Speedway Digest Staff
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Early in the Pure Michigan 400, Dale Earnhardt Jr. teased his legion of fans with the prospect of a third victory at Michigan. Earnhardt led twice for 20 laps and at one point opened a lead of more than two seconds over his closest pursuer.
Earnhardt's race came to grief, however, when he blew a right front tire on Lap 135 of 200 while running eighth and pounded the Turn 2 wall.
"(The car) was down on the splitter getting into the corner," Earnhardt said. "I got it slowed down pretty good and then started getting close to the wall and put a little brake in it, and it blew the tire out…
"It's just kind of frustrating. It's just bad luck. We need to shake that. We just can't keep having this every week."
Winless this year, Earnhardt fell one position to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, just 20 points ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne. Another star-crossed run could in one of the next three races could knock him out of a Chase position.
Earnhardt, however, isn't in panic mode.
"There are guys in worse positions than us," he said. "I think we'll be all right. We're not an 11th-place team. We're a top-five team. We're consistent. We're more consistent than most. We just got to shake this luck, whatever is going on.
"It's something different every time. We've got good speed, and we've just got to keep our head up and keep working hard, and things will be all right."
- Richard Childress Racing teammates finished second (Kevin Harvick), fourth (Paul Menard) and eighth (Jeff Burton) in the Pure Michigan 400.
- Following the event at Michigan International Speedway, Harvick remains fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, trailing leader Jimmie Johnson by 64 markers, while Menard gained two positions moving up to 17th, 214 points back, and Burton gained one spot taking over 20th, 252 points behind the leader.
- The No. 29 Chevrolet SS team ranks fourth in the Sprint Cup Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 27 team 18th in the standings and the No. 31 team 21st.
- According to NASCAR's Post-Race Loop Data Statistics, Harvick led the competition in Fastest Drivers Late in a Run, Green-Flag Speed, Quality Passes and Speed in Traffic.
- Menard was the sixth-Fastest Driver Early in a Run.
- Burton held the eighth-fastest Green-Flag Speed.
- All three RCR drivers earned a spot in the Fastest Laps Run category. Harvick led all competitors with 24 of the fastest laps, while Burton was seventh with 7 laps and Menard tied for 15th with two.
- RCR's three entries ranked within the top 10 of the Driver Rating category, with Harvick third, Burton sixth and Menard eighth.
- Joey Logano earned his first victory of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season and was followed to the finish line by Harvick, Kurt Busch, Menard and Clint Bowyer.
- The next Sprint Cup Series race is the Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, August 24. The 24th race of the 2013 season is scheduled to be televised live on ABC beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Satellite Radio, channel 90.
Menard Finishes Fourth at Michigan International Speedway
After starting 20th in the Pure Michigan 400, Paul Menard captured his first top-five finish of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. In the early laps of the event, Menard gained five positions and was scored in 15th at lap 25. The team's first pit stop came under green-flag conditions on lap 40 and Menard came down pit road for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments to help remedy the car's loose-handling condition. The adjustments provided some relief to the Wisconsin native, but crew chief "Slugger" Labbe and team called for further chassis adjustments under two ensuing pit stops on laps 72 and 107. Restarting 10th on lap 110, Menard relayed to the team that the NIBCO/Menards Chevrolet SS was the best it had been all day, and by lap 130 he was scored in fifth and was the fastest car on the track. The 32-year-old remained in the top five until a lap-158 pit stop under caution for right-side tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment. Several cars elected to stay out under caution and Menard restarted 11th with 39 laps remaining in the 200-lap event. It didn't take long for Menard to race his way back to the front and he was back inside the top five at lap 176. The Richard Childress Racing driver gained one position in the final laps to finish fourth. Menard sits in the 17th spot in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings heading into Bristol Motor Speedway next weekend.
