Speedway Digest Staff
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As Tommy Baldwin Racing prepares to roll into Phoenix International Raceway this week, they are doing so with some extra grip. Ultra Wheel joins TBR as a primary sponsor of Dave Blaney's No. 7 Chevrolet.
Sunday's AdvoCare 500 may be the final selected race of the 2013 racing season for Leavine Family Racing (LFR), but the independent team considers the race at the Phoenix International Raceway their beginning of the 2014 campaign.
Reed Sorenson will close out the season of the No. 95 Jetset Getset (JSGS) Ford in the 312-lap race in the Arizona desert.
Jetset Getset, a teenage country music group, will adorn Sorenson's No. 95 Ford as an associate sponsor on the car's deck lid in celebration of their free song download. Jetset Getset is the official band of Leavine Family Racing.
"It's our intention to create solid momentum for next year," Sorenson said. "We want to finish this season strong so they can hit 2014 at full speed."
Earlier this year the team celebrated its first top-10 finish with a ninth-place effort at the Talladega Superspeedway, and the team will have Michael McDowell behind the wheel next year.
"This is an important time for us because we have one last chance to put all the positive things we've learned into one final race," crew chief Wally Rogers said. "We feel good about Phoenix. It's a good racetrack for us and for Reed. I can't think of a better place to create a positive impression for the future."
The Jolly Roger colors will be again be flying this weekend in the Arizona desert on the No. 95 Ford Fusion. The Peachtree City, Ga., native will drive the all-black Ford with the white skull and crossbones on the hood.
Sorenson will be making his 189th career start for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend at Phoenix, where he will be looking for his sixth top-five finish. He has a career-best 12th-place run at the one-mile speedway in 2009.
"Phoenix creates a lot of challenges," Sorenson said. "It's a flat track, and while it is a one-mile track, it races like a short track.
"The best strategy is to get the car to run around the bottom groove since it's the shortest way around. It's tough on the car, tough on the driver. But I know everyone on this race team is up to the challenge."
And a good result at Phoenix will get Leavine Family Racing off to a fast start for 2014.
Race fans planning on attending Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 15-17 already know they’re going to see stock cars racing side-by-side at breathtaking speeds. It’s the speed of another sort, however, that Ford Motor Co. hopes has them talking even more.
When the cars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series take the track on Nov. 17 for the Ford EcoBoost 400 championship finale, they will be led by a one-of-a-kind Mustang that is a featured star in the upcoming Hollywood movie and Electronic Arts video game entitled “Need for Speed.”
“When the opportunity to showcase the ‘Need for Speed’ Mustang at our marquee event came up a few months ago it was a no-brainer to make it the centerpiece of Ford Championship Weekend,” said Tim Duerr, Ford Racing motorsports marketing manager. “We have always tried to incorporate some of our latest products that make up Ford’s versatile car and truck lineup, and we feel the three vehicles we’re using this year continues that trend.”
In addition to the “Need for Speed” Mustang, Ford will be using the all-new F-150 Tremor to pace the Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on Friday, Nov. 15, and the Mustang GT500 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford EcoBoost 300 on Saturday, Nov. 16.
“This lineup of new Ford vehicles is befitting of the three NASCAR championship races that we’ll be hosting at Homestead-Miami Speedway,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer. “Ford is a fantastic partner and we’re thrilled that its cars will be on display for a packed house and millions more to see on television across the world.”
The “Need for Speed” Mustang was created solely for the movie and features a custom-designed wide body created specifically for this new role with unique 22-inch alloy wheels, capable of supporting 900 horsepower, and larger intakes to feed its supercharged V-8 engine. Also keeping the engine cool is the enlarged lower grille with corner air intakes to cool the front brakes.
Designers also worked on reducing aerodynamic drag by using low profile mirrors and extended rocker panels. The splitter was also redesigned to provide better handling at high speeds. The rear spoiler and diffuser were created to improve airflow, reducing drag and giving additional traction for high-speed acceleration.
The movie, starring Aaron Paul, Michael Keaton, Dominic Cooper and Imogen Poots, is scheduled to debut in the Spring of 2014 while fans of the popular Electronic Arts video game series by the same name will be able to buy the latest version later this month.
“The heritage of Mustang is unlike any other automobile in America,” said Steve Ling, Ford car marketing manager. “With Mustang being a central character in this racing-oriented movie, it seemed only fitting to showcase the car here at Homestead and help serve as a great springboard to our various celebrations recognizing 50 years of Mustang in 2014.”
