Speedway Digest Staff
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Fresh off a 10th-place finish at the half-mile dirt track at Eldora Speedway, Max Gresham and Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) now eagerly face another unique racetrack, nicknamed the "Tricky Triangle," at the Pocono Raceway. After a weekend hiatus, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) returns to action there on Saturday, August 3.
Gresham, the driver of the No. 8 Made in USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet Silverado, will make his eleventh start of the season at the 2.5-mile triangle in Long Pond (Pa.) when the series hits the track for the Pocono Mountains 125.
The track is full of oddities, shaped like a coat hanger with three turns, three different radii and three variant degrees of banking. But Gresham believes his No. 8 Made in USA Brand Chevrolet Silverado is up for the challenge.
"We didn't know what to expect last week. It was the first dirt-track race in NASCAR since 1970. But we came out of there with a solid top-10 finish," Gresham said. "This Eddie Sharp Racing team was tested at Eldora Speedway and we passed the test. Now we'll be tested again at Pocono Raceway."
The first turn of the raceway, built on the site of a former spinach farm, is a tight 14-degree hairpin designed to resemble the corners of the now-defunct Trenton Speedway. Turn 2, famously known as the tunnel turn, is angled 90 degrees with nine-degree banking like the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And the third turn is a long sweeping turn with just six degrees of banking like the Milwaukee Mile.
The track owners, Dr. Rose Mattioli and the late Dr. Joseph Mattioli, also built a pair of steeples behind the main grandstands to resemble horse racing's iconic Churchill Downs.
Though this will be his first start at the track in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Gresham has the advantage of having prior experience at Pocono Raceway. He started on the pole in 2011 with the Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) Racing Series and he finished sixth. He's been able to bring what he learned in that race to his No. 8 Eddie Sharp Racing team.
"Basically, it's three straightaways," the Milner, Georgia, native said. "It's crucial to get a running start off the corners for the straightaways, especially that front straightaway.
"It's a big jump to go from a half-mile dirt track one week to Pocono the next. They're two completely different tracks and require two completely different approaches and mindsets. But I'm confident everyone at Eddie Sharp Racing is up for the challenge."
This weekend at the track will mark Chris Showalter's 450th race with the series, who has had perfect consecutive attendance in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - not only this year, but for every race run in the series. The crew chief of the No. 8 Made in USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet entry, Showalter is the only person who has worked all of the races.
No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. helped American Idol host Ryan Seacrest open Seacrest Studios at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte, N.C. on Monday.
The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation is a major contributor to the studio that gives patients the chance to have fun while getting treatment by exploring the creative outlets of radio, television and new media. The 652-square-foot studio includes five guest microphones, production-quality video cameras and a green screen for patients to participate in video projects.
The official ribbon-cutting ceremony was hosted by Seacrest and included a live performance by Austin Mahone, an interview with the Michael Waltrip Racing driver and Ryan Seacrest Foundation Ambassador Selena Gomez called into the studio for its first broadcast.
“This is huge honor to be part of something Ryan is doing,” said Truex. “He’s such a household name. I think partnering up with his Seacrest Studios project will really help elevate my foundation to another level so we can help more people and get the word out about what we are doing. And obviously it’s important for us to do what we can to make these kids feel at home and have a better time when they are getting treatment at the hospital. They are going through a tough time so it’s important to give them fun things to do.”
Watch the Truex & Seacrest NASCAR.com feature: http://tinyurl.com/m67pppq.
Heading into Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Pocono Raceway, the driver believes this race will be the key to securing his second-straight appearance in the Chase. He is currently ranked 12th in the standings, five points out of 10th, and in line for the second of two wild card spots available in the Chase.
TRUEX ON RACING AT POCONO: “We are taking a brand new NAPA Toyota to Pocono. We struggled last time and I believe this race is going to dictate whether we make the Chase or not. We’re approaching this race a lot differently from last time because what we struggled with at Pocono is very similar to what we struggled with last weekend at Indy. I am optimistic that all of the great people we have working back at the MWR shop have given us a better chance with this new Toyota. We are going to go to Pocono and hope by doing our best, we will produce the results we need.”
James Hylton was destined to drive racecars. Considering he learned to drive in one of Henry Ford's Model T cars before he was 10 years old, it's ironic that the 78-year-old Inman, South Carolina stock car legend would finish up his career in a new Ford Fusion.
Indeed, it's been quite a ride for Hylton whose journey is, in part, coming to a close. He in fact announced his retirement from driving racecars at the onset of the season. 2013 will mark his farewell tour behind the wheel of his famous No. 48 car.
"I've been thinking about this for quite a while," Hylton said. "I'm 78, and the time has come."
Hylton made 602 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts since 1964, winning twice at Talladega and Richmond. During the race at Talladega, he recalls a fan waving to him outside of turn four on every lap.
"There was a pretty girl and she waved at me every lap," he said. "I wasn't too busy, so I would wave back at her."
He also said he should have won the series championship one season in NASCAR, but the point system was changed during the season, and Richard Petty captured the series title instead.
"I scared him anyway," Hylton quipped.
As for driving the No. 48 - made famous most recently by five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmy Johnson - Hylton said he met Johnson once during a weekend that ARCA and NASCAR were both running at Pocono Raceway. Shortly after the meeting, Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knauss, showed up in the ARCA garage and met Hylton, carrying an autographed hat.
"That took a lot of courage to send your crew chief to meet me."
Hylton has raced in several ARCA races at Berlin Raceway, and looks forward to his final appearance Saturday, August 10.
"Berlin's a tough little track. There's no place on it where you can really rest. You're always in traffic and working the wheel. The place reminds a lot of some of the small tracks down south we raced on years ago. Many of them were about that size, with a lot of the same characteristics as Berlin. But it's a great little track, and adds a lot of personality to all the different things that ARCA does.
"I have to really watch it at Berlin. We're in a real tight stretch right now, racing every weekend. We've been using the same car everywhere. Our Berlin car will be the same car we raced with on the road course last week, and it'll be the same car we race on the mile-dirts, provided we get through Berlin ok."
After finishing in the top-10 NASCAR Cup points in 10 of 12 seasons, Hylton embarked on a new career in the ARCA Racing Series, where, as he approaches 80, has made 157 starts since 1997. He also finished 11th in ARCA driver points in 2011.
"ARCA took me in, so to speak. What a wonderful place to be in my retirement years."
Born on the family farm in Roanoke County Virginia in 1934, right in the middle of America's Great Depression, he was one of 13 children. Times were hard; work and food were scarce for many. His father Preston farmed and found additional work supervising prisoners who built roads as part of the chain gang while his mother Sammy managed 13 kids as best she could. Hylton worked the farm from sun up till sun down to help raise food for the family.
"I had an excellent childhood. At the time, I thought it was awful, but looking back now, I wouldn't have traded that lifestyle for anything. We farmed the mountain behind the house. It was beautiful country. At night we'd head down to the creek with our lanterns and we'd go giggin' for bull frogs and eels. We'd skin the eels, and filet 'em. It was good eatin', better than fish.
"I remember going to school where I saw city folks for the first time. We'd all bring these giant biscuits for lunch, but the city boys all had sliced bread. I had never seen sliced bread."
He first caught the racing bug when he climbed aboard his father's Ford Model T.
"My oldest brother taught me how to drive it. It had three pedals on the floor, instead of gear shifts. But that's what got me into racing. I learned how to drive in a Ford Model T, and I'm still driving a Ford. That's pretty ironic to me."
His first racecar was also in the Ford Family - a 1934 Ford Coupe. But, to survive, Hylton climbed out of the driver's seat and became a mechanic for NASCAR champion Rex White, and then a champion crew chief for Ned Jarrett. But Hylton decided he would give up the crew chief role and get back to the business of driving racecars. And once he got behind the wheel, he never looked back. His second place NASCAR Cup points finish in his 1966 Rookie season is a record that still stands today. He also holds the distinction of being the oldest driver to race in all three of NASCAR's highest divisions, and of course, he holds that title in ARCA too. He made his 750th career professional stock car start at Pocono last August.
"It's time to step aside as a driver and turn this car over to the younger generation. I don't want to lose the Hylton Motorsports race team. I'll be there next year as the general manager. We are definitely in the market to build up our race team and put younger drivers behind the wheel who can run up front."
Hylton's feelings are mixed regarding his final year behind the wheel.
"It's kind of a love-hate relationship. If I could drive until I was 90 years old, I would. But I need to face the facts. It's too much of a job to be the driver and manager the team. I'm excited about the future. I feel I have an honest-to-goodness chance to build my team to where we can be competitive. Next time we come to Pocono, we will have a car and driver capable of winning the race."
ARCA Racing PR
Todd Peck will make his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start of the 2013 season this weekend at Pocono Raceway. He will pilot the No. 07 Arthritis Foundation Chevy in the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway. The 2.5-mile track will be the largest that the team has competed on to date. Peck, a Pennsylvania native, looks to continue his growth as a NASCAR driver by tackling the unique configuration of the "tricky triangle."
Last month, Peck made his first start at an intermediate track when he competed at Kentucky Speedway. He ran as high as 17th place at the 1.5-mile oval before overheating problems forced him to make an early exit. Saturday's race will mark Peck's seventh-career Truck Series start. His best finish came at Phoenix International Raceway last season, scoring an 18th-place finish.
Peck and his team will host some very special guests at the track. The Arthritis Foundation is brining two children who have been diagnosed with arthritis, along with their families to see the race from an insider's point of view. The families will be honorary crew members and get to tour the garage, watch the crew prepare for the race and see the main event from the team's pit stall.
Peck comments on making his first start at Pocono:
"This is a really important race for our team. First off, Pocono is our home track. All of our team members are from Pennsylvania and we've always dreamed of competing in a NASCAR race at Pocono. It's awesome to know we'll be racing in our home state in front of all of our friends and family members. It's also very gratifying to make our first start at a two-and-a-half mile track. We've made a lot of progress over the last two seasons and it's nice to see us reaching our goals and growing as a team.
"I know that the 'tricky triangle' is more than just a catchy nickname. There are plenty of veterans that have a tough time getting around the track. It's so unique and there's nothing that compares to it. It's going to take some time to get acquainted and learn my marks. My goal is to learn and absorb as much as I can about the track. There's three different turns, each with its own flare, so I've got a lot of work to do this weekend to get the hang of it.
"As always, we're thrilled to have guests from the Arthritis Foundation join us at the track. It's really neat to see how much fun they have. The kinds get to see everything that goes into a race up close and personal. As someone who's been diagnosed with arthritis, I hope that they realize that it doesn't have to slow them down or limit their possibilities."
Crew Chief Keith Wolfe comments on preparing for Pocono:
"These races are building blocks for our team as we head to the larger faster tracks of the series. Like any successful team, we need data to build our program at each one of these tracks. We always show up to win, but we also realize that we are rookies to the 1.5-mile and larger tracks. As our program grows, so does our success as we move forward."
Peck Motorsports PR
After earning his second top-10 of the season, Michael Annett is heading to his hometown track looking for redemption. Annett was running in the eighth position at Iowa Speedway earlier this year when another car made contact with the No. 43 Ford sending him into the inside wall and resulting in a 30th-place finish.
Annett has seven starts at the .875-mile track, earning one top-five (summer 2012) and two top-10 finishes (2010, 2012). His best start of 12th came in 2010 and he earned his best finish of fourth in the summer of 2012.
Not only will Annett be looking to lead the field to the checkered flag but he will have a different look doing it. Northland will be on the No. 43 Ford at Iowa Speedway this weekend. The oil and lubricant company, based out of Waterloo, Iowa, was also featured on the Annett's Ford Mustang during this race at Iowa Speedway last year.
Comments from the No. 43 Northland Ford Mustang driver Michael Annett:
"I'm ready to get back to Iowa. After the race in June, I definitely feel like we have some unfinished business there. It was really disappointing running in the top-10 at the end of the race and then have it all taken away. We ran fourth in this race last year, so I feel pretty good about our chances of coming back here. We want to prove that we can finish the job and race for the win.
"It's going to be a good weekend with Northland on the car. They have been with us before and it's pretty awesome to see them come back. Being from Iowa, and having an Iowa based company on the car, it gives us a lot to work hard for this weekend. I'm proud of the group that we have at Richard Petty Motorsports and I think we can get it done for Northland."
Comments from Crew Chief Philippe Lopez on Iowa:
"Iowa was a really good race track for us last year. I thought it was going to be a good race track for us this year. Michael made steady advances up towards the top-10 here earlier this year but ended up getting in a wreck, which obviously ruined the day. I was happy with the way the car ran, but I don't think it ran as good as it did last year. We're going to work really hard this weekend in practice to capture what we had. I think we know what was off last time and I expect to be much better this time."
Delaware Office of Highway Safety announces title sponsorship of Sept. 27, 2013 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Dover
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety and Dover International Speedway have announced a new partnership that will see the state office become the title sponsor for the newly branded “Drive Sober 150” NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race, which takes the green flag at 4:45 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27.
Throughout the Sept. 27-29, 2013 race weekend at the Monster Mile, the Delaware Office of Highway Safety (OHS) will promote traffic safety, with a special focus on the dangers of impaired driving and the importance of not getting behind the wheel while under the influence.
“This fall we are excited to expand our Drive Sober campaign with the sponsorship of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race,” said Jana Simpler, director for the Office of Highway Safety. “Our partnerships with Dover International Speedway and NASCAR teams have helped to share our messaging with a dynamic audience we otherwise could not have reached on our own. We are thankful for the partnerships and support we receive from the Speedway and the racing community.”
The OHS presence isn’t a new one at the Speedway, as it has been a track partner with a large interactive exhibit in the track’s FanZone on race weekend, promoting everything from the importance of buckling your seat belt to driving sober. Planned activites at the race this year include driver autograph sessions, a Designated Driver tent, games using fatal vision goggles and much more.
The Delaware Office of Highway Safety has also previously served as the primary sponsor on J.J. Yeley’s No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) Chevrolet, and will continue to partner with TBR in the “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sept. 29. OHS is also expanding its partnerships to include primary sponsorship of Ben Kennedy in the No. 96 Ben Kennedy Racing Chevrolet for the “Drive Sober 150” NASCAR K&N Pro East Series race, and Regan Smith in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet for the Sept. 28 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
“We’re thrilled to have the Delaware Office of Highway Safety promoting this very important message throughout race weekend,” said Michael Tatoian, executive vice president and COO of Dover Motorsports, Inc. “The Office of Highway Safety does so much great work in our state to make our roadways safer, and the ‘Drive Sober 150’ gives them the chance to spread that message on a national level too.”
The Friday, Sept. 27 “Drive Sober 150” presented by the Delaware Office of Highway Safety NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race kicks off a tripleheader weekend of action at the Speedway, followed by the Saturday, Sept. 28 NASCAR Nationwide Series race and Sunday, Sept. 29 “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the third event in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Dover Motorsports PR
RAB Racing with Brack Maggard and driver Kenny Wallace will make their fourth start together of the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide season on Saturday August 3rdat Iowa Speedway. Wallace will be behind the wheel of the No. 29 U.S. Cellular Toyota Camry, for the U.S. Celullar 250, a veteran of the .875-mile oval, he boasts three top-10 finishes and a near perfect lap completion record (99.8%) at the track including a 13th place finish last June.
"In an effort to show our continued support for the U.S. Cellular 250, we decided to steer our involvement with Kenny to the race track," said Kathy Hust, Mid-Central Region Vice President for U.S. Cellular. "We look forward to seeing his No. 29 car with U.S. Cellular logos zoom around Iowa Speedway's track."
"This is a big weekend not only for RAB Racing and Kenny Wallace but also for U.S. Cellular as they are the entitlement sponsor for the U.S. Cellular 250 at the Iowa Speedway," said owner Robby Benton. "Kenny Wallace will also make a return to the seat of the No. 29 Toyota Camry with U.S. Cellular on board as the primary sponsor. U.S. Cellular was named 2011 and 2012 best customer service in the cellular industry by J.D. Power and Associates. That award really goes to show the caliber of people they have working within the company and I think it's great that they choose NASCAR to market themselves. Anytime you have the opportunity to work with such a high caliber company and help them shine a spotlight not only on their brand, but their marketing initiatives, it's very rewarding and it means a great deal to our team to be able to do so. I'm happy to be able to pair two entities together that are such a good match for each other in Kenny Wallace and U.S. Cellular."
Wallace will be available at the U.S. Cellular fan experience for autographs from 2 to 3 p.m. Friday and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
RAB Racing PR
Ryan Blaney (@RyanBlaney22), driver of the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford F-150, will make his first ever career start at Pocono Raceway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) during Saturday afternoon's Pocono Mountains 125.
In Blaney's last run on a 2.5 mile track this year in the NCWTS, which came at Daytona, he started 11th and finished 8th.
Blaney looks to regain focus after coming off a tough run at Eldora last week. He was able to race as a teammate of his father's, in the Speedway's first ever NASCAR sanctioned race.
The No. 29 Cooper Standard team currently sits eighth in the NCWTS driver points standings, 74 points back from first and just one point back from fifth.
"After such a disappointing finish last week, I have really dialed in with my team to make my first attempt at Pocono Raceway a successful one. We have all the right guys on our team here at Brad Keselowski Racing and I couldn't ask for more support. I just need some luck to fall my way a time or two and I'll get the Cooper Standard Ford to victory lane." - Ryan Blaney
Ross Chastain (@RossChastain), driver of the No. 19 Melon 1 Ford F-150, will make his seventh start for Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) in the Pocono Mountains 125 this Saturday afternoon at Pocono Raceway.
It will be proud sponsor, Melon 1's, fourth time being on the No. 19 BKR (@TeamBKR) machine, with one more primary date remaining in the 2013 NCWTS season.
This Saturday will mark Chastain's second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at Pocono. Last year Chastain finish started 20th and finished 10th in the Pocono Mountains 125.
"It's always exciting going back to a track where you've had previous success. Last year I was able to grab a top ten finish in my first start at Pocono, so it will be even more thrilling going there later this week and having a chance to run up front in one of Brad Keselowski's Melon F-150's." - Ross Chastain
David Ragan and the No. 34 Taco Bell team are hoping for a brighter forecast in their return to Pocono Raceway this weekend. With practice and qualifying rained out in the Sprint Cup Series' first visit to the Long Pond, Pa., track, teams are looking forward to logging more laps on the return visit.
Drivers and crew chiefs are still learning the best approaches to attack the "Tricky Triangle" in the Gen-6 car and also adjusting to the track surface as it settles in a year after being repaved. Ragan and his Taco Bell team gained valuable knowledge in the June 9 race at the 2.5-mile oval, despite an early trip to the garage with a brake issue. They'll look to apply what they learned in that 400-mile event to come back stronger in Sunday's GoBowling.com 400.
Ragan has 13 career starts at Pocono, with one top-five and two top-15 finishes. His best result was fifth in 2008.
Comments from Taco Bell team driver David Ragan heading to Pocono:
"We learned a lot about the Pocono track when we were there the first time this year. We had a little different tire, and we found the track really hadn't lost a lot of its character yet. It's still really fast and really smooth from the recent repave. Having just been there a few weeks ago, it's still fresh in our minds. And we'll be able to take the exact same car that we raced there just a few weeks ago.
"We didn't get to qualify for that race. If you remember, it rained out practice and qualifying that Friday. So we're looking forward to getting back and spending some time in qualifying trim and race trim after we learned a few things. Hopefully we can learn a few things at Indy to take back to Pocono as they do have some correlations together.
"It changes the strategy a little to have a hundred less miles than the race had before. It gets guys to push a little earlier and maybe not be as conservative as they had been on the 500-mile races. I think the shorter race is great. I think the fans enjoy it and I know certainly the drivers enjoy it."