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Labonte’s Spotter Feels Right at Home as JTG Daugherty Racing Preps for the Second Visit to Kentucky
NASCAR is a melting pot. Most drivers and team members come from all over the country to reside in North Carolina for their jobs and some come from around the globe. With a 36-race schedule, sometimes it’s tough for them to return to their roots. For some, there is the good fortune of a race or two falling in the town near where they grew up.
For instance, this weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Kentucky Speedway and the Quaker State 400 hits close to home for Owensboro, Kentucky-native David Green. Green, who currently spots for Bobby Labonte in the No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota and assists JTG Daugherty Racing in other areas, had an illustrious career in the NASCAR Nationwide Series thanks in part to his driver.
“Bobby and I raced against each other in a division called the Slim Jim All Pro Series, which was one of NASCAR's touring divisions,” Green said. “Also, I worked for Wayne Day and we built NASCAR Nationwide Series (formerly NASCAR Busch Series) cars. As Bobby and I raced against each other, they ended up getting some cars from us. So, we were competitors and I was in business there with him as far as building cars for his team. When he won the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship, they had used some of our cars. We had built some for both Terry (Labonte) and Bobby.
“I got to run the Nationwide Series in 1991 and he was my mentor,” Green continued. “I ended up winning a race that year and he was a big influence with that. At the end, the team I was driving for lost the sponsor and Bobby was the first to call me.”
When Green hit a road block, Labonte helped him take a detour. Green went on to drive for the Labontes, which led to him clenching the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship in 1994. He came close again with runner-up finishes racing for other teams in 1996 and 2003. Along his journey in Nationwide, he scored nine wins, 72 top-five finishes, 144 top-10 finishes, 22 pole awards and he also has 78 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts to his credit.
“Bobby said, ‘I heard the news and I know you should be out there driving, but why don’t you come to North Carolina and help me in the shop, go to the track and if something would come up, you wouldn’t be out of sight out of mind,” Green said. “I was so close to saying I’m not cut out for this and he changed my mind. I drove to North Carolina not knowing if I would be there two days, two weeks or two months. I worked for him all of 1992. When he went Cup racing the next year we simply pulled his name off of the Nationwide car and put my name on it. We almost won the championship with me driving that year, but we fell to third at the end. In 1994, we did win the championship.”
For everything Labonte did to assist Green in his endeavors, he enjoys returning the favor.
“I followed Bobby forever and when I saw the opportunity come about at JTG Daugherty Racing I asked if he needed a spotter,” Green said. “Also, I had a good relationship with Tad Geschickter (co-owner) and I always wanted to work together.”
It seemed like a good fit. Ironically, Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s Kleenex brand was Green’s sponsor when he won his last NASCAR Nationwide Series race. Their SCOTT Products brand will be front in center this weekend.
“Kleenex was my sponsor when I won my last Nationwide race at Pikes Peak,” Green said. “So, I had a great relationship with the sponsor and it’s neat that they now sponsor Bobby at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level with Tad, Jodi (Geschickter) and Brad’s (Daugherty) operation.
“I never really officially retired as a driver,” continued Green. “Being a spotter, is as close to being a driver you can be. For everything Bobby did for me, it’s a small part of a payback.”
Now that Green is out of the driver’s seat, he’s passed the torch to his son.
“Austin is 11 and he’s running a Bandolero at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Green said. “At age five, he started racing competitively in a go-kart. Because of my travel, he doesn’t get to race as much. He’s racing the Summer Shootout and the Winter Heat at Charlotte. He loves soccer too, but it’s very interesting to watch how he handles himself on the race track. To me, it’s the spitting image of a Bobby or Terry Labonte. I patterned my driving style like their driving style. Terry and Bobby and Bob (Labonte) taught me the right and wrong way. Whether my son chases a career in driving is yet to be seen, but he understands it and is doing it the right way. The right way is the Labonte way.”
Green’s looking forward to this weekend at what he considers his home track where he has seven Nationwide Series starts. This time around Labonte may be seeking advice from Green since he has more laps at the place. In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first visit to the 1.5-mile tri-oval, Labonte started 24th and finished 26th last year.
“Believe it or not in all my years racing, I had not raced at Kentucky until last year,” Labonte said. “I had only tested there up until that point. I’m looking forward to going back and I’m sure David is glad to be in his home state too. We’ve been working together and friends for a long time.
“We’re also glad to have SCOTT Products with us this weekend supporting us,” continued Labonte. “It’s going to be a good race for us.”
Red Horse Racing announced today, that two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Todd Bodine and his No. 11 Tundra team, will once again be supported by Toyota Care this weekend at Kentucky Speedway for the UNOH 225.
