Tuesday, Jan 31
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Notes of Interest

 

●  NASCAR returns to the track this weekend to unofficially kick off the 2023 season with the second running of the Busch Light Clash at the iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The weekend’s 150-lap Feature race will showcase 27 world-class drivers battling on a temporary, quarter-mile, paved oval, built on top of the playing field that is home to the University of Southern California Trojans football team. It makes for one of the most unique sporting events in America. Last year’s inaugural event proved to be a success with 4.3 million viewers tuning in to the live broadcast on FOX. That rating was 168 percent higher than the previous year’s Busch Light Clash  held at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and broadcast on FS1, and it was the best rating since 2016 for The Clash, when it was broadcast on FOX. On Twitter, NASCAR was the No. 1 trending topic in the United States during the race, besting the NFL’s Pro Bowl, which was held the same day.

 

●  Saturday, NASCAR Cup Series competitors will take to the track for practice prior to single-car qualifying to determine the starting order for Sunday’s four, 25-lap heat races, which will consist of 10 cars each. Below is a breakdown of how the heat races will be filled out:

  • The top-four fastest qualifiers from Saturday’s single-car qualifying session will be on the pole for each heat race, while cars that qualified fifth through eighth will make up the other half of the front row in each heat.
  • The remainder of each field will be filled using this methodology: Heat one will be made up of cars with qualifying positions of one, five, nine, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37.
  • The top-five finishers (20 total cars) from each heat race automatically advance to the Busch Light Clash, with the winner of heat one winning the pole and the winner of heat two earning the outside pole.
  • The winners of heats three and four will fill out the second row, with the remaining order being determined in the same manner.
  • The remaining finishing positions from each heat that did not advance will continue to one of two 50-lap Last Chance Qualifying (LCQ) races. Below is a breakdown on how the LCQ will be filled out:
  • The starting order for these two events will be determined based on finishing positions in the heat races.
  • Those who did not advance from heats one and three will make up the first LCQ race. The second race will be made up of those from heats two and four.
  • The sixth-place finishers from heats one and two will be on the pole in their respective LCQ races. The sixth-place finishers from heats three and four will be on the outside pole.
  • This pattern will continue to fill out the remaining cars in each LCQ.
  • The top-three finishers (six total cars) from both LCQ races will advance to the Busch Light Clash, filling out positions 21-26 of the 27 available positions.
  • The final spot in the Busch Light Clash will be reserved for the driver who finished the highest in the 2022 points standings who did not transfer on finishing position in his heat race or LCQ race.
  • All other drivers will be eliminated from competition for the remainder of the event weekend. 

●  Busch Light Clash History: In Aric Almirola’s seven previous Clash appearances, he has finished in the top-10 three times with a best finish of sixth. In his heat race during last year’s inaugural Clash, Almirola was involved in an accident not of his doing that eliminated his chance to race in the Feature.

 

●  The quarter-mile oval at the L.A. Coliseum is the shortest of short tracks. Almirola thrives at shorter flat tracks with his most recent NASCAR Cup Series win coming on the 1.058-mile oval at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

 

●  Appearances: Almirola will make an appearance on Sunday at 11:45 a.m. local time at the NASCAR Fan Fest for a Q&A session alongside his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammates.

 

●  Almirola’s career: In 424 NASCAR Cup Series starts, Almirola has earned three wins, 28 top-five finishes, 91 top-10s, four poles, and has led 974 laps.

 

●  2022 Recap: Almirola earned one pole, two top-five finishes, seven top-10s and led 81 laps. He started the season as the only NASCAR Cup Series driver with three consecutive top-10 finishes – fifth in the season-opening Daytona 500, sixth at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, and sixth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He earned his fourth Cup Series pole at the Sept, 17 race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

 

●  Smithfield Foods rejoins Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team as the anchor sponsor for the 2023 NASCAR season. Smithfield has been a sponsor of Almirola’s for the entirety of his fulltime NASCAR Cup Series career – making it one of the longest-lasting partnerships in NASCAR.

 

●  Back for More: Last year, Almirola announced that he would step down from fulltime racing following the 2022 season.Through the course of the year, he discovered a new balance between his passion for racing and dedication to his family. His wife Janice, and kids Alex and Abby, joined him on most race weekends, oftentimes enjoying once-in-a-lifetime experiences together as they traveled the country. His rapport with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer flourished, and the intense pressure he had put on himself was replaced with the joy of simply being present. Not only did Almirola see the sport from a new perspective, so did anchor partner Smithfield Foods, who broached the subject of Almirola returning to fulltime racing in 2023. On Aug. 26, Almirola, SHR and Smithfield Foods announced his return with a multiyear agreement and the Smithfield’s largest allotment of races since joining the team in 2018. 

 

●  Beyond the 10 YouTube Series: In 2023, Almirola will continue to share his life beyond the No. 10 Smithfield Ford with season five of his award-winning YouTube series. Fans and media can subscribe on YouTube to see Almirola’s personality on and off the track. Episodes have already featured life as a dad, a husband and an athlete, and it gives fans a unique perspective on what goes on in the life of a professional NASCAR driver. Fans can also follow Almirola’s social media channels: @Aric_Almirola on Twitter and Instagram, and @AricAlmirola on Facebook. 

 

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What is your mentality for 2023?

