Thursday, Mar 23
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Now a strength coach in a sport that piles up checkered flags instead of touchdown catches, Les Ebert leans on his background of training pro football athletes to strengthen today’s award-winning NASCAR pit crews.

“These guys are the unsung heroes,” Ebert said of NASCAR pit crewmen. “They’re like offensive linemen in the NFL – they do all the dirty work.”

Ebert, a 39-year-old native of Circle Pines, Minn., is in his fourth season as the strength and conditioning coach for Roush Fenway Racing, including the No. 17 team, which recently won the second-quarter Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award. It’s an honor voted on quarterly by each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief with an overall year-end award going to the season’s top-performing pit crew.

Ebert oversees the training programs for Roush Fenway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and Developmental Series pit crews.

“Pit crews work really hard to do the things they do,” said Ebert. “Yes, they have a lot of athletic ability, but to be able to do that repetitively in practice, race-after-race, month-after-month, they have to be in great physical condition. Not only is athletic ability important, but keeping the athletic ability to be able to pit racecars day-in-and-day-out is really what a lot of people don’t see.”

Ebert knows positions can be gained in a matter of seconds in the pits. His role at Roush Fenway is crucial in strengthening some 70-plus pit crew members on a daily basis so they can thrive physically on pit road.

“We run through strength and conditioning workouts four days a week,” explained Ebert. “We do two total body strengthening workouts and two conditioning workouts Monday thru Thursday. We’re real fortunate – Jack [Roush] and Robbie [Reiser] have supported the program very much in the fact that we have the tools we need to get these guys in the best shape possible.”

Known to insiders as “Les’ House of Pain,” the Roush Fenway Racing gym which Ebert oversees is a real “pumpatorium” packed full of free weights, exercise machines and conditioning equipment to keep pit crewmen conditioned and durable over the 36-week grind.

“Les keeps us in shape and feeling good, which is really important with the long season and hot weather,” said Cameron Cobb, an eleven-year veteran and jackman on Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Best Buy Ford.  “Ever since Les came on board, I have less aches and pains from doing my job. Now Les has given me a few aches, but it’s what you need to win. You have to be physically and mentally strong and he does a good job for us.”

“Les pushes us pretty hard with our training,” echoed Sean Ward, gas man on the No. 17 who got his start in racing with Tommy Houston in 1996. “Les expects a lot, but it’s worth it in the end and I’m better for it. The workouts help keep us in shape and help prevent us from getting injured on pit road.”

Not long after graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a degree in Physical Education, Ebert landed an internship in the NFL under coach Tony Dungy that eventually led to a full-time position. He spent three years as an assistant strength coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then went on to become an assistant strength coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars for six years.

Though his career began on the gridiron, his childhood has circle track roots. Ebert grew up around racing through his father's involvement with Dick Trickle in the American Speed Association in the 1980s.

“As a kid I grew up watching my dad work with Dick back in the Midwest in the ASA days,” explained Ebert. “I followed Dick’s racing on TV and he would call often to keep us updated on how things were going on the NASCAR circuit.” 

When the job at Roush Fenway became available while Ebert was still working in the NFL, he thought, ‘well, I’ll give it try.’

Four seasons later, Ebert’s top-notch strength and conditioning program is helping produce award-winning pit crews like the No. 17.

“The 17 group is a talented bunch of guys who have been doing this for a while,” said Ebert. “They have good camaraderie and they work really hard and that allows them to perform at a very high level. It’s a combination of their work ethic, their talent as a group and their ability to perform under pressure.”

The No. 17 crew’s performance this season has cemented Kenseth’s solid start to the 2012 campaign of one win, nine top-fives and 13 top-10s. Currently, Kenseth and the No. 17 team sit second in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.

“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers,” Ward said. “They see you’re doing a good job and that makes you feel good and strive to do better.”

In addition to Cobb and Ward, crew chief Jimmy Fennig’s over-the-wall pit crew consists of Justin Nottestad (front tire changer), Collin Pasi (front tire carrier), Jon Moore (rear tire changer), and Ryan McCray (rear tire carrier). Andy Ward is the team’s pit crew coach.

“There are a lot of crews deserving out there,” Ebert said. “It’s a very competitive sport and we’re very fortunate to have guys at Roush Fenway that can perform at a high-level whether it’s in practice or in a race. It’s an honor and a blessing to be here at Roush Fenway.”


