Sunday, Oct 01
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Thursday's Championship Contenders Press Conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway didn't peg the love-fest meter the way the 2007 version did, when Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon were vying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Nor did Thursday's presser feature the head games and deliberate barbs that typified the 2010 event, where Johnson and Kevin Harvick caught Chase leader Denny Hamlin in a withering crossfire of doubt-inducing commentary.

The joint appearance of Johnson, Harvick and Matt Kenseth drivers on the dais Thursday was somewhat tame, due to Johnson's daunting 28-point lead over second-place Matt Kenseth. Johnson winning a sixth title is by no means inevitable, but it certainly looks somewhat probable.

Said Kenseth during the press conference: "If [Jimmie] was building his own engines, I'd be messing with him right now."

Both Kenseth and Harvick (third in the standings and 34 points behind Johnson) know that only an epic fail by the No. 48 team will open a path for one of them to steal the championship. Otherwise, Johnson can sew up the title with a finish of 23rd or better.

"If Jimmie does have a problem, he's so far ahead, the problem needs to be fairly severe," Kenseth said. "If it is, you need to be pretty far toward the front because, hypothetically, he could have a problem, and if Kevin and I are running around 12th or 13th, Jimmie could still win."

Problems at Homestead aren't out of the question.

When Hamlin came to the 2010 season finale with a 15-point lead over Johnson (under the previous scoring system), the driver of the No. 11 Toyota qualified 37th and wrecked early trying to work his way through traffic.

The end result? Johnson was a five-time champion. As he tries for the sixth, Johnson understands the importance of starting near the front of the field.

"Qualifying is so important," Johnson acknowledged. "Here, it seems we have a lot of green-flag runs. If you start down on track position, don't have your car right come race day, don't make the most of Saturday [practice)] you're going to have a long race and put a lot of pressure on yourself that you don't want.

"The race does start with qualifying on Friday. The one thing that's different for me this year is, with the new testing policy, we're able to save a test session. I felt like we had a productive test session. We're eager to get going -- and it does start on Friday."

"It started on Thursday, by the way," Harvick commented, referring to his and Johnson's attempts to worm their way into Hamlin's psyche in 2010.

That sort of aggressive banter was absent on Thursday.

"I think, for me, I have a good relationship with both of these guys," Harvick said. "I feel like there's a mutual respect for what everybody's accomplished… just always can have a conversation with both of them."

"This is the situation we all want to be in," added Johnson. "I think we all take a lot of pride that we're all here at the end of this year at the press conference. I can vividly remember missing the press conference in 2011. But I'm happy to be here."

Champions suffrage

Friday, Nov 15

Among several major changes to the selection process for the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be the inclusion of the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion on the voting panel.

"At Champion's Week in Las Vegas, NASCAR will announce a number of different, significant changes to the Hall of Fame selection process and eligibility," NASCAR Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes said Thursday. "There is one that we want to announce today, because it's relevant to the proceedings we'll have on Sunday afternoon.

"As we meet to select the 2015 Hall of Fame class this May, NASCAR will become the first major sport to include a current competitor on the voting panel."

All three championship contenders liked the idea.

"I think any time anybody asks your opinion and actually listens to it, that's always neat," Matt Kenseth, the 2003 champion, said.

"Quickly thinking about it," added five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, "I think it will help ingrain the current champion into the past and understand more about the history of the sport, the people that came before us.

"I think it's a cool opportunity for whoever the champion is."

Of all the championship contenders, Matt Crafton is in the most enviable position. With a 46-point lead over second-place Ty Dillon, Crafton can wrap up the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title simply by taking the green flag on Sunday.

If Crafton is a no-show, however, Dillon can win the championship by winning Friday's Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead.

Team owner Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather, didn't realize there was even a glimmer of hope for Dillon until he spoke to Crafton after Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Phoenix.

"I was talking to Richard Childress after the race on Saturday, and he thought that I'd wrapped it up," Crafton said. "I said, 'No, actually I don't. I still have to show up and start it, if Ty won.'

"And he jokingly said, 'You want to go hunting?'"

The marketing arm of Richard Petty Motorsports announced today they will lead a fully integrated motorsports marketing campaign for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services beginning this weekend at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and extend through 2014. "Fresh From Florida" is a marketing, advertising and promotional campaign focused on building awareness and sales of fresh seafood, produce and other Florida products.