This marks the 12th year Ford has served as title sponsor of Ford Championship Weekend.
Homestead Miami Speedway PR
The physical and emotional demands of Martinsville Speedway are legendary among Sprint Cup drivers. Veteran Jeff Burton calls 500 laps on the tight half-mile oval “the hardest” test drivers face every year.
The constant in-the-throttle, on-the-brakes, pushing and shoving action that is Martinsville Speedway tends to create love-hate relationships among the competitors. They love the Sprint Cup Series’ oldest track one day, hate it the next and then love it again.
That was evident after the recent Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500 Powered by Kroger. Some drivers were left shaking their heads, some close to shaking their fists, and then there was Jeff Gordon, kissing the grandfather clock winner’s trophy after his eighth Martinsville victory.
Carl Edwards, who has struggled at Martinsville throughout his career, was dejected after bringing out the first two cautions of the race, even though he wound up 12th. “It’s tough to sit in the car and realize I caused both of them. The problem with me is that I’ve almost come to accept how badly we run at Martinsville,” he said.
Matt Kenseth, who normally runs poorly at Martinsville, turned in a stellar second-place performance, only out done by Gordon. Unlike Edwards, Kenseth wasn’t upset, just realistic after the race. “I just got beat honestly by experience and a better driver of this track.”
On the other hand, Greg Biffle was steamed after one of his best Martinsville runs ever was hurt by a late pit stop to fix damage to his rear bumper, damage he claimed was created by Jimmie Johnson.
“If he’s running for the title, he (Johnson) better not tear my rear bumper cover off because that will be the last race he finished,” said Biffle, who was out of sorts even though he finished ninth.
Veteran Jeff Burton had every reason to be frustrated. He was the victim of one of Edwards’ spins on just the second lap of the race and wound up near the rear of the field on the restart. He battled back to lead at one point, ran in the top 10 for a good portion of the day and ended up 11th. But instead of a frown, he was wearing a smile at the end of the day.
“We had a bit of a bump in our game plan with that spin early on, but we didn’t get that beat up and fought back,” said Burton, who calls Martinsville his home track. “That was some fun racing out there all day today for Martinsville.”
Amidst all the frustration and frayed tempers created by 500 laps of exciting and intense driver, there was at least one other driver with a smile.
“I love this race track. It just feels natural,” said Gordon standing beside his eighth grandfather clock. “It feels like home in so many ways.”
The excitement that is Martinsville Speedway racing returns with the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on March 30, 2014. The Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is scheduled for March 29 and Pole Day on March 28.
Martinsville Speedway PR
Gargoyles Performance Eyewear announced today that the brand has extended its ambassador relationship with NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski. Keselowski, the Penske Racing driver and Brad Keselowski Racing team owner, joined the Gargoyles team in 2012 and has since appeared in Gargoyles advertising campaigns and worked closely with the brand to advance its array of high-performance sunglasses.
Under the extended agreement which runs through 2015, Keselowski will play a key role in Gargoyles' advertising campaigns and promotional efforts designed to grow the Gargoyles brand. Further, Keselowski will advise and consult the Gargoyles team on the design, features, and characteristics of a Brad Keselowski special edition sunglass. Gargoyles will continue to support Brad Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation and its Race2Recovery program.
"It's important to me to be connected with brands that are authentic to who I am as a driver and as an individual," said Keselowski. "Gargoyles is about performance and hard work, and those are two things on which I pride myself, so it's a natural fit. I look forward to continuing to work with the Gargoyles team and helping to drive the growth of the brand."
"Brad has been a terrific ambassador for Gargoyles," said Laura Burkett, Gargoyles Brand Manager. "As a champion of both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, and a team owner in the Camping World Truck Series, Brad is one of the most visible drivers in the NASCAR garage. This gives him a powerful platform from which to promote our products to an important audience for us. But beyond that Brad is genuine, and that's something that really resonates with Gargoyles' customers. We're very pleased to continue our relationship with Brad."
Gargoyles revolutionized the eyewear industry in 1979 with the invention of the polycarbonate Toric lens, a technology that provides up to 210º of seamless, ballistic-rated impact-resistant and crystal-clear optics. Today, its unique blend of performance and style has helped make Gargoyles the preferred eyewear brand for active people who need performance sunglasses for outdoor activities. Delivering cutting-edge technology and innovation, Gargoyles products are worn by top athletes and outdoorsmen who seek optimal performance with regard to clarity, comfort and durability, and who wish to enhance both daily living and mission-oriented pursuits.
