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Dillon Bassett Fighting for K&N East Success

Dillon Bassett, who may be one of the most underrated drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, is fighting for everything he can get.

The 20-year-old driver from Winston Salem, North Carolina is a former champion in the now-defunct UARA Late Model Series and has one career win to date on the K&N East tour. Now, Bassett is hoping for more success with hopes of moving up the ranks.

“We can only be focused on what we’re doing right now,” Bassett told POPULAR SPEED. “We have a lot on our plate right now with trying to run the East series. Always looking for sponsorship. That’s one of the main things to move up nowadays. Just trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got and, if an opportunity presents itself, then we would be more than willing to take it. Just trying to focus on what we’ve got now.”

Bassett scored his first and, to date, only K&N East Series win at Motordrome Speedway in Pennsylvania back in 2015. The following year, he had a strong start in the K&N East Series, but his family owned and operated team suffered a devastating setback in May 2016 when a fire ripped through their Winston Salem race shop.

“Yeah, it happened about halfway through the season last year, and we lost a lot of our stuff, but the good Lord was good to us, and we bounced back,” Bassett said. “We’re here now, and that’s all that matters.”

This season, luck has not been on Bassett’s side with only two top-five finishes in the K&N East Series. Most recently, Bassett led the most laps at Langley Speedway in Virginia, but faded late in the race before being involved in an accident.

Bassett won’t let bad luck keep him down. He’s still determined to show that he has the talent to win races and possibly compete in NASCAR’s upper echelons one day.

“All I can do is I can place 110 percent of my trust in the guys that work in my car in the shop,” Bassett remarked. “Be there when I can. I’m in school full-time as well. Just put my trust in them and when we show up to the racetrack, be as much prepared as we can and give our best effort week in and week out and never give up. That’s where we’ve been at this year. We’ve had a lot of bad luck but we still just been fighting away at it trying to get the best finishes that we can even though things haven’t gone our way a lot.

“All we can do is keep fighting and hope that somebody sees and is willing to give me a shot.”

Bassett credits some of his success in the K&N East Series to what he learned racing Late Model Stock Cars in the Carolinas and Virginia. However, the younger of the two Bassett brothers also sees a difference – primarily in the advantage gained through technology and resources by the well-funded teams.

“We learned a lot,” Bassett explained. “A lot of stuff transfers. It seems to me like Late Model racing is a lot different than these things. It seems to me that even the guys with a lot of money in late models don’t always run as good but, if you have a lot of money in this series or so on, it seems to benefit them more. I don’t really understand (why), but all we can do is keep fighting for what we’ve got and just try to compete with these guys on a weekly basis and try to win races.”

While Bassett is looking ahead in his career, there is still one thing he would like in Late Model Stock Car racing – redemption in one of the biggest races, the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 at Martinsville Speedway.

In 2013, Bassett was involved in a thrilling duel for the win with Lee Pulliam, Deac McCaskill, Matt Waltz and Tommy Lemons, Jr., but a series of late cautions changed the complexion of the race. Bassett had the lead coming to a green-white-checkered restart, but Lemons ended up taking the top spot in the most controversial restart in the event’s history and scoring the victory, while Bassett came away with a heartbreaking runner-up finish.

Feeling like he is owed one, Bassett would love to compete in this year’s race, which will be held on September 23rd – the first event under Martinsville Speedway’s new permanent LED lighting system.

“I don’t know if Martinsville owes me one but NASCAR sure as hell owes me one,” Bassett stated. “I’d love to man. I’ve been talking about it all year. Under the lights, that’s just something that any driver would want to experience. Especially since it’s new and the Late Model race is going to be the first one to do it. Don’t really have a car or ride set for that race but with it being this close, it probably won’t happen, but I would love to do it.”

This weekend, Bassett will turn his attention to the twists and turns of the 2.25-mile Thunderbolt Raceway road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Saturday’s JustDrive.com 125.  It will be Bassett’s first start at the New Jersey track.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks News

NASCAR NEXT Driver Hailie Deegan Makes Transition to Asphalt

Hailie Deegan has carved out her own reputation in off road racing as the “Dirt Princess,” but now she’s making the transition to asphalt as she competes in late model events in North Carolina.

