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No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota driver Clint Bowyer spent Monday attending the Goodyear Tire test at Michigan International Speedway. In Bowyer’s first season with Michael Waltrip Racing, the No. 15 team has tested Daytona, Texas, Pocono, Bristol and twice at Michigan. Plus an additional road course test to prepare for Sonoma. Bowyer says the test time has helped his new team build their notebook and get up to speed faster than it may have in previous seasons. Now the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY team is heading to Pocono for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Bowyer’s first season at MWR has also been the best of his Sprint Cup career. A victory, four top-five finishes, and holding 10th place in the points standings in 2012 are all career bests after 20 races. Bowyer’s history shows he could add to those totals this weekend. He owns one top-five and five top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Pocono. The MWR team is 10th with a 55-point lead over the 11th-place driver. Only six races remain before the start of the 10-race Chase.
ON TESTING: “We just don’t have as many opportunities to test as we used to. NASCAR has really regulated our opportunities, so you have to make the most of a test when you can. You have to take full advantage of it and try to learn for no matter where you go. You have to learn that package and what adjustments work around that package. That’s what we’ve really been trying to do with some of the packages that we’ve been working on. We try to learn how to adjust within that package. It may not be the best package for Michigan, but it may be the best package for Pocono. We just have to figure out how to adjust around it.”
“It’s been really beneficial to be as young of a team as we are - or as new as we are at working together to have tested as much as we have this year. We’ve tested more this year than we have in quite some time because the tracks are repaving. Tracks like Michigan, Pocono, Bristol - even Kansas coming up is going to have a new surface. And for a group of guys that are all working together for the first time, it has been an advantage. We’ve learned a lot about each other, the setups and what we like. It’s been a huge help and I think we’ve been fortunate to test as much as we have.”
ON MICHIGAN TEST: “The test was good. We were able to go through some of our things that we’ve been wanting to try which is a good thing. We are documenting some laps for Goodyear. The tire looks good. It has good grip. I think it’s kind of in-between the tire that we had before and the tire that we ended up racing on (in June) as far as speed. It’s not crazy fast like that first one was, but not as far off as the one we raced. Tire wise, we are all pretty happy. I’m just working on some balance things and trying to learn some things for when we come back here. The speeds are great and everybody is pretty happy so far.
“First and foremost it’s a test for Goodyear. It really doesn’t matter what we’re doing with our car balance wise as long as we’re in the ballpark of where we are going to race lap time wise – those tires don’t know the difference as to what setup is underneath of it, so changing and setup don’t affect what Goodyear sees as far as their tire data one bit.”
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season has started the process of winding down. A champion has yet to be crowned. The sport’s version of playoffs – the Chase for the Championship – is still six weeks away and the 12 drivers who will compete for the championship have yet to be determined. A total of 16 events remain on the 2012 schedule and, yet, the countdown to the season finale is well underway. Evidence of this is the series’ second visits to a number of upcoming tracks, including Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400.
This weekend’s race isn’t the first return visit of the season for the Sprint Cup competitors, but it is among the first of 12 repeat appearances that will make up the next 16 weeks of racing. Pocono’s “Tricky Triangle,” a staple on the Sprint Cup schedule since 1974, was last visited by the series a mere eight weeks ago, when drivers and teams encountered a whole new ballgame at the 2.5-mile triangular layout. Drivers and teams were treated to a “watered down” version of what they’ve experienced at Pocono in the past. For the first time, the length of the race had been reduced from 500 to 400 miles, which meant recalculations in race strategy. On top of that, it was the first event since the racetrack underwent an offseason repaving project.
With one race at the “new” Pocono in the books, teams go into this weekend’s event with a far better understanding of the strategy needed to get through 400 miles on the newly paved surface. Strategy, however, is only one part of the equation to finding success at Pocono.
Kurt Busch is one driver who not only has experience at the 2.5-mile track, he’s experienced success along the way. The driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet goes into the race weekend a two-time winner at Pocono. He has nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, as well as a pole, to go along with his pair of wins in 22 career starts at Pocono. Busch has led at least one lap in 12 of the last 15 races at Pocono and has only one DNF (Did Not Finish) during that same stretch – an accident in the August 2010 race. He also finished third in this event a year ago.
Additionally, Busch’s solid performance statistics extend beyond tradition and into some pretty stout loop data statistics as he ranks in the top-five in a number of categories, including laps led, fastest laps run, speed in traffic, green-flag speed and average running position. Add it all up and it equates to a third-place driver rating, placing Busch behind only five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, who’s second, and recent perennial Pocono favorite Denny Hamlin, who’s first.
