Thursday, Jun 08
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Athenian Motorsports is pleased to announce veteran NASCAR crew chief; Mike Ford has joined the team as the crew chief for the No. 25 Zaxby’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota Camry with driver John Wes Townley.

Mike Ford has more than 20 years in NASCAR and has worked as a NASCAR Sprint Cup crew chief since 2000.  From 2001-2003 Ford served as crew chief for Bill Elliott at Evernham Motorsports and won four races, including the 2002 Brickyard 400.

Ford led Dale Jarrett to a victory in the 2004 Bud Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. In 2006, he joined Joe Gibbs Racing for a six year pairing with Denny Hamlin.   As the crew chief of the No. 11 car Ford won 17 races and had championship finishes of 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th, 9th, and 12th, never missing a Chase. 

In 2012, Ford moved to Richard Petty Motorsports to be the crew chief for Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose.  In late 2012, he moved to BK Racing as the Director of Competition where he remained until joining Athenian Motorsports.

Ford will now lead the No. 25 Athenian Motorsports team as crew chief for the remainder of 2014 with driver John Wes Townley beginning at Kansas Speedway, October 3, 2014.

“It’s a good opportunity.  You know, in this environment you don’t see too many teams trying to grow," Mike Ford said.  "So when you have one that is trying to grow and move forward, that is always exciting. We have our challenges in front of us, having to put a group of guys together in the short term, in the middle of the season, is always a challenge but I feel like we’ve gotten some really good talent on the Zaxby’s Nationwide (Series) team.  I’m really encouraged with that.  I think that with the races that were put together by Mike Beam and his guys- there’s definitely a platform there to start with and improve.  We are looking to take what has already been started and elevate it to the next level.  It might take a couple of weeks to see where we need to work and improve but I’m encouraged with it and excited for the challenge.”

“We are very excited to have Mike Ford on board,” Mike Hamlin said, Vice President, Athenian Motorsports, LLC.  “He brings a lot of experience and knowledge. We are looking forward to his help in building a competitive Nationwide Series program at Athenian Motorsports. We anticipate his presence will assist in the growth of the company for 2015 and beyond.”

Townley has one previous NASCAR Nationwide Series, three Camping World Truck Series and three ARCA Racing series starts on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway.  Townley posted his best finish of third-place in the ARCA series in 2013 and his best NCWTS finish of 11th-place in May of 2014.

Athenian Motorsports PR

Tyler Young, driver of the No. 02 Young's Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado, made his 10th track debut of the 2014 season in Saturday night's Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Young, who has 28 career starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) to date, started a career best 10th for the 17th race on the 2014 schedule, when he was one of only 11 trucks to take time in Round 2 of knockout pole qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

Running as high as 10th and as low as 24th throughout the 146-lap event, Young complained of a Silverado that was, "free, but aero tight in traffic." Crew chief Bryan Berry brought the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to pit road under caution for an unscheduled stop at lap 15 to adjust a shock, returning the Midland, Texas native to the race track in the 22nd position. Young broke into the top-20 by lap 60 and maintained ground as he learned his way around the 1.5-mile oval battling a Silverado that was "wrecking loose."


Berry brought the No. 02 machine down pit road for scheduled stops at laps 32, 57 and 113, respectively, for four tires and fuel. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender would continue to battle a loose-handling condition throughout the remainder of the event and cross the stripe 19th, behind race winner, Erik Jones.


Young Motorsports PR

Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Curb Records Toyota Tundra, was optimistic entering the 17th race on the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule. Taking on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), the sight of his first NCWTS win in 2009 and a track where the ThorSport Racing driver had four top-five finishes in five previous starts, Sauter's odds were favorable that he could make-up a seven point deficit on teammate and point leader Matt Crafton. Unfortunately, a 16th-place starting position foreshadowed a 14th-place finish in Saturday night's Rhino Linings 350 at LVMS. The result leaves Sauter second in points, 19 markers behind first-place in the NCWTS driver point battle.

Sauter was forced to start from the 16th position in the 146-lap event when his Tundra didn't make it around the 1.5-mile oval to take the green flag before the 10 minute clock timed out in Round 2 of knockout pole qualifying on Saturday afternoon. As the No. 98 machine was making his way around the famed track in the final moments of the second round, the No. 05 machine spun in Turn 4, bringing out the red flag before the No. 98 could cross the stripe, resulting in a 16th-place starting position for the 18th annual event.


