Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Macon Speedway is set to return to racing this Saturday night, August 8, with a full seven division program presented by Air King.

The BillingsleyRewards.com Modifieds have been at the top of the list for divisions not to miss this year. Last time out, the class had 25 cars competing and now there is a tie for the point lead between Springfield, IL’s Guy Taylor and Billy Knebel, of Pocahontas, IL. Taylor at the top is not a surprise but seeing Knebel with his Pro Mod in contention is. Tommy Sheppard, Rick Hamilton, and Joe Strawkas complete the top five in points.

New Berlin, IL’s Jose Parga leads the points in the DIRTcar Pro Late Model division, claiming three wins in five starts. Jake Little has two wins and is second in points, just ten behind. Dakota Ewing, Brady Lynch, and Cody Maguire complete the top five in points. This will be the final tuneup for the Pro Lates before the big Diane Bennett Memorial race next Saturday, an event that will be paying over $2,000 to the winner.

The DIRTcar Pro Mods had a rough start to the season, with a few caution filled races. Two weeks ago, the solid field put together, not one, but two good feature events. Kyle Helmick, of Smithton, IL, leads the points by eight over Billy Knebel. Kevin Crowder, Dalton Ewing, and Brian Burns round out the top five in points.

The DIRTcar Sportsman have had two good car counts the last two nights of racing. Despite that, no one has been able to keep Springfield, IL’s Dennis Vander Meersch out of victory lane. While he’s won three to start this season, his actual win streak at Macon dates back to 2018 as he’s won 14 in-a-row when he’s been on property. Rick Roedel, of Shelbyville, IL, is second in points, while Scott Landers, Phil Moreland, and Matt Reed complete the top five.

The Archers Alley Street Stocks have had some stellar shows in 2020. At the last event, 20+ cars were pitside with Bobby Beiler, of Blue Mound, IL, claiming his third win of the year. While Beiler walked the proverbial dog, the action from second on back was top notch, with drivers racing two and three wide from start to finish. Guy Taylor finds himself second in points, while Darrell Dick, Jaret Duff, and Rudy Zaragoza complete the top five.

Decatur, IL’s Brady Reed leads the Hornet standings by just six over Brownstown, IL’s Billy Mason. Reed has claimed two feature wins on the year. Bill Basso, Casey Eskew, and Cook Crawford round out the top five.

Completing Saturday’s action will be the Micros By Bailey Chassis. Local driver, Jacob Tipton is on top of the standings, with John Barnard just eight behind. Hayden Harvey, Kyle Barker, and Daryn Stark are among the top five. Jeremy Camp, Tony Clifton, and Trevin Littleton are the three feature winners but each have been there only once.

Saturday’s event marks the first of three races in eight days at the track. This Thursday, August 13 will be the much anticipated Herald & Review 100, while next Saturday, August 15 will be the 2nd annual Diane Bennett Memorial. Nearly $10,000 in extra prize money has been donated to the August 15 event, making for a very special show.

This Saturday will see pits opening at 3:00, grandstands at 5:00, pill draw ends at 5:50, hotlaps begin at 6:00, and racing will take the green at 7:00. Grandstand admission is $15, while kids 11 and under are free.

Macon Speedway PR

Picking up his first career prelim night victory in the My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals presented by Great Southern Bank, Altoona's Austin McCarl grabbed the lead on Lap 8 and led the remainder of Thursday's 20 lap A-Feature to mark his first career victory with the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by the MAVTV Motorsports Network as well.
 
McCarl's second career win in 360cid competition at the Knoxville Raceway, the Kolthoff Electric/SCT No. 17a shot under the No. 70 of Calvin Landis through the first and second turns on Lap 6, only to have the caution appear for Ryan Leavitt.
 
Pinned to the back bumper of the Tom Madden Motorsports entry on the restart, McCarl again shot the gap between Landis and the berm to take the top spot.
 
