Sunday, Sep 24
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Brian Vickers would love to win Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. The No. 55 is 18th in owner points, but a win coupled with the July 14 victory in New Hampshire would likely earn the Michael Waltrip Racing team one of the two wildcard berths in the 2013 owner’s championship.

But, Vickers is working on more than just Saturday night’s race.

He is using these final 2013 races as a jump start to the 2014 season that will see him drive the Aaron’s Toyota in every race.

VICKERS ON 2014 PREPARATION: “We go out there and do our best and we never give up. We can’t thank Aaron’s enough for coming on board and having me in the car the rest of the season and next year. That’s what this year is about, preparing for next year and that’s what we’re doing. Obviously Scott Miller (MWR executive vice president of competition) has been helping on the pit box, but we have Billy Scott (MWR engineer) who has been a phenomenal race engineer. As you know this sport has changed, there’s not one man at the top anymore and those two guys have to play an integral role in these cars. ”

WHAT INPUT WILL YOU HAVE ON SELECTING THE No. 55’s CREW CHIEF? “I certainly have a say, and I have a voice in it. They’re most definitely going to want my opinion, but my experience with most companies, the guy writing the check is the guy with the final say. And, that’s not me. I’m going to defer to them on that one. I think within the organization, as a whole, obviously in the team structure, the drivers are always going to have some input.”

POTENTIAL CREW CHIEFS: “From our standpoint, everybody is an option. MWR is a phenomenal organization with a great culture. They have a lot of depth and we want to grow that depth. You always want to try to promote from within, but no decision has been made. Right now Billy is filling his roles that he’s always fulfilled and doing an excellent job of it. He’s a great race engineer. Whether or not we change his title going into next year, we don’t know yet. Scott’s (Miller) helping – the reality is one person can’t do that job anymore. It's a combo deal. You have to have a crew chief and a race engineer and I don’t know that one job is any more important than the other, they’re just different. We have Scott and Billy doing both of those roles. What we do next is really a factor of what the group and team want, what’s best for the team and what each individual wants moving forward.”


It all comes down to this.

Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway is the last race before the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship field is set. And this is Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans Racing team’s last chance to lock themselves into the field that will compete for the title in the 10-race Chase.

Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Kasey Kahne, who is 12th in points, has the first wild card via his two wins. The second wild card is held by Martin Truex Jr., who is 13th in points with one victory. Newman is the only other driver between 11th and 20th with a victory.

Currently 14th in points, Newman would clinch at least a wild-card spot with a victory Saturday night. He could lock himself into the top-10, as well, as he finds himself just 20 points outside the 10th and final guaranteed position in the Chase field. He could clinch a wild-card spot without scoring the win at Richmond, but only if Joey Logano and Greg Biffle remain in the top-10 or are replaced by Kahne. If that happens, Newman must out-point current wild-card holder Truex by six points in the race. Jeff Gordon must not win; and if Brad Keselowski or Jamie McMurray wins, Newman needs to have a strong enough finish that neither driver would be able to overtake him in the points.

Sound complicated? Well, it is. Newman and his crew chief Matt Borland-led team will focus on making it easy. “Win and we’re in,” they’ll say. And, at Newman’s statistically best track – his average Richmond finish is 11.8 – Newman expects he will contend not only to make the Chase, but to potentially win the race, as well. 

Newman has one win (September 2003) and one pole, five top-five finishes and 13 top-10s in 23 career Sprint Cup starts at Richmond. And since joining Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in 2009, Richmond has been one of the better tracks on the circuit for the No. 39 team.

Should Newman be able to race his way into the Chase this weekend, it wouldn’t be the first time the Quicken Loans driver has made the Chase in the final regular-season race. He was one point outside the playoffs heading to Richmond in September 2005 but grabbed one of the coveted Chase spots with a solid 12th-place finish.

Knowing a win would guarantee their presence in the Chase, Newman and the No. 39 team know it will be imperative to put all their energy, focus and determination on the race itself and do whatever it takes to drive the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet straight to victory lane and into NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.


Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) development driver Ryan Truex will make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at the Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Saturday night. Truex will drive the No. 51 entry for Phoenix Racing as a continued agreement with the organization.

