Speedway Digest Staff
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
Kyle "Rowdy" Busch led the final 38 laps of the Rowdy 251 ARCA/CRA Super Series race at Berlin Raceway in Marne, Mich. en route to his third straight victory in the fourth annual event that bears his name. Off a lap-233 restart, second-generation driver Chase Elliott dove to the inside of Busch's No. 51 Advanced Payment Services Camry (APS) but was unable to complete the pass. As the race proceeded under green flag conditions for the final 18 laps, Busch slowly pulled away from the 16-year-old phenom, putting nearly a straightaway distance between the two by the time that the checkered flag dropped.
"I wasn't sure how it was all going to play down there, but I was giving it all I had at the end," said Busch, who won for the second time in as many starts this season driving his Kyle Busch Motorsports Super Late Model in ARCA/CRA Super Series events. "To win this race three years in a row -- I'm so proud of all my guys at KBM and KBM Chassis. I have to thank Advanced Payment Services and CollegeComplete.com for coming onboard as sponsors for this race and all the fans for coming out tonight and supporting this great event. We were racing against a great bunch of guys tonight. I like to come to Berlin not just to race, but to see the competitors, my friends like Brian Campbell, Johnny VanDoorn, Chase Elliott and Ross Kenseth. I like to see them and I like to see how they are progressing."
Busch posted the second-fastest lap in the afternoon qualifying session, but after the field was inverted, rolled off the grid from the 15th spot. Knowing that equipment preservation would be important in the 251-lap race, he patiently maneuvered his No. 51 APS Camry toward the front of the field. On lap 32, he had made his into eighth and by lap 74 he had captured the fourth spot.
The Las Vegas native was scored in the third position when a caution occurred on lap 100. He fell back to fourth on the ensuing restart, but one lap later vaulted along the high line passing up-and-comers Elliott and Kenseth, who ran second and third, respectively. Busch settled into the second position on lap 117 and began to chase down VanDoorn, who had opened up a sizeable lead as the race approached the halfway mark.
Busch's No. 51 APS Camry was able to not only chase down VanDoorn before the break, but was able to work his way around him - taking the lead for the first time on lap 124. Competitors were able to put on four fresh tires during a 10-minute break at lap 125 and then the order of the top-six cars were shuffled - based on six children from the stands who were given a ticket with a number that corresponded to the top six cars and then randomly lined up on the track.
The two-time defending winner restarted from the third spot when the race resumed on lap 126. He made his way into the second spot on a lap-152 restart, where he settled in behind race leader Tim DeVos. On lap 190, Busch began to get antsy and made his first of several attempts to take over the top spot. Before a pass could be completed, a one-car spin in Turn 4 brought out the caution on lap 200.
Several cars, including the No. 51 APS Camry, elected to come down pit road and put on the two fresh tires that were allotted in the second half, per the race rules. Busch was the first off pit road of the cars that elected to take tires and returned to the track scored in the third position.
One circuit after the race restarted on lap 212, Busch completed a three-wide pass of Tim Thomas and Daniel Hemric, who both elected to remain on the track during the subsequent caution. Shortly after taking the point, the fifth caution of the race occurred on lap 213. When the race resumed on lap 214, the Sprint Cup Series regular, known for his strong restarts, made quick work of Hemric and began to pull away from the field.
Rowdy's progress towards third straight victory was impeded by a one-car accident on lap 228. The field was bunched back up and the race restarted for the final time on lap 233. The veteran driver was able to fend off Elliott's crossover move on the restart and pulled away for the victory.
Elliott finished second, followed by VanDoorn in third. Pole-sitter Tom Thomas finished fourth and Kenseth rounded out the top-five finishers.
The race featured six cautions, including two red-flag stoppages. Nine of the 30 cars that started the event were unable to finish.
The green, white and black colors of 1-800LoanMart return to the No. 38 Ford of David Gilliland as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Sonoma this weekend.
