Sunday, Apr 02
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Scott Speed's 17th-place finish in Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen International was a perfect blend of speed, strategy and skill - all which combined to give Leavine Family Racing (LFR) its best finish yet in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

Speed's No. 95 TWD Ford Fusion qualified 21st for the 90-lap road course race. He stuck to a plan to save the car for a final push in the second half, and managed to pass five cars in the final 10 laps despite some difficult conditions.

"We got through the oil at end of the race and got a decent finish," Speed said. "We have definitely started the momentum and are building on it now."

Not only did Leavine Family Racing enjoy its best finish in two years of selected starts, the 17th-place effort was Speed's best finish since finishing 10th at the Daytona International Speedway on July 3, 2010.

There were 43 cars on the entry list which took the pressure off Speed to make the starting lineup. That allowed crew chief Wally Rogers to concentrate on race set up during all three practice sessions.

"It's completely different when you can think about the race, not qualifying, from the moment you get to the track," Rogers said. "We made sure we didn't push too hard in practice and qualifying. We had nothing to gain by taking chances. We knew Scott could get us up front no matter where we started."

Speed was as far back as 29th during pit stops and as high as 14th.

"Traffic is always an issue on road courses because there are only so many places you can make a clean pass," Speed said. "We stayed on track and we kept all the fenders straight. We beat a lot of good cars. We'll take this race and use it as momentum for Bristol Motor Speedway."

Leavine Family Racing currently runs a part-time schedule. Speed's next race is the Irwin Tools Night Race Aug. 25 at the Bristol Motor Speedway.


Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford team will once again carry the distinctive colors of Eckrich this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.  As Eckrich continues to honor military families, the No. 43 Ford will again carry a splash of red-white-and-blue by featuring the star-spangled logo of Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.

This summer, Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, has partnered with Operation Homefront to support military families.  The company has already donated $200,000 to Operation Homefront through the contribution of five cents from each purchase of specially marked products from May 1 through July 4.

The No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team is personally aware of the sacrifice of military families.  More than half of the members of the team have had a parent, sibling or spouse serve, including Almirola and crew chief Mike Ford.  Almirola's father served as a mechanic in the U.S. Air Force while Ford's brother also served in the U.S. Air Force. 

Almirola comes into Michigan ready to make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at the track.  He's a former winner in the Truck Series at Michigan.

Comments from Eckrich Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:

"I think if you start asking your friends, you'll quickly find out that there are many families that have been affected by a family member who has served in the military.  I know what it's like because my father was in the U.S. Air Force.  It's a big sacrifice by the entire family when someone is serving.  Sometimes the family at home doesn't get the recognition, so that's why this program has been so cool.  We're taking the time to honor our veterans, but also their family members as well.

"Michigan has been a good track for me.  I won there in the Truck Series and have some good finishes in the Nationwide Series.  During our first race in the Cup car in June we showed a lot of speed during the race weekend. We tested the new tire a few weeks ago and we're all going to see some slower speeds, but I think we can still have a good weekend.  We want to have a good showing for Eckrich and Operation Homefront."

Comments from Eckrich Ford Fusion Crew Chief Mike Ford:

"There are guys on our team that understand the sacrifice of our military members and their families.  Some of them have gone through it themselves or have seen another relative go through the sacrifice while someone is serving.  My brother just retired from the U.S. Air Force after many years of service.  I know the sacrifice he put in and everyone in our family is very proud of that. I think that's why we have really enjoyed helping entertain our Eckrich and Operation Homefront guests this summer. It's been rewarding for us to be a part of it.

"Michigan will be another challenge this time around because we're coming back with a new tire.  We had a good test and learned a lot.  It's going to be a different race because the speeds will not be as high.  We're going to have to rely on our notes from the test and go from there."


Race fans will definitely make sure country newcomer Josh Thompson “Won’t Be Lonely Long” when he performs a post race concert following the Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 20. The concert is a part of the Kansas Lottery 300 ticket and will take place in the Display Midway and will begin approximately 20 minutes after the checkered flag.

“I look forward to having Josh Thompson perform after the Kansas Lottery 300,” said Kansas Speedway President Patrick Warren. “I know Josh will provide our fans with a high energy concert following the race and I know our fans will like having the opportunity to see Josh perform.”

Thompson is currently out on his Change is Comin’ tour to promote his upcoming second album.

Thompson released his debut album,Way Out Here, in 2010 and began selling out clubs while also mixing in opening dates for Brad Paisley, Hank Williams Jr., Lynyrd Skynyrd, Dierks Bentley and Eric Church.

