Speedway Digest Staff
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Richmond International Raceway’s Track Takeover isn’t just about the frontstretch entertainment. There’s also plenty of fun on the backstretch, where every ticket gets you up close and personal with the track you love on Saturday, April 26. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt headline the backstretch Q&A sessions, chatting with fans just hours before the green flag waves for the TOYOTA OWNERS 400.
But wait…there’s more on the backstretch! Join us for the first public appearance and autograph session by the NASCAR Next class, and take a tour of NASCAR K&N Pro Series driver Kenzie Ruston’s hauler. Enjoy educational and interactive components that appeal to fans of all levels and ages, including race used and new Goodyear tires that show the differences, and special markings teams put on the tires. Don’t miss the opportunity to see and touch the sport, and gain a unique perspective into the “behind the scenes” aspect of NASCAR.
If you’re coming, tell your friends by sharing on social media using #TrackTakeover.
Additional fun and interactive activities that all ticket holders can enjoy from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. include:
· Frontstretch Q&A sessions headlined by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman, funky rock & roll music from The Shack Band, and witty banter and commentary from event hosts Sam and Mason of Classic Rock 96.5.
· Take a Lap and enjoy a stroll around our ¾-mile D-shaped oval, just hours before the cars speed around at 150 mph! We’ll show you some photo opportunities along the way at designated memorable spots around the track. Remember in 2008 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch collided just a few laps before the checkered flag? How about when Martin Truex Jr. rode the backstretch wall in 2005? We’ll show you where these happened, and you’re encouraged to take a snapshot to share with your friends and followers. Don’t forget to use #TrackTakeover.
A big question from fans leading up to Talladega Superspeedway’s Aaron’s Dream Weekend (May 2-4) is, “Who is performing the Saturday Night Infield Concert?” NASCAR’s Most Competitive track is happy to announce today that it is none other than country music star Randy Houser.
In what has become a Talladega Superspeedway tradition with top music acts, the Saturday Night Concert on May 3 will feature Houser, whose powerhouse voice fits perfectly with Talladega Superspeedway, the biggest and baddest race track on the planet.
Houser’s songs like “Runnin’ Out of Moonlight” and “Goodnight Kiss” will have the intersection of Eastaboga and Talladega Boulevard rocking the party well into the night on Saturday, May 3. The best part about the concert is that admission is FREE with the purchase of a Sunday race ticket (to the Aaron’s 499).
“Having a performer the caliber of Randy Houser here at Talladega—given all he has accomplished as an artist—is something special for our fans,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “What a day we have in store for Saturday here at Talladega: two races, Knockout Coors Light Qualifying and, to cap it all off that evening, Randy Houser. And to see the concert live in person, you can’t beat the price – Free!”
Houser, a Mississippi native, grew up in a musical family and started paying in bands at the age of 13. After penning songs for other singers, such as hit track “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” Houser stepped out on his own and recorded two successful albums in Anything Goes and They Call Me Cadillac. His critically acclaimed latest album, How Country Feels out on Stoney Creek Records, houses his first radio No. 1 single in “How Country Feels” and features some of the best performances of his career. The album’s rich, expansive sound had Vince Gill calling Houser “one of the best in the new crop of country singer-songwriters.”
Saturday’s activities kick off at 10 am with the ARCA Racing Series International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200, followed by “Knockout” group qualifying for the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and the start of the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series event. The day will end in the evening, but the party will just be getting started with Houser on stage.
The Kevin Harvick Foundation today announced its support of the Bakersfield Police Activities League (BPAL), a California-based organization that works with at-risk youth in the local area through various programs.
"Without the donations and support from organizations such as the Kevin Harvick Foundation, it would not be possible to offer our attractive variety of recreational, educational and developmental programs to our local youth," said Kyle Ursery, Executive Director at Bakersfield Police Activities League and Senior Police Officer with the Bakersfield Police Department. "We believe these are keys to assisting the children to avoid the troubles of the streets and to lead them to a pathway of success. We truly are blessed to have the support from Kevin."
BPAL works with approximately 500 underprivileged children in the Bakersfield, Calif. area, through various athletic and academic programs such as Arts & Crafts, BPAL Community Gardening, Tutoring, Basketball, Boxing, Soccer, Tennis and much more. 2014 marks BPAL's 20th Anniversary.
