NASCAR Cup Series

Stewart Looking at Positives of Recent Performances

Even when you finish last there can always be positives to find, just ask @TonyStewart .

Stewart ended his first race at the road course of Watkins Glen International since 2012 with a 43rd place finish. A rear gear mechanical failure caused the all the oil in the No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet to dump out.

“When I came off of (Turn) 1 I could feel it like it was kind of pulling heavy and going up through the esses you could hear it let go right at the end of the esses.” Stewart said, describing what had happened to his car that took him out of the race on Lap 56 of the 90 lap race.

Stewart admitted he and the 14 team struggled in some spots during the race but still managed to make improvement throughout the race weekend.

“Through Turn 10 everybody was beating me between Turn 10 and 11. We definitely struggled there, but I think there were parts of the racetrack that we made better from Friday,” Stewart said. “I felt like we gained on it.”

The 44-year-veteran of the sport started the day upfront in the third position and even ran within the top-10 for most of his time on the track.

In a season where he has had only two top-10’s and no top five’s, Stewart’s season worst 43rd place finished marks his third finish outside the top-20 in the last five races and the fourth time he had failed to finish a race this year.

“I guess for me its big picture. The way our season has been we’ve picked up,” he said. “Indy we picked up, Pocono we picked up, we picked up here in qualifying at all three places for sure.”

Despite the outcome, Stewart isn’t wrong the 14 team. They have been improving the last three races and showing speed as they’ve had their best qualifying efforts of the season, qualifying in the top-five in each of the events.

Even without getting the solid finishes the Columbus, Indiana native believes his team is heading in the right direction.

“At the end of the day the results won’t show it, but I think for us it’s … granted it’s three totally different disciplines and packages and all that, but I feel like we are starting to gain some momentum,” Stewart said. “Like I said, it won’t show it at the end of the day on the results, but I feel good about our weekend.”

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


Development Journalists

Jones Hoping to Double Down on Weekend Wins

Two tracks. One driver.

This weekend, @erik_jones will be doing something that doesn’t happen a lot, traveling 979 miles to complete 400 laps of racing. Jones will first be competing in the 150-mile NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Pocono Raceway, and then under the lights in the 250-mile XFINITY Series event at Iowa Speedway.

“I had a pretty positive outlook on the double-header stuff before, but the opportunity to get two wins, honestly, I think is enticing for any driver to be excited,” Jones said this week. “This one will be a little bit tougher, probably the toughest one we have to do all year, double header-wise like this. We race in Pocono and when the race is over we’re going to fly right there and it will be pretty close to even getting in the car in time to make the race.”

It may be considered nothing compared to driving the Indianapolis/Charlotte double, however, running two races in two different states on the same day would seem crazy to most but for Jones it’s almost to be expected. In a year that has seen its fill of highs and lows, he has remained strong during a seemingly hectic year. Once the sun rises on Saturday, the Bryon, Michigan native will begin yet another chapter in his 2015 season.

Jones will begin his first race of the day driving the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports at “The Tricky Triangle.” Although he may not have very much experience at this track, he currently sits third in the NCWTS driver’s standings and has found some success at Pocono.

This includes two top-fives (Camping World Truck and ARCA Racing Series). Jones will also look to narrow the 24 point between him and current Camping World Truck Series point leader Matt Crafton.

After the checkered flag waves in Pocono, the 19-year-old will head to Newton, Iowa to pilot the No. 54 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing. Drew Herring, who practiced and qualified for him in Chicago a few weeks ago, will again be doing the same.

“I feel like me and Drew have been able to collide pretty well on some of the stuff that we have been working on to be better and be closer together on where he is getting the car ready for me,” Jones said. “We did a really good job with that in Chicagoland and even the first time in Iowa wasn’t bad, just not quite what I was looking for. I feel like Drew will have a good idea what to do going back this time. Obviously the 54 team has been good and it’ll be a pretty fun day.”

Iowa Speedway is a track the young talent has gained a lot of experience competing in the Camping World Truck and XFINITY Series. In a total of five starts between both series Jones has five top-10s, one pole and two wins. Two of those five starts came this year.

In his first start at the track this season, he started from the rear of the field and drove to a solid third-place finish in the second-tier series. In his most recent start in “The Hawkeye State,” he started out front and after leading 112 of 200 laps finished there too.

Jones will also look to help the No. 54 team in the owner points battle. The team currently sits fifth, 83 points behind No. 22 of Team Penske who holds the top spot.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


Development Journalists

Blaney, Wood Brothers Looking for Sunnier Days

It is an understatement to say it’s been a rough two weeks for Ryan @Blaney and the Wood Brothers team.

In Daytona, the 21-year-old driver and his race team unloaded with a fast number No. 21 Ford. Unfortunately, qualifying would be cancelled because of weather conditions, sending the Wood Brothers team home due to their lack of owner’s points. Marking the first time since 2010, the organization missed a race at Daytona.

The following week found Blaney along with the Wood Brothers and new sponsor Snap-On Tools heading to Kentucky Speedway in hopes of putting Daytona behind them. Once again, the High Point, NC native would show speed by placing 16th in the opening practice session. However, weather would cancel qualifying, sending the team home.

Now, Blaney, Wood Brothers Racing and new sponsor SKF look to rebound at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

This weekend will mark the young driver’s first trip to NHMS for a Sprint Cup Series race and third for any of NASCAR’s touring series. Blaney’s first start at the track came in the Whelen Modified Series, where he’d finish 33rd after a crash took him out early.

His second trip came last year in the Camping World Truck Series, which went better as he qualified fourth and ended up finishing 10th. Blaney may not have much experience at this racetrack, but he has more trips to NHMS in the last seven years than the team that fields the No. 21 in the Sprint Cup Series.

The Wood Brothers made their last appearance at the Loudon track in September 2008. Bill Elliott, 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee, was their driver and came home 29th. Less than seven years later, the team now aligned with Team Penske (who won all Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series races at NHMS) will hope to better that finish with Blaney.

This weekend will also mark the start of a three-race sponsorship deal with SKF, who is reuniting with Blaney. The company sponsored two races last year during his Sprint Cup Series debut and first start at Talladega where he led laps.

“I’m looking forward to giving SKF a good solid run,” Blaney said this week.

It was also announced in this release that SKF will also sponsor the Wood Brothers at Bristol and Chicagoland later in the year.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway gives new hope to this team. The weather forecast for the venue looks good on Friday as the Wood Brothers Racing and Blaney hope to rebound from the last two weekends and shine with their new sponsor SKF.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist