Monster Energy Cup Series News (16679)
Chase Elliott won the pole for Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway with a track record of 131.713 mph.
For Elliott, this is the fifth pole of his NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series career and first of the 2019 season. All four of driver No. 9's previous poles have came on superspeedways.
"I've been wanting a pole outside Daytona and Talladega for quite some time," Elliott told FS1. "I feel like i haven't done my part. It was nice to get my guys one today. I had a fast NAPA Chevy."
"We have some work to do. I think it's doable. Our car has pace. If we get it driving good, we can hopefully give ourselves a chance."
Rounding out the top five were Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron in second (131.371 mph), Ryan Blaney in third (131.371 mph), Erik Jones in fourth (131.182 mph) and Denny Hamlin in fifth (131.057 mph).
For William Byron, it marks the second straight race that the No. 24 car will start on the front row. Byron finished second in last weeks qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway coming up short to teammate Jimmie Johnson.
Ryan Blaney, who initially topped the practice charts and broke the track record in the second round of qualifying, felt that his No .12 Ford was strong enough to win the pole, but errors by Blaney in turns 3 and 4 would cost driver No. 12.
Last year's Food City 500 winner Kyle Busch will start 17th after coming up short of advancing to the final round of qualifying.
Live coverage for Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway begins at 2:00 p.m. Eastern on Fox Sports 1.
A day after it was announced that Darrell Waltrip would end his broadcasting career this year, the three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion sat down and spoke with the media about his legendary career behind the wheel and in the television booth.
“Some people have thought that this was a spur-of-the-moment decision, something that I decided to do over the last two or three weeks,” Waltrip said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he won 12 times. “That is so far from the truth. …
“Anybody that’s done what I’ve done, whether it’s a driving career or a TV career, you can always look back and say ‘maybe should have done something different, maybe I should have thought about this or maybe I should have thought about that.’
“This is my home. For 60 years of my 72 I was holding on to something. I was holding on to a steering wheel for 30 years; I let go of that wheel and I grabbed on to a microphone. And I held on to a microphone for another 19 years. I’ve always been holding on to something.”
Waltrip, along with Mike Joy and former series crew chief Larry McReynolds, made up the original booth talent for FOX Sports when the network began NASCAR coverage in 2001. The move to television came after a driving career that saw Waltrip win series championships in 1981-82 and ’85 as well as 84 races.
In 2016, three-time series champion Jeff Gordon joined Waltrip and Joy in the booth.
As a racer in the early 1970s, Waltrip rocked the established stars of the day almost from the moment he arrived on the scene. By the end of the decade, he was winning multiple races and contending for championships. He was both loved and loathed as a competitor by fans and fellow drivers alike.
His career as a broadcaster was equally notable as he quickly helped merge two very different eras of the sport, identifying seamlessly with the older established followers while teaching a younger audience the ins and outs of NASCAR.
Mike Helton, vice chairman of NASCAR, noted that Waltrip has made “a remarkable impact on a lot of people personally but on our industry in general.
“I count my blessings as I get older about those that I have been able to share my career with, but you’re right there among the top,” Helton told Waltrip. “You’re a remarkable person.”
Waltrip will remain in the booth for the remainder of the FOX portion of the 2019 racing season, which concludes June 23 at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.
A replacement has not been named.
“They say you get what you give,” Waltrip said. “Well, I gave a lot. But I got a whole lot more in return.”
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES DASH 4 CASH KICKS OFF THIS WEEKEND
Saturday’s Alsco 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race brings additional incentive for four drivers – the series’ seventh race is the first for this year’s Dash 4 Cash bonus program.
Tyler Reddick (Richard Childress Racing No. 2 Chevrolet), Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota), Chase Briscoe (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 98 Ford) and Michael Annett (JR Motorsports No. 1 Chevrolet) qualified for the opening round of the program based on their respective finishes a week earlier at Texas Motor Speedway.
The highest finishing Dash 4 Cash-eligible driver in any of the four races – consecutive stops at Bristol, Richmond (Va.) Raceway, Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and Dover (Del.) International Speedway – earns a $100,000 bonus.
The drivers agree on one thing – competing in a Dash 4 Cash event is very similar to NASCAR’s season-ending playoffs. The goal is to win the race but finishing ahead of the other qualifiers will be enough to collect the six-figure bonus.
“At the beginning … you still want to win the race,” Bell noted. “But at the end of the race, if you’re not in position to win, then it really changes. It almost kind of relates to the final four at Homestead because you’re only racing three other competitors.”
Reddick says his approach is the same as it would be for any race, but that “you kind of look at it like a cutoff (elimination) race.
“I’ll pay closer attention to Chase and Michael than I have in the past … obviously me and Christopher have been pretty even about everywhere we’ve gone this year.”
Said Annett: “I definitely think it comes into play when it’s not your day, you can turn it into it and not necessarily have to win the race. That’s the biggest thing – taking chances that you probably wouldn’t for a fifth- or sixth-place finish.”
NATALIE DECKER READIES FOR NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES EAST DEBUT
Natalie Decker, 21, will make her NASCAR K&N Pro Series East debut Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, competing in the Zombie Auto 150 for DGR-Crosley. A native of Eagle River, Wisconsin, Decker recently returned from Spain where she was one of 28 finalists competing for 18 spots in the new all-female W Series.
While she failed to make the final cut, Decker said the experience was unforgettable.
“It was amazing and so wonderful,” Decker said. “I’m so happy I did it. I have a lot to learn in road racing; I had never done that before.
“It was really cool to get that experience and I learned a lot. Maybe one day I can race an F3 car, but I really don’t want to do that now. I really want to focus on (NASCAR). I really wanted to do the W Series just because of what they were doing for women and being a part of that.”
Decker has made three starts for the DGR-Crosley team this year in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Her best finish was 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bristol’s fast, high-banked, 0.533-mile layout left a quick impression.
“When I first pulled in, I was getting dizzy just trying to look at everything,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine what it would be like when I got out on the track.
“It was totally different. I come from short-track racing, but this is a whole new level of short-track racing. I’ve raced at Slinger Speedway (in Wisconsin) and that’s a really banked track but this is just totally different.”
NASCAR HALL OF FAMERS WALTRIP, ALLISON TO SERVE AS PRE-RACE DIGNITARIES
Legendary racers Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison will serve as pre-race dignitaries for Sunday’s Food City 500. Allison will give the command “Gentlemen, start your engines,” while Waltrip will wave the green flag from the flag stand to officially start the race. The two NASCAR Hall of Fame drivers combined for four Cup Series championships and 168 victories. … John Hunter Nemechek (GMS Racing) paced the first of two Xfinity Series practices at BMS while Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing) led the final session. … Harrison Burton, son of former NASCAR Cup driver Jeff Burton, is making his Xfinity Series debut at Bristol. The youngster was seventh fastest in the opening round and 13th in the latter session. … BMS officials announced a multi-year extension with race sponsor Food City on Wednesday. The regional grocery chain has held the naming rights to the spring MENCS event since 1992. It is the second longest race entitlement in the series. Coca-Cola has been the primary sponsor for the annual Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway since 1985.
Already Denny Hamlin has won twice in seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season, demonstrating such high-level consistency that he is second in the standings heading into Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
And yet, despite a stellar a start to the season, Hamlin prefers not to rejoice over what his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota team has thus far accomplished. Instead, Hamlin prefers to look ahead, adamant that he and his team can – and will – be even better as the season progresses.
Hamlin’s belief is supported by the fact while he has two wins -- the season-opening Daytona 500 and last week’s race at Texas Motor Speedway – he and his No. 11 team have actually been quite mistake-prone. The team has been penalized four times in the past three races for rules infractions on pit road – two for Hamlin speeding, and two for the pit crew having an uncontrolled tire. Last week, Hamlin had to twice rally back from penalties to win at Texas.
Nonetheless, Hamlin’s two wins are tied for most in the series and he’s finished in the top 10 in every race but one. He trails JGR teammate Kyle Busch, who’s also won twice this season, by a mere eight points in the standings.
“I’m confident that if we can still have those kind of results with those kind of shortfalls, that we’re a team that can battle back and once we do have clean races, we’re going to have dominant races,” Hamlin said. “… I just feel like we’re definitely going to be better a few months from now than what we are now.”
It isn’t just the penalties Hamlin looks at as why he and the No. 11 team will be better in the future. Hamlin is in his first season working with crew chief Chris Gabehart, a first-year crew chief in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Obviously, based off the results, Hamlin and Gabehart have clicked well enough that Hamlin is off to the best start of his 14-year career. But that all important chemistry between driver and crew chief, so often the difference from a team being very good and being excellent, is still developing, says Hamlin. He credits Gabehart for helping him evolve as a driver by bringing a different approach than what he’s accustomed to, coinciding with NASCAR implementing a new aerodynamic rules package this season that has required further adjustments.
Ultimately, Hamlin wants to replicate the kind of relationship that Busch has with his crew chief, Adam Stevens. That will take time, though it is not lost on Hamlin that Busch and Stevens won the 2015 Cup championship in their first season together.
“I just feel confident in that and knowing that certainly with a little bit more execution and more learning with me and Chris we’ve continued to get better and better every race track we’ve gone to,” Hamlin said. “We’re really learning each other more and more.
“I feel like we’re not even close to the level of relationship that like Kyle and Adam are at; that’s where obviously you want to go with it. We’re miles apart from them as far as that aspect, but we’re not miles apart as far as how we’re running right now.”
Joey Gase, MBM Motorsports, and Eternal Fan will honor Sam Bass in his home state by having his work spread all over the #66 Eternal Fan car at Richmond Raceway on Saturday, April 13th.
“We are extremely honored to join up with Joey and MBM for this truly one-of-a-kind Sam Bass Tribute car!” said Eternal Fan President, Matt Linn. “The amount of lives Sam touched thru the years will be celebrated on track at Richmond Raceway, under the lights, at the Toyota Owners 400, in true Sam fashion with some of his chosen art works. Our Sam Bass’d up 66 machine will spotlight just a few of the great times he was a part of, and will offer Fans a way to continue his legacy. This is Fan Memories! Fans are encouraged to visit www.richmondraceway.com/fanmemories to learn more on how to share their own memories by either securing a place in the Eternal Fan Racing Piston (ShortythePiston) or creating a custom Fan Memories Plaque for the Eternal Fan Pedestrian Tunnel.”
Eternal Fan was created to provide a better way for fans to celebrate the passion that they have for sports and the places where they experienced positive shared memories. Eternal Fan’s customized Fan Memories programs are transforming traditions by creating legacies for people to celebrate their sporting lives for generations to come. Fan Memories Programs are currently available at Richmond Raceway and Watkins Glen International, as well as an ever increasing discussion on other venues.
“This will be by far one of the coolest paint schemes I have ever driven and I am so honored to be able to drive it. It is awesome that we will have some legends on our car that Sam did art work for, like Rusty Wallace, who was one of my favorite drivers growing up,” said Joey Gase. “Sam was not only an amazing artist and passionate race fan, but more importantly a great person. It does greatly sadden me knowing that if more people would choose life by being an organ donor that Sam would still be here today. I am very happy that we can honor him in his home state and can’t thank his wife, Denise, enough for letting us do this.”
Tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Saturday, April 13th at 7:30PM ET to see the Eternal Fam/Sam Bass Tribute car during the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.
MBM Motorsports PR
It may not have been the outcome that Hendrick Motorsports has historically come to expect, but considering its recent performance the four-car team has reason to be encouraged by its collective performance last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
The result saw Jimmie Johnson place fifth, William Byron sixth and Chase Elliott 13th. For Johnson and Byron, it represented their best finishes of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, while Elliott would’ve likely finished higher had pit strategy not worked against him toward the end. The lone outlier among the Hendrick teammates was Alex Bowman in 18th-place, who started the race in a backup car after crashing in qualifying.
“It’s good and it’s definitely a step in the right direction,” Byron said.
But the indication that Hendrick Motorsports is making progress toward again being the dominant organization in the series customarily goes beyond just the finishing order at Texas. Whether it was practice, qualifying or the race, the Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets flashed speed all weekend unlike they have all season.
Johnson earned the Busch Pole for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Friday, then followed by posting the fastest 10-lap average speed in final practice on Saturday, which carried over to Sunday when the seven-time Monster Energy Series champion led a season-best 60 laps. Byron (second) and Elliott (third) also turned in impressive efforts in qualifying, and each backed it up by leading laps in the race.
"For me, I was just trying to get a consistent weekend,” Johnson said. “It is one thing to have one-lap paced, we needed that and we did that on Friday. Then, Saturday went really well. So, in the back of my mind I was thinking we just needed to have a rock-solid day, and if we did that, then I could confirm to myself and to everyone else that we are moving in the right direction.
“We are definitely moving in the right direction. We've had a lot of pressure on us, and everyone has stepped up and is getting it done. …
Shining at the 1.5-mile Texas oval was particularly encouraging for the Hendrick camp. Intermediate-sized tracks have been a recent area of weakness for the organization where its Chevrolets have frequently been outpaced by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Toyotas and the Fords of Team Penske and Stewart-Haas Racing.
Although there may not be another intermediate track on the Cup schedule until next month, Johnson believes the momentum coming out of Texas can propel himself and Hendrick Motorsports organization forward. He comes into Bristol Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s Food City 500 (2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), feeling he has a realistic chance of snapping a personnel winless streak that has now stretched to a career-worse 66 races.
Johnson’s confidence heading into Bristol is further buoyed by his recent history at the high-banked, half-mile oval. Of his two-career victories there, one occurred in this race two years ago -- his second-to-last Monster Energy Series victory. And last season, even amid a lackluster campaign where he found success fleeting, Johnson still scored top-10 finishes in both Bristol races -- his third in the spring was a season-best.
“I feel much better about things,” Johnson said. “Absolutely. This is what we've been looking for."
The optimism expressed by Johnson is shared by his Hendrick teammates that one of them can celebrate in Victory Lane on Sunday. Bowman finished fifth in the Food City 500 last year, followed Chase Elliott joining Johnson in finishing in the top 10 in the August Bristol race. The expectation is that they will be able to replicate those performances on Sunday.
“I can absolutely carry over what we learned at Bristol last year and put that to use this weekend,” Bowman said. “It is a strong racetrack for us. I think Bristol can be a great place for us and I am really looking forward to getting back there this weekend.”
DASH 4 CASH DEBUTS IN BRISTOL
Bristol Motor Speedway is the first of four Dash 4 Cash races for the NASCAR Xfinity Series this season where four eligible drivers will vie for a $100,000 bonus in the Alsco 300 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe and JR Motorsports teammates Michael Annett and Tyler Reddick are the eligible drivers competing to win the bonus by being the highest finisher among the four this weekend.
Bell, Briscoe, Annett and Reddick earned their eligibility by being the highest finishing Xfinity drivers among those eligible in last week’s Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Reddick finished second in that race, Bell third, Briscoe fourth and Annett sixth.
“You will more than likely have to win the race to win the bonus, so that is what our focus will be on,” Briscoe said.
The driver who collects the $100,000 on Saturday automatically earns a chance to win another bonus in the next Dash 4 Cash race April 12 at Richmond Raceway. The other three spots will be occupied by the next three highest-finishing Xfinity Series championship-contending drivers in the Alsco 300.
Additional Dash 4 Cash races are April 27 at Talladega Superspeedway and May 4 at Dover International Speedway.