 

“My mentality for 2023 is really to be better this year than I’ve ever been before, each and every day. For me, as I look throughout my career, I have had a lot of inconsistencies. And once I got to Stewart-Haas Racing, I really honed in on being a lot more consistent and running up front, but last year was not the case. I want to consistently be up front and be the best that I can be. Hopefully we can get our cars faster, but for me personally, it’s just about being the best me every single week.”

 

What are your thoughts on racing at the L.A. Coliseum again?

 

“I think it’s incredible what NASCAR is doing to grow our sport. I remember the energy being so electric in that stadium last year. When we walked down for driver intros, the cheering was so loud it reminded me of a Martinsville playoff race. There was a huge section of college students, too, so it was great to see that younger crowd excited about our sport. L.A. is a huge market, too, and we’re generating a ton of buzz before the Daytona 500. This race is like a teaser for our Super Bowl to kick off the year. I mean, what a month for sports. You have The Clash, then the Super Bowl, then the Daytona 500 all in three weeks. You can’t beat that.”

 

What was the racing like last year, and what do you expect this year?

 

“There were just so many unknowns last year. There really wasn’t an expectation because we had a brand new car on a brand new track that no one had ever raced before. You saw a lot of mechanical issues take cars out last year, so I think you’re going to see different racing just because of the experience we now have with the car and the track. Hopefully we’ll see cleaner racing so we have a shot at it this year.”

 

As an organization, how do you feel you are prepared for the 2023 season?

 

“It’s always hard in the offseason to predict what the season is going to give you. You never really know. Even though you’re working to get better, so is every other race team. You never know really how you stack up until the beginning part of the season gets going, and then you find out if you’re on top or if you’re playing catch-up. Last year, we found ourselves playing catch-up. We certainly didn’t start out the year like we wanted to and we worked really hard throughout the season playing catch-up. Whereas this year, at least we have some notes and some benchmarks going into the season to know, OK, well, we’re certainly better in this area than we were last year. So aerodynamics, car setups, engineering, and even drivers being able to go back and look at data and comparing ourselves to the guys who beat us, and being able to make those changes and those tweaks so that when we get ready for this season, we feel like we’re where we need to be.”

 

How was your offseason, and are you ready for the season?

 

“Every year in November after that championship race, we’re all ready to finally get a break. Thirty-eight weeks with one off weekend wears on you, but every year January comes around and I feel reinvigorated and ready to go. Maybe that means we do our offseason right. We took a few trips. I took Alex to see Lambeau Field and watch the Packers play. We took Abby to New York to watch the Rockettes before her theatre performance back home. Then we went to Utah as a family for a ski trip. It was a fun and relaxing offseason, but I’m ready to get back to it.”

 

Last year, you started the season planning to retire, but plans changed. Walk us through getting to the 2023 season for you.

 

“I was fully committed to being done. I did not envision a 2023 fulltime season. I went through the first half of last year and was soaking it all in, taking it one race at a time and enjoying what I thought to be my last season. As we got closer to summer, the race team asked if I had interest in staying, Smithfield asked if I had interest in returning, and a lot of it was hinging on whether or not I would continue racing. With that, I felt humbled that the race team and sponsor wanted me to come back because, all of your career, you’re clawing and grinding to get a ride and a sponsor. It felt really nice to have that feeling of being wanted. On top of that, our lives changed. I was choosing to retire because I didn’t want to keep chasing my dream at the expense of my kids searching out for what their dream was. We have found such a wonderful balance with our family now, me being the husband I want to be, the dad I want to be, and their activities changed. We were able to find Alex a baseball league that just so happened to play when I was home, and I was able to spend that time as the assistant coach on his team. Abby is really into theatre and her performances happened to be on weeknights, as well. All the stars aligned and I have to really thank God for providing for us and aligning all of the stars to find balance.”

 

How much did traveling with your family and experiencing things most families don’t get to on the road impact your decision?

 

“Yeah, that was one thing that really impacted our decision. They were able to come to 26 races. The experience they get to have traveling the country is remarkable. Before the pandemic, the schedules didn’t really work as well. We used to leave on Thursdays and that didn’t really work with school and their activities, but now we leave on Friday evening and we’re done by 1 or 2 o’clock and we really took advantage of that last year as a family. In the past, I would fly in, get to the racetrack, and be completely focused because the schedule demanded that of me. We would have a Friday-morning practice and qualifying, then Saturday we would have another hour or two of practice, then Sunday was the race, and it was an exhausting weekend that didn’t leave room to enjoy with your family. Now with this new schedule, it has allowed me to both stay extremely focused for the race and make memories with my family.” 

 

TSC PR

After a successful debut last season, the NASCAR Cup Series opens its 2023 campaign with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum for a second straight time. Ford driver Joey Logano kicked off the NASCAR Next Gen era with a victory in his No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Mustang to become the first driver to win the Clash at a facility other than Daytona International Speedway.

