Friday, Dec 01
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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On FOX Sports 1’s NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES practice telecast Wednesday morning, Michael Waltrip Racing (MWR) co-owner Michael Waltrip addressed the morning’s news that MWR and Clint Bowyer have mutually agreed to separate at the conclusion of the 2015 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES season and that the organization no longer will field full-time cars in 2016.

Waltrip, on the air Wednesday in his role as a FOX NASCAR analyst, shared his thoughts with play-by-play announcer Adam Alexander and analyst Phil Parsons.  Below is a transcript from the exchange:

Alexander: What more can you tell us as this news is just breaking this morning?

Waltrip:  “Well, it’s a sad day for MWR obviously.  I love the culture we’ve built there.  Our sponsors – they’re not sponsors; they’re partners. And our employees are our teammates.  We just have the perfect workplace, and unfortunately in 2016, we’re not going to be racing there.  My hope is somebody wants to have a really nice shop full of really cool people that work together well and want to have a race team and we can provide that for them.  Rob is going to be a part of Chip Ganassi Racing going forward.  Rob and I are best buddies.  He’s done an amazing job of stabilizing MWR in the beginning and then we raced for a championship -- finished second in 2012.  So, my heart goes out to all the employees, all the people that worked at MWR. Hopefully, somebody wants to have a team and they can have it right there at our place.”

Parsons: A lot of people may say MWR started in 2007.  MWR really started behind your house in the garage back in the ‘90s.  How hard is that for you after being in this as an owner for around 20 years now?

Waltrip:  “Our first race was here (Bristol Motor Speedway) in 1994 with Jeff Green.  We towed in here with Rodney Silver, a flatbed trailer, unloaded our car and ran third that day.  And won Nationwide/XFINITY races behind our house and competed in the Cup Series.  We made the Daytona 500 with Kenny Wallace in a car we built in Sherrills Ford (N.C.) behind my house. That grew to Michael Waltrip Racing and we raced for a championship, like I said, Chase berths, race wins. I’m thankful.  I’m happy.  It’s a great run that we’ve had.  We’ll just see what’s next.”

Fox Sports  PR
The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) will take a detour from road-course racing and head to Bristol Motor Speedway, as NAPA AUTO PARTS driver Chase Elliott and the No. 9 JR Motorsports team prepare for a one-day show at the .533-mile high-banked short track referred to as “Thunder Valley.”

So far in a wildcard month of racing that includes three road races in four weeks, Elliott has consecutive top-10 finishes, tallied by a seventh-place effort at Watkins Glen International and a fifth-place run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Next up is Bristol, a track where in three NXS starts Elliott has never finished outside the top 10. Bristol has been an important track for Elliott, whose championship hopes were bolstered by a third-place finish at the bullring last August en route to claiming the 2014 title.

With 12 races to go, Elliott will see an array of track sizes to round out the season, which will further test his adaptability. Six of the remaining courses are 1.5-mile surfaces, while the rest consist of Bristol (.533-mile), Road America (4.048-mile), Darlington (1.336-mile), Richmond (.75-mile), and Dover and Phoenix (both classified as 1-mile facilities). Elliott and the No. 9 team know that consistently strong runs over this stretch are key to keeping their championship dreams alive.

JR Motorsports PR
With The Chase For the 2015 NASCAR Missouri State Championships hitting the homestretch, the "High-Banks" of Lebanon I-44 Speedway is offering much more than just another great night of racing action.
Emerson/Copeland of Lebanon will be hosting a night at the races as the manufacturing plant celebrates 25 years in Lebanon as they broke ground in 1990 and began machining production in March of 1992. The plant is close to rolling off Scroll Compressor number 50 Million from the assembly lines from the leaders in Scroll Compressor units.
Saturday night will be Military Appreciation Night with support from Navy Federal Credit Union as we salute and honor those who are and have served our country. Current and past just need to show their Military Issue ID for a free admission in the grandstand to an action packed night.
For the kids 10 and under, it will be the popular Kids Ride in a Racecar. After the racing program has concluded, the kids will get a chance to go 1 lap around The "High-Banks" of Missouri's only NASCAR track. This has become a very popular event for all members of the family.
Bikers Against Child Abuse and the Sleeper Volunteer Fire Department will be hosting a truck and bike show before the gates open in the afternoon. These bike and car lovers have some beautiful vehicles that need to be viewed and voted on.
The Rolla Super Station KZNN 105.3 have many promotions going on in that area and one of the strongest regional bands in the area will perform a post-race concert on the Fan Deck as Kricket Alley takes the stage immediately after the races are over.
With 8 different feature winners out of 10 races, the O'Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model Point Standings are tight with "The Stoutland Rocket" JC Newell staying just 98 markers ahead of defending Missouri State Champion Kaleb Allison of Mexico while Brennon Willard, Steve Holt, Kyle Donahue, Paul Jepsen, Jimmy Vanzandt, Kevin Donahue and Brian Brown are all in a tight battle for third.
Budweiser Modified point leader Tim Swearengin is still shutout of the feature win column but never out of the top 5 in any race so far this season. Last week's Roper Classic winner David Bates along with Stephen Counterman, Ricky Icenhower, Richard Lewis, David Strode, Joe Bunkers and the rest of the very fast field might have a current member of the service, Todd Lauvray and the son of a former serviceman Chris Johnson really gearing-up on Military Appreciation Night and looking for a big win.
Sportsman point leader and 2-time feature winner Big JC Newell has a very narrow margin over Aaron Douglas while grandson Little JC Newell has been on a roll  in the class. Last week Douglas came-up just 3 laps short from stopping "The Rocket Roll" which includes 3 straight and 4 out of the last 5 features. Every feature has been going to the final laps as this class goes all out.
The Hoosier Tire Street Stocks have become a great fan favorite as 6 different drivers have won from 11 features offered. Point leader Jordan Nisbett has been consistent all season with only 1 finish out of the top 5 along with 4 feature wins and Zack Morgan has been on a roll lately. Les Mallard hopes to get the transmission issues fixed as the hard charger is always a threat to win. Others that have been a threat to win this season include Chris Johnson, Rick Sharp, Nick Cherry, Lauren Buhr, Steve Shaw, David Douglas, Shawn Schmidt and others as they get the crowd fired-up to start the night.
The Cola-Cola Chargers have a new point leader this week as 2013 Champion Jimmy Poindexter just nipped Ben White. The duo has been equal all season and this night will be no different. Jason Walls is coming off a 2nd place finish last week and Japheth Nisbett, Nik Taylor, Jesse Poindexter, Luke Oster, Cory Nutt, Larry Hunter and Mark Glorfeld along with others keep the racing action up front and very interesting.

I-44 Speedway PR
Over the years, the Wood Brothers have focused their attention on NASCAR’s biggest, fastest tracks. But they’ve also run 65 races on the half-mile oval at Bristol Motor Speedway, where this weekend Ryan Blaney will drive the No. 21 SKF Ford Fusion in Saturday’s 500-lap race under the lights. It’s the second of three races this season that the No. 21 Ford will carry the SKF sponsorship. The first, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last month, saw Blaney post the third-fastest speed in final practice and run as high as sixth in the race. The final race for the No. 21 SKF Ford Fusion will come at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 20.
For the Wood Brothers, returning to Bristol after a four-year absence is like a homecoming of sorts.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said his family’s race team was a regular participant at Bristol back in the day because races there were considered among the more prestigious on the circuit.

“It’s the same today,” Wood said. “We haven’t been there since 2011, and we’re looking forward to being back.”

Bristol holds a special place in Wood’s heart as it was the first track he went to and was allowed to be among the men in the pit area. It was the 1967 Volunteer 500, and NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Cale Yarborough was driving the No. 21 Ford.

“I rode over there in the truck with my Dad,” Wood recalled. “We got there before daylight on Thursday and had to wait in line to sign in.”

Once inside the track, Glen Wood told his son he had some important people he needed to meet.

“He took me across the infield and introduced me to Lee Petty, Richard Petty, Maurice Petty and Dale Inman,” Wood said. “They were the first racing people I’d met other than the men who drove our race cars.”

Wood said Maurice Petty gave him a playful pop to the chest, while Inman shook his hand while squeezing his arm so hard he went to his knees in an initiation of sorts to the racing fraternity.
Throughout their time in NASCAR, the Woods have been big rivals of the Pettys but also have enjoyed a close friendship.  Inman, a cousin of Richard and Maurice Petty who; like all three Pettys, along with Wood’s father and uncle Leonard, is a member of the Hall of Fame. 

