Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (13610)

Martin Truex Jr. has posted an impressive finishing average of 3.8 in the previous five NASCAR Cup Series races.

The streak started with a victory in Kansas, followed by third-place finishes in Charlotte and Dover and a pair of sixth-place results in Pocono and Michigan.

“No question the guys have given me fast race cars every week,” said Truex. “The performances by our Toyota Camrys have been strong. The only hiccup is that we had a shot at winning each of the races since Kansas and didn’t close the deal. The competition is tough and we’ve battled hard in every race. Believe me it’s only going to get harder to win as the season wears on.”

When Truex says it’s only going get harder he is right since the next stop on the Cup schedule is the season’s first road race – The Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

The highly technical 11-turn, 1.99-mile road circuit has provided plenty of anxiety to the world’s best stock car drivers since the track’s first Cup event in 1989.

Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Toyota this weekend, is not an exception. He has experienced the ultimate high and ultimate low at Sonoma Raceway, winning in 2013 and finishing second to last (42nd) twice in 2010 and 2015.

“It’s a wild race and you have to be ready to expect the unexpected,” said Truex, who finished fifth in last year’s Sonoma race. “You’re out there banging each other through the tight corners. One little mistake will put you in the tire wall or sand trap and end your day.

“But no matter the difficulty of Sonoma’s road course, I love road racing. We’ve not only had good runs at Sonoma but also at Watkins Glen. Actually, the first racing I ever did was on road courses in a go-kart. I had to pick it up early. You couldn’t race on ovals in New Jersey until you were 18 so I raced a lot of road courses early and learned what it takes to do well on them.”

With his sixth-place finish in Michigan coupled with Kyle Larson’s win, Truex dropped from first to second in overall driver points, five markers behind Larson.

On a brighter side, Truex, who won both stages in Michigan, increased his series’ stage wins to 10. The next closest competitor in stage victories has four. Truex’s 20 playoff bonus points also leads the NASCAR Cup Series.

The stages for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 will be 25/25/60 laps for a race total of 110 laps.

Truex career record at Sonoma Raceway includes: 11 starts, one win, two top fives and three top 10s. His starting average is 14.9 and finishing average is 19.5.

FRR PR

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will switch things up this week as drivers will be making both left and right turns when they visit Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway for the first of two road-course events this season.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Sonoma with 11 races under her belt at the track dating back to 2005. However, seven of those starts came in the IndyCar Series and unfortunately won’t offer much assistance to Patrick as she competes in Sunday’s Save Mart 350k NASCAR Cup Series event.

The IndyCar Series utilized two different Sonoma road-course layouts during the seven years Patrick competed there and neither is identical to the 1.99-mile, 10-turn configuration she will drive Sunday.

Patrick’s top NASCAR Cup Series result at the track is an 18th-place finish she scored in 2014. The following year, her hopes of earning another top-20 at the track were dashed when late-race contact forced Patrick off course and left her with a 24th-place finish.

Last year, Patrick started 11th and took the checkered flag in the 19th position after the team’s race strategy was hindered by ill-timed cautions.

When Patrick gets to Sonoma this weekend, her No. 10 Ford will carry the white and blue colors of Code 3 Associates. The organization is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing professional animal disaster response and resources to communities, as well as administering professional training to individuals and agencies involved in animal-related law enforcement and emergency response. Its mission is accomplished through hands-on animal rescue and care operations during disaster events in the United States and Canada, and through certified animal welfare training seminars, which include animal cruelty training for investigators.

As the team prepares for the weekend ahead, Patrick will be looking to have a smooth and clean race, remain on course and notch another solid run in the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford at Sonoma. 

TSC PR

Is there a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver less likely to feel at home Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway’s road course than Clint Bowyer?

 

Or a better one?

 

The former body shop repairman grew up amid the wheat fields of Emporia, Kansas with the closest major road course at Heartland Park in Topeka, about 60 miles from Emporia. As he honed is driving skills, Bowyer was more focused on motorcycles and dirt ovals than twisty road courses.

 

The NASCAR Cup Series travels to the California road course set in the scenic Wine Country this weekend, and it’s Bowyer who tops the list of the most points scored on the 10-turn, 1.99-mile track in the last 10 years. Those impressive numbers include a 40th-place finish last year after a lap-five electrical fire.

 

“Not in a million years would I have imagined this success,” Bowyer said. “After the first couple stabs at it, I was relatively good out there. I struggled a lot at Watkins Glen but always was able to find pretty good speed and get settled in and get comfortable at Sonoma. It has been good to me, it’s a fun racetrack. It’s a short track of road-course racing and it just kind of fits my driving style.”

 

Bowyer’s best moment at Sonoma came in June 2012, when he held off now Stewart-Haas Racing

(SHR) teammate Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, who co-owns Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford.

 

Bowyer dominated the race by leading 70 of the 112 laps. Defending race-winner Busch was all over the bumper of Bowyer's car late and got a final shot in a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish. Bowyer raced side-by-side with Busch at the green flag, then cleared Busch and pulled away for the win. Bowyer had to walk to victory lane to celebrate with his crew after his car ran out of gas during the cool-down lap. Stewart passed Busch on the final lap to claim second.

 

Bowyer replaced Stewart in the No. 14 Ford in 2017 and is already off to a good start, posting two top-five finishes and five top-10s. The team is 12th in points as it heads to Sonoma, where Bowyer owns a victory, six top-five finishes and eight top-10s and has led 82 laps. He visits Sonoma for the first time driving an SHR Ford powered by Roush-Yates Engines under the guidance of crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, whose race call in this event last year, combined with Stewart’s driving, gave the three-time champion his final NASCAR victory.

 

Bowyer hopes he can also drive the No. 14 to victory lane at Sonoma.   

 

“They’ve brought me hot rods all years so I expect to have one this weekend, as well,” Bowyer said. “It takes a heck of a lot to win a race these days, but I know we’ll have just as good of a shot as anyone else if all goes like we expect. They did it last year with Tony and I’d love to go to victory lane this weekend.”

 

For Bowyer, the trip to Northern California means an all-around good weekend.

 

“It’s a fun weekend for everyone in the garage area,” he said. “It’s almost like vacation, it really is for everybody — the wives, the girlfriends – they all go on wine tours, we get done with practice and have our hands full with a complete mess on our hands. Nonetheless, everybody is having a lot of fun.”

 

Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will carry a special Cars 3 paint scheme this weekend to promote the popular movie that opened this month. In the movie, blindsided by a new generation of blazing-fast racers, the legendary Lightning McQueen teams up with tech-savvy trainer Cruz Ramirez to get back into pole position.

 

Hopefully Bowyer’s movie will end as well in Sonoma. 

 

TSC PR

 

NASCAR announced today a return to Las Vegas for the ninth consecutive year with the annual postseason culmination of Champion’s Week — the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards — to be held at Wynn Las Vegas on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017.

“Las Vegas is especially excited to welcome the NASCAR world back for this year’s Champion’s Week,” said Rossi Ralenkotter, president/CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “It’s been a tremendous year for NASCAR in Las Vegas, with another great Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this spring and the announcement that we’ll become the only destination on the NASCAR schedule with two, triple-header weekends starting in 2018. We’ve had a long and successful partnership with NASCAR and look forward to having fans join us for the events of Champion’s Week this year.”

A full lineup of activities for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas will be announced at a later date.

“Awards season is a time when our entire industry, along with our passionate fan base, come together to formally crown a champion and celebrate a memorable season,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR Executive Vice President and chief global sales and marketing officer. “The prestige of our Awards grows each year, and with the return to Las Vegas for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards that trend promises to continue.”

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Awards will air on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

NASCAR PR

Leavine Family Racing (LFR) and Michael McDowell continue to improve during the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season, as they earned their fifth Top-25 finish in a row at Michigan International Speedway (MIS) on Sunday.

Practice and qualifying went well for the team, as McDowell was able to make the second round of qualifying. He ended the round 22nd fastest, where he would start the FireKeepers Casino 400 on Sunday.

McDowell began the 400-mile race in a three-wide battle, until he was able to jump into the Top-20. The field made it until lap 8, when the first caution came out for debris on the track. McDowell pitted for four tires, while the leaders stayed out.

McDowell restarted toward the back of the pack, but quickly moved up towards his starting position until a competition caution came out on lap 25. Todd Parrott made the call to pit for two right side tires and a can of fuel.

The field restarted on lap 30, and McDowell was able to race his way back into the Top-20 before eventually falling back due to tire-wear. McDowell went on to finish 24th in the first stage.

The second stage of the FireKeepers Casino began with a long green flag run, where the leaders eventually caught McDowell to put him a lap down. With just under 20 laps to go in the stage, Todd Parrott made the call to make a green flag pit stop, putting McDowell another lap down until the leaders made their pit stops.

McDowell finished the second stage one lap down, telling the crew that although his No. 95 WRL General Contractors Chevrolet SS was not handling the best, he felt as though the car was the best it had been all day.

The final stage began on lap 127 of 200, with McDowell fighting for the Lucky Dog position. With 65 laps to go, McDowell reported his No. 95 Chevy was handling extremely tight all the way through.

McDowell made another green flag stop with just over 20 laps remaining. A caution for debris came out immediately after McDowell left pit road and headed back onto the track.

While under caution, McDowell reported something off about the front end of his car. Todd Parrott was able to see that there was a hole in the nose of McDowell’s No. 95 Chevy, and told him to pit in order to patch the hole.

McDowell pitted for four tires, and the crew was able to patch the hole on the grill. McDowell went back out to finish the race, when a late caution left debris on the track. McDowell earned the Lucky Dog spot, but ran over the debris, which forced him to enter pit road for the crew to make sure no damage was made to the car.

Fortunately, there was no major damage. McDowell went on to finish the race in 23rd, earning the team’s fifth Top-25 finish in a row.

“As a whole, it wasn’t a bad weekend,” said McDowell. “I think all of the RCR Alliance cars struggled speed-wise. We were all right there running near each other. I felt like as a team we maximized our opportunity this weekend. We just have to figure out where the speed is at and how to get it.”

Next up for McDowell and LFR is the Toyota / Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway, where McDowell looks to go back to his road course racing roots.

LFR PR

Richard Petty Motorsports announced today that IMSA Ford driver Billy Johnson will pilot the No. 43 Smithfield Ford at Sonoma Raceway and fill in for the injured Aric Almirola. Fresh from competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Johnson will make his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend, but this isn't the first time he worked in NASCAR. Johnson made five starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and scored a career-best eighth-place finish in Montreal in 2012.
 
A road course specialist, Johnson has 10 years of road racing experience. He worked with Almirola on his road course racing at the Ford Performance racing school at Miller Motorsports Park in a curriculum he developed with other instructors at the school. He has worked with over 20 Ford drivers to improve their road racing skills in the last six years.
 
"It is going to be awesome. It will be my first NASCAR Cup race and to debut in the 43 car, one of the most iconic numbers to ever race in NASCAR, is a huge honor," said Johnson. "Richard Petty Motorsports is a great organization. To have the chance to make my Cup debut for the King is surreal, and I appreciate them putting me in the car.
 
"I have run a lot of XFINITY races, but this will be my first Cup race. It is awesome that RPM and everyone at Ford Performance has the confidence in me to take on Sonoma. I have run pretty well in the XFINITY road course races I have done, so I hope that translates into a good showing this weekend."
 
"We are so excited about Billy Johnson making his Cup debut. He drove great for us in Le Mans this past weekend, has been a champion for us in the past in the GT350, and he's been one of our development drivers for a while," said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance.
 
"To be able to put him in a Cup car, at the highest level of NASCAR, in the iconic No. 43 Fusion, and to let him show his skills at Sonoma, well, we couldn't be happier for him to have this chance."
 
Richard Petty Motorsports has success at Sonoma. The team has one win, two poles, three Top Fives and nine Top 10s. Kasey Kahne scored a win in 2009 and a pole in 2010, while Marcos Ambrose won the pole in 2012. Since Almirola's injury, the team has worked with drivers Regan Smith and Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr.
 
"It's been important for us to put ourselves in the most competitive spot while Aric is recovering," said CEO Brian Moffitt. "We've worked with Ford and Smithfield to put the best driver available in the car each week. Both Regan (Smith) and Bubba (Wallace) have done a great job for us the last five weeks. We feel that Billy's experience on a road course will help us be competitive this weekend."
 
Wallace will return to the No. 43 Smithfield Ford at Daytona International Speedway and will compete with the team until Almirola is able to return to the seat. 
 
RPM PR
Stage 1:  Laps 1-60
  • Started 33rd , finished 31st
  • Caution Lap 8:  Running 32nd. Whitt relayed handling was "free". Crew Chief Frank Kerr kept Whitt out on track and he restarted 24th.  
  • Competition Caution flag waved on Lap 25. Whitt was running 31st reporting the car was "edgy in and quick to slide the right rear." Whitt pitted for four tires, wedge adjustment, packer taken from the left front, tape on the grille and fuel. He rejoined the field 30th to take the restart.
  • Stage 1 Completion Caution:  Finished 31st. Whitt had gone a lap down and was struggling with loss of front and rear grip. He pitted for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment in the right rear, restarting 33rd, one lap down from the leader to start Stage 2.
 
Stage 2: Concluded on Lap 120
  • The handling of the RTIC Coolers No. 72 became "tight". Crew Chief Frank Kerr elected to bring Whitt to pit under green flag for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustment; sending him back out 35th.
  • Stage 2 Completion Caution:  Finished 34th. Reporting he was all over the splitter and was experiencing an "all over vibration, Whitt was advised to save fuel until the decision was made to bring him to pit road for four tires, addition of a left front packer and fuel, remaining 34th , two laps down from the leader as he rejoined the field to start Stage 3.
 
Stage 3:  Concluded on Lap 200
  • Whitt was continuing to run 33rd, he radioed on lap 149 the RTIC Coolers No. 72 was "edgy and had not changed since the last adjustments".
  • With a caution on Lap 151, Whitt stayed out for track position and was advised to save fuel. With the restart, he was posted 32nd, one lap down from the leader.
  • Pitting under green on lap 171, Whitt received right side tires, and fuel. He was then scored 33rd on the leaderboard, two laps down from the leader.
  • On Lap 182, under caution, Whitt pitted for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustment. He cycled back to 31st, 3 laps down. Whitt maintained that position until the conclusion of the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
 
The Monster Energy NASCAR Series will compete June 25, 2017 at Sonoma Raceway
 
Tristar PR

Martin Truex Jr.’s torrid pace in the NASCAR Cup Series continued Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

The Furniture Row Racing driver posted a sixth-place finish, his fifth straight top 10 and a finishing average of 3.8 in the last five races.  He also won the first two stages at Michigan, lifting his series’ leading stage wins to 10 after 15 races. His playoff bonus points total of 20 also leads the series.

Though Truex finished sixth at the 2-mile Michigan oval he felt he had the dominant car until late-race pit strategy and inside lane restarts spoiled his chance of a victory.

“Without a shadow of a doubt our No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota was the best car out there,” said Truex, who led 62 laps. “But inside lane restarts at the end just killed us. Unlike the outside lane we just couldn’t get going each time we restarted in the inside lane. It stinks when you have to race that way.”

