Saturday, Sep 23
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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BACK ON TRACK: After four short weeks, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns for competition at the 1.5-mile Quad oval of Charlotte Motor Speedway for 134-laps of beatin' and bangin' action. John Wes Townley and his No. 7 Zaxby's Toyota Tundra team are looking for redemption moving into the fifth race of the season and second on an intermediate track.

TESTING 1-2-3: During the Truck Series time off, Red Horse Racing took two days to travel to Texas Motor Speedway for intermediate testing. All three Red Horse Racing drivers participated in the test as well as drivers from some of its competitors. The test was structured to test in the afternoon and night so the drivers could experience how the track changes as it moves to night race conditions..

NASCAR DAY: On Friday, May 17th, the NASCAR Foundation will celebrate the 10th Anniversary of NASCAR Day. For the special anniversary, NASCAR created the 'Ten Days of Giving' with philanthropic visits set across the country. John Wes Townley kicked off the tour in Atlanta on May 8th alongside the NASCAR Foundation and Coca-Cola. The team presented the George Washington Carver Boys & Girls Club with a new TV for their gaming room. Townley did a question and answer session and spent time playing the NASCAR game on the Wii with the kids.

NEW AT ZAXBY'S: Zaxby's, a southeast favorite for chicken fingers and wings, has been indescribably good for more than 20 years. The Athens, Georgia based chain offers its guests prepared-at-order Chicken Fingerz, Traditional or Boneless Wings, sandwiches, Zalads and Zappetizers, along with a variety of nine sauces ranging from Wimpy and Tongue Torch to Nuclear and Insane. Capturing the essence of a southern classic, guests can now enjoy Zaxby's new Banana Pudding Milkshake for a limited time. It's just the treat to complement Zaxby's House Zalad, a popular menu item with mansion-sized flavor. The company operates more than 570 locations in 13 states. John Wes Townley will compete with Zaxby's serving as primary sponsor for the entire 22 Truck Series race schedule. For more information, please visit, or follow on Twitter @Zaxbys.

CHASSIS HISTORY: The No. 7 Zaxby's Toyota Tundra team will utilize Chassis No. 001 on Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Chassis 001 collected four consecutive top-five finishes on intermediate tracks in 2012 at Michigan International Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway.

MEET & GREET: Don't miss John Wes Townley alongside teammates Timothy Peters and German Quiroga at the Toyota Pitpass Stage on Friday afternoon in the Charlotte Motor Speedway Midway at 12:30. Townley will be alongside other NASCAR Series drivers on Friday, May 24th at Food Lion Speed Street for an autograph session beginning at 1:00 pm.

REARVIEW MIRROR - KANSAS: John Wes Townley's No.7 Zaxby's Toyota Tundra started the race in the 20th position and while his truck was a little tight early on, the team was up in the top-15 racing for position. Unfortunate circumstances on the race track collected Townley in an accident on lap 29 in turn four which ultimately ended their day.

John Wes Townley on Charlotte Motor Speedway:
How was the test at Texas Motor Speedway? What can you take onto Charlotte?
"There are a lot of changes we made as far as how our Toyota Tundras will react to certain changes. We wanted to find what I was comfortable with and continue to better our team communication. I think the more we learn about each other, what we like and what we don't like, I think we will grow as a team. When we get to Charlotte - now we have a notebook to see what change worked best for us.

What are you most looking forward to about this weekend?
"My Zaxby's Toyota Tundra drives really great. Charlotte is one of those races where the track is really slick. Having done the test two weeks ago will hopefully give us a good advantage and benefit us."


While misfortune has gotten the best of Casey Mears and his Germain Racing team in previous weeks, it has only come about due to indiscretions of others on the racetrack. After Darlington, Mears and the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion have now played the role of victim in three of the last four races, finding themselves as collateral damage in crashes caused by others.

Mears was quick off of the truck in Darlington, sitting 15th on the scoring tower in the weekend’s opening practice session. He later suffered from a poor qualifying draw, 7th, but showed little affect when he sped around The Lady In Black in just 27.501 seconds/178.815 miles per hour, landing him 19th on the starting grid and accounting for Germain Racing’s best-ever NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying effort at Darlington Raceway.

