Monday, May 29
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Circle Sport, LLC, today announced that Landon Cassill will drive the No. 33 Circle Sport entry beginning this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.  Cassill, the 23-year-old former development driver for Hendrick Motorsports, will pilot the No. 33 Moon Shine Wildfire Camo Chevrolet SS in Sunday’s Subway Fresh Fit 500.  Cassill enters the weekend event with 84 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to his credit, in addition to 33 NASCAR Nationwide Series and eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of helping advance Circle Sport to the next level of competition in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series,” Cassill said.  “I have been a part of and understand what it takes for an upstart organization to compete in the Cup Series.  They have an established relationship with RCR (Richard Childress Racing) that I believe will help us, and with the right marketing partners – a company that wants to grow their involvement in the sport – I believe we have just the right opportunity for them with the No. 33 Chevrolet.”

Cassill, who competed in all 36 Sprint Cup Series races last year for BK Racing, will mark his 2013 Sprint Cup Series debut in a specially outfitted camouflage Chevrolet SS designed by Moon Shine Attitude Attire.  The Cedar Rapids, Iowa, native will be led by NASCAR veteran Mike Hillman, Sr., who has won three NASCAR championships with drivers Tommy Ellis and Todd Bodine.  Circle Sport enters its second season of NASCAR competition in 2013 and continues to be owned by Joe Falk, a Virginia businessman who has been a part of the sport since the late 1990s.  Falk previously fielded the No. 91 Sprint Cup entry for drivers Dick Trickle, Greg Sacks, Kevin Lepage, Mike Wallace and Todd Bodine, which included a top-five finish in 1998 season finale at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I have watched Landon progress as a race car driver, and it was his qualifying efforts in our Cup car in 2010 and 2011 that caught the eye of James Finch and earned him his first big break in NASCAR’s premier series,” Falk said.  “Landon has a tremendous amount of potential and we believe we’re building a program that will allow him to showcase his talents.  He has driven for the likes of Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt Jr., and we feel that his experience will help our transition to the new Gen-6 race car.  As we continue to build our program, we are still actively seeking marketing partners that want to grow with us and reach NASCAR’s 75 million fans through our various price points and sponsorship options.”

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Subway Fresh Fit 500 will be broadcast live on FOX from Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday, March 3rd with pre-race coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST.

Circle Sport PR

HEADRUSH Brand Apparel Inc. is joining Jason White at Phoenix International Raceway as sponsor of the SR2 Motorsports No. 00 Toyota Camry for the Dollar General 200. The race will mark White's first Nationwide Series event at Phoenix. He has five starts in the Camping World Truck Series, earning a best finish of 10th place, which he scored in 2011.

HEADRUSH aims to create the highest quality authentic apparel for lifestyle and mixed martial arts enthusiasts. The company will sponsor White at multiple to-be-determined events this season. 

White comments on racing at Phoenix International Raceway:

"It's great to have HEADRUSH partnering with us at Phoenix this week. HEADRUSH is for people who appreciate an action-packed, fast-paced lifestyle, so NASCAR is a perfect fit for them. I'm looking forward to racing with them this weekend and at a few more events later this season.

"Phoenix is a really cool race track. It's completely unique. You definitely can't use the phrase 'cookie cutter' when you're talking about it. I really love that about it. It's got characteristics that you won't find anywhere else on the NASCAR circuit and it really tests your abilities as a driver.


"It's an oval that races like a road course. It's asymmetrical, which means it's almost impossible to have a perfect setup under your car. You'll be good in Turns 1 and 2, or 3 and 4, but not in all of the corners. You'll have to sacrifice a little bit on one end of the track to be good on the other. When it comes to driving it, it's one of the more challenging tracks we go to. The flat surface can get really tricky and make it easy for your car to slide around. You have to make sure that you don't abuse your brakes or you'll be in big trouble at the end of the race."


SR2 Motorsports PR

Blake Koch is taking the wheel of the No. 24 SR2 Motorsports Toyota in this week's Dollar General 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. It will mark his fifth Nationwide Series start at the one-mile oval. His best finish to date is 14th place, which he achieved in 2011.