"Toyota is pleased to continue its support of Todd's participation in the 2012 Truck Series season." said, Les Unger, Toyota National Motorsports Manager. "As a two-time Tundra past champion, Toyota values Todd's contribution to its NASCAR program and will assist in working with Todd to help secure additional sponsorship for the remainder of the 2012 season. Todd is a very important part of the Toyota racing family. We at Toyota Motorsports want to be a part of his effort in winning his third driver championship and Toyota's sixth manufacturer's championship."
Toyota Care previously served as primary sponsor on the No. 11 Red Horse Racing Tundra at Rockingham Speedway, Kansas Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Managing Partner at Red Horse Racing, Tom DeLoach adds, "We are certainly glad to have Toyota Care back on board. Toyota has been a loyal supporter to our race team and it's great to see them stand behind our race team while we continue to search for sponsorship."
Fireworks, Charity Case Concert, Driver Autograph Session All Part Of Next Week's Legends Big Money 100
In less than a week, the biggest grassroots racing event in the country, the Legends Big Money 100, returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway. Featuring the only $100,000 purse in Legend Car racing, the two-day racing spectacular, July 2-3, will bring out stars of the sport, including Darrell Wallace Jr., Daniel Hemric, Gray Gaulding and last year’s winner, Kyle Plott.
In addition to the racing, fans can enjoy a pre-race concert on Tuesday with popular morning radio personalities Ace and TJ and their band Charity Case. Drivers competing in the Legends Big Money 100 will also participate in an autograph session on the frontstretch during the concert.
At the conclusion of the Legends Big Money 100 on Tuesday, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host the area’s first Fourth of July fireworks celebration.
Action on Monday will include qualifying and heat races for the Young Lions/Semi-Pro, Masters and Legends Big Money 100 divisions. Tuesday will include Young Lions/Semi-Pro, Masters and Legends Big Money division feature racing, concluding with the Legends Big Money 100 A-Feature that night.
Bandolero Bandit and Outlaw drivers will also have the opportunity to compete in a Bandolero championship event, with qualifying sessions and heat races on Monday and feature races on Tuesday.
Fox Sports South, the Southeast’s premier regional sports network, will televise an hour-long recap of the Legends Big Money 100. The show will air Monday, July 9, at 6 p.m.; Tuesday July 10, at 8 a.m.; and Saturday, July 14, at 11 a.m. Fans can check local listings to find their cable provider’s Fox Sports South channel.
Competitor registration for the event is still open online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets/legends_big_money_100/.
Spectator gates open at 1 p.m. on Monday for qualifying and heat racing and 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday. The pre-race concert and driver autograph session is set to start at 6 p.m. with opening ceremonies for the Legends Big Money 100 A-Feature at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $10 each day for adults and kids 13 and under get in free. For tickets to the Legends Big Money 100, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/.
For live updates during the Legends Big Money 100, follow hashtag #BigMoney100 on Twitter. To join in on the conversation simply include #BigMoney100 in your tweet.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) driver Bryan Silas and wife Misty welcomed their newest addition to the T3R Racing family Tuesday afternoon.
Yesterday (June 26), the couple welcomed their second child, a healthy baby boy to the family. Braydon Walter Lee Silas was delivered at 2:55 p.m., Eastern weighing in at nine pounds, seven ounces. Both mother and the newborn are doing very well and resting comfortably in a local Stuart, Florida hospital.
This is the couple’s second child as they have an older son, Landon Paul Silas who was born on Tuesday, July 13, 2010. Ironically, T3R team manager and Silas’s uncle Chris Baluch also celebrated his birthday yesterday – truly making it a family affair.
Silas will compete in Thursday’s activities at Kentucky Speedway and drive the No. 99 Rockingham Speedway Ford F-150 in the UNOH 225.
After two consecutive Sprint Cup Series events where late-race incidents sent Regan Smith spiraling down the finishing order, the Furniture Row Racing driver will be aiming to snap the jinx and close the deal in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.
Two weeks ago in Michigan a flat tire with fewer than 10 laps remaining spoiled a solid run for Smith, and in the following race at the road course in Sonoma, Calif., Smith was involved in a final-lap multicar wreck. His finishes were 28th in Michigan and 32nd in Sonoma.
"The last two race results have been awfully disappointing, but we are determined to change that in Kentucky," said a resolute Smith. "Our Furniture Row Racing team is in need of a performance lift."
The good news for Smith, who will be driving the No. 78 Furniture Row/CSX Play it Safe Chevrolet in Kentucky, is that he is going to what he calls a "comfort zone venue."
"I've always enjoyed racing at Kentucky," stated Smith. "It's a track I feel very comfortable competing on.
I recall being on the pole for a Nationwide race there (in 2007) and had a shot at winning until a fuel issue halted our march to victory lane."
Last year in the inaugural Sprint Cup Series race at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway, Smith qualified 12th and finished 17th. The result had the potential of being better, but an untimely caution after making a green flag pit stop in the late stages of the race stalled Smith's charge to the front.
"We had a decent run last year and know that we can improve upon that 17th-place finish," noted Smith. "And considering what we've been through the past few weeks, I am looking forward to getting back to a mile-and-a-half track.
"We haven't had the rhythm lately and that has cost us in both performance and points. We need to click for the entire race and bring home a strong finishing result. We have the potential, it's a matter of completing the mission."
Smith's uniform and the rear bumper of his No. 78 Chevrolet will again carry the "I Brake for Trains." message. The message is part of CSX Transportation Play it Safe campaign to urge pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution around railroad crossings.
On Friday, President Barack Obama’s campaign respectfully declined New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens’ invitation to attend next month’s LENOX Industrial Tools 301. Today, Gappens is putting four tickets earmarked for the president up to highest bidder.
With all proceeds benefiting the Speedway Children’s Charities, Gappens is starting the bidding at $100 for the (4) tickets located in Section H, Row 44 of the Main Grandstand, a prime location to view the top stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on July 15. Each exclusive ticket has a face value of $110 and has President Obama’s name and address at the White House printed on them.
The auction will run from Wednesday, June 27 through Friday, July 6, and can be found at www.gospeedway.com/auctions/nhms/index.asp
“It’s the largest sporting event in New England, so it goes without saying we would have liked to have Mr. Obama join us for such a prestigious event,” says Gappens. “Instead of tossing these tickets aside we’re going to put the tickets to use to benefit Speedway Children’s Charities. This also creates an opportunity for someone to bid on a very unique set of tickets that provide a view of the race fit for the president.”
Gappens had hoped President Obama might stop by the speedway while he was in New Hampshire today on a campaign visit. On Friday, Obama’s campaign released an official statement from the office of New Hampshire State Director Pete Kavanaugh, indicating that while they did “appreciate the offer” … “the president will not be able to attend the race.”
A famous author once said you can never go home again, but Michael Waltrip plans to do just that this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
And it won’t be anything low key.
The 49-year-old Owensboro, Ky. native will wear the blue and white of his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats. The two-time Daytona 500 champion will honor the 2012 NCAA basketball champions as he seeks his first Sprint Cup start in front of his home state fans.
Waltrip enjoys many roles in NASCAR. He’s a television commentator for Fox and SPEED-TV broadcasts, a part-time Sprint Cup driver and co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing that won last weekend’s race on the Sonoma road course with driver Clint Bowyer. All three MWR teams are in the top 12 in owner points.
WALTRIP ON UK: “I have been a UK (University of Kentucky) fan ever since I was a kid. I grew up in Owensboro watching UK basketball. They would always show it tape delayed after the 10:30 p.m. newscast. I was fortunate to go to several games in my life. Clint Bowyer and I even went to the national championship game in New Orleans when they beat Kansas. I will have to say, it’s really cool for a Kentucky guy to have UK on my car racing in Kentucky.”
PART-TIME SCHEDULE: My schedule is really cool. I get to race on the tracks that I love (Kentucky, Daytona, Talladega). Kentucky was one of the races that I really wanted on my schedule. I know my name is on the building but the No. 55 really belongs to Mark Martin. It’s was really nice of Mark to let me drive this race. We will go to Kentucky and get the best finish we can get. I am honored to have the UK logos on my Aaron’s Toyota.
WALTRIP ON MWR: “I will never forget back in 2005 when I was driving for Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and I thought life was great, Toyota came to me and said we are going Cup racing, why don't you join us? I thought, well, that would be fun and give me something else to do. So, we started and golly it's been so fun to have that relationship. Think about NAPA, they have been around since 2001 and Aaron's since 2000. It's because we are friends, we are buddies, that we do this together. Since 2005 with Toyota as well. Those type of partnerships and relationships are the only reason why I'm still in business today. It took us a while to get cars like we have now and the strategy and the philosophy to race the way we are now. I'm just eternally grateful Toyota gave us the time needed to be successful. To sit in Sonoma as winners of that event, and more than that, just contenders week-in-and-week-out is amazing. We are very grateful and very thankful team.”
As a native of the basketball-loving Hoosier state, Ryan Newman knows the importance of a rebound. When the game is on the line, a key-timed rebound could change the whole complexion of the game and put a team back in contention for the win.
