Friday, Dec 08
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Joey Coulter carried new colors in Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway - FOX Sports 1 - America's New Sports Network. As the series defending race winner at the "Tricky Triangle," Coulter was not only helping the fans count down the days until the "1" arrives on Aug. 17 with a unique design on his Toyota Tundra, he was hoping to pull off the repeat and be "No.1" after 50 laps around the 2.5 mile oval.


Although the No. 18 machine came up three spots short of defending his title in the Pocono Mountains 125, Coulter was able to capitalize on a late race pit call to bring home his second consecutive top-five finish, finishing fourth in the 11th event on the 2013 NCWTS schedule.    


"We had a great FOX Sports 1 Toyota Tundra all day," Coulter said. "We were just a little tight in traffic, but man we were really fast when we had clean air on those long green-flag runs. Harold (Holly, crew chief) made a really good call in the pits - giving us the tires and chassis adjustment we needed there at the end. We let the restarts work out for us and it turned out to be a pretty good day for everyone on this Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 18 team - another top-five finish and a great point's day."


With weather issues looming over the Pocono Mountains on Saturday morning, NASCAR was forced to cancel Truck Series qualifying and the 36-truck field was lined-up based on Friday afternoon's practice times. Coulter, who was 10th-quick in the session, would take the green flag from the outside of row five for the short 50-lap race.


A "green" race track forced the field under a quick caution at lap two for a spin by the 81 machine in Turn 1. Coulter, who restarted 10th on lap three, made quick work of the trucks in front of him and advanced to the fifth position by lap five.


As the race continued caution free, many of the front runners began making their way down pit road under green at lap 23 for scheduled stops. Coulter would stay out until lap 29 and lead two laps before making his way down pit road for right side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment in an effort to free up his Toyota Tundra. When pit stops cycled through just a few laps later, the No. 18 FOX Sports 1machine was scored in the seventh position.


The field was slowed for the second time on lap 43 - with seven laps remaining - as Coulter continued to battle a tight-handling Toyota Tundra. Crew chief Harold Holly assured Coulter they could not win with the way his Tundra was handling and opted to bring the No. 18 machine down pit road to the attention of the KBM pit crew for right side tires including a chassis adjustment and fuel. Coulter would restart 12th with only four laps remaining.


Taking advantage of fresh tires, Coulter used the top of the race track to battle his way through traffic and was scored sixth when the third caution flag was displayed on lap 48 for a spin by the 30 truck in Turn 1. A quick caution had the field lined-up just one lap later for the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.


Coulter once again used the top of the race track to make a pass going three-wide with the 3 and 31 trucks down the Long Pond Straightaway in an effort to make ground on the front runners. As Coulter made the pass for the third, the 3 and 98 trucks made contact, bringing out the fourth and final caution on lap 51.


Restarting third - in double overtime - Coulter once again used the top of the race track to make ground on the leaders and worked his way into the second position by Turn 1. However, contact on the restart resulted in damage to the spoiler - forcing his Tundra to experience more drag and ultimately causing Coulter to lose valuable track position and the chance at a repeat win.


Coulter would cross the stripe fourth in his FOX Sports 1 Toyota Tundra.


Ryan Blaney won the 4th Annual Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway, his second victory in 20 NCWTS starts and his first win of 2013. Miguel Paludo (second) posted his career-best Truck Series finish. German Quiroga (third) posted a top-10 finish in his first visit to the "Tricky Triangle." Coulter and Ross Chastain rounded out the top-five finishers.


KBM teammate Darrell Wallace Jr finished seventh in his Pocono Raceway debut in the NCWTS and Chad Hackenbracht, who was making his second of four starts for KBM behind the wheel of the No. 51 Tastee Apple/Ingersoll Rand Tundra, finished 15th.


The field was slowed four times for 10 laps and the lead was exchanged nine times by seven different drivers.


Following his second consecutive top-five finish, Coulter is up to 11th in the 2013 NCWTS driver's point standings after 11 races; a mere nine points outside the top-10, 25 markers behind fifth-place Ty Dillon and 93 points behind series point leader Matt Crafton.


The NCWTS will take a week off before heading to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn for the Michigan National Guard 200 on Saturday, Aug. 17. Coulter has two previous starts at the 2-mile track including one pole (2012) and one top-10 finish (2012).


Coulter will once again sport the colors of FOX Sports 1 at Michigan in an effort to help launch the new network on race day - Saturday, Aug. 17.







Looking to continue his move to the top of the standings, James Buescher came into the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway with a great history at the track, having recorded second and third-place finishes in the two previous years. With qualifying rained out on Saturday morning, the field was set based on speeds from the weekend's only practice session. Starting the race in the eighth spot, Buescher ran just outside the top five most of the 50-lap race until contact with another competitor sent Buescher spinning, relegating him to a 21st-place finish.


After a great day of practice on Friday and the field being set by practice times, Buescher and his No. 31 Rheem Chevrolet started the Pocono Mountains 125 in the eighth spot. As soon as the green flag fell on the 36-truck field, the yellow was displayed for a competitor spinning in Turn 1. After the lap four restart, the field settled down and saw a long green-flag run. On lap eight, Buescher radioed to his crew that his No. 31 Rheem truck was tight from the center to the exit of the corner. On lap 24, Buescher gave up his sixth-place running spot and ducked down pit road for a green-flag pit stop, receiving four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. The race's second yellow flag was displayed on lap 43 for debris and would set up a shootout to the finish. Restarting in the sixth spot, Buescher began to battle his way forward when contact with his Turner Scott Motorsports teammate resulted in a caution. After the green flag waved for the first of two green/white/checkered restarts, two competitors came together entering Turn 2, bringing out another yellow flag. On the second green/white/checkered restart, Buescher restarted in the sixth spot once again and made a daring three-wide move into Turn 1, vaulting him into the top five. Entering Turn 3, Buescher got tangled up with another competitor, which sent him spinning. Buescher limped back to the start/finish line in the 21st position.


"Unfortunately, we ran into some bad luck at the end of the race," said Buescher. "We had a great run going and we looked like we were going to capitalize with a good points day, but we got tangled up coming to the checkered flag. We've been having some great runs as of late, we just haven't been able to get the finishes we've been looking for. We'll put this behind us and my Turner Scott Motorsports team will go into Michigan looking to rebound."



Matt Crafton was wide-eyed on Pocono Raceway's pit road after the Pocono Mountains 125.


Two green-white-checker attempts while you're running top-five and defending the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship lead will do that to you -- but Crafton was especially relieved to leave this vacation capitol with an eighth-place finish and a largely unscathed No. 88 Rip It Energy Fuel / Menards Toyota.


"Every one of those green-white-checkers was the craziest stuff I've ever seen, to be totally honest," Crafton said, chuckling after the dust had settled, standing next to his truck and crew. "They were wrecking in front of me, beside me -- all over the place. Right before that big wreck (in Turn 1) we were four-wide and I was on the bottom and I was saying, 'I don't know how this is gonna work?' I just had to stay on the gas, but we survived..."


The only damage to Crafton's Tundra was on its left-rear corner, where ThorSport teammate Johnny Sauter ran into him in the midst of dodging the Turn 1 melee. And in the end, Crafton took the white flag in fifth and points lead aside, he was still digging halfway through the lap.


"I was getting really, really loose getting in there (to the Tunnel Turn) and I was trying for fourth and just got too loose under (Joey Coulter) and dropped to eighth for the finish," Crafton said. "I just got loose there at the end and lost those spots because of that.


"I was being greedy and they were yelling at me, 'Big picture. Big picture.'  But, I saved it. That was hairy -- definitely. The back end just got out when I got really, really loose under him and just about wrecked it."


