m going to learn a lot as well. That’s why I wanted to do three races this year – one race isn’t enough. I need the experience of here at COTA, before I move to Chicago and lastly, Indianapolis. There’s no reason for me not to be competitive, but it just takes a bit of time. These guys have driven these cars for years. They know the nuances and what makes them work, which just takes a little time for me.”

 

IT’S COOL THAT YOUR RACING WITH THE GUYS THAT YOU’RE WORKING WITH AT GARAGE 56. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT RACING WITH JORDAN [TAYLOR] AND KIMI [RAIKKONEN]? “Yeah, well Jordan has to slow down. He really went fast in practice, but no, it’s great that we all got this opportunity. Jordan, he’s a great guy and obviously extremely talented. Anything he jumps in, he is quick. And we’ve seen that with the Garage 56 car. He’s a character, a good character. Wherever he goes, he has a great fan-base because he has that personality. All sports need that and in motorsports. It’s good to see him competitive and to have this opportunity. And we talk about it all the time – texting all the time and laughing because he’s so different than what we’re used to. We got this opportunity to race in the Cup series. With Kimi, obviously he has a lot of experience racing in the Cup series and has won many championships. So, he comes at it from a different way, but road courses are still a challenge for him. It’s still something he didn’t do so much back in the day – it was more ovals than road courses. It’s all exciting, and it’s great working with these different guys that come from different backgrounds in Garage 56 – and to see them be competitive here in the Cup series.”

 

DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE COMPETITIVE? “Driving a car is something I’ve done my whole life. So, I will be competitive in terms of our race speed. But as you said, it’s the other side of it where I have no experience – and that’s being six abreast going into Turn 1 and tapping here and there. As I noticed here in practice, people don’t move out of the way when they’re on a slow lap and you’re on a quick lap. There’s a lot to learn. It’s a very, very different sports than what I’m used to. I’ll go with it… roll with the punches. I look forward to the challenge.”

 

WITH ALL THE ANTICIPATION, WHAT WAS IT LIKE WHEN YOU GOT TO RUN THE TRACK AT SPEED FOR THE FIRST TIME? “I mean first of all: A little bit anxious but excited at the same time. I forgot how to start the car which was interesting. So they pushed the car back, and I’m like ‘It won’t start.’ There were a few other switches I had to put up. But then it was OK. I got onto the circuit and I was surprised by how little grip there was initially when I pulled away and the tires were cold. But, it comes to you over time. The gear shifting is something that… I’ve not never driven a sequential gearbox car. I’ve never pulled back going through the gears and pushed to go down. It’s something completely new to learn. I’ve driven a manual gearbox, but you always go across the box. The last time I drove a gearbox like this was like in 1999. There’s a lot that you go back into the bank of info you’ve learned over the years, and you bring it out again. It comes to you pretty quick. I really enjoyed it. It’s also interesting having spotters. I’ve never had spotters before. So, I’ve got guys in my ear the whole way around telling me there’s traffic behind, there’s traffic in front – it’s quite soothing. I kind of like it. Our spotters have very soothing voices, which I think is good and it’s especially going to be good on Sunday when it’s manic out there. That’s something else to learn – having my mirrors, so I can see around me. But they tell me all the fun information about what’s going on around me.”

 

WAS THE ATMOSPHERE WHAT YOU EXPECTED? “Well, this was one reason why I was interested in racing in NASCAR was because from the outside, it looks like a real family atmosphere. I’m a dad now – I have two kids. I took my son, my wife came along as well, to the Coliseum. So we had a great experience there in seeing the Cup series. And then I took my son again to Fontana to watch, saw a few of the drivers and Corey LaJoie said his son’s named Jenson. So I thought that was quite funny and said, ‘Did you know that I’m actually going to be racing you in a few weeks?’ But, it was just a really nice atmosphere. We were invited into peoples’ teams, my son was given a car – a mini Cup car by one of the teams. It was just so cool. The opportunity for your family to be around where you’re racing is something I’m not used to. Formula 1 is very different and come at it from a very different angle, that you need to be solo and focused on your driving. Where here: You still have some of the best drivers in the world, but they come at it from a different way. Family keeps them grounded, keeps them relaxed over race weekends. I really enjoy that family atmosphere, and for people who have never been to a NASCAR race, they need to because it’s that atmosphere that really makes the sport.”

