Wednesday, Feb 08
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Amidst sweltering temperatures at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta on Friday, Kurt Busch notched another hole in his NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) belt, achieving a second-place finish in his first series start on the 1.5-mile 'Bluegrass State' track. Although 9.828 seconds behind event winner Austin Dillon, Busch accomplished the seventh top-five and ninth consecutive top-ten finish of the year for the blossoming Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team.


The night began with a top-ten qualifying run which yielded Busch an eighth-place start at green flag. Within the first race lap, the Monster Energy team athlete progressed to sixth and was battling among event leaders within the top ten, until the first of two yellow-flag caution periods occurred.


At lap 27, the No. 54 Monster Energy Camry came down pit road to address what Busch described as "wrecking loose" conditions. "The right rear needs help," Busch explained to his team before entering the pit stall, where the crew made a trackbar adjustment and inserted a left-rear spring rubber to tighten up the black machine. A miscue during the pit stop caused the team to lose a few positions upon returning to the field.


Although the pit issue placed the No. 54 Camry in the 15th position for the lap-30 restart, Busch quickly worked his way back inside the top 10 on lap 32, and by lap 82 had advanced into the third spot. When the crew chief asked how the car was feeling, Busch explained, "On a 10 scale, we are a five in Turn 3, and a three everywhere else." Busch, who is known to enjoy a loose-handling car setup, was looking for a "tick" of an adjustment to give him a slightly tighter feel.


Under green-flag conditions and from third-place on lap 83, the No. 54 team pitted, repeating the adjustments made on the first stop by lowering the trackbar another round down and inserting an additional spring rubber to the rear of the car. The changes proved to be effective for Busch as he described, "the car is starting to settle down," and he maneuvered past the No. 33 car of Kevin Harvick to take the second-place spot on lap 116.


Another green-flag pit stop was orchestrated at lap 136, where the team provided their driver with a few more adjustments. After the No. 54 team completed their stop and reentered the track, a yellow-flag occurred on the speedway. The caution flew while most teams were cycling through pit road, leaving several competitors one lap down when they returned to the track. Considering this left only five cars on the lead lap, including the Monster Energy team, the Las Vegas native brought the No. 54 back to the team's pit area to top off on fuel for race end. The team took advantage of the extra pit road time and added one more round of wedge to the left rear of the Toyota machine. Busch beat two competitors off pit road placing them in the third position for restart.


The race field went back to green on lap 149 and would remain caution free for the remainder of the event. On lap 151 Busch secured second-place again, this time with a pass on the No. 43 of Michael Annett. While the KBM team was showing lap times faster than the race leader, the car's handling was still too loose for Busch to maneuver into the top spot. With five laps remaining in the event, the No. 54 Camry's engine showed signs of failure, forcing Busch to hang on for position, eventually salvaging his second-place finish.


"Good run tonight," commented Busch post race. "I thought we could battle with him (Austin Dillon, race winner) but he was too strong. Mike Beam (crew chief) brought it back under me. To bring a car that is falling out, to a top-three finish -- feels good to put these guys back on the podium," he continued.


Dillon recorded his first career Nationwide Series win. Busch, Harvick, Annett and Justin Allgaier completed the top-five finishers. There were two caution periods for five laps of the race along with seven lead changes across four drivers.


With its second-place finish, the No. 54 Monster Energy team jumped to eighth in the Owner's Point standings, 71 points from first.



Race Highlights:   

  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished first (Austin Dillon), third (Kevin Harvick) and ninth (Elliott Sadler). 
  • Dillon leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship point standings over Elliott Sadler by two points. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. ranks third, followed by Sam Hornish and Justin Allgaier.  
  • The No. 3 Chevrolet team is second in the Nationwide Series owner championship point standings, 35 points shy of the No. 18 car's lead, with the No. 2 team third in the standings and the No. 33 team fourth.  
  • Dillon leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings over Cole Whitt.  
  • According to NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics, Dillon earned a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 and led the field in Loop Data categories for Average Running Position (1.095), Fastest Driver Early in a Run (171.077 mph), Fastest Laps Run (79), Fastest on Restarts (165.773 mph), Green Flag Speed (169.073 mph) and Laps Led (192).  
  • Dillon set the record for the most laps led in a Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway (192 laps), surpassing the previous record set by Carl Edwards in 2005 (150 laps).  
  • Dillon and Harvick were among six drivers who spent 100 percent of the race running in the top 15, while Sadler spent 98.5 percent of his laps in the top 15.  
  • Harvick held the second-highest running position, with an average running place of 3.710.  
  • Harvick maintained the third-highest Driver Rating (121.7) and also ranked third in Green Flag Speed (168.592 mph), Fastest on Restarts (163.435 mph) and Fastest Laps Run (31).  
  • Sadler earned his 11th top-10 finish through 15 races.  
  • Sadler tied for third in the Closers category, improving two positions in the last 10 percent of the race, and made 27 Quality Passes, which also tied him for third in that category.  
  • Dillon earned his first career Nationwide Series win and was followed to the finish line by Kurt Busch, Harvick, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier.
  • The next scheduled Nationwide Series race is the Daytona 250 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, July 6. The 16th race of the 2012 season is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN2 beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.




