Speedway Digest Staff
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Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) development driver Ryan Truex will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway during Saturday night's 500-lap race. Truex will drive the No. 51 entry for Phoenix Racing. Truex signed a multi-year development deal with RPM earlier this year and the team is currently working to secure sponsorship funding.
Ryan Truex, who had already been working with Phoenix Racing with opportunities earlier this year, has a long history of providing young drivers opportunities to race for their team. It was also Phoenix Racing that helped Ryan's older brother Martin Truex in the beginning stages of his career. The opportunity came for Phoenix Racing to put Ryan behind the wheel this weekend.
The Mayetta, New Jersey native has two Nationwide series starts at Bristol and most recently posted a top-10 finish in the spring event in 2012. In his career, Truex made 35 Nationwide, three truck and 22 K&N East starts. He's won Championships in every full season of competition. He won the K&N Series East Championship back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.
"I'm excited to make my NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Bristol," said Truex. "It has been tough waiting on the sidelines while I healed from my collarbone injury, but now I am ready to go and make my Sprint Cup Series debut. It's pretty awesome that it's coming at Bristol at the night race. This is a premier race on the Sprint Cup circuit.
"To have Richard Petty Motorsports and Phoenix Racing support me in this endeavor really means a lot," continued Truex. "I'm excited for the rest of this year and my future with RPM."
"The King" Richard Petty is also anxious to see the 21-year-old make his Sprint Cup debut.
"It will be a big night for Ryan," said team owner Richard Petty. "He is a talented driver, and we look forward to his future with our team. We are working hard to find funding support to give him more opportunities behind the wheel."
Truex will make his first laps during Sprint Cup practice at noon Friday, August 23 and hit the track for final practice and qualifying that afternoon.
Phoenix International Raceway president Bryan R. Sperber announced today that PIR will be sponsoring UFC® lightweight champion Benson Henderson during his Aug. 31 pay-per-view bout against Anthony Pettis. Working in conjunction with Niner Sports Marketing President and Founder Craig Conley, PIR’s logo will be prominently displayed on Henderson’s walkout shirt and fight banner during UFC 164: Henderson vs. Pettis.
“We are truly delighted to be supporting Benson Henderson in his upcoming title fight,” said Sperber. “Having a local Champion represented PIR in this important bout will be an exciting moment for all our NASCAR fans across the valley and around the state.”
As the honorary pace car driver for the semi-final race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, the 29-year-old mixed martial artist will take an honorary lap around PIR’s famed one-mile oval. As part of his official duties, Henderson will also participate in pre-race ceremonies and make appearances on site at PIR on Sunday, Nov 10.
“I am so happy and honored to be part of the PIR family,” said Henderson. “Phoenix has become home for me, and I am so excited to be part of such a great event in my adopted hometown. I want to thank PIR for having me on their team, and I am looking forward to seeing everybody at the race!”
A Phoenix resident, Henderson has ascended to the top of his profession, compiling a 19-2 professional record that includes wins over the likes of Frankie Edgar, Gilbert Melendez and Donald Cerrone. Henderson is part owner of The MMA LAB in Glendale and is active in the community and the growth of mixed martial arts.
Coming off their fourth top-10 of the season, Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 STANLEY Ford team are ready to go into Saturday night's Bristol night race with momentum. They are hoping to capitalize on that momentum and are focused on racing for wins.
With three races left before the start of the NASCAR playoff system, Ambrose and the team are ready to take chances if in position to take a checkered flag. Bristol is a track where Ambrose has found himself in position to win in the past.
The driver of the STANLEY Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports has nine previous starts at the Bristol Motor Speedway. He has finished in the top-10 in four of those races and twice in the top-five. The half-mile track has proved to be one of the best ovals for Ambrose. He has best finishes of third and fifth.
Comments from STANLEY Ford Fusion Driver Marcos Ambrose:
"Michigan was a good race for the whole STANLEY team. I am really proud of the entire team and Drew. We had a good strategy and also had a pretty fast Ford. We hadn't had a race like that on a longer oval in a while, and that really was a shot in the arm. It really helps us, and now, we head into Bristol with a lot of confidence.
"Bristol is a place where I've had some good success in the past. You need to be pretty aggressive all night. It's a long race, and you want to stay on the lead lap and be in position to win in the final 50 laps. You know it's going to be a long night so you race aggressive, but also pick your spots too. You still need a car at the end that can compete for the win.
"We're looking for wins right now. We don't have to be conservative. We can just really go for it and see if we can get a win. I know this team is capable, and Bristol is a great track. It would be a lot of fun to put the STANLEY Ford in the winner's circle this Saturday night."