 

EARLIER IN THE YEAR, YOU WERE KARTING. HOW WAS THAT, AND DO YOU PLAN ON GETTING INTO ANYTHING ELSE IN THE NEXT YEAR OR TWO? “Yeah, I used to kart from 1988 to 1997 – I was a kart driver, and I raced all around the world. Raced in Charlotte, Japan and all these wonderful places as a teenager. And then I moved into car racing with F1 for 17 years. So last year, I thought I’d give it a go. As a 42-year-old, I figured I’d go karting again – 25 years after I retired. And I loved it. Finished fourth, and then raced again in January and got on the podium. It’s the purest form of racing… it’s not quite as extreme as what I’m about to experience on Sunday, but you always have people around you, nudging you… there’s someone to your inside, someone to your outside. They don’t give you an inch. I felt that it was useful for me looking ahead to this season and racing in the Cup series. It was a lot of fun. Other plans this year? Nothing set in stone yet. I have a few ideas for 2024, but nothing this year.”

 

Ford Performance PR

Notes of Interest:

 

Inaugural Journey: Pinnacle Racing Group (PRG), a new Motorsports team will embark on its inaugural journey beginning with this weekend’s Pensacola 200 at Five Flags (Fla.) Speedway.

PRG has built a solid foundation to compete in the ARCA Menards Series East in its first season of competition. The team has named Luke Fenhaus as the driver and veteran crew chief Shane Huffman to lead the No. 28 Chevrolet team.

 

The team will compete for the 2023 ARCA Menards Series East championship, as well as compete in select premier ARCA Menards Series events throughout the year.

 

Meet Luke: With a long line of racing history, it’s no surprise he has found success at a young age. Now, at 18, Fenhaus’ name is among the elite young, up-and-coming talents on the short tracks of America with eyes set solely on success both on the track and off.

 

Fenhaus, a Chevrolet development driver and under the tutelage of respected Motorsports scout Lorin Ranier has quickly gained notoriety for his on-track performance which includes the 2021 ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year, pole sitter and winner of the 2021 historic Supply Zone Slinger Nationals at Slinger (Wisc.) Speedway and the 2021 Kulwicki Driver Development Program champion.

 

And his success doesn’t stop there.

 

Fenhaus¸18, received a “Golden Ticket” to compete in the nationally-televised Superstar Racing Experience (SRX Series) after his triumph at Slinger Speedway. He capitalized on the opportunity, finishing second behind IndyCar winner Marco Andretti but finished ahead of Motorsports icons Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte, Greg Biffle, Bill Elliott, Helio Castroneves, Paul Tracy and Michael Waltrip.

 

The PRG Brand: Headquartered in Mooresville, N.C., Pinnacle Racing Group (PRG) is a professional multifaceted Motorsports team specializing in providing productive and fulfilling careers for team members, while also being a leader in on-track performance and driver development primarily in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series (NAAPWS) and the ARCA Menards Series (AMS).

 

PRG Minute: The Pinnacle Racing Group team has already visited Victory Lane in 2023.

 

In addition to their full-time ARCA Menards Series program, PRG is also fielding an entry in the NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway for teenager Landon S. Huffman.

 

Huffman, a rookie in the Late Model division and the PRG team visited Victory Lane on Saturday, March 11, 2023, in only their second race of the season.

 

Sponsor Intel: Chevrolet will serve as the primary marketing partner on Fenhaus’s No. 28 Chevrolet this weekend at Five Flags (Fla.) Speedway.

 

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is now one of the world's largest car brands, available in 79 countries with more than 3.2 million cars and trucks sold in 2020. 

 

Chevrolet models include electric and fuel-efficient vehicles that feature engaging performance, design that makes the heartbeat, passive and active safety features and easy-to-use technology, all at a value.

More information on Chevrolet models can be found at chevrolet.com.

 

ARCA East at Five Flags Speedway: The 2023 ARCA Menards Series East season roars to life this Saturday night with the annual running of the Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

 

It marks the 37th season for the series, which started in 1987 with Joey Kourafas capturing the inaugural series championship. Saturday’s race marks the sixth time the East Series has raced at the popular facility.