Coming into Pocono's fourth annual Truck Series event, Crafton was the series' standard bearer -- the only driver to have three top-10 finishes in those races. Along with his 48-point lead in the championship over Jeb Burton, Crafton was also the only Truck Series driver to score a top-10 in all 10 races this season.


But 140 minutes of practice on Friday, where Crafton and his ThorSport Racing crew ended up ninth, provided more questions than answers. Rain overnight and on Saturday morning, which delayed the start of the season's 11th race, was another wrinkle.


In the early stages of the race, both Crafton and Sauter battled trucks that were loose, particularly across the critical Tunnel Turn. But the way the green-flag pit cycle worked out in the middle of the event, and then the wild finish that included three caution periods in the last 10 laps -- including the infamous green-white-checker attempts -- had Crafton shaking his head when it was all done.


"Those restarts were stupid -- just chaos," Crafton said. "I asked how many green-white-checkereds there was and they said we were on two and I said, 'We've got one more, then.' I knew that they were going to have another one and when we got the white I'm like, 'Whew. At least we got through that. Now we just have to survive.'"


Unlike what he'd done in the series' previous event, on dirt at Eldora Speedway, Crafton aggressively attacked the Tunnel Turn on the last lap in a side-to-side swirl that looked like it had zero chance at success. But Crafton took care of his fenders and took his eighth place home.


"It was definitely not what we wanted, and I really hate it because we felt like we had a better truck than where we finished, but we'll take it and go on to the next one," Crafton said. "It was a decent day, without a doubt. We don't really want to big-picture race -- we're getting as much as we can every week -- but I thought we had a top-five truck (Saturday) but it was just about how the circumstances unrolled.


"Like I said, I can't thank these guys on my ThorSport crew enough. They work their butt off on this truck. We were not very good for five, 10 laps in a run -- we were junk, really. And then about 10 laps into a run we would keep getting better and at 15 laps we would keep getting better yet."


That's why the final flurry of caution flags didn't have Crafton smiling.


"In the short run we were bad," Crafton said. "I wanted the last run to be longer just to see what we could do, but at the same time I'm like, 'Oh man, what is going to happen here?' just because we were so loose on the short run."


Crafton's next race, Aug. 17 at Michigan International Speedway, already has him anticipating going 12-for-12 this season, with a shot to get his second victory and expand his point lead, which unofficially is 52 points over Burton, who finished 12th at Pocono.


"It's really, really good -- it just shows how hard these guys work and what they do to these trucks and get what they can get, every race," Crafton said. "It's an honor to be driving their stuff."


Thorsport PR

Ryan Blaney (@RyanBlaney22), driver of the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150, made his first career start at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) during Saturday afternoon's Pocono Mountains 125. After a rained-out morning qualifying session, Blaney started the race in the sixth position, which was determined based off Friday's final practice session.


After running in the second position behind his BKR (@TeamBKR) teammate, Ross Chastain, from lap three to lap 10, Blaney finally made a move to the bottom of the racetrack and set his sights on the lead.


Blaney went on to lead every lap before crew chief, Doug Randolph, brought the No. 29 Cooper Standard F-150 to pit road under green on lap 26 for fuel and four tires - dropping only one spot to the No. 30 Truck, post-pit stops.  


A much needed debris caution fell on lap 43, with Blaney stalking the first and second positions during the second long-run of the afternoon. Once the green fell again on lap 46, Blaney had charged his way to the lead before the conclusion of the lap.


An accident involving the No. 30 and No. 31 Trucks brought out the third caution of the race on lap 48, setting up a green-white-checkered, with Blaney and his Cooper Standard Ford sitting in the lead position.


Before the field could make it around to the white flag, there was another incident, this time involving the No. 3, the No. 28 and the No. 98, which set the field up for a second chance at a green-white-checkered.


Blaney started on the outside of the No. 77 on the final restart and never looked back. He went on to win his second career NCWTS race and second for BKR in 20 starts at the age of 19, while also getting Ford back to the Truck Series victory lane for the first time since 2009 at Michigan.