Comments from Crew Chief Drew Blickensderfer on Bristol:
"Michigan was a good team building exercise for us. We came from the back of the field and ran in the top-10 for the most of the race and had a good car. That gives us a lot of confidence and so does this weekend because Marcos has proved to always be good here at Bristol. It's a long race, and a lot of things happen, but we're going to be on the offense this weekend. We don't have anything to lose and want to make the best of these races."
TMI (Team McClure, Inc.) announced today that Jeff Green will pilot the No. 14 Hefty®/Reynolds® Toyota during Friday night’s Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The team’s regular driver, Eric McClure, was admitted to a local hospital on August 12 and was diagnosed with acute renal failure after a series of tests. The Virginia driver’s creatinine levels were elevated, signaling improper kidney function. McClure is still receiving treatment, but is hopeful to be released from the hospital this week. His status remains week to week.
Eric McClure Quotes:
“This has been a very challenging week for me, both physically and emotionally. Having a newborn and four other little girls, among other things, has also presented a challenge to my family. Recovery can be a slow and frustrating process, but thankfully we are seeing signs of healing. I can’t thank everyone enough for all of the prayers, thoughts, and well-wishes during this difficult time and I can’t wait to be back behind the wheel of the Hefty®/Reynolds® Camry.”
A statement from Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles about Floyd Ganassi, who died Monday, Aug. 19 in Pittsburgh at age 87. Floyd Ganassi was the father of Chip Ganassi, who made five starts in the Indianapolis 500 as a driver and has won "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" five times as a team owner.
"Everyone at IMS is saddened to learn of the loss of Floyd Ganassi. He was such a kind, approachable man who took the time to enjoy the company of drivers, officials and fans. The photographs he took at the racetrack and sent to so many friends and acquaintances will provide lasting, fond memories of his love of people and racing. Our condolences, thoughts and prayers are extended to the Ganassi family and everyone at Chip's racing teams."
Coulter's junior year in the NCWTS has been anything but what he expected entering the 2013 season with a new team and new manufacturer, but "Mr. Consistency" has finally hit his stride in the last five races. In the first seven races of the season, Coulter's average start was 15.0 and his average finish was 16.7 with only one top-five finish. The No. 18 Toyota Tundra driver's average start in the last five races of the season is 9.4 and his average finish is 8.8 with two top-five finishes. In fact, over the last five races Coulter's 174 points collected are the fifth most during that span and have allowed the talented youngster to decrease his deficit on the top five in the championship standings. After seven races he found himself 52 points outside the top-five, now entering this week's NCWTS event at BMS he has narrowed the gap to a mere 25 points.
With finishes of fourth and sixth, respectively, in two career starts at the .533-mile bullring, "Consistent Coulter" isn't gun shy when it comes to the concrete oval. The Miami Springs, Fla. native is back on target with his No. 18 KBM team and ready to shoot up the standings.
Tim George Jr Takes Break for Next Three NCWTS Events – No Driver Announced by Wauters Motorsports for the Events
Tim George Jr. will be out of the No. 5 Wauters Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado for the next three races in the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. George, Jr looks to return to the team later in the series season.
Wauters Motorsports is not traveling to Michigan International Speedway this weekend and a driver for Bristol Motor Speedway and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has yet to be announced.
Wauters Motorsports PR
Joey Logano in Victory Lane -- that's the last thing Ryan Newman wanted to see.
Not that Newman has anything personal against Logano. It's simply that Newman was loath to see Logano -- or any other previously winless driver in the top 20 in points -- notch a victory.
But there was Logano in Victory Lane, spraying adult beverages on members of his team, celebrating his win in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Newman, who finished 13th, left Michigan knowing that his quest to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup had just gotten exponentially more difficult.
After the Aug. 11 race at Watkins Glen, Newman held the 14th position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings and the second of two provisional Wild Card spots. After Michigan, he's 15th, with two drivers ahead of him in the race for the last Wild Card position -- because Martin Truex Jr. fell out of the top 10 on Sunday, and because Logano won the race, jumped to 13th in points and injected himself into the Chase picture.
That was another headache in a rough two months for Newman, who got definite word in July that his contract with Stewart-Haas Racing would not be renewed. Team owner Tony Stewart said at the time, during a press conference at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, that SHR was not prepared to field a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup team next year.
As it turns out, Stewart-Haas wasn't prepared to field a fourth team for Newman. For Kurt Busch, on the other hand, a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup team is a possibility, and reportedly, SHR has tendered a multiyear offer to Busch to drive for the organization, a story first reported Sunday by FoxSports.com.
A recent high point for Newman was his victory in the Crown Royal Presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late July, but the driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet has yet to announce plans for 2014.
With Stewart laid up as his broken bones mend from an Aug. 5 Sprint Car accident in Iowa, Newman is SHR's last hope to qualify for the Chase, at least on the drivers' side. And Logano's win makes that prospect more of a long shot than it was when the green flag waved to start the race on Sunday afternoon.