Fun in the Sun...The No. 32 Target team heads out west as the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) visits Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) for the second and final time this season. Kyle Larson has one previous NNS start at PIR, finishing 13th at the track in March. Larson also has one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at the track for Turner Scott Motorsports. In last fall's NCWTS race, Larson started sixth, led 43 laps and finished second in just his third series start.
Bullseye!...Target will be back on board the No. 32 Camaro for this weekend's race at PIR. Minneapolis-based Target Corporation (NYSE: TGT) serves guests at 1,870 stores - 1,788 in the United States and 82 in Canada - and at Target.com. Since 1946, Target has given 5 percent of its profit through community grants and programs; today, that giving equals more than $4 million a week. For more information about Target's commitment to corporate responsibility, visit target.com/corporateresponsibility.
This Week's Camaro...Crew chief Trent Owens and the No. 32 Target team will bring chassis TSM-323 to PIR this weekend. Larson has driven TSM-323 six times this season, earning three top fives, four top 10s and never finishing worse than 14th. Larson earned his first runner-up finish of the season using this chassis, coming up just short of the win to finish second at Bristol Motor Speedway in March.
Watch and Listen...The ServiceMaster 200 will air live on ESPN2 on Saturday, November 9 at 3:30 p.m. EST. The race will also be broadcast on MRN Radio as well as SiriusXM Satellite Radio, channel 90.
Previous Race Recap...After a blown tire ruined his debut at Texas Motor Speedway back in April, Larson was looking for redemption in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. After two practice sessions that left the No. 32 NTT DATA team happy with the long-run speed of their Chevrolet Camaro, Larson qualified 16th for Saturday afternoon's 200-lap race. In a race that saw just four cautions, the 21-year-old ran inside the top 10 for the majority of the event, running as high as fourth before finishing ninth.
Kyle Larson on Phoenix International Raceway:
"I really enjoy racing at Phoenix, and I know that it's one of my team's favorite tracks too. [Crew chief] Trent [Owens] ran really well here last fall with Kasey [Kahne] in the car, and I finished second in the Truck Series race, so hopefully we can continue that this year. We've had a lot of success with this chassis, so I'm excited to see what we can do during the race."
Heading West...This weekend, the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) returns to Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) for the final short-track race of the season. In the spring race at PIR, Allgaier started in the fifth position and ran in the top-10 all day. After completing all 200 laps of the race, Allgaier brought the BRANDT Chevy home in the third position, his second best finish of the season to date.
Seeing Double This Weekend...In addition to competing in the NNS, Allgaier will also be making his fourth-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) start this weekend at PIR. He will drive the No. 51 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet SS on Sunday, November 10 in the AdvoCare 500.
This Week's Camaro...The No. 31 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet team will utilize chassis TSM-401 this weekend. Chassis TSM-401 had been race four previous times with season, never finishing worse than 12th.
In-Car Camera...This weekend the No. 31 BRANDT Chevy will carry an in-car camera providing fans with a view from inside the cockpit. This weekend's camera is sponsored by Nationwide Insurance. The ServiceMaster 200 will air live on ESPN2 on Saturday, November 9 with race coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. EST. The race will also be broadcast on MRN Radio as well as SiriusXM Satellite Radio, channel 90.
Recapping Texas Motor Speedway...The NNS completed its second and final stop of the season at Texas Motor Speedway. The No. 31 BRANDT Chevrolet finished the first practice session 18th on the chart, and fourth in final practice. After laying down a lap of 29.9514 seconds, Allgaier earned the 15th-starting spot for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge, just ahead of Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) teammates Kyle Larson and Nelson Piquet Jr. After staying in the top 20 all day at Texas, Allgaier drove the No. 31 BRANDT Professional Agriculture Chevrolet Camaro home to a 19th-place finish for TSM.
Crew Chief Scott Zipadelli on Phoenix International Raceway:
"I'm ready to get back to Phoenix [International Raceway]. We had a great run there earlier in the season and Justin really likes short tracks. Qualifying in the top 10 will be really important. Track position is key at a place like Phoenix. Pit strategy will also be key because the track traditionally has long green-flag runs."
Justin Allgaier on Phoenix International Raceway:
"I always enjoy short-track racing. I'm looking forward to getting back to Phoenix [International Raceway]. I've always liked the track and we ran really well there in the spring. I need to qualify well and have a solid day to keep us in the top five in points heading into Homestead [Miami Speedway]."