 

The first ARCA-sanctioned event at Five Flags Speedway took place in 1992 when Roy Payne earned his only ARCA victory. Other ARCA victors at Five Flags have included Harold Fair, Gary Bradberry, Bob Schacht, Frank Kimmel and Michael Self.

 

The ARCA Menards Series East made it's inaugural Five Flags stop in 2013, with Ben Kennedy taking home the checkered flag. Ben Rhodes, Sam Mayer and Sammy Smith have also scored East Series victories at Five Flags.

 

Calling The Shots: Guiding Fenhaus as crew chief of the No. 28 Pinnacle Racing Group Chevrolet is veteran Shane Huffman.

 

Huffman joined Pinnacle Racing Group at the end of the 2022 racing season after an instrumental tenure at Bret Holmes Racing.

 

With over 98 combined starts as crew chief in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series, Huffman has two wins, 24 top-five and 44 top-10 finishes, including a third-place finish most recently at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with Bret Holmes in October 2022.

 

In addition to NASCAR, Huffman is the 2020 premier ARCA Menards Series championship crew chief.

Five Flags will officially mark Huffman’s seventh career race under the ARCA East banner.

 

Follow on Social Media: For more on Luke Fenhaus, please visit lukefenhausracing.com, like him on Facebook (LukeFenhausRacing) and follow him on Instagram (@superluke04) and Twitter (@luke_fenhaus).

 

For more on Pinnacle Racing Group, please like them on Facebook (Pinnacle Racing Group) and follow them on Instagram (@RacePRG) and Twitter (@RacePRG). 

Luke Fenhaus Quoteboard:

 

On Five Flags Speedway: “I’m glad that race weekend is finally almost here. I’ve been waiting to get to Five Flags since we made our team announcement earlier this month.

 

“I’m looking forward to a competitive race on Saturday night where we can have a strong presence and hopefully be in a position to win the race and kick off our championship efforts with some momentum.”

 

On 2023 Season Outlook: “There has been so much effort put into the 2023 ARCA Menards Series East season and honestly, I am so excited about it. I cannot thank everyone on the Pinnacle Racing Group team enough for the opportunity and for taking a chance on me to lead them in the inaugural year.

 

“I believe we will exceed everyone’s expectations and not only will we challenge for race wins, but we will achieve them and contend for the 2023 ARCA East championship too.”  

Race Information:

The Pensacola 200 (200 laps | 100 miles) is the first of eight races on the 2023 ARCA Menards Series East schedule. Practice begins for the one-day show on Saturday, March 25th from 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. ARCA Menards Series East General Tire pole qualifying will begin at 4:30 p.m. The event will take the green flag just after 7:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. ET) with live streaming coverage on FloRacing and taped delay coverage on CNBC on Sunday, April 2 at 11:00 a.m. ET. All event times are local (CT).

PRG PR

With the 2023 season in full-swing, the NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) has already taken on a variety of race track configurations - ranging from the season-opening high-banked superspeedway of Daytona International Speedway to the short track that crowns the series’ champion of Phoenix Raceway. Drivers and teams of NASCAR’s premier series will make both left- and right-hand turns at the renowned 3.41-mile, 20-turn Circuit of The Americas (COTA) this season; the first road course event of the year.

 

Just a few weeks prior, the series debuted a new aerodynamic package that will run on the series’ short ovals and road courses this season. Set to tackle a road course circuit for the first time with the new package, the series was given an extended practice session Friday afternoon, giving teams the opportunity to make adjustments before returning to the track for tomorrow’s qualifying session.

 

Kyle Larson clocked in a best-lap of 132.544 seconds to put the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Camaro ZL1 team second overall on the final speed chart. Chevrolet drivers took four of the top-five positions at the conclusion of final practice with Larson leading Ross Chastain (No. 1 Worldwide Express Camaro ZL1) in second, Kyle Busch (No. 8 Netspend Camaro ZL1) in fourth, and Daniel Suarez (No. 99 Freeway Insurance Camaro ZL1) rounding out the top five.

 

On the horizon of his first career start in NASCAR’s premier series, Jordan Taylor made his first laps behind the wheel of the No. 9 UniFirst Camaro ZL1 in this afternoon’s practice session. The 31-year-old Corvette Racing driver ran in the top-10 for much of the practice session, ultimately ended up 10th fastest overall.

