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Fun Saturday doubleheader at Kentucky Speedway featuring the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series
Kentucky Speedway will showcase many of NASCAR’s rising stars in a fun Saturday doubleheader, featuring the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 and the ARCA Menards Series General Tire 150.
Both races will be televised live on FS1. The Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 will air at 6 p.m. and will be preceded by the General Tire 150 ARCA race, which takes the green flag at 2:30 p.m.
Defending Truck Series winner Tyler Ankrum, who won here last year driving the No. 17 Toyota for DGR-Crosley, passed Brett Moffitt in the closing laps when Moffitt ran out of fuel.
Ankrum, who had turned 18 years old in March, became the first driver born in 2000 or later to win a NASCAR national series race. It was also DGR-Crosley's first Truck Series win.
“It meant everything because it makes you feel like you belong and all the doubts people had are all gone once you’re a winner,” Ankrum said. “I was so glad to have it happen there because I love Kentucky. It’s probably my favorite racetrack.”
Ankrum switched from DGR-Crosley to GMS Racing in the offseason, and is now piloting the No. 26 Chevrolet Silverado as he looks to go back-to-back.
Louisville native Ben Rhodes had a strong performance last year and appeared to be heading for a top-5 finish before a flat left-rear tire led to a 19th place finish. The 2018 winner is always a favorite at his home track, and admits it’ll be strange with no fans due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s disappointing that my friends, family, all those that love coming to the race because it’s their one time to do it and they can’t be there,” Rhodes said. “I feel for them, but I understand everybody needs to be safe. I just hope all of this gets behind us soon and we get back to normal next year.”
Another significant change drivers will adjust to this year is the lack of practice or qualifying sessions, meaning teams will rely on their base setup to begin the race.
“You literally have no idea what’s underneath you for the first few laps,” Ankrum said. “The second you get on track, you’re figuring it out but at the same time we have to go racing. We can’t quit and you can’t take your time. It’s pretty much a double-edged sword and it makes it really difficult for the drivers to succeed.”
Rhodes’ team has focused on maintaining consistency throughout the past few races, as he would typically use the practice sessions to work out the kinks ahead of time.
“When we unload off the hauler, it has to be a race winning truck,” Rhodes said. “Historically, we’ve needed our practice sessions. We’ve needed those sessions for [Crew Chief Matt Noyce] and I to get the truck comfortable and get some speed into it. We’ve really been trying to work on making sure that when we unload, it’s 100% and there’s no real experiments and we’re going with what we know is safe, fast…There’s no time to waste. You can’t afford to sit stage 1 out trying to ride in the back and get it driving good.”
Grant Enfinger, Rhodes’ teammate at ThorSport Racing, has emerged as a championship contender after racking up 2,019 playoff points thanks to wins at Daytona and Atlanta earlier this season.
“After we were able to get our victory at Daytona, it’s allowed me to be a little bit more aggressive in the truck and go for more wins,” Enfinger said. “It’s also allowed my Crew Chief Jeff Hensley to be gutsier with calls and we can maybe afford to give up a few stage points to put us in a better position to maybe win another race. [The wins] allow us to be more aggressive with strategy.”
Another ThorSport driver to watch is defending series champion Matt Crafton, who in 21 career starts at Kentucky has a track record 15 top-10 finishes and one win (2015).
“We’re below our expectations,” Crafton said. “We usually don’t have the issues we’re having. We’re usually a lot more consistent and we thrive on our consistency and being there each and every week contending for wins and knocking down a lot of points.”
The rebranded ARCA Menards Series offers a big stage for talented teens such as Hailie Deegan, Sam Mayer and Ty Gibbs, among other drivers who aspire to make it to the NASCAR Cup Series in the future.
The spotlight has been bright on Deegan for a few years. The 18-year-old daughter of action sports star Brian Deegan, Hailie earned three wins in 28 starts on the K&N Pro Series West series and finished second in the 2020 ARCA Menard Series season-opener at Daytona on Feb. 8.
Deegan has joined the Ford Performance operation and the DGR-Crosley team following a three-year stint with Toyota Racing Development. She is competing on the full ARCA Menards Series schedule.
