Speedway Digest Staff
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Building on the excitement of this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup, Shell, the No. 1 selling gasoline brand in the U.S., is extending WINsdays savings to Shell $aver Cardholders. All season long, Shell offered Shell Saver Cardholders the opportunity to save 22 cents per gallon* on Shell fuels, the Wednesday or WINsday following a points race win** by the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion driver Joey Logano. If Logano wins the Championship, Shell will double the WINsdays savings. That means Shell Saver Cardholders could save 44 cents per gallon* on the purchase of high quality Shell V-Power Premium Gasoline, Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines or Shell Diesel using their Shell Saver Card℠ on Wednesday, December 4, during NASCAR® Champions Week. In the meantime, fans can cheer on Logano, as he sets his sights on winning his first career Sprint Cup title during the Ford Ecoboost 400 finale on Sunday, November 17at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
"I'm really looking forward to the extra excitement Shell WINsdays is going to bring to this year's Chase," said Logano. "I'll do my very best to finish the season at the top of the Sprint Cup standings so my passionate fans can double their WINsdays savings come December."
"We're always searching for new ways to offer our deserving customers more opportunities to save on Shell fuels and the Chase provides us with an opportunity to do that through our WINsdays program," said Ebbie Normyle, manager, U.S. Consumer Payment. "The next few months will be an important time for Logano and we'll be supporting him every step of the way as he races towards a potential championship win – all in the name of savings."
Additionally, Shell Saver Cardholders who are also registered members of the Fuel Rewards Network™ (FRN) program can still save through WINsdays when Logano wins a points race.*** Customers who use their Shell Saver Card on a WINsday will receive an email with an FRN™ Rewards Code and activation instructions. Once their FRN Rewards Code has been activated, the additional 22 cents per gallon savings will be added to their FRN Account and can be redeemed on a future purchase of high quality fuels at participating Shell stations.** Shell Saver Cardholders who are not already registered FRN Members can sign up at www.fuelrewards.com/winsday.
Although the chance to save with WINsdays is only in effect during the race season, saving with the Shell Saver Card can happen all year long. Shell Saver Cardholders can save 2 cents per gallon every day on all Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasolines or Shell Diesel.
For more information about the Shell Saver Card or to apply instantly, visit: www.shell.us/savercard. To sign up, request a Fuel Rewards Network Card and learn more about the Fuel Rewards Network program today, go to: www.fuelrewards.com. For more information about the WINsdays program, visit: www.shell.us/winsday.
Shell Pennzoil PR
Mark Martin is not racing for a championship this season. Not next season either, or the one after that. In fact, after nearly 32 years competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Martin has no plans for a championship charge. He hasn’t run a full Sprint Cup schedule since 2011, and unshackled by the grind of the Sprint Cup marathon that consumes 38 weekends a year, Martin can race where he wants, when he wants, for the reasons he wants.
With the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup beginning this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., and all the talk fixated on the 12 drivers gunning for this year’s championship, what is there for Martin to accomplish?
Since taking over for the injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS fielded by Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), Martin has spent countless hours acclimating himself to his new team. Having dedicated the majority of his life to competing at NASCAR’s highest level, Martin knows better than anyone there is more to wheeling a 3,400-pound racecar at speeds approaching 200 mph than just buckling down and throttling up. With 873 career Sprint Cup starts entering Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland, Martin long ago graduated from being a student of the game. He’s a tenured professor as one of the most respected drivers in NASCAR.
The game, however, changes this weekend at Chicagoland. Twelve drivers are competing for a championship, but 31 other drivers join them in pursuit of a victory. It’s an interesting dynamic where the playoff teams continue to play for a season-ending title while those not in the Chase play week-to-week for a coveted win.
As a member of the inaugural Chase Class of 2004, Martin is very familiar with the intensity and rigors of competing in the 10-race run to the title. He’s been a four-time Chase participant, with a best finish of second in 2009. That second-place run was the fifth time in Martin’s Sprint Cup career where he was a runner-up to the series champion. And on four other occasions, Martin finished third in points. In 13 of his 23 full-time seasons in Sprint Cup, Martin has finished among the top-five in points.
Needless to say, Martin is well-versed in the rigors of the Chase. But if he can’t be in the Chase and attempt to spray champagne after the season finale Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he’s at least going to try and crash their party to spray some champagne in victory lane. Chicagoland is Martin’s first opportunity to do just that, and he has some practice at the 1.5-mile oval.
