Speedway Digest Staff
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Third generation NASCAR driver, Jesse Little, has been signed to drive for Coulter Motorsports in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. The high school sophomore will make his debut on Labor Day weekend at the historic Greenville-Pickens Speedway as the half-mile hosts the Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140.
Little has made selected starts in the series in 2012 including Richmond International Raceway in April where he became the youngest driver to ever take the green flag in NASCAR's premier development series. Posting an 11th place finish in the Blue Ox 100 gave Little his highest finish in his brief K&N Pro Series career.
While the focus will be on the upcoming Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 140 at Greenville-Pickens, Little will be building for a run towards the 2013 K&N Pro Series East championship and Rookie of the Year honors, he explained.
“I like to set high goals for myself. I feel personal goals should be difficult to attain, something you have to work very hard for. My goals next year are to qualify well for each race, top-10 at most races and on the pole at two events. In addition my goals are to finish every race, including the top-10 at most events and the top-five in five of the races on the schedule. We will also focus as a team on building towards winning my first K&N Pro Series event in my first full-season of competition.”
Leading Little's team at Coulter Motorsports is Kris Bowen, a veteran crew member of the organization.
“Jesse Little is a proven racer who I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work with," Bowen said. “He has excelled at every level to date and I know with our (Coulter Motorsports) guidance and mentoring Jesse will be a strong force in the NASCAR K&N Series. Our racing family grew with the addition of Jesse and his family and we look forward to developing his young career."
Little has had Bowen's leadership in the past and sees a reuniting of the pair as a positive step towards his entry into full-time K&N Pro Series competition, he added.
“I've known Kris Bowen for many years. He helped me when I first started Limited Late Models and he works closely with Harold Holly, who has also been a big part of my growth as a NASCAR driver. This is a good opportunity for me and I'm excited to run all of the K&N Series East events the remainder of this season and into the future with this team. Coulter Motorsports have won on many racing circuits including the ARCA Racing Series and I want to bring them a victory on NASCAR's K&N Pro Series.”
With confidence in the team and his ability to compete at any level, Little was a natural choice to join Coulter Motorsports, according to team owner Joe Coulter.
“Coulter Motorsports is pleased to welcome Jesse Little into our driver development program,” Coulter said. “Jesse is an esteemed young racer who has proven to deliver himself maturely not only on the track but in life itself. He and his family are a natural fit and a welcomed addition to our NASCAR K&N Pro Series stable. We look forward to taking Jesse to the track and the success that follows.”
Little will continue to race out of the Team Little Racing shop with his NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model as time allows. The late model experience gained since joining the series in 2010 has been beneficial to Little's approach to racing on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, he explained.
“Racing on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series has given me experience in the heavier and bigger cars from where I started in Legends and Midgets. This year I've learned a lot about how to save a car and how to make sure you're around at the end of a race to finish strong. I've also learned that if the car's handling is off on a given day then take what the car will give you, try different lines and see if it helps. Most importantly I have gained the knowledge that you need to finish races to learn and be better for the next event.”
Coulter Motorsports PR
Tickets Go On Sale Today For Fourth Annual NASCAR After The Lap™ Sponsored By Ford Motor Company And Coca-Cola
NASCAR announced that tickets go on sale today for the unpredictable, unforgettable, tell-all fan event – the 2012 NASCAR After The Lap sponsored by Ford and Coca-Cola. Returning to Las Vegas for its fourth consecutive year, NASCAR After The Lap will take place on November 29 at 5p.m. PT at PH Live at Planet Hollywood. ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little will host the event.
Fans in attendance will interact with the top-12 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, resulting in unfiltered answers and unpredictable antics. Last year, 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion™ Tony Stewart drove his car into the venue, which set the tone for the event’s highlight: Jeff Gordon’s rousing break dancing performance that took the audience by surprise and ignited dialogue across the digital and social space.
“NASCAR After The Lap is one of the crown jewels of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week," said Norris Scott, vice president of partnership marketing for NASCAR. “Our top drivers take their helmets off and celebrate the season with our fans, resulting in a wildly entertaining evening and a unique platform for two of our long-standing partners, Ford and Coca-Cola.”
In conjunction with the launch of ticket sales, the “NASCAR After The Lap” sweepstakes begins today. One lucky fan will win a grand prize package that includes a 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 truck, round trip air fare for two to Las Vegas, two nights at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and two VIP tickets to NASCAR After The Lap.