At Daytona in February she tied the best ever finish at that track by a female driver. She finished second to Michael Self and now trails him by one position in the ARCA Series 2020 standings that has been slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
After posting top 10 finishes in all five of her ARCA Menards Series starts in 2020, including a third place effort at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, she is looking forward to a strong run at the General Tire 150 at Kentucky Speedway this weekend. It will be her first career start at the 1.5 mile speedway in the Bluegrass state. During the nationwide shutdown she spent time on the Ford Racing simulator and also competing in some iRacing events on virtual race tracks.
Deegan says she is ready, and points to her showing at Daytona, which she feels was just as good as getting the trophy. Deegan held her own throughout the race in her first ever start on a 2.5-mile superspeedway.
“I think I learned a lot of good takeaways from (Daytona),” Deegan said. “Some things I could have tried and been more aggressive on, but everything I did in this race got us that second place finish.”
In order to win at Kentucky, Deegan will need to hold off points leader Self, and other young drivers like Ty Gibbs, Tanner Gray, Thad Moffitt and Drew Dollar, just to name a few.
The 17-year-old Gibbs, who collected two wins last season in the ARCA Menards Series and finished third in the 2020 season opener, recently won at Pocono and is the grandson of NASCAR Hall of Fame member Joe Gibbs.
Gray is the 2018 NHRA Pro Stock world champion and also competes full-time in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors & RV Truck Series. In ARCA competition this year he finished 16th at Daytona and fourth at Phoenix and Indianapolis. Gray ran well last year at 1.5-mile tracks, posting top 10 finishes at Michigan, Charlotte and Kansas.
This will be the 25th ARCA Series race at Kentucky Speedway, and first at the track since 2017. Past ARCA Series winners at Kentucky include Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch, Michael McDowell, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Corey LaJoie and Austin Cindric, who won here in 2016.
The Kentucky Speedway race weekend includes an action-packed five events. In addition to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series and ARCA Menards Series doubleheader on Saturday, the weekend also includes a rare NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader under the lights on Thursday and Friday with 8 p.m. starts, and on Sunday, NASCAR Cup Series stars will take to the track in the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart, starting at 2:30 p.m. Each of those races will be televised live on FS1. PRN will broadcast the Cup and Xfinity Series races, while MRN will carry the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race.
Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Mustang team head to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for Sunday’s Kentucky 400. Sunday’s start is Custer’s 20th career Cup Series start and his first endeavor in the series at the 1.5-mile oval in the Bluegrass State.
The No. 41 machine will sport the HaasTooling.com livery for Sunday’s 267-lap race. Team co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, Haas Tooling was launched last month as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas’ cutting tools are sold exclusively online at HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users. Beginning July 1, HaasTooling.com products became available nationally. The cutting tools available for purchase on HaasTooling.com are even more important during the current COVID-19 pandemic as CNC machines have become vital to producing personal protective equipment.
Custer heads to Kentucky coming off his best career Cup Series finish captured last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After starting 30th the rookie driver was able to work his way forward and run in the top-five before ultimately finishing fifth. The result was captured in Custer’s first Cup Series start at the iconic 2.5-mile oval. The finish wrapped up a stellar weekend for SHR at Indianapolis. SHR’s Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the infield road course. SHR’s Kevin Harvick won the Brickyard 400 for back-to-back wins in the crown jewel event. SHR’s Aric Almirola finished third, just ahead of Custer in the top-five.
In Custer’s last five Cup Series starts at 1.5-mile tracks, he has a best finish of 12th earned May 24 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and a best starting position of ninth in the May 28 return to Charlotte.
“Kentucky is an interesting track because it’s a repave, which makes it really fast and you’re carrying a lot of throttle,” Custer said. “It’s also cool at times because you’re able to work a few different lanes and stuff like that. It’s a fast racetrack, that’s for sure, and I think that’s the fun part of it.”
The California native has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Kentucky. He has one pole award earned in July 2018 with a pole speed of 181.458 mph. He also earned one win at Kentucky last year with a margin of victory of 1.651 seconds over Christopher Bell. Overall at Kentucky, Custer has an average Xfinity Series start of 5.0 and an average finish of 10.8. He’s led 151 laps and has finished on the lead lap in four out of five Xfinity Series starts.
“I think some things apply from the Xfinity Series to the Cup Series at Kentucky,” the HaasTooling.com driver said. “It’s the same racetrack and it’s the same feel. It’s just getting used to what’s different in the Cup car. The two cars are a good amount different, and you have to figure out those differences to make this car as good as you can. The track has the same characteristics, it’s just getting the car down.”
