Speedway Digest Staff
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Iowa Speedway officials announced this afternoon that the ‘U.S. Cellular 250 presented by the Enlist Weed Control System’ NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday evening, August 3, was a sell-out in the facility’s permanent grandstands.
“We are so pleased to have a full house for our traditional August NASCAR Nationwide Series event,” said Stan Clement, President and co-owner of the Newton racetrack. “We know that Iowa Speedway race fans are the most passionate and most loyal fans in all of motorsports. The fact that we’re selling general admission tickets this afternoon is surely a testament to that, and we are very grateful for the tremendous support we have received for this year’s ‘U.S. Cellular 250’.”
With the campgrounds packed, and all RV viewing sites sold out as well, the track enjoyed nearly perfect weather conditions all day on Saturday. Sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80’s by mid-afternoon brought out many individuals and families seeking tickets, and remaining seats were quickly claimed.
Track officials did indicate that General Admission tickets had also been sold, allowing patrons to view all the action on the 7/8-mile tri-oval from the concourse level.
“We didn’t turn anyone away,” Clement noted. “We have room for thousands of race fans on our concourse level, and in the North Bar tent, and we made a lot of people very happy who might not have been able to see NASCAR Cup champion Brad Keselowski race the whole Nationwide field if we didn’t have that capability.”
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Ryan Blaney and his father, NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, discussed one particular point of emphasis before Saturday’s Pocono Mountains 125 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Pocono Raceway.
"We actually talked about restarts and choosing the right line," said 19-year-old Ryan, who grabbed the lead from rookie German Quiroga on a restart that began the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish and held on to win the fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race stage at the 2.5-mile triangular track.
"It was pretty funny that we were talking about restarts before the race, and that’s what it came down to."
Driving the No. 29 Ford owned by Brad Keselowski, Blaney, 19, beat Miguel Paludo to the finish line by .271 seconds to earn his first victory of the season, his first at Pocono and the second of his career in the Truck Series. Blaney gave Ford its first victory in the series since Colin Braun won at Michigan in a Roush Fenway Ford on June 13, 2009.
The runner-up finish was a career best for Paludo.
Quiroga, who lost three spots on the restart and regained one before the checkers, finished third, followed by Joey Coulter--last year’s Pocono winner--and Ross Chastain, Blaney’s teammate. Ron Hornaday Jr., Darrell Wallace Jr., series leader Matt Crafton, Brendan Gaughan and Brennan Newberry completed the top 10.
Newberry’s top 10 was his first in 21 Truck Series starts.
With a push from Paludo, Quiroga had taken the lead from Blaney on a restart on Lap 50. After the fourth and final caution of the race, Quiroga chose the inside lane for what turned out to be the final restart, and Blaney took command entering Turn 1.
"It’s hard to keep the lead on a restart if you’re the leader, but we were fortunate enough to be on the front row on that last restart and capitalized on it," Blaney said.
Quiroga, on the other hand, felt he had little chance to keep the lead when the race went green for the final time.
"Everybody that started first, they lost a lot of positions on every restart," said the rookie from Mexico City. "I would say (the inside lane) was a little bit better than starting on the outside. We just have to learn a little bit more."
After a spin by Ricky Ehrgott on the opening lap, the race was caution-free until Lap 42 of a scheduled 50, when NASCAR threw a yellow because of debris on the track.
Todd Bodine, driving in a one-race deal for Turner Motorsports, held the lead at the time, but during a scramble for the lead in Turn 1 after a Lap 47 restart, Bodine spun after contact from James Buescher’s Chevrolet to bring out the third caution.
Contact between the trucks of Ty Dillon and Johnny Sauter, as Dillon moved up the track believing he had a clear lane to the outside, caused the final caution on Lap 50 and extended the race four laps beyond its posted distance.
Crafton extended his series lead to 52 points over second-place Jeb Burton, who finished 12th Saturday. Blaney gained five spots in the standings to third, 62 points behind Crafton.
Picture yourself in a brand new 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Limited onSept. 12 in the Grand Ballroom at Chicago’s Navy Pier, and throw in two VIP passes to the first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway with an extra $500 to spend.
That’s the grand prize one lucky fan will win in the NASCAR Contenders Live Sweepstakes, available for entry at www.NASCAR.com/contenderslive.
"In collaboration with Toyota, a long standing Official NASCAR Partner, NASCAR Contenders Live was a rousing success with our fans last year," said Norris Scott, NASCAR vice president of partnership marketing. "The event is unique because it showcases the competitive nature of the top stars in our sport and their passion to be a champion."
Contenders Live, which also features appearances by NASCAR president Mike Helton and Miss Sprint Cup, is scheduled for 1:30-3 p.m. CT. The event sold out last year. Fans will have the opportunity to engage Helton in an open question-and-answer session.
Other prizes that will be awarded through the sweepstakes include a 2013 NASCAR Contenders Live full-sized helmet signed by all 12 Chase drivers; five Sprint Samsung Galaxy tablets; four SiriusXM satellite radios and four $50 SiriusXM gift cards.
If anything fosters cooperation between race teams in a single organization, it’s the testing policy NASCAR instituted this season.
With four tests available at tracks that host NASCAR events, drivers and crew chiefs must agree on which four tracks are optimum for testing, and that involves no small degree of give and take.
With two drivers solidly in the Chase field--Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.--and two on the bubble--Kasey Kahne and Jeff Gordon--Hendrick Motorsports has opted to use one of its tests at a track the Sprint Cup will visit before the Chase (Richmond) and three that are Chase tracks (New Hampshire, Texas and Homestead).
According to Gordon, the choice of tracks was a collaborative decision.
"We discuss it in our Tuesday meetings, and I think all the crew chiefs get together in Monday meetings, and they come up with the race tracks they would like to go to," Gordon said. "They talk to their drivers and get that kind of information, and then on Tuesday, we come up with the best scenario that works for all of us.
"For me, I think we have a good game plan that works for all of us. Again, I said earlier that it’s a compromise with the organization. When you have four teams, not everybody is going to be perfectly suited. But in this case, I think it suits our needs to get ourselves in the Chase, and if we get in the Chase, then it suits our teammates to be very competitive in the Chase."
Though he’s been criticized in some quarters for the decision to race both at Pocono Raceway and Iowa Speedway this weekend, Brad Keselowski believes it’s important to honor a commitment he made more than three months ago.
And though Keselowski currently is in danger of missing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after winning the series championship in 2012, he’s not concerned that commuting between the two race tracks will have a negative effect on his Cup program.
"There is a little (wear and tear), but I get paid to be tough enough to do that," Keselowski said Friday after posting the 25th fastest qualifying lap during time trials at Pocono. "That’s my job."
To those who would question the wisdom of running both the Cup race and the Nationwide Series event at Iowa, Keselowski had a definitive answer.
"I say I made a promise I would go there, and I am going to make good on my promise," he said. "That’s just as important as anything else I do."
In fact, the Iowa race also affords an opportunity for some of Keselowski’s pit crew members to work out issues that have plagued the team this season. Rear tire changer Colin Fambrough and rear carrier Larry Robinett joined Keselowski’s Iowa pit crew for Saturday’s race.
Fambrough is back in action after shakeups to the crew failed to produce improved results. The Penske Racing teams went as far as moving several crew members from Joey Logano’s Ford to Keselowski’s during the July 14 Cup race at New Hampshire, after Logano spun and smacked the wall early in the event.
For Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono, however, Keselowski will have the same crew that won the Cup championship last year, minus front tire carrier Scott Reiniger, who retired. Jeremy Ogles is the team’s new front carrier.
"Basically, we’re back to the point with our crew--basically all the guys minus a rear carrier--where we started the season and feel like we were our best," crew chief Paul Wolfe said Saturday at Pocono. "We moved guys around and brought in some different guys trying to make something happen and trying to find something, and we just haven’t had any success at that.
"So now we are going back to what our best lineup was early in the year. Is that exactly where we want it? No, but for the next six weeks that’s what we need to do. Long-term, we might make more changes."
The clouds rolled in right on cue and Jimmie Johnson rolled out to the grid--late to Friday's qualifying session at Pocono Raceway.
Inspection issues delayed Johnson's arrival at the head of the qualifying queue and just may have been a contributing factor in the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet SS winning the pole for Sunday's GoBowling.com 400 with a track-record run at 180.654 mph (49.019 seconds), .004 seconds faster than the lap recorded by Kyle Busch.
Johnson had drawn the 24th qualifying position but was the 28th driver to make a run during time trials, after his team hastily pushed the car to the front of the grid. The few minutes Johnson gained from the difficulty getting through tech allowed the track to cool that much more--and a cooler track generally translates to higher speed.
The pole was Johnson's second of the season, his third at Pocono and the 31st of his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career. In addition to Johnson and Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards (180.180 mph), Ryan Newman (180.004 mph), Kurt Busch (179.695 mph) and Joey Logano (179.601 mph) all broke the previous record of 179.598 mph set by Logano in June 2012.
Johnson didn't believe that going out four spots later made a difference in his qualifying performance. In his view, any possible advantage would have been offset by the pressure of getting through inspection and beating the five-minute clock to the top of the grid.
"Only four spots, no, it wouldn't have made a difference," Johnson said. "We had a left rear toe (tire angle) was off by a thousandth of an inch. The system is pass-fail... a thousandth of an inch. I'm glad we got it sorted out.
"We got on the clock, which is always a scary thing, but we beat the clock."
Going out eighth on a warmer track, Kyle Busch was the first driver to top 180 mph, posting a lap at 180.639 mph (49.823 seconds). Though he thought Johnson's late draw in general was more of a factor than the four spots he gained in the order, Busch did insinuate that the 48 team might be gaming the system.
"Probably not the clock that he was on, I don't think that made much difference, but just the draw that he had, being 20 cars later in general than us, I think that was certainly beneficial to him," Busch said. "A lot of these other teams figure out how to play by the rules. It seems like there's one that is sometimes late, quite often more than the rest.
Similarly, Johnson, the series leader, was late at New Hampshire three weeks ago and qualified second, but his time was disallowed because the ride height was deemed too low in post-qualifying inspection. But Johnson said Friday that the inspection issues weren't by design.
"I wish there was some master plan behind it all--but they're welcome to try it," Johnson said. "They're welcome to experience the stress. My heart was pounding out of my chest, trying to get in the car and beat the clock. I don't wish that kind of stress on anybody."
The winner of the June race at the Tricky Triangle, Johnson can become the first driver to sweep both events in the same year twice at the 2.5-mile track. One of six drivers to accomplish the Pocono double, Johnson recorded his first season sweep in 2004.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 25th on Sunday, and Danica Patrick will take the green flag in 34th
Cole Custer didn’t just break records Friday night, he shattered them.
The Ladera Ranch, Calif., driver became the youngest winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series history with his wire-to-wire win in the Pork Be Inspired 150 at Iowa Speedway. He became the first driver to lead every lap in the combination race between the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West.
At 15 years, 6 months, 10 days, he’s nearly six months younger than previous record holder Dylan Kwasniewski (16 years, 2 months, 6 days). Custer also eclipsed Darrell Wallace Jr.’s East record of 16 years, 5 months, 19 days.
It was a dominating day for Custer, the son of Joe Custer, an executive with Stewart-Haas Racing. Custer was fastest in the second practice in the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet and won his first 21 Means 21 Pole Award presented by Coors Brewing Co.
In the race, he was rarely challenged en route to a 2.679-second win over runner-up Eddie MacDonald. Daniel Suarez finished third and Greg Pursley was the highest finishing NASCAR K&N Pro Series West driver in fourth overall. Jesse Little rounded out the top five.
Cameron Hayley finished sixth, followed by Kenzie Ruston, Ryan Gifford, Brett Moffitt and Ben Rhodes.
It was Custer's fourth top 10 in his ninth career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East start. His previous best finishes were a third at Richmond in April and a fourth in the June combination race at Iowa.
Dylan Kwasniewski finished 12th overall to maintain his NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points lead of 21 over Moffitt and 32 over Ben Kennedy (14th) after nine of 15 races. NASCAR K&N Pro Series West points leader Derek Thorn finished 16th and is 12 points ahead of Michael Self (11th) and 15 ahead of Hayley after eight of 15 races.
The Pork Be Inspired 150 will air on Aug. 25 at 1 p.m. ET on FOXSports1 – the first NASCAR touring series race to air on the network, which will carry the touring series through next year.