Speedway Digest Staff
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Kurt Busch will conduct "double-duty" at Iowa Speedway for the second time this season, traveling from Long Pond, Pa., where he will practice his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry on Friday, and then qualify it on Saturday morning. Busch will then head to the cornfields of Newton, Iowa, where he will try his hand again, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at the .867-mile speedway. Busch, the older brother of Kyle Busch Motorsports owner-driver Kyle Busch, has secured two Nationwide Series victories this season, including the first for his brother's young team. Coincidentally, that win at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway came in the same car #009, which he'll be driving this weekend.
In Busch's previous attempt at this facility, he traveled from the Charlotte, N.C. NASCAR All-Star event, and missed the qualifying time for Iowa's spring Nationwide Series race. Support driver Drew Herring qualified the Richmond-win car in the 31st position for Busch, who upon arrival race day, took over driving duties, led two laps and reached a fifth-place finishing position, the team's third top-five finish of the season.
After last week's strong run in Indianapolis (Ind.) with team owner-driver Kyle Busch, who paced the field with fastest lap times in both practice sessions and during the race, the first-year Nationwide Series team chose to bring chassis #009 back for a fourth attempt at the company's second career win.
Crew chief Mike Beam also looks to improve his Iowa Speedway career-best finishing position of third, hoping this week's U.S. Cellular 250 presented by the Enlist Weed Control System, is a good luck charm the second time around.
Aric Almirola returns to Pocono Raceway this week with the benefit of experience as well as two new partners. For his second race at the 2.5-mile "Tricky Triangle," Almirola brings a No. 43 Ford carrying the messaging of primary sponsor Automotive Lift Institute and co-sponsor ALM Materials Handling.
Automotive Lift Institute is a trade association dedicated to promoting the safe design, construction, installation, inspection, service and use of vehicle service lifts. Its partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 team will help promote the Institute's safety message as it launches its Lift Inspector Certification Program.
ALM was founded in 1982 and focuses on the manufacture of material handling lifts. Its fixed or adjustable base positioners can improve customers' competitive advantage by boosting throughput 35 percent or more while eliminating old-fashioned, unsafe inefficient methods.
Almirola welcomes both partners as he returns to Pocono after making his Sprint Cup debut at the Long Pond, Pa., track in June. The No. 43 team finished 28th on the newly repaved track that proved challenging for the entire field and produced multiple wrecks. Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 will air live on ESPN on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
Comments from Automotive Lift Institute Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"We definitely learned a lot as a team, and I learned a lot as a driver, during our first trip to Pocono earlier this summer. Not only was it my first time racing a Cup car on the track, but the track had just been repaved, too. So it will be nice to go back there the second time with some experience and a notebook to work from. I think we'll roll off the truck in pretty good shape and I'm ready to get back at it.
"It's cool to have the Automotive Lift Institute and ALM on our No. 43 Ford this weekend. We're excited to take new partners to the racetrack and our whole team looks forward to bringing them a good result."
Comments from Crew Chief Mike Ford on Pocono:
"Pocono is a fun but difficult track every time you go there. And last time, we had the extra element of the repave to work with. Going back now a second time, we'll have the benefit of Aric having run 400 miles on the track just two months ago and all the notes we took from two days of testing there.
"As we start to return to tracks for a second time in the second half of the season, that will be a big help for Aric and for our entire team. As a team, we've been going to tracks together for the first time and building our notebook as we go. It will be a big help now to go back to some of these places, look at our notes and say, 'OK, we learned this lesson last time. Here's how we're going to adjust and be better.'"
- This Week's ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra ... John Wes Townley will pilot RAB Racing Chassis No. 48 in Saturday's Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway. A workhorse of the 2012 season, this Toyota Tundra raced at Kansas Speedway in April, Charlotte Motor Superspeedway in May, and twice in the month of June, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway. Most recently, Townley raced this chassis to a career-best 14th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway when the series last competed two weeks ago.
- Townley at Pocono ... While Townley has not yet raced at Pocono Raceway in Camping World Truck Series competition, he has raced there before. In two ARCA Racing Series Series start at the "Tricky Triangle", Townley has garnered one top-10 and two top-20 finishes, posting his track-best finish of ninth in 2008's Pennsylvania ARCA 200.