Koch comments on racing at Phoenix International Raceway:

"Last week we ran into some bad luck at Daytona and didn't get the finish we were hoping for. The good news is that our sponsors I am second, Salt Life and Support Military had a great time and that's important to us. Now we have a lot of points to make up in Phoenix and that's going to be the goal.


"I like the new Phoenix layout and Benny (Gordon, general manager and SR2 Motorsports lead crew chief) said he really likes the way the car turned out for it, so we are expecting a good race. It's a place that I really enjoy and have had some success at, so I'm really optimistic about this weekend. This will be a good chance for us to get in the thick of the points battle and establish ourselves as contenders for the rest of the season.


"There isn't another track like Phoenix on the circuit. It's really unique. The configuration almost has a fifth turn and there's not very much banking. That means it's really easy to overdrive the corners. As a driver you have to remind yourself to be smooth and consistent, and always stay focused. You have to bring you're A-game to Phoenix, no doubt about it."


SR2 Motorsports PR

Aric Almirola heads to the one-mile Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway 13th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings following a 13th-place finish in the Daytona 500. The 28-year-old driver will make his fifth Sprint Cup start at the track. He looks to best his career, track-high finish of 12th place, which he posted last spring with the No. 43 Farmland Ford team, in Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500.


As part of the Farmland Foods Race to End Hunger, Almirola will join Farmland Foods as they present a cash and protein donation to St. Mary's Food Bank that will help feed hundreds of families, children and seniors in the greater Phoenix area. The donation will be announced at the Fan Fest event at Fry's Grocery Store, 16380 W Yuma Rd., Goodyear, Ariz., on Thursday, Feb. 28, at 4:30 p.m. Fans and media are welcome to attend the event, which will include remarks and photo opportunities with the No. 43 Ford. The full Fan Fest event runs from 2 - 7 p.m., with an appearance by Aric Almirola from 4 - 6 p.m.


Comments from Farmland Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:


"I'm excited to go to Phoenix this weekend. We had a decent finish in the 500, but felt like we could have done better. Still, we're not in a bad position. If you look at some other guys, they have a big hill to climb to move up, and we just need to get this No. 43 Ford up one spot and then stay in the top-12 until The Chase. It's going to be important for us to be consistent.


"Our Farmland Ford had a good run here last November. Todd (Parrott) and the crew just did a good job, and that's what we want to do this weekend. It's a new car, so the first few practices will be interesting and important. We will want to learn as much as possible and keep getting better all weekend. Sunday, hopefully we can put it all together and have a top-10.


"It's cool to see Farmland back on the car for the first time this season. They do a lot to donate to local food banks. I encourage that and support it. As a race team, we're always looking for ways to help our partners better the community. This is something we all support."


Comments from Crew Chief Todd Parrott on Phoenix:


"This will be the first time we run the Gen-6 car at a mile track, so we are looking forward to seeing how it performs. With our solid finish at Daytona, we have a good footing in the point standings, so we look forward to moving up in points. Aric does a good job at shorter tracks, and we've had a great program in the past. I think that will translate to the Gen-6 car, so I'm anxious to see how we unload this weekend."



We have a lot more history to make.”

Those were the words of Danica Patrick just two Sundays ago following her history-making pole run for the 55th Daytona 500 as she became the first woman to ever earn a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole position.

But those were more than just words for Patrick, the driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). Being competitive, having success on the racetrack and even making a little history along the way are the goals that she and her No. 10 team set forth for their first full Sprint Cup season together.

Making more history is just what the 30-year-old Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year candidate did in Sunday’s Daytona 500. She rewrote some of the NASCAR record book yet again thanks to an impressive eighth-place finish at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the highest finishing position ever earned by a woman in the “Great American Race.”