Start - 20 Finish - 4 Laps Led -0 Points - 17
PAUL MENARD QUOTE:
"We had a good car all weekend. We didn't qualify very well and I knew that the No. 27 NIBCO/Menards car had some speed in it, but it mostly just drove really well all weekend. "Slugger" (Labbe, crew chief) made some good calls to get some track position. Matt Krueter (gasman) filled up the car with plenty of gas at the end. I'm just really proud of everyone on the team. We really needed a good run. We started off the season strong and just fell off the last couple of months. We have had good cars we just haven't been able to put together a race and we have been crashing a lot and we just can't do that. I'm really proud of everybody at RCR getting all three cars in the top 10 today. It was a great day for all of us."
Harvick Claims Runner-Up Finish at Michigan International Speedway
Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet team claimed a runner-up finish in the Pure Michigan 400 Sunday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. Starting from the 15th position, the Richard Childress Racing driver quickly worked his way into the top 10 by lap 20. As the race progressed, Harvick alerted crew chief Gil Martin that the red and black machine needed more rear grip exiting the turns. Harvick visited pit road on lap 73 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment to help the car's handling. The California native was scored in the 13th position for the ensuing restart, but regained a position within the top 10 by lap 76, where he would remain for the duration of the event. Harvick lined up second for the final restart of the race on lap 178 and was shuffled back to fifth on the following lap. The 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner charged forward during the final laps, ultimately crossing the finish line second, picking up his 200th-career Sprint Cup Series top-10 finish. Harvick remains fourth in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with the top-five finish.
Start - 15 Finish - 2 Laps Led - 0 Points - 4
KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE:
"We had a great car all day, I just misjudged the final restart and got myself a little behind near the end. I have to thank Rheem, Budweiser, Jimmy John's, Hunt Brothers Pizza and everyone else who helps us get to the track each week. Our team tried a lot of different things than we usually would have during the race today that seemed to work out pretty well for us. It was a great effort by the Rheem crew today; just wish we could have gotten the win."
Jeff Burton Collects Fifth Top-10 Finish of 2013 Season at Michigan International Speedway
Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Cheerios Chevrolet team collected their fifth top-10 finish of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, finishing eighth in the 400-mile event at Michigan International Speedway. After starting the 200-lap affair from the fifth position, the South Boston, Va., native maintained a top-10 running position while battling a loose-handling condition on his yellow and black machine. On multiple occasions, many competitors took two Goodyear tires only under caution-flag conditions, instead of the four tires that the No. 31 team changed. This decision by crew chief Luke Lambert placed the Richard Childress Racing driver mid-pack for restarts and altered the handling on the Chevrolet SS. With 50 laps to go, Lambert called Burton to pit road and the Cheerios pit crew changed right-side tires only, placing the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner 18th for the ensuing restart. Over the final 50 circuits, Burton climbed into the top 15 and entered the top 10 with 42 laps to go after taking Sunoco racing fuel only on the final pit stop of the afternoon. During the latter stages of the race, Burton maintained the top-10 track position and passed two competitors in the waning laps before crossing the finish line in the eighth position, earning his fifth top-10 result of the season. With the solid finish, Burton gained one position and now sits 20th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.
Start - 5 Finish - 8 Laps Led - 0 Points - 20
JEFF BURTON QUOTE:
"It's good thing to be disappointed with an eighth-place finish. The No. 31 Cheerios Chevrolet team had a lot of speed at times and I think was the best car on the track. We just struggled on fresh tires more than other drivers did. When we would put tires on, it seemed like it hurt us more than others. When we had our sequence of tires that we wanted our car was really happy. That next to last caution-flag period was not what we needed. Pitting under green-flag conditions and being able to put four tires on right there would have been 100 percent for us. We were about five laps from pitting and that caution came out. That kind of sealed us, just because of what we had going on with our car. It's a good day though. That's a step in the right direction. No drama and we got what we deserved."
Danica Patrick finished 23rd in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.
Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was making her 33rd career Sprint Cup Series start and her second at Michigan.
After struggling with the handling of her car early and going one lap down, Patrick’s car came to life in the second half of the race thanks to a series of wedge, tire-pressure and track-bar adjustments called for by her crew chief Tony Gibson. With the car handling well, Patrick was able to secure the “lucky dog” free pass back to the lead lap on lap 136 as she was the first car one lap down when the caution came out.
She was able to work her way into the top-20 but, after a two-tire pit stop on lap 158, a tight-handling condition on the GoDaddy Chevrolet hindered Patrick from making any more progress and she took the checkered flag in 23rd place.
“Late in the race, the car just got tight,” Patrick said. “It was really good from the halfway point until we made that last pit stop. Then it just went tight. Overall, though, the car was pretty good all weekend. We had good practices and it felt comfortable throughout the weekend. I’m proud of Tony Gibson and the GoDaddy crew. We’re making progress and getting better each weekend.”
Patrick’s SHR teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans/PTA Chevrolet SS, finished 13th.
The third member of SHR, Austin Dillon, interim driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet SS as he subs for the injured Tony Stewart, finished 14th.
Joey Logano won the Pure Michigan 400 to score his third career Sprint Cup victory, his first of the season and his first at Michigan.
Kevin Harvick finished 1.018 seconds behind Logano in the runner-up spot while Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer rounded out the top-five. Marcos Ambrose, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Burton, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards comprised the remainder of the top-10.
There were nine caution periods for 34 laps with six drivers failing to finish the 200-lap race.
With round 23 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He dropped one spot to 15th place and has 636 points, 177 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 27 behind 10th-place Biffle. Stewart, who was forced to miss the race due to injury, dropped one spot to 18th, 594 out of first and 219 points behind Biffle. Patrick remained in 27th place and has 418 points, 395 behind Johnson and 245 away from 10th.
The No. 14 team is 13th in the owner standings with 653 points, 160 points behind the series-leading No. 48 team of Hendrick Motorsports.
Three races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.
Kasey Kahne, who is 11th in points, is the first wild card via his two wins. Martin Truex Jr. holds the second wild-card spot as he is 12th in points with one victory. Logano, Newman, and Stewart each have one victory and are 13th, 15th, and 18th in points, respectively.
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished four spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 19th.
The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the Irwin Tools Night Race Saturday, Aug. 24, at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ABC beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m.
Joey Coulter traded in his fire suit for fatigues on Thursday before making his way to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) for the Michigan National Guard 200. "Private Coulter" spent the day with the men and women of Fort Custer Training Center in Augusta, Mich. and experienced first-hand a day in the life of a new recruit in the National Guard.
Much like NASCAR teams, the National Guard is a team, and they are taught in basic training how to work together in times of trouble to accomplish a mission. Coulter's mission seemed simple this weekend, but quickly changed when he was forced to a backup truck in final practice on Friday. However, he and his No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsport's team accepted the challenge and worked together to bring home a 14th-place finish in the 12th race on the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule - Coulter's eighth top-15 finish of 2013.
"I hate that we had to get the backup truck out this weekend," said Coulter. "Our primary truck was so good, but Harold and all the guys on this No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsport's team did a great job getting the backup ready for today. We had a solid qualifying effort and knew we were going to have to work on it to get it dialed-in for the race. Unfortunately, the back-up truck lacked the side force that the primary had and we just struggled with an aero-tight Toyota Tundra all day. I hate that we didn't have a better showing for the Truck Series' first race on America's New sports network, but I have to thank everyone at FOX Sports 1 for allowing me to carry their colors. We aren't that far back in points and a good run in Bristol next week will put us right back in it."
After finishing fourth in the first NCWTS practice session at MIS on Friday, Coulter knew he had a solid FOX Sports 1 Toyota Tundra. However, after laying down the fifth fastest time in the final practice session of the day, a cut right rear tire would send Coulter hard into the backstretch wall and the No. 18 team would be forced to bring out the back-up truck for Saturday's FOX Sports 1 debut.
Starting ninth on the inside of row five, Coulter was shuffled back to the 16th position on the opening lap when the field went three-wide into Turn 1 and the bottom line didn't move.
After restarting 15th on lap six, following a lap two-truck incident on the backstretch involving the No. 29 and 54 machines, Coulter would use the next 11 laps to evaluate his new trucks performance on track.
Battling an "aero tight" Tundra - a problem that would plague the FOX Sports 1 machine for a majority of the 100-lap event - Harold Holly brought the No. 18 machine down pit road under the second caution at lap 17 for a major chassis adjustment and fuel. When racing resumed on lap 20, Coulter was scored in the 13th position.
