Steven B. Wilson
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Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver AJ Allmendinger doesn’t hesitate in naming Dover International Speedway as his favorite track along the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series tour. To say that Dinger is looking forward to getting back to the high-banked “Monster Mile” for this weekend’s FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks would be an understatement.
“I love going to Dover and really look forward to getting back there for this weekend’s race,” said Allmendinger, who will be making his 11th career start on the 1.0-mile concrete oval. “It’s my favorite track on the circuit. It has high banks, it’s really fast and I’ve had a lot of success there over the years.
“It’s always been my favorite track since I started racing in the Cup Series in 2007,” Allmendinger said. “Plus, Dover has one of the greatest trophies of the season, so it’s one I really want to take home.” (Dinger is referring to the “Miles the Monster” trophy, a miniature version of the 46-foot Monster Monument that stands in “Victory Plaza” behind the main grandstand area.)
“I think it is a fun race track to drive and I think there are a lot of things you can do on the race track to get around it and run pretty fast,” AJ added. “I have always had a fairly good car there, especially the last couple of years which makes it easier. To me, I just show up to the race track and I am excited to be there. I just genuinely like the race track and think when you are able to do that you can go there and have a good attitude about it and be pretty fast.”
Inasmuch as Allmendinger enjoys racing at Dover, it’s easy to analyze his record there and see that he and the “Monster Mile” have a great relationship going entering this weekend.
Of the 341 total laps Dinger has led in his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, almost half of them (152 or 44.575 percent) have been recorded at Dover. After 164 career race starts entering this weekend, he still points to the September 2010 AAA 400 as the “big one that got away.”
“I led 143 laps in that race and I had a car that was capable of winning until a flat tire took me out of contention on Lap 200,” Dinger recalled. “That was the first race where I really felt like I could easily take the lead and I could run with the big boys. We ended up finishing 10th because of the flat tire, but it was still a great race because it was a sign that I could run with anyone. It was really cool to take the lead and just drive away. It gave me confidence that if we have the car, we can definitely get the job done at Dover.”
Shell-Pennzoil Dodge crew chief Todd Gordon is equally as enthusiastic in seeing the Sprint Cup Series head to Dover.
“AJ has identified Dover as his personal favorite track ever since our first conversations between driver and crew chief,” Gordon said. “I could tell from the Goodyear test we did there back in April that he loves racing there. When you consider his fondness for racing there and the success the 22 car had there in winning last fall’s race, we’re all hoping for a successful race weekend there.
“Based on the Goodyear testing, I felt like we had a really good balance. We were able to get in several 40-lap runs and I felt like we would have a great shot at winning against all those teams there at the test (including Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Marcos Ambrose). The only question mark now would be considering the new skirt package we are working with.
“The bottom line, though, is that Dover is a track where AJ expects to do well on and that’s the feeling of our entire Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Team,” said Gordon. “The driver is going in there with a great level of confidence and so is everyone on our No. 22 Penske Racing team.”
In 10 career Sprint Cup starts at Dover, Allmendinger is still looking for his first career win and top-five finish there, but he does have three top-10 finishes to date. He was running at the finish in eight of the races and finished on the lead lap four times. He has completed 83.1 percent of possible laps (3,324 of 4,000). He has led 152 laps at Dover, the most he has led at any track. Overall, Dinger has a 13.7 average start and 23.3 average finish at Dover.
Allmendinger started second and finished 37th in last spring’s Dover race. He came back last October to start seventh and finish seventh.
“When qualifying got rained out and we were second-fastest in practice, we started second in the spring race,” Dinger recalled. “We had a great run going and had a really strong car in the race, but the engine just let go all at once and there was no sign of it happening. We started seventh there last fall and got spun only five laps into the race. We started from the rear, but got all the way back up to the top-five just before the race was half-way. We did a two-tire stop and led some laps and ran top-10 for the rest of the race to finish seventh.”
Mike Wallace and the No. 01 G&K Services Chevrolet team of JD Motorsports would very much like a repeat performance of last year’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway.
Once the mayhem stopped after the checkered flag, Wallace and team found themselves with a top-10 finish. This year, coming off a season’s-best finish of 15that Charlotte, they’re hoping to keep that momentum going taking on the Monster Mile, high-banked oval this weekend.