"It's a great feeling being able to give back to the community where I was raised," said Harvick. "I was fortunate enough to have people in my life guide me in the right direction which enabled me to get to where I am today. I hope this program does the same for other kids in the Bakersfield community."
The donation provided to the organization will benefit the Basketball, Soccer, Baseball and Boxing programs supported by BPAL. Each sport will receive new uniforms, much needed equipment and the opportunity to play on updated surfaces.
Sports tend to exude rich history steeped in tradition. This week two different sports visit venues where their respective roots run deep.
One of the most nostalgic and iconic events in all of sports is taking place this week as golf makes its annual trek to a venue matched in status by the contest it hosts – the Masters at Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club. Augusta National, designed by golfing legend Bobby Jones in 1932, is one of those rare venues that transcends its sport. The green jacket awarded annually to the Masters winner is one of the most coveted prizes in all of sports.
Matching the historical significance of Augusta National is another iconic venue that lies a mere 145 miles north on Interstate 20, except instead of blooming azaleas lining its confines, a red-and-white checkered wall lines one’s path to glory.
Darlington (S.C.) Raceway is one of NASCAR’s oldest venues. Built in 1949 by Harold Brasington, the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval has hosted NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races since 1950, and Saturday night will mark the 65th running of the Southern 500 – one of the crown-jewel races on the 36-race Sprint Cup schedule.
Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, is very much aware of Darlington’s history. The three-time Sprint Cup champion has yet to score a Sprint Cup win at the track aptly known as “Too Tough To Tame”, making it one of only two tracks the Sprint Cup Series visits where Stewart has yet to win – the other being Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, which was only added to the schedule three years ago.
But beyond checking Darlington off his “to-do” list, Stewart knows the track’s history and its list of winners, particularly those who won and set the stage for NASCAR’s rise to mainstream prominence – inaugural Southern 500 winner Johnny Mantz and multi-time Darlington victors David Person, Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon being some of the most notable.
Despite his open-wheel upbringing and Indiana roots, Stewart knows the Southern staple of racing at Darlington and has always approached its races with nothing but the highest regard.
Since becoming a full-time Sprint Cup driver in 1999 where in his first Sprint Cup race at Darlington he finished a respectable sixth, Stewart has posted solid results. In total, he’s made 21 career Sprint Cup starts at Darlington, scoring four top-fives and 11 top-10s. His average finish is 12th and he has finished on the lead lap in all but four of those 21 races, earning him a lap completion rate of 99 percent. And in the last nine Sprint Cup races at Darlington, no driver has completed more green-flag passes than Stewart (563).
While Stewart has been productive at Darlington, that’s not to say he hasn’t endured his share of “Darlington Stripes,” the ubiquitous rite of passage that adorn the right sides of racecars after a too-close encounter with the track’s old school red-and-white striped walls. Darlington’s 23 and 25-degree-banked corners could also be called Amen Corner, for they’ve chewed up and spit out many a competitor.
Currently, the box next to “Southern 500 victory” remains unchecked on what is sure to be a Hall-of-Fame-worthy career, as Stewart’s 48 career Sprint Cup wins attest.
While many a golfing great went winless at the Masters – Greg Norman, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and Nick Price to name a few – Stewart has no intention of seeing his name absent from Darlington Raceway’s victory scroll. With NASCAR’s annual pilgrimage to its version of Augusta National next up on the Sprint Cup docket, Stewart sees opportunity to add another jewel to his crown.
Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), won both his first Sprint Cup pole and also his most recent Sprint Cup pole at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway – the site of Saturday night’s Southern 500 Sprint Cup Series race.
In September 2001, Busch won his first career Sprint Cup Series pole with a speed of 168.048 mph to become the youngest driver to win a pole at Darlington at the age of 23 years and 29 days. Busch is one of three Sprint Cup drivers to win his first career Sprint Cup pole at Darlington. Ken Schrader won his first Sprint Cup pole at Darlington in March 1987 and Clint Bowyer in May 2007.
Busch also started from the pole at Darlington in 2004 as he was leading the Sprint Cup point standings when qualifying was cancelled due to weather. Busch led a total of nine laps while battling an ill-handling racecar, but survived to bring home a sixth-place finish. That sixth-place finish put him in position to win the Sprint Cup championship the next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch also turned the fastest qualifying lap at Darlington when he set the track record last season with a speed of 181.918 mph. It took Busch 27.032 seconds to complete that lap in May 2013.
