Tuesday, Mar 21

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.”

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