In addition to her history-making pole run and finish in the Daytona 500, Patrick also led five laps (90 to 91 and 127 to 129), becoming the first female to lead NASCAR’s most prestigious race and the first woman to lead Sprint Cup Series laps under green. Janet Guthrie led five laps under caution in 1977 at Ontario (Calif.) Motor Speedway.

This weekend, Patrick and her No. 10 team turn their attention from the high banks of Daytona to Phoenix International Raceway.

This team has been here before. In fact, just a few short months ago last November, Patrick and her Tony Gibson-led team earned a 17th-place finish at the mile oval nestled in the Arizona desert. Prior to her record-breaking run at Daytona, Phoenix was the site of Patrick’s best Sprint Cup finish.

As the No. 10 team rolls into Phoenix, it hopes to build on the momentum from Daytona and improve on last November’s finish at the home track for Patrick’s longtime sponsor,, which is based in Scottsdale, Ariz., just 30 miles east of Phoenix International Raceway.

And if they make a little more history along the way, so be it. Patrick wants to keep rewriting the history books.


Lowe’s Companies Inc. will continue its successful relationship with Hendrick Motorsports after signing a two-year contract extension that secures the full-season primary sponsorship of the No. 48 NASCAR Sprint Cup team and five-time series champion Jimmie Johnson in 2014 and 2015.

Announced today to more than 1,700 store managers at the Lowe’s national sales meeting, the agreement builds upon a partnership launched in 2001 when Johnson was selected to drive for the new No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. Now in its 12th full season, the sponsor-driver-team relationship has become one of the most successful in NASCAR history.

“It has been a great ride with Jimmie since he started in the Cup Series 12 years ago,” said Tom Lamb, Lowe’s chief marketing officer. “We are proud to sponsor one of the most elite teams and drivers in racing and have a five-time champion carry the Lowe’s brand each week.”

Since his first full-time Sprint Cup season in 2002, Johnson has earned 61 victories—the most in the series during that span—and never finished lower than sixth in championship points.

On Sunday in his 400th Cup race, Johnson drove the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS to his second career Daytona 500 win. In the process, he became just the second driver (teammate Jeff Gordon is the other) to have the same primary sponsor for each of his first 400 Cup starts.

“Lowe’s believed in me before I had any success,” said Johnson, 37, whose contract with Hendrick Motorsports runs through 2015. “They are all I’ve ever known in my Sprint Cup career, and their support of me and the No. 48 team is second to none in the sport. We’ve been together for this crazy ride, and I’m so happy we’re continuing it together. They truly are family, and I’m proud to represent them.”

Led by crew chief Chad Knaus, the No. 48 Lowe’s team has now scored at least one Sprint Cup win in 12 consecutive seasons (2002-13). Johnson’s five championships trail only first-ballot Hall of Fame drivers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty, who each posted seven.

“We caught lightning in a bottle with this combination,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Jimmie and Chad have been successful because they always have a plan and do a great job executing. Lowe’s is the same way as a sponsor. The partnership has been incredible, and we’re looking forward to working together for many more years.”


HMS Racing PR

Not since 2008, when Ryan Newman won the 50th running of the Daytona 500, has the South Bend, Ind., native started out a season so strong.

Newman, who led the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) contingent by taking the checkered flag in the fifth position in last Sunday’s Great American Race, has certainly experienced both the highs and lows of Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. In his four Daytona 500 start since hoisting the Harley J. Earl trophy in victory lane, Newman has finishes of 36th, 34th, 22nd and 21st, respectively. That trend came to an end this past Sunday, and Newman enters the Fresh Fit 500k NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway fifth in the championship standings, just seven points behind series leader Jimmie Johnson.

Only twice in his 12 full seasons of Sprint Cup competition has Newman started out stronger – in 2006, when he finished third in the season-opening event, and in 2008. For Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS team, hopes are high that coming out of the box strong will be a sign of things to come.

The combination of Newman and crew chief Matt Borland, who reunited for the final four races of 2012, when they earned two top-five and four top-12 finishes, is clearly firing on all cylinders as it continued the trend of strong performances last weekend. Heading to Phoenix – the strongest track on the tour for Newman over the past two-and-a-half seasons –the 35-year-old driver is looking to again contend for the win.

