Wednesday, Nov 29
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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TMI (Team McClure, Inc.) announced today that due to an undisclosed illness that has left Eric McClure hospitalized, he will be sidelined for Saturday’s inaugural race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.  In McClure’s absence, Jeff Green, former NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion and teammate to McClure at TriStar Motorsports, will pilot the No. 14 Hefty®/Reynolds® Toyota during the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200.

McClure’s status on returning to competition is week to week.


U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient David Balestrino Jr. has been named honorary starter for the Pure Michigan 400 being held this Sunday, August 18, at Michigan International Speedway.  Balestrino was the winner of a fan contest on the Pure Michigan Facebook page, receiving the highest number of votes for his entry on why he wanted to wave the green flag on race day.

Balestrino, of Youngstown, Ohio, served as a Combat Engineer in the U.S. Army from 2003-2009 and received a Purple Heart during his service in Iraq.  In his entry, Balestrino said he would like to drop the green flag in honor of his six year old son.

“While serving in Iraq I missed the entire first year of Brady's life,” Balestrino said. “That was the most difficult thing I ever had to go through.  I still can't believe that I was picked for this awesome honor and I hope that I can make everyone who has served or is still serving proud.”

As honorary starter, Balestrino will also have the opportunity to receive a pace car ride from NASCAR’s official pace car driver and attend the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers’ meeting.

“We received many great entries from fans excited about race day at the Pure Michigan 400, but David’s submission really brought together a passion for racing and a terrific story that speaks to the spirit of Pure Michigan,” said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

For the Facebook contest, fans submitted entries of 50 words or less explaining why they should be selected as honorary starter.  Fans of Pure Michigan voted on their top entries.  Balestrino’s entry received more than 800 votes and was chosen by Pure Michigan from the 10 entries with the most fan votes.

“We are honored to have David here to wave the green flag on the Pure Michigan 400,” said MIS President Roger Curtis.  “He will truly experience the thrill of the start of the race as the cars pass under him. We want to thank our friends at Pure Michigan for giving David the chance to become an integral part of the NASCAR experience.”

TV star and Traverse City native Carter Oosterhouse is serving as the Pure Michigan 400 grand marshal.  Fans will also have one last chance to register to win the Pure Michigan 400 pace car on site race weekend at the Pure Michigan tent on the New Holland Fan Plaza.


With series sponsor Nationwide Insurance using this weekend's inaugural visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington to raise awareness and funds for Nationwide Children's Hospital, many drivers will share the experience with "champion patients" from the pediatric hospital located in nearby Columbus, Ohio. The hood of Parker Kligerman's No. No. 77 Bandit Chippers Camry will feature a picture of nine-year-old Payton Julian from Mansfield, Ohio, who in his own words "kicked cancer's butt" after defeating Wilms' Tumor, a type of kidney cancer that occurs in children, while a patient at the facility in 2008. Julian will be on hand and get to be Kligerman's guest at the driver's meeting, driver introductions and sit on the No. 77 team's pit box during the 90-lap race.

Kligerman, who's racing teeth were cut on road courses in the Skip Barber and Formula Renault Series, has turned heads in the first two road-course events this season. The Connecticut native qualified third, led four laps and finished third at Road American in Elkhart Lake Wisc. in June and last weekend qualified ninth, led seven laps and finished sixth in a field that included several Sprint Cup Series drivers at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.  The former road racer's average finish of 4.5 is equal to that of Justin Allgaier and Brian Vickers and the trio rank second to Sam Hornish Jr.'s average result of 3.5.


The talented youngster feels that he could've improved last week's result at "The Glen" by being more aggressive, but knew it was in his best interest to keep the team's primary road-course chassis in one piece. Now the team can once again unload KBM-01, the first Nationwide Series chassis built at Kyle Busch Motorsports, which is the Toyota that has tackled each of the five road-course events on the schedule since the team debuted last season. The Camry has finished inside the top 10 in all five events, producing an average finish of 6.6.


With Mid-Ohio being the final road-course race of the season, Kligerman can be more aggressive this week as he seeks the first win of his Nationwide Series career. While it isn't on the official agenda, he hopes to be celebrating with Julian in victory lane after Saturday's Nationwide Children's Hospital 200. Then, the two can say they "kicked Mid-Ohio's butt" together.



Justin Lofton returns behind the wheel of the Sharp-Gallaher Racing No. 6 Chevrolet Silverado on Aug. 21 to battle in the NASCAR Camping World Series under the lights of Bristol Motor Speedway. The Westmorland, Calif., native is scheduled to compete in eight of the final ten 2013 Camping World Truck Series events. 


SGR and Lofton have had success together in the past winning the 2009 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Championship, earning two Keystone Light pole awards and the winning in the Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway en route to an eighth-place finishin the 2012 championship point standings.


Lofton drove the No. 6 SGR MadVapes Chevrolet in the 2013 season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. He started the 250-mile race on the front row (second) and finished in the fourth position. Lofton returned to the MadVapes Silverado in May to post another stellar performance at Charlotte Motor Speedway, starting sixth and finishing 10th.


Eddie Sharp recently announced his partnership with California businessman Bill Gallaher, forming Sharp-Gallaher Racing. With the return of Lofton, the No. 6 team is poised once again to challenge the Camping World Truck Series field for the remainder of 2013 season.


"I'm pumped to get back in the No. 6 SGR Chevrolet as that's been my home the past few years," stated Lofton. "Because of the limited schedule, we are not racing for championship points, but we will be racing for wins! I know Eddie and the team are ready to run the No. 6 Chevy on a consistent basis and I'm thrilled to be back in NASCAR competition."


Team Owner Eddie Sharp commented, "Justin is on top of his game and we couldn't be happier to have him back where he belongs. Justin and the Lofton's are like family so when we needed to put someone in the No.6, he was clearly our go-to driver."


Lofton returns to competition starting at the UNOH 200 in Bristol, Tenn. on Aug. 21 and will run the remaining Camping World Truck Series races with the exception of the event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway could be added to the schedule pending additional sponsorship.


Veteran crew chief Bryan Berry will lead the No. 6 team. Berry has over 200 starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, working mostly with veteran driver Brendan Gaughan.


You can catch all of the Camping World Truck Series action live on the new Fox Sports1.


It had been 43 years since Richard Petty piloted the No. 43 Plymouth to victory on the dirt surface of the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh. It was the last time that one of NASCAR's national series compered on a dirt track.

That was until July 24, 2013, when Austin Dillon returned to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to win the 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic Presented by CNBC's Prime the Profit at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.

Less than a month after that historic Wednesday night, Dillon ventured to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., with his crew in tow to unveil the race-winning truck in the Great Hall. The exhibit will be on display for a limited time.

"It's so cool to be in here right now in the Hall of Fame," Dillon told Winston Kelley, who served as the emcee for the event, and the crowd gathered at the facility for the unveiling. "You know, these are all my heroes, so I'm sitting in here with these cars that I'm blown away by and to have one of the trucks at RCR put in here … it's a very special moment for all of our team at RCR."

In addition to the No. 39 American Ethanol Chevrolet he drove to Victory Lane at Eldora, the unique trophy Dillon received for winning and a jar filled with dirt he collected with a gold shovel the track provided shortly after the race are also part of the exhibit.  

"The track was really hard, so it was kinda tough to get to shovel down in the dirt, but we got it out of there," said Dillon, the current NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader. "There is dirt inside the trophy, so on the way back in the car there was actually moisture got in the top of the dirt. So, we had to dry it out for a few days, but it's a great trophy. It's really cool."

Dillon, who grew up honing his racing skills at dirt tracks like Eldora, had competed on the half-mile track before in other series. In 2010, he won the pole for the World 100, a dirt late model race.

Dillon will pull double duty this weekend, racing at the inaugural Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio while also subbing for the injured Tony Stewart (who, coincidentally, owns Eldora) in the No. 14 Chevrolet in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in Michigan.

When the idea was first mentioned to him about putting the truck on display at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he was a little taken aback that the hall would be interested in showcasing his vehicle -- just as it was at the end of the race. The decision to loan it to the hall, however, had already been made by the time he returned to the garage the following week.

"I walked in the truck shop on Monday and they already had a sticker right on the front -- I think it was my grandfather's handwriting '' that said 'Do not touch, this is going to the hall of fame.' So, I thought that was pretty special and it hadn't been touched since. It's still got the bear bond on the track from kissing the wall a few times and dirt all over it."

No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota Camry driver Clint Bowyer heads to Michigan International Speedway for this weekend’s 400-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup race with a 110 point lead over 11th place in the standings with four races remaining before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Bowyer and his team need to finish 34 points better than the 11th-place driver this weekend in order to punch their ticket into the NASCAR playoff. The 34-year old Emporia, Kan. native finished runner up for the 2012 championship, but has no interest in talking about his 2013 championship run until he clinches a Chase spot.

Bowyer learned Tuesday that Brian Vickers will pilot the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine full time in 2014. Vickers will join Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. to fill out the three car lineup for Michael Waltrip racing. 

ON THE CHASE: “We are in a good position right now on the points side, but to be honest I’m pretty superstitious when it comes to talking about anything related to (the Chase) until I know for sure if I’m going to be there. I like our chances, but at the same time a lot can happen in the next couple races. One or two things go the wrong way and we’ll be back fighting for our spot. If and/or when we are fortunate enough to be racing for a championship I’ll answer any questions you have, but right now I’d rather just focus on the race at Michigan this weekend and trying to get our 5-hour ENERGY Toyota to victory lane. Michigan is big for 5-hour ENERGY since they are based in Michigan and that is my focus right now more than anything else.”

ON VICKERS: “Brian Vickers is a great teammate and Aaron’s being back on board is paramount to everything going on. To have these cars funded and funded well with good sponsors and everything that comes with it is huge for all of us. He has done so much in a part time role with the team, which is not easy to do by the way, and he has done it well and even got a win. He has gone through a lot over the last couple years, but he kept at it and came out the other side. That shows you the kind of determination Brian bring to the table. And I can’t say enough about the job that Mark Martin and done and what he has brought to the table over the last two years. He is a machine on and off the track and to call him a teammate and be able to learn from him has been a privilege.” 


For the past 21 years, Sam Bass' artwork has been brought to life onboard the No. 24 Chevrolet with Jeff Gordon driving to championships as well as numerous victories together.

Beginning in 1992, Bass worked with Gordon and Hendrick Motorsports to unveil the "Rainbow Warrior" paint scheme that became synonymous with the team. Since that time, Bass has designed over 50 paint schemes for Gordon. 
This weekend at Michigan International Speedway, Gordon will take to the track in another Sam Bass original design as featured below. The No. 24 Standox paint scheme is sure to turn heads as Gordon blazes around the speedway with his trademark flames.
"The Standox special paint scheme was a chance for me to really try something new, it marked the first time that I had ever been able to use so much white on a car for Jeff," said Bass. "The pristine white of the hood looks classy and rich, beautifully feeding into the flame graphics and is surrounded by the immediately recognizable Standox blue. The traditional neon yellow No. 24's really pop off the new colors which should really attract a lot of attention at Michigan."
"It is always a pleasure to create new paint schemes for AXALTA and Jeff Gordon. Our 21 year working relationship has produced a lot of memorable looking race cars with stunning paint and appearances, topped off with a driver who knows how to show them off in victory lane! I am extremely proud of the work I have done for them over the years and this new Standox car continues that tradition."
Sam Bass PR

Grand Am Series regular, Ryan Ellis, makes his 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season debut at Mid-Ohio in the #52 Means Racing Chevy Impala. Ellis is coming off four Top-5 finishes in the Grand Am Continental Tire Challenge, Ryan Ellis finds himself preparing to make a splash in the NASCAR Nationwide Series this coming weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Ellis is not-surprisingly excited at the opportunity.

“This is something that didn’t look possible at the beginning of the year due to a schedule conflict with my prior Grand-Am commitments. When the opportunity presented itself to get back behind the wheel of the #52 Means Racing Chevrolet, I couldn’t pass it up! Racing in the Nationwide Series last year was one of the most exciting events in my career and I can’t thank Jimmy and the team enough for this opportunity. The field looks really tough for this weekend but we have faith that we’ll have a competitive car and will be able to qualify well! Having won a National Championship with the Superlite Coupe at Mid-Ohio, I couldn’t ask for a better track to make my 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series debut!”

P1 Groupe PR

Being involved in the Chase mix with four races to go before the NASCAR playoffs begin, Kurt Busch’s current aim is to find a happy medium at Michigan International Speedway, site of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup Series event.
Busch, driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Serta Chevrolet SS, is positioned in 11th place in the standings, two points out of 10th.
“Right now we find ourselves in a great position,” said Busch the 2004 NASCAR champion. “We need to be consistent and continue to finish with top 10s and top fives. I am not biting my fingernails - I've been in this position before. We have to stay calm, control what we can control and race our way into the Chase.”
But for the 35-year-old Busch he will need to overcome a string of bad races at Michigan, where he has not had a finish better than 30th in his last four appearances at the 2-mile oval.
“Michigan over the years has been one of my best tracks and one of my worst tracks,” said Busch, who is a two-time Michigan winner. “When we raced at Michigan in June we qualified second, ran up front, led laps (21) and then spun out. When we’re back in traffic it’s crazy how the aero side of that track will jump up and bite you. Just because you’re going 200 miles per hour you get a little sideways with that fresher asphalt and the track can chew you up and spit you out.”
Busch feels the team is more confident and in better shape for its return trip to Michigan.
“We have notes, we have data and we know what we did wrong and what we did right at Michigan in June and that will be a big plus for us this weekend,” explained Busch, who is in his first full season with Furniture Row Racing “It’s like Pocono. Back in June we finished seventh at Pocono and then came back to finish third two weeks ago. What we learned in the first Pocono race definitely helped us improve in the second race.”
Busch’s overall record at Michigan is:  25 starts, two wins, three top-fives, eight top-10s, two poles and 380 laps led. His average start is 12.4 and average finish is 22.0.
Busch also feels his Denver-based, single-car team has hit a new level after finishing ninth in Sunday’s road race in Watkins Glen, N.Y.  It was Busch's 10th top-10 finish of the season.
“We weren’t happy with ninth at Watkins Glen, we expected a better finish,” stated Busch. “But when you finish ninth on an off day that’s a sign that we’ve come a long way in a short period of time. Last year we would have been high-fiving each other after a ninth-place finish.”

What a difference a year makes for Kyle Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fortunes.

Heading into the August 2012 race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, site of Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400, Busch sat 14th in the Sprint Cup standings coming off a painful last lap at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, where he missed out on a much-needed win in his attempt to make the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup field.

The driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) ended up narrowly missing the Chase but, despite not being a part of NASCAR’s playoffs, Busch and his No. 18 team put together its best final 10 races ever, notching an impressive seven top-five finishes and eight top-10s.

After enduring a frustrating 2012 season that netted Busch just one Sprint Cup victory, his 2013 campaign has been back to his “Norm” in more ways than one. Busch blazed to his third victory of the season Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, vaulting him to fifth in the standings and back to his winning ways as the team is already eyeing NASCAR’s postseason. Two of those wins have come in the white-and-green Interstate Batteries scheme Busch will run at Michigan in support of Interstate’s Chairman Norm Miller and the thousands of Interstate dealers and distributors who back him. Those victories in Interstate colors at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, along with Sunday’s win at Watkins Glen, give Busch a solid position in the win column behind only Jimmie Johnson and JGR teammate Matt Kenseth, who have won four times apiece this season.

Busch hopes to add another victory or two during the final four regular-season races to gain as many bonus points as possible when the 12-driver, 10 race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship gets rolling in September at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Coming off what was also a rough 2012 campaign at Michigan, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers returned this past June to race from 32nd at one point to score a solid fourth-place finish. Busch will look to add another Pure Michigan 400 trophy to his collection to go with the one he brought home after his first Sprint Cup win at the 2-mile oval in August 2011. Busch also finished third in the June 2011 race and led a total of 81 laps in the two events that year.

By contrast, in his 12 Sprint Cup starts at Michigan prior to 2011, Busch had no wins, one top-five finish and led a total of 88 laps. So, recent history certainly bodes well for his outlook this weekend.

As the Chase draws near, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team will look to use some of their recent momentum to continue the “Norm” – and a win Sunday at Michigan would certainly help solidify their impressive 2013 rebound.



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