HAMPTON, Ga.— Christopher Bell sweeps all three stages to win the Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This is Kyle Busch Motorsports first win at Atlanta. This is Bell’s third career win.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to make sure I got a good restart and I didnt get momentum broke. These truck races are really tough to get restarts going because it is so aero-dependent. You get all sorts of momentum or get all sorts of momentum taken away,” said Bell post-race.
Bell started from the pole position and chose the inside lane, which proved to be the stronger lane. The outside lane would not get momentum and that proved to be a winner for Bell. The caution flew on the first lap for a spin that included Brett Moffitt and Noah Gragson. On the restart, Bell continued to chose the bottom lane. As the field battled for position behind Bell, he was able to pull away. The caution flew for possible oil on the track from Chase Elliott. During that restart, Bell was able to pull away from the outside lane with help from Matt Crafton. Crafton came close to putting pressure on Bell, but was unable to do so giving Bell the stage victory. Kyle Busch was second, Matt Crafton was third, Ben Rhodes was fourth, and Austin Cindric rounded out the top-five. As the leaders hit pit road, Bell won the race off pit road as Busch had to make a chassis adjustment to the left and right side of the car.
When the second stage began, Bell was able to get a great restart and set sail on the field. The caution flew on lap 51 for oil on the track from Busch. Bell was able to once again set sail on the restart to go on to dominate the stage. Busch was second, Rhodes was third, Timothy was fourth, and Crafton rounded out the top-five at the conclusion of the stage.
To start the third stage, Bell was unable to get a good restart because he spun his tires giving Busch the lead. Rhodes was trying to battle Busch for the lead, but the caution flew for a spin by Tommy Joe Martins. On the restart, Busch was able to set sail with the lead as the outside lane gets stacked up. The caution then flew for a spin by Jordan Anderson on lap 105. All the leaders pit. However, Grant Enfinger stayed out on old tires while Austin Dillon took two tires. That strategy sent both drivers towards the back of the field since everyone behind them had four fresh tires. Crafton was able to grab the lead, but Bell was coming quickly to pass Crafton. With six laps to go, Cindric spun bringing out the caution setting out for a green-white-checkered finish. Bell and Crafton were in a dead heat on the restart, but Bell was able to prevail for the victory.
Crafton finished second, Johnny Sauter finished third, Rhodes finished fourth, and Elliott was able to round out the top-five.
Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a month off before heading to Martinsville Speedway on April 1st for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250. Coverage will be on FOX and Motor Racing Network beginning at 3:00 p.m. EST.
Ryan Ellis is doing a monthly driver diary for Speedway Digest. He currently races the No. 1 and No. 50 trucks for MAKE Motorsports, splitting the rides with former champion Travis Kvapil, along with racing in the Xfinity Series for Rick Ware Racing on a part-time basis.
As the third part of this series, Ellis answered questions from some fans on Twitter about life as a racer. Take a look at what life is like for the 25-year-old Chipotle lover, racer and hockey addict.
If you could pick the number you race, any number, what would it be and why?
Probably either No. 71 or No. 51. I’ve been No. 71 nearly my whole life, racing it from when I was about four years old until I could no longer choose my number. I played hockey from about the same age until I was in college hockey. I wore No. 71 during my inline hockey days and had to choose No. 25 for my ice hockey days in college. Other than that, I’ve worn No. 71 my whole life.
What is your favorite meal at Chipotle?
Steak quesadilla or steak burrito … gotta have that guacamole, though.
What team, if you had to pick, would you drive for in the Sprint Cup Series?
That’s a tough one. I think Hendrick Motorsports or Stewart-Haas Racing. Growing up, I was a huge Jeff Gordon fan and it was always a dream to race for that team. As I grew older, Tony Stewart was definitely someone I tried to model my driving after, so it would be pretty cool to call him a boss at Stewart-Haas.
What’s the weirdest animal to run across a racetrack in front of you?
In front of me? Uh … none as far as I know. My road racing days brought a lot of deer and other animals on the track, but I don’t think I’ve ever hit one.
If Chip Ganassi ever mistook you for Kyle Larson and told you to get in the No. 42 car, would you correct him?
Wouldn’t even think about saying anything.
If given the chance, would you switch lives with Ryan Ellis from the NHL?
Yes. I love hockey, not as much as racing of course, but I absolutely love hockey. I played it my whole life. I wish racing were more like hockey sometimes. Hockey is like most other normal sports, where if you have talent and work hard, you’ll make it. I do love the business side of motorsports, but it’s tough. I wish we did a racing draft much like the NHL or any other sport. Plus, I think there are less politics in hockey. You can say what you mean a bit more without worrying about politics or hurting everyone’s feelings. They’re thicker skinned.
What driver from the past would you want to race against?
Ayrton Senna. He’s a guy you would hate to race against because you knew he was going to go for every gap. Very aggressive, but a guy you look up to for his race craft and lack of fear.
What crew chief from the past would you want to have?
That’s a tough one. I think it would have been cool to work with Steve Letarte honestly. Just from watching what he was able to do last year was pretty amazing. He seems like a great guy and an awesome crew chief.
The craziest wrecks that I’ve been involved in haven’t ended up too badly for me. I’ve been lucky to avoid the big ones at Daytona and Talladega for the most part. The wrecks in the Truck Series the past two years at Daytona have been really close calls for our FDNY Racing No. 28, but we got out of them cleanly.
