Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (13236)

Another Friday, another front-row qualifying effort for Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.

Blaney’s outside pole at Richmond International Raceway on Friday was his second in the past three races, including a rained-out qualifying session at Bristol where he started sixth. It also was his third outside pole in his last six attempts, including second-place efforts at Phoenix and Texas.
 
It’s the best Richmond qualifying effort for the Wood Brothers team since the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Joe Weatherly started on the outside pole there in the fall of 1960. Team owner Glen Wood also started second at Richmond in the fall of 1959.
 
Just as they have nearly every weekend this season, crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew have unloaded fast Ford Fusions for the start of practice. Richmond was no different as Blaney was third fastest in Friday’s opening practice with a best lap at 122.772 miles per hour.
 
Then in knock-out qualifying, he was 19th in the first round with a lap at 119.290 mph, ninth in the second round with a a speed of 120.064 mph and second in the run for the pole with a lap at 120.854 mph.
 
“It was a good effort,” Blaney said in his post-qualifying media session. “I didn’t think we were very good in Round One… We got better for Round Two and obviously better for Round Three.”
 
Blaney said the gains in speed and positions as the qualifying session progressed are a sign of improvement for him, Bullins and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew in their second full year together.
 
“That is something our team has done really well this year, improving from round to round,” he said. “That is an area where we struggled last year. We would always kind of go backwards from round to round last year, and this year it is kind of opposite which is a lot better.
 
“That is just communicating what we need on the car and talking about where the track goes. That has been a positive this year and something we worked on in the off-season.”
 
It’s also a sign of a significant turn-around at Richmond, which confounded Blaney and his team last year.
 
“I thought this was our worst race track last year,” he said. “Both races went really bad for us, and I know it is early in the weekend but I feel we have turned it around a lot from what it was here last year.
 
“That is a positive to look at.”
 
It’s also kind of like the icing on the cake, he said.
 
“It is fun regardless to be with the Wood Brothers, but when you are fast it makes it a little extra,” he said. “I think we are right on pace to where we need to be and getting better every single week.
 
“It is all about keeping on going so that you never really settle. I don’t think we are that way, and I think that is what makes this team really good.”

WBR PR

Despite the first two rounds of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying being dominated by Joey Logano, it was Matt Kenseth who grabbed the pole position for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 from Richmond International Raceway.

“I didn’t feel like I had the perfect lap but I had some great speed,” Kenseth said after qualifying. “The guys didn’t a great job adjusting in between rounds. We had enough speed that we only had to do one lap in each of the first two rounds. We improved a little bit on our second lap (in the final session).”

This was the first pole for Kenseth in the 2017 season, his 19th career pole.

Throughout the qualifying session, drivers were awaiting a cloud to create some shade on the racetrack. However, the shade never came.

Logano was scored as the fastest driver in the first round after posting the same speed as Kevin Harvick at 120.870 mph. Logano gained the top position due to his position in the points standing. Clint Bowyer was third, Jimmie Johnson was fourth, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Notable drivers who did not advance to the second round include Aric Almirola, Paul Menard, Trevor Bayne, and Austin Dillon. Dillon made one lap at about 82 mph because no matter where he qualified, he would have to start in the rear after failing laser inspection five times.

Logano was fastest in the second round at 121.268 mph, while Harvick posted the second fastest speed in the round at 120.979 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was third fastest, Jamie McMurray was fourth fastest, and Martin Truex Jr. rounded out the top-five in the second round. Bowyer was able to advance to the final round by being higher in points than Ryan Newman as both drivers posted a lap speed at 119.667 mph.

Kenseth played his game in the final round of qualifying to post a speed of 121.076 mph to top Ryan Blaney, who will start second. Truex Jr. will start third, Stenhouse Jr. will start fourth, and Logano will start from the fifth position.

Drivers will have two practice sessions on Saturday before Sunday’s running of the Toyota Owners 400. The race will be broadcasted on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 2:00 pm EST.

With the first practice of the weekend in the books the duo of Toyota’s led by Furniture Row Racing drivers Martin Truex and Eric Jones led the way with times of 21.743 at 124.178 for Truex following right behind him with 21.945 at 123.035.