The shininess of the “new” Pocono may have worn off a bit since the June debut of the new racing surface and race distance, but teams will still be looking for any advantage to find success at the tricky track that figures prominently into the last half of the 2012 season. The No. 51 Phoenix Racing team will look to take advantage of Busch’s experience and success to get the most out of Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400.
Penske Racing announced today that AJ Allmendinger has been released as driver of the No. 22 Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Cup Series. Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR last week for a positive drug test.
"Penske Racing fully supports NASCAR's substance abuse policy and we are disappointed with AJ's positive drug test results," said Roger Penske. "AJ is a terrific driver, a good person and it is very unfortunate that we have to separate at this time. We have invested greatly in AJ and we were confident in his success with our team. The decision to dismiss him is consistent with how we would treat any other Penske Racing team member under similar circumstances. As AJ begins NASCAR's ‘Road to Recovery’ program, we wish him the best and look forward to seeing him compete again in NASCAR."
Sam Hornish Jr., will drive the No. 22 Dodge at Pocono this weekend and for the foreseeable future.
Penske Racing will evaluate its options for a driver of the No. 22 car for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.
Penske Racing PR
Statement from AJ Allmendinger
"Effective today, I have been released from Penske Racing as driver of the No. 22 Dodge Charger. I wish to thank Mr. Penske, Penske Racing, their sponsors, and especially all the of the No. 22 team for the opportunity they provided me and for their support in this difficult time. I also, again, would like to thank all the fans that really have been awesome through this.
"I apologize for the distraction, embarrassment, and difficulties that my current suspension from NASCAR has provided. As I stated last week, I have begun NASCAR's Road to Recovery program and look forward to using those resources and its completion to compete again in NASCAR in the near future."
Roush Fenway Racing has announced the addition of sports marketing veteran Pete Thuresson to its marketing operations. Thuresson will serve as senior vice president of sales and business development, overseeing Roush Fenway’s business development and marketing partnership efforts. A 20-plus year veteran of sports marketing, Thuresson boasts an extensive background in partnership management and industry marketing. He previously headed up national partnerships for FOX Sports in Chicago.
“We are extremely excited about bringing Pete on board,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “He brings a wealth of experience in the sports marketing field and will serve as a great compliment to the talented group of marketing professionals that we already have in place here at Roush Fenway. We are eager to tap into his knowledge base to not only enhance our business development efforts, but to continue to find new and innovative ways to provide added value to our current partners.”
Prior to joining FOX Sports, Thuresson founded the Professional Sports Network (PSN); the premier aggregator of leading Minor League Baseball properties. At PSN, he created and implemented integrated marketing solutions for over 80 properties, while establishing a national marketing platform for Triple-A and Double-A baseball.
“I am thrilled to be joining the team at Roush Fenway,” said Thuresson. “NASCAR provides what I feel is the top sports marketing platform in the country and it is a great opportunity to be able to join one of the most successful professional teams in all of sports. I look forward to getting fully integrated, and it is my full expectation that we will be able to continue to enhance and develop new and pioneering platforms that will serve to add even greater value to each of our partners.”
Thuresson is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., where he was a four-year letterman on the varsity baseball team. He, along with his wife Heather and three daughters, will reside in Charlotte.
During an upcoming NASCAR race event, a NASA Learning Environments & Research Networks (LE&RN) education program called Rockets to Racecars (R2R) will provide the public an opportunity to explore science, technology, education and math (STEM) and learn about the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity Rover mission to Mars. The event will be held Aug. 3-5 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa.
"Pocono Raceway has opened its doors to share facilities and resources to make NASA's participation possible," said Bonnie Murray, NASA education specialist. "The ability to bring information about this exciting NASA mission to the fans, and to provide children and families attending the event with fun and educational activities, is a checkered-flag win for everyone involved."
During the event, families can go to the Kids Zone from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to see a model of MSL, touch a tire from the Curiosity rover and test their skills at attempting a successful landing on Mars. They also will learn about the science of flight and racing at NASA's R2R exhibit, and meet Robonaut, the first robotic astronaut assistant.
Prior to the event, there will be a teacher professional development workshop at the raceway where participants will hear from Murray, JPL Digital Learning Coordinator Lyle Tavernier, and NASA planetary scientist Dr. Heidi Hammel as they talk about how NASA programs can help inspire students to study STEM. Teachers will learn about NASA resources including the R2R STEM education program, the MSL mission to Mars, and the NASA engineering design challenge, "Touchdown Challenge". They will participate in the NASAR2R social media event that will coincide with the NASA multicenter MSL social occurring on the same day. The workshop will be streamed over the Internet on Aug. 2, 1-4 p.m. EDT here:
Also featured during the webcast will be an important announcement from NASA's Digital Badging Team about its brand new Curiosity Digital Badges.
