Speedway Digest Staff
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Mark Martin turned in an impressive performance in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, rebounding from a 33rd-place qualifying effort to finish 11th in the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
“A great, great effort today by this Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 team,” said Martin, winner of the 1998 race at Texas. “The car was really good all day. It’s a pretty good piece, and hopefully we’ll get it turned around for Homestead. I’m so proud of the effort these guys put in and am very thankful for all of their hard work all weekend long.”
A loose-handling condition plagued the No. 14 Chevrolet from the start of practice Friday. The issue continued through qualifying and the majority of the practice sessions Saturday. It wasn’t until the last 15 minutes of final practice Saturday that the team found a setup that suited Martin’s driving style.
The effort paid dividends from the drop of the green flag for the 334-lap race Sunday afternoon. Martin wasted no time moving to the front of the field, climbing into the top-25 by the time the first caution was displayed on lap 15. He made steady progress during the next several laps around the track and noted the handling on the Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet was “pretty good.”
While tire wear was a problem for many in the race, it was no issue for Martin. So crew chief Steve Addington decided to change only right-side tires under caution on lap 74. The call placed Martin in fourth place when green-flag racing resumed. Although he lost a handful of positions, Martin never dropped further than 14th in the running order, as Martin’s well-handling racecar required few adjustments throughout the race.
Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet SS, led the way for SHR at Texas by finishing ninth. It was his fifth top-10 at Texas and his 17th of the 2013 season.
Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), finished 25th in the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.
Patrick, who started 30th, battled a loose-handling racecar early in the event. But as the ambient temperature dropped, her car began to experience a tight-handling condition later in the event.
“From where we unloaded on Friday, we actually made a lot of gains throughout the weekend,” said Patrick, who made her 44th Sprint Cup start and her third at Texas. “Tony Gibson and the GoDaddy guys really worked hard this weekend and made some huge gains on the setup. We never quite got it, but we certainly made progress. We were loose early on, but then as it got cooler, it definitely tightened up. I’m proud of how hard everyone worked all weekend and throughout the race. Everyone kept their head up and worked hard to get it better. The pit crew, as usual, was outstanding. I think they did an 11.7 (second) stop at one point. I’m excited to get to Phoenix next week. GoDaddy is based out there, so it’s a big race for us.”
Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished nine spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 16th. Patrick climbed three spots to 25th in the standings with 611 points.
For the third time this season, Justin Lofton lined up the No. 6 Lofton Cattle/J6Ink Chevrolet Silverado on the front row to start the WinStar World Casino 350 from the second position. Faced with the challenge of having his left wrist in a cast as a result from a last-lap accident two weeks prior at Talladega Superspeedway, Lofton remained in the top 10 for all 147 laps of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and took the checkered flag in the fifth position. The Westmorland, Calif., native struggled when the green flag was dropped because he could not shift while adequately gripping the steering wheel with his left hand. However, after a few laps the Lofton Cattle machine came to life. The Gere Kennon-led crew made only slight air pressure adjustments to free up the truck's handling during routine pit stops for four tires and fuel while under caution on Laps 26, 60 and 101. Lofton never fell below the eighth position throughout the course of the event and claimed a fifth-place finish, his best at the 1.5-mile Fort Worth racetrack, in his final start in the No. 6 Sharp-Gallaher Racing Chevrolet for the 2013 season.
Justin Lofton Quote:
The speed in Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Chevrolet was positively jaw-dropping.
Able to pull away from his pursuers with apparent ease, Johnson finished three positions ahead of Matt Kenseth in Sunday's AAA Texas 500, breaking a tie for the lead in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, but -- make no mistake -- Johnson's performance amounted to a brutal bludgeoning of Kenseth and the rest of the opposition.
Kenseth hurt his own cause with a pit-road speeding penalty, but not even a perfect day on pit road likely would have overcome the dominance of the five-time champion, who led 255 of 334 laps en route to his third victory at Texas Motor Speedway, his sixth of the season and the 66th of his career.
With two races left in the Chase, Johnson heads to next Sunday's event at Phoenix with a seven-point lead over Kenseth, who rallied from the speeding penalty he incurred on Lap 173 to finish fourth.
Similarly, Johnson left Texas last year with a seven-point lead over Brad Keselowski -- and lost the title. But the emphatic nature of Johnson’s win on Sunday sent an unmistakable message.
"We came here and tested and did an awesome job of understanding what I needed in the car and what was going to create speed," Johnson said after the race. "We came back and had a very smooth qualifying session and practice sessions (Saturday), and just kept putting more and more speed in the car.
"It paid off today. Obviously, we need a lot of speed in the car and a win to get any points because Matt is there in the top five. Nice to gain just a few points on him. But just a dominant day for this Lowe's team."
Despite the emphatic whipping he administered to the rest of the field, Johnson is anything but overconfident.
"I’ve been watching a lot of MMA fighting lately, and you'll fall into a rhythm and think that somebody has got the fight won, and it doesn't end that way," he said. "That's how this is going to be. Matt didn't have maybe the best day and still finished fourth. This thing is going to go to the last lap at Homestead, and it is going to come down to mistakes.
"I'm very excited about our performance and what we did here. We'll enjoy this, but there is still two weeks of very hard racing ahead of us."
Dale Earnhardt Jr. ran second, 4.390 seconds behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Joey Logano came home third.
Neither Earnhardt nor Logano, however, had a prayer of beating Johnson, and they knew it.
"The 48 was in another class, and nobody had anything for him," Earnhardt said. "He was just super good all through practice and the race."
"Overall, we can’t be disappointed with a third-place finish," Logano added. "Just the 48 car was ridiculously fast."
Johnson is the first back-to-back winner of the fall race at Texas since the race became part of the Chase in 2005. Johnson also tied Carl Edwards for most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at the 1.5-mile track.
Kasey Kahne finished fifth, followed by Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer. Harvick climbed to third in the series standings, but at 40 points behind Johnson and 33 behind Kenseth, it will take a miracle to put him back into the championship picture.
The race was a disaster for Jeff Gordon, who entered the event third in the standings but blew a tire, hit the wall on Lap 74, finished 38th and fell out of contention for a possible fifth title. Gordon fell to sixth in points, 69 behind Johnson.
Friday night was a lesson in patience and perseverance for Max Gresham as he fought for progress throughout the WinStar World Casino 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. After a strong qualifying effort of fifth place, Gresham struggled with handling issues throughout the long day, but he and the No. 8 Sharp-Gallaher Racing team fought hard to claim an 18th-place finish.
Gresham had to manhandle a truck that was loose on entry into the track's 24-degree banked corners, and tight center off during every lap around the 1.5-mile oval. His No. 8 Leviton / Made in USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet Silverado was stubborn in its progress, but Gresham and crew chief Chris Showalter stayed the course and the duo continuously worked on the green and blue machine under the Texas stars.
After taking the green flag the Milner, Ga., native surged from fifth to second in pursuit of the leader, but by Lap five he reported to the No. 8 Sharp-Gallaher Racing team that he was a little free. Unable to run on the bottom, Gresham began a fall in the ranks.
Gresham dropped to eighth before the first caution flag of the race waved on Lap 25. Under caution, Showalter provided his driver with four tires, fuel, air pressure and track bar adjustments. The team also had to remove grass from the grill of the No. 8 Leviton / Made in USA Brand Chevrolet, and the added time on pit road cost the team positions. Gresham restarted the event in 17th-place, on Lap 29.
"You are doing a really good job with what you are doing off of (Turn) two," said spotter Lorin Ranier to his driver. "Keep running high."
Gresham was moving back towards the front of the pack, capturing ninth place at Lap 60, when a second caution flag waved. Receiving four new tires, fuel and a few adjustments to tighten up the Chevrolet Silverado, Gresham returned to the field in the 15th position.
He dropped from his fifth-place starting spot to 11th before the halfway mark of the 147-lap race.
The team made its final pit stop under caution on Lap 100, and Showalter called for a tweak to the tire pressure. With four scuffed Goodyears and a full tank of fuel, Gresham was set to go the distance with no more stops.
Gresham rallied yet again, rising to 12th by Lap 110, but as the race entered the final laps, a long green-flag run ensued, and the No. 8 Leviton / Made in USA Brand team began to slip back through the field.
Gresham crossed the finish line in 18th -place for the 20th of 22 races this season.
"Despite the finish, I'd like to thank Leviton and the Made in USA Brand for their support this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway," Gresham said. "I was happy we could start up front for their first race with our No. 8 Sharp-Gallaher Racing team."
After a blown tire ruined his debut at Texas Motor Speedway back in April, NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) rookie Kyle Larson came to the track looking for redemption in the O'Reilly's Auto Parts Challenge. After two practice sessions that left the No. 32 NTT DATA team happy with the long-run speed of their Chevrolet Camaro, Larson qualified 16th for Saturday afternoon's 200-lap race. In a race that saw just four cautions, Larson ran inside the top 10 for the majority of the event, running as high as fourth before finishing ninth.
Friday was a busy day for Larson, as he had two NNS practice sessions in addition to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) practice and qualifying. After laying down the ninth-fastest lap in first practice, Larson and the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports team were happy with the balance of their NTT DATA Chevy. They finished final practice early, confident that their car would be strong for the expected long green-flag runs in the race.
