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Stewart: The Man at The Glen
Tony Stewart is so good at the relatively niche art of road racing that he might as well add a few umlauts to his name, at least for this weekend as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series invades the 11-turn, 2.45-mile road course that is Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.
For years, road racing was considered a European hallmark, where Formula One reigns supreme and oval racetracks are vastly outnumbered by the twists and turns of the continent’s seemingly endless supply of road courses. Drivers with such names as Lewis, Jenson, Nigel, Mika, Sebastian, Kimi and Fernando are most often thought of as the premiere road-course talent.
But here in the good, ol’ U.S. of A, it’s a guy named Tony who reigns supreme, as Stewart’s five Sprint Cup wins at The Glen suggest.
The driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing comes from working-class roots in Columbus, Ind., yet he possesses otherworldly driving skills that would put such Formula One champions as Mika Häkkinen (1998-1999) and Kimi Räikkönen (2007) to the test if they dared cross the Atlantic to compete at The Glen as their Formula One predecessors did from 1961 through 1980.
Since 1999 when Stewart began racing “tin-tops” at Watkins Glen as a Sprint Cup rookie, he’s collected the most wins of any driver in Sprint Cup. His first win came in 2002, with subsequent trips to victory lane in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009.
In his 13 career Sprint Cup starts at The Glen, Stewart has only three finishes worse than seventh – 26th in 2001, 11th in 2003 and 27th in 2011. He has an average start of 6.2 and an average finish of 7.1.
Bolstering Stewart’s legend at The Glen is his success at the Sprint Cup Series’ other road course venue in Sonoma, Calif. There, Stewart has two wins, three second-place finishes, five top-fives and nine top-10s in his 14 career Sprint Cup starts, giving him an average finish of 10.9.
Tally it all up and Stewart has seven road-course wins and only four finishes lower than 15th – 26th at Watkins Glen in 2001, 28th at Sonoma in 2006, 39th at Sonoma in 2011 and 27th at Watkins Glen in 2011. His average road-course finish is ninth, which is due in large part to having recorded only one DNF (Did Not Finish) in his 26 career road-course races and earning a lap completion rate of 99.2 percent.
Adding fuel to Smoke’s fire is that he comes into Watkins Glen with a string of gritty finishes. The three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion has scored seven top-12s in the last eight races – five of which were top-fives, including a win July 7 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. All of those drives have been hard earned, as Stewart’s average start was 23rd, but he constantly rallied to score an average finish of 8.4.
Among those rallies was the June 24 visit to the road course in Sonoma, where Stewart qualified 24th and then muscled his way to second place before the checkered flag dropped. The same Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevy that Stewart wheeled at Sonoma will be underneath him this weekend at The Glen, where Stewart plans to finish one spot higher than he did in Sonoma.
A win at The Glen would give Stewart four wins on the season and sole possession of the No. 1 seed in the 12-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Currently, Stewart shares the top spot with Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski, both of whom are three-time winners this season.
Stewart’s multiple victories allow him to forget about points and go for even more wins. He’s a lock to qualify for his eighth Chase, where each regular-season wins carries three bonus points to start the 10-race Chase. It’s a margin Stewart didn’t have in 2011, when he entered the Chase winless yet rallied to score a record-setting five wins to take his third Sprint Cup championship.
Intent on defending that title, Stewart is looking for another championship ring in 2012, and a win in Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen could very well give bring some more bling to his fingers when the Sprint Cup season culminates Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Parker Kligerman Joins Red Horse Racing
Red Horse Racing announced Thursday morning the addition of Parker Kligerman to the organization's driver lineup. Kligerman will make his first appearance in the No. 7 Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra next Saturday at Michigan International Speedway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series VFW 200.
Kligerman, hailing from Westport, Connecticut, began his competitive racing career in two-stroke go karts at the age of 13. A successful open-wheel racing resume helped boost him into the next level in 2008, making his first career stock car starts in the ARCA Racing Series. Kligerman then moved on to compete full time in that same series the following year, amassing a series-leading nine victories en route to the Rookie of the Year title and runner up finish in the championship point standings.
Since making his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) appearance in 2010, Kligerman has posted six top-five and 16 top-10 finishes in 37 career starts. The 22-year-old currently sits sixth in the NCWTS championship point standings, 35 markers behind leader and teammate, Timothy Peters.
