Categories
News

Report: Home Depot to Depart at Season’s End

By Stephanie Adair – A report surfaced yesterday home improvement store Home Depot will end its sponsorship with the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and leave NASCAR as a whole when their contract expires at the end of the season. According to a Monday story in the Sports Business Journal.

Home Depot has had a lengthy relationship with the Joe Gibbs organization sponsoring drivers like three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion @TonyStewart, current Team Penske driver @JoeyLogano and now 2003 Sprint Cup champion @MattKenseth. They began their primary sponsorship for the No. 20 team back in 1999.

In 2011 they sponsored 35 races in the 36-race Sprint Cup Series season with Logano in the cockpit of the car, while in 2012 they scaled back to sponsoring 24 races. The following year, Kenseth became the new driver and the company’s appearance on the No. 20 car dropped to 19 races, with Dollar General picking up the remainder. In 16 of those races, Home Depot’s tool line “Husky Tools” was promoted. Now in 2014, they plan to sponsor only nine races.

Reasons why Home Depot would leave the sport are currently unknown; however it would not be for a lack of team competiveness.

Current driver of the No. 20 car Kenseth challenged six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion @JimmieJohnson for the title last year and grabbed seven victories. After 16 races this season the 42-year-old is winless but sits fourth in driver standings and has 10 top-10 finishes. He is currently the only driver in the top seven in points to have not won.

This season Dollar General is committed to sponsoring the No. 20 car for 27 races, which is 10 more than the previous year. If reports about Home Depot’s departure are true, the variety store could be in a position to become a full-time sponsor for the team.

This is the second sponsor rumor concerning Joe Gibbs Racing in the last week. Previously, it was reported that M&M’s would end their sponsorship with @KyleBusch and join Carl Edwards, who is rumored to be joining the team next season.

These allegations were quickly shot down by team president J.D. Gibbs who stated that the chocolate candy company would stay with Busch, as their contract does not end until 2015.

Home Depot and Joe Gibbs Racing have reportedly declined to make any comments on the current situation.

EMAIL STEPHANIE AT stephanie.adair@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @S_Adair98

Categories
News

Late Record Run Gives Sonoma Pole to Jamie McMurray

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) SONOMA, Calif. – Jamie McMurray saved the best for last on Saturday in winning the pole for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in record time.

The last driver to make his first attempt in the 10-minute second round of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series knockout qualifying, McMurray knocked AJ Allmendinger off the provisional pole for the first road course race of the season.

McMurray’s speed of 96.350 mph eclipsed Marcos Ambrose’s 2012 track qualifying record of 95.262 mph. Allmendinger went out early in the final session, and his speed of 96.088 mph held up until McMurray made his late run.

The Coors Light Pole award was McMurray’s 10th in 418 Sprint Cup races and his third at Sonoma. His track record was the 11th set this year under the new knockout qualifying system.

And McMurray won the pole after bumping his way back into the top 12 in his second run in the first round.

“I was a little disappointed that we had to go back out and make another lap to get into the top 12, because I thought that was going to ruin our chances of getting a good spot or sitting on the pole,” McMurray said.

“This knockout qualifying, it’s an emotional roller coaster, from not making it in the top 12 and having to go back out and bump your way in to then being on the pole. There’s a lot of highs and lows that go with that.

“It’s really cool for us to get bumped out and then come back and sit on the pole.”

Kyle Larson, McMurray’s teammate at Chip Ganassi Racing, qualified third at 95.942 mph for his first Sprint Cup road race—after winning the pole for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race earlier in the day.

Allmendinger’s front-row effort came as something of a surprise for the driver of the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Racing Chevrolet.

“I was nervous about qualifying,” Allmendinger said. “Quite honestly, we weren’t that good in qualifying trim (during Friday’s practice), so to be on the front row, it could be a lot worse, and we’ll go racing tomorrow.”

Larson said he discussed every corner with McMurray and put the knowledge to use.

“It’s great to have a teammate like that who’s willing to help in every respect,” Larson said. “We waited a while to go (in the first round) just to get a clean lap. I think that was pretty key for the first session, to get into the top 12.

“I thought I gave up time in a couple of spots. It would have been nice to get the pole, but Jamie was really fast there. But good day—it was a lot better than I thought I was going to qualify.”