A continuous battle on-track with the handling of his backup truck in the draft forced the Miami Springs, Fla. native to lose several positions over the next seven laps. Coulter would be scored in the 17th position when the third caution flag of the afternoon was displayed on lap 27 for an accident in Turn 4 involving three of the front runners.
Coulter would take the lap-32 restart from the 13th position - running as high as 12th before the fourth caution flag was waved for debris. Crew chief Harold Holly would use this opportunity to bring Coulter down pit road on lap 57 for two right side tires, a track-bar adjustment and fuel. However, due to a lengthy pit stop, Holly would opt to bring Coulter back down pit road a lap later - before the field went back to green - for left side tires and to top his Fox Sports 1 Tundra off with fuel. When racing resumed on lap 60, Coulter was scored in the 13th position.
The field was slowed three more times over the next 32 circuits at laps 66, 76 and 92, respectively. Coulter utilized each restart to gain positions on-track and was lined up seventh for the final six-lap stint at lap 94. Unfortunately, the aero-tight condition in traffic would handicap the No. 18 machine and Coulter would lose seven positions to cross the line in the 14th-position.
James Buescher of Turner Scott Motorsports won the 14th Annual Michigan National Guard 200, his first victory and third top-10 finish in five races at MIS. Kyle Busch (second) posted his fourth second-place finish in seven starts at MIS and Ty Dillon (third) posted his second top-10 finish in two starts at MIS. Joey Logano and Miguel Paludo rounded out the top-five finishers.
KBM teammate Darrell Wallace Jr was involved in a lap 27 accident in Turn 4 and relegated to a 21st-place finish, 48 laps down.
The field was slowed seven times for 29 laps and the lead was exchanged 10 times by five different drivers.
Following his 14th-place finish, Coulter remains 11th in the 2013 NCWTS driver's point standings after 12 races; a mere three points outside the top-10, 25 markers behind fifth-place Miguel Paludo and 98 points behind series point leader Matt Crafton.
The NCWTS will make its 13th stop of the season at Bristol Motor Speedway for the UNOH 200 on Wednesday, August 21. Coulter has two starts at the.533-mile oval, including one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
The Hefty®/Reynolds® team had a new, yet familiar face behind the wheel of the No. 14 Camry for the inaugural running of the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Former series champion and TriStar Motorsports teammate Jeff Green was tabbed as Eric McClure’s replacement earlier in the week when he was hospitalized for an undisclosed illness. Starting the race from the 24th position, the Owensboro, KY native was in position to record a solid top-20 finish on the white-flag lap when he was hit from behind by another competitor and sent spinning off the course. In the end, the team was credited with a 24th-place finish, slipping to 25th in the NASCAR Owner Standings.
In the opening laps, Green slipped two positions to 26th while battling a car that lacked rear grip. The team took advantage of the event’s first caution period on lap 20 to bring the car to pit road for four tires, fuel, an air-pressure adjustment and the addition of spring rubber to help the car’s handling. When the race resumed on lap 24, the team was scored in the 25th position.
Four laps later, the pace was slowed for a multi-car accident and then again on lap 30. Although the Hefty®/Reynolds® team had just visited pit road a few laps prior, Green brought the orange and blue Camry to pit road for fuel and additional chassis adjustments. Once the stop was complete, Green returned to the track in the 24th position for the lap 33 restart.
Over the next 20 laps, Green was able to remain in the top-25, despite a continuous battle with the car’s handling. Green flag pit stops began shortly thereafter and just as Green was about to hit pit road for service, the caution flag waved. Since most of the leaders had pitted under green-flag conditions, Green had to start behind them once the stop was complete. When the race resumed, the team was scored in the 18th position.
As the laps began winding down, Green maintained a top-20 position in the running order. A late-race caution on lap 88 not only put a damper on what was going to be a top-20 finish for the Hefty®/Reynolds® team, it also forced an overtime situation and had most teams worried about fuel. While many drivers opted to visit pit road during this time, Crew Chief Myers instructed Green to stay on track since he had plenty of fuel for the remaining distance. When the race resumed on lap 93 for the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Green was scored in the 15th position. As the field took the white flag, things looked to be going well for the Owensboro, KY native as he was scored in the 16th position; however, the team’s hope of a hard-fought finish was quickly deflated when Green radioed the crew that he was hit from behind by another competitor and had spun off course. Having suffered major rear-end damage as a result of the accident, Green limped around the track to finish the event in the 24th position.
Driver, Jeff Green Quotes:
“I really thought we were going to have a decent day but I just got pushed off of the track at the end. These guys take more than they give and it cost us a good finish. I really appreciate the opportunity Hefty® and Reynolds® gave me this weekend to drive their car.”
Add another name to the Chase conversation.
Joey Logano started Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race from the pole, and after a convoluted mix of strategy and racing incidents, it was Logano who claimed the victory and established himself as a contender for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
The victory was Logano's first of the season, his first at Michigan, his first for Penske Racing and the third of his career. Kevin Harvick ran second, followed by Kurt Busch, Paul Menard and Clint Bowyer.
The victory moved Logano from 16th to 13th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings, 17 points out of 10 place. The youngest winner in MIS history also is in play for a Wild Card, with two spots available to the drivers in positions 11-20 in the standings with the most victories.
"This is huge for our Chase hopes," Logano said. "We needed this to have a shot at getting in the Chase. We're close now, but we can't make any mistakes. This sure does help a lot."
Mark Martin took off after a restart on Lap 178, as Kurt Busch, Logano and Harvick battled for the second spot behind him. But Martin was short on field, and after the running order shuffled out with Logano in second and Harvick in third, the pursuers began to close in on the leader.
But Logano, 23, who came to the public eye as a 14-year-old with praise from the 54-year-old Martin, couldn't make the pass for the lead, even though Martin was trying mightily to save fuel.
"I noticed he was lifting early, because I was catching him on entry (into the corners)," Logano said. "He was able to pull me on exit. I wanted to get by him, because I knew the 29 (Harvick) was fast, too…
"It is so cool to be here in Victory Lane. It's crazy racing Mark Martin, my childhood hero. I was able to race against him in Pocono last year for the win. It is so cool racing against a guy like that."
But when Martin slowed in Turn 3 on Lap 197 and brought his car to pit road for fuel, Logano shot past him into the lead with Harvick in hot pursuit. Logano held the top spot for the final four laps and took the checkered flag by 1.018 seconds over the No. 29 Chevrolet.
To Harvick, the race was decided on the final restart. Harvick lined up inside Martin with Logano's No. 22 Ford behind the No. 29 Chevy.
"Just mistimed that last restart there," Harvick said. "I had a great run on the 55 (Martin). Was going to beat him to the line by too much. Wound up having to drag the brakes. From there, it was going to be sketchy if we were going to keep the 22 back there.
"Went for it, backfired a little bit there as we got three?wide and lost some track position. I didn't think we were going to be racing the 55 there for the win (because Martin was short on fuel). I thought if we could just get out of Turn 2 in second we'd be in good shape. Got a little bit greedy and lost a couple spots there. That's what ultimately cost us the win."
Series leader Jimmie Johnson couldn't exorcise his Michigan jinx. After wrecking his primary car in Saturday's practice, Johnson started Sunday's race from the rear of the field in a backup car. He took the lead on Lap 43 during a cycle of green-flag pit stops, but shortly thereafter Johnson exited the race because of an engine failure.
"The engine broke there," Johnson said after bringing the car to the garage. "I guess when we came in for a green flag pit stop, something started then and made it a few more laps and didn't really notice anything off.
"Then it finally dropped a cylinder or two down the backstretch. Definitely an unfortunate thing, but we had plenty of speed in the car and I think we were going to be a factor."
Johnson could afford that sort of failure, having locked himself into the Chase last week at Watkins Glen. The same couldn't be said of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr., who smacked the Turn 2 wall on Lap 135 -- after leading 20 circuits earlier in the race -- and took his crippled car to the garage for repairs.
Earnhardt finished 36th and dropped from sixth to seventh in the standings, 20 points ahead of 11th-place Kasey Kahne with three races left before the Chase field is set at Richmond.