"When you look at truck series teams right now, there's no doubt Red Horse Racing is definitely one of the top organizations. I'm really excited to make the move here with the support of Tom DeLoach and everyone at this team to see how we can help the team and be successful. It sounds so cliché to say I'm excited, but it's the only word to say because it perfectly describes what I'm looking forward to doing, and that's winning in these trucks," Kligerman explained.
"I feel like Red Horse gives you the best equipment they can and at the end of the day that's all you look for as a driver; the actual chance to win, not just the trophy. So it's our job now to go out there and get the trophy and I feel like this is a place I can do that."
Chad Kendrick, who led the No. 7 Tundra team to victory in the season-opening NCWTS event at Daytona, will call the shots for Kligerman. Kendrick, in the midst of his fourth year in the crew chief position, first came to Red Horse Racing in 2009 with Timothy Peters and collected one win, five top-five and 13 top-10 finishes that year. He returned to Red Horse at the beginning of 2012 and will travel with Kligerman to Michigan.
Red Horse Racing is in its eighth year of NCWTS competition, also fielding the No. 11 Tundra for Todd Bodine and the No. 17 Tundra for Timothy Peters. The Mooresville, North Carolina-based team has recorded eight total victories since its inception, along with seven poles, 57 top-five and 114 top-10 finishes. With three wins to date in 2012 and Peters atop the series point standings, Red Horse Racing has maintained a consistent presence near the front of the field and looks to continue building upon success with the addition of Kligerman.
"Things happen quickly in the racing world. We were busy getting trucks ready to race in Michigan and received a call from Parker, asking if we can get another entry ready. Parker has impressive credentials and we believe he is an emerging talent so we readily agreed and began preparations," said Red Horse Racing Managing Partner Tom DeLoach about the new driver of the No. 7 truck.
"Now Chad and all the guys back in the shop are going to be back at the track and we are confident we'll be ready with three strong entries in Michigan next weekend."
The Grip Gets Tighter As "The Road To Richmond" Twists And Turns Through The Finger Lakes This Weekend
After a rain-shortened finish at the “Tricky Triangle” of Pocono, the Race to The Chase shifts to the 11-turn road course at Watkins Glen International. Following this weekend’s event, there will only be three races remaining before “The Road to Richmond” culminates atRichmond International Raceway on Saturday, September 8 with the Federated Auto Parts 400—“One Last Race to Make The Chase.”
While the top 12 in points didn’t see too much movement following Pocono, from position 13 on, there was quite a bit of change. Most notably,Jeff Gordon moved past three “wild card” rivals to join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne for the final “wild card” spot, if the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field was to be set today.
Gordon is currently sitting 13th in the standings and is tied in both points (611) and wins (1) with one-time Watkins Glen winner and “wild card” hopeful, Ryan Newman. As it stands now, Gordon would take the last “wild card” spot over Newman, because he has the best-finish tie-breaker. A four-time winner at The Glen, Gordon can tighten his grip on the last “wild card” spot with a win in the Finger Lakes region this weekend.
One driver that’s hoping the rain at Pocono didn’t wash away his “wild card” hopes is Kyle Busch. Prior to last week, he held the second “wild card” berth, but a 33rd place finish dropped him to 15th in the standings. Busch is always a threat at The Glen with one career victory and an average finish of 9.3. This he has the fourth-best driver rating at 106.8.
Here is a look at drivers fighting for a “wild card” position and their stats at Pocono:
Marcos Ambrose: Currently 18th in the points, with no wins this season, Ambrose has the second-best driver rating this week at 118.0. He has one win at The Glen and knows his way around the twists and turns with an average finish of 2.3. A win this weekend could help him gain valuable points and assist with his goal to make the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Clint Bowyer: He definitely doesn’t have the best luck at The Glen, with only one top-10 finish in 6 career races. Sitting in the 10th position, Bowyer has a driver rating of 77.1 and an average finish of 17.5. Though on paper his stats don’t seem favorable, it is notable to mention Bowyer won the only other road course race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule this year in Sonoma.
Martin Truex Jr.: Quietly having a great season, Truex Jr. finds himself sitting comfortably at 5th in the standings. The only stat missing from his impressive season is a win. He’s 13th on the driver rating list at 87.1 and has two top-five finish in six races at The Glen. Only 48 points out of first place, a win by Truex Jr. this weekend might lead to a shake-up in the top 5.
The Dale Jr. Foundation Offering New Incentives in Camaro Giveaway
The Dale Jr. Foundation has rejuvenated its Camaro giveaway program by incentivizing the raffle and offering ticket buyers the chance to win more prizes.
Now with the purchase of a $25 ticket you not only become eligible to win Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s personal 2011 Chevrolet Camaro convertible but also VIP race weekend experiences and monthly prizes such as autographed sheet metal and merchandise. The Dale Jr. Foundation will draw among each month’s ticket buyers and award prizes from now until the promotion’s end on Oct. 1.
“We want people to buy raffle tickets, but we don’t want to make them wait until October to find out if they win anything,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who started his foundation in 2007 to help support underprivileged individuals. “This gives fans the opportunity to win stuff before the October grand prize giveaway. This Camaro program is a big fundraiser for my foundation, and we want to drive awareness to it, give people more reasons to buy tickets, and also increase their chances of winning something.”
This is the second year Earnhardt Jr. has given away a Camaro from his own collection. Like he did last year, NASCAR’s nine-time Most Popular Driver will personally hand over the keys to one lucky winner. Gale Fontaine of Roanoke Va., took ownership of the grand-prize Camaro last year. She came to JR Motorsports in October, 2011, with her husband, Carle, and was surprised when Earnhardt Jr. himself handed over the keys.
“I still can’t believe we won,” she said after sitting in her new ride. “I’ve been a Dale Jr. fan since day one. When I got the call that I won, I was at work. My boss said, ‘Did you win the lottery?’ I said, ‘Well, yes I did! I won the Camaro!’ It was exciting. I bought that ticket because I’m a Dale Jr. fan, the Camaro is a great-looking car, and because the money goes to The Dale Jr. Foundation.”
This year, the inferno orange 2011 Chevrolet Camaro 2SS Convertible is equipped with a 6.2L V8 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission with tap shifter. It features a black interior with inferno orange accents on the front and rear seats, and 20-inch aluminum wheels finished in midnight silver.
Winner of the runner-up drawing will win a VIP race experience that includes round-trip airfare for two, pit/garage access, and seats atop the JR Motorsports No. 88 team pit box for any NASCAR Nationwide Series event of their choosing. The third-place winner will receive a race-weekend package to the Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May, 2013. This package includes pit and garage access, round-trip airfare for two and $200 spending money in the JR Nation store. Monthly prizes include race-used sheet metal, autographed diecast cars and official crew shirts.
Fans can log on to www.WinDaleJrsRide.com to enter. The raffle ends Oct. 1, 2012. No more than 8,888 tickets will be sold.
Johnson Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More
In 1973, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International played host to some guests most would not expect at the home of the Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix. During the last weekend of July, the racetrack hosted Summer Jam, a concert event featuring rock bands the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band. The event reportedly drew 600,000 fans over the course of the weekend. In 2011, nearly four decades later, the track hosted the rock band Phish, which much like the Grateful Dead and The Allman Brothers Band, is known for its improvisational jams and rabid fan base.
The track gets back to its more traditional hosting duties this weekend, albeit involving another rabid fan base, when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits The Glen for the 30th time in Sprint Cup history with 43 “bands” entertaining the fans assembled around the 2.45-mile, 11-turn circuit. Jimmie Johnson is making his 11th visit with the series. It has been a somewhat frustrating experience for Johnson over those years, however. The Glen is one of five tracks on the circuit where Johnson has failed to win. Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the others.
Despite the absence of Sprint Cup victories at The Glen, Johnson enjoys road-course racing. He participated in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race at The Glen in 2010 with Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing, when the team of Johnson, Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty finished sixth. He also came close to victory in the Nationwide Series at The Glen, finishing second in 2011 while running for teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. His best Sprint Cup finish is third in 2007.
Johnson knows a Sprint Cup victory at The Glen might, at the very least, take away some of the attention from one of his most infamous moments at the track. While running the Nationwide Series race in 2000, Johnson lost his brakes on a high-speed section of the track, ventured off-course and careened into the wall. Fortunately, the track had installed SAFER Barriers unbeknownst to Johnson. Thus, the image of him standing on top of his car, after the accident, arms raised in triumph, is one that has captivated fans in the years since.