Gilliland, a native of nearby Riverside, California, posted a runner-up finish at the 12 turn, 2.52 mile road course in 2008. He drove his Front Row Motorsports Ford to a 12th place finish at the track last season and has an average career finish of 25th at road courses in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.
Driver David Gilliland on Sonoma
"Sonoma is one of my favorite tracks. It is a good opportunity to bounce back from the tough weekend we had at Michigan, where we were caught up in a wreck. Not only is Sonoma in my home state of California, but it is one of the better tracks on the schedule for our No. 38 team. I've come so close to winning here before and am looking to put together a strong run for our 1-800LoanMart team this weekend.
"It is great to have 1-800LoanMart colors back on-board our No. 38 car. I had a lot of fun representing them at Fontana earlier this spring. Their national headquarters is in Encino, CA, so this weekend will be a homecoming for both of us."
Crew Chief Pat Tryson on Sonoma
"We had a good car at Michigan and it was a shame we ended up in a series of wrecks that weren't of our doing. Unfortunately, that is the nature of our sport. We're focusing on the speed we've seemed to find of late and looking to take our 1-800LoanMart Ford to Sonoma for a strong weekend. David is a good road course racer. If we can keep our No. 38 car out of trouble, I think we will end the day with a solid finish."
Riverside, California native Josh Wise prepares to race in his home state as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Sonoma this weekend. While this will be Wise's first time racing at Sonoma, the Golden State native posted an average finish of 23rd in three NASCAR Nationwide Series road course races last season.
Wise will be piloting the No. 26 Morristown Driver's Service Ford in Sunday's event. He has successfully qualified for 13 of the 14 races he has attempted in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition this season. Sunday's race will mark the 18th career Cup start for Wise, who at the age of 16, became the youngest champion in USAC history.
Josh Wise on Sonoma
"I think every driver looks forward to racing in their home state. I'm very glad to have this opportunity. Our No. 26 Morristown Driver's Service team has worked very hard to qualify for races all season long. Obviously, our first goal this weekend is to qualify for Sunday's race. From there, our team will be looking to post a respectable finish.
"I haven't had a ton of road course experience, but had a lot of fun running the three road races in the Nationwide series last season. Growing up in Riverside, racing at Sonoma has always been a dream of mine. I'm really looking forward to racing there this weekend."
NASCAR Announces Date, Location For NASCAR Nationwide Series And NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2012 Postseason Awards Shows
NASCAR announced today the date and location for its 2012 postseason championship celebrations for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
The combined NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Awards will return to South Florida for 2012 and be held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, located in the heart of South Beach. The event is scheduled for Monday, November 19, following the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Similar to past award shows, this year’s event will honor the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champions, as determined during the Homestead-Miami Speedway race weekend, November 16-18.
“Celebrating the champions of the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Miami Beach enables us to continue the wave of excitement out of championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “The backdrop makes for an ideal location to honor those champions — and their teams and sponsors — after their great seasons.”
As previously announced, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards will return to Las Vegas, and take place Friday, November 30, at the Wynn Las Vegas.A full lineup of activities for Champion's Week will be announced at a later date.
Bobby Labonte is competing sort of in his sponsor’s backyard during the Toyota/Save Mart 350 on Sunday, June 24th as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series arrives in Sonoma Valley for the 24th consecutive year.
“Road course racing at Sonoma is fun,” Labonte said. “It’s one of the most exciting races we go on the circuit. I like the road courses a lot and feel like we should have a couple more on our 36-race schedule. Why not?”
Labonte and the JTG Daugherty Racing team will proudly display the The Clorox Company’s Clorox logo on the hood of the No. 47 Toyota Camry for the 110-lap event. The Clorox Company is based in Oakland, Calif., which is a mere hour away from the 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course. Clorox, which is a global company with leading brands that have become household names, has a longstanding relationship with JTG Daugherty Racing through the NASCAR platform that spans over a decade.
“The Clorox Company has stood behind our company through thick and thin,” co-owner Tad Geschickter said. “It means a lot to have sponsors who are true business partners. We are both vested in seeing each other succeed.”
There will be 44 drivers attempting to qualify for race number 16 looking to break Jeff Gordon’s track record (June 24, 2005, 94.325 mph/1:15.950). This marks the first of two road-course events on the circuit. Labonte has two top-five and five top-10 finishes to his credit in 19 starts at Sonoma with his best finish of fourth occurring twice (6/25/00 and 6/28/98). The JTG Daugherty Racing team’s best finish is third, which happened in 2009 with Australian driver Marcos Ambrose.
“The team has had some success at road courses,” Labonte said. “This will be a good track for us.”
There have been 96 lead changes combined over the last 10 years of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition on the Sonoma road course. Last year, Kurt Busch hoisted the trophy besting Jeff Gordon, who is the one to beat owning five victories and five pole positions. Labonte has 21-career victories and a 2000 championship on his résumé, but for some reason he is missing a road course victory. He’s ready to change that this weekend.
“I don’t have a win at Sonoma,” Labonte said. “I guess I’ve been fair to midland there. I have some top-five finishes and consistently had top 10 running cars. It always seemed like with a few laps to go something would always happen to take me out of contention. We’re hoping to secure a solid top 15 finish out there with our No. 47 Clorox Toyota Camry on Sunday in the Toyota/Save Mart 350.”
As NASCAR takes to the winding, right-turn road courses of Sonoma Raceway and Road America, Roush Fenway Racing will look to earn its 13th victory in NASCAR road course action.
“(The road courses) are a true test to your driving ability,” said Carl Edwards, who has won twice in NASCAR road course action. “You can’t make a mistake. You can’t miss a shift. You have to really temper your aggression. You can’t just go in there and dive under people and wreck them because if you don’t wreck them they will wreck you in the next corner and you will most likely wreck yourself. It is a really tough place to be fast and to not make mistakes. It is hard.”
As difficult as the task can be, Roush Fenway earned the first of its 12 NASCAR road course victories via Mark Martin’s win from the pole at Watkins Glen on August 8, 1993. The team went on to win the next three Cup races at Watkins Glen over the next three seasons.
RFR earned its first victory at Sonoma on May 4, 1997 with Martin’s dominating victory. The No. 6 Ford started the race from the pole and led 69 of 74 laps in the victory.
That same season Joe Ruttman added two more road course wins to RFR’s mantle, via the truck series, winning first at the 2.5-mile course at Heartland Park Topeka in Kansas and then at Sonoma.
Of Roush Fenway’s current roster, both Greg Biffle and Edwards boast victories on road courses. Biffle won in the truck series at Portland in 1999, while Edwards has tallied Nationwide Series wins at Montreal and in NASCAR’s inaugural effort at Road America.
Still Edwards looks to the challenge of posting Roush Fenway’s first Sprint Cup win on a road course since 1997.
“The first time I went road racing with Boris (Said), about two minutes into it we were backwards in the grass,” said Edwards. “Coming (to Sonoma) was one of the most humbling experiences my first time for a test. Kasey Kahne was out there running about a second-and-a-half faster than me and that was all I had. We have been able to come (to Sonoma) a couple times and be very fast and sat on the pole at Watkins Glen two years ago which was huge for me. I won some Nationwide races, but I still have to get that Cup win on a road course. I want to be able to contend for the win every time. That is the next hurdle for me, to get that much better.”
Edwards and teammates Matt Kenseth and Biffle will have their first chance to cross that hurdle this weekend when the Sprint Cup Series fires up once again at Sonoma Raceway for this Sunday’s Sprint Cup event. The race is set for 3:00 p.m. EDT and will be televised live by TNT.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., will represent Roush Fenway in Saturday’s Nationwide action at Road America. That race is set for 3:00 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on ESPN.