 
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Austin Cindric

No. 2 Ford Mustang (Team Penske)

 

Kevin Harvick

No. 4 Ford Mustang (Stewart-Haas Racing)

 

Brad Keselowski

No. 6 Ford Mustang (RFK Racing)

 

Aric Almirola

No. 10 Ford Mustang (Stewart-Haas Racing)

 

Ryan Blaney

No. 12 Ford Mustang (Team Penske)

 

Chase Briscoe

No. 14 Ford Mustang (Stewart-Haas Racing)

 

JJ Yeley

No. 15 Ford Mustang (Rick Ware Racing)

Chris Buescher

No. 17 Ford Mustang (RFK Racing)

 

Harrison Burton

No. 21 Ford Mustang (Wood Brothers Racing)

 

Joey Logano

No. 22 Ford Mustang (Team Penske)

 

Michael McDowell

No. 34 Ford Mustang (Front Row Motorsports)

 

Todd Gilliland

No. 38 Ford Mustang (Front Row Motorsports)

 

Ryan Preece

No. 41 Ford Mustang (Stewart-Haas Racing)

 

Cody Ware

No. 51 Ford Mustang (Rick Ware Racing)

 

FORD CLASH HISTORY

 

The Clash has been held in some form since 1979 and Ford has won it 10 times by seven different drivers. The best stretch in the event for Ford undoubtedly came during a three-year winning streak in which Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Dale Jarrett all reached victory lane from 1998-2000. Jarrett owns three of Ford’s 10 victories (1996, 2000, 2004) in the event and on two of those occasions (1996 and 2000) he went on to win the Daytona 500.

 

LOOKING BACK AT 2022

 

For the first time in NASCAR history, the Clash was held at a place other than the Daytona International Speedway as the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum hosted the event on February 6, 2022. The specially-made quarter-mile asphalt track delivered in the main event as Logano, who won his heat race, passed Kyle Busch on lap 116 and led the final 35 to become only the second Ford driver to win the Clash more than once. Logano, who also captured the event in 2017, joined Dale Jarrett (three-time winner) with multiple Ford victories.

ELLIOTT CLAIMS FORD’S FIRST CLASH VICTORY AT DAYTONA

 

Bill Elliott became the first Ford driver to win a non-points event in the NASCAR Cup Series on February 8, 1987 when he captured the Busch Clash. The format that year was a single 20-lap run (50 miles) with no pit stop required. Elliott, who started on the pole in his No. 9 Coors Thunderbird after a blind draw, fell back to sixth on the start after Terry Labone and Ricky Rudd were involved in an accident on the first lap. On the ensuing restart, Elliott steadily reeled in leader Darrell Waltrip and passed him on lap eight. Elliott led the final 13 laps and won with an average speed of 197.802 mph, a record that still stands for the event. A week later, Elliott won his second Daytona 500.

TAURUS WINS DEBUT AS RUSTY TAKES INAUGURAL BUD SHOOTOUT

Taurus made NASCAR history as the first four-door sedan and it wasted no time in opening eyes as Rusty Wallace drove it to victory in its debut race – the 1998 Bud Shootout. The win was Wallace’s first at Daytona International Speedway and it came with a little help from his younger brother, Kenny, who pushed him across the finish line on the final lap. Bill Elliott and Jimmy Spencer finished third and fourth, respectively, to give Ford a sweep of the top four positions.

DJ HOLDS OFF JR FOR SHOOTOUT TRIUMPH

Dale Jarrett won his third Budweiser Shootout on February 7, 2004 in his No. 88 UPS Taurus. The race was broken up into two segments – an initial 20-lap run followed by a 50-lapper to the finish – and marked the beginning of Nextel as series sponsor. Jarrett and Kevin Harvick were side-by-side at the white flag, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave Jarrett the push he needed to complete the pass on the outside going through turn one. Even though Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray got into an accident on the backstretch, the race finished under green with Jarrett holding off Earnhardt Jr. to win.

LOGANO BREAKS CLASH DROUGHT

 

Joey Logano snapped a 13-year Ford winless drought when he won The Clash in 2017, making him the manufacturer’s first victor since Dale Jarrett in 2004. Logano found himself in the right place at the right time, taking the lead after Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski made contact on the final lap. Keselowski had a run and was trying to pass Hamlin, whose attempt at blocking came too late and resulted in both cars colliding. That enabled Logano to get through and win the Clash for the first time in his career. Four Ford drivers finished in the top six spots as Danica Patrick was fourth, Kevin Harvick fifth and Keselowski sixth.

KESELOWSKI SETS THE TONE

 

In a foreshadowing of what the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series would look like, Brad Keselowski took Ford to victory lane in the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Keselowski led a Ford sweep of the top four finishing positions as he took the lead on lap 39 of the 75-lap feature and never looked back, holding off Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney, respectively. It marked the second straight Clash win for Ford and served as a springboard that saw the Blue Oval lead the series with 19 wins and capture the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships.

1987 – Bill Elliott

1992 – Geoffrey Bodine

1996 – Dale Jarrett

1998 – Rusty Wallace

1999 – Mark Martin

 

 

 

2000 – Dale Jarrett

2004 – Dale Jarrett

2017 – Joey Logano

2018 – Brad Keselowski

2022 – Joey Logano

Ford Performance PR

Kelley Blue Book, a Cox Automotive company and your one-stop resource for researching new and used cars, has extended its sponsorship of Hendrick Motorsports and champion driver Chase Elliott with a two-year contract renewal.

In 2023 and 2024, Kelley Blue Book will be featured as a two-race primary sponsor and full-season associate sponsor of Elliott’s No. 9 NASCAR Cup Series team. The company’s association with Hendrick Motorsports began with a one-race primary sponsorship in 2014 and expanded to two races in 2016 when Kelley Blue Book joined Elliott for his rookie year.