In his last six starts at Phoenix, Newman has five top-five finishes, including a win in April 2010 and a runner-up finish in November 2010. His only finish outside the top-five came in this race one year ago, where Newman was involved in an accident while running fifth. He placed 21st.

While Newman wants to build on the momentum of his strong Daytona 500 run by scoring another top-five at Phoenix, it’s race fans who will be pushing Newman to “Bring It Home,” thanks to Quicken Loans’ sweepstakes, which got off to a quick start last week.

Newman’s fifth-place finish at Daytona helped kick off the promotion, which pays five people’s mortgages for a month each time Newman finishes among the top-five in a Sprint Cup race.

Consumers can enter the sweepstakes by visiting and are encouraged to increase their chances of winning a month-long vacation from their mortgage by entering weekly. Participants also can win additional entries by inviting their friends and family to participate.

Another strong finish early in the season would give both Newman and his fans something to cheer about. Specifically, a top-five finish at Phoenix would help keep Newman near the top of the point standings, and it would mean five more mortgages paid for a month.


Bobby Labonte's best finish at Phoenix International Speedway (PIR) is third-place (11/7/99) and his best start is first (10/27/96).
Labonte has 28 starts at PIR, three top-five and nine top-10 finishes. The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has led eight races for 68 laps. His average finish is 18.2. The Corpus Christi, Texas-native is currently 14th in the points standings.

JTG Daugherty Racing PIR Quotes:

"It feels good going into Phoenix International Raceway after our performance on Sunday at Daytona," Bobby Labonte said. "Now that we have the superspeedway race behind us, we're interested to see how we will stack up against the competition over the course of the next few weeks. We are confident and looking to build some momentum out of the box. We've done a lot of work in the off season and are light years ahead of where we were last year. We are optimistic heading into this weekend and we're glad to have GLAD on the hood of our Toyota Camry."

"We are just as excited about Phoenix as we were about Daytona," crew chief Brian Burns said. "We finished 16th and 15th in the races there last year and we have a better package this time around. So, we are looking to run better. We have high hopes for a top-10 finish. Phoenix is one of those tracks that caters to Bobby's style where he has an edge. It's one of our stronger tracks. A track like Daytona, luck has a lot to do with where you finish. However, having a respectable finish in the first race of the season sets the pace for starting the year off on the right foot. We have some tracks coming up where we feel we will excel. We're looking to improve in the points standings. We have four or five teams in front of us that we feel stronger than, and we are going to try to keep the others behind us."

"We are doing good and working real hard," competition director Bobby Hutchens said. "We are in a building process. Basically, this was a new race team this time last year right out of the box. A lot of people don't realize that. The team started with a blank building during this time last year and built the team over the course of the season. I came in late August. We
have tried real hard during the off season to incorporate a lot of new people from an engineering standpoint and straighten up some things in the shop from a competition side that will make our performance on Sundays much better.

"Getting away from superspeedway racing this week, I think people will see a whole different race team," Hutchens added. "It has been a building process for the most part, but I am hoping we will see the fruits of our labors here in the next couple of weeks when get to race regular tracks. We have tried to be smart about it, set some priorities and do what's within our bounds. We did not come in there and turn the place up, fire a bunch of people and cut all the cars up. It was not the right thing to do. We have tried to systematically work our way through what we think will make a difference in performance on Sunday. We have prioritized the things that we feel will make the biggest difference on the track. Tad's giving us the latitude. I laid out a budget for our engineering group and our competition side when I first got there. I said, 'Hey, if we are going to run with these guys in the front of this group every week, this is what it's going to take.' Tad kind of looked at me like I was crazy. At the end of the day, we set down over a couple weeks and he said, 'Well I've got to go out and sell some more.' That's what he does well. He's on the road and I'm in the shop. He would call me every couple days and say I have got this, I have got that. We would order this and hire that person and that's kind of how we dealt with it. To be honest with you, it has been a lot of fun. It reminds me of when I started at RCR (Richard Childress Racing) in 1988 with a small group. When I started, I was the 18th employee. When I left, there were 500. At JTG Daugherty Racing, this thing's got around 30 people that touches the race car every day. It is nice to get to know them, their wives, their kids and their dogs. When you get in that big thing, it almost rolls over you before you realize what happens."

