Thursday, Sep 28
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Mark Martin, driving in place of the injured Tony Stewart, turned in a solid performance by finishing 15th in the AdvoCare 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Behind the wheel of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Martin started 16th in the 43-car field and ran as high as eighth as various pit strategies constantly jumbled the running order.

A scheduled, green-flag pit stop on lap 234 dropped Martin to 30th as team’s differing pit strategies played out. Martin rallied to 15th before the race’s eighth and final caution period on lap 283. He took advantage of the break in action and came to pit road for right-side tires and fuel.

Martin restarted in 15th on lap 288 and crossed the finish line in that same spot when the checkered flag dropped 24 laps later.

“The Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevy was good on the long run,” Martin said. “We had to work more on the short runs. And then I didn’t get that last restart quite right and I pushed up into the marbles there in turn one. It’s a little disappointing because we were better than what the result showed, but it was still a solid run for this Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team.”

TSC PR

Kurt Busch and the Furniture Row Racing team came through in the end, securing a fifth-place finish in Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
 
It was the 11th top-five finish of the season for Busch, one shy of his career best of 12, set in 2002. It was also his 16th top-10 result.
 
With one race remaining in 2013 – next Sunday (Nov. 17) at Homestead-Miami Speedway - Busch is 10th in Chase driver points. He is two points out of ninth and 12 out of eighth.
 
“To get another top-five that’s a big moment,” said Busch, who has three top-five finishes in the nine Chase races. “We gave it our best shot and the work effort by our Furniture Row guys paid off. It’s been a very successful season for the Furniture Row team.”
 
Busch started eighth in the 312-lap race and ran in the top-10 for the first 150 laps on the 1-mile oval. But due to teams being on different pit cycles, Busch’s Furniture Row Chevrolet was as far back as 25th.
 
“It was a battle out there and we hung tough,” said Busch. “We stuck to our two-tire, four-tire strategy and it all came together at the end. We weren’t really good and weren’t really bad. We passed cars and got passed. Being patient was the key. The biggest problem today was that I was not able to use the right-rear tire, it would just slide out from underneath me." 
 
When the race was restarted for the final time on Lap 288 Busch was positioned in seventh place. He stayed up front for the remaining laps and managed to pick up two positions.
 
“We’re still searching for that W and have one race to get that win,” stated Busch. “It’s been a great year and we’ll do everything possible to see the Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet in Victory Lane at Homestead.”
 
The race winner was Kevin Harvick. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
 
The race had 23 lead changes among 13 drivers and there were eight cautions for 49 laps.
 
FRR PR

Carl Edwards' march to victory ended early, and short of the checkered flag, needing a half-gallon of gas.

Edwards ran out of fuel while leading on the final lap of Sunday's AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, and Kevin Harvick sped past the No. 99 Ford to register his fourth win of the season.

"We played the strategy very well," said Edwards, who pitted for the final time on Lap 248 of 312 and tried to stretch his fuel supply to the end. "We did a really good job, but we just needed a little more fuel. We just miscalculated.

"I thought we were a lap to the good. I was saving just a little bit of fuel, but obviously not enough. I don't know if I could have saved a lap and kept Kevin behind me in hindsight, but that's a tough way to lose one there. We haven't run out of fuel in a long time."

Edwards was credited with a 21st-place finish, the last driver on the lead lap.

Halfway through the race, he survived a close call that could have altered the course of the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship battle. Edwards' Ford was the middle car in a three-wide sandwich as he, Harvick and series leader Jimmie Johnson entered Turn 1 on Lap 163.

Harvick was on the inside, and Edwards slid into Johnson's Chevrolet, which was closest to the wall. Johnson made a masterful save, fell back to 25th in the running order but rallied to finish third and extend his lead over second-place Matt Kenseth to 28 points going into next Sunday's finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

For Edwards, it was an uncomfortable moment.

"Yeah, I definitely did not mean to hit him," Edwards said. "He did a heck of a job saving it, and I'm just glad he saved it. I did not want to be part of the championship in that manner."

Rally for Junior

Sunday, Nov 10

Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought his No. 88 Chevrolet to pit road for an unscheduled pit stop on Lap 63 and lost a lap in the process. The culprit? A loose wheel.