This season, the 27-year-old Elliott will drive the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 on March 12 at Phoenix Raceway and in the Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway on Sept. 24.

“We were just getting started when we first teamed up with Chase Elliott back in 2016, and now Kelley Blue Book eagerly anticipates two more thrilling seasons in partnership with Hendrick Motorsports,” said Ken Kraft, chief marketing officer for Cox Automotive. “With Kelley Blue Book’s support, we hope Chase feels just as confident on the track as car shoppers feel off the track when using Kelley Blue Book to research new and used cars. Continuing to connect with fellow race fans this season via the Chase Elliott sponsorship is a natural extension for Kelley Blue Book, the one-stop resource for car shoppers.”

In 2020, Elliott became the third-youngest driver in history to win a Cup Series title. At NASCAR’s top level, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native already has won 18 points-paying races and was voted by fans as the sport’s Most Popular Driver five consecutive times (2018-2022). Last year, he secured a series-best five victories, won the regular season championship and made his seventh playoff appearance in as many full years on the circuit.

“Kelley Blue Book has been such a big part of my Cup Series career dating back to my very first season, and I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together so far,” Elliott said. “Not only have they been an outstanding partner for our No. 9 program, but for Mr. (Rick) Hendrick’s entire organization. I look forward to continuing to build our relationship and celebrating more victories with Kelley Blue Book in the years to come.”

In addition to individual consumers, Kelley Blue Book’s variety of products and services are available to car dealers, auto manufacturers, finance and insurance companies, and governmental agencies. Partners include Hendrick Automotive Group, which utilizes Kelley Blue Book in each of its 132 automotive retail franchises across the United States.

“We’re proud to continue our relationship with Kelley Blue Book,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and chairman and CEO of Hendrick Automotive Group. “It’s been a tremendous collaboration across many levels, from winning races and championships on the track to working together to meet business objectives. In 2023, we look forward to celebrating our 10th season of partnership and continuing to raise the bar.”

Hendrick Motorsports PR

Event Overview

 

●  Event: Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum

●  Time/Date: 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 5

●  Location: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

●  Layout: Quarter-mile oval

●  Format: 150-lap Feature with a 27-car field set by Heats and Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ)

●  TV/Radio: FOX / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

●  Note:  Heats and LCQ are broadcast live from 5-7 p.m. EST. Feature airs live at 8 p.m. EST.

 

Notes of Interest

 

● Entering his fifth season under the JGR banner, Truex has become quite the short-track ace during his first four seasons with JGR’s No. 19 team. Prior to his time with JGR, Truex had never won on a short track. However, since joining JGR, he’s brought home six of his 12 total victories on short tracks, which includes with three wins each on the Virginia shorts track at Richmond Raceway and Martinsville Speedway. In fact, nine of Truex’s wins since joining JGR at the start of 2019 have been on tracks 1.33 miles in length or shorter, which bodes well for the New Jersey native at this weekend’s race on the quarter-mile oval at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

 

● Truex will participate in the Clash for the 12th time in his career this weekend. His best finish of second came in the 2015 edition at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, the traditional home for the non-points event before last year’s inaugural race at the Coliseum. Truex started 23rd and brought home a 15th-place finish at the event in 2022.

 

● History was made last February when the NASCAR Cup Series competed for the first time at the Coliseum. The Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum was a bold way to unofficially kick off the start of the NASCAR season. On a temporary, quarter-mile paved oval built on top of what is typically the running track around the football field the Trojans of the University of Southern California call home, NASCAR thundered into America’s second-largest media market. The location was strategic, as was the event’s timing – held on the off weekend between the NFL division championship games and the almighty Super Bowl. For all the unknowns coming into the event, it proved to be an absolute success. The buzz was palpable throughout the weekend, and more than 70 percent of ticket buyers were first-time NASCAR attendees. And with 4.3 million viewers tuned into the live TV broadcast on FOX, its ratings were 168 percent higher than the previous year’s Busch Light Clash, which was held at Daytona and broadcast on FS1. It was the Clash’s best rating since 2016, when it was broadcast on FOX. On Twitter, NASCAR was the No. 1 trending topic in the United States during the race, besting the NFL’s Pro Bowl, which was held the same day. 

 

● While NASCAR certainly made history last year at the L.A. Coliseum, it’s appropriate to say auto racing history was remade. As World War II wound down, racing open-wheel midget cars around the Coliseum cranked up. Beginning in 1945, the United Racing Association (URA) ran on a quarter-mile track that was paved right over the top of the athletic track. Racing continued through 1948, but under the auspices of the Automobile Association of America (AAA). As more permanent racetracks began populating Southern California, racing at the Coliseum fell by the wayside. That is, until 1979 when Mickey Thompson packaged off-road racing into his innovative stadium series, with the Coliseum serving as his first event of many across the country. Broadcast on ESPN and TNN, it was where an up-and-coming off-road racer with NASCAR ambitions first started making a name for himself – none other than seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.

 

● NASCAR celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2023, and for most of those years the sanctioning body began its annual campaign at Daytona. Starting the year in California isn’t a break from tradition, necessarily. In fact, it could be argued that it’s a return to a previous tradition. Last year’s Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum marked the first time since 1981 that NASCAR didn’t start its season at Daytona. But starting the year in California was not new. In 1965, and again from 1970 to 1981, the NASCAR Cup Series’ season-opening race took place at Riverside International Raceway, a road course that was approximately 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Riverside is long gone, the site now home to the Moreno Valley Mall, but the L.A. Coliseum was at 311 Figueroa Street 34 years before Riverside opened its doors in 1957, and it’s still there today. It’s a juxtaposition of old and new, a microcosm of NASCAR’s brave new world.

