Monster Energy Cup Series News (14361)
Following last Sunday’s race in Dover, Martin Truex Jr. said, “I am looking forward to the next round of the playoffs and feel good about where this Furniture Row Racing team is at right now.”
Truex, who will drive the blue No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota in Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, has facts to back up his optimistic feeling.
For starters he enters the Round of 12 playoffs as the points leader, an 18-point margin over second place Kyle Busch.
Truex is also coming off the Round of 16 with the best three-race finishing average of 3.3. His consistent finishes in the first round were: first at Chicagoland Speedway, fifth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and fourth at Dover International Speedway.
And high on the optimistic list is two of the three races in the second playoff round will be at 1.5-mile tracks where Truex has been at his strongest. Four of his five wins this season have come at the mile-and-a-half tracks – Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky and Chicagoland.
With his recent success at Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval Truex couldn’t ask for a better venue to kick off the playoff round. In his last five races at Charlotte, Truex has a victory, four top fives, and has led a total of 756 laps. Of the 756 laps led, 392 came during his dominant victory in the May 2016 Coca-Cola 600. In this year’s Coke 600, he finished third and led 233 laps.
Kansas, the third race of the second round, is another 1.5-miler where Truex has had success, winning there in May with a strong performance.
“I am definitely looking forward to Charlotte and Kansas,” said Truex, who has set career season highs for wins (5), top fives (13) and laps led (1886). “A win would be great at either one of those tracks, but we just need to be consistent, be among the leaders fighting for the win and picking up those valuable stage points as well as playoff points.
“And then there’s Talladega (second race in the Round of 12). Anything can happen there. It’s a wildcard race. We have not had much success there lately, but if we can avoid the wrecks and mechanical issues we should be ok. It’s a crazy race that can either make or break you from entering the next round of the playoffs.”
Truex’s Cup record at Charlotte Motor Speedway includes 24 starts, one victory, four top fives and eight top 10s. His four top fives have come in the last five races. His average start at Charlotte is 17.0 and average finish is 15.7.
Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), survived the first round of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and advanced to the Round of 12 starting with Sunday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion got off to a fast start in the Round of 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Illinois, by finishing second in the opening two stages and third in the race, but did not finish the second race of the Round of 16 due to a crash at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. He then finished 17th at Dover (Del.) International Speedway after suffering a loose wheel that trapped the No. 4 Ford a lap down at the checkered flag.
The Bakersfield, California native is hoping he can get off to the same fast start in the Round of 12 with a strong showing at Charlotte.
Harvick has shown speed at Charlotte – especially on Fridays. He has won the pole in the last two points-paying races there.
In October 2016, Harvick won the pole for the Bank of America 500 with a lap of 27.547 seconds at 196.029 mph around the 1.5-mile oval. Unfortunately, Harvick and the No. 4 team fell victim to a mechanical issue in the race and finished 38th.
They rebounded in May 2017 by capturing Harvick’s second consecutive pole award with a lap of 27.918 seconds at 193.424 mph. He went on to lead 45 laps and capture an eighth-place finish in the 600-mile race.
Harvick has reason to believe he can turn his speed Friday into a win Sunday based on past performance at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In fact, he has three NASCAR Cup Series points-paying wins at Charlotte, with one coming in the 2014 Bank of America 500.
In that October 2014 race, Harvick started seventh, led 162 of 334 laps and beat runner-up Jeff Gordon to the finish line by .571 of a second to secure his position in the Round of 8 of the NASCAR Playoffs on his way to winning his first NASCAR Cup Series championship.
The goal is to lock up a win early in each of the first three playoff rounds, but Harvick has also shown that he can win at each of the next three racetracks that make up the Round of 12. He owns three NASCAR Cup Series wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and two at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
Charlotte represents the first race of the Round of 12 in this year’s playoffs and Harvick would love nothing more than to race his way to his second win of the 2017 season and lock up his position in the Round of 8 early as he pursues NASCAR’s ultimate prize – the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy.
With the first NASCAR Playoffs hurdle cleared – transferring to Round 2 – Ryan Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing team embark on the second leg of the championship journey, which begins Sunday with the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Unlike the first round, which Blaney and the Wood Brothers’ famous No. 21 started in eighth place, well above the 12-car cutoff, they start Round 2 in ninth. Only the top eight will advance to the third round.