Earnhardt, however, was back on the lead lap as the highest-scored lapped car after NASCAR called the fourth caution of the race for Dave Blaney's spin in Turn 1 on Lap 132.

A combination of hard driving and astute pit strategy on the part of crew chief Steve Letarte got Earnhardt back in the top five, and ultimately he delivered a fourth-place finish.

The rally didn't surprise Earnhardt, who posted his seventh top 10 in the last eight races.

"We had a fast car," Earnhardt said. "I thought Steve Letarte could get some good strategy to get us back up into the top 10 and top five, and I was real happy with the way we were able to rebound."

Gain for Kahne

Sunday, Nov 10

Kasey Kahne and his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team are doing their best to finish off an up-and-down season strongly.

Kahne's performance in the Chase has been, to say the least, erratic. Even after posting his second straight top-five finish Sunday at Phoenix, where he ran second to Kevin Harvick, Kahne is 12th in the Chase standings.

But with Sunday's success, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet already is pointing to 2014.

"I get down once in a while and feel pretty bad about what's going on," Kahne said. "We've had a lot of things happen to us this year, but we've battled back the last two weeks. We ran pretty good, fifth and second, so I'm happy about that.

"We'll try to finish off strong at Homestead with another top five and maybe prepare a little better for next year and try to have a little more consistent, stronger year from start to finish.

Kevin Harvick was on the short end of the fuel-mileage stick when he ran out of gas en route to pit road under green with about 40 laps to go in the 312-lap Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.

But he was able to remain in contention and took advantage of Carl Edwards running out of fuel with about 1 1/2 laps remaining, enabling Harvick to claim the race win.

After running out of fuel in the final laps, Carl Edwards wound up 21st.

Kasey Kahne finished second, while championship points leader Jimmie Johnson took third and increased his points cushion over second-place driver Matt Kenseth to 28 points heading into the Nov. 17 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kenseth finished off the lead lap in 23rd position.

Johnson started on the pole but failed to lead the first lap, as Denny Hamlin took the lead on lap one. Hamlin led the first 18 laps before losing the top spot to Jeff Gordon.

Harvick was also among the short list of drivers to lead several laps in the first third of the race before a rash of cautions that plagued the final 212 laps resulted in three different pit strategies.

The yellow flag waved eight times throughout the race, with all but one coming after lap 100. Different drivers cycled to the front with each yellow flag, as some drivers opted to stay out and pit under a later yellow flag while others took two or four tires.

One driver who never cycled to the front, though, was Kenseth, who battled an poor-handling race car all afternoon. That problem was compounded by a 25-second pit stop.

The yellow flag was given a slight rest after a lap-190 caution, requiring the entire field to cycle through green-flag stops in the final stretch of the race. Having made his final yellow-flag stop later than most of his fellow competitors, Harvick almost stretched his fuel mileage too far, running out of fuel on his way to his final stop. Edwards made his way to pit road under power, but while taking only two tires, he failed to stay on pit road long enough to get enough fuel to go the remaining distance.

The caution came out for the final time with about 30 laps to go, resulting in a restart with 25 laps remaining. Edwards restarted with the lead, with Harvick in fourth. Harvick quickly made his way to third on the restart and then got by Kahne for second with 18 laps remaining.

Edwards was told by crew chief Jimmy Fennig via team radio communications that he was about 11/2 laps short on fuel. As Edwards went into fuel conservation mode, Harvick closed on him.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Finishing sixth through 10th were Juan Montoya, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.

NOTES: Jimmie Johnson can claim his sixth Sprint Cup title if he finishes 23rd or better at Homestead, even if Matt Kenseth earns maximum points....Kevin Harvick's win was Chevrolet's 16th win at Phoenix in 33 races.... Johnson's third-place finish was his 13th top-five finish at the track in the last 15 races.... Harvick led the most laps of anyone in the race -- 70.... The Phoenix race was Jeff Burton's 1,000th national level NASCAR start. He finished 17th.... Bobby Labonte finished 22nd in his final race driving the No. 47 car.

