Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest

When Kyle Busch takes to the track at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend, Interstate Batteries will debut a sharp new “green machine’ paint scheme as the founding sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) starts its 29th season riding along with one of the top teams in NASCAR.

 

While there are many paint schemes created throughout the years, rarely does a driver and the chairman of a sponsor’s company collaborate on a scheme, and even more rare is a 34-year-old collaborating with someone from the Greatest Generation. However, that is exactly what happened with the new Interstate Batteries scheme debuting this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400.

 

Starting late last season, Interstate Batteries chairman Norm Miller teamed up with Busch on the new design. The end result is a powerful new green scheme that Busch will run this weekend in Southern California and during the remaining Interstate-sponsored races in 2020. 

 

Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR, would like nothing more than to repeat his Auto Club 400 victory from last March, which happened to be his 200th career victory in NASCAR’s top three series and 54th in the Cup Series. He’s since lifted those totals to 209 overall and 57 in the Cup Series.

 

This weekend, Busch and his Interstate Batteries team will be shooting for his fifth career Cup Series win at the track located approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles.

 

In addition to his four Cup Series wins, Busch’s overall stats are quite strong at Fontana. He is near the top of several categories there behind only seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Busch’s average finish of 9.3 is second to Johnson’s 7.5. Busch’s 807 laps led ranks second to Johnson’s 880. Busch’s 3,779 laps spent running in the top-15 at Fontana is also second only to Johnson’s 4,156. Busch’s 1,005 quality passes at Fontana tops Johnson’s 972.

 

Before last year’s milestone victory, Busch and Interstate Batteries also brought home back-to-back wins at Fontana in 2013 and 2014 – both in dramatic fashion. He is looking to add another win to his impressive record at the track, having scored his maiden victory there in September 2005 and rattling off 10 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s during his career. The two-time and defending Cup Series champion also has six NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Fontana – October 2008 and 2010, February 2009 and 2010, March 2011 and 2013 – which included a weekend Cup-Xfinity sweep in 2013.

 

So as Busch and the No. 18 Toyota team head back to Fontana, they will look to bring home back-to-back Cup Series wins at Fontana as they hope the new-look “green machine” can pull off another victory in Southern California’s Inland Empire. If they can make it to victory lane, both Busch and Miller know they had a hand in how the victory lane photos turn out. 

 

TSC PR

After facing each other for many years on the track, Solaris Motorsport and CAAL Racing signed a partnership that will take effect in the upcoming NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season. Solaris Motorsport by CAAL Racing will field the #12 Camaro and Francesco Sini will drive it in the EuroNASCAR PRO championship. 

While the teams will remain two independent entities in the pit lane, CAAL Racing will provide technical support in preparing Solaris’ EuroNASCAR car, while the Pescara-based team will provide a logistical contribution to the joint venture. The common goal is to take a further step forward in the fast-growing European NASCAR series.

“This is a new chapter in our history and an important occasion for all of us to grow. We are very happy about the partnership we signed with CAAL Racing, I’m sure it will bring positive elements to both teams," said Sini. “We know CAAL Racing since a long time, in the last 10 years we battled against each other on the most challenging tracks in Italy and in Europe. We know very well how good Luca and Corrado Canneori are and this is exactly the reason why I am sure that joining forces will take us all to a superior level of competitiveness.”

A former Euro V8 Series and Radical European Master Series Champion, Francesco Sini made his NASCAR debut on the #12 Camaro in 2018 and collected his first NWES podium in the same year at Brands Hatch. In 2019, the 39-year old Italian driver finished 14th in points in EuroNASCAR PRO, earning four top-10s and showing a promising pace on several occasions. 

“We are very happy about this partnership,” said CAAL Racing team manager Luca Canneori.  “We worked with Francesco for the first time as a driver 10 years ago, so we can say that this is a little bit of a comeback and this is very rewarding for us. We want to bring as many cars as possible in the front part of the NWES grid.”

While plans for the EuroNASCAR 2 championship will be announced at a later date, Solaris Motorsports and CAAL Racing already underwent a positive first test session together earlier this month. The teams will now continue their preparation for the upcoming April 25-26 season opener at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo of Valencia, Spain. Tickets for the 2020 NWES season are available at http://www.euronascar.com/schedule.

NWES PR

Now that NASCAR legend Bobby Labonte has had a little time to rest and reflect on one of the biggest moments of his career, his recent induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, he's gearing up for what's next: continuing his broadcasting career, growing his already-successful marketing and public relations agency, and possibly racing again.
 
On induction night, Labonte's brother Terry, a fellow driver and a NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2016 inductee, was on hand to introduce Bobby and present him with the Hall of Fame ring. Bobby even surprised his brother by wearing the same tie that Terry wore when he was inducted. They shared a funny moment when Bobby slipped his brother a $20 bill - partial payment for all that Terry has done for him over the years.
 
In his induction speech, Bobby Labonte spoke about growing up in a racing family in South Texas, idolizing his brother on the racetrack, and eventually following in Terry's footsteps.
 
"After all these years, I got to stand on the NASCAR Hall of Fame stage and thank my brother, our parents, my children and my wife, Kristin," said Labonte. "That was a moment I will never forget. So many people were part of my journey to the Hall of Fame, and most of them were in the audience that night. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to tell them how much I appreciate them and what they mean to me."
 
Labonte got his first break as a full-time Cup Series driver in 1993, and became a success in all three of NASCAR's national series. His career highlights include 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 Cup Series title. He's also the first of four drivers to win both a Cup and Xfinity Series championship.
 
Of course, racing is still in Labonte's blood, and he may not be ready to permanently hang up his fire suit. He made his modified debut at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. last year, and is open to continuing to challenge himself on the historically tough track. In 2018, he ran the full NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and returned to Europe to race in Valencia, Spain in 2019.
 
This season, Labonte continues in his role as a FOX NASCAR analyst for the network's studio coverage on NASCAR Race Hub and NASCAR Race Day. He also travels around the country for appearances, meeting with fans at various venues and events.
 
"I am excited to be going into my fourth year with FS1, NASCAR Race Hub and NASCAR Race Day. I get to report on and discuss the sport I love, with people and fans I really enjoy," said Labonte. "The transition has been a natural one for me because we all work well together and I love being part of a great team."
 
Labonte is also a successful businessman, serving as CEO of Breaking Limits, a full-service marketing and public relations agency he manages with his wife, Kristin. He and his brother, Terry, also own Longhorn Chassis, a leading manufacturer of Late Model and Modified chassis.
 
Bobby Labonte PR

Is 2020 the year of the DIRTcar Pro Stock division? DIRTcar Racing is excited to announce two more track sanctioning agreements for the full-fendered warriors: Autodrome Drummond in Drummondville, QUE and Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, NY. 

The future is bright at Airborne Speedway with Lyle DeVore, general manager of Albany-Saratoga Speedway and Lebanon Valley Speedway, at the helm. The savvy promotor is bringing back the popular DIRTcar Pro Stocks to the famed Plattsburgh oval for 2020. 

Yan Bussiere’s Autodrome Drummond is one of the premier racing facilities in Canada. The high-banked Drummondville speedway is set to include the DIRTcar Pro Stocks in their Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship program. 

DIRTcar Pro Stock drivers at both tracks will benefit from the advantages of participating in the Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly Championship. All drivers will have their top 16 weekly, series, and DIRTcar sanctioned special Feature finishes counted towards the point fund. 

Additionally, every time a DIRTcar Pro Stock graces Victory Lane, the photo and results are included in the Hoosier Racing Tire Weekly newsletter, amplifying track and driver sponsorships.  

In light of the proximity of both race tracks, DeVore and Bussiere will work together to make the best schedule possible for their DIRTcar Pro Stock competitors. Both tracks are looking forward to creating a new hotbed for Pro Stock racing. 

The return of Pro Stocks to Airborne along with the additions of Drummond, Can-Am and Glen Ridge to weekly sanctioning is indeed making 2020 the year of Pro Stocks.

Follow both tracks and DIRTcar Racing on social media. Check out Autodrome Drummond Facebook here and Airborne Speedway here as well as on Twitter

Stay tuned for their Hooser Racing Tire Weekly Championship schedules. 

DIRTcar Series PR

The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series ventures to California this weekend for Sunday’s 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. Cole Custer will pilot the No. 41 Haas Automation/Production Alliance Group Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) at the 2-mile oval. 

 

Auto Club Speedway is the second of three races in the 2020 West Coast Swing. Last weekend, Custer raced at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he started 17th after Saturday qualifying was cancelled due to weather and the starting grid was set by owners points, per the NASCAR rule book. The 22-year-old went two laps down at one point in the 267-lap event at the 1.5-mile track, but he was able to return to the lead lap and ultimately finished 19th in the Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Mustang. The result bettered Custer’s previous Las Vegas Cup Series finish of 25th.
 

Custer, who is from Ladera Ranch, California, which is located approximately 50 miles south of Fontana, will be making his first Cup Series start at his home track. Two hours west of Fontana, at I-10 Speedway in Blythe, California, Custer won three Late Model stock car events at age 14 in 2012 to become the track’s youngest Late Model winner.
 

Riding along on the No. 41 Ford Mustang this weekend are two California companies – Haas Automation based in Oxnard, and Production Alliance Group, based in Tustin.
 

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, 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 Oxnard manufacturing facility and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
 

Production Alliance Group (PAG) will share the No. 41 livery with Haas Automation for the second weekend in a row. PAG is a premium live-event and creative development company. The company’s creative works can been seen at concerts, award shows, sporting events, or corporate events. From the lights to the sound and everything in-between, PAG is the creativity and execution behind it all.
 

What makes the PAG relationship unique with the No. 41 team is that its President and CEO Dale Sahlin met Custer in victory lane at Auto Club Speedway after Custer won the Production Alliance Group 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race there last March. Sahlin and Custer formed a relationship, which led to PAG increasing its presence within NASCAR to SHR’s Xfinity Series program last season and now to the Cup Series.
 

Custer has three Fontana appearances in the Xfinity Series, all of which he started within the top-four. He started third in last year’s race and led 29 laps on his way to his first victory at his home track. He took the checkered flag 1.927 seconds ahead of second-place finisher, Kyle Busch.
 

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 with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick, and 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 second-highest-finishing rookie at Las Vegas last weekend with his 19th-place finish.
 

In addition to last year’s win with Custer at Fontana, No. 41 team crew chief Mike Shiplett also won the 2017 Xfinity Series race with driver Kyle Larson. The veteran crew chief led Custer to a career-high seven wins in 2019 Xfinity Series competition – second-most in the series. In total, the crew chief from Amherst, Ohio added six poles with Custer, 17 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s, and 922 laps led in 2019.

 

TSC PR

Clint Bowyer has some interesting advice for rookie teammate Cole Custer, who makes his NASCAR Cup Series debut at his home track of Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California this weekend.

 

The 22-year-old native of Ladera Ranch, California is Bowyer’s newest teammate at SHR joining the driver lineup that includes veterans Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola. Bowyer’s rookie year in the Cup series came in 2006 season, when he drove the No. 07 car at Richard Childress Racing

 

“I don’t remember any of it,” joked Bowyer. “I was sponsored by Jack Daniels and that was kind of a fog area in my life, as a matter of fact. So, first thing I would tell him is stay off of the bottle.”

 

Bowyer actually does remember that season.

 

“He’ll have this, the shock of looking over, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s Jeff Gordon, that’s Tony Stewart,’ and then all of a sudden I remember I’m fixing to pass Tony Stewart. ‘What is going on here?’ And, you know, and then all of a sudden I’m racing Tony Stewart!

 

“That is a critical moment in which you need to realize you’re a rookie, realize the situation you’re in and get the hell out of Dodge or they’re going to just teach you a lesson. That will happen in his rookie season. Be ready for it. You know one or two things are going to happen. You’re going to learn from it or you’re going to bull up and you’re going to make it hard on yourself. I did both. There’s no question I did both.”

 

Bowyer said Custer will go through all the trials every other driver goes through to establish himself in the Cup Series, but the key for Custer and any of the notable full-time Cup Series rookies in 2020 is to remain confident.

 

“You can’t lose your confidence because that’s exactly what’s going to happen,” Bowyer said. “Racing is all – competition is all about confidence, and the first thing that they’re going to try to take from you is your confidence. You have to stay confident, you have to stay focused on the prize and you have to set realistic goals.

 

“Cole has come out of the Xfinity Series. He won a ton of races last year. That’s exactly what his lifestyle and his brain is trained to think is going to happen. Might happen. But you’ve got to be ready to set realistic goals and not think you’re just going to go out there and dominate every lap and every race. When that happens, when you think that is going to happen, the next thing you know you’re 10 feet over your head and you wreck, and then you take it all away. Now you’ve knocked that confidence down a notch and another notch and another notch. Now you’re trying even harder than you ever were before. Now it’s another notch. Now you’ve rock bottomed and you’re lost.”

 

Bowyer doesn’t have to worry about confidence going to Auto Club Speedway. He finished sixth at the season-opening Daytona 500 and 12th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. His SHR No. 14 Ford is 13th in points coming in to Sunday’s race at the ultra-fast, 2-mile California oval where cars are often four- and even five-wide as they battle for all-important track position once the green flag flies.

 

Drivers know that it’s easier to gain spots in the opening laps than later in the run, when passing is most difficult.

 

“The restarts at California have always been awesome,” said Bowyer, who added that drivers can choose from among five different racing lines on the D-shaped oval. “I think it’s great for the fans. As a driver, you think I should get up there and race and get as many positions as I can. But, part of you is thinking that maybe I should just be safe this early in the race, hang back a bit and make sure we survive. Problem is, if you hang back and they don’t wreck, you feel stupid.”

 

Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang will carry the logos of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation this weekend. Rush has been the primary partner for the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands.

 

Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities and knows that, with Bowyer’s background working in his dad’s towing service in Emporia Kansas, he understands the importance of keeping trucks up and running. That is why Rush is proud to partner with Bowyer and support the trucks that haul the racecars as well as customers across the country with its total service management package, RushCare Complete. This all-inclusive solution provides dedicated concierge service, vehicle telematics, mobile service, express routine maintenance, real-time service updates and a comprehensive source for all-makes parts. 

 

Haas Automation, owned by SHR co-owner and California native Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in nearby Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

 

“I know Rush and Haas will have a lot of guests this weekend,” Bowyer said. “I’d love nothing better than to give them a good run. Heck, I’d let the Haas folks take the trophy back to Oxnard if we win it.”

 

TSC PR

NASCAR today announced that the total purse for the Auto Club 400 will be more than $7 million as motorsports’ best drivers go for the checkered flag at one of the circuit’s fastest tracks.

A total purse of $7.4 million will be awarded following the completion of the 200-lap, 400-mile race on the two-mile D-shaped oval.  The race is scheduled for Sunday, March 1 with the green flag start on FOX at 12:30 p.m. (PT).

This year, NASCAR’s only stop in Southern California will celebrate, hometown hero and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson as he races his last Auto Club 400 on March 1st as a full-time NASCAR Driver.  Jimmie Johnson has won at Auto Club Speedway a record six times – the most of any driver all-time.

Tickets to the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Southern California’s premier motorsports facility can be purchased by calling 800-944-RACE (7223) or purchasing online at www.autoclubspeedway.com.

ACS PR

It’s Homecoming week for Kevin Harvick as he heads to the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

 

Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is from Bakersfield, Calif., which is about three hours north of Fontana. There will be no cheerleaders, bands or football players, however. Instead, it will be members of his Mobil 1 crew and a loud and powerful No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang that will greet him as he returns to his home state.

 

Fontana has been good to Harvick as he has one win, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 27 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the 2-mile oval. The 44-year-old driver has led 237 laps there and has an average starting position of 14.8, an average finish of 15.4, and has completed 98.6 percent – 5,874 of 5,956 – of the laps he’s contested.

 

He has competed in some sort of race at Fontana every year since 1997, the year Auto Club Speedway opened. He started in October of that year in a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race driving for Wayne Spears. He finished 20th. No one, probably not even Harvick, could have imagined he would race there each year since. He now enters his fourth decade of racing at Fontana.

 

In addition to crew chief Rodney Childers and the No. 4 team helping Harvick, he will also have the support again of sponsor and technical partner Mobil 1.

 

Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR team with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 18th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

 

Harvick is hoping he can put the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang in victory lane at Fontana. Because much like any Homecoming game, it’s much sweeter when it ends with a win.

 

TSC PR

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 96 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Camry for Gaunt Brothers Racing (GBR) in the NASCAR Cup Series, is a fan of many sports and athletes the world over. The athletes he admires the most are the ones who not only show excellence on the field, or on the court, but off of it, as well.

 

One of those Suárez admired the most is the late Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest players in National Basketball Association history who for 20 years graced the court for the Los Angeles Lakers and was endeared by fellow players, friends and fans throughout Southern California and around the world – particularly in the Hispanic community.

 

During this weekend’s NASCAR tour stop at Auto Club Raceway in Fontana, California, Suárez will honor the memory of Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and the seven others who perished in a tragic helicopter accident last month. The native of Monterrey, Mexico, will don a pair of specially designed driving gloves and matching shoes that bear the likeness of Bryant, the Lakers’ iconic purple and gold colors, and Bryant’s jersey Nos. 8 and 24. Suárez’s racecar will carry the names of all nine people whose lives were lost. And he also plans to wear a No. 24 Lakers jersey on stage during driver introductions prior to the Auto Club 400.

 

Beginning Wednesday, Suárez’s custom gloves and shoes, designed by renowned shoe artist and Los Angeles native Salvador Amezcua – aka “Kickstradomis” – whose works are hugely popular among players in the NBA, National Football League and Major League Baseball, will be auctioned on eBay with proceeds benefitting Vanessa Bryant’s “Mamba on Three Fund.” The fund was established to support the families of the crash victims. A link to the auction can be found through DanielSuarezRacing.com.

 

Suárez and his No. 96 Toyota teammates will look to channel Bryant’s fierce “Mamba Mentality” when they take to the 2-mile, Auto Club Speedway oval for Sunday’s 400-mile race. They endured an unexpected hiccup at the season-opening Daytona 500 two weekends ago when an accident not of Suárez’s doing knocked him out of his Thursday-night Duel qualifying event and out the 500. He and the team rebouned last Sunday on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval, where Suárez qualified 35th on a grid determined by owners points after Saturday qualifying was rained out. He weathered an issue that saw his racecar briefly lose power on the opening lap of the race and went on to soldier home with a 30th-place finish.

 

Sunday’s race marks the first in the Cup Series for GBR at Fontana but the fourth there for Suárez, the native of Monterrey, Mexico who in 2016 qualified on the NASCAR Xfinity Series pole and finished fourth at Fontana en route to that year’s series championship, becoming the first Mexican-born competitor to win a NASCAR national series title. In his three Cup Series starts at Fontana, he has a best start of 10th and best finish of seventh, both in his rookie 2017 season.

 

With an opportunity to honor the legacy of one of his all-time sports heroes and the memory of those who left this life alongside him, Suárez feels honored and is very much looking forward to sporting the Lakers’ purple and gold, and Bryant’s Nos. 8 and 24, on NASCAR’s biggest stage in Southern California.

 

TSC PR

In an effort to bolster Speedway Children’s Charities’ on-going goal of helping children in need across the country, the far-reaching nonprofit on Monday announced two impactful hires. Lisa Starnes, previously the director of Speedway Children’s Charities’ Charlotte chapter, will assume the role of the nonprofit’s national executive director. Kelly Watts will succeed Starnes as director of the Charlotte chapter.

“Speedway Children’s Charities is devoted to helping children in need,” said Jessica Fickenscher, the chief experience officer for Speedway Motorsports. “Giving Lisa and Kelly these new opportunities perfectly positions Speedway Children’s Charities to provide a more wide-ranging, positive effect on children both in the Charlotte community and the country at large.”

In her new role, Starnes will manage and oversee the wide-ranging efforts of the Speedway Children’s Charities chapters at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Sonoma Raceway and Texas Motor Speedway.

Starnes joined Speedway Children’s Charities as the Charlotte chapter’s director in October of 2012 after an immensely successful 20-year career in the telecommunications field, in which Starnes specialized in sales, account management and senior service management.

Watts previously served as the manager of business development for Speedway Motorsports and has been a member of the speedway family since joining the Performance Racing Network in 2002. In her new role, Watts will be responsible for developing fundraising strategies, identifying and cultivating potential donors, and providing resources and services for individuals in need in the Charlotte community.

Watts has been instrumental in championing and implementing the charitable initiatives of Charlotte Motor Speedway’s team of volunteers known as the Pit Crew. In 2018, Watts helped spearhead and facilitate Charlotte Motor Speedway’s inaugural Day of Service, a volunteer-driven, company-wide initiative to benefit local service organizations.

Since its founding in 1982 by the O. Bruton Smith family, SCC has awarded in excess of $58.3 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the nation.

CMS PR

Page 3 of 3799