Martin has participated in all 12 Sprint Cup races held at Chicagoland since it was added to the schedule in 2001, and he’s one of nine different drivers to have won at Chicagoland. Martin led a race-high 195 laps en route to victory in 2009, which punctuates a stat line that stands at five top-10s with 239 laps led and a lap completion rate of 99.9 percent.
Complementing Martin’s record at Chicagoland is the performance of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team. Since its inception in 2009, the No. 14 team has finished outside the top-six only once at Chicagoland, and that was a ninth-place effort in 2010. Its stat line consists of three top-fives and four top-10s, highlighted by a victory in 2011 that served as the springboard for the team’s epic run to the season championship.
For the next 10 weeks, the spotlight will shine brightest on the 12 championship contenders. But Martin isn’t afraid to steal that spotlight, and between his experience and that of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops team, Martin and Co. could crash the Chase party before it even starts this weekend at Chicagoland.
It’s here. The 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship and the quest for a sixth title – or “Six Pack,” as the No. 48 Lowe’s team has named its goal for the season.
It’s a quest Jimmie Johnson and the team are ready for after a month marred by their worst streak of finishes in history – 40th, 36th, 28th and 40th. The goal this weekend is a win at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., one of five tracks on which Johnson has yet to win. Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta are the others.
Crew chief Chad Knaus cut his racing teeth up the road in Rockford, Ill., where he served as crew chief for his father John as they traveled the Midwest short-track circuit. In 1986, the father-son duo won the Rockford Speedway Late Model championship.
Now paired with another championship-winning driver, Knaus and five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Johnson are focused on crossing the 1.5-mile track located just southwest of Chicago off the list of tracks where they’ve never won a Sprint Cup race. Johnson did win a Nationwide Series race at the Chicagoland in 2001 while running for Herzog Motorsports.
Knaus and Johnson will do what they can to change their luck in the sport’s premiere series at the track where they’ve finished outside the top-10 just twice in 11 starts – July 2007 and 2010. They have six top-five finishes in all and, after last year’s pole run and runner-up finish, there’s reason to be optimistic that the string of winless finishes will come to end at Chicagoland.
The team starts the Chase as the second seed for the fifth time in the 10 years the format has been used to decide the champion. And while it’s certainly better than third or fourth, the easiest path to collect what the No. 48 Lowe’s team covets is to be first after the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Let the Chase begin for the No. 48 team’s coveted “Six Pack.”
2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte has decided to take another week to recover and will not race the No. 47 Kingsford Charcoal Toyota at Chicagoland Speedway as originally planned. Labonte suffered three broken ribs in a cycling accident near his Trinity, N.C. home on the morning of Wednesday, August 28.
“I feel better every day,” Labonte said. “My ribs still hurt and that’s something that takes time. I figure with the way things are, another week is not that big of a deal. It gives me another week to heal up. Obviously, the plan now is to get back in the car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which is a good track and I look forward to going back there. With my goal being Loudon (N.H.), it gives me another 10 days to prepare for that. It’s better to wait another 10 days.”
"I talk and text Bobby all the time," JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter said. "He's family and he's part of the team. Everyone misses him. We all look forward to him feeling well enough to drive again. That's what he wants to do."
AJ Allmendinger, who will drive the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing entry full-time in 2014, will fill for Labonte during the Geico 400.
"Bobby means a lot to the JTG Daugherty Racing team and to our sport," Allmendinger said. "For me, it's a tough situation. I do not want to get more races with the team because someone is injured. Bobby is a guy that I believe is a Hall of Famer and he is a champion. It's tough to have that type of injury. Hopefully, he gets better as soon as possible to get back into the No. 47 Kingsford Charcoal Toyota."
ALLMENDINGER AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY:
In four starts at Chicagoland Speedway, Allmendinger's best finish is 13th twice (7/11/2009 and 7/12/2008). The 31-year-old's average start is 22.500 and his average finish is 16.750.
CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY QUOTES:
Chicagoland character: “Chicagoland Speedway has got a lot of character,” Allmendinger said. “The track has gotten older and has multiple grooves. It's bumpy and depending on the weather conditions it could be slick. It has a curved back straight-away. Turns 1 and 2 are bumpy in the corner and the corner is longer than Turns 3 and 4. When you come off of Turn 2 and the wall comes back at you, you get tight off that corner. Then getting into Turn 3, it’s tighter. You feel like you can arc the car. It is a tricky entrance. Getting secure in the corner is important. Turns 3 and 4 are tricky to figure out. I look at it like Texas Motor Speedway where 3 and 4 are tighter.”