“Dale and I talk every week, and he’s always the first person I go find when I get to the race track,” Wood said

Wood said his team’s return to Bristol is a much anticipated one now that the Woods have an alliance with Team Penske, which has run exceptionally well at Bristol over the years and especially in the past few races there.

Roger Penske has 11 Cup wins at Bristol, and Team Penske’s two current drivers, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, finished 1-2 in last year’s night race.

The Woods’ driver Ryan Blaney has found success there as well, winning in both Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series races, including last year’s Food City 300 where he beat Kyle Busch, winning in a Team Penske Mustang.

“I’m really looking forward to this weekend,” Wood said. “Even though we’ve won the spring race before, we seem to race better in the night race.
But a lot of things can happen there. You need to stay out of other people’s troubles and try to not have any of your own.

It’s kind of like going off to war when the race starts because the biggest thing is trying to survive until the end.”

Wood Brothers Racing PR
BK Racing and James Madison University (JMU) have partnered together for the September night race at Richmond International Raceway. 
BK Racing, which is co-owned by former JMU Board of Visitors member Ron Devine ('78), will have its No. 83 car, decked out in purple and gold, driven by Matt DiBenedetto. The car features JMU purple prominently around most of the exterior with gold accent on the top and bottom. The car displays JMU's full portfolio of Athletics' logos in highly visible locations over the entire surface.
Devine said, "James Madison University is a wonderful university that is nationally known. We are excited to be able to display the JMU logos on the national stage through NASCAR. As an alumnus, I was glad to provide this sponsorship for JMU and Athletics as a way to support its strategic plan, national branding efforts and overall university pride. I want to thank all of the JMU staff and especially the JMU Foundation for supporting this effort. Hopefully this will be the start of many efforts like this to come. Go Dukes!"
The Federated Auto Parts 400 will take place on Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. at RIR with live television coverage on NBC Sports Network. Tickets are still available. JMU boasts over 10,000 alumni in the Richmond metropolitan area as well as another 60,000 alumni within a two-hour drive of Richmond International Raceway.
"We are grateful to Ron Devine and BK Racing for this sponsorship opportunity to showcase our university and athletics program on a professional sports stage," JMU Director of Athletics Jeff Bourne said. "As part of our strategic plan, Engaged in Excellence, we are striving to increase the brand and identity of our athletics program nationally. BK Racing and NASCAR provide a unique platform for increasing the overall awareness of and affinity for our university and our sports programs."
DiBenedetto, 24, is a candidate for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in his first season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. Through 20 starts, he sits 36th in the Sprint Cup Standings with 252 points. Prior to taking over the No. 83 Toyota Camry for BK Racing, DiBenedetto made his NASCAR Nationwide debut in 2009 and raced for two years with Joe Gibbs Racing.
"I am excited to have JMU on board my No. 83 BK Racing Toyota under the lights at Richmond," driver Matt DiBenedetto said. "The car looks awesome, and it will be pretty neat to join forces with a university to promote both NASCAR and college football."

BK Racing PR
The song “The Candy Man (Can)” first appeared in the 1971 movie classic “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” 

Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Skittles Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is known as quite the candy man himself. He’s wearing the bright, red colors of Skittles this weekend at the half-mile bullring known as Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, while also sporting the colorful and iconic candy brands throughout the rest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with fellow Mars products such as M&M’S Crispy and SNICKERS.

As Busch has proven in just the 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races he’s competed in thus far in 2015, the candy man can. After suffering leg and foot injuries at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February, Busch was forced to sit out the first 11 races of the season. What he has done since his return is nothing short of amazing. In those 12 starts, Busch has racked up four wins, five top-five finishes and six top-10s and has put himself in position to punch his ticket to this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoffs. With his four wins, all Busch now needs to do is stay in the top-30 in driver points. Last weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, he expanded the margin to 31st-place Cole Whitt to 23 points with three regular-season races remaining.

Another thing the candy man can do is win races in bunches at northeast Tennessee’s “Thunder Valley,” site of Saturday’s annual Irwin Tools Night Race. Busch has five Sprint Cup wins at Bristol while also recording eight top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 20 career Sprint Cup starts. Amazingly enough, Busch won three of the four Sprint Cup races at the .533-mile short track in 2009 and 2010.

The driver of the Skittles Camry will look to repeat an impressive feat that occurred during that stretch, when he posted the first “triple” in NASCAR history by winning the Sprint Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series races that week. Busch will again compete in all three races this week, starting with Wednesday’s Truck Series race, as he makes his only attempt at all three races in a weekend during the 2015 season.

While Busch is a factor any time he travels to Bristol, it’s interesting to note Busch didn’t immediately take to the place. During his rookie year in 2005, he posted finishes of 28th and 33rd. But his record since then at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” has been impressive to say the least. After bringing home finishes of eighth and second in 2006, Busch captured his first Bristol Sprint Cup win in March 2007. The track was resurfaced after that race and, from 2008 to 2011, nobody has been better at the concrete short track than Busch. He scored four wins and six top-10s from 2008 until another change to the track surface prior to the August 2012 race weekend. Busch is looking to recapture the magic from his four years of dominance there on the current surface.

So as Busch goes for his sixth career Sprint Cup win at Bristol Saturday night, the candy man flying the red Skittles colors certainly can add another Bristol trophy to the collection during what has already been an amazing season of tragedy to triumph.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is looking for redemption Saturday night in the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

The defending Sprint Cup champion looked to have the car to beat at Bristol in April. He started fourth and led 184 laps but found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time as he was collected in a lap-311 accident when Jimmie Johnson, Jeb Burton and David Ragan spun directly in front of him while Harvick was running third. Harvick finished 38th – one of his only three finishes outside the top-10 through the first 23 races of 2015.

The Bakersfield, California native is no stranger to victory lane at Bristol, however. In fact, he has won there in each of NASCAR’s three touring series.

He scored a Sprint Cup victory at Bristol in April 2005, when he started 13th and led 109 of 500 laps and beat Elliott Sadler to the finish line by 4.652 seconds. He has five NASCAR Xfinity Series wins there with his most recent coming in March 2009, when he started 13th and led 46 laps to beat runner-up Carl Edwards by 0.798 of a second. He also visited victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Bristol in August 2011, when he started sixth, led 103 of 200 laps and beat Johnny Sauter by 0.434 of a second.

The Sprint Cup points leader has consistently run and finished in the top-five throughout the season with a chance to win nearly every weekend. He has two wins and nine second-place finishes, three times he’s finished third, and twice he’s finished fourth. He has also scored top-10s in 20 of 23 Sprint Cup races and, in the three races he finished outside the top-10, he had an unfortunate issue arise while leading the race.

Harvick would like to add his third Sprint Cup win at Bristol Saturday night. He scored his first of the year in the season’s third race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and his second the very next week at Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick clinched his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship playoff field with his eighth-place finish July 11 at Kentucky, guaranteeing a top-30 finish in the driver points after race No. 26 Sept. 12 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. He only needs to attempt to qualify for the remaining three regular-season Sprint Cup events to make it official.

Twenty-three races into 2015, Harvick has a series-best 16 top-five finishes to go with his 20 top-10s, and he sits atop the driver standings with 866 points. The No. 4 Chevrolet SS has led a series-high 1,406 laps with an average finish of 7.8. The 1,406 laps led are 685 more than the next-closest competitor – 721 by his SHR teammate Kurt Busch.

Harvick has led at least one lap in 19 of 23 Sprint Cup races in 2015, including a streak of 14 in a row from March 1at Atlanta Motor Speedway through June 14 at Michigan. The staggering number of laps led and the 14 consecutive races with laps led is among numerous other impressive numbers Harvick has compiled this season.

He leads several other statistical categories: 120.2 driver rating, 33 bonus points, 877 fastest laps run, 22.8 percent of fastest laps run, 23.2 percent of laps led, 1,802.35 miles led, 5,485 laps in the top-15, and average running position of 7.44 in addition to his average finish of 7.8.

While Harvick and the No. 4 team are locked into the Chase field by points and wins, gaining bonus points for additional wins is now their top priority through the next three races, starting this weekend at Bristol.


