Sunday, Oct 02
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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The Virginia Military Institute’s Glee Club will perform the National Anthem prior to Sunday’s STP® Gas Booster™ 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

The group from VMI has performed the national anthem at Martinsville Speedway in the past, and has received accolades for its traditional rendition of the song.

The VMI Glee Club, founded in 1852, has performed around the world in its 160 years of existence. It is the oldest Cadet organization in VMI’s 165-year history. The cadets in the Glee Club are enrolled in Reserve Officer Training Courses at VMI, located in Lexington, VA, and are available to commission in all branches of the US Armed Forces upon graduation.

The green flag falls on the STP® Gas Booster™ 500 at 1 p.m. Sunday.

High Point University’s Pep Band, which has been performing since 1927, will play the national anthem before the start of the Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Saturday at Martinsville. The race is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.

The HPU Pep Band consists of 29 members from 10 different states, pursuing degrees in more than 17 fields of study.

High Point University student and driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Silverado, Ty Dillon will compete in the Kroger 250 following his school’s national anthem performance. Older brother, Austin Dillon, a regular on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, is a communications major at High Point University.

SPRINT UNLIMITED: Fans at Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s STP® Gas Booster™ 500 need to stop by The Sprint Unlimited Experience. Three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will take The Sprint Unlimited Experience stage Sunday morning.

Be there for a Q&A and Meet and Greet with Ryan Newman at 9:10 a.m. Join Bobby Labonte at 9:45 a.m. and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at 10:15 a.m.

BELL RINGING A MUST: Jeff Gordon has seven wins, 25 top-fives and 32 top-10s in 40 starts at Martinsville Speedway.

Gordon has been running at the checkered flag in all 40 events and aims to add to his 3,515 laps led total during Sunday’s STP® Gas Booster™ 500.

Much like his competitors, he wants to lead that final lap at Martinsville and savor the Hendrick Motorsports tradition of ringing the Victory Bell on Monday. Gordon most recently rang the Victory Bell with his family and team following his 2012 season finale victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It has been awhile since his last win at Martinsville – 2005 fall race, sweeping the series at the famed short track.

SOCIAL MARTINSVILLE:  If you are looking for Martinsville Speedway on Twitter, we’re at https://twitter.com/MartinsvilleSwy. The hashtags we are using on Twitter this week are #STP500 and #Kroger250.

You can find us on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/MartinsvilleSpeedway.

Social media will be a great way to keep up with everything that’s going on this weekend around Martinsville Speedway.

MARTINSVILLE MOBILE APP: Martinsville Speedway recently rolled out its new Mobile App, which is available at no cost for iOS and Android platforms. It has features that will help visitors navigate their way around Martinsville Speedway’s property on event weekends.

Key features of the new App include: interactive GPS map, detailed facility maps, race weekend schedule, ability to find your friends at the track, and much, much more.

The Martinsville Speedway App for iPhone users can be downloaded at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/martinsville-speedway/id598297950?mt=8.

Android users can find the Martinsville Speedway App at: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.avai.amp.iscmartinsville.

Martinsville Speedway PR

Longtime South Florida businessman and Homestead-Miami Speedway founder Rafael “Ralph” Sánchez died Monday morning. Sánchez, who was born in 1948, had been in declining health for much of the past year.  He is survived by wife Lourdes, daughter Patricia and son Ralph Jr.

“I am saddened to learn of Ralph’s passing and offer my condolences to Lourdes, Patricia and Ralph Jr,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer. “Whether it’s the championship races that receive worldwide attention, the economic impact, or the countless memories made by fans that attend track events, it’s directly attributable to Ralph and his foresight.  The team at Homestead-Miami Speedway and racing fans in this region are indebted to Ralph.  South Florida has lost a true visionary.”    

Sánchez, who founded and managed the Grand Prix of Miami starting in 1983, led efforts to bring the motorsports facility to Homestead.  He worked with City of Homestead and Miami-Dade County officials to make the track a reality. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the track took place on August 24, 1993 -- exactly one year after Hurricane Andrew wiped out much of Homestead.  The track is credited with being a major catalyst for redevelopment following the category five hurricane that leveled large portions of Miami-Dade County.