As the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to the home state of the NCAA men’s basketball national-champion Kentucky Wildcats for Saturday night’s Kentucky 400 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, it seems appropriate that a rebound should be the name of the game for this Hoosier who grew up both playing hoops and racing.
Newman is 13th in the driver standings, 143 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, and he has one win to his credit at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on April Fools’ Day. But it has been three months since he had his last top-10 finish in a points-paying race.
In the last 10 races, Newman has had one DNF (did not finish) and five top-15 finishes, but none higher than 12th place.
While Newman admits the recent string of finishes outside the top-10 has been frustrating, he’s also quick to say his team is capable of turning its fortunes around and getting the No. 39 Tornados Chevrolet back into the top-10 on the racetrack and in the standings.
Just like in a basketball game, all the team needs is to huddle up, take a deep breath, refocus and get back to the basics – shoot, score, rebound. Or, in racing terms, qualify well, run up front and contend for the race win.
Saturday night’s race at Kentucky could be just the place for the No. 39 squad to do just that. Newman has a solid history at the 1.5-mile oval in the Bluegrass State.
In August 2000, in just his third stock-car start, Newman scored his first-ever stock-car pole in the ARCA series race at Kentucky. He dominated that event, leading 83 of 134 laps, and won by almost a full second to score his second consecutive ARCA victory.
Then, in last season’s inaugural Sprint Cup race at the Kentucky oval, Newman finished a strong fourth.
While the game – rather, the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship – isn’t on the line just yet for Newman and his No. 39 team, it’s time to get back into the top-10. So, for this Hoosier, the goal for Saturday’s Kentucky race is to summon some of his home state’s basketball-loving skills, rebound from his recent performances and turn the tide back around for the No. 39 Tornados team.
It is not a stretch to say that the blue featured on Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet has some championships associated with it. That blue is, of course, the iconic blue associated with primary sponsor Lowe’s. However, there may be some crossover basketball fans who claim otherwise this weekend when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.
That’s because blue is also associated with the University of Kentucky Wildcats, who won the 2012 NCAA men’s national basketball title by defeating the University of Kansas Jayhawks, who are also associated with blue and national championships.
Championships aside, race fans, no matter where they are from, will get a chance to see the iconic Lowe’s blue Chevrolet in action at the 1.5-mile tri-oval. This time, however, it’s with a somewhat different look. The base color for Johnson’s car this weekend is called “Dover White” with blue racing stripes. It’s the second in a series of new color combinations for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet in a tribute to the American muscle car. Johnson ran a “Mountain Green” paint scheme at Kansas in April. These special schemes play off the primary paint schemes for the Lowe’s and Kobalt Tools cars that were inspired by the first-generation Chevy Camaros with racing stripes.
While the new scheme is sure to be popular with the Kentucky-area fans, Johnson is hoping the result is much like the one the Wildcats enjoyed the first Monday in April – a win. It would take him one step closer to one of his goals, winning at every track on the Sprint Cup circuit. Kentucky is one of five tracks where Johnson has failed to visit victory lane. Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and Homestead-Miami Speedway are the others.
The five-time Sprint Cup champion did come close during the series’ first visit to Kentucky in 2011, when he earned a solid third-place run. He says he is looking forward to his second visit to the “bumpy, rough” track. And while adding to his current run of five top-five finishes in six races or, better yet, a visit to victory lane, if possible, fans of the No. 48 car will have to wait until November to see if the Lowe’s blue turns out to be championship blue once again this year.
Ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties aren’t the only things that go bump in the night. Kentucky Speedway in Sparta also is home to things that go bump in the night, namely, 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers thundering over the bumps that cover the surface of the 1.5-mile oval.
All tracks have character – subtle undulations and grooves that set it apart from its counterparts. But Kentucky’s surface is the X-Games of paved tracks – edgy and in-your-face. There is no avoiding the bumps. Navigate them wrong, and they’ll make you a part of a spark-filled highlight reel.
Saturday night’s 400-mile Sprint Cup race at Kentucky marks only the second time NASCAR’s elite series has competed at the track, for it joined the Sprint Cup schedule last year. As such, it is just one of two tracks where Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, is winless in Sprint Cup competition. The other is Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, the oldest track on the Sprint Cup schedule.
Stewart would like nothing more than to cross Kentucky off his to-do list, as he did earlier this year when he won at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway to secure his first win at a track that for 13 previous years had eluded him. Ironically, Stewart’s considers Kentucky to be a bumpier version of Las Vegas.
That outlook, combined with the confidence from his recent hot streak of three top-three finishes in the last three Sprint Cup races – including back-to-back second-place results at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and the road course in Sonoma, Calif., that have vaulted Stewart to fifth in points – makes the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion more than capable of bumping his way into Kentucky’s victory lane on Saturday night.