Elliott Sadler Posts Top-10 Finish Under the Lights at Kentucky Speedway


Elliott Sadler and the No. 2 OneMain Financial team battled through a loose-handling condition to finish ninth in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Friday night at Kentucky Speedway. After starting the Feed the Children 300 from the 12th position, Sadler quickly relayed to the crew that the No. 2 Chevrolet lacked rear grip, a condition which would plagued the team throughout the 200-lap event. Crew chief Luke Lambert called for various chassis adjustments along with fresh tires and fuel during the team's routine pit stops under green-flag conditions throughout the event. Though the changes provided little relief for the Sadler, the Emporia, Va., native maintained his position near the top-10 for the majority of the event as the condition persisted. As long green-flag runs stretched out the field, Sadler was running in the 11th position on lap 105 when race leader Austin Dillon passed him, placing the OneMain Financial Chevrolet one lap down on the field. Sadler brought the No. 2 Chevrolet down pit road on lap 141 for a scheduled green-flag stop and the crew added four tires and fuel, but the caution flag waved as the OneMain Financial Chevrolet was still on pit road, placing Sadler two laps down to the leader. The team elected to take the wave-around, moving the No. 2 Chevrolet only one lap down in the 12th position on lap 148. As the race wound down, the Sadler and his Richard Childress Racing team continued to fight for every position and crossed the finish line in the ninth position, claiming their 11th top-10 finish of the season. Sadler now sits second in the Nationwide Series point standings, two points behind RCR teammate Austin Dillon. 


Start - 12                      Finish - 9                   Laps Led - 0                            Points - 2                    


"It was a disappointing night for the No. 2 OneMain Financial team. I really fought the car all night with the lack of right rear grip, but our team never gave up, and we finished ninth. We are going to regroup this week before heading to Daytona International Speedway."               




Austin Dillon, No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Team Earn Career First Nationwide Series Win at Kentucky Speedway


In a dominating performance that culminated with his first career NASCAR Nationwide Series win, Austin Dillon and Richard Childress Racing's No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team set a record for most laps led and lapped all but six competitors in the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway. Dillon earned a perfect driver rating of 150.0 and inherited control of the driver championship point standings for his efforts, which marked the first time a No. 3 entry has won in the Nationwide Series since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did so in July 2010. The 21-year old Dillon earned his second pole award of the season and third NASCAR pole in as many starts at Kentucky Speedway and led the 43-car field to the green flag for Friday night's 200-lap event under the lights. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender drove to a commanding lead from the start of the race, accruing more than seven seconds between himself and the second-place car during a long green-flag run. Although he was running up front, Dillon reported to Crew Chief Danny Stockman that the No. 3 machine handled on the loose side, especially during long runs. Routine pit stops under green-flag conditions throughout the event provided little relief for the driver but handling issues did not hinder Dillon's performance, as he continued to increase his lead. The field was grouped back together following a lap-141 pit stop under green-flag conditions in which the caution flag was displayed for debris on the racing surface just as Dillon was exiting pit road. Following the caution-flag period, Dillon led the field to the lap-150 restart and once again pulled away from his competitors, ultimately crossing the finish line 9.852 seconds ahead of Kurt Busch. With his win, Dillon took control of the 2012 Nationwide Series driver championship point standings by a slim, two-point margin over RCR teammate Elliott Sadler.


Start - 1                      Finish - 1                   Laps Led - 192                            Points - 1 



"What an amazing feeling to be at the front of the field and crossing the finish line at lap 200 for our team's first NASCAR Nationwide Series win. I'm so proud of the guys. We've been working really hard to get to Victory Lane in my rookie season and I feel like maybe now that we have that first win under us, additional victories will come easier. I've always said that Kentucky Speedway was one of my favorite tracks, and now it is even more so. I think the slick racing surface really suits my driving style and my dirt track racing background."  


CC 33 Hunt Brothers Pizza 


Kevin Harvick Finishes Third in NASCAR Nationwide Series Event at Kentucky Speedway


Kevin Harvick and the No. 33 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet team finished third in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway Friday night after overcoming a persistent loose-handling condition. The Bakersfield, Calif., native started the 200-lap affair from the second position and ran within the top five before informing crew chief Ernie Cope that the Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet had developed a loose-handling condition. The crew worked to alleviate the handling issue through scheduled pit stops during the early portion of the race, allowing their driver to maintain a position near the front of the field. Harvick continued to run in the top five until lap 128 when he came onto pit road for a scheduled green-flap pit stop for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment. Before all green-flag pit stops could cycle through the field, the caution flag was displayed and the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, running in the 10th-position at the time, fell one lap down to the leader. Harvick was the awarded the "Lucky Dog" award, placing him back on the lead lap in the sixth position for the lap-149 restart. As the race came to a close, Harvick continued to work his way toward the front of the field, ultimately crossing the finish line in the third position.


Start - 2                     Finish - 3                  Laps Led - 0                Owner Points - 4  



"Man, we just got beat by our own car today. It always feels like a bad day when you don't win. It was great to see Austin (Dillon) get his first Nationwide Series win tonight, but it would have been even better to drive the Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet into Victory Lane and bring home a win for Ernie (Cope, crew chief) and the entire No. 33 RCR team, who worked so hard on this car."


High hopes for a good run by both the No. 01 G&K Services and No. 4 Tradebank Chevrolet teams of JD Motorsports with Gary Keller didn’t pan out the way they hoped in Friday night’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

Mike Wallace, who was 29th and 32nd in the two practice sessions, qualified 34th for the race in the No. 01 Chevrolet. Danny Efland, driving the No. 4 Chevrolet, was 30th in both practice sessions and qualified 27th.

Once the green flag flew for the 200-lap event, Wallace used his veteran wile and moved forward through the field. At times running in the top-20, he would have to make some green flag pit stops so crew chief Newt Moore could call for tires, fuel and adjustments to the car.

While those helped, the heat of the track and rubber being laid down by the 43-car field changed the handling of the JD Motorsports Chevrolet. Battling a loose condition forced Wallace and team to change up their pit calls so the four-time NNS race winner could get through the Kentucky turns better.

The bumps in Turn 1 have become more prominent through the years; which has led to more cautions being caused in Turn 2. However, there were only two all night preventing teams from making more pit stops.

On lap 143, while coming through Turns 3 and 4, the No. 01 Chevrolet was handling loose and made contact with the outside wall. The impact was hard enough to draw the night’s second, and final, caution as debris was found on the frontstretch.

Wallace took his car pit side, then into the garage for repairs by the JD Motorsports team. After the race restarted on lap 150, the team continued to make repairs the best they could to get back on the track.

They were able to return on lap 170, but NASCAR officials deemed they weren’t keeping up to speed and sent them back to the garage. This broke a four-race run of top-20 finishes and saddled the team with 31st-place finish.

Wallace remains 13th in the Driver’s Standings, now trailing 12th by 20 markers. This weekend, the team is headed to Daytona International Speedway with a great sense of purpose with their driver being the 2006 winner of the July event.

Efland and the No. 4 Tradebank Chevrolet suffered ignition problems and had to pull into the garage on lap 103. They were forced to take a 34th place finish as a result.

Mike Wallace Quotes: “This was not the finish this team needed or deserved. It felt like we were starting to get dialed in there for a bit. Then the track conditions seemed to change and we were really loose there when we got sent up into the wall.

“I hate our night had to end the way it did after four the runs we’ve had lately. But, I have to give credit to Newt and the guys because there is no ‘quit’ in them. They thrashed on that car and got us back out there to try and finish the race.

“Everyone knows I look forward to Daytona because of how well we do there. This team has raced well at Daytona with top-five and top-10 runs. This time, we just need to get the results Johnny Davis and this whole team deserves when the checkered flag flies.”

JD Motorsports PR

It might not have been what The Mamas and the Papas had in mind with their 1965 hit song, but for Bakersfield native, Austin Reed, “California Dreaming” is all about a win in the July 2-3 Legends Big Money 100 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The 18-year-old Californian moved across the country to Mooresville, N.C. for the summer to compete in the NOS Energy Legend Car Semi-Pro division of the Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series and in the Legends Big Money 100, the largest event in grassroots racing.

With the Legends Big Money 100 next week, Reed knows that this can be his moment to shine against the greatest racers in Legend Cars. 

“It’s a big survival race,” Reed said of the 100-lap main event. “It’s just the best competition.”

Up to 200 drivers will register for the Legends Big Money 100, but only 30 will make it to the A-Main feature. Everyone wants to win the race, but Reed understands how important it is to even just make the race.

