Speedway Digest Staff
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Jeff Gordon is a realist, but he also has reason to be optimistic.
Through seven races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Gordon is third in the series standings, 26 points behind co-leaders Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson.
Gordon knows the odds against both drivers having trouble in the next three races are long, but the four-time champion also believes he can make his presence felt if he can narrow his deficit to the frontrunners appreciably in the next two weeks.
In fact, Gordon knows exactly where he'd like to be in relation to the leaders entering the season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"It's hard to make up more than 10 points on either one of those guys in a single race," Gordon said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's AAA Texas 500. "So, I would think that you'd need to be within 10 or 12 points at Homestead.
"I do know we had a great test at Homestead. I felt like we have a very fast race car and I would love to be in that position at Homestead, because I do think we could put some pressure on them. Those guys make very few mistakes.
"We're not expecting anything out of them this week, next week or the week after that. Again, all we're doing is trying to do our job the best that we can. But it would be pretty exciting for our race team to go into Homestead and be maybe 10 or 12 points out. That would be pretty exciting."
Gordon collected his first victory of the season last Sunday at Martinsville, and he can draw inspiration from another former winner at NASCAR's shortest track. Tony Stewart won at Martinsville, Texas and Homestead in three of the final four races of 2011 to win the championship in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.
Austin Dillon took exception to remarks Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick made after Harvick and Austin's brother, Ty Dillon, wrecked during hard racing in last Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville.
Harvick referred to Ty Dillon as a spoon-fed "rich kid," intimating that the grandsons of Richard Childress had their racing opportunities handed to them.
Dillon responded in an interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
"My grandfather has given my brother and I both a great opportunity to go out and take advantage of," Dillon said. "If anybody out there doesn't think that I should go after something that is in front of me, I don't know what to say.
"I feel like this opportunity has been put in front of me, and I am very blessed."
Appearing in the Texas Motor Speedway media center on Friday afternoon, Dillon elaborated.
"I did that interview, and I posted it on my Twitter (account) for everybody… all the media to see, because I felt like I answered that question as good as I possibly could," Dillon said. "It was honest, and it was from the heart, and as soon as he (Harvick) saw it, he messaged me and he asked me to come talk to him when he got to the track.
"We had a conversation in the motor home, and I think we're both better for it at this point in time. He apologized -- and was nice."
Both Austin and Ty Dillon were entered in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Texas. Austin Dillon was sporting an orange lining in his cowboy hat to raise awareness of NASCAR's partnership with Drive4COPD during COPD Awareness Month this November.
The Dillons lost their paternal grandfather to COPD, a debilitating lung disease.
Greg Biffle is sporting a Chip Foose-designed "Hire Our Heroes" paint scheme on his No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, honoring military veterans who work in the collision repair business.
A number of those veterans have been chosen to attend Sunday's AAA Texas 500, along with the auto body shop owners who nominated them. The veterans and shop owners will experience pre-race activities from pit road.
A list of the veterans who will be honored in this manner appears here: www.3MCollision.com/hero-race.
What appeared to be an impressive day for the 21-year-old rookie Jeb Burton, turned into a disappointing night when his No. 4 Arrowhead Chevrolet ran out of fuel with only six laps remaining in the WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway. Receiving his seventh Keystone Light pole award of the season, Burton and his Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) team felt their brand new truck had a real shot at returning to the Texas-sized victory lane for a second time this year, but a combination of handling and fuel issues resulted in a 26th-place finish at the No Limits track, taking Burton to fifth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Driver Point Standings.
Returning as the most recent race winner at the 1.5-mile oval track, Burton and his team came equipped with TSM-602, a brand new truck straight out of the windtunnel. Ranking fifth fastest in the weekend's first practice session, the No. 4 team elected to run just eight laps, choosing to participate more in the final session due to similar race-like conditions. Once on the track, the Arrowhead Chevy quickly jumped to second on the speed charts, with Burton reporting that the truck felt "awesome" and was doing everything he needed it to do. With a top-notch truck at a familiar speedway, Burton impressed again as he laid down the fastest qualifying time and won his seventh pole award of the season. The 21-year-old Rookie of the Year candidate is now tied for the most pole awards won by a rookie driver in one season, a record currently held by Austin Dillon.