Carl Edwards claimed the fourth starting spot, followed by Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman. Brian Vickers, Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Danica Patrick and Casey Mears completed the top 12.

In the first round, 22 drivers beat the Ambrose’s old track record. Logano led the way at 96.197 mph, a number he posted on his second run. That eclipsed the speed of Allmendinger, who ran 96.111 mph on his only timed lap of the 30-minute first round.

Even though tires fell off from one run to the next, many drivers improved their times on their second runs, as the track took on Goodyear rubber, after the K&N Pro Series West had qualified earlier Saturday morning on Hoosier tires.

The major surprise of the first session was Ambrose’s failure to advance to the final round. The Australian driver, a perennial favorite at every road course, could do no better than 23rd in two attempts and will start from that spot on the grid on Sunday, one place behind six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.

1. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 96.350 mph.

2. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 96.088 mph.

3. (42)  Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 95.942 mph.

4. (99)  Carl Edwards, Ford, 95.857 mph.

5. (41)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 95.704 mph.

6. (4)  Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 95.655 mph.

7. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 95.616 mph.

8. (55)  Brian Vickers, Toyota, 95.574 mph.

9. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 95.528 mph.

10. (22)  Joey Logano, Ford, 95.417 mph.

11. (10)  Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 95.414 mph.

12. (13)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 95.327 mph.

13. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 95.617 mph.

14. (20)  Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 95.605 mph.

15. (24)  Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 95.552 mph.

16. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 95.479 mph.

17. (88)  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 95.461 mph.

18. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 95.451 mph.

19. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 95.432 mph.

20. (18)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 95.378 mph.

21. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 95.308 mph.

22. (48)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 95.296 mph.

23. (9)  Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.247 mph.

24. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 95.136 mph.

25. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 95.044 mph.

26. (3)  Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 95.028 mph.

27. (38)  David Gilliland, Ford, 94.992 mph.

28. (95)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 94.972 mph.

29. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 94.897 mph.

30. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 94.865 mph.

31. (34)  David Ragan, Ford, 94.793 mph.

32. (26)  Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 94.734 mph.

33. (98)  Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 94.568 mph.

34. (83)  Ryan Truex #, Toyota, 94.562 mph.

35. (51)  Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 94.491 mph.

36. (33)  Alex Kennedy, Chevrolet, 94.147 mph.

37. (40)  Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, Owner Points

38. (23)  Alex Bowman #, Toyota, Owner Points

39. (44)  David Mayhew, Chevrolet, Owner Points

40. (36)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Owner Points

41. (32)  Boris Said, Ford, Owner Points

42. (7)  Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, Owner Points

43. (66)  Tomy Drissi, Toyota, Owner Points

Categories
News

Jones to Run Three Nationwide Races with Joe Gibbs

By Kelly Crandall – Newly crowned 18-year-old and high school graduate @Erik_Jones will make his debut in the Nationwide Series later this year, Joe Gibbs Racing announced on Thursday afternoon.

Jones will drive the No. 20 Toyota in three upcoming races beginning on July 19 at Chicagoland Speedway. From there he’ll compete at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 22 and Phoenix International Raceway, the second to last race of the season, on November 8.

Jones has been driving a limited schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Camping World Truck Series the last two years, capturing a win last November in Phoenix. He also earned five top-10s in each of his five starts last season and has made three starts thus far in 2014.

He was leading at Gateway last Saturday night when German Quiroga spun him with seven laps to go. At Martinsville earlier this year, Jones was also spun from inside the top-five.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to run some Nationwide races this year with Joe Gibbs Racing,” Jones said. “Since I wasn’t able to run a full season this year, adding to my Truck Series schedule was something I’ve been working hard on. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be partnering with a team like JGR and have the chance to get behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Camry.

“They are always a threat in the Nationwide Series. I was able to test with the team and Kevin Kidd (crew chief) a few weeks ago in Memphis and felt really comfortable. I have high expectations for all three races.”

The Michigan native captured the attention of Truck Series owner @KyleBusch when he outdueled him at the 2012 Snowball Derby, the biggest even in the Super Late Models. He also went on to win the Winchester 400.