Custer’s first career Cup Series win would catapult him into the NASCAR All-Star Race rescheduled for Wednesday, July 15 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. However, the 22-year-old could earn the No. 41 Ford Mustang a spot in the race by winning the All-Star Fan Vote. Voting is open for one vote per person, per day.
SHR is still looking for its first win at Kentucky Speedway. The Sparta track is the only venue on the Cup Series schedule where the championship organization hasn’t notched a win.
Haas Automation, founded by Haas in 1983, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together.
FS1 Presents Live Coverage of Five Races at Kentucky Speedway This Weekend; Knaus and Kurt Busch Take Turns in FS1 NXS Booth
FOX NASCAR heads to Kentucky Speedway for the 16th and final NASCAR CUP SERIES points race of its season, part of a slate of five races live on FS1 beginning Thursday, July 9, and featuring a NASCAR XFINITY SERIES doubleheader.
Following this weekend’s events, FOX NASCAR officially caps its 2020 Cup Series season with a live telecast of the NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, July 15 (7:00 PM ET on FS1.)
Below are programming details and the weekend’s on-air broadcaster roster (all races available through the FOX Sports app):
NASCAR CUP SERIES – KENTUCKY
- Date/Time: Sunday, July 12 (2:30 PM ET)
- Network: FS1 and FOX Deportes
- Announcers: Mike Joy, Hall of Famer and four-time champion Jeff Gordon and two-time Daytona 500-winning crew chief Larry McReynolds (Charlotte studio)
- Pit reporter: Jamie Little (Kentucky)
- Prerace: NASCAR RACE HUB (2:00 PM ET on FS1); hosted by Shannon Spake with analysts McReynolds and Jamie McMurray (Charlotte)
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES – KENTUCKY 1
- Date/Time: Thursday, July 9 (8:00 PM ET)
- Network: FS1
- Announcers: Adam Alexander, Clint Bowyer and Chad Knaus (Charlotte studio)
- Pit reporter: Jamie Little (Kentucky)
- Prerace: NASCAR RACE HUB (7:00 PM ET on FS1); hosted by Kaitlyn Vincie with analysts Ricky Craven and Michael Waltrip (Charlotte)
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES – KENTUCKY 2
- Date/Time: Friday, July 10 (8:00 PM ET)
- Network: FS1
- Announcers: Adam Alexander, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch (Charlotte studio)
- Pit reporter: Jamie Little (Kentucky)
- Prerace: NASCAR RACE HUB (7:30 PM ET on FS1); hosted by Shannon Spake with analysts Regan Smith and David Ragan (Charlotte)
NASCAR GANDER RV & OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES
- Date/Time: Saturday, July 11 (6:00 PM ET)
- Network: FS1
- Announcers: Vince Welch, Michael Waltrip and Phil Parsons (Charlotte)
- Pit reporter: Alan Cavanna (Kentucky)
ARCA MENARDS SERIES
- Date/Time: Saturday, July 11 (2:30 PM ET)
- Network: FS1
- Announcers: Dave Rieff and Todd Bodine (Charlotte)
- Pit reporter: Alan Cavanna (Kentucky)
FOX Sports PR
The Built Ford Tough MOWA 410 Winged Sprint Cars should be about ½-way through their 2020 campaign right now. However, COVID-19 took over and caused a major delay that is about to end with the 2020 season opening weekend, Friday and Saturday, July 17/18 at two Central Illinois racetracks.
Lincoln Speedway, located at the Logan County Fairgrounds, in Lincoln, IL, will be the site of the season opener on Friday, July 17. The date was actually on the original schedule but will now serve as opening night for the popular series. DIRTcar Pro Late Models, Modifieds, Nutech Seed DII Midgets, and Hornets will also race.
Event #2 of the doubleheader weekend will be held at another Track Enterprises facility, Macon Speedway on Saturday, July 18. The track, located only 50 minutes to the southwest of Lincoln, will make for a great doubleheader for the series. This will replace the MOWA event that was scheduled for Tri-State Speedway on the same date. The Macon Speedway event will also feature a number of its regularly scheduled classes.
During the 2019 season, Rico Abreu claimed the win at Lincoln Speedway, while Terry Babb took the win at Macon Speedway. Over 20 sprints were on hand for both events last year.