- RAB Racing at Pocono... While RAB Racing has not yet competed at Pocono Raceway in Camping World Truck Series competition, they have competed in two ARCA Racing Series events at the 2.5-mile triangle dating back to 2008.The team's best showing at the Pennsylvania track is a ninth-place finish, which was posted by Townley in 2008.
- After Ten Races... Over the first 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races of the 2012 season, Townley has accumulated six top-20 finishes, an average starting position of 21.1 and an average finish of 20.4. Townley has completed 88.4 percent of the laps he's contested (1,383 of 1,565) thus far.
- Get to the Points ... Townley's sixth top-20 finish of the 2012 season in Chicagoland Speedway's American Ethanol 225 allowed him to advance one position, to 19th, in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings.
- Your Point Is... As we head into the 11th race of the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, RAB Racing currently occupies the 18th position in the owner's points standings.
- RAB Racing in 2012... With ten races completed in the 2012 season, RAB Racing's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entries have recorded one top-five and seven top-20 finishes with drivers Travis Kvapil and Townley.
- Double Duty ... Townley will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Pocono Raceway this weekend, driving the No. 32 Zaxby's-sponsored entry in Sunday's Pennsylvania 400. Live coverage of the event begins Sunday, August 5 at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. The race will be televised live on ESPN and broadcast worldwide on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
- Catch the Action ... The Pocono Mountains 125 from Pocono Raceway will be televised live Saturday, August 4 beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT on SPEED and broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network. Qualifying will be Saturday, August 4 beginning at 9:35 a.m. EDT.
John Wes Townley Quotes
"I'm really looking forward to getting to Pocono Raceway this weekend. I enjoyed racing there in the ARCA Series. Pocono is unique, there's no perfect setup to get around there. You give up a little in one corner to be good in the others. It's going to be interesting to see how our ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra reacts and make adjustments from there. With the fresh pavement, it's going to be a very fast race. I'm looking forward to it"
Chris Rice Quotes
"Pocono has brand new pavement that is really smooth and really fast. I think the trucks are going to be close to wide-open all the way around this track and we'll have to utilize the draft a lot. The Pocono Mountains 125 will be a really interesting race for us. We will be returning to this track with heavy hearts as it is the first visit for the Camping World Truck Series since Dr. Mattioli's passing. But Pocono has been a good race for the Sprint Cup cars since the repaving and I can't wait to see how our No. 09 ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra will do."
RAB Racing PR
The Sprint Cup Series' last race at Pocono Raceway was bittersweet for Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota. He powered the Burger King/Dr Pepper Camry to his season-best 15th-place starting position. It marked BK Racing's best qualifying performance to date. Unfortunately Cassill was involved in an accident on Lap 1 and never had a chance to show what he was capable of. He hopes that his return in this week's Pennsylvania 400 will be sweet redemption.
Cassill has four starts at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. His best performance came in 2011, starting 25th and finishing 24th.
Cassill's crew chief, Doug Richert, has 27 visits to Pocono. He's led his drivers to one pole, six top-10s and four top-fives.
Comments from BK Racing Driver Landon Cassill heading into Pocono:
"Last time we went to Pocono, we got off to a great start. We had a good baseline and unloaded really quick. The Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota was fast in each test and practice session. We scored our best starting spot of the year. It was our first time qualifying in the top 15. We had a fast car for sure. Unfortunately we didn't have much of a chance to show how good it was. We were involved in an accident early on in the race and it took us out of contention. I think it could have been one of our best finishes of the year. I'm really looking forward to getting back there. I think this could be a great race for us.
"The new pavement and race length have changed the complexion of Pocono. It's really a whole different event now. The surface has given everyone a lot more confidence to drive harder through the turns and it's sped up the cars. There are a lot more guys willing to race side-by-side now.
"It's nice to be going back to the tracks for a second time. We've been to Daytona twice and now we're heading back to Pocono. I think this is when BK Racing will really begin to grow and make advancements. Now we'll have an opportunity to build on what we've learned and take our program to the next level."