Safe to say it’s been an unusual relationship for Johnson at the New York track. But the five-time Sprint Cup champion “ain’t wastin’ time no more, ’cause time goes by like pouring rain and much faster things,” as the Allman Brothers sing, and Johnson hopes his Lowe’s Chevrolet is the fastest around the famous turns and esses of the racetrack during Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen.
Freightliner and Miller Share Primary Position on Labonte’s Toyota Camry at Watkins Glen International
Two companies will be prominently displayed on Bobby Labonte’s No. 47 Toyota Camry fielded by JTG Daugherty Racing this weekend at Watkins Glen International.
Both Freightliner and Miller are positioned on the hood and other sections of Labonte’s ride for the Finger Lakes 335 at The Glen on Sunday, August 12.
"We are fortunate to have a group of tremendous sponsor partners at JTG Daugherty Racing,” co-owner Tad Geschickter said. “We couldn't build the cars without the support of Miller Welders and couldn't transport them to the track each week without the support of Freightliner Trucks."
Freightliner representatives feel the same way about the partnership.
“Freightliner Trucks has a great relationship with Bobby Labonte and JTG Daugherty Racing, and we are pleased that they rely on the Freightliner Coronado to transport the team from race to race,” said Stacey Premo, Motorsports Marketing Manager for Freightliner Trucks. “We are so proud to have a Freightliner scheme on the track at Watkins Glen, and are looking forward to the race and cheering on the No. 47 car this weekend.”
Freightliner Trucks is a division of Daimler Trucks North America LLC, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, and is the leading heavy-duty truck manufacturer in North America. Daimler Trucks North America produces and markets Class 4-8 trucks and is a Daimler company, the world's leading commercial vehicle manufacturer. Freightliner plays a vital role in JTG Daugherty Racing’s transportation of Labonte’s Toyota Camrys each week and transport driver Dale Lackey can attest to that fact.
“JTG Daugherty Racing has a great partnership with Freightliner and I drive their tractor each week to each race,” Lackey said. “Their tractors are durable and dependable. We also have great 24-7 support from Jerry M McKinney if we run into any challenges along the way.
“Also, they are very involved in our sport and have the Run Smart hauler challenge each year that’s open to the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series hauler drivers,” continued Lackey. “It starts with about 50 or 60 drivers and eventually it comes down to the final four competing for money (winner receives $30,000) and a nice trophy. There are only eight left and I’m one of them. The next challenge is in Chicago, which determines the final four that will compete in Charlotte in October. We’re excited to have them on board and also Miller at Watkins Glen.”
Miller Welders is a proud technical partner of JTG Daugherty Racing.
“When they decided to expand their shop to do in-house welding and fabrication, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to showcase our products with a team that appreciates high quality, high performance welding equipment.” said Andy Weyenberg, Miller Motorsports Marketing Manager. “Being associated with JTG Daugherty Racing and Bobby Labonte, a driver who has a fabrication background and understands the tough environment these cars are built for, really makes sense. We thank them for the opportunity and wish them all the best this weekend at the Glen!”
Miller Electric Mfg. Co., with headquarters in Appleton, Wisconsin, manufactures arc welding and cutting equipment designed for manufacturing, fabrication, construction, aviation, motorsports, education, agriculture and marine applications. Wholly owned by Illinois Tool Works, the company maintains its global leadership by setting the industry standard for reliability, quality and responsiveness. Its famous tagline, “The Power of Blue®,” is inspired by the blue color of Miller equipment.
This company began with an innovation that responded to customer needs, growing from a one-man operation to the world’s largest manufacturer of arc welding and cutting equipment. Miller keeps the tradition alive by focusing on its top priority: people.
“Miller has a long history of innovation and if you take a look around our Harrisburg, N.C. shop and even inside our transporter, you’ll find Miller products throughout,” said Jodi Geschickter, JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner. “They are a great partner of ours providing welding system solutions for our racing operation. We are proud to have them on our Toyota Camry at Watkins Glen this weekend along with our partner Freightliner.”
Labonte is set to deliver a solid finish for each brand supporting JTG Daugherty Racing at Watkins Glen and throughout the season. The 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion’s best start is first (2000) and his best finish is fifth (1996 and 2000). He has two top-five and six top-10s in 19 starts at the 2.45-mile road course.
“Road courses are so much fun,” Labonte said. “The speeds at Watkins Glen are really fast. There’s also a lot of hard-braking and it’s hard to pass on that track. Track position is everything there. We had a respectable finish (19th) last year at Watkins Glen. We look forward to improving upon that with support from Freightliner and Miller.”
For a second week in a row, Labonte has Brian Burns calling the shots.
“Brian Burns is very organized, works hard, is very smart and is a great member of our team,” Labonte said. “Unfortunately, we haven’t put him in the best position, but we are working on that. It’s going to take a little time for us to reboot. We appreciate the support of our sponsors and fans during a transitional period.”
Brad Keselowski & Joey Logano Q&As, Garage Tours, Pre-Race Pit Passes Included in Pit Stop Club at Richmond
If you’re looking to entertain a small group of employees, clients or friends, one of the most enjoyable and easiest ways to experience the Federated Auto Parts 400 “One Last Race to Make The Chase” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, September 8, is in the Pit Stop Club turn-key hospitality. Ideal for your group of eight, the Pit Stop Club includes:
ü Eight reserved grandstand seats in the Commonwealth Mezzanine on the frontstretch
ü Garage tours for each guest
ü Eight pre-race pit passes
ü Two VIP parking passes
ü Eight souvenir programs
ü Eight lanyards and credential holders
ü Admission to the climate-controlled Pit Stop Club hospitality building, which includes a full dinner buffet and complimentary adult beverages for fans 21 and older
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge and Joey Logano, driver of the #20 The Home Depot Toyota, will participate in question-and-answer sessions in the Pit Stop Club hospitality building Saturday afternoon.
ModSpace Returns to No. 38 Ford at Watkins Glen
David Gilliland is happy to have ModSpace back on the hood of his No. 38 Ford this weekend at the Watkins Glen road course. With the sponsor on the hood this season, Gilliland has had his best results, including a season-best 21st last weekend at Pocono Raceway. This weekend will be the sixth time the Front Row Motorsports sponsor will ride with Gilliland.
"ModSpace is very excited to be the primary sponsor on the No. 38 car for this weekend's event at Watkins Glen," stated William Mann, Vice President of Motorsports for ModSpace. "The entire organization looks forward to seeing David and the No. 38 team challenge themselves on this competitive road course. The team has continued to improve all season and David has experience on road courses that should produce a great outcome this weekend."
In the last three starts with ModSpace, Gilliland has earned three top-26 finishes, improving his finishing position each time. A driver and team that have proved to be fast at road courses, Gilliland is optimistic of an even better finish this weekend.
Gilliland heads to Watkins Glen with a best finish of 27th.
David Gilliland on Racing at Watkins Glen:
"I have had better results at Sonoma, but I think we're very capable of having a top-20 or top-15 finish this weekend at Watkins Glen. We had brake issues last year, but my first year with Front Row we finished 27th. I know we're a stronger team today than what we were two years ago. A lot of that has to do with the support of ModSpace. They have been great partners and in our last three races together have really had some great finishes.
"I'm looking forward to this weekend. Pocono was a good run for us and we have some momentum. I think another good finish is easily attainable this weekend. We're on more of a level playing field at the road courses and I want to take advantage of that. Our whole team is anxious to get back to the track."
Pat Tryson on Heading into Watkins Glen:
"We have some momentum after Pocono. David had a good race and we were able to show some improvement. Our last three races, we're around the top-25 weekly. This weekend gives us a chance to really have a good result. This is a fast road course, but the car still needs to be able to handle well. I feel confident we can give David what he needs."
Kurt Busch The Road Racing Diaries: Part Two
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races 39 times a year – 36 points-paying events and a trio of non-points events in the Budweiser Shootout, the Gatorade Duals and the All-Star Race. A variety of tracks comprise that 39-race schedule, from short tracks to intermediate tracks to superspeedways to road courses. The majority of those events, however, take place on tracks labeled as ovals. In fact, series competitors race on oval tracks 94.8 percent of the time. That means Sprint Cup Series regulars compete on road courses just 5.2 percent of the time or, to put it another way, a whopping twice in 39 events.
With so few road races, it would seem they’d be mere blips on the radar screen relative to the entire Sprint Cup schedule. But that just isn’t the case and, oftentimes, the road courses have been the setting for some of the most dramatic and exciting events in any given year, including the current one.
The first chapter in the 2012 road racing story unfolded less than two months ago in California’s Napa Valley. It was a thrilling and ultimately emotional chapter for Kurt Busch and the No. 51 Phoenix Racing team. After qualifying eighth on the 1.99-mile road course in Sonoma, Calif., Busch charged toward the front of the field and competed in the top-five for the remainder of the 112-lap event. He was pressuring eventual race-winner Clint Bowyer for the lead in the closing laps before hitting a tire barrier that broke a piece of his rear suspension. Busch was able to keep his car on the track despite obvious handling issues and finished the day in third place.
The next chapter in the 2012 road racing story is set in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road circuit at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. Busch has described Watkins Glen as more of a momentum track than the one in Sonoma because of the greater speed that can be carried around the course. Still, Busch and the No. 51 Chevrolet team will be looking for more of what they had in California in June during Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen.
Busch goes into this weekend’s race with one career top-five finish and four top-10s at Watkins Glen. He also qualified on the pole for the 2006 race at the track. While Busch is still looking for a win at Watkins Glen, he has found success in Nationwide Series competition at the track, winning two of the three races in which he’s competed, including last season’s race. In an effort to replicate its Sonoma success, the No. 51 team is bringing the same car that crossed the finish line third in the June road-course race.
While this weekend’s event marks the final chapter of the road racing diaries for the 2012 season, Busch and his teammates have high hopes of delivering a story just as thrilling and compelling as the first chapter. This time, however, they’re looking for a much better ending – one that has them arriving at the checkered flag first.
Ryan Newman:Team on a Mission
Ryan Newman and the No. 39 U.S. Army Racing Team are on a mission – to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. And like the 1 million Army Strong Soldiers they represent across the globe, they will put the mission first, attacking their goals with focus, determination and a refusal to accept defeat.
Just five races remain before the 12-driver field is set for the 10-race Chase, which will crown the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. And as the series heads to Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International for the second and final road course race of the season, Newman is in the midst of a hotly contested battle for a coveted Chase berth.
Even with a win earlier this year at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and four consecutive top-10 finishes heading into Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen, Newman is one of five drivers outside the top-10 in points. It’s a precarious position to be in, for only the top-10 are locked into the Chase, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Chase positions 11-12 are wild cards and are awarded to those drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same amount of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Jeff Gordon vaulted into the 12th-place wild-card spot with his win last Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. And while Gordon has only one victory, just like fellow wild-card contenders Newman, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano, his 13th-place point standing puts him in the 12th and final wild card spot via the tiebreaker.
Newman can take that wild-card spot by grabbing another victory in the next five races or by climbing into the top-10 in points. To do so, Newman and Co. will need to embody the same mental, physical and emotional fortitude of our Army Strong Soldiers. It will take a strength like no other, both on and off the racetrack, to successfully complete this all-important mission.
Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355k at The Glen is set squarely in Newman’s sights, for it provides the next opportunity to make the Chase. And while a win would obviously bolster his Chase chances, a triumph on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course would also help Newman achieve another personal goal – earning a Sprint Cup win on a racetrack with left and right turns.
The South Bend, Ind., native has 16 career Sprint Cup victories and they’ve come on a wide variety of racetracks – superspeedways, short tracks, high-banked ovals and flat tracks. But a road-course victory has proven elusive, at least in the elite Sprint Cup Series.
Newman came close to winning at Watkins Glen during his rookie year in 2002. He started fifth and led 11 laps before relinquishing the lead to his current teammate and car owner, Tony Stewart, who went on to win the race by 1.636 seconds.
In 10 career Sprint Cup starts at Watkins Glen, Newman has one top-five and three top-10 finishes. And while he hasn’t won there in Sprint Cup, Newman did capture a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at The Glen in 2005.
Newman wears the U.S. Army logo that adorns the chest of his uniform and the hood of his racecar with great pride. To him, there would be no better way to thank the Soldiers he represents than by making the Chase for the fifth time, which would give the No. 39 U.S. Army Racing Team the opportunity to fight for the prestigious Sprint Cup title.