Change is good and JTG Daugherty Racing has learned that adapting quickly is essential to success as they enter the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway with Bobby Labonte at the wheel of the No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota Camry.

The next step for JTG Daugherty Racing is finding a long-term crew chief. This weekend Labonte’s interim crew chief David Hyder is fulfilling his normal role at Iowa Speedway with the K&N Pro Series East team that JTG Daugherty Racing prepares for recent winner Cale Conley.

With that being said, team engineer Brian Burns will step up to call the shots for the team this weekend at Pocono.

“We want to make the right long-term decision on our crew chief and we are fortunate to have team engineer Brian Burns in the shop who can step in this week,” said co-owner Tad Geschickter.

“He has been with us for two seasons, so he knows me pretty well,” Labonte added.  “He stepped in last season and did a great job of filling in as crew chief at the end of last year.  We ran pretty well at Pocono in June and we have a good baseline to start from.  I expect good things to happen this weekend."

With multiple team meetings led recently by Burns, Hutchens and Hyder the JTG Daugherty Racing team did not skip a beat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Sunday, they were on their way to a respectable finish before another car struck Labonte’s car. Labonte soldiered on to finish 26th on the lead lap with a battered machine. 

“We were moving forward at Indy until we had damage to our car,” Labonte said. “We’ve had a lot of changes lately, which are positive. Last week the racing organization named Bobby Hutchens as our general manager. In any team, communication and planning is key and Hutchens is good at doing both.  Everyone strives to get better and we embraced this change. We are a single car team that wants to be the best one out there so we can grow. Helping Jodi and Tad Geschickter along with Brad Daugherty to get to that point is the ultimate goal.

“Everyone knows what they are doing,” Labonte continued. “Skill level and expertise is what we need to grow. We welcomed the change. Todd Berrier (former crew chief) was the perfect person to get us to where we are today. Without him, a lot of things might have gone by without being done correctly.”

The Harrisburg, N.C. operation started from scratch at the end of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and is currently 23rd in the drivers points standings.  

“A lot of people don’t get it from the outside looking in that we have had an uphill battle,” Labonte said. “Our entire team has worked countless man hours and also built a lot of things just to get the shop ready for this year.’ You can’t start behind because it’s hard to get caught up during the year. At the same time, we are sitting 23rd in the points standings and we are battling guys that have a lot of structure. Now, we’re taking the next steps to get even better.”

The immediate focus is excelling at Pocono, which is a good track for Labonte. He has an impressive three wins along with five top-five and nine top-10 finishes.

“The track is smooth and fast and we’re looking forward to going back a second time this season,” Labonte said. “We finished 22nd there last time out and hope to have a higher finish this time around.”


No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. is having his best year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Truex, tied for sixth in the championship driver standings with six races to go before the start of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend for the Pennsylvania 400.

The NAPA driver is poised and on mark to secure his second Chase berth and first for Michael Waltrip Racing. When he qualified for the Chase in 2007, Truex was 11th in the standings with an average start of 17th and average finish of 16th. This year his average starting position is 13th and average finishing position is 12th. A victory at Pocono would help cement his place in the 2012 Chase.

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON 2012: “We have come a long way in the last two years. It is a fun time for everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing. There are so many great people that are leading the way at our organization and allowing us to do what we are doing. It starts at the top with owners Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip. They have put it all together for us with funding and quality people. We continue to learn and get stronger as an organization. I feel like we are closing in on where we need to be on a consistent basis so that we can hold our own against the top-five teams.”

TRUEX ON RETURNING TO POCONO: “The package we ran at Indy is something I think will work at Pocono. Since NASCAR changed the side skirt rules, we’ve struggled a little bit as a team. We were really onto some stuff at the beginning of the season that was working well for us. Then NASCAR made the rule change and we had to go back to work. The package we ran at Indy was a lot different than what we usually run. I think we made some gains at Indy. It was similar to what Mark (Martin) ran at Pocono and contended for the win. To be honest, we had a fast car at Pocono too. It was remarkable that we finished 20th with a car that had the door taken off of it on the first lap. With that said, I think a top-10 finish or even a chance at the win is a real possibility for us on Sunday.”


Raceway officials today unveiled a modified track layout for the GoPro Indy® Grand Prix of Sonoma, which is designed to enhance passing opportunities for the upcoming race in August.

Steve Page, president and general manager of the raceway in Sonoma, and Team Penske driver Ryan Briscoe made the announcement during a press conference on Turn 11 of the road course.

The site of the announcement was appropriate as Turn 11 is one of three areas that will be modified for the race, Aug. 24-26. Turns 7 and 9 will also be modified.

The raceway worked with a number of people on the modifications, including Team Penske president Tim Cindric, Team Penske drivers Briscoe and Will Power, Mario Andretti and INDYCAR officials, among others.

“These changes reflect nearly a year of study and consultation with drivers, racing engineers and sanctioning officials,” said Page. Combining these new corners and braking zones with INDYCAR’s new competitive engine environment should open things up considerably and we’re very anxious to see the results play out at the race in a few weeks.”

The modifications to the turns are as follows:

  • The entrance into Turn 11 will be extended by 200 feet before drivers encounter the hairpin. This will give drivers more space to out-brake each other and set-up a passing opportunity before the right-hander into Turn 12. The geometry of the modified Turn 11 will mirror the shorter turn used for INDYCAR in previous years.
  • The exit of Turn 9 (aka The Bus Stop) will be widened by 10 feet on drivers’ left, giving competitors additional width in what was already a passing zone. The exit of the turn will now be 50 feet wide.
  • At Turn 7, instead of the looping right-hander, drivers will now encounter a u-turn.  The new turn will force drivers to out-brake each other, similar to Turn 11, and create a passing zone. Previously, drivers could maintain speed as they made the looping right-hander.

“This was something we worked on in the offseason and I think it is really going to make for some exciting racing,” said Will Power, driver of the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. “We will know more after the testing, but it looks like we will be able to go into Turns 7, 9 and 11 expecting to be able to make a move. I’ve enjoyed the racing at Sonoma in the past and expect to see even better racing this year.”

With the modifications, the track will now be 12 turns and 2.31 miles (it was 12 turns, 2.303 miles). The race distance will increase from 75 to 85 laps. At this point, the modified track will only be used for INDYCAR-sanctioned events.

“The modifications to the Sonoma track layout will enhance the competition on the track, making it a better show for the fans and more challenging for the drivers,” said Bill Van de Sandt, director of operations for INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series. “This solution was truly a team effort using the input and feedback of IZOD IndyCar Series teams and drivers and the cooperation of Sonoma in working with INDYCAR to get it done.”

Drivers will visit the facility for the first official test of the new layout on Aug. 17 during a full-field test session. The test is open to the public for FREE.

“As drivers, we should all be excited with the track reconfiguration as it will help open up more areas for passing,” said Briscoe, driver of the No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet. “With the new Turn 7, it is going to be a slower corner with heavy braking and later turning, which will become an added passing opportunity. Turn 11 will also create a new challenge with a longer chute leading to carrying more speed into the Start/Finish line. I certainly welcome the new changes because they add to the beauty of driving the circuit.”

What They’re Saying About the Sonoma Track Reconfiguration

Ryan Briscoe

No. 2 IZOD Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet

“As drivers we should all be excited with the track reconfiguration as it will help open up more areas for passing. With the new Turn 7 it is going to be a slower corner with heavy braking and later turning which will become an added passing opportunity. Turn 11 will also create a new challenge with a longer chute leading to carrying more speed into the Start/Finish line. I certainly welcome the new changes because they add to the beauty of driving the circuit.”

Will Power

No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet

“I am really looking forward to getting out on the reconfigured track to seeing how well the new changes promote passing. This was something we worked on in the offseason and I think it is really going to make for some exciting racing. We will know more after the testing but it looks like we will be able to go into Turns 7, 9 and 11 expecting to be able to make a move. I’ve enjoyed the racing at Sonoma in the past and expect to see even better racing this year.”

JR Hildebrand

No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Dallara/Chevrolet

"I think it's great the track had decided to make the changes in Turn 11 and Turn 7, and they both should help create more passing opportunities. A longer Turn 11 especially will help because the way we ran the track previously we never could quite be in a position to make a pass, but with another 150 or 200 feet you can probably get it done.  And it will also make the run up to Turns 1 and 2 more difficult because you're going to be going up there with a lot more speed.

