Speedway Digest Staff
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Cannon McIntosh, of Bixby, Okla., placed second and Muskogee’s Kaylee Bryson was third in leading Toyota at the POWRI Lucas Oil National Midget League’s Turnpike Challenge feature at I-44 Riverside Speedway, Friday night.
McIntosh, 17, and Bryson, 19, grew up racing against one another in Oklahoma, but Friday marked the first time that both finished on the podium at the same race since becoming teammates on Toyota’s lead development team, Keith Kunz Motorsports (KKM).
Pole-sitter Logan Seavey would take the lead at the green flag, with Toyota drivers Thomas Meseraull, Buddy Kofoid and McIntosh falling in behind in positions two through four. Meseraull quickly began challenging Seavey for the top spot before an early yellow waved on lap eight.
On the restart, KKM's Kofoid was able to overtake Meseraull for second, while McIntosh would take over the third position on lap 12. Shortly afterward, Meseraull’s night would come to an early end with mechanical issues as Bryson moved into the top five at the midway point of the 30-lap feature.
Kofoid made a move for the lead on the restart, but Seavey was able to hold him off, while Bryson continued her move up through the field into the fourth spot with 14 laps to go and three laps later she would run the high side through turn two to take over third from McIntosh. Kofoid’s quest for the victory would come to an end when he suffered a flat right rear tire on lap 21, with Bryson taking over second and McIntosh in third.
On the restart, Bryson would challenge Seavey for the lead, pulling up next to him on the outside heading into turn three, but she couldn’t push past him with McIntosh diving to the inside as they came back to the starting line for second place. At that point, McIntosh would make a huge run at Seavey. Diving to the inside into turn one, he moved past Seavey, but wasn’t able to hold it coming out of turn two. McIntosh’s run wasn’t over yet, though, as he closed back on Seavey, again pulling up next to him coming out of turn two. Then with six laps to go, McIntosh made a huge run down the back straight to dive underneath Seavey heading into turn three and appeared to be set to take over the top spot heading into one, only to have a red flag come out, dropping him back to second.
Seavey and McIntosh would run nose to tail for much of the remaining six laps and that’s how they would finish, with Bryson finishing third in earning her first POWRi podium finish after running a partial season as a rookie a year ago.
Kevin Thomas Jr. and KKM’s 15-year-old Daison Pursley would finish sixth and seventh to give Toyota four of the top-seven finishers on the night.
The POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League returns to I-44 Riverside Speedway Saturday for night three of the Turnpike Challenge before closing out at Port City Raceway in Tulsa on Sunday.
Cole Custer and the No. 41 HaasTooling.com Mustang team venture a little more than four hours to the north and west from their Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) headquarters to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500. Custer will make his first Cup Series start at the Tennessee track and 12th career Cup Series start.
The No. 41 Ford Mustang will sport the colors of co-owner Gene Haas’ newest holding, HaasTooling.com, for the short-track event. Haas Tooling was launched a few weeks ago as a way for CNC machinists to purchase high quality cutting tools at great prices. Haas’ cutting tools are sold exclusively online at HaasTooling.com and shipped directly to end users.
Custer spent the last week honing his craft at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for the season’s longest race – Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, and Thursday night’s Alsco Uniforms 500k. His first Cup Series start at the 1.5-mile track last Sunday netted Custer a 12th-place finish after recovering from falling one lap down earlier in the race. He earned an 18th-place finish in Thursday night’s 500-kilometer – 310-mile – race after battling a loose-handling No. 41 Mustang.
The Cup Series has completed one race at a short track this season at Phoenix Raceway in March, where Custer and the No. 41 team finished ninth. The series will run a similar package this weekend at Bristol and the HaasTooling.com driver hopes to capture another top-10 this weekend.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Custer had six consecutive starts at Bristol from 2017 through 2019. Five of those resulted in top-five qualifying positions. The California native has two Xfinity Series pole awards at Bristol – April 2018 and 2019. Custer has four top-10 finishes in the series at Bristol, with 31 laps led. Custer also has three Bristol outings in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Bristol, all starting in the top-10 with a pair of top-10 finishes and 111 laps led.
While the NASCAR season has resumed, the sport also continues to do its part during the COVID-19 pandemic. SHR’s partnership with Novant Health continues to expand. So far, SHR has helped transport and deliver millions of face masks for Novant, in addition to building intensive care unit webcam carts. Now, SHR is now providing 25,000 square feet of property adjacent to its shop in Kannapolis, North Carolina, for Novant’s partnership with Zipline, the world’s only national-scale, on-demand drone logistics service. Zipline will deliver medical supplies via its fleet of drones to Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers. Click here to download b-roll of site build, drone delivery and interviews.
In SHR’s 70 starts at Bristol, the team has earned two pole awards and two victories. The championship team has 10 top-fives, 29 top-10s and 873 laps led at the high-banked, concrete oval.
Haas Automation, founded by Haas in 1983, 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.
Even though Custer had a trio of starts in the Cup Series in 2018, 2020 officially marks his Rookie of the Year campaign in NASCAR’s most prestigious series. He’s competing for rookie honors with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick. The three have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the full-time transition to the Cup Series together. Custer was the third-highest-finishing rookie at Charlotte Thursday night and looks to improve his position Sunday afternoon at a track where he’s run well in the past.
It’s time for a little change of scenery for Daniel Suárez and the No. 96 It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry team for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR). After four races in the Carolinas during an 11-day stretch that ended a 70-day hiatus for the NASCAR Cup Series due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ll take to the concrete, high-banked, half-mile Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway oval for the some short-track racing.
Sunday’s Supermarket Heroes 500 marks the ninth race of 2020 for the Cup Series competitors and the fifth since the suspended schedule was resumed April 17 with the first of two consecutive races at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Suárez and his No. 96 Toyota finished 25th in NASCAR’s return to racing at Darlington, and followed it up with a 27th-place finish three days later in the first Wednesday-night Cup Series race in 36 years. They then moved to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway for last Sunday night’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend Coca-Cola 600, followed by Thursday’s night’s Alsco Uniforms 500k, netting 28th-place results in both.
The fifth Cup Series race in the last two weeks takes Suárez and his It’s Good To Be Genuine Toyota Camry – a nod to its partner’s Parts & Service heritage – to one of his more successful racetracks. His history on the Bristol oval began in 2012 with his first of three NASCAR K&N Pro Series East outings – all in Toyota equipment. Suárez also has a pair of Bristol starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, six in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and six in the Cup Series. In his most recent Truck Series outing, he started second and led 77 laps before an accident ended his day 16 laps from the finish. His five top-six finishes in six Xfinity Series starts are highlighted by runner-up finishes to Joey Logano and Kyle Busch, respectively, in April 2015 and August 2017.
In last year’s two Bristol Cup Series races, Suárez brought home finishes of eighth in both, driving the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing entry, and he almost added another top-10 when he drove his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to an 11th-place finish there in April 2018. His average Cup Series finish at Bristol is 13.0, his average start 17.7. But Suárez will have to work hard to make forward progress from the wave of the green flag Sunday as he’ll start 37th on a grid for which the top 36 positions – all reserved for chartered teams – were decided Friday by random draw, and positions 37 through 40 – all non-chartered teams – lined up by car owner points.
No matter, Suárez is at his most comfortable when the battle is toughest, and he and his teammates look forward to the typical 500 laps of beating and banging among 40 competitors fighting for position in the tight quarters of the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway oval on Sunday afternoon in the hills of East Tennessee.
Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) continue their return to racing after the COVID-19 postponements with a fan and driver favorite – short-track competition at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
Sunday, avid and new fans of the NASCAR Cup Series will get the chance to witness the typically action-packed, 500-lap race that will test the physical and mental stamina of its drivers.
“Bristol is the ultimate test of physical stamina mixed with finesse of how you position your racecar,” Almirola said. “You’re on the edge of your seat every lap and the slightest mistake can set you back. It helps to be in great shape for races like Bristol when you get toward the end of the long, green-flag run. During the break, I stayed busy with my workout regimen to prepare for races like this with heat training and cycling.”
After four races in 12 days, Almirola and the Smithfield Ford team are excited to mix up the racing styles and get back to short-track racing – something they think the fans will enjoy.
“NASCAR has done such an incredible job getting us back racing,” Almirola said. “We’re one of the only sports to watch right now and Sunday will be a prime time for new fans to see what NASCAR is all about. They’re going to see beating and banging the entire race, cars barely holding on, and frustration from a lot of us drivers. I think we’re going to gain a lot of new race fans Sunday and I hope the No. 10 Smithfield car is up front to gain some new fans for ourselves.”
Almirola’s 2019 outcomes at Bristol were not favorable for the 36-year-old – not of his own fault. After a solid sixth-place qualifying run in the April 2019 Bristol event, Almirola was struck by the No. 24 car and taken out of the race on lap three. Following another solid fifth-place qualifying effort in the August race, Almirola made contact with a lapped car that ultimately led him to finish 18 laps off the pace.
“Bristol is a track I always look forward to going to,” Almirola said. “We just haven’t had luck on our side the last few races there. I feel confident there, too. We just need some things to go our way to actually finish a solid race.”
Almirola and the Smithfield Ford team have restarted the season with one top-10 and have held their ninth-place position in the standings with 225 points – 106 behind leader Kevin Harvick.
He has one top-five and three top-10s in 20 starts at Bristol since 2007. His best finish there was third in the Food City 500 on March 16, 2004. In addition to his Cup Series experience at Bristol, Almirola has seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with four of those resulting in top-10 finishes.
Almirola will sport the iconic black, white and gold Smithfield Ford Mustang this weekend at Bristol. Smithfield Foods Inc., who will sponsor Almirola’s car at the majority of races this season, is an American food company with agricultural roots and a global reach. Its 40,000 U.S. employees are dedicated to producing “Good Food. Responsibly®,” and have made it one of the world’s leading vertically integrated protein companies.
The starting grid for Sunday’s race was determined Friday by random draw in order of owner points positions. Almirola will start the Food City Presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 from second.
Kevin Harvick will compete in his fifth race in 15 days on Sunday, May 31 in the Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. That’s a lot of races in 15 days, but not for someone like Harvick.
The driver of the No. 4 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) drove in four races in eight days back in 2007.
It was the year of the great rainout at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Harvick drove in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Michigan on Saturday, Aug. 18 and finished third. The Cup Series race ended up running on Tuesday, Aug. 21 after it was rained out Sunday and Monday.
Harvick then headed south to Bristol for the Xfinity Series race on Friday, Aug. 24 and finished 16th. Finally, on Saturday, Aug. 25, he finished 16th in the Bristol Cup Series race.
He raced a total of 1,055.7 miles during that 2007 stretch. By the end of this past Thursday night’s 500-kilometer race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, he will have driven have driven 1,595.588 miles since the Cup Series resumed its suspended season April 17 with the first of two races at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. And he has another 250 miles coming up Sunday at Bristol.
So while the schedule has been odd, because of Harvick’s experience, he’s sort of been through this before. And he has been successful at Bristol before, as well.
Harvick has two wins, one pole, 12 top-five finishes, 19 top-10s and has led a total of 912 laps in his 38 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol. His average start is 16.7, his average finish is 13.8 and he has a lap-completion rate of 96.7 percent – 18,401 of the 19,027 laps available.
He has competed in 29 NASCAR Xfinity Series races there with five wins, 15 top-fives and 24 top-10 finishes with two pole positions. He has driven in five NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series events at Bristol and has one win and four top-10s.
Harvick will also have the support of longtime partner Hunt Brothers Pizza at Bristol Sunday.