"Calvin was kind of moving around there. I just had to stay patient. He was setting a good pace," stated McCarl. "
 
"The bottom was really good and threw up a bunch of juice through the middle. When I got to those first lap cars, they were running the top. I didn't know what to do, so I blew it through the middle, and it stuck. I didn't know how close those guys were behind him. Aaron and Kerry…those guys are World of Outlaws winners and the best in the world. I guess, in the end, I was lucky there wasn't a yellow."
 
Slowing opening his advantage, the battle for second heated up with Landis in the mix with Scelzi, Madsen, and Reutzel with the No. 87 getting the spot for a moment before mechanical issues struck on Lap 13. Getting to the infield to avoid the caution, the spot went to Kerry Madsen with Dominic Scelzi in tow.
 
Hitting lapped traffic with five laps to run, the slower traffic would not be enough to slow McCarl as the No. 17a crossed 2.539-seconds ahead of eighth starting, Kerry Madsen, who is the high point driver after Thursday prelim action. The final podium step went to California's Dominic Scelzi with Shane Golobic moving up three spots to fourth. Tim Shaffer completed the top five.
 
Making up seven positions, Joe Beaver grabbed sixth with Roger Crockett seventh. Racing through the B-Feature, Cory Eliason clawed from 21st to eighth in the Rudeen Racing No. 26. Calvin Landis ended up slipping to ninth with Tim Kaeding, also making a 13-position run from 23rd to complete the top ten.
 
The 30th annual My Place Hotels 360 Knoxville Nationals presented by continues Friday, August 7. Hot Laps begin at 6:45 P.M. with Qualifying getting underway at 7:15 P.M. (CT). Information on the event, tickets, and directions can be found at http://www.knoxvilleraceway.com.
 
Live coverage is available on http://www.dirtvision.com.
 
For other news, notes, and information on the American Sprint Car Series, from the National Tour to any of the Regional Tours that make up ASCS Nation in 2020, log onto http://www.ascsracing.com, follow on Facebook, on Instagram, and Twitter (@LucasOilASCS).
 
ASCS PR

Due to the recent impact of heavy rain from Hurricane Isaias, Mahoning Valley Speedway suffered damage to the racing surface that unfortunately will not be repaired suitably to have races held this Saturday, August 8, forcing the track to scratch for the night.

The decision to cancel was made after a close assessment of the situation by track management and the paving crew called in to evaluate the predicament.

The problem arose after Tuesday’s day-long rain soaking. A portion of the track near Turn 1 partly buckled and then formed a nearly three-foot linear crater. Other nearby portions of the track had minor buckling caused by the heavy saturation.

Although the cavity could have been patched in time for Saturday, it was determined that moisture was still present underneath and in order to have the adequate results it would be in the best interest to allow the ground to dry below the asphalt and then begin the mending process.

MVS PR

“Erik has been an incredible friend to Toyota throughout the last eight years. We’ve become close not only to Erik, but to his entire family. We’ve celebrated together, we’ve cried together and we’ve supported each other through it all. Unfortunately, the time has come that we have to part ways from a competitive standpoint. We know Erik will continue to do great things in this sport and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors. We will certainly continue to follow his career and will be there to congratulate him as he continues to succeed.”

TRD PR

Joe Gibbs Racing and Erik Jones jointly announced today the end of their partnership upon the conclusion of the 2020 NASCAR season.

“We appreciate all Erik has done for Joe Gibbs Racing over the past several years,” said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He joined us as a teenager and has accomplished so much in his time here and we remain focused on the remainder of this season and earning him a spot in the playoffs.”

During his time at JGR, Jones has accomplished many milestones in his career. Following his championship season in the Truck Series in 2015, Jones moved full-time to the Xfinity Series winning Rookie of the Year honors and making a run at the 2016 Series championship. With the 2017 Cup Series Rookie of the Year title added to his accomplishments, Jones moved to the No. 20 Camry in 2018 winning his first-career Cup Series race and making his first appearance in the Cup Series Playoffs. Jones added the coveted Southern 500 to his resume in 2019 and secured his place in the 2019 Playoffs. Jones started the 2020 season strong winning the Busch Clash.