Stuart, Virginia’s Wood Brothers Racing driven by Ryan Blaney finish up third posting a time of 21.992 over Bayne 22.116 and Richmond area native Denny Hamlin rounding out the top-five with a time of 22.181.

Qualifying for Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 is set to kick off from Richmond International Raceway at 4:45 pm (EST) on FS1 along with radio coverage from MRN.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series wraps up the unofficial “Short Track Swing” this weekend at Richmond International Raceway for the 63rd annual Toyota Owners 400. The race will be broken up into stage lengths of 100, 100, and 200 laps.

38 drivers made the trip up to Richmond for the race. No driver will be sent home. The field is considered full according to NASCAR.

There have been 54 different pole winners at Richmond, while there have only been 50 different winners. There have been 24 drivers who have won a race from the pole position with Denny Hamlin doing so in 2016. Dale Jarrett set the race record in 1997 at 109.047 mph. In 2013, Jeff Gordon set the qualifying record at 130.599 mph.

Drivers are excited to once again race in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Richmond has been a very successful racetrack for us as we’ve gone through the years. We finished both races in the top-five last year at Richmond so I think, as we go back this year, we’re going to shoot to be a little better than we were last year. We’ll try some different things. It’s been a very good racetrack for me in the past and I’m looking forward to going back. I like the short, flat tracks,” said Kevin Harvick.

“I love Richmond. It’s one of my favorite racetracks and one of my best racetracks. I love being able to go there and, of course, we put on some pretty good races there. We won four spring races in a row and I would have loved to have made it five or more. It’s a neat racetrack and it’s certainly an excitement track and there is a lot of action that happens there,” said Kyle Busch.

"Richmond usually turns into a forward drive racetrack. You have to be able to turn in the center like every other short track but getting the power down coming off the corners is a real premium especially later in a run,” said Ryan Newman.

Drivers will qualify at 4:30 p.m. EST on Friday. Qualifying will be broadcasted on Motor Racing Network and Fox Sports 1. The Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday will be broadcasted by Motor Racing Network and FOX.

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Infraction Date Track Team Level Infraction Penalty
4/24/2017 (post-race inspection) Bristol No. 78 Safety Sections 10.9.10.4: Tires and Wheels
Note: Lug nut(s) not properly installed.
Crew chief (Cole Pearn) has been fined $10,000.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Infraction Date Track Team Level Infraction Penalty
4/22/2017 (post-race inspection) Bristol No. 22 L1 Sections 20.17.3.2.1.2 Post-Race Front Body
Inspection Heights
Note: Race finish is encumbered per Section
12.10 Encumbered Race Finishes. Post-race height measurements were outside NASCAR allowed tolerances.
Crew chief (Greg Erwin) has been fined $10,000 and suspended from the next NASCAR XFINITY Series points race. Team assessed with the loss of 10 NASCAR XFINITY Series car owner points.

Operations Director Sammy Johns will replace Slugger Labbe as the crew chief on the RCR No. 3 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Chevrolet this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Labbe will remain at the RCR shop to work on cars for next weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway.

RCR PR

On Thursday, Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, his wife Amy and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick came to Nationwide Children's Hospital to participate in a special dedication ceremony in the hospital's rehabilitation unit.

The trio helped Nationwide Children's and Nationwide officials unveil the newly-named "Dale and Amy Earnhardt Activity Room." In January, Nationwide Children's and Nationwide announced they would re-name the room as a unique gift in recognition of the couple's recent marriage.

After the dedication ceremony, the Earnhardts spent time with some of the patients, who are working to regain or improve their functional abilities.

"Having this room named after Amy and me means we will forever be personally connected to the hospital," said Earnhardt. "It's a room of joy and happiness, and Amy and I are so thankful to the hospital and Nationwide for giving us this amazing gift."

This visit was the first to the hospital for Hendrick. The hospital presented the NASCAR Hall of Fame car owner with a gift as well: a hospital wagon dedicated to Hendrick Motorsports with the inscription "A new set of wheels for a winning team!" The wagons are used by patients and families to help transport their belongings from room to room during a hospital visit or stay.

"I'm blown away. Until you walk in to the NCH you don't realize how broad and deep it is," said Rick Hendrick. "It's amazing to see the work these talented people are doing. I think Ohio and the whole country are blessed to have a hospital like this."

The visit is the latest opportunity to showcase how Nationwide, Earnhardt and Hendrick have partnered to show support for Nationwide Children's. This past January at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., Hendrick Motorsports, Earnhardt and Chevrolet auctioned a pair of cars: a No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS that raced in 2014 and 2015, and a 1970 Chevelle co-designed by Dale Jr and Chevrolet. The sale of the two vehicles raised $400,000, with all proceeds benefiting the hospital.

"The research and clinical care at Nationwide Children's improves the lives of children and their families everywhere, and we treat patients from all 50 states and nearly 50 countries," said Jim Digan, president of Nationwide Children's Hospital Foundation. "Dale Earnhardt Jr. and The Dale Jr. Foundation, Mr. Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports, and Nationwide are collectively helping us raise funds and— just as important—awareness for the hospital. We are so grateful for their thoughtfulness and generosity with their time."

For the second straight year, Nationwide, the primary sponsor of the No. 88 team and a long-time benefactor of the hospital, will dedicate one of the company's paint schemes to Nationwide Children's. The hospital's logo and signature butterflies will be on Earnhardt's No. 88 Nationwide Children's Hospital Chevy SS during the July 8 race weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

"Nationwide is thrilled to have Dale Jr., Amy and Rick Hendrick here to celebrate the room dedication and the patients who will benefit from it. It means a lot to those facing challenges to know that there are people who care and support their recovery," said Terrance Williams, chief marketing officer for Nationwide. "We all wish Dale Jr. the very best as he enters retirement and are thankful that he and the No. 88 team are so willing to help shine a national spotlight on the hospital and the life-changing work they do."

Nationwide PR

Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) are looking forward to returning to Richmond International Raceway (RIR) for the first time since securing one of their best finishes last year during the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Season (MENCS).

LFR and McDowell are especially looking forward to bouncing back at RIR after struggling through a rain-plagued weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway during the Food City 500. After qualifying for the 500-lap race was rained out, McDowell started the race 28th, as per NASCAR’s rulebook.

Throughout the majority of the Food City 500, McDowell dealt with tire issues as well as throttle linkage issues in his No. 95 WRL Chevrolet SS. He fell back multiple laps and was not able to gain them back, eventually finishing 26th at the Last Great Colosseum.

McDowell and LFR are eager to head to RIR, where they recorded a 12th place finish in the fall of 2016.

“The fall race for us in Richmond last year was great,” said McDowell. “We finished 12th, and it was a really good run for us there. It may not have been our best finish, but it was one of our best races as a team. We definitely want to come back and build on that. You just never know. There have been a lot of rule changes and package changes. It’s another short track that has been good to us in the past.

Richmond also does a great job with fan interaction. There’s a ton of fun things that happen around the racetrack during the weekend. It’s one of the tracks that I’ve worked most closely with, so I have a great relationship with the fans and everyone there.”

LFR PR

The Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team spent the days since Monday’s rain-delayed Food City 500 inspecting the power steering system that plagued it at Bristol Motor Speedway to ensure it won’t be a factor this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

As the Wood Brothers Racing crew unloads its iconic No. 21 Ford Fusion for the Toyota Owners 400, driver Ryan Blaney is confident he and his team will bounce back from their Bristol misfortunes and improve on their 2016 28th- and 39th-place Richmond finishes.

Blaney will have the benefit of also running in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He finished second in all three XFINITY series races he’s run in 2017 including last week at Bristol.

Despite a lack of stage points and the 33rd-place finish last week, Blaney is still in the top 10 – 10th to be precise – in the driver points standings.

Should Blaney reach victory lane at Richmond, it will be the third time for a Wood Brothers car since they started racing at the track in 1959. Speedy Thompson won for the Woods there in 1960 and Kyle Petty took the checkered flag in 1986.

Ford Performance PR