Speedway Digest Staff
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With only 12 races remaining, Aric Almirola is focused on getting his first Sprint Cup Series win this season. With an eye on victory lane, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team will use a Goodyear tire test they participated in recently at Atlanta Motor Speedway and a team test at Chicagoland Speedway to their advantage as they head into the Labor Day race weekend.
Almirola has eight NASCAR starts at the Georgia track, including two Sprint Cup Series starts. His best finish at Atlanta came in 2010 when he finished third in the Truck Series race. Veteran Crew Chief Todd Parrott has 30 starts at the 1.5-mile track. He tallied one win with Dale Jarrett in 1997 and has 10 top-fives, 13 top-10s and two poles.
Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"Atlanta is certainly the raciest mile-and-a-half track that we go to. It is old and wore out. It's a mean, old, nasty race track which makes it a lot of fun. It can certainly try your patience as well. It's hard to get your car driving perfect around there. The tires fall off, and the next thing you know you are slipping and sliding around. You are always begging your crew chief for new tires. That's the fun thing about Atlanta. When the caution comes out, there is certainly some strategy because everyone wants four tires but sometimes track position will pay off too.
"We just got done doing the tire test at Atlanta, and I feel good about going there. Track time at Atlanta is really important. We unloaded with a package that we thought was going to be what we wanted. We spent eight hours testing, and by the end of the day, we had a totally different package that was quite a bit better. You would have never gotten to that setup had we only had an hour practice to get ready for qualifying and another hour or two the next day, so I think that was really important. To be able to go there and methodically go through our setups and think about things and not be rushed to get as much done as we can in an hour of practice will really help us this weekend."
Comments from Smithfield Ford Fusion Crew Chief Todd Parrott:
"I'm really looking forward to Atlanta. We had a tire test there a few weeks ago and tested this week in Chicago. We hit on some things at both tests that made us faster. The extra track time going into this weekend should really help us hit the ground running. Managing tires will be really important this weekend. The track can get really slick late into the run, so we'll do our best to get Aric the best tires and track position to be there at the end."
No. 15 RK Motors Toyota Camry driver Clint Bowyer heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for this weekend’s 500-mile NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Bowyer secured his second consecutive Chase berth with Michael Waltrip Racing at Bristol last weekend.
Bowyer and the No. 15 team aim to earn as many bonus points as possible through wins in the next two weeks. Leaving Watkins Glen two weeks ago, Bowyer trailed point leader Jimmie Johnson by 75 points. He’s cut the deficit to 18 points with two races to go in NASCAR’s regular season.
UNFINISHED BUSINESS: “Heck yes I want to catch Jimmie Johnson before we head into the Chase. I know it doesn’t count for anything extra, but any time you can beat Jimmie Johnson in this series - that means something. It’s a confidence booster and a pride thing … he’s shown that he is one of the best this sport has ever seen and I want to beat him every single chance I get. We’ve made up a lot of points on him the last few weeks and if we can beat him the next two weeks we might, just might be able to pass him in points and win the regular season.
“I know the points reset after Richmond and we’re going to be chasing after Jimmie, Matt Kenseth and a bunch of other guys again, but I have two races to score some bonus points and you can bet that Brian (Pattie) and I are going to do everything we can to score some bonus points before this thing gets going. We have two freebies - two chances to throw caution to the wind and go get some points - and you can bet we’re going to take our shots. We won at Richmond last year and we’re trying some new things at Atlanta, so we are going to take our best pieces and see what we can do to get on the board.”
ATLANTA: “Atlanta is going to be a wild card race heading into the Chase. Goodyear is bringing new tires and I don’t know if anyone knows what exactly to expect. Martin Truex and the No. 56 team took part in the Goodyear tire test at Atlanta in June and we think we have a pretty good handle on it, but you never know until you get there and unload how that will work out exactly.”
As NASCAR’s 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup approaches it might be a good time to take inventory of where Sprint Cup organizations stand.
Michael Waltrip Racing’s results might surprise you.
The breakout team of 2012 that visited victory lane three times and finished second in the Chase with Clint Bowyer has continued its success in 2013. MWR’s three-car team is second only to Hendrick Motorsports when it comes to the average owner points scored by each full-time car in the top 30.
TY NORRIS, MWR GENERAL MANAGER: “Organizational depth is certainly a goal for every team. It is nice to see that across the board MWR teams and drivers are competitive. So much of that comes down to teamwork between the crew chiefs, engineering staff and the drivers. They hold the key to an organization’s success and culture. When you have open communication and cooperation, it creates the culture that with a high tide, all boats rise. MWR has firmly established itself among the elites, but we must refine ourselves every day because yesterday’s success doesn’t guarantee anything for the future. Focus is always forward.”