To purchase tickets and enter the “NASCAR After The Lap” Sweepstakes, fans can visit www.NASCARafterthelap.com. Tickets are $20 each, with proceeds benefitting The NASCAR Foundation™, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit that raises funds to support children’s charities and important causes throughout the nation. “NASCAR After The Lap” Sweepstakes entries will be accepted up until November 18 at 2:00 p.m. ET.
“NASCAR After The Lap provides an unforgettable experience for NASCAR fans and we look forward to being a part of the event again this year,” said Tim Duerr, motorsports marketing manager for Ford Racing. “The ‘NASCAR After The Lap’ Sweepstakes offers Ford invaluable interaction with NASCAR’s broad fan base and we encourage them to register today for a chance to win a 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 truck.”
“NASCAR After The Lap is both an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between Coca-Cola and NASCAR, and a perfect venue to celebrate the passionate and enthusiastic fans that we share,” said Ben Reiling, director of motorsports for Coca-Cola. “Nothing uplifts NASCAR families and fans quite like the ice-cold refreshment of Coca-Cola, and we look forward to joining many of our Coca-Cola Racing Family members for what will surely be a memorable event.”
The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team heads into this weekend’s Pure Michigan 400 with high hopes after having a fast Ford Fusion in the most recent race at Michigan International Speedway. It was even faster during the Goodyear tire test at the recently paved track.
Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers team didn’t get the finish they were hoping for in Michigan back in mid-June because of an engine problem that occurred just after the start, but they did have a good car.
Bayne was third fastest in that first practice and sixth in the second. He qualified seventh at over 200 miles per hour and was running seventh when the problem occurred .
Crew chief Donnie Wingo said he and the team used the July 30 Goodyear tire test at Michigan to fine-tune their set-up for the No. 21 Ford Fusion. They ran the same car they raced in June at the test and will run it in the Pure Michigan 400 this weekend.
“We started the test with the car like it was for the start of the race in June,” Wingo said.
“Then we kept going further in the same direction with the set-up.”
“It seemed to be better.”
Indeed, Bayne was able to drive deeper into the corners and ran lap times comparable to the best cars at the test. The team got to use the extra time on the track to try some other chassis tweaks as well.
“We were able to do some things that we don’t have time to do on a regular race weekend,” Wingo said. “Everything went really well at the test.”
Sunday’s race, the second on the track since it was repaved, likely will see track position as critical as it ever has been in Sprint Cup racing, Wingo said.
That likely means a lot of two-tire or no-tire stops, he said.
“The amount of fuel you need will determine how many tires you take on a pit stop,” he said, adding that teams will start the race figuring how to get to the finish with as few pit stops as possible.
“You’ll run the race backward to a certain degree,” he said.
Wood Brothers Racing PR
Retired U.S. Army Sergeant Dennis Latowski and his family got a close-up look Thursday at a NASCAR pit stop - on their own car. No. 43 Eckrich® Ford driver Aric Almirola and his pit crew surprised the Brighton, Mich., family with an expert tune-up of their personal vehicle, going under the hood to make sure the family was safe on the road. The complimentary check-up, conducted outside Michigan International Speedway, was an effort on behalf of team partner Eckrich to thank the family for the sacrifices they have made for their country.
The No. 43 team and Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, made the surprise pit stop as part of Eckrich's partnership with Operation Homefront, a national non-profit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of United States service members and wounded warriors.
The Eckrich pit crew inspected the Latowski vehicle and tuned up, tightened or adjusted anything that required attention. The surprise didn't end there. Almirola announced to Latowski that his name would be featured on the hood of the No. 43 Ford as part of the Eckrich paint scheme for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at the Brooklyn, Mich., speedway. The driver then presented the family with a gift package that included Eckrich products and VIP passes to the race. The Latowskis' VIP experience will include pace car rides, an introduction at the race-day drivers' meeting, and a meet-and-greet with race team owner and NASCAR legend Richard Petty.
The Michigan race is the third event of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season where the Eckrich colors will adorn the No. 43 Ford. On each race weekend, the Richard Petty Motorsports team and Eckrich have shined the spotlight on a local military family through a media event and VIP race experience. Almirola, who was born on a U.S. Air Force base, feels a special connection to military causes like the Eckrich program with Operation Homefront and has enjoyed playing a leading role in events like Thursday's surprise tune-up.
"What a great program we have going this year with Eckrich, drawing some much-needed attention to military families," said Almirola. "Our guys are going to spend hours working on our Eckrich Ford this weekend. But before we go under the hood of our race car, we wanted to come out here and do a tune-up for Dennis and his family as a way of saying thanks for everything they've gone through as a military family. They're not quite ready to enter the race on Sunday, but our guys made sure they'll be safe on the road driving around town."
Eckrich has already donated $200,000 to Operation Homefront through the contribution of five cents from each purchase of specially marked products from May 1 through July 4. The company and Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 team also launched a coin collection program with a special bank made out of a race tire. The coin bank is traveling with the Eckrich show car to encourage fans to donate spare change to help military families. The bank will be at the Eckrich display on the Michigan International Speedway midway this weekend.
"We've really enjoyed giving these families an experience to remember," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "When it comes to military families, a lot of focus is often on the send-offs and the homecomings, but there's a lot of time in between when they often need a little extra support. We're happy to work with Operation Homefront to help provide that."
Almirola and the No. 43 Eckrich Ford will compete in the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday afternoon. The race will be televised live by ESPN.
The Tony Stewart "Smoke Show," an annual fantasy stock-car camp at Texas Motor Speedway hosted by NASCAR's three-time Sprint Cup Series champion, celebrated its fifth year Wednesday by reaching the $1 million milestone for funds raised for Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter.
This year's edition of the "Smoke Show" raised more than $200,000 to push the charity event's five-year total to over $1 million. The event was buoyed by a sellout for participants with 29 and a live auction that raised $69,000. Despite Stewart's hectic, time-consuming schedule as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, a heavy dose of sprint car events and numerous racing-related appearances, he continues to make time for the "Smoke Show" because of its impact. It remains the most successful single-day charity event for the Texas Chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.
"They could make 30-hour days and 400 days a year, but there would be more demands (on my time)," Stewart said. "This is a day that is important to us and we always set this aside every year. When you can raise that money for children and do it in a day makes it well worth the time. You figure five days of investment and we've raised over a million dollars for children - that's a well invested five days in my opinion."
The top auction item, which sold for $30,000, was taking the parade lap with Stewart during the pre-race ceremonies at the Nov. 4 AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Two 2013 Brickyard 400 NASCAR packages, which were highlighted with tickets in Stewart's private suite at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the entire race weekend, went for $17,000 each and a pair of special-edition "Smoke Show" Turnbull Manufacturing pistols sold for $11,000.
The "Smoke Show" allows the participants to walk in the shoes of a NASCAR driver during a typical race day as well as enjoy quality time with Stewart. Each camper receives a personalized "Smoke Show" firesuit and gets ready in a pro-style locker room for the ultimate stock-car fantasy camp experience. Each camper runs two 10-lap competitive lap sessions in a Team Texas stock car, receives a thrilling, two-seater stock-car ride with Stewart behind the wheel, and participates in nearly everything a driver would do during a race day from pre-race introductions to celebrating in Victory Lane with the traditional cowboy hat and six shooters. Stewart also has autograph and Q&A sessions for the participants.
The 2013 "Smoke Show" date has not been finalized, but traditionally is run mid-week in August. For more information on the "Smoke Show," please call Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter at (817) 215-8421.
The Tony Stewart "Smoke Show" is one of the many fundraisers held by Speedway Children's Charities-Texas throughout the race season. The organization's mission is to care for children in educational, financial, social and medical need in order to help them lead productive lives. In 2011, Speedway Children's Charities-Texas Chapter surpassed the $8 million mark in grants distributed to local children's organizations in Collin, Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties since its inception in 1997.
Matt Crafton, driving the No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Toyota Tundra, heads to Michigan International Speedway Saturday August 18th. This will be Craftons 11th start at this venue, including two top-five finishes. Currently Matt is in the 5th position in the driver point standings, just 15 points shy of the 4th spot.
Utilizing Chassis #36, the No.88 team expects great results this weekend as this is the truck that has earned several top-five finishes this year.
Crafton, along with teammates Johnny Sauter, Dakoda Armstrong and ARCA driver Frank Kimmel attended Cedar Point's Wheels of Thunder event on Tuesday. This is the second year that ThorSport Racing has participated in this event. After a meet and greet with fans the drivers and crew rode The Top Thrill Dragster and the Millennium Force. Cedar Point is a favorite place for Crafton as he frequents the amusement park several times throughout the year.