The interesting aspect is that Newman still controls his own destiny, as far as the Chase is concerned. One victory in the next three races would make him an odds-on favorite to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race playoff. Two wins would lock him in.
Far-fetched, perhaps, but possible.
For a precision, championship outfit like Hendrick Motorsports, Michigan remains a mystery.
Kasey Kahne's seventh-place run was the lone bright spot for the organization, which left the two-mile track in total befuddlement for the second straight race.
Jimmie Johnson exited early with an engine failure after wrecking his primary car in practice and going to a backup chassis. Johnson finished 40th, to go with a 28th-place run in June, when he blew a tire while pursuing leader Greg Biffle in the closing laps.
Sunday was a double whammy for Johnson. Crew chief Chad Knaus had planned to use the primary chassis in the first Chase race at Chicagoland, but he'll have to make other arrangements.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who finished 37th in June, came home 36th Sunday after blowing a right front tire and pounding the Turn 2 wall. Jeff Gordon, who was wiped out in an early accident not of his making in June and finished 39th, ran a pedestrian 17th on Sunday.
Kahne's top 10 was a vast improvement over the 38th he posted in the first race at MIS, but it still left Hendrick Motorsports with an average finish of 30.25 in eight combined starts at the track this year.
There's one bright spot, as far as HMS is concerned. Michigan isn't in the Chase.
Mark Martin will drive the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season -- with the exception of the October 20 race at Talladega -- as owner/driver Tony Stewart recuperates from injuries suffered in a Sprint Car accident Aug. 5 in Iowa, SHR announced Monday afternoon.
Martin's move to the No. 14 car paves the way for Brian Vickers to drive the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in 12 of the final 13 races, as Vickers prepares for his first full season with the team in 2014.
Austin Dillon, who finished 14th Sunday at Michigan in his first trip in the No. 14 car, will compete in the Talladega race in Stewart's absence. Stewart broke the tibia and fibula in his right leg in the Aug. 5 accident.
"After consulting with Tony's doctors and speaking with Tony, we agreed it was best for him to focus on his recovery," said Greg Zipadelli, SHR's competition director. "For the No. 14 team, our focus is on positioning them for a run at the owner championship.
"Mark Martin and Austin Dillon give us the best opportunity to do that, and we certainly appreciate Michael Waltrip Racing and Richard Childress Racing for making Mark and Austin available to us."
MWR announced Monday that Vickers would drive the No. 55 Toyota in all remaining events save Talladega, where team owner Michael Waltrip is slated to race. Vickers already was scheduled to compete at Bristol on Saturday, as well as at New Hampshire and Martinsville.
To get Martin behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevy, MWR, sponsor Aaron's and Toyota all had to sign off on the deal. Those were some of the "complications" Martin referenced Friday at Michigan International Speedway.
"It sounds logical, but there's a lot of complications that go with that," Martin said. "I've got contracts… We've got Toyota involved, we've got Aaron's, we've got Michael Waltrip. I'm tickled to death to be driving a hot rod, and I'll do what everybody wants."
MWR and Aaron's gave Martin an early release to facilitate his relief role for Stewart.
"Mark's leadership the past two years has been so impactful that he has left a mark on this company that will be here as long as we race," Waltrip said in a release announcing the moves. "This opportunity to help two (future) Hall of Famers in Mark and Tony Stewart at the same time, while getting the opportunity to run the rest of the year with Brian makes sense for MWR.
"But nothing could happen without the support of Aaron's, Toyota and the other MWR sponsors. Each of them saw the same benefits in such a move and helped make it happen. This is a truly win, win, win situation."
With Stewart-Haas purchasing its engines and chassis from Hendrick Motorsports, Martin's jump to that car puts him back in Hendrick equipment. Driving for HMS in 2009, Martin enjoyed his most productive season behind the wheel since 1998, winning five races, seven poles and finishing second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings to teammate Jimmie Johnson.
The move also puts an experienced veteran in the No. 14, which is locked in a tight race for a spot in the owners' Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In addition, it puts Martin in the unusual position of competing against the car he shared with Vickers and team owner Michael Waltrip for one of the 12 spots in the owners' Chase.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed to be out of the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy for so long, but the team is in very good hands with Mark Martin and Austin Dillon," Stewart said in a team release. "Mark is someone I've looked up to my entire career, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for him.
"Austin is a great young talent, and he showed that Sunday at Michigan. Greg Zipadelli, Steve Addington (crew chief) and everybody at SHR supports them 100 percent. This isn't a situation anyone wanted, but we're going to make the best of it. In the meantime, my focus is on getting healthy and getting back into my (car)."