Since then he’s shared driving time with him in the No. 51 Toyota in the Truck Series. Joe Gibbs in the Nationwide Series has captured four owners’ championships.The organization is also running the full-car of @Elliott_Sadler for the driver’s championship.

The No. 20 has already hosted drivers such as @MattKenseth, Darrell @BubbaWallace and @SamHornish. Its best finish was a second place run last weekend at Michigan International Speedway, courtesy of Hornish.

Jones will be the seventh driver to sit behind the wheel of the No. 20 later this season.

“We have a long history of working with talented young drivers and we think very highlight of Erik,” said Joe Gibbs Racing president, J.D. Gibbs. “He has certainly been impressive in Kyle’s equipment in the truck series and I think we’re all anxious to see him perform in the Nationwide Series now.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

Categories
News

Pieces Aligning for Carl Edwards’ Move to Joe Gibbs

By Kelly Crandall – As rumors continue in the NASCAR Sprint Cup garage that Carl Edwards is headed to Joe Gibbs Racing, another piece of the potential puzzle is emerging.

According to Lee Spencer of Motorsport.com, current Joe Gibbs Racing sponsor M&M’s could move to the fourth car in order to back the incoming Edwards. For the past seven years they’ve adorned the No. 18 Toyota Camry of @KyleBusch since he joined the organization in 2008.

M&M’s / Mars produces popular chocolate based candy products, whereas Edwards is a notorious health enthusiast. Making it seem unlikely he would support the company away from the track, though the indication appears Mars is unaffected by such notion as they aim to support the 22 time Sprint Cup winner and former Nationwide Series champion.

Which isn’t all that surprising should you look at the bigger picture. While Busch has brought the company 25 checkered flags and valued attention, some has been negative. In 2011 NASCAR parked him for the remainder of the Texas weekend after he intentionally wrecked @RonHornaday during a Friday night Truck Series race. Mars removed their sponsorship from the No. 18 for the season’s remaining two races because of the incident.

Last year, Busch finished a career best fourth in points.

Edwards on the other hand, currently sits sixth in points following Michigan with a win this season for Chase eligibility, at Bristol back in March. His contract with Roush Fenway Racing and Ford, the only partnerships he’s driven for his entering the Sprint Cup Series in 2005, ends after this season. After originally passing on the offer from Joe Gibbs Racing three years ago when he was also in negotiations for a new deal, the Missouri native doesn’t appear ready to make the same mistake twice.

Certainly not after seeing what @MattKenseth, who left Roush Fenway following the 2012 season, did a year ago. Kenseth won seven races out of the box and finished runner up in the final championship point standings.

Gibbs has said for years that a fourth car would only become a reality when the right circumstances presented themselves. After already going after Edwards once, and with Mars flexing their muscle in sponsorship, a deal might be eminent. As for Busch, his current Nationwide Series sponsor, Monster Energy, would move to the Cup level to replace the departing brand.

Edwards has made seven past Chase appearances and finished a career best second in points in both 2008 and 2011. But through all the changes at Roush, including his different crew chiefs the last two seasons, results continue to lack. He’s won just three races in the past three years and finished 13th in points last season.

While nothing has been confirmed, should Edwards move to Joe Gibbs Racing he’s expected to do so in a fourth car and join @Denny Hamlin, Busch, while reuniting with former Roush teammate Kenseth.

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

Categories
News

Jimmie Johnson Gets Third Win of the Season at Michigan

By Scott Held (NASCAR Wire Service) BROOKLYN, Mich. – At long last, Jimmie Johnson knows what it feels like to visit victory lane at Michigan International Speedway.

The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion took the lead for good on Lap 191 after a cycle of pit stops and cruised to the checkered flag at Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 to end a 24-race drought here.

“We’ve figured out every way to lose this race and today we were able to get it done,” he said after getting out of his No. 48 Chevy.

Johnson had encountered heartbreak several times when leading late here and admitted he was nervous as he dashed through the final few laps.

“About 200 yards before the finish line I knew if the car exploded I’d still make it across the line,” he said with a chuckle, “so that’s when I finally relaxed.”

Johnson pitted on Lap 165 and took on four tires and enough fuel to finish the race, which was green the rest of the way. Anyone close to him pitted later and left Johnson comfortably ahead as Hendrick Motorsports captured its fifth straight Sprint Cup series race.

