Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
Louisiana Native "Ragin' Cajun" Hal Martin Announces NASCAR Nationwide Series Commitment for 2012-2013
Veteran ARCA Racing Series & super late model driver Hal Martin, nicknamed the "Ragin' Cajun" from his Louisiana roots, will pilot a Toyota Camry in the TriStar Motorsports stable for three races during the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season - Kansas Speedway; Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 26-year-old driver, who has competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series, also has funding to compete for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2013.
The sponsor portfolio & number will be announced at a later date but will showcase several companies from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Martin's home territory. As the sole Nationwide Series competitor to hail from "N'awlins," the young engineer expects to be a little unique. "I'm so proud to be from the Louisiana Gulf Coast, and it's exciting to be able to highlight a really diverse part of the country in my NASCAR career," said Martin. "I grew up going to Talladega, where a lot of Louisiana NASCAR fans call home and you can always find crawfish on the boil or seafood gumbo being cooked up in turns one and two. Now I get to bring that hometown pride to millions of fans around the country - it's really special."
Martin's first race will be the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 20th; followed by the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on November 3rd and the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to finish out the season. He brings his crew chief from the ARCA Racing Series days, Nationwide Series veteran John Quinn, to Tri-Star Motorsports for his debut. "It's great to have John by my side on this - we're a great team and he taught me so much about competition at this level. I'm looking forward to learning more together this year as a great preparation for the Rookie of the Year competition next year."
There is no rest for the weary for Martin - after a 2011 season with 5 starts in the ARCA Racing Series with Venturini Motorsports, he moved to Huntersville, North Carolina and is staying in the seat by racing three entries in September with Coulter Motorsports in UARA-Stars. "It's been a whirlwind so far, but I can't wait to be in NASCAR and have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business at some very fast tracks. I'm grateful for the opportunity to race and know where I'm driving - something a lot of drivers can't say right now, unfortunately," said Martin.
Equally grateful for this opportunity is TriStar Motorsports Team Owner, Mark Smith. "We are really looking forward to having Hal as part of our TriStar Motorsports team," he said from his PME engine shop Tuesday. "I'm pleased that we were able to finalize our plans for next year so we can start to build our rapport before the season-opener in Daytona. Hal has proven to be a solid racer and is eager to learn and advance. I have no doubt that he has a promising career ahead of him in NASCAR. I am confident that he will be a strong contender for the Nationwide Rookie of the Year title next year."
Hal Martin PR
Tony Stewart Signs First Flag for “Express Your Thanks” Program to Benefit Wounded Warrior Project at Bank of America 500
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart joined officials from Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bank of America to kick off the “Express Your Thanks” flag program to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Fans attending the Oct. 13 Bank of America 500 can sign a flag with a message of support for the U.S. Armed Forces that will be displayed during the race in a giant flag mosaic. For each flag that is signed, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation will donate $1 to the Wounded Warrior Project, up to $250,000.
Fans can also upload images and words of thanks to www.bankofamerica.com/troopthanks and tag Instagram or Twitter pictures with #troopthanks in addition to signing the flags.
Funds raised from “Express Your Thanks” will be used for Wounded Warrior Project economic empowerment programs.
Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet, signed the first flag, along with Charles Bowman, state of North Carolina and Charlotte market president for Bank of America and Jason Pratcher, area outreach coordinator for the Wounded Warrior Project.
“This is the type of project we’ve been a part of before with our Prelude to the Dream,” said Stewart. “Being back with the Wounded Warriors Project is something that we’re really proud of and we’re really proud of Bank of America stepping up and doing a project like this.”
Charlotte Motor Speedway officials also announced that country music superstars Big & Rich will perform prior to the Bank of America 500 on Oct. 13. Charlotte Motor Speedway is famous for elaborate pre-race shows and this year’s will also include world-famous tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, who will walk a high wire from the grandstands to Victory Circle, at times more than 100 feet above the ground, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
“Charlotte Motor Speedway has always been the benchmark for pre-race shows and thinking outside the box,” said Stewart. “Whether it’s jumping school buses or military pre-race shows, it’s always been entertaining.
“It’ll be pretty cool to see Big & Rich and I was younger when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out, so that’ll be neat and I know my niece and nephew will like that.”
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule at Martinsville Speedway will have a familiar look with its traditional NASCAR Sprint Cup dates returning.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend at Martinsville will be April 5-7 while the fall event weekend is scheduled for October 25-27, which will again be the seventh race in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
“We’ve got our traditional dates back again and we’re very pleased with that,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell. “The first weekend in April and the last weekend in October have worked very well for us. Everyone is just getting excited about the season in early April and in the fall we’re at a crucial point in The Chase.”