The 16-year-old from Temecula, California, who was named to the 2017 NASCAR NEXT class, recently began chasing pavement in various Super Late Model races. Teamed up with Bond Suss Racing, Deegan has already started having success – leading laps in a Fast Five Pro Late Model Series event at Southern National Motorsports Park in August.

“I raced a little bit of asphalt back in California, just a couple races in a slower Late Model car but these cars are pretty big and a lot faster,” Deegan told POPULAR SPEED. “I think I’m really good at setting fast lap times.  I need a little more work in being around people. In off road racing, where I come from, it’s all about passing people within one second. Here, it’s like, you could be trying to pass someone for 10 laps.

“It’s just a different type of racing which I’m still trying to learn.”

Hailie Deegan is the daughter of the off-road racing icon and X-Games legend Brian Deegan. In her own off-road career, she has already had success, becoming the first woman to win a race in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series. While she has shifted gears, literally and figuratively, and is focusing on her asphalt mostly, she still competes off-road.

“My dad and me, we came from off road racing which I currently still race in,” Deegan remarked. “I race in the Pro Lite Class which is an all age open from 15-years-old on. So I’m racing that and asphalt.”

It’s the success she has already had, along with the desire to take on a new discipline, that made Deegan want to transition to asphalt racing.

“I think, in off-road, I’ve been doing really well and I ventured out seeing what else I could do that would make me that much better,” Deegan explained. “Coming to asphalt racing, it’s a whole new game for me. It’s a whole new thing I’m learning and so, I think, coming to asphalt, it will teach me a lot more abilities.”

At Southern National Motorsports Park, a NASCAR-sanctioned 4/10-mile oval in Lucama, North Carolina, Deegan immediately took a liking to the track.

“It reminds me of a track that I raced at back in California called Kern County,” Deegan commented. “It’s just a smaller version of that with the banking and the straightaways. It’s a little smaller than Kern County, but I’ve raced there, and it’s pretty similar, and I’m catching on pretty quick.”

Now that the teenager from California is starting to find her groove in asphalt racing, she has decided to make her career in NASCAR. Deegan is a member of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class – a program initiated by NASCAR to shine the spotlight on up-and-coming racers competing in the developmental ranks.

“I’m looking more toward the pavement side because I think I can have a bigger, better career with that side,” Deegan elaborated. “I know off road will always be there. That’s where I started, and I love it, and I can always go back there.”

So far, though, things are going well as she’s already gotten media recognition Speed51.com, a short track media outlet owned and operated by Bob Dillner, recently said Deegan was the top female racing prospect in the nation in their annual Short Track Draft.  Despite the pressure from that and her last name, it does not seem to faze the poised and confident racer.

“I think, yes that has put pressure on me,” Deegan remarked. “But, I think pressure is good.  It makes me do better.”

Deegan is not the first driver to join the NASCAR ranks from the off-road racing world. Seven-time and defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion also started out in off-road before moving east and running ASA – logging his first laps in a late model at Southern National.

“I think I see all these other people coming into asphalt racing that came from dirt and they have these great abilities, being able to drive a loose car and being more aggressive,” Deegan stated. “So I think it’s definitely going to help me with my off road racing background, especially seeing that there’s been some competitive big names that have come from the same background.”

Along with racing in Super Late Models on the East Coast, Deegan, who is backed by Monster Energy and Toyota, recently tested in a NASCAR K&N Pro Series car for Bill McAnally Racing in Irwindale, California.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks News

Intensity Level Rising in K&N Title Fight

HAMPTON, VA – Two of NASCAR racing’s hottest prospects are locked in a tight championship battle in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in what could be a preview of future title fights in NASCAR’s upper echelons.

After picking up a win at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia on Monday, 16-year-old Todd Gilliland took over the K&N East points lead. Gilliland has a six marker advantage over his main championship rival, 15-year-old Harrison Burton, and both drivers have been relatively evenly matched.

On Monday, Gilliland, the son of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitor David Gilliland, made a late race pass on Dillon Bassett and pulled away from the Chase Purdy in the final laps to score his fourth K&N East victory of the year – tying Burton in number of wins in the eastern tour.