Pits will open both days at 3:00, grandstands at 5:00, hotlaps will be at 6:00, and racing will be at 7:00. Grandstand admission for each day will be $18, while kids 11 and under will be free. Tickets and pit passes will be available at the gates on raceday.
Hampton Inn and Comfort Inn in Lincoln, IL are the host hotels for the weekend, with discounted rates for teams and fans. Just mention Lincoln Speedway when reserving your rooms. Hampton Inn can be contacted by calling 217-732-6729, while Comfort Inn’s number is 217-735-5800.
This upcoming July 10/11 weekend, both tracks will be in action with Lincoln Speedway hosting DIRTcar Pro Late Models, Modifieds, Nutech Seed DII Midgets, Street Stocks, and Hornets on Friday, while Macon will have DIRTcar Pro Late Models, BillingsleyRewards.com Modifieds, DIRTcar Pro Mods, Topless Sportsman, Archers Alley Street Stocks, Hornets, and Micros By Bailey Chassis on Saturday. Two-day bonuses are on the line for Street Stocks that compete at both tracks.
Lincoln/Macon Speedway PR
When it comes time to look at the statistics at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, there’s a clear pair of drivers that stand out over the nine total NASCAR Cup Series races run at the 1.5-mile oval – two-time and defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski. In fact, the two former champions have combined to bring home five of the nine wins at Kentucky since NASCAR’s top series began competing there in 2011.
Busch is always optimistic about his chances to win at one of his best tracks statistically, and he’ll look to score his third Kentucky win during Sunday afternoon’s Kentucky 400 and tie Keselowski for the most wins in the Bluegrass State. While Busch’s overall numbers there are impressive, a few statistics stand out more than others. To go with a series-best average finish of 4.7, he has an astonishing average mid-race position of just 2.6. With two victories in the nine races run there, Busch has only finished outside the top-10 once – 12th in 2012, when he battled mechanical issues. Keselowski has three finishes of 20th or worse at Kentucky with an average finish of 12.3.
The Las Vegas native and driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has notched multiple victories at Kentucky in all three of NASCAR’s top divisions – Cup, Xfinity, and Truck. Add his 2003 ARCA series win at Kentucky and Busch has been victorious in four racing divisions and has made quite a Kentucky home of his own in the Bluegrass State’s second-most-famous victory lane.
The heavily worn racing surface and quirky Kentucky layout Busch navigated to win both Cup Series races there – including the inaugural event back in 2011 – is now gone after being repaved four seasons ago to go with a slight reconfiguration of turns one and two. Busch came painfully close to his third Kentucky win one year ago when he battled door-to-door with his brother Kurt, who ultimately inched past Busch in one of the most memorable finishes of 2019.
Busch’s winning history at Kentucky started way back at the ripe age of 18, when he dominated the 2003 ARCA race while competing for Hendrick Motorsports. He led a race-high 91 laps en route to the victory.
He returned the following year and found victory lane again, this time in his Xfinity Series debut. In all, Busch has three wins, nine top-fives and has led 877 laps in 11 Xfinity Series starts at Kentucky. He also won the 2011 and 2014 Truck Series races to give him six top-10 finishes and 310 laps led in seven starts there in that division.
So as the Cup Series makes a swing through the Bluegrass State Sunday afternoon, Busch’s fans are hoping he can bring home his M&M’S Fudge Brownie Toyota to his third career Kentucky victory and prove yet again that he is the best in the Bluegrass State.
Coming off his and his still relatively young team’s second top-20 finish of the season last Sunday at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daniel Suárez and his No. 96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) will hit the track this Sunday just down the road at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, one of Suárez’s best racetracks in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series.
The 28-year-old Suárez is the most recent NASCAR Cup Series pole award winner on the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval, having snatched the top qualifying spot in his Stewart-Haas Racing entry a year ago this weekend. He went on to lead 52 laps on race day before bringing home an eighth-place finish.
In his four Kentucky outings in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, in which he won Rookie of the Year honors in 2015 and the overall championship in 2016, Suárez has earned three front-row qualifying positions, including the pole in the September 2015 race, and three top-four finishes. He was second to Elliott Sadler in the September 2016 race, third to winner and then-Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch and runner-up Austin Dillon in the July 2016 race, and fourth to winner Brad Keselowski, runner-up and then-Gibbs teammate Erik Jones and third-place Busch in the July 2015 race.