Turn 7 is a tricky one, but it's time to try something different and having a hairpin at that point in the track will present more of an opportunity for passing. It will be more like a standard braking zone on the outside of the track, which will help the racing. At the end of the day they've adjusted two places where passing hadn't been an option previously, and now I think both turns will be places you can be successful in your passing attempts."

Bill Van de Sandt

Director of Operations for INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series

“The modifications to the Sonoma track layout will enhance the competition on the track, making it a better show for the fans and more challenging for the drivers. This solution was truly a team effort using the input and feedback of IZOD IndyCar Series teams and drivers and the cooperation of Sonoma in working with INDYCAR to get it done.”


Jason White on the “Tricky Triangle”:  “Pocono is definitely a very unique and different track.  The track has three very different corners and the challenge there is to get your truck to handle as best as it can overall – there is a reason why they call it the Tricky Triangle.  I enjoy racing at Pocono as the uniqueness of it makes it very fun to drive.  They have repaved the track since we last raced there so it will have a lot of grip and make it much faster. It should be very interesting through places like the tunnel turn.  The new pavement also presents a challenge with the racing grooves, as usually with new pavement it takes some time to work in multiple racing grooves.

“We are taking our new truck that the team has built. After we debuted it in Kentucky, the guys took it back and tweaked it a little more – so I am excited to race it this week. I think we could have something pretty special with this truck.”

Jason at Pocono:This will mark Jason’s third career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at the 2.5-mile track in the Pocono Mountains. His best finish was 10th during the 2010 season after starting in the 16th position.  He has an average starting position of 18.0 and average finish of 13.5. Jason also made his one and only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Pocono Raceway last year where he finished 33rd driving for FAS Lane Racing.

Race Rewind:  The annual visit to Chicagoland Speedway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has become one of excitement and survival and Jason White provided both on Saturday night during the 150-lap event.  An exciting green-white-checkered finish would see White and his No.23 Ford survive for a much deserved ninth place finish in the running of the American Ethanol 225.

The finish moved Jason up into the 10th position in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers’ standings – only seven points out of the ninth spot. 

“Sniper” Sets Sights on Pocono: The team will be bringing the truck they nicknamed “Sniper” to Pocono Raceway this week.  In honor of the team’s sponsor,, the GB Racing team uses gun and shooting themed names for most of their trucks – thus the name “Sniper”.   “Sniper” is a new truck that Jason ran for the first time last month at Kentucky Speedway.  Jason and the team also just tested “Sniper” at Michigan International Speedway on Monday at the Goodyear tire test.

Home at Hampton: Jason White and his team will enjoy the fine accommodations of the Hampton Inn Lehighton/Jim Thorpe Area during their stay in the Pocono area.This friendly hotel is situated just off Interstate 476 at exit # 74 and only 15 minutes from the beautiful historic town of Jim Thorpe, PA. Keep in touch with family andfriends during your stay thanks to free WiFi and 24 hour business center. Unwind after a busy day with a workout in the fitness room or by making a splash in theindoor pool and Jacuzzi.


Denny Hamlin will make his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start of 2012, driving the No. 18 GNC Franchising Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in Saturday's Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. KBM's flagship Tundra will be sporting a new primary sponsor this week, GNC Franchising. Headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., GNC Franchising has been the No. 1 Vitamin Retail Franchise for 22 years in a row with more than 7,100 retail locations throughout the United States and 45 international markets.

If racing at the track dubbed as the "Tricky Triangle" was a college class, then Hamlin would definitely be the "Professor of Pocono." The Virginia native achieved immediate success at the 2.5-mile Tri-oval, sweeping both races from the pole as a Sprint Cup Series rookie in 2006. Over 13 career Cup Series starts at the venue, the 31-year-old driver has totaled four wins, eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes. He has one previous Truck Series start in the Keystone State, posting a ninth-place finish in the inaugural event in 2010.


Hamlin, who has competed in 13 career Truck Series races, made two starts in his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate's Tundra during the 2011 season. In his KBM debut last October, he became the 23rd driver in history to collect at least one win in each of NASCAR's top three divisions when he drove the No. 18 Toyota to victory in the Kroger 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. He returned to the truck for the series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway last November, and came home with a runner-up finish in the rain-shortened event.


