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Ross Chastain Takes Watermelon Celebration to New Heights Ahead of EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix
Ross Chastain will look to smash to competition when the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix goes green on Sunday, but before he even turned a lap in practice, the Trackhouse Racing driver had a different “smash” in mind.
A nod to his family’s watermelon farming roots, Chastain continued the celebration of his 2022 EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix win – the first NASCAR Cup Series triumph for both the driver and his Trackhouse Racing team – the Alva, Florida native tossed watermelons from atop the iconic 251-foot observation tower at Circuit of The Americas. After sending the fruits flying, Chastain greeted fans in attendance with autographed hats and – what else – watermelons.
“Officially set a new high water mark for the highest point (throwing a watermelon),” Chastain said. “I was a little off to the right on the first one, but each one got better… I’d love to go out there on Sunday and get three more tries next year.”
Following the watermelon toss, Chastain finished third in EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix practice. Qualifying for the race is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Tickets for the March 24-26 NASCAR at COTA tripleheader weekend are on sale now at NASCARatCOTA.com. Three-day weekend packages for adults including the Darius Rucker pre-race concert start at just $99 and just $10 for kids 12 and under. Further details can be found on the NASCAR at COTA website.
Keep track of all things NASCAR at COTA by following on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (@NASCARatCOTA). Keep up with all the latest information on the NASCAR at COTA website and mobile app.
Toyota Racing - NCS COTA Post-Practice Quotes - 03.24.23
Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were made available to media after practice at Circuit of the Americas on Friday:
DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How did the package handle for you out there?
“I thought it was good. I’m just trying to get better, being honest with you. I’m trying to gauge myself off of (Tyler) Reddick and things he does so differently. It’s kind of a style change that I’m trying to convert myself to do 18 years later.”
Is that something that you an idea about when he joined Toyota?
“He has a different approach for sure. At his sim this week, I kind of just set in on his session and watched him and tried to emulate it. I did – I was just a few seconds off.”
Is there a preferred lane on the choose?
“I’m not really sure to be honest with you. It’s interesting. I know there was a couple of people on social media that wanted the choose, but I don’t know why we have it here. It doesn’t make much sense, and I think we just kind of got pressured into it.”
Does consistent rules across all races help?
“Every track is different, right? But the difference is the main spotters can’t see it, and it is hard to see on the race track. We will adapt. We will be fine.”
How do you expect the no stops at stage breaks to affect the race?
“Again, I think we got pressured into this one. I think this one has the potential to get really strung out – a lot. If we do, I don’t want to hear any complaining on things being strung out, because that is the potential. We had stages, certainly on road courses, this will make for more strategy, but if you are 10 seconds behind the car in front of you, strategy isn’t going to matter a ton.”
MARTIN TRUEX JR., No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
What are your thoughts with this new tire and aero package?
“It’s hard to compare to last year. We’ve done so many things car wise and everything. It feels slicker, less grip, sliding around more. It was fun. We need to work on our car to be better, but overall, I thought it was okay.”
If you are slipping and sliding, that should give opportunities for passing, right?
“Yeah, for sure. But I’m worried that I’m sliding more than the guys that I’m trying to race with, and hopefully beat on Sunday. We will get to work and hopefully get it it better for tomorrow and Sunday.”
How are the Toyotas compared to last year?
“I’m not sure. At certain spots, I feel better than last year. In certain things, I feel similar. I’m not real sure. Obviously, (Tyler) Reddick was real fast, so he has something figured out. We will have to take a look at that and hopefully get some of that info. I wasn’t super happy about our speed, but I thought we were closer at the end of practice than we were at the beginning.”
Is there a preference on the choose here?
“I think if you are at the front, you want to be the inside, just to defend better, but it is going to be four-to-five wide. I think the leader has the advantage at the jump and trying to beat them into one. Everyone else it is a free-for-all.”
What will be it like with no stage breaks?
“It will be like we used to do at road courses. You will have to have a car that takes off okay, and runs well on the long run depending on how many cautions we have. Fuel mileage could come into play – I haven’t really talked to James (Small, crew chief) about how that plays out or looks. I think everyone is going to be close, but I’m sure guys will be taking chances. It will be something we haven’t done in a long time, and something we’ve never done here.”
Will knowing you aren’t going to have those stage cautions affect how you as a driver approach pushing the car?
“I don’t think so. You are still going to run as hard as you can. You don’t want to throw caution to the wind and smoke the tires off of it, because you are going to pay the price. No matter what – that would happen. I think just knowing that it could come down to long runs and strategy, and things like that. You have to be smart and hit your marks and be smooth in how you do things and maybe put yourself in position to take advantage of guys on older tires.”