Busch has led a number of laps at the track and, remarkably, has been running at the end of each of his 17 starts, boasting a lap-completion rate of 97.6 percent. While he owns some notable stats at the track that’s “Too Tough to Tame,” Busch still yearns for the most important stat – a checkmark in the win column. That missing checkmark brings to mind the race Busch came within thousandths of a second of winning.
It was March 16, 2003, and Busch was making just his fifth Sprint Cup start at Darlington. Busch had qualified sixth but had to start from the back after the team changed an engine before the race. Busch showed a patient, steady pace as he progressed through the field during the race. His first opportunity to take the lead didn’t come until the last round of pit stops. Sitting in third place, he watched drivers Elliott Sadler and Jeff Gordon battle for the lead, all the while closing in on the leaders.
Busch officially took the lead on lap 270 with only 24 laps remaining. A fast car allowed him to build a lead of three seconds. He was poised to run to the finish as the leader until a hard-charging Ricky Craven started tracking down Busch as the laps wound down. Complicating the situation for Busch was the loss of power steering on his car. As the race counted down to two laps to go, Busch and Craven started battling hard for the lead with the top spot being exchanged all the way to the white flag signaling the final lap.
To this day, the finish shares the top spot on NASCAR’s list of closest finishes in the sport’s history. Although Busch settled for second place, he doesn’t hesitate to refer to it as one of his greatest races. It’s a racing memory for the ages at a track that, appropriately enough, has been on the NASCAR circuit longer than any other.
While Busch’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in March virtually guarantees his No. 41 team a spot in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, he and his Daniel Knost-led crew certainly want to score additional wins to cement his presence in the playoffs. Busch is one of seven single-race winners at the season’s opening seven events, and a win this weekend would move Busch and the No. 41 team ahead of his fellow 2014 race-winning competitors in pursuit of a playoff berth.
In 17 career starts at Darlington, Busch has two top-five finishes and five top-10s with an average finish of 17th. He also has led 252 laps at Darlington, most recently when he led 69 laps in his last visit in May 2013.
After announcing his arrival in the late-model world by clinching two top-10 finishes in three races last fall, 13-year-old Todd Gilliland will kick off his first full stock-car racing season Friday at Ace Speedway.
The son of Sprint Cup Series driver David Gilliland will enter his No. 98 Ford in the LMSC division event during Opening Night at Ace Speedway, a 4/10-mile track in Altamahaw, N.C. The younger Gilliland will be led by new crew chief Chris Lawson, who led driver Ronnie Bassett Jr. to numerous late-model wins in various series over the past three years.
Gilliland, an eighth-grader at Mill Creek Middle School in Claremont, N.C., plans to run 20 to 25 races on the East coast this year in late-model and straight-rail stock cars.
"I'm just really excited to go racing again," Gilliland said. "I had a lot of fun in the races I did last year and did pretty well, so I just want to keep doing more and more. My dad has helped me a lot but I know I still have a lot to learn."
Gilliland advanced to racing stock cars after winning the 2013 USAC World Formula National Quarter Midget Championship, winning races across the country from California to North Carolina. In November, he came within two car lengths of earning a win in just his third race in a stock car, finishing second in the Southeast Limited Late Models event at Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Speedway.
The teen is the third generation of Gilliland racers, following his father, David, and grandfather, Butch, who also competed in the Sprint Cup Series.
"I'm extremely proud of how quickly he's picked things up," said David Gilliland. "I wish I had been as good of a student when my dad was teaching me when I was that age. Everybody has just been really impressed with him."
Follow the team's season at ToddGilliland.com and on Twitter at @ToddGilliland_.
Breaking Limits PR
Friday’s VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 Nationwide Series race at Darlington Raceway seems like a relatively short event in the grand scheme of things, but the Lady in Black, as the track has been called, makes it a tough evening.
Landon Cassill knows how difficult the old track can be. He has run one Nationwide and three Sprint Cup races at the 1.366-mile oblong track.
“It’s one of the toughest race tracks I’ve ever been on, and I’m sure it’s tougher than many I haven’t even seen,” Cassill said. “You have to have your ducks in a row to make good laps there. And even a small mistake can lead to big trouble – and quickly. It’s one of our toughest tests of the year.”
Cassill will drive the No. 01 JD Motorsports with Gary Keller Chevrolet in Friday night’s race. He finished 23rd in last year’s Nationwide race at the track.
JD Motorsports PR
Jeffrey Earnhardt hasn’t competed at Darlington Raceway since 2011.
Earnhardt will return to the track, arguably NASCAR’s toughest, in Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 Nationwide Series race. It will be his seventh race in the JD Motorsports with Gary Keller No. 4 Chevrolet.
Earnhardt’s only race at the 1.366-mile track was a Camping World Truck Series event in 2011. He finished a respectable 20th in his debut at Darlington.
“I remember how hard it was to cut a good lap there,” Earnhardt said. “Just a little error would mess up your lap. You have to be on your toes in every turn. And it’s so easy to get into the wall.”
Earnhardt is 18th in Nationwide driver points entering the race.
JD Motorsports PR
This weekend, Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) will pay homage to the car that started the pony car craze: the Ford Mustang. RFR’s Chris Buescher will be behind the wheel of a special 50thAnniversary Mustang paint scheme during the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 in Darlington (S.C.), to honor the car that inspired Detroit’s muscle car wars.
“It really is an honor to be a part of the celebration for 50 years of the Ford Mustang by having this terrific looking race car for Darlington,” said Buescher. “The Mustang is such an iconic car with a great history, and somehow Ford continues to make each new model of the car even better. I can’t wait to drive the new 2015 model when it comes out in a few months, and hopefully we can make the celebration even cooler by putting our No. 60 Ford Mustang in victory lane this weekend.”
The first Ford Mustang was unveiled on April 17th, 1964 at the New York World’s Fair. Immediately, it went to work for Ford Racing, carrying generations of racecar drivers to victory lane. The Mustang’s styling and engineering also inspired millions of people to buy their pony. Now, 50 years later, Ford is celebrating the Mustang’s golden jubilee by unleashing a new generation of the legendary car.
"Mustang was born to race, so it makes perfect sense to have a 50 Years of Mustang paint scheme, from Jack Roush's stable, on Chris' Mustang to help honor the anniversary of the car," said Jamie Allison, Director, Ford Racing. "We're excited that NASCAR fans will get a chance to see this special car race at Darlington, and we hope it brings back great memories of their first experience with a Mustang."
The Mustang is Ford’s official car of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and this Friday Buescher will be behind the wheel of the specially designed 50th Anniversary Mustang when he attempts to tame “The Lady in Black.” You can catch a sneak peek of what the car will look like, and see how the team at RFR got the car ready for the track, by clicking on the following link:
The special paint scheme is only one part of the excitement surrounding RFR and the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang. In the coming weeks, watch for a special social media campaign highlighting our fans’ greatest #RFRMustangMoments that will end with one fan winning a hood just like the one on the car Buescher races at Darlington.
The LuMind Foundation announces its inaugural Race for Research, a three-day road rally and scavenger hunt to raise funds for Down syndrome cognition research.
Honorary co-chairs David Ragan, third-generation NASCAR driver, and his wife, Jacquelyn, will helm the event, set for June 16-18, 2014. Teams of friends and supporters navigate from the green flag at the Richard Petty Museum and to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte with pit
stops honoring NASCAR legends and history.
The Ragans join LuMind Foundation to help improve opportunities for people with Down syndrome. David Ragan's older brother, Adam, was born with an extra chromosome: Trisomy 21, or Down syndrome.
"The Race for Research is a chance for NASCAR fans to meet some of the sport's legends, journey through racing history and also fund research that one day may improve learning and memory in those with Down syndrome, including my brother, Adam," David Ragan said.
David Ragan and his brother, Adam
Two-person teams in ordinary cars (with sponsor decals, of course) begin the competition on June 16 at the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman, N.C., and navigate through NASCAR country to the checkered flag on June 18 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C.
During "pit stops," the participants will complete a scavenger hunt task as they get a chance to look behind the scenes of famous speedways and meet some of David Ragan's racing friends. Pit stops instantly recognizable to any NASCAR fan include:
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"Cognition research for Down syndrome has made tremendous strides over the last few years, and these new discoveries are now fueling several promising clinical trials," Ragan said. "But a lack of funding is a major reason why my brother and the more than 250,000 Americans living with Down syndrome don't have access to treatments yet."
Sign up your team now and experience the thrills of NASCAR racing while you raise funds for important cognitive development research. For more information on the Race for Research and to sign up for a team or donate to an event participant, visit: www.dsrtfRaceforResearch.org.
David Ragan PR