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In the face of bitter disappointment, one might be able to take comfort in the old saying, “For every problem there is an opportunity.”
Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Doublemint® Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is certainly disappointed since he now faces the next 10-race stretch of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule without being part of the 12-driver Chase for the Championship. Even tougher to take is the fact he and the Doublemint team missed the Chase by a mere three points after a disappointing 16th-place finish in last Saturday night’s 26th and final race of Sprint Cup’s regular season at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.
But, for their part, Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire No. 18 team have decided that, despite not making the Chase, there are three key opportunities that lie ahead before the checkered flag waves at the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It all starts with Sunday’s Geico 400 Sprint Cup event at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.
With the pressure of competing in the Chase off their shoulders, Busch and Rogers will first focus on something former JGR teammate Tony Stewart accomplished after he just missed the Chase in 2006. Stewart and the No. 20 team for JGR brought home three wins to go along with five top-five finishes over the final 10 races.
Secondly, Busch & Company will do its part to provide as much information as possible to help teammate Denny Hamlin and his crew chief, Darian Grubb, and the entire No. 11 team for JGR in their bid for the championship. That’s what good teammates do.
Finally, Busch, the Las Vegas native, will hope to not only glean as much information as possible for his compatriots on the No. 11 squad, but also gain some ever-important momentum to carry into the 2013 season and their next opportunity to win a championship.
While his chance for a championship has ended for 2012, it doesn’t mean Busch won’t be focused on something he loves to do more than anything else – winning. Getting himself and the No. 18 team to victory lane is certainly where he feels they belong, starting Sunday at Chicagoland.
It wasn’t quite planned this way, but it was close.
Danica Patrick will finally make a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start during the day – unless Mother Nature once again decides to change things, of course.
Patrick has made five Sprint Cup starts – all under the bright lights – as her races in February at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, in May at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, in August at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and in September at Atlanta Motor Speedway were all night races.
Darlington, Charlotte, Bristol and Atlanta were scheduled night races while Daytona went from a Sunday-afternoon start to NASCAR’s version of Monday Night Football due to heavy rains that forced the event to be delayed more than 24 hours.
So, weather permitting, Patrick’s first daytime race will be Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. And it will also be a homecoming of sorts as Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, grew up in Roscoe, Ill., about 116 miles to the north and west.
The 1.5-mile oval is a place Patrick has driven at nine times throughout her career – six times in IZOD IndyCar Series competition and three times in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. In September 2005, she qualified on the pole for the IndyCar Series race at 215.970 mph and finished sixth. She also scored a 10th-place result in Nationwide Series competition in June 2011.
With each of her Sprint Cup starts, Patrick has continued to learn the ropes of succeeding in NASCAR’s top division. And this week (again, weather permitting) the education will involve something as simple as Sprint Cup racing during the day.
No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Mark Martin asks NASCAR fans that no matter how important the Chase for the Sprint Cup is for the next 10 weeks, also pay attention to the race winners.
Martin and 31 non-Chase drivers plan to race as hard as they always do when the Chase begins Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway. Martin’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer earned MWR its first berths in the Chase and the 53-year-old Martin says he’ll do anything he can to help the pair. But when the green flag drops he’s also going to do everything he can to race his way to victory lane.
An MWR Toyota has had a shot to win each of the last four races. Martin dominated Michigan and Truex Atlanta, Brian Vickers came close at Bristol and Bowyer won last weekend in Richmond a few seconds in front of Martin in third-place.
RACING HARD: “We race for the same reasons that we raced before the Chase started and that’s to win. The Chase does a lot of wonderful things, but it isn't the only thing going on. The event is about winning. Clint Bowyer won Richmond. That to me, is more important than points. The championship, the points and the Chase all do add to what we do. I am not degrading it. But I also think in today’s age that winning a race is underrated.”
CAN YOU WIN THIS WEEKEND? “We won there in 2009 and (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) won in 2010. The way we are all running I think that one of the three MWR cars might end up in victory circle after it is all over with. That’s really why we all do this. You don't get to experience this all the time. It is really the driving factor of why we all do this. It’s to run up front, compete and challenge for wins.”
