Monster Energy Cup Series News (14026)
Cassill on Bristol
"Bristol's awesome. I just always enjoy that race track. I've had good fortune there, and Front Row Motorsports as a team has had some really good runs and good finishes there. It's a track where pit strategy can always come into play, and that can work to our advantage. We used pit strategy to get the lead last year and led a bunch of laps, so we know that's something that we can do again in our Love's Travel Stops Ford this Saturday night.
"With the VHT that they've been putting down, it's definitely made the place a little less predictable, a little tougher to figure out, but I think it's good for racing. It has an interesting effect over the course of a race with the way the rubber builds up on it. It can be a wild show for sure."
Erik Jones ran in the top five for the majority of his first NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway and has every reason to believe Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race is his best shot for taking the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota to victory and making the playoffs.
Though the final results of the April race show a 17th-place finish, the Furniture Row Racing driver finished Stage 1 in third place and Stage 2 in sixth. He ran as high as third in the final stage and was eighth on Lap 420 of 500 when contact with a lapped car sent the No. 77 Toyota into the Turn 3 wall. Jones was able to continue but his chances for victory were dashed.
“I think we've all got Bristol circled as a team,” said Jones. “We ran really well there in the spring. We didn't get the finish we wanted, but we had a really fast race car. We've kind of got that one circled.
“We’ve been able to string together top-10 finishes over the last three races and three completely different types of tracks (Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan). That gives our 5-hour ENERGY team a lot of confidence heading into Bristol. Everything happens so fast there and we know for sure that things can happen out of our control but it’s always great racing there.”
Jones is currently 16th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after 23 races. He’s just 12 points behind Ryan Newman for 15th but knows it’s going to take a win in one of the last three regular season races to make the playoffs. Crew chief Chris Gayle returns to the pit box after a two-week absence.
“It will be great having Chris back at the track,” Jones continued. “He’s obviously the leader of the team so we’re glad to be back at full strength. But I definitely want to thank James Small for everything he did in Chris’s absence the past couple of weeks.
“Obviously it's a huge goal to make the playoffs, and I know we're capable of it,” Jones continued. “The 5-hour ENERGY Toyota team just has to go out and make it happen, and it goes back to execution. I mean, we've had fast race cars at a number of races, we just haven't put the whole day together, whether it be we didn't qualify well or we qualified well and had a bad stop late or whatever else. It's just going to take putting an entire weekend together.”
The 21-year old is second in the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. His 217 points are seven behind Daniel Suarez (224) and 43 ahead of third-place Ty Dillon (174).
As Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) return to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, they will be racing to bring awareness to a special program: One Cure.
One Cure is a project led by the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. The One Cure program is founded on the principle that cancer affects all creatures and that treatment breakthroughs come through collaboration between scientists and doctors working with people and animals. This approach is known as comparative oncology and it is the guiding concept of One Cure and the Flint Animal Cancer Center at CSU. The center works to improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in pets, and teams with the human medical field to translate research findings that will help people with cancer.
The center sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 400 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope to the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.
The One Cure initiative was first featured on Patrick’s No. 10 Ford earlier this year at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. As the proud “mom” of a 3-year-old miniature Siberian Husky named Dallas and a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois named Ella, the One Cure program is a cause near and dear to Patrick.
“It’s great to have One Cure on the car this weekend,” Patrick said. “I love dogs and I’m glad we can bring more awareness to all of the work the team at the Flint Animal Cancer Center is doing. Our pets are members of our families and, when they aren’t well, we want to do everything we can to help.
“Cancer has touched so many of us. Knowing we can use what we learn from keeping our animals healthy to potentially help save human lives is a cause I’m honored to support.”
When Patrick straps into the No. 10 One Cure Ford Saturday night, she will make her 11th NASCAR Cup Series start at Bristol. Her best NASCAR Cup Series finish to date at the .533-mile oval is a ninth-place effort Patrick earned in April 2015. In last year’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol, Patrick started 29th and finished 22nd. In April, an accident relegated the team to a 36th-place finish.
