Steven B. Wilson
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No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine driver Brian Vickers returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend with just six races remaining before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver is 20th in the Chase standings just 27 points out of the 16th and final Chase spot.
Vickers knows good finishes over the next half-dozen races will aid his bid for a Chase berth, but a victory will likely guarantee a spot. The drive for the Chase begins Sunday on the ‘Tricky Triangle’ at Pocono Raceway where the No. 55 finished 19th in June.
What would it take to get a win before the Chase starts?
“You’re always trying to find something new and different and find speed through different strategies. I think the biggest thing we have to do is get consistent about what we’re doing and make small improvements. Anytime you swing for the fence it can go either way. Granted, if the opportunity presents itself we will, but there’s only so many things you can really do. We just need to do what we did at Indy in qualifying, which was maximize potential for the weekend, have good practice, good qualifying and then follow it up and stay up front and get track position and be there at the end of the race.”
Has Pocono changed since the repave?
“It’s changed a tremendous amount -- the setups, the speeds -- you kind of approach it as it’s different, but there’s certainly a lot of similarities. It’s still Pocono and it’s definitely different than the old Pocono and how you go about driving it.”
Is Pocono a difficult track to pass on and is track position important?
“It’s definitely challenging to pass, but it’s a competitive series. It’s challenging to pass everywhere. Racing is as tight as it’s ever been and as many cars on the lead lap as there’s ever been. There’s always that balance. I would always like to be able to pass everyone, but we can’t have all the cars equal handed or we’ll never pass anyone.”
Pocono Raceway is unique in many ways, most prominently its lack of a fourth corner in the configuration of its race track. The Sprint Cup Series travels to the Pennsylvania track for the second and final time this season.
At the circuit’s visit in June, Clint Bowyer was on his way to what appeared to be a top-five finish when another competitor lost his engine on a late-race restart. Bowyer lost valuable positions in the closing laps trying to avoid contact to finish 11th. However, that run coupled with a Toyota that hung with the leaders last weekend at Indianapolis, should bode well for Bowyer and the No.15 RK Motors Toyota this weekend at the 2.5-mile triangle.
The Michael Waltrip Racing driver is currently ranked 10th in driver points and 14th out of 16 n the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. A win this weekend would help solidify his position in the Chase. The Kansas native would like nothing more than to make a fourth turn on the final lap of Sunday’s 160-lap event, right into Victory Lane.
Are you looking forward to going back to Pocono?
“I’m ready to go back to Pocono. It was actually looking like we may have a top five there in June but Logano blew up in front of us with like 10 laps to go and I lost spots trying to get out of the way. Just our luck this year. But the good news is our Toyota was good and it should be again this weekend.”
Is Indianapolis a good indicator of who will be good this weekend?
“It usually is and I hope so this weekend for us. We had a shot at the win last weekend. Just a frustrating end of the race for us. (Brian) Pattie gave me a good car. We just had some things go wrong on pit road at the end– got grass on my grill. Again, frustrating but we ran up front all day and hopefully that will translate again this weekend.”
Heading into the 40th anniversary of the weekend "The King" Richard Petty scored a win in the inaugural NASCAR race at Pocono Raceway, Aric Almirola and the No. 43 GoBowling.com team look to make history once again. Thirty years to the weekend of Petty's 200th win, Almirola and team scored a big win at Daytona International Speedway earlier this year and nearly locked in a spot in The Chase to the Sprint Cup. And this weekend, they hope to keep up that trend. On August 4, 1974, Petty was the first NASCAR driver to take the checkered flag at the Long Pond, Pa., track and started a long history of racing in the Pocono Mountains.
The team also eyes a top finish for sponsor GoBowling.com, the title sponsor of the 400-mile event. For the second consecutive year, GoBowling.com will adorn the hood of the iconic No. 43 "Petty Blue" Ford, promoting bowling across the country. Throughout the race weekend, fans at the track should keep their eyes open for special at-track promotions courtesy of GoBowling.com.
Almirola has just five Sprint Cup starts at the 2.5-mile track and a best finish of 18th. In his lone Truck Series start in 2010, he scored a fourth-place finish.
#43 team & @aric_almirola ready for @GoBowlingdotcom 400. #TheKing celebrates 40th anniv. of win in inaugural @PoconoRaceway race. #NASCAR
@Aric Almirola and No. 43 @GoBowling team eye another history-making win as they head into the weekend of the 40th anniversary of #TheKing Richard Petty's win in the inaugural @Pocono Raceway race.
"Pocono is a really difficult track. We struggled here in June. With the win at Daytona, we are able to take some gambles to try to make our cars better. Last weekend, we tried out a new car at Indy. It didn't go as planned, but we do feel like we learned some things.
"Heading into this weekend, we can take some more chances on the setup on the car to see if we can get better here. All three turns are so different at Pocono. Turn One is a very high-speed and high-banked turn. The 'Tunnel' Turn is really high speed too but just somewhat of a turn. It is just enough to make you slow down a bit. Then, you have Turn Three that is a long, slow, sweeping corner. You really have to focus on the handling in Turn Three to get the most speed out of your lap. Our goal is to score a Top-15 finish and build some momentum in the next few weeks.
"It's really great to have GoBowling.com back on the car this year. With them sponsoring the race, we definitely have more incentive to have a good finish. Not to mention, it is another historical weekend, being the 40th anniversary of Richard winning the inaugural race here. Earlier this year, we went to the GoBowling.com headquarters, and it really gave me an appreciation for all that goes into bowling. It's not just a great family activity; it can be really competitive too."
For Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 DEWALT Racing Ford team, winning one of the six remaining races is the team's focus over the month of August. A win will secure the team in The Chase allowing them to join their teammates in the championship battle. The team tested Monday and Tuesday of this week at Watkins Glen before preparing for this weekend's event at Pocono.
Ambrose breaks down what it takes to be successful at the track, and his approach to the unique Pennsylvania oval. He will be making his 12th start at the track and is looking only for a win. He has two Top-10 finishes at the track.
.@MarcosAmbrose explains his approach to the Tricky Triangle
@Marcos Ambrose #9 Fan Page talks about how he approaches the Tricky Triangle
"Pocono is a beast within itself. It's one of the biggest ovals that we go to. It has three distant corners, different shapes and banking, and there isn't a setup that you can put in the car that is going to make everything perfect. For me, I put an emphasis on getting out of Turn One quickly and also out of Turn Three well. Also, we make sure we have the best speed in the car to get down the long straightaways.
"This is a high-speed track, and you can lose a lot of time with just one mistake. You don't have time to really recover from any errors, and every lap needs to be close to perfect. It's a specialist track. The guys who are smooth and can carry their speed do well. We left Indianapolis and felt a lot better about the speed in our car. We will bring that information into this track. We were a bit off in the first race, but our cars are better and we should have a good race on Sunday."
David Gilliland, driver of the No. 38 Long John Silver's Ford, comments on racing at Pocono Raceway:
"Our car at Pocono a few weeks back was pretty good. We had decent speed and overall felt pretty good about it. And we felt like we learned some good things. A lot of teams tested up there and we did not. But we learned a lot during the race so I think we can go back there pretty prepared. We feel like we have what it takes to bump ourselves up a handful of spots.
"Turn 3 is the most critical there. You've got that big, long front straightaway. So, if you can't get off of 3, you just lose so much time. The first couple times I went there, I was worried about Turn 1 because that's what you normally do as a racer. And usually when you concentrate on the first turn, you make the rest better. But Pocono is the opposite. You start with 3 and work your way backwards. And all the turns are so different, you're really not going to get the balance perfect in all of them."
JUST THE FACTS: Gilliland has 15 Sprint Cup career starts at Pocono Raceway ... His top finish at the 2.5-mile oval is 16th (2008).
You might not recognize National Root Beer Float Day as a patriotic holiday, but A&W All American Food and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan are teaming up to make sure it is. A&W is giving out free Root Beer Floats on Aug. 6, National Root Beer Float Day, and encouraging customers to make a donation to help American veterans in return.
The campaign, which benefits Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), will be promoted on Ragan's No. 34 Ford for the upcoming Pocono Raceway weekend. The simple message: Visit any participating A&W restaurant on Aug. 6 between 2 p.m. and closing time and receive one small Root Beer Float free of charge upon request. In return, guests will be encouraged to make a donation to WWP. Donors will be able to give directly at participating restaurants or online at www.rootbeerfloatday.com.
WWP serves 50,000 injured veterans and nearly 7,000 family members through its unique 20 programs and services. During the 2013 celebration of National Root Beer Float Day, A&W Restaurants donated more than $100,000 to WWP and hopes to increase this level of giving this year and in years to come.
Front Row Motorsports is proud to promote the cause to the NASCAR audience.
"Absolutely, we're happy to do our part to encourage helping our injured veterans," Ragan said. "You can't get much more American than an old-fashioned root beer float, and you can help some deserving folks by going to get one for free at A&W on Aug. 6 and then paying it forward with a few dollars to Wounded Warrior Project."
Pocono Raceway was the site of Ragan's best season-to-date finish on June 8, when he crossed the line in 18th. The driver also has a top-five finish at the triangular track in his Sprint Cup career.
NTS Motorsports Vice President of Operations Dwayne Gaulding announced that Jason White will run a part time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule starting with the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, August 2nd.