The Valley of the Sun...The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) will make its second and final trip of the 2013 season to the "Valley of the Sun" and Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) this weekend for the ServiceMaster 200. Nelson Piquet Jr. has one previous NNS start at the 1.0-mile oval, coming earlier this year when he brought home a top-15 finish.
This Week's Camaro...The No. 30 Qualcomm team will have chassis TSM-400 for Saturday afternoon's race at PIR. TSM-400 has been on the track four other times this season; with Piquet Jr. having an average finish of 13.25 with this particular chassis.
Texas Recap...Making his second career NNS start at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday afternoon, Piquet Jr. looked to finish the last three weeks of the NNS season with a full head of steam starting in the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge. Piquet Jr. and his No. 30 Qualcomm team started the weekend by qualifying 17th at the 1.5-mile oval. Piquet Jr. however was forced to start at the rear of the field after suffering damage to the right side of his car during his qualifying lap on Saturday morning. After the setback to start the race, Piquet Jr. battled all afternoon and brought the Qualcomm Chevrolet Camaro home with a 15th-place finish.
Welcome Back...For the seventh time in 2013, Turner Scott Motorsports partner Qualcomm will be the primary sponsor for Piquet Jr. and No. 30 team in this week's Service Master 200. Qualcomm Incorporated is the world leader in next-generation mobile technologies. For 25 years, Qualcomm ideas and inventions have driven the evolution of wireless communications, connecting people more closely to information, entertainment and each other. Today, Qualcomm technologies are powering the convergence of mobile communications and consumer electronics, making wireless devices and services more personal, affordable and accessible to people everywhere. For more information, please visit www.qualcomm.com.
Watch and Listen...The ServiceMaster 200 can be seen live on Saturday, November 9 on ESPN2. Race coverage will begin at 3:30 p.m. EST. The event can also be heard live on MRN Radio as well as SiriusXM Radio, channel 90.
Nelson Piquet Jr. on his return to Phoenix:
"I am looking forward to getting back on the track and returning to Phoenix [International Raceway] this weekend. We only have two weeks left in the season and my team and I are working really hard to end the season on a good note. Phoenix is a fast one-mile oval and different from any track that we go to. I don't have much experience at Phoenix in a Nationwide car, but we have had some success there in the truck series, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage. I think if we can stay smart, find the right setup and stay out of trouble, we can have a big day and bring the Qualcomm Chevy home with a great finish."
Kyle Busch enters this week’s ServiceMaster 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) event as the returning race winner at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway (PIR). In the spring event Busch captured the pole-qualifying position, led 142 of 200 laps and secured the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 54 team’s first victory of 2013. Prior to this year’s initial win, Busch last secured victory on the one-mile low-banked tri-oval in the spring of 2011 and spring of 2008, in both cases also from the pole-qualifying position.
Historically Busch and the now 11-time Monster Energy team winners, have been successful at PIR in the Nationwide Series. Busch is the track’s youngest pole winner in 2004, at the age of 19 years, six months and four days and holds the record for all-time performer in laps led, 935, poles and wins with five each. The Las Vegas, Nev. native also maintains the track’s Nationwide Series qualifying record set in 2011 at 134.298 mph.
Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Adam Stevens’ success with this team includes two wins back to back, this event in the fall of 2012 with then JGR driver Joey Logano, from the pole-qualifying position, and again in the 2013 spring event with Busch. In total, the company’s four-car Nationwide Series operation has 49 starts at PIR. JGR entries have led 1,205 laps and completed 9,333 of 9,823 (95 percent) laps in those events. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide Series wins at Phoenix total five, with 15 top-five finishes and 31 top-10 finishes. Expectations are therefore high that team, driver and crew chief records will be improved once again. The No. 54 team targets their 12th win of the year and hopes to cut a deficit in the Owner’s Championship points battle, now standing 26 markers behind the No. 22 Penske Ford team.
For Matt Crafton, this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway could be the realization of a dream that's developed over the past 13 years committed to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series -- and considering it's Phoenix, even back to his childhood -- depending on the results of Friday night's Lucas Oil 150 with his No. 88 Splash / Menards Toyota.
Crafton, who's had a career year in one of ThorSport Racing's two Toyota Tundras, faces several different scenarios that could result in him clinching the 2013 NCWTS drivers' championship, which Crafton leads by 46 points over defending series champion James Buescher with just Friday and the Homestead season finale remaining.
All Crafton need do is finish at least 18th at Phoenix next Friday and at Homestead the weekend after that to clinch his first Truck Series championship -- and the first for team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson -- no matter what his competitors do. Crafton's worst finish so far this season has been 17th.