And in his two career Kentucky appearances in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, both with Kyle Busch Motorsports, Suárez started and finished fourth after leading 18 laps in 2015, and started on the pole and finished 11th after leading 59 laps in 2016.
This weekend, in his fourth career Cup Series outing at Kentucky, Suárez returns to the Bluegrass State with his single-car GBR team that is competing in the Cup Series full-time for the first time since joining the series in 2018. It will be just the 54th Cup Series outing for GBR – a mere season-and-a-half worth of races competing against multicar organizations, many of which have been around for decades.
Suárez and his GBR team feel confident they will one day be racing for wins against those larger, more established organizations, and they know full well that it will take time. Grinding out finishes like last Sunday’s 20th place at Indy, in which the team fixed a power steering fluid leak and related alternator issues during the first half of the race, are the signs of the incremental progress the team is determined to continue from week to week.
At this Sunday’s 400-mile race, Suárez and his GBR team look to take another successful step forward in their evolution together, and perhaps benefit in big ways from his previous successes on the state of Kentucky’s second-most-famous racetrack.
Indianapolis 500 drivers expected high quality from Roger Penske’s transformation of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, yet they were still surprised and impressed by its appearance when the facility upgrades were on display during the Fourth of July convergence of INDYCAR/NASCAR racing events.
From the beautification through landscaping to a reimagined Georgetown Road to the 250 new racing flags raised along the property, it had a striking look. Clearly, it made a good first impression.
“Typical Penske fashion,” 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay said. “Clean and bright.”
“Spotless,” 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan said. “Like his team, his race cars, his trucks. Up to Roger’s standards in every way.”
“Like I remembered it as a child,” three-time 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter said. “It’s all the little details – like it should be.”
Due to health protocols, the drivers didn’t get the chance to see all of the fan-facing upgrades Penske has focused on: concession stands and restrooms, the reimagined and expanded fan gathering areas and the wider Georgetown Road. But most of them described studying the drone footage distributed Friday and appreciated Penske’s attention to detail, another legendary hallmark of his business operations.
“For a facility that is 111 years old, she looks brand new -- fresh, updated and beautiful,” Charlie Kimball said. “IMS has always been about history, tradition and quality, and it’s all still there, just younger and fresher.”
James Hinchcliffe received a tour of Pagoda Plaza and saw the massive new video board – the Pagoda Plaza Media Wall -- that is now its centerpiece. The 2016 “500” pole winner was excited to learn of plans still to come when spectators attend the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23.
“I also saw that area around the (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum),” he said. “It looks so much better and cleaner. The whole look of the facility is like that. It’s a breath of fresh air.”
Kanaan said: “IMS has always had this vintage look, but now it looks so new. It looks like the track was just built a month ago.”
Kimball noted the new trees planted around the property. Kanaan mentioned how parking lots have been paved and those that haven’t yet been now have proper space markings. Carpenter said all the grass just looks greener than in recent years.
“It’s just beautiful, and things like the bathrooms have a nice mix of being nostalgic and clean,” Carpenter said. “The Pagoda (video board) is awesome … and what they’ve done with Georgetown Road is really amazing, especially as far as getting people in the facility with more social distancing. It’s all the little details you’d expect from Roger.”
Other drivers highlighted the 5 miles of new gate fencing, 3 acres of new sod, 3 tons of new concrete, 400,000 square feet of new asphalt and 30 new video screens. There also are lights on the IMS sign at Gate 1 and 5G Connectivity that is cutting-edge technology.
“The elevated (car) lift at Victory Circle is a really cool touch, too,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’ve never seen that before.”
Said Kanaan: “IMS is such a big place that you think Roger might miss something. But it’s like, ‘Nope, he got that, too.’”
Spectators are scheduled to get their first look at the facility when Indianapolis 500 practice opens for NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Tuesday, Aug. 11.
Kevin Harvick heads to the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval in Sparta with 1.5 tracks left to win at on the NASCAR schedule.
How is this possible?
After his victory on June 27 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Harvick still has yet to win at Kentucky, which made its NASCAR Cup Series debut in 2011. He also hasn’t won on the “roval” at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, which first appeared on the schedule in 2018.