In addition to Patrick’s NASCAR Cup Series experience at Bristol, she’s also competed in three NASCAR Xfinity Series races at the track. In that time, her best result was a ninth-place finish earned in August 2012.
As they return to Bristol looking to improve upon their results at the track, Patrick and the No. 10 One Cure Ford team will be ready to bring attention to the One Cure program.
It all started on September 24, 2000 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Kurt Busch, who was just 22 years old, drove the No. 97 John Deere Ford Taurus for Roush Fenway Racing in the MBNA.com 400. It was his first career start in NASCAR’s top series.
At Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor (Tenn.) Speedway, Busch will make his 600th NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start. And for the driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), there is no better place for it to happen than at Bristol.
Busch has five wins, nine top-five finishes and 16 top-10s at the .533-mile concrete oval and has led 1,062 laps in 33 career starts there.
He scored his first career NASCAR Cup Series win at Bristol in March 2002. He started 27th and led 89 laps en route to that maiden victory. It was only his third visit to the .533-mile, high-banked oval, making him the only driver to record his first win at Bristol in fewer than four attempts.
His five Bristol wins – March 2002 and 2003, August 2003, March 2004 and 2006 – tie him with his younger brother Kyle Busch as the winningest active NASCAR Cup Series drivers at Bristol.
Busch even completed the Bristol sweep in 2003, winning both the spring and fall NASCAR Cup Series events. He started ninth and led 116 laps in March while starting fifth and leading 121 laps in August. In March 2004, Busch went on to record his third consecutive win at Bristol when he started 13th and led 119 laps on his way to victory lane.
He is one of four drivers to win three or more consecutive Cup Series races at Bristol. Fred Lorenzen won three in a row starting with the fall race in 1963, followed by a sweep of both 1964 events. Cale Yarborough won four in a row with sweeps in 1976 and 1977. Darrell Waltrip won seven in a row, including sweeps in 1981, 1982 and 1983, then a win at the March 1984 race.
Busch has led laps in 15 of his 33 career Cup Series starts at Bristol and he has led more than 100 laps four times, including three consecutive races – 116 in March 2003, 121 in August 2003, and 119 in March 2004.
But on that day at Dover 17 years ago, the young Busch started 10th and finished a solid 18th with Jeff Hammond as his crew chief.
His current team owner Tony Stewart won the race, while Johnny Benson and Ricky Rudd were second and third. Of the 43 drivers in the field, only Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Busch are full-time in the series this season.
Busch’s current crew chief Tony Gibson refers to everyone as “Old Man.” But Busch doesn’t feel like an “Old Man,” and this week at Bristol, he’s hoping he can add to his Bristol – and NASCAR – legacy.
In baseball, triple plays are rare. In fact, there have been 713 triple plays in the history of Major League Baseball, dating back to the first triple play in 1876. On average, there are 3.5 triple plays turned during the more than 2,400 games played each year, with the most recent coming this past Aug. 3, when the Baltimore Orioles turned one against the Detroit Tigers.
With that in mind, NASCAR’s version of a triple play is much more rare than baseball’s version. Of course, NASCAR’s version of the “Triple” is a driver winning all three races of NASCAR’s top national series – Monster Energy Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck – at the same track on the same weekend.
Only one driver has been able to pull off that feat – Kyle Busch. Back in 2010, Busch brought home all three trophies during a magical August weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Before and since then, the Las Vegas native had come close by winning two of the three races several times. But he only accomplished the coveted triple that one week in August 2010.
So as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Bristol for Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shop Night Race, the 2015 Cup Series champion will again attempt to pull off something only he has ever accomplished – a weekend triple. Busch is entered in Wednesday night’s Camping World Truck Series race in the No. 46 Banfield Pet Hospital Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM). He’ll continue Friday night in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and then finish off the weekend in NASCAR’s top series Saturday night.
The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Caramel Toyota Camry for JGR in the Cup Series has a stellar record at the .533-mile high-banked bullring with five Cup Series wins. In fact, there will only be one other driver in the field Saturday night who has the same number of Bristol wins – his brother Kurt Busch. He would like nothing more than to sit alone atop the list of active drivers with six career Bristol wins.
