Speedway Digest Staff
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Announced earlier today, Michael Annett will return to the driver's seat of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. Annett suffered a broken and dislocated sternum after an accident during the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Daytona International Speedway. He was cleared by medical doctors, along with NASCAR officials, to compete in this weekend's NNS race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, following an MRI on Monday afternoon.
This weekend will be Annett's 140th career NNS start and his eighth start at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His best start and finish at the mile-and-a-half oval came last year, starting 13th and earning a 10th-place finish, for his first top-10 at the track.
EFS returns to the No. 43 Ford as a primary partner for the second season in a row. The company provides an easy way for customers in the transportation industry to make payments on-the-go and served as the primary partner for the fall race at Kansas Speedway last season.
Fans will have several chances to meet Annett this week. He will participate in RPM's Fan Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 23rd and will sign autographs from 11 a.m. to Noon ET with teammates Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose along with NASCAR Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Dale Inman. Wristbands for the autograph session will be available beginning at 8 a.m. ET the day of the event. Annett will also sign autographs on Friday, May 24th in Uptown Charlotte at the Creative Loafing Area of Speed Street from 1-3 p.m. ET.
Comments from the No. 43 EFS Ford Mustang driver Michael Annett:
"Obviously, I can't wait to get back into the No. 43. It has been a long three months, and I am more than ready to jump back in the car. The accident at Daytona was disappointing for our team, but I'm very grateful for the amount of support I had from the team, NASCAR, family, friends and fans and not to mention the outstanding medical team that helped me through all of this. While it was really hard to be on the sidelines, I realize that it was even more important to heal properly.
"It's pretty cool to have EFS on the car for my first race back. They were on the car last year, and it's great to have them back again. Their continued support means a lot to our team. Hopefully, we can have a strong run for them this weekend.
"It's always fun to race at Charlotte. Since it's a 'home' race for most of the teams, it's cool to see so many family and friends get to experience what we do every weekend. It's a fast mile-and-a-half track and we typically run well at the bigger tracks, so hopefully we can get a decent run my first time back in the car."
Comments from Crew Chief Philippe Lopez on Charlotte:
"The entire team is really excited to have Michael back in the car. We had such high hopes for a good season, since the end of 2012 was so good for us. We were disappointed after Daytona, but Reed (Sorenson) came in and did a good job and kept the team going. Now that we have Michael back, we can get back to work on fine tuning this program and building it around him.
"The schedule has worked out really well for us with the additional testing time added on Wednesday. In the beginning, we'll give him a little bit of time just to knock the rust off since he hasn't been in the car for three months. After that, it's back to business. In the last three months, we've been working on a lot of different set-ups and different things for the cars, so this test session is welcomed. It will give us some low pressure hours and give Michael a chance to get back into the groove of things.
"Charlotte is Charlotte. You have to be careful about how you practice and what you call 'good' and what you call 'bad.' The main question is, 'At what time during the day do you race?,' and that is what your focal point is. This track changes by the hour, all day long, and obviously the guys with a lot of experience and good notes can keep up with that. You've got to know that your car is going to behave a certain way at 12 o'clock and it won't behave like that at four o'clock. You have to keep that in mind while you're testing/practicing, and when it comes to the race, you have to put it all together."
David Ragan cites the Coca-Cola 600 right up there with the rest of NASCAR's historic races: the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500. Only the 600-miler is an even greater test of the endurance of both the driver and the car.
Ragan and his No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford will both be tested in their return to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Sunday night for NASCAR's longest race. The long-running Coke 600, held in NASCAR's hometown of Charlotte, helps mark the Memorial Day weekend every year.
Ragan has celebrated some solid results at the 1.5-mile oval in his Cup career, including one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Sunday night's race will be his 13th career start at Charlotte.
Comments from Dockside Logistics team driver David Ragan heading to Charlotte:
"Half-way into the Coca-Cola 600, you're 300 miles in. And in a typical race you don't have much longer to go. In fact, that's about the standard distance of a Nationwide race. But in the 600, they tell you you're just half-way and you've got to do 300 miles all over again. So, it is a long night.
"I've had some really good racecars there where the night flies by. But I've also gotten wrecked early on and just rode around for points the rest of the day, and that can be a long night. The Coca-Cola 600 always has a huge crowd. It's an important race - our longest race of the year. So it's good for the guys who build our cars and our engines to finish the race and take the checkered flag. That's cool for everyone to get through that and experience that sense of accomplishment.