Thompson is also becoming an acclaimed songwriter, having written “Church Pew or Bar Stool” on Jason Aldean’sMy Kinda Party album and “A Man Don’t Have to Die” on Paisley’s This is Country Music.

Kansas Speedway PR

Brad Keselowski will take the wheel of the No. 29 Cooper Standard RAM at his home track, Michigan International Speedway (MIS), for the VFW 200 on Saturday, August 18, 2012. Keselowski will be pulling double duty this weekend driving for his own Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) team entry in addition to the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing.   

The Rochester Hills, Michigan native is excited to be back in his home state representing Michigan-based partner Cooper Standard. The BKR / Cooper Standard partnership made its debut at Michigan International Speedway last year and has grown this year to include primary sponsorship for a number of races as well as a personal services relationship with Keselowski and a charitable component. BKR and MIS will welcome over 1,000 Cooper Standard guests for the race on Saturday.

"This is an all-Michigan weekend, and I'm thrilled about it," said Keselowski. "To be in the BKR Truck at MIS and carry the Michigan-based Cooper Standard colors in front of more than 1,000 of its employees and their families is a special deal. The only thing better would be celebrating with them all in victory lane after the race."

Keselowski has piloted the No. 19 BKR RAM in four races this season finishing in the top-three in his last three events. He is looking to make history at his home track and become the only father / son duo to win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (Bob Keselowski took the Mopar Performance Dodge to victory lane at Richmond International Raceway in 1997).

The  BKR team looks to build on the momentum gained during the first half of 2012 and aims to get the Cooper Standard RAM into victory lane in front of native family, friends, and partners. The No. 29 BKR machine currently sits in sixth in the owner points standings only 35 points behind the current leader.


There are many late model and stock car drivers who raced against Mark Martin at some point in the last 40 years. His 30-year NASCAR career plus years of running the short tracks across the country make him a pretty good judge of driving talent.

He’s raced against the names all NASCAR fans know like Petty, Waltrip, Earnhardt, Wallace, Gordon, and Johnson. He’s also battled drivers whose talent exceeds their fame.

Like Midland, Michigan’s Mike Eddy.

“He was phenomenal,” said Martin describing Eddy, a seven-time champion of the now defunct American Speed Association.

The ASA prepared NASCAR drivers like Martin, Rusty Wallace, Matt Kenseth, Dick Trickle, Johnny Benson, Ted Musgrave plus many others. Eddy won ASA titles in 1974, 1976, 1981, 1982, 1989, 1991 and 1992.

“That series was the training ground for many of us,” said Martin who won the 1978, 1979, 1980 and 1986 ASA titles. “Most of the races were long pit stop races so you learned the skills you needed to race in NASCAR. Plus, they had good television and print media coverage. You had to learn the whole package. They really prepared you well for moving into NASCAR.”

To win a title in the ASA you had to beat Eddy whose driving style and familiar black No. 88 was reminiscent of Dale Earnhardt’s aura in NASCAR.

“Mike knew his race cars, did his setup and tire staggers himself,” recalled Martin. “Like most of the greats at that time he was real, real aggressive. He would definitely put on a show and he was fun to watch.”

Despite winning nearly 60 races in the ultra-competitive ASA, Eddy never ventured into NASCAR, preferring the Midwest short tracks.

“That was back in a time when you could make a living running late models and racing in the ASA. He didn’t need to come to NASCAR, but he would have made a great NASCAR driver,” said Martin.

“He wasn’t your average driving personality. He was a bit different. Hard edged. He got the job done. He was just good. He was tough to beat no matter where he went. He was always one of the ones we needed to beat for sure.”


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick welcomes 20 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Lenawee, Mich., to his next "Kevin's Krew" event on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

An arm of the Kevin Harvick Foundation, Kevin's Krew ( is an at-track outreach program for underprivileged youth that shows them tangible evidence of the fruits of hard work, perseverance and a drug-free lifestyle.

Harvick's guests have a jam-packed, fun-filled agenda at the track nestled in the Irish Hills of Michigan. In addition to meeting and hanging out with the driver of the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, the Boys & Girls Club will have a bird's eye view of pre-race activities, including driver introductions for the day's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, lunch in the President's Suite and meetings with both Michigan Speedway International President Roger Curtis and Toledo Blade reporter Rachel Lenzi.

"Michigan always has some of the most loyal and passionate race fans on the NASCAR circuit, so the opportunity to spend quality time with some of the youngest ones is pretty cool," Harvick said. "Kevin's Krew is about giving these children hope for their futures, regardless of their backgrounds, but it's also about showing them a good time. The folks at Michigan International Speedway are vital supporters of this effort with us, so I'm pretty sure the kids' track visit will be one they'll never forget."

