Monster Energy Cup Series News (14755)
Racetracks across the Monster Energy NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit have embarked on ambitious capital improvement projects in recent years to make the country’s most popular form of motorsports even more entertaining for fans and competitors.
Tracks committed tens of millions of dollars toward more comfortable stands, track reconfigurations, new fan zones, better cellular and Wi-Fi signals and improved traffic to make for the ultimate experience. So it’s funny when No. 14 Haas Automation Ford driver Clint Bowyer said drivers and the 70,000 fans attending Sunday’s 500-mile race at Atlanta Motor Speedway will be the biggest winners from an action the track’s management decided not to do in 2018 – repaving the 21-year-old racing surface.
“I thought it was a great idea to patch the up girl and hold on as long as possible because a lot of us aren’t fans of repaves,” said Bowyer who speaks for a majority of the drivers when it comes to a vote on whether to repave the 1.54-mile track in Hampton, Georgia. “Ever since I have been in the sport it seems like Atlanta is the most worn-out track but always produced some of the best racing.”
New track surfaces usually create much better grip and faster speeds that often result in a one-groove race track where passing is difficult resulting in single file racing – something Bowyer says neither drivers or fans enjoy for 500 miles. He says the Atlanta track where the Cup Series will battle on Sunday is just the opposite. It’s slick surface is hard to navigate, but offers several grooves and plenty of passing opportunities.
Bowyer said it doesn’t take long to remember he is racing at Atlanta.
“Atlanta is just one of those places where you get on the track and after the first lap you are like ‘oh my something is drastically wrong’ and you almost want to pit. Then you look up and you are like third on the board and it felt like 53rd. It’s crazy how wore out the track is, but that is what makes for good racing and it puts on such a great show for a long time.”
Bowyer and Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) No. 14 team led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz hope to improve upon their 15th-place finish the team posted at last weekend’s Daytona 500 where Bowyer suffered engine issues midway through the race. Bowyer showed his No. 14 Ford was one of the fastest on the track and after avoiding two multicar accidents appeared ready to race for the lead in the final stages.
“That’s last week and we are on to Atlanta now,” said Bowyer. “It’s a very long season but we’re confident. We had a good Speed Weeks in Daytona and I think that will continue this weekend in Atlanta and on the West Coast swing in the coming weeks.”
Bowyer is still looking for his first top-five at Atlanta, but that isn’t indicative of his performance history at the track. He led 52 laps at Atlanta during the March 2008 race before finishing sixth. The most heartbreaking moment there came in September 2013, when he led 48 of the first 192 laps before engine failure. In total, Bowyer has led 115 laps at Atlanta but only has four sixth-place finishes to show for the effort. Last year he started 25th at Atlanta but quickly showed he had one of the fastest cars on the track by driving to third with just 85 laps remaining. Fender damage led to a cut tire and a brush with the wall with 50 laps remaining. Bowyer dropped to 15th but climbed to 11th by the time the checkered flag fell.
With the combination of SHR, Ford and a strong No. 14 team, Bowyer is a good bet to better that finish Sunday.
“We showed speed last year. If we are that fast again then I think we’ll have something for them.”
The good news for Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team is that they are going from their worst to their best type of racetrack in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Truex, who finished 18th after being involved in a late-race multicar wreck in Sunday’s Daytona 500, has admitted that superspeedway racing such as Daytona has not been one of his strong suits.
But the next type of track Truex will be competing on -- the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway – is one of the main reasons he is the reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion.
Seven of his eight wins last season came at a 1.5-mile track, including the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway where he captured his first Cup championship.
Truex’s average finish last year in 11 races at 1.5-mile tracks was 2.4. In the last six 1.5-mile races of the season, he had five victories and one runner-up. The four 1.5-mile races he didn’t win last year were Atlanta (finished 8th), the first Charlotte race (finished 3rd) and the two Texas races (finished 8th and 2nd).
“After how we ran in Daytona, we are definitely looking forward to going to a downforce track,” said Truex. “While Daytona is the biggest and most prestigious race to win, the season actually starts – at least in our case – at a downforce track. Atlanta should give us a good indication how we fare against the competition.”
Truex has a theory why his team was so successful on the 1.5-mile tracks in 2017.
“We not only had one of the fastest cars all the time, we executed well, qualified well and got those stage points early,” explained Truex. “I just feel like across the board, from our whole team's perspective, we executed really well. We didn't make many mistakes. We didn't give anybody an opportunity to pounce. There were times where guys were as fast as us and there were times when guys were faster, but they weren't more consistent.”
Truex, who calls Atlanta one of his five favorite tracks, has been a contender the past three years in the Folds of Honor/QuikTrip 500 with top-10 finishes of sixth, seventh and eighth.
“I just can’t wait to drive our No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota at Atlanta,” said Truex. “I am hoping we will be as strong as we were last year on the mile-and-a-half tracks.”
Truex’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, is also looking forward to Atlanta.
“Obviously Atlanta is the first real test to know where you’re at and where you stack up with everybody so it’s a pretty important race,” said Pearn. “It’s a cool track, and at the same time, really different. It has super low grip with old worn out pavement.”
Pearn added, “We’ve been close at Atlanta. We had a clutch go last year while running third. The year before we were running first or second most of the day but had a bad late restart. Overall, Atlanta has been a good track for us. But you don’t know early in the year how everything is going to go. So it’s very hard to predict.”
David Ragan’s 400th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series couldn’t come at a better place. The Unadilla, Ga., native will celebrate the career milestone on Feb. 25 at his home track of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Some special friends are joining in the celebration, including the Georgia General Assembly. Ragan and track president Ed Clark will attend a ceremony on Thursday morning at the Capitol in Atlanta, where the legislature will issue a proclamation honoring Ragan’s achievement.
Some long-time fans will also be in Atlanta to mark the milestone. Ragan recently reread some fan mail he’d saved from 2006, his rookie year. He decided to contact some of those fans and invite them to the Atlanta race to help him celebrate his 12-year career. The result of his efforts: Two fans from the Atlanta area and two fans from Missouri will be Ragan’s VIP guests at Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, where Ragan will drive the No. 38 Fr8Auctions Ford. The 32-year-old driver is picking up the fans’ travel tabs.
“Atlanta Motor Speedway is special to me because I grew up at that track,” Ragan said. “I raced my Legends car there as a kid in the 90s and early 2000s. My dad still works there and has an office there. It’s just always has been a second home to me.
“So, we couldn’t have scripted it better to have my 400th start be in Atlanta,” Ragan continued. “Ed Clark is taking us down to the Capitol for a special ceremony on Thursday, and we’ll have all kinds of family, friends and fans at the track all weekend. Pulling out those old fan letters and contacting those people to invite them to come was cool. They were pretty surprised but jumped at the opportunity.”
Local partner Fr8Auctions will also get into the celebration, marking Ragan’s milestone with a commemorative logo on the decklid of the No. 38 Ford. The Atlanta-based auction house that sells excess freight inventory is partnering with Front Row Motorsports for a fourth straight year.
“Atlanta Motor Speedway is our home track, too, so naturally we wanted to help mark David’s 400th career start,” said Fr8Auctions founder Marcus Barela. “We’ve been lucky to work with David for a few years now and couldn’t ask for a better driver to represent us on track and off.”
The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 airs Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on FOX.
NASCAR Racing Experience To Become Primary Sponsor On Darrell "Bubba" Wallace No. 43 For The Folds of Honor Quiktrip at Atlanta Motor Speedway19 Feb 2018 Written by Steven B. Wilson
Motorsports’ leading fan driving experience partners – Driving 101, which operates NASCAR Racing Experience, Richard Petty Driving Experience and Mario Andretti Racing Experience – announced today they will become the primary sponsor for the No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driven by Darrell “Bubba” Wallace, Jr., for Richard Petty Motorsports at the Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
For the first time, the NASCAR Racing Experience badge and racing graphics will be featured on the hood and body of a race car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, bringing to life the experience the NASCAR Racing Experience offers thousands of fans at tracks around the country.
“We’re proud to see the NASCAR Racing Experience featured on the car of Bubba Wallace as he makes his debut in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in Atlanta,” said Robert Lutz, CEO of Driving 101. “It’s an honor to race with NASCAR legend Richard Petty’s team. He’s been an incredible partner in our driving experience, and we look forward to seeing the No. 43 NASCAR Racing Experience Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Bubba Wallace on the track and hopefully in Victory Lane.”
“It’s great to see partners coming on board to support us,” said Wallace. “I’m all about getting fans involved in racing, and nobody does that better than the NASCAR Racing Experience. They allow fans to race the cars we drive. It’s the best way to get on the same track and in the same cars we race. That’s really cool and I’m pumped they are on our car this weekend.”
Driving 101 and its three trusted racing brands now runs at 18 nationwide speedways for NASCAR Racing Experience as well as 15 nationwide speedways for Mario Andretti Racing Experience
NASCAR Racing Experience PR
Kasey Kahne and Leavine Family Racing’s (LFR) stellar run at Daytona International Speedway ended early after a second-stage wreck provided no way out for Kahne and the No. 95 Procore Camaro ZL1.
Kahne started the “Great American Race” from the 26th position and quickly worked his way into the Top-15. The first caution fell on lap nine, allowing Kahne to pit for fuel only. Kahne made it as far as fifth place before getting bumped loose and was forced to dive down pit road. Kahne dropped back to 37th and was no longer in the draft.
Crew Chief, Travis Mack, told the team they would be half a lap short on fuel and that Kahne would need to race for the Lucky Dog position, should he get lapped. Fortunately, a caution came out before Kahne was lapped, and he was able to pit for fuel and tires. Kahne restarted 26th with five laps remaining in the first stage.
While driving up to 13th, Kahne avoided a wreck, as the field crossed the green / checkered flag for the end of the stage. Kahne finished 11th, barely missing out on obtaining LFR’s first stage points of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season.
Kahne began the second stage in 11th, making it back up to as high as sixth place. Another caution on lap 93 allowed Kahne to pit once again for fuel only. He would restart 8th with 23 laps remaining in the second stage.
On lap 101 the front of the pack began to wreck, providing no way out for Kahne. He was unable to avoid the wreckage, ending LFR’s day early.
“I couldn’t see what happened,” said Kahne. “I was just on the outside entering the corner and then Chase (Elliott) came across and hit the wall. By the sounds of it in the infield care center, him and Brad (Keselowski) got together, but I didn’t see any of it. I’m disappointed. Our Procore Camaro ZL1 was good. We kept getting back towards the front and then falling, but we were fighting. We had a great car all of Speedweeks, and we are going to get ready for Atlanta.”
Next up LFR and Kahne is Atlanta Motor Speedway, LFR’s first shot at a 1.5-mile track since their pre-season test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Paul Menard had a bird’s-eye view of most of the big wrecks in the 60th annual Daytona 500, but he steered through them all and came away with a sixth-place finish in his 400th career Cup start.
His finishing points, coupled with his Stage points earned, put him in third place in the championship standings, six markers behind leader Ryan Blaney and tied for second place with Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon.
Menard, in his first official drive in the No. 21 Omnicraft Ford, started 16th in the Great American Race but soon raced his way into the top 10, steering clear of the race’s first big wreck and finishing the first 60-lap Stage in ninth place, earning two bonus points.
He spent most of Stage Two in second place, but after a pit stop just before the race’s halfway point he restarted eighth, which put him just behind another multi-car crash, which he also avoided.
On the ensuing restart, he went from fourth place to second at the end of Stage Two, earning nine more points.
Due to a lack of drafting help at times, Menard dropped back to midpack, but soon worked his way back into the lead group.
On a restart with seven of the scheduled 200 laps remaining, Menard lined up 14th and was working his way forward only to see the leaders wreck in front of him again.
When the smoke cleared, he was in fifth place for the start of an overtime run to the checkered flag. After yet another wreck ahead of him, Menard crossed the finish line in sixth place.
“We had a really fast Omnicraft Ford,” Menard said. “These guys are awesome. Great race car. I ran upfront the first-half of the race. I got shuffled out. Denny (Hamlin) bumped me in Turn Three, and I got loose and lost all my track position. I just kept fighting from there to get my track position back.
“Great run for us. We had shot to win the Daytona 500 at the end of the race. We just came up short. The Omnicraft Ford Fusion was a rocket ship. It was really fun. I’m so proud of this team. The car was fast all day. We survived and were able to bring it back home in one piece.”
And in the bigger picture, Menard was able to score 15 Stage points, including four for a seventh-place finish in his Can-Am Duel.
“It was huge,” he said. “To score points in all three stages is awesome. That’s good for the overall picture. I had a shot at a Stage win. It was a good points day for sure.”
Menard and his Wood Brothers team return to the track next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Trevor Bayne drove his No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Fusion to a 13th-place finish in the Daytona 500. Bayne was a contender in the top 10 a majority of the race until an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel put him a lap down to the field.
“That was a hard-fought race and kind of heartbreaking,” said Bayne. “We had a few times we had to recover and were able to do that. We’ve got to clean stuff up and not have mistakes. The guys on the team did a great job and I am happy with how we performed today. A lot of times you leave thinking you should have done 20 things differently, but today I felt like I did all I could do. That is a great feeling. We made a day out of it. I look forward to getting to Talladega and then back here to Daytona in the summer when handling is a big deal. We will go to work for Atlanta.”
Bayne started the Daytona 500 from the 18th position and drafted his way up to 11th by the time the first caution was display just nine laps into the 200-lap race. Bayne pitted for fuel only, but received a penalty for a crew member over the wall too soon. NASCAR issued a tail end of the longest line penalty and Bayne took the ensuing restart from the back of the pack.