“This is a crucial part of the season overall,” Gilliland said afterward. “With there only being 14 races, all of them are very important. This one is huge for us, taking the lead. We had some bad luck to start the year off but, man, we’ve come on strong in these summer months. We’ve just got two more races to go get it.”

While Gilliland lavished in victory lane, Burton languished.

Burton, son of NBC Sports broadcaster and former MENCS racer Jeff Burton, struggled throughout much of the day. During the race, Burton fought valiantly, but was only able to come away with a seventh place finish and, as a result, watched his four point lead become a six point deficit.

“It was a tough race for us,” Burton remarked. “We didn’t have the handle on the car all week. We’ve got to win the next two, that’s what we have to do. It’s something we’re really capable of. We’ve got to go to the road course and win and I know I’m capable of it. I believe in my team, and we’re going to have a great car. Then we’ve got to go to Dover and take care of business there.”

With two races remaining, the K&N Series standouts will now turn their attention to the 2.25-mile road course at New Jersey Motorsports Park on September 16th, and both drivers are confident entering the event.

Todd Gilliland has fared well at the road courses so far in 2017. In the most recent road course race at Watkins Glen International, Gilliland finished second to Will Rodgers. Heading to New Jersey, Gilliland is already looking to gain an advantage.

“We’re driving all night after this race to go test at New Jersey,” Gilliland said. “We’re going to try to give ourselves the best chance we’ve got. That’s all we can do.”

Harrison Burton, who finished third at Watkins Glen, is equally optimistic about the New Jersey race.

“That’s my best road course I run at,” Burton remarked. “Really excited to get going to New Jersey. It’s a great racetrack, a lot of fun. We get tires at the halfway break, so that plays into my favor. I’ve never been too good at saving tires. I like going 100 percent, but, we’ve got to go and do what we’ve got to do.”

Both drivers come from NASCAR pedigree and have had plenty of success in short track racing – Burton in Super Late Models and Gilliland in Late Model Stock Cars.

Burton recently won the New Smyrna World Series of Asphalt championship as well as the Speedfest 200 Super Late Model race in Georgia.  Gilliland, who won last year’s K&N West championship and is poised to defend that title, won the inaugural race for the CARS Late Model Stock Tour in North Carolina back in 2015 before moving up the ladder and into the K&N Series. Both drivers have also made starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and are members of the 2017-18 NASCAR NEXT class.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks News

Drive for Diversity Driver Macy Causey Gaining Notoriety

HAMPTON, VA – On a hot summer night in Virginia, Macy Causey prepared to compete in one of the biggest Late Model Stock Car races in the country, the Hampton Heat 200 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, before a sea of fans ready to cheer her on.

The 16-year-old from Yorktown, Virginia is a third-generation racer who recently made NASCAR racing history when she became the first woman to win a Late Model Stock Car race at the historic South Boston Speedway. Before the victory, Causey had already generated buzz, being featured on NBC News and other prominent media outlets nationally and locally in the Hampton Roads area.

Her win at South Boston only made her even more prolific.

“It’s been a whirlwind.  Getting that first win, it all comes after that,” Causey told POPULAR SPEED. “Hopefully it’s just the first win of very many.  I worked with what I’ve got and what I had that night and worked with my crew chief, and we got it figured out.  It was the right time, (the) right place, so it happened.”

Earlier this year, she was selected as part of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Class of 2017 and competes with Rev Racing in select Late Model Stock Car races.  The D4D was a program created by NASCAR, currently partnered with Rev Racing, to get more minority and female drivers into NASCAR.  In its 12 year history, the initiative has propelled the careers of many NASCAR competitors, such as Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez, Aric Almirola and Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Rev Racing fields a car in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East as well as in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model Stock Car racing.  Causey races on the Late Model team, predominantly at her home track, Langley Speedway. While the K&N Series program has had success throughout the years, Rev Racing’s Late Model program has not yielded the same success against regional powerhouse racers such as Philip Morris and Lee Pulliam.

That made Causey’s victory at South Boston all the more impressive in being the first Late Model Stock Car win for Rev Racing in five years. Next year, having already proven herself capable of winning races, she hopes her South Boston triumph can help propel her through the ranks with Rev Racing into the K&N Series.