“We were really in a win-win situation,” said Johnson, who led 39 laps and jumped to second in the Sprint Cup points standings behind Gordon. “Those guys had to come to pit road to make it to the end.

“Once the strategy unfolded, we knew we were in the catbird’s seat.”

Crew chief Chad Knaus said the team had an extra ace in the hole.

“We knew there was going to be some opportunities to play some strategy today,” he said. “We were fortunate to have a fast racecar and hit the strategy correct.”

The car was the same the team used to win Johnson’s first race of the season at Charlotte.

Pole sitter Kevin Harvick, who led a race-best 63 laps, was second, followed by Brad Keselowski, Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne.

Johnson’s win capped a stellar day for HMS, which saw all four Chevys in the top seven thanks to Kahne and Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr., who were sixth and seventh.

Johnson became the series’ first three-time winner and picked up his 69th career Sprint Cup victory. He’s finished first in three of the series’ last four races and jumped to from fourth to second in the series points standings, 15 points behind Gordon.

Harvick was especially fast on restarts during the first 150 laps of the race but got caught in a series of green-flag stops that dropped him to second. He did little to hide his frustration.

“The car was fast, just wound up on the wrong side of the strategy,” he said.

Harvick had the fastest car on the track for most of practice and set a new track record to earn the pole.

The pit strategy chess game forced several other contenders farther back in the field, including Joey Logano, who led the field for 15 laps before being passed by Harvick on Lap 141.

The race wasn’t quite a lap old when Brian Vickers brushed the Turn 4 wall, then spun before collecting Travis Kvapil near the entrance to pit lane. Rookie Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. brought out another caution on Lap 6 when they made contact near Turn 2.

Casey Mears and Brett Moffitt tangled in Turn 4 on Lap 115 and Aric Almirola and Denny Hamlin spun in the same place on Lap 122 to bring out another caution. The race was yellow-flagged eight times for 36 laps.

1. Jimmie Johnson

2. Kevin Harvick

3. Brad Keselowski

4. Paul Menard

5. Kasey Kahne

6. Jeff Gordon

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

8. Kyle Larson

9. Joey Logano

10. Clint Bowyer

11. Tony Stewart

12. Jamie McMurray

13. Kurt Busch

14. Matt Kenseth

15. Ryan Newman

16. Justin Allgaier

17. Danica Patrick

18. Juan Pablo Montoya

19. Trevor Bayne

20. Greg Biffle

21. Michael Annett

22. AJ Allmendinger

23. Carl Edwards

24. Casey Mears

25. Marcos Ambrose

26. David Gilliland

27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

28. Cole Whitt

29. Denny Hamlin

30. Austin Dillon

31. Aric Almirola

32. Reed Sorenson

33. Josh Wise

34. Brett Moffitt

35. Landon Cassill

36. JJ Yeley

37. Martin Truex Jr.

38. David Ragan

39. David Stremme

40. Alex Bowman

41. Kyle Busch

42. Brian Vickers

43. Travis Kvapil

Categories
News

Kevin Harvick Wins the Pole at Michigan With New Track Record

By Scott Held (NASCAR Wire Service) BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN – Three laps were all Kevin Harvick needed Friday afternoon.

He set a new Michigan International Speedway record on his first qualifying lap, then broke it during his last to claim his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season for Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Quicken Loans 400. He ran just one lap in each of the three periods and his No. 4 Chevy was the fastest car on the track each time.

His 204.557 mph lap in the final period was about a half-second faster than the mark he set in the first session. He parked the car after the hot lap and waited for the session to end.

“Obviously it was a really fast couple laps,” Harvick said. “The car has been great since we unloaded it off the truck.

“When you have fast cars, it makes the driver’s job easier.”

How fast? Harvick’s final lap is the fastest pole speed in NASCAR since Bill Elliott earned the pole at Talladega in April 1987 with a 212.809 mph run. That effort came before the sport mandated restrictor plates on high speed ovals.

He said not to expect similar speeds Sunday when the green flag waves.

“Michigan’s been fast for a long time,” Harvick said, “but the cars will slow down a tremendous amount when we get them into traffic.”