Bayne made steady gains throughout the course of the race and by the midway point was up in the top five. The field took the green for the final Stage on lap 126 with Bayne in the fifth position. Just a few laps later Bayne reported back to his crew he felt a vibration. The vibration resulted in an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel. The green flag pit stop put Bayne one lap down to the field.
While in the “lucky dog” position a caution never fell the way the No. 6 AdvoCare team needed, but with some help from his spotter, Bayne was able to avoid multiple incidents on track and emerge unscathed. Despite being trapped one lap down, Bayne was able earn a 13th-place finish to kick off the 2018 season.
After leading 11 laps and finishing fourth in stage one, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. battled back to 16th despite an unscheduled pit-stop before being collected in a multi-car accident resulting in a 29th- place finish in Sunday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s a bummer,” Stenhouse said. “I made a huge save there on the back straightaway and I felt like we were doing everything we needed to do. We missed some of the big wrecks and it was just unfortunate there at the end.
“It didn’t really matter because we were a lap down already, so we weren’t really going to make up any more positions, but, all in all, it was a fun Speedweeks. I felt like our cars were really good and I’m looking forward to getting to Atlanta.”
The Olive Branch, Miss. native took the green flag in the ninth position and quickly maneuvered his Fastenal Ford up into the third position within five laps where he remained until the first caution flag waved on lap eight. After a pit strategy call for fuel only, Stenhouse restarted on the outside of the front row.
After falling back a few positions due to typical superspeedway racing, the Fastenal Ford bullied its way to lead the pack by lap 33 where Stenhouse stayed on point for the next 11 laps. When the caution flag waved with 10 laps remaining in stage one, crew chief Brian Pattie told Stenhouse to stay out in hopes to gain valuable stage points. When the green checkered waved, the Roush Fenway Racing driver was scored in the fourth position and picked up seven valuable stage points.
Just before half way, a multi-car incident broke out at the front of the field but Stenhouse was able to maneuver his Ford through the melee suffering some nose damage as he was trying to avoid the wreck. Once the race went back green, the Fastenal Ford was overheating in the pack forcing Stenhouse to hit pit-road for an unscheduled pit-stop and causing him to lose a lap to the leaders.
With two laps remaining in the 200-lap race, another multi-car accident occured collecting Stenhouse and forcing him to settle with a 29th-place finish.
Stenhouse and the No. 17 team travel to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend for the Folds of Honor Quik Trip 500. The race will be Sunday, February 25 with coverage beginning at 2:00 p.m. (EST) on FOX.
Race Winner: Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing (Chevrolet) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner: Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Ryan Blaney of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):
● Started 11th, finished first to earn 10 bonus points and one playoff point.
● Busch pitted on lap 10 under caution for fuel only. He entered the pits in fourth place and came out first.
● The No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion led laps 12-14 and laps 52-62.
● The team came to pit road for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment at the conclusion of Stage 1, one lap after Busch had overshot his pit box.
Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):
● Started 17th, finished 12th.
● Busch pitted under caution on lap 94 for right-side tires and fuel as he ran in 10th. The crew discovered a small cut in the right-front tire.
● The team came to pit road for four tires and fuel at the conclusion of Stage 2.
Final Stage Recap (Laps 121-200):
● Started 16th, finished 26th.
● Busch pitted on lap 172 for right-side tires and fuel. He was in ninth place.
● Busch was in third for much of the last part of the race and moved to the front to lead laps 195 and 196.
● He was running in the top-three on lap 199 but was involved in a multicar accident in turn two.
● Busch led three times for 16 laps to bring his laps-led total at Daytona to 307.
● Busch finished first in Stage 1 to earn 10 bonus points and one playoff point. He finished 12th in Stage 2.
● There were eight caution periods for a total of 37 laps.
● Ten of the 40 drivers in the Daytona 500 finished on the lead lap.
● Austin Dillon won the Daytona 500 to score his second career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory and his first at Daytona. His margin of victory over second-place Darrell (Bubba) Wallace Jr. was .26 of a second.
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:
“I was feeling the magic. I thought we could do it again back-to-back and win the Daytona 500. We found the right drafting lanes, and I was making good moves. I just got caught in a Bermuda Triangle it seemed like when Hamlin blocked us. I hit him pretty hard, and that killed a lot of my momentum. Maybe I should have just flung the 11, but you have to treat guys with respect and you’ve also got to throw your elbows out and you have to hold the hits when you get hit. We were close to going back-to-back in the Daytona 500, but I don’t have anything to show for it. I have to thank (Aric) Almirola for the help he gave me on the bottom lane.”
The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Folds of Honor 500 on Sunday, Feb. 25 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 2 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX TV, PRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio channel 90.