“My next step is definitely K&N, you know,” Causey explained.  “I got Rev Racing their first Late Model win in five years, and I’m the youngest one they’ve accepted onto the program, so hopefully I’ve proven a lot. But I’m just going to keep doing my thing and hopefully next year, when they choose that spot for K&N, they look at my name quite a few times.”

Causey is a third-generation racer.  She is the granddaughter of Diane Teal, the first woman to win a NASCAR track championship, and the daughter of Dee Causey.  For her part, Macy Causey hopes to have a career in racing.

“My grandmother, Diane Teel, she was the first woman to win a NASCAR sanctioned race here at Langley Speedway,” the younger Causey said.  “I started racing when I was eight years old, Bandoleros here at Langley, won championships.  I race, my mom raced, I’m a third-generation female race car driver, so I kind of grew up in racing, all around racing.  I’ve been around racing especially with my family, so it’s definitely a habit for me.  I’m super excited for the rest of my career and what I’m going to be doing.”

At Langley Speedway, Causey certainly is a favorite among the fans.  During July’s Hampton Heat 200, the first of four Late Model Stock Car majors to be run this year, thousands of fans congregated at the track, and many were sporting her colors – t-shirts, mostly pink, with her name and number on the front and a picture of her car on the back.

“It’s super exciting to have all these fans that support me and travel around across the East Coast and supporting me,” Causey commented.  “It’s great, and I love it.”

In recent years, women have become more accepted in the sport.  In the four Mid-Atlantic states that predominantly run Late Model Stock Cars (South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Eastern Tennessee), the ladies have turned up the wick and become very successful.  Causey joins a growing list of female drivers who have scored significant accomplishments in recent years, which was seemingly kick-started when Haley Moody won a championship at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, North Carolina in 2014.

Despite the growing acceptance, Causey does face backlash and criticism even still – but, with her famously positive attitude, she does not let it get to her.

“I’ve had a few people tell me nasty comments, but you can’t let that get to you,” Causey remarked.  “Right before you’re about get into a car going 120mph, and you let someone tell you that you’re not an aggressive driver, you can’t let it get to you, so I try my best not to let that happen and let it come with my success.  Clearly, it’s done me pretty good.”

The growing participation of women in the sport is something Causey welcomes.  Her win at South Boston made her the second female in as many years to win a Whelen All-American Series Division I Late Model Stock Car race, joining Kate Dallenbach who picked up a historic victory at Hickory Motor Speedway last spring.

“It’s great,” Causey explained.  “The more females we get out there and winning races, the more it shows how much more room there is in the Cup Series for females in the sport and what it’s definitely going to take.”

Like many other female racers, Causey credits Danica Patrick for laying a foundation for women to compete in NASCAR’s top ranks.  However, Causey wants to leave her own mark in NASCAR racing.

“Danica’s definitely laid down a great path in our sport, but I think it’s time for new females and new talent to pick up where Danica has left off,” Causey said.  “I don’t want to be the next Danica, or Dale, Jr.  I want to be Macy Causey.”

So far, Causey is doing just that with a growing fanbase as she racks up accolades.  Along with her win at South Boston Speedway, Causey was the youngest woman to make the field the Late Model Stock Car racing’s richest and most prestigious race at Martinsville Speedway last October. It was a feat no woman had accomplished in the event’s modern era until she, Moody and Annabeth Barnes-Crum all raced their way in last year.

Now, Causey is looking to the future, with the sky as her limit.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Chad Finchum Set for XFINITY Debut at Dover

Chad Finchum has dreamed about racing in a NASCAR National Touring Series event his entire life and, on Saturday, that dream will come true when the Tennessee driver makes his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut.

The 22-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee is a former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion at Tennessee’s Kingsport Speedway and a past winner in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East.  Now, he has finally reached the upper echelon of NASCAR racing as he heads East to compete in Saturday’s One Main Financial 200 at Dover International Speedway, driving for Carl Long and MBM Motorsports.

