Categories
Trucks

Hemric Posts Sixth Top Ten Finish of 2016 At Texas

Brad Keselowski Racing’s Daniel Hemric had one of the fastest trucks on Friday night for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’s Rattlesnake 400 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hemric led twice for 19 laps early on, and faded as far back as 17th toward the end before battling back to a 10-place finish.

“[I’m] just really confident in my group of guys, not that I wasn’t last year, but to have the momentum we have from Charlotte, building a brand new truck and bringing that same truck here, we’re all as confident as we can be,” Hemric told POPULAR SPEED. It’s heartbreaking we haven’t been able to put the whole deal together yet, but it’s not for a lack of effort.”

Despite being winless, the second-year driver is having a championship-contending season and sits fourth in the points standings, just 26 behind leader Matt Crafton.

“We’re building on it. I’ve got a better idea of where I need to be practicing in the daylight to be good here in these night races. Crew chief Chad Kendrick’s making great calls and we’re putting ourselves in position,” he said.

“You know we’ve had some stuff like this happen a couple of times this year, but at the end of the day we’ve got speed — we’re putting ourselves in that position. If you keep doing that, all the other stuff will follow. It can be frustrating at times, but it’ll all work out.”

Hemric was adamant that it wasn’t dumb racing luck that kept his team out of the winner’s circle this year, but knows his team has to execute so they can post a winning result.

“It’s minor stuff. We’ve just got to do a better job as a whole. I can be better, we can be better obviously, because we haven’t won a race yet. But I promise you nobody’s working harder than we are.”

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

Categories
Trucks

John Hunter Nemechek Rebounds At Texas

After three consecutive finishes of 12th or worse, John Hunter Nemechek rebounded with a seventh-place showing at Texas in Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

The Mooresville, N.C. native started 23rd and had an up-and-down night until crucial adjustments to his No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports truck improved the handling, and he advanced toward the front.

“We got off a little bit on setup there during the race [and] needed to have our truck a little bit better,” Nemechek told POPULAR SPEED. “We made gains on it all night that were positive so I can’t thank my guys enough for making all the right adjustments.”

“We just needed some more at the end. We’ll go back and talk about it and see what we can do.”

Friday’s run in the Rattlesnake 400 gives Nemechek plenty of momentum as the series heads to Iowa next weekend.

“It definitely feels good,” he said. “We’re focusing on all of our racing stuff. We’re not really too worried about our qualifying position, even though it’s hard to drive through the field, [but] starting up front can only help it.”

Nemechek has had mixed fortunes at the Newton track, finishing 23rd there last year, but having scored a top ten at the track two years ago in only his sixth NCWTS start can only be a good omen.

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Categories
Trucks

Abreu Earns First Top-10 Finish

ThorSport Racing’s Rico Abreu put on a show during the closing laps of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Rattlesnake 400 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night.

Abreu’s teammate Matt Crafton was leading late in the race before handling issues allowed both William Byron and then Abreu to get past with a handful of laps to go. As Abreu closed in on Byron, he caught air and kissed the wall. Abreu’s truck slid back as the laps wound down, and he finished ninth.

“I figured I maybe could’ve cleared [Byron] off of four maybe coming to the white [flag] but I just got too tight behind [Byron] and got into the wall and you can’t have that stuff happening,” Abreu told reporters. “You just can’t be doing that in the truck races, they’re so aero dependent and it’s relying on how straight those bodies are and if you keep hitting the wall, you’re going to tear them up.

“[I was] just getting my momentum going up top. That’s the line you’ve got to run, and when it gets hot and slick like that and your tires get wore out, I just felt so comfortable up there.”

Abreu said it was the most fun he’d had in a NCWTS race, but the biggest detriment to his run was the caution clock.

“I just would get my momentum broke every run but I kept having confidence because we’d get back to them and it’s unfortunate for the caution clock in that situation. You know, we need green flag runs and the caution clock hurt us there but that’s how they want it and that’s how it is. I think it should be removed,” Abreu said.

It didn’t work out this time, but Abreu thinks he can get the job done at some point.

“Doug George my crew chief, ThorSport Racing, they built a great truck for this weekend and I just smashed it all. I hope I can have some more solid runs. It wasn’t the run we wanted but at least we finished this one,” Abreu said.

“I got a lot of confidence, that’s for sure. I’ve got speed. I’ve just got to put a whole damn night together, and I haven’t figured that part out yet.”

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Categories
IndyCar

Graham Rahal Excited for 2016, Mentor Role with Spencer Pigot

INDIANAPOLIS — Graham Rahal isn’t accustomed to being the senior driver within a race team.

At least, not until this year.

For at least three races, Rahal has a new teammate in 2015 in Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot. The 22-year-old top prospect is the only change that has come to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and the 27-year-old anticipates playing the role of mentor over the next several months.

“These things are going to happen, right,” Rahal said. “I mean over time, you’re going to get that. Yeah, they call me a young gun but I’m not anymore. I’m 27 and there’s a lot of guys who are younger than me. I have high expectations for him and what he can accomplish.”