While this will be his first Cup start at the .75-mile track, Truex has four starts at Richmond in the NASCAR Nationwide series, earning one top-five and two top-10s. His last race at the Virginia track was in September of 2012 where he finished in the 16th position.


Comments from Ryan Truex Heading Into Richmond:


"I'm really looking forward to Richmond.  My first Cup start didn't go the way I wanted, so I'm grateful for the opportunity to get another chance. I was really happy with qualifying 18th at Bristol, but we cut a tire and that was disappointing.  It's just nice to get back in the seat and get another chance so quickly.


"Now that I've got that first start out of the way, and I know what to expect, I can't wait to get back on the track.  We're trying to secure some sponsorship with RPM for next year and a good run helps.  I just want to go out, learn as much as possible and complete all the laps."



Jeff Burton, driver of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS for Richard Childress Racing, has announced he will not be driving that car after the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Burton, 46, has driven for RCR since 2005.


The native of South Boston, Va., has won four of his 21 NSCS victories with the team. He also earned seven NASCAR Nationwide Series wins with RCR and was an integral part of their 2007 NNS Owner's Championship.


"I strongly believe in the No. 31 team as to what we can achieve this year, and for the team in seasons to follow," Burton said. "However, the financial realities for next year were obvious to both Richard (Childress) and me. So, we talked about it and both made the decision to make this move for the team's future.


"I would like to thank the dealers, customers and employees of Caterpillar for all we've achieved together. You can't ask for a better and more supportive sponsor than those people, and it's been an honor to wear their black and yellow colors on my uniform."


Caterpillar will continue to sponsor the No. 31 Chevrolet SS.


"Jeff has been a true professional in every sense of the word," said Greg Towles, Cat Racing Program Director. "On behalf of Caterpillar dealers, customers and Cat employees, we thank Jeff for his commitment to the No. 31 team and the Cat Racing program."


A new driver for the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS will be named in the future.


"We have been working hard to try and get all the funding in place to have four Sprint Cup teams in 2014," said Richard Childress, president and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "With the date on the calendar getting closer to 2014, we just couldn't run partially funded teams next year. Knowing what Jeff's plans were in 2015, he and I worked out an agreement for him to step out of the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet after this season. Jeff has been nothing but a professional driver, an asset to RCR and a great person for our organization since coming on board in 2005.


"Jeff has also been a great ambassador for Caterpillar and the other partners we've had on the car throughout the years. I can't thank him and Caterpillar enough for how great they've been as we work through this transition.


"We intend to finish out 2013 in a strong way and I look forward to the possibility of Jeff still being part of RCR in the near future, just not driving the No. 31 car. I have been watching his son, Harrison, and the success he's having. Hopefully, we can have another Burton in one of our cars someday."






With only Saturday’s race at Richmond International Raceway left in the regular season, five positions are up for grabs in NASCAR’s 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. is one of the drivers in the fiercest battle in the Chase’s 10-year history. He is 13th in the standings, 15 points out of 10th, but holds the second wild card position. Truex finished third in Atlanta despite driving with a cast on his right wrist after suffering a scaphoid fracture and sprain during the Bristol race on Aug. 24. 

Truex hopes to join Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Clint Bowyer in each clinching their second-consecutive berths in the Chase for MWR.

CAST UPDATE: “The cast did its job at Atlanta. It got a little soft in the palm area during the race but all and all, everything went fine. I’ve had it checked over again and had a new cast put on. We’ve made a few adjustments to this new cast and I expect it to be a whole lot better. Everything has gone well so far. I cannot complain. I mean to go to Atlanta and to have a shot at the win at the end, at that point, what pain I felt was gone.”

THOUGHTS ON FINAL RACE BEFORE THE CHASE: “Our strategy is the same as we had last week at Atlanta. This NAPA team needs to go out and try to win the race. If we can’t, we need to get all we can. We cannot make a mistake. No matter what kind of night we are having, we will keep our heads down and focus on where we are heading towards lap 400. Depending on cautions, Richmond has a tendency to swap the field around at times. We just have to do the best job we can do at getting track position and keeping it. The goal for us is to be ready for the end. That’s all we can do at this point. We can’t get worried about the points. It is what it is. We need to focus on finishing up front and trying to win. Wherever we finish, I hope it is enough.