Businessman H. Wayne Huizenga joined Sánchez as a track partner before the facility opened two years after construction began with a NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series race in November 1995. In 1997, Penske Motorsports (PMI) and International Speedway Corporation (ISC) became partners with Sánchez and Huizenga.  Less than one year later, PMI and ISC purchased Sánchez’ remaining interest in Homestead-Miami Speedway.  ISC became the sole operator in 1999.  The facility will host season-ending championship races in NASCAR’s top three touring series for the 12th consecutive year in November (15-17).

Al Garcia, the vice president for operations at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the longest tenured track employee, worked for Sánchez starting in 1984.  Garcia remembers him fondly: “He was charismatic, yet tough as nails.  Above all, Ralph was very loyal.  You have to give him credit for pursuing his dreams in racing and foregoing what had been to that point been a lucrative career as a developer.  I am very proud to have known Ralph and to have worked alongside him.”

Sánchez was born in Sancti Spiritus, Cuba in 1948, more than a decade before Fidel Castro assumed power.  He was placed aboard an airlift from Havana to Miami after his father became fearful for his son’s safety because Ralph had been recruited to distribute opposition flyers and deliver supplies to forces fighting the Castro regime. 

Upon his arrival in Miami, he lived with an aunt and uncle before the couple moved to Nicaragua.  Sánchez then resided in a Catholic orphanage until he turned 18. Eventually, Sánchez’ parents, his brother and grandmother joined him in Miami via freedom flights in 1966 and 1967.

Sánchez earned an accounting degree from Florida Atlantic University, became a real estate salesmen, before moving on to become a land developer, and then a motorsports promoter.

Plans for memorial services have not been finalized.

Homestead-Miami Speedway PR

Rick Hendrick’s journey began on his family’s tobacco farm, a stone’s throw from the small Virginia community of Palmer Springs. It was there, south of Richmond near the North Carolina border, where his father instilled the value of a hard day’s work and a pure passion for the automobile.

Under the watchful eye of “Papa Joe,” that love of cars led Hendrick into the world of auto racing. At age 14, he made a name for himself by setting speed records at a local drag strip with a self-built 1931 Chevrolet. Two years later, the self-described “gearhead” won the Virginia division of the Chrysler-Plymouth Troubleshooting Contest, a competition for engine builders. He was just 16.

“My dad worked so hard to provide for our family, and he was absolutely in love with cars and racing,” Hendrick said. “We would travel all over the Southeast to watch drivers like Ray Hendrick, who is to this day one of my all-time heroes, and volunteer to help teams. I remember riding to tracks in the bed of a pickup truck. We’d each carry a trash bag with us just in case it rained.”

Growing up in a tight-knit farming community had a lasting impact on Hendrick.

“Our neighbors were like our teammates. They were our extended family,” Hendrick said. “I vividly remember my father helping rebuild another farmer’s barn that burned down. When someone needed a hand, there were always people there to step up. That was something I’ve always remembered and tried to carry forward in life and business.”

A standout athlete at Park View High School in South Hill, Va., Hendrick considered an opportunity to play professional baseball before pursuing a co-op work-study program with North Carolina State University and Westinghouse Electric Company in Raleigh, N.C.

It was there, on North Carolina’s storied Tobacco Road, where Hendrick’s deep-seeded automotive passion led him to open a small used-car lot with an established new-car dealer. The venture’s success soon convinced the dealer to name Hendrick the general sales manager of his new-car import operation at the age of 23.

A turning point came in 1976, when the 26-year-old Hendrick took a chance by selling off all of his assets to purchase a struggling franchise in Bennettsville, S.C., thus becoming the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the United States. His influence sparked a dramatic sales increase as the once troubled location soon became the region’s most profitable.

“Chevrolet took a big chance on me, and I’ve always been grateful for that,” Hendrick said.

Success in Bennettsville laid the groundwork for Hendrick Automotive Group, which today operates collision centers, accessories distributor installers and more than 100 retail franchises across 13 states. It currently is the second-largest privately held dealership group in the United States.