ON MWR: “Well, they have more confidence than when I first got here, but everything else is really the same. They had great people in place. We really found our niche. We really lean on one another. We have great teamwork there, the best teamwork that I've ever seen. The atmosphere at MWR is serious but light. It's not heavy. We're having a blast. We have really great teamwork, really great people there. I couldn't be more proud to have both teammates in the Chase. When I came to MWR, I just wanted to try to be able to help them achieve that and maybe get lucky and stumble into a win myself. I'm having a blast. I deserve no credit for them getting over that hump. Martin Truex, Jr. deserves the most credit probably because he suffered through the building stages of the organization. Starting with Texas last year, last fall, you started seeing the momentum building in the 56 car. So the groundwork was starting to get laid and had been coming for years. The addition of Scott Miller has helped, too. But I think that we need to not short-change Martin Truex, Jr. for all the work and the suffering through the building stages. I was just lucky to come in when I did and get to be a part of it.”
WALTRIP ON MWR & MARK MARTIN: “This racing thing is all about people, totally about people. We just have a great core group of folks that embrace the team atmosphere, just love working at MWR. That's probably the thing I'm most thankful for, is the fact that everybody gets along, everybody wants each other to do good. Probably the guy that has enhanced that more than I thought when we hired him is Mark Martin. (Co-owner) Rob (Kauffman) is a finance guy. Rob said, it's like EF Hutton, when Mark Martin speaks, people listen. He's done it all, he's a legend, made us a better race team. That's cool.”
Circle Sport, LLC, today announced that Cole Whitt will drive the No. 33 Circle Sport entry this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Whitt, the 21-year-old development driver for the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, will pilot the No. 33 www.LittleJoesAutos.comChevrolet in Sunday’s GEICO 400. Whitt enters the weekend event with five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to his credit, in addition to 28 NASCAR Nationwide Series and 26 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts.
“The sport of NASCAR is constantly evolving, and as we look to make strides within our own organization we felt that we needed to add a driver to our lineup that has ties to a factory-backed organization,” Falk said. “Cole Whitt is a young driver with a lot of potential – demonstrated by the fact he was hand-picked by Dale Earnhardt Jr. – and we feel that his input will help us improve our intermediate program in the short-term. It has always been our goal to grow Circle Sport into a competitive organization no matter the race track and the addition of Cole Whitt will help us reach that goal.”
Whitt has scored three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 25 Nationwide Series races this season behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet with career-best finishes of fourth at Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Michigan International Speedway. Whitt is currently seventh in the driver point standings – and second in the Rookie-of-the-Year standings behind Austin Dillon – with eight races remaining in the 2012 Nationwide Series season.
Tony Glover, the three-time Daytona 500 championship crew chief credited with 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories, will continue to lead the No. 33 Circle Sport team. Stephen Leicht, who is leading the 2012 Sprint Cup Series Rookie-of-the-Year standings, will return to the seat of the No. 33 Circle Sport Chevrolet next week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Complete details of the sponsor-driver lineup for the remainder of the season will be announced at a later date.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 400 will be broadcast live on ESPN from Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday, September 16th with pre-race coverage beginning at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Circle Sport PR
Multi-platinum country music quartet Lonestar will give a free concert for race fans on Sunday, Sept. 30 at 11:30 a.m. in Victory Plaza, presented by AAA. The band will then head inside the track where they’ll perform the National Anthem prior to the “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Best known for its 1999 smash-hit single, “Amazed,” Lonestar has enjoyed two decades of success that include 10 No. 1 country hit songs, including the aforementioned “Amazed,” as well as 2001’s “I’m Already There” and 2004’s “Mr. Mom.” The group’s unique blend of strong melodies and rich vocals has helped it amass RIAA certified sales in excess of 10 million album units since 1995.
After forming in Nashville in 1992, Lonestar skyrocketed up the charts and into stardom with “Amazed,” which reached No. 1 on the country music charts as well as the Billboard Hot 100. The song also won the 1999 ACM Single of the Year and Song of the Year awards, and the 2001 CMA Vocal Group of the Year award.
Lonestar is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year by releasing a new album titled “Life As We Know It” supported by the current single “The Countdown” now at radio. The original lineup includes lead singer and piano player Richie McDonald, Michael Britt (lead guitar, backing vocals), Keech Rainwater (drums) and Dean Sams (keyboards/backing vocals).
For more information about Lonestar and its forthcoming album, visit www.LonestarNow.com.
Dover Motorsports PR
Sam Hornish Jr. comes into Chicagoland Speedway carrying momentum from his last two weekends behind the wheel of the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge on the NASCAR Sprint Cup tour. His 11th-place finishes at Atlanta on Sept. 2 and last Saturday night at Richmond continued to showcase Hornish’s emerging skills on the Cup side. Hornish will be making his fourth career Cup start at Chicagoland this weekend and he plans on making the best of the opportunity.
“Our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team has had two consecutive strong weekends coming into Chicagoland and we certainly are looking forward to continuing the momentum we’re building,” said Hornish, who’ll be making his 120th career Cup start in Sunday’s race. “We’re happy to be running competitive every week and are thrilled with the opportunity to drive the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, but we can’t be totally satisfied when we look back.
“The fact is that we ran better than our finishes show,” offered Hornish, who’ll be driving the Penske Racing No. 22 Dodge for the 10th time this season in this weekend’s action at Chicagoland. “At Atlanta, we ran in the top five and we had a solid top-10 car at Richmond on Saturday night. So, while we finished 11th in both of those races, we know that we left quite a bit on the table in both of those races.
“In both of the last two races, we started out strong and made a charge up through the pack. It seemed like we’d really get rolling and were running our strongest about halfway to two-thirds through the race. Then we tapered off, while some of the other teams came on strong at the end. We got caught up in that crash on the backstretch at Atlanta with 50 laps to go and that’s what hurt us there. Saturday night at Richmond, the handling bit us at the end.
When we got started again after the rain, we went from being a little bit free to way too tight and couldn’t do what we needed to do.
“So the big goal for Chicagoland is ultimately having another super solid weekend,” said Hornish. “We know in order to get that top-five or top-10 finish, we need to be our strongest at the end of the race. That’s what we’re hoping to accomplish there on Sunday; to be able to save the best for last.”
Hornish knows exactly what it will take to be competitive on the 1.5-mile tri-oval speedway located in Joliet, southwest of Chicago.
“You've got to have a car that has good horsepower, turns well in the middle and allows you to put the power down on the exit of the corners,” Hornish said. “It's a lot of fun running at Chicago; it's always been one of my favorite tracks. You want to qualify as high as you can – it gives you a little more confidence and the opportunity to keep yourself on the lead lap if your car is not that great to start. That way, you’ll have the chance to make it better without going a lap down.”
Hornish has competed at Chicagoland in four different series. In three Sprint Cup races, he has an 18.7 average start and 33.0 average finish. In two Nationwide starts, Hornish has a 5.0 average start and 6.5 average finish (started 7th & finished 5th in 2011 and started 3rd & finished 8th in the July 22 STP 300). In two IROC starts on the track, he finished sixth in 2002 and eighth in 2003. In seven IndyCar races, Hornish has two wins, six top-five finishes and seven top-10s. In one of the most exciting and closest finishes in IndyCar history, Hornish won the 2002 race there by a mere 0.0024 seconds in a three-wide battle to the line.
“I really felt like we had at worst a seventh to 10th-place car there at Richmond on Saturday night, but we had to settle for an 11th-place finish,” offered Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon. “I felt like overall it was another move forward as Sam and our team continue to get stronger and stronger every week.
“The situation at Richmond was a bit bizarre with the weather and all, but we did a pretty decent job of staying on top of it. We never made any major adjustments during the race; just working with the air pressures and track bar. But with the pressures we run there, even changing a few tenths (of a pound) can be significant. The way we went from a little loose to way too tight was surprising. Sam did a great job of hanging in there and getting all we could out of it.
“If we can be as consistent as we have been in the last couple of races and work to be at our optimum during the final laps, I know we can have a very strong performance at Chicagoland on Sunday. Going back to racing on Sunday afternoon, we know the track will be changing, but there will likely not be as big of temperature swing as we have been seeing. Probably the most unique thing we’re up against this weekend is the fact that we haven’t raced on this track this season. The track has certainly changed somewhat since last September. Sam had a strong race there back in July in the Nationwide car and we’ll try to draw all we can off of that for this weekend.”
Hornish, Gordon and the Penske Racing No. 22 Team will be utilizing their “PRS-823” Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger this weekend at Chicagoland. This is the same car that AJ Allmendinger last raced in the June 30 Quaker State 400 at the Kentucky Speedway (started 16th and finished ninth). This car made its debut for the team in Kansas back in April. Allmendinger won the Coors Light Pole Award and led 44 laps before secondary linkage woes put him 10 laps down and relegated him to a 32nd-place finish.
Heading to the Iowa Speedway, located in the city of Newton, Peck Motorsports will race their first of four scheduled races to close out their 2012 schedule. Driver Todd Peck and his No. 96 Stopain/Arthritis Foundation Chevrolet team are looking to build momentum over the next three months to carry into 2013.
The team feels confident of a strong performance this Saturday night. After appearing at the track earlier this year a fuel line problem was discovered. The issue has since been fixed and the team will be looking to make their fourth start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The race will be televised live on SPEED Channel at 8:00 p.m. ET.
Stopain, an all-American company, will again be on the truck this weekend as the primary sponsor of Peck Motorsports. The company, along with the Arthritis Foundation, will host two families whose children suffer from juvenile arthritis. The families will be guests of the team Saturday at the track. It is part of the team's continued goal to raise awareness of juvenile arthritis and the Arthritis Foundation's "Kids Get Arthritis Too" platform.
Comments from Todd Peck Heading to Iowa:
"Our trucks are well prepared for this weekend. We had an issue with the fuel line earlier this year at Iowa, but after extensive chassis dyno testing we pinpointed and fixed the problem. We've tested and have put the truck through the paces of getting ready for this weekend. Everything looks great and we feel confident we can have a good weekend.
"We're really looking to build momentum right now. We are planning to run four races to end our season. Our goal is to run all the laps, get more experience and learn everything we can to build for 2013. We feel that we have put together a pretty strong race program and now we're ready to go and have a good race Saturday night."
Peck Motorsports PR
Renowned singer-songwriter and musician Kid Rock will lend both his presence and his music to ESPN’s telecasts of the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins with this Sunday’s event at Chicagoland Speedway. ESPN’s coverage from Chicagoland begins at 1 p.m. ET with NASCAR Countdown.
Kid Rock, who has been a fan of NASCAR for more than a decade, will narrate and appear in the opening teases of the telecasts of the 10 races, with each tease tailored to the racetrack hosting that week’s event. Kid Rock’s music will be featured throughout the campaign, including sneak peeks at his yet-to-be-titled new album and hits from his catalogue.
“Kid Rock brings rock stardom to a sport that has its own rock stars,” said Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports, production. “His music appeals to a cross-section of America and is a perfect fit for our NASCAR coverage.”
Kid Rock’s past music has touched a wide variety of styles, including hard rock, rap and country, and he has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. A five-time Grammy Award nominee, his past awards include the 1999 Billboard Music Awards “Best New Artist” and the 2001 and 2003 American Music Awards “Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist.”
Kid Rock’s connection with NASCAR dates back to 2002, when the Michigan native narrated the documentary “Tony Stewart: Smoke.” He has been grand marshal for two NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Michigan International Speedway and performed at last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup awards ceremony in Las Vegas, where his friend Stewart was honored as champion. He has attended many other NASCAR events as a fan.
Also known for his philanthropy, Kid Rock is especially connected to the U.S. military and is a regular supporter of Operation Homefront, the USO and Operation Finally Home, all organizations to assist members of the armed forces and their families. He has visited and performed for troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Italy, Spain and Kosovo. In addition, he founded and supports several organizations that benefit his home state, including the Kid Rock Foundation and the Made in Detroit Endowed Scholarship through Wayne State University.
Nine of the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will air on ESPN, with the race on Saturday night, Oct. 13, at Charlotte Motor Speedway airing on ABC. The season ends at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 18.