Steven B. Wilson
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Following a long and winding road, Martin Truex Jr. finally owns the biggest prize in motorsports.
The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota capped off a dominant season in fitting fashion –by capturing the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship with a stirring victory in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
To take the title, Truex outdueled his Championship 4 competitors Kyle Busch (second), Kevin Harvick (fourth) and Brad Keselowski (seventh).
The Mayetta, New Jersey, native was the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ best driver all year, winning the regular season championship on the strength of four victories.
Once the playoffs began, Truex upped his performance to another level, recording a top-five finish in every postseason race except for Talladega. He won four times, including the playoff-opening race at Chicagoland, twice in the Round of 12 (Charlotte and Kansas) and the season finale at Homestead.
Truex finished the season with career highs in wins (8), top fives (19), top 10s (26) and laps led (2,250). He led the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in all those stat categories.
Truex’s title also marks the first championship for Denver, Colorado-based Furniture Row Racing and owner Barney Visser.
A two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, Truex joins Busch, Harvick, Keselowski and Bobby Labonte as the fifth driver in history with both an XFINITY and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
He is the first champion from New Jersey.
Truex’s teammate Erik Jones captured the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Driving the No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, Jones scored a rookie-high five top fives and 14 tops 10s.
On the strength of 16 victories, Toyota won its second-consecutive Monster Energy Series Manufacturers’ Championship.
The second annual Evergreen Raceway Awards Ceremony was held Saturday evening at Carmen’s Country Inn in Drums, PA. Over 180 racers, family, friends and fans came out to enjoy an evening of celebration together after a successful 2017 season at the speedway. Track champions were honored, along with those who were in the running for the points title all season long.
Matt Hirschman of Northampton, PA claimed his second straight American Equipment Modified Series title. Hirschman, who was not present because he was racing in Myrtle Beach, scored all but one win in the division this season. His father, Tony accepted the award on his son’s behalf. He thanked everyone that had helped them claim the title, including car owner, Bob Horn, who has fallen ill this season.
Francis Gross III of Allentown, PA accepted the trophy and paycheck for earning his first ever Himmer Graphics Late Model crown. Winless in the division for almost 20 years, Gross not only visited victory lane this season, but also held bested former division champion, Steve Shultz to take top honors.
After dominating the season in the Barbush Automotive Street Stock division, Randy Schlenker of Whitehall, PA earned his second divisional championship. He thanked all of his family, crew and sponsors for their hard work and support throughout the entire year.
Thirteen year old Brayden Spencer of Shickshinny, PA earned his first Evergreen championship in the Evans’ Roadhouse Four Cylinder division. Spencer thanked all of his family and additional supporters. He also made mention that his great grandfather won the first Spencer Evergreen track title 60 years ago.
Harry O’Neill of Mountaintop, PA earned a pair of divisional accomplishments. O’Neill gave an emotional acceptance speech for being the Strictly Stock and 6/8-Cylinder Enduro champion. O’Neill’s words were focused around the help that he received from his wife, Wendy, following a devastating motorcycle accident that nearly ended his life several years ago.
Don Rogers of Furlong, PA accepted his award for earning the crown in the Four Cylinder Evergreen Enduro Series, presented by Sponenberg’s Exhaust.
Many others were honored, including Stephanie Moyer, for being tied with Tom Casagrande for having the best overall finish in the Factory Stock division.
Kaden Ayres of Mountaintop, PA was recognized for being the Junior Four Cylinder “Front Runner” and Miss Evergreen’s (Emily Schadder, Angela Fisher and Mikayla Saccetti) were given awards for their help and dedication to the track throughout the season.
Sponsored by BRE Racing Tire, the “Rookie of the Year” honorees were: Gene Bowers (Modified), Brian Romig, Jr. (Late Model), Mike Pollack (Street Stock) and Shawn Kistler (Four Cylinder).
The “Most Improved Driver” awards went to: John Fortin, Jr. (Modified), Francis Gross III (Late Model) and Dan Pawlicki (Street Stock).
Himmer Graphics and Kyle Williams Photography presented the champions with additional plaques and BRE Racing Tire presented them with Hoosier Racing Tire jackets.
After announcing that he would not be returning to the speedway next season, Gene Ostrowski was recognized for the effort and dedication that put forth throughout the years.
Along with track announcer, Ted Grow, promoter Jason Makarewicz and Jeff Owler, the director of racing operations, gave a few closing words before music and dancing was provided by Richie Green.