 

Next on tap for NASCAR’s premier series will be a two-round, multi-vehicle qualifying session to set the starting lineup for Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. The field will be split into two groups, each partaking in a timed session. The top five fastest drivers in each group will transfer to the final round for a shot at the pole position. The Bowtie brand took the pole in the series’ first appearance in 2021 at the Austin, Texas, circuit with Tyler Reddick and the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Camaro ZL1. A pole win is one step closer for Chevrolet’s drivers and teams to keep the manufacturer’s win streak alive at the circuit as the Bowtie brand seeks its third consecutive trip to victory lane COTA.

 

Chevrolet’s drivers and teams will aim for the manufacturer’s third consecutive NCS COTA triumph in Sunday’s EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix. Live coverage can be found on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.  

 

GM PR

Macon Speedway officials have announced that the opening test-and-tune, scheduled for Saturday, March 24, has been canceled due to wet grounds from this week’s weather.

Macon Speedway will now hold its first test-and-tune next Saturday, April 1 from 12:00-4:00 PM. The 78th season opener for the 1/5-mile track will be Saturday, April 8, featuring CEFCU Kids Club, driver autographs, and six divisions of racing action.

In other Macon Speedway news, officials announced early Friday afternoon that advance sale reserved and general admission tickets are now available for purchase for the Saturday, April 22 Lucas Oil Late Model event. Those who purchase their reserved seats in advance will also get free pit access for the race. Tickets are available at https://bit.ly/LucasOilTix .

The track is under new ownership in 2023, with Chris, Jolene, and Blade Kearns taking over the reins during the offseason. Many improvements are planned before and as the season progresses.

For more information on the track, visit www.maconracing.com.

Macon Speedway PR

Ross Chastain will look to smash to competition when the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix goes green on Sunday, but before he even turned a lap in practice, the Trackhouse Racing driver had a different “smash” in mind.

A nod to his family’s watermelon farming roots, Chastain continued the celebration of his 2022 EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix win – the first NASCAR Cup Series triumph for both the driver and his Trackhouse Racing team – the Alva, Florida native tossed watermelons from atop the iconic 251-foot observation tower at Circuit of The Americas. After sending the fruits flying, Chastain greeted fans in attendance with autographed hats and – what else – watermelons.

 

“Officially set a new high water mark for the highest point (throwing a watermelon),” Chastain said. “I was a little off to the right on the first one, but each one got better… I’d love to go out there on Sunday and get three more tries next year.”

 

Following the watermelon toss, Chastain finished third in EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix practice. Qualifying for the race is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.

 

Tickets:

Tickets for the March 24-26 NASCAR at COTA tripleheader weekend are on sale now at NASCARatCOTA.com. Three-day weekend packages for adults including the Darius Rucker pre-race concert start at just $99 and just $10 for kids 12 and under. Further details can be found on the NASCAR at COTA website.

 

Follow Us:

Keep track of all things NASCAR at COTA by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@NASCARatCOTA). Keep up with all the latest information on the NASCAR at COTA website and mobile app.

 

TMS PR

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were made available to media after practice at Circuit of the Americas on Friday: 

 

DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

How did the package handle for you out there?

“I thought it was good. I’m just trying to get better, being honest with you. I’m trying to gauge myself off of (Tyler) Reddick and things he does so differently. It’s kind of a style change that I’m trying to convert myself to do 18 years later.”

Is that something that you an idea about when he joined Toyota?

“He has a different approach for sure. At his sim this week, I kind of just set in on his session and watched him and tried to emulate it. I did – I was just a few seconds off.”

 

Is there a preferred lane on the choose?

“I’m not really sure to be honest with you. It’s interesting. I know there was a couple of people on social media that wanted the choose, but I don’t know why we have it here. It doesn’t make much sense, and I think we just kind of got pressured into it.”

 

Does consistent rules across all races help?

“Every track is different, right? But the difference is the main spotters can’t see it, and it is hard to see on the race track. We will adapt. We will be fine.”

 

How do you expect the no stops at stage breaks to affect the race?