In addition to his five wins, Busch has notched eight top-fives and 13 top-10s in 24 career starts at Northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley.” Amazingly enough, three of Busch’s wins there came over a four-race span at the .533-mile short track in 2009 and 2010.
While he is a factor any time he travels to Bristol, it’s interesting to note Busch didn’t immediately take to the place. During his rookie year in 2005, he posted finishes of 28th and 33rd, but his record since then has been impressive, to say the least. After bringing home finishes of eighth and second in 2006, Busch captured his first Bristol Cup Series win in March 2007. The track was resurfaced after that race and, from 2008 to 2011, nobody has been better at the concrete oval than Busch. He scored four wins and six top-10s from 2008 until another change to the track surface prior to the August 2012 race weekend. Busch is looking to recapture the magic from his four years of dominance there on the current surface.
So as Busch and the M&M’S Caramel team head to Northeast Tennessee this weekend, they’ll be focused yet again on another possible “Triple Play” in hopes of taking yet another checkered flag at a Bristol track that has treated him quite well over the years.
After two consecutive drama-filled races that saw Martin Truex Jr. score a win at Watkins Glen International and runner-up at Michigan International Speedway, the Furniture Row Racing driver is now in position to mathematically clinch the regular season championship.
Truex enters Saturday night’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race with a 129-point lead over second place Kyle Larson. Truex will need to leave Bristol with at least a 121-point margin to clinch the NASCAR Cup Series regular season championship with two races remaining.
Winning the 26-race regular season championship is significant not only for prestige, but more importantly for securing an additional 15 playoff bonus points. Truex currently leads the NASCAR Cup Series with 35 playoff points. The 10-race playoffs start Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
Truex’s current series lead of 35 playoff points has been the result of winning four races (5 playoff points for each win) and claiming 15 stage victories (1 playoff point for each stage win).
“It might appear that we have a safe margin, but I’ve been around long enough to know that points can dwindle fairy quickly,” said Truex, who will drive the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Toyota at Bristol. “The next three races – Bristol, Darlington and Richmond – are at tracks where the odds are higher of your day ending prematurely. So that’s why I am not looking ahead or counting points. All the focus right now is getting a good result in Bristol.”
The half-mile Bristol short track hasn’t been one of Truex’s best over the years with two top fives and three top 10s in 23 starts. But his performance at this year’s spring race at Bristol did show that he can be a contender at the high-banked, all-concrete oval. Truex qualified third, won the first stage and finished eighth overall. He led more laps – 116 – than he did in his previous 22 Bristol starts.
“We all know the consequences of Bristol,” noted Truex. “It’s a place where you can go from having a good day to a bad day rather quickly. Staying on the lead lap and not suffering any major damage to your car are key to having any kind of success there. The luck factor also comes into play. We had a good run there in the spring and look forward to the same in our Bass Pro Shops/Ducks Unlimited Toyota.”
Heading into Bristol Truex leads the NASCAR Cup Series in the following categories: race wins (4), top-10 finishes (16), driver points (933), playoff bonus points (35), stage wins (15), stage points (312), laps led (1372), miles led (1970), fastest laps (825), average starting position (7.3), average finishing position (10.7), average running position (7.8) and driver ranking (114.4).
Hendrick Motorsports has elevated eight senior leaders into new positions designed to strengthen the 12-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series champions and enhance the team’s overall management structure. The eight executives, who will assume their new roles immediately, have more than 150 combined years of service with the organization.
“I believe the best leaders serve their teammates, not the other way around,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Servant leadership is an approach that’s been successful for us in both racing and the automobile business, and it’s something our organization has wholeheartedly embraced. These people have grown in our culture and are trusted throughout our company. I’m proud to see them expand their responsibilities as we look toward the future together.”
Vice president and chief financial officer Scott Lampe has been promoted to executive vice president, making him Hendrick Motorsports’ third-ranking officer after owner Hendrick and team president Marshall Carlson. The Appalachian State University graduate will continue as CFO with responsibility for core business functions that include accounting, aviation, human resources, information technology, legal affairs, purchasing, and real estate. The Durham, North Carolina, native has been with the company for 18 years.