With the weekend off to a fast start, Mears and his GEICO team eagerly anticipated the green flag on Saturday night. The impending rain held off and a packed house watched a full 500-miles of racing on Mother’s Day weekend. Mears rolled off of the starting grid 19th and found the speed that he relied on in practice and qualifying. By lap 22, the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion was consistently faster than the leader. Aside from picking up positions, Mears also picked up debris on the grill of his Ford Fusion and it began causing a rise in the water temperature as airflow to the engine became restricted. With a normal threshold of 260-275-degrees, Mears radioed to crew chief Bootie Barker on lap 33 that his temperature gauge had hit the 300-degree mark. Barker ordered him down pit road immediately as the rising temperature would most likely result in a blown engine. After the crew removed a sizeable piece of plastic from the grill of the GEICO Ford, Mears departed pit road two laps down, in the 39th position.

While he found himself behind the eight ball, Mears picked up where he left off and once again began posting speeds faster than the leader of the race. He quickly cut through the field and wowed a Darlington crowd when, by lap 55, he had rejoined the lead lap and sat in the 15th position. When debris caused the caution flag to be displayed on lap 125, the GEICO driver radioed to his crew: “We have a good car. We definitely have something for these guys tonight.” Mears continued to turn fast lap times and ran solidly in the top 20 until visiting pit road for a scheduled green flag pit stop on lap 181. After taking on four tires and fuel, he retook to the racing surface and quickly reported a heavy vibration. He continued to fight the condition, but it only worsened and Mears was forced to travel down pit road under green for a fresh set of tires on lap 207.

While drivers normally are forced to compete against the track that’s Too Tough To Tame, Mears found the racing facility manageable; it would be his fellow drivers that would cause his premature exit from the 367-lap event. With just 56 laps left in the advertised distance, Mears was running on the high-side through turn four when Kurt Busch ran Paul Menard up into the rear fender of the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion sending Mears into the outside wall. Mears then suffered a hard hit as he struck the inside retaining wall after subsequent contact from Brad Keselowski. After being one of the fastest cars on the racetrack for the bulk of the evening, Mears would be relegated to a 37th place finish.

“It’s highly disappointing and frustrating because our #13 GEICO Ford Fusion was great tonight and it was fun to drive,” Mears said. “This is three races now where we were really good and ended up in the garage with a wrecked racecar. We have been really fast in practice and we’re happy with the progress we’re making, so it would be nice to be able to stay clean in one of these things and see how well we do. These guys on this Germain team have worked so incredibly hard and it shows in the speed we have. I feel bad for them because they commit so much time and effort to making us fast.” He continued, “We have a great group of people and we’ll persevere. The problems we’ve had have not been caused by us, so that’s the good news. We’ve just been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We have good people and we’re making good progress. We’re excited to get to Charlotte.”

The next two weeks will allow the GEICO team to sleep in their own beds and spend some much deserved time at home, as they will race in Concord, NC, just 30-minutes from their race shop. This weekend is the Sprint Showdown, the prelude, if you will, to Memorial Day weekend’s Coca-Cola 600, a race won by Mears on May 27, 2007.

Mears and the #13 GEICO Ford Fusion will hit the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the opening practice session on Friday, May 17th, at 12:00 PM (EDT). Qualifying will follow at 5:15 PM (EDT).


After being tested by Mother Nature for two weeks, it was only fitting that Matt Wallace had to show a little more patience Saturday night at Lebanon I-44 Speedway. Working his way through the 19-car pack, Wallace had to make a move on Ken Dickinson twice before grabbing the lead and holding on for dear life to score the first O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Models win under the NASCAR banner at the track just seven months after coming up one spot short in his bid for a title.

In other opening night action on Saturday night, Tyler Scott returned to victory lane fresh off another title, making it look like old hat in the Budweiser Modifieds. Robert Reeves did the same thing in the Monster Sportsman, working through the field and holding on to score the first win of the 2013 campaign. Geoff Ledford scored a comfortable win in the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors and Ben White made a last-lap maneuver to steal the win in the Coca-Cola Chargers feature event.

Lil J.C. Newell rolled to the green flag and led the 19-car field around Missouri’s only asphalt oval for the opening two laps of the 30-lap O’Reilly Auto Parts NASCAR Late Models main event. Veteran Ken Dickinson snuck past Newell on the inside and grabbed the top spot on the third circuit as last season’s runner-up, teenager Matt Wallace, followed him into the second position.

Wallace erased the gap between himself and the leader in two laps, peeking to the inside of Dickinson before slipping up on the exit of turn two and settling back into line. The first caution of the night waved with 12 laps in the books after Austin Fullerton sent ‘Jammin’ Jimmy Vanzandt through the spin cycle in turn three.

Dickinson drove away to a two car length restart when the green flag waved, but Wallace waltzed back into the picture. As the race passed the halfway mark, Wallace dove to the inside of Dickinson and stole the lead on the frontstretch. Newell moved underneath Dickinson for the second and race back toward the front, challenging his fellow young gun and turning up the heat on his back bumper as Cole Williams closed up behind them.