ASCAR’s nine-time most popular driver and 2004 Daytona 500 champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. has opened two auto dealerships in Tallahassee, Fla. The dealerships are the first for Earnhardt, who owns the stores in partnership with Hendrick Automotive Group Chairman and Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet (3127 W. Tennessee Street) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick GMC Cadillac (1850 Capitol Circle NE) officially opened under the Earnhardt name Monday. The acquisition from longtime owner Larry Strom was finalized over the weekend.
“This is something Rick and I have talked about doing ever since I came to Hendrick Motorsports, but we agreed it had to be the right situation,” said Earnhardt, who drives the No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolets for Hendrick Motorsports. “I’m honored to work with everyone at Hendrick Automotive Group and have this opportunity in a great market like Tallahassee. I was a mechanic in a Chevy store before I started racing, and I've always loved General Motors products and been interested in the dealership business. So it's exciting for me, and I hope it’s going to be exciting for the people in the Tallahassee area.”
The dealerships are the first in the Tallahassee market for Hendrick Automotive Group, which will manage the stores. The company operates 84 dealerships across the country, including the Earnhardt locations. Both facilities will undergo renovations to modernize their appearances and amenities.
“We wanted to find something centrally located between Daytona and Talladega, and Tallahassee was the perfect fit,” Hendrick joked, referring to Daytona Beach, Fla., and Talladega, Ala., where Earnhardt has won a combined seven Sprint Cup races and has a strong fan base. “But truly, Tallahassee is a market we’ve been looking at for a long time, and it’s going to be a terrific place to do business. It’s exciting to have Dale Jr. involved, and we feel lucky to be a part of this community.
“Larry and his partners could’ve sold the stores to anyone, so we’re honored they chose us. He’s done business the right way for years and has a stellar reputation throughout Tallahassee. When we started talking, Larry’s biggest concern was that his people be taken care of. That says a lot about who he is and the type of culture he’s built here.”
Market Area Vice President Ryan Regnier, who has been with Hendrick Automotive Group in various roles since 1996, will oversee the two Earnhardt dealerships.
“We’re excited to be part of the strong, community-based market of Tallahassee,” Regnier said. “Dale Earnhardt Jr. has great fans in Florida, and his two new dealerships are valued additions to our company. We’re committed to serving Tallahassee and making these stores among the most successful managed by Hendrick Automotive Group.”
Mike Futrell will serve as General Manager of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet and offers 11 years of experience at the Earnhardt locations (formerly Champion Chevrolet and University Cadillac Buick GMC). At nearly 140,000 square feet, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet will feature approximately 300 new and pre-owned cars and more than 30 service bays.
Tim Moore has been named General Manager of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick GMC Cadillac. Moore was a partner in the two stores in the 15 months prior to their purchase. The 42,000-square-foot Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick GMC Cadillac will offer more than 250 new and pre-owned cars and house 22 service bays.
Free shuttle service will provide travel between both Earnhardt stores and to locations around the greater Tallahassee area. Manufacturer lifestyle boutiques with apparel and vehicle accessories, children’s play areas and free Wi-Fi also will be available at both dealerships.
Combined, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Buick GMC Cadillac will employ more than 175 people. Job opportunities are currently available and can be found at www.hendrickcareers.com.
Dale Jr./Hendrick Automotive PR
Thus far 2012 has been a tremendous learning year for Paulie Harraka and Wauters Motorsports, both in their first year as a NASCAR Camping World Truck series driver and team owner, respectively. In his debut season, Harraka has experienced several of the most prominent tracks in the country, such as Daytona International Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and others, for the first time in his career. During the first half of the season, Ted Musgrave joined the team to maximize Harraka’s learning on the track. Musgrave’s tutelage of Harraka has proven to be extremely valuable to his development.
As the team of Harraka, Musgrave, and Richie Wauters analyze the team's current position, they have opted to skip the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Michigan International Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. They are carefully evaluating which of the remaining races to participate in to optimize his continued development as a young driver.
“Paulie is a true rookie in this series, having raced very minimally in 2011 while he finished his degree at Duke. This year was all about getting him to these tracks and getting him experience. He has shown that he has the speed, and has shown that he is able to learn. Now, we need to take these lessons, and continue to move forward in our plan for him,” Ted Musgrave said.
