Speedway Digest Staff
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It might have been one of the most surprising and enjoyable moments of Clint Bowyer’s long driving career and as dominant of a qualifying session anyone could ask for by his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) team on Sept. 14 last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bowyer earned the third Busch pole of his career by leading a sweep of the top four spots by SHR Ford Mustang drivers.
“I’m as shocked as you are,’’ Bowyer said, laughing as he sat down to address reporters after the qualifying session.
“I’m extremely proud of the effort. We’re on the pole, but 1-2-3-4 for Stewart-Haas Racing, that says a lot about our focus.’’
Bowyer winning races isn’t unusual. He’s won 10 times in the Cup Series, eight in the Xfinity Series and three in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series.
But winning a Cup Series Busch pole is another matter.
The Las Vegas pole ended a streak of more than 4,380 days since Bowyer’s previous pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon on Sept. 13, 2007. His first career pole came at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway earlier that 2007 season.
It’s not like Bowyer is a bad qualifier. He’s started second 12 times in his career, including at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City last May, and he did win the pole for the non-points-paying NASCAR All-Star Race last May at Charlotte (N. C) Motor Speedway.
Bowyer admitted he was excited in his normal self-deprecating way in Las Vegas last fall.
“I almost forgot what to do at a Busch pole ceremony,” Bowyer said. “I got to sign my name on some sheet that I don’t think I’ve ever signed before, so I got to brag a little bit. I rubbed it in to all those guys. Something’s wrong with them when I beat them to a pole.”
The pole ceremony turned out to be the highlight of the Las Vegas weekend as Bowyer struggled with handling during the race, falling down a lap to the leaders. He took the wave-around near the end of the race and returned to the lead lap in 16th with fresh tires. On a restart, Bowyer and Paul Menard made contact, forcing Bowyer to pit lane for new tires and dropping him to 30th. He climbed to 25th by the end of the race.
He’ll get a chance for another pole and to better that September finish this weekend when the Cup Series returns for Sunday’s Las Vegas 400. It marks the second race of the 2020 season.
Last weekend in the 62nd annual Daytona 500, Bowyer started 29th and rode in the back of the field until 30 laps remaining before he charged to the front. The No. 14 Ford was fifth at the start of the first overtime but damage from an accident on the restart ruined his chances for victory and left him with a sixth-place finish.
This weekend at Las Vegas, Bowyer will pilot the No. 14 BlueDEF® Ford. BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid (DEF) is one of the key elements in the process used by diesel engine builders to meet environmental regulations. DEF is not a fuel or fuel additive. Instead, when injected into the exhaust stream and passed over a catalyst, DEF helps convert harmful gasses into nitrogen gas and water vapor – two harmless and natural components of the air we breathe.
The Las Vegas race will mark the first of three primary races this season for Bowyer with Old World Industries, the parent company of the PEAK and BlueDEF® brands. PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze will serve as the No. 14 team’s sponsor in April at Richmond (Va.) Raceway, and at Darlington in September.
PEAK’s legacy in motorsports spans 40 years and includes leading drivers such as Dale Earnhardt, Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty. Besides Bowyer’s No. 14 team, PEAK is a partner with the Haas F1 team with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series and drag racing’s winningest driver John Force.
Bowyer believes the 2020 season starts with the West Coast Swing that begins Sunday in Las Vegas, continues to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and concludes at Phoenix Raceway.
“Daytona 500 is a race in its own,” Bowyer said. “That’s the one-time-a-year opportunity to win our Super Bowl. You have to put it all out there and do anything to win that race. Our season starts once we get out of Daytona and on to the West Coast. That’s the barometer of where everyone stacks up.
“The trickiest thing about the West Coast is you’re lying in the bed you made, so to speak. You race what you have the next three races. There isn’t much time to take your car back to the shop and work on the areas you’re struggling with. We can do all that once we get home from the West Coast. When you get back, you can reestablish where you're at, get in the board room, get in the meeting rooms to start hashing out what worked, what didn't, ‘Let’s go this direction.’ You know, start moving the ship together, pulling on the same rope.”
The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second race of the season. Cole Custer will pilot the No. 41 Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for this weekend’s event in Nevada. A 2020 schedule change means the Cup Series heads to Las Vegas one week earlier than usual. Over the past several years, Atlanta Motor Speedway was the second race of the season.
Las Vegas is the first of three races as part of NASCAR’s West Coast swing. Vegas is the first 1.5-mile facility of the season for Custer and the No. 41 team. The 22-year-old has made one start at the intermediate track in the Cup Series. In 2018, he made three Cup Series starts in the No. 51 with Rick Ware Racing and finished 25th at Las Vegas.
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’ll compete with notables Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick, all of whom have battled against each other in the Xfinity Series and are making the fulltime transition to the Cup Series together.
The 62nd Annual Daytona 500 last weekend was the Ladera Ranch, California, native’s first Daytona 500. Custer started the prestigious race from the 12th position and ran as high as second before his night ended prematurely due to a mechanical issue. While the 37th-place result is disappointing, this weekend’s race at Las Vegas provides the opportunity to rebound for the No. 41 Mustang team. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has spent multiple hours in the racing simulator in preparation for the Las Vegas race weekend.
In the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas, Custer has five starts with three consecutive pole awards – September 2018 and both 2019 events. In total, he has two top-five and four top-10 finishes, along with 54 laps led at the mile-and-a-half venue. The Ford driver has an average starting position of 5.4 and an average finishing position of 7.2. Custer also has one Vegas start in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. In October 2016, he started and finished in the third position and led three laps.
This weekend the No. 41 machine will have a different look. Production Alliance Group (PAG) will share the No. 41 livery with Haas Automation for the first time this season. PAG is a premium live-event and creative development company based in Tustin, California. If you’ve ever been to a concert, award show, sporting event, or corporate event chances are you’ve seen PAG in action. From the lights to the sound, and everything in-between, PAG is the creative mind and execution behind it all.
What makes the PAG relationship unique with the No. 41 team, is President and CEO, Dale Sahlin met Custer in victory lane at Auto Club Speedway after Custer won the Production Alliance Group 300 Xfinity Series race there in March of last year. Sahlin and Custer formed a relationship which led to PAG increasing their presence within NASCAR to SHR’s Xfinity Series last season and now to the Cup Series.
Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by Stewart-Haas Racing 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 manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.
No. 41 team crew chief Mike Shiplett has two wins at Las Vegas in the Xfinity Series, both in 2018. 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.
When the Cup Series arrived at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a year ago, Matt DiBenedetto, like every other driver and race team, was trying to sort out a new set of rules including a radically different low horsepower/high downforce handling package.
This time around he’ll be driving the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang that was one of the faster cars in last year’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas.
“It was interesting last year trying to figure out the new rules, the new package,” DiBenedetto said. “The encouraging part was that our team and the Team Penske cars showed a lot of speed.
“I think our car will be good this time.”
DiBenedetto, who has made six career Cup starts at Las Vegas, said he’s looking forward to this weekend’s race.
“I like the track,” he said. “It’s a fun place to go to. I enjoy racing there especially when the cars get spread around.”
DiBenedetto said that while he didn’t get the result he’d hoped for in the Daytona 500, he did see a lot of positives from his first race with the Wood Brothers team.
“What was most impressive was how prepared the team was for repairing crash damage,” he said.
After sustaining what looked like race-ending damage in a 19-car wreck with 15 of the scheduled 200 laps left in the 500, DiBenedetto was able to return to the track, make minimum speed, and continue on to the finish.
“It looked like there was no way to possibly get back out there,” he said. “And then we went and gained nine or 10 spots from where we were.
“We did so because of the team being so prepared for repairing the car and then executing the repairs.
“It was huge for points.”
DiBenedetto also said he believes his team is way ahead of schedule as far as building chemistry between him, crew chief Greg Erwin, spotter Doug Campbell and the rest of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team.
“I felt really good about how well we all worked together and how good the communication was, and that was just Week One,” he said.
Qualifying for the Pennzoil 400 is set for Saturday at 11:35 a.m. (2:35 Eastern Time), and the race is scheduled to start just after 12:30 p.m. (3:30 Eastern) with TV coverage on FOX.
Dawsonville’s Chase Elliott helped Atlanta Motor Speedway get race fans ready for the March 15th Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
Fans lined up the moment the doors to the Hall of Fame opened to get a front row seat for the unveiling of the AMS 60th Anniversary pace car and meet Elliott, the local racing hero.
The 60th Anniversary pace car carries the colors made famous by Elliott’s father Bill, who won several races at Atlanta Motor Speedway with his iconic red, white, and gold paint scheme.
“Obviously I’m biased, but I think a lot of dad’s schemes looked really cool. I think it looks really good and I’d like to be the first one behind it in the race here in a few weeks,” Elliott said after pulling the cover off the new car with AMS Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison.
After the pace car unveil, Chase Elliott signed autographs for his loyal followers, who left the Georgia Racing Hall of Fame eager and ready to root on Elliott in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at AMS.
Tickets and camping locations for the March 13-15 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway are available now by calling 877-9-AMS-TIX or visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
Defending NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch is favored to win his hometown Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube, according to opening odds from the South Point sportsbook.
Busch, who last won the Pennzoil 400 in 2009, and Kevin Harvick – the Pennzoil 400 champion in 2015 and 2018 – are both 9/2 to take the checkered flag on Feb. 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr., who won the race in 2017, is 5/1 and two-time Las Vegas spring champ Brad Keselowski (2014 and 2016) is 6/1.
Defending Pennzoil 400 champion Joey Logano is 7/1 to return to Victory Lane in Sunday’s 267-lap race. Denny Hamlin, who just won his second consecutive Daytona 500, is 10/1 to win his first Pennzoil 400, while Kyle Larson also checks in at 10/1.
Chase Elliott (15/1) and Ryan Blaney (20/1) are both looking for their first Vegas win, while Kurt Busch (30/1) also looks for an elusive triumph at the Pennzoil 400.
Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and William Byron each join Busch at 30/1, while seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is 40/1. Johnson has won the Pennzoil 400 the most times of any driver with four trips to Victory Lane (2005-07, 2010).
Clint Bowyer is 60/1 and 2020 Daytona 500 pole sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is 100/1.
The full list of odds can be viewed here.
LVMS’s spring 2020 NASCAR Weekend begins with the Strat 200 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday, Feb. 21, continues with the Strat qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series Boyd Gaming 300 on Saturday, Feb. 22, and finishes with the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube NASCAR Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 23.
As part of the festivities honoring Jimmie’s last season as a full-time NASCAR Cup driver, Auto Club Speedway officials announced today Jimmie’s wife, Chandra and daughters, will serve as Honorary Starters, and iconic motocross racer Ricky Johnson will serve as the Honorary Pace Car Driver at the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 on March 1, 2020.
Chandra along with daughters Genevieve (9 years old) and Lydia (6 years old) will wave the green flag to start the Auto Club 400 as Jimmie makes his final start at his hometown track.
Ricky Johnson’s duties as Honorary Pace Car Driver include driving the Official NASCAR 2020 Toyota Camry Pace Car where he will lead the field and the “Five Wide Salute” during the pace laps before the start of the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at 12:30 p.m. PT; televised on FOX.
“In the motorsports world everyone is like family,” said Dave Allen, President of Auto Club Speedway. “We are happy to have Chandra and the girls, along with Ricky as part of our pre-race activities to pay tribute to Jimmie’s success at his home track and motorsports career.”
With a race ticket and pre-race pit pass, fans will be able to watch the pre-race ceremonies, and also receive access to the O’Reilly Auto Parts Fan Zone featuring live entertainment, NASCAR driver appearances, Monster Energy Smoke Shows, Lefty’s Fun Zone – the ultimate kid hangout, celebrity appearances, a variety of food and beverage options and motorsport displays.
The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion will race 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.
To purchase tickets to the NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 race, call 800-944-RACE (7223), log on to www.autoclubspeedway.com, or visit the Auto Club Speedway ticket office at 9300 Cherry Avenue, Fontana.
The stage is set for an action-packed weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the third annual Pennzoil 400 Presented by Jiffy Lube
Pennzoil returns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway to host the third annual Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube as part of the NASCAR Cup Series. Building on the heart-pounding action of the past two years, the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube will once again headline an action-packed, triple-header motorsports weekend driven by fan activities and on-track exhilaration. The green flag will wave to commence the Pennzoil 400 on Sunday, February 23rd at 12:30 p.m. PST and will be broadcast live on FOX.
“We at Shell and Pennzoil, have a tremendous appreciation for competitive motorsports. From the moment the green flag waves, our favorite athletes push the limits of advanced engine technology to extremes at some of the most iconic tracks across America,” said Carlos Maurer, President, Shell Lubricants Americas. “Speaking of iconic tracks, we also like to put on a good show and are thrilled to once again welcome race spectators near and far to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for yet another unforgettable year as the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube continues to establish itself as one of the premier events in the series.”
Team Penske driver and reigning Pennzoil 400 champion, Joey Logano, will return to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Pennzoil primary paint scheme while teammate Ryan Blaney will be running in the Pennzoil co-primary paint scheme. Both Team Penske drivers will have the cutting-edge technology of Pennzoil Synthetics, made from pure natural gas, coursing through their engines as the green flag waves for 400 high-intensity miles of racing in the desert. Pennzoil works hand-in-hand with Team Penske developing and testing premium motor oil formulations under harsh conditions in the desert as a laboratory for tomorrow’s road cars.
“Jiffy Lube is proud to support one of America’s most popular motorsports series by returning to Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the presenting sponsor of the Pennzoil 400,” said Patrick Southwick, President, Jiffy Lube International, Inc. “The brand’s involvement not only demonstrates our passion for the sport and appreciation to the supportive fan-base, but provides an opportunity to reinforce the strong relationship between Pennzoil, America’s most trusted motor oil, and the industry’s largest fast lube provider, Jiffy Lube.”
The relationship with Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI), owner and operator of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, provides Pennzoil a stage to cultivate relationships with fans, partners and customers and put the spotlight on a shared appreciation for motorsports.
“The Pennzoil 400 continues to push boundaries and we are proud to share that in 2020 it will be the first race in the NASCAR Cup Series West Coast swing,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President, Chris Powell. “Our friends at Shell and Pennzoil have a storied history in motorsports and we are thrilled to be a part of it by hosting one of the most exhilarating races of the season at our world-class facilities.”
Driven by a passion for innovation and ambition to create the most technologically advanced motor oil on the market, Pennzoil continues to work with motorsports partners, such as Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to create Pennzoil Proving Grounds. It is here where races are won that Pennzoil drivers can show the “Proof is in the Pennzoil.”
2020 Pennzoil Proving Grounds Fan Experiences:
- Driving exhibitions from professional fun-havers Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea DeNofa, Ultra4 off-road driver Loren Healy and professional stunt driver Rhys Millen
- Drifting ride-alongs with world champion drifter Vaughn Gittin Jr. and Chelsea DeNofa
- Live Stage with notable guests and live music from the Garage Boys Band
- Several notable show cars, including Joey Logano’s #22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang show car, a Ford GT replica and Ferrari P3 replica from the Ford v Ferrari movie, Tommy Pike Customs’ Acura NSX, Jeff Allen of Flat 12 Gallery’s one-of-a-kind V06 and more
- Photo-op moments with the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube trophy and the #22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang show car
- Autograph sessions with Team Penske and other Pennzoil Proving Grounds drivers
- Oil Change Challenge presented by Jiffy Lube with competitions for prizes
- Premium giveaways and a chance to win great prizes from the giant prize wheel
For more information about technical relationships between Pennzoil and motorsports teams, visit www.Pennzoil.com. To stay up-to-date on the latest activities, be sure to ‘like’ the official Pennzoil Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/Pennzoil) and follow @Pennzoil on Twitter (www.twitter.com/Pennzoil) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/Pennzoil) #Pennzoil400.
Shell Pennzoil PR
Roush Fenway Racing has announced that Ross Chastain will fill in for Ryan Newman starting this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) in the No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford. Newman was injured in a last-lap accident while leading Monday’s Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway and has since been treated and released from Halifax Medical Center.
“First and foremost, our focus remains with Ryan and his family as he continues to recover,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “We also want to express our sincere gratitude to all of those who have offered support and taken the time to send their thoughts and prayers to Ryan, his family and everyone at Roush Fenway Racing”.
“The NASCAR community has long prided itself on being a close-knit family,” added Newmark. “That is never more evident than during these types of moments, and we want to express our appreciation to everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing as well as Kaulig Racing for allowing Ross to fill in for Ryan in the No. 6 on such short notice.”
Chastain has won three times in the NASCAR Truck Series and twice in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, including a dominating performance at LVMS in 2018. The Alva, Florida native has made 72 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series and finished top-10 in the 2019 Daytona 500. He was poised for another strong finish in Monday’s 500, before being involved in a late-race accident.
Currently there is no timetable for Newman’s return. Additional updates will be provided as they become available.