Newt Moore and team have been working towards improving the handling of their Chevrolets each week back in the shop. With their hard paying off last week,the team is looking to capitalize on the upswing in their good fortunes.
Dover has been a good track for Wallace having posted one, of his four, NNS wins at the facility. Add that to last year’s good finish in this race there and there’s no lack of confidence in the JD Motorsports camp.
This week, Wallace’s teammate in the No. 4 Tradebank Chevrolet will be 64-years young driver, Brad Teague.
JD Motorsports PR
Brian Scott will make his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start since 2009 driving the No. 18 Shore Lodge Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in Friday's Lucas Oil 200 at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. The first of five Truck Series starts scheduled with KBM this season will be a reunion in many ways for Scott. The 24-year-old returns to the site of his first NASCAR win, reunited with his home-state sponsor and will be driving for the team that began with the purchase of his family-owned Xpress Motorsports.
Scott scored his first NASCAR victory on May 30, 2009 in the AAA Insurance 200 Truck Series race at the "Monster Mile." Driving for his family-owned team, Xpress Motorsports, the then 19-year old led the final 14 laps en route to an emotional victory.
After completing a successful 2009 season in the Truck Series and a limited Nationwide Series schedule, Scott signed with Braun Racing to run the full Nationwide Series schedule in 2010. For the 2011 season the Idaho native signed with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), where he produced two top-five and seven-top-10 finishes for his home-state sponsor Shore Lodge. This season, he returned to drive Nationwide Series Camrys for JGR with backing from Dollar General, who will also be onboard for three of his Truck Series starts at KBM.
At the end of the 2009 season, while Scott was transitioning from the Truck Series to the Nationwide Series, Kyle Busch was finalizing plans for his new Truck Series team, KBM. In need of an inventory of trucks to supplement those that would be built in-house for KBM's inaugural campaign, Busch purchased the assets of the Scott's family-owned team, including the Tundra that Scott will drive this weekend, chassis 128.
Chassis 128 is the "sister truck" of the Tundra that Scott won with at Dover in 2009, chassis 127. Following the success of its "sister", KBM-128 - which also was the Toyota that Busch drove to victory in the first leg of his historic trifecta at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in 2010 - has been the dominant truck in the last two Truck Series races at Dover, each with its owner behind the wheel. The Las Vegas native dominated the 2010 race, leading a race-high 172 laps, but was unable to bring home the trophy after experiencing a fuel-pump issue while leading during the green-white-checkered finish. The No. 18 team redeemed itself in last year's race on the concrete oval, leading 128 laps en route to victory.
Both Scott and the No. 18 Tundra team have experienced the thrill of victory at Dover. Working together this weekend to deliver Scott's home-state sponsor its first trip to Victory Lane would "shore" feel good.
Brian Scott, Driver of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:
Have you set any goals for the five races you will be racing the No. 18 Tundra?
"I'm looking forward to running up front. I definitely feel like we'll run in the top five and should contend for victories because these five races are all at tracks that I'm very good at. I'm really proud to have Dollar General and Shore Lodge onboard -- hope to give them a good ride and get them both in Victory Lane."
Your first NASCAR win came in the Truck Series at Dover in 2009; can you reflect on that day?
"The last time I was at Dover in the trucks, I actually visited Victory Lane. That was a really special day and a special memory. For my first race back in a truck to come at Dover, I think it will be a lot of fun and it will definitely be nostalgic for me. I know that the equipment will be good -- they've been good there the last couple years -- so we'll try to get that Shore Lodge No. 18 into Victory Lane and celebrate another victory."
How ironic is it that the truck you will be driving this weekend used to be one raced by your family-owned team?
"In life, things come full circle and it's great that I'll be able to actually come back into our equipment that we started as a family-owned team over at Xpress Motorsports -- even though it's been updated and changed quite a bit here at KBM. I know that all the guys here at KBM have made the equipment better and I'm looking forward to getting in it at Dover. It will be a great opportunity to work with Eric Phillips and all the guys on this team."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NCWTS Shore Lodge Tundra:
You've had a really fast Tundra at Dover the last two years. Have you figured something out there?