 

● In true L.A. fashion, almost any NASCAR Cup Series team can show up at the Coliseum, but not everyone is getting past the velvet ropes to participate in the 150-lap main event. Because the track at the Coliseum is only a quarter-mile in length – the shortest track the NASCAR Cup Series will compete on in 2023 – only 27 cars can compete in the feature. Getting to the main event is much more arduous than walking the red carpet and slipping the bouncer a $100 bill.

 

Here's how it works:

●  Saturday, NASCAR Cup Series competitors will take to the track for practice prior to single-car qualifying to determine the starting order for Sunday’s four 25-lap heat races consisting of 10 cars each. Below is a breakdown on how the heat races will be filled out:

 

●  The top-four fastest qualifiers from Saturday’s single-car qualifying session will be on the pole for each heat race, while cars that qualified fifth through eighth will make up the other half of the front row in each heat.

 

● The remainder of each field will be filled using this methodology: Heat one will be made up of cars with qualifying positions of one, five, nine, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33, 37.

 

● The top-five finishers (20 total cars) from each heat race automatically advance to the Busch Light Clash, with the winner of heat one winning the pole and the winner of heat two earning the outside pole.

 

● The winners of heats three and four will fill out the second row, with the remaining order being determined in the same manner.

 

● The remaining finishers from each heat that did not advance will continue to one of two 50-lap Last Chance Qualifying (LCQ) races. Below is a breakdown on how the LCQ will be filled out:

 

● The starting order for these two events will be determined based on finishing positions in the heat races.

 

● Those who did not advance from heats one and three will make up the first LCQ race. The second race will be made up of those from heats two and four.

 

● The sixth-place finishers from heats one and two will be on the pole in their respective LCQ races. The sixth-place finishers from heats three and four will be on the outside pole.

●This pattern will continue to fill out the remaining cars in each LCQ.

 

● The top-three finishers (six total cars) from each LCQ race will advance to the Busch Light Clash, filling out positions 21-26 of the 27 available positions.

 

● The final spot in the Busch Light Clash will be reserved for the driver who finished the highest in the 2022 points standings who does not transfer on finishing position in their heat race or in their LCQ race.

 

● All other drivers will be eliminated from competition for the remainder of the event weekend. 

 

Martin Truex Jr., Driver of the No. 19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota Camry TRD

 

What are you expecting from the NextGen car this year that will be different than last year? Do you think your team will make some gains, especially since some changes had to be made to the back of the car in particular?

 

“I think so, especially on short tracks and road courses, where we had some of our issues. What we’ve seen so far in all of our wind-tunnel testing and everything else I think we’ll be able to make some gains on what we needed last year and what we were lacking. Feeling good about that, but until we go test and also get on the track for real, there’s no guarantee, but it seems like things are lining up that are going to be able to help with what we thought we needed help with last year.”

 

With the experience you gained there last year, what do you expect at this year’s Clash at The Coliseum?

 

“I think the Clash will be a better race overall this year. Last year, there were just so many unknowns. You even had a new car and just, setup-wise, it was all a big guess. We all just got thrown out there, and whoever guessed right was the fastest there last year. I think we’ll see more of a competitive race even though they’ve put down new asphalt. Will the asphalt be any different or will it be exactly the same? It will be interesting to see. I expect a more competitive race and it will be hard to make the show if you are not locked in, for sure.”

 

How did the NextGen cars change your approach to short tracks last year?

 

“Short tracks were a challenge last year for us. It was a lot harder to pass than the previous car at short tracks. With the increased shifting and the way the brakes were on this car, it’s just so much different. I think the shifting has made the biggest difference. But with the braking going along with that, independent rear suspension, and differential and all of those things going on with the bigger brakes that we have now, we almost have more brakes than the tires can even take. So it’s been a challenge not to modulate that and try not to lock up the rear tires, which has been a big issue for us as a team.”

 

What are your expectations for this season as you work to get back in the playoffs and focus on getting into championship contention again?

 

“We are looking forward to the season and we have some pretty high expectations. Winning races and going for another championship is really the only reason why I’m still here, so anything short of that is going to be a disappointment. We’ve got a great team and really no changes other than hopefully the fastest over-the-wall pit crew in the sport. We are pretty excited about that group and what they can get done on pit road for us. It’s going to be all about taking advantage of our opportunities. We had a good season last year, but we didn’t get a win. We had a lot of opportunities to do that but we weren’t able to put one of those away. That’s what we are focused on – how do we not make mistakes and how do we get our cars more competitive more consistently. But I think with the changes NASCAR has made to the cars, I think it’s going to help us. We are fired up and ready to go and I think we are going to make some big problems for a lot of people this year with our Bass Pro Shops Toyota.”

 

TSC PR

The season-opening NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race, the Busch Light Clash, returns to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this weekend. To celebrate, Food 4 Less® has a car entered in the 150-Lap race with the JTG Daugherty Racing team.