Richie Wauters, Harraka’s truck owner and crew chief, is also dedicated to Harraka’s development. “Paulie has grown a tremendous amount as a racecar driver this season, without question. He has continually shown the work ethic and dedication to keep learning, and the halfway point in the season marks the perfect time to take a step back and analyze everything we’ve done together up to this point.”
Harraka, having competed in 11 truck races thus far, looks forward to continuing to move forward. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve been able to be a full time racecar driver, having graduated from Duke this past May. Being able to put all of my time into being a true student of the sport has allowed me more time to watch race tapes, talk to other drivers, and analyze my development than ever before. It’s also the first time that I’ve had a mentor and coach like Ted to teach me things I may have otherwise missed. I’m excited about the opportunity to keep learning and growing this season, and I’m fortunate to have the sound backing of our PHLLC partners as I do that.”
Wauters Motorsports PR
The Road To Richmond” motors its way into Michigan International Speedway this weekend, with all the attention on the “wild card” spots. There are only four races left, including the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, September 8, at Richmond International Raceway, for the bubble drivers to make their mark and race their way into the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Looking through the top 20, there are a few drivers who are feeling the heat and need to do something to be sure they have a spot in the Chase. With Marcos Ambrose winning last weekend at The Glen, we’ve now seen six different drivers win among the drivers ranked 11th through 20th in the point standings. These last three races before “The Road to Richmond” culminates at Richmond International Raceway for the Federated Auto Parts 400 will be extremely critical in determining who’s a contender and who’s a pretender.
Here are some drivers that are hoping their luck doesn’t run out in the Irish Hills of Michigan:
Carl Edwards There’s no doubt Edwards is feeling a bit of pressure, sitting 12th in points with no wins on the season. Dale Earnhardt Jr. broke his winless streak at MIS in June and Edwards is hoping this track provides that same bit of luck for him. He has two career wins and comes in with the fourth-best driver rating at Michigan (104.7).
Jeff Gordon If the field were to be set today, Gordon would find himself on the outside looking in. He is currently sitting 15th in points with one win on the season. In addition to his two career wins, Gordon has 25 top-10s and the sixth-best driver rating (96.7) this weekend.
Marcos Ambrose With his victory last weekend, Ambrose has thrown himself into the middle of the pursuit for one of the two “wild card” spots. Sitting 17th in points with one victory, he will likely need to win at least one more race to earn his first career chase berth. After winning the pole in June with a blazing fast speed of 203.241, Ambrose should be among the favorites this weekend.
Ryan Newman Currently 13th in points, with one win, Newman provisionally holds the second and final “wild card” spot. Newman has two career victories at MIS and finished 15th in June. With his Chase dreams on the line, Newman will be looking to return to victory lane in Michigan for the first time since 2004.
Expect these drivers to continue to be in the thick of the 2012 Race to The Chase, as the road ends at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, September 8 for “One Last Race to Make The Chase”—the Federated Auto Parts 400. Once the checkered flag flies, the field will be set for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Only those in the top 10 and two “wild card” positions will be eligible for the championship over the final 10 races of the season.
NASCAR driver Danica Patrick recently discussed her upcoming visit to Atlanta Motor Speedway, where she’ll make her first-career start at the 1.54-mile facility in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Patrick will compete in the NRA American Warrior 300 on Saturday, Sept. 1, as well as the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Sept. 2 as she chases a Nationwide Series championship while preparing for the jump to a full-time ride in the Sprint Cup Series in 2013.
NRA American Warrior 300 tickets start at just $30 and fans can be present for Danica’s first Sprint Cup start at AMS in the AdvoCare 500 for as low as $39. Sunday student tickets are $19 and kids 12 and under are free on Saturday with a paid adult.
Below are Danica’s thoughts on racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the first time:
What do you know about Atlanta Motor Speedway knowing you’ve never been there competitively in a race?
“I am excited about it. A lot of drivers really look forward to Atlanta. It’s fast and the track surface is challenging because the tires definitely have their fall off, it’s aggressive and hard on them. So it makes for some interesting racing, good racing, lots of passing and cars at different speeds. So I’m looking forward to that.”
Have you been to the track?
“I have been there. I drove there one time. I tested a few years ago. And it was good, it was fun. I think for me, I really like the tracks that are very fast and where you get that loading in the corner. It feels much more like my open-wheel days of having all the downforce and that translates to g-forces in the corner and that load, so the tires and maintenance will be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to that. I enjoy the races that take some strategy and planning and thinking, and thinking ahead.”