The worst hits I’ve had have been in road racing. I hit a wall head on at Road Atlanta when I got turned in their very fast ‘esses’ section. That hurt a lot. I caught fire afterward, too. I honestly haven’t had any huge wrecks though, and in NASCAR, I’ve really only had the one incident with Jake Crum at Charlotte. That hit hurt, too, since there was no SAFER Barrier there, but wasn’t too bad visually.
What has been your favorite race in NASCAR thus far?
To watch? That’s a good question. I’m not sure if one sticks out for sure. But I think Darlington, which was very recent of course, was one of the best we’ve seen all year. That rules package is very ‘racey’ and so is Darlington in general. The amount of quality passes and great side-by-side racing we saw was amazing. I wish we could come up with a package that allowed us to race like that in Xfinity and Trucks.
How difficult is it to race on a week-to-week basis?
Hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am just a young kid trying to make it in this sport without the business connections or connections of being in the industry for 20-plus years like some people. If I had the money to go out and buy a NASCAR truck, hauler and do payroll, I would do what Jordan Anderson does. He works his butt off to get to the track every week and people notice it. I just don’t even have the money to start that. I am working a different angle of trying to find the money to race occasionally.
It’s hard to cold-call someone and convince them to give you $20,000 to $25,000 or more, but I have very good testimonials from past sponsors and most of them, if not all, are going to do it again in the future. I think it’s a matter of surviving long enough to develop a reputation as a driver, and a network for sponsorships. I’ve already begun to see my network grow, and with that, it gets a little bit easier. People don’t realize that just getting your foot in the door is the hardest part. Cold calls and random e-mails often don’t work, but if you have a friend of a friend that might know someone in a position of power that you can go and speak with face to face, that can go a long way.
What does it cost to fully fund a race in the Xfinity Series or Camping World Truck Series?
I think you could ask every team in both series and get different answers. In the Truck Series, there are probably less than six drivers that have ran the majority of the season that are not paying to race or bringing a sponsor that has close family ties to the deal. Xfinity has more hired drivers. To run in a lower-funded Xfinity Series car or a truck, the ‘general’ asking price can range from $10,000 to $25,000 depending on the race. If you’re higher experienced, sometimes it’s a matter of finding tire money.
Highly funded teams like JR Motorsports can ask for as much as $6 million for a season, even from a highly experienced guy. Of course, the Cup guys that are driving in Xfinity are a different deal. But when you are an up and coming guy, that’s about what you are expected to bring ($120,000 to 200,000 or more a race). Some people just write a check with their own (or family) money, some own family businesses which they get the money from, but there certainly aren’t many young guys in the top rides who aren’t bringing money in some way shape or form. For mid-level truck or Xfinity rides, some drivers are bringing about $250,000 to $350,000 for a full season, and some are bringing over a million. It depends on the equipment, engine contract, pit crew, and so much more. Sometimes, the team will subsidize the cost using its own money or a sponsor that helps them out.
Ryan Ellis will be doing a driver diary for Speedway Digest on a monthly basis. He currently races the No. 1 Chevrolet for MAKE Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
As the second part of this series, the 25-year-old breaks down what it is like to break into the world of NASCAR, and just how perfect a driver has to be in everything they have to do. Take a look at his perspective of what life is like when the odds are against an up and coming driver.
"Not going to lie, I struggled a bit on the topic of this blog. In fact, as I’m typing this right now, I still don’t know where it’s going to go. I had a blog written on why certain drivers take certain opportunities and how those opportunities come about. But I’ve learned a lesson on shutting my mouth sometimes in this industry, and I’m going to do my best to do that.
That blog would probably be very interesting to everyone and would make everyone understand why certain drivers are where they are. For some reason, every fan wants to know the inside of the industry, but when I talk about it, there are always 10 percent of the people who think I am complaining. I’m not, I promise.
The industry is the way it is, and it’s up to us drivers to adapt. In fact, the business side of this sport interests me very much, and that’s why I like sharing it so much. Maybe one day, I’ll publish that, and it’s not even condescending to anyone, but I don’t want anyone to take it the wrong way. If I’ve learned anything about being a “public figure,” it’s that, if there is an opportunity to take something wrong, somebody will find it. I digress.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Social media. I think the best way to put it is:
- It can boost your career 5 percent -10 percent, but it can kill your career 100 percent.
- You can send 500,000 tweets that help your career. One bad tweet misconceived can cost you your career.
There is a high risk, with a low reward. But it is a necessity as an up-and-coming driver? Absolutely.
I just finished watching Tony Stewart’s periscope. I only caught the last part. For as scary as Twitter is for a driver, Periscope should scare influential figures a million times more. Not that many people say borderline things, but you have to be on guard every minute of every day. It’s not uncommon for people to just walk up Periscoping without any notice. I guess the lesson is … always pretend you’re on camera.
I love social media. If you don’t know that, you obviously don’t follow me on Twitter. The cool thing about Twitter is you can communicate with anyone and everyone. I’ve met a ton of cool celebrities through Twitter, and I don’t know if that was ever possible before it came about. I guess that’s about all I have to say on that.
Editor’s note: Ellis has over 16,000 followers on Twitter, and over 1,700 likes on Facebook.
TIPS FOR UP AND COMING DRIVERS
This is a question I get quite a lot. What advice do you have for other drivers? I can only speak for the reasons that I made it to this level. Everyone has a different story, but these are the things I have learned:
- If you’re not doing something to better your career every day, you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t matter if you send one text message inquiring about a sponsor or 15 proposals to potential sponsors. You should do at least one thing every day to further yourself.
- Leave your house in real life or virtually. Go to your local go-kart track. Go on Twitter and communicate with fans or drivers you look up to. The more people that know your name and respect you, the more likely you’ll come across someone who can help your career.