Ryan Preece, a full-time competitor in the Monster Energy Cup Series, is the defending Xfinity Series race-winner at Bristol. Preece is not entered in the Alsco 300.
Suárez Scores with Atlanta United; Has One “Goooooooooal” in Mind when he Returns to Compete at Talladega Superspeedway, April 2804 Apr 2019 Written by Steven B. Wilson
NASCAR driver Daniel Suárez will have one goal in mind when he makes his way to Talladega Superspeedway for the GEICO 500 on April 28. It’s simply to take his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Ford to Gatorade Victory Lane. But, on Thursday, he had another goal in view when he visited with the Atlanta United Major League Soccer (MLS) team.
Suárez, who is still looking for his first career win in NASCAR’s premier series that could perhaps come at Talladega in a couple of weeks, made a pit stop at the Atlanta United Training Ground, home of the 2018 MLS Cup Champions. While there, he got a little taste of how the champs prep for their matches, then showed them a little about turning left.
Suárez made the trek to the Atlanta area, less than two hours east of NASCAR’s biggest track. The Monterrey, Mexico native is an avid fan of soccer, and with his love of racing, he was right in his wheelhouse during his visit to the Peach State.
As part of the day, Suárez joined the squad to try and “net” a win in an accuracy competition where the objective was to shoot straight through the center of a specially branded “Talladega Superspeedway” tire. Although he didn’t hit the middle of the target in what looked like “penalty kicks,” he was impressive and hit the rubber. After all, as a youngster, he was a “pretty good” soccer player but eventually chose to go the racing route.
“Back when I was a kid in Mexico, I played a lot of soccer, it was just what we did,” said Suárez, who, in four starts at Talladega, has a best finish of 10th. “Who knows what could have happened if I had kept playing regularly back then, but it came to a point I had to choose either soccer or racing.
“Today, I was a little rusty, because I hadn’t been on a soccer field in a long time, but it was so much fun. These guys are pros and it’s been great to see how they prepare with their training – a lot like how race teams prepare and you can see similarities.”
After practicing some drills on the pitch, Suárez and some of the players hit the “track” for a different kind of racing - Adult Big Wheels style. It wasn’t child’s play in the heated two-lap dash to the finish, where Suárez’s drafting and side-by-side racing experience slingshot him to victory.
“No matter if you are in a race car or on one of those Big Wheels, I can tell you no one wants to lose,” said Suárez, who handed out special Coca-Cola “Daniel’s Amigos” T-shirts to players. “At Talladega in a few weeks we will be going wide open at 200 mph with lots of horsepower, but today we were wide open with pedal power. Again, it was fun. Made a lot of friends today with the players and some are going to come watch the race at Talladega.”
Suárez is coming off his best performance so far this season, posting a third-place finish last week and 10th the week prior. He is inching ever so close to claiming his first career victory. If he doesn’t pull off the feat before he takes to the biggest track in NASCAR, he could become the 12th driver in Talladega’s 50-year history to capture their first career triumph at the 2.66-mile facility.
As a rookie in NASCAR’s premier series at Talladega’s fall 2017 race, he looked to be in prime position for the victory as he and Chase Elliott battled for the lead in the final laps, but the two touched, igniting a multi-car pileup and resulting in a 15th-place finish.
“I am finally in a place where I am extremely confident at Talladega,” admitted Suárez, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series champ. “I enjoy it today unlike a few years ago. I feel like I am a good racer now at a place like Talladega – maybe not the best – but good and in contention. I am more aggressive, and not letting others run over me. We ran well at Daytona in February all day, and my team has a nice history at Talladega. I can’t wait to get back.”
Last year, his No. 41 team’s Ford sat on the pole for the fall TSS event and dominated the race before running out of gas while in the lead on the final lap with Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Busch also finished second in last year’s GEICO 500. And, another positive is that Ford has been dominate at the mammoth facility recently, winning its seventh consecutive victory last fall.
The GEICO 500 will be the anchor event for tripleheader weekend (April 26-28), kicking off on Friday, April 26, with the General Tire 200 for the ARCA Menards Series and continuing on Saturday, April 27, with the MoneyLion 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series event. Sunday’s GEICO 500 gets the green flag at 1 p.m. CDT. For tickets or more information, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or call 855-518-RACE (7223).
It will be one to go at the line for NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and FOX NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip when he hits the air from Sonoma Raceway in June.
The three-time champion, a member of the original FOX NASCAR broadcast team that debuted at Daytona in February 2001, will retire from his FOX Sports duties at the conclusion of the network’s 2019 season. Waltrip’s final race calling MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES action will be at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday, June 23 (3:00 PM ET on FS1).
“My family and I have been talking this over the past several months, and I’ve decided to call 2019 my last year in the FOX Sports booth,” Waltrip said. “I have been blessed to work with the best team in the sport for the past 19 years, but I’m 72 and have been racing in some form for more than 50 years. I’m still healthy, happy and now a granddad, so it’s time to spend more time at home with my family, although I will greatly miss my FOX family.”
Waltrip steps away from the FOX Sports broadcast booth at the conclusion of the 2019 season after more than 330 races and 1,500 practice and qualifying sessions with the network.
“Darrell has been the heart and soul of the FOX NASCAR booth since day one, so it’s incredibly bittersweet to know this is his final season,” said Eric Shanks, FOX Sports CEO & Executive Producer. “DW’s unmatched charisma and passion helped FOX Sports build its fan base when we first arrived at Daytona in 2001, and he has been the cornerstone of our NASCAR coverage ever since. We look forward to celebrating DW at Sonoma.”
Waltrip, a three-time champion (1981, ’82 and ’85) and winner of 84 career Cup Series races, was inducted into the third class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January 2012. His 84 wins tie him with Bobby Allison for fourth all-time. Waltrip completed his 29th and final NASCAR season as a driver in 2000 and joined the FOX Sports booth immediately upon retirement, pairing with Joy and McReynolds in the inaugural FOX NASCAR TV booth.
Waltrip also ranks fifth on the all-time Cup Series pole positions list with 59. He is the only five-time winner of the COCA-COLA 600 (1978-‘79, 1985, 1988-‘89), and was the winner of the inaugural NASCAR ALL-STAR RACE at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1985. DW’s first NASCAR series start came in the 1972 Winston 500, and his first win just three years later in his 50th start. In 1981, Waltrip won a modern-era record eight races from the pole and tied the all-time record of four in a row.
He twice nabbed the Most Popular Driver Award (1989-‘90) and was the recipient of the prestigious Bill France Award of Excellence in 2000 for his lifetime of achievements in the sport. In 2003, Waltrip was elected to the National Motorsports Hall of Fame, an honor followed by induction into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2005.
Waltrip is a three-time winner of NASCAR.com’s Fan Voice Awards, crowning him as the overwhelming fan favorite. In 2006, Waltrip captured 38% of the votes for Best On-Air Analyst. That same year, Waltrip received a Sports Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Sports Person – Event Analyst.
In 2004, Waltrip’s autobiography, “DW: A Lifetime Going Around in Circles,” debuted on the New York Times Best Seller List. His third book, “Sundays Will Never Be the Same,” was published in 2012 and focuses on his career as both a driver and broadcaster. On the big screen, Waltrip was the voice of “Darrell Cartrip” in the hit Pixar movies, “Cars,” “Cars 2” and 2017’s “Cars 3,” and played himself in the Will Ferrell comedy hit, “Talladega Nights.” He also made a cameo in the 2017 movie “Logan Lucky.”
FOX Sports PR
Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Sylvania team hope to build on their speed from 2018 at Bristol Motor Speedway as they prepare for this weekend’s Food City 500 at the high-banked Tennessee track.
Crew chief Greg Erwin said he plans to begin Friday’s practice with a set-up on the No. 21 Mustang similar to the one the team employed last year when Menard qualified seventh for the spring race and fourth for the summer event. Menard was running third last spring when the race was halted due to weather and resumed the next day under different weather conditions that adversely affected the handling of the No. 21.