Evergreen Raceway is located minutes from Hazleton, PA, in between routes 93 and 309. For more information regarding Evergreen Raceway, including the entire season schedule, directions and divisional payouts, please visit www.evergreenracewaypark.com and don’t forget to like their Facebook page as well.
Evergreen Raceway PR
Spencer Gallagher and the No. 23 Allegiant team unloaded for their first time at Homestead-Miami Speedway and for the final race of the 2017 season. Wanting to finish out the season strong, the No. 23 team worked hard all weekend to prepare the Allegiant Chevy for afternoon's NASCAR XFINITY Series 300, finishing 12th in first practice, 18th in final and claiming a 28th-place starting position for the 200-lap finale.
Gallagher reported early on to the No. 23 team that he was experiencing loose into the corner and throttle tight on the exit conditions. When the first caution occurred on lap 19, crew chief Joey Cohen called Gallagher to pit road for four tires, fuel, a track-bar and wedge adjustments, restarting 28th on lap 23rd. With fresher tires than the majority of the field, Gallagher made his way into the 3rd position with 10 laps to go in Stage One and stayed in that position until the green-white checkered flag waved. Gallagher collected eight stage points en route to his highest stage finish of the season. Cohen called Gallagher to pit three other times throughout the event for four tires, fuel and adjustments. The Chevy's handling started getting tighter as the sun set causing Gallagher to drop back into the 19th position where he settled in until ultimately crossing the start-finish line to end the 200-lap event and his first full-time NXS season.
“This year hasn’t been easy by any means but we can say that we kept battling and never gave up. It was a learning year and we collected a lot of good info for our NXS program. I wish we could have gotten a top-10 to finish the season off strong but we will take a 19th-place finish and build on that.”
GMS Racing PR
Ryan Reed closed out the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season eighth in the driver standings following his 20th-place finish in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Reed had a fast No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford, but was assessed a pass through penalty after avoiding a car sideways in front of him at the start of the race. A caution never fell his way to get back on the lead lap.
“We probably had our best car of the season tonight,” said Reed. “It’s extremely frustrating to get trapped a lap down with what could have been our best car of the season. I did what I had to do on that restart to avoid a big wreck and then had to serve a penalty. It’s frustrating, but the speed we had was promising and we’ll put in some hard work over the off season and come back next year in position to be racing for the Championship.”
Reed’s No. 16 was extremely tight in qualifying Saturday morning, resulting in a 15th-place starting position. Things took a turn for the worse at the drop of the green flag. The car ahead of Reed jumbled the restart and had himself sideways. Reed had to go around the car to avoid wrecking his Ford, but NASCAR does not allowing passing prior to the start/finish line. Reed was assessed a pass through penalty for passing prior to the start/finish line.
Reed served the penalty under green flag racing just a few laps in, resulting in him going a lap down to the leaders early on in the race. Reed spent a majority of Stage 1 in the “lucky dog” position, but the leader passed a few other cars right before the conclusion of the Stage.
The same scenario from Stage 1 played out over Stage 2 and Reed was once again left one lap down to the field. The race consisted of long green flag runs and a caution never fell in Reed’s favor. Despite having a No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford that was running lap times competitive with the top 10, Reed was trapped off the lead lap.
Ty Majeski, driver of the No. 60 Ford EcoBoost Ford Mustang, earned his first career top-10 finish on Saturday afternoon in the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 10th-place result comes in just Majeski’s third-career NASCAR XFINITY Series start.
“Today was about learning as much as I can,” said Majeski after the race. ”We had a really fast Ford Mustang while the sun was out and were able to drive up into the top five which was cool. I want to thank everyone on this Roush Fenway team and (crew chief) Mike (Kelley) for their hard work today. We battled the handling once the sun went down but we kept fighting and came away with a top-10.”
Majeski took the green flag for the 200-Lap season finale event from the ninth position after advancing to the final round of knockout qualifying on Saturday morning. From the drop of the green flag Majeski methodically moved forward, joining the top-five for the first time on Lap 13 and maintained his track position through a Lap 18 caution period. However, a loose-handling condition in the closing laps of the opening stage shuffled Majeski back to sixth when the green and checkered flag waved to end Stage 1 on Lap 45.
Crew chief Mike Kelley called the Roush Fenway Racing driver to pit road in between stages for four tires and a chassis adjustment before sending Majeski back out onto the track for the Lap 51 restart in the seventh position. The driver of the No. 60 Ford EcoBoost Mustang continued to fight for position in the top 10 throughout Stage 2, running as high as sixth before the handling shifted to the tight side through the center of the corner. Despite the handling condition, Majeski remained inside the top 10 throughout the second stage and took the green and checkered flag on Lap 90 in the eighth position.
The tight-handling condition through the center of the corner continued to plague the Seymour, Wisc. native when the final stage went green on Lap 96, shuffling Majeski back to the 12th position before the first round of green flag pit stops began on Lap 144. After returning to the track in 13th following the stop, Majeski patiently worked his way forward, rejoining the top 10 in the closing laps and taking the checkered flag in the 10th position.
The result is Majeski’s first career top-10 finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the 383rd top-10 finish for the Roush Fenway No. 6.
Last year, William Byron drove his way into Gatorade Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway as the race winner in the Ford EcoBoost 200 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. On Saturday he stepped onto the podium again at the 1.5-mile oval, but this time as the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.
The 19-year old from Charlotte captured the title by finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 300. With less than 30 laps remaining in the 200-lap race, Byron was able to pass his JR Motorsports teammate and fellow Championship 4 contender, Elliott Sadler, who finished the race in the eighth spot. In addition, Justin Allgaier and Daniel Hemric, who also competed in the Ford EcoBoost 300 as part of the Championship 4, finished 12th and 34th, respectively.
“I don’t know that I took a breath the last 20 laps,” said Byron. “That was incredible. I just have to thank this team. This is awesome. Elliott Sadler raced me clean and we just raced hard for it. I just can’t believe this.”
The championship makes Byron the 28th driver to win the XFINITY Series title. It also makes him the second rookie and teenager to win the series championship. Ironically, it was another JR Motorsports driver who accomplished the feat – Chase Elliott in 2014. On the season, the driver of the No. 9 car accumulated a series-high four victories, 12 top-5 finishes and 22 top-10 showings, which was good enough for him to earn 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors as well.
While Byron took home the championship, it was rookie Cole Custer who captured the checkered flag in the Ford EcoBoost 300. For the 19-year-old driver of the No. 00 Ford Mustang, it was the first win of his career. Custer also led a race-high 182 laps, a new record for an XFINITY Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, breaking the previous mark of 153 by Kyle Busch in 2010.
“We knew we were going to be really good this weekend, but our Haas Automation Mustang was unreal,” said Custer. “We really wanted to have a good showing at Ford Championship Weekend. Even though we weren’t in it, we wanted to win.”
In addition, with four wins, 23 top 5s and 28 top 10s this season, Team Penske claimed the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series owner championship. It is their fourth NASCAR XFINITY Series owner championship (2013-15, 2017).
A limited number of tickets to Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 championship finale are available and can be purchased by calling (866) 409-RACE (7223) or visiting www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com
Homestead-Miami Speedway PR
|Ben Kennedy Closes out 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series with 18th- Place Finish in Rheem Chevrolet after Top-10 Run|
"We has a really fast Rheem Chevrolet today. We started 25th and I felt like our car was better than most of the cars I was running with but I stayed patient so as not to wear out our equipment. At the end of Stage 2, we had an awesome pit stop that helped us restart in the top-10. We couldn't really run with those guys at the bottom but at the top of the track we were better than anyone. At the end of the race I tagged the wall like I had been tagging it all day and it finally cut a tire. We had to pit with two laps to go for right-side tires. We were running ninth at the time and the fastest car on the track so I hated to see that happen. It was a pleasure racing with RCR this season and I am thankful for the opportunity."
- Ben Kennedy
Scott Lagasse Jr. Battles Loose-Handling Fight Colorectal Cancer/Screen Your Machine Chevrolet in Miami
"Our Fight Colorectal Cancer/Screen Your Machine Chevrolet fired off too loose through the corner. We were one of the few teams that came down pit road during the first caution to get fresh tires and make chassis adjustments. With the fresh tires, we were able to drive up through the field to fourth place to end the first stage. Our Camaro reverted back to being too loose in the second stage, and we battled with it for the rest of the race. We took big swings at it, but they just never seemed to be enough. I was up on top of the racetrack and lacked the front grip we needed. It definitely wasn't the day that we anticipated after promising practice sessions yesterday, but there were bright spots this afternoon and this team never gave up in trying to make changes to try and get a handle on the balance.
- Scott Lagasse Jr.
Daniel Hemric Finishes Fourth in XFINITY Series Championship After Mechanical Issues Hamper Efforts for the Poppy Bank Chevrolet Team at Homestead-Miami Speedway
"We came down here, we did our jobs. We practiced, qualified, did everything we needed to do to race the guys we needed to race, and I was really looking forward to battling it out with everybody with our No. 21 Poppy Bank Chevrolet, and just wasn't meant to be. We were able to stay out in front of those guys the first stage, come down pit road, thought we were in pretty good shape to kind of make our race car a little better. The racetrack was starting to go through the transition of cooling down and whatnot, so just logging laps, and when we left pit road, I started losing volts for whatever reason, and not exactly sure why yet, but we'll get to the bottom of it. Not ideal by no means, but sometimes it's just not meant to be, and if it was meant to be it would, but it just wasn't our day. But I don't want to let that take away from our efforts that we did all year to put ourselves in position and to get ourselves here. Proud of the effort, and that's why we decided to keep running all the laps because we didn't give up and that's what got us here, so whether we were 12 laps down or not, we wanted to complete the race, and that's what we did."
- Daniel Hemric
Brandon Jones and the Jeld-Wen / Menards Team Finish 14th in the 2017 NASCAR XFINITY Series Finale
"We struggled with rear grip all weekend in the No. 33 Jeld-Wen / Menards Chevrolet Camaro. Throughout practice and the race, we could get the front of the car dialed in really well but couldn't get the rear to grip the track surface like I needed it to in order to move around and pass cars. Unfortunately with that long green-flag run at the end of the race, our handling faded away, making it tricky to get any forward momentum. We held on to everything we could though and came away with a top-15 finish to cap off the season. I can't thank this team enough for all their hard work and for all the support of our partners. It means a lot."
- Brandon Jones
Brendan Gaughan and the South Point Hotel and Casino Team Close Out The Season with 13th-Place Finish at Homestead-Miami Speedway
"I can't say it was a good run for the South Point Hotel and Casino team. I would have liked to have kept the right side on it like the fab shop had started it. I guess I made a few aerodynamic adjustments on my own. Our race was pretty much like the way we ran most of the season. We were good for about ninth to 13th. I want to say we can help RCR get better so that they'll be stronger next year. It's been real and it's been fun and it's been real fun. I want to thank Richard, Judy and the boys for everything."
- Brendan Gaughan
Motor Mile Speedway in Radford VA will undergo a major transformation beginning in 2018. Mirroring the national sharp downward trend in the popularity of NASCAR racing, the track has seen a decline in attendance and fan interest in recent years. After much discussion and planning, the Speedway will not renew its NASCAR sanction for 2018 , ending its circle track chapter and looking ahead to hosting a variety of entertainment and sporting events.
The track is nestled on 170 acres of rolling hills and is a beautiful setting for many types of outdoor activities. Just what those activities will be, however, remains to be decided. “We have lots of ideas but there’s no story yet. We are sitting around the table now and hashing it out,” said co-owner David Hagan. “We have tried to make the speedway successful, but with a downturn in interest, it’s increasingly difficult to make it work. We are looking at a variety of events to bring new life and excitement to the property. We have a unique venue in terms of versatility, and our new operation will reflect that. The schedule could include everything from concerts, mud runs, festivals, camping, and even new racing events at some point. You name it and it’s probably come up at our table,” Hagan elaborated.
Hagan and his partner, Larry Shelor, are co-owners of the Shelor Motor Mile auto dealerships in nearby Christiansburg, as well as the Calfee Park/Pulaski Yankees baseball operations in Pulaski. Seeing the enthusiasm around the baseball program only confirmed in Hagan’s mind the need for a drastic change at Motor Mile Speedway. “When you see the huge family crowds that baseball is drawing just a few miles away from the Speedway, and how much those fans are enjoying the experience, it really highlights the difference between the two sports,” said Hagan. He has challenged his management team to come up with ideas that will meet the growing demand for different options in family entertainment.
The 2018 season will be a year of planning and transition. The annual Independence Day Monster Truck Show will return, along with a couple of demolition derby events. The Dragway will continue its popular “Friday Night Fury” series, along with the possibility of other special events. Management made a similar decision in 2017 on the Dragway when it discontinued the traditional bracket racing program in favor of a more open format that attracts all types of fans and racing enthusiasts.
Although General Manager Michelle Vaught is sad to see the end of the weekly racing series at MMS, she has seen the declining numbers and knows it is time to make a change. “While we respectfully celebrate the racing history of Motor Mile Speedway, we are excited about what the future may hold for this special venue. The opportunities are endless.”