- This goes with the last point, but put yourself out there every single way. I cannot reiterate this enough, put yourself out there in any way possible. I’ve met people coaching at local go-kart tracks, at charity functions or being friends of friends. The bigger your network is, the more likely you’ll have success. If you’re not personally wealthy, this is your biggest asset – networking.
- Be thankful for every opportunity you get. Shake hands with every single person who helps you. Make sure people know you are thankful. People like helping people who appreciate their opportunities. Plus, it’s the right thing to do no matter what field you are in.
- Study hard. No, my parents or your parents aren’t telling me to say this. Put school first. I’m one of the few guys in NASCAR that went to college that I know of. The sport has changed. Understand the business side of the sport and not only will you be a bigger asset to yourself, but you’ll be a bigger asset to teams who need help finding sponsorship and the sponsors themselves. If racing doesn’t work out, you’ll have an education and can work within the industry doing a million other fun jobs.
- Help yourself.
Chris Rock once said, “I’d always end up broken down on the highway. When I stood there trying to flag someone down, nobody stopped. But when I pushed my own car, other drivers would get out and push with me. If you want help, help yourself—people like to see that.”
If you’re not putting in hard work, how can you expect someone else to help you?
Whatever you do, do well, and may success attend your efforts.
Don’t do anything without your full effort in this industry. Commit. Show how much it means to you. Make it happen.
- Have fun. Smile. A lot of people within this industry could be making more money doing something else. We love what we do. If people aren’t having fun working with you or if they don’t like you, they won’t work with you. Have fun, be easy to work with. If people like you, you’ll make it one way or another."
Ryan Ellis will be doing a driver diary for Speedway Digest on a monthly basis. This year, he is running for FDNY Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and is in the process of signing with other teams to run more events.
As the first part of this series, the 25-year-old breaks down his path to NASCAR’s top divisions. Take a look at his perspective of what life is like when the odds are against an up and coming driver:
First off, thanks for reading this blog. A lot of you may know me from Twitter conversations, seeing my name go across the top of the screen during a NASCAR race or maybe we’ve met at the track sometime. For our first blog, I figured I’d do something simple … who is Ryan Ellis?
I’m a third generation racecar driver from Northern Virginia. I went to college at George Mason University, a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity and played college hockey. To say the least, I’m not your normal NASCAR driver.
My family has been involved in racing since the 1950s. My grandfather raced Sprint Cars his whole life, and lost his life in a horrible crash while racing in 1958 – the same year my father was born. Even with this loss, my father still found his way into racing as soon as he could. He raced motorcycles until his body was too worn out and eventually moved on to cars.
As far back as I can remember, I was spending my weeks at race tracks. No, I wasn’t like the Dillon brothers, waking up and spending time with Dale Earnhardt Sr. or anything of that nature. I was spending time at local tracks, watching my father at his local races.
I was born in California and spent most of my days as a child – either at a race track, or dreaming of being at a racetrack. While most little kids would sleep with stuffed animals, I would sleep with toy motorcycles. I used to wake up with imprints of toy motorcycles on my face every morning from it. Before I could walk, I would crawl to my little Power Wheels Jeep and drive it around the kitchen. Where I grew up in Southern California, speedway motorcycle racing was huge, and I was a big fan of many local racers.
When I was four years old, my father saved up enough money to get me my first quarter midget. I ran my first race that year, and nearly won it against many kids that were two or three times my age. I ran quarter midgets for seven or eight years, accumulating national championships and track records before moving onto Legends cars when I was 11 years old.
Racing Legends cars across the east coast, I competed against some really big up and coming drivers. At that point in time, they were just other drivers I was racing against, even as a 12-year-old. You learn a lot about maturity racing against adults three or four times your age. You have to earn respect.
As a kid, you don’t have a lot of fear, and you have to learn to carry yourself as an adult. If an adult pushes you around on track, you have to learn to drive them the same way. It was weird for me as a soft-spoken kid, but I learned how to do it over time. I got to race against some big names and little did I know we would all end up in the same place years later, including the Busch brothers, the Dillon brothers, my buddy Matt DiBenedetto, Jake Crum, the Buescher cousins, Jordan Anderson and many more that don’t come to mind right now. I did that until I was around 16 years old, when I got a shot with a local Late Model team that wanted to take me to what was then known as the Hooter’s Pro Cup Series.
Long story short, the team promised big things and nothing came through. The team stole a lot of resources and sponsorship money from our family, and we ended up taking them to court. I was leading Rookie of the Year standings at my local track and was progressing quickly.
We were out of sponsorship money and honestly, out of hope to keep moving my career forward, so we moved to the road-racing world. I got a shot with a local Spec Miata team and learned the ropes of road racing while we fought to get our resources back from the Late Model team.
Somehow, through all of this with some great family friends and personal investors, I tried out for a series you guys have probably never heard of –the Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup. It was a reality TV show with all cars “evenly” built and provided by VW. Thousands of people applied to be in the series and 100 or so got invited to their tryouts, and 25 made it.
With my long resume and driving experience, I made it in 2010. In my second year, I had a great season. I won the most races, was one of the leaders in laps led, tied for most poles and had the fastest race lap multiple times. This caught the attention of Volkswagen and a Grand-Am team, APR Motorsport.
2011 was a huge year for me. Volkswagen and APR signed me to a rookie Grand-Am deal. In my first race of my rookie season, I qualified on pole, led every lap and won my first Grand-Am race with teammate Ian Baas. We also won the second race of the season and nearly won the championship. I finished third in the standings and won ST Rookie of the Year.