Showing speed and determination in the opening laps, Sauter was scored in the eighth position when the first caution flag was displayed on lap three for a spin in Turn 4. The ThorSport Racing driver continued to maintain a position inside the top-10 complaining that his Tundra was "tight but freeing up a little bit," as the run progressed. Crew chief Jeff Hensley brought the Necedah, Wisc. native to pit road twice under caution for scheduled stops at laps 32 and 57, respectively, for four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.


As the night progressed, Sauter fell as far back as 18th in the running order and continued to complain that his Tundra was "sideways loose." Hensley brought the No. 98 machine to pit road for a final scheduled stop under green at lap 110 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Sauter would make the best of his Tundra in the final 35 laps to cross the stripe in the 14th position behind race winner, Erik Jones.


Thorsport PR

Motor Speedway (LVMS) in Saturday night's Rhino Linings 350. Starting seventh, Burton ran as high as second and as low as 17th, but maintained a position inside the top-15 for the first half of the 146-lap event, battling a Toyota Tundra that was "plowing tight" in the opening laps. Crew chief Jeriod Prince brought the ThorSport Racing driver to pit road for scheduled stops at laps 32, 57 and 109, respectively, for four tires and fuel. The Estes driver broke into the top-10 with 25 laps remaining and never looked back. The sophomore driver crossed the stripe in the eighth position behind race winner, Erik Jones. The solid run marked Burton's track best finish in two starts and his sixth top-10 finish of the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season.

Quote - Jeb Burton:

"We were just really tight the whole race, but the guys worked really hard, never gave up and we were able to salvage a pretty decent night. This team has made tremendous gains all year and we are right there to have a decent year in points. We just need to keep doing what we're doing, improving, and making gains and we'll get there."


Thorsport PR

Martin Truex Jr. continues to show performance improvement as the Furniture Row Racing driver poured it on at the end to finish seventh in Sunday’s AAA 400 Sprint Cup Series race at Dover International Speedway.
Truex, who started 26th in the 400-lapper at the Monster Mile, steadily gained track position, reaching the top-10 on Lap 305. His No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet only got better in the final 100 laps. He passed Denny Hamlin for ninth on Lap 337, then proceeded to pick up two more positions with the final pass coming on Lap 389.
His seventh-place result was the second best among non-Chase drivers and with finishes of 14th and 12th in the past two races, Truex has accumulated 99 driver points in the three race span, better than nine of the 16-driver Chase field.  
The result was also the second best of the season for Truex, who posted a sixth-place finish in the June race at Dover. Dover was also the site of his first Sprint Cup win in June 2007.
“Dover has always been a special place for me,” said Truex, who calls the all-concrete oval his home track, which is 130 miles from where he was raised in Mayetta, N.J. “I don’t know what it is about this track – maybe it’s just home field advantage for me because it seems like the longer the race goes here the better we get. Just like last week (New Hampshire) I wish the race was longer. I never thought I would say that.”
While Truex did his job behind the wheel of his flat-black Chevy, he was quick to praise the team effort.
“We fought hard and never gave up today,” stated Truex. “The guys did a good job in the pits and we made really good changes throughout the race. We got the car better every single stop, and at the end, it was at its best.”
When told that his numbers during the first round of the Sprint Cup playoffs, were Chase caliber, Truex shoved it aside.
“We’re not in the Chase so there’s no sense to dwell on those numbers and make comparisons,” explained Truex. “What we are doing right now is getting ready for next year. Trying to figure out how to make the car better and how to communicate better as a team – the whole nine yards. We are making progress. Everybody has done a good job the past couple of weeks, sticking together, not getting frustrated and working hard.”
Truex remained 24th in the driver point standings.
The race winner was Jeff Gordon. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Truex, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch.
The race had 10 lead changes among seven drivers and there were five cautions for 23 laps.

Speed junkies of all shapes, sizes and ages came from around the country to watch the fastest cars on land at the AAA Insurance National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park this weekend.  This was the 21st of 24 events in the 2014 drag racing series and is a key race in the “Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship.

“We had record crowds and we couldn’t be happier with the way the weekend unfolded,” said Curtis Francois, Gateway Motorsports Park President and Owner.  “It’s humbling to see our vision transform into a reality like this.  We are dedicated to making Gateway Motorsports Park the best track in the country where fans and fun rule.  We owe this weekend’s success to motorsports fans, local sponsors and AAA Insurance, and my staff - all who want to see this track live on for decades to come.”  Track officials estimate that over 50,000 fans gathered to watch professional drag racing, more than in any year in track history.