There’s no better way to kick off NASCAR race weekend in Richmond than with a free festival on Thursday, September 5, at Richmond International Raceway. RVA’s Stars of NASCAR Festival features some of the top drivers in a Q&A session with fans, followed by live music from The Killing Daylights. Additionally, RVA food trucks will be on hand, with lots of tasty food options available for purchase.
The driver Q&A lineup is still to be determined. Drivers who are eligible for the 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but have not yet locked in their spot, will be on hand for the question and answer session, which is free and open to the public. Depending on how this Sunday’s race shakes out, there could be nearly a dozen drivers participating!
In addition to food trucks, beer will be sold. Ten percent of all food truck sales that night will be donated to FeedRVA. Some of the trucks scheduled to participate:
- Chupacabra (Tex-Mex)
- Carytown Burgers and Fries (burgers)
- King of Pops (gourmet popsicles)
- Mister Softee (ice cream sundaes, cones and shakes)
- Slideways (sliders and smoothies)
- Soul Ice (frozen desserts)
Schedule of Events:
4:30 p.m. Gates open
5:00 p.m. Food trucks begin serving/bar opens
5:30 p.m. NASCAR drivers Q&A begins
6:30 p.m. NASCAR drivers Q&A ends
7:00-8 p.m. The Killing Daylights perform
Fans may enter RIR at Gate 4, located off of Laburnum Ave. between Carolina Ave. and Meadowbridge Rd.
An MRI on Monday confirmed a scaphoid fracture and sprain of Martin Truex Jr.’s right wrist suffered in Saturday night’s accident at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Doctors fitted Truex with a special cast Tuesday he’ll wear indefinitely. The cast enables him to better grip the steering wheel and compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as well as the 11 remaining races.
Truex worked closely with NASCAR this week and has been cleared to race.
A multi-car crash collected Truex on lap 448 Saturday sending the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota into the outside wall. Truex was treated in the medical center Saturday. MWR has yet to determine if a stand-by driver is needed for this weekend.
Truex is 14th in the points and holds the first of two wildcard entries as he seeks his second consecutive berth in NASCAR’s Chase the for Sprint Cup.
The Atlanta Motor Speedway Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities has selected musician Will Turpin, a co-founding member of the rock group Collective Soul and front man for Will Turpin and The Way, as an executive board member and celebrity spokesman for the organization.
“Will Turpin has been a long-time supporter and friend to Atlanta Motor Speedway and by becoming involved with Speedway Children’s Charities it is just another way that Will can help us make a difference in the lives of children in Georgia who are in need, at risk or require medical programs,” said Ginger Moats, director of the Atlanta Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.
Turpin will serve a three-year tenure in an effort to not only raise the profile of the charity but also help to improve the lives of local children. The multi-platinum artist said his alliance with Speedway Children’s Charities was an easy choice, and a decision he doesn’t take lightly.
“When Speedway Children’s Charities asked me to consider taking a position on its Atlanta chapter executive board, I was a bit taken aback because I had always thought of myself as someone who could help from the sidelines,” Turpin said. “Then I really thought about it and made a conscious decision that I don’t want to sit on the sidelines. I want to roll up my sleeves and step up my involvement and help our community in a positive way.”
United Mining Equipment has added two additional races to their schedule aboard the No. 36 Chevrolet with Tommy Baldwin Racing and driver JJ Yeley.
Kyle Busch returns this weekend to the place where it all began – Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), headed to the fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of 2008 aiming to bring home his first win for two new partners at Atlanta – Mars Chocolate North America and Toyota.
After leading a race-high 173 laps, the Las Vegas native captured his first win for Mars’ SNICKERS brand, and also the first win in NASCAR’s top series for Toyota, which was in its second year of Sprint Cup competition and its first year with JGR, as was Busch.
The win also marked the end to a 147-race drought for JGR’s No. 18 team, as well as Busch’s first of 23 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins for JGR. Since then, Busch’s has also totaled 99 overall wins among NASCAR’s top three series driving Toyota vehicles in Sprint Cup (23), Nationwide (49), and Camping World Truck (27). Add 21 overall wins prior to joining JGR at the beginning of 2008, and Busch is at 120 combined Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Truck Series wins and counting.
With that in mind, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for JGR and his entire team will be rolling up their collective sleeves and getting to work this Labor Day weekend in hopes of reaching Busch’s 100-win milestone for Toyota. They’ll hope to rekindle their 2008 magic at Atlanta as the series returns for Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 Sprint Cup race.