Jimmie Johnson leads Matt Kenseth by 28 points in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings, going into Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Regardless of any other driver’s finish, Johnson will clinch his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup championship with a finish of 23rd or better at HMS; or 24th or better and at least one lap led; or 25th or better and the most laps led in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. on ESPN, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Kevin Harvick, 34 points behind Johnson, remains the only other driver eligible for the 2013 championship.

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Austin Dillon, who has an eight-point lead over second-place Sam Hornish Jr., will clinch the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship with a finish of third or better; or fourth or better with at least one lap led; or fifth or better with most laps led in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at HMS (Saturday at 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), regardless of any other driver’s finish.

In the owners’ championship battle, the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford leads the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota by four points. The No. 22 can only guarantee a clinch of the owners’ title with a victory at HMS.

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Matt Crafton has a 46-point lead over Ty Dillon heading into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finale. Crafton will clinch the series championship by starting Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at HMS (8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, Motor Racing Network Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota currently leads the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota by 23 points in the owners’ standings. To clinch the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owners’ championship, regardless of any other truck’s finish, the No. 88 must finish 18th or better; or 19th or better with at least one lap led; or 20th or better with the most laps led.

NASCAR PR

Brandon Jones and his No. 33 Rheem team made the long trek west to compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (NKNPSW) series finale at Phoenix International Raceway. Starting from the 15th spot for the Casino Arizona 50, Jones received damage on the opening lap when the field failed to get a clean start. After multiple trips to pit road for repairs, Jones fought hard to get back onto the lead lap. Jones received the free pass and returned to the lead lap when the yellow flag was displayed on lap 27. With an 18-lap shootout to the end, Jones fought tooth and nail to bring his battered Rheem Chevrolet home in the 17th position.

 

The NKNPSW was given two practice sessions throughout the weekend, and Jones proved that he was going to be a contender for his first victory in the K&N series. During the first practice session, Jones used a portion of the time to get accustomed to the 1.0-mile tri-oval and ended up seventh on the charts. During the final practice session, Jones tuned his car in for the race and posted the third-best time in final practice. On the initial start of the 50-lap race, the field got bunched up, causing many cars to come into contact and halting the race. After receiving damage, Jones hit pit road for repairs. Following a 30-minute red-flag period, the race got back underway with Jones scored in the 27th position, one lap down. With the leader checking out from the rest of the field, the race would go green until the second yellow was displayed on lap 27. Jones received the free pass and was once again scored on the lead lap. Before going back to green, Jones brought his No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet back down pit road for more repairs to his Impala. Jones was in 23rd position when the field restarted on lap 32. With 18 laps to go, he was able to get around a number of competitors and bring home a 17th-place finish.

 

"It's very disappointing that we got caught up in the opening-lap mess," said Jones. "We had a very fast Rheem Chevrolet all weekend, and it's the not the result we were looking for. Still, I can't thank my team enough for repairing the car to get us back out there and give us an opportunity. Even though we didn't get the finish we were looking for, I think we were able to gain some experience for our efforts next year."

 

TSM PR

Justin Allgaier started his second-to-last NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race of the 2013 season on Saturday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) in the ServiceMaster 200. After finishing the final practice session on Friday in the top position, Allgaier qualified his No. 31 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet in the 12th position on Saturday morning for Turner Scott Motorsports. After maintaining a top-20 position all day, Allgaier was able to capitalize on a great strategy call and lead 17 laps to finish in the second position, his best career finish at PIR. 

 

Rolling off 12th meant Allgaier would have work to do at the one mile short track. After relaying to his crew on lap eight that his BRANDT Chevy was tight, he slipped back to the 17th position on lap nine. After settling into a grove, Allgaier began racing his way back through the field. On lap 57 he was in 11th place and radioed to his crew that his lap times depended on how he go into Turns1 and 2. On lap 78, Allgaier came down pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. Crew chief Scott Zipadelli made the call to change four tires, fill the BRANDT Chevy full of fuel and make a slight air-pressure adjustment. After green-flag pit stops cycled through, Allgaier was in the ninth position. When the caution flew on lap 105, Allgaier was in the eighth position and relayed to his crew that he needed to turn better in the center. Zipadelli called Allgaier down pit road for two right-side tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment.