Though he was the victim of an early spin in Turn 4, Austin Dillon rallied from a lap down to finish 14th in his substitute role for injured Tony Stewart, the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet is in a tight battle with the No. 56 of Michael Waltrip Racing for a spot in the owners' Chase.
After Sunday's race, the two cars are tied for the final Wild Card spot, with the No. 56, driven by Martin Truex Jr. holding the tiebreaker based on quality of finishes.
Fans in the stands may not see a difference, and drivers on the track may not be able to feel it in the seat of their pants.
Nevertheless, the new tire Goodyear is providing for upcoming races at Atlanta Motor Speedway represents one of the most significant advancements in the construction of racing tires in the company's history.
The right-side tire that NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will run Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, respectively, isn't just a new tire. It's a new concept for NASCAR racing, using a process Goodyear calls "zone tread" technology.
The inboard shoulder of the tire -- roughly the inner third, and the area that receives the most stress at an oval such as Atlanta -- features a firmer, more heat-tolerant compound. The outer portion of the tire features a softer tread designed to provide more grip.
The two compounds are melded seamlessly during the extrusion process.
Results of a 13-team test Aug. 6 at Atlanta were positive, encouraging Goodyear to use the new tire, married with more traditional left sides, for the upcoming races at the 1.54-mile speedway.
In 2004, Goodyear introduced its Assurance TripleTred tire for street cars. That tire combined three tread zones for different weather conditions: wet, icy and dry.
Race tires, of course, don't have tread patterns, and wet and icy conditions don't apply; hence, the tire for Atlanta features two zones instead of three -- the inboard to provide durability and the outer portion to provide grip.
The introduction of NASCAR's lighter Gen-6 race car this year, along with new rules that allow latitude in rear camber, facilitated the introduction of the NASCAR racing application of the zone tread technology, a concept that's been in the works from a racing standpoint for roughly two years.
"It makes a little more sense for us to do now, because they do have the flexibility in the rear," Greg Stucker, Goodyear's manager of race tire sales, told the NASCAR Wire Service on Saturday at Michigan. "If we would have been doing it in the past, obviously we'd have been focusing more on the right front, but it would have been a little bit more of a compromise for the tire on the right rear.
"Now, with their ability to run that camber, it's really more matched for both front and rear. I think the fact that they can run that has made the car handle better. The fact that the car's lighter has manifested itself in a faster race car, and we're just trying to deal with that. We're seeing the speeds come up everywhere, and Atlanta was one of those that was on our radar that was going to be a tough race track."
The pavement at Atlanta is old and abrasive, but that doesn't mean there aren't applications for the zone tread technology at recently repaved speedways.
"We think this technology really opens the door for a lot of new things, a lot of new ways to approach things from a compounding perspective," Stucker said. "We're going to move slowly on it, but you're certainly going to see more of it. We've tested it at a number of different places.
"We tested it at Kansas. We're talking about it as a potential there. We tested it at Las Vegas. We tested up here (at Michigan), actually. … Everything has been very positive in testing so far, but until you make a huge volume and get them out there in race conditions -- that's always the ultimate test."
The harder inboard shoulder may give crew chiefs a broader range of possibilities when it comes to tire pressures.
"It's probably going to open the window for them to do a whole lot more stuff," Stucker said with a smile. "Pressures -- and everything. So we've got to watch that as well. Obviously, if we give them something that's a little more robust, they'll start to push that, too."
After posting solid results in the first two road-course races of the season and showing speed in all four practice sessions for the inaugural Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Parker Kligerman and his Bandit Chippers Racing team believed they could contend for a victory on Saturday. The talented youngster methodically worked his way from his ninth starting position to run in the top five for the majority of the first half of the race, but was knocked off course twice over the final thirty laps and relegated to a disappointing 13th-place finish.