“It’ll be something different getting to run with the pros out here,” said Reed. “Hopefully I’ll learn a lot from them and figure out what I need to be doing differently.”

However, having been racing for the past six years and having a father who has always owned race cars, Reed has a good amount of experience himself.

“I originally got started in racing through my dad,” said Reed. “He used to own multiple cars from Nationwide Series all the way down to Legend Cars.  It’s kind of in my blood.”

If Reed finds himself in Victory Lane, he knows exactly how he’ll spend his $25,000 prize.

Reed, like most young drivers, said, “I have a feeling a lot of it will go to racing in general: Legend Cars, late models, a K&N Pro Series East model we’re expecting to run and other stuff like that.”

Last week, he raced in the Summer Shootout Series on Tuesday and then went back to California to race at Sonoma Raceway in another Legend Car over the weekend.

Looking up to Kevin Harvick and being friends with Kyle Busch, a former Legend Car racer, Reed knows just how important Legends Cars are to advancing his racing career.

“From everyone I’ve talked to and kind of from what I’ve learned, Legend Cars are the hardest thing you’ll ever drive. So if you can get car control, and get halfway decent in a Legend Car, I think it’ll make it easier to make it all the way in bigger cars,” said Reed.

The Jack in the Box Summer Shootout is a great place to get seat time and gain experience in a Legend Car because so many people from all over the East Coast come to race in the series.

“The main reason that we come out to run in the Shootout is to run with the best drivers out there,” Reed said of his fellow competitors. “It’s great competition and the car count is great compared to what we have on the West Coast.”

But Reed knows that the key to being successful in any type of race car, from Legend Cars to stock cars, is patience.

“The best thing to do on the race track is be patient. You have guys that go out there and they try and win it on the first or second lap and it usually doesn’t work out,” Reed explained. “Last week I ended up destroying an entire car, rolling a few times down the backstretch. If I had been a little more patient, that might not have happened.”

As Reed works his way up through the ranks of racing, he is sure to do well because he has a passion for racing that runs through his blood.     

“It’s just something I’ve always done and will always do,” Reed said with confidence.

The third annual Legends Big Money 100 boasts a $100,000 purse and will feature some of the best grassroots racers in the country.

In addition to the on-track action, fans can enjoy a pre-race concert with popular radio personalities Ace and TJ and their band, Charity Case, on Tuesday, prior to the start of the Legends Big Money 100 A-Feature. Drivers will also participate in an autograph session on the frontstretch during the concert. At the conclusion of the Legends Big Money 100 A-Feature on Tuesday, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the area’s first Fourth of July Fireworks celebration.


"Contrary to recent published speculation, Penske Racing has not sold its engine company.  The team’s focus continues to be on successfully completing the 2012 season, competing for championships and victories in the both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series for Dodge and our other sponsor partners.”

Penske Racing PR

Race Recap:

Max Gresham went into Thursday night's UNOH 225 with ­one goal in mind, to finish the race and gain experience. However, that theory went up in smoke during Thursday night's NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series (NCWTS) event at Kentucky Speedway when an engine failure left Gresham and the No. 24 Made In USA Brand Team with a disappointing 30th-place finish.


Making his debut at the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Gresham used the Thursday morning practice sessions to gain experience and learn how his Chevrolet Silverado would handle over the tracks infamous bumps. After two practice sessions, where he finished 21st and 20th respectively, Gresham qualified his No. 24 machine 19th for the 150-lap feature that evening.


The event got off to a promising start but quickly came to a halt for the team when Gresham radioed into his crew that he had no fuel pressure during the first caution period at lap 18. Gresham brought his Made In USA Brand Chevrolet to pit road and a faulty oil pump belt was determined to be the culprit. The No. 24 Joe Denette Motorsports crew quickly replaced the belt but Gresham was scored five laps down to the leaders when he made his way back out on the track in the 31st position.


Scored the only truck a lap down to the leaders, Gresham utilized a series of cautions to retain three of his laps and also make some adjustments to loosen up his Chevrolet Silverado. When the field went back to green at lap 66, Gresham, scored 30th, quickly realized that his bad luck was continuing. He radioed into the crew that his engine had expired and he brought his Made In USA Brand machine to pit road having only completed 63 of 150 laps. James Buescher would go on to win the eighth event on the 2012 NCWTS schedule.


Max Gresham Quotes:

"Our Made In USA Brand Chevrolet was really good tonight. We had a strategy to just play the waiting game so that I could stay out of trouble, get comfortable and gain experience. All day the truck had been rough over the bumps but in the first part of the race, the truck was really good over the bumps, decent in the corners and a little free into the corners. As soon as I started moving forward, we had the oil pump belt issue and lost a lot of ground replacing it. I don't know that we would have ever got back on the lead lap there, but we were definitely heading in the right direction. We were only two laps down when the engine expired. I was a little loose right before the engine problem but the truck was really coming to me on the longer runs and I knew we were going to be ok. I feel like this has been the story of our year, we had a fast truck and something out of our control ends our day. We can't catch a break."



Facing triple digit heat for the first time in 2012, Dakoda Armstrong and the rest of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors struggled to conquer slick track conditions and survive the UNOH 225 on Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway. Armstrong's No. 98 EverFi Toyota Tundra team had high hopes entering the event after their driver scored his best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) finish in the last visit to the Bluegrass State. The intense heat served up a challenge for Armstrong and his team during practice and qualifying, but after starting from the 26th postion, the rookie gained traction as the sun went down and claimed a 13th place finish. 


Making some quick moves in the first two laps after the drop of the green, Armstrong jumped up six positions and rode quietly inside the top-20 for most of the first segment of the race. Under the first caution, crew chief Dan Stillman pulled his driver down pit road for fuel and a chassis adjustment, hoping to help the EverFi Tundra gain some grip on entry and exit of the corners. Armstrong toughed it out through slick track conditions over the next 40 laps, and came down pit road for four tires and adjustments on lap 64.  


The first round of adjustments made under the pit stop seemed to help the EverFi machine, and Armstrong continued his climb up to the top-15. A close call came just a few laps later with a multi-truck accident directly in front of the No. 98 Tundra just after the restart. Narrowly dodging several spinning competitors, Armstrong came out clean with just minor damage to the splitter that did not hurt its performance. 


ThorSport Racing teammate and ARCA Racing Series driver Frank Kimmel worked with Armstrong from the spotter's stand, giving him tips to improve his  line throughout the  rest of the night and found groove that helped him stay consistent on the long run. Cleanly making his way through several incidents and close calls after restarts in the second half of the race, Armstrong pushed forward to cross the stripe in 13th place. 


"Our Toyota Tundra was definitely better at the end of the race than what it was when we started the day. Dan Stillman and the EverFi crew did a really great job of making adjustments throughout the race to help us keep up with the track as it cooled," Armstrong explained. "I was happy when the truck gained some grip on the long run because we were really able to make our passes then."


Armstrong wasn't surprised with the seven cautions that plagued the 150 lap race. 


"I can't believe how slick the track was tonight, it was really wild. There was zero grip on the track surface because it was just so hot today, and it was especially hard to hang on to after all the restarts. I'm not surprised that there were as many wrecked race trucks as there was, I was almost one of them a few times. So I'm really happy we can come home with a good finish and in one piece."


Dakoda Armstrong PR

Justin Lofton drove the No. 6 College Complete Chevrolet home to a solid 14th place finish after getting caught up in a wreck in the UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway on Thursday night. Despite damage to the right side of his truck, Lofton dug in to reclaim as many positions as possible in order to remain in the championship hunt.
"This is what can make or break a championship run, overcoming adversity like that. We've had a lot of luck this year so far, and unfortunately, we got the wrong end of it tonight," Lofton said. "We started off real loose so we had to hold on for a while. The track was just really rough and it made things dicey out there."
Lofton took the green flag for the 150-lap race from the 10th position. His qualifying effort was intense after his No. 6 College Complete Silverado broke loose on the second lap of his run. Once the green flag waved, Lofton continued to battle his machine, before getting a break courtesy of the first caution flag on lap 18. He pulled his truck onto pit road, taking on two right side tires and a slight adjustment to help the handling condition.
Back on track, Lofton, the points leader entering the race, maintained a spot within the top-five before the time came for another round of pitstops. Under the second stop, the team swapped out all four tires.
Once the restart waved, the competition got dicey, and with trucks scattering three-wide around the 1.5-mile track, Lofton dropped back a few positions. With a slick and bumpy track providing a competitive race, Lofton had nowhere to go as a multi-truck wreck broke out in the midst of the intense battle on lap 70 off of turn 1.
After suffering right side damage to his College Complete ride, he made multiple pit stops for repairs to the tow of the truck, before returning to the track one lap down.  After battling just outside of the top-20 due to the damage, a break came by way of a caution flag on lap 111. The yellow provided Lofton with the wave around to rejoin the lead lap.
With over 30 laps to go, Lofton was able to regain multiple positions, ending the night in the 14th spot.
Lofton and the entire College Complete team will observe an off week before heading to Iowa Speedway on July 14th. He enters the event second in the series point standings, just four markers out of the top spot.
Justin Lofton PR

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