Monday, Dec 04
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest

Johnny Sauter's riding a six-race streak of top-10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finishes with his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota into Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway, and given Sauter's overall record it's safe to say "the streak" should continue.
Sauter won the pole for his first start at Phoenix -- even though that was on the racetrack's previous configuration -- and he scored top-five finishes in his first three races, including leading 11 laps in his debut fifth-place finish ion 2009.

But last year, much as ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton did, and in about the same timeframe -- right before half-distance -- Sauter was swept into a wreck not of his making. It relegated him to an atypical 25th-place finish.

"The racetrack wasn't exactly wide enough, at the time for side-by-side racing," Sauter said. "I was on the outside of Nelson Piquet Jr. when we went down into Turn 3 and he got loose underneath me, wriggled up into the side of my truck and the rest is history.

"It was really a shame because I would've liked to have seen what we would've had at the end of that one."

Sauter actually pitted and made repairs that took knocked him about 50 laps behind, but in the same manner as his team's repeatedly refused to give up this year, they repaired Sauter's truck and he finished.

But that outcome's done nothing to dull his ardor for Phoenix -- a racetrack he likens to one of his all-time favorites and for the obvious reasons -- The Milwaukee Mile.

"The old configuration was a pretty racy place -- like short-track racing -- and it was a lot of fun," Sauter, a Necedah, Wis., native said. "All in all it reminded me a lot of Milwaukee."

Of course, Sauter had positive memories from The Mile, after winning a NASCAR Busch Series race there in 2005 and once racing another series race with two of his brothers and his father.

He even maintains his affinity for the version of Phoenix that was created at mid-season in 2011, when the exit of Turn 1, the backstretch "dogleg" and frontstretch were reconfigured.

"The new configuration is obviously a little bit faster, but it still races real similar to what is was before," Sauter said. "I don't really know what it is that I like about it. I guess it's just the uniqueness of it...

"Turn 1 is really a hard-braking turn, though now it's a llitle bit different -- it's a real momentum corner because you have so much runoff room going down to the dogleg. And then Turns 3 and 4 are such a long, sweeping corner, so I guess it's just got a lot more character than some of the places we go."

Sauter maintains one major difference on what his teammate, Truck Series championship leader Matt Crafton, who coincidentally has a chance to clinch the title this weekend at Phoenix, thinks of the place.

"I don't think you can sacrifice at all on one end to gain on the other -- not if you're going to win the race," Sauter said. "I think whoever gets it right on both ends is gonna be the guy to beat, so even though there are some racetracks that you have to sacrifice one end to be better on the other, I think Phoenix has enough grip and it's new enough pavement that you're going to have to be right on both ends to win the race."

The truck Sauter will race at Phoenix is the piece he had at Eldora. It's a Tundra that had to be completely rebuilt from the ground-up after the roughhouse, mid-summer dirt-track race. It's wearing a never-seen, mellow jalapeno green paint scheme representing that flavor of Carolina Nut's flavored, roasted peanuts.

In all, Sauter believes the streak can continue through Homestead next weekend -- though he's hardly willing to settle for top 10s.

"It's obviously very satisfying and I'm real proud of my team and what we've been able to accomplish.," Sauter said. "The last six races have been awesome -- if you take Chicago out of the mix, where we had a top 10 but we struggled and were still able to salvage a decent finish -- we've been on a pretty good run here."

It specifically has brought Sauter from just outside the top 10 in the championships to fourth, where he now has a great shot to hold onto a place on stage at the Nov. 18 awards ceremony.

"But we've still got two races to go," Sauter said. "If we can finish the year as good as we've been running we could end up second in the points if some of the guys in front of us have trouble.

"It's just good to know that we're going to the racetrack and we're going in the right direction and things are running good." 


The two-day Phoenix Truck Series weekend begins Thursday with a pair of practice sessions, from 5:30-6:25 p.m. ET and 7:35-8:30 p.m. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2.