CHRISTOPHER BELL, No. 20 Rheem Toyota Camry TRD, Joe Gibbs Racing
How was practice?
“With (Tyler) Reddick doing well, Bubba (Wallace) was up there – I don’t know. I wasn’t where I wanted to be for sure, but hopefully we can learn something from our team cars and improve for tomorrow.”
What is the tire fall off like?
“I don’t know. We really haven’t run long enough to know. It was 50-minute practice session. I think the longest run I saw out of anyone was maybe five to seven laps. I haven’t dug into it too much, but I know the longest I ran was around five. I know I’m going to have to go 20 to 25 on Sunday. It is very slick that’s for sure. Slick on stickers, slick on old tires. I think the low downforce should at least make the cars hard to drive.”
Through the esses part of the track, what is the technique through there?
“It’s difficult. One thing that the esses provides is lap time opportunity if you cut the race track. I know that I got in trouble for cutting the race track, and I’m sure many others did too. You want to straighten it out as much as you can, but there is a fine line in breaking track limits and not breaking track limits. It’s a very important part of the race track and wide-open? I would say we are nowhere near on throttle, let alone wide-open throttle. It’s very hairy part of the race track.”
Is there a preferred lane for the choose?
“I don’t think so. At some road courses, I think there will be a preferred lane, but here, the way turn one is such a big breaking zone and it widens out so much, I think either lane can do good.”
What do you think about the lack of stage breaks?
“It’s going to be a tough race on Sunday. That is for sure. I know I’ve never ran a road course race without breaks and it has been a long time since the veterans have too. I think that it is going to be a very good race as far as rewarding those cars that run well. At road courses in the past, it really was two different races between collecting stage points and racing for the race win. Now I think we will see the same guys be able to run for the race win and collect the stage points, so you are going to have be good on Sunday to get points for sure.”
Making his first appearance in Southern California in 2023, Eddie Tafoya Jr. finished ninth in the “Sokola Shootout” at Perris Auto Speedway last Saturday night. The race was his last scheduled start in California for at least two months as he will be concentrating on competition in the USAC National Sprint Car Series.
Tafoya, 25, of Chino Hills, California, was making his first start since competing in the USAC National series mid-February season openers in Florida. Things started off for the well-spoken driver when he timed in 11th fastest in the 25-car field with a lap of 16.755. He was hoping for a better result from his two laps on the famous half-mile clay oval.
“We set the cars up a little bit different than we did back east,” Tafoya said. “Just with the dirt (different dirt composition), the moisture, and all the rain we had. We were a little bit tight in qualifying. I was kind of wheels up on my fast lap and couldn’t really get the throttle to the ground. So, I kind of gave up a few tenths there, but did what I could.”
While there was frustration from qualifying, the heat was a different story. He placed second holding off one of the top drivers in the nation and he thought he could have taken the win.
“The car was really good for the heat race,” Tafoya enthused. “We were really fast. I probably could have won if I pushed the issue. But I did not really want to put me or the other cars in any situations we did not need to be into in a heat race. I knew we were in a transfer spot.”
Tafoya and the crew were confident going into the main event. They took a look at the track and based on the team’s success in the heat race, they pretty much left the same setup on the #51T. Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way they wanted.
“We went and looked at the track before the main event and it still looked pretty good to me,” the handsome driver said. “We were so good in the heat race, I really didn’t want to change much. Then it (the track) just went away a lot quicker than we expected. Once I got out there, I was kind of stuck with what I had. I was trying different lines and all kinds of stuff. So I did what I could, but I couldn’t really find the grip I needed. Definitely need to be better.”
The Perris race was slated to be his last in the west until after returning from the Midwest in May, but a change in plans will now see the #51T at Arizona’s Mohave Valley Raceway on April 1st.
“I was originally going to be off until we take off for Texas and Ohio near the end of April,” Tafoya stated about his decision to race in Arizona next week. “After last weekend, me and dad decided to go to Mohave to get some laps in before we head to the races in Texas and Ohio.”
After Arizona, the team will head to Texas for a race at the Rocket Raceway Park on April 27th. Following that race, they will make the short drive to the famous Devils Bowl Speedway on the 28th and 29th. Then it will be a 1,000-mile journey to the north for two nights of racing at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.
Tafoya’s great-looking shirts and hoodies are available online at www.specialty-fasteners.com.
Tafoya has a great YouTube channel at the following link https://www.youtube.com/shorts/1hrmC5L80EU.