"We did the tire test up there a couple years ago and learned a few things that really seem to allow the truck to maintain speed throughout a run. We tried to figure out a way to manage the right-front tire there because you are really hard on it getting into the corner. So, you have to figure out a way to manage your front tires to keep the truck turning the whole run."
The concrete surface is known for staying consistent throughout a race. Does it remain that way from year-to-year?
"The tire that Goodyear brings changes that a little bit. I know that we have a new left-side tire this time, so we'll have a little bit of a question mark going in. While the concrete remains consistent throughout the race, it changes from the time we practice to the time we race because we are the first ones on the track and there isn't any rubber down when we practice. The track rubbers in after the Nationwide and Cup practices, so you have to keep that in the back of your mind and adjust for it when it comes time for the race."
When it comes to popularity, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Bristol Motor Speedway have plenty in common as both are number one in the hearts of race fans.
Put Earnhardt Jr. and the World’s Fastest Half-Mile together and it’s a can’t-miss combination that makes for an unforgettable experience as the driver of the Diet Mountain Dew-sponsored No. 88 goes after the coveted IRWIN Tools Night Race trophy Aug. 25.
Adding to the excitement for Earnhardt Jr. fans is the opportunity to be the audience when the former BMS winner is scheduled to make an appearance in the hospitality area at the Diet Mountain Dew Half-Mile Club that afternoon.
“I’m always excited about being at Bristol,” said Earnhardt Jr. “And I’m looking forward to seeing all the fans at the Diet Mountain Dew Half-Mile Club. There’s nothing like racing at Bristol – that atmosphere there for the Night Race is amazing and so are all the fans who come out for the race.”
The Diet Mountain Dew Half-Mile Club features an exclusive member’s-only gift pack, a Saturday track tour, door prizes, entertainment, a souvenir program, and NASCAR celebrity appearances.
The Diet Mountain Dew Half-Mile Club is available for the IRWIN Tools Night Race. Limited tickets are available at a cost of $180 for adults and $135 for children 12 and under.
To purchase Diet Mountain Dew Half-Mile Club individual hospitality, please call Amy Denton at (423) 989-6930.
Tickets to NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race – the 55th annual Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 24 – will go on sale Friday, June 1 at 9 a.m. (ET). Tickets for the Daytona 500, which was won earlier this year by Matt Kenseth, start at $65.
“Year in and year out, the Daytona 500 makes racing history and race fans should witness the excitement and pageantry of ’The Great American Race’ in person,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “In order to secure the best seats, we encourage our race fans to make their plans early as we kick off the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with the sport’s premier event.”
For the second straight year, the Speedway is offering special youth pricing for the 55th annual Daytona 500. Children 12 and under will receive 50 percent off all Superstretch grandstand seats for the Daytona 500 while supplies last. In addition, children 12 and under are free in the Sprint FANZONE throughout Budweiser Speedweeks.
In addition to the 55th annual Daytona 500, tickets for all Budweiser Speedweeks 2013 events will be available for purchase including the DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race, the NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the Budweiser Duel, the Daytona Shootout and Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200 doubleheader, Daytona 500 Qualifying Presented By Kroger and the 51st anniversary of the Rolex 24 At Daytona.
Race fans can also now pre-purchase weekend infield camping for the Daytona Shootout weekend as well as Rolex 24 At Daytona infield car parking packages.
Tickets for the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach on Feb. 18-19, which will feature two days of racing headlined by three non-points special events: the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the Late Model division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, will go on sale at a later date.
First Attempt at "The Monster": Much like the majority of the venues the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series visits in 2012, Dakoda Armstrong will make his first career appearance at Dover International Speedway this weekend. Coming off his third straight top-15 finish, Armstrong and his ThorSport Racing team have been building momentum with the No. 98 EverFi Toyota Tundra each week. Though "The Monster Mile" has a reputation of being tough on first timers, the 20-year-old Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender carries confidence into the Lucas Oil 200.
"We've been running better and better every week which really helps me and the team both at the track and the shop. I hope we can continue to make improvements this weekend at Dover," Armstrong said. "I've been fortunate to have veteran teammates to rely on for advice this season, and this weekend is no different. From what I've heard, Dover is really fast and the banking makes things happen quickly. I think if we work hard on our qualifying setup and get towards the front, we should be just fine for the race."
Crew chief Dan Stillman shared his keys to success from previous experiences in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) races at Dover, as well as his plans for the EverFi team this weekend.
"Dover is really fast; one of the fastest places we go in the trucks. We're going to need to work on qualifying and get up near the front. Once we get a few laps in during practice and Dakoda gets a feel for how the truck needs to run, we'll be good like we were at Charlotte," Stillman concluded.
Two practice sessions spanning from 2:30 pm to 5:30 pm will make up Thursday afternoon's NCWTS schedule at Dover. Qualifying is set for Friday morning at 10:00 am EST, followed by 200 laps of racing at 4:30 pm EST.
Learning from Special Guests: The No. 98 team is proud to host several guests from primary sponsor, EverFi, this weekend at Dover. Among those guests will be co-founders of the company, John Chapman and Tom Davidson. Along with visiting the team, the founders and driver Dakoda Armstrong will host members of the media on Friday morning for a presentation of the EverFi online educational programs.
"Every day across the United States, students are in their own race to gain the critical skills they need to succeed in life. Dakoda Armstrong and his team embody the speed, dedication and urgency on the race track that we feel every day in the classroom," said EverFi Chief Executive Officer Tom Davidson. "EverFi as a whole couldn't be more proud to support Dakoda Armstrong and the No. 98 ThorSport Racing team."
Special Appearances: Armstrong will join his ThorSport Racing teammates at the Toyota Pit Pass located in the vendor midway at "The Monster Mile" on Friday at 12:00 PM. The drivers will be participating in a brief Q&A session before signing autographs and greeting fans in attendance. Armstrong will then travel to the NCWTS autograph session with the rest of his fellow competitors located in the Dover FanZone outside Turn 4 from 12:30-1:30 pm.
A Look Back at Charlotte: Surviving through a caution-ridden 200 miles of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night, Dakoda Armstrong picked his way through traffic to grab a 13th place finish. After starting the N.C. Education Lottery 200 from the 24th position, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender began his climb forward shortly after halfway with the help of pit strategy calls made by crew chief Dan Stillman and improvements the team made to the handling of the No. 98 EverFi Toyota Tundra. The finish also helped Armstrong move up one more position in the driver point standings to 16th.
Dakoda Armstrong on Dover International Speedway
What have you learned about "The Monster Mile" before your first visit this weekend?
The track is really fast and the banking makes it even faster. Sort of like it was at Charlotte, I think restarts are going to be very important. I've done some practice on iRacing which has helped me at every other track I've been to for the first time, so hopefully after a few practice laps we'll be ready to make adjustments and get our EverFi Tundra where it needs to be for the race.
Dakoda Armstrong PR
No. 400 for Jeff Gordon in the '400' this Sunday? If so, it might be a first.
Last Sunday night at Charlotte, Gordon collected his 399th career top-10 finish. Only four other drivers have more: Richard Petty (712), Bobby Allison (446), Mark Martin (442) and Dale Earnhardt (428). For Gordon to secure another top 10 - and an 86th career victory - in the FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway this Sunday, the No. 24 team will need to find the winning combination.
"Dover is very fast and very challenging," said the driver of the No. 24 DuPont "20 Years" Chevrolet. "Our team has always excelled at tracks that have been the most challenging.
"But we haven't been as successful here recently as we would have liked. We've been constantly looking for that combination that will get us back to our winning ways here."
Of Gordon's 38 starts at the Delaware track, 21 are top-10's including four wins and 14 top-fives. Being conservative may be the key to conquering the concrete track again.
"Getting to pit road at Dover is very tricky, so I prefer to be conservative during green-flag pit stops," said Gordon, who has four poles at the one-mile track. "You don't want to attack (the entry) - I think you're better off being conservative and losing a little bit of time getting there safely than trying to get there super, super fast.
"Let other people make mistakes."
The trip to Delaware includes "NASCAR Day" this Thursday at DuPont headquarters in nearby Wilmington.
"This has been an annual tradition for nearly 20 years now," said Gordon. "They have some cool things lined up again for the DuPont Performance Coatings employees and me, so I'm really looking forward to visiting with a group that has been with me since the beginning of my Cup career.
