Speedway Digest Staff
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Ryan Blaney captured his first NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) win in just his second start of 2013 in the Penske Racing No. 22 Discount Tire Ford Mustang. A regular in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Blaney methodically worked his way to the front throughout the entire race to take home his inaugural win with Roush Yates power.
Pole winner Sam Hornish Jr. appeared to have the car to beat, but on the final restart Blaney powered the outside line and pulled ahead of Austin Dillon and the rest of the field for the final nine laps to give Ford Racing and Roush Yates Engines their 12th win in just 27 races.
“We had a great car all night,” said the son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney. “We kept working on it throughout the race, just little tweaks here and there. We were really strong to start out the race and just got better and better as the runs went on. It was really tough the last few restarts to really know what was going to happen but we had a great car to be able to get through one and two good and be able to clear them by three and four.”
The No. 22 Mustang has earned 10 wins this year in the Nationwide Series with four different drivers. AJ Allmendinger, Joey Logano, and Brad Keselowski make up for nine of the victories.
Sam Hornish Jr. continues to lead Dillon in the Championship points by 15. Roger Penske is leading the owner’s championship by 23 points. The Nationwide Series will make the trip to Dover International Speedway next weekend.
Corey LaJoie won his third ARCA Racing Series race of the season in only four starts on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.
The ZLOOP 150 was rained out Friday night, forcing the field to race Saturday afternoon. After being fastest in practice with his Roush Yates Ford, LaJoie started 13th but raced to the front of the field quickly, leading a total of 40 out of 100 laps.
Chad Boat took the lead with 38 laps to go on a three-wide pass for the top spot between LaJoie and Mason Mitchell. Garrett Smithley brought out the caution moments later after making contact with the inner retaining wall. On the re-start LaJoie powered past Boat and cruised to a 2.564 second win over Mitchell, a fellow Ford FR-9 driver.
“We’ve had really good set ups for these cars lately,” said LaJoie. “We went back to the drawing board after Iowa and put together what we thought would be good at Kentucky, and it ended up being really good. It was a great day.”
Mitchell posted a career best finish of second after leading 20 laps in the Happy Cheeks Ford powered by Roush Yates. Grant Enfinger, driver of the Motor Honey-Casite-Advance-Ford, had another strong finish for Team BCR with a late pass to get by Boat and finish fourth. Enfinger’s Ford was one of the fastest cars on the track at the end of the race.
LaJoie has won three out of only five starts in the ARCA Racing Series. As a developmental driver for Richard Petty Motorsports, he finished first at Chicagoland Speedway in July, Pocono Raceway in August, and Kentucky Speedway in September.
“I’m really proud of how our engines have performed in the ARCA Series so far in 2013,” said Jeff Clark, VP of Sales for Roush Yates. “Watching drivers earn their first career win or race to their best career finishes says a lot about the power and reliability our FR-9 engines. We look forward to working with even more teams next season.”
The season finale for the ARCA Racing Series will run on October 4th at Kansas Speedway.
Jason Johnson defended his race title as winner of the Port-a-Cool U.S. Dirt Track Nationals Champion late Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. Johnson drew the number five pill to start the rain delayed 30-lap feature from the inside of row three. With the laps running out around 4:45AM, Johnson made his move going into the final turns as Johnny Herrera got caught up behind a slower car. Using the low line, he bounced into Herrera and took the lead coming off turn four to take the win.
Saturday night’s win is Johnson’s 76th career ASCS national Tour victory and his 236th overall race win. Johnson also took home the Hawk Performance Products Fastest Lap of the Night award.
Jack Dover dominated the Fall Brawl II Finale at I-80 Speedway on Saturday night in the ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series. Dover picked up the Durst Motorplex and Zoz Farms Double Down Back-to Back Challenge check of $20,000, securing his fourth Speedway Motors Midwest Regional title.
With finishes of second and third in the last two events at Dover International Speedway, Jeff Gordon has come close recently to securing another win at the one-mile track. If the four-time track winner visits Victory Lane for a fifth time here Sunday in the AAA 400, it could go Miles toward Gordon's goal of a fifth championship.
Last weekend at New Hampshire, a pit road miscue - sliding through his pit stall while leading - resulted in Gordon finishing 15th in the 300-lap event. The 87-time race winner dropped one place to eighth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings and is now 42 markers behind points leader Matt Kenseth.