Leading the field into the WinStar World Casino 350, Burton quickly dropped two positions as the field made their way around Turn 2 due to a tight-handling truck. As the first caution came out on lap 24, crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. called Burton to pit road for four tires, fuel and a few adjustments to correct the truck's neutral handling. In a tight battle on the restart, the No. 4 Arrowhead Chevy settled into the top ten with Burton reporting that he was having issues turning the truck. The TSM crew made more adjustments as the track went yellow again on lap 60 and gave Burton four tires and fuel. Restarting in the eighth position, Burton settled into the top 10 once again for a long green-flag run. As the final caution arose on lap 100, the Arrowhead truck came to pit road for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. In a battle off of pit road, another competitor made slight contact with Burton, but Hillman and spotter Kevin Hamlin saw no visible damage to the No. 4 truck.
During the final long caution-free run in the WinStar World Casino 350, Burton remained in the top 10. With just six laps to go, Burton quickly radioed to his crew that something was wrong, and before he knew it, he began slowing down and rapidly dropping track position. Coming to a halt on pit road, the No. 4 Arrowhead truck had run out of fuel in the final laps of the race, ultimately resulting in a disappointing 26th-place finish for the TSM team.
"I'm frustrated and disappointed," said Burton. "This was a huge blow for us in points and it could have been avoided. We had a great truck this weekend, but between handling issues and constantly getting raced three-wide, it was hard to do anything. I just want to put this weekend behind us and move on. I'm bummed that we dropped another position in point standings, but I'm not letting that top five out of my sight. The next two weekends are 'sink or swim' for us."
Miguel Paludo was a threat early on in the weekend as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) prepared for its second battle of the season at Texas Motor Speedway. After leading the first practice session and qualifying in the top five, Paludo appeared to have the truck to beat in the WInStar World Casino 350. However, early contact and a free condition hurt the No. 32 team early on, preventing them from bringing Anderson's Maple Syrup to victory lane in their first race with Turner Scott Motorsports.
After laying down the fastest lap in the weekend's opening practice session, Paludo backed up his early speed by running fourth fastest in both final practice and time trials. Taking the green flag in his No. 32 Anderson's Maple Syrup/Brookshire's Chevrolet, Paludo experienced a free condition in the opening laps of the WinStar World Casino 350. Dropping to eighth by lap eight, Paludo was scored in 11th when the first caution flag of the night waved on lap 25. Paludo visited pit road under yellow, taking four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment before returning to the track in the ninth spot.
When the green flag waved on lap 29, Paludo began to make up spots, advancing to seventh by lap 38. With the adjustments made on the first pit stop, Paludo appeared to be on a march to the front of the pack when he closed on a lapped truck on lap 55. Paludo was passing the lapped competitor, providing plenty of room, but the other driver was unaware that the No. 32 truck was there and pulled in front of it at a slow speed, forcing the Brazilian driver to make contact with the rear of the opposing vehicle. Paludo sustained damage to his nose and grille, but continued until the caution waved for an unrelated incident on lap 60. Paludo was forced to make two stops under yellow in order to repair the damage and perform a full pit stop. In addition to fixing the front end of the Anderson's machine, the No. 32 team provided their truck with four tires and fuel, sending Paludo back onto the track in 22nd.
With the damage repaired as much as it could be, Paludo's truck was still strong when green-flag racing resumed. In only eight laps, Paludo gained back 10 positions. Reporting to crew chief Jeff Hensley that his truck was now just a little snug, Paludo settled into the 12th position, slipping back to 13th just before the third and final caution flag of the night waved on lap 100. Paludo came down pit road for "the money stop" and the No. 32 team didn't disappoint, providing four tires, fuel and both track-bar and air-pressure adjustments, all while gaining three spots on pit road.
Green-flag racing resumed on lap 107, and in the final forty laps, Paludo fought hard with his still-wounded race truck, running times as fast as the leaders and advancing into the eighth position before receiving the checkered flag.
"We were really good at the end; I thought we were going to finish a little bit better than eighth," said Paludo. "We couldn't have asked for much more under the circumstances. The guys were great on pit road all night. They did a good job repairing the damage we had early on and they worked hard to give me a good truck. I'm so happy we were able to give Anderson's Maple Syrup a top 10 in their first race with us; I can't thank them enough for coming on board."
- Richard Childress Racing teammates finished first (Ty Dillon) and fourth (Brendan Gaughan).
- Dillon is third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver championship point standings, 47 markers behind the leader; while Gaughan ranks ninth in the standings.
- The No. 3 Chevrolet team is fourth in the Camping World Truck Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 62 team 11th in the standings.
- According to NASCAR's Post Race Loop Data Statistics, Dillon earned the highest Driver Rating (150.0), while Gaughan ranked fourth with a rating of 104.8.