Two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will race the No. 47 Food 4 Less/Velveeta® Camaro, and prior to that, he will be making an appearance at store location 1299 W. Artesia Blvd. in Gardena, CA on Friday, February 3rd from 4-5 PM Pacific to sign autographs for our consumers.

“Food 4 Less is excited to host Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at our Gardena location this week, and we invite the community to join us for a fun opportunity to meet Ricky, as well as connect with other fans from Los Angeles and all around the nation,” said Bryan Kaltenbach, President, Food 4 Less/Foods Co.

“It’s important to us to get into the community and meet our fans, and Food 4 Less is providing that opportunity along with our CPG (consumer packaged goods) partners,” Stenhouse Jr. said.

“Last year, The Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum was totally new for everybody, and no one knew what to expect,” Stenhouse Jr. continued. “Coming through the tunnel was one of the coolest things ever for me. We made the race, and it was nice to be able to do that because not everybody made it. We know it will be more intense this year especially since everyone knows what to expect. It’s a great venue, and the crowd’s electric. We’re excited to be back in market for The Clash.”

On Sunday, February 5th qualifying heat races being at 2 PM Pacific (5 PM ET) on FOX, MRN Radio and SiriusXM Satellite NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90). The 150-Lap Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum begins at 5 PM Pacific (8 PM ET) on the same networks.

JTG Racing PR

INDYCAR, with longtime partner IU Health, is rolling into its new season with a new mobile medical facility.

The INDYCAR Medical Unit will make its debut at the year’s first Open Test, held Thursday-Friday, Feb. 2-3 at The Thermal Club near Palm Springs, California. The transporter with double slide outs will provide an environment for consistent and accessible care during each NTT INDYCAR SERIES and INDY NXT by Firestone event.

Previously, INDYCAR’s medical team utilized a combination of a mobile trailer and the facilities available at the venues that host events. With the substantially upgraded mobile unit, the sanctioning body can better serve its growing paddock.

“INDYCAR medical has always been the industry standard of care and service in motorsports,” INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “The investment into the INDYCAR Medical Unit is an important step in continuing that expectation and assuring that all personnel will receive excellent care.”

Among the features of the INDYCAR Medical Unit:

  • Four functional areas, one with two hospital beds
  • Equipment needed to care for patients with urgent or emergent needs, including a portable X-ray machine, a resuscitation cart and assorted orthopedic care supplies
  • Workspace for the doctors and nurses who travel with the sport
  • Meeting areas for patient consultation and emergency updates
  • Video feeds to enable the staff to monitor the on-track action

The INDYCAR Medical Unit will be available during the hours the garages are open, and INDYCAR will work with local officials to determine the most strategic location for the unit at each venue.

“The INDYCAR Medical Unit is a product of continued collaboration of INDYCAR and IU Health and is an important addition to our continued effort to enhance care for competitors, others who work in the sport and their families,” INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Julia Vaizer said. “The unit will be available to drivers, allowing us to evaluate them in the most efficient yet effective manner to develop next steps. We also will provide that level of care for all members of the paddock.”

INDYCAR’s season begins March 3-5 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding. Coverage of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season debut, Sunday, March 5 will be available beginning at noon ET on NBC with a simulstream available on Peacock.

Peacock also will provide coverage of the INDY NXT season opener that same day beginning at 9:55 a.m. ET. The INDYCAR Radio Network will provide coverage of both races, with audio available on the INDYCAR App powered by NTT DATA.

IndyCar PR

TEAM AND RACE NOTES:

Fr8Auctions.com will support Michael McDowell during his kickoff to the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series race season this weekend. It’s the eighth consecutive season that the Atlanta, Georgia-based asset recovery business has supported Front Row Motorsports (FRM).

 

McDowell will race the No. 34 Fr8Auctions.com Ford Mustang during The Clash at The Coliseum at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum- a purpose-built track inside the famous stadium. The two-day exhibition event will begin Saturday, February 4 at 6:00 p.m. ET with a practice session televised live on FS1.

 

Qualifying will also be Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET live on FS1.

 

Sunday will feature qualifying heats (25 laps), two last-chance qualifying races (50 laps), a pre-race concert by Cypress Hill, and finally a 150-lap feature race that will start 27 of the 36-entered teams. The race will feature a mid-race break highlighted with a perfomance by Wiz Khalifa.

 

All of Sunday’s coverage will be televised live on FOX.

 

COMPETITION NOTES: 

The Clash at The Coliseum will mark the first track test for new faces on the No. 34 team. The team is now led by Travis Peterson who moved over to FRM from Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing. Peterson has new members in place for his road crew that include two new engineers and a car chief. However, the team is poised to be even stronger in 2023.

 

CREW CHIEF TRAVIS PETERSON:

“We’re not going to miss a beat from the success that we saw out of Michael last season. We’re going to pick up where the team was at the end of last season and our goal is only to improve on what has been built. The Clash is a chance for us to knock off some rust and get back into the rhythm of traveling, putting in full days at the track, and working on our communication with Michael.

 

“Our goal is to leave The Clash with a top-10 result. Michael enjoyed The Clash last year and had some success passing cars and he had good speed. As a team, we expect nothing less than the same effort with an even better result.”

 

DRIVER MICHAEL MCDOWELL:

“The Clash is really the first chance that everyone can really get together and see how you stack up against one another. I don’t know if it’s the perfect test, since this event is such an anomaly, but it gives you an idea of where your program may be.