During the first race of the year in this series, a prospective team owner named Fran Hall was looking for a development driver to set up his prototype-like car, the Superlite Coupe. With my effort as a rookie, I caught his eye and signed a deal to be his number one driver. I still think to this day, without the track time I got in this car, I never would have gotten approved to get my NASCAR license.
In 2012, I got an amazing phone call while I was still racing in Grand-Am full-time. I had been happy in the road racing world, but was still struggling to find a funded ride. It’s hard when you’re young to convince someone to invest with you, especially in road racing where they value experience and age.
I got a phone call from a mutual friend who knew Jimmy Means, owner of the No. 52 NASCAR Xfinity Series team. He needed a driver to race his car at Road America. His young driver, Joey Gase, couldn’t do it and I was one of the first people he called. I was already going to the track, so I of course said yes. I was completely blown away that I was making my NASCAR debut.
Fast forward again to 2013, I got some sponsorship money together after a few more start and parks. I did my first race with SR2 Motorsports and it went awesome. They needed someone to finish their season and I was their guy. It was an amazing feeling. That’s where I met my racing mentor and one of my best friends, Blake Koch, who was my teammate there.
In January of 2014, I had a big decision to make. I was either going to finish school at GMU, or move to North Carolina to continue pursuing a NASCAR career. My school wasn’t allowing me to miss exams for racing, and I kept failing the same classes because I couldn’t make up exams. I flipped a coin, it landed on North Carolina. I left Northern Virginia and moved to Mooresville, N.C., where I knew absolutely no one.
In 2014, I got a call from Blake Koch that he couldn’t stick around for preseason Daytona testing, and he needed someone to test the No. 28 FDNY truck he was supposed to race in a month. Of course I said yes.
Somehow, we ended up at the top of the charts. The FDNY Racing guys had never been the fastest truck before, so it was huge for them and earned me the job I still currently hold with them.
Fun fact: I told them we were fastest during the session, we took a lunch break and went to Outback Steakhouse in the middle of the session. I showed them the times while at lunch, and they were blown away. They thought I was joking when I told them we were fastest, a little “lol” moment.
Throughout the first few weeks of the 2014 season, I met many great friends. I met Tanner Berryhill because I was talking to his dad about racing for their Vision Racing team at Daytona. I met Matt DiBenedetto, who was racing for The Motorsports Group at the time, because I was asking him about a few jobs. In both encounters, I shook hands and acted very professionally.
I don’t think either of them remembers us meeting as well as I do. It was awkward. I’m glad we are all friends because I thought they were all weird then.
Now I appreciate how weird we all are mutually together. We all go to lunch together at least once a week, and when we travel, we typically go together. They’re all great friends of mine and we all try to help each other out. Since then, we’ve had some more guys hang out with us, namely Alex Bowman and Jeffrey Earnhardt among others. It’s a fun group.
As for racing, well …
The rest is history. Here I am. I have raced for a ton of teams. I know a lot more people in NASCAR than I did last year, and I’m hoping this year will be the best yet.
It’s crazy. I took the most zig-zagged route ever to get here. I don’t have family money, and I don’t have friends who own big businesses. I’m working my tail off to get to the top. I want to make my grandfather and family proud, and I want to earn it. I’m here to stay kids.
On Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules for each of the top-three tier divisions. Although no major changes were made for the upcoming season, NASCAR did swap a few events in the Sprint Cup Series.
The largest change in the schedule will be between Darlington Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway. Instead of racing on Mother’s Day weekend such as Darlington has since 2005, the egg-shaped track will be moving to Labor Day weekend, which has been held by Atlanta. Atlanta will now be the second race of the year – replacing Phoenix, which moves to the fourth event of the season.
Besides moving around Atlanta and Darlington, NASCAR also added an off-weekend for the Sprint Cup Series before the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins. The Cup Series will be off on the weekend of Aug. 30, and moves the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Road America to that Saturday. Road America was previously the 14th race of the 35-race schedule, but it will now be the 23rd circuit.
As previously announced, Bristol will be moving from March to April for their first of two races.
Daytona’s July race will be making a swap with Kentucky Speedway in 2015. As a part of the inaugural race weekend for NBC broadcasting NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, Daytona will be the first race on their schedule. However, previously held as a Saturday evening race, NASCAR has moved the 400-mile spectacle to Sunday with the Nationwide Series race preceding it on Saturday. Kansas and Charlotte will be swapping races inside of the Chase, but no other races will be changed inside of NASCAR’s version of the playoffs.
But what good is all of this going to do for NASCAR?
Well, in a year that NASCAR expects to have another new competition package, a swap in a few tracks should help spice things up. Moreover, it should boost ratings and fill up seats in the grandstands.
Bristol’s March race had horrific weather over the course of the past several seasons. People were pleading to move it later in the year, and NASCAR listened. However, NASCAR moved Atlanta to the second race of the year for the first time in the track’s history. Previously, the earliest the 1.5-mile track had a race was March 7 in 2010. In addition to moving the race, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to the speedway after not appearing at the track in 2013 and 2014. The Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series contests are going to be held on the same day as a part of a “double header” to bring more fans to the stands after attendance has seen a decline for one-race deals.
What is the biggest part about the changes?
Fox. NBC. That’s the only thing that is huge for the schedule change in 2015.
20 events (including non-points) will be carried on the FOX family of networks. FOX Sports 1 will be broadcasting the Sprint Cup Series races at Richmond, Kansas, Dover, Pocono, Michigan and the final event of their schedule – Sonoma in June. Meanwhile, NBC is going to provide coverage of the remaining races in 2015. However, NBC Sports Network will be making their Sprint Cup Series debut with races at Kentucky, New Hampshire, Indianapolis, Pocono, Watkins Glen, Michigan, Bristol, Richmond, Chicagoland (first Chase race), New Hampshire, Dover, Talladega and Martinsville. Daytona, Darlington, Charlotte, Kansas, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead will each be shown live on NBC.
FOX and FOX Sports 1 will carry the first 14 Nationwide Series races, but NBC and NBCSN will have the final 19 events. FOX also has exclusive rights to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 23-race season. All races will once again be on FS1 with the exception of Talladega in Oct.
It took a while for German Quiroga to find success in his home country of Mexico. Once he did, however, Quiroga was on the move. After winning the 2011 NASCAR Toyota Series title with backing from Telcel – the largest cell phone company in Mexico.
Swapping from division to division, the Mexico City-native has found a home in NASCAR. Thanks to developing in the Toyota Series, he developed his skills on multiple short track ovals, albeit his main experience has been on road courses. But even while getting prepared for the higher NASCAR ranks while in Mexico, Quiroga wanted to move up the ranks.
After racing for a smaller team in the Mexico City Nationwide Series event in 2007, he stayed in Mexico for a few years. Once he won the title, it was time for him to make the swap to the United States.
“From NASCAR Mexico to here, it was a pretty big change,” Quiroga said. “It is a very big step. Once I get a little more confidence and more comfortable – we are just going to strike it every single week. We have had the speed since last year at a lot of tracks. We have done well, especially since I haven’t run at the ovals never in my life. I didn’t experience the K&N Series or something like that. I did a couple of road course races there, but it wasn’t even with that competitive of a team. Everything was new for me. I had to learn a lot of new things. Each time we go out there – we are getting closer to getting strong in the series and moving forward in my career.”
Even though he contemplated on racing in the Nationwide Series, he opted to race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Kyle Busch Motorsports signed Quiroga to run select circuits in 2011 and 2012, yet he just didn’t perform well due to not being at the track on a weekly basis. Thanks to racing in Mexico, however, he has been able to adjust to NASCAR’s third-tier division rather quickly.
“We have a couple of very nice ovals down there – nothing like here," he told Speedway Digest on Friday morning. "The weight of the car is totally different. The tires and how you manage the race is kind of different. It is a good transition. I am learning a lot in this series for sure. I think Nationwide would have been a bigger step – like to go straight from the Toyota Series. Still, here is kind of too much. But I’m learning. I’m fortunate to have a great team. We just have to keep learning. Every race is a new experience. We have been successful so far, but we need to improve that.”
After joining Red Horse Racing, he became a teammate to Timothy Peters – who has seven victories since joining the organization in 2009. Although good results didn’t occur for Quiroga last season, he has steadily improved in 2014. With seven top-10s through the first 11 events, he has already bettered himself in that category from last year.
The biggest improvement for the 34-year-old has been his feedback to the crew. In 2013, he worked with five-time Nationwide Series winner Dan Stllman. But the chemistry just wasn’t right according to Quiroga. He didn’t know how to give ‘good’ feedback to the team. However, working with Peters’ former crew chief, Butch Hylton, the driver of the No. 77 Toyota Tundra has made great strides this season.
“Well, I have more information that I can give to him. Butch Hylton is a very experienced crew chief. He has been at the top of the sport for many years, and I think that gives me confidence with all of his years being a crew chief at the Cup level and with the Nationwide cars. Sometimes, I haven’t been at the tracks for a while or don’t have many laps, and he tries to help me as much as he can. The sky is the limit, so we are working very hard to improve."
“I mean we are pretty close," he continued. "At Texas, we had an engine failure. If it were not because of that, we would be leading the championship. I think what we need is to get a couple of wins for sure, finish in the top-five every weekend and there is more than half of the season left. We’ve made mistakes at the beginning of the season. We’ve given away spots that we shouldn’t have. It is what it is. We can’t change that. But now we have that experience to get the best out of it and do our best to be a contender.”
As he continues to show speed, Quiroga is now settling into his role at RHR. After being involved in multiple on-track incidents with Tyler Reddick at Pocono Raceway, he fell to sixth in points. But he’s just 43 markers behind Ryan Blaney for the championship lead. However, there is still improvement to be done, and if anyone understands that – it is the driver himself.
“Of course, we want to get that first win and try to battle for the championship. We are fifth right now, and we have had a couple of downs which I would have liked not to have happen, but it is what it is. The good thing is – we have to keep working hard and trying to do our best. Sometimes when things are not going really good for us, we are calm and we make the most out of our day.”
While he continues to make those strides towards Victory Lane, he is also looking to gain experience, especially at tracks that he has never raced at. That is where Hylton and he have become a force to be reckoned with. After running up front Gateway, the team finished second to Darrell Wallace, Jr. He has also finished on the lead lap in all but three races through this point in the season. After 11 races in 2013, he had just three top-10s.
However, it might be time to move on after this year. If he can start winning races with Red Horse Racing, Quiroga wants to make the jump to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and eventually – the Sprint Cup Series.
Making less money than he did in Mexico, he has had to readjust his entire life style. According to Racing-Reference, Quiroga made $314,258 last year, but on average – drivers in the Truck Series earn around 30-40 percent of race winnings – if they are fortunate enough to do so. Besides the financial differences, his social life has changed immensely as well.
“I’m totally away from friends and family," Quiroga said. "I’m trying to build a new community around me with friends – getting to know people and I mean everything. The money that I was winning in Mexico was a lot more than I am now. My life style was totally different. It is just a matter of trying to get there. It doesn’t really matter to me. I know what my goals are. I am really focusing on what I want to achieve. I know it’s not going to be easy. Some nights I tell you, it is very stressful and very sad. I’m here for a reason and I want to be successful in this sport."
“I really just focus on the next day. I try to see how far I have gotten. Like so far, I have done things that no other Mexican has ever done. We just have to keep working hard. I wake up every day at 5:30 in the morning to go to the gym and work hard. I just keep reminding myself how far I want to get and how long it took me in Mexico to be successful and be the guy to beat. Then, to be the guy that wanted to jump out of the game and move over to another series.”
That hard work has started to pay off for Quiroga and his No. 77 team. For the rest of the year, he will need to perform at his highest ability. Making infrequent mistakes will be the biggest key for him, and he is starting to show just that.
The No. 3 is back in Victory Lane for the second straight weekend. However, this time – it is in a different division. A week after Ty Dillon piloted his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet to the winner’s circle at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race, Austin Dillon has captured the triumph in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Pocono Raceway.
Dillon’s victory marks the first time a Chevrolet has won a Truck Series race since his younger brother won at Texas late in the 2013 season. This is his first win in over a year after scoring the victory at Eldora in the Truck Series last year.
“Anytime you can get a NASCAR win, it is huge. Last year, we got a championship without a win and I can’t forget how I saw my brother get a win. These seasons are so long and rejuvenating, so I love watching him do that. It puts the fire back in you to see that place again – seeing him in there in Victory Lane. From time to time, you have to feel how special it is, and I attribute what Ty did last week to how I ran this week. I’m jacked up and wanting to get a Cup win now,” Dillon said in a post-race press conference.
Early in the race, pole sitter Kyle Larson took a commanding lead over Dillon, but he was able to close the gap for a few laps until Larson continued to extend his lead.
During the first caution, the No. 3 truck stayed out along with Tyler Reddick, Justin Lofton and Ryan Blaney. This put them on a different pit strategy from the leaders – enabling them to stretch out the fuel mileage past the half-way mark in order to gain track position.
Right after his green flag pit stop, Larson’s truck lost a cylinder. He was able to keep up with the drivers that pitted with him for a handful of laps, yet his engine just didn’t stick with him. On the straightaways, trucks drove right around the No. 32 truck after he was the strongest truck throughout the day.
On Lap 53, German Quiroga got into Reddick coming out of the tunnel turn. Reddick had been running inside of the top-five throughout the race, but got caught up in traffic on the restart after the caution came out for Kyle Martel hitting the wall in Turn 1 on Lap 47. The No. 19 truck got loose in the corner while going underneath Quiroga, but then the No. 77 just got right into the rear of Reddick’s Ford.
“He ran me to the wall. I just tried to stay off the wall. I didn’t even mean to spin him. He kept running me to the wall. I don’t race like that. I was just avoiding the wall and from there – I don’t know what happened. I didn’t even see him. All of a sudden he was on my back bumper,” Quiroga said after the race. “I’m fighting for a championship. I’ve never got into somebody that is fight for a championship. I don’t know why he did that. I didn’t send him into the wall. He just kept trying to get into me.
NASCAR held Reddick for the final two laps of the 60-lap event for rough driving. Moreover, after the race, his crew chief Doug Randolph and he were called over to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hauler.
“It was just a racing deal. When it gets down to the end, everyone is fighting for positions. It is very tight and technical coming off of (Turn) 2. We raced at Dover very clean together. We raced at a lot of places together. Everyone is going to have their racing incidents that they don’t want,” Reddick said. “They are looking over what happened and discussing their take on what happened – where to go from there. They just want to make sure that we take it down a notch and keep it under control. I don’t think there were any rough intentions anywhere.”
Ryan Blaney extended his points lead to seven points over Johnny Sauter, who finished second to Dillon. Sauter’s teammate and reigning Truck Series champion Matt Crafton falls to third in points after a 14th-place finish – just 12 markers behind the driver of the No. 29 Ford.
Clint Bowyer drove the No. 05 Toyota to a fourth-place finish for Athenian Motorsports after being tabbed as the substitute driver for John Wes Townley. He led 10 laps in Saturday afternoon’s race, and was battling Dillon for the lead until he had a poor restart with just two laps to go.
Here are some notables from the Pocono Mountains 150:
-Joe Nemechek earned his fifth top-10 finish of the 2014 season. This event marked his first Truck Series race at Pocono.
-Justin Lofton finished ninth in the No. 9 Chevrolet. He finished inside of the top-10 for the third time in four races this year.
-Jason White ended the day in the 11th position. This was his first race at a non-restrictor plate track since running at Homestead in 2012.
-Spencer Gallagher finished 15th in his fourth race of 2014 for GMS Racing. In doing so, he earned his second straight top-15 finish after earning the 11th spot at Iowa Speedway for the ninth race of the yer.
-Ryan Ellis earned his second-best career finish in the No. 28 truck for FDNY Racing. He finished the day in the 19th position. His best career finish was 18th at Daytona International Speedway earlier this year.
After being worried about entering Pocono Raceway in June, Kyle Larson seems to have figured out the ‘Tricky Triangle.’ Larson set a blistering pace in the final round of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying as he even made a pass around Matt Crafton – providing him a little extra momentum thanks to the draft.
The 22-year-old was inside of the top-two throughout the pair of practice sessions held on Friday. In qualifying, he ran a lap time of 53.282 seconds. After being quickest in the second session in qualifying on Saturday, he picked up the pace by approximately six tenths of a second. Larson will be making his eighth career Truck Series start on Saturday afternoon in the Pocono Mountains 150. This is his second pole of the weekend as he set a track record during qualifying for Sunday's Gobowling.com 400.
Austin Dillon will start alongside Larson during Saturday’s spectacle. Dillon was over a tenth of a second behind Larson’s time. Both drivers are competitors for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and Larson is currently ahead of Dillon as far as points are concerned.
John Wes Townley will not be racing the No. 05 truck for Athenian Motorsports. Townley is going to be held out of competition for a week as a precaution and will be reevaluated in North Carolina early in the coming week. Replacing him is NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer. Bowyer will start the truck in the 10th position. He will not need to go to the rear of the field because he qualified the truck. The 35-year-old will be making his first Truck Series start since Atlanta of 2011.
Both Kyle Busch Motorsports vehicles missed the cut for the final round of qualifying. This is just the fourth time that the team’s championship eligible driver Darrell Wallace Jr. missed the final session of qualifying. Wallace will start in the 15th position. Meanwhile, Erik Jones – making his Pocono debut – will start in the 13th spot.
“We just didn’t get the right toe. We didn’t have enough speed in the second round. We should be just fine for the race with plenty of speed,” Wallace said after qualifying. “The track conditions are really different. We’ve had some down weekends, so I’m not worried about it. That’s (strategy) going to be the biggest thing. If we can get up front and pick up a few positions early, we’ll be just fine.”
Tyler Reddick, Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters round out the top-five in qualifying. Spencer Gallagher made the top-12 in qualifying for the first time this year, and will start a career-best 12th in Saturday’s race.
Over the past four years, the Pocono Raceway has held a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in August along with the usual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and ARCA Series events at the track. In the four races at the track, fuel mileage has played a large role in the results of the event, and if history serves us right – the same will happen once again this weekend.
This year’s Truck Series race at Pocono will be slightly longer. NASCAR and the track came to an agreement to add 25-miles to what was a 125-mile event. With the added laps, teams will have to adjust their strategy accordingly – possibly throwing some off course during the late stages of the race.
Last year’s winner, Ryan Blaney, enters Pocono as the championship leader. Although he doesn’t have a win this season, the 20-year-old has been a model of consistency as the division nears the half-way point in the season. Coming off of three straight top-three finishes, he has moved from fifth in points to the top spot over the past four races.
Joey Coulter, the only other driver with a win at Pocono in the Truck Series, has three top-10s after 10 races his year. However, the move to GMS Racing has been smooth for him as things have begun to pick up – especially in qualifying. What he called his weakest point so far this year, Coulter has been able to start inside of the top-10 throughout the past four races. With a top-five finish needed for this team, expect the No. 21 Chevrolet to be racing near the front of the pack this weekend.
Austin Dillon will run his fifth Camping World Truck Series race of the 2014 season. Dillon, who is racing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award in the Sprint Cup Series, has made several spot starts for NTS Motorsports this season. This weekend, he’ll be in the No. 3 truck for Richard Childress Racing for the second time this year (first was in the No. 2 truck). The reigning Nationwide Series champion and 2011 Truck Series victor has his sights set on contending for the win this weekend. In his previous two starts at Pocono, he has a pair of top-10s, yet he never led a lap at the “Tricky Triangle.” Racing in this event should help Dillon, who finished 17th in his first Cup Series race at Pocono in June.
Kyle Larson is making his second straight start in the Truck Series. Larson will be in the No. 32 Chevrolet for Turner Scott Motorsports instead of flying out to Iowa Speedway for the Nationwide Series race. He won the ARCA Series event at Pocono in June – holding off a hard charging Mason Mitchell in the process. After running the ARCA race, he capped off the weekend with a top-five finish in the Cup Series race. The team gave him a hard time all weekend as he didn’t know how to shift well in the Cup Series car, but that should change this weekend after his impressive run at the 2.5-mile track.
Here are some notables for the Pocono Mountains 150:
-Joe Nemechek returns to the No. 8 truck. This will be his sixth start of the season as he is looking for his fourth top-10 finish of 2014.
-Jason White is racing the No. 9 Chevrolet for NTS Motorsports. This will be his first Truck Series event since Daytona in February and his first at a non-restrictor plate track since Homestead of 2012.
-Justin Lofton will be racing his fourth race this year for NTS Motorsports. He finished in the runner-up position at Texas, and is looking to catch the attention of sponsors to run some more races.
-Ryan Ellis will be back in the No. 28 truck for FDNY Racing. Speedway Digest will have more on the team’s situation over the course of the weekend.
-Todd Peck will be racing his No. 40 truck for the second time this season. Peck qualified for the race at Dover, but parked his vehicle after a handful of laps.
-Erik Jones will be making his Pocono debut. Jones made his Nationwide Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing at Chicagoland, and won the Truck Series race at Iowa. However, that has been his only top-10 finish this season.
-Kyle Martel will be running his first Truck Series race of the season. Martel made two starts last year with his family-owned team. In three career starts, his best finish was 21st at Pocono in his first event back in 2012.
He’s the grandson of a legend. He’s determined like everyone else. However, this man believed he had hung up his helmet for the final time. Now, this man is back in NASCAR thanks to a second chance that he never believed he had coming.
Chase Pistone, 30, might be older than the other Rookie of the Year competitors in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but that hasn’t slowed him down. Entering 2014, Pistone had not raced competitively in a racecar since November 2007 in what was previously known as the Hooters Pro Cup Series (now the X-1R Pro Cup Series). Then, in late February, the life which he has known for nearly a decade took quite the detour.
“It is kind of odd. I got this call about two weeks before our first race. Dwayne Gaulding, who crew chiefed and took Gray (Gaulding) racing in the legend car stuff, I have had a relationship with for quite some time. I found out he was over there and he put a deal together for me quick. We had two weeks, and we tested I think a week before Martinsville. I didn’t know until late February that it would be possible. It was a rush deal, but I think we have made the most of it for sure,” Pistone said via a telephone interview.
In March, NTS Motorsports announced that Pistone will be racing 14 of the 22 events in the Camping World Truck Series. Prior to entering a Chevrolet Silverado for NTS, Pistone had just one Truck Series start under his belt, and that one track was Martinsville – his first scheduled event of the season. Moreover, his journey to get this ride was rather unorthodox.
During his time away from NASCAR competition, Pistone gave up his dream. Instead, he was helping others accomplish their dreams. He opened up Chase Pistone Incorporated – a company designated to help people race in Legends Cars, Super Late Models and other developmental divisions. With Pistone’s help, Gaulding , 16, began to get noticed by then NASCAR team owner, Kevin Harvick. As he now attempts to chase his dream for the second time, Pistone has taken the back seat to the business which he built from the ground-up.
“It is hard. I have my brother over here – trying to help me with the legend car stuff. I have a good group of guys that goes (to the races) with my customers on the weekends. All of my customers understand that my business has kind of taken a backseat,” he said about dealing with his business and racing. “So far, we are still having a lot of success with the late model races and the legends. If I can make it work and hire the right people, I am definitely not going to let it interfere with the driving side. My sponsors have done a lot for me, and I am grateful for that. “
So far, the transition back into a racecar has gone well for the North Carolina native. In his first two starts in the Truck Series, Pistone finished 13th and ninth, respectively. At Gateway, he was quickest in one of the practice sessions, and his ninth-place finish was good enough to be given the Sunoco Rookie of the Race crown.
Preceding the race at Gateway, Pistone also had the opportunity to jump back into a Nationwide Series car for the first time since his lone start in the division during 2006 – a year in which he also earned his lone ARCA Series top-10 finish. Turner Scott Motorsports had an opening when Kyle Larson could not run the race at Iowa Speedway due to a conflict with his Sprint Cup Series schedule. Dylan Kwasniewski, the regular driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet, moved over to the No. 42 – handing Pistone one of the best opportunities he has ever had in a racecar.
“I think it was a good opportunity to run Iowa because the No. 31 became available because the driver that drives the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) is at a non-companion weekend. There are no Cup Series drivers. It’s good for me because it gives me a chance at winning and running well, but I don’t mind when the Cup Series drivers are in there because it gives you an opportunity to learn for sure,” he said.
“The trucks were off for so long that I wanted to be in something. I had spoken with them about racing trucks earlier in the year. I was pleased with that organization and likewise, I think they were with me also. Anytime I can get in the seat after being out of the seat for so long, it helps me.”
After running inside of the top-15 for the majority of the 250 lap spectacle at Iowa, Pistone might have some additional opportunities with Turner Scott Motorsports as well. Larson will be out of the No. 42 Chevrolet five times this season – leaving Kwasniewski behind the wheel. Pistone said that he believes he is going to be racing for the team once again at Iowa (August) and Kentucky (September).
However, he has also begun to figure out his plans for next season. After being on a seven year hiatus from NASCAR racing, Pistone had two kids, and now he is able to share his passion with them. Unfortunately, achieving his dream has also made him spend less time with his children – something he hopes to change if he can get a full-time deal in 2015.
“Hopefully, once I figure out what I am going to do next year, I can start bringing them to the track with me. While I’m splitting time in my life between racing and my business, that side of my life has kind of been neglected. It is good and bad. It is good for me because I have a lot of pride in it and they get to watch it on TV and stuff like that. But again – it just takes me out of their life a little bit,” he said.
That opportunity might just come. He believes that he will be racing in either the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series next year. If he races the Nationwide Series, it likely won’t be the entire schedule. However, if he were to race in the Truck Series, he would be racing the full season – enabling him to contend for a championship.
Until he got the official word from Gaulding, Vice President of Operations for NTS Motorsports, Pistone was content with the lifestyle he had created. Now, he has a second chance at becoming what he had always dreamed of.
“I haven’t raced anything competitively since 2007. I had already done that in my mind. It was a tough decision when I got this opportunity. I had to make sure everything made sense that I could make a living doing this. I don’t know if I deserved to, but he had to make it that way so I could focus on the racing side of things because it takes me away from the business.”
As he continues to adjust to the competition and long races, Pistone understands he needs to improve his physical fitness. Entering this second opportunity, he was worried that he didn’t have enough stamina to contend well late in races. However, with perseverance, he has been able to prove himself wrong.
“It has been a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I wasn’t planning on racing again. I wasn’t in bad shape by any means, but that was the biggest thing. We haven’t raced when it is 100 degrees either, but every race has been a learning experience for sure. On the physical side – that was the one thing I was worried about, but everything has been fine so far,” he said about his physical condition.
Moving forward, Pistone wants to show his children what their father’s true passion is like. Although he seldom works with his grandfather, legendary racer, “Tiger” Tom Pistone, he wants to bring the once synonymous name back into NASCAR, and for a long time.
“I have had a lot of support to get our name back into racing. There are people that like it and people that hate it. At this time, I hope that I can bring it back in a positive way. I think so far, we are doing a good job – kind of flying under the radar and not causing any issues, just getting valuable seat time and learning.”