The Round 3 tracks, however, play to Blaney’s and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team’s strengths – 1.5-mile tracks (Charlotte and Kansas) and a superspeedway (Talladega).
On the NASCAR Playoffs:
“I think the tracks in the second round play into our favor. We are really fast at 1.5-mile race tracks and had a good run at Kansas earlier and at speedways we run great. Charlotte, we had a broken axle earlier this year but we were pretty decent in that race before that happened. The 1.5-mile tracks seem to be our strong suit and hopefully we can keep that up and keep making that our strong suit.”
On Charlotte Motor Speedway:
“I am excited to get to Charlotte. Charlotte is pretty much a home track for me. I grew up pretty close to there and I enjoy running that race track.”
“The day race is better because you can move around a lot more. It’s nice when you can have multiple lanes to run in and move around. That’s what drivers want and that’s what fans want to see. It’s always pretty good when we’re given options and not bottom feeding. That place is really fun and it’s a mile and a half and we should start the second round strong there.”
Ford Performance PR
Erik Jones views his last race at Charlotte Motor Speedway as a major step forward in his 2017 NASCAR Cup Series season and the driver of the No. 77 5-hour ENERGY Toyota sees Sunday’s Bank of America 500 as another opportunity to progress.
It was the Coca-Cola 600 in May that Jones and the Furniture Row Racing team earned its first top-five qualifying position (5th) and second top-10 finish (7th) of the season. Jones sees it as a turning point in his and the team’s rookie campaign.
“The 5-hour ENERGY team has progressed a lot since we were at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May,” said Jones. “Charlotte was the first track we got to race on (for the All-Star race) and then go back to for the 600. It gave us our own information to work from which was huge. The 600 was one of our first races where I felt competitive all day and we ran up front.
“As a team we’ve gotten a lot better since then, especially the past couple of months. We’ve come a long way to becoming more competitive week in and week out. I think we’ve taken what we’ve learned all year and are right there at the next step of getting better.”
Jones has found his first season in the NASCAR Cup Series to be an almost continuous learning experience, something he didn’t expect at the beginning of the year.
“I’ve never experienced in my career where I have to run so hard every lap,” said Jones. “There are so many little things that the drivers in the series are good at. I now get so much more data to work with and I found out that my competitors are really good at things I wasn’t really paying attention to because I always had fast cars and trucks to make up any shortcomings. It’s being perfect on pit road, restarts, and navigating traffic. It’s all the little stuff added together that makes a big difference.”
Jones is 19th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings after 29 races. He trails Clint Bowyer for 17th place by 22 points. Jones leads the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 254 points, 12 ahead of Daniel Suarez (242) and 72 ahead of Ty Dillon (182).
The 334-lap, 501-mile Bank of America 500 will consist of three stages of 90/90/154 laps (90/180/334). Sunday’s race will air live beginning at noon MT (2 p.m. ET) on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and PRN. Qualifying (multi-car, three rounds) is scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. MT (7 p.m. ET) on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90 and PRN.
Roush Fenway Racing will host its annual fall fan day at its world headquarters in Concord, N.C. on Friday, October 6. The event is open to the public and features an autograph session with team owner Jack Roush.
“We believe it’s a privilege to hold fan day events at our shop, and, in fact, part of our obligation to the fans who faithfully and passionately support our sport,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “It’s no secret that the NASCAR fans are the true engine of our sport. Being able to open up the doors to our race shop, and let them visit with Jack, a couple of times a year is a small token of our appreciation and it’s something we look forward to each season.”
Drivers Ryan Reed, Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse, originally scheduled to participate in fan day, will be unable to attend due to scheduling issues between Robert Yates’ funeral and on-track activity at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Roush Fenway offers its apologies to fans planning to attend to meet the drivers.
SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will again broadcast live its award-winning mid-day show with Jim Noble and fan favorite Chocolate Myers from the event, featuring interviews with the Roush Fenway drivers, Jack Roush and various key members of Roush Fenway’s team.
In addition to the autograph session, there will be a ‘Driven for a Cause’ photo booth set up where fans can snap selfies to show their support of breast cancer awareness. A snapchat geofilter will also allow fans on the Roush Fenway campus to send their own ‘Driven for a Cause’ messages to friends.
Roush Fenway encourages fans to take part in the event through social media using the hashtag #DrivenForACause, while the team will give fans a behind-the-scenes look at the event throughout the day on all of its social platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Google+.
The autograph session will kick off at noon, with tickets distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, beginning at 8 a.m.
Kyle Busch, coming off back-to-back Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff wins, will be heading to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway this weekend all charged up.
And who can blame him, as he won two of the three races in the Round of 16. Busch will look to add another playoff win, and his first career Cup Series points win at Charlotte, as the Interstate Batteries logos will be aboard his green-and-white-striped No. 18 Toyota for Sunday afternoon’s Bank of America 500.
With the Interstate Batteries team’s recent “charge” in NASCAR’s postseason, Busch looks to keep the momentum going as the Cup Series enters its fourth race of the 2017 playoffs in this exciting and sometimes unpredictable playoff format.
The driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) has proven over the years that he can get the job done at just about every racetrack in NASCAR’s top series. In fact, Busch heads into this weekend chasing a long-awaited victory at Charlotte that would make him a winner at every track on the circuit, as well as a step closer to his immediate goal of bringing home a second Cup Series championship.
With wins at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and Kansas Speedway in Kansas City added to the list last season, and crossing Pocono (Pa.) Raceway off the list this past July, Busch has won Cup Series points races at 22 of the 23 tracks at which the series competes. During his 2015 Cup Series championship season, Busch checked off Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Of the 22 different tracks where Busch has won, he has multiple wins at 11 of them.
While he finally broke through and won the non-points All-Star Race at Charlotte in May, Busch continues to chase the ever-elusive points-paying Cup Series victory there.
Other drivers have come close to the feat Busch has in his sights – winning at every track on the circuit. Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon retired after the 2015 season one short of the accomplishment as he was unable to secure a win at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta in five career starts there. Three-time-champion Tony Stewart, who retired at the end of last season, does not have Kentucky or Darlington (S.C.) Raceway on his career win list.
With Busch advancing to the Round of 12 of the playoffs after the New Hampshire and Dover wins, the focus Sunday will be on getting to victory lane and locking his Interstate Batteries team into the Round of 8 of this year’s playoffs.
The 2015 Cup Series champion has visited Charlotte’s victory lane a combined 15 times in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series, leaving no doubt Busch knows how to close out race wins in bunches at the 1.5-mile oval in the heart of NASCAR country.
So as Busch and his No. 18 Interstate Batteries team head just down the road from Joe Gibbs Racing’s Huntersville, North Carolina headquarters, the hottest driver in NASCAR will be looking to add Charlotte to the win column, which could be critical in his “charge” toward another championship in November at the season finale at Homestead.
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Fall FanFest will be held this Friday, October 6, from 9 AM to 1 PM at its team headquarters in Huntersville, NC.
JGR drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Daniel Suárez, Matt Tifft, Kyle Benjamin, Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell, and Riley Herbst are all scheduled to sign autographs that morning. In order to receive an autograph, fans must have a wristband for autographs from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Wristbands will be distributed starting at 8 AM on Friday (please note overnight camping is NOT allowed). Wristbands will not be required for XFINITY Series drivers or JGRMX riders.
The complete driver autograph schedule for Friday, October 6 is as follows:
9:30-10:30 AM: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Daniel Suárez
11 AM – Noon: Matt Tifft, Kyle Benjamin, Ryan Preece, Christopher Bell, and Riley Herbst
11 AM – Noon: JGRMX Riders
Booths with prize giveaways and interactive displays will be on site and food will be available for purchase from various vendors. A charity raffle with great prizes will be held at noon.
In addition, the sixth annual JGR FanFest Car and Motorcycle Show will be from 9 AM until 1 PM (registration begins at 7 AM and judging concludes at 11 AM with awards presented at 1 PM). Categories for the show include street rods, muscle cars, original class, custom, motorcycles, pick-ups, best engine and best in show. Participants can preregister at http://joegibbsracing.com/carshow.
For more information and directions for JGR Fall FanFest please go to our website at http://joegibbsracing.com/fanfest.
Funds raised from JGR Fall FanFest will be donated to Bright Blessings.