But as his automotive business steadily grew, Hendrick remained passionate about motor sports. In the late 1970s, he founded a drag-boat racing team that won three consecutive national championships and set a world record of 222.2 mph with the boat “Nitro Fever.”

“People think I’m a car dealer who got into racing, but it’s really the other way around,” Hendrick said. “I’m a racer who has a passion for cars and got into the car business.

“I say that I’m the luckiest guy on earth because I get to make a living doing the two things I love most outside of my family, and that’s racing cars and selling cars.”

After boat driver Jimmy Wright was tragically killed in an accident, Hendrick transitioned to NASCAR. He sponsored and co-owned a limited number of Late Model Sportsman Series (now Nationwide Series) entries, which included a 1983 victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the great Dale Earnhardt Sr. behind the wheel.

But it was the relationship with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame that marked another turning point.

“I stored all of my boat equipment on Harry’s property, which is where Hendrick Motorsports is today,” Hendrick said. “We talked about starting a Cup team, and Harry was so sure that he could still win races. He was absolutely one of the best salesmen I’ve ever met. Harry convinced me, and I’m glad he did.”

In 1984, Hendrick founded All-Star Racing. That year, the fledgling outfit fielded a single NASCAR Winston Cup Series (now Sprint Cup) team with just five full-time employees and 5,000 square feet of leased workspace on Hyde’s land.

“We went to the Daytona 500 in 1984, and I couldn’t have felt more out of place,” Hendrick said. “There I was on pit road with legendary owners like Junior Johnson and Bud Moore. I thought we might’ve bitten off more than we could chew, but it ended up being a pretty special year.”

With Hyde as crew chief and Geoff Bodine driving an entire 30-race campaign in the No. 5 Chevrolets, All-Star Racing finished ninth in championship points after earning three victories and three pole positions in its first season.

Known as Hendrick Motorsports since 1985, the organization today is headquartered in Concord, N.C., with 430,000 square feet of workspace on 140 acres that spans Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties. Hendrick’s original race shop overlooks a state-of-the-art facility housing more than 500 employees and featuring complete engine- and chassis-building areas to support four full-time Chevrolet teams in NASCAR’s elite Sprint Cup Series.

“It’s amazing to see it today,” said Hendrick, who has eight wins at Talladega as a team owner. “When I remember back to those first five employees in that little shop, I still have a hard time believing how far it’s come. I think about that every time I drive down the hill. It’s the same road that led to Harry’s house 30 years ago.”

Now one of the sport’s premier operations, Hendrick Motorsports has garnered a NASCAR record 13 national series owner’s championships and 14 overall: 10 in the Sprint Cup Series, three in the Camping World Truck Series and one in the Nationwide Series (driver’s title only). Its current roster of stock-car drivers includes Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Hendrick has won Cup titles with three different drivers: Gordon, Johnson and Terry Labonte.

In May 2012, Hendrick became just the second owner to reach the 200-win milestone in the Sprint Cup Series. He currently is second on NASCAR’s all-time Cup victories list (only Petty Enterprises has more) and leads all owners in modern-era wins. His teams have won at least one Cup-level race each season since 1986 – the longest active streak – and averaged 10 points-paying wins annually over the last decade.

Hendrick, who chartered the Hendrick Marrow Program after being diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, has endured many ups and downs since his childhood on that Virginia tobacco farm. But along the way, he has always credited others for his success.

“Some think it’s corny that I talk about how having good people is the key,” Hendrick said. “But I believe the success of any team or business is always because of the people. Over time, we’ve created something really special, and that has very little to do with me. Our people have built it, brick by brick, over three decades. It’s all about their contributions; the hard work, dedication, perseverance and belief in one another.

“Hendrick Motorsports is my extended family, and everything we’ve accomplished is by working together.”

Just like on the farm.

TSS PR

 

 

After a five-week hiatus, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is back in action at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend for the 29th Annual Kroger 250. Although the series has slowed down, Joey Coulter, who made his debut behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) at Daytona International (Fla.) Speedway in February, has still been on the clock and behind the wheel.

The Miami Springs, FL native has utilized his 42-day break, the longest stretch between truck races all year, to get behind the wheel of a dirt late model at Volunteer Speedway, a 4/10-mile short-track, and has spent some time at the track with long-time girlfriend, Jessica Green, spotting for her in the Florida United Pro Truck Series. Last week, Coulter was able to get back behind the wheel of his No. 18 Toyota Tundra, testing at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C. in preparation for this weekend's event.

After being relegated to a 22nd-place finish due to a four-truck accident on the final lap at Daytona, Coulter knows producing a strong finish at Martinsville this weekend is critical in his bid for the 2013 Truck Series title. In 2012, the 22-year-old driver finished 18th and 30th, respectively, in the first two races of the season at Daytona and Martinsville. Those two finishes haunted him as his worst finishes of the year, and he missed the championship by a mere 19 points. Points that he says ultimately caused him to play catch-up the rest of the season.

Making his fifth start at Martinsville Speedway, Coulter is not only the oldest driver on the KBM roster for this weekend's event, he is also the only driver within the three-truck powerhouse that has prior experience on the .526-mile "Paperclip" in the NCWTS. Finishing a track-best third in his last visit to Martinsville Speedway (October, 2012), Coulter hopes to further capitalize on his efforts this spring to become the second youngest driver in series history to take home a grandfather clock.

Fortunately, for Coulter, the No. 18 Tundra has a history for being a solid contender at the Virginia track. Since its debut in April of 2010, the KBM Toyota has made six starts, boasting an average finish of 4.33, which includes one pole (Kyle Busch, 2010), one win (Denny Hamlin, 2011), four top-five and six top-10 finishes.

Coulter knows that he is only one of 35 drivers in pursuit of one of the most distinct and iconic trophies in racing, but hopes with his experience, leadership from veteran crew chief Harold Holly and the rich history of the No. 18 at the half-mile Virginia track, there is no better time for his first win than at Martinsville.

KBM PR

 

 

Two-time Indianapolis 500 starter Art Malone died Friday, March 29 in Tampa, Fla. He was 76.

Malone was a star in drag racing who also competed in open-wheel racing and NASCAR. He also was the first to lap the Daytona International Speedway faster than 180 mph.

Both of Malone's Indianapolis 500 starts - 1963 and 1964 - came at the wheel of one of the legendary, supercharged V8 Novi cars, his assignment there coming as somewhat of a surprise at the time. Perhaps it was his breathtaking 181.561-mph lap Aug. 28, 1961 at Daytona which had drawn the attention of new Novi owner Andy Granatelli. Partnered with fellow drag racer Bob Osiecki, Malone had taken "Mag Dog IV" - a much-modified 413-cubic-inch Chrysler "Hemi"-powered Kurtis "roadster," which had recently served as Firestone's tire test car - and had manhandled it around the 2½-mile speedway more than fast enough to claim the $10,000 prize posted by Bill France for turning Daytona's first 180-mph lap.

Malone had finished 10th in NASCAR's Firecracker 250 on July 4, 1962 at Daytona and had raced the short tracks around Tampa for years. But because Malone needed at least a couple of open-wheel, oval-track races under his belt before he could be permitted to tackle the Novi at Indianapolis, Granatelli supplied him with a dirt car for the 1962 season-ending events at Sacramento and Phoenix. He "missed the show" at Sacramento but qualified fifth at Phoenix.

Perhaps to the surprise of many, Malone qualified for the 1963 "500," the first time three Novis had ever qualified for the same race. His Novi was quite distinctive due to the large triangular-shaped stabilizer fin mounted on its tail. Clutch trouble intervened even as the race was starting. After four pit stops in the first 18 laps, Malone was obliged to call it a day.

In 1964, he returned to pull off something which had been achieved only five times previously with a Novi. He was still running when the race ended, flagged off in 11th position with 194 laps completed. As a further historical footnote, Malone would be the last person ever to be running at the end of a "500" while driving a Novi.

Malone had a total of 10 USAC National Championship starts up through 1965, his final appearance coming in 1966 when he crashed Wally Weir's rear-engined Gerhardt in practice on the morning of the first qualifying day at Indianapolis and jumped out to reveal that he had elected to drive in stocking feet.

For many years, Malone's drag racing shop in Tampa was located only a couple of blocks from the shop of the great "Big Daddy" Don Garlits. The pair had been tight friends ever since Malone was 8 years old. Garlits was older, but they both rode the same school bus.

Malone drove one of Garlits' famed "Swamp Rat" dragsters when Garlits was injured in the late 1950s, and the pair teamed up for a very emotional reunion in 1984 at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Going in as huge underdogs, they came out on top, Garlits winning the race.

Malone had not been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in many years when he returned in May 2011 for the 100th anniversary of the first running of the "500." The 500 Oldtimers Club was honoring the living drivers who could claim at least one "500" start in a front-engined car, and of the 14 survivors, Malone was one of nine on hand to be honored.

His attendance in 2011 at IMS was quite noteworthy. Just over a week short of his 75th birthday, Malone drove up from Tampa in a 45-foot motor coach, nursing a broken leg and towing a little "drive-around-town" vehicle behind the motor coach.

Two days later, on Saturday morning, May 28, there he was again as one of 161 "500" veterans who were on hand for that never-to-be-forgotten "class" photo taken in the Pagoda Plaza.

Malone is survived by his wife, Sandra; daughters, Stephanie and Pam; and four grandchildren. Calling hours are from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, April 2 at the Garden of Memories Chapel in Tampa, with a funeral at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at the same location.

IMS PR

Go Daddy, the world's top platform for small businesses, sent its inspirational spokeswoman to celebrate a spring tradition at the White House today. Go Daddy's Danica Patrick was a special guest of the President and First Lady at today's Easter Egg Roll, which included a range of activities focused on health and fitness education.

"It was an honor to be at the White House, but what made today really special was the interaction with the kids," said Danica, who recently won the Kids Choice Award for Favorite Female Athlete. "The First Lady's campaign to 'keep moving' and to make healthy food choices is an important one for all of us!"

Danica participated with young students in the South Lawn "eggtivity zone," visited with on-site chefs who offered up a variety of nutritional treats and read "Go, Dog. Go!" to dozens of children who gathered to see one of the sporting world's most famous women read from the story time stage. The book describes interactions of a group of highly mobile dogs, who operate cars in a variety of pursuits ... fitting for Go Daddy's inspirational NASCAR star who has found great success competing in a male-dominated sport.

This year's theme was "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!" and challenged kids to incorporate physical activity into each day. Other celebrities at today's annual affair included the NFL's Adrian Peterson, Academy Award-nominated actress Quvenzhane Wallis, "Kid President" Robby Novak and American Idol star Jordin Sparks. Celebrity chefs, including Ina Garten and Spike Mendelsohn, prepared healthy eating demonstrations at the "Play with your Food" station. Activities included a Yoga Garden, basketball on the president's court and a "Hop To It!" dance party with jump ropes and hula hoops.

Another interactive component of today's event was social media. To see Danica's personal tweets and photos about today's festivities, go to @DanicaPatrick, @GoDaddy and @DanicaRacing on Twitter. You can also check out @LetsMove and @FitnessGov or Facebook.com/letsmove or visit LetsMove.gov.

Go Daddy PR

As one of the most recognizable names in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows the risks of being distracted while driving. Now, throughout the distracted driving month of April, he’s lending his expertise in a new TV ad by Sprint (NYSE: S) to educate drivers about the Sprint Drive First app which helps drivers avoid the distraction of texting while driving.
 
The 30-second ad, created by Sprint and its agency, Team Sprint – Digitas and Leo Burnett – features Earnhardt using the Sprint Drive First™ mobile application, which can block and send automatic replies to text messages while you drive. The overarching message is that driving isn’t the problem, and texting isn’t the problem; "and" is the problem – as in texting "and" driving – and we all can live without the "and." To help remove the temptation to drive and text at the same time, the Sprint Drive First app is offered as a solution.
 
The ad features Earnhardt Jr. with two members of his crew in the garage at a track. One of them says, "Hey Dale, I got your text that said you couldn’t text." Then the other says, "Wait. What? Why would he text that he couldn’t text?" Earnhardt replies: "I was driving." Which ignites a discussion about how and why a text is sent when the person who sends the text doesn’t actually send it – all of which refers to the Sprint Drive First app and how it sends reply text messages while someone is driving.
 
An additional video will be shown at the Sprint Unlimited Experience at tracks each weekend throughout the season where they can interact with Earnhardt Jr. by texting his number. The video features Earnhardt Jr. at a Sprint Unlimited Experience race simulator where he talks about how driving in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series takes laser-like focus. He invites fans to try and distract him with a text as he gets into the simulator and sets his phone down at his side as the simulated race begins.
 
Throughout April, fans who sign up to receive information from Sprint at the Sprint Unlimited Experience or online at www.Sprint.com/drive will receive a special Earnhardt Jr. poster that includes Sprint Drive First information, and fans who sign the Focus on Driving pledge will receive a bumper magnet.
 
Sprint Drive First
 
The Sprint Drive First application locks an Android mobile phone when the phone’s GPS detects motion above 10 miles per hour. Sprint Drive First can direct incoming calls to voice mail and silences distracting alerts. A customizable auto-response can be sent to all text messages, which are held until the driver comes to a stop.
 
Sprint Drive First is available on Sprint Android™-powered smartphones for $2 per month per phone (excluding surcharges and taxes). Sprint customers can sign up and receive a 15-day free trial by downloading the app from Google Play or visiting sprint.com/drive. Sprint Drive First is also part of Sprint Guardian, a bundle of safety- and security-oriented services for families. Sprint Guardian also includes Sprint Mobile Controls, Sprint Family Locator and Lookout Family Mobile Security.

 
Sprint PR

After Sunday's STP Gas Booster 500 at Martinsville Speedway, will it be Jeff Gordon for whom the bell tolls?

 

A relatively new tradition at Hendrick Motorsports is the ringing of the Victory Bell in each department following a win by one the organization's four cars. It's an experience the entire Gordon family enjoys when precipitated by a No. 24 team victory.

 

"I savor wins - probably more so today than ever," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. "And prior to last year, I hadn't rung the bell before so it was a new experience for me.

 

"My kids came to the shop to be a part of it, as well. The bell is so loud that they have to wear headsets, but they really seemed to enjoy being part of the experience. Everybody gets something after they ring the bell and my daughter loved handing out stickers to everyone.

 

"It's become a really cool tradition - one the whole organization has rallied around."

 

In 40 starts at Martinsville Speedway, Gordon has seven wins, 25 top-fives and 32 top-10's. He has been running at the finish in all 40 events, and the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has led 3,515 laps on the 0.526-mile track. Cale Yarborough tops that list with 3,784 - a difference of 269 laps. Gordon has led 269 or more laps at Martinsville three times, including pacing the field for 329 laps in this event last year.

 

Along with seven wins, Gordon also has seven poles at Martinsville - one off the track record held by Darrell Waltrip. Gordon has posted 20 consecutive seasons (1993 - 2012) with a pole, tying him with David Pearson for the most all-time.

 

"Qualifying well here definitely helps, and getting that first pit stall is an advantage on pit road," said Gordon, who is 18th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. "During the race, though, it's all about 'rhythm.' You try to get into a rhythm quickly to just knock off consistent lap after consistent lap.

 

"But traffic - which you encounter a lot of here - can disrupt that quickly. When you're around other cars, you have to change your line and change what you're doing in order to make a pass. It's important to jump right back into that rhythm that you had."

 

If successful for 500 laps Sunday, there may be a rhythmic ringing of a bell at Hendrick Motorsports next Tuesday.

 

PPRPR

Following the postponement at Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway on March 23 due to rain, a number of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East teams took advantage of the bonus time to go the extra mile in preparation for the rescheduled Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 presented by G-Clean on April 6.

Two of the three drivers that Turner Scott Motorsports has entered for the second race of the 2013 season are true rookies at GPS: Austin Dyne and Kenzie Ruston. The third – Dylan Kwasniewski – has just one race under his belt at the historic half mile.

The director of competition for TSM’s K&N Pro Series East program, Mike Greci, said an extra week gave the team another shot to get some experience. They took Dyne and Ruston back to test on March 27.

“This was the second time we tested at Greenville in the last couple of weeks,” Greci said. “The main purpose of this test was to get Austin some laps at Greenville and try some things we learned from the first test. Kenzie also wanted to go back and get some more seat time at the short track.

“Overall, I feel like it was a beneficial test for TSM, where we were able to build on new things from the first test, and I think we'll be ready to go for the race.”

Dyne, who came to the East Coast to race this season following a 2012 campaign in which he earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, said that the extra practice time at GPS will have him ahead of the game compared to his first K&N Pro Series East experience in the opener at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

“Any time you are able to turn some laps at a new track before a race weekend, it's going to help,” Dyne said. “I felt like at Bristol I spent the first half of the race just learning the track, so it's nice to be able to test at Greenville ahead of time and get the learning started early. I will feel more comfortable when we come back here, and my KMC Wheels team was able to learn a couple things that we can use this weekend."

Like Dyne, Ruston made her series debut at Bristol. Her 11th-place finish was the best by a female driver in K&N Pro Series East competition since Danica Patrick crossed the line sixth in her only series appearance in 2010. Ruston hopes the extra practice at GPS can help her to keep the momentum to start her rookie campaign.

"As a team, we felt the extra track time would only help,” Ruston said. “We had a list of things we wanted to change during practice last week so we went ahead and tried those, and I think we found exactly what our AccuDoc Solutions team needs for the makeup race date. I don't have a lot of experience in the K&N Pro Series car yet, so every lap counts."

TSM wasn’t the only operation to take advantage of the extra week, however. Jesse Little took his No. 97 NASCAR Technical Institute Chevrolet out of the Coulter Motorsports shop down to test at GPS on March 29. Little recorded his best finish in eight career K&N Pro Series East starts in last fall’s event in Greenville, and the team took the opportunity to hone in the setup.

"The additional laps allowed us to try some things we usually don't have time to try,” Little said. “The weather played a role in last year’s qualifying so we spent some time finding a good balance between short and long runs. It’s difficult to pass at Greenville Pickens and we want to start up front. I also had my best finish at Greenville in 2012 and we want to improve upon that."

When the K&N Pro Series East returns to Greenville on April 6, the raceday schedule will stay the same as it was on March 23. The Kevin Whitaker Chevrolet 150 presented by G-Clean is set to go green at 8 p.m. ET.

NASCAR PR

The Ragin' Cajun Jason Johnson ends the month of March the same way he started it, with a much deserved trip to Victory Lane.

 

Johnson and the Stenhouse Jr./HM Racing/JJR team made the journey west to 81 Speedway in Park City, Kansas. The National Championship Racing Association (NCRA) always brings fierce competitors and Saturday, March 30th was no exception.

 

The pit area was filled to max capacity and the drivers knew the challenge of just making it into the A-Main was demanding. Johnson earned the pole position in the second heat race. He fought off Lucas Wolfe, Tim Crawley, C.J. Johnson and Danny Lasoski securing a fourth place starting position in the A-Main.

 

The Ragin' Cajun may have started fourth in the feature, but he didn't stay there long. He started by passing the third and second place cars until the red flag came out on lap ten. Johnson was sitting in the second position and had his eyes set on the race leader Don Droud Jr.. The racing commenced and the two race leaders put on quite a show until a caution came out on lap 19. Johnson was still running second, but more determined than ever to make that one last pass. On lap 24, Johnson used his Roush Yates Engine to power into the top spot. He maintained his position to the checkered and captured the $5,000-to-win top prize. Johnson won the NCRA event over Droud, Seth Bergman, Danny Wood and Mike Peters.

 

Jason Johnson will be back to ASCS National Tour action next weekend with the ASCS stars heading to Golden Triangle Raceway Park in Beaumont, Texas followed by I-30 Speedway in Little Rock, Arkansas.

 

RYE PR

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