“I greatly appreciate the opportunity that JGR provided me with over the last four years and I wish the team nothing but success and good fortune,” said Jones. “JGR gave me a solid foundation from which to go out and compete at the highest level and I look forward to building on that in the years to come.”

JGR PR

As NASCAR’s three national series get ready to make their historic first attempts at the DAYTONA Road Course inside the Daytona International Speedway on Aug. 14-16, let’s take a look back at how road course racing began in Daytona Beach, “The Birthplace of Speed.”

The history of automotive competition in the Daytona Beach area goes back to 1903. It is recorded that it started with a friendly wager between two men debating who had the fastest horseless carriage. The wide, hard-packed sands of “The World’s Most Famous Beach” were the scene of more than 30 years of speed trials.

Then in 1935, the final speed trials were held, and moved to the Salt Flats in Utah. To continue the legacy of speed, stock car racing began on the beach in 1936. The concept was racing modified stock cars on a circuit that utilized both the Atlantic shoreline and the pavement of State Road A1A, the legendary oceanfront road. The original 3.2-mile course had the north turn located near the center of town. It ran approximately 1.5 miles north on the beach and then 1.5 miles south on a paved, public roadway with two portions connected by banked, sand turns.

Entered in the event was a larger-than-life man named “Big” Bill France. He witnessed the final year of speed runs on the beach and was fired up about what Daytona meant to auto racing on a global scale. His enthusiasm was largely born out of being a competitor, even though the idea of promoting races was lurking in the back of his mind. He finished a solid fifth in the 250-mile event, and knew that he could win stock car races on a regular basis, but also if pressed into service, he could be a successful promoter.

The first couple of years the road course was losing money, and the local chamber of commerce approached Big Bill, asking if he could help find a promoter for the road course. The idea of promoting a race excited him, and he told city officials he was the perfect man for the job. While driving a race car at various tracks across the Southeast, owned by Daytona Beach restaurant owner Charlie Reese, Big Bill asked Reece if he would give support financially to help him promote the beach course. A partnership was formed, and Big Bill began to wear two hats.

In 1939, Bill Sr. accelerated his driving and promoting ambitions, and the Daytona beach-road course was becoming successful. Behind the wheel in races on the beach-road course, he finished fourth and second, and a year later, he had a break-through victory, along with other track wins to win an “unofficial championship” crown. He would promote races on the beach and at various tracks in North Carolina before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, which halted racing. Post war in late 1945, the Daytona beach-road course needed a tune-up and renovations after several years of inactivity, and in the spring of 1946, stock car racing was reborn.

The realities of a growing Daytona Beach populace on the beachside forced Big Bill to abandon the original 3.2-mile layout at the end of 1947. He was running out of room to both race and provide space for spectators.  A new 4.1-mile course near Ponce Inlet was created in 1948 where the stock cars would compete.

On Feb. 21, 1948, NASCAR would become officially incorporated. Big Bill would be in charge of the new sanctioning body, promoting not only races at the beach-road course but a full championship schedule as well. NASCAR was founded on the simple idea that many people loved revved-up engines and fast cars as much as Big Bill did.

The modified stock cars that had been competing was not the only direction Big Bill wanted to go in moving forward. In 1949, he demonstrated his determination for a vision he had years earlier, but had been delayed by the war. From 1942-46, a small amount of consumer cars had been built, reducing the availability of the machines from showroom floors by the car manufacturers. It was now time for his “Strictly Stock” concept (what would become known as the Grand National Series, and years later, the NASCAR Cup Series), a series for new sedan cars, that would produce a national championship series.

The first Strictly Stock race was held in Charlotte on June 19 on a ¾-mile dirt track. Then, less than a month later, on July 10, 1949, the first Daytona beach-road course for the Strictly Stock division was held. It was the beginning of bigtime beach-road course racing in Daytona Beach and the phrase “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” for the car manufacturers. For nearly the next decade, the beach-road course would play a pivotal role in the early stages of NASCAR.

