Speedway Digest Staff
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
It’s been said that NASCAR is the most fan-friendly and accessible sport in the world. Richmond International Raceway is taking it to the next level with Track Takeover. Quite simply: if you’re a fan, you’re invited!
All fans who have a ticket for the Saturday, April 26, TOYOTA OWNERS 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at RIR will have FREE access to RIR’s track surface, allowing you to get up close and personal with the track you love, just hours before the green flag waves.
This is every sports fan’s dream! Think of how cool it would be to feel the grass on an NFL field or kick up some dirt at an MLB stadium. We’re making it happen NASCAR-style at RIR when your feet hit the very pavement that your favorite driver will be racing on later that evening. You can even sign the Start/Finish line!
RIR is providing ticket holders of all ages with fun and interactive activities to enjoy from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.:
· The Start/Finish Line will be a lively and energetic atmosphere, complete with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Q&A sessions and live music for the entire 2½ hours of access. Don’t forget to leave a good luck message for your driver on the start/finish line.
· On the backstretch, you’ll enjoy educational and interactive components that appeal to all levels and ages. Fans will be able to see and touch the sport, and gain a unique perspective into the “behind the scenes” aspect of NASCAR.
· Take a Lap and enjoy a stroll around our ¾-mile D-shaped oval, just hours before the cars speed around at 150 mph! We’ll show you some photo opportunities along the way at designated memorable spots around the track. Remember in 2008 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch collided just a few laps before the checkered flag? How about when Martin Truex Jr. rode the backstretch wall in 2005? We’ll show you where these happened, and you’re encouraged to take a snapshot to share with your friends and followers. Don’t forget to use #TrackTakeover.
We’re developing Track Takeover in response to fan feedback we’ve received. You, the fan, told us you want more access and more value. Every fan – whether you come every year, are making your first trip, or coming back after a while – will leave with a lifetime memory that only RIR is providing. This program delivers more value into EVERY race ticket for EVERY fan.
Zippo Manufacturing Company recently signed their multi-year renewal of the Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series entitlement at Watkins Glen International. Zippo has been a premier partner of The Glen since 1993, and is currently the longest continuous sponsor of Watkins Glen International. Now in its tenth year, the Zippo 200 is the third longest running Nationwide Series race under the same name and sponsorship. This season marks the 10th anniversary of Zippo’s entitlement of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race during The Glen’s traditional NASCAR race weekend in August.
“Zippo has been a fantastic partner for more than 20 years and we are thrilled to continue that relationship,” said WGI President Michael Printup. “Both the Zippo and Watkins Glen International brands are known for their quality of product, history and longevity. Words cannot express our gratitude for their renewal or the excitement that we feel as we prepare to celebrate this 10th anniversary sponsorship milestone. We know that our fans love their products, so their involvement with our track over the years is a real benefit to everyone involved.”
Zippo’s partnership with Watkins Glen International began in 1993 when they became inaugural sponsor of the U.S. Vintage Grand Prix event, now one of the largest vintage racing events in the United States. In 2005, Zippo increased its support of The Glen when it took on title sponsorship of the Zippo 200 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
“From the beginning, our partnership with WGI has been a great fit for both of us,” commented Greg Booth, Zippo president and CEO. “Racing fans, especially NASCAR fans, have the same loyalty and passion for their sport as Zippo lighter fans have for our product. The introduction of our Zippo Outdoor line of products makes even more sense as we reach out to the thousands of avid fans who pack the campgrounds during race weekend at the Glen.”
Zippo Manufacturing Company is located in nearby Bradford, PA, approximately two hours to the southwest of the historic racetrack. Zippo has unveiled many of their new products at WGI during the NASCAR weekends, including the award-winning Zippo refillable handwarmer. In 2011, they debuted the Zippo Jeep, a 2011 Jeep Wrangler modified by West Coast Customs to embody the attributes of the Zippo brand and serve as promotional ambassador for the emerging Zippo Outdoor line of products. The Zippo Hot Spot is one of the most popular interactive vendor displays on manufacturers’ row, offering new product challenges and demonstrations, lighter fill-ups, minor repairs, and a wide selection of Zippo windproof lighters.
In honor of this major milestone, The Glen is proud to present a new 10-year logo for this year’s edition of Zippo 200. Zippo Manufacturing Company will also be producing a commemorative item for fans to bid on at the Zippo 200 on August 9, with all proceeds to be donated to charity.
Looking for something automotive? Or maybe an antique? Look no further than Kansas Speedway on July 18-19 as the Speedway hosts its first swap meet.
The swap meet, which will have over 1200 automotive related spaces, will take place in the Kansas Speedway infield on July 18 from 8 AM – 7 PM and on July 19 from 8 AM – 5 PM. Kansas Speedway’s Garage C will have craft and collectible items.
Indoor and outdoor spaces are currently on sale and can be purchased by calling 913.328.3391.
A car corral will be available ($45 per space) with cars in the corral available for purchase on the day of the event.
Tickets for each day are just $5 per car and will only be available on July 18-19. Richard Petty Driving Experience will be on track both days and concessions will be available in Sprint FanWalk.
Kansas Speedway PR
For Kurt Busch, competing in the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race wasn't been a goal until recently because he never envisioned it was attainable.
On March 4, Busch announced he is one step closer to achieving that goal.
The 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will join Andretti Autosport for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25. He'll also seek to become the fourth driver to "do the double" by competing in the Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, N.C.
"To add a driver with the résumé of Kurt Busch to the Indianapolis 500 field is a huge gain for INDYCAR," said Derrick Walker, INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations. "We want to see the best 33 drivers put their skills to the test on the biggest stage in motorsports, regardless of which series they come from. To attempt 'the Double' is a tremendous challenge, and we're looking forward to watching Kurt accomplish the feat this May."
Busch, 35, who is dedicating the effort to U.S. military personnel serving around the world, said the opportunity "is a dream come true."
"My dad, a Mac Tools distributor, and I would go to car shows and see Indy cars and he'd say, 'This is about as close as you'll ever get to one of these things' because it was so far removed from what we could dream as a small blue-collar family from Las Vegas," Busch said. "It's just the different opportunities that have come up in motorsports (that have led me) to this biggest moment outside of stock cars.
"It was a talk over dinner (with his agent, John Caponigro) one night on 'what if?' and now it's all becoming a realty for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti.
"I went once to watch the '500' with Roger Penske when I first signed a contract with him to drive stock cars. To feel it, to experience it, I'm going to actually revert back to that to try to block out some of the emotional excitement of what it means to be part of the '500.' To drive in it this year, nothing is going to compare, nothing can prepare or get me ready when they drop that green flag and 33 of us rush into Turn 1."
Busch tested an Andretti Autosport car at the Speedway last May - his second time in an Indy car - between Sprint Cup Series races. He finished 14th in the Brickyard 400 on the 2.5-mile oval three months later.
"That was a whole kid in a candy store moment of experiencing an open-wheel car at 220 mph," he said. "You can definitely get a different appreciation for the track and its heritage with an open-wheel car versus a stock car that I've done the last 15 years there. It got my mind going and my juices flowing on 'I want to do this.' The adrenaline and excitement was there, but last year just didn't seem like the right timing. Now 11 months of chewing on the fat and working on the details, I'm more excited than ever to do this."
Qualifications are May 17-18, with final practice on Carburetion Day May 23. Busch said a testing plan interspersed in the NASCAR schedule to "get up to speed" with teammates Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz is being drafted.
"It's going to be a steady progression that I have to follow Andretti Autosport's lead," he said. "We have a full-blown test program to be the best-prepared we can for the Month of May. I will be a rookie, but I bring a lot of oval experience in and we'll see how we can blend that in.
"It's about absorbing as much as I can and chewing on it the right way. Sam Hornish Jr., who was a teammate of mine at Penske Racing, I mentored him as much as I could on the stock car side. Don't think I'm not going to call him and try to get that favor back."
The last driver to attempt the double was Robby Gordon in 2004. Gordon, who in 2002 and '03 raced in both events, started the '04 Indy 500 but left at the first red flag (rain) for North Carolina. Jaques Lazier finished the race for Gordon. John Andretti (1994) and Tony Stewart (1999 and 2001) also raced in both events. Stewart is the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles - finishing sixth at Indianapolis and third at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
"I want to pop quiz everyone who's done (the double) to learn as much as I can to just be able to anticipate what's next and have things checked off your list so that you're mentally prepared," Busch said. "I have to thank Stewart Haas Racing for giving me the chance to fulfill this dream, to challenge myself in motorsports and to do something special in this day and age."
From 1961 to 1973, the Indy 500 and World 600 -- as the Coca-Cola 600 -- was formerly known were held on separate days, allowing drivers to attempt to race in both events.
Among the drivers who raced in both races the same year:
1967: The World 600 is held on Sunday, May 28, and the Indy 500 is scheduled for Tuesday, May 30. Cale Yarborough becomes the first driver to compete in both races in the same year. He finished 41st at Charlotte and 17th at Indy.
1968: The World 600 is held on Sunday, May 26, and the Indy 500 is held Thursday, May 30. Jerry Grant becomes the second driver to compete in both races in the same year. He finished 12th at Charlotte and 23rd at Indy.