Race winner Kyle Larson concurred with Truex when he told the media in post-race interviews, “The (No.) 78 was by far the class of the field.”

Truex’s blue Auto-Owners Toyota was in control of the race, but when the caution came out on Lap 151 of 200 he restarted fifth after taking four tires and fuel. The four drivers ahead of him took two tires.

“Probably should have taken two tires that last time we pitted – we took four,” noted Truex. “That killed us. Just wrong lane on the restart every single time all day long and couldn’t use the best car to win.”

In each of the final four cautions Truex found himself in the inside lane. His car never could get going on those restarts and it was a handful just to hold his restarting position.

“Just in a bad spot and nothing you can do about it,” said Truex. “You have to have a little luck on your side and we didn’t today.”

The sixth-place finish coupled with Larson’s win, dropped Truex to second place in the overall driver point standings. He trails Larson by five points.

FRR PR

An unscheduled green-flag pit stop put Erik Jones behind the 8-ball early in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 but a bold strategy and determined drive by Jones earned the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota team a 13th-place finish at Michigan International Speedway.

A vibration forced Jones to pit on Lap 43 of 200 and play catch up the rest of the afternoon at the 2-mile ova. A long shot pit strategy by crew chief Chris Gayle saw Jones make consecutive right-side tire only stops in the third stage of the race, eventually running the final 108 laps on the same left-side tires.

The NASCAR Cup Series rookie is now in sole possession of 16th place in the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series point standings after 15 races. He is eight points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for 15th place and 52 behind Joey Logano for 10th.

“Yeah, just a long day overall,” said Jones, a native of Byron, Mich. “Just never quite had the car we really needed. We were fighting just being free and as the day went on we never really fixed that issue and that loose wheel early kind of got us pinned in a strategy we didn’t want to be in. I think we had 86 laps on our left side tires – and just couldn’t quite get it there at the end.”

Jones started the race from the outside of Row 7 after finishing 14th in Friday afternoon’s qualifying session. He took just right-side tires while pitting under caution on Lap 27, picking up two positions, to ninth, in the process.

He told Gayle of the vibration on Lap 31 while running eighth but the situation seemed to plateau. Just 12 laps later Jones was coming down pit road to the attention of his Furniture Row Racing crew to change all four tires.

The green-flag stop dropped Jones to 37th in the running order, one lap down to the leaders. He would finish the first 60-lap stage just one position higher in the running order.

Gayle kept the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota on the track during the caution period to start the second stage. Jones was 31st on the Lap 68 restart and moved up to 21st by Lap 92 when he came down pit road for a second green-flag stop. It was then that the team’s final set of left-side tires for the balance of the race were taken.

Jones was in the 17th position at the conclusion of the second 60-lap stage and back on the lead lap. Gayle called again for right-side tires only on Lap 123 under caution and Jones was running 13th when caution slowed the field again on Lap 150.

Gayle rolled the dice and again called for right-side tires knowing how important track position is at the high-speed 2-mile track. Jones restarted in fourth place on Lap 154 and stayed in the top 10 on worn out tires until there were fewer than 20 laps remaining.

A multi-car crash with fewer than 10 laps to go moved Jones into ninth place for the final restart with five laps remaining. The tires had given there all by that time, however, and Jones held on as best he could for the 13th-place finish.

FRR PR

 

Challenging Day for Austin Dillon and the Dow Salutes Veterans Team Ends with 27th-Place Finish at Michigan International Speedway
"Well what can you really say? We have a lot of work to do moving forward but I'm sure Richard Childress Racing will be up for the challenge. We changed just about everything on the No. 3 Dow Salutes Veterans Chevy from the time we unloaded on Friday morning until the Checkered flag. During the race we ended up losing a lap to the race leader and even though we were in position to try and earn that lap back, luck was never on our side today. I'm glad Michigan International Speedway is behind us but proud of the team for the effort they put in today. They never gave up."
- Austin Dillon