"We had top five car and maybe we didn't have the raw speed to contend with AJ (Allmendinger), but it was going to be a really good day for this No. 77 Bandit Chippers team -- probably had a top-three car -- until we got our day ruined by ignorance from another driver that had nothing to lose because he wasn't running for points," Kligerman said. "We got up into the top five and we were saving fuel and saving our equipment for the end of the race. Then after getting knocked off course the first time, we rallied back to the top 10 before that last caution came out. We were close on fuel so we decided to play it safe and come in for tires and fuel and not take a big hit in points by running out of gas. I restarted mid-pack and was coming back through the field and probably would've still had a top 10 if we didn't get knocked around again by the same guy. I'm proud of Eric Phillips (crew chief) and all of my guys for having another fast car. We are ready to put together strong runs these last 10 races and work our way back towards the top five in points."
Kligerman finished all four practice sessions, two each on Thursday and Friday, inside the top 10 and followed it up by earning the ninth starting position for Saturday's race. He had maneuvered his way up to the seventh spot by the time the first caution of the race occurred on lap 21. Before pit road opened, he communicated to Phillips that his Toyota was "tight rolling through the center." The Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop and returned their driver to the track scored in the eighth spot for the lap-23 restart, with two of the two three cars electing not to pit.
The talented youngster was able to pick up one spot before the field was slowed again for a three-car accident on lap 27. After two cars pitted, the Bandit Chippers Camry took the ensuing restart from the fifth spot. Kligerman would remain in fifth until 10 laps later when Nelson Piquet Jr. overcharged the corner and made contact with him. The contact would send Piquet Jr. spinning and allowed Brian Vickers to work his way around the No. 77 before the caution came out for the 30 car.
Kligerman returned to the top five shortly after the lap-41 restart, where he would remain until the fifth caution occurred on lap 46. On lap 55, the No. 77 Camry's 86.36-second lap was the fastest of any car in the top five as it began closing on the top-four cars. One lap later, Phillips summoned his young driver down pit road under green-flag conditions for a regularly-scheduled stop. With four fresh tires and full tank of fuel, the Connecticut native returned to the track in the 16th position.
The sixth caution of the day slowed the field on lap 63 with the Bandit Chippers Camry scored in the 12th position. Several cars that hadn't pitted made their stops, leaving Kligerman scored in the seventh spot when the field went back green on lap 66. Shortly after the restart, he got knocked off course and through the grass. By the time he emerged back on the pavement, he had subsided to the 13th spot.
As the race progressed towards the final stages under green-flag conditions, Kligerman produced fast lap times and erased a large margin between himself and the 10th and 11th-place competitors. He worked his way around Elliott Sadler for the 10th spot with just two laps remaining and appeared to have salvaged a top-10 finish. The No. 75 car got stuck in the gravel pit just before race leader A.J. Allmendinger took the white flag. The seventh and final caution of the race set up a green-white-checkered finish.
The caution put the No. 77 team in a tough position, with its fuel-mileage calculation uncertain to make it to the end of the race. Anticipating that it would take more than one attempt to finish the race, Phillips summoned Kligerman to pit road where the over-the-wall crew put on four fresh tires and filled the Bandit Chippers Camry with fuel.
Kligerman took the green-white-checkered restart from the 16th position and set his sights on maneuvering his way back to the top 10 over the final two laps. He appeared to have accomplished the task but once again was knocked around by Marcos Ambrose and lost several spots on the final lap. As the field completed the race on the first attempt, the No. 77 Bandit Chippers Camry would cross the stripe with a disappointing 13th-place finish.
Allmendinger picked up his second career win, both on road courses this season, in just his 10th career Nationwide Series start. Pole Sitter Michael McDowell finished 1.164 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. Sam Hornish Jr. finished third, Max Papis fourth and Brian Vickers rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were seven caution periods totaling 18 laps. Seven drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead eight times. Ten drivers failed to finish the 22nd event of 2013.
Kligerman remains 10th in the Nationwide Series championship standings with 22 of 33 races complete, 82 points behind series points leader Sam Hornish Jr. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 entry ranks 12th in the owner's championship standings, 180 points behind the series-leading No. 22 team.
Kligerman and his No. 77 Toyota Racing team head to Bristol Motor Speedway Aug. 23 for the Food City 250. Live television coverage of Friday's 133.24-mile event begins with NASCAR Countdown at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.