Hot and cold: "I think it is hot and cold for me at Chicagoland and it is not my best track for sure,” Allmendinger said. "It’s been two years since I have been there. I am going to go and get a good feel. I need to feel it out since it is definitely not one of my better tracks, but at the same time every year is different. We will build off of what we have already learned.”
The past two races: “The last two weeks have been really good,” Allmendinger said. “Atlanta (Motor Speedway) should have been a better finish than 14th, but we got messed up there at the end. At Richmond (International Raceway) more recently, it was a hard fight the whole weekend. It was not our best of what we were capable of doing, but to be able to come away with a top-15 finish was good."
Starting out on the right foot: “Going into Chicagoland Speedway, it is more of the same thing and that is just to continue to improve,” Allmendinger said. “We’re hoping we will have a decent starting package. Our performance on Fridays is the biggest thing we have to work on right now. We are going to take some stuff we learned at Atlanta (Motor Speedway) and apply it to our Kingsford Toyota Camry at Chicagoland. Top-15 finishes are not where we want to be, but it’s a start and something we can build off of for the future. Our guys at the shop and at the track are doing a great job. We’ll start with top-15s and pick up some top-10s along the way as we work on positioning ourselves in contention for wins.”
Kingsford Charcoal: “I think the Kingsford brand is fun to be a part of with JTG Daugherty Racing,” Allmendinger said. “It is used a lot at tailgating in the infield and outfield at tracks. I went to a professional football game on Sunday and Kingsford was everywhere people were tailgating. All of the of the brands JTG Daugherty Racing is affiliated with are great. It is nice to be able to get to know them so we can feel good about each other moving into next year. It’s been good, this is my sixth race and we will have had four different brands on the hood so far. That’s fun to work with.”
Back-to-back top-15 finishes points team in right direction: "We are certainly excited by the way AJ is running in our car even on a night where we really missed the setup like we did at Richmond (International Raceway) Saturday night," JTG Daugherty Racing co-owner Tad Geschickter said. "He was able to stay on the lead lap and finish in the top-15. He drives really hard.
"We continue to find areas we need to work on as a team," Geschickter continued. "It has all been positive and it gives us a head start on learning each other for next year. I look forward to Bobby coming and running some races as well. As much as we miss Bobby, it is a blessing that we are able to work with AJ to get a head start on next year."
Change of Luck… Closing out a five-race stretch for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) before the series takes next weekend off, Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 60 Turn One Racing team travel to Chicagoland Speedway this Friday night for 150 laps of racing under the lights. The 1.5-mile asphalt oval traditionally has not been one of Armstrong’s best tracks, but a rebuilt truck and improvement on other intermediate tracks this season will contribute to what the 22-year-old driver hopes will be his best finish yet at Chicagoland. Finishing outside the top-15 in the last three events, Armstrong needs a strong finish in Friday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 225 to regain lost ground in the series point standings and end on a high note before the off week.
“I haven’t had the best luck at Chicagoland in the past, but I have a good feeling about this weekend,” Armstrong said. “We’ve had a string of bad luck and unfortunate circumstances that have put us behind and dropped us in the point standings. But we’ve really stepped up and put extra work into rebuilding the WinField Silverado we’re racing Friday night and I hope that’ll be just what we need to get to the next level and start clicking off better finishes.”
This Weekend’s WinField Silverado… Completely rebuilt following its debut at Eldora Speedway in July, chassis No. 51 will make its first appearance on an intermediate track this weekend. Crew chief Joe Shear and the Turn One Racing team specifically designed the new body and this particular Silverado for tracks like Chicagoland Speedway. Pleased with the preliminary wind tunnel testing data, Armstrong and the WinField team are optimistic about their chances on Friday.
Previous Race Recap: Iowa Speedway… Returning to Iowa Speedway for the second time in 2013, Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 60 Turn One Racing team had high hopes for one of the driver’s favorite tracks on the NCWTS schedule. Catching an untimely caution just after green flag pit stops past the halfway point in the Fan Appreciation 200, Armstrong was trapped one lap down to the leaders. Unable to catch a break and get his lap back, he was left with a 16th place finish.
Dakoda Armstrong on Chicagoland…
Heading into one of the final off weekends of 2013, what are your goals for Chicagoland?
“We really just need to get a good run in and a solid finish to show for it so we can have some momentum leaving Chicagoland this weekend. Our WinField Silverado has shown more speed each weekend during practice and I’m pleased with the addition of Joe Shear, Jr. to our team, but we really have to get our luck turned around and produce the finishes. I think we've had good trucks for the past four races in a row, we've just been a victim to some unfortunate circumstances each time.”