In 2014, the "Fresh From Florida" campaign will include various marketing elements centered around motorsports including race promotion, team sponsorship, track sponsorship, marketing services, public relations, experiential marketing and retail partnerships along with traditional and digital media. The campaign will be executed across the state of Florida and throughout the Southeast at motorsports events including NASCAR, IMSA, and NHRA events at iconic motorsports venues.


Richard Petty Motorsports will brand the message with primary sponsorship beginning this weekend on its No. 43 Nationwide Series entry and continuing into 2014 with primary sponsorships at Bristol in March, Charlotte in May and Daytona in July. "Fresh From Florida" will also appear as the primary sponsor on the famed No. 43 Richard Petty NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry at the Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in April 2014 and be positioned as an associate sponsor throughout the season.


"Richard Petty Motorsports has developed a robust plan for "Fresh From Florida" which will impact millions of consumers throughout Florida and the Southeast by delivering a message regarding the superior quality of Florida products," said Mike Hargrave, Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, Richard Petty Motorsports. "It's been a pleasure to work with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services so far and we're proud to help support the campaign this weekend with the sponsorship of our Nationwide team. This is only the beginning of our support and execution of this program."


Richard Petty Motorsports, and its past history of Petty Enterprises, is one of the first to develop its own marketing, licensing, promotion and business arm within the race team. Today, Mike Hargrave, former Senior Vice President, Global Sponsorship Marketing for Bank of America leads a team of sales, marketing, licensing and public relations officials with years of first-hand experience executing marketing plans in the motorsports landscape.



Dear NASCAR fans,

In a few short days, a dramatic 2013 season will end -- as will the milestone 10th Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

I have said a number of times that we created the Chase to provide fans with more high stakes, late season competition that goes right down to the final event. Now 10 years into the Chase, we can point to a number of instances which fit that description. You can look back at Kurt Busch’s tight victory over Jimmie Johnson in the very first Chase. Revel in the epic back-and-forth between Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards in 2011. And now this year, Jimmie Johnson continues his march toward history, attempting to fend off Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick in Sunday’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

As good as the Chase has been for our sport, we want more.  We want more excitement, more passing, more drama. We want to give you more reasons to go to the race track and continue to follow our sport week after week. Rest assured that we as an industry are working hard to accomplish this goal. We’re on a mission to make the racing the best it can be. Frankly, your passion and commitment to NASCAR warrant our resolve to continuously pursue ideas that will make the best racing in the world even better.

The debut of the Gen-6 race cars – the Toyota Camry, Chevrolet SS and Ford Fusion – led to a number of highlight-reel moments on the race track this season. They not only look better but they have delivered significantly more passing across the season and some incredible moments in the capable hands of the best drivers in all of racing. But again, we want more. Our team at the NASCAR Research & Development Center, in concert with all of our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams, is testing a number of rules packages in order to improve upon this season’s on-track product for 2014 and beyond. I’m proud of the effort and care put into this mission from all involved.

In terms of the 2013 season, we have had some very special moments and great accomplishments at all levels. Our first Nationwide Series race at Mid-Ohio was a great success for our sport near the home of valued series sponsor, Nationwide Insurance. In the Camping World Truck Series, the highly successful return to dirt at Eldora Speedway and the series’ first race outside of the United States at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park stand out as huge milestones. The Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and Toyota Mexico Series all delivered spectacular moments to NASCAR fans in all of those regions of the world, and the first Toyota Mexico Series event held in the United States at Phoenix International Raceway earlier this year will go down as a memorable, landmark moment in NASCAR’s rich history.

Darrell Wallace Jr. made history, becoming the first African-American driver in 50 years to win on the NASCAR national series stage. Kyle Larson’s win at Rockingham Speedway earlier this year, Darrell’s victory and innumerable great young drivers taking the spotlight in the K&N Pro Series ranks show that our Drive for Diversity, NASCAR Next and development series initiatives are bearing fruit on the track. These programs are filling the talent pipeline with emerging stars we’ll someday see chasing the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Finally, we are thrilled with the unification of sports car racing in North America and look forward to the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship beginning next year.

Of course, this season has not been without challenge. As a sport, we were presented with a number of unprecedented moments. In each instance, we met our responsibility to act in what we believe was in the best interest of the sport as a whole. We recognize there are times when you have agreed and others when you have not. Please know, wherever you stand on these issues, we appreciate your passion for NASCAR. It does not go unheard or unnoticed.

