Steven B. Wilson
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Toyota captured its 10th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) manufacturer’s championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Friday night, marking the manufacturer’s fifth-consecutive title and the 10th in 14 seasons competing with the Tundra in the series.
Tundra drivers won 12-of-23 races in 2017 and captured the NCWTS manufacturer’s championship when Christopher Bell finished second with the top-finishing Tundra in the season finale at Homestead.
“Toyota is extremely proud to have captured our fifth-straight Truck Series manufacturer’s title,” said Keith Dahl, motorsports general manager for Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). “The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has provided a great platform to showcase the Toyota Tundra, which has proven to be successful on the track with 10 titles in 14 seasons competing in the series. We couldn’t have done it without the dedication and hard work of our team partners this season and their talented driver lineups.”
Tundra drivers combined to win 12 races and led 2,041 laps in the NCWTS – more than 50 percent of the races and laps contested – in 2017 and the season and culminated with Bell winning the 2017 NCWTS driver’s championship in the finale.
In addition to Bell’s winning the driver’s title, six Tundra drivers contributed to the NCWTS manufacturer’s championship with victories, including Bell (five wins), Kyle Busch (three), Matt Crafton (one), Noah Gragson (one), Parker Kligerman (one) and Ben Rhodes (one).
Since joining NCWTS competition in 2004, Toyota has won 170 races and captured 132 poles in 334 races. Kyle Busch (43) has the most victories driving a Tundra.
Toyota also claimed manufacturer championships in the following seasons – 2006 (12 wins); 2007 (13 wins); 2008 (13 wins); 2009 (14 wins); 2010 (15 wins); 2013 (13 wins); 2014 (18 wins), 2015 (14 wins) and 2016 (14 wins).
By the slimmest of margins, the Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) is proud to announce that Marietta, Georgia's Cody Haskins is the program's 2017 champion. Haskins, who won two races and finished in the top-five 13 times, edged out Lakeville, Minnesota's Michael Ostdiek 965-952 after on-track results and community engagement points were taken into account.
The final 2017 KDDP “Kulwicki Cup” point standings:
1) – Cody Haskins - 965
2) – Michael Ostdiek - 952
3) – Brett Yackey - 844
4) – Cole Butcher - 607
5) – Justin Mondeik - 532
6) – Braison Bennett - 472
7) – John Peters – 331
"It's really no surprise that the season title came down to Cody and Michael because they have been neck and neck since the late spring,” said Tom Roberts, Executive Director of the KDDP. “They were nearly equal on and off the track, but Cody really impressed our board with his hands-on approach at the track and his massive amount of off-track activities after his season wrapped up in early October. It doesn’t come as a shock that the two drivers who were invited to return to the program in 2017 finished in the top two spots.”
For Haskins, this championship is the culmination of a yearlong journey that began on a late night drive home after the 2016 KDDP banquet last December. "Cody has often said that the 2016 banquet was one of his most humbling experiences,” said Roberts. “Finishing where he did in the 2016 standings (fifth of the seven drivers) motivated him to improve for 2017. His Alan Kulwicki-like hands-on approach offered a notable parallel to the 1992 NASCAR champion and his on-track results were consistent. But what really put Cody over the top this season was his commitment to engaging with his neighbors and the fans."
An executive with KRC Power Steering, Haskins participated in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, the American Red Cross, Goodwill and the Shriner's Hospital. He also helped raise money for the family of Terry Evans, a fellow racer who was killed in an accident after leaving Myrtle Beach (SC) Speedway in July.
“Like several of our drivers, Cody also spent time with school kids in and around his hometown, visiting a numer of schools and churches throughout the season,” Roberts said. "It sure seemed like that whenever there was an open weekend in the racing schedule, Cody and his team were somewhere signing autographs and meeting young race fans. What set Cody apart for me, personally, was that even on his wedding day, he and his new wife found the time to visit a local food pantry and help those less fortunate. That just shows what kind of character he has."
If there was any driver in this year’s KDDP class who understood the power of working closely with young people, it had to be Ostdiek. The Iowa State University student from the Twin Cities suburbs focused his off-track energies on his own quarter-midget driver development program, which continues to shape and mold the next generation of Midwest short track racers.
"Michael has really emerged as not only a top young talent on the track, but has established himself as a leader off of it as well,” Roberts said. “His driver development program is second-to-none and his commitment to fundraising and improving the lives of those around him continues to impress.”
Ostdiek won the 2017 ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year, edging out fellow KDDP finalist Justin Mondeik. He picked up three race wins at his home track of Elko (MN) Speedway, along with six top-five finishes throughout the season. "I think Michael impressed a lot of people this year and he will only improve in 2018,” said Roberts. “I know that Gregg McKarns and all the ARCA Midwest Tour community are proud that he represented them so well and they look forward to having him back in the fold next year."
Colorado's Brett Yackey finished a close third, followed by Nova Scotia's Cole Butcher, Wisconsin's Justin Mondeik and Braison Bennett, and Maine's John Peters. Those remaining five drivers all acquitted themselves well on-and-off the track in 2017, with Yackey really standing out throughout the season.
"For a high school senior, Brett really impressed us throughout the year,” said Roberts. “He raced hard at Colorado National against some of the best competition in the West and then impressed us with his off track work.” Among his many off-track activities, Yackey helped raise over $4,000 for former Colorado National Speedway driver Dalton Hewitt's cancer fund, selling baked good, burritos, and hosting a silent auction. It was incredible that he was able to balance all of that with also being a star athlete at Greeley Central High School.”
Cole Butcher, who posted two wins, including the prestigious Atlantic Cat 250, and 10 top-10 finishes, was a big supporter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, hosting two young race fans and their families at Scotia Speedworld in June. Justin Mondeik showed great improvement on the track during the season, and played a critical role in helping raise funds for the Northwoods Veterans Post in Merrill, Wisconsin. Braison Bennett embodied the Kulwicki spirit in many ways; owning, maintaining, and fixing his own race cars on a limited budget, but still able to find victory lane at Wisconsin International Raceway. Bennett, along with Maine's John Peters, both suffered incredibly bad luck this season, but both were able to overcome and post strong finishes. At his home track of Beech Ridge (ME) Motor Speedway, Peters hosted a "Kulwicki Kid" program for seven young fans, selected through a fan drawing on social media, providing them with a up-close-and-personal look at short track racing and sending them home with a number of prizes, including a racing helmet.
"All of our drivers did a remarkable job this year and our board members were superb in completing their voting assignment,” Roberts said. “They continued to place great value on community involvement, off-track projects and social media activities. They awarded bonus points for drivers going the extra mile in representing our organization. With all things being equal and with some better racing luck, any of the drivers could have walked away with the Kulwicki Cup this year. I am so proud of each of them and I know Alan would be also.”
The KDDP points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Voters are asked to rank the drivers from first to seventh in their job of representing the organization and points (from 70 for first to 10 for seventh) are awarded for those rankings. Each voter is given 10 discretionary “bonus” points to award the drivers for “exceptional contributions” to the program. Community engagement, program representation and social media activities account for much of those points. The remainder of the points come from actual racing statistics. Race wins award 10 points, with 2nd-5th-place finishes getting 6 points, 6th-10th 4 points, 11th-15th 2 points and 15th-plus 1 point.
Here is a look at the final “on-track” competition points (from 4/1/17 through 10/31/17):
Cody Haskins - 98 (2 wins, 13 top-5s)
Brett Yackey - 96 (3 wins, 9 top-5s)
Michael Ostdiek - 90 (3 wins, 6 top-5s)
Braison Bennett - 88 (1 win, 11 top-5s)
Cole Butcher - 87 (2 wins, 10 top-5s)
Justin Mondeik - 64 (0 wins, 2 top-5s)
John Peters - 54 (0 wins, 3 top-5s)
For the third and final round of voting, the two regular season judging points were averaged (however, bonus points continued to accrue) and added to the final vote’s judging points. The overall competition points (maximum 150 points for 15 wins) were applied and the driver with the largest points total, Haskins, earned the 2017 Kulwicki Cup championship.
Haskins is the KDDP's third champion and the first from outside of Wisconsin, following Ty Majeski (2015) and Alex Prunty (2016). While he has big shoes to fill, Roberts feels that Haskins is ready to take the next step.
"Cody has achieved a great deal in late model stock car racing throughout the Southeast and I know that he plans on trying to take the next step in his career,” said Roberts. “It's also impressive that he has seen great success working as a mentor and car owner for Jensen and Taylor Jorgensen, both of whom have a bright future in short track racing. While his 2018 plans are not set in stone, we expect big things for Cody. He has a personal drive much like Alan possessed. He knows every nut and bolt on the race car and expects a lot of himself and those around him. A determination like Cody's can only lead to success."
Haskins and the other six members of the 2017 KDDP class will be honored during the organization’s banquet set for Thursday, Dec. 14 in the Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Highlighting the activities for the evening (which would have been Alan Kulwicki’s 63rd birthday) will be the presentation of the winner’s check for $54,439 and the special KDDP “Kulwicki Cup” Champion’s trophy to Haskins.
While the 2017 season is over, drivers can start applying for the 2018 Kulwicki Driver Development Program today. Please visit www.kulwickiddp.com for the application and additional information. All applications are due on December 31, 2017.
Youth has been served once more in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Christopher Bell, 22, completed an outstanding sophomore campaign by capturing the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship following Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
To capture the crown, Bell, who finished second, outdueled fellow Championship 4 contenders Johnny Sauter (third-place finish), Austin Cindric (fifth) and Matt Crafton (sixth) at the South Florida track.
At 22 years, 11 months, 1 day, Bell is the fourth-youngest champion in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history.
Scoring a series-high five wins and winning the regular season championship, Bell dominated the 2017 season to earn a second-consecutive spot in the Championship 4. Bell punched his ticket to the playoffs early, winning the second race of the season at Atlanta. From there he continued his winning ways with regular season victories at Texas, Kentucky and Pocono. Bell’s momentum continued in the playoffs, where he captured a win in the playoff opener at New Hampshire.
Bell finished this season with five wins, and series highs in both top fives (15) and top 10s (21).
A former dirt standout, Bell will run fulltime with Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2018.
Bell’s No. 4 Toyota won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner Championship, the fifth consecutive title for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and sixth overall. The No. 4 Toyota also won the owner title in 2015 with driver Erik Jones.
Chase Briscoe captured the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. Driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, Briscoe ended the season in stirring fashion, collecting his career-first win, at Homestead, to collect his 10th top five of the season.
Toyota won its record-extended 10th Manufacturers Championship, and fifth in a row. After a strong season that included 12 victories, a single Toyota needed only to start tonight’s race to ensure the title.
For their final race together, Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers team will start the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway from a familiar position.
Blaney, crew chief Jeremy Bullins, and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team bounced back from a mediocre practice session to advance through all three rounds of knock-out qualifying and earn the 11th starting spot for Sunday’s finale of Ford Championship Weekend.
It was the 26th time in 36 races this season that Blaney and the No. 21 team have qualified among the top 12.
“Ryan and the crew made some changes after practice, and obviously they were right ones,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said. “It’s really satisfying to be among the top 12 in our last race together, and I’m glad they were able to find some good speed tonight since they’ve been so good in qualifying all season.”
Blaney and the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were 20th fastest in Friday’s opening practice, with a best lap at 168.972 miles per hour.
After some tuning on the No. 21 Fusion, Blaney was 14th fastest in the opening round of qualifying with a speed of 172.590 mph.
He ran a lap at 173.055 mph in Round Two, which was ninth fastest of the 24 drivers and earned him a spot among the elite 12 qualifiers.
His final lap, a 171.255 mph, earned him the 11th starting spot for Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400.
“We made improvements from the first round to the second round, but we fell off for the third round,”
Blaney said in his post-qualifying comments. “We missed a bit on that last adjustment. It was a good effort.”
Blaney also said the increase in his speed in qualifying compared to his speed in practice was due in part to the fact that practice was held during the day and qualifying at night.
“We made some adjustments to the car between practice and qualifying, but the biggest difference is the temperature,” he said.
Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 is set to get the green flag just after 2:30 p.m. with TV coverage on NBC.
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, will lead the field for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after winning the Coors Light Pole with a lap of 31.038 seconds, 173.980 mph.
Hamlin earned his second pole and 24th top-10 start in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, and his second pole (2015) in 13 races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hamlin has four top-5 and eight top-10 finishes at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which includes wins in the Ford EcoBoost 400 in 2009 and 2013.
“Honestly, it was a great run and we did great adjustments there,” said Hamlin. “Our car was obviously very fast that last run. I love this race track and wish we would have our chance, but that will be another day, another year for us.”
The Championship 4 drivers – Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick – will be starting within the top-10 positions for Sunday’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex will start alongside Hamlin in the front row in the second position, while Busch will start in third. Keselowski will begin the 267-lap championship race in fifth and Harvick will start in the ninth position.
“It was a good day overall,” said Truex following the qualifying session. “We missed it a little bit that last round and lost more grip than I anticipated. We made some adjustments and knew it was going to go that way, but just not far enough. I can’t say enough about this group, just a really strong day – five one-thousandths away from it being a perfect day. Just proud of everyone and they did what they needed to do today and we’ll get to work tomorrow.”
“Definitely was pole worthy, so I hate it that we weren’t able to get the number one pit stall,” said Busch about his qualifying run. “I felt like that was a great opportunity. I felt like when Truex ran the .043 that there was a shot out there for a 90-something. That’s kind of what I was shooting for. I was trying to find that 90 and being able to be number one.”
Tickets to Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 championship finale, in addition to tomorrow’s XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300 championship race, are available and can be purchased by calling (866) 409-RACE (7223) or visiting www.HomesteadMiamiSpeedway.com
The Ford EcoBoost 400, which will air on NBC and MRN Radio/Sirius XM, will start at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 19.
Homestead-Miami Speedway PR
Fan favorite Danica Patrick announced Friday, Nov. 17 she plans to race in the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May 2018, the last start in her barrier-breaking career as a race driver.
Patrick, from Roscoe, Illinois, has made seven career starts in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" from 2005-11, setting a number of milestones for female drivers.
Her best finish - third in 2009 - and start - fourth as a rookie in 2005 - both are records for female drivers in the "500." She also has led 29 laps during her "500" career, including 19 in her electrifying debut in 2005. Both also are race records for a female driver.
"This will be my last season as a full-time driver," Patrick said of 2017. "I'm not totally done. I'm going to do the Daytona 500 and Indy 500 next year, and I'm really excited about that. I think it's going to be a great way to cap it off."
Patrick, 35, intends to complete a "Danica Double" comprised of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway and then the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on Sunday, May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the last two starts in her career.
She has raced full time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for Stewart-Haas Racing since 2013, including five consecutive starts in the Big Machine Brickyard 400.
Patrick did not reveal during the press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway the team with which she will make her final Indianapolis 500 start.
"We're glad Danica plans to return to the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil next May," IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. "Her final career start will make what's already shaping up to be a terrific Month of May even more interesting for our fans.
"It's also fitting that Danica is wrapping up her career at the place and in the race where she became a household name and captured the world's attention in 2005 - the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500. We're looking forward to seeing her back in an Indy car next May alongside all of the tremendous drivers of the Verizon IndyCar Series."
Tickets for all Month of May events in 2018 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, including the fifth annual INDYCAR Grand Prix and the 102nd Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, are on sale now at IMS.com and the IMS Ticket Office.
Kids 15 and under will continue to be admitted free to all 2018 racing events at IMS when accompanied by an adult General Admission ticket-holder.
Visit IMS.com or visit the IMS Ticket Office to buy tickets for the Month of May 2018. The IMS Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the IMS Administration Building at 4790 W. 16th St. in Indianapolis. It's open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday and also can be reached at 800-822-4639 or 317-492-6700.
Danica Patrick has announced today at Homestead-Miami Speedway her retirement from full-time racing. Announces will run the 2018 Daytona 500 and Indy 500 for yet unnamed teams.