The No. 29 Cooper Standard team currently sits third in the NCWTS driver points standings, 62 points back from first and just 10 points back from second.



"I was very happy with our Cooper Standard team and our performance today. This is a huge win for BKR and Ford, especially since it's been awhile since Ford has been in the Truck Series victory lane. I am confident that this is going to give our team the momentum needed to make a run at this year's NCWTS Championship -- with plenty of more wins in between." - Ryan Blaney  




Ross Chastain (@RossChastain), driver of the No. 19 Melon 1 Ford, made his seventh start for Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) during the Pocono Mountains 125 on Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.


Since Chastain's Melon 1 Ford F-150 had been very strong in Friday's final practice session, he started on the inside of the front row, in the second position, due to a rained-out morning qualifying session.


The No. 19 BKR Ford got off to a hot start, leading the first nine laps before his BKR (@TeamBKR) teammate, Ryan Blaney, took over the top spot on lap 10.


The driver of the No. 19 Melon 1 complained early on in the race about his machine being too 'loose in' and off of exit. Crew chief, Chad Kendrick, continued to motivate the young driver over radio communications that the No. 19 BKR team had a plan in place once pit stops began.


Kendrick decided to bring Chastain, who was currently running in the fourth position, to pit road on lap 22 for fuel and two right-side tires.


After the cycle of green flag pit stops were over, Chastain settled in the 10th spot for most of the latter segment of the race. He continued to complain about an issue with the right rear tire, which was later explained by Kendrick as an air leak, ultimately preventing the No. 19 team from running in the top three all race.


Chastain restarted in the seventh position during the second attempt at a green-white-checkered and was able to climb all the way up to a fifth place finish during his second career NCWTS race at Pocono.


The No. 19 BKR team now sits 7th in the NCWTS owner points standings, 71 points back from first.

"Although we had a top five finish today, I'm not as happy as I could be with the Truck we had here today. My BKR team fought hard all day, but we just couldn't overcome the little things that eventually stacked up against us in the end. I am however excited about their determination and will to succeed. We will get to victory lane soon with that type of attitude." - Ross Chastain  



Race Highlights:

  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished ninth (Brendan Gaughan) and 20th (Ty Dillon). 
  • Dillon is fifth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver championship point standings, 68 markers behind the leader; while Gaughan ranks sixth in the standings, 75 points out of the top spot.
  • The No. 3 Chevrolet team is sixth in the Camping World Truck Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 62 team eighth in the standings.
  • According to NASCAR's Post-Race Loop Data Statistics, Gaughan lead the field in the Closers category after gaining 10 positions during the final 10 percent (five laps) of the event.
  • Gaughan completed 37 Green-Flag Passes, ranking him fourth in the loop data category and was the 10th-Fastest Driver on Restarts.
  • Dillon scored ninth in Average Running Position (9.130) and was the seventh-Fastest Driver Late in a Run.
  • Dillon was the sixth-Fastest Driver on Restarts during the 54-lap affair.
  • Ryan Blaney claimed the victory at Pocono Raceway and was followed to the line by Miguel Paludo, German Quiroga, Joey Coulter and Ross Chastain.
  • The next scheduled Camping World Truck Series race is the Michigan National Guard 200 at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, August 17. The 12th race of the 2013 season is scheduled to be televised live on SPEED beginning at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on Motor Racing Network.



Ty Dillon Finishes 20th at Pocono Raceway


Ty Dillon and the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team finished 20th after sustaining right-front damage in the late stages of the 54-lap affair at Pocono Raceway on Saturday. Rain showers forced NASCAR officials to cancel qualifying, setting the starting line up by practice speeds. Dillon started 11th in the Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet for the initial green flag. The Richard Childress Racing driver quickly reported a tight-handling condition on his Chevrolet to the Marcus Richmond-led team. The 21-year-old driver was called to pit road on lap 24 for right-side tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment under green flag conditions. The strategic pit sequence propelled the black and orange Chevrolet into the top five when other competitors pitted later in the race. During the lap-46 restart, Dillon fought for position in a four-wide battle and was forced up into the outside wall sustaining damage to the right side of his machine. With only three laps remaining in the race, Dillon was unable to improve his position and crossed the finish line 20th.