Both drivers ran out of time over the final laps though, as Wallace held on to score the first victory of the 2013 campaign just seven months after the North Carolina teen fell short to Mike Slone in his bid for a championship. As Wallace drove around the track to celebrate his win, fisticuffs broke out on the backstretch between Jimmy Van Zandt and another driver as the season got off to a heated start under a cool night sky.

“We just want to keep the car clean and be a little more consistent this year,” Wallace said in victory lane as the melee ensued behind him. “Tonight, I got to the front after battling with Ken for a little bit and just tried to stay there. I had to show a little patience and it worked out in the end.”

Newell made a strong debut, finishing second in his first Pro Late Models race while Williams made it three teens on the podium with his third place effort. Grant Sharp recorded a solid fourth place finish and 14-year-old Jake Griffin notched a top-five in fifth.

The early edge in the 25-lap Budweiser Modifieds headliner went to Stephen Counterman, but engine trouble on the fourth lap of his season sidelined the young gun and brought out a caution. Defending champion Tyler Scott inherited the lead when racing resumed as the battle for second became a three-car fray. Scotty Allen emerged in the bridesmaid’s position and Scott eased away to a comfortable margin out front.

The yellow flew at the halfway mark erasing Scott’s advantage and bunching the 15-car field back up. When racing restarted, the top four cars broke away as David Bates nipped at Scott’s back bumper. Each time Bates peeked to the inside, Scott slammed the door shut on the exit and maintained a small cushion. Bates threw his car into the final two turns over the last few circuits but couldn’t get the inside track on Scott as the two-time champion fended off the veteran to stake an early claim to the top spot in the point standings once again.

Bates started out his season on a good note with his runner-up effort while Ricky Icenhower notched a podium finish in third.

Veteran J.C. Newell paced the field around the first six laps in the 20-lap Monster Sportsman main event before Robert Reeves got around Newell’s machine and grabbed the lead. Reeves soared to the front and held his ground on a restart as Randy Besser wheeled his fluorescent orange machine to within a car length. After a Justin Allen spin, Reeves had to survive one more push from Besser on the way to a place he became very familiar with last season: victory lane. With an eye on a championship this season, Ragin’ Robert got his season off to a quick start with a feature win.

Besser broke through onto the podium with his second place effort while Aaron Douglas came back from a spin to finish third.

Jordan Nisbett nabbed the early edge in the 12-lap Coca-Cola Chargers main event but Jimmy Poindexter wasn’t long in waiting for the top spot. Poindexter raced around Nisbett and assumed command of the race with eight laps remaining. Ben White cut Poindexter’s lead in half but wasn’t going to catch him until a caution flew with two laps remaining.

On the restart, Poindexter held the high line as White swung to the inside and looked for an opening. The Rolla native found his hole when the white flag waved and got around Poindexter when he washed up the track, allowing White to roll back to the checkers and score the first victory of the season in the division in defending champion Paul Jepson’s old car.

Nisbett got around Poindexter for the second spot on the final lap and Lauren Buhr did the same to steal third. Poindexter settled for a tough luck fourth place finish.

Allen Ellis led the Hoosier Tire Road Warriors to the first green flag of the season in their 15-lap feature. Geoff Ledford took the top spot away after a lapped car got in front of Ellis, and didn’t look back from there in his first ever race at I-44. The former mechanic scored the first feature win of the season for the wide-open division and threw his hat in the ring as a potential contender to fill Dustin Reeves’ shoes as champion.

Justin Blake tallied a second place finish and veteran Les Mallard rounded out the podium with his third place effort.

Racing returns to Missouri’s only asphalt oval this Saturday night, May 18, for one of the biggest shows in the track’s 30-year history that will pay an amazing $8,000 to win. Over 40 cars have entered the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour event that will headline this weekend’s action, including Bubba Pollard, Chase Elliott and Ross Kenseth alongside Grand Marshal Bill Elliott. Two NASCAR support divisions will run Saturday as well with the NASCAR Late Models and Budweiser Modifieds in action to round out the evening’s jam-packed slate of racing action. Stay tuned to I-44’s website throughout the week for more information on this historic event.

For more information on Lebanon I-44 Speedway, including a full 2013 schedule and more, visit the track website at or visit the track’s Facebook and Twitter pages online.