When a high-level racecar driver doesn’t have a history of strong results at a certain track that usually means either a dislike or aloofness towards the facility.
Well, when it comes to Martin Truex Jr. and Bristol Motor Speedway that theory doesn’t exist. Why? There’s hardly any parallel between Truex’s admiration and career performances at the half-mile, high-banked oval located in northeastern Tennessee.
“Bristol is a neat little racetrack,” said Truex. “But also a tough one for me. It's been an up-and-down career at Bristol over the years. I've had good runs there and also had a lot of trouble. Our Furniture Row Chevy wasn’t that good at the first Bristol race this year so we have a little work to do.
“But I really like Bristol, especially the night race. The first thing that strikes me about the Bristol night race is the electric prerace show -- the Colosseum-type atmosphere, the national anthem and the flyover. You feel the energy around you that is different from any other place we go to."
The Chase-bound Truex, who ranks fourth in driver points and is having a career season to date with one win, seven top-fives and 16 top-10s, hasn’t had the finishes at Bristol compared to other short tracks on the Sprint Cup Series circuit. He has managed two top-10s (a second and a third) in 19 career starts.
Along with the second and third-place finishes there were two other notable Bristol races for Truex – winning the 2004 Xfinity Series spring race and suffering a fractured right wrist in the 2013 Sprint Cup summer night race.
“I’ve always said -- you never know what you’re going to get at Bristol Motor Speedway,” stated the 35-year-old Truex, who is coming off a third-place finish at Michigan International Speedway. 
The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet will get another crack at the famed Bristol track Saturday in the Irwin Tools Night Race.
“When you get to Bristol and make those first couple of laps it takes you a minute just to catch your breath and really think about what did the car actually do and what do I need to work on because it's just so fast and so breathtaking,” noted Truex.
In the April race at Bristol, Truex entered the event with seven straight top-10s to start the season. But a loose wheel and later getting smacked into the wall snapped the top-10 streak with a 29th-place finish.
“It’s a 36-race season and things beyond your control are going to happen,” explained Truex. “We’ve had good cars all year and have been in position to win a number of races. We did get the one win (at Pocono in June) but there should have been more. We’re in Chase mode right now and feeling confident that we can hit the right setup at any size or shape of racetrack.”

When David Levine takes the green flag in his Momo/Ford Performance/TraqGear Ford Fusion at the start of the Allen Crowe 100 on Sunday, it will mark his 20th career ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards race. The 2015 Scott Rookie Challenge points leader made four series starts in 2013, in addition to competing in the previous 15 events this year. 
“This year has gone by so fast!” David recently commented. “We’ve accomplished a lot so far this year. We have a bunch of top tens, including a pair of 6th place finishes at Nashville and Pocono. I really want to get some top five finishes for my Lira Motorsports No. 59 team in the last five races of the year though. The team’s No. 58 car has a pair of top five’s - and a win! This 59 team is definitely capable of doing the same. We’ll keep digging until the checker flag at Kansas in October!”
One of David’s goals for his rookie year is to finish races. He has successfully accomplished that through the first 15 races, completing an incredible 95% of the laps run, with previous experience at only a handful of tracks that the series has visited.
With only five races remaining on the 2015 ARCA Racing Schedule, David enters this weekend’s race at the one-mile, clay oval Illinois State Fairgrounds at 5th place in the ARCA Racing Series driver points standings. He is leading the series Scott Rookie Challenge standings. 
David Levine on racing at the Illinois State Fairgrounds: “I think racing on the dirt is going to be fun, but I really don’t know what to expect. I’ve been told that my background as a road course racer will help me transition to dirt, because of the level of car control that is necessary to get through the turns. We’ll see what happens. I’ll be ready!”
Get David’s autograph and a stress ball: Be sure to visit with David during the on-track autograph session, which begins at 12:30pm. David will be signing hero cards, and giving away heart-shaped stress balls! David had open heart surgery as an infant, and the stress balls are his way to raise awareness about congenital heart defects, and let race fans know how important living a healthy lifestyle is at any age.
On-track schedule: ARCA Racing Series Practice is scheduled for Sunday, August 23rd from 9:00-10:00am. Menards Pole Qualifying Presented by Ansell begins at 11:15. The on-track autograph session begins at 12:30. The green flag for the Crowe 100 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds is scheduled for 1:30pm. The race distance is 100 laps (100 miles). All times are local. The race will be live on the CBS Sports Network. Additionally, will feature live timing and scoring of all on-track activity and a live chat box throughout the afternoon.

Lira Motorsports PR

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