Start - 11                Finish - 20                   Laps Led - 0                Points - 5th



"I hate it for these guys. We had a top-five truck, but we were forced into the wall dashing our hopes for a good finish. I can't say enough about this Bass Pro Shops team. They keep their heads up even when bad luck has visited us the past few weeks."





Gaughan Brings Home Ninth-Place Finish at Pocono Raceway


Brendan Gaughan and the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet team earned an impressive ninth-place finish at Pocono Raceway, after battling handling issues during the majority of 54-lap NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on Saturday afternoon. The Las Vegas native started from the 14th position when rain showers canceled qualifying, setting the field by the NASCAR rule book based off practice speeds. During the early laps, Gaughan alerted the team he was battling a loose-handling black and gold Chevrolet that transitioned to a tight-handling condition as the run progressed. Maintaining a position near the top-20 for much of the scheduled 125-mile event, crew chief Shane Wilson directed his driver to pit road under caution for the team's final pit stop on lap 43 for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments to alleviate the handling issues Gaughan was facing. The Richard Childress Racing driver lined up 15th for the final green-white-checkered finish and gained ground during those final laps. A multi-truck incident broke out in front of Gaughan on the final lap, allowing him to cross the finish line ninth. Following his top-10 finish, Gaughan gained one position in the Camping World Truck Series driver championship point standings, moving up to sixth.



Start - 14         Finish - 9         Laps Led - 0         Points - 6



"What a fun way to end the race. I'll take a top-10 finish anyway we can get it. We didn't have the best truck out there today, but the South Point Hotel & Casino crew never gave up today and kept working to make our Chevrolet better during the race. We were in the right place at the right time at the end and were able to pick up another top-10 finish."



Race Highlights:

  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished fourth (Austin Dillon), ninth (Ryan Gifford) and 13th (Brian Scott).
  • Dillon leads the Nationwide Series driver championship point standings by 14 markers over Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr, while Scott is eighth in the standings, 57 points behind the leader.
  • The No. 3 Chevrolet team ranks third in the Nationwide Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 2 team 10th in the standings and the No. 33 team 13th.
  • According to NASCAR's Post Race Loop Data Statistics, Dillon maintained the best Average Running Position (2.768), had the highest Driver Rating (139.2), was the Fastest Driver Early in a Run (130.684 mph), Fastest Driver Late in a Run (128.161 mph), led the Fastest Laps Run (77), was Fastest on Restarts (128.357 mph), led the field in Green Flag Speed (129.104 mph), and led the most laps (116).
  • Gifford ranked third in the Closers category, advancing three positions in the final 10 percent of the race.
  • Scott ranked fifth in the Fastest Drivers Early in a Run category (129.730 mph)
  • Brad Keselowski earned his third victory of the 2013 Nationwide Series season and was followed to the finish line by Hornish, Vickers, Dillon and Larson.
  • The next Nationwide Series race is the Zippo 200 at the Glen at Watkins Glen International on Saturday, August 10. The 21st race of the 2013 season is scheduled to be televised live on ABC beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Motor Network and Sirius XM NASCAR Satellite Radio Channel 90.