A limited number of fans will get the opportunity to see NASCAR’s return to road course racing in Daytona for the Go Bowling 235 At The DAYTONA Road Course, along with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race on Sunday, Aug. 16. Fans can get tickets, which start at $49 (both races included) for adults and $10 for kids 12 years old and younger, by visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or calling 1-800-PIT-SHOP.

DIS PR

NASCAR and its partners have always gone above and beyond in honoring people who have made a difference in the community, whether it’s military or first responders, among many others.  In the midst of a pandemic, healthcare workers have been front and center as part of our everyday lives, and on Thursday, NASCAR and Verizon Business paid tribute to healthcare workers from Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson in the NASCAR Hauler Salute to Healthcare Heroes Powered by Verizon.

Eight NASCAR haulers inched their way past Henry Ford Allegiance Health Thursday morning as they made the trek to Michigan International Speedway, navigating through downtown Brooklyn prior to their arrival at the track.  Many of the workers from the hospital were on hand as the haulers saluted all of the great work they have done in the community.  The haulers were led by the official pace cars of MIS – a Ford Mustang and a Chevrolet Camaro.

Afterwards, NASCAR, along with Verizon Business, provided lunch for more than 2,000 employees at the hospital, in another sign of their appreciation.  Among those in attendance Thursday were Mark Smith, MD, Chief Medical Officer at Henry Ford Allegiance Health and Michigan International Speedway President Rick Brenner.

“We deeply appreciate the showing of support today by Verizon, NASCAR and MIS to honor our frontline health care workers,” said Mark Smith, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Henry Ford Allegiance Health. “Since the pandemic reached our community, our team members have dug deep to provide exceptional care to our patients. Many of them worked tirelessly and selflessly to save lives through their careful attention and skilled intervention.”

“Henry Ford Health System has been a tremendous partner of Michigan International Speedway, as in tandem we have been able to offer unique experiences for our fans,” said Michigan International Speedway President Rick Brenner.  “The care that they have been able to provide our local community has been nothing short of amazing, and today’s event was well-deserved for all of the hard work that they all have put in.”

Henry Ford Allegiance Health is part of the Henry Ford Health System, the entitlement partner of Michigan International Speedway for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Henry Ford Health System 200, which will be held on Friday, August 7 at 6:00 pm.  The event came in advance of the NASCAR weekend at MIS, August 7-9.

MIS PR

With six races in the next four weeks to set the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Playoff field and several of the sport’s top drivers still looking to solidify themselves as legitimate championship contenders, intensity and motivation are at a season high.

The August schedule presents an unprecedented pair of doubleheader race weekends, beginning with this week’s two-race stop at Michigan International Speedway that includes Saturday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

And the two-mile Michigan oval, located an hour from Detroit - the automaker capital of the world - will present its prestigious Heritage Trophy to the car manufacturer that either sweeps the two-race slate or earns the most points based on the top-10 finishers in each race.

It’s motivation upon motivation. Several of NASCAR’s best currently sit just outside the 16-driver Playoff eligibility cutoff line, including impressive rookie Tyler Reddick, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and 24-year old Michigan native Erik Jones, who has qualified for the Playoffs the last two seasons.

“Obviously with it being my home track, there’s a little bit of extra motivation as far as trying to win the race," said Jones, who drives the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota.

“Really, it would be one, if not the biggest win of my career if we could go out and win one the races this weekend at Michigan. I think that would be pretty special to me. I grew up a little bit over an hour from the track so getting down there and racing is always a pleasure.

“Michigan has been a good place for us. We’ve had some really strong runs there and I think we have some good notes and plans as far as what we have to do to have a good weekend at Michigan in the doubleheader."

And that goes beyond the sentimental feeling of winning at home.

Looking at just the championship standings, 14th-16th place drivers Clint Bowyer, DiBenedetto and William Byron are separated by only 28 points. Fourteenth place Bowyer holds only a 43-point edge on Reddick. Byron has only a 15-point cushion on Reddick, who won an Xfinity Series race at Michigan last year.

Ten drivers have secured their Playoff positions with victories, however, the list of those still vying for their first trophy of the year features some pretty impressive names. Like the reigning series champion, Kyle Busch.

Busch has endured unbelievably poor luck – scoring four finishes of 30th or worse – and yet still is in position to make the Playoffs to try and become the first back-to-back champion since Johnson won five straight from 2006-2010. “Pointing” his way into contention isn’t the standard Busch is used to, however, and it’s made each race feel more like a “must win” to put his title hopes back on track. He won at Michigan in 2011 and is riding a string of six consecutive top-10 finishes at the track.

Nine active drivers have victories at Michigan – six of them multiple trophies. Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and championship leader Kevin Harvick have a series-best three wins each. Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman have a pair of trophies and Bowyer, Johnson and Kyle Busch have one win each.

Of those former winners, Kenseth, Newman and Johnson are still needing to win their way into title contention. Not only does Kenseth have three wins but the car he’s driving this season, the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Chevrolet, has three wins with previous driver Kyle Larson at Michigan.

Fords have won the last four races since Larson’s string of trophies(2016-17) – with championship leader Harvick winning twice in that span including last year. Harvick has four runner-up finishes in addition to those wins since 2014. And Harvick’s No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team arrives in Michigan riding a streak of seven top-five finishes in 2020.

“We’re just kind of grinding away," Harvick said. “We kind of got behind at New Hampshire (last week) and were able to make up a lot of ground. Our team is doing a great job and we’re doing what we need to do each week and we’ve been fortunate to win a few races and we’re ready to get through the final few races before the Playoffs start."

 

XFINITY SERIES GOES ROAD RACING

The NASCAR Xfinity Series moves to one of the country’s most iconic road courses, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. for Saturday afternoon’s Henry 180 (12 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with nine races remaining to set the 12-driver Playoff field.

Historically the road course races have been a competitive highlight on the Xfinity Series schedule and as often the case, a group of “ringers” or road course experts such as 2013 Elkhart Lake race winner A.J. Allmendinger and IMSA champion Andy Lally are entered among a field of Xfinity championship seekers that have noticeably raised their own road course game with each passing season.

Defending race winner Christopher Bell is now a NASCAR Cup Series rookie leaving only three former winners in Saturday’s field – Justin Allgaier (2018), Jeremy Clements (2017) and Allmendinger (2013).

The Xfinity Series championship leaders – five-race winner Chase Briscoe and four-race winner Austin Cindric, former Elkhart Lake winner Allgaier and two-race winner Noah Gragson have proven themselves especially top-line on road courses. Briscoe already has a win on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and Cindric won two of the series’ four road course races in 2019.

And with no practice or qualifying in 2020, experience will be key.

Certainly, Cindric’s recent work – three wins and a runner-up finish in the last four races – combined with his road course prowess makes him a well-deserved favorite. He was runner-up to Bell last year at Elkhart Lake after winning back-to-back road course races at Watkins Glen, N.Y. and Mid-Ohio. The 21-year old led laps in all four 2019 road course races (also including the Charlotte ROVAL in the Playoffs).  He finished fifth at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this year after a thrilling final laps battle with Allmendinger. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford arrives in Elkhart Lake with a four-point edge over Briscoe atop the standings.

The Indiana-native Briscoe, however, has certainly raised his own road course game. He earned his first road course victory at Indy overtaking the dueling Allmendinger-Cindric duo with a dramatic pass with two laps remaining. There’s every reason to believe that kind of must-see action will return this weekend. His five wins are most in the series and with Cindric’s recent rise, especially, Road America looks to be a fantastic match between the season’s two title favorites. Briscoe, driver of the No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, scored top-10 finishes in all four road course tests last year. And he is in the midst of a strong run – finishing first or second in four of the last six races.

