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Looking for Road-Course Success with Own No. 54 Team
One year ago, Las Vegas native and current Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) driver Kurt Busch took home victory at the Zippo 200 at The Glen, while younger brother Kyle Busch completed the same event in the fourth position. This year the KBM team owner-driver will make his sixth NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road-course, from the seat of his own Monster Energy machine.
Busch has piloted his new Nationwide Series car 11 times this season, yielding two top-five and three top-10 finishes, but has yet to try his hand on a road-course in the No. 54 Toyota. Earlier this year, the older Busch brother traveled with the KBM team to their first non-oval event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. where they accomplished an eighth-place result, their ninth top-10 finish of the season. The KBM team hopes to improve on that finish, this time working together with their boss.
This week's chassis is the same Camry used in Wisconsin, but with improvements. Crew Chief Mike Beam admits they were 'okay' on their first road-course effort, but acknowledges the team has grown and is ready to master the New York track with the help of their versatile driver-owner Busch.
Kyle Busch Just Win, Baby
The late Al Davis, former owner of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, never missed a chance to tell his players to “Just Win Baby.” While he’s widely known for his passion and commitment to winning any time he straps himself into a racecar, Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), will have a heightened sense of urgency to win starting with Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fingers Lakes 355k at The Glen on the Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International road course. Just five races remain before the cutoff for the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Busch finds himself outside the top-10 in the driver point standings and also currently without one of the two additional wild-card spots after a shattered brake rotor ruined his day Sunday at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase, which begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Chase positions 11 and 12 are wild cards and are awarded to those drivers between 11th and 20th in points who have the most wins. In the event multiple drivers end up with the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker. Kasey Kahne, who’s 11th in the point standings, also holds the top wild-card spot thanks to his two victories this season, the most of any driver outside the top-10 in points. Jeff Gordon, who’s 13th in points, vaulted into the other wild-card spot with his first win of the season Sunday at Pocono. Ryan Newman, Busch and his JGR teammate Joey Logano, who stand 14th, 15th and 17th in the points, respectively, also have one win apiece this season and have five remaining races to try and surpass Gordon in wins and tie Kahne. Busch sits just 12 points behind Gordon in the driver standings but a hefty 80 points behind 10th-place Clint Bowyer. Thus, winning is his most realistic chance to make the Chase by way of a wild-card berth. The good news for Busch is that he’s won a Sprint Cup race at each of the remaining five venues on the “regular-season” calendar. In fact, the talented 27-year-old has rung up a whopping 12 total career wins at the next five races on the schedule. The Las Vegas native has five wins at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, four at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and one win apiece at Watkins Glen, Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and Atlanta Motor Speedway. In addition to Busch’s 2008 win at Watkins Glen, he came agonizingly close to his second Sprint Cup win on the 2.45-mile, 11-turn road course one year ago. After leading three times for a race-high 49 laps, Busch found himself in a three-wide situation on a late restart with Brad Keselowski and eventual race-winner Marcos Ambrose. Busch was forced to fall back and had to settle for a second-place finish after an otherwise dominant day by the M&M’s team. While he has proven his worth on road courses, in general, Busch will understandably be looking for redemption Sunday after being so close to winning at The Glen one year ago. So, with just five races remaining before the Chase is set, Busch will channel his inner Al Davis by shooting for wins that will vault him into championship contention. Thankfully, his track record over the left and right turns at Watkins Glen provide the perfect opportunity to “Just Win Baby” and help rally Busch into the NASCAR playoffs. TSC
Almirola Hits the Road with Smithfield
Smithfield Foods returns as primary sponsor of the No. 43 Ford as Aric Almirola and his Richard Petty Motorsports team prepare to go road-course racing at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. And the Petty blue-and-black Smithfield paint scheme that hits the 2.45-mile road course will be no ordinary design.
The No. 43 scheme for Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen was created by long-time Petty fan and graphic designer Kevin Gates. Gates sent a sketch to Smithfield earlier this season on a whim and, much to his surprise and delight, learned the race team's partner was going to update its scheme to reflect his design. The Gates-designed scheme also ran at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star race in May.
The race on the 2.45-mile, seven-turn course will be the second road race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Almirola has one previous Sprint Cup start at Watkins Glen - a 35th-place finish in 2008. He also has an eighth-place finish at the course in the Nationwide Series (2011).
Away from the race course, Smithfield will be leaving its mark in the Watkins Glen community before the race even starts. As part of its nationwide Feeding the Hungry initiative, the company will be making a donation of 30,000 pounds of food on Friday to The Food Bank of the Southern Tier 388. The food donation will take place at the Tops Market at 504 ½ Franklin St. in Watkins Glen. Representatives of Richard Petty Motorsports will be on hand for the "Ham Brigade," which begins Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"It's great to have Smithfield back on our No. 43 Ford this week at Watkins Glen. They have been such a great partner this year. I've really enjoyed everything we've worked on together, both at the track and away from it. They have a great presence in the community and a desire to give back, which makes them a great partner with Richard Petty Motorsports since that's something that this race team has always believed in.
"It's also cool to be running a paint scheme that a fan designed. The devotion of Petty fans is unbelievable and it was awesome of Smithfield to make Kevin's dream come true. Watkins Glen is a cool track - I've raced it a couple times before - and we're going to work hard to get that blue-and-black Smithfield scheme running up front."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Watkins Glen:
"Watkins Glen is a lot faster than Sonoma, the other road course we race on, so you don't have the benefit of taking the same car or set-up or relying on the same notes. It's a different animal. But Aric has raced this course before, both in Cup and Nationwide, so he brings some experience and he'll know what to expect.
"Brakes are important at Watkins Glen because you're mixing high speeds with sharp turns, so we need to take care of the brakes. Fuel mileage always comes into play, too, so we have to race smart and give ourselves an opportunity to be in good position at the end."
The only thing Scott Speed likes more than turning left in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is turning right. That's why Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen International is another highlight on his racing schedule.
While Speed likes all the challenges of competing with a limited schedule in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Ford, he has a special fondness for road courses like the fabled 2.45-mile, seven-turn course in Upstate New York.
"There are many difficult aspects to oval-track racing, but nothing forces a driver and a race team to be on their toes any more than a road course," Speed said. "Everything about the race has to be spot on. The car must leave the shop ready to turn right and left. The team must have a strategy for all 90 laps. And the driver has to be on his game."
Leavine Family Racing added road course races in favor of superspeedway events to better utilize Speed's background on road courses. He grew up racing open-wheeled cars on road courses, particularly in Sonoma near his home in California. His background in Formula One also played heavily on the team's decision to add both road course races to their selected schedule.
"Scott is such a natural on road courses," said crew chief Wally Rogers. "It was an easy decision to make Watkins Glen International part of our schedule. We're going there with great expectations. We have a good car, we've honed in on our race strategy and we know Scott will do his part.
"We fully expect the race to be one of our highlights this year."
Speed and Leavine Family Racing have planned to appear at 17 regular season Sprint Cup Series races this year. After Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 at the Glen, the team will have 10 races remaining on the schedule.
"We back-loaded our schedule," Speed said. "Watkins Glen really kicks off our late-season drive. We think it will get that 10-race stretch in only 15 weeks a fast start where we can make something good happen."
NASCAR rolled out its new 2013 cars at Martinsville Speedway Tuesday, and after a few laps on the track in the morning, Carl Edwards didn’t know much about his new Ford’s performance. He was positive about one thing, though.
“I know walking in the garage and looking at my Ford, it looks like a neat race car. That’s part of why I got into racing,” said Edwards, who was taking part in a two-day Goodyear tire test, along with Martin Truex Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. “I like going fast. I like the competition and I really like good-looking race cars. I think it looks a lot better.”
And Edwards said he expected the 2013 Ford Fusion to be solid on the race track.
"From a competitive side, it (the new car) can only be good for us. I feel our team responds really well to changes. With the COT (Car of Tomorrow) we had a lot of success when it first came on the scene, so I think anything different is good,” said Edwards.
As much as anything, though, Tuesday provided Edwards an opportunity to get seat time at Martinsville, a track where he has struggled often.
“I’m just glad to be here and getting some laps at Martinsville. It’s a track that’s been really, really difficult for me personally and our Roush Fenway team for a couple of years now, so it’s really good for me. It’s nice to get a little extra time to work with Chad and Donnie Wingo and go through some things we’ve always wanted to try here. I guess Goodyear is gonna work with us a little bit more this afternoon and tomorrow. I still haven’t eaten one of those hot dogs yet. I know you’re trying to get me to do that, but I’m trying to get fast without doing that. I like this place. It’s fun to drive. I just want to get faster.”
The tire test continues Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway with Edwards, Truex, Harvick and Johnson returning. The test will be open to the public free of charge, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Martinsville Speedway PR
Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips Named Title Sponsor for Labor Day Weekend Truck race at Atlanta
Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips, a new product to debut in stores beginning mid-September, will serve as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, Aug. 31, with the event named the Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200.
The chips will be found at Atlanta-area Kroger stores, and will eventually make their way to other Kroger divisions throughout the country. The chips will be available in four flavors: Original, Cheddar Cheese, Jalapeno Cheddar and Sweet Heat.
“We are thrilled to have Jeff Foxworthy and his new Grit Chips as a partner for our Labor Day NASCAR weekend,” said Atlanta Motor Speedway President and General Manager Ed Clark. “Jeff is a native son of Georgia, and a noted racing enthusiast. We are excited to have him be a part of Georgia’s weekend in the NASCAR spotlight.”
“The Roswell Food Group views the marriage of Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips and Atlanta Motor Speedway as the perfect alignment of two brands that represent all the best the South has to offer,” said Roswell Food Group CEO Sean McDonough. “Family, fun, thrilling sports action, amazing food and good times with the people that matter most in our lives.”
The Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200 will feature 130-laps around the 1.54-mile track under the lights of Atlanta Motor Speedway. With the Atlanta date marking nine events remaining in the 2012 Camping World Truck Series campaign, the 200-mile race at AMS will go a long way in determining who will battle down the stretch for the championship, as an already tight points race is taking place.
Tickets for the Friday night event are only $25 and all children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. With such affordable rates, the biggest Labor Day party in the USA remains very family-friendly and affordable to race fans of all ages.
Simulating Success - Cassill Uses iRacing, Video Footage to Prepare for Road Courses
This week's Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen International will mark Landon Cassill's second-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start on a road course. Although he has limited experience making right-hand turns, he's figured out how to speed up the learning curve. Cassill gets a head start on his less familiar tracks by logging iRacing laps. Prior to his start at Sonoma, he acquainted himself with the track via the computer simulation. He felt that it gave him a head start and is using the same tactics to prepare for this weekend's 2.45-mile winding race track.
Cassill has one previous start at Watkins Glen, which came in 2008 Nationwide Series competition. It yielded a 31st-place finish. He has also competed at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in the Nationwide Series. He started 19th and finished 14th in 2008. In the Sprint Cup Series, Cassill's lone road course start came at Sonoma this season. He finished 31st.
Cassill's No. 83 car will be sporting a fresh coat of paint this week. The Burger King/Dr Pepper car is clad in red instead of the typical grey and white scheme. The red scheme will gradually transition as Cassill's primary colors for the rest of the season.
Doug Richert, crew chief of the No. 83 team, has guided his drivers to 11 starts at Watkins Glen. His best finish is eighth place, which he scored in 1994.
Comments from BK Racing Driver Landon Cassill heading into Watkins Glen:
"I only have one start at Watkins Glen and that was back in 2008. Hopefully that will serve as a good foundation and I'll remember what I learned from that trip. It's been a while, but I'm looking forward to returning.
"I've been training on iRacing again. I did that before I went to Sonoma this season and it was a big help. It's the only way to get prepared for it without actually being there. There's no substitute for the real thing, but it gives me a good visual of the race track. I'll be more familiar with the twists and turns and have a better idea of where my braking and acceleration points will be. I'm still behind on experience compared to the other drivers in the field. It's still going to take some practice time and some laps to get it figured out, but I think I've got a good head start.
"I've also watched a bunch of footage from in-car cams and race broadcasts. I've been looking for how other drivers have navigated the course and how they've communicated with their crews. I've learned a lot just by watching them.
"It's a completely different road course than Sonoma. Sonoma is a lot slower. Watkins Glen is fast, almost like a speedway of road courses, so you've really got to have a good-handling car for sure. It will kind of be starting from scratch for us. It's definitely going to be tricky without us having any testing. We'll have to take what we know and make the most of it, keep our Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota in one piece and bring home a good finish."
BK Racing PR
Travis Kvapil, driver of the No. 93 Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota, will put his road racing tactics to the test this Sunday in the Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen International. It will be the second time this season that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes at a venue that calls for right-hand turns. In Kvapil's previous road course outing, his opportunity for a solid finish at Sonoma was cut short when his left-front wheel locked up on Lap 1 and forced him behind the wall for repairs. He looks to show the team's road racing potential this weekend.
Kvapil has made seven Sprint Cup Series starts on road courses. Three have resulted in a top-25. His best performance was in 2005 at Sonoma. He started 39th and finished 21st.
He's made three starts at Watkins Glen. His best finish is 30th place, which he achieved in 2010.
Comments from BK Racing Driver Travis Kvapil heading into Watkins Glen:
"It's a challenging place for me. I've only raced there three times. I have limited road course experience and very limited experience at Watkins Glen. Anytime we go road racing, I feel like it takes more laps to get used to the track for me to feel comfortable, more than having the right setup in the car. My focus will be turning laps and just getting familiar with the track. My last race there was 2010, so it's going to be a matter of finding my braking points, shifting points and things like that. I know that the guys will give me a good-handling Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota. I have to do my part, too. It will be up to me to produce the speed.
"I'm looking forward to the race. We had a good car at Sonoma. Obviously we had some horrible luck at the beginning of the race. That put us behind and we didn't get the result that we expected. Watkins Glen is a completely different race track than Sonoma, though. We'll be starting over with a fresh sheet of paper there. I'm confident and optimistic that we can go there and have a good, solid finish."
BK Racing PR
Clint Bowyer, No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Watkins Glen Preview
No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota crew chief Brian Pattie circles Watkins Glen on his Sprint Cup Series schedule each year – and with good reason. Pattie has won in all three of NASCAR’s top touring series at the upstate New York road course.
Pattie’s first win at Watkins Glen came in 1999 with Ron Fellows in the No. 87 Bully Hill Vineyards truck in the Camping World Truck Series. He followed that up with back-to-back Nationwide Series wins with Fellows in the No. 87 Bully Hill car in 2000 and 2001. Pattie won in the Sprint Cup Series in 2010 with Juan Pablo Montoya.
Pattie has good reason to look forward to his first visit to the 2.45-mile road course this weekend with Michael Waltrip Racing and driver Clint Bowyer. Bowyer recorded his only win of the season at Sonoma in June – the only other road course the Sprint Cup Series visits. Pattie is taking the same car that won at Sonoma to Watkins Glen.
BRIAN PATTIE ON BOWYER AT WATKINS GLEN: “Clint is a good road course racer – he showed that earlier this year at Sonoma. He tells me that he’s good at Sonoma and he’s not very good at Watkins Glen, but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. He runs well, but he doesn’t have a lot to show for it.
“I’m looking forward to this weekend. I know it’s going to be a good weekend and the results will be there when the race is over. With five races to go (before the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup), we’d love to get another win, but we are going in with the expectation of a single digit finish. If we finish (better than 10th) each week, then we have nothing to worry about in terms of the Chase.”
ON WATKINS GLEN: “I love Watkins Glen – it’s my favorite track that we visit each year. I’ve turned more laps there in a rental car then a lot of Cup Series drivers have in race conditions. We used to test there a lot – probably more than anywhere else I’ve tested. I worked with Ron Fellows there in the truck and Nationwide series and learned more from him than anyone else. He showed me what the car needs to do in order to be competitive and that’s helped me a lot throughout my career. I just love road course racing. It’s fun. It’s something a little different than we do each week and it’s always a competitive race. And each road course is completely different. Sonoma is slower speeds and probably closer to setting a car up for Martinsville. Watkins Glen is big and fast. It has longer breaking zones and much higher speeds, so the setups are a lot different. If you bring the same setup that we used to win at Sonoma to Watkins Glen, which would be like taking a car built and setup for Martinsville and trying to use it for Dover. It’s that much different.”
Mike Wallace and his JD Motorsports w/Gary Keller teammate, Darryl Harr, will be winding their way through the twists and turns of Watkins Glen International for this weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
The track located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State tests drivers, teams, transmission and brake specialists alike with its 11-turn layout. Aside from the left AND right turns, there’s also uphill and downhill racing in The Glen’s road course.
For Wallace, he’s made those turns, ascents and descents a few times already during his career. He’ll be wheeling the No. 01 Chevrolet this weekend while Harr will be making his first Watkins Glen start.
The driver of the No. 4 iWork.com Chevrolet, Harr, might have a cheering section on hand, too. Being a Canadian, he hopes to hear from his Maple Leaf brethren during introductions as NYS borders parts of Canada.
Mike Wallace Notes:
- This will be career start No. 437 for the St. Louis native
- During that span, he’s logged four career victories
- This will be his 21st start in 2012
- During that time, he’s led four races and completed 3,378 of 3,570 laps (93.2 percent) laps contested
- His best finishes of the season (15th) took place at Charlotte and New Hampshire
- Three of his last four races have been top-20 finishes
- Wallace currently sits 15th in points, trailing 14th by just eight markers
- This will be his 10th start at Watkins Glen International
- During that time, he’s completed 534 of 681 laps contested and had four top-20 finishes
- His best start took place in 1991 when he rolled off 14th and his best finish was 10th in 1993
Darryl Harr Notes
- The 30-year old native of St. Alberta, Canada will be making his 10th NNS start of his career, and sixth of the 2012 season
- During that time, he’s completed 871 of 1,050 laps contested (83 percent)
- This will be his first NNS road course start, as well.
Mike Wallace Quotes: “The one thing I like about Watkins Glen is how we go from one elevation at Turn 1, up the hill through Ess Turns and into the Bus Stop, before heading downward through the Carousel Turn and the short chute on the back, before two more turns, then downhill as we go by pit road into Turn 1 again.
“It’s a fun course to drive, it’s in a beautiful area and the fans love it because it’s the only time we visit New York to race. I know a lot of us take some time to go see the sites around Seneca Lake and such.
“We’ve had some great runs in the road course cars with JD Motorsports and I’d like to do that again at The Glen. I know Newt (Moore, crew chief) and the team have put in some extra effort into getting out cars ready for this race.
“Now, we just need to go out there and show what hard work can do and get a good finish for all of us on the team.”
JD Motorsports PR