Guest speakers will share with the children their success stories in life, outlining the paths they forged to their careers. Additionally, they will discuss opportunities within their professions and the importance of education for a successful career, all the while driving home the point that youth can overcome any social or economic disadvantage they may face.

This week's Michigan International Speedway event is one of six Kevin's Krew events on the 2012 calendar, which also includes the upcoming Sept. 15 date at Chicagoland Speedway.

2012 Kevin's Krew Calendar:

March 30 - Martinsville Speedway
April 13 - Texas Motor Speedway
June 2 - Dover International Speedway
June 24 - Infineon Raceway
August 18 - Michigan International Speedway
September 15 - Chicagoland Speedway


Anytime a person can have a 30-year anniversary in life, it’s worth noting. Bridget Holloman, the longtime Darlington Raceway executive assistant, will do just that on Thursday, Aug. 9, by celebrating 30 years at the track Too Tough to Tame.

Holloman has many memories at Darlington Raceway since her first day as a full-time employee in 1982.

The Darlington native and current Hartsville, S.C. resident has witnessed many great NASCAR moments at the Lady in Black, most notably local favorite Cale Yarborough winning his fifth Southern 500 in 1982, Bill Elliott capturing the Winston Million by winning the 1985 Southern 500, Ricky Craven beating out Kurt Busch to win the Carolina Dodge Dealers 400 by .002 seconds in 2003, and the track celebrating its 60th year of racing in 2009, to name a few.

She has had the opportunity to work with many NASCAR drivers over the past 30 years, with her fondest memories coming from working with the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., a driver she respected and like many fans was saddened with his passing in 2001.

Her endless list of business relationships in the industry is second to none, ranging from drivers, owners and media to local community members and fans.

She has worked for six different presidents while at Darlington (Barney Wallace 1982; Red Tyler 1983-1991; Woody McKay 1991-1993; Jim Hunter 1993-2001; Andrew Gurtis 2001-2004; Chris Browning 2004-present). She also serves as the executive secretary for the National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA), a position she has held since 1991.

“Words can’t say enough about how much we appreciate Bridget for the contributions she has made to Darlington Raceway over the past 30 years,” Browning said. “Her efforts supporting the track and the sport of racing, is invaluable and we congratulate her on such a wonderful achievement of 30 years working for the track Too Tough to Tame.”

Darlington Raceway PR

After finishing 10th in the first road course race of the year at Road America in June, Justin Allgaier and the No. 31 Brandt Racing team headed to Watkins Glen International with hopes of another strong finish. After starting the Zippo 200 at The Glen from the eighth position, Allgaier collected his 14th top-10 of the season with a ninth-place finish. Allgaier remains in the fifth position in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) point standings, 74 points behind leader Elliott Sadler.

Like most NNS competitors, Allgaier missed the first hour of Friday’s lone practice session as he waited for rain to move out of the area. He laid down the ninth fastest lap in his No. 31 Brandt Chevrolet utilizing rain tires, and later returned to the track on regular tires, finishing practice with the fourth-fastest time. His practice time placed him in the last qualifying group in Saturday morning’s qualifying session. He began the Zippo 200 at The Glen in the eighth position. Allgaier moved into sixth by the time the caution flag first waved on lap six.

After staying out under caution, Allgaier restarted the race in the sixth position. He hit the pits under green for his first pit stop on lap 19. After taking four tires and fuel, Allgaier returned to the track in 26th place as a result of stalling on pit road.  When green-flag pit stops cycled through, Allgaier was back in the top-10. As the caution flag waved again on lap 28, Allgaier radioed to crew chief Jimmy Elledge that his car was really loose in a few turns but really tight everywhere else. Hoping to give Allgaier more side bite, Elledge elected to pit for four tires, fuel and adjustments to the No. 31 Brandt Chevrolet. Numerous cars did not pit under that caution, and Allgaier restarted in 14th place on lap 43.

A few laps later, Allgaier explained that his car was handling worse than before the adjustments. When the caution waved on lap 58, the No. 31 Brandt Chevrolet was running in the first position as many other cars had already made green-flag pit stops. He returned to pit road on lap 59 for four tires and fuel, and the No. 31 Brandt Racing team reversed the adjustments made on the previous stop. He restarted the race in 18th, and within five laps, Allgaier had worked back into the top-15.

Allgaier continued to navigate traffic and stay out of trouble through two cautions late in the race. On lap 81, Allgaier restarted in the 12th position. He immediately made up ground, moving into ninth before the race ended on the next lap. This was his best finish at Watkins Glen International and his 14th top-10 of the 2012 season.