"Jason is a great driver and always has an upbeat attitude and that is what we strive to build NTS Motorsports around"said Gaulding. "We had a few races still open and Jason was available. With Jason's level of experience and the equipment that Jeff Hensley, Ryan McKinney and the entire NTS Motorsports team is putting on the race track, I'm one hundred percent confident in them and know they have the ability to go to victory lane on Saturday."
Through his efforts in Saturday's Pocono Mountains 150, White will raise awareness for Autism Speaks. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors. An estimated 1 out of 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls are diagnosed with autism in the United States. Learn more at AutismSpeaks.org
Jason White most recently competed off the race track in the prestigious annual World Series of Poker Tournament at The Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada. White placed in the top-350 out of more than 6,800 participants. Coverage of the WSOP begins Tuesday, July 29th on ESPN.
Jason White has five previous starts at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway, including two starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "This is a great opportunity that Dwayne and Bob Newberry are giving me and to be back with Joe Denette and NTS Motorsports. We are going to be racing and raising awareness for Autism Speaks. Pocono has always been one of those race tracks that I really enjoy racing at."said Jason White, "It's a very difficult track and completely different than anywhere else we race. I really wish the truck series would race there more than once a year."
Jason White will pilot the No.9 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet with crew chief Ryan McKinney. McKinney has one previous start at Pocono Raceway as a crew chief in the ARCA Racing Series with Brennan Newberry where they raced to a fourth place finish. "Jason is a veteran in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series, he has been around for several years and knows how to position himself throughout the race"said McKinney. "It will be fun working with him alongside our teammate Justin Lofton and hopefully we can put the No.9 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet in victory lane."
NTS Motorsports PR
When Erik Jones found out what 12 races would make up his 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway was one that he immediately circled. The 18-year-old will be making his first Truck Series start at the "Tricky Triangle" after two heartbreaking starts last season in the ARCA Racing Series.
Jones started fifth in his first visit to the 2.5-mile tri-oval last season in the ARCA Racing Series, but was able to work his way to the front of the field on lap 23. The Michigan native had a nine-second lead when he ran out of fuel on lap 43 and had to coast down pit road to the attention of his crew. As he was coasting back a caution occurred, which meant after making his stop under caution he was placed at the back of the field for the ensuing restart per the rule book. The talented youngster maneuvered his way back to the second position with 10 laps remaining, but was five seconds behind leader Chase Elliott. In the closing laps Jones closed to within a half-second of Elliott, but was left with a disappointing runner-up finish.
The racing prodigy was once again in the field when the ARCA Racing Series returned to Pocono in August and this time around he qualified fourth. Jones led a race-high 25 laps and had a five-second lead on the field in the closing stages of the race when heartbreak struck again. His No. 15 Toyota brushed the wall and moments later experienced an issue with the engine, sending him to the garage for the final two laps and leaving him with a disappointing 12th-place finish.
Jones' is now handed the task of getting Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) its first win at Pocono Raceway. In the four Truck Series events at the Pennsylvania track, KBM drivers have twice posted runner-up finishes - Kasey Kahne in the inaugural visit in 2010 and Kyle Busch in 2011. With Darrell Wallace Jr.'s win at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio last week, Pocono is one of just three tracks currently on the Truck Series schedule that the team has yet to conquer. Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario and Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway are the other two.
Jones will have a fast Tundra underneath him as he returns to the "Tricky Triangle" seeking redemption for his two heartbreaking finishes in the ARCA Racing Series last season. Crew chief Eric Phillips and his No. 51 team will be unloading a Toyota that has won in each of its two starts this season. KBM-15 visited victory lane with Kyle Busch at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and Dover (Del.) International Speedway. Not only did the truck win those races, it dominated. Busch won both events from the pole and led 254 of the combined 367 laps between the two.
Speedway Children’s Charities Governor’s Lunch to begin fundraising efforts leading up to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will be the featured guest at Speedway Children’s Charities “Race Month Kick-Off” luncheon at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug 12th. Proceeds from the event will benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has provided excellent medical service to Atlanta and its residents since 1998,” said Scott Fillmore, executive director of Speedway Children’s Charities, “and we feel it is important that it continues to do so.”
The Governor’s Lunch will begin at 11:45 a.m. in the Tara Ballroom at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Following lunch, Governor Deal will participate in a ceremonial pace lap to kick-off Atlanta Motor Speedway’s race month activities. Attendees will also be provided with the opportunity to participate in the pace lap by driving their personal car round the track.
Seating remains available for the Governor’s Lunch for $200, of which, 90% is tax deductible. For more information about the event or to reserve a seat call 770-946-3980 or visit atlanta.speedwaycharities.org/events.
The Governor’s Lunch will open a month of events by Speedway Children’s Charities. Other events include the Single Source/Reed Sorenson Charity Golf Classic and the NRA/David Ragan Shootout that lead into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Aug. 31.