Additionally, the teachers will get to visit the racetrack to see how NASCAR provides shock absorption with the Steel and Foam Energy Reduction (SAFER) barrier on the racetrack. All of their training will lead to their ability to share their knowledge of NASA at the Kids Zone area during the actual event.
NASA LE&RN is a project within the Elementary-Secondary Education Program of NASA's Office of Education. Its primary focus is on the use of educational technologies for STEM content delivery to students of all ages, online professional development courses, experiences and events, and the research and development of learning tools and methods within tomorrow's learning environments. The project serves both teachers and students through interactive virtual connections.
As the Pocono Raceway prepares for the upcoming Pennsylvania 400, select Walmart stores will offer authentic NASCAR merchandise and host exclusive fan events starting Aug. 2. Customers are invited to attend these special events and enjoy show car and simulator displays– perfect to safely get behind the wheel and feel the power of NASCAR – Aug. 2-4 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., depending on the location.
The Pennsylvania 400 is the second of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races held at the Pocono Raceway, the other being the Pocono 400. The Pocono Raceway, known for its triangularly shaped 2.5 mile track, debuted its first race on the Sprint Cup circuit in 1974 with Richard Petty taking the victory. Since then, 68 total races have run at the Pocono Raceway. Jeff Gordon and Bill Elliott are currently tied with the most wins including five victories.
Race Time at Walmart
In addition to the fan events happening in Walmart parking lots, area Walmart stores will feature savings on all the food and snacks you need to enjoy the race, plus authentic NASCAR merchandise such as T-shirts and racing flags, with an even bigger selection of exclusive products available at Walmart.com/NASCAR.
Participating stores near the Pocono Raceway include:
Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012
Displays free and open to the public include the M&M's Show Car, Sim Pod and Trophy Display, Oreo Ritz Show Car, Hefty Show Car Simulator, Coca-Cola 2-Seat Simulator, 5-hour Energy Show Car, No. 24 Pepsi MAX Show Car, No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Show Car and Kingsford Ultimate Tailgate Truck at:
1091 Millcreek Road
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Displays free and open to the public include the Wheaties Show Car, No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger and Kellogg's Cheez-It Show Car Simulator at:
3722 Easton Nazareth Highway
11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Friday, Aug. 3, 2012
Displays free and open to the public include the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger, No. 24 Pepsi MAX Show Car, No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Show Car, Kingsford Ultimate Tailgate Truck and Hefty Show Car Simulator at:
2150 Wilkes Barre Township Marketplace
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Displays free and open to the public include the Kellogg's Cheez-It Show Car Simulator, Wheaties Show Car, Oreo Ritz Show Car, M&M's Show Car, Sim Pod and Trophy Display, 5-hour Energy Show Car and Coca-Cola 2-Seat Simulator at:
900 Commerce Blvd.
Dickson City, Pa.
11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012
Displays free and open to the public include the M&M's Show Car, Sim Pod and Trophy Display, Wheaties Show Car, Kellogg's Cheez-It Show Car Simulator, No. 24 Pepsi MAX Show Car, No.88 Diet Mountain Dew Show Car and 5-hour Energy Show Car at:
355 Lincoln Ave.
East Stroudsburg, Pa.
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Displays free and open to the public include the Coca-Cola 2-Seat Simulator, No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger, Oreo Ritz Show Car, Hefty Show Car Simulator and Kingsford Ultimate Tailgate Truck at:
3271 Route 940
Mount Pocono, Pa.
11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Turner Motorsports announced today that Miguel Paludo will return to its NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) lineup at the upcoming event at Watkins Glen International. Paludo will get behind the wheel of the No. 30 Duroline Brakes and Components Chevrolet Impala at the 2.54-mile road course for his second career NNS start.
A two-time champion in the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Brasil, Paludo has extensive road racing experience, but has only one previous NNS start, which he made at Road America in June. Paludo led four laps and ran up front for much of the event, but was forced three laps down by a broken sway-bar arm in the closing laps, resulting in a 29th-place finish. Paludo also has one other start on a NASCAR road course circuit, which he made at Lime Rock Park in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in 2010. Paludo started and finished ninth in the event. He has made 39 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), with three top-fives, 10 top-10's and a best finish of third (Michigan International Speedway, August 2011). Paludo also made history earlier this season at Daytona International Speedway by becoming the first Brazilian driver to win a pole award in one of NASCAR's top-three series.