"It gets us pumped up before going to the track on Friday. We always want to perform well at Dover because it's in DuPont's backyard."
Can Gordon and company perform well enough for another first in the "First State?"
- Almirola earned his first pole in his 47th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start and first points race in a Sprint Cup car at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend.
- Almirola and teammate Marcos Ambrose, who started on the outside pole, traded positions for the lead multiple times in the opening laps of the race, allowing each to gain a bonus point.
- The team stayed in the top 10 for the first 46 laps of the race, despite reports from Almirola that the car was tight on landing and that it was sliding the front tires.
- Crew Chief Mike Ford made air-pressure and chassis adjustments over the first two pit stops on Laps 46 and 89 to help with the car’s handling in an effort to return Almirola to the front.
- The day-into-night race brought changing track conditions over the course of the event, and Almirola found himself battling a very loose No. 43 Ford Fusion in the middle portion of the race, affecting his lap times and setting him back to 12th position.
- The top-20 finish allowed Almirola to jump two positions in the driver point standings and he now sits in 19th heading into Dover next week.
Kasey Kahne gave Hendrick Motorsports’ its second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup win of the 2012 season after he drove his No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet to Victory Lane on Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earlier this month, Jimmie Johnson collected Hendrick Motorsports’ 200th Cup victory on May 12 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
Sunday’s win at Charlotte marked the 13th victory of his career and his first with Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne is the 16th driver to win a Sprint Cup event under the Hendrick Motorsports banner. He also becomes just the third driver to win in his 300th career Cup start, joining Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and Rusty Wallace.
“It feels really good,” said Kahne, who now has a career-best four victories at Charlotte. “It’s so special and awesome to drive for Rick and Linda Hendrick. For them to make me part of their company, it’s unbelievable. Our Hendrick engine was awesome. I had a brand new car that so many people put a lot of effort into.”
Kahne, who jumps to 15th in the driver standings, was joined in the top 11 by teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. (sixth), Jeff Gordon (seventh) and Jimmie Johnson (11th). Earnhardt ranks fourth in the driver standings; Johnson moves into fifth and Gordon holds 22nd after Sunday’s race.
Driving Hendrick Motorsports’ original entry, Kahne lined up seventh for his 300th career Cup start. He remained inside the top 10 with teammates Johnson and Earnhardt as his team fine-tuned the handling on the No. 5 Chevrolet. Meanwhile, his teammate Gordon was the biggest mover early in the race and climbed from his 23rd starting spot to run ninth within the first 100 laps. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet claimed the lead on Lap 135 as the drivers cycled through green-flag pit stops and held on to pace the field for four laps.
On Lap 220, Kahne made his move to the leader spot and paced the field for two laps during another round of green-flag stops. Sixty-one laps later, the driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet was running away with the lead again.
With 50 laps left in Sunday’s race, the Hendrick Motorsports teammates had the handling down on their Chevrolets, and the drivers accounted for four of the 10 cars running on the lead lap. Kahne was leading the field, while Johnson was running third, Earnhardt fourth and Gordon in eighth.
On Lap 354, Kahne made his way down pit road for a quick adjustment and four tires. The No. 5 team quickly addressed the issues and sent Kahne back onto the track in the lead, while Johnson’s efficient two-tire stop was affected after he left his pit stall with the gas can still engaged. Johnson served a stop-and-go penalty and returned to the track in the rear of the field.
Earnhardt, meanwhile, stopped during the same caution period without incident in his No. 88 National Guard-An American Salute/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet and returned to join leader Kahne in the top 10. Gordon’s No. 24 team addressed a handling issue during his stop one lap later, and the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet remained eighth.
Johnson began his climb through the field, and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates maintained their positions inside the top 10. Johnson drove the No. 48 Lowe’s Patriotic Chevrolet through the field to finish 11th.
“We had a couple little mistakes on pit road tonight, and it took us out of a chance for a top three there, but it happens,” said Johnson, who ranks fifth in the driver standings. “Last week, it couldn’t have gone any better. But these guys will work their tails off this week, and we’ll get those things corrected.”
NASCAR has penalized two NASCAR Nationwide Series teams for rules infractions that were committed last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway.