Speedway Digest Staff
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The Sprint Cup Series' last race at Pocono Raceway was bittersweet for Landon Cassill, driver of the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota. He powered the Burger King/Dr Pepper Camry to his season-best 15th-place starting position. It marked BK Racing's best qualifying performance to date. Unfortunately Cassill was involved in an accident on Lap 1 and never had a chance to show what he was capable of. He hopes that his return in this week's Pennsylvania 400 will be sweet redemption.
Cassill has four starts at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway. His best performance came in 2011, starting 25th and finishing 24th.
Cassill's crew chief, Doug Richert, has 27 visits to Pocono. He's led his drivers to one pole, six top-10s and four top-fives.
Comments from BK Racing Driver Landon Cassill heading into Pocono:
"Last time we went to Pocono, we got off to a great start. We had a good baseline and unloaded really quick. The Burger King/Dr Pepper Toyota was fast in each test and practice session. We scored our best starting spot of the year. It was our first time qualifying in the top 15. We had a fast car for sure. Unfortunately we didn't have much of a chance to show how good it was. We were involved in an accident early on in the race and it took us out of contention. I think it could have been one of our best finishes of the year. I'm really looking forward to getting back there. I think this could be a great race for us.
"The new pavement and race length have changed the complexion of Pocono. It's really a whole different event now. The surface has given everyone a lot more confidence to drive harder through the turns and it's sped up the cars. There are a lot more guys willing to race side-by-side now.
"It's nice to be going back to the tracks for a second time. We've been to Daytona twice and now we're heading back to Pocono. I think this is when BK Racing will really begin to grow and make advancements. Now we'll have an opportunity to build on what we've learned and take our program to the next level."
BK Racing PR
Pocono Raceway threw lots of changes at the Sprint Cup Series during its previous venture to the 2.5-mile track. A fresh racing surface required a new car setup to accommodate higher speeds. A shorter event length necessitated a different strategy for calling the race. Although the new variations were significant, Travis Kvapil and the No. 93 Burger King/Dr Pepper team showed their ability to adapt and chalked up a 26th-place finish. The performance marked his best finish at a non-restrictor plate track at least two miles long. Kvapil looks to build on the team's success in this week's Pennsylvania 400.
Kvapil has 10 starts at Pocono to his credit. He's scored three top-20s and has a best finish of 16th place, which he achieved in 2008.
Comments from BK Racing Driver Travis Kvapil heading into Pocono:
"Last time we went to Pocono it had just been paved. It's a lot different for sure. Plain and simple, it's just a lot faster now. The new pavement gave us tons of grip and we can get through the corners a lot faster than we used to. We're carrying a lot of speed on the straights, especially going into Turn 1. We've made changes to our shock and bump stop package and adjusted on the car to accommodate for all the additional speed.
"We have a pretty good handle on the track. The test session and the race gave us a lot of data that we could build on. Our last race there went really well. We finished just outside the top 25. It gave us a good starting point for our return. I've talked with Todd (Anderson, crew chief) about the setup and we've got a few ideas that we're going to try for this race. Hopefully we'll make a few improvements and come back with a more competitive package.
"Another difference was the race length. We only ran 400 miles instead of 500. That was a nice change. It put a little more urgency into the event. You're seeing guys racing harder earlier on. It also put more emphasis on pit stops and making the right adjustments. If you make a mistake, there's less time to make up for it, so each one counts.
"Of course one of the biggest changes is not having Doc Mattioli there. He was such a big part of the race and had such a presence during the weekend. I really missed seeing him at the driver meeting and being at intros. He's left a legacy there and the track will always be associated with him, but it's just not the same without him."
BK Racing PR
JD Motorsports w/Gary Keller is ready to continue their Brickyard-inspired boost in morale this weekend as the NASCAR Nationwide Series returns to Iowa Speedway for a Saturday night race.
Coming off a top-10 and two top-20 finishes, the team was upbeat after their good showing in last week’s first NNS race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This weekend, the No. 01 G&K Services Chevrolet team of Mike Wallace will be joined by St. Alberta, Canada driver Darryl Harr driving the No. 4 iWorld Chevrolet.
With this being Harr’s second start at Iowa, he and the team are glad to have some familiarity as they head to the 7/8ths mile oval. For a veteran like Wallace, he looks to improve on his last outing at every track.
Adding to the fun is a Saturday night under the lights event for the race-crazed Midwest fans.
Mike Wallace Notes:
- The St. Louis native will be making his 436th-career NNS start
- This will be his 20th start of the 2012 season where he is currently 15th in points, trailing 14th by eight markers
- During this season, he’s completed 3,084 of 3,320 laps contested (92.9 percent) in those 19 starts leading four races.
- As far as Iowa, he’ll be making his fifth start where he’s completed 796 of 1,000 laps contested.
- His best start and finish took place in 2011 when he started 21st and finished 19th
Darryl Harr Notes:
- This will be the ninth-career start for the St. Alberta, Canada native
- During his first four NNS starts this year, he’s completed 695 of 800 laps
- He’ll be making his third start at Iowa Speedway and fifth of the 2012 season
- He’s completed 453 of 500 laps contested (90.6 percent) at the track
- In his first two starts, he’s finished 24th and 28th, respectively
- His sponsor, iWorld will be on board again as the primary partner
Mike Wallace Quotes: “Iowa Speedway is one of those tracks I love to run because of how it’s laid out. It has great banking that sends you down the straightaways real fast. I know my brother Rusty was instrumental in some of this and I can tell he put in some of the short track things we all grew up on racing.
“You have to handle really well into the corners of that place so you can get out of them quickly. When you have to battle Turns 1 and 3, it can goof you up for the rest of your lap.
“The fans in Iowa are great. They love their NASCAR racing, they love to have us come out and we enjoy putting on a good show for them, too. I’m looking forward to having a good run with our G&K Services team under the lights, and I know the fans are looking forward to it, too.”
Matt Wallace Update
Mike’s son, Matt, finished fourth in his Late Model race at Lebanon I-44 Speedway on Saturday night and gained some points on the leader.
JD Motorsports PR
No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota driver Mark Martin’s last visit to Pocono Raceway might have been his best performance in the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Martin made a daring pass on a restart to take the lead with just seven laps left in the track’s first 400-mile race. Joey Logano retook the top spot with three to go and beat Martin to the finish line by 0.997 seconds for the Toyota sweep of the top two spots.
The Michael Waltrip Racing team returns to the 2.5-mile Pennsylvania triangle this weekend with the same driver, crew, car and Goodyear tire compound in a bid to finish one spot better. Pocono is one of a handful of active Sprint Cup tracks where Martin has not won but owns seven second-place finishes. Last week at Indianapolis Martin’s 11th-place finish increased his streak of consecutive top-11 finishes at Indy to eight years.
MARK MARTIN: “We are all motivated by winning. That’s why we are racers. We know we can win this weekend at Pocono. When you know that it makes you want to get to the track that much sooner.”
MARTIN ON TOYOTA: “They gave us awesome motors at Indy and throughout the year. They've been very, very helpful with us at MWR for sure. This is my first experience with them. And there are a lot of racers that help us with the engines and the technology, and I really enjoy them. And they've embraced me, and that's been nice. They have really made me feel welcome.”
NO WINS BUT SEVEN 2ND PLACE POCONO FINISHES: “You're not owed this stuff, man. I've earned all those second-place finishes, and I'm proud of that. You're not entitled. You've got to go get 'em.”
POCONO: “I’m fine with running 400 miles there. I think the fans saw a great show in June. I couldn’t tell the race was shorter. They did a great job with the paving. I wasn’t too optimistic but we put on a great race. I didn't think it would be possible to have a first race that good. That was just absolutely the best I can ever remember for new pavement. The Goodyear tires were fantastic as well.”
Kansas Speedway’s track reconfiguration project is nearing completion and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are coming back to Kansas Speedway on Aug. 28-29 for their first look at the newly reconfigured track as they return for a Goodyear tire test.
The test will run from 9 AM to 5 PM each day and will be open to the public and free of charge. Fans are asked to enter at Michigan Dr. off of Speedway Blvd. Due to another event setting up at Kansas Speedway, fans will only be able to enter at Gate D (closest to Turn 1) and sit in sections 169 and 171. Parking will be available in lots 5 and 6. Parking lots and gates will open at 8:30 AM. Sprint FanWalk will not be open during the test days.
Restroom facilities will be open during the test. Concessions will not be available during the test days, however fans will be permitted to bring in a 14x14x14-inch soft-sided cooler with their favorite food and Coca-Cola products.
This summer, crews have been adding variable banking to Kansas Speedway, changing the banking from the old 15 degrees to banking that is between 17 and 20 degrees in the turns. The banking on the frontstretch has also changed slightly, decreasing to 10 degrees (formerly 10.4 degrees), while the banking on the backstretch has increased slightly to 5.5 degrees (formerly five degrees). Crews also added an infield road course to Kansas Speedway.
Testing dates, track schedule and drivers/teams are subject to change due to weather or other circumstances.
NASCAR’s most popular driver used Sunday’s Brickyard 400 to climb to a location that he’s not been able to reach since late in the 2004 season: the top of the points standings in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.
For Earnhardt Jr., Sunday’s fourth-place finish at Indianapolis was the culmination of a season full of strong runs and consistent finishes.
“I’m proud of that (becoming the points leader) because it says a lot about our body of work,” Earnhardt said following the race. “All season long, we’ve been working hard and finishing well. That is symbolic of how well we’ve done. I’m proud of that. I have felt that way about our position in points all season long.”
With only six races remaining before the field for the Chase for the Sprint Cup is set at the conclusion of the Sept. 8 event at Richmond, Earnhardt Jr. knows that simply logging good finishes won’t get the job done.
“We need to win more races,” said Earnhardt, with one win currently in the books from the June event at Michigan. “If we want to win the championship, we have to (win more races). I imagine we can win a couple races in the Chase. I don’t know if finishing fourth of fifth is going to do it. We’ll just have to see. We’d like to step it up just a little bit more.”
Not only will race wins in the Chase be crucial to a championship, but race wins leading into the Chase are just as important as race wins will determine the standings when the Chase begins.
Prior to the start of the Chase, the series will visit several tracks that Earnhardt Jr. has a strong performance history at, and among those are the historic Atlanta Motor Speedway. Earnhardt has claimed one AMS trophy in his Sprint Cup career, winning the Golden Corral 500 in March of 2004. In 24-career Sprint Cup starts at the 1.54-mile facility, Earnhardt Jr. has recorded eight top-five finishes and 10 top-10s for an average finish of 13. A pair of pole position and outside pole position starting spots also accompanies his name in the AMS record book.
There have been several races where he has ran well for much of the day but was unable to log the good finish he deserved, such as the 2007 fall race, when a top-five run was spoiled on the final restart by a loose wheel, causing him to crash into the turn one wall.
With Atlanta being a longtime staple on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, Earnhardt Jr. has said that winning a race on the high banks of AMS is a different type of accomplishment.
“When you win at Atlanta or Bristol or Charlotte or Daytona, tracks that have been there for a very long time and have a lot of history, it’s a very good feeling for me,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I like winning races, obviously, but to go to Atlanta and win is a very different feeling than maybe a Chicago or a California.
“There’s a different sense of accomplishment. When you’ve done something that makes you part of a crowd like (Richard) Petty or Cale (Yarborough) or those guys that have won there, and you’ve seen your daddy win there so many times, it’s definitely a different feeling.”
Will Earnhardt Jr. remain the points leader as the series heads to Atlanta on Labor Day weekend? With many ticket specials expiring on Aug. 6, including the offer of a free ticket in the Earnhardt Grandstand when purchasing five tickets in that area, race fans are encouraged to lock in their discounted AdvoCare 500 tickets for Sunday, Sept. 2 now and cheer on NASCAR’s most popular driver as he competes for his second win at Atlanta and his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
Despite the fact the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visited Pocono (Pa.) Raceway just seven weeks ago, Kyle Busch is more than eager to make a return trip in an effort to continue moving forward with another strong run in Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 at the 2.5-mile triangle.
When the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) last visited Pocono, it marked the second race in what evolved into a frustrating midseason streak of bad luck as mechanical issues just short of the halfway point of the 400-mile race sent him to the sidelines.
It was just one of a plethora of issues that kept Busch from recording a top-five finish over a seven-race stretch following his third-place finish in May’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. But last weekend, the talented 27-year-old finally broke through by notching his first top-five since Charlotte with a strong runner-up finish in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
With the monkey finally off his back, the Las Vegas native and his M&M’s team are as energized as ever to make a strong push all the way through the final six-race stretch before the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field is locked in Sept. 9 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Busch gained two spots in the standings with his runner-up finish at Indianapolis and now sits 11th.That position, coupled with his April victory at Richmond, puts him in the last of 12 Chase spots as the driver with the highest ranking with one series win. Kasey Kahne, despite his 13th position in the points, occupies the 11th Chase spot by virtue of his two victories this season. Nonetheless, Busch remains ahead of a handful of drivers also within the top-20 who also have a win, including JGR teammate Joey Logano and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Ryan Newman.
So, with six races to go before the Chase, Busch and the No. 18 team know it would be foolish to cruise toward the playoffs. Rather, their plan is to win their way in. And by looking at the upcoming schedule and some recent history, it’s understandable that they are excited about the next six races.
While he has yet to win at Pocono, Busch had finishes of second and third there in 2011, he has one Sprint Cup win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and is the defending winner of the August race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn. Then, it’s on to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where Busch has a whopping five career Sprint Cup wins, followed by Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Busch also has a win to his credit. How about the last-chance race at Richmond? Well, in addition to last April’s victory three, Busch has four career wins in all and an astounding 4.7 average finish at the .75-mile short track.
Thus, with a half-dozen of their best racetracks next up on the schedule and a Chase berth at stake, Busch and the entire M&M’s team head to the Pocono Mountains not with their recent seven-race bad luck streak on their minds, but rather Toyota Motor Company’s uplifting tagline: Moving Forward.
When the No. 43 Eckrich Ford Fusion hits Michigan International Speedway next month, there will be an additional name on the car beside driver Aric Almirola's. Eckrich, part of the John Morrell Food Group, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, will include on the paint scheme the name of a lucky fan who helps the company reach a milestone 100,043 "likes" on its Facebook page.
The "Race to 100,043 Likes" promotion, which launched Tuesday, encourages Facebook users to click the "like" button on Eckrich's page to help the company surpass 100,000 followers. If the milestone of 100,043 is met by August 11, the company will reward one participating fan with his or her name on Almirola's No. 43 Eckrich Ford Fusion at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway on August 19. The winner will also receive an authentic Eckrich pit crew helmet signed by Richard Petty, racing legend and owner of Richard Petty Motorsports.
The winner's name will appear in the paint scheme near the logo of Operation Homefront, a national nonprofit that provides emergency financial assistance to the families of United States service members and wounded warriors. Eckrich supports Operation Homefront through various programs, including its NASCAR partnership with the No. 43 team. In addition to putting the winning Facebook fan's name on the car, Eckrich will also place the name of a local military family on the car in recognition of their sacrifice.
"The whole idea of social media, of course, is to interact with your fans and followers, and this promotion provides a new and fun way to get even more people engaged with what we're doing on our page," said Charles Gitkin, vice president, marketing, innovation and R&D for the John Morrell Food Group. "In the end, one lucky fan will get their name on a race car and, at the same time, we'll also be drawing attention to Operation Homefront and its efforts to support our military families."
To participate in the "Race to 100,043 Likes" promotion, visit the Eckrich Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EckrichMeats. Complete details are available on the page's "Race to 100,043 Likes" tab.
EnerSys/ODYSSEY Batteries to Sponsor Jeff Burton's No. 31 Chevrolet at Pocono Raceway and Martinsville Speedway
EnerSys, the global leader in stored energy solutions for industrial applications, along with their ODYSSEY Battery brand, will be primary sponsor of the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton this weekend at Pocono Raceway and October 28 at Martinsville Speedway.
ODYSSEY Battery, a RCR partner since 2009, delivers the extreme power that racing enthusiasts demand and EnerSys guarantees longer service life to save time and money. The five-second cranking power of ODYSSEY batteries is double to triple that of conventional batteries. In addition, the ODYSSEY battery's sealed drycell construction makes it safe, explosion proof, leak proof and it can be mounted in any position. Its rugged construction also offers improved vibration resistance and durability.
"Our decision to become the primary sponsor for Jeff Burton at Pocono and Martinsville is an exciting opportunity for EnerSys to expand its racing partnership with RCR and introduce our products to the NASCAR community," said John Gagge, Vice President Reserve Power Sales & Service Americas. "The RCR and EnerSys partnership has been extremely rewarding. We have been challenged to deliver high performance batteries for their competition vehicles that operate under the intense conditions of NASCAR, where battery failure is not an option. We also supply RCR with ODYSSEY batteries for their support vehicles and race car haulers. We look forward to celebrating on Sunday in Victory Lane with Jeff and the EnerSys /ODYSSEY Battery Chevrolet."
EnerSys/ODYSSEY Battery joins longtime RCR partners Caterpillar, Wheaties and BB&T who serve as primary sponsors for a majority of the races on Burton's No. 31 Chevrolet. Burton, currently in his 19th fulltime season in NASCAR's premier division, has amassed 21 wins, 132 top-five finishes, 246 top-10 finishes, six pole awards and led 6,510 laps during his illustrious career. Burton sits 20th in the 2012 Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings with four top-10 finishes, including a fifth-place finish in the prestigious 2012 Daytona 500 and a runner-up finish earlier this month in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway. Burton qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from 2006-2008 and in 2010 with 14-time championship winning car owner Richard Childress.
"ODYSSEY Batteries has been a great partner through the years, providing dependable and high-performance battery power to RCR," said Ben Schlosser, Chief Marketing Officer at RCR. "It's great to see EnerSys expand their relationship with RCR by showcasing the ODYSSEY and EnerSys brands on the No. 31 Chevrolet with Jeff."
New Truck at The Triangle: Heading to a newly paved "Tricky Triangle" this weekend for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition, Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 98 EverFi Toyota Tundra team will have the confidence of a new truck on their side. Armstrong will start the Pocono Mountains 125 on Saturday with a brand new chassis underneath him, built exclusively by his team. The crew has spent many hours customizing each part of this Tundra to Armstrong's driving characteristics in hopes for a solid finish at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.
Armstrong has three previous starts at Pocono to his credit, all in the ARCA Racing Series. His best finish of second came in the fall of 2010, but the rookie of the year contender knows that the unique Pennsylvania track will have a new set of challenges this weekend, due to its repaved surface.
"We're coming with a truck my team built themselves and I'm really excited to get to the track and behind the wheel," Armstrong said. "I think we'll have a really good run with this chassis. Pocono is a challenge no matter what, and now that it's repaved, I'm sure it'll be even more difficult. It'll be good to have a solid, new truck to work with."
The lone practice session for all NCWTS competitors will take place on Friday, from 9-11:50 am EST. Qualifying is scheduled for 9:35 am EST on Saturday morning, followed by the NCWTS Setup and American Ethanol 225 broadcast on SPEED beginning at 12:00 pm EST.
Tune In: Returning to his racing roots during the off weekend, Armstrong raced his USAC midget in the Mopar National Midget Rich Vogler Classic at Lucas Oil Raceway last Saturday. SPEED channel was along for the weekend and documented Armstrong and his family racing operation, C&A Motorsports. The feature will air on this week's NCWTS Setup show, broadcast on SPEED at 12 pm EST, prior to the Pocono Mountains 125.
Special Appearance: Armstrong will greet fans with the rest of his fellow competitors at Pocono Raceway this Friday from 1-2 pm EST at the NCWTS autograph session. If you're at the track, make sure to stop by and say hi. Stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter (@DakodaArmstrong) for location details and race weekend updates.
A Look Back at Chicagoland: After celebrating his 21st birthday at the beginning of the week, Dakoda Armstrong traveled to Chicagoland Speedway with his No. 98 EverFi Toyota team for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225. Working through tight handling conditions for the majority of the evening, Armstrong survived several late restarts and three-wide battles to bring home a 16th place finish.