 

Allgaier restarted ninth on lap 110 and worked his up to the sixth position on lap 117. On lap 130, Allgaier was in the fifth position when the caution came out. He relayed to Zipadelli that he was a little bit tight in the center. Zipadelli made a great strategy call for Allgaier to come down pit road for fuel only and a wedge adjustment. Allgaier restarted in the third position on lap 136 and quickly took the lead on lap 137. After a couple of cautions, Allgaier was passed by Kyle Busch for the lead on lap 154. Allgaier maintained the second position until lap 163 when he slipped into third and reported he was struggling for front grip. As the laps continued to wind down in the 200-lap race, Allgaier stayed in the third position in the No. 31 BRANDT Chevy until he made last-lap pass on Austin Dillon for the second position before he took the checkered flag. After Saturday's race, Allgaier moved into the fourth position in the NNS Driver Point Standings.   

 

"We had a great weekend at Phoenix [International Raceway]," said Allgaier. "My guys worked on the BRANDT Chevy in the first practice session, and we finished the final practice session in first, which is always a confidence booster. I left a little out on the track in my qualifying lap, but my crew guys worked really hard on the car during the race to help me get track position. My crew chief, Scott Zipadelli, made a great call on the last pit stop to get us the best track position. I just can't thank everyone back at Turner Scott Motorsports enough. They prepared a great car, we led laps and we had a great points day. I'm looking forward to next weekend and finishing the season."

 

TSM PR

RAB Racing and driver Alex Bowman felt right at home Saturday for the ServiceMaster 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Bowman from nearby Tucson, Arizona with primary sponsor Innovative Green Technology (IGT) and fuelxx™ from the Phoenix area battled through multiple restarts and avoided on-track incidents to finish in the 11th position. This was the best NASCAR Nationwide Series finish for Bowman at his home track.

 

Friday began the team's first day of on-track activity with two practice sessions, and crew chief Chris Rice had a plan to optimize the two hours of track time. "We came into Phoenix with a completely different setup than we had in the spring, there wasn't one aspect of the car setup that we kept," said Rice. "The reasoning behind that was we had good speed for short runs in the Spring, but during a long run the car became increasingly tighter and hurt our performance. This track usually goes for long green-flag runs so this time we needed to revolutionize our car setup and bring something completely different to the track." This new strategy paid off as Bowman recorded the fourth fastest lap in the final-practice session, with lap times staying consistent as the tires lost grip over time. With this new setup, Bowman took a conservative approach to qualifying and recorded the 15th fastest lap.

 

The green flag flew on the 200-mile event and Bowman immediately made his way closer to the top-10, never falling below his 15th-place starting position. The only complaint from behind the wheel was that the No. 99 fuelxx™ Camry was a little loose on the entry of the corners. Crew chief Rice was able to improve the car on the first pitstop on lap 79, but chaos was right around the corner. In the span of just 60 laps there were six caution periods for debris and on-track incidents involving other cars. Bowman was able to avoid the multiple incidents and jumped from 14th to the eighth position in that 60 lap span. After a hard-fought battle with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship contender Matt Kenseth, Bowman was passed by a string of cars on the inside with less-than 20 laps to go. Bowman and the No. 99 team finished in the 11th position, their 18th top-15 finish in 32 races, also winning the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award for the highest-finishing rookie driver.

 

Alex Bowman: "I think we finally got the monkey off our back here at my home track of Phoenix International Raceway, but it still feels bittersweet. It's a bitter finish because this No. 99 team was capable of a top-10 finish and we showed it. We battled with the best drivers and cars in the business, but lost a few positions in the closing laps. With that said, it feels great to run well at my home track with my family and friends in the grandstands and win the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award. I've got to give credit to my crew chief Chris Rice for making the pivotal adjustment to tighten the car on the entry of the corners. Without that change I don't think we would have had a manageable race car with the consecutive restarts. If only this race was 300 miles I think we could have easily raced our way back into the top-10 and stayed there, but we just ran out of laps."

 

With the 11th-place finish Alex Bowman retained the 11th position in driver point standings, and owner Robby Benton maintained the 16th position in owner point standings. The next and last event on the NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule is the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and will be televised live on ESPN2 on Saturday, November 16th.

 

RAB Racing PR

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