If Crafton has a 41-point lead leaving Phoenix, all he need do is start the race at Homestead to clinch. Even simpler, if Crafton has a 49-point lead over second place after Phoenix, he could skip Homestead and start his celebration a week early -- though that won't happen. After all, there'd be another race to possibly win.
The Thorsons also lead the Truck Series' owners' championship by 32 points over Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 51 Tundra. The owners' race has a different dimension created by several top teams, including Busch's, using multiple drivers.
But none of the championship debates concern Crafton, who with his team led by crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner has remained singularly focused week-in and week-out -- with the championship, if and when it occurs, destined to be a product of 22 weeks of commitment.
"I'll say it every week until the season's done because nothing ever changes with this race team and our record shows it," Crafton said. "We'll unload at Phoenix prepared to win the race and that's all we'll look at. At the same time, we'll keep trying to make smart decisions. And it's a given that my guys at ThorSport never give up, as they proved at Texas."
Last weekend at Texas, Crafton struggled throughout the race with his truck's handling, running between 12th and 19th. But in the end, Crafton and Joiner hit on a solution that resulted in a 10th-place finish that was Crafton's series-best 18th top-10 in 20 races.
And that leads the team to Phoenix, one of the first racetracks Crafton went to as a young child with this season's circumstances giving Crafton an even deeper reason to want to return.
In his first 11 Truck Series starts on the unique mile racetrack Crafton completed every lap -- all 1,662 of them. But just before halfway in last November's race Parker Kligerman made contact with Crafton's truck and they crashed in Turn 2. It cost Crafton nine laps making repairs and he finished 20th on account.
"We were running really well in that race and we had a shot at winning that one," Crafton said, recalling a theme he set in the season finale of his 2000 NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series championship year, when he dominated the Phoenix season finale with the title clinched only to have his car's rear end fail, putting him out.
Crafton definitely is looking forward to getting back to Phoenix because it's a special place for the Southern California native who literally grew up in racing at the facility known as the "Desert Jewel."
"I've seen it from when it was pretty rough and only had guard rails all the way around the racetrack," Crafton said. "To what it is now, with the Sprint Cup cars racing at what's become a really neat facility. It's a pretty awesome feeling for me to be able to come here and race, after all the years I've been coming here."
With what Crafton has on the line this weekend it recalls just what a special place the track was to hundreds of grass-roots racers who descended on Phoenix every year -- including the Crafton family.
"Phoenix was always the Daytona 500 for the Southwest Tour, as I was growing up and when my dad used to race there right through when I started racing," Crafton said, a note of reverence creeping into his voice. "Everybody who was anybody in late model racing -- a real who's who -- from the East Coast, the Midwest, Northwest, really anywhere they raced late models, everybody came to race that race.
"I remember in 1999 or 2000 -- we qualified on the pole and there were 70 cars that showed up for that race. I've been coming here since I was a little kid with my dad -- like, 1980 -- and it's just always been one of those really cool places. It was a really big deal when we'd take the late model there to race."
It makes Matt Crafton proud of his record at Phoenix, which includes eight top-10 finishes in the 11 races he completed all the laps in, an average finish of 8.6 in those races -- most of them on the "old" version of the racetrack.
Phoenix was reconfigured in 2011, with the most stark changes being remodeling the backstretch "dogleg" and widening the frontstretch.
"Phoenix is definitely a tough place to get ahold of and when you look at the current configuration -- I've only raced (a complete race) on it once," Crafton said with a chuckle. "The old track was always a big favorite of mine because I knew it like the back of my hand, and that's kind of funny because the new racetrack isn't a ton different.
"But like I said, it's a very difficult place to get a handle on, because both corners are so dramatically different."
It's a case where Crafton said sacrifices have to be made in one end, to help his truck's performance in the other.
"You've got to be decent in Turns 1 and 2 and if you're decent in 1 and 2 and you know what you're looking for in 3 and 4, then you'll maintain in 1 and 2 and you'll kick their butts in 3 and 4," Crafton said. "So you focus on getting off of 3 and 4 because it's huge to carry all that momentum through that long corner and down the front straightaway."
The two-day Phoenix Truck Series weekend begins Thursday with a pair of practice sessions, from 5:30-6:25 p.m. ET and 7:35-8:30 p.m. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2.
Friday's 150-lap, 150-mile Lucas Oil 150 will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio begins at 7:30 p.m. Live timing & scoring for the weekend's events will be at www.nascar.com.