 

“I agree with Travis, I don’t see us really slowing down from where we’ve come. Sure, we know we have some new faces to the team, but I’ve really enjoyed working with Travis and trust that he’s working hard to give me what I need in the car. We both have lofty goals this year and it’s good to start off with an exhibition event where you can work out any bugs.

 

“Finally, we’re not getting to The Clash without Fr8Auctions and Marcus Barela. Their unwavering support to the sport, Front Row Motorsports and myself is special. It’s rare you see partners stay so committed for so long. We all want to have a great night for them to say thanks for their support.”

FRM PR

SUNNYD, part of Harvest Hill Beverage Company, has partnered with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the championship-winning NASCAR team.

Known as the most refreshing orange drink in existence, SUNNYD will serve as the primary sponsor for two NASCAR Cup Series races with driver Kevin Harvick and SHR’s No. 4 team. When not the primary sponsor, SUNNYD will have a yearlong associate presence on the No. 4 Ford Mustang with branding on Harvick’s firesuit.

The No. 4 SUNNYD Ford Mustang will debut May 14 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, a track where Harvick has won three of his 60 career Cup Series victories. SUNNYD returns to the No. 4 as a primary sponsor Sept. 10 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, another track where Harvick has three Cup Series wins.

In addition to joining Harvick, SUNNYD will serve as a yearlong associate partner of SHR’s No. 98 team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with driver Riley Herbst. To kick off the partnership, the 23-year-old Herbst will make his Cup Series debut in the season-opening Daytona 500 driving a SUNNYD-sponsored Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing.

“NASCAR has proven to be an excellent platform for the SUNNYD brand and it’s why we’ve joined Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Ilene Bergenfeld, CMO, Harvest Hill Beverage Company. “Being a part of Kevin Harvick’s final season as a NASCAR Cup Series driver holds a tremendous amount of value because of all that he’s accomplished in the sport.

“To have a veteran in Kevin and a next-generation talent in Riley Herbst allows SUNNYD to resonate with fans who have known Harvick since his Cup Series debut 23 years ago, as well as young fans new to the sport who see a little bit of themselves in Riley.”

Earlier this year, Harvick announced that the 2023 season would be his last as a Cup Series driver. The 47-year-old from Bakersfield, California, is currently tied for ninth on the Cup Series’ all-time win list.

“As a Gen-Xer, I’ve grown up with SUNNYD. It’s very fitting that I get to represent them in my last year in NASCAR,” said Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion. “Our desire to win and compete for a championship is as strong as ever and I’m happy to have SUNNYD a part of our race team.”

Harvick’s final season kicks off with the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Feb. 5 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before the official start of the 2023 campaign with the 65th annual Daytona 500 Feb. 19 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Each event will be broadcast live on FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

TSC PR

Cirkul, a modern beverage platform known for its patented flavor cartridges, announces a partnership with Kaulig Racing and NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) driver Justin Haley for the 2023 Daytona 500. Cirkul’s logo will be featured on Haley’s No. 31 Camaro ZL1 for the 65th running of the Daytona 500.

 

Kaulig Racing and Cirkul announced last week that they will continue to support driver, Daniel Hemric, for multiple races in the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) season onboard the No. 11 Chevrolet.

 

“We are incredibly excited for Cirkul to be a part of this year’s Daytona 500,” said Andy Gay, president and co-founder of Cirkul. “Our product speaks to everyone who drinks water and there’s no better place to reach a wide audience than the Daytona 500. It’s a watershed moment for our company as we deepen our relationship with NASCAR, and we can’t wait to root for Justin Haley’s No. 31 as he takes on the field.”

 

Haley, who cemented himself in NASCAR history when he won the rain-shortened Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona in 2019, has seen success at Daytona in all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series, including two wins in the NXS and a runner-up finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS).

 

“Cirkul has been a great partner of Kaulig Racing, and it was a no brainer to expand our relationship with them at one of the biggest motorsports events in the world,” said Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing. “Justin (Haley) is our super-speedway ace, so we can’t think of anyone better to be behind the wheel of Cirkul’s very first car in the Daytona 500.”

 

Continuing his reign as the team’s longest-tenured driver, Haley will kick off his second, full season in the NCS with Kaulig Racing at the World Center of Racing, as he pilots the No. 31 Cirkul Camaro ZL1 beginning with the 2023 Daytona Speedweek.

 

“I’m excited to welcome Cirkul aboard my No. 31 Chevy hotrod for such a big event,” said Haley. “Being a bit of a health nut, Cirkul is a product that truly makes proper hydration throughout the week leading up to a race weekend very easy. I’m honored to have Cirkul’s support on one of the biggest platforms in motorsports and hope to take home that coveted Harley J. Earl trophy together.”

 

With its eighth-consecutive grandstand sellout, the 2023 Daytona 500 will take place on Sunday, February 19 at 2:30PM ET on FOX for the start of NASCAR’s 75th-anniversary season.

 

Kaulig Racing PR

Three weeks ago, veteran sprint car racer Brody Roa did not know if he would be racing at this past weekend’s USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series 24th season-opening weekend at the Cocopah Speedway.  In a career-changing move one week later, Roa joined forces with Inland Rigging’s Tommy and Christy Dunkel.  That move paid immediate dividends as he not only made the opener, but also scored wins in both main events on the Arizona oval.  The victories were his 14th and 15th in USAC/CRA competition which places him fifth on the series all-time win list. 

To say the effort to get ready for the races was a thrash is an understatement. The team finished the car on Thursday night and it was so fresh it did not have all the decals in place. Nonetheless, it was fast from the opening lap of hot laps on Friday all the way through the final checkered flag on Saturday.  It was faster than anyone expected as it was the first time Roa ever turned laps using a DRC chassis. 

When people think of Arizona they think of extreme heat.  However, the winters in the “Copper State” can be cold.  With a breeze blowing at the track that is located 10 minutes north of the USA/Mexican border, and a temperature dipping into the low 40s each night, fans were more than a little chilly.  But Roa and the other cars kept them warmed up with exciting racing each night.

Roa, who turned 32 years old two days prior to the opening race, made his first qualifying effort in his new steed a good one when he timed in third quickest at 16.575 on Friday night.  That placed him in the first 10-lap heat race of the season where he started fifth and finished fourth in his initial outing in the white #17R.

For the main event, the Garden Grove, California star began on the outside of row two in fourth. In front of the Speed Sport TV cameras, he picked off the third and second-place drivers and patiently stalked the leader.  Perseverance paid off and he snatched the lead away on lap 19.  The talented driver methodically pulled away for a comfortable victory in his first time driving for the Dunkel’s.

“First win for the new team,” the happy victor told the crowd after the race. “It is pretty awesome to come out of the gate swinging like that.  We just got this new DRC chassis and just finished it up last night.  I think that is a good start to it. About six days ago, I thought I was only racing this weekend for sure.  I have to thank Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, and Tom and Christy Dunkel.  They stepped up huge and I just have to give a huge thank you to them.”

“I was calling Joe Devin (the owner of DRC) all night with ideas about what we were doing,” the excited driver continued.  “I sent him a text before the feature telling him what I was doing and he said that was all good stuff.  When I was behind Tommy (Tommy Malcolm who held Roa at bay until the 19th circuit), he was good.  He screwed up once down here before the caution and I thought I had a shot, but he gathered it all back in.  He did a great job leading.  Good job to that guy and all of those guys over there (Malcolm and his team).  They were a contender last year and we will probably see them a lot this year, too.” 

“Man I am kind of bummed,” Roa said with a laugh.  “This is the first race I have won with my two-year-old daughter Addison here (at the races) and she was sleeping.”

Saturday night did not start off as well as Friday.  While his qualifying time of 16.943 was less than a half second slower than his Friday attempt on the clocks, it was only good for the ninth fastest time.  However, he outdistanced the field in his preliminary to record his first heat race triumph of 2023. 

If there was one thing to be said about the slower qualifying time, it put Roa on the front row for the main event and he took full advantage and flew into the lead at the drop of the green.  The friendly driver hung onto the lead until he was passed on the 22nd lap by his sometimes teammate at Jayson May Motorsports, Chase Johnson.  It looked as though Roa would have to settle for second, but coming off turn four and heading for the white flag, Johnson, whose right rear tire was shot, threw a slider on a lapped car, jumped the cushion, and tapped the wall.  Roa alertly pounced on the opportunity presented and flew into the lead. Eighteen seconds later he drove his bright white car under the checkered flag first for his second win in 24 hours. 

“I thought it was over,” Roa told the appreciative crowd.  “Once he (Johnson) got out front until that lapper he was clean. He was able to get off the corners a little bit better than I was. Yeah, a heartbreaker for Chase.  He ran a good race.  I guess we will take them how we can get them.”

“This is an exciting start to the year for sure,” Roa said about taking home both winner’s trophies on the year.  “All of our phones were blowing up last night. I talked to Tom (Dunkel) last night and he was pretty stoked.  Hopefully, we can continue and win a whole bunch of these this year.”

“We are over the top really,” happy car owner Dunkel said on Sunday. “We were hoping for a decent run with a brand new car, new team, and a whole new package.  To go out there and sweep the weekend was a little unexpected.  We are just over the top about it.”

Winning the races was very important and satisfying.  However, perhaps the most important thing of the two nights for Roa came while he was holding his daughter Addison in the victory circle. 

“This is super cool,” Roa gushed while smiling at the happy two-year-old in his arms.  “I have won a handful of races since she was born but she hasn’t been there or she has been sleeping for all of them. I hope you are excited, Addie.”

Roa is now off until he begins a busy month on March 3rd and 4th when USAC/CRA heads to the Central Arizona Speedway. One week later he will contest the open comp. show at the Imperial Valley Raceway.  On March 18th he will return to action with USAC/CRA at Perris Auto Speedway and will wrap up the month in Central California at the Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford and Tulare’s Thunderbowl Raceway.

As always, Roa would be more than happy to jump in a race car on his weekends off from the #17R. His entire schedule is printed below.  If anybody wishes to contact him about open dates, they can do so at 714-932-7994 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.     

The team wants to thank the following sponsors for making the 2023 season possible. Inland Rigging, Dunkel Farms, United Asset Sales, Osborne Speed & Machine, Sander Engineering, “Biker” Bruce Fischer, ALR Virtual Services, Burris Racing, Caltrol, Competition Suspension, K-1 Race Gear, Molecule, Rod End Supply, Driven Racing Oil, Baldwin Filters, and NGK Spark Plugs.

BRP PR

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