Fans can follow Tafoya on Instagram @eddietafoya51.
Eddie Tafoya PR
Campers Inn RV partners with ThorSport Racing
Campers Inn RV has partnered with ThorSport Racing to become the Official RV provider of ThorSport Racing. Campers Inn colors will be the primary partner on the No. 99 Ford F-150 of Ben Rhodes for multiple races starting at the Bristol Motor Speedway dirt event on April 8 and an associate partner starting at Circuit of the Americas (COTA).
Campers Inn RV was established in 1966 and has grown to become the nation’s largest family-operated dealership group with 36 dealership locations throughout all U.S. regions with its headquarters located in Jacksonville, Florida. It is Campers Inn RV’s goal to enrich the lives of its customers and all RVers, whether they are at home or on the road through five-star service and ensuring every customer is treated with dignity and respect.
"We are thrilled to partner with ThorSport Racing, a team that shares our goals of quality, performance, and a dedication to excellence," said Jeff Hirsch, CEO of Campers Inn RV. "Our RVs are designed to provide maximum comfort and convenience, making them the perfect choice for a winning team like ThorSport Racing. The partnership between Campers Inn RV and ThorSport Racing underscores both companies commitment to delivering the highest level of performance in our respective industries.”
Rhodes is coming off his second consecutive top-five finish in three races this season. In two starts at COTA, he has finished 10th and fourth, respectively.
Tune into FOX Sports 1 (FS1) to catch all the racing action from Circuit of the Americas Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. ET. Listen to the race on the Motor Racing Network Radio (MRN) or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
Officials at Macon Speedway have now released tickets for the Saturday, April 22 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event. In addition to discounted advance sale general admission tickets, reserved tickets are now available for the top two rows in many of the sections. The race, paying $15,000 to win, will bring a strong contingent of some of the best Super Late Model racers in the country.
The thrill level will be high as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series teams make their way to Macon Speedway. Rich in history, the 1/5-mile bullring that opened in 1946 is historically known to produce non-stop, door-to-door racing action. The event features Time Trials, Heat Races, and B-Mains, highlighted by the 75-lap, $15,000-to-win main event. The BillingsleyRewards.com DIRTcar Big 10 Modifieds will also be in action, racing for $1,000 to win.
Macon Speedway has hosted five Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series races. The first was in 2014 when Bobby Pierce claimed the win. Pierce also took the top prize at the 2016 and 2018 events. The other two events were won by Jimmy Owens in 2015 and Josh Richards in 2017. 2019, 2021, and 2022 events were canceled due to rain, while COVID-19 claimed 2020’s race.
The 2023 tour has currently had 11 events with Martinsville, IN driver, Ricky Thornton, Jr. leading the standings with two wins. Hudson O’Neal is second in points with two wins, while Brandon Overton, of Evans, GA is third with a pair of wins as well. Tim McCreadie and Devin Moran complete the top five in the current points.
Pits will open at 3:00 with grandstands at 4:00, hotlaps begin at 6:00, and racing will take the green at 7:00 PM.
Advance tickets are available by going to https://bit.ly/LucasOilTix. Reserved tickets are $45 and come with free pit access once the grandstands open. General admission tickets are $35.
Macon Speedway PR
Young's Motorsports PR
Olson Apartments Renews Stafford SK Light Contingency Program Participation For Eighth Consecutive Season
For the 8th consecutive season, Olson Apartments of Agawam, MA has signed on to continue their participation in the Stafford Speedway contingency program. Olson Apartments will provide a weekly $75 bonus to each SK Light third place finisher this season, providing an extra $1,650 for drivers during the 2023 season. Combined with American Sign, Inc.’s SK Light contingency, all 3rd place finishers will each receive an extra $150 in bonus money in 2023.
“We’re glad to help support Stafford and the SK Light competitors for another season,” said Mark Olson, owner of Olson Apartments. “We really enjoy being at the track every Friday night and being on the racer’s side of things and talking with all the different drivers and crew members in the paddock area. We know that the lower divisions race for a smaller purse than the premier divisions so every little bit helps and we hope our contingency contribution can be of help to teams who need that little bit extra.”
Speaking to the parity in Stafford’s SK Light division, the 2022 season saw 11 different drivers record a third place finish after the same number of drivers claimed a third place finish in 2021. Alexander Pearl led all drivers with four third place finishes, followed by George Bessette, Jr. with three, and Nick Anglace, Bob Charland, and Chris Matthews all scoring two. Zach Aszklar, Jason Chapman, Cassandra Cole, Derek Debbis, Norm Sears, and Amanda West all notched a single third place effort and all 11 drivers will return to SK Light competition in 2023.