"The length of the race is a test for both man and machine. It's been around this sport for a long time, obviously. The Daytona 500, the Brickyard, and even Darlington and Martinsville, are known for being the longest running races around, but this one has some history, too. Charlotte is the center of our sport, besides Daytona, and is home for a lot of the NASCAR teams, the companies and organizations that make this NASCAR world go around. It's important and there are a lot of people here watching. Memorial Day weekend is an important weekend for all Americans, so it's a fun weekend to run well."
Josh Wise will run his first Coca-Cola 600 this Memorial Day weekend and is preparing in every way possible to prepare for NASCAR's most endurance-testing event. The 30-year-old driver of the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford, who still considers himself a rookie in some of the Sprint Cup Series events, has been preparing both physically and mentally.
Wise is a triathlete, with both Half Iron Man and Full Iron Man competitions on his schedule this year. He says his physical conditioning has him ready to run the extra mileage in Sunday night's Cup race. He's preparing mentally with racing simulators, video and a little help from his teammates.
Wise has just one Cup start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and seven Nationwide Series starts.
Comments from MDS Transport team driver Josh Wise heading to Charlotte:
"The Coke 600 is obviously going to be a long night. I've never run it, so 600 miles is going to be a long race, particularly for me since it's my first time. Mentally, it's a long time to focus. Luckily, I've put a lot into my conditioning over the winter and leading up to this point in the season, so I shouldn't experience any physical fatigue in the car. But it's definitely a learning process as far as how much focus you have to put in and how to run such a long race strategically.
"A lot of these races, I'm still a rookie really. So I go into them with an open mind and I try to prepare as well as I can with simulator racing on iRacing, watching videos, talking to my teammates, looking at last year's scouting reports, understanding race histories and things like that. And I'll take that same approach into the 600 and know that it's going to be 100 miles longer than what I'm used to."
The annual Coca-Cola 600 is one of David Gilliland's favorite races. It's also among the most challenging.
The driver of the No. 38 Long John Silver's Ford says adjustability is the key to making it through Sunday night's 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway - being ready to adapt the car to the changing conditions over the course of the night. Gilliland also points to the importance of not losing focus and making mistakes during the extra 100 miles of the marathon race.
Gilliland has 13 career starts at the 1.5-mile oval. His best finish came last fall when he finished 23rd at the October Sprint Cup event.
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland about heading to Charlotte:
"It's a long race. You get about 400 miles into it and you start to think, 'Man, it's got to be getting close to the end.' It's a long race and definitely a very challenging race as well. The track changes a lot over 600 miles, so it can be challenging to build adjustability into your car throughout the race, and staying focused and not making a mistake for that extra 100 miles longer than we usually run. It's a lot of hours to try to get everything perfect, but that's what we do.
"It's a great race. I love Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's one of my favorite racetracks. And, of course, it's another 'home game' for us, which makes everybody happy because we get to be home for two weeks. It's a holiday weekend, people have Monday off, so it's really a fun party atmosphere at the track for all the fans. And they do a great job of filling the stands in Charlotte. People tend to come from all over because they can see so many other things while they're here, like visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, check out the race shops. It's always a fun weekend, so I'm really looking forward to that race."
With Thoughts on Fallen Warriors, Kurt Busch Ready to Contend in NASCAR’s Memorial Day Weekend Classic
On Monday, Kyle Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and several members of his No. 18 M&M’s Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team headed to Charlotte to help build a home at a Habitat for Humanity build site.
The driver of the No. 18 M’Prove America™ Toyota and his team have also been building their way toward a long-awaited Sprint Cup win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest event. With 10 top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Busch feels his team is closer than ever to hoisting his first trophy there.
But first, the team hoisted trusses, hammers and nails at the job site Monday. The visit was part of the special M&M’s Red, White, and Blue scheme that will adorn the No. 18 Toyota this weekend in support of the M&M’s M’Prove America campaign, a year-long partnership with Habitat designed to fund construction of new Habitat homes across the United States.
Fans can join Busch and M&M’s by pledging to volunteer their time and talents at Habitat for Humanity build sites across the country at www.mproveamerica.com. Also, fans can support the M’Prove America program by purchasing specially marked red, white and blue M&M’S at their local retailer through Labor Day.In addition to encouraging fans to volunteer time, M&M’s is also making a donation of $500,000 to Habitat for Humanity to fund the construction of Habitat homes in 2013
Sunday’s race in his M&M’s M’Prove America colors will be Busch’s 19th career start at the Charlotte oval, two more than he has started at any other track. Busch has posted 17 starts at six other racetracks – Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Ironically, of those six tracks, Busch has won at all of them except Martinsville, and he’s combined for 13 of his overall 26 Sprint Cup wins at those six tracks.
Statistically speaking, Busch’s best Sprint Cup tracks are Bristol and Richmond as he has compiled an impressive nine wins, 20 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s in 30 starts at the two short tracks during his nine-year career. Add some memorable wins at difficult places like Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2008, his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009, and his first Sprint Cup win in 16 tries at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth earlier this season, and Busch can’t help but realize Charlotte is still the one venue where a Sprint Cup win has eluded him.
Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s traditional Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star race during the month of May. He dreamed that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds.
In his 18 previous Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte over the past nine-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the 1.5-mile oval nicknamed the “Beast of the Southeast.” He’s currently riding a streak of 10 top-10 finishes during the last 12 points-paying races there, dating back to October 2006. In addition to solid Sprint Cup finishes, Busch has captured six NASCAR Nationwide Series wins (May 2004, 2005 and 2008, October 2008 and 2009, and May 2010) and five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins (2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2013).
So, will this be the weekend that Busch finally scores his long-awaited Charlotte win? Well, he’s been building up to it for quite some time.
It could be argued that there’s no track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit Ryan Newman feels more at home than at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
It was at the 1.5-mile track where Newman first made a big splash. And there’s no doubt Newman has made himself right at home in Charlotte since the beginning of his stock car career. He’s hoping the track will once again prove to be home sweet home for his No. 39 Quicken Loans Racing team.
In 2001, in just his third Sprint Cup start while running a partial schedule, Newman shocked the field with an ultra-fast qualifying lap at Charlotte, which earned him the pole position for that year’s Coca-Cola 600. That feat tied Newman with Mark Martin for earliest career Sprint Cup pole.
The following season, Newman once again stunned his competitors when he claimed victory in the 2002 NASCAR All-Star Race in his rookie season. The win was Newman’s first in the Sprint Cup Series, and he won the non-points race in dramatic fashion. On that night, Newman wasn’t even qualified to race in the main event at the start of the night but raced his way in by winning what is now known as the Sprint Showdown.
In the main event, Newman benefited from the inversion of the race field for the final 20 laps. He took the lead two laps into the final segment and never looked back. Although Dale Earnhardt Jr., made a late-race dash, Newman beat him to the finish by .158 of a second to become only the second rookie to win the All-Star Race.
Since that first start at Charlotte back in 2001 when he grabbed the top spot on the starting grid, the South Bend, Ind., native has continued to rack up pole positions at the track. He now has nine poles to his credit at Charlotte – the most of any active Sprint Cup driver. In fact, he is second in all-time poles at the 1.5-mile oval behind the legendary David Pearson, who had 14.
And while he has not recorded a points-paying Sprint Cup win at the racetrack, he does have two wins in addition to his All-Star Race feat – an ARCA victory in 2000 and a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in 2005.
It’s obvious that the fast, high-banked, oval nestled in the heart of NASCAR country is somewhere Newman feels right at home, which is perfect since Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender, adorns the No. 39 Chevy this weekend at Charlotte. Race fans in attendance at Charlotte, as well as those watching at home, will be pushing Newman to “Bring It Home” in the form of a top-five finish in this Sunday’s 600-mile race in hopes that they may be one of the lucky five fans chosen to have their mortgages paid for a month, should Newman be able to accomplish the task.
Consumers can enter the sweepstakes by visiting www.qlracing.com and are encouraged to increase their chances of winning a month-long vacation from their mortgage by entering weekly. Participants also can win additional entries by inviting their friends and family to participate.
It certainly isn’t an easy accomplishment, by any means. The Coca-Cola 600 is the Sprint Cup Series’ longest race, and it requires tremendous mental, physical and emotional fortitude to log 400 laps around Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval.
Newman has proven he knows what it takes to get around Charlotte, despite the fact that a win in a points-paying Sprint Cup race has so far escaped him. Perhaps this is the weekend where he’ll finally be able to “Bring it Home.”
After being sidelined for eight races, Michael Annett will return to the driver's seat of the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford this weekend at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Annett was medically cleared today after suffering a broken and dislocated sternum after an accident in the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway.
The NNS series regular underwent surgery for his injuries after the accident and has been sidelined for three months to allow his injuries to heal. Annett has been preparing for his return by participating in physical therapy over the last three weeks. Medical doctors, along with NASCAR officials, determined he was cleared to drive in the upcoming NNS race at Charlotte Motor Speedway following an MRI on Monday afternoon.
NASCAR announced today the launch of the second-annual “NASCAR: An American Salute” initiative, an industry-wide effort to honor and celebrate the service of members of the United States Armed Forces, veterans and their families.
Beginning with the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and culminating with the Independence Day Weekend’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway, this year’s campaign aspires to reach one million “salutes” to U.S. military members during the next six weeks.
In addition to being able to track the progress against one million salutes, NASCAR fans, partners, drivers, teams and tracks can salute the military by sending messages of gratitude at www.NASCAR.com/Salutes and by using #NASCARSalutes on Instagram and Twitter.
“The tradition of honoring our military is part of the fiber of our sport,” said Mike Helton, NASCAR president. “Everyone at NASCAR is proud of the NASCAR: An American Salute initiative. It enables us to collectively express our gratitude to the millions of American members of the armed forces, both currently serving and those who have served, for the sacrifices they make in defending our nation.”
Some of the activities planned throughout the six weeks of ”NASCAR: An American Salute” include:
· The NASCAR Foundation will partner with USO to support the “With You All the Way” program, a partnership between the USO, Comfort Crew for Military Kids, and the Trevor Romain Company. “With You All the Way” promotes self-confidence and resiliency among military children as they tackle difficult issues which are unique to growing up in a military family.
· NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race teams will showcase their support by displaying patriotic-themed elements and paint schemes on their race vehicles.
· Race tracks hosting national series events during the “NASCAR: An American Salute” window – Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Pocono Raceway, Michigan International Raceway, Sonoma Raceway, Kentucky Speedway and Daytona International Speedway – will participate through a variety of military-themed activations. Tracks will feature active and retired service men and women in pre-race show festivities, patriotic grass and wall stencils, donations, special activities for soldiers and their families, among an assortment of other military-themed programming.
· A number of NASCAR Official Partners will support “NASCAR: An American Salute” through patriotic and military-themed activations. Goodyear will announce its annual “Goodyear Gives Back” program and replace the “Eagle” and “Wrangler” sidewall design with desert camouflage lettering that reads “Support Our Troops” on all NASCAR race tires during Memorial Day Weekend. Additional participating partners include: 3M, Axalta Coating Systems, Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Coors Light, Ford Motor Company, Mechanix Wear, Nationwide Insurance, New Holland, Sprint, Toyota, Sunoco and UPS will also participate.
· During the “NASCAR: An American Salute” initiative, NASCAR and the Armed Forces Foundation will expand their season-long partnership on the NASCAR Troops to the Track program to host military families at each NSCS race throughout the six-week period. The service members and their families will be treated to a customized program at track that honors their service in the military.
· NASCAR and the Honor and Remember organization will host several Gold Star families at various tracks including Charlotte Motor Speedway and Kentucky Speedway who have lost loved ones in their U.S. military service.
· Through a partnership with A Million Thanks – an organization dedicated to showing appreciation for U.S. military men and women through varying forms of correspondence –drop boxes will be placed at tracks and various locations in local communities where fans can send personalized letters to active U.S. troops.
To learn more about “NASCAR: An American Salute,” visit www.NASCAR.com/Salutes.
When drivers take to the track for the NASCAR Nationwide Series HISTORY 300 on Saturday, May 25, they’ll be racing for more than just the bragging rights that come with winning at NASCAR’s home track. Rick Dale of HISTORY’s American Restoration® has designed a one-of-a-kind trophy that will be awarded to the winner of the 300-mile race.
As last year’s Honorary Starter for the HISTORY 300, Dale awarded the trophy to the 2012 winner, Brad Keselowski, who mentioned that Dale should have designed the trophy as well. With Charlotte Motor Speedway’s blessing, Dale embraced the challenge and designed 2013’s HISTORY 300 trophy with a reverence for racing and its history.
“If winning isn’t enough motivation, drivers now have even more reason to put on a great show for fans at the HISTORY 300,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “The winner gets a unique trophy that not only pays tribute to the history of our great sport, but will also look great in any driver’s trophy case.”
A 1940 Ford Coupe steering wheel, representing the beginning of stock car racing, forms the centerpiece of the trophy. Two gas pump nozzles from a 1936 North Carolina highway gas station, notoriously frequented by moonshine runners, provide the frame. A Custer Car drive gear completes the design, symbolizing the first go-kart a child builds when dreaming about becoming a race car driver.
Owner of Rick’s Restorations in Las Vegas, Nev., Dale is an expert when it comes to restoring any classic object to its original state. From a 1960s three-wheeled golf cart to an antique Hershey’s candy dispenser, Dale and his staff painstakingly restore objects from history’s past to precise original detail.
“As a fan of NASCAR and racing, I’m thrilled to put my own ‘American Restoration’ spin on this trophy for the HISTORY 300,” said Dale. “I’m honored to be part of this exciting race for the second year in a row.”