Brian Scott Finishes 13th at Iowa Speedway


Brian Scott drove Richard Childress Racing's No. 2 Shore Lodge Chevrolet to a 13th-place finish in the US Cellular 250 presented by Enlist Weed Control Systems at Iowa Speedway. Scott qualified fifth for the 250-lap event and quickly moved into the third spot. He advanced into the second spot just before the evening's first caution flag was displayed on lap 53. The Boise, Idaho native reported to crew chief Phil Gould that his Chevrolet Camaro's handling was loose in and off the corners, prompting a visit to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Green-flag racing resumed with Scott in the third position. As the field set in for a lengthy green-flag run, Scott continued to battle a loose handling car as the sun began to set and track temperatures cooled. The caution was displayed once again on lap 137 with Scott scored seventh. He brought his Shore Lodge Camaro to the attention of the crew for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. The 25-year-old Nationwide Series competitor restarted eighth on lap 146. As Scott was battling for position in the late stages of the race, another competitor made contact with the No. 2 machine, sending both competitors backwards in the running order and ultimately contributing to a 13th-place finish for Scott.


Start - 5                 Finish - 13               Laps Led - 0                  Points - 8th


Brian Scott Quote:

"We had a great qualifying run and were strong in the beginning part of the race and able to contend for the lead. As the track changed, we continued to fight a loose condition. It was a frustrating night, but we'll regroup and move on to Watkins Glen."


Austin Dillon Extends NASCAR Nationwide Series Points Lead with Fourth-Place Finish at Iowa Speedway


Austin Dillon extended his lead in the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship standings to 14 points over fellow contenders Regan Smith and Sam Hornish Jr with a fourth-place finish in Richard Childress Racing's No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet at Iowa Speedway on Saturday evening. Dillon started the US Cellular 250 presented by Enlist Weed Control Systems from the eighth spot and quickly moved up in the running order, advancing to fourth before the first caution flag of the evening was displayed on lap 55. With complaints of a loose-handling condition on the AdvoCare Chevrolet, Dillon made a trip down pit road for four Goodyear tires, Sunoco Green E15 Fuel and a track bar adjustment before green flag racing resumed with Dillon in the fourth spot on lap 60. The Welcome, N.C. driver posted some of the quickest laps of the race during the next segment. He assumed the lead on lap 85 and remained the leader until pitting under caution with just 50 laps remaining. During the routine stop, the RCR team opted for four tires in an attempt to maintain the balance of the car, while several other contenders opted to perform a two-tire stop, positioning Dillon fifth for the lap-205 restart. The two-tire strategy proved efficient as the teams with two tires gained speed during the final 45 lap run while Dillon's four-tire method was unable to equate to additional speed or track position. Dillon ultimately posted a fourth-place finish in the No. 3 AdvoCare Chevrolet.


  Start - 8                  Finish - 4                  Laps Led - 116                  Points - 1st                           



"We had a really fast AdvoCare Chevrolet tonight, right up until that last pit stop. We made the call for four tires, but ended up too tight at the end of the race. It's frustrating, but we will keep digging and I know eventually a win will come in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. I'm so proud of this Danny Stockman-led team and all of their hard work. I'm also proud of my teammate and friend, Ryan Gifford, who made his first Nationwide start tonight and did a great job."



Ryan Gifford Earns Top-10 Finish in NASCAR Nationwide Series Debut


Driving the No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, Ryan Gifford earned a top-10 finish in his career-first NASCAR Nationwide Series start by finishing ninth in the US Cellular 250 presented by Enlist Weed Control Systems at Iowa Speedway. The Winchester, Tenn., native started from the 23rd position and worked his way into the 18th spot by lap 51 reporting the car's handling was tight on exit and free in, while running the same lap times as the leaders.  The caution flag was displayed on Lap 53 prompting crew chief Ernie Cope to call Gifford down pit road for four Goodyear Eagles and Sunoco Green E15 fuel.  The NASCAR Next driver restarted 17th on lap 59 and worked his way into the top 15 one lap later.  Gifford relayed to the crew the yellow and black machine was tight as he went one lap down to the leader.  While running 16th, the caution flag was displayed for the second time and Gifford was awarded the "Lucky Dog" award, allowing him to rejoin the lead lap cars. Battling in the 13th position, Gifford radioed to his crew the car was still tight as the caution flag was displayed with approximately 50 laps remaining in the race, prompting a round of pit stops by the field. The No. 33 team opted for a two-tire strategy positioning Gifford 12th for the restart on lap 205. He worked his way into the top 10 and ultimately earned a ninth-place finish in his Nationwide Series debut.