“To be honest, with the season we have had with all the ups and downs, I am so excited to still be in this thing. We have fought so hard this year and have overcome a lot to be in this position. It will be awesome and a huge deal for us if we can make it in again. This NAPA team is not a 12th or 13th-place team. In my opinion, we are a top-five team. We want to get in and make up for the mistakes and mishaps we experienced earlier in the year to have a great ending to our season.”





The last time NASCAR fans saw Farm Rich on David Ragan's No. 34 Ford, he was celebrating in Victory Lane.  Four months after Front Row Motorsports' historic win at Talladega (Ala.) Motor Speedway, the frozen snacks and appetizers brand returns to Ragan's car for this weekend's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.


Farm Rich partner Kroger will be included on the No. 34 car and host Farm Rich product demonstrations at more than 650 stores nationwide on race day.  Ragan will also make a special appearance at the Kroger store at 9351 Atlee Road in Mechanicsville, Va., on Thursday, Sept. 5, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. to greet fans and sign autographs.


Richmond International Raceway is a track that Ragan enjoys and a place where he has seen success.  He has three top-five and three top-10 finishes at the three-quarter-mile track.


Comments from Farm Rich team driver David Ragan heading to Richmond:


"Richmond is one of my favorite tracks.  I've had some really good runs there in the past.  It's all about getting good forward drive so you can get on the throttle and get underneath other cars.  Usually we have a couple of long runs, and even a green-flag pit stop is not unheard of.  If you can really work on your rear tires, getting them to grip under power, especially off Turn 4, where you're still trying to turn and you're under throttle, it can be a fun race.  It's one of the more exciting races because a lot of guys are racing for that final Chase spot.  So there will definitely be some excitement.


"Farm Rich will be on our No. 34 Ford Fusion.  It will be their second race of the year.  The only other race they've been on our Ford was at Talladega when we were able to win the race.  We've got a great-looking car for Richmond.  To have Farm Rich snacks on board, it's going to be a lot fun to see them there at the track.  It's the first race where they're really activating. 


"A lot of people are coming out, and they're tying in with Kroger, too. We'll be doing a store appearance in the Richmond area at a Kroger, too.  So there's a lot of neat stuff associated with the race, not only with the Saturday night race but also the Thursday and Friday leading up to the race weekend.  We'll have a lot of guests there, so it's going to be fun to get a good run in for everyone.


"Saturday night races are tough for the crew chiefs and engineers to really get a trend on how the rubber's laying down.  The temperature changes a lot, just because you have a one-day show to get your car set up for the race and for qualifying, and then you come in the next day for a race that night.  It's challenging.  But we've got good notebooks.  We've been on that schedule for a number of years.  We've just got to look back and be smart with what adjustments we make."



Jimmie Johnson Just win

Wednesday, Sep 04

Jimmie Johnson has led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver standings since leaving Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in April, when he qualified on the pole, led a race-high 346 laps, and won the race. The victory was his second of 2013 after winning the season-opening Daytona 500. Since then, he and the No. 48 Lowe’s team haven’t looked back, their consistency allowing them to be the first to lock into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Aug. 11 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

The past three weekends, however, have seen the points lead dwindle after finishes of 40th, 36th and 28th at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, respectively. Winning the “regular season” is something Johnson and team would like to add to their resume this season despite the fact, as Johnson puts it, “you don’t win anything – not even a T-shirt or a mug” – for the accomplishment.

Another thing the No. 48 Lowe’s team would like is to start the Chase in the top spot. It was a feat Johnson was close to locking down as he owned the top seed over Matt Kenseth prior to the race at Bristol. Both had four wins with Johnson holding the tiebreaker with a next-best finish of second to Kenseth’s fifth. But Kenseth went on to score his fifth win of the season that weekend while Johnson got caught up in someone else’s mess, finishing the aforementioned 36th.

Adding to the mix was last weekend’s win at Atlanta by Kyle Busch, who equaled Johnson’s mark of four wins and two second-place finishes. But the five-time champ still owns that tiebreaker, for now, with a next-best finish of third to Busch’s next-best of fourth.

