Monster Energy Cup Series News (13211)
While Danica Patrick is more closely associated with her performance at tracks like the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the driver of the No. 10 TaxAct Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has far more experience at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, the site of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. However, all of her experience has been marginalized by recent changes at the 1.5-mile oval.
Of all the tracks where the NASCAR Cup Series competes, Patrick has the most starts at Texas, having driven in 21 major-league races – nine in the Cup Series, four in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and eight in the IndyCar Series.
Patrick’s career-best NASCAR Cup Series result at Texas is 16th, a mark she earned at both events there in 2015. In her four Xfinity Series races at Texas, Patrick has three top-15 finishes, including an eighth-place result in April 2012. In Patrick’s eight IndyCar Series starts at the track, she has five top-10s, including a third-place result in June 2007 and a second-place finish in June 2010.
While Patrick enters Sunday’s race with considerable experience at Texas Motor Speedway, it all goes for naught as the Cup Series returns to the track this weekend. In January, track officials announced an extensive capital improvement project that included a complete repave of the 1.5-mile track surface and pit lane, along with a reconfiguration of the banking in turns one and two from 24 to 20 degrees. The project also added additional racing surface in turns one and two with the width expanding from 60 to 80 feet in that section of the track. The effort marked the second full repave since Texas Motor Speedway made its NASCAR debut in 1997, and the first since the summer of 2001.
The resurfacing project was just completed last month, so NASCAR Cup Series teams will first run laps on the new layout when drivers head out for Friday morning’s practice session at Texas. Patrick and the No. 10 TaxAct Ford team will look to capitalize on the extended practice session NASCAR has given teams Friday to get acquainted with the new track configuration and learn as much as they can for Sunday’s race.
As this is the final race weekend before the filing deadline to submit 2016 tax returns on April 18, TaxAct is offering its “Premium Finish” promotion this weekend at Texas. If Patrick or any member of the SHR team secures a top-10 finish in Sunday’s race at Texas, NASCAR fans can file their 2016 federal and state tax returns using the TaxAct Online Premium Bundle for only $10 – it’s currently priced at $85. This gives filers access to the federal and state forms needed to complete their TaxAct Online return no matter how complex their tax situation, all in, for $10, with offer and pricing subject to change.
If an SHR driver does not finish in the top-10, NASCAR fans can take advantage of a $10 discount off of their federal return when they use TaxAct Online Plus or Premium Editions. Filers can lock in their “Premium Finish” price online by visiting TaxAct.com/Ten and the applicable discounted pricing offer is available through April 15. With TaxAct’s Price Lock Guarantee, filers are guaranteed to pay the price offered for its online products at the time they register, no matter when they choose to file.
As NASCAR Cup Series teams head to Texas, Patrick and her No. 10 TaxAct Ford team look to conquer the new track surface and get a “Premium Finish” in Sunday’s race.
Both JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet drivers brought home top-11 finishes on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Chris Buescher, making his sixth career start for the team this season, brought home his best finish since joining the team this last offseason to pilot a second entry. AJ Allmendinger, who started the STP 500 in 30th, finished sixth on Sunday.
Buescher, like his teammate, had work to do once the green flag dropped. The No. 37 BUSH’s Beans Chevrolet started the afternoon in 33rd and sat 11th when the checkered flag waved.
When stage one ended, Buescher sat 23rd on the race leaderboard. Prior to its conclusion, with eight laps remaining until its end, they used strategy that would help them get to the front of the field later. When the rest of the field pitted at the end of stage one, it allowed Buescher and the team to stay out and earn valuable track position.
Stage two of the STP 500 went clean and green all the way through. Buescher sat 18th on the chart when this stage ended.
Stage three, that saw a total of nine cautions, Buescher stayed clean and raced his way up the race leaderboard. He would then take his No. 37 Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish – marking his best with JTG Daugherty this year.
He goes into his home track at Texas on Sunday sitting 27th in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points. Before the STP 500 on Sunday, Buescher sat 32nd in points.
Buescher’s teammate AJ Allmendinger overcame some struggles throughout the day as well. Allmendinger’s journey started in the 30th starting position and never looked back from there.
When stage one concluded at lap 130, Allmendinger sat 18th on the race leaderboard. When the second stage of the race ended at lap 260, the California native sat 13th on the board – just shy of scoring extra driver points.
The third and final stage of the STP 500 is where things got challenging. On lap 290, 30 laps into the final stage, Allmendinger tangled with Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones on the frontstretch. But that’s not all. On lap 419, with 81 laps remaining, Allmendinger tangled with Kahne, Danica Patrick, Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon, Aric Almirola and Dale Earnhardt Jr in turn three. Despite this, Allmendinger continued with his day.