      Start - 23          Finish - 9         Laps Led - 0           Owner's Points - 13th                    



"Wow, what a night! I have to thank Menards, Rheem and everyone at Richard Childress Racing for giving me this opportunity.  Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide series is way different than the NASCAR K&N series. In the beginning I didn't know how it was going to turn out.  But I kept digging and it all worked out.  We set goals all weekend and with the effort of this team, we were able to achieve them and leave here with a top-10 finish."



The matte black Monster Energy Camry and 26-year-old Drew Herring, a familiar face in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) portfolio of developmental drivers, tackled Iowa Speedway together for the second time this year and brought home a sixth-place finish. Herring, a JGR shop employee who strives to become a regular driver on the NASCAR circuit, completed driving duties at Iowa Speedway in Newton while regular team driver Kyle Busch prepared for competition at Pocono (PA) Raceway the same weekend. After Herring recorded his first career pole, the team’s sixth this season, he and the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota led 26 laps and fought hard through the race to accomplish a sixth-place finish for them in week 20 of the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Herring qualified on the pole, the first of his young Nationwide Series career and took the green flag from the inside of row one. He immediately pulled away from the field, stretching a strong lead over 26 of the scheduled 250-lap event. Soon after that start, the handling of Herring’s Monster Energy Camry started to change and traffic caught up to the leader, placing the No. 54 in third place at lap 31 and sixth place at lap 53.

On lap 54 Herring found himself pinned by a lap-down car, which forced him down into the corner of turn two, and his Toyota slid sideways. Herring was able to bring his black machine back under control after NASCAR threw the yellow caution flag for the incident. “Nice save Drew,” crew chief Adam Stevens relayed to his driver. Under caution, the team pitted for the first time of the night to replenish tires, fuel and make a track bar adjustment to the car’s chassis.

The race restart on lap 59 scored Herring back in 13th-place and by lap 65 he had worked his Toyota into the 11th position, but not easily. The car still didn’t react the way the team wanted to in the middle of the track’s turns and Herring started to pick up brake ‘chatter.’ Stevens was heard, over the radio, motivating his young driver to remain focused until the team had another opportunity to visit pit road for further adjustments.

That next opportunity would present itself past the event’s halfway point when another caution period waved at lap 138. Herring visited pit road from the 11th spot and prepared his crew, “I’m loose-in, tight-center and loose-exit.” So the team proceeded to make changes to the left-rear chassis, along with giving the No. 54 fresh Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel. The field went back green on lap 145 and the Monster Energy team sat in the 14th position. A subsequent caution period and pit road visit allowed the group to service their Camry once again, with attention paid to their car’s ability to enter the turns. The No. 54 over-the-wall crew members worked fast on pit road and gained their driver three spots, placing him back into the field in 10th-place for the green-flag restart.

“There is a lot of racing to go – just be smart,” Stevens told Herring over the radio. The race’s next restart would prove challenging for the rookie, when he found himself stuck in the middle of a race pack entering turn one, which resulted in the No. 54 Camry shooting up the track and along the wall exiting turn two. The damage was a tire rub and issues with the front left fender but the team did not pit, and decided as long as Herring could drive the car still, they would remain on track and wait for the next caution period which appeared on lap 223.

A final visit to pit road and the No. 54 Camry’s crew replenished tires and took extra time to clean the front fender area around the tire, which up close showed more damage than the team had anticipated. Before the green flag waved again, Stevens radioed Herring, “those last eight to 10 laps you really picked up speed.” Herring replied, “I was driving the heck out of it. We’ll be 16th on restart and we’ll need every one of those laps left.”