1969: The World 600 is held on Sunday, May 25, and the Indy 500 is held Friday, May 30. NASCAR driver Lee Roy Yarbrough won the race at Charlotte, and at Indy, he finished 23rd.
1970: The World 600 is held on Sunday, May 24, and the Indy 500 is held Saturday, May 30. NASCAR driver Donnie Allison won the race at Charlotte, and finished fourth at Indy. To date, it is the best combined performance for both races. Lee Roy Yarbrough also competed in both events. He finished 29th at Charlotte and 19th at Indy.
1971: Memorial Day is moved to Monday, and the Indy 500 is held Saturday, May 29. The World 600 is held the next day. NASCAR driver Donnie Allison finished sixth at Indy on Saturday, and finished second at the race at Charlotte.
1979: NASCAR regular Neil Bonnett entered at Indy looking to qualify. He was up to speed, however, he suffered a blown engine on the morning of pole qualifying. The following weekend, rain complicated his schedule, and he decided to withdraw from Indy.
University of North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora became a NASCAR fan watching the sport on television. He fell head-over-heels in love with it during a trip to Martinsville Speedway last spring.
“Last year at Martinsville was my first short-track race and it was phenomenal,” said Fedora. “That’s where it’s at. It’s non-stop action all the time. It’s exciting and high-tempo. It’s pretty special at Martinsville.”
Fedora will be in the middle of all the Martinsville action, at least for a few laps, as the honorary pace car driver for the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race on March 30.
“I’m extremely excited … I really can’t tell you how excited I am,” Fedora said of his upcoming pace-car duties. “I’ve done a ride-along and I plan on driving a race car one day, but this is the biggest thing for me so far.”
Fedora took over a UNC program in 2012 that was facing NCAA sanctions and a year of bowl ineligibility, but forged ahead with an eight-win inaugural season and coached the Tar Heels to a Belk Bowl victory in 2013.
“We’ve done OK the last two years, but we’ve got a long way to go,” said Fedora, whose teams are traditionally known for aggressive play on the field and high graduation rates off the field. “We’re slowly changing the culture of football here. We are going to have a blue collar team. We want to play smart, fast and physical.”
Fedora said when he was at Martinsville last year, he spent a lot of time roaming the pits where he met several drivers, including Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. He was invited into Gordon’s hauler and happened upon the team’s pre-race meeting, led by crew chief Alan Gustafson.
“I was in Jeff Gordon’s trailer before the race for the team meeting. It was like a pregame speech. I had no idea it was like that with the pit crews,” said Fedora. “I don’t know all that crew chiefs do, but it’s managing people and getting them excited. That team meeting reminded me of football. It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.”
Martinsville Speedway PR
Las Vegas is known for its exciting and unique casinos, fine dining and electric night life. But it is also home of Rick Harrison, star of “Pawn Stars” and the World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop.
Jeremy Clements Racing announced today that they will partner with Rick Harrison again as Primary Sponsor of the Jeremy Clements Racing No. 51 Chevrolet for the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 8, 2014.
“Rick is a great guy, and I am excited to have the opportunity to represent him and his family by carrying the logo of the World Famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop on the car this weekend,” said Clements.
This will be the fourth time the two companies have partnered together since 2011.
Blake Koch, driver of the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford, comments on racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
"This new qualifying procedure is definitely making things interesting and adding an extra element to have to prepare for and think about going into race weekend. It used to be you'd go out, wait for them to tell you to go and hammer off two laps. Now you have to find a hole and make sure when you cut it off coming into Turns 1 and 2 to get off the racetrack you don't screw someone else's lap up. It's a lot more to think about than just going fast for two laps.
"We had a decent first race together last week at Phoenix. It wasn't quite the finish we wanted, but we accomplished what we set out to do, which was to get comfortable with the car, run solid laps, stay out of trouble and learn as much as possible. I think going to Vegas with the extra test day, that's just going to help us even more and put us in a good position for Sunday's race as the second race under my belt in the MDS Ford."
JUST THE FACTS: Sunday's race would be Koch's first Sprint Cup start at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ... He has two career starts at Las Vegas in the Nationwide Series.
David Ragan, driver of the No. 34 Taco Bell Ford, comments on racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
"The mile-and-a-half tracks have definitely been what Front Row Motorsports has needed to work the hardest on. And we've done that this off-season to try to improve our race cars and try to go with a different approach to some of these tracks. Obviously with the new rule changes, the ride-height rules, the way that NASCAR is going to police the cars before and after the race, there are going to be some changes to adjust to.
"We're fortunate we have an open test day Thursday at Las Vegas, so that will give our team a chance to make some laps and learn a few things. But we've definitely got a lot of work ahead of us. The first few races of the year definitely put everybody to a test, traveling across the country, learning as much as we can and seeing how fast we can get our Fords.
"We'll have Barletta Engineering and Schwarze Industries on our No. 34 car as associate sponsors. They're both celebrating big anniversaries as companies this year, so we'll hope to give them a good run to mark the occasions."
JUST THE FACTS: Ragan has seven Sprint Cup career starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ... His best finish at the 1.5-mile oval is seventh (2008) ... Taco Bell returns for its first race on the No. 34 Ford with a new black and purple paint scheme.
David Gilliland will take a detour -- on foot -- on his way to Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week. The driver of the No. 38 Love's Travel Stops Ford will be part of a group hiking more than 20 miles of trails through the Grand Canyon Tuesday and Wednesday.
Gilliland purchased about 40 pounds of gear to carry on the hike, during which he will sleep in a sleeping bag and tent on the canyon floor.
Gilliland comments on hiking the Grand Canyon:
"Even though I grew up out west, I've never seen the Grand Canyon and I've always wanted to. This way I'll be able to see it all at once. It's going to be hard. I've done three smaller hikes before but nothing like this. I'm going to have a yellow (rookie) stripe on my backpack for sure.
"We're going down the hardest trail, too. It's about eight and a half miles in, and then we have a 13-and-a-half-mile hike out. I'm going to be wishing that Love's Travel Stops had a store on the bottom of the Grand Canyon."
Gilliland comments on racing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
"Vegas, to me, drives a lot like Charlotte Motor Speedway. We were able to test in December there at Charlotte and work on some new rule packages that NASCAR sent out, and I feel like the cars drove better when we were there. I felt like we were more competitive in a big group than we had been at the mile-and-a-halfs. We feel like we're definitely headed in the right direction with that program. We've got an extra day of practice out there that's really going to help us, too.
"The rules changes are definitely going to help teams like Front Row Motorsports. With these cars, that aero platform and aero balance are going to be a lot easier to achieve. I think it's going to make the racing better and hopefully Front Row and my team can benefit from that."
JUST THE FACTS: Gilliland has seven Sprint Cup career starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ... His top finish at Las Vegas is 14th (2009) ... Love's Travel Stops returns as the primary sponsor on the No. 38 Ford Fusion.
Martin Truex Jr. will make his 300th career Sprint Cup Series start in Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
When informed about the upcoming milestone, the Furniture Row Racing driver said he was both surprised and grateful.
“I had absolutely no idea that my 300th start is coming up,” said Truex. “I’ve been blessed to be with some great race teams and have enjoyed plenty of fond memories.”
Truex, a two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion (2004 & 2005), started his first Cup race on Oct. 31, 2004 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He became a full-time Cup driver in 2006.
“Looking back it seems like a long time ago that I made my first start but it really wasn’t,” stated Truex.” They say when you’re having fun time flies, and in my case that is so true because I have had an incredible amount of fun over the years.”
Truex’s career starts to date include 117 with Dale Earnhardt Inc., 36 with Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, 144 with Michael Waltrip Racing and two with Furniture Row Racing. His statistical totals include: two wins, 31 top-fives, 90 top-10s, seven poles and 1,889 laps led.
When asked if he sees another 300 starts in his career, Truex didn’t blink as he quickly responded to the question.
“Oh yes, absolutely,” said a confident Truex. “I am only 33 and have a lot more years in me. I feel the best is still yet to come as a driver.”
Truex’s career has been marked by resiliency while growing into a Chase-caliber driver.
“I’ve had some tough breaks throughout my career, a lot of ups and downs,” noted Truex, a two-time Chase participant. “As I have said I’ve been with some great teams but it seemed like every time we were getting to where we wanted to go something bad happened to make it come to an end really quickly. Hopefully Furniture Row Racing will be my new home for a long time and we can get to where we want to go.”
Regarding favorite races or moments in his Cup career, Truex said, “The wins are big in my book and making the Chase for the first time in 2007. I have a lot of favorites.”
Truex, whose most recent Sprint Cup win came last year at the Sonoma, Calif. road course, is looking to make the Las Vegas race a memorable 300th start in his No. 78 Furniture Row/Denver Mattress Chevrolet.
“Las Vegas will be another good test to see where we are at with the new rules package for the 2014 car,” explained Truex. “The first two races have not turned out the way we had expected, but we’ve also had some positive signs. It would be nice to look back and remember how successful the 300th start was.”
In eight career starts at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Truex has had two top-10s with an average finish of 16.2. He has completed all but four laps in his career at Las Vegas for a completion record of 98.8 percent (2153 of 2157).