“I don’t think ninth place is the finish we deserved, but I’m happy to get a top-10 here at Watkins Glen,” said Allgaier. “My team and our crew did a great job; things just didn’t line up the way we needed them to. However, we were able to have a good last restart and get out of here with a solid finish. I’m excited to head to Montreal next weekend and keep building on our road course program.”

Next Stop:  Allgaier and the No. 31 Brandt team will head to Circuit Gilles Villenueve for the final road course race of the 2012 season. The NAPA Auto Parts 200 presented by Dodge will air LIVE on ESPN with coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. ET.

Turner Motorsports PR

Jeff Gordon is not a big believer in it, but maybe he can find the luck of the Irish (Hills) in the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

With the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet fast on many occasions this year without the results to match, many of Gordon's fans began sending good luck charms to him. While he was not afraid to try them, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion does not necessarily believe in luck.

 "My wife (Ingrid Vandebosch) has given me things and my daughter (Ella) has given me things to put in the car for luck," said Gordon. "Even fans have sent in things to the team. But I think when I won at Pocono it was the first time in quite a while that I did not have some sort of good luck charm in the car.

"So far, my theory holds true. It's not about luck and good luck charms; it's about going out there and performing and doing what you have to do as a team."

 In 39 starts at the track in the Irish Hills of Michigan, Gordon has two wins (1998 and 2001), five poles, 18 top-fives and 25 top-10's. But the track was repaved prior to the event in June, and the No. 24 team and Hendrick Motorsports adapted to the new surface quickly.

"We were pretty solid here in June and (Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt) Junior won, so we can certainly carry a lot over from that race," said Gordon, who earned his 400th top-10 finish with a sixth-place finish in that event. "We also did the tire test here at the end of July.

"That test didn't go spectacularly well for us, but we knew it was just more of a test to try and learn things."

Four races remain before the 12-driver "Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup" field is set and Gordon is again on the outside looking in. If he is to secure one of those spots, it will take strong performances on race days - and the days leading up to the drop of the green flag.

"We have to qualify better," said Gordon, who qualified 28th here in June and 27th en route to his victory at Pocono. "Track position can play a huge role during the race, so it's better to have early than to fight for it all race long.

"Right now, qualifying is a priority for us."

And so is winning. With or without lucky charms.


Jerry Grant, a 10-time competitor in the Indianapolis 500 and the first person to turn an official lap faster than 200 mph in an Indy car, died Sunday, Aug. 12. He was 77.

Grant, a prominent American road racer, turned his historic 201.414-mph lap in 1972 at Ontario, Calif. But he is probably best remembered for nearly winning the 1972 Indianapolis 500.

Driving the purple Mystery Eagle as teammate to Bobby Unser on Dan Gurney's All-American Racers team, Grant led at the 188-lap mark when he had to pit to replace a tire which was losing air. Instead of pitting in his stall, he went to the adjoining one of Unser, who had retired much earlier in the day. Whether or not Grant actually took on any fuel from Unser's refueling tank is up for discussion, but the hoses were momentarily hooked up, and it became known that the tank in his own pit was apparently empty, the maximum allotment of 275 gallons having been exhausted.

While Grant did finish the 500 miles, taking the checkered flag in second place behind Mark Donohue, officials subsequently disallowed Grant's final 12 laps, thus dropping him from second to 12th.

Such an occurrence was hardly a new experience for Grant. With only five minutes remaining in the 1966 Sebring 12 Hours, the Ford GT Mk. II he shared with Gurney was in front when a mechanical issue forced Gurney to stop on the course. Gurney then proceeded to push the stricken car the final 300 yards to the finish line, whereupon he was disqualified.


Gurney and Grant would have placed second, based on distance covered, if the car remained untouched at the side of the road. Less than three months later, Gurney and Grant were seemingly on their way to winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans when a mechanical issue eliminated them while leading at the 21-hour mark.

The diversified Grant, who climbed from 43rd to fifth in the 1967 Daytona 500, finished fifth in the 1966 Dixie 400 at Atlanta, co-drove a Ford Cobra in the 1964 Targa Florio (shared second in the GT class with Gurney) and had three top-10 finishes in the Indianapolis 500, topped by a seventh place in 1970. He competed in 49 USAC National Championship races between 1965-77, placing third in the 1974 Ontario 500 and fourth in a 150-mile event in 1969 on the road course at Castle Rock, Colo.

An entertaining speaker and story teller, Grant became part of Champion Spark Plug Company's Highway Safety program, lecturing on highway safety to students and service personnel, eventually succeeding Fred Agabashian as Champion's senior lecturer.


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