Veteran racer Ken Howes, who has 32 years of service with Hendrick Motorsports, has been named vice president and chief of staff to provide leadership, coordination and support across the organization’s senior executive team and all racing operations. The Johannesburg, South Africa, native previously was vice president of competition and is the company’s most experienced team executive with a decorated auto racing career that spans NASCAR, Formula 1 and IMSA.
Director of engine operations Jeff Andrews has been elevated to vice president of competition. With 25 years of experience with Hendrick Motorsports, Andrews is now the organization’s senior competition executive supporting its crew chiefs and four NASCAR Cup Series teams. His responsibilities include oversight of the company’s engine operation and the newly formed competition systems group. The Fresno, California, native will be the organization’s representative on the NASCAR competition committee and serve as its co-chair representing Chevrolet teams.
Nos. 5 and 24 team manager Brian Whitesell has been promoted to the new position of vice president of operations. He will oversee the organization’s vehicle engineering group and direct all vehicle-related production, including chassis, bodies, composites and other unified vehicle production functions. The Stuarts Draft, Virginia, native holds a mechanical engineering degree from Virginia Tech and has 25 years of service with Hendrick Motorsports.
Lampe, Howes, Andrews, Whitesell and longtime vice president of marketing Patrick Perkins will report to Carlson, along with crew chiefs Alan Gustafson, Greg Ives, Chad Knaus and Keith Rodden.
“Without question, our greatest strength is the more than 600 people working at every level inside Hendrick Motorsports,” Carlson said. “We’ve spent a great deal of time listening to team members throughout the organization, front to back, and identified ways to better align management and organize capabilities to take full advantage of our talent. The first priority is our people, and the best way we can serve them is to continue winning races and competing for championships for many years to come. We believe these decisions will help to ensure we meet that goal.”
Other new assignments include:
· Longtime director of engine engineering Jim Wall has been promoted to director of powertrain. In conjunction with Andrews, Wall will continue managing the development and delivery of championship-caliber engines with the added responsibility of overseeing the gear and transmission unit, which will be integrated with the engine operation. The Concord native holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from North Carolina State University. He has more than 30 years of service with Hendrick Motorsports.
· Vehicle production director Darian Grubb has been promoted to director of competition systems, reporting to Andrews. The Floyd, Virginia, native will work to enhance team capabilities that directly support at-track competition with day-to-day oversight of the new competition systems group, which includes the organization’s simulation programs, analytics platforms, data acquisition and communication technologies, and at-track research and development.
· Manager of aerodynamics Diane Holl, a former principle engineer at the McLaren Formula 1 team, has been promoted to director of vehicle engineering, reporting to Whitesell. The Guildford, England, native will lead the vehicle engineering group and integrate the design-and-build processes employed in race car development and production.
· Nos. 48 and 88 team manager Michael Landis has been promoted to director of operational support, reporting to Lampe. The New York City native will provide responsive business services to the competition and operations units with oversight of essential support functions including purchasing, apparel, travel, and logistics and transport.
Joey Gase will return to the No. 23 Best Home Furnishings Toyota Camry this week for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway with a very special tribute on the back of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racecar.
Best Home Furnishings is dedicating the rear TV panel of the car to the nonprofit organization Donate Life, and honoring the late Rudy Gorman who unexpectedly passed away at the age of 21 in a traffic accident. Rudy is the son of Bob Gorman, a well-known fabric representative for the furniture industry, and also a close friend to the Best Home Furnishings family. His organ and tissue donations benefited scores of other individuals.
“Since Gase’s mother passed away when he was 18, he has dedicated racing to honor his mother’s legacy through Donate Life,” said Brian Lange, president of Best Home Furnishings. “To use the Best Home Furnishings race car as a platform for raising awareness of organ and tissue donations, and pay tribute to Rudy and his family, is a fulfilling purpose for our organization.”