Last fall, Menard was again running competitively and had a mechanical issue that dropped him out of contention for a great finish.
“We’re going to put what we had last year under the car and see how it drives,” Erwin said, adding that there will be new challenges this year including dealing with a new aero package, a new tire compound from Goodyear and the variables that come with applying the PJ1 traction compound to the track and how the weather affects the treated area. “There are a lot of things to deal with.”
Erwin said the traction compound will be the hardest to predict, especially when the weather is factored in.
“You have to deal with what level of PJ1 is applied, where it’s applied and whether the weather will allow the PJ1 to come in,” he said, adding that the traction compound isn’t very effective if conditions are cold.
Erwin said his race strategy at Bristol will be typical of races there in that if he’s running in the lead group, he’ll do what the leaders do, and if he gets off sequence, he’ll utilize a different strategy to catch back up.
“How you call the race changes depending on where you’re running,” he said.
Erwin also has to figure into his set-up and his race strategy the likelihood that at some point in the race, drivers will find themselves running against the outside wall, in a groove most aren’t likely to practice in beforehand.
“That’ll be another unknown,” he said.
Qualifying for the Food City 500 is set for 6:10 p.m. on Friday, and the race is scheduled to start just after 2 p.m. on Sunday with TV coverage on Fox Sports 1.
After a trip to Texas, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads about three hours northwest of the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) shop to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Daniel Suárez will pilot the red-and-black No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang for SHR in this weekend’s event at the .533-mile track.
Suárez goes into Bristol this weekend coming off a third-place finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The result marks his best career finish at the 1.5-mile speedway, as well as his best finish through this season’s first seven races.
“If we would’ve left Texas with a finish outside the top-10, I definitely would’ve been disappointed,” Suárez said. “We were extremely fast all weekend. It’s a huge advantage to be fast right off of the truck and that put us ahead at Texas. We’re definitely making progress.”
The solid finish also moved the Haas driver up to 14th in the point standings to round out the four-car SHR contingent in the standings. The top 16 drivers after the 26 regular-season races will earn a spot in the NASCAR playoffs.
Before venturing to Bristol this weekend, Suárez heads to Atlanta Thursday to participate in activities with Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC. The Monterrey, Mexico, native is a soccer fan, or fútbol as it’s called in his home country. He’ll get a tour of the Atlanta team’s practice facility, and even join a few of the players for activities on the field.
Then, this weekend, Suárez makes his way to the high-banked, half-mile, concrete oval at Bristol, where he has top-20 finishes in each of his four Cup Series starts with a best result of 11th in April 2018, when he also led five laps. He has an average Bristol starting position of 17 and an average finishing position of 15.5.
Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets. This weekend marks the fifth time Suárez has piloted the Haas Automation scheme.
The No. 41 team led by crew chief Billy Scott returns to the site of its lone victory last season. The only major difference on the No. 41 roster this season is Suárez. Last year’s No. 41 driver, Kurt Busch, outdueled SHR teammate Clint Bowyer on the final restart to capture the victory. The win marked Scott’s first win as Cup Series crew chief and was a also a big win for car chief Tony Cardamone, who is from Bristol, Virginia.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Bristol, Suárez has six starts with four top-five finishes and five top-10s, including two runner-up results in August 2017 and April 2015. The 2016 Xfinity Series champion has also led 42 laps at the “Last Great Coliseum” in that series and has never started outside the top-10. He has an average Xfinity Series starting position of 7.7 and an average finish of 8 at the Tennessee track. The 27-year-old also two NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts at Bristol with 77 laps led, but both starts ended prematurely.
Ford has captured three victories in the first seven races this season. The new Cup Series Mustang also has four pole awards, two of those by Suárez’s SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Kevin Harvick. SHR has two wins as an organization at Bristol, with Harvick’s August 2016 win to go with Busch’s win last August.
Eldora Speedway PR