Again in 2013, both of Martinsville’s Sprint Cup races will be accompanied by a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
There is still plenty of action left at Martinsville Speedway this season with the TUMS Fast Relief 500 on October 28 and the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on October 27. NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying for the TUMS Fast Relief 500 and practice for both series is scheduled for October 26.
Martinsville Speedway PR
After their first successful week working together, Aric Almirola and his new crew chief and team are eager to go racing again, this week on the flat track of New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The team will also have a new look on the track this week, with TrimFit All-Natural Weight Loss Water joining the team as primary sponsor for the first time this season.
TrimFit is eager to showcase its unique product to the NASCAR audience. The first-ever weight loss water is formulated to help users lose weight, lower body fat and build lean muscle. Its patented ingredient, Trisynex®, targets reduction of body fat by balancing the hormones leptin and adiponectin to help achieve and maintain a healthy weight in conjunction with a balanced diet and exercise. TrimFit is all natural, has 0 grams of sugar and five calories, and provides hydration. It comes in three flavors - Pink Lemonade, Mixed Berry and Lemon Lime.
It's a good time for the sponsor to come on board with the No. 43 team. Last week at Chicagoland Speedway, Almirola showed early success after swapping crew chiefs and teams with teammate Marcos Ambrose. The driver of the No. 43 Ford qualified second for the race, led laps and appeared to be on his way to a strong result before being penalized by NASCAR for a pit infraction that was later overturned. He gained back the lap that he lost serving the penalty but was never able to reclaim all the lost positions on track.
The 1.058-mile oval is familiar territory to Almirola. He has four Cup career starts at the New Hampshire track with a top finish of 18th (2008). He also earned a top-five finish in his only Nationwide start at Loudon, and two top-10s in five Camping World Truck Series starts.
Comments from TrimFit Ford Fusion Driver Aric Almirola:
"My first week with Todd (Parrott) and the guys went really well. We had a really good car at Chicago and a great qualifying effort to show for it. And I think we would've had a really good race result, too, if not for that bizarre penalty situation. But we're shaking that off and ready to get back at it this week at Loudon.
"We've got TrimFit on our Ford Fusion this week. They've been an associate sponsor with us this season, but this will be the first time they're the primary, so we'll be looking to get that red paint scheme a lot of attention so fans can learn about their weight-loss water. It's really unique. It's not like a diet drink where it keeps you from gaining weight; it's designed to actually help you lose weight."
Comments from Crew Chief Todd Parrott on Loudon:
"I guess you could say we started things off with a bang last week at Chicago. We had a fast car all weekend and Aric drove the wheels off of it to qualify up front. I think we can keep that momentum going. We're taking the same car to Loudon that Aric drove there in July, so we'll have a good base to work off of. We'll want to qualify as well as we can because this is a tough track for passing. And we didn't see a lot of cautions when we were there earlier this season, so we have to be prepared with a good-handling car for a lot of long green-flag runs."
No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer circles New Hampshire Motor Speedway on his Sprint Cup Series schedule early in the year.
The fall race at the Magic Mile is where he normally does his best work. Bowyer’s two wins at New Hampshire have both come at the fall race, one from the pole position and both from the front row, and both while competing in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Bowyer started from the pole position and led 222 laps in the fall 2007 race, and started second and led 177 in the fall 2010 race. Bowyer is also bringing chassis No. 718 - the same Toyota Camry that he used to win at Richmond on Sept. 8.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: "I look at the short tracks and think the best opportunity to win races is on those short tracks. We did okay in Chicago, not great, but just okay. New Hampshire -- we have a pretty damn good roll going to New Hampshire. I think we can win at New Hampshire and get things started off right. If we can do that and keep this buzz going at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing), I think we can compete. The 1.5 mile tracks, I've never won on one of those, I know that and everybody else does. I have to pick up my game on the 1.5 mile tracks -- but we've been running better than I ever have with these MWR cars on that type of track. I think if I ever could win on those, it would be in the Chase in the last 10 races. If I can do that with the success I have on the short tracks, again we can be a force to be reckoned with."
NEW SPOTTER: "I like Brett (Griffin, new spotter), we've been friends off the race track for a long time. I have a lot of confidence in him. I talked to Jeff Burton a lot about him and he said hire him. I have a lot of confidence in him. He did a great job in Chicago. We know each other so well and he does such a great job. Most of the things I ask for, he does. Ty (Norris, MWR general manager and previous spotter) and I wanted to make sure Ty was okay with it because first and foremost, Ty helped me get to where I'm at on so many different levels. I didn't want to take anything from him if he wanted to be a part of that -- I wasn't about to make a change until next year, but the opportunity came up and Ty wants to focus on his job and make sure all three cars are running well."
TEAMMATES IN THE CHASE:"It doesn't matter if they're in the Chase or out of the Chase or whatever else -- that doesn't make a bit of difference. It matters if they're a good teammate, they're willing to work together, they're good enough to push you to be better in the same equipment. More importantly that they're all working together, and I mean not just the drivers amongst ourselves, but the crew chiefs, our engineers -- that's what makes a difference. It doesn't make a difference if they're in the Chase or not if they're willing to work together to move forward."
CHASE CHANCES:"I'm telling you, if you're in that top-five running with three or four to go, you have a shot at the championship, and I believe we can do that. We have some good race tracks and I've always been able to go into the Chase full of enthusiasm, full of excitement, full of pride and never any worry in that sense. Never have I gone into the Chase concerned about anything. It’s blue sky, full speed ahead and anything from here on out -- we've won races for my sponsors, we've made the Chase for my sponsor -- we've done all our goals and the last goal is the championship. Everybody knows that everything has to line up perfectly to win the championship, but this could be the year. This is the best I've ever ran leading into the Chase. I've always been able to elevate my game in the Chase, keep it fun and keep it real for the guys and if we continue to do that, we'll have a chance."
No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. enters this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ninth place in the championship standings — just 21 markers out of first.
The one-mile oval will be the ultimate test for the NAPA driver and crew chief Chad Johnston as the duo believes this track will be the toughest to tackle of the remaining nine races in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. In 13 starts at NHMS, Truex has three top-five and five top-10 finishes. The Mayetta, N.J., native has an average finish of 14.8 and has led 50 laps.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON RETURNING TO NHMS: “New Hampshire hasn’t been one of my best tracks since joining Michael Waltrip Racing. I don’t know why. We’ve struggled a little bit. In the spring race, we had a decent run and showed some gains. It is a tough track to get a hold of. It’s almost impossible to get your car to turn in the corners and the tires chatter. It’s the same for everyone, it is just a matter of being smarter. I feel like we are taking some new stuff back there and our NAPA Toyota should be a whole lot better. Hopefully, we can go there and continue to run up front like we have been doing lately. It’s a place that has always been special for me. I enjoy going there so I hope I can keep our momentum going and have a strong run.”
CREW CHIEF CHAD JOHNSTON: “I like the plan we have for this weekend. We learned a lot of stuff at Richmond and it translated into a fast NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota. We also learned a few things at our Martinsville tire test that should carry over to this weekend. Richmond, Martinsville and New Hampshire are not similar in configuration, but you attack them with the same short-track mentality. I will be honest, in the past I’ve never been overly thrilled to go to New Hampshire. However, this time I am really looking forward to it.”
ON PREPARING FOR SECOND RACE IN THE CHASE: “Every race is a new start. Last week at Chicago, we came out of there with a top-10 finish despite dealing with a temperamental car. We could have had more issues after that practice incident so we were lucky. We’ve move on. Now it’s all about New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It’s all about optimizing points at each race and taking all we can get.”
Every driver has a race, or several, that in the back of their mind was one where they had a vehicle capable of winning if it wasn't for a bad break. For Brian Scott, the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is one of those races. The Idaho native will have another chance to visit victory lane at the 1.5-mile Tri-oval Friday night, driving the No. 18 Dollar General Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in the Kentucky 201, his first Truck Series start at the track since the 2009 race.
Scott, who qualified second, had the dominant truck in the early stages of the race. He took the lead from pole-sitter Ron Hornaday Jr. on lap two and remained on point until lap 29. The young driver had settled into the second position until the right front tire on his Toyota blew out on lap 36 and catapulted the truck into the outside retaining wall. Despite substantial damage to the right front fender, Scott's crew was able to make repairs and remain on the lead lap. By race's end, he had battled back to earn a hard-fought sixth-place finish.
Dollar General Racing crew chief Eric Phillips can relate with Scott on letting one get away at the 1.5-mile Tri-oval. After starting from the rear of the field in the 2010 September race, due to an improper adjustment, Kyle Busch took the lead on lap 54 and held point until he visited pit road for his final stop on lap 127. The race would proceed caution free for the final 55 laps, allowing several competitors on different pit sequences to make it to the end of the race, relegating Busch to a seventh-place finish.
Phillips and Busch were able to redeem themselves last season, leading a race-high 61 laps en route to victory in the UNOH 225 last July. Friday night, Phillips will take aim at helping Scott make amends in the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky Character: Following an impressive performance last Saturday night, Parker Kligerman travels to Kentucky Speedway this Friday with his No. 7 Red Horse Racing team to challenge for the win in the Kentucky 201. Kligerman carries the momentum of three top-five finishes in the past four races, along with confidence in his intermediate track record to contend with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitors. An affinity for the challenges the Sparta, Kentucky-based 1.5- mile oval provides may also help carry Kligerman to a solid finish.
"Kentucky, to me, is one of the coolest intermediate tracks we go to. It's very unique and I think anywhere we go that has unique characteristics just adds to the fun for the drivers and crew members," Kligerman explained.
"It puts the pressure on our crews and on us to rise up to a higher level of competition in order to find the right setup because it is more challenging than a smooth track with no obstacles to overcome. Kentucky is big and flat, but it's also really bumpy and has several different elements that we don't really see a lot at other intermediate tracks on the schedule. The challenges are fun for me and this No. 7 Red Horse Racing team is going to be ready to take everything that comes our way head on."
Weekend Appearances: Parker Kligerman will join teammates Timothy Peters and Todd Bodine, along with the rest of the NCWTS drivers, for a fan autograph session on Friday afternoon from 3-3:45 pm. Kentucky Speedway ticket holders can meet their favorite drivers and get an autograph in the fan concourse prior to qualifying for the Kentucky 201.
Previous Race Recap: Scoring his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole award on Saturday afternoon for the American Ethanol 200 presented by Hy-Vee, Parker Kligerman had his sights set on finishing out the night at Iowa Speedway on top. After proving to be the dominant truck during both practice sessions over the weekend and leading a race and career-high 107 of 200 laps, he was well on his way to covering the field and taking the checkers when an unfortunate turn of events came with less than 20 laps remaining. A right rear tire failure sent Kligerman spinning on the front stretch, and the damage that followed forced him to a 23rd place finish.
If there truly are races Ryan Newman circles on his calendar at the beginning of each season as races where he and his No. 39 Aspen Dental team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) should be the class of the field, there’s no doubt one of those is this weekend.
After all, New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon has been the site of three (September 2002 and 2005 and July 2010) of Newman’s 16 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins and six of the Aspen Dental driver’s 49 career poles.
In fact, New Hampshire was the site of Newman’s first points-paying Sprint Cup victory during his rookie season in 2002. On that September afternoon, the South Bend, Ind., native started from the pole and dominated the rain-shortened race, leading 143 of 207 laps.
The second victory came three years later in September 2005. Newman, who had narrowly squeaked into the inaugural Chase for the Championship, used pit strategy to gain the lead late in the race after starting 13th. In the closing laps, he dueled with now-team owner and teammate Tony Stewart for the lead. Newman passed Stewart with two laps remaining and held on to take the win, renewing Newman’s hopes for a run at the championship.
Then, in July 2011, Newman went wire to wire – driving from his No. 1 starting spot to victory lane. Late in that July race, crew chief Tony Gibson made a gutsy call to keep Newman’s superfast No. 39 SHR Chevrolet out front rather than pit under caution. Only once during the 301-lap race did Gibson call for a four-tire change. In the end, after Newman pitted for the final time on lap 217, Gibson spent the final 84 laps urging his driver to save fuel at every opportunity.
The bold call paid off and landed Newman in victory lane for the first time in 47 races. Newman led six times for 119 laps in winning from the pole position for just the fourth time in his career.
And the win was all part of a banner weekend for SHR. Newman and Stewart, now his teammate and team owner, started 1-2 and finished 1-2. The last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 was Hendrick Motorsports in the 1989 Daytona 500. However, the last time a team started 1-2 and finished 1-2 with the same drivers in the same order was back on April 7, 1957, at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway, where DePaolo Engineering’s Fireball Roberts won from the pole while teammate Paul Goldsmith started second and finished second.
So, it makes sense that Newman would circle New Hampshire on his calendar each year. The 1.058-mile flat track commonly known as “The Magic Mile” has been the site of some magical moments and a lot of smiles in Newman’s 11-year Sprint Cup Series career.
And Newman and his No. 39 Aspen Dental Racing team hope to generate some more magic as they roll into New Hampshire for this Sunday’s Sylvania 300. There would be no better time to be smiling and showing off those pearly whites than in victory lane with Aspen Dental. The network of full-service dental practices providing quality, affordable care in 22 states is primary sponsor on the No. 39 Chevy for its second race of the season.
Despite failing to make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship, Newman and his team have been on a roll. In the last 10 races, Newman has finished 11th or better eight times.
And after a fifth-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., last weekend, Newman & Company are eager to continue building on that momentum and make a run for 13th place in the season-ending points – the best position for a non-Chase driver – in the final nine races of the season.
For Newman, coming “home” to New Hampshire always brings back great memories and big smiles thanks to his previous successes at the track. This weekend, a trip to victory lane in the No. 39 Aspen Dental Chevrolet would be just the ticket to add more memories and more big smiles as he and the team continue their quest to be “Best of the Rest.”