Speedway Digest Staff
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No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. contended for the victory Sunday at Watkins Glen International en route to a third-place finish. The result catapulted the Michael Waltrip Racing driver from 14th to 10th place in the standings with just four races remaining until the Chase.
Going into this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway where Truex finished third in June, the driver finds himself involved in an intense battle for one of the 12 Chase berths. Only 12 points separate positions eight through 12. Truex admits the point standings are close but he’s done being preoccupied with it.
“This season it seemed like every time we got into a comfortable situation in the standings, something out of our control happened like a mechanical issue, wreck or engine problem. I finally stopped paying attention to the points. It is what it is. It’s extremely close. At this point, we have to continue to run as well as we can and if we do our job, the points will work out. We are either going to qualify for our second-straight Chase or we are not. I know that we are giving it our all each and every week. Whatever comes with that, we are going to have to be satisfied with it and move on.”
Martin Truex Jr. Winning at Michigan: “We’ve run really well there and I’ve always really liked that race track. I was worried that when they paved it I would not like it as much, but I still enjoy it. Typically, I like the faster race tracks -- the bigger corners and more time spent in the throttle. Those are the kind of tracks typically that suit my style or that I’ve been really good at. Michigan is no different. I really enjoy going there -- it’s super fast and it’s a lot of fun to race on. The track is obviously getting better each time we go back with being paved last year. We will get the tires to where they start wearing out then we’ll be able to start putting on some really good racing.”
Nestled in the Irish Hills of the Great Lakes state, you will find Michigan International Speedway (MIS) in Brooklyn, the 12th stop on the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule for Joey Coulter and the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) team. Not only is MIS the first stop in the second half of the 22-race Truck Series schedule, it will also mark the first race and live event for America's new sports network, FOX Sports 1. The new network will debut on Saturday, Aug. 17 with more than 17 hours of programing including NCWTS qualifying at 9:30 a.m. ET, NCWTS SETUP with Krista Voda at 12 p.m. ET and live coverage of the NCWTS Michigan National Guard 200 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Being No. 1 is the goal for any athlete and it's no different for NCWTS driver, Joey Coulter, who will be carrying the colors of FOX Sports 1 for the second consecutive race. Coulter, who is trying to make it to No. 1, is on the right path following two consecutive top-five finishes - in the Inaugural Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio and the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The KBM driver, who was 13th in the 2013 NCWTS driver's point standings, 17 points outside the top-10 and 50 points outside the top-five entering Eldora, is now 11th in the championship points battle a mere nine points outside the top-10 and 25 points behind fifth-place Ty Dillon entering this weekend's 100-lap event.
Coulter, who started first in the 2012 Truck Series event at MIS, has led laps at the 2-mile oval and has never finished outside the top-10 in two starts. With a consistent record in the Irish Hills, the FOX Sports 1 driver looks to continue his momentum in this weekend's event and hopes to be the first driver to cross the finish line in the first race on FOX Sports 1 - launching him back into the top-10 in points for this first time since April.
Fans are invited to watch NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars running laps at Richmond International Raceway August 19-21, in advance of next month’s Federated Auto Parts 400– “One Last Race to Make The Chase” – at America’s Premier Short Track. RIR’s grandstands will be open free to the public from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. each night.
Drivers will get precious track time “under the lights” in preparation for one of the most anticipated races of the season. Only the top 10 drivers in the point standings and two Wild Cards (drivers who are in positions 11-20 with the most wins) will earn a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The way things are shaping up, there could be more than 10 drivers on the proverbial “bubble.”
Participating in the upcoming tests:
Monday, August 19
- Brad Keselowski (8th in the point standings; 0 wins)
- Joey Logano (16th in the point standings; 0 wins)
- Casey Mears (24th in the point standings; 0 wins)
Tuesday, August 20 and Wednesday, August 21
- Dale Earnhardt Jr. (6th in the point standings; 0 wins)
- Jeff Gordon (13th in the point standings; 0 wins)
- Jimmie Johnson (1st in the point standings; 4 wins; locked in to the Chase)
- Kasey Kahne (12th in the point standings; 2 wins: #1 Wild Card driver)
- Martin Truex Jr. (10th in the point standings; 1 win)
- Clint Bowyer (2nd in the point standings; 0 wins)
- Mark Martin (29th in the point standings; 0 wins)
Fans may enter Richmond International Raceway through the Main Gate, located at the corner of Laburnum Avenue and Meadowbridge Rd. Parking will be on the Midway, outside of Gate 70. A concessions stand will be open with food and beverages, and fans are allowed to bring in their own food and beverage (no glass allowed).
Nationwide Series driver Mike Wallace will carry a very important message on his JD Motorsports with Gary Keller Chevrolet in Saturday’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Wallace and the No. 01 team are joining Ohio law enforcement agencies to promote the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown on impaired driving. The enforcement blitz begins Friday and will last through Labor Day.