The NHRA Countdown to the Championship featured all four professional categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle.  Drivers in the Countdown to the Championship work to gather all the points they can at each of the Countdown events as the competition gets tighter and the spirits get more intense in the fight for the 2014 championships.

Winners this year include:

2012 National Top Fuel Champion and four-time Gateway Motorsports Park winner Antron Brown who drives the Top Fuel Matco Tools dragster (3.844, 315.42).  This is Brown’s third straight win  at Gateway MSP  including 2009, 2012, 2013, and 2014.   The win snaps a three-race, first-round loss streak for Brown.  He moves to fourth in the points standing, 80 points behind series leader Tony Schumacher.

Funny Car driver Courtney Force secured her first win at Gateway Motorsports Park with her Traxxas Ford Mustang (4.094, 313.44).  Force is the daughter of drag racing legend John Force, the Babe Ruth of drag racing industry.  With her run at Gateway MSP, Courtney Force  became the first female to win four Funny Car events in a single season.  This is her second consecutive victory in the Mello Yello Countdown playoffs.   Force moved to second position in the points standings, 30 points behind her father and leader, John Force.  Courtney Force is officially the winningest female in Funny Car NHRA history.

Pro Stock driver Dave Connolly, who beat 2012 and 2013 Gateway Motorsports Park winner Erica Enders-Stevens in the semi-finals, won in his Charter Communications Chevy Camaro (6.562, 211.53).  This is Connolly’s second consecutive Countdown victory, and this win put him within 26 points of the series leader.  This is his second St. Louis victory.

Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Jerry Savoie secured his first career victory at Gateway Motorsports Park with his Savoie’s Alligator Farm Suzuk, (6.871, 196.53).  As a native of Louisiana, he moonlights as an alligator farmer. 

The 2013 AAA Midwest Nationals winners at Gateway Motorsports Park include Funny Car driver John Force, Top Fuel driver Antron Brown, Pro Stock driver Erica Enders and Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Matt Smith.  

Gateway MSP PR

Matt Crafton has been the ideal image for consistency this season, and after Saturday night's Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway (LVMS), the JELD-WEN/Menards driver proved why he is in the hunt for a second consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) title.

Entering the 17th race on the 2014 NCWTS schedule, Crafton had an average finish of 2.6 on 1.5-mile tracks. The ThorSport Racing driver continued that consistency, finishing third, earning his sixth top-five finish in 14 starts at LVMS. The solid run marked Crafton's 10th top-five finish of the season and allowed the Menards driver to extend his point lead on second-place to 19.


Starting fifth, Crafton maintained a position inside the top-five throughout the 146-lap event fighting a Toyota Tundra that was "plowing tight" in the opening laps. Crew chief Carl "Junior" Joiner brought the No. 88 machine to pit road under caution for scheduled stops at laps 32 and 57, respectively, for four tires and fuel. With 50 laps remaining Crafton was scored as the fastest truck on the track. The Menards driver began knocking off positions one-by-one, eventually leading four laps before bringing his Tundra to pit road for the final scheduled stop, under green, at lap 108 for four tires and fuel. Unfortunately, a slow pit stop would cause Crafton to lose two seconds to the race leader and the No. 88 would be scored third when he returned to the race track with 38 laps remaining. Crafton would maintain his position in the closing laps to finish third behind race winner, Erik Jones.


Thorsport PR

Ben Kennedy overcame an early pit-road penalty to earn a seventh-place finish in his Las Vegas Motor Speedway debut. After being sent to the tail of the field as penalty for crewmembers going over the wall too soon, Kennedy was forced to rally from the back of the pack and endure an 84-lap green-flag run to earn his sixth top 10 of the season and receive Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors for the eighth time in 2014.