"We wholeheartedly believe in the miracle of donation, and although it is extremely painful to lose a loved one, the opportunity to save others is without question the best possible caring and sharing act that can come from such a tragedy,” said Bob Gorman. "Rudy touched lives when he was alive, so he continued to do so even in his passing."
“I’m very excited to be making my first start in the Bristol Night Race and I can't thank Best Home Furnishing and the Lange family enough for making it possible,” said Gase. “The Bristol Night Race was by far my favorite race of the year to watch when I was growing up and to be actually racing in it now is a dream come true. I am proud to be honoring Rudy Gorman on the TV panel. From what I have gathered from his father, he was a remarkable person and him choosing to be an organ donor to help others is a true testament of that."
“Best Home Furnishings is beyond excited to have Joey racing in the No. 23 Toyota Camry in the Bristol night race. Not only will this be an electric atmosphere, but will be an ample opportunity to showcase Joey’s superb racing abilities,” said Lange. “Joey continues to represent himself and Best Home Furnishings in an ideal manner. He is truly a great ambassador for our company."
“We are very proud of Joey for the work he does with Donate Life,” said Doug Fritz, BK Racing Chief Marketing Officer. “It is very touching to see Best Home Furnishings include this tribute to Rudy in their paint scheme for the Bristol night race.”
BK Racing PR
Clint Bowyer said coming close to victory in several Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races in 2017 is nice, but it isn’t good enough. He’d like to change that Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race 500.
With three races remaining in the regular season, Bowyer is in a battle to secure one of the 16 spots in the 10-race Cup Series playoffs. He trails Matt Kenseth by 31 points, Jamie McMurray by 52 points and Chase Elliott by 62 points in the battle for the final three berths in the playoffs.
A win would secure a postseason berth, but a good points finish Saturday night would increase the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver’s chances in the playoff race.
“We’ve come close to victory several times this year,” said Bowyer, who has scored the 10th-most points of any driver this season with three second-place and two third-places finishes. “That’s what can be so frustrating. You are only one or two spots away from where you want to be, but there’s a huge difference between first and everything else in this business.”
Like many drivers, Bowyer feels the Bristol night race on the .533-mile, high-banked oval with lap speeds at 130 mph is one of the highlights of the Cup Series season. Although he won an Xfinity race at Bristol in 2008, a Cup Series victory at Bristol would be near the top of his career accomplishments.
He owns seven top-five finishes and 11 top-10s in 23 Bristol races during in his 11 full Cup Series seasons. He finished second to Jimmie Johnson on April 24 in a race that saw Bowyer battle back from 21st midway through the race, then restart seventh with 48 laps remaining. He used new tires to slice through the field and drive to within 1.199 seconds of Johnson’s bumper.
If he finishes one spot better Saturday night, he promises a victory party unlike any other Bristol fans have witnessed since its first race in 1961.
“I want to celebrate in front of all those wild and crazy fans,” he said. “There’s no better atmosphere. They’re so close to you that you feel that environment.
“I’m telling you, during driver intros you’re walking down there and it’s just the feeling that comes over you before you get in that car. It’s just something you don’t feel anywhere else. It’s because of the closeness of the fans to you. They’re all breathing down on you and expecting big things out of you, and you can’t wait to go out there and get in that coliseum and go to battle.”
Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Fusion will carry the Rush Truck Centers paint scheme during Saturday night’s race. Hopefully, he’ll restart his recent hot streak that cooled last week with a 23rd-place finish at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. In the two races before Michigan, Bowyer finished fifth Aug. 6 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and sixth July 30 at Pocono (Pa.) International Raceway.
Bowyer replaced three-time champion and SHR co-owner Tony Stewart in the No. 14 car in 2017. He and the Mike Bugarewicz-led crew have enjoyed a great first season, but their view of 2017 will likely depend on how the next three races play out. Unless Bowyer wins during the next three races, it appears his playoff fate will be decided in the final laps of the last regular-season race Sept. 9 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
“I’m the hunter, not the hunted,” he said. “So it’s a lot of fun to go into this weekend knowing that you’ve got to go out there and chase that guy down or chase those guys down and, hopefully, pop off a win here and just put it all to bed.”