- Dillon earned the highest Average Running Position (1.136) during the 147-lap affair and Gaughan earned the sixth-highest (5.762).
- Dillon was first in the Fastest Driver Early in a Run and Fastest Driver Late in a Run categories. Gaughan was seventh and second, respectively in the same categories.
- Combined, the RCR drivers collected the Fastest Laps Run 79 times throughout the event.
- Both Gaughan and Dillon spent 100 percent of the race running in the top 15.
- Dillon led for a total of 130 laps, more than any other competitor.
- Dillon earned his second-career Camping World Truck Series victory and was followed to the line by Johnny Sauter, Ron Hornaday Jr., Gaughan and Justin Lofton.
- The next scheduled Camping World Truck Series race is the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday, Nov. 8. The 21st race of the 2013 season is scheduled to be televised live on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on Motor Racing Network and Sirius XM NASCAR radio, channel 90.
Dillon Dominates in the Lone Star State
Ty Dillon and the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team dominated at Texas Motor Speedway, leading for 130 of the 147 laps contested on Friday night before taking the checkered flag and making their second trip to victory lane this season. Starting from the third position, Dillon jumped to the inside line and battled three wide for the lead when the initial green flag was displayed. He gained control of the top spot off of turn two and led the first portion of the race. The Welcome, N.C., native drove off with more than a four-second lead on the second-place truck when the field was slowed on lap 59 for a caution period. Crew chief Marcus Richmond called the young driver to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to keep the balance neutral on the black and orange machine. Dillon restarted second on the ensuing start, but was shuffled back to third once the green flag waved. He battled side-by-side for position through the course of the next three laps before taking back the top spot. The Richard Childress Racing driver settled into a rhythm and never looked back. Dillon crossed the finish line earning his second-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. Friday night's win marks the 100th win for the No. 3 in RCR's history.
Start - 3 Finish - 1 Laps Led - 130 Points - 3rd
TY DILLON QUOTE:
"This is awesome, we finally got a win at Texas (Motor Speedway). I've wanted to win the cowboy hat so bad. It's the one race that I had to win. This No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team is great. They were fast on pit road and worked really hard to put together a fast truck. It all paid off tonight when we pulled into Victory Lane. Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) made some great calls and kept us out front all night long. This was our race from the drop of the green flag. We've let too many wins get away this season; I wasn't going to let this one get away. I'm so proud of this team and everyone at RCR, we couldn't have done this without everyone's help."
MARCUS RICHMOND QUOTE:
Gaughan Earns Top-Five Finish at Texas Motor Speedway
Brendan Gaughan and the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino team finished fourth under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night. Starting the 147-lap affair from the seventh position, the Las Vegas native competed within the top 10 of the running order, despite battling a condition that transitioned from loose to tight during the early laps. The pit crew made chassis adjustments during scheduled four-tire pit stops on laps 25, 60 and 101 in an effort to combat the handling issues. Armed with a well-handling machine, Gaughan was scored in the sixth position for the lap-106 restart and worked his way into fourth during the final laps, where he ultimately crossed the finish line.
Start - 7 Finish - 4 Laps Led - 0 Points - 9th
BRENDAN GAUGHAN QUOTE:
"Well, we weren't as good tonight as we were during the spring race, but we still managed to pull off a pretty good run. Congratulations to my teammate Ty Dillon on his win. The RCR Chevrolets were really fast, but no one had anything for Ty tonight. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and the South Point Hotel & Casino team did a great job; we just came up a few spots short."
Kyle Busch and his No. 51 ToyotaCare Racing team entered Friday night's WinStar World Casino 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway having closed the gap in the Owner's Championship standings to 15 points and were hopeful that with another strong run in the 147-lap event they could continue lassoing in the series leading No. 88 team. When the green flag dropped, optimism rose as Busch catapulted from his 11th starting position to the fourth spot by the second lap. The Las Vegas native ran inside the top two spots over the first 30 laps, while Matt Crafton's No. 88 Toyota ran in the back half of the top 15.
After the first caution of the night on lap 25 and ensuing pit stops, Busch was able to muscle his way past eventual race winner Ty Dillon for two laps before settling back into the runner-up spot. Shortly after, the team's owner-driver communicated that his temperature gauges were rising and asked his spotter and the team to try and get a look at his Tundra to see if there was debris on the grill. It was eventually determined that indeed there was something on the grill and after several attempts to dislodge the item by running behind other competitors, the No. 51 Toyota was forced to visit pit road under green-flag conditions so that the over-the-wall crew could remove the debris.
Busch returned to the track one lap down in the 26th spot. He communicated that the temperatures had cooled, but felt that the engine was running at less than full power. Knowing that every point was valuable and trying to keep his team in the championship hunt, the team's owner-driver gave his Tundra everything it had, hoping that somehow it would make it to the finish or possibly the No. 88 team would also experience problems. As the race continued, the issues would persist and after two more trips down pit road, the engine on the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra would terminally expire with big puff of smoke on lap 97, leaving the team with a disappointing 28th-place finish. To compound matters, Crafton gained several positions in the closing laps to bring home a 10th-place finish and expand the lead in the championship standings to 32 points with just two races remaining.
"It must have got trash on the grill early and then once it got hot -- these motors can't get hot and recover," Busch said. "Surprised it recovered as good as it did there for a while and it sort of got hot again. I don't think there was trash on the grill, I think it was just build-up of heat in the motor. Ultimately there, we were just trying to suffer on and see if we couldn't make it to the end -- see if it would live. Once they get hot a bunch of things internally start going wrong and eventually it goes real bad. I hate it for all these guys. We were in the hunt for the owner's championship -- this pretty much eliminates it. It sucks. This Toyota Care Tundra has been awesome this year. These guys have done a whale of a job. We've been fast a lot, we've won a lot and had a really fast truck here tonight, but nobody was going to touch the 3 (Ty Dillon)."
Hometown hero James Buescher didn't go down without a fight when he returned to Texas Motor Speedway (TMS), the track where he first cut his teeth in racing. Starting in the sixth position for the WinStar World Casino 350, Buescher fell back just a couple positions in the early going, but after some stellar pit stops by his Rheem crew, Buescher gained valuable track position which kept them in contention. The battles on the track heated up between Buescher and his closest competitors, but a tight-handling Rheem Chevrolet caused for Buescher and the No. 31 team to slip back in the running order. Buescher battled until the bitter end, however, bringing home a sixth-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway.
After two practice sessions on Thursday evening, the No. 31 Rheem team found a balance in their Silverado that they were happy with going into Friday afternoon's qualifying session. With his qualifying effort, Buescher posted the sixth-fastest time for the WinStar World Casino 350. At the start of the 147-lap event, Buescher slipped back in the running order slightly before settling into the eighth position. On lap 25 and under the first yellow-flag period, Buescher radioed to his crew that he was lacking front grip. Crew chief Michael Shelton took this into account for making adjustments to their Rheem Chevy. Coming down pit road for the first pit stop of the night in the 10th position, Buescher received four tires, fuel and both chassis and air-pressure adjustments. A great stop by the pit crew vaulted their No. 31 up to the seventh position. Just a couple laps into the next green-flag run, Buescher went three-wide down the backstretch to move from seventh into the fifth position. On lap 40, Buescher came back over the radio and said his truck was still lacking front grip. Buescher searched around for different grooves, and on lap 57, he decided to run the middle, and finding that it was three-tenths quicker than any other line he had previously run. Under the second yellow flag of the night on lap 59, Buescher brought his No. 31 back down pit road for four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. Restarting in the third position, Buescher quickly took advantage of the track position and forced a three-wide pass going down the backstretch for the lead. Clearing one of the two trucks, Buescher and the No. 3 continued their side-by-side battle for the lead before he eventually settled back into the second spot. Following the tight battle, Buescher told his team, "Don't worry guys. It's still early and we'll have something for them later on."
Buescher would run in the second position for the next 30 laps until the last yellow flag of the night was displayed. Buescher brought his truck back down pit road for his final pit stop, once again taking four Goodyear Wrangler Tires and Sunoco fuel. Still battling a tight-handling truck, the crew also adjusted their Rheem Chevrolet with a slight air-pressure adjustment. With 40 laps to go, Buescher restarted the race in the fifth spot. With another solid restart, Buescher found himself in yet another fierce battle with the No. 3 for second place. Although Buescher took the spot for a couple of laps, his Rheem Chevy proved to be too tight to fight maintain it. Buescher battled intensely for the remaining stretch of the race and was able to bring home a sixth-place finish at his home track.
"I thought it was a solid showing for our Rheem team," said Buescher. "We had a great truck for the short green-flag runs, but unfortunately, the race had all long green-flag runs. My pit crew had some amazing stops all night long that gained us some valuable track position. We'll go on to Phoenix looking to put another mark in the win column."