After running impressive 10th and fourth-fastest lap times in the weekend's two practice sessions, Kennedy laid down the ninth-fastest qualifying lap for a solid top-10 start to the Rhino Linings 350. Leading up to a scheduled competition caution on lap 32, Kennedy's Chevrolet transitioned from extremely tight to extremely loose, and the young rookie faded back to 16th. However, just prior to the mandatory trip to pit road, the handling of No. 31 Silverado came to Kennedy, and he informed crew chief Doug George that the truck was great at the end of the run. George called for four tires, fuel and only a slight air-pressure adjustment. Unfortunately, Kennedy's pit crew was cited for going over the wall too soon before the truck entered the pit box for service, and he was sent to the tail of the field for the lap 36 restart. Mired in the 22nd position for the green flag, the slight air-pressure adjustment was all Kennedy needed to be quick at the restart, and with extremely fast lap times, he fought his way into the 10th position before what would ultimately be the last caution flag of the night on lap 57. Kennedy once again received four tires and fuel under yellow, gaining one spot in the pits for the green flag on lap 62. In the final 84 laps, the field remained green until the checkered flag, so the team's final pit stop was made under green-flag conditions on lap 108. With the track temperature cooling dramatically in the desert night, the Chevy became tight in the center and loose on entry and exit, so Kennedy's last stop included a track-bar adjustment in addition to four tires and Sunoco race fuel. Kennedy was ninth on the board when he emerged from pit road, but he quickly gained two more positions with lightning-fast lap times. With the field vastly spread out by the long green-flag run, Kennedy was unable to hunt down any more of his competitors by the end of the 146-lap event. The 22-year-old crossed the finish line in the seventh position, making him the top-finishing rookie contender in the race.


Ben Kennedy on Las Vegas Motor Speedway:

"Today had its ups and downs, but we had a good finish in the end. We had a really fast truck at the end there, but we were so spread out over that long green-flag run that we never had the track position to get all the way to the front. I learned a lot in tonight's race, especially about tire wear. I appreciate the hard work my Turner Scott Motorsports team put in this weekend; today was a very long day, schedule wise. We can feel good going into this two-week break and focus on heading to Talladega. Once we get there, anything can happen."


Kennedy is eighth in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings and continues to lead the Rookie of the Year battle. The NCWTS enjoys two off weekends before heading to the biggest track on the circuit, Talladega Superspeedway. The Fred's 250 powered by Coca-Cola will air live on Saturday, October 18 at 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX.


In his third-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS), Tayler Malsam and his Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) team had impressive speed throughout the action-packed one-day show, allowing Malsam to score a career-best qualifying position as well as a career-best LVMS finish of ninth at the 1.5-mile track.


Starting the 146-lap race from the third position, the No. 32 Outerwall Chevrolet Silverado became aero tight shortly after the green flag waved, causing Malsam to lose several track positions before the first caution flag waved on lap three. Dropping additional spots after the restart, Malsam told crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. that it felt like his right-rear tire was going down. Although the Outerwall Chevy continued to fall back, Malsam wheeled the machine to the best of his ability until the second caution arose on lap 15. Hillman was forced to change his strategy as he called Malsam to pit road to inspect the Silverado; after a thorough look, it was determined that a dirty grille was to blame for the extreme loose conditions of the truck. Taking four new tires and fuel, along with track-bar and wedge adjustments, Malsam rejoined the field just outside the top 20. The scheduled competition caution flag waved on lap 32 and Malsam returned to pit road for two right-side tires and fuel. Continuing to deal with loose handling conditions due to the dirty air, the TSM team helped Malsam gain 11 positions after the quick pit stop, placing the No. 32 Outerwall Chevy in the eighth spot for the restart. By lap 50, Malsam began running lap times as good as the leader. The third caution arose on lap 57 and Hillman called the No. 32 truck back to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. Following the restart, Malsam continued to run consistent lap times with the leader and settled into the top 10 until green-flag pit stops began. Coming to pit road for a quick four-tire stop on lap 108, Malsam rejoined the field outside of the top 10 and began working his way through traffic. Only taking 10 laps for the No. 32 Outerwall Chevy to charge back into the top 10, Malsam was able to maintain position in the final 20 laps to score a ninth-place finish in Sin City. In addition to scoring his career-best finish at the Las Vegas track, this marks Malsam and his TSM team's fourth top-10 finish in eight NCWTS starts this season.


Tayler Malsam on his Run at Las Vegas:

"Today definitely had its ups and downs. We spent most of our practice scuffing tires and getting the truck ready for qualifying since we couldn't really gauge how the track would be under nighttime conditions. These guys did a great job getting our Outerwall Chevy tuned in today. It felt so good to get a third-place starting spot; we've been long overdue for a good qualifying run this season. We struggled tonight racing in dirty air, and it was nearly impossible to get in clean air, since the top had no grip. Hillman, my spotter and this entire Turner Scott Motorsports team did a great job tonight, and I'm pretty happy with a top-10 finish. We've got a few more shots to get a win this season, and I'm more determined than ever to do it."




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