"I'm disappointed in myself (for that mistake), but I'll learn from it and we'll move on from it this weekend," said Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Axalta Racing Chevrolet SS. "Currently we're only a couple points out of fourth, so that's a realistic goal for us right now.
"But we're only two races into the 'Chase' and a lot of races remain, and a lot of things can happen between now and the final race of the season. A lot can happen in one race. We'll just focus on getting as many points as we can this weekend and see what happens."
Along with his four wins at the "Monster Mile," Gordon has four poles, 16 top-fives and 23 top-10's in 41 starts. In his quest to better those numbers, Gordon may need to search the track.
"I enjoy racing here because of the high speeds and the high-banked corners and the high-banked straightaways," said Gordon. "But you are constantly on the edge and you can find yourself in trouble quickly - whether it be by yourself or in a group of cars.
"It seems like the groove can widen out here where we can run low, middle or high. You may have to search for a line or a groove that works best for your car.
"But another tricky aspect is the balance of the car can be different from one end of the track to the other."
Find the right balance and Gordon could be racing for a fifth.
Driver of the No. 44 CBC Framing, Inc. Camry for TriStar Motorsports Cole Whitt earned his third top-10 finish in Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kentucky Speedway. Whitt started in the 18th position and as soon as the green flag dropped he climbed five spots and was 13th by lap 10. Whitt drove from the back twice in the 200 lap event after loosing numerous spots on pit road. Two late race cautions helped Whitt break into the top-10 and in the final 13 laps he gained one position to finish ninth. Whitt will return to the No. 44 for next weekend's Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway.
Whitt: "We did a lot with a little tonight. I can't thank my guys enough for their hard work. We fought loose conditions for most of the race and my guys never gave up working on it. The car really dialed in as the night got colder and we had longer green flag runs. I appreciate CBC Framing, Inc. for coming on board and helping us out this weekend. I'm glad I could get another top-10 for them."
Mooresville-South Iredell Economic Development Corporation (MSIEDC) announced today that Sharp-Gallaher Racing will relocate from Denver, N.C. to Mooresville, Iredell County. Sharp-Gallaher Racing will be purchasing the 126 Exmore building located in the Deerfield Business Park and plans to expand the existing facility to 46,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space.
Sharp-Gallaher Racing's investment will be approximately $3.1 million. The project is expected to bring 25 new, full-time jobs from their existing facility and add an additional 15 jobs to the new Iredell facility with an average annual salary of $57,600 per year.
"It's a pleasure to have a Company like Sharp-Gallaher Racing locate in the Mooresville Community. They bring high-skill, high-wage jobs to the area along with an amazing reputation in the racing community. We look forward to celebrating their success on the track and in our community," said Executive Director Robert Carney.
The Iredell County Board of Commissioners and Town of Mooresville Commissioners approved an Industrial Incentive Grant for Sharp-Gallaher Racing in open session on September 16 and September 17.
"We are looking forward to relocating to Mooresville (N.C.)," said Eddie Sharp Jr., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team co-owner. "It is the heart of the motorsports industry, and will be an honor to be headquartered in Race City USA with some of the best teams in our sport. The location will allow us to be closer to our vendors and draw the caliber of employees that we are looking for as we continue to grow as a company."
Mayor Miles Atkins said, "Mooresville continues to be a prime business location for the racing industry. We have clusters of advance manufacturing partners that support the racing sector and make Mooresville an attractive business location for the teams. Our Mooresville South Iredell Economic Development staff does an outstanding job recruiting and retaining leading industries."
Based on Saturday's practice, Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought he had a potential winner in Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
A miscue in the pits, however, put the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet off pit sequence from the majority of the field.
Earnhardt's crew had trouble with a lug nut on the right rear wheel during Earnhardt's first pit stop, under caution on Lap 32. Subsequently, Earnhardt brought the No. 88 to pit road off-sequence under yellow on Lap 55.
That move allowed Earnhardt to inherit the lead on Lap 114 during a cycle of green-flag stops, but he surrendered it after a pit stop on lap 130 and led only one lap thereafter—under caution on Lap 202.