“It’s nuts,” Finchum told POPULAR SPEED.  “It’s something I’ve waited on for a long, long time.  It’s been a journey.  Racing Late Models and trying to run for track championships and state championships and going from grassroots-style racing, being the backbone of the sport, into where ultimately everybody tries to get to, I just, I’m blessed to have the opportunity.  I’m going to try to make the best of it.

“XFINITY takes a lot of money obviously, and we’ve only got one sponsor with us. They’re going to be on the hood of the car.  (A) new company, Overstock Mercantile, they’ve been with us in Late Models this year, and we’ve grown with them.  They’re taking me to XFINITY.  It’s honestly an underfunded team, Carl Long is a great guy, and he’s got pretty good cars.  When you’re running against Gibbs, RCR, it’s going to be tough.”

Finchum is not looking to set the world on fire at Dover.  He just hopes to log laps, gain experience and come away with a decent result.

“I think the goal this weekend is just to get out there and finish the race and learn,” Finchum said.  “This is going to be my first time doing live pit stops and being on a radial tire.  It’s going to be my first time in one of these XFINITY cars, and it’s 300 pounds heavier than what I’m used to in a K&N or Late Model.  They’ve got more power.”

Along with learning about the car, Finchum will also have to adapt to a different style of racing.

“Got knockout qualifying and stage racing, there’s a lot of things coming up that’s new to me,” Finchum remarked.  “The main goal is to get out there and not tear anything up, qualify good, run good, learn, be safe and bring the car home in one piece and see if we can go further.”

Last season, Chad Finchum picked up a K&N Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.  That win has given him confidence heading into Saturday’s race at the similar, albeit larger, Dover racetrack – a venue where he has two career starts in K&N Series competition.

“It’s kind of funny because this track was handpicked for a reason,” Finchum commented.  “One, NASCAR’s approval process, Dover was the next thing on my list before I’m approved for mile and a half tracks.  And, another reason, which is a good reason, I’ve been there twice in the K&N Series, both times for Martin McClure Racing.  Dover is basically a times two Bristol.  It’s just a bigger, faster Bristol.  The feel that it gives you as a driver, the way you drive the track is almost identical to Bristol; it’s just bigger and faster.  I’ve raced at Bristol many times, Dover twice, they’re similar, concrete, high-banked.”

Generally speaking, concrete breeds confidence for Finchum.  In 2013, he won a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship in a Late Model Stock Car at Kingsport Speedway in Tennessee – a 3/8-mile concrete track.

“Running at Kingsport, it being concrete, I’ve got a lot of concrete experience, and I think that’s going to help tremendously,” Finchum stated.  “I’ve given a lot of that success up when we won the Bristol race; I contributed quite a bit of that to running at Kingsport and knowing the simple things really.  That’s all racing is.  You just don’t want to go out there, practice in the heat of the day and race at night and dial your car in for something you won’t be doing.  I think that’s why we’ve done so well at Bristol in the K&N Series.”

Even though Saturday’s race will be run in daylight, Finchum’s experience at Kingsport, and at Bristol, has given him some knowledge of what to expect as the temperature changes throughout the weekend at Dover.

“Having that concrete experience under my belt, I knew what a concrete track would do with heat, rubber or whatever Mother Nature threw our way,” Finchum explained.  “We’ve used what we learned at Kingsport over there, and that’s what we’re going to do at XFINITY at Dover.  We practice and qualifying in the morning when it’s cool outside, (and) then you race in the afternoon when it’s hotter so I think there’s a couple (of) things that could play to our favor having the concrete experience that could work in our favor for the end of the race.”

Having excelled in both Late Models and K&N, Finchum now hopes to excel in NASCAR’s major leagues and fulfill a lifelong dream as he hopes to one day race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  Despite that recent success, he has not forgotten where he started. Last weekend, Finchum won a Late Model Stock Car event at Kingsport Speedway, besting a field of 21 cars.

The One Main Financial 200 will commence at 1 pm EST on Saturday and can be seen live on Fox Sports 1 (FS1).

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Commentary

Texas, Not Las Vegas, Should Be Considered for NASCAR Championship Race

State legislators in Texas would like to see the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship decided at the Texas Motor Speedway, and it might not be a bad move.