Despite the addition of a second car at RLLR, Rahal is adamant that he and his team will not experience a drop-off in performance after a very successful 2015.

“We’re going to keep it as it’s been,” Rahal said. “We’re going to keep the group of people that we have, make no changes or as few as possible. You know we had a great year, and you don’t fix what’s not broken. We’ve strengthened the team in a couple of areas but truthfully the core of the team will be the exact same.

“The operations will be the exact same and I’m looking forward to it.”

Rahal hopes that adding Pigot will benefit both cars over the course of the year.

“When when we were looking at a second car, it had to add on to what we were doing on the No. 15. It can’t be a distraction, and that will be the biggest key for Spencer. I think this year, he needs to figure out how he fits into that role, and I’m sure he’s going to do a great job.

“He’s a good kid and you know we’ll just see how it all unfolds here.”

Honda faced an uphill climb in order to be competitive last season, but Rahal isn’t entirely sure where his manufacturer stands compared to Chevrolet — at least not yet.

“Our plan is to beat them and that’s what we’re here for,” Rahal said. “So I think they’ve progressed quite a ways, but I would also fully anticipate that Chevrolet has too. We don’t do this to finish second and that’s the long and the short of it.”

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Categories
IndyCar

Josef Newgarden Relaxed Despite Radical 2016 Changes

The world of Josef Newgarden was suddenly turned upside down during the off-season.

His car owner at CFH Racing, Wink Hartman, sold his stake in the team last month when the decline of oil inhibited his ability to participate in the Verizon IndyCar Series. This left the team solely in the hands of Ed Carpenter and the organization has been rechristened Ed Carpenter Racing for the 2016 season.

With that said, Newgarden has been retained and he remains confident that he can contend for wins and the championship this season.

“There’s definitely been a difference in the team this year, but I think I’m probably more relaxed this year than any season before for one reason or the other,” Newgarden said. “I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because we had a couple of wins last year and it’s amazing what that does to you to relax you and bring you into a better place mentally.

“So for me, I feel comfortable.”

Carpenter will continue to pilot the No. 20 on ovals this season, but without funding, his team will only focus on Newgarden on road and street courses. While that could be viewed as a detriment for Newgarden, he believes they have a good enough notebook to continue improving.

“I know the guys have been working hard on making this a two car, full-time effort, but I’m not too worried about running one and a half cars either,” Newgarden said. “I like having a strong teammate. Last year, Luca Filippi was a fantastic teammate, really great to work with, always providing something to learn and build upon and I think it was a source of strength.

“But I think going forward, I’m not concerned either way it swings.”

Despite all the changes for Newgarden, an otherwise stable off-season gives him confidence that the team will remain a threat to win from week-to-week.

“We always go through a big process in the off-season of how are we going to improve everything,” Newgarden said. “That starts with what I’m doing in the car, what the engineers are doing and how we’re interpreting the data.

“We’re looking and everything we can do to develop the car, and I think each of those processes have been refined and made better with the same core group. I think that’s been the big difference for us is having the same core group of people to work with (and that’s) made it easier to make gains.

“For us, we try to refine that process. We work a lot with simulation and the engineers and I think that’s what’s going to make the difference for us going into this season.”

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

Categories
IndyCar

Simon Pagenaud Expects Sophomore Surge for Penske

Simon Pagenaud should feel like he has more pressure on his shoulders as the 2016 IndyCar Series season draws closer — especially after a winless debut with Team Penske.

Not so fast, apparently.

“I think I just feel better, actually,” Peagenaud said. “I feel more ready for the situation. I think last year there were so many unknowns, you know? I was coming from a team where I was number one for three years with great teammates, but it wasn’t like three teammates of the caliber of Montoya, Castroneves and Power.

“So all of a sudden, I stepped in a big organization without much testing, without knowing much. But now, I know where I stand. I know how to behave, I know what to say, and to be myself.  I feel confident because I know Roger [Penske] and Tim Cindric have full trust in me and that’s golden to me.”

As a result, Pegenaud says he’s both happy and excited and that bodes well for 2016. Last year was the first time Pagenaud has ever experienced a team with the resources of Penske and it took some adjusting for him to ultimately fit in. More to the point, Pagenaud said 2015 taught him a bunch of internal questions, rather than those about performance.

“To be myself, really,” Pagenaud said. “To be yourself and drive for yourself. Drive like you know how to drive and have a good time driving. I’m driving the best car in the paddock, I know it, it showed last year. The performance was there, and it’s about now, growing into my position.”

Pagenaud is in a very special club of drivers across Team Penske’s motorsports empire.  This year marks Penske’s 50th as a team, and coincidentally, it’s the same year as the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. As a result, winning the 500 would be even more special than usual for Team Penske and Pagenaud wants to be the man to deliver that victory to The Captain.

“It’s certainly going to be a huge year for us, 50 years, so obviously we want to do even better for Roger and make it a special year,” Pagenaud added. “He said he wants to win 20 Indy 500s, so that means we have to win another four. So that means we have to continue now, and I want to be the next one.

“Obviously it’s going to be a big, big year, but I like pressure. I like it, it helps me to perform even better.

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