Cassill on Charlotte
"Everyone's always excited to race in Charlotte. It's our home track, so we always get a lot of team members, guys from the shop who don't normally get to come to the race track, there supporting us. Lots of family members, too. It's always a fun atmosphere with everybody there. And we have Love's Travel Stops back on the car, too, along with Roller Bites. Love's is like family to us, so it will be good to host them at our home track.
"It will be like a different race from May, with this one being in the daytime. And in depends on what they do with VHT. I thought that track was tough to get a hold of in May. We could be going there with a clean slate, though. It will definitely be tricky in the sunlight."
Ragan on Charlotte
"It’s always good to run well at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That’s a home track for a lot of the teams, and we have a lot of friends and family, and a lot of the shop employees that don’t travel with us, they come out to the racetrack and have fun.
"We finished 23rd there in May. Anytime we can qualify and race around that 20th spot is an OK day for us. We want to get into top-15s – that’s where we want to be – but our competition stays very tough throughout the season. Charlotte’s a good gauge. We’ve got a lot of mile-and-a-half tracks to finish the season with, so we want to have a strong showing for our team, for TheHouse.com and for ModSpace, who is joining us again as an associate partner this weekend at Charlotte."
Friday, Oct. 6, 4-5pm - Camping World of Concord (6700 Bruton Smith Blvd.)
Clint Bowyer hasn’t always enjoyed the best relationship with Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, where the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races Sunday afternoon in the Bank of America 500.
At one time in his career, it might have been one of his least favorite tracks on the circuit. But that changed Oct. 13, 2012.
That night, Bowyer stretched his fuel mileage to earn his eighth career victory and third of that season. It also gave him a new regard for the 1.5-mile oval.
“I don’t know why, since that victory, it gave us a boost of confidence and we’ve seemed to run a lot better at Charlotte,” said Bowyer, whose 14.2 average finish is the ninth best of all full-time drivers in 2017. “This was a terrible track for me – I hated this place. I’m pretty fond of it, anymore. After the last two weeks, I think my Ford should be pretty fast this weekend.”
The Emporia, Kansas native would love a repeat of the 2012 race Sunday when he drives the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). The race will mark Bowyer’s 427th career Cup Series start and his 24th Cup Series start at Charlotte, where he has two top-five finishes and five top-10s in addition to the victory.
Bowyer arrives in Charlotte after finishing sixth Sunday at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and seventh the previous weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. It will also mark his second start at Charlotte in an SHR Ford. At the Coke 600 in May, Bowyer started ninth and finished 14th despite several slower cars stretching fuel mileage in the closing laps and finishing ahead of him.
“We just couldn’t get our Ford to turn in May,” said Bowyer, who finished ninth in the non-points All-Star Race held at Charlotte in May. “We tried everything we knew to help the front end but we never got it to where we could race with the leaders.”
Balancing the car’s handling will likely be an area of work for the No. 14 and all the Cup Series teams when they begin practice Friday afternoon. This weekend’s race returns to the three-day format that includes a Sunday-afternoon race for the first time at Charlotte since 2002.
“I think racing in the heat of the day will make for an interesting race,” he said. “It will probably be hot and slick, and whoever wins is going to have to be perfect.”
Next year’s fall race in Charlotte will be even more challenging. The track will run its September race on its “roval” – a new 13-turn, 2.4-mile road course incorporating part of the infield and all but 400 feet of Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval on which drivers will race 500 kilometers over 130 laps.
The Charlotte race marks the first NASCAR road-course race in the track’s 58-year history, and it will be the first time the 14-year-old playoff format includes a road course. It will serve as the final race in Round 1 of the 2018 playoffs.
“I think the folks at Charlotte are doing all they can to make this event special,” Bowyer said. “I hope Sunday afternoon means we’ll see a lot of families at the track and we’ll put on a good show. Next year is going to be something on the new track. It’s a pretty cool time and I like the changes.”
With the day race and next year’s change to the “roval,” Charlotte’s future is bright, but maybe for just this weekend Clint Bowyer hopes he can rekindle the past with some 2012 magic.
“The entire NASCAR Community has lost a pillar of our sport with the passing of Robert Yates. Robert was true to all he held dear - a fierce competitor, a dedicated and inspired leader and a passionate family man. For me he was the type of competitor that brought out the best in everyone around him and he was a wonderful partner and friend. I am very fortunate to have been able to team up with, and learn from, Robert Yates. He was one of a kind and will leave a void in our sport and in my heart."