The veteran Allgaier is also poised to play a big role in any road course event. He’s earned five top-10 finishes in the last six races at Elkhart Lake, including a runner-up finish in 2013 to complement his 2018 victory. He also finished top-10 in all four road course races last year with a best of third at Watkins Glen. A hard luck 2020 has frustrated the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, but despite it all he’s scored top-10 finishes in five of the last six races. He was fourth at the season’s first road course race at Indianapolis. A win this week would certainly be the perfect uptick for the team’s title outlook.

“I’m really looking forward to heading to Road America and getting back to some road course racing," said Allgaier, who won two of the series road course races in 2018.

“This BRANDT Professional Agriculture team continues to put together fast Camaros each week and we’ve proven to be really strong on road courses over the years. There are definitely some guys each week who will be tough to beat, but if we can avoid the chaos and keep our car on the track, we’ll have a great shot at battling for the win."

 

GANDER TRUCKS RETURN

With only six races remaining to set the 10-driver NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 2020 Playoff field, there is good reason to expect tight and intense racing in Friday night’s Henry Ford Health System 200 (6 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Michigan International Speedway. But then again, putting it all the line is the very essence of this series - as the championship driver standings will indicate.

Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill is not only the series standings leader – by 43 points over Ben Rhodes – he is also the defending Michigan race winner, earning a .125-second victory over Sheldon Creed last summer in an overtime thriller. He brings a series-best nine top-10 finishes and a series-high 186 laps led to Michigan.

All three of those drivers, Hill, Rhodes and Creed return to the fast Michigan two-miler assured of their Playoff opportunities, but that’s not the case for a pair of otherwise heavy championship favorites who are still in need of a victory or a major points boost.

Defending series champion Matt Crafton punched his Playoff ticket two weeks ago, winning at Kansas Speedway, but a pair of annual championship contenders – former series champion Johnny Sauter and 2019 Championship Four competitor Stewart Friesen – are still below the Playoff cutline.

Sauter is ranked 12th, 53 points behind 10th place Todd Gilliland. Sauter, the 2016 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champion, won at Michigan in 2014 and was race runner-up in 2018. The driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford finished 12th here last year.

Friesen, driver of the No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota, is ranked 14th – 71 points behind the cutoff line. He has a pair of career-best eighth-place finishes in three starts at Michigan. His best showing this season is fourth place at Texas Motor Speedway. He finished 27th and 34th in the two series’ most recent two races at Kansas.

Tyler Ankrum, the 18-year old considered one of the top up-and-coming drivers in the sport, is ranked 11th in the championship standings coming to Michigan, only 22 points behind 10th place Gilliland and 27 points behind ninth place Derek Kraus. Ankrum was leading at Michigan with two laps remaining last summer when he was collected in a nine-truck crash that forced overtime.

Gilliland’s best Michigan finish is fourth in 2018. He led 14 laps last year but was also caught in the same late race crash as Ankrum. This will be the 18-year old Kraus’s Michigan debut.

Beyond positioning themselves among the Playoff favorites, several of the highest ranked drivers in the standings are still looking for that first victory of the season to send them into title contention on a high note.

Hill (Kansas), Grant Enfinger (Daytona, Atlanta), last year’s Michigan runner-up Creed (Kentucky) and now Crafton (Kansas) are the only series regulars with victories. Meaning that six of the 10 Playoff positions will be filled based on points standings unless a new – championship eligible driver – wins over the next six races.

Former series champion Brett Moffitt is among those seemingly secure in the championship standings but still looking for a victory guarantee. His two wins at Michigan (2016 and 2018) make him the winningest driver in Friday night’s field. He’s finished in the top-five in three of his four Michigan starts. He is fifth in the points standings.

Rhodes, driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Ford, can also be counted among the highly-motivated this weekend. His eight top-10 finishes this season are second only to Hill’s nine. The 23-year old Kentucky native Rhodes has a pair of top-10 finishes at Michigan, including a best of sixth place twice (2016 and 2018). He was 23rd last year.

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