Busch heads into Atlanta fifth in the standings and, with his three Sprint Cup wins, he’s all but assured a spot in the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with two races remaining before the Chase begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. So, with a Chase berth imminent, Busch and his M&M’s team will look to make the necessary gambles to get another win, which would add another three bonus points at the start of NASCAR’s playoffs.
With the Chase just three weekends away, Busch and Company will undoubtedly be feeling just a bit nostalgic, pondering their 2008 weekend at Atlanta as they look to reach yet another milestone, at the place where it all began.
The NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) heads from one night race to another, but this time instead of a high-banked, short-track, the drivers will endure the fast speeds of the high-banked, mile-and-a-half track at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway.
Annett has four starts at the mile-and-a-half track, earning one top-10 finish last year. In those four starts, his average finish is 16.2, his best start of 14th and his best finish of 10th both came in last year's race.
The two-year old NNS team at Richard Petty Motorsports followed its NASCAR Sprint Cup teammates to Chicagoland Speedway this week to test at another mile-and-a-half track, Chicagoland Speedway. While the turns at the Illinois track have less banking, the teams will be able to use some of the information from the test to help them going into this weekend's race.
Comments from the No. 43 Flying J Travel Plaza Ford Mustang driver Michael Annett:
"I'm looking forward to Atlanta, we got a top-10 there last year, and we'll look to top that this year. We had a top-five car last weekend but we just couldn't get our lap back. We still finished just outside of the top-10. We were also able to test this week at another mile-and-a-half track, so that should help us a good bit. We didn't do as well as we wanted to at Chicago earlier this year, but we were able to get a lot of information from the test. Not only will it help us when we go back, but it will help us on the other mile-and-a-half tracks like this weekend at Atlanta."
Comments from Crew Chief Philippe Lopez on Atlanta:
"I think everyone from the driver to the Crew Chief enjoys going to Atlanta. It's another one of those tracks that have character. The tires fall off very quickly there, which allows for multiple racing grooves. Your car doesn't have to be perfect all the time at Atlanta, and if the speed falls off in one part of the track, you just go to another groove.
"We'll need to make sure that our car is good on the long runs this weekend. Since it's a night race, it will help that our practices are later in the day, so we can see how the car will perform closer to the time that the race will actually be taking place, rather than in the morning or the afternoon when the sun is out full force."
Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the title-winning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team co-owned by three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world – will expand to four cars in 2014.
Kurt Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion and owner of 24 Sprint Cup victories, will drive the Haas Automation Chevrolet SS fulltime alongside Stewart in the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet, Danica Patrick in the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet beginning in 2014. It’s a lineup that features four Sprint Cup championships, 36 poles and 93 wins.
“Stewart-Haas Racing has proven itself to be a very competitive race team. Every team wants to win, but the preparation and resources Gene Haas and Tony Stewart and everyone at SHR put into their racecars each and every week is incredible,” Busch said. “This is the kind of situation every driver wants to be in, and I’m grateful to Gene Haas and Haas Automation for providing me this opportunity. I didn’t think anyone wanted to win as much as me until I met Gene Haas.”
“Kurt Busch is a premier talent, one who gives you the opportunity to win races every week and contend for a championship every year,” Haas said. “When he became available, we seized the opportunity to make him a part of Stewart-Haas Racing. This is an organization built on winning, and Haas Automation is a company built on performance. Kurt embodies each of those qualities, and it’s why we’re investing in his abilities.”
Busch’s Sprint Cup title came in the inaugural Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Busch is also the 2003 champion of the International Race of Champions (IROC), a series which pitted the best drivers from NASCAR, the IZOD IndyCar Series and the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series.
“I’ve had a tremendous amount of respect for Kurt’s talent and determination for as long as he’s been racing in the Sprint Cup Series. Kurt is extremely knowledgeable, and his input will make all of Stewart-Haas Racing better,” said Stewart, still recovering from a broken right tibia and fibula suffered in a sprint car crash Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.
“When Gene Haas laid out his plans for what he wanted to do in regard to this race team’s future, which included bringing Kurt on board in a fourth car, it was impressive. You can’t stand still in this business. You have to constantly improve. Gene’s investment in this race team ensures the success of Stewart-Haas Racing for many years to come.”
Work has already begun on the physical expansion of SHR. Land adjacent to the team’s existing 140,000-square foot facility is being cleared for construction of a building that will house research and development, a state-of-the-art pit fitness and training center, and multipurpose space for SHR partners.