Lebanon I-44 Speedway PR

Ross Kenseth took the lead from Trey Mitchell on what proved to be the final restart of the night and was up front when it counted to win the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) South Super Late Model event at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. In a race plagued by a constant threat of rain, Kenseth’s third career PASS South Super Late Model victory came when the event was finally halted eight laps short of the finish due to a brief shower. Kenseth becomes the ninth different winner in nine PASS South events held at South Boston dating back to 2006.

“The track was damp and we both spun our tires real bad coming to the green flag,”said Kenseth of the final restart to take the lead from Mitchell. “Kyle [Grissom] got a heck of a jump and drove hard into turn one, we hit a little bit, but with 15 or 20 to go, that’s racing. This is a real fun series to run and they called it at the right time.”

Another strong field of 31 PASS South Super Late Models took time in qualifying with defending series champion Kyle Grissom reeling off a lap of 94.631 miles per hour to set fast time for the fifth time in his career. But, in the top 10 qualifiers redraw, Grissom pulled #10 and would have to start outside row five to begin the race.

On the initial start, Wauters’ Racing teammates Tim George, Jr. and Spencer Wauters made contact in turn two sending cars everywhere as they tried to avoid an accident. On the next restart, PASS Pro Late Model driver Trevor Noles got a good start and took the lead from Trey Mitchell exiting turn two. Racing was at a fever pitch as team spotters and their drivers were in constant communication monitoring a storm cell that was approaching the speedway. With about half the field strategizing that they needed to race hard to lap 75 when the race would be official, Mitchell felt it was time to go, making an aggressive three wide move around Noles for the lead on lap 31 as they passed the lapped machine of Bill Catania.

The caution flew for the fourth time of the race on lap 51 when Wauters and rookie Cole Timm crashed hard at the end of the back straightaway. As cars began to jockey harder for position with the halfway point approaching, a rash of accidents ensued damaging several cars, including perennial contenders Preston Peltier, Brandon Ward, and others.

By lap 75, the race was official with Noles back in the lead over Mitchell. At this point, the two drivers had clearly established themselves as the drivers to beat leading every lap to that point. The seventh caution of the night waved on lap 77 when Tim George, Jr. made hard contact with the turn one wall after a spirited battle with Kenseth inside the top five. By lap 82, Mitchell was continuing to stalk Noles for the lead and would take it from him with a bold move to the outside in turns 3 and 4. The car on the move was Peltier, who had made his way back into the top 10 on lap 89 despite severe damage to the right front after an earlier incident.

Back up front, PASS South points leader Jay Fogleman was making up ground in the bottom groove, passing Noles for second with 40 laps to go. Fogleman reeled the leader in, going three wide with Mitchell and the lapped car of Clete Caywood to take the top spot with 32 laps to go. Following a hard crash by Brandon Ward and Brandon Lynn in turn one on lap 119, Fogleman and Mitchell were set to duke it out for the lead as rain drops continued to fall on their windshields. On lap 126, Mitchell caught Fogleman for the lead. He faked high and then cut down low to bypass Fogleman for the lead entering turn three.

After the ninth caution flag of the night waved on lap 134 for another hard crash on the frontstretch between Jody Measamer and Caywood, eyes once again turned to the precipitation falling from the sky. PASS officials decided to allow each team to send a crew member out to wipe off their respective car’s windshields prior to the next restart.

Coming to the green, Mitchell and Kenseth spun their tires allowing Grissom to get to the inside entering turn one. As Mitchell slid back to fifth, Kenseth edged out Grissom to take the lead. The final caution flag of the night would wave on lap 142 when Mitchell and Alex Fleming made contact while battling for fifth causing a chain reaction that saw John Batten spin in turn three and Noles spin into the inside wall on the frontstretch.

As the rains returned, PASS officials determined that the track was too wet to continue. The checkered flag waved over Kenseth and the race was called official eight laps shy of its 150 lap distance. Following Kenseth at the finish were Grissom, Fogleman, Peltier, and Kyle Moon, making his first start for Brad Keselowski Racing. With Grissom’s second place finish, he closes to within six points of Fogleman for the PASS South points lead.

“This race was just about circumstances really, just what line you were in on restarts,” said Grissom. “I was running the bottom then it got wet and lost a lot of grip. It would have been nice to get that last restart in, I’m just glad the car’s in one piece with all the wrecks we had out there tonight.”

Rounding out the top ten finishers were Fleming, Kenzie Ruston, Spencer Davis, Mitchell and Powell.

The PASS South Super Late Models and PASS Pro Late Models will return for their next event on Friday, May 24 at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. For more information please got to or “Like” the Pro All Stars Series on Facebook.