From there on, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veteran finished out the day in the sixth position.
“At first I was like 'No' (on having a car capable of winning) and then the middle of the race I was like, 'Heck yeah,' and then the last third of the race 'No, not really' and right at the end I was like ‘Oh heck yeah’ again,” Allmendinger said after the race. “This is the best we’ve ever been here on a long run. I kept hating to see all those yellows (cautions). I knew we needed about 100-120 green flag laps there because the car was so fast on long runs. I wish we would have had it there at the end. Randall Burnett (crew chief) probably one of the best races he has called when it comes to adjustments. Just to work together like that, we both have to work on each other. We are both animated and we kind of feed off each other. When we have a weekend like this where we learn and are able to stay calm and keep building our race cars, the way we are, we will be okay.”
Allmendinger goes into this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway sitting 26th in points. Before Martinsville on Sunday, you’d have to go all the way down to the 30th spot to find Allmendinger in the points standings.
There will be a familiar face atop the pit box for the No. 83 Toyota Camry. Randy Cox will be the crew chief for Corey LaJoie for the remainder of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. Previously, Cox was crew chief for the BK Racing No. 26 Toyota in 2014.
“I’m very happy to be back with BK Racing for 2017,” said Cox. “I’ve known Corey and the LaJoie family for a long time. He’s a hardworking and hard-racing guy, and I’m eager to see what we can build together.”
“Randy has been around the garage his entire life, and he’s a racer like me so we speak the same language,” said Corey LaJoie. “I’m glad that BK Racing is giving him the reins to this No. 83 team.”
“I have worked with Randy before, and I believe his abilities to make race strategy calls will be important and successful with the new stage format,” said Ron Devine, Owner of BK Racing. “We are excited to reconnect Randy, BK Racing, and the No. 83 team. Randy and Corey will join forces to provide BK Racing with increased on-track performance.”
Cox has been a crew chief in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series since 2007, and has been a crew chief in the Xfinity Series since 2004. In the Xfinity Series, he went to victory lane his very first race as a crew chief with driver Jamie McMurry in 2004 with Braun Motorsports.
BK Racing PR
Driver Ryan Blaney, crew chief Jeremy Bullins and the rest of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team are confident they can bounce back from their 25th-place finish last week at Martinsville Speedway with a strong performance this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
Taking the positives from the STP 500 – a top-10 car until a wreck in the race’s final stage put the team two laps behind the leader – the Wood Brothers’ crew goes to the Lone Star State facing the same unknowns as every other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series team, a re-paved Texas Motor Speedway racing surface.
On Texas Motor Speedway:
“I've always enjoyed the track at Texas. It’s a great facility and always a lot of fun. The re-pave changes everything, from car setup to the racing in general. It will be interesting to see how the track is.”
“Martinsville was actually really good until halfway, I thought that was the best we have ever run there. Unfortunately, we got torn up back in the pack but you take the positives from that race and move on.”
Ford Performance PR
Martin Truex Jr. will seek his fifth straight top-10 performance at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Though Truex has averaged a 6.5 finish in the past four NASCAR Cup Series races in Fort Worth, Texas, he feels his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team has missed out on a victory or two at the 1.5-mile super-fast oval.
Turn back the clock one year, it was Truex and his Toyota Camry that dominated the Texas race last April. He led a race-high 141 laps and at times enjoyed a staggering eight-second lead on the competition. But a late-race gamble to not pit for fresh tires didn’t work out. He lost the lead with 33 laps remaining and ended the 334 lapper with a sixth-place finish.
In the fall race at Texas, Truex once again contended for the win. He led 66 laps and came home with a third-place result.
Truex, who enters the Texas race third in driver points, feels his No. 78 Bass Pros Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota will be strong even on the repaved surface.
“The repaving of the track will throw some new wrinkles into the setup of the car, but it will be the same for everyone and we feel that our intermediate (track) program is as strong as any team out there,” said Truex. “We should have won at Texas in last year’s spring race, and we also had a contending car in the fall race.
“A lot of things can happen in a 334-lap race and you just have to race smart, take care of your equipment and have a little luck. I feel confident that our Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota will have the power to run up front and stay there.”
Truex’s last four finishes at Texas were ninth and eighth in 2015 and sixth and third in 2016.
“The last four races at Texas have been pretty good,” noted Truex. “I like the track and feel comfortable running there. The repave could go either way for us, but I also feel comfortable with Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and his engineers to figure out whatever issues we may encounter.”
After six races of the current season Truex has one win, two top fives and three top 10s. He also leads with four stage wins and has collected nine playoff bonus points.
“The three intermediate tracks are where we’ve shined at so far this season,” said Truex. “Atlanta (8th), Las Vegas (1st) and California (4th) were all good for us and I don’t see any reason why it won’t continue this weekend in Texas.”