Harvick did win on the Charlotte oval in the 2011 and 2013 Coca-Cola 600, and the 500-mile fall race in 2014. So perhaps that explains the .5 of the 1.5 tracks.
If he gets the victory at Kentucky, the Charlotte roval is all that is left to conquer.
He’s come close at Kentucky, having finished in the top-10 in six consecutive races there from 2013 to 2018. He scored his first top-five when he came home fifth in 2018.
Harvick has scored two NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at the 1.5 mile Kentucky oval, the first coming in 2001 and followed up 13 years later in 2014.
And while he’s looking for his first Cup Series win at Kentucky, so is sponsor Hunt Brothers Pizza.
With more than 7,800 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry. Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin crust pizzas available as a grab-and-go Hunk perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with All Toppings No Extra Charge®. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Hunt Brothers Pizza is family owned and operated with more than 25 years of experience serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners. To find a Hunt Brothers Pizza location, download the Hunt Brothers Pizza app by visiting www.huntbrotherspizza.com/app/
Hunt Brothers Pizza has partnered with Harvick for 11 years and last visited victory lane with him when he won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta. In 2019, Hunt Brothers moved up to the Cup Series as a primary sponsor for three races and, in 2020, will be on Harvick’s car five times.
Harvick is coming off last Sunday’s third career win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and has four victories this season. He is 12th on the all-time NASCAR Cup Series wins list and is just one behind
Lee Petty for 11th. Petty has 54 wins, while Rusty Wallace has 55 and Kyle Busch has scored 56.
Harvick is hoping he can heat up at Kentucky and score his first win at the 1.5-mile oval and keep moving up the wins list.
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Vote for Bacon Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta as the NASCAR Cup Series driver with the highest average finish in the last five races at 3.8. He’s ahead of Denny Hamlin, who’s next best at 7.2, and SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who’s third best at 8.0.
Almirola is on a string of five consecutive top-five finishes – earned at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he finished fifth, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where he finished third, and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway two weekends ago, where he finished third and fifth, respectively, in the series’ first modern-era doubleheader weekend, and last Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he finished third.
This is Almirola’s best season to date and the first time in his career he has earned consecutive top-five finishes. His five top-fives are the most he’s had in any single season during his nine-year full-time Cup Series career.
“We’re in a position now to where we can gamble a little bit and we can be a little more aggressive,” Almirola said. “We can be less conservative and not worry about points. Not that we’re going to throw caution to the wind, but we can certainly be more aggressive. A win is coming.”
Not only is Almirola looking for a win to lock himself in the NASCAR playoffs, he’s also looking to win this weekend to lock himself in to the July 15 NASCAR All-Star Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, or at least win the fan vote for an opportunity to race for $1 million. To aid the team’s endeavor to make the All-Star Race, Almirola’s longtime sponsor Smithfield Foods has given the fans an opportunity to “vote for bacon” in order to secure their driver’s eligibility.
“A vote for me is a vote for bacon,” Almirola said. “I’m not one to promote myself and ask for popularity or votes, so fans can vote for bacon for a chance to earn free bacon for a year and we might make it into the All-Star Race. Smithfield is always giving back to our fan base, as we saw in Talladega when we gave away bacon for life. The real goal is to win this weekend in Kentucky and still give away some free bacon. Now that’s a win-win.”
To “vote for bacon” and help secure Almirola’s eligibility in the All-Star Race, visit www.voteforbacon.com for a chance to win Smithfield bacon for a year, a private meet-and-greet with Almirola, and free SHR merchandise.
The No. 10 Ford driver sits ninth in the playoff standings for his career-best points position after 16 races. In his first two seasons at SHR in 2018 and 2019, Almirola was 10th in the standings after 16 races. It’s the best stretch of his career. The next comparable stretch was from October 2018 through March 2019, when he posted 11 top-10 finishes in 13 races, and his two finishes outside the top-10 were 11th at Martinsville and 32nd at Daytona.
Almirola has career totals of two wins, two poles, 23 top-five finishes, 69 top-10s and 627 laps led in 332 starts. In addition to his recent string of top-fives, he has eight top-10s and has led 90 laps after 16 races this season.
Almirola continues to provide fans with content from his documentary series Beyond the 10, where they can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.
While Almirola only has one top-10 finish at Kentucky, he proved last weekend at Indianapolis, where he had never earned a top-10, that past statistics don’t have an effect on the success the team has been able to achieve this year.