Paludo on his first NNS start at Watkins Glen International: "I am really excited to be racing at Watkins Glen. I've never been to that track before, but I was so incredibly comfortable in the Nationwide car at Road America. We were running up front all day and we just had some bad luck at the end when the sway-bar arm broke, so we didn't get the finish we deserved. I just want to turn that all around and have a good weekend at The Glen. I know that we will be extremely competitive, so I want to bring home a great finish for the team, for myself and for Duroline. I had so much fun road course racing earlier in the year, so I'm really pumped about this."
The Zippo 200 at The Glen is scheduled to take place on August 11th and will air live on ABC at 2:00 PM ET. Paludo is guaranteed a starting spot in the field by virtue of the No. 30's full-time NNS status.
Turner Motorsports PR
Now a strength coach in a sport that piles up checkered flags instead of touchdown catches, Les Ebert leans on his background of training pro football athletes to strengthen today’s award-winning NASCAR pit crews.
“These guys are the unsung heroes,” Ebert said of NASCAR pit crewmen. “They’re like offensive linemen in the NFL – they do all the dirty work.”
Ebert, a 39-year-old native of Circle Pines, Minn., is in his fourth season as the strength and conditioning coach for Roush Fenway Racing, including the No. 17 team, which recently won the second-quarter Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award. It’s an honor voted on quarterly by each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief with an overall year-end award going to the season’s top-performing pit crew.
Ebert oversees the training programs for Roush Fenway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and Developmental Series pit crews.
“Pit crews work really hard to do the things they do,” said Ebert. “Yes, they have a lot of athletic ability, but to be able to do that repetitively in practice, race-after-race, month-after-month, they have to be in great physical condition. Not only is athletic ability important, but keeping the athletic ability to be able to pit racecars day-in-and-day-out is really what a lot of people don’t see.”
Ebert knows positions can be gained in a matter of seconds in the pits. His role at Roush Fenway is crucial in strengthening some 70-plus pit crew members on a daily basis so they can thrive physically on pit road.
“We run through strength and conditioning workouts four days a week,” explained Ebert. “We do two total body strengthening workouts and two conditioning workouts Monday thru Thursday. We’re real fortunate – Jack [Roush] and Robbie [Reiser] have supported the program very much in the fact that we have the tools we need to get these guys in the best shape possible.”
Known to insiders as “Les’ House of Pain,” the Roush Fenway Racing gym which Ebert oversees is a real “pumpatorium” packed full of free weights, exercise machines and conditioning equipment to keep pit crewmen conditioned and durable over the 36-week grind.
“Les keeps us in shape and feeling good, which is really important with the long season and hot weather,” said Cameron Cobb, an eleven-year veteran and jackman on Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Best Buy Ford. “Ever since Les came on board, I have less aches and pains from doing my job. Now Les has given me a few aches, but it’s what you need to win. You have to be physically and mentally strong and he does a good job for us.”
“Les pushes us pretty hard with our training,” echoed Sean Ward, gas man on the No. 17 who got his start in racing with Tommy Houston in 1996. “Les expects a lot, but it’s worth it in the end and I’m better for it. The workouts help keep us in shape and help prevent us from getting injured on pit road.”
Not long after graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a degree in Physical Education, Ebert landed an internship in the NFL under coach Tony Dungy that eventually led to a full-time position. He spent three years as an assistant strength coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then went on to become an assistant strength coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars for six years.
Though his career began on the gridiron, his childhood has circle track roots. Ebert grew up around racing through his father's involvement with Dick Trickle in the American Speed Association in the 1980s.
“As a kid I grew up watching my dad work with Dick back in the Midwest in the ASA days,” explained Ebert. “I followed Dick’s racing on TV and he would call often to keep us updated on how things were going on the NASCAR circuit.”
When the job at Roush Fenway became available while Ebert was still working in the NFL, he thought, ‘well, I’ll give it try.’
Four seasons later, Ebert’s top-notch strength and conditioning program is helping produce award-winning pit crews like the No. 17.
“The 17 group is a talented bunch of guys who have been doing this for a while,” said Ebert. “They have good camaraderie and they work really hard and that allows them to perform at a very high level. It’s a combination of their work ethic, their talent as a group and their ability to perform under pressure.”
The No. 17 crew’s performance this season has cemented Kenseth’s solid start to the 2012 campaign of one win, nine top-fives and 13 top-10s. Currently, Kenseth and the No. 17 team sit second in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings.
“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers,” Ward said. “They see you’re doing a good job and that makes you feel good and strive to do better.”
In addition to Cobb and Ward, crew chief Jimmy Fennig’s over-the-wall pit crew consists of Justin Nottestad (front tire changer), Collin Pasi (front tire carrier), Jon Moore (rear tire changer), and Ryan McCray (rear tire carrier). Andy Ward is the team’s pit crew coach.