After taking the green flag from the 16th position, Larson was all quiet on the radio as he began to work his way to the front. After taking over the 12th position on lap 15, crew chief Trent Owen radioed Larson to let him know that he was running really good lap times. Larson moved into the top 10 on lap 38 and reported that his NTT DATA Chevy was good overall, but slightly tight after the center of the corner. On lap 50, Owens brought Larson to pit road for a green-flag pit stop, and the No. 32 NTT DATA crew changed four tires, added fuel and made an air-pressure adjustment.
When green-flag stops cycled through, Larson remained in the 10th position. The 21-year-old was still running 10th, one of just 11 cars on the lead lap, when the first caution was displayed for debris on lap 70. Larson told his team that his Camaro was still a little tight, but that it felt good. Owens again called Larson to pit road, and the No. 32 NTT DATA Chevrolet received four tires, fuel and slight adjustments before returning to the track in 11th. Larson had a stellar restart, gaining five positions and moving into sixth on lap 76. He entered the top five for the first time on the next lap before taking over the fourth position on lap 82.
Larson was still scored in fourth when the yellow flag was displayed again on lap 110. The Elk Grove, Calif. native explained that his No. 32 NTT DATA Chevy responded very differently depending on which line he ran, and that it was slightly tight into the corner when he ran in the middle lane. He returned to pit road for four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment and restarted in fourth on lap 117. Over the next 40 laps, Larson slipped back to eighth before reporting to Owens that his car was too loose on this run. On lap 165, Larson made his final pit stop under green-flag conditions. When stops cycled through, Larson was scored in ninth but he gained a position before the caution flag waved on lap 171. He moved to seventh on the restart before the final caution came out one lap later, at lap 178.
Restarting in seventh on lap 183, Larson initially slipped back to 11th but returned to the top 10 a few laps later. He took over the ninth position on lap 189, where he remained until the checkered flag waved. This ninth-place finish marked the 16th top 10 Larson has earned in his NNS rookie season.
"We started off the weekend really strong," said Larson. "Our NTT DATA Chevy was really good in practice and we felt like it would be good for long green-flag runs, which is something that you expect at Texas. There was just one run during the race where I got loose and that cost us some positions, but overall we had a good car today. I'm glad we got a top-10 finish for NTT DATA and that we were able to come back to Texas Motor Speedway and run well. I have to thank my Turner Scott Motorsports team for all the hard work this weekend. We're excited to get to Phoenix and Homestead to finish the season out; hopefully we can get to victory lane in one of the final two races."
Larson will compete in the NSCS race at Texas Motor Speedway today, driving the No. 51 Visit Dallas Chevy SS for Phoenix Racing, owned by Turner Scott Motorsports co-owner Harry Scott Jr. He will return to NNS action next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
RAB Racing and the No. 99 Microsoft Windows Surface Toyota Camry driven by Alex Bowman achieved something no other competitor in the NASCAR Nationwide Series has accomplished during the 2013 season; consecutive pole awards at the same track. Bowman scored the pole award in April at Texas Motor Speedway and also recorded the fastest lap in qualifying this past weekend in Texas with a time of 29.002 and a speed of 186.194 miles per hour. The O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway was also the team's second consecutive race that an untimely caution following a green flag pit stop caught the No. 99 two laps down to the race leader, after falling victim to the same circumstances at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago. Bowman and the No. 99 battled back and finished in the 18th position, one lap down to the eventual race-winner Brad Keselowski.
Bowman's weekend at the fast mile and-a-half Texas track started off very promising, setting the fastest lap in the first practice session, all while making multiple long runs working on the race package. The No. 99 team was confident of a good handling car that had the necessary speed for the race after trying a different package in the second practice session and recording the 20th fastest lap.
The green flag flew on the 200-lap event and the No. 99 lead the first three laps, battling with Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski. Early in the first green-flag run, Bowman reported the car was extremely tight and progressively got worse as the tires wore down. The No. 99 dropped back to 11th position by the time crew chief Chris Rice could make his first adjustments to the Toyota Camry during the first pit stop. Through multiple chassis and tire pressure adjustments the No. 99 regained some speed but was always hindered by a tight condition which is especially detrimental at Texas Motor Speedway where momentum is a key factor and a tight condition forces the driver to scrub off speed in the corners. On lap 107 Bowman brought the No. 99 into the pits for the second pit stop of the day, taking on four tires, a full tank of fuel, and multiple adjustments. Three laps later the second caution flag flew, relegating the No. 99 two-laps down to the race leader and mired back in the field. This bad luck was the end of the No. 99's chances at a good finish but Bowman and team never gave up, clawing their way back to the 18th position and finishing one-lap down to the race winner.
Alex Bowman: "Well this is about as frustrating as it can get, to have a fast car like we did and not get the finish we deserved. I have to thank my RAB Racing team for preparing a great Toyota Camry and putting me in a position to win our second straight pole award at Texas Motor Speedway. It's always a pleasure to stand in victory lane with my team who's worked so hard for me this entire season, but to get caught multiple laps down two weeks in a row right after a pit stop is just heart-breaking. We battled a tight condition all race long which forced me to slow the car more than the front-runners, but my crew chief Chris Rice worked on the car setup every pit stop and increasingly made it better every time we came in. We will just have to move on to my hometown track of Phoenix International Raceway where we hopefully will not get caught by an untimely caution flag for the third consecutive week."
With the 18th place finish Bowman remains in the 11th position in driver point standings. Robby Benton maintained his 16th position in owner point standings. The next race on the schedule for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is the ServiceMaster 200 from Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday, November 9 and can be seen live on ESPN 2.
RAB Racing PR
After starting from the 14th position and going a lap down in the first half of Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Parker Kligerman 'rallied' back inside the top 10 late in the race as he tried to collect his fourth consecutive top-10 finish. Unfortunately, the No. 77 ToyotaDreamBuild.com Camry - which featured a retro Toyota Paint scheme similar to that on Kligerman's CamRally entry in the Toyota Dream Build Challenge -got knocked back several spots shortly after advancing from 10th to seventh on the final restart and ended the day with a 13th-place finish.
"We had a solid race going, nothing really eventful in any way," Kligerman said. "Good restarts, good pit stops, good strategy - everything was going in our direction to get a solid top-10, maybe even a sixth or seventh there and we came to that last restart and of course it's just been a running theme where that last restart we pick up all the rubber because we get a rash of cautions and
then it goes flat to the floor and we're kind of a sitting duck a little bit. We have to just figure out a few things for the mile-and-a-halves there at the end of the race and see if we can retain our positions better. Overall, a good day for our ToyotaDreamBuild.com Camry. We wanted to beat that 32 (Kyle Larson) because we're racing pretty hard in points, but we had a solid top-10 day, just the 6 (Trevor Bayne) moved us on the last couple laps and I lost a couple positions."
Ten laps into the event Kligerman fell back to the 16th spot as he reported a tight-handling Camry. The Connecticut native advanced into the 15th spot on lap 40, where he remained when he was summoned to pit road for his first scheduled pit stop of the day on lap 47. Once inside his stall, the Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) over-the-wall crew administered a four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment.
Following a fast stop by his crew, Kligerman was scored in the 12th spot when all of the lead lap cars had made their first stop on lap 53. Unfortunately, race leader Brad Keselwoski was setting a blistering pace and worked his way around the No. 77 Toyota on lap 68. Just two laps later, debris brought out the first caution of the day and the ToyotaDreamBuild.com Camry was awarded the "Lucky Dog" and returned to the lead lap.
Before coming down pit road, Kligerman reported that his handling had improved, but still needed help. The over-the-wall crew put four fresh tires on his Camry, filled it with fuel and made another trackbar adjustment.
The field went back to green on lap 75 and Kligerman's Camry came to life during the next run. After starting at the back of the field, per the Lucky Dog rules, the talented youngster maneuvered his way into the top 10 for the first time on lap 80. By lap 90 the No. 77 Camry had advanced into the seventh position, where it remained when the next caution occurred on lap 110.
Crew chief Eric Phillips summoned his driver to pit road for four tires and fuel. Kligerman slid the tires entering his box, causing a slight hesitation by the crew and costing them two spots when the stop was completed. The No. 77 Camry was scored in the ninth spot for the ensuing restart on lap 116.
Over the next long green-flag run KBM's colorful Camry ran between the ninth and 11th spots. Kligerman surrendered the ninth position on lap 166 to make his final stop of the day. After getting four fresh tires and a full tank of fuel, he returned to the track scored 10th when a two-car accident brought out the fourth caution of the day.
Kligerman remained 10th after another quick caution and ensuing restart on lap 182. A strong restart propelled the No. 77 Camry up to the seventh spot with 15 laps remaining, but five laps later it had fallen back to the 10th spot. In the closing laps, some contact from Bayne cost the team more spots and the night ended with a 13th-place finish.
Keselowski picked up his ninth Nationwide Series victory this season and the 26th of his career in NASCAR's second division. Denny Hamlin finished 0.980 seconds behind Keselwoski in the runner-up spot. Sam Hornish Jr. and Matt Kenseth finished third and fourth, respectively, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were four caution periods totaling 19 laps. Six drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead 15 times. Nine drivers failed to finish the 200-lap event.
Kligerman remains 10th in the Nationwide Series championship standings with 31 of 33 races complete, 183 points behind series points leader Austin Dillon. The Kyle Busch owned No. 77 team ranks 13th in the owner's championship standings, 306 points behind the series-leading No. 22 team.