"We are a one car team and that limits us a little bit when we get to the track," Hutchens continued. "We have to be smart about what we do. Toyota has stepped up to help us out from an engineering perspective. That has meant a lot because I have been used to having a group of people to be able to turn to and rely on and grab information. When I walked in the door, there was not a lot of that going on. We have tried to pollinate that the best we can. At the end of the day that will make a big difference. We hope to make those folks proud that we have taken the knowledge and the engineering expertise that they have and put it into this small team and hopefully we are going to gain off of it.

There might not be many places to go fishing in Arizona, but David Gilliland will still be "speaking fish" for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway. The Long John Silver's paint scheme will make its 2013 debut on Gilliland's No. 38 Ford Fusion for Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the one-mile oval in the desert.


The Riverside, Calif., native is right at home in Phoenix, a track where he raced frequently - and won - early in his career in the Pro Series West. In his Sprint Cup career, Gilliland has one top-15 and two top-20 finishes at the Avondale, Ariz., oval. His best finish was 15th in 2008.


Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland heading to Phoenix:


"I love racing out west. It just feels like home. I grew up in racing traveling around the West Coast, first as a kid with my dad when he raced, then as his crew chief and then when I started driving myself. So we see a lot of friends and family whenever we go to Phoenix and always enjoy it.


"Phoenix is a challenging track. You've really got to have your car handling well or you're going to get beat in the corners. But Front Row Motorsports has put a lot of work into our cars this winter so I think we can bring a fast Long John Silver's Ford to the track this week. Coming into the season, everybody focuses on Daytona and having a fast car for the 500, but you've got to invest just as much time and work into the cars you'll race in Weeks 2 and 3 and 4. After Daytona, we don't get to take a break and say, 'OK, let's try to get ready for Phoenix now.' There's no breather. But we're ready and I'm looking forward to it.


"We've always run well on the superspeedways, short tracks and road courses. So I think we're in good shape for places like Phoenix and Bristol. It's the mile-and-a-halfs that we're always working to get better at. So Las Vegas is going to be a good measurement of where we stand for 2013."



David Ragan and the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team will welcome the change of scenery at Phoenix International Raceway. After falling victim to a multi-car, accordion-style pile-up in the season-opening Daytona 500 last weekend, Ragan looks forward to having more control of his own destiny on the flat, one-mile oval in Avondale, Ariz.


The lower banking and significantly slower speeds traditionally make racing at Phoenix more about finesse and handling and put a driver's fate more in his own hands. There will still be some unfamiliarity to overcome at Phoenix. Even though teams have become accustomed to a track reconfiguration completed in 2011, this weekend's race will be the first there in the new Gen-6 cars.


Ragan has 12 starts under his belt at PIR. He has one top-10 finish - a 10th-place run in 2008.


Comments from Front Row Motorsports team driver David Ragan heading to Phoenix:


"We're ready to begin 'the rest of the season.' So much work and hype goes into the Daytona 500, but we've got 35 more races to go now. It'll be good to settle into a groove with the weekly racing schedule now. Race car drivers are creatures of habit, so we like our routines.


"Phoenix is always challenging. It's flat and it's only a mile, so taking care of your brakes is always important going there. With the reconfiguration they did a couple years ago, we kind of had to relearn the track a little bit. And we're kind of in that position again somewhat with the new cars this year. So that first practice on Friday is going to be really important, because we just have that one session before we qualify later that afternoon.


"We definitely aren't going to let what happened at Daytona dictate our mood. Everybody goes into Daytona knowing anything can happen and all too often you have no control over it. So, we'll put that behind us and look forward to the races that we have a little more control over."




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