Thorsport PR

In case no one has been paying attention, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship has come down to two races, essentially between two men – five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and 2003 champion Matt Kenseth. Seven points separate the two drivers with the next-closest driver 40 points out.

It’s a sports fan’s dream, a tight championship battle. Like the NFL Super Bowl in 2000, when the St. Louis Rams won after the final drive by the Tennessee Titans ended a yard shy of the goal line as time expired, this year’s NASCAR championship battle is expected to produce much of the same excitement, going “all the way to the last lap in Homestead,” as noted by Johnson.

For those who chose to take a negative point of view by saying there’s no rivalry between the two champions who have acknowledged that they are friends off the track – their daughters recently went on a Play-Doh® buying trip together – well, those naysayers are sorely mistaken.

Johnson recently said a rivalry does exist – a healthy rivalry, with healthy being the key word, when the helmets go on.

The two will display what has made them champions this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Johnson may seem to hold an edge with a series-best four career wins at the track (November 2007, April and November 2008, November 2009), as well as the best driver rating, which is NASCAR’s measure of key statistical categories.

But as this exciting championship battle has shown, expect the unexpected because, when the helmets go on, these two know how to get it done.   



No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. and crew chief Chad Johnston are eager to get on track at Phoenix International Raceway for Sunday’s 312-lap event.

The one-mile oval is one of their favorites and the No. 56 has been one of the fastest cars the last two years. But mechanical issues slowed those outings. If that bad luck evens out this weekend in the desert then Truex could be one of the favorites to visit victory lane.

TRUEX ON PHOENIX: “Phoenix is one of my favorite tracks but the last two races there have not been good at all for us. Last year, we went out on lap 2 after starting on the front row. Then back in March, we lost power just 50 laps in and had to go behind the wall for repairs. We went back out and had one of the fastest cars on track. Regardless, we turned a negative into a positive by using the track time to prepare for this weekend’s race. Granted we’ve improved our NAPA Toyota over the course of this season but Chad and I expect to have an even faster car this time out.

“What I like about Phoenix is the options it provides. Even after the repave, you can try different lines to see where your car works best and where you can complete a pass. I expect fans to see plenty of side-by-side racing. The fans like it and so do the drivers. I can’t wait to get out there and see if Chad and I can finally win at this place. He has always provided me with fast cars there. We just lacked some of the luck needed to close the deal. It would be great to go back to victory lane together before the season ends. It would mean a lot to us, NAPA, and of course, all the employees at Michael Waltrip Racing.”






As part of the ongoing effort to recognize Daytona’s loyal fans for their dedication and support throughout the DAYTONA Rising redevelopment project, Daytona International Speedway today recognized longtime Speedway account holders as the “fans of steel” during a special ceremony at the construction site.

Nearly two dozen race fans and guests, some from as far away as Colorado and Ohio, kicked off the day by taking a “hot lap” around Daytona International Speedway in a pace car and then received a personal DAYTONA Rising project update from Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. The fans literally became part of history after personally signing a massive 30-foot, 1,300-pound steel beam that will be used to build the new frontstretch grandstands.

“Fans are the foundation of Daytona International Speedway and they have ‘built’ the legacy of this historic facility," said Chitwood III. "Today was a great opportunity to celebrate the best fans in the world and share an update on the exciting progress of the DAYTONA Rising project.”

The day concluded with a guided tour of the DAYTONA Rising construction site, highlighted by the recent steel installation, pile cap installation and completion of water and fire lines.

Key November construction activities include:

  • Ongoing steel installation
  • Completion of pile cap installation
  • Continued asphalt paving and other “race-ready” preparation for the 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona and Budweiser Speedweeks 2014


Frank Kimmel, the 10-time ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion who claimed that iconic title a month ago, will be part of NASCAR's championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weekends where he'll drive a No. 13 Ansell / Menards Toyota for ThorSport Racing in the Camping World Truck Series finale.    