Stafford Speedway PR
SS Racing PR
On Circuit of the Americas: “I am incredibly thankful to welcome G-Coin® to the RSS Racing and have them onboard for their first race of the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season Saturday at Circuit of the Americas.
“Even though our finish did not reflect it, we had a very good race car at Circuit of the Americas last year. We were able to qualify on speed and progress forward before a mechanical failure ultimately hindered our day and kept us at bay from contending for a stronger finish.
“You could say that Saturday is an opportunity for us to rebound and I’d like nothing more than to do that and give my guys at RSS Racing something to be excited about.”
On 2023 Season Outlook: “This is a year of opportunity for me. I’ll be competing for two different teams which brings some pressure for me but only because I want to go out there and do my very best in every race run for both Joe Gibbs Racing and RSS Racing.
“I just need to stay focused, communicate with my team and utilize the knowledge that I’ve gained over the past three years to have my best Xfinity Series season yet.”
The Pit Boss 250 (46 laps | 156.86 miles) is the sixth of 33 NASCAR Xfinity Series races on the 2023 schedule. Practice begins on Fri., Mar. 24 from 5:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Qualifying immediately follows at 6:00 p.m. The 38-car field will take the green flag shortly after 4:00 p.m. (5:00 p.m. ET) on Sat., Mar. 25 with live coverage on FOX Sports 1, the Performance Racing Network (Radio) and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90. All times are local (Central).
RSS Racing PR
Will Chicago Be Ready for its NASCAR Street Race Debut?
It’s supposed to be the race that secures NASCAR a legion of new fans.
The first-ever street race in Chicago, which marks the return of racing to Windy City after a four-year hiatus from the Chicago Motor Speedway circuit, has been billed as one-of-a-kind as Kyle Larson and co power their way through Chi-town.
It won’t be the first time that a NASCAR Cup Series race has taken place on a road track, but it will be one of the most eye-catching spectacles in the sport’s history as the cars hammer along Lake Shore Drive and pass the Buckingham Fountain.
The concept, coming in a year in which Formula 1 will host its own race on a specially-designed street track in Las Vegas, could attract a whole new audience to NASCAR in North America as the popularity of motorsports grows thanks, in part, to the success of the Drive to Survive series on Netflix.
So, while NASCAR is ready to return to Chicago, is Chicago ready for the return of NASCAR?
There are still concerns over logistical issues that are yet to be resolved, and with race day slowly approaching – the Grant Park 220 is scheduled to be the season’s 18th race on July 2 – numerous technical details are yet to be confirmed.
It can take up to two weeks to set up a street race and then clean up afterwards, and for a city as busy as Chicago that could have major ramifications on road closures and access to key areas.
Grant Park itself is home to summer camps and cultural events, while the nearby Shedd Aquarium has forecast that it could lose between $2-3 million due to road closures and disruption. Shedd marketing officials have revealed that as many as ‘10,000 guests per day’ could be affected by the race at what would normally be its busiest period of the year over the July 4th weekend.
In response, NASCAR have issued a statement revealing their ‘detailed meetings’ with city departments to come up with a traffic management strategy, with residents as much as possible.
But exact details, they say, won’t be ready for a number of weeks yet.
Making Hay In the Sunshine
A NASCAR race under the summer sun should be a doozie.
It’s well-timed too, with NASCAR racing seeing a resurgence in popularity in 2022. According to reports, the TV broadcasts of the Cup Series on Fox and FS1 saw a 6% increase in viewers last season – the best ratings since the 2017 campaign.
Both the Truck Series and IndyCar Series saw gains too as more motorsport fans in America tune in to the latest action.
That gain in popularity is having knock-on effects in other areas too. Many sportsbooks in the United States are now offering betting lines on NASCAR and other motorsports, with fans in Chicago this summer able to bet on the street race given that wagering in the state of Illinois is now legal – just one of more than two-dozen states to relax their laws.
Although they don’t have a NASCAR race to call their own, Canada is another country in which the popularity of motorsports is soaring. They too have now legalized single-game wagering on a province-by-province basis, meaning that many fans are able to enjoy the excitement of sports betting in Canada.
Lines for the Cup, Truck and Xfinity Series championships are readily available, with Larson and Kyle Busch leading the way in the Cup Series odds. There's also a chance to bet on each race individually, too.
With the Chicago street race and a host of other innovations, 2023 is shaping up to be a golden year for NASCAR racing.