When the field went back to ‘green’ on lap 226, the No. 54 pit stall crew members, and Monster Energy guests, watched in awe as their driver aggressively worked his way through the field. Herring gained six spots to 10th on lap 227, then gained spots to eighth on lap 230, to seventh on lap 232 and to sixth on lap 236. “You are the fastest car out there right now, go get ‘em,” exclaimed Stevens to his driver. The

No. 54 and Herring were on a mission, and it appeared they would break back into the top-five positions, but eventually they ran out of time and took the checkered flag in sixth-place.

"I’m very thankful for the continued opportunity that Joe Gibbs Racing, the No.54 Monster Energy team and Toyota offer me. We started off good, got my first pole but I sure would have traded that for a win. While we battled back to sixth, unfortunately the result wasn't what we were looking for, but I feel like I learned a lot. I continue to learn, just need to get into that car more. I can't thank Adam Stevens and the guys enough for their hard work all weekend. It's always fun to race with those guys.”

The No. 54 Monster Energy team owned by J.D. Gibbs maintains first place in the Owner’s Point standings, now leading the No. 22 Roger Penske Ford by 33 points.

Keselowski won the event, followed by Sam Hornish Jr., Brian Vickers, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. There were four caution periods for 21 laps of the race along with five lead changes across six drivers. Herring led one time for 26 laps.

The NASCAR Nationwide Series competes again on August 10 in the NNS 200 at the Glen, at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International Speedway, with television broadcast starting at 2:00pm ET on ABC. Kyle Busch will make his 16th start behind the wheel of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 Monster Energy Camry.


Brad Keselowski made a busy weekend well worth the trouble.

The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was the lone driver making frequent trips between Central Iowa and Pocono Raceway, where he'll compete in Sunday's premier series event.

Keselowski will be toting a gas pump trophy back with him after winning the Fifth Annual NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 Saturday night at Iowa Speedway. He has won the last three Nationwide starts he has made for Penske Racing, despite not having a Sprint Cup victory this season.

Keselowski made his move after the third caution of the race, starting seventh with less than 50 laps remaining. As Trevor Bayne and Brian Vickers were battling side-by-side for the lead, Keselowski made his move.

He shot through the leaders, moving quickly to the front and grabbing the lead on lap 216.

Not only did Keselowski overcome the other 39 drivers in the field, but he persevered through a number of issues during the race.  He received an early early penalty after running in the top five with a shot to jump a spot or two during a pit stop under caution. Keselowski, however, was assessed an outside tire violation and fell to the rear of the field for the restart.

He also suffered an overheating problem that hindered him midway through the race. He remained patient before taking the lead and pulling away from the field. It was Keselowski’s first win at Iowa Speedway since 2009.

Penske Racing managed to sweep the top two spots with Sam Hornish Jr. placing second. Vickers was third.

For the second straight race, Austin Dillon led the majority of the race but failed to seal the victory. He led 116 laps, but fell back to fifth for the final restart. It resembled his performance in June’s DuPont Pioneer 250 where he led 207 of 250 and was runner-up to Trevor Bayne.

Dillon decided to take four tires when many of the leaders -- including Vickers, Regan Smith, Elliott Sadler and Bayne -- took two tires to move ahead of him. A week ago Dillon had put the No. 3 Chevrolet in the Nationwide Series points lead for the first time since Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2003 and his fourth-place finish kept in front of the season standings.

Drew Herring claimed his first NASCAR Nationwide Series pole in 11 career races Saturday afternoon, joined in the front row with Regan Smith. He posted the top speed, coming in at 135. 367 miles per hour.

It was just his second top-10 start of the season for the 26-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver. He started ninth here for  Nationwide’s DuPont Pioneer 250  in June. He finished 11th in that race.

Herring paced the field for the first 26 laps, surrendering the lead to Smith and dropping back. He spun out on lap 55, bringing out the race’s first caution and ending the longest green-flag stretch to start a race this season.

Rookie Kyle Larson placed fifth, leaving the track to compete later Saturday night  in the sprint car Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville Raceway.

Ryan Gifford made his Nationwide debut at Iowa Speedway and finished ninth.


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