While it may seem like being in the top-three to start the Chase is good enough, there are several competitors, including Johnson (see his 2004 season), who know that every single point counts. This weekend, the only thing that can give Johnson the top seed when the Chase begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., is a win Saturday night at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

It’s possible, despite the fact that the .75- mile oval ranks in the bottom four, statistically, for Johnson. He does have three wins there and is looking to make it four come Saturday night.


Josh Wise will take a new primary partner to Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on Saturday night, introducing NASCAR fans to The Pete Store, LLC.


The Pete Store is a Peterbilt dealer group with nine full-service locations from Delaware to Georgia, and is the provider of Front Row Motorsports' race haulers.  The company has been an associate sponsor with Front Row for previous races, but Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 will be The Pete Store's first primary sponsorship with the team.


The three-quarter-mile raceway takes the 30-year-old Wise back to his early racing days when he competed on Saturday nights under the lights of neighborhood short tracks.  Currently in the Sprint Cup Series, Wise has three career starts at Richmond.  He finished 28th in his last trip to the track in April.


Comments from The Pete Store team driver Josh Wise heading to Richmond:


"We've got The Pete Store on our No. 35 this week at Richmond, which is pretty cool.  They're already a team partner of ours - we use Peterbilt trucks for our race haulers - and they've been an associate sponsor a couple times on our cars, but now they're going to have a whole paint scheme just for them.  So we're happy to show that off under the lights on Saturday night.


"I like short-track racing.  It's awesome.  It's just great racing under the lights and I always look forward to it.  It brings back memories of racing like most of us in the garage did in the past, racing Saturday night under the lights.  So it's always something to look forward to.


"It can be tough to prepare for, though, because not a whole lot of other information from other tracks applies to Richmond.  There's a little correlation maybe between Loudon and Richmond and maybe a little bit of Martinsville.  A lot of the tracks we go to are kind of their own animal even though they may look similar.  They all still have their own neat little quirks.


"You fight the same challenge at all the short tracks typically.  You need the front to turn better at the center of the corner, and you've got to maintain forward drive while doing that.  I think we qualified pretty good at Richmond in the spring, and we had a decent run.  But the track definitely tightened up, and I remember that much about it.  So we'll definitely try to adjust for that in practice this time."



A 17th-place lead-lap finish at one of the toughest tracks on the schedule is proof of just how far David Gilliland's No. 38 team has come this season.  Sunday's top-20 finish at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway was the team's fifth of the season, already matching last year's total with 11 races still to go.


The team carries confidence headed into this weekend's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, a type of track where the No. 38 team has improved this season.  Saturday night's race will be Gilliland's 15th Sprint Cup career start at the three-quarter-mile oval.  His best finish is 18th (2008).


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


"I'm really proud of the progress we've made this year.  Our Atlanta race showed how far we've come.  We're racing against more competitive cars this year, up in the field where we weren't competitive in years past.  I'm really proud of Frank Kerr and the guys, and I think we're just continuing to get even better.  I think we can rack up a few more really good finishes in these final 10 or 11 races.


"I thought Richmond went well for us last time.  And Phoenix was really strong for us this year.  Even though we blew a tire there, we ran really well.  So we've learned a lot from those two races that we can take with us this weekend.  We've updated our braking package, which is crucial, obviously, at a place like Richmond.  So, we're looking forward to going there and having our brakes where we think they need to be, and taking what we learned from Richmond last time and Phoenix as well and putting it to work.


"We feel very confident now.  Those styles of racetrack were a challenge for us last year and I feel like we made some great improvements this year.  I can't wait to go and take what we've learned and put it to the test.


"It's an exciting race being under the lights on a Saturday night.  I love night races.  With all the Chase drama that will be going on, it's definitely going to be a fun race for the fans.  Richmond's a short track, and most of us came from short-track racing obviously.  It's a racetrack that drivers like to go to and I think we'll put on a good show."



Fans looking to stock up on tailgating items this weekend at Richmond International Raceway can visit a new, on-site Kroger store for their race day needs.

Kroger is setting up shop in Parking Lot D this Friday and Saturday at RIR from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Click here for a map to locate the store.

The list of items available for purchase include hot dogs and hamburgers, Coca-Cola products, Gatorade, bagged ice, charcoal grills and much more. Click here for a complete list of products available.



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