“There are a lot of crews deserving out there,” Ebert said. “It’s a very competitive sport and we’re very fortunate to have guys at Roush Fenway that can perform at a high-level whether it’s in practice or in a race. It’s an honor and a blessing to be here at Roush Fenway.”
Change is good and JTG Daugherty Racing has learned that adapting quickly is essential to success as they enter the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway with Bobby Labonte at the wheel of the No. 47 SCOTT Products Toyota Camry.
The next step for JTG Daugherty Racing is finding a long-term crew chief. This weekend Labonte’s interim crew chief David Hyder is fulfilling his normal role at Iowa Speedway with the K&N Pro Series East team that JTG Daugherty Racing prepares for recent winner Cale Conley.
With that being said, team engineer Brian Burns will step up to call the shots for the team this weekend at Pocono.
“We want to make the right long-term decision on our crew chief and we are fortunate to have team engineer Brian Burns in the shop who can step in this week,” said co-owner Tad Geschickter.
“He has been with us for two seasons, so he knows me pretty well,” Labonte added. “He stepped in last season and did a great job of filling in as crew chief at the end of last year. We ran pretty well at Pocono in June and we have a good baseline to start from. I expect good things to happen this weekend."
With multiple team meetings led recently by Burns, Hutchens and Hyder the JTG Daugherty Racing team did not skip a beat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Sunday, they were on their way to a respectable finish before another car struck Labonte’s car. Labonte soldiered on to finish 26th on the lead lap with a battered machine.
“We were moving forward at Indy until we had damage to our car,” Labonte said. “We’ve had a lot of changes lately, which are positive. Last week the racing organization named Bobby Hutchens as our general manager. In any team, communication and planning is key and Hutchens is good at doing both. Everyone strives to get better and we embraced this change. We are a single car team that wants to be the best one out there so we can grow. Helping Jodi and Tad Geschickter along with Brad Daugherty to get to that point is the ultimate goal.
“Everyone knows what they are doing,” Labonte continued. “Skill level and expertise is what we need to grow. We welcomed the change. Todd Berrier (former crew chief) was the perfect person to get us to where we are today. Without him, a lot of things might have gone by without being done correctly.”
The Harrisburg, N.C. operation started from scratch at the end of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and is currently 23rd in the drivers points standings.
“A lot of people don’t get it from the outside looking in that we have had an uphill battle,” Labonte said. “Our entire team has worked countless man hours and also built a lot of things just to get the shop ready for this year.’ You can’t start behind because it’s hard to get caught up during the year. At the same time, we are sitting 23rd in the points standings and we are battling guys that have a lot of structure. Now, we’re taking the next steps to get even better.”
The immediate focus is excelling at Pocono, which is a good track for Labonte. He has an impressive three wins along with five top-five and nine top-10 finishes.
“The track is smooth and fast and we’re looking forward to going back a second time this season,” Labonte said. “We finished 22nd there last time out and hope to have a higher finish this time around.”
No. 56 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr. is having his best year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Truex, tied for sixth in the championship driver standings with six races to go before the start of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup returns to Pocono Raceway this weekend for the Pennsylvania 400.
The NAPA driver is poised and on mark to secure his second Chase berth and first for Michael Waltrip Racing. When he qualified for the Chase in 2007, Truex was 11th in the standings with an average start of 17th and average finish of 16th. This year his average starting position is 13th and average finishing position is 12th. A victory at Pocono would help cement his place in the 2012 Chase.
MARTIN TRUEX JR. ON 2012: “We have come a long way in the last two years. It is a fun time for everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing. There are so many great people that are leading the way at our organization and allowing us to do what we are doing. It starts at the top with owners Rob Kauffman and Michael Waltrip. They have put it all together for us with funding and quality people. We continue to learn and get stronger as an organization. I feel like we are closing in on where we need to be on a consistent basis so that we can hold our own against the top-five teams.”
TRUEX ON RETURNING TO POCONO: “The package we ran at Indy is something I think will work at Pocono. Since NASCAR changed the side skirt rules, we’ve struggled a little bit as a team. We were really onto some stuff at the beginning of the season that was working well for us. Then NASCAR made the rule change and we had to go back to work. The package we ran at Indy was a lot different than what we usually run. I think we made some gains at Indy. It was similar to what Mark (Martin) ran at Pocono and contended for the win. To be honest, we had a fast car at Pocono too. It was remarkable that we finished 20th with a car that had the door taken off of it on the first lap. With that said, I think a top-10 finish or even a chance at the win is a real possibility for us on Sunday.”