Paul Menard and the NIBCO / Menards Team Finish 22nd at Michigan International Speedway
"Our No. 27 NIBCO/Menards Chevy fired off really well at the beginning of the race and the balance of the car was good. I think if we would have been able to keep that same handling in the first part of the race, we would have been looking at a top-15 finish. I think something must have broken in the rear of the car; I was battling a pretty bad vibration for a good part of the race and it really effected the balance. Matt Borland and the team stayed with it and we caught a couple of breaks at the end of the race with the Lucky Dog free pass and some solid pit stops all afternoon. Our guys will take a good look at this car and see if there is something we can improve on for when we come back here in August."
- Paul Menard

Ryan Newman and the VELVEETA Shells and Cheese Team Record Top-15 Finish at Michigan International Speedway
"This team has a lot of fight in them. Regardless of what's thrown at us, we don't give up and I wasn't going to give up on my team, either. Our VELVEETA Shell and Cheese Chevy raced in the top 20 for most of the day and we did everything we could to find more speed in our car. Our balance wasn't all that bad, but we lacked some stability and we battled that all weekend. Our pit crew stepped up today and gained some spots for me on pit road and I appreciate them for that. We've got some work to do that's for sure, but I'm relieved we gained a few positions in the end to come out with a top-15 finish."

- Ryan Newman

After running just outside the top 10 for much of Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Ryan Blaney and the crew of his No. 21 Omnicraft Ford Fusion put themselves in position to contend for a win at the end.

But despite running as high as second place in the final 50 laps and as high as third with 15 laps to run, Blaney was swept up in a late-race caution and fell to 25th place at the finish.
 
Blaney’s undoing was a restart with 10 laps remaining. He lined up fifth on the inside line, a lane that had proven to be a disadvantage throughout the race. On the start, he faded back and made slight contact with the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick. That resulted in a flat tire that sent him to pit road and to the back of the lead draft with just five laps to go.
 
With sheet-metal damage and panels underneath destroyed from the shredding tire, Blaney elected to nurse his wounded Omnicraft Ford to the finish line in 25th place rather than risk causing an accident in the final laps.
 
The finish dropped Blaney one spot to 13th in the championship standings.
 
Blaney told reporters afterward that while he didn’t feel like he had a realistic chance of repeating his Pocono win, he did have a chance to finish second after he and crew chief Jeremy Bullins developed a pit strategy to move up in the field. First, they elected to take two tires on a caution period with 50 laps to go, which moved them from 14th to fourth. Then they stayed on the track when another yellow flew with 15 to go, which put them third for the restart but on older tires.
  
I think on short runs we could run second,” Blaney said. “We held second for a while then four tires ate us up.”
 
And there was the issue of having to restart two times on the inferior bottom lane.
 
“That didn’t bode well for us,” he said. “I went into [Turn] One and got super loose. I hate that it took a couple cars out off [Turn] Two. I got really free for some reason. It caught me off guard which made it look bad. We had a decent enough car to run up there once we got track position.”
 
Blaney went on to say that passing was difficult on the high-speed, two-mile track.
 
“The fastest cars couldn’t get to the front if they weren’t already there,” he said.

“I thought we did a good job of making adjustments to get us a little better. We got into spots, but it just didn’t work out.”
 
Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he was pleased with his team’s efforts to promote a new Ford Motor Company product, Omnicraft.
 
“We got a lot of good vibes throughout the weekend,” he said. “We were able to explain that Omnicraft offers quality parts for vehicles other than Fords and Lincolns.
 
“And we could let people know that even if they aren’t fortunate enough to own a Ford or Lincoln they can take their vehicles to Quick Lane Tire and Auto Centers, which are known for excellent service, and know they’re getting quality parts.”
 
Blaney and the Wood Brothers now move on to Sonoma Raceway, where the No. 21 Fusion will be back in its familiar red and white Motorcraft/Quick Lane colors. 

WBR PR