Driving will be on Jimmie Johnson’s mind as he spends the week in his home state of California. The five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion will host the sixth annual Jimmie Johnson Foundation Golf Tournament and Dinner Auction in the San Diego, Calif., area where he grew up prior to the weekend’s race activities at the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif. While Johnson hopes to hit them straight earlier in the week, he hopes to navigate the turns of a track that nearly 3,000 sheep call home and where victory lane is known for its “Champion’s Goblet” filled with the area’s favorite libation.
Johnson has sipped from the goblet before. In 2010, he finally achieved a career goal by winning on a road course. The celebration that ensued had the goblet on a mini trophy tour (see quote below). And Johnson’s success at Sonoma was hard-fought. He has only three top-five finishes at the track where completing all 110 laps means completing 1,100 turns. It is apparent that Johnson has been getting better at all 1,100 turns. He has five top-15 finishes in the last six races. His lone DNF (did not finish) came in his very first Sprint Cup race at the track in 2002.
Johnson’s record at raising funds with his golf tournament has been more consistent. The sixth annual tournament has raised more than $500,000 every year and is on track to do so again. Lowe’s returns as the title sponsor, with help from many of Johnson’s other major partners, sponsors and friends. Funds raised enable the Jimmie Johnson Foundation/ Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions Grants, to award educational grants in Muskogee, Okla., and the San Diego, Calif., area where Chandra and Jimmie Johnson grew up, respectively, as well as Charlotte, N.C., where the couple currently resides.
So while good drives will be on everyone’s minds all week, Johnson knows that a fitting ending to the week could culminate with a raised goblet around the sheep-grazed farmland of the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma.
In most team sports, having home-field advantage can make a difference in the outcome of a game, and that typically occurs for at least half of each season. In NASCAR, while many drivers race at venues near their hometowns, there are no more than two “home games” each 36-race season.
Not so for Kyle Busch, driver of the No. M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) at Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350k on the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma, Calif. The Las Vegas native feels very much at home all up and down the western part of the country, where the series races no less than five times each year from Phoenix to Sonoma.
While he’ll be enjoying a home game this weekend, the talented 27-year-old is also hitting the road – namely the 1.99-mile road course at Sonoma, for Sunday’s 350-kilometer challenge of both right turns and lefts.
Before 2008, nobody even thought to mention Busch as a threat to win either of Sprint Cup’s annual road-course events at Sonoma and Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. But that all changed shortly after his arrival at JGR at the start of 2008 as Busch dominated the road-course scene that year, leading 130 of a total of 202 road-course laps and capturing victories at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen.
Similar to NASCAR regulars like Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon who are known to be strong on the road courses, Busch quickly established himself four seasons ago as a routine road-course contender and has been in the hunt on road courses ever since. Most recently, Busch sat on the Sprint Cup pole in August at Watkins Glen, and then led a race-high three times for 49 laps before losing the lead on a late restart to road-course ace Marcos Ambrose and finishing in the runner-up spot.
So, as the Sprint Cup Series heads to its annual stop in Northern California’s Wine Country, everyone knows Busch is capable of winning anywhere in his comfortable surroundings of his “home” out West, just like he did at his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009. They also know he’s always a threat to win on the “road” courses, as he is this weekend at Sonoma.
5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer prides himself on his ability to have a good time while never forgetting his roots in Emporia, Kan. Bowyer continues to find new ways to tie all of his favorite things together to benefit his hometown in his own unique way.
Bowyer, through his charity the “79 Fund,” has given more than $1 million to the Emporia Community Foundation. The funds have been used to build the Clint Bowyer Community Building – a multi-purpose community center to host events, concerts and activities for the 25,000 Emporia residents.
“The Bowyer Community Building is my way to say thank you to all the people in my hometown who’ve been putting up with me and my brothers as we were growing up,” laughed Bowyer.
“I wanted to do something in Emporia to show people how much pride and the sense of community that I feel for my hometown. We were always missing a place for people to meet up and have a community meeting, prom or wedding and now I think we have that.”
Bowyer worked with Lyon County to secure the land and work on the design and construction of the new facility.
Bowyer decided to throw a grand opening party for his new building that few in small town Emporia will ever forget. On Tuesday, June 26, he is hosting an acoustic concert featuring his good friend and country music superstar Blake Shelton presented by 5-hour ENERGY with a guest appearance by NASCAR personality Kyle Petty.
“I’m hoping that hosting this concert and having Blake Shelton come out to Emporia is something the people here will remember for a long time,” said Bowyer. “We don’t normally get big name stars and events to come here and do things in our community. This is going to be a very big deal and not only that - it’s going to be one heck of a good time and raise money for the community.”
The Sherwin-Williams Planet Color All-Star Charity Challenge showcases Bowyer’s love of classic cars and ties back to his foundation. Bowyer and fellow Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle went head-to-head designing trucks to be auctioned off at Barrett-Jackson Auctions to raise money for their charities. Bowyer designed a 1950s-inspired 2011 Toyota Tundra work truck incorporating a throwback red patina paint design. The Tundra goes to auction at Barrett-Jackson in Orange County, Calif. on Saturday, June 24. Bowyer will make the trip from Sonoma to Orange County on Friday after Sprint Cup Series qualifying.
“I try to take my favorite things and have fun with them to make my community better. I like cars, I like racing and I like country music – so that is my formula! I’m not sure how other people do their things, but for me if I can tie everything together and have fun while making the community better I think that’s a win in my book.”
Bowyer continues to raise money in support of his 79 Fund through various events throughout the year, including the annual Clint Bowyer Support Emporia Charity Golf Tournament and through incentives by sponsors throughout the racing season.
How did Furniture Row Racing driver Regan Smith prepare for the first Sprint Cup road-race of the season?
He went to High Plains Raceway with the High Plains Drifter.
Translation: High Plains Raceway is a road course east of the team's Denver shop, and the High Plains Drifter is Smith's driving coach Rick Carelli, an Arvada, Colo. native, who acquired the moniker during his successful career as a late-model, modified, stock car and truck series racer.
"They even have a corner named after Rick at High Plains Raceway," said Smith, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet. "It's pretty neat that we have a road-course facility fairly close to our Denver (Colo.) shop, and to have Rick offering his expertise is a bonus."
Smith and the Furniture Row Racing team were at High Plains Raceway in Deer Trail, Colo. Tuesday testing for Sunday's Toyota/Save Mart 350 road race in Sonoma, Calif.
Carelli, an inductee into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, feels both Smith and the team are well prepared for the Sonoma event.
"If you don't like road racing chances are you're not going to do well at it," stated Carelli, an original NASCAR Truck Series driver in 1995. "But that's not the case with Regan. He is a good student and welcomes the challenge to improve his road-racing skills. I am looking for a solid weekend out of this Furniture Row Racing team."
Despite only six career Sprint Cup starts at road course venues -- three in Sonoma and three in Watkins Glen, N.Y. -- Smith has developed a fondness for the left-and-right-hand-turn style of racing, which was once greeted with a bitter dislike by an earlier generation of NASCAR Cup drivers.
But times have changed and today's Sprint Cup drivers, including Smith, have a much different outlook toward the road courses.
"I enjoy the road course races, it's a nice change of pace," said the 28-year-old Smith, who grew up near the Watkins Glen road course in Cato, N.Y. "It's great racing to watch and as exciting as anything we do during the course of the season. Seeing the beating and banging that goes on, and the guys roughing up each other, make for some really good entertainment. Unlike years past, most of the drivers now look forward to the challenges of road racing in Sonoma and Watkins Glen."
Of his six road course starts, Smith's best finish was 16th last year at the demanding 10-turn, 1.99-mile Sonoma circuit.
"Sonoma is a technical track and you can't let your guard down," explained Smith. "As a rule, strategy is key to having success in road racing -- we almost run these road course races like a Formula 1 race. There are so many reasons I am looking forward to this weekend and one of them is that we continue to find more speed in our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevrolet."