Speedway Digest Staff
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Despite a season--low, 17th-place finish last weekend at Martinsville, there is still no denying the dominant season that Matt Crafton has had. Through 19 races, he's racked up an impressive 17 top-10 finishes, including a win at Kansas. Perhaps even more impressive than that is the fact that he's been running at the finish of every race and has completed every lap the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has run this season.
Because of those stats it's easy to understand why Crafton has held the points lead for most of the season. He currently leads James Buescher in the standings by 51 markers. When the truck series arrives in Fort Worth for Friday night's WinStar World Casino 350K (8:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1), Crafton knows the track will require a different strategy than when they raced there in June.
"The cooler temperatures we'll have this weekend mean the track will have a lot more grip and it'll be a lot faster," Crafton said. "The tires won't fall off as much just because it'll be so much cooler. When we race there in June it's always so hot and slippery."
Crafton has visited the 1.5-mile speedway 25 times with the truck series, more than he's visited any other track on the circuit, and has yet to visit Victory Lane. He has, however, finished second three times and collected a total of seven top fives and 14 top 10s, in addition to two pole awards. In the June race earlier this year, he finished eighth, after finishing sixth in the fall 2012 event.
In the past 17 Texas races, the California native has made more green-flag passes (581) than any other driver, and has run the second-most laps in the top 15 (2,107), behind only Ron Hornaday Jr.
Although a win this weekend would not clinch the championship for Crafton, it only moves him closer to what most people consider inevitable.
Texas Motor Speedway is one of ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter's favorite racetracks on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, and their performance in two practice sessions Thursday night for the WinStar World Casino 350K proved it.
Truck Series championship leader Matt Crafton, who has a 51-point margin in his No. 88 Fisher Nuts / Menards Toyota over defending series champion James Buescher with three races left this season, was the fastest Toyota in both sessions.
Sauter, who swept both Texas Truck Series races last season and won the pole in his No. 98 Carolina Nut Co. / Curb Records Toyota here in June, concentrated on race runs only and still showed enough potential to potentially win his third Texas pole.
Crafton made only two runs in the first, one-hour practice that totaled seven laps. On his second run he posted the fourth-best time in the session, 30.023 seconds at an average speed of 179.862 mph. Sauter had the second-best time in the session on his first run but he ended up 11th in the first practice, at 30.138 seconds, 179.176 mph after running nine laps.
A lot more cards were laid on the table in the 90-minute Happy Hour that was held later in the evening, at about the time the race will be run Friday evening.
In that practice Crafton made six runs totaling 35 laps and on his last pass, a mock qualifying run, he laid down the third-best lap of the day, 29.841 seconds, an average speed of 180.959 mph. That was only .08 seconds off former Sprint Cup champion and Truck Series owner/driver Brad Keselowski's fast lap of the day, 29.761 / 181.446, which would seem to indicate Crafton as a threat for his first pole position of the season and also his third at Texas.
In their nearby garage stall, Sauter's team, which has battled back from a sizeable deficit by scoring five consecutive top-five finishes to put themselves in fifth in the championship, with a 10-point gap to sixth, primarily concentrated on race runs in the two sessions. They seemed to arrive at a place that was fairly quick, and consistent over the 32 laps they ran in Happy Hour, which put them in 13th in that practice.
At the end of the day, Sauter had the 15th-best time overall, 30.131 seconds, an average speed of 179.217 mph that he turned on his first run of the second session.
Sauter won the pole for the race here in June, with a lap averaging 180.222 mph when the conditions were hotter and slicker. In that race, Crafton qualified eighth and finished fourth while Sauter finished seventh.
Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 3:10 p.m. ET on Friday, with coverage on FOX Sports 1. Sauter will run 21st of the 35 trucks that are in the garage while Crafton will go 33rd, followed only by Truck Series rookie and six-time 2013 pole-winner Jeb Burton and Keselowski, whose trucks have won two poles this season driven by Ryan Blaney and Ross Chastain.
Texas Motor Speedway and defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher had more treat than trick on Halloween morning for the 3,500 elementary school students that came to Texas Motor Speedway for Thursday's Turn 2 assembly of the "Speeding To Read" competition.
Buescher and Texas Motor Speedway treated the top readers to tickets to Friday evening's NCWTS WinStar World Casino 350, trophies and speedway gift bags as six of the 11 schools competing converged on the frontstretch grandstands for the awards presentation at the midpoint of the competition. Buescher, a native of nearby Plano, Texas, was joined by E.P. Rayzor Elementary of the Denton ISD, Chisholm Ridge of the Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD and Roanoke, Haslet, Sendera Ranch and Carl E. Schluter of the Northwest ISD while fellow competitors Samuel Beck, Kay Granger, Clara Love, Prairie View and J.C. Thompson from NISD will visit later in the school year.
The 11 schools combined to read 340,288 books since the program kicked off during the first week of school in August. Roanoke Elementary, one of three division leaders, was crowned the Turn 2 leader among all the schools as it earned the top position by having 99.2% of their entire student body reach their reading goals. The other division leaders were Rayzor (87.6%) and Clara Love (87.02%).
"This is the best way to start the weekend, spending it out here with you guys," Buescher told the students. "I get to do a lot of really cool things with the race track like the Speeding to Read program and spending time with all you kids. ... This is awesome. If you keep going, I think you can read a million books by the end of the year."
The top individual for the kindergarten-2nd grade division was Roanoke first-grader Lillian Smith, who read 777 books. The other division leaders were Clara Love kindergartner Thatcher Hochstetler (636 books) and Rayzor first-grader Ethan Harmon (460 books). In Grades 3-5, the top individual was Beck third-grader Ashton McRae, who read 124 chapter books. The other division leaders were Sendera Ranch fourth-grader Elizabeth Rasmussen (101 books) and Clara Love third-grader Dominic Duarte (81 books).
The top K-2 classroom was Ms. Peterson's first-grade class from Rayzor, which read 6,053 books and averaged 302.65 per student. The leading 3-5 classroom was Ms. Kiplinger's third-grade class from Beck, which read 720 chapter books and averaged 40 per student.
During the assembly, Buescher awarded trophies, presented race tickets, posed for photos and signed a few "Speeding To Read" t-shirts on stage with the top readers and also conducted a Q&A with students from each of the six schools.
The questions ranged from the humorous on whether he had a door on his truck or had to climb in through the window to the more serious of pursuing the dream of how to become an aspiring race-car driver.
"I'd say the best advice that I could give is to work hard and follow your dreams," Buescher told the assembly. "There are a lot of things that get in the way, but if you keep working hard and want it bad enough you can get whatever you want in life. I wanted to be a race-car driver and here I am. You work hard and anything can happen, just follow your dreams."
"Speeding To Read" is an incentive-based, NASCAR-themed reading program created by Texas Motor Speedway to encourage elementary school students to read more frequently during the school year. The program debuted in 2011 with Justin's Clara Love Elementary serving as the pilot school. After expanding to three schools in 2012, "Speeding To Read" swelled to 11 schools this year and is reaching eight North Texas communities, three school districts and more than 6,500 children.
This year's competition features three divisions, each of which is based off enrollment size and student body demographics, to determine the "Speeding To Read" champions for Kindergarten through 2nd grade and Grades 3-5. The Frontstretch Division consists of Beck, Granger and Rayzor. The Backstretch Division is comprised of Clara Love, Prairie View, Chisholm Ridge and Thompson. The Pit Stop Division consists of Roanoke, Sendera Ranch, Haslet and Schluter.
The competition is divided into four quarters - or four turns like a speedway - with the top individuals, classrooms and schools being recognized at each turn. Turn 1 coincided with the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup heating up in early October; Turn 2 with this weekend's AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader at Texas Motor Speedway; Turn 3 with the start of the new NASCAR season in February; and Turn 4 - the crowning of the champions - with the Texas 500 NASCAR doubleheader race week in April at Texas Motor Speedway. The 11-school race to the "Speeding To Read" championship is known as the Lone Star 500.
Chris Lafferty is headed to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350 where he will welcome new sponsor OEM Auto Parts Plus as he pilots the No. 0 OEM Auto Parts Plus/KOMA Unwind RAM in his third start at the 1.5 mile speedway.
“I’m extremely excited to have OEM Auto Parts Plus aboard this weekend,” said Lafferty, “and I look forward to expanding our relationship in 2014.”
Lafferty will also be sporting his Blue Ox fire suit this weekend.
All of the racing action can be seen live on Fox Sports 1 on Friday beginning with qualifying at 3:00 p.m.; followed by NCWTS Setup with host Danielle Trotta at 8:00 p.m. then racing at 8:30 p.m. All times eastern.
In 2012 Sauter put the exclamation point on exactly how he feels about the bumpy, demanding and high-speed, high-banked 1.5-mile track by winning both Truck Series races, including a one-two finish with his ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton, in June.
A year ago Sauter set the race-record average speed of 154.737 mph when he finished a Texas season sweep. In all, Sauter's led 224 laps in all his Texas starts, including at least 11 laps led in each of his last six races there.
"Texas is just one of my favorite racetracks, plain and simple," Sauter said. "Like everywhere we go, you have to have a truck that's working well -- in the case of Texas you really have to have your truck working across the bumps -- but once you do you can run it wide-open and it doesn't get much better than having a truck that'll do that, lap after lap, at Texas."
Sauter comes to Texas solidly in the top-five in the standings, after getting there with a top-10 finish at Martinsville that opened a 10-point lead on Miguel Paludo and rookie Ryan Blaney, who are tied for sixth in the standings with three races remaining.
Sauter has eased himself into a spot that will be recognized at the season-ending awards banquet in Miami Beach, Fla., following the Homestead finale by scoring top-10 finishes in his last five races, including three of them with the blue-trimmed Tundra that he'll use at Texas.
"This truck has just been really consistent and really fast everywhere we've used it, lately," Sauter said of the chassis that's part of a refurbished fleet of Toyotas that's been assembled by crew chief Dennis Connor and his team since Connor took over Sauter's team in August. "We've done a good job of continually tuning on our trucks and getting them as good as they need to be when it really matters.
"This weekend in Texas we're practicing in about the same timeframe that we'll be racing in, so I anticipate us having a really fast Tundra."
The Texas Truck Series weekend begins Thursday with a pair of practice sessions, from 6-7 p.m. ET and 7:30-9 p.m. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 3:10 p.m. ET on Friday, with coverage on FOX Sports 1.
As he prepares to run nearly 200 miles per hour around Texas Motor Speedway this weekend, David Ragan has vehicle safety on his mind and intends to make it top of mind for NASCAR fans, too. Ragan's No. 34 Ford will once again promote the message of SaferCar.gov, the vehicle safety website established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The online one-stop shop provides vehicle safety ratings, information on auto recalls, air bags and child safety seats, and other safety resources.
The blue and yellow scheme last adorned Ragan's Ford Fusion at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway, where the Front Row Motorsports driver finished sixth. Ragan has a history of success at Texas also. He has earned two top-10 and six top-15 finishes and one pole at the 1.5-mile oval.
Sunday's AAA Texas 500 will be Ragan's 14th Sprint Cup career start at the Fort Worth, Texas, venue.
Comments from SaferCar.gov team driver David Ragan heading to Texas:
"This will be the second race back this month for SaferCar.gov. We had them with us at Talladega where we had a top-10 run, so we're hoping for another good weekend. We want everybody to be aware of this important website that carries a ton of great information about vehicle safety. It provides crash-test ratings, information on recalls and child safety seats, and lots of other information to help fans and their families be safe when they're on the road.
"Texas has gotten pretty rough. The asphalt is abrasive and wears out. It's more like Atlanta than Charlotte, where we just raced a couple weeks ago. You can go really fast for a few laps, but the speeds drop off a lot. It's a fun, fast track and it's still fun to qualify there. It's got a pretty good aging process. It slows the cars down throughout a run and you can move around. It has some bumps and dips here and there, which make it a challenge for crews and drivers to get figured out. It's a tough racetrack, but we always look forward to it. It's kind of the last fast mile-and-a-half racetrack of the year, so we definitely want to run well.
"Our set-ups on this new Generation-6 car have changed a lot over the course of the season. We constantly learned a lot throughout the summer months, going to flat tracks like Indy and Pocono, then going back to places like Charlotte, Chicago, Kansas. So, we have learned a lot and evolved the set-up some. It will be interesting to go back, knowing what we raced in Texas in April, but we've changed a lot. It will be important for the team to get a good practice day to see where we're at."
Dylan Lupton has clinched the 2013 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR announced today.
The 19-year-old from Wilton, Calif., wrapped up the title with one race remaining on this year’s series schedule.
Driving the No. 9 Vadio/Lupton Excavating/Sunrise Ford Ford, Lupton put together a string of 11 straight top 10 finishes – highlighted by a win at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash. He is fifth in the overall championship standings heading into the season finale, the Casino Arizona 50 at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Race honor in six of the 14 races that have been run, Lupton took over the lead in the rookie standings following the third race of the season and never relinquished that position.
“This has been a great year,” Lupton said. “One of my biggest goals coming into the year was to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award and I’m really excited to be able to get that done. The Sunrise Ford crew has worked really hard all year and worked with me to make me a better driver.
“I’ve accomplished all the goals I wanted to this year and I’m looking forward to next year,” he said. “I’ve got one year under my belt and I think this rookie of the year title is going to boost my confidence to go run for the championship next year.”
Lupton is the fourth driver to earn the rookie title driving for car owner Bob Bruncati, who is known for providing an opportunity for young drivers to showcase their talent in the series. Austin Dyne garnered the rookie award driving the Sunrise Ford Racing entry last year, Luis Martinez Jr., gained the honor driving for Bruncati in 2010 and Jason Bowles took the title with the team in 2007.
Lupton, in his first season of a two-year agreement to drive for Bruncati, began his racing career with a successful stint in go-karts and then won a championship in the S2 division at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. He entered this season with three previous starts in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – all in 2011.
Past drivers to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West include Derrike Cope, Chad Little, Bill Sedgwick, Rick Carelli, David Gilliland and Dylan Kwasniewski.
Lupton will be honored for his Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award at the NASCAR Touring Series Awards on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Penalties have been issued to the No. 3 team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series following last weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.
The team has been penalized for violating Sections 12-1 (Actions detrimental to stock car racing; throwing an object at a competitor’s race truck) and 9-4A: (The Crew Chief assumes responsibility for the actions of his/her Driver, Truck Owner and team members). The infractions occurred during the race on Saturday, October 26.
As a result of these violations, crew chief Paul (Marcus) Richmond has been fined $10,000 and crew member Adam Brown has been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR.
Texas (Oct. 31, 2013) - Renown sports artist David Arrigo has created his second edition of unique Wild Asphalt Circus-themed racing helmets that will be awarded to the pole sitters for this weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway.
The artwork features a helmeted maniacal clown behind the wheel while resourcefully incorporating the race sponsor and speedway-themed "No Limits" logos in the design. The helmets also include flames and pin striping coupled with metallic, pearl and flake colors to provide it with a brilliant appearance. The helmets are identical in design, with the WinStar World Casino 350 capturing the red of the sponsor logo and the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge utilizing the blue from its logo.
It took Arrigo approximately 30 hours to transform two white Simpson racing helmets into his artwork through various techniques, including his specialty of airbrush painting.
"I loved this challenge because I wanted to create something very unique that correlates with the Texas Motor Speedway 'No Limits' Wild Asphalt Circus theme," Arrigo said. "I wanted to create a retro feel with the flames and pin striping while complementing the detailed, maniacal and determined clown drivers that serve as a focal point of the artwork. It was a lot of fun to work on, especially since Texas Motor Speedway loves to always think outside the box."
Pinnacle Propane Qualifying Days will be held Friday, beginning at 2:10 p.m. CT, for the WinStar World Casino 350 and Saturday, starting at 11:05 a.m., for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole qualifying for the AAA Texas 500 will be held Friday, beginning at 3:40 p.m.
Arrigo's first edition of pole helmets was created for the speedway's IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone 500 and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series WinStar World Casino 400 doubleheader in June. Working off the circus theme, the pole award helmets were highlighted by a female fire breather and a border of clown silhouettes on unicycles mixed with a retro racing stripe down the middle.
Arrigo, a Toronto native, has been painting professionally for more than 20 years and was first propelled into the spotlight when he was commissioned by the Hockey Hall of Fame to complete a painting of the legendary Wayne Gretzky. He specializes in live mural art and has been featured at such prestigious events as the Olympics, Super Bowl, U.S. Open tennis, Major League Baseball and National Hockey League all-star games, and the Daytona 500, among numerous other major sporting events. He also is known for producing specially designed masks for several goaltenders in the NHL.
Arrigo is no stranger to Texas Motor Speedway, either. He painted a gigantic, live mural depicting the Sports Illustrated cover with Danica Patrick following the 2005 Indy 500 on the speedway's marquee to promote the upcoming INDYCAR race at Texas Motor Speedway; created the cover for the speedway's 10-year-anniverary book in 2006 that had its top 10 moments incorporated; and produced a special helmet commemorating U.S. troops in 2007 for NASCAR co-owners and Dallas Cowboy greats Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman that was worn by their driver Tony Raines just for the Sprint Cup race at Texas.
Marine Corps veteran and rising country music artist Stephen Cochran will entertain race fans throughout the AdvoCare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, PIR president Bryan R. Sperber announced today
Cochran will play a pre-race concert on the track, the first such performance in PIR’s history, beginning at 11:30 a.m. MST prior to the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Nov. 10 and will perform the Star Spangled Banner immediately before the race starts at 1 p.m. He will also perform on the Budweiser ROLL-BAR Stage Saturday, Nov. 9 from Noon-12:45 p.m. MST prior to the ServiceMaster 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Cochran’s performances throughout race weekend are courtesy of Sugar Skull Rum.
Because the race weekend proceeds Veterans Day on Monday, Nov. 11, much of the race-weekend entertainment will pay tribute to the everyday heroes who serve, protect and defend the country, including veterans, fire fighters and other service personnel.
Cochran joined the Marine Corps shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 and served in the Corps’ elite reconnaissance division, where he completed one tour of duty in Iraq and had his second overseas tour – and ultimately his military career – cut short by a broken back which he suffered in Afghanistan. The injury left him paralyzed below the waist before an experimental medical procedure gave him back the ability to walk.
His recovery time rekindled his love of country music and provided both the time and inspiration to reignite his passion for songwriting. Cochran broke onto the country music scene in 2007 with his critically-acclaimed self-titled debut album, which was highlighted by the single “Friday Night Fireside.” His follow-up album, “Pieces,” was released in 2012 and features the single of the same name.
In earlier announcements, popular rock band Fuel will perform on the Budweiser ROLL-BAR Stage at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 10 before the AdvoCare 500, and the red-hot pop group Fifth Harmony will perform the Star Spangled Banner prior to the ServiceMaster 200 on Saturday, Nov. 9.
Furious George rounds out the lineup on the Budweiser ROLL-BAR Stage with a performance on Friday, Nov. 8 at 9 p.m. SPEED Cantina, the racing-themed sports bar & grill located outside of Turn 2 behind the Bobby Allison Grandstand, will feature the bands Whiskey’s Quicker, Harry Luge and the Crown Kings throughout the weekend as well.