“Again, I think we got pressured into this one. I think this one has the potential to get really strung out – a lot. If we do, I don’t want to hear any complaining on things being strung out, because that is the potential. We had stages, certainly on road courses, this will make for more strategy, but if you are 10 seconds behind the car in front of you, strategy isn’t going to matter a ton.”

 

MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

What are your thoughts with this new tire and aero package?

“It’s hard to compare to last year. We’ve done so many things car wise and everything. It feels slicker, less grip, sliding around more. It was fun. We need to work on our car to be better, but overall, I thought it was okay.”

 

If you are slipping and sliding, that should give opportunities for passing, right?

“Yeah, for sure. But I’m worried that I’m sliding more than the guys that I’m trying to race with, and hopefully beat on Sunday. We will get to work and hopefully get it it better for tomorrow and Sunday.”

 

How are the Toyotas compared to last year?

“I’m not sure. At certain spots, I feel better than last year. In certain things, I feel similar. I’m not real sure. Obviously, (Tyler) Reddick was real fast, so he has something figured out. We will have to take a look at that and hopefully get some of that info. I wasn’t super happy about our speed, but I thought we were closer at the end of practice than we were at the beginning.”

 

Is there a preference on the choose here?

“I think if you are at the front, you want to be the inside, just to defend better, but it is going to be four-to-five wide. I think the leader has the advantage at the jump and trying to beat them into one. Everyone else it is a free-for-all.”

 

What will be it like with no stage breaks?

“It will be like we used to do at road courses. You will have to have a car that takes off okay, and runs well on the long run depending on how many cautions we have. Fuel mileage could come into play – I haven’t really talked to James (Small, crew chief) about how that plays out or looks. I think everyone is going to be close, but I’m sure guys will be taking chances. It will be something we haven’t done in a long time, and something we’ve never done here.”

Will knowing you aren’t going to have those stage cautions affect how you as a driver approach pushing the car?

“I don’t think so. You are still going to run as hard as you can. You don’t want to throw caution to the wind and smoke the tires off of it, because you are going to pay the price. No matter what – that would happen. I think just knowing that it could come down to long runs and strategy, and things like that. You have to be smart and hit your marks and be smooth in how you do things and maybe put yourself in position to take advantage of guys on older tires.”

 

CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing  

How was practice?

“With (Tyler) Reddick doing well, Bubba (Wallace) was up there – I don’t know. I wasn’t where I wanted to be for sure, but hopefully we can learn something from our team cars and improve for tomorrow.”

 

What is the tire fall off like?

“I don’t know. We really haven’t run long enough to know. It was 50-minute practice session. I think the longest run I saw out of anyone was maybe five to seven laps. I haven’t dug into it too much, but I know the longest I ran was around five. I know I’m going to have to go 20 to 25 on Sunday. It is very slick that’s for sure. Slick on stickers, slick on old tires. I think the low downforce should at least make the cars hard to drive.”

 

Through the esses part of the track, what is the technique through there?

“It’s difficult. One thing that the esses provides is lap time opportunity if you cut the race track. I know that I got in trouble for cutting the race track, and I’m sure many others did too. You want to straighten it out as much as you can, but there is a fine line in breaking track limits and not breaking track limits. It’s a very important part of the race track and wide-open? I would say we are nowhere near on throttle, let alone wide-open throttle. It’s very hairy part of the race track.”

 

Is there a preferred lane for the choose?

“I don’t think so. At some road courses, I think there will be a preferred lane, but here, the way turn one is such a big breaking zone and it widens out so much, I think either lane can do good.”

 

What do you think about the lack of stage breaks?

“It’s going to be a tough race on Sunday. That is for sure. I know I’ve never ran a road course race without breaks and it has been a long time since the veterans have too. I think that it is going to be a very good race as far as rewarding those cars that run well. At road courses in the past, it really was two different races between collecting stage points and racing for the race win. Now I think we will see the same guys be able to run for the race win and collect the stage points, so you are going to have be good on Sunday to get points for sure.”

TRD PR

Making his first appearance in Southern California in 2023, Eddie Tafoya Jr. finished ninth in the “Sokola Shootout” at Perris Auto Speedway last Saturday night.  The race was his last scheduled start in California for at least two months as he will be concentrating on competition in the USAC National Sprint Car Series.