With more than 7,800 locations in 30 states, Hunt Brothers Pizza is the nation’s largest brand of made-to-order pizza in the convenience store industry. Hunt Brothers Pizza offers original and thin crust pizzas available as a grab-and-go Hunk perfect for today’s on-the-go lifestyle, or as a customizable whole pizza that is an exceptional value with All Toppings No Extra Charge®. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Hunt Brothers Pizza is family owned and operated with more than 25 years of experience serving great pizza to convenience store shoppers through its store partners. To find a Hunt Brothers Pizza location, download the Hunt Brothers Pizza app by visiting www.huntbrotherspizza.com/app/
Hunt Brothers Pizza has partnered with Harvick for 11 years and last visited victory lane with him when he won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In 2019, Hunt Brothers moved up to the Cup Series as a primary sponsor for three races and, in 2020, will be on Harvick’s car five times.
Harvick has also won two Truck Series races with Hunt Brothers as a sponsor at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, and at Bristol, both in 2011. The company also sponsored him in the non-points NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte in 2014 and 2015. Harvick finished second in both races.
Harvick is hoping he can heat up at Bristol and score his second victory of 2020. And if he leads just one more lap, he will have led 10,000 laps in his SHR career dating back to 2014.
Last fall at Bristol Motor Speedway, Matt DiBenedetto, having learned just days before that he would be a free agent in 2020, turned in a performance that won the hearts of fans both at the track and across the NASCAR nation.
Although he relinquished the lead after holding the top spot for 93 laps late in the race and wound up in second place, the crowd cheered loud and long as he was interviewed for the TV and radio broadcasts.
In those interviews, DiBenedetto, who finished second, vowed to remain in the Cup Series and said he had faith that some top-tier team would hire him and be glad to get him.
“I just want to stick around and keep doing this for a long time to come,” DiBenedetto said on that hot August night. “I love it. I love the opportunity. I'm not done yet.”
“Something will come open. It's going to happen. I'm here to win. Something's going to come open.”
Turns out he was right. The Wood Brothers hired him to drive their iconic No. 21 Ford Mustang.
“That Bristol race was the turning point in Matt’s career,” Eddie Wood said. “I remember how well he ran and how the fans were supporting him. When Paul [Menard] decided to retire and we talked with him about who would take over the car, Matt’s name was the first one that came up for us and Paul.”
Now DiBenedetto, who already has matched his Bristol finishing position with a second-place run at Las Vegas earlier this year, is returning to Bristol with a No. 21 REESE/Draw-Tite Mustang that is expected to be capable of once again contending for a win on the half-mile concrete oval.
Wood said he’s optimistic about the team’s prospects this weekend.
“Bristol is Matt’s best track,” he said. “And we’ve had some fast cars up there lately.”
“The biggest thing is getting to the end of the race without getting involved in someone else’s mess or your own mess.
“It’s the hardest race we run to survive to the finish. It’s so fast and the cars run so close. Things happen fast.”
Wood also said he and his family team are excited to have the No. 21 Mustang carry the universally known REESE and Draw-Tite brands, which have been providing heavy-duty and custom hitches and towing equipment since their inceptions in 1952 and 1946.
“We had REESE and Draw-Tite on the car for the iRacing event at Bristol a few weeks ago, and we were proud of that, but it’s a much bigger deal to represent them in a real Cup race,” he said. “We always enjoy working with companies like ours that have long histories.”
Sunday’s Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500, for which there will be no practice or qualifying, is set to start just after 3:30 p.m. with TV coverage on FOX Sports One.
The slogan 'Built Ford Proud' is three simple words that hold so much history and meaning.
“There are hundreds of thousands of Ford employees and millions of customers all over the world who know exactly what ‘Built Ford Proud’ means,” said Clint Bowyer, whose No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will carry blue and white “Built Ford Proud” decals Sunday in the 500-lap NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
For most race fans the “Built Ford Proud” slogan creates images of the Mustang – Ford’s sporty coupe that Bowyer races in NASCAR – or the Ford F-150, the company’s popular pickup truck. The F-150 has been America’s best-selling truck for 43 consecutive years and the best-selling vehicle overall for 38 consecutive years.