After a 12-year separation, Carquest is reuniting with driver Scott Riggs in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS).
Carquest, along with sister company Worldpac, will serve as primary sponsors for the Ricky Benton Racing (RBR) Enterprises No. 92 Chevrolet Silverado in Friday's EnjoyIllinois.com 225 from Chicagoland Speedway.
Carquest and World Pac will also be on the No. 92 at Texas Motor Speedway in November.
"We had some great success with Carquest on the truck during my first stint in the series," said Riggs. "I'm looking forward to duplicating that success at Chicago and Texas. This team has made some great strides in our overall program this year and I think we can end 2013 on a high note."
In addition to Chicago and Texas, the team plans to run Martinsville in October, a race in which Riggs piloted the No. 92 to a fifth-place finish in 2012.
"We couldn't be more excited to have Carquest and World Pac on the truck for Chicago and Texas and to have Scott back behind the wheel," said Ricky Benton, owner of RBR Enterprises and BTS Tire and Wheel Distributors, which will serve as an associate sponsor this week. "They have served as great partners and suppliers in our core business (at BTS Tire and Wheel Distributors) and I can't wait to go racing with them."
Goodyear FleetHQ will also be on the truck as an associate sponsor.
The EnjoyIllinois.com 225 will be RBR Enterprises' seventh attempt of 2013. Scott Riggs has starts at Daytona, Martinsville, Charlotte and Kentucky. Clay Rogers drove the truck at Rockingham in April, with Matt McCall driving the truck at Bristol last month.
The team's best finish of 2013 was an 11th-place run at Charlotte with Riggs behind the wheel.
After Bristol, the team plans to return to the NCWTS at Chicagoland with Riggs back behind the wheel.
Sauter won a race at Chicagoland in what's now the NASCAR Nationwide Series, in 2002. In Truck races he won his first series race at Las Vegas in 2009, at Martinsville in 2011 and earlier this season, he swept both Texas races in 2012 and he won at Homestead in 2011 -- when he led the most laps but lost the championship by six points when the race was prematurely called due to rain.
But Sauter's first step is Friday night at Chicagoland.
Sauter's used it twice in the last month to go from the back of the field to fourth at the checkers, with a chance to win at both Bristol and Iowa last weekend.
Matt Crafton's consistency in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has been a plus all season, but Crafton's really hoping his recent success at the fast, 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway pays dividends in Friday night's fifth annual EnjoyIllinois.com 225.
"We've been up-and-down there -- decent, but not great," said the typically low-key driver of the No. 88 Serta / Menards Toyota. "But for sure, it's time to take our game to another level this weekend."
Crafton and his crew chief, Carl "Junior" Joiner, last season scored Crafton's best finish, fourth, at the track located outside Chicago in Joliet, Ill. This season Crafton's the only driver in the Truck Series that's logged 15 top-10 finishes in the 15 races that've been run.
The time's right to upgrade their performance, because defending series champion James Buescher cut Crafton's 11-race-old lead in the championship to 37 points with seven races left this season, when Buescher won at Iowa last weekend while Crafton finished seventh.
"We've just got to put our heads down and keep digging, keep it up with our good work in the pits," Crafton said. "We've been good, but our finishes lately don't show how good we've been running.
"On the road course, we just missed it and were able to scramble back into the top 10 at the end. But at Michigan and Pocono and Iowa our trucks were a lot better than we finished -- circumstances just knocked us back. We need to execute everything we know how to do, perfectly and then if luck's on our side we'll be there when it counts."
Crafton does have the advantage of having raced once already this season at Chicagoland, and scoring a 10th-place finish in his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series race, for Richard Childress Racing, in July.
"I was pleased to see the track had aged a little more, which we drivers like to see," Crafton said. "It was interesting to see how much the groove moved around, during that race and hopefully that's what we'll see during the Truck race so we can put on a heckuva show for the fans.
"Chicagoland's definitely not boring to go around, in the driver's seat. The track's got a lot of character and it's a lot of fun to drive because you can move around -- run high and run low and run wherever you have to -- to make your car or truck find speed. That's really what I enjoy the most about a slick surface."
Despite downplaying his Chicagoland performance, Crafton did win the pole there in 2009 for the Truck Series' inaugural race. In the four Truck races held there to-date, Crafton's average starting position is 9.5 and his average finish, eighth.
The veteran Ron Hornaday has the best average finish among drivers with four Chicagoland Truck starts, 7.8, while Crafton's ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter is third on the list with a 9.3 average finish.
The biggest reason Crafton's not taking his summer experience too quickly to the bank is because of the variance in the two events' schedules.
"The biggest thing that I noticed that we're going to have to deal with is that (the Truck race) is a night race," Crafton said. "When we raced the Nationwide cars in the daytime, the groove really moved up as the track got hotter and slicker and the oil came up out of the surface. That's when you had to move around and find a surface with some grip.
"Looking ahead at the weather it's going to be a lot cooler for the Truck race, at night and we'll have to be careful to account for the potential temperature change from the start of the race to later in the race, because when it's cooler you'll tend to be on the bottom of the racetrack more, because that's the fastest way around."
Crafton will extend his series-leading string of consecutive Truck Series starts to 310 when he takes the green flag Friday evening in the opening event of a NASCAR tripleheader with the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series that Sunday opens the 10th annual Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Friday the 13th has foreboding reputations dating back from ancient times. There are two such occurrences in 2013 and Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) EnjoyIllinois.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. is one of them. The second infamous "Friday the 13th" is in December and the two such occurrences happen to be 13 weeks apart. Why is Friday the 13th considered one of the unluckiest days on the calendar? Well, the superstition does have deep, compelling roots in Western Culture, but stems from two separate fears - the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Friday's.
Racing superstitions are nearly as old as the sport itself and although they are not as prevalent today, there are still certain fixtures drivers and crew members shy away from. Peanuts, $50 bills and even the color green are primarily superstitions that many drivers have steered clear of over the years. Although Joey Coulter, driver of the No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, doesn't have any superstitions he does believe that he could use all the "luck" he can get in the final seven races of the year starting with this weekend's NCWTS EnjoyIllinois.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway.
Coulter's "bad luck" stems from a four-week span of misfortune dating back to Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn (August). After wrecking his primary Toyota Tundra in practice - a truck he says was capable of winning the race and the best truck he has had all year - the Miami Springs, Fla. native had to pull out his back-up and finished 14th at the 2-mile oval - ending a two-week streak of top-five finishes. At Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway just four days later, Coulter made contact with the Turn 2 wall in qualifying relegating the No. 18 team to a 34th-place starting position - his worst start of the season. The following week in Canada at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Coulter was unable to control his "bucking" Monster Energy Tundra and found himself in the tire barrier early in the inaugural event forcing him to take the checkered flag from the 26th position. Finally, in last weekend's Truck Series event at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Coulter was forced into the Turn 2 wall when the No. 62 machine of Brendan Gaughan had a break issue on a green-white-checkered restart relegating Coulter to a 25th-place finish and his first DNF of the season.
Coulter would like nothing more than to turn his luck around this weekend in Chicago by turning the fifth day of the week and the number 13 into a lucky No. 18 after 150-laps on the 1.5-mile oval in the "Windy City."
It will be a flashback to the past for Kyle Busch in Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., as long-time partner Dollar General returns for a one-race deal to sponsor his No. 51 Tundra in the EnoyIllinois.com 225. Since 2010, KBM has compiled five wins- including the team's historic first victory at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway in April of 2010 - and 14 top-five finishes across 27 races with Dollar General as a primary sponsor. When Busch was behind the wheel, KBM's owner-driver has collected four of the victories and 11 of the top-five finishes in his 14 starts in the black and yellow Tundra.
Whether it has been as an owner or driver, Busch and Dollar General have celebrated in victory lane together in five consecutive seasons. The Las Vegas native won as a driver with the Tenn.-based company as a sponsor of his No. 32 Camry in the Nationwide Series race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in 2008, won a race that Dollar General was the title sponsor of at Charlotte in 2009, collected KBM's first win at Nashville with DG as the sponsor in 2010 and scored three victories in his black-and-yellow Tundra in 2011. Last year, Brian Scott put KBM's No. 18 Dollar General Tundra, owned by Busch, in victory lane at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway to keep the streak alive.
The Las Vegas Native leads the Truck Series with three victories this season, despite only starting seven of the 15 events. The talented wheelman has finished third or better in the six races he has been running at the finish and has led seven or more laps in all seven events. With only a partial schedule, Busch ranks second in the series with 150 Fastest Laps Run and fourth with 235 laps led.
Busch heads to Chicagoland on Friday where he is a five-time winner across NASCAR's top three divisions, including two Truck Series wins in three starts. With the 28-year-old's history of success at the 1.5-mile track and Dollar General's famous black and yellow paint scheme onboard his No. 51 Tundra, there is a good chance that it will be a #FlashbackFriday and the he will be celebrating another victory for the nation's largest small-box discount retailer.