Nevertheless, Earnhardt earned a hard-fought sixth-place finish after losing fifth place to Jamie McMurray during an intense battle late in the race.
"I ran out of rear tires trying to hold him off," Earnhardt said. "Couldn't get the power down just off the corner, and he was a pretty fast car to begin with. ...
"Just happy to rebound from earlier on pit road and get a good finish. The car was fast as heck (Saturday in practice), one of the top three cars, I thought. Glad we were able to get a decent finish out of it. Just want to win one—I'm trying hard."
Earnhardt hasn't been to Victory lane in his past 47 starts, dating to June 2012 at Michigan.
Not that any competitor would wish ill fortune on the Chase leader, but Carl Edwards doesn't think it's untoward to remind former teammate Matt Kenseth that there may be trouble on the horizon.
After all, the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have had several engine issues this year, and Edwards was simply making sure Kenseth remembers that. With wins in the first two Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races, Kenseth looks formidable indeed, but a blown engine could change that.
"I think if Matt and those guys can stay away from some of the equipment issues they've had, they're going to be really, really tough to beat," said Edwards, who finished ninth Sunday and is fourth in the standings, 36 points behind Kenseth. "He could run away with this thing, and he's making it tough on the rest of us.
"But for me it's kind of the tortoise and the hare. He's out there going, but we know--we've seen it this year--those guys have had a couple of problems. I'm not wishing that upon them or anything..."
No, nothing like that. Right, Carl?
In a race that featured strong rallies from a number of drivers—Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Greg Biffle among them—Jamie McMurray's comeback was perhaps most impressive.
On Lap 37 of 300, McMurray spun in Turn 4 off the bumper of soon-to-be-ex-teammate Juan Pablo Montoya. McMurray brought the No. 1 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet to pit road for a succession of stops under caution as his team worked feverishly to repair the damage.
Ultimately, McMurray finished fifth—his third top five of the season—after taking the fifth position from Earnhardt late in the race.
"Yeah, our car was really good, even after the crash," McMurray said. "I told you before the race that, if we had good track position at the end, I thought we could finish good.
"It was a really good day for our Linksys car—just a fun day racing."
Jeff Gordon was kicking himself.
The four-time Sprint Cup champion had just led 36 laps on Sunday's Sylvania 300 and was looking to put a major dent in Matt Kenseth's series lead when he made a rookie mistake.
Two-thirds of the way into the race, he overslid his pit stall.
Not by a lot – perhaps by the length of his front splitter – but enough to get the attention of the NASCAR official, who ordered him to put his No. 24 Chevy in reverse before his crew could proceed.
Instead of leading the race, Gordon was suddenly 22nd, on his way to a 15th-place finish which dropped him to eighth in the Chase standings, 42 points behind Kenseth.
"I'm highly disappointed in myself," Gordon said. "I hadn't come close to sliding through all day. I guess, leading, I carried a little bit more speed in there and crossed the splitter over the line by an inch.
"I knew it was close. When I got in there, the front started to slide. I was hoping it would stop just at the line. I saw the official react and I knew we were in trouble. That's all it takes to make a difference between a chance at winning and finishing 15th."
On a track where passing can be difficult at best, losing so many spots of track position doomed the 24 team.
"I knew, just from the way the race was going, that passing was near impossible," Gordon said. "And my car was a good race car but wasn't a good 'passing' car. We had the handling characteristics of a car that needed good track position – and we had it until I messed it up."
Gordon wasn't assuming he would have gone on to win the race, but fully expected to contend after taking four tires with 98 laps to run.
"That caution hurt us in general," he said. "We didn't need that caution to come when it did. That was taking us out of sync for what was going to work best for our pit strategy, anyway. But there's a big difference between starting say 12th and 22nd. We lost a lot of spots to the other guys who took four tires."
If there is a silver lining for Gordon, it's that his car was strong enough to contend for the second time in as many Chase races. Gordon finished sixth in the first race of the Chase at Chicagoland.
"I'm excited with the way we're performing," he said. "Chicago was great and this weekend was great. We're not far out of fourth (six points behind Carl Edwards). We lost quite a bit of ground to those guys up front, but not too much as far as getting into the top five in points. I think we are very capable of doing that.
"But the driver can't make mistakes. Today was one of those days. This is a short race. Track position is so important. I made a crucial mistake and I can't allow that to happen if we're going to get ourselves into the top five in points."
Maybe it just wasn't Hendrick Motorsports' day on pit road. During the first caution of the day, Gordon needed to take evasive action to avoid a major collision with David Ragan.
Escaping with only a scuff, Gordon, who started third, remained in the top five for nearly all of the first 200 laps.
His teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., also had trouble on an early pit stop when his crew dropped his jack too soon. Earnhardt recovered to lead 17 laps, but found himself off cycle with the leaders and settled for sixth place.
"I was real happy to be able to rebound from our earlier (miscue) on pit road and get a good finish," Earnhardt said. "The car was fast as heck (in practice) – one of the top three cars, I thought."
Unlike Earnhardt, already 62 points behind the Chase-leading Kenseth, Gordon remains on the edge of Chase contention – albeit a thin edge.
"If Kenseth keeps doing what he's doing, it's not going to matter what anybody else does," Gordon said. "We've got to go to these next several races and go on a tear. Who knows? We're higher in points than we were when we started this thing, so we'll just try to keep that going."
Gordon says that shaking off his error and regrouping for the third race of the Chase at Dover International Raceway won't be a challenge.
"I've been doing this for 20-some years, man. It's not like I've never made mistakes before. You just hate to make them at a crucial time like that. I'll be disappointed until we get to Dover and start working on (that race)."
VIVA LAS VEGAS: There is no better place to continue your 1.5-mile speedway momentum then to take on the likes of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Germán Quiroga and his No. 77 OtterBox Toyota Tundra team are ready to roll the dice during Saturday's Smith's 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
After making history by finishing third at Texas Motor Speedway in June as the highest finishing position in a National division of NASCAR made by a Mexican, he went onto duplicate that finish at Pocono Raceway where he battled for the win during the closing laps. Not out of the 2013 Rookie of the Year contender battle yet, a 146-lap race might find the Tundra team hitting the jackpot and going to victory lane.
ROCK N' ROLL LAS VEGAS: Just days after completing the 2013 Truck Series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Germán Quiroga will run the streets of Las Vegas to embark on his first ever Marathon. With only 14 weeks to train, the new runner will take a ride around the 26.2 mile course in a 2014 Toyota Tundra on Friday afternoon to see what journey lies ahead when he returns for the November 17 race.
IS YOUR PHONE PROTECTED?: Back on board as primary sponsor on the No. 77 Toyota Tundra in Sin City is OtterBox. The Fort Collins, CO based organization takes a short trip to Las Vegas Motor Speedway from their headquarters for the 146-lap race on Saturday afternoon. The company known for their protective solutions for the leading global handheld manufacturers, wireless carriers and distributors will sport the OtterBox yellow and black paint scheme. For more information on OtterBox visit www.OtterBox.com.
CHASSIS HISTORY: The No. 77 OtterBox Toyota Tundra will race Chassis No. 014 this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Most recently the Tundra was raced at Bristol Motor Speedway. The chassis also raced at Kentucky Speedway where the OtterBox team started and finished in the eighth position. The chassis made its racing debut earlier this year at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
REARVIEW MIRROR - CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY: Chicagoland Speedway marked the debut for Germán Quiroga and his No. 77 NET10 Wireless Toyota Tundra at the 1.5-mile venue. Quiroga started the EnjoyIllinois.com 225 in the 23rd position but was immediately on the move after the green flag waved. With an ill-handling race truck just past the half-way mark, Quiroga moved back to 20th trying to hold onto track position in his NET10 Wireless Tundra. Quiroga maneuvered his way back through the field to gain additional spots by races end, finishing 14th.
Germán Quiroga on Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
What have you been told about the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway?
"It's bumpy. I was there for the race last year but I wasn't a participant. I watched the race from the outside. I will remember more about the track once I get there. We are fast on the 1.5-mile program, so hopefully everything comes together for our OtterBox Toyota Tundra and we can collect another top-10 finish.
Are you excited about going to Vegas and being able to see the route you will run your Marathon in November?
"Yeah, actually I want to see what it is going to look like. How flat it is going to be and to see if I need to change my training routes now with what I am doing. I'm lucky I am going to be able to see what it will look like before I am there. I sure hope I am going to get excited about it and not nervous."