The third-year team is hoping that Hamlin's expertise at the "Tricky Triangle" can help propel them to their first win in the Pocono Mountains, as the challenging three-turn track is one of just seven venues on the 2012 Truck Series schedule where KBM has yet to claim victory. The No. 18 Tundra has come up one spot short in each of its first two Truck Series starts at Pocono Raceway - Kasey Kahne piloted the team's Toyota to a runner-up finish in the inaugural event and owner-driver Kyle Busch duplicated that finish in last year's race.



News & Notes:

  • This Week's ToyotaCare Toyota at Iowa Speedway ... Brett Moffitt will pilot RAB Racing Chassis No. 42 weekend at Iowa Speedway. This Toyota Camry made its 2012 debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, where Kenny Wallace started 18th and finished 11th. Wallace then raced it at Auto Club Speedway, where he started sixth and finished seventh. In May, Travis Pastrana piloted this chassis to a 24th-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Most recently, Wallace drove this chassis from an 11th-place starting position to a 4th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.
  • A Weekend of Firsts ... Brett Moffitt will make his debut for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard this weekend, driving the No. 99 ToyotaCare Toyota Camry in Saturday night's U.S. Cellular 250. It will also mark current K&N Pro Series East points leader's first start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
  • Iowa Facts ... In five Nationwide Series starts at Iowa Speedway, RAB Racing has two top-10 finishes. Additionally, RAB Racing-prepared entries have an average starting position of 21st, an average finish of 18.4, and have completed 94.2 percent of the laps contested (1,177 of 1,250) at the 7/8 mile tri-oval dating back to the inaugural race in 2009.
  • Rearview Mirror ... Travis Pastrana was able to avoid an early incident in last Saturday's inaugural Nationwide Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but was forced to restart in the back of the field after making multiple pit stops to clean debris from the grill opening of the No. 99 Toyota. Between his Scott Zipadelli-led Boost Mobile team's pit strategy and his desire to make the most of the day, Pastrana rallied to record a career-best 13th-place finish.
  • The Collective RAB Racing Report ... In 19 races this season, RAB Racing's two NASCAR Nationwide Series entries have notched one top-five and three top-10 finishes. RAB Racing-prepared cars have also completed 3,027 laps with its five drivers - Victor Gonzalez, Jr., Pastrana, John Wes Townley, Ryan Truex and Wallace.
  • Get Well, Torie ... In recognition of his 16-year-old daughter Torie Costa's battle with childhood rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue malignant tumor of skeletal muscle origin that accounts for approximately 3.5% of the cases of cancer among children aged 0 to 14 years, crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the members of RAB Racing's Nationwide Series team are wearing pink bracelets in support of Torie. A CaringBridge site has been created where Torie and her family post updates as she battles her disease. Family and friends are able to visit the site, stay informed and leave supportive messages. To keep up with Torie's journey, visit
  • Getting By With a Little Help From My Friends... With their normal pit crew at Pocono Raceway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup Series races this weekend, the No. 99 team's pit crew will have a different roster for Iowa. Front-tire changer Josh Debruin, front-tire carrier Nick Keller, jack man Sean Cotten and rear-tire changer Brian Eastland will fly to Iowa Speedway with their usual rear-tire carrier Craig Lamb to offer their services to the RAB Racing team for Saturday night's race.
  • Catch the Action ... The U.S. Cellular 250 Presented will take the green flag Saturday, August 4 at 8 p.m. EDT. Race coverage will be televised live on ESPN2 beginning at 7:30 p.m. EDT and broadcast worldwide on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. Qualifying for the 20th race on the 2012 Nationwide Series schedule will be televised live on ESPN2 Saturday, August 4 at 4:30 p.m. EDT.


Brett Moffitt Quotes:

"I am very excited to make my Nationwide Series debut in the No. 99 ToyotaCare Toyota Camry this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Not only is it my first Nationwide race, but it will be at my home track. I love Iowa Speedway and it will be nice to have my fans and family out at the track supporting me. It's going to be a busy weekend with running both the K&N Series race Friday night, and the Nationwide Series race the following day. Though it will be in a different car with different competitors, hopefully I can draw on some of my past experience to overcome the learning curve and keep the No. 99 ToyotaCare Camry up front."


Scott Zipadelli Quotes:

"I'm looking forward to heading to Iowa Speedway for the second time this season. Iowa offers good short-track racing that is similar to the likes of Richmond, but creates additional challenges for the drivers with a big bump in the middle of Turns 1 and 2. We're going to have a few challenges this weekend, but nothing we can't overcome. We will be practicing during the day and racing at night, so the setup will be tricky. It will be exciting to work with our new driver, Brett Moffitt. He's a good kid who does very well at this track in the K&N Series. Brett will get some extra seat time running in that series before the Nationwide Series race, so he will be ready to compete in the No. 99 ToyotaCare Camry."


RAB Racing PR

Sam Hornish Jr. is quick to point to the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped Pocono Raceway as his personal favorite race track along the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit.  Getting another shot behind the wheel of Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in this weekend’s Pennsylvania 400, Hornish is eager to get back to the track.

“Pocono is my favorite track and I am really looking forward to getting the opportunity to race there this weekend,” said Hornish, who will be logging considerable air miles as he competes in both the Pocono Cup race and the Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway this weekend.  “I like a lot of tracks and try not to dislike any of them, but I am quick to point out just how much I like racing at Pocono.”

The feelings between driver and track and track and driver seem to be mutual as Pocono Raceway has been the site for Hornish’s most successful Sprint Cup runs to date.  His fourth-place tally in the August 3, 2009 Pennsylvania 500 rates as his best career Cup finish in 113 series starts entering this weekend’s return to the “Tricky Triangle.

“We’ve led laps and had some of our strongest runs at Pocono, that’s for sure,” offered Hornish.  “We finished fourth there in one of the 2009 races, but really had our best shot at winning there in the races there during the 2010 season.  We led pretty late in both of those races and if luck had been on our side, we could have won.”

Hornish led 16 laps in the June 2010 race and was leading with 13 laps remaining when eventual winner Denny Hamlin got around.  He appeared to be headed to another top-five finish before a crash at the end of the race forced a green-white-checkered finish.  He got shuffled back to 11th when the race was finally completed after 204 laps.  Hornish led as late as with 21 laps remaining in the August 2010 Pocono battle.  Eventual race winner Greg Biffle passed Hornish on Lap 180 and went on to win by 3.598 seconds over Tony Stewart.  Hornish soldiered on to another 11th-place finish.

As for what it is about Pocono Raceway that connects so well with Hornish, he has several thoughts on that subject.

“Pocono is a track that’s all about compromise because all three turns are so different,” Hornish said.  “You try to be as good as you can overall on the track, but so many times you have to compromise in giving up a little in one turn to be really strong in the other two.

“It’s about getting your car to handle well coming off the corners to get good runs down the straightaway; that’s what Pocono is all about.  The straightaways are so long there that you have to be able to exit the corners well in order to pass people and to keep people behind you.

“I’ve raced there enough that I can go to that track with a lot of confidence,” said Hornish.  “I think I can handle the compromising challenge pretty well.  I think that there’s a lot of guys that don’t like going there, so they’ve already got this negative opinion about it. Their attitude is probably not in the right place.

“I’m really looking forward to it.  I like the track and the challenge it presents.  It’s unlike anything we run anywhere else on the Sprint Cup circuit.  It’s just a unique and demanding track and I really enjoy racing there.”

 In addition to his six career races at Pocono for Penske Racing between 2008-2010, Hornish started the June 2011 race there in the Front Row Motorsports Ford (started 26th and finished 35th).  He has a 26.0 average start and 17.3 average finish at Pocono in Penske-prepared cars.  His overall record in seven starts shows one top-five finish and two top-10s.  His overall average start is 26.0 and average finish is 19.9.  Hornish has completed 1,274 of 1,404 laps (90.7 percent lap completion average).

“We’re really looking forward to Pocono this weekend,” offered Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon.  “I know how much Sam likes racing on that track and I think we can go there and have a solid weekend.  Being able to run the entire race at New Hampshire and again last Sunday at Indy, we continue to learn each other better and improve in our communications.

“Sam has had some really strong races at Pocono and we’re hoping to add to those this weekend,” Gordon added.  “He has led several of the races in the later stages with just a few laps remaining.  All of his Pocono races have been in 500-mile events.  We started running the 400-mile distance there this season.  It may just turn out to be the right scenario to turn some heads there on Sunday afternoon.”


The month of July was just what Ryan Newman and his No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team needed.

After struggling to find the top-10 for three months and free-falling in the point standings, Newman and his No. 39 Haas Automation team finally got things turned around and headed in the right direction by scoring three consecutive top-10 finishes in three July races.

The South Bend, Ind., native kicked off the month with a fifth-place effort at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway July 7. While it was the No. 39 team’s first top-10 since Newman’s win at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway April 1, it also marked the first top-10 for Newman at the 2.5-mile superspeedway since his 2008 Daytona 500 win.

He followed that up with a 10th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon July 22.

And then, last Sunday, he finished out the month by earning a hard-fought seventh-place finish in the Brickyard 400 – his first top-10 finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since his 2002 rookie NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Now, with the month of August here and the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship just six races away, Newman needs to keep the momentum rolling and turn his string of top-10 finishes into top-fives, and even wins, beginning with Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

Newman, who has one victory, three top-five and six top-10 finishes this season, is 14th in the Sprint Cup standings. And one thing is for certain – it’s going to take at least another victory to secure a wild-card spot to advance to the Chase and enable Newman to fight for the Sprint Cup championship.

Luckily for Newman, this weekend the Sprint Cup Series rolls into one of his favorite tracks – Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle,” where he has a solid performance record, including his first-ever stock car victory in the ARCA Series back in July 2000.

Since that dominating victory, Newman has gone on to build a solid record at the 2.5-mile triangular-shaped track with an average starting spot of 9.8 and an average finish of 12.7. In 21 Sprint Cup starts at Pocono, Newman has finished outside the top-15 just five times. He has two poles, a 2001 win, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s.

Newman & Company hopes to keep its streak of top-10 finishes alive this weekend and build on its momentum from a strong July. With the ultimate goal of securing a spot in the Chase, the team knows it will need to earn at least another win.

With Haas Automation – the world’s largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western world – behind him and on his racecar’s hood at Pocono, Newman knows he has the “tools” to put his No. 39 Haas Automation Chevy at the front of the field.


After having a car capable of winning at Pocono Raceway in June, Marcos Ambrose and his Stanley crew head to "The Tricky Triangle" this week for a second chance. The No. 9 team will look to bring home a win at the newly paved 2.5-mile tri-oval in Long Pond, Pa., as Ambrose will make his seventh career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Pocono on Sunday.


The Australian native has one top-10 finish at Pocono. His best finish (sixth) came in 2009 and his best start (seventh) came in last year's spring race. He has completed 1,155 of 1,364 laps attempted at the Pennsylvania track, leading one of them. Ambrose enters this weekend's 400-mile race in 18th place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.


Ambrose's car will have a different look this weekend as Stanley will return as the primary partner of the No. 9 Ford Fusion.


Don't forget to tune into Sirius XM Radio on Channel 90, Friday, at 10 a.m. ET for the Morning Drive with Pete Pistone and Mike Bagley to listen to Marcos talk about racing at Pocono for the second time this season.


Marcos Ambrose's Thoughts on Racing at Pocono:


"We had a great car in Pocono in June, and I expect to have a similar setup in my Stanley Ford this weekend. We had a strong race going for us earlier in the year, but we had some bad luck and weren't able to capitalize at the end of the day. We ran up front for the majority of the race in June, and things just didn't fall in our favor toward the later portion of the event. We have had a bit of a slump here the last couple of weeks, so I'm ready to get back on an uphill swing and get a good finish this weekend in my Stanley Ford.


"My guys have been working their guts out this week getting ready for Sunday, and I can't thank them enough for all they do. It's been a long week already with us testing in Michigan right after Indy, but I know what my team is capable of and we are going to show that on Sunday at 'The Tricky Triangle.'"


Comments from Crew Chief Todd Parrott on Going to Pocono:


"We have some good notes going into this weekend after racing in Pocono in June, so that will be a tremendous help going into this weekend. We know the track is going to be fast and smoother than it has been in years past, so we are going to have to really concentrate on having a well-balanced race car. Pocono is one of the more unique tracks we go to because it has three very distinct corners. If we can get our Stanley Ford to handle well through the turns and carry good speed on the straightaways we will be in good shape on Sunday."




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