“Built Ford Proud” represents the decades of hard work, consistent determination to be the best and ultimately, it represents the American spirit. When America faces a challenge the Ford Motor Company has a strong heritage of help.
The story of the “Arsenal of Democracy” and Ford Motor Company’s contributions to the war effort during World War II is one that is well known. Tanks, jeeps, and planes were rolling off Ford assembly lines. On the civilian front, Ford was providing resources for successful Victory Gardens as an answer to widespread food rationing.
In 1941, one of the greatest causes if infant mortality was premature birth, especially in rural areas of the country where the only substitute for the warmth of the mother’s body, the incubator, was seldom available. Henry Ford overheard a conversation about the development of a portable incubator, then had his experts and production line workers address the problem. Soon, infants were in Ford incubators across the country.
By the late 1940s, the Polio crisis was rising in the U.S. Ford plastics plant, production engineering facility, and tool & die departments combined talents to produce an iron lung for polio victims.
The examples are many and still apply today as Ford is once again answering the call to help America amid the COVID-19 virus. Ford joined forces with firms such as 3M and GE Healthcare to quickly expand production of urgently needed medical equipment and supplies for healthcare workers, first responders, and patients. From leveraging its in-house 3D printing capability to produce components for use in personal protective equipment, to beginning the production of urgently needed ventilators, Ford is stepping up.
“We are all in this together,” said Bowyer, whose No. 14 Mustang will carry an in-car camera Sunday at Bristol. “I’m proud of the way NASCAR, Ford and SHR are helping everyone out. This is bigger than racing.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, SHR has been building intensive care unit webcam carts for Novant Health. The team began building a prototype cart in mid-April for use in hospital ICUs. SHR recently delivered 10 of its ICU webcam carts to Novant Health with the plan to build 110 units over the coming weeks for use across Novant Health’s integrated system of physician practices, hospitals and outpatient centers.
NASCAR has led the way in the return of sports in America. Sunday will continue to see NASCAR operate under a comprehensive health and safety plan that permits no fans, limited crew, strict social distancing, and mandated personal protective equipment and health screenings for all, just as it did for each of the two races held in both Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
It’s been rough sledding for Bowyer since NASCAR’s return to racing after the pandemic suspended competition for 10 weeks. He’s been consistently shown having one of the fastest cars on the track in the four races, but accidents, penalties and bad luck have plagued his finishes.
He enters Sunday’s race 14th in points after finishing 16th in Thursday night’s 500-kilometer race at Charlotte despite three penalties on pit road. A few days before, in Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, Bowyer moved from 20th to 11th-place before a mechanical issue sent his No. 14 Mustang into the wall on lap 96 of the 400-lap race, leaving him with a 40th-place finish.
Bowyer finished 17th and 22nd in the two Darlington races the previous week. He ran in the top-six most of the May 17 race before problems in the final stage dropped him to 17th. On May 20 at Darlington, he won the first two stages – a first for a driver in 2020 – and led 71 laps to surpass the 3,000-laps-led mark for his career. But, once again, very late-race trouble that saw wall contact and a spin resulted in a disappointing finish.
Bowyer hopes Bristol is the track where he can turn it around. He owns seven top-five finishes in 28 starts there, including four consecutive top-10s. In last year’s April race at Bristol, Bowyer started eighth and finished second in Stage 1, and eighth in Stage 2. He took the lead with 125 laps remaining, but contact with Joey Logano with 60 laps remaining ruined his bid for victory, leaving him with a seventh-place finish.
Bowyer jokingly wished it would rain in Charlotte this week so NASCAR would schedule doubleheaders at Bristol. That could be because he has finished in the top-eight at Bristol in seven of the last nine races.
“I just like the place,” he said. “I’m a short-track racer and have a lot of confidence on these short tracks coming up. I hope it starts Sunday.”
There isn’t much rest planned for the days after Bristol. The Cup Series will return to action at Atlanta Motor Speedway on June 7, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on June 10, Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway on June 14, and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on June 21.