PASS Racing PR

It’s difficult to overstate just how big the 10 Greatest Days in Racing are at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with fans from around the globe tuning in to watch NASCAR’s best battle for up to $2 million at the Sprint All-Star Race and endure the season’s toughest test of man and machine at the Coca-Cola 600.

“In the next two weeks, hundreds of thousands of fans will attend race events at the speedway, enjoy Food Lion Speed Street and visit area race shops and the NASCAR Hall of Fame,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “The motorsports month of May brings a worldwide spotlight to Charlotte and a high-octane boost to tourism that may be unmatched anywhere in the country.”

Dedicated fans from all 50 states and as far away as Queensland, Australia will travel to the heart of NASCAR country to take in all the excitement of back-to-back weekends at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Millions more will tune in as NASCAR is broadcast worldwide to more than 150 countries and in more than 20 different languages. In 2012, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race was the most-viewed telecast on SPEED. The following week on FOX, the Coca-Cola 600 won the night on primetime broadcast television amongst all viewers, kids 2-17 and males 18-34. In total, May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway drew more than 15 million domestic viewers in 2012.

Approximately 5,000 people work at the speedway during each NASCAR event weekend. In addition, with fans camping or staying in local hotels, eating at local restaurants and visiting area attractions like the team race shops and NASCAR Hall of Fame, the economic impact to the region has been estimated at $250 million to $275 million.

But the impact isn’t just felt on race weekends. In 2012, more than 150 community groups and nonprofits partnered with Charlotte Motor Speedway to assist in race operations, earning more than $600,000 for their respective groups throughout the year. During NASCAR event weekends last year, Speedway Children’s Charities also generated funding to support 36 local nonprofit and charity groups.


Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne got tangled up in a wreck less than 25 laps into Friday night’s VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200.  The No. 6 Cargill team worked hard and fast during a series of pit stops at Darlington Raceway to make rear-end body repairs and keep the car on the track.  By the checkered flag, Bayne was fewer than 10 laps down from the leader and finished in 32ndplace.

“It’s been a frustrating few weeks and it seems like we can’t catch a break,” said Bayne as he walked from the car.  However, he was proud of the crew for working so hard to make sure the No. 6 team finished the race. 

While sitting in the “lucky dog” spot late in the race, Bayne stayed out on the track as the rest of the field made a series of green-flag pit stops.  The team was hoping a caution flag would put them back on the lead lap, but never caught the break they needed.  Staying on the track through the checkered flag let Bayne rack up another 12 points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series points standings, landing him in 12th place.

Bayne and the No. 6 team has next weekend off during the Sprint Cup Series All-Star race before returning to the track for the History 300 in Charlotte.


Race Highlights:

  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished fifth (Kevin Harvick), 19th (Paul Menard) and 21st (Jeff Burton).
  • Harvick and Menard are tied for 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, trailing leader Jimmie Johnson by 108 markers, while Burton ranks 20th.
  • The No. 29 Chevrolet SS team and No. 27 team are also tied for 10th in the Sprint Cup Series owner championship point standings, with the No. 31 team 23rd in the standings.
  • According to NASCAR's post-race loop data statistics, Menard made 60 Green-Flag Passes during the 501-mile event.
  • Burton made 68 Green-Flag Passes during the 367-lap event.
  • Harvick had the seventh-best Average Running Position (7.526) and led all drivers in the Closers category (four positions improved in the final 37 laps).
  • Harvick also had the fifth-best Driver Rating (106.6) and spent the entire 367-lap event Running in the Top 15.
  • Matt Kenseth earned his third victory of the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and was followed to the finish line by Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Harvick.
  • The next Sprint Cup Series race is the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 18. Menard and Burton will take part in the Sprint Showdown while Harvick is qualified for the All-Star Race. SPEED's live coverage of the event begins at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time and the race will also be broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.
2011 CC Team Icon 27 NSCS Menards  

Menard Finishes 19th at the Track Too Tough to Tame


Starting from the 15th position, Paul Menard and the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards Chevrolet faced handling issues throughout the 367-lap event, earning a 19th-place finish at Darlington Raceway. Shortly after the green flag flew, Menard began to struggle with a loose-handling condition and crew chief "Slugger" Labbe called for a variety of chassis adjustments during the ensuing pit stops. By lap 185 the series of track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments provided some relief to Menard and he was running in the 12th position. Though running inside the top 15, long green flag runs, coupled with a loose race car, caused the Wisconsin native to fall a lap down to the leader on lap 271. Shortly after losing a lap, Menard came into the pits for four tires, fuel and a spring rubber adjustment. Upon entry to pit road, Menard struck the commitment cone and was assessed a pass though penalty causing him to fall to 22nd, three laps down to the leader. A series of caution flags followed in the closing laps of the 501-mile event, allowing Menard to take the "wave around" on two separate occasions. Gaining two of his laps back, Menard and crew never gave up and he was able to fight his way back inside the top-20 to finish 19th when the checkered flag flew. Menard now sits in 11thin the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.