BK Racing PR
Pocono Raceway threw lots of changes at the Sprint Cup Series during its previous venture to the 2.5-mile track. A fresh racing surface required a new car setup to accommodate higher speeds. A shorter event length necessitated a different strategy for calling the race. Although the new variations were significant, Travis Kvapil and the No. 93 Burger King/Dr Pepper team showed their ability to adapt and chalked up a 26th-place finish. The performance marked his best finish at a non-restrictor plate track at least two miles long. Kvapil looks to build on the team's success in this week's Pennsylvania 400.
Kvapil has 10 starts at Pocono to his credit. He's scored three top-20s and has a best finish of 16th place, which he achieved in 2008.
Comments from BK Racing Driver Travis Kvapil heading into Pocono:
"Last time we went to Pocono it had just been paved. It's a lot different for sure. Plain and simple, it's just a lot faster now. The new pavement gave us tons of grip and we can get through the corners a lot faster than we used to. We're carrying a lot of speed on the straights, especially going into Turn 1. We've made changes to our shock and bump stop package and adjusted on the car to accommodate for all the additional speed.
"We have a pretty good handle on the track. The test session and the race gave us a lot of data that we could build on. Our last race there went really well. We finished just outside the top 25. It gave us a good starting point for our return. I've talked with Todd (Anderson, crew chief) about the setup and we've got a few ideas that we're going to try for this race. Hopefully we'll make a few improvements and come back with a more competitive package.
"Another difference was the race length. We only ran 400 miles instead of 500. That was a nice change. It put a little more urgency into the event. You're seeing guys racing harder earlier on. It also put more emphasis on pit stops and making the right adjustments. If you make a mistake, there's less time to make up for it, so each one counts.
"Of course one of the biggest changes is not having Doc Mattioli there. He was such a big part of the race and had such a presence during the weekend. I really missed seeing him at the driver meeting and being at intros. He's left a legacy there and the track will always be associated with him, but it's just not the same without him."
BK Racing PR
JD Motorsports w/Gary Keller is ready to continue their Brickyard-inspired boost in morale this weekend as the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Iowa Speedway for a Saturday night race.
Coming off a top-10 and two top-20 finishes, the team was upbeat after their good showing in last week’s first NNS race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This weekend, the No. 01 G&K Services Chevrolet team of Mike Wallace will be joined by St. Alberta, Canada driver Darryl Harr driving the No. 4 iWorld Chevrolet.
With this being Harr’s second start at Iowa, he and the team are glad to have some familiarity as they head to the 7/8ths mile oval. For a veteran like Wallace, he looks to improve on his last outing at every track.
Adding to the fun is a Saturday night under the lights event for the race-crazed Midwest fans.
Mike Wallace Notes:
- The St. Louis native will be making his 436th-career NNS start
- This will be his 20th start of the 2012 season where he is currently 15th in points, trailing 14th by eight markers
- During this season, he’s completed 3,084 of 3,320 laps contested (92.9 percent) in those 19 starts leading four races.
- As far as Iowa, he’ll be making his fifth start where he’s completed 796 of 1,000 laps contested.
- His best start and finish took place in 2011 when he started 21st and finished 19th
Darryl Harr Notes:
- This will be the ninth-career start for the St. Alberta, Canada native
- During his first four NNS starts this year, he’s completed 695 of 800 laps
- He’ll be making his third start at Iowa Speedway and fifth of the 2012 season
- He’s completed 453 of 500 laps contested (90.6 percent) at the track
- In his first two starts, he’s finished 24th and 28th, respectively
- His sponsor, iWorld will be on board again as the primary partner
Mike Wallace Quotes: “Iowa Speedway is one of those tracks I love to run because of how it’s laid out. It has great banking that sends you down the straightaways real fast. I know my brother Rusty was instrumental in some of this and I can tell he put in some of the short track things we all grew up on racing.
“You have to handle really well into the corners of that place so you can get out of them quickly. When you have to battle Turns 1 and 3, it can goof you up for the rest of your lap.
“The fans in Iowa are great. They love their NASCAR racing, they love to have us come out and we enjoy putting on a good show for them, too. I’m looking forward to having a good run with our G&K Services team under the lights, and I know the fans are looking forward to it, too.”
Matt Wallace Update
Mike’s son, Matt, finished fourth in his Late Model race at Lebanon I-44 Speedway on Saturday night and gained some points on the leader.
JD Motorsports PR
No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Mark Martin’s last visit to Pocono Raceway might have been his best performance in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Martin made a daring pass on a restart to take the lead with just seven laps left in the track’s first 400-mile race. Joey Logano retook the top spot with three to go and beat Martin to the finish line by 0.997 seconds for the Toyota sweep of the top two spots.
The Michael Waltrip Racing team returns to the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania triangle this weekend with the same driver, crew, car and Goodyear tire compound in a bid to finish one spot better. Pocono is one of a handful of active Sprint Cup tracks where Martin has not won but owns seven second-place finishes. Last week at Indianapolis Martin’s 11th-place finish increased his streak of consecutive top-11 finishes at Indy to eight years.
MARK MARTIN: “We are all motivated by winning. That’s why we are racers. We know we can win this weekend at Pocono. When you know that it makes you want to get to the track that much sooner.”
MARTIN ON TOYOTA: “They gave us awesome motors at Indy and throughout the year. They've been very, very helpful with us at MWR for sure. This is my first experience with them. And there are a lot of racers that help us with the engines and the technology, and I really enjoy them. And they've embraced me, and that's been nice. They have really made me feel welcome.”
NO WINS BUT SEVEN 2ND PLACE POCONO FINISHES: “You're not owed this stuff, man. I've earned all those second-place finishes, and I'm proud of that. You're not entitled. You've got to go get 'em.”
POCONO: “I’m fine with running 400 miles there. I think the fans saw a great show in June. I couldn’t tell the race was shorter. They did a great job with the paving. I wasn’t too optimistic but we put on a great race. I didn't think it would be possible to have a first race that good. That was just absolutely the best I can ever remember for new pavement. The Goodyear tires were fantastic as well.”
Kansas Speedway’s track reconfiguration project is nearing completion and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are coming back to Kansas Speedway on Aug. 28-29 for their first look at the newly reconfigured track as they return for a Goodyear tire test.
The test will run from 9 AM to 5 PM each day and will be open to the public and free of charge. Fans are asked to enter at Michigan Dr. off of Speedway Blvd. Due to another event setting up at Kansas Speedway, fans will only be able to enter at Gate D (closest to Turn 1) and sit in sections 169 and 171. Parking will be available in lots 5 and 6. Parking lots and gates will open at 8:30 AM. Sprint FanWalk will not be open during the test days.
Restroom facilities will be open during the test. Concessions will not be available during the test days, however fans will be permitted to bring in a 14x14x14-inch soft-sided cooler with their favorite food and Coca-Cola products.
This summer, crews have been adding variable banking to Kansas Speedway, changing the banking from the old 15 degrees to banking that is between 17 and 20 degrees in the turns. The banking on the frontstretch has also changed slightly, decreasing to 10 degrees (formerly 10.4 degrees), while the banking on the backstretch has increased slightly to 5.5 degrees (formerly five degrees). Crews also added an infield road course to Kansas Speedway.
Testing dates, track schedule and drivers/teams are subject to change due to weather or other circumstances.
NASCAR’s most popular driver used Sunday’s Brickyard 400 to climb to a location that he’s not been able to reach since late in the 2004 season: the top of the points standings in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
For Earnhardt Jr., Sunday’s fourth-place finish at Indianapolis was the culmination of a season full of strong runs and consistent finishes.
“I’m proud of that (becoming the points leader) because it says a lot about our body of work,” Earnhardt said following the race. “All season long, we’ve been working hard and finishing well. That is symbolic of how well we’ve done. I’m proud of that. I have felt that way about our position in points all season long.”
With only six races remaining before the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is set at the conclusion of the Sept. 8 event at Richmond, Earnhardt Jr. knows that simply logging good finishes won’t get the job done.
“We need to win more races,” said Earnhardt, with one win currently in the books from the June event at Michigan. “If we want to win the championship, we have to (win more races). I imagine we can win a couple races in the Chase. I don’t know if finishing fourth of fifth is going to do it. We’ll just have to see. We’d like to step it up just a little bit more.”
Not only will race wins in the Chase be crucial to a championship, but race wins leading into the Chase are just as important as race wins will determine the standings when the Chase begins.
Prior to the start of the Chase, the series will visit several tracks that Earnhardt Jr. has a strong performance history at, and among those are the historic Atlanta Motor Speedway. Earnhardt has claimed one AMS trophy in his Sprint Cup career, winning the Golden Corral 500 in March of 2004. In 24-career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.54-mile facility, Earnhardt Jr. has recorded eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s for an average finish of 13. A pair of pole position and outside pole position starting spots also accompanies his name in the AMS record book.
There have been several races where he has ran well for much of the day but was unable to log the good finish he deserved, such as the 2007 fall race, when a top-five run was spoiled on the final restart by a loose wheel, causing him to crash into the turn one wall.
With Atlanta being a longtime staple on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, Earnhardt Jr. has said that winning a race on the high banks of AMS is a different type of accomplishment.
“When you win at Atlanta or Bristol or Charlotte or Daytona, tracks that have been there for a very long time and have a lot of history, it’s a very good feeling for me,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I like winning races, obviously, but to go to Atlanta and win is a very different feeling than maybe a Chicago or a California.
“There’s a different sense of accomplishment. When you’ve done something that makes you part of a crowd like (Richard) Petty or Cale (Yarborough) or those guys that have won there, and you’ve seen your daddy win there so many times, it’s definitely a different feeling.”
Will Earnhardt Jr. remain the points leader as the series heads to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend? With many ticket specials expiring on Aug. 6, including the offer of a free ticket in the Earnhardt Grandstand when purchasing five tickets in that area, race fans are encouraged to lock in their discounted AdvoCare 500 tickets for Sunday, Sept. 2 now and cheer on NASCAR’s most popular driver as he competes for his second win at Atlanta and his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Despite the fact the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Pocono (Pa.) Raceway just seven weeks ago, Kyle Busch is more than eager to make a return trip in an effort to continue moving forward with another strong run in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at the 2.5-mile triangle.
When the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) last visited Pocono, it marked the second race in what evolved into a frustrating midseason streak of bad luck as mechanical issues just short of the halfway point of the 400-mile race sent him to the sidelines.
It was just one of a plethora of issues that kept Busch from recording a top-five finish over a seven-race stretch following his third-place finish in May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. But last weekend, the talented 27-year-old finally broke through by notching his first top-five since Charlotte with a strong runner-up finish in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
With the monkey finally off his back, the Las Vegas native and his M&M’s team are as energized as ever to make a strong push all the way through the final six-race stretch before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field is locked in Sept. 9 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Busch gained two spots in the standings with his runner-up finish at Indianapolis and now sits 11th.That position, coupled with his April victory at Richmond, puts him in the last of 12 Chase spots as the driver with the highest ranking with one series win. Kasey Kahne, despite his 13th position in the points, occupies the 11th Chase spot by virtue of his two victories this season. Nonetheless, Busch remains ahead of a handful of drivers also within the top-20 who also have a win, including JGR teammate Joey Logano and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman.
So, with six races to go before the Chase, Busch and the No. 18 team know it would be foolish to cruise toward the playoffs. Rather, their plan is to win their way in. And by looking at the upcoming schedule and some recent history, it’s understandable that they are excited about the next six races.
While he has yet to win at Pocono, Busch had finishes of second and third there in 2011, he has one Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and is the defending winner of the August race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Then, it’s on to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where Busch has a whopping five career Sprint Cup wins, followed by Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Busch also has a win to his credit. How about the last-chance race at Richmond? Well, in addition to last April’s victory three, Busch has four career wins in all and an astounding 4.7 average finish at the .75-mile short track.
Thus, with a half-dozen of their best racetracks next up on the schedule and a Chase berth at stake, Busch and the entire M&M’s team head to the Pocono Mountains not with their recent seven-race bad luck streak on their minds, but rather Toyota Motor Company’s uplifting tagline: Moving Forward.