“Law enforcement partners across the state will be out in full force to ensure people are making the right decisions on our roads,” said Ohio Department of Public Safety Director John Born. “Impaired driving is a serious matter, and the message is clear – drive sober or get pulled over.”
Wallace said he’s pleased to play a role in the effort to make Ohio roads safer.
“It’s a great campaign,” Wallace said. “We’re happy to be involved with activities like this that can be so important in making our highways safer. We take some chances in racing, but the public roadways are no place for that. We’ll be encouraging everybody to ‘Drive sober or get pulled over’ by emphasizing the campaign on our race car this weekend.”
According to provisional data, 494 people died in 453 OVI-related crashes on Ohio’s roads in 2012. Impaired drivers were involved in 44 percent of all fatal traffic crashes.
“We can’t fight the battle against impaired driving on our own – we need your commitment to make our roads safer,” said Colonel Paul A. Pride, Patrol superintendent. “You can contribute to a safer Ohio by actively influencing friends and family to make safe, responsible decisions – like planning ahead to designate a driver and insisting that everyone in the vehicle is buckled up.”
The national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown is a program organized by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and focuses on combining high-visibility enforcement with heightened public awareness through advertising and publicity.
Wallace and the No. 01 car will be participating in a bit of NASCAR history Saturday as the Nationwide Series races for the first time at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a 2.70-mile track in north central Ohio.
How does a driver prepare for a speedway he’s seeing for the first time? Research – in the case of Wallace.
“The only way I know how to prepare is I got some aerial views of the track, and I’ll watch some videos. You have to understand when to go left and right and how to approach the turns.”
The Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 will be the second straight road-course race for the series after last week’s Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen, N.Y.
“I think it’s exciting any time we go to somewhere new,” Wallace said. “Other than that, we’ll approach it like any other road race. We know if we stay on the track all day long we’ll have a good run.”
Because the series is making its inaugural visit to Mid-Ohio, the weekend schedule is filled with practice opportunities. Sessions are scheduled at 9 a.m. (ET) and 1:30 p.m. Thursday and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Friday. Qualifying is set at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, with the race to follow at 2:30 p.m.
JD Motorsports PR
Veteran driver Kevin Lepage will make his 2013 debut in the JD Motorsports with Gary Keller No. 4 Chevrolet in Saturday’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 Nationwide Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The series is racing at the 2.70-mile road course for the first time.
Lepage has raced in six Nationwide races this year, but Saturday’s run will be his first with JD Motorsports.
“Kevin has been a strong racer for a long time,” team owner Johnny Davis said. “We’re glad to have him in our car this week. We’re looking for a good weekend out there.”
Lepage has a top finish of 19th in Nationwide events this season.
The No. 4 car will carry the Gary Keller name prominently this weekend as JD Motorsports celebrates that association. “We’re fortunate to have Gary along for the ride with us every week,” Davis said. “He has meant a lot to this race team, and we’re proud to have his name on our cars. It’s going to be a big weekend at Mid-Ohio.”
With the series at the Mid-Ohio course for the first time, NASCAR has scheduled two practice sessions on both Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s qualifying and race.
JD Motorsports PR
TMI (Team McClure, Inc.) announced today that due to an undisclosed illness that has left Eric McClure hospitalized, he will be sidelined for Saturday’s inaugural race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In McClure’s absence, Jeff Green, former NASCAR Nationwide Series Champion and teammate to McClure at TriStar Motorsports, will pilot the No. 14 Hefty®/Reynolds® Toyota during the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200.
McClure’s status on returning to competition is week to week.
U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient David Balestrino Jr. has been named honorary starter for the Pure Michigan 400 being held this Sunday, August 18, at Michigan International Speedway. Balestrino was the winner of a fan contest on the Pure Michigan Facebook page, receiving the highest number of votes for his entry on why he wanted to wave the green flag on race day.
Balestrino, of Youngstown, Ohio, served as a Combat Engineer in the U.S. Army from 2003-2009 and received a Purple Heart during his service in Iraq. In his entry, Balestrino said he would like to drop the green flag in honor of his six year old son.
“While serving in Iraq I missed the entire first year of Brady's life,” Balestrino said. “That was the most difficult thing I ever had to go through. I still can't believe that I was picked for this awesome honor and I hope that I can make everyone who has served or is still serving proud.”
As honorary starter, Balestrino will also have the opportunity to receive a pace car ride from NASCAR’s official pace car driver and attend the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers’ meeting.
“We received many great entries from fans excited about race day at the Pure Michigan 400, but David’s submission really brought together a passion for racing and a terrific story that speaks to the spirit of Pure Michigan,” said George Zimmermann, Vice President of Travel Michigan, part of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.
For the Facebook contest, fans submitted entries of 50 words or less explaining why they should be selected as honorary starter. Fans of Pure Michigan voted on their top entries. Balestrino’s entry received more than 800 votes and was chosen by Pure Michigan from the 10 entries with the most fan votes.
“We are honored to have David here to wave the green flag on the Pure Michigan 400,” said MIS President Roger Curtis. “He will truly experience the thrill of the start of the race as the cars pass under him. We want to thank our friends at Pure Michigan for giving David the chance to become an integral part of the NASCAR experience.”
TV star and Traverse City native Carter Oosterhouse is serving as the Pure Michigan 400 grand marshal. Fans will also have one last chance to register to win the Pure Michigan 400 pace car on site race weekend at the Pure Michigan tent on the New Holland Fan Plaza.
With series sponsor Nationwide Insurance using this weekend's inaugural visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington to raise awareness and funds for Nationwide Children's Hospital, many drivers will share the experience with "champion patients" from the pediatric hospital located in nearby Columbus, Ohio. The hood of Parker Kligerman's No. No. 77 Bandit Chippers Camry will feature a picture of nine-year-old Payton Julian from Mansfield, Ohio, who in his own words "kicked cancer's butt" after defeating Wilms' Tumor, a type of kidney cancer that occurs in children, while a patient at the facility in 2008. Julian will be on hand and get to be Kligerman's guest at the driver's meeting, driver introductions and sit on the No. 77 team's pit box during the 90-lap race.
Kligerman, who's racing teeth were cut on road courses in the Skip Barber and Formula Renault Series, has turned heads in the first two road-course events this season. The Connecticut native qualified third, led four laps and finished third at Road American in Elkhart Lake Wisc. in June and last weekend qualified ninth, led seven laps and finished sixth in a field that included several Sprint Cup Series drivers at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. The former road racer's average finish of 4.5 is equal to that of Justin Allgaier and Brian Vickers and the trio rank second to Sam Hornish Jr.'s average result of 3.5.
The talented youngster feels that he could've improved last week's result at "The Glen" by being more aggressive, but knew it was in his best interest to keep the team's primary road-course chassis in one piece. Now the team can once again unload KBM-01, the first Nationwide Series chassis built at Kyle Busch Motorsports, which is the Toyota that has tackled each of the five road-course events on the schedule since the team debuted last season. The Camry has finished inside the top 10 in all five events, producing an average finish of 6.6.
With Mid-Ohio being the final road-course race of the season, Kligerman can be more aggressive this week as he seeks the first win of his Nationwide Series career. While it isn't on the official agenda, he hopes to be celebrating with Julian in victory lane after Saturday's Nationwide Children's Hospital 200. Then, the two can say they "kicked Mid-Ohio's butt" together.
Justin Lofton returns behind the wheel of the Sharp-Gallaher Racing No. 6 Chevrolet Silverado on Aug. 21 to battle in the NASCAR Camping World Series under the lights of Bristol Motor Speedway. The Westmorland, Calif., native is scheduled to compete in eight of the final ten 2013 Camping World Truck Series events.
SGR and Lofton have had success together in the past winning the 2009 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Championship, earning two Keystone Light pole awards and the winning in the Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway en route to an eighth-place finishin the 2012 championship point standings.
Lofton drove the No. 6 SGR MadVapes Chevrolet in the 2013 season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. He started the 250-mile race on the front row (second) and finished in the fourth position. Lofton returned to the MadVapes Silverado in May to post another stellar performance at Charlotte Motor Speedway, starting sixth and finishing 10th.
Eddie Sharp recently announced his partnership with California businessman Bill Gallaher, forming Sharp-Gallaher Racing. With the return of Lofton, the No. 6 team is poised once again to challenge the Camping World Truck Series field for the remainder of 2013 season.
"I'm pumped to get back in the No. 6 SGR Chevrolet as that's been my home the past few years," stated Lofton. "Because of the limited schedule, we are not racing for championship points, but we will be racing for wins! I know Eddie and the team are ready to run the No. 6 Chevy on a consistent basis and I'm thrilled to be back in NASCAR competition."
Team Owner Eddie Sharp commented, "Justin is on top of his game and we couldn't be happier to have him back where he belongs. Justin and the Lofton's are like family so when we needed to put someone in the No.6, he was clearly our go-to driver."
Lofton returns to competition starting at the UNOH 200 in Bristol, Tenn. on Aug. 21 and will run the remaining Camping World Truck Series races with the exception of the event at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. The season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway could be added to the schedule pending additional sponsorship.
Veteran crew chief Bryan Berry will lead the No. 6 team. Berry has over 200 starts as a crew chief in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, working mostly with veteran driver Brendan Gaughan.
You can catch all of the Camping World Truck Series action live on the new Fox Sports1.