Tafoya, 25, of Chino Hills, California, was making his first start since competing in the USAC National series mid-February season openers in Florida. Things started off for the well-spoken driver when he timed in 11th fastest in the 25-car field with a lap of 16.755.  He was hoping for a better result from his two laps on the famous half-mile clay oval.

“We set the cars up a little bit different than we did back east,” Tafoya said.  “Just with the dirt (different dirt composition), the moisture, and all the rain we had.  We were a little bit tight in qualifying. I was kind of wheels up on my fast lap and couldn’t really get the throttle to the ground.  So, I kind of gave up a few tenths there, but did what I could.”

While there was frustration from qualifying, the heat was a different story.  He placed second holding off one of the top drivers in the nation and he thought he could have taken the win.

“The car was really good for the heat race,” Tafoya enthused.  “We were really fast.  I probably could have won if I pushed the issue.  But I did not really want to put me or the other cars in any situations we did not need to be into in a heat race. I knew we were in a transfer spot.”

Tafoya and the crew were confident going into the main event.  They took a look at the track and based on the team’s success in the heat race, they pretty much left the same setup on the #51T.  Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way they wanted.

“We went and looked at the track before the main event and it still looked pretty good to me,” the handsome driver said.  “We were so good in the heat race, I really didn’t want to change much.   Then it (the track) just went away a lot quicker than we expected. Once I got out there, I was kind of stuck with what I had. I was trying different lines and all kinds of stuff.  So I did what I could, but I couldn’t really find the grip I needed.  Definitely need to be better.”

The Perris race was slated to be his last in the west until after returning from the Midwest in May, but a change in plans will now see the #51T at Arizona’s Mohave Valley Raceway on April 1st.

“I was originally going to be off until we take off for Texas and Ohio near the end of April,” Tafoya stated about his decision to race in Arizona next week.  “After last weekend, me and dad decided to go to Mohave to get some laps in before we head to the races in Texas and Ohio.”

After Arizona, the team will head to Texas for a race at the Rocket Raceway Park on April 27th.  Following that race, they will make the short drive to the famous Devils Bowl Speedway on the 28th and 29th.  Then it will be a 1,000-mile journey to the north for two nights of racing at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.

The Specialty Fasteners #51T team is exploring corporate partnership opportunities for the 2023 campaign.  If you or your company would like to be a partner, please contact Eddie Tafoya Jr. via phone at (909) 393-3999 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. He will be happy to talk to you and lay out the team’s plans.

Tafoya’s great-looking shirts and hoodies are available online at www.specialty-fasteners.com.

Tafoya has a great YouTube channel at the following link https://www.youtube.com/shorts/1hrmC5L80EU.

Fans can follow Tafoya on Instagram @eddietafoya51.

Eddie Tafoya PR

Campers Inn RV has partnered with ThorSport Racing to become the Official RV provider of ThorSport Racing. Campers Inn colors will be the primary partner on the No. 99 Ford F-150 of Ben Rhodes for multiple races starting at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt event on April 8 and an associate partner starting at Circuit of the Americas (COTA).

 

Campers Inn RV was established in 1966 and has grown to become the nation’s largest family-operated dealership group with 36 dealership locations throughout all U.S. regions with its headquarters located in Jacksonville, Florida. It is Campers Inn RV’s goal to enrich the lives of its customers and all RVers, whether they are at home or on the road through five-star service and ensuring every customer is treated with dignity and respect.

 

"We are thrilled to partner with ThorSport Racing, a team that shares our goals of quality, performance, and a dedication to excellence," said Jeff Hirsch, CEO of Campers Inn RV. "Our RVs are designed to provide maximum comfort and convenience, making them the perfect choice for a winning team like ThorSport Racing. The partnership between Campers Inn RV and ThorSport Racing underscores both companies commitment to delivering the highest level of performance in our respective industries.”  

 

Rhodes is coming off his second consecutive top-five finish in three races this season. In two starts at COTA, he has finished 10th and fourth, respectively. 

 

Tune into FOX Sports 1 (FS1) to catch all the racing action from Circuit of the Americas Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. ET. Listen to the race on the Motor Racing Network Radio (MRN) or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

 

Thorsport PR

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