Now as we head into the season-ending races at Homestead-Miami Speedway and begin the countdown to Daytona, on behalf of the entire NASCAR team, I thank you for your continued passion for our sport. You are the greatest fans in the world and we wish you the very best during this coming holiday season.

Best regards,

Brian France


Beginning Monday, Nov. 18 at 9 a.m., race fans can purchase tickets as well as make their autographed session reservations for the annual Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona International Speedway.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will test on Jan. 9-10 as they shake down their cars in advance of the prestigious season-opening 56th annual DAYTONA 500 on Sunday, Feb. 23. The NASCAR Nationwide Series will test on Jan. 11-12 for their season-opening event – the DRIVE4COPD 300 on Saturday, Feb. 22.

The Camping World Truck Series will wrap up Preseason Thunder on Jan. 13-14 as they prep for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday night, Feb. 21. It’s the first time since 2008 that the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series teams have participated in January testing sessions at Daytona International Speedway.

            All test sessions are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, weather permitting. Each session includes a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.

The Preseason Thunder Fan Fests, the companion events to the January testing sessions in the Sprint FANZONE, are scheduled on Thursday night, Jan. 9 for the Sprint Cup Series and Saturday night, Jan. 11 for the Nationwide Series. There will not be a Fan Fest or infield admissions for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series testing sessions.

The Fan Fests will include fan activities such as autograph sessions, driver fan forums, show cars and displays and a photo opportunity with the 2014 Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy.

Tickets are $25 for Thursday’s Sprint Cup Fan Fest and $15 to view Friday’s testing from the Sprint FANZONE. For the NASCAR Nationwide Series testing on Saturday and Sunday, tickets are $10 each day and are available only at the gate. Children 12 and under will receive free admission throughout testing.

Preseason Thunder ticket holders receive free tent camping inside Turns 3 & 4 throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series testing sessions and fans can also watch each day’s testing at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands.

Advanced reservations are available (limited availability) for the autograph sessions. Among the autograph wristbands available in advance include confirmed 2013 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, Danica Patrick and confirmed past Daytona 500 champions. Additional driver autograph sessions will be held during Fan Fest with wristbands available the day of the event.

Beginning at 9 a.m. on Monday, Nov. 18, tickets and autographed session reservations are available only by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or by visiting the Daytona International Speedway Tours and Ticket Office.


Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) has signed driver Michael Annett and partnered with Pilot Flying J for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Annett, whose NASCAR career began at Bill Davis Racing under the tutelage of Baldwin, reunites with his mentor after five seasons of competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.


Baldwin will continue as the No. 7 team's crew chief next season. TBR will field a fleet of Richard Childress Racing cars and utilize Earnhardt-Childress Racing engines.

Tommy Baldwin and Michael Annett will participate in a media availability today, outside the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team hauler at 5:30 pm Eastern.




  • Saturday's Nationwide Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the 163rd race for Annett in the series. He earned a fifth-place finish in the 2012 point standings.
  • Of his eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts, Annett competed in seven under the eye of Baldwin, then a Sprint Cup Series crew chief at Bill Davis Racing. Annett finished sixth in his debut race at The Milwaukee Mile and finished a career-best second at Kentucky Speedway.
  • Annett has two ARCA Series victories to his credit - at Talladega Superspeedway in 2007 and Daytona International Speedway in 2008.  




Tommy Baldwin, Owner, Tommy Baldwin Racing


"To have Michael on board for next year, and to have a great partner like Pilot Flying J, is big for our team. Since we went Cup racing about five years ago, we've grown and gotten better with each passing season. This is the next logical step, and I believe there's a lot of potential for Michael to come in and do good things in our racecars."


Michael Annett, Driver, No. 7 Pilot Flying J Chevrolet SS


"Driving in the Cup Series has been my goal ever since I started racing, and to start this next chapter with Tommy, who is one of the main reasons I made the move to North Carolina in the first place, makes this extra special. I'm looking forward to continuing what we started - winning two races in the ARCA Series and running well in Trucks. Pilot Flying J has been with me just as long, they have been a tremendous partner and I'm honored to represent them on the sport's biggest stage."


Laura Palenkas, Vice President of Marketing and Merchandising, Pilot Flying J


"As a long-standing and proud sponsor of Michael Annett, Pilot Flying J is thrilled that he is moving to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Our partnership with Michael began more than six years ago and we have watched him grow into the successful driver he is today. We are so proud and excited to see him take the next step in his career. Daytona is just around the corner and we can't wait to watch him pull ahead this season."


Rising Star PR

ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards legend Frank Kimmel punctuated his 10th ARCA championship with a historic 80th career victory little more than a month ago on the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway. 


That's a big part of the reason why Kimmel can't wait to make his 14th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in Friday evening's Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- the series' 19th season finale -- in the No. 13 Ansell / Menards Toyota fielded by ThorSport Racing.

With the race being the opening event of NASCAR's "Championship Weekend" at Homestead, Kimmel will be involved in a championship gala unlike any other he's experienced.

But even more important, Kimmel's ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton has achieved exactly what Kimmel hoped and prayed would occur a couple weeks ago when ThorSport owner Duke Thorson made the decision to field the combination tribute to Kimmel, support of Crafton and "thank you" gesture to sponsors Ansell Gloves and Menards.

Crafton, simply by taking the green flag Friday night, will clinch his first NASCAR national series title, owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson's first NASCAR title and sponsor Menards' first NASCAR title but its second stock car title this season to go along with Kimmel's iconic 10th.

"It's going to be really special to be able to celebrate those championships together, as a team, with the way we raced and worked together all season," Kimmel said. "I'm really excited for a lot of reasons -- and one of them is certainly getting to finish that story we started in 2011, when we didn't get a chance to race."

The open chapter in Kimmel's career began two years ago, shortly after he signed a deal to drive for the Thorsons' newly-formed ARCA team in 2012.


ThorSport entered a truck for Kimmel in the 2011 Homestead finale, when teammate Johnny Sauter, who'll be driving one of three ThorSport trucks in Friday night's race, was in a championship dogfight with Austin Dillon that Sauter ultimately lost by six points.

It was Kimmel's debut with crew chief Jeriod Prince and truck and car chief Rich Lushes -- a combination that's won six ARCA races over the last two years along with this year's title -- but the truck, which was plenty fast enough, was a non-starter when qualifying was rained-out.  


"We unloaded really loose and spent nearly all of practice battling trying to get the thing underneath me," Kimmel said in flashback mode. "But then Jeriod and Rich and I hit on something and our last lap of practice was the fastest we'd run -- on 30-lap (old) tires. It was such a shame we never got to find out how that truck would've raced.

"I'm sure Jeriod knows a whole lot more now about how I'd like the truck to feel, than he did then and I think we'll have something pretty good to work with because this is a truck out of Matt's stable. I can't wait to get started." 

Kimmel will find that out Friday in a Toyota Tundra that looks virtually identical to Crafton's No. 88 Ideal Door / Menards Tundra -- and is also virtually a carbon copy of Kimmel's typical Menards-yellow ARCA car, though that Toyota is No. 44.

Kimmel has 13 career Truck Series starts, including his career-best eighth-place finish, at Daytona, for owner Bob Keselowski. His most recent Truck start was at Iowa Speedway in July, where he finished 20th.


"This is the 88 truck team's weekend but we're excited about being there to celebrate it with them," said Kimmel, who also plans to attend Monday night's Truck Series awards ceremony. "This is a huge event for Menards and we're really proud to be able to be a part of it.

"With the Truck owners' championship still up for grabs, one of the things that you're concerned about when you come in doing a one-off deal is messing any of the regulars up on their points racing and we definitely don't want to do that. But I think to be able to go down there with no pressure on us and most of the pressure off Matt and Johnny is having such a great fall run -- he's in contention to finish in the top two or three in points himself and that's just remarkable -- so this is a really special way to finish off our season."

Homestead's one-day Truck Series race format begins with a single practice from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. ET Friday, with live TV coverage on FOX Sports 1. Keystone Light Pole Qualifying to set the starting lineup is scheduled at 4:30 p.m., with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2.


Friday's 134-lap, 201-mile main event will be telecast live on FOX Sports 1 at 8 p.m. ET, preceded by The Setup pre-race show at 7:30. The live broadcast on MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio also begins at 7:30.Live timing & scoring for the day's events will be at


Thorsport PR

TMI (Team McClure, Inc.) announced today that Jeff Green will pilot the No. 14 Hefty® Ultimate™ Toyota during Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The team’s regular driver, Eric McClure, was admitted to a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital on Sunday, November 10, while on a business trip, with an undisclosed illness.  McClure remains hospitalized and it’s unknown when he will be able to return home.



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