Kimmel, whose truck will be virtually identical to the No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra driven by ThorSport's Truck Series championship leader Matt Crafton, will be part of a three-truck ensemble from ThorSport in the Friday night Ford EcoBoost 200 that includes fourth-place point man Johnny Sauter's No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota.
Kimmel's truck will be tended by his champion ARCA team, including crew chief Jeriod Prince and truck chief Rich Lushes.
"I know it's another race that's put on our guys and they've worked so hard and they deserve a break," Kimmel, proving what kind of teammate he's always been, said. "But I'm just really excited to get to go and have an opportunity to get in the race and go out there and race the truck guys."
The Homestead entry closes an open chapter in Kimmel's career that began two years ago, shortly after he signed a deal to drive for team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson's newly-formed ARCA team in 2012.
ThorSport entered a truck for Kimmel in the 2011 Homestead finale, when Sauter was in a championship dogfight with Austin Dillon that he ultimately lost by six points. It was Kimmel's debut with Prince and Lushes -- a combination that's won six ARCA races over the last two years -- but the truck, which was plenty fast enough, was a non-starter when qualifying was rained-out.
"I'm really excited for a lot of reasons -- and one of them is certainly getting to finish that story we started in 2011, when we didn't get a chance to race," Kimmel said, his voice reflecting the level of emotion he felt. "We unloaded really loose and were really having trouble, but then Jeriod and Rich and I hit on something and our last lap of practice was the fastest we'd run -- on 30-lap (old) tires.

"It was such a shame we never got to find out how that truck would've raced."

Kimmel hopes to do that next weekend, though his No. 13, which ran 10 races with a couple different drivers earlier this season, has fallen out of a guaranteed starting position in the Truck Series' owners' points.

If he makes the race it'll be the 14th career Truck Series start for Kimmel, who's started multiple races in all three of NASCAR's national tours, in addition to winning the first NASCAR Touring Division race, for what's now the K&N Pro Series West, when Kansas Speedway opened.

Kimmel ran the July Truck Series race at Iowa in another No. 13 Ansell / Menards truck and finished 21st. But that Tundra primarily carried the No. 13's more typical primer-gray paint scheme.

Kimmel quickly agreed that this Homestead could be considered a "celebration race," honoring not only Kimmel's 10th career championship but also Menards' first stock car championship and Ansell's first racing championship, and now possibly Menards' second if things go well for Crafton. It makes the "tribute" truck quite a bit more meaningful to Kimmel.

"I think that's the main reason Duke is doing it," Kimmel said. "To show how much he appreciated all the hard work the guys put in, doing the third truck some of the time and then the one race we ran in the truck, where we didn't have as good of a finish as we wanted to, at Iowa. 
"It's huge to celebrate and honor what this means for Menards, and I think this is also a way for Duke and ThorSport to give back to Ansell and Menards for everything they meant to our championship in ARCA. But most of all I hope Matt can lock up his championship this weekend because it would be really special to be able to celebrate those championships together, as a team with the way we raced and worked together all season."       

Kimmel, in the end, proved just how much of a racer he is, much as he did when he won his ARCA-record 80th career victory, at Kansas, even while he clinched his record-extending championship.


"The Camping World Truck Series is a reflection of not only where I came from in my racing career, but where a lot of drivers got their start," Kimmel said. "I think in the Truck Series a driver can get his elbows up, get up on the wheel and make a difference getting around the racetrack."


Thorsport PR

Over 300,000 children in the United States live with juvenile arthritis (JA). Of those children, over 6,000 children live in Wisconsin. To celebrate their continued successes in living with the disease, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Todd Peck and the Arthritis Foundation teamed up for the foundation's Jingle Bell Run on Sunday, November 3 in Milwaukee. The event had more than 5,000 participants and raised over $112,000 to fight arthritis, the nation's leading cause of disability.

Peck, who was diagnosed with arthritis at a young age, has utilized his racing platform to show  everyone that you can still live an active and fast-paced life with the condition. He has partnered with the Arthritis Foundation for several special events and fundraisers, including Sunday's Jingle Bell Run hosted by the Upper Midwest Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation. Peck served as the grand marshal for the 5k run/walk event and was a keynote speaker at the foundation's banquet following the race.

"It's always a pleasure to work with the Arthritis Foundation," Peck said. "The Jingle Bell Run is such a great event and I'm honored to be a part of it. To see everyone running and showing their support to fight arthritis, it means a lot. And to know that so many of the race's participants are kids and that they aren't letting the condition slow them down, that's what it's all about. I'm so excited to see how many people were a part of the event and how much money we raised to help others who are fighting the condition. It's been a terrific week to say the least."

Peck also offered the hood of his No. 40 Silverado and a patch on his firesuit to be used by the foundation for a special cause. Beginning in October, JA youth throughout Southeast Wisconsin were invited to enter designs for an exclusive truck decal to be featured on Peck's truck for a to-be-determined race in the 2014 NASCAR season and a patch on his uniform. In the end, it was Madison's design for Peck's hood and Delaney's design for Peck's uniform that won the contest.

"I love seeing the creativity and imagination that kids have within them," Peck said. "Their designs were all very unique and special. I'm thrilled to carry Delaney's and Madison's designs with me on race day next season. They did a terrific job and created extraordinary logos. Hopefully we'll give them a good ride."

Peck started his career driving go-karts and worked his way up to the national levels in karting, before advancing to the Allison Legacy Series. Peck has experience in the Rev-Oil Pro Cup Series, more than 15 starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and several starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He has done all of this while overcoming the conditions of living with arthritis.

Todd Peck PR

Parker Kligerman isn't considered a Nationwide Series rookie by NASCAR due to the fact that his 12 starts while driving for an underfunded team in 2012 are slightly more than the minimum starts allowable in one season, but if this was the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) racing league he would definitely be deemed a redshirt freshman. While Rookie Kyle Larson has garnered high praise for his impressive debut season, a close look at the numbers reveals that Kligerman has been flying under the radar, producing equally impressive results in his first full-time campaign in NASCAR's second division driving the No. 77 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM).

Both talented youngsters have put together solid freshman campaigns battling against a Nationwide Series field that is considered the most competitive in many years. Inside the top 10 in the championship standings, you find former Sprint Cup Series regulars Regan Smith (171 Sprint Cup Series starts), Elliott Sadler (433 Sprint Cup Series starts) and Brian Vickers (280 Sprint Cup Series starts), as well as former Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne (45 Sprint Cup Series starts).


Kligerman made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth last weekend, turning heads with an impressive 18th-place finish driving for Swan Racing - one of the newest teams in the premiere division. He hopes to continue to gain respect by finishing the season strong in the Nationwide Series, where he has posted an average finish of 9.0 over his last four races.



Ryan Reed, driver of the No. 16 American Diabetes Association Drive to StopDiabetes SM presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang, will make his first NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) start on the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) this Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013.  This will be Reed’s fifth start with Roush Fenway Racing (RFR).  Reed finished 14thin his last outing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October.

Reed’s No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang will showcase photos from the American Diabetes Association’s A Day in the Life of Diabetes mosaic at PIR as part of American Diabetes Month®.  Reed worked with the Association to encourage the public to submit a personal image to the Association’s Facebook mosaic representing what A Day in the Life of Diabetes means to them. The simulator version of the American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop Diabetespresented by Lilly Diabetes Ford, will be onsite at PIR and will also feature the photos.

"Phoenix is a place I have always wanted to race,” said Reed. “My dad raced there quite a bit back in the day and he told me how much fun it was. It's just so unique, and from what I have seen, breeds great racing.” 

“Showcasing this design with photos from the mosaic is really important to me.  I'm excited about driving this special edition of the No. 16 American Diabetes Association Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang there.” Added Reed. “It's going to be so cool to represent so many people affected by diabetes during American Diabetes Month and because it’s so close to World Diabetes Day.  I look forward to showing off the car and I’m looking to have a solid finish for the Drive to Stop Diabetes team Saturday."

Reed, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in February 2011, joined forces with the American Diabetes Association’s efforts and created the Drive to Stop Diabetes campaign, with awareness and educational events at select NASCAR Nationwide races as well as at several off track health and wellness initiatives throughout 2013 and 2014. Drive to Stop Diabetes is supported by Lilly Diabetes, the program’s National Presenting Sponsor. 

Click here to watch Reed’s Mosaic Mustang being prepared, narrated by Reed.


Kurt Busch has shattered many Furniture Row Racing season team records, including top fives (10), top-10s (15), consecutive top-fives (3) and front-row starts (8).
No doubt an incredible season for one of the most gifted drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series whose biggest accomplishment in 2013, without any debate, was becoming the first driver from a single-car team to qualify for NASCAR’s post-season Chase playoffs. He was also the first driver to earn a Chase berth with a team based outside of the Carolinas.
But before Busch heads to a different team in 2014, there’s a void he desperately wants to fill as the driver of the Denver-based No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet SS.
“We want a win and we want it badly,” said Busch, who ranks 10th in driver points with two races remaining. “We’ve accomplished so much in a short period of time, but that elusive win is hanging over us. Barney Visser (team owner) has put his heart and soul into this team and he deserves a win as does everyone else associated with the talented Furniture Row Racing organization.”
Busch, who has two runner-up finishes this season, will be seeking his first win of the year and 25th of his career in Sunday’s AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
And when it comes to Phoenix International Raceway, Busch has plenty of reasons to feel optimistic. He has won at the 1-mile oval (April, 2005) and has led a total of 750 laps. The only track where he has led more laps (895) is at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
"Phoenix, I love the place, led a lot of laps there,” noted Busch. “But that was on the old configuration. The new configuration is a little bit slicker and if you hit it exactly right you can be quick there. But if you're off it makes it treacherous and tough to pass on when the track heats up.
“We'll see what the track conditions are like when we're there and make the necessary adjustments. The Richmond track has some similarities to Phoenix and that's good news for our Furniture Row Chevrolet. We finished ninth at Richmond in the spring race and posted a runner-up finish there in the fall race.” 
In 21 starts at Phoenix, Busch has garnered one win, four top-fives and 11 top-10s.  Along with leading 750 laps at Phoenix, he has an impressive 99.7 percent lap completion record -- 6614 out of 6633.
“After the last four Chase races, we're overdue for a strong finish,” said Busch.
Speaking of the last four races, Busch has not had solid results, finishing 14th in Charlotte, 18th at both Talladega and Martinsville and 17th at Texas.

As Tommy Baldwin Racing prepares to roll into Phoenix International Raceway this week, they are doing so with some extra grip. Ultra Wheel joins TBR as a primary sponsor of Dave Blaney's No. 7 Chevrolet.  

Based out of Fullertown, CA, Ultra Wheel is a custom wheel shop that doesn't base themselves off of a slogan or icon to create their identity like others. Ultra Wheel has an unyielding core principle of building strong durable wheels with precise fitments. Jim Smith, owner of Ultra Wheel, has an aggressive passion for auto racing that led him to win countless individual races within the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the Baja 1000.
That passion and core principle catapulted the company to become the preeminent truck wheel company in the US, and it continues today. Whether you're looking at their Truck and Off-Road wheels, high end Platinum line-up, or their trend setting Focal designs, they only sell Championship-Caliber Quality wheels. When you own a set of Ultra wheels, you too will be riding on their core principle of delivering the strongest, most durable wheels on the market today. 
Owner and previous Craftsman Truck Series winner Jim Smith commented on the sponsorship, "Ultra Wheel is proud to be on board the No. 7 Chevy of Dave Blaney and Tommy Baldwin Racing."
Team Owner and Crew Chief Tommy Baldwin also commented, "We are happy to be teaming up with Ultra Wheel for the upcoming race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Jim Smith is familiar with the motorsports industry and how things work, which helps to create a great partnership for both TBR and Ultra Wheel."

No right click

Please link the article.