Last week, the Texas State Legislature passed a bill that makes a proverbial championship race at Texas Motor Speedway, or the Monster Energy All-Star Race eligible for the state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program.  The program is used to help lure big events to the Lonestar state, such as the Super Bowl or the NCAA Final Four.

“They want to be able to go after those races, just like we try to court a Super Bowl or any other major sporting event,” Rep. Tan Parker, a Republican who represents the district Texas Motor Speedway is in, said in an Associated Press report. “They will immediately go after them as best they can, and this gives them a tool in their tool box to be aggressive when competing with other venues.”

The Cup Series championship race has been held at Homestead-Miami Speedway every year since 2002, but once in awhile, rumors circulate about the finale being moved.  Recently, there has been speculation about the event moving to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it will remain in Homestead at least through the 2018 season.

However, if NASCAR does have intentions to move the finale elsewhere, Texas should be considered.  While the 1.5-mile oval might not produce the most exciting racing, the old saying “everything is bigger in Texas” might be right for a championship race in the Lone Star State.

The main reason I would like to see the finale in Texas is due to speedway promoter Eddie Gossage.

Gossage, who worked under Humpy Wheeler before assuming his role at Texas Motor Speedway when it opened in 1997, is known for bold advertising campaigns, spectacular pre-race shows and generating buzz.  And I, for one, would love to see what Gossage could do if he was gifted the opportunity to promote the championship race.

The racing may be procedural at Texas Motor Speedway, but the track is not much different to Atlanta Motor Speedway, which held the finale through 2001, and it is the same length as Homestead-Miami Speedway.  Despite being derided as “cookie cutters” by fans, holding the finale at an intermediate track makes logical sense since much of the schedule consists of those circuits.

Having the finale at a short track, road course or restrictor plate track would create a more entertaining race, but it would also be like holding the Stanley Cup Finals on a basketball court or the NBA Finals on a hockey rink.  The championship event, whether it remains at one venue or alternates like the Super Bowl, should be held at a track that resembles what is raced on throughout the majority of the season.

The Dallas-Ft. Worth (DFW) market has become one of America’s great sports towns and NASCAR racing has been a part of that.  They have hosted the Super Bowl, the NCAA Final Four and the College Football championship game.  NASCAR should be next.

Why not?

Let Eddie Gossage have his fun, because it might be entertaining for all of us.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Confidence Growing for Rookie Erik Jones

With his fourth straight top-15 finish, rookie Erik Jones feels Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway was a confidence boost.

Jones had an up-and-down day at Martinsville, involved in a wreck with 82 laps to go, but rebounded to finish 12th.

“Martinsville has never been my friend,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “You know, we did a good job all week.  We got better in practice.  We had a good car, I thought, in practice.  Started off the race and just kind of exaggerated the struggles we had all weekend and caught that a lot of the day.  Thought we were making gains on it at one point and then kind of went backwards.

“By the end of the race, we were the best we had been all day all tore up, so I don’t know what that means but the Five Hour Energy Camry, I thought, was probably a 10th place car maybe at the end.  I don’t know.  We ran up there, sixth, seventh for a little bit.  After that, we kind of struggled to stay up there.”

In the big picture, Jones is set to continually improve each week.  After surprising himself at Martinsville, Jones feels the team is accomplishing their goals for the season and knocking on the door of contending.

“Our goal was to get subtly better,” Jones explained.  “At least that was my goal for the team.  I feel like we’ve done that.  I knew this was going to be our biggest challenge of all the racetracks we’ve gone to this year and it was.  I feel like we struggled the most with handling for sure this weekend but we did a good job of improving on it.  We’ll go to Texas next week and that’s a little bit more of our forte so hopefully we can get up and run inside the top-five like we did at Auto Club and seal one out.”

While Jones feels confident about next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway and fellow intermediates, the next short track on the schedule – Bristol Motor Speedway on April 23 – is on his radar. The half-mile is similar to what Jones cut his teeth on when he was racing in Super Late Models, such as the high banked, half-mile Winchester Speedway in Indiana.

“I like Bristol a lot,” Jones said.  “That reminds me a lot of the tracks I grew up racing Late Models on.  It’s always fun to go back there.  I struggled the first couple times I went there but the last few times I’ve been there in the XFINITY car, we’ve had really good speed and felt like we had winning cars each time.  We’ll keep working at it and I know Bristol will be a fun one for us.”

Erik Jones will ride the wave of momentum into Texas as he prepares for double duty, competing in Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race and Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

AJ Allmendinger Records Another Strong Martinsville Finish

AJ Allmendinger picked up his second top-10 finish of 2017 in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, his third consecutive at the half-mile.

The driver of the No. 47 started 30th and methodically raced his way into contention, recording a sixth-place finish. After the event, Allmendinger attributed his success to his road course background.

“It’s for sure a little bit like road course racing,” Allmendiner told POPULAR SPEED. “I just think driver can make a bit more of a difference here.  You know, get to the mile-and-a-half, two mile racetracks, aero is a lot of it.  That’s something we’re continuously working on.  We worked hard on the west coast swing.  We learned a lot.  Finishes didn’t show it but felt like we learned a lot aero-wise for those bigger racetracks.  Coming here, it’s just about, got to have a good car.  This car was freaking hooked up.  Once we got it right, long runs, it was just an awesome racecar.”

Allmendinger added this was the first race back for crew chief Randall Burnett, who got suspended for three races due to a lug nut violation at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“Can’t thank everyone at Kroger, Click List, all of our associates, everybody at the shop, Randall Burnett, have him back after the suspension,” he added.  “I wish we would have stayed green for about 120 laps because I think I could have ate these guys alive.  All in all, solid day.”

While he leaves Martinsville pleased, Allmendinger feels there is still work to be done before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway.

“Texas is so different, brand new racetrack now,” Allmendinger stated.  “More aero-dependent.  We’ve got to work on it.  These Cup races, they’re hard to have great runs in.  So, any time you can have a great run, especially after the west coast swing, the penalty, all that, any time you get a good run, it’s important.”

Allmendinger unofficially sits 26th in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points after Sunday’s STP 500.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andymarquis@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

Chase Briscoe Survives Eventful Martinsville Race

Chase Briscoe‘s first Martinsville start was eventful, to say the least.

The rookie started Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 in the eighth and was involved in a handful of incidents.  He got loose under Noah Gragson on Lap 101, resulting in the Toyota driver going around.  Then on Lap 160, he was the victim of a three-wide battle, looping around off Kaz Grala’s front bumper.

“Personally, I wasn’t upset,” Briscoe told POPULAR SPEED. “I was pretty calm on that whole deal. It’s part of racing here. Like I said, I did it to a couple guys and it happened to me so it’s part of racing here. Nothing to get mad about, got to know going into it.”

Briscoe says the multiple incidents are a byproduct of the tight racing at Martinsville.

“I didn’t mean to do it, just an aspect of this kind of racing,” he added. “It’s unfortunate, we tear up really good trucks.  It’s definitely an up and down day for our Cooper Standard Ford F-150.  Move onto Kansas.  I feel like we have a really good mile-and-a-half program.  We felt like we made gains all weekend here.  Be ready for the next one.”

Throughout the race, Briscoe felt his worst enemy was track position.

“We just couldn’t have track position,” Briscoe explained.  “We were running third there for a little bit and got into Crafton and knocked the tow out and a couple other things.  It seemed like every restart we were up front, we just had to start at the top and battle for that bottom line.  Got shuffled back there at the end.  Overall, like I said, feel like we had really good speed, felt like it’s an improvement and keep going on.”

Briscoe’s wild race concluded when Cody Coughlin spun off his front bumper coming to the checkered flag.  The Brad Keselowski Racing driver, who finished 11th, stated it was not intentional.

“I just got in there and we were obviously both going for the bottom,” Briscoe said.  “Just got in there really hot, he was trying to pinch me down, I was trying to run him up at the same time.  Just part of racing.”

The 2016 ARCA Racing Series Champion had a top-five finish at Daytona back in February and a fast truck in Atlanta.  However, a flat tire relegated him to a 25th place finish in Atlanta.  Despite some hard luck, Briscoe feels they are competitive and stronger finishes are coming.

“I really feel like we’ve been fastest everywhere we went,” Briscoe commented.  “We’ve led practice everywhere this year.  Had a really good truck at Atlanta, just had a flat tire and it cost us a good finish.  We really felt like, honestly, we were going to struggle here.  To run top-three most of the day is something to be happy about.”

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andy.marquis@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.       

Categories
Trucks

Brandon Brown Hoping for Strong Martinsville Run

Martinsville Speedway is a home race for Brandon Brown in a sense and he’s hoping for a strong showing in Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250.

The Woodbridge, Virginia native will be making his third Martinsville appearance and 22nd NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start on Saturday. He had a fast truck in Friday’s lone practice session, posting a lap of 20.721 seconds on scuff tires.

“I feel really good about this weekend,” Brown told Popular Speed.  “We brought the backup truck that I always call Wise.  It’s got a lot of experience.  It’s a little older truck but it still holds its own.  That was shown yesterday in practice.  The first run out of the gate, the first 28 cars, we were sitting seventh for quite some time.  Fighting there in the top-10.  Our timesheet didn’t show what the truck had because we never mocked up for a sticker run like a lot of the other drivers did so, I think we ended up 24th overall on the timesheet.

“We were consistently running where a lot of people were setting their fast laps and I think that’s going to be crucial today, especially with the really long final segment, trying to squeeze out everything you can, staying out as late as you can fuel wise and tire wise to try to get a chance to take home some checkers.”

Along with a quick truck, Brown has a lot of support after a social media campaign kicked off during the week.  The Twitter handles for 680 fans are represented on the bed of his No. 44 Brandonbilt Motorsports truck.

“We did a huge push this week on social media,” Brown explained.  “Honestly, we started the tweets and all our social media really because we were doing a fundraiser for Relay for Life.  We were trying to build a little bit of a following on the page so we decided that it was time to give back to the fans and really show some love since they’re showing love for us.  So, we decided that we would draw a lucky handful of names out of people who retweeted and favorited and followed our page and a lucky 680 names were picked and are laid across the bed of the truck this weekend.

“It really blew up huge.  We had a couple big names who supported it.  Dale Earnhardt, Jr. retweeted it, Michael Waltrip, Bristol Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.  A couple big Twitter accounts helped on that push.  I’d like to thank them.  Other than that, it was great to get a lot of great feedback and responses on that.”

Brown has run periodically in the Truck Series for the past three seasons, with a career best finish to-date of fourth last February at Daytona.  He is also running some NASCAR XFINITY Series events, with a best finish of 23rd in four starts.

“We’re definitely looking to start running XFINITY now,” Brown said.  “The truck efforts have been really good and it’s been really fun but the goal is to eventually move out so we’re just starting out part-time with one car.  We’re partnered up with King Autosport and Mario Gosselin this year to try and make some starts, get some seat time, race against the drivers, feel it out, feel out the series and what it would take.  I think we’ve been really successful with that so far with Atlanta this season but we’re getting ready and preparing for Richmond International Raceway which is another home Virginia track for us.

The XFINITY effort won’t take Brown away from trucks, though, with plans for more races.

“I know our next actual race we’re going to run is Charlotte in the trucks,” Brown remarked.  “We do have a test session coming up at Charlotte which I’m excited about because it will be our first time getting to go out and just test, feel things out and study.  Really looking forward to that and building into a program that could possibly turn into full time.”

Beyond NASCAR, Brown hopes to return to Martinsville for the ValleyStar Credit Union 300, an event he has attempted four times previously. As of now, he has not found an open seat, despite past success at Old Dominion Speedway and Southern National Motorsports Park, but is still hoping to compete in the $25,000-to-win race.

“I was really trying to,” Brown commented.  “I was reaching out to a lot of people to see if anybody had an open seat.  It’s hard, everyone wants to be out here because now it’s going to be run under the lights which is huge, it’s historic for this track, so I think everybody’s that’s anybody is going to be here.  I’m still holding out hope that there’s a possibility that we can get into it.  I guess we’ll really see who has an open seat.”

The Alpha Energy Solutions at Martinsville Speedway will go green at 3pm EST and can be seen live on Fox and Fox Sports Go.

E-MAIL ANDY AT  andy.marquis@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.