Truex’s career record at Texas includes: 23 starts, three top fives, 12 top 10s, two poles and 439 laps led. His average start is 15.5 and average finish is 13.8.
Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team face a new challenge this weekend as they prepare to race on a repaved and reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway.
When NASCAR teams arrive at Texas this week they’ll see for the first time a Texas track with less banking in Turns One and Two. The banking in those turns has been decreased from 24 degrees to 20, while Turns Three and Four remain at 24 degrees. There also will be an extra 20 feet of racing surface in Turns One and Two, pushing the total to 80 feet.
The track also installed a new drainage system, which is intended to speed up track drying in the event of rain.
Jeremy Bullins, crew chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion, is optimistic that he and Blaney can adapt quickly to a layout they’ve never seen before.
“I’m really excited to get to Texas,” Bullins said. “If you look at our best tracks, the fast intermediates that have most recently repaved are often great tracks for us.
“This week will be a challenge with the reconfigured banking and not having tested there.
However, one thing that makes me feel confident is how well we ran at Kentucky last year, with a similar aero package and also a track that was reconfigured to have different banking in the turns. I feel like we can learn a lot from what we did there as we had a lot of speed.”
At Kentucky last year, Blaney started 15th when rain washed out qualifying but raced his way into the top five before being collected in a crash.
Bullins also said his team’s performance so far this year gives him more reasons to be optimistic heading into Texas. Blaney and the Wood Brothers are seventh in the Cup standings after the first six races with three top-10 finishes and an average finish of 14th.
“So far, 2017 has been a good season for the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Fusion,” Bullins said.
“Some of the results may not show it, but we’ve been fast every week.”
He said that while the final result from the most recent race at Martinsville was disappointing, there were encouraging signs.
“After running in the top five and ending the second segment in fifth, we took the time to fix some damage and that got us in the back and we got torn up again,” Bullins said. “While we were disappointed, to have a car that competitive in Ryan’s third race there bodes well for the Chase race there in the fall.
“I feel like he did a great job of figuring out how to get around there very quickly.”
Qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas is set for Friday at 5:15 p.m. (6:15 Eastern Time), and the race is scheduled to start just after 12:30 p.m. (1:30 Eastern) on Sunday with TV coverage on FOX.
Trevor Bayne left Martinsville Speedway on Sunday with his fourth top-15 finish of the season. Bayne, driving the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, started the 500-lap event in the 16th starting spot. When the STP 500 concluded – the Tennessee native sat 13th on the leaderboard.
Bayne stayed inside the top 20 once the green flag waved. On lap 69, a caution involving teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard in turn three, Bayne and the No. 6 crew elected to hit pit road. That’s when they would be popped for speeding and sent to the rear of the field for the restart.
With eight laps remaining in stage one of the STP 500, Bayne sat 23rd on the leaderboard when a caution came out involving Ryan Blaney and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in turn two. With stage two vastly approaching, the team elected to hit pit road for a strategy call that would later put them back upfront for stage two.
The call by crew chief Matt Puccia would give Bayne a 19th-place finish in stage one. They would elect to stay out between stages to earn much needed track position for stage two.
The call worked according to plan as Bayne started sixth in stage two. On lap 260, marking the end of stage two, Bayne sat ninth on the leaderboard – earning two additional driver points. The young driver stayed inside the top 10 all throughout this second stage.
Bayne and the team pitted for four tires, fuel, and adjustments between stage two and three. They later started the final stage sitting seventh on the scoring monitor for the final 229 laps.
Things went smooth for the team as they continued to battle inside the top 10. Then, on lap 391, things would go the wrong way as they were popped for speeding once again while the field circled under yellow. That placed Bayne at the tail of the field for the restart on lap 399.
From there, Bayne picked up six positions on a restart with 86 laps left in the STP 500 to move up into the 13th spot. He would remain in that position over the course of the event until the checkered flag.
“This was a good day for us here in Martinsville,” said Bayne after the race. “I’m really happy that we were able to come out of here with another top-15 finish and that we were able to keep our Ford clean for the most part. We’ve had a pretty good start to our season and I’m looking forward to getting to Texas next week and keeping that momentum going.”
At Texas, a 1.5-mile oval, Bayne hasn’t had the best of luck there. His best finish at the track in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series came last season in April when he took his No. 6 Ford to a 15th-place finish. Last November, Bayne started 26th and finished 30th at the Texas oval.
With the racing season in full swing, Little Caesars is offering America a free lunch if fan favorite driver Chase Elliott claims a victory in Bristol, Tennessee, on April 23. If Elliott wins the April 23 race, Little Caesars will give away one free $5 HOT-N-READY® Lunch Combo, featuring a 20 oz. Pepsi product to every customer who comes into a participating store and mentions this offer at the check-out counter, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (local time) on April 26, in accordance with the offer terms.
"We know race fans have the need for speed, and that's why we're offering this opportunity to get the fastest lunch in town," said Ed Gleich, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing for Little Caesars. "And, if Chase Elliott doesn't make it to the Victory Lane, fans can still catch a great deal at Little Caesars with our high quality, HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo for just $5 plus tax. Either way, customers win!"
Available at participating restaurants nationwide, the Little Caesars HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo includes a satisfying portion of four Detroit-style DEEP!DEEP!™ Dish pepperoni pizza slices and a 20-ounce Pepsi product for $5 (plus tax), all served HOT-N-READY. No calling, waiting or online ordering necessary. Customers simply go to their Little Caesars store, and fresh pizzas are ready to carry out.
At the April 23 race at Bristol, Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet SS will have a fresh new paint scheme, featuring Little Caesars branding on the hood and quarter panels.
- If Chase Elliott wins the NASCAR Cup Series race on April 23 in Bristol, Tennessee, Little Caesars will give away one free $5 HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo to customers who come into a participating store and mention this offer at the check-out counter, between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. (local time) (while supplies last) on April 26, 2017.
- Limited to one $5 HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo per family. (Defined as parents, children, siblings, and spouse).
- Valid only on April 26, 2017 between 11:30am – 1:00pm (local time) or while supplies last. Must be ordered during this time period.
- Valid at participating stores in the 50 United States and D.C.
- No purchase is necessary. Void where prohibited. While supplies last. Subject to official terms at http://www.littlecaesars.com/Portals/0/PDF/If%20Chase%20Wins%202017%20-%20OFFICIAL%20RULES.pdf.
- Little Caesars is under no obligation to give away the free $5 HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo unless Chase Elliott wins the NASCAR Cup Series race on April 23, 2017.
Little Caesars PR
Typically when a racetrack undergoes a repave or reconfiguration, officials from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will schedule an organizational test to give race teams the opportunity to gather information that will be used for the upcoming race.
Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth underwent a complete repave and reconfiguration of its 1.5-mile oval that annually plays host to a pair of NASCAR Cup Series races, a process that began in January. The project featured a four-degree reduction of the banking in turns one and two to 20 degrees, and a 20-foot widening of the racing surface to 80 feet in those turns in an effort to create more passing opportunities.
It’s the second full repave since Texas Motor Speedway made its NASCAR debut in 1997, and the first since the summer of 2001. But the timing of this repave, which came during the winter between NASCAR’s November race and Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, meant that the project schedule was so tight that it didn’t leave time to hold a test session.
When an organizational test session is held, teams are permitted to run data-capturing equipment on their racecars that is not allowed during race weekends. Engineers are able to dissect aerodynamic data, engine data, miscellaneous mechanical data, tire data and more. That data is shared amongst the teams in-house, but is also implemented in simulators.
Simulation programs are used to help determine which setups to bring to the racetrack each week. Ford Performance, Stewart-Haas Racing’s (SHR) manufacturer partner, took that idea and ramped it up when it opened its Technical Support Center in Concord, North Carolina three years ago. Ford Racing teams are able to access a full-motion platform simulator that allows them to optimize their setups for individual track configurations, and for drivers to practice driving a track ahead of an upcoming race weekend. But, in order to gather the data needed for the simulator, track mapping and accurate tire data needs to be accessible.
So, this weekend, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for SHR, and the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series drivers will head into the weekend facing a great unknown. Their first laps on the track will be just that.
Fortunately for Busch, the last time he faced a situation like this was at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta just last year. The racetrack was repaved, underwent banking changes in turns one and two and a reduction in the racing surface in those turns. While there was enough time to hold a two-day organizational test, he was not among the drivers who participated. However, Busch was able to score a top-five finish in that race, his first at the 1.5 mile speedway, and in doing so earned top-five finishes at each of the active racetracks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.
Since opening 2017 by winning the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Busch and his No. 41 team have struggled. They’ve been challenged by mechanical and handling issues alike. So as they head to Texas this weekend not knowing what they’ll face, they’ll hope to experience a similar result to the last time they were in this situation. And they’ll do it at a track where Busch knows how to get the job done.
Busch is a former winner at Texas, having visited victory lane during the track’s November race in 2009. He started that race third and led 89 laps en route to the win. In 28 career starts at Texas, Busch has finished in the top-10 a total of 15 times, including a ninth-place finish in this race last year. Busch hopes this is the weekend he’ll be able to bring home his second Texas win in NASCAR’s top series and get his 2017 season back on track.