Start - 15                            Finish - 19                             Laps Led - 0                Points - 11th



"It was a tough night for the No. 27 Pittsburgh Paints/Menards crew. We struggled with handling issues for the majority of the day, and I put us behind late with a pit road penalty. Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) made adjustments all night and we were able to catch a break at the end with those caution flags to get a couple of our laps back. We'll learn from tonight and move on to Charlotte next weekend, try to have some fun and race our way into the big show (All-Star Race) on Saturday night."

Harvick Hangs Tough to Finish Fifth at Darlington Raceway


Kevin Harvick and the No. 29 Budweiser team started 10th and persevered through some late-race adversity to finish fifth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Saturday night. The Richard Childress Racing driver used his admirable starting position to methodically move forward in the early stages of the 367-lap race. By lap 50, he was running sixth finding different areas of the 1.366-mile oval to improve his speed. During several green-flag pit stops, Harvick told crew chief Gil Martin his car was loose in the turns. Under each of those stops, the Budweiser Chevrolet SS team changed four tires, made track bar and/or air pressure adjustments. With the first caution not waving until lap 125, and for only the second time on lap 303, the pit stops under green were paramount to remaining in the top 10. The only time Harvick didn't retain that level of track position was when he got caught a lap down under the second caution, which was four laps after a green-flag pit stop. However, they were able to take the wave around and return to lead lap status in 12th place. Three more cautions and the leader receiving a "Darlington Stripe" dropping him back all played into Harvick and the team's favor. They overcame and pushed on to finish fifth which, in turn, moved them up two spots to 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship points standings.


Start - 10          Finish - 5          Laps Led - 0            Points - 10th               


 "That was a pretty good run for this whole Budweiser Chevrolet team tonight. We were loose for most of the race and those long green-flag stops didn't help us any, either. When we got caught a lap down there, I thought it was going to ruin our night. But, we overcame that, had great stops on pit road and took advantage of things out of our control to finish fifth. It was a good night for this team."

2011 CC Team Logo NSCS 31 CAT     

Jeff Burton Finishes in 21st-Place at Darlington Raceway


Jeff Burton and the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team posted a 21 st-place finish in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. The 21-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner started the 367-lap event in the 11th position and maintained a top-15 running position in the early stages of the race, despite wrestling with a tight-handling Chevrolet. As day turned into night, Burton battled an ill-handling condition throughout uncharacteristically long green-flag runs at the historic 1.366-mile race track which spread out the 43-car field, relegating the South Boston, Va., native multiple laps down to the leader while running in the top 20. In the final stages of the race, Burton wasn't able to recover from the tight-in and loose-off condition on the slick asphalt surface, but the veteran Sprint Cup Series driver stayed out of trouble during multiple incidents and picked up a position over the final 30 laps to bring home a 21st-place finish. Burton now sits 20th in Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings. 



Start-11            Finish-21          Laps Led-0       Points-20th



"That was a rough night for No. 31 Caterpillar team. We definitely didn't get the rotation we wanted to in the middle of the turns which pretty much set the tone for the evening. These guys never gave up and we were able to play strategy and gain some positions in the end. I'm proud of their effort. I'm confident our team will bounce back at Charlotte Motor Speedway these next two weekends."





Unsinkable Matt Kenseth capped a banner week for unsinkable Joe Gibbs Racing with a victory in Saturday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway with a substitute crew chief on his pit box—the unsinkable Wally Brown.

The past four days could hardly have been better for JGR, with Wednesday bringing a substantial reduction in penalties on appeal for an engine infraction Apr, 21 at Kansas. On Friday, Gibbs cars ran 1-2-3 in the Nationwide Series race at Darlington, and the organization followed that Saturday with a 1-2 finish from Kenseth and Denny Hamlin in the 11th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season.

Kenseth took the lead from JGR teammate Kyle Busch on Lap 355 of 367 and pulled away to win by 3.155 seconds over Hamlin, as Busch faded to sixth. Hamlin also had much to celebrate in his first full race back from a compression fracture to his first lumbar vertebra, sustained during a last-lap crash at Fontana, Calif., in late March.

It was a race of significant numbers. Jeff Gordon finished third in his 700th Cup start, all consecutive. Jimmie Johnson ran fourth and extended his series lead to a massive 44 points over seventh-place finisher Carl Edwards. In a race that saw just four drivers pace the field, Kyle Busch led 265 laps but faded to sixth at the finish, thanks to a cut tire on the final 30-lap green-flag run.

Journeyman Brown won his first race as a Cup crew chief, after serving with four different drivers before his one-week shot on the pit box with Kenseth, who will get regular crew chief Jason Ratcliff back next week at Charlotte after Ratcliff's six-race suspension for an underweight connecting rod was reduced to one event on appeal.

But the day belonged to Kenseth, whose resilience under trying circumstances was emblematic of the organization he joined this season.

"Honestly, I've only dreamed about winning the Southern 500," said Kenseth, who notched his first victory at Darlington, his third of the season and the 27th of his career. "This to me probably feels bigger than any win in my career. I really feel bad that Jason isn't here. This is obviously his team and his effort, but Wally did a great job filling in.

"We had a fifth- or sixth-place car, fighting loose, (and) those last two adjustments (on pit road) were just awesome."

For Hamlin, second place was the best he could have hoped for, given the strength of Kenseth's car in the closing laps.

"For me, we kept grinding away," Hamlin said, clearly tired from the effort of his first race back at one of NASCAR racing's most demanding tracks. "Pit crew picked us up some spots, obviously, throughout the night.

"It was one of those days where we got our car better, pit crew picked us up positions, took us to the most optimum spot we could get to—and that was second."

From a physical standpoint, Hamlin admitted the race took its toll.

"Really, it's just like starting your season over," he said. "To start it back over at Darlington for 500 miles, there's some muscles that have gotten weak. I've gotten pretty sore and tired, mentally tired as well. We'll have a couple of weeks really to rest until the next long event (Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte), and we'll be good to go then."

A caution for Regan Smith's spin off Turn 2 on Lap 302 of 367—only the second yellow of the race—interrupted a cycle of green-flag pit stops. After Juan Pablo Montoya took a free pass as the highest scored lap car, and Harvick availed himself of a wave-around, there were 11 cars on the lead lap for a restart on Lap 309.

By then, Kyle Busch had led 218 laps and had dominated the race ever since he wrested the lead from his brother, polesitter Kurt Busch on Lap 74. But the pit stops on Lap 303 put the lead-lap cars on the edge of their fuel windows.

They need not have worried. On Lap 311, Casey Mears tangled with Kurt Busch and reigning series champion Brad Keselowski off Turn 4 to cause the third caution. All but the top-four cars came to pit road for fuel under the yellow, leaving Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Gordon out front on slightly older tires.

Johnson was first off pit road with new tires and quickly moved to third. Busch fended off a challenge from Kahne right after the restart and held a lead of .850 seconds when an accident involving David Reutimann and Josh Wise brought out the fourth caution and gave the lead-lappers a chance to pit for tires.

Kahne briefly took the lead after a restart on Lap 333, but one lap later, Kahne's Chevy slapped the wall near the apex of Turns 1 and 2 and the race went yellow for the fifth time.

The result was the same. Busch pulled away after the restart and opened a comfortable advantage, this time over Kenseth, only to have Kenseth run him down and pass him on Lap 355.


Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Quicken Loans team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) “engineered” an impressive run that resulted in a 10th-place finish in the Southern 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Saturday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

“That was a really good comeback by our Quicken Loans team,” said Newman, who has 10 top-10 finishes in 15 career starts at the 1.366-mile oval. “Our racecar was loose pretty much all night up until that last run, but Matt Borland (crew chief) and the guys kept adjusting on it and working on it trying to make it better. They really just didn’t give up, and we were able to get the ‘Lucky Dog’ two different times to get back on the lead lap, and we ended up with a top-10 finish. I’m just really proud of how hard these guys battled tonight.”

Newman, who started 21st, fought a loose-handling racecar for the majority of the 367-lap event. Despite his struggles, Newman managed to stay inside the top-20 throughout the event. But extended green-flag runs resulted in Newman losing track position, and the Quicken Loans machine fell one lap down to the race leaders by lap 115.

Luckily, a caution at lap 125 played in to Newman’s favor, as he was the first car one lap down and was awarded the “Lucky Dog” and allowed to get back on the lead lap.

Borland called for a variety of chassis adjustments during the race to aid Newman’s loose-handling condition, including track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments. But as the laps clicked off, the handling characteristics of the Quicken Loans Chevy didn’t improve as much as Newman needed to gain spots on the racetrack. Another long stretch of green flag racing led to Newman going one lap down to the leaders a second time at lap 257.

A caution flag at lap 301 afforded Newman’s team the opportunity to take a big swing at improving Newman’s “crashing loose” racecar. Borland called for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments in addition to making a packer adjustment to the right-front shock.

Newman returned to the track in 13th place, one lap down, with one goal before the end of the race – to put the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet in position to get back on the lead lap should the caution flag wave. Newman was able to do that when a caution came out at lap 328.

Back on the lead lap in 13th place, Newman was able to move up three spots in the closing laps to finish 10th.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 15th.

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 28th. It was Patrick’s 21st career Sprint Cup start and her second at Darlington.

Matt Kenseth won the Southern 500 to score his 27th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Darlington.

Denny Hamlin finished 3.155 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were five caution periods for 25 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish the 367-lap race.

With round 11 of 36 complete, Newman continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He maintained his 17th position in the standings and has 276 points, 147 back of series leader Johnson and 39 points behind 10th-place Harvick. Stewart moved up one spot to 21st in the standings and has 253 points, 170 out of first and 62 behind Harvick. Patrick dropped one spot to 28th in the standings and has 196 points, 227 behind Johnson and 119 away from Harvick.

Fifteen races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Patrick, who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 10 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 18th.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday, May 18 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The non-point-paying event begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by SPEED beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. SPEED’s “RaceDay” begins at 4 p.m. 


In a fast-paced Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway that at one point had only 10 cars on the lead lap, Tony Stewart was poised to score a top-10 finish in one of the most grueling races the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has to offer. But when the checkered flag dropped on the 367-lap contest, Stewart and his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS crossed the stripe in 15th Saturday night.

Stewart was in eighth place on a restart with 59 laps remaining, and coming off turn four of the 1.366-mile oval, the three-time Sprint Cup champion earned his first “Darlington Stripe” after brushing the wall.

When the caution flag waved again on lap 313, Stewart was ninth. He smartly pitted for four fresh tires while his crew checked his Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 machine for right-side damage. With his car getting a clean bill of health, Stewart returned to the track in 11th. It’s as high as he would run the rest of the night.

Another caution on lap 328 provided another opportunity for Stewart to head to the pits and improve his car. Four fresh Goodyears and a track bar adjustment would aid the car’s handling, at least in theory. But when the race returned to green on lap 333, Stewart described the car’s handling as feeling like a “soapy dishrag”. Thankfully, the feeling didn’t last long as the caution flag waved for the final time on lap 335.

Crew chief Steve Addington, feeling something might be amiss with that set of tires, again brought Stewart to pit road. Four new tires were bolted on, and Stewart was 10th for the final restart, with 30 laps remaining.

For those last 30 laps, Stewart dug deep to wring all he could from his No. 14 Chevy. He drove hard around the track’s quirky, egg-shaped confines. But those around Stewart were just a scant quicker, and they took advantage at the beginning of that restart while Stewart’s Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 machine settled into the racetrack. While quick at the end of the race, it wasn’t enough to make up the ground lost during the start of the 30-lap dash to the finish.

Despite the outcome, Stewart gained one position in the championship standings. He rose to 21st and has 253 points, putting him five points out of the top-20 and 62 points outside the top-10.

Fifteen races remain before the 12-driver, 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins Sept. 15 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Only the top-10 in points are locked into the Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. If multiple drivers have the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Scoring a top-10 finish in the Southern 500 was Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS. It was Newman’s fifth top-10 finish of the season and his 10th top-10 in 15 career Sprint Cup starts at Darlington.

Rookie Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Chevrolet SS for SHR, finished 28th. It was Patrick’s 21st career Sprint Cup start and her second at Darlington.

With round 11 of 36 complete, Newman continues to lead the SHR contingent in the championship point standings. He maintained his 17th position in the standings and has 276 points, 147 back of series leader Jimmie Johnson and 39 points behind 10th-place Kevin Harvick. Patrick dropped one spot to 28th place in the standings and has 196 points, 227 behind Johnson and 119 away from Harvick.

Patrick, who is also competing for Rookie of the Year honors against Ricky Stenhouse Jr., finished 10 spots behind Stenhouse, who placed 18th.

Matt Kenseth won the Southern 500 to score his 27th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Darlington.

Denny Hamlin finished 3.155 seconds behind Kenseth in the runner-up spot, while Jeff Gordon, Johnson and Harvick rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Newman comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were five caution periods for 25 laps, with eight drivers failing to finish.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday, May 18 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The non-point-paying event begins at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by SPEED beginning with its pre-race show at 7 p.m. SPEED’s “RaceDay” begins at 4 p.m. 



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