It’s the ninth pole of his career. He also started and finished first at Darlington this season and was second at Kansas after securing the pole there.

Harvick is seeking his third victory of the season and second career win at MIS. His first at Michigan came Aug. 15, 2010.

Hendrick Motorsports claimed the next two spots in the lineup thanks to Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Aric Almirola, Paul Menard and Brad Keselowski rounded out the first three rows.

Harvick set a new track record of 203.995 mph on his only lap of the first practice session to break the 203.949 mark set by Joey Logano in August.

The rest of the field noticed.

“Man, he was strong,” Gordon, the Sprint Cup points leader, said. “The first time out I thought my lap was pretty good but nowhere near Kevin’s. Those guys are really tough, especially in qualifying.”

Earnhardt, last weekend’s winner at Pocono, said he couldn’t tell how much faster he was during his lone lap of the final session.

“I didn’t feel like we were going that much faster here than in the past,” he said.

Kasey Kahne was the first driver to miss the cut in the second round of qualifying and will start 13th next to Kyle Busch. Greg Biffle, who won last June’s race here, will start 18th.

A.J. Allmendinger and Tony Stewart were the first two drivers to miss the cut after the first qualifying run. Allmendinger was five hundredths of a second behind Joey Logano, who nabbed the 24th and final spot in the second qualifying session.

Juan Pablo Montoya, in his first Sprint Cup race since leaving the series at the end of last season, will start 28th on Sunday in a Team Penske Ford.

“Having tomorrow as a practice day will be a lot better,” said Montoya, who’d had just the morning practice session in the car on the two-mile track.

Denny Hamlin, who entered the weekend eighth in the series’ points standings, will start 29th and Matt Kenseth will start next to him with the second spot in the standings.

Ryan Truex was the lone entrant who failed to qualify.

1. (4)  Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 204.557 mph.

2. (24)  Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 203.776 mph.

3. (88)  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 203.729 mph.

4. (43)  Aric Almirola, Ford, 203.200 mph.

5. (27)  Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 203.040 mph.

6. (2)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 202.908 mph.

7. (48)  Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 202.401 mph.

8. (41)  Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 202.043 mph.

9. (22)  Joey Logano, Ford, 202.032 mph.

10. (55)  Brian Vickers, Toyota, 201.331 mph.

11. (1)  Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200.490 mph.

12. (42)  Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 201.117 mph.

13. (5)  Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 200.876 mph.

14. (18)  Kyle Busch, Toyota, 200.842 mph.

15. (15)  Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 200.831 mph.

16. (78)  Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 200.820 mph.

17. (51)  Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 200.730 mph.

18. (16)  Greg Biffle, Ford, 200.518 mph.

19. (3)  Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 200.457 mph.

20. (9)  Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 200.128 mph.

21. (20)  Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 199.967 mph.

22. (99)  Carl Edwards, Ford, 199.534 mph.

23. (21)  Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 199.518 mph.

24. (31)  Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 199.165 mph.

25. (47)  AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 200.837 mph.

26. (14)  Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 200.457 mph.

27. (10)  Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 200.451 mph.

28. (12)  Juan Pablo Montoya, Ford, 200.217 mph.

29. (11)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 199.933 mph.

30. (17)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 199.750 mph.

31. (13)  Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 199.617 mph.

32. (38)  David Gilliland, Ford, 198.593 mph.

33. (34)  David Ragan, Ford, 198.571 mph.

34. (66)  Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 198.347 mph.

35. (44)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 197.900 mph.

36. (33)  David Stremme, Chevrolet, 197.666 mph.

37. (7)  Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, Owner Points

38. (98)  Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Owner Points

39. (40)  Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Owner Points

40. (36)  Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, Owner Points

41. (23)  Alex Bowman #, Toyota, Owner Points

42. (26)  Cole Whitt #, Toyota, Owner Points

43. (32)  Travis Kvapil, Ford, Owner Points

Categories
News

Popular Speed Announces Promotions

Huntersville, NC (June 12, 2014) – PopularSpeed.com is proud to announce the promotions of Stephanie Adair, Kayla Darrow and Seth Sharp.

Adair, Darrow and Sharp all joined Popular Speed as Development Journalists working to hone their craft of NASCAR-based journalism. Advancing to Contributors, the young writers will be working on news based stories and editorials, under the guidance of the veteran led Popular Speed Editorial Team that includes Steve Waid and Kelly Crandall.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the young Development Journalists and watching them grow. They all have unique ideas and opinions, as well as bright futures,” Crandall said. “To see them eager to learn and to now be a person who plays a part in helping them move forward is very rewarding and exciting. They’ve been a great addition to the Popular Speed staff.”

The promotions come as part of Popular Speed and Mike Calinoff’s vision of helping young journalists not only be professionally worked with and published, but get their first glimpse into the inner workings of the media world. In the case of Sharp, he’s been able to take a hobby on Twitter, which has been turning the heads of drivers and other respected NASCAR individuals, and crafted it into a series for Popular Speed. Previously, Sharp had no experience in professionally writing or being published.

Adair and Darrow also have similar backgrounds as well as aspirations of making their way into the NASCAR media corps. For Calinoff, having experienced and respected members of the NASCAR community take a chance on him when young, has become the goal for a new batch of talent using his own companies.

“There is a great wealth of talent in our Development Journalist program,” said Calinoff. “From Stephanie and Kayla to Seth, they are all at the forefront of beginning their careers and I’m proud to have them on our team.”

Categories
News

Justin Marks to Run Two Nationwide Series Road Courses

By Kelly Crandall – @JMarksDE (Justin Marks) will return to Nationwide Series competition this year, as Turner Scott Motorsports announces he will fill in for two road course events.

The move is a part of Turner Scott having rearranged the driving duties for rookie @dylankracing (Dylan Kwasniewski). Kwaniewski will be driving the No. 42 in the non-companion events for the Nationwide Series in place of @KyleLarsonRacin, which leaves his primary No. 31 open. Marks will drive the machine at both Road America (June 21) and Mid-Ohio (August 16).

In addition, Marks will bring with him a new sponsor. Headphone brand SOL REPUBLIC and Casamigos Tequila will adorn the No. 31 Chevrolet.

“It’s always exciting to bring new sponsors into NASCAR and introduce them to the most loyal fan base in all sports,” Marks said in the team release. “SOL REPUBLIC is passionate about the power of music and bringing great sound to every music fan to change the world, one listener at a time. NASCAR and music are connected at every level – we use music to focus, get pumped up and to set the atmosphere for 30,000 screaming fans. SOL REPUBLIC is the perfect vehicle and partner to help us do that.”

Between NASCAR’s three series, Marks has 44 career starts. The most recent came last season when he drove the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing at Sonoma in the Sprint Cup Series, finishing 30th. Marks has nine previous Nationwide starts, the last in 2011, with a best finish of 24th at Memphis. He earned two career poles while competing in the Camping World Truck Series.

The 33-year-old California native’s resume is also comprised of having competed ARCA Series, Grand-Am Sports Car as well as the American Le Mans Series. Marks is also the owner of the popular go-kart facility GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, N.C. and co-owner with Larson of a 410 winged sprint car team, Larson Marks Racing.

“Returning to the Nationwide Series with Turner Scott Motorsports is kind of like returning home. Nearly all of my starts in the series were with Braun Racing and many of those guys are now at Turner Scott,” Marks said. “Harry Scott Jr. and Steve Turner have done a great job proving their organization can contend for wins every week. They have great people, great equipment and display great effort every time they’re on the track. I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”

Turner Scott Motorsports has three career road course wins, two coming at Road America with @ReedSorenson36 in 2011 and @NelsonPiquet Jr. in 2012, along with two top-five finishes at the facility. In the Nationwide Series debut at Mid-Ohio last year, they scored a top-10 finish with @J_Allgaier.

“The addition of Justin Marks to the Turner Scott Motorsports roster for Road America and Mid-Ohio is really exciting for our organization as a whole,” said Harry Scott Jr., TSM co-owner. “Justin is an extremely talented road course driver and we’re very lucky to have him on board while Dylan Kwasniewski drives the No. 42 car for Kyle Larson. Justin, along with his two new sponsors, are an ideal fit for our organization and we look forward to seeing what the trio can do in these two races.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

Categories
News

Earnhardt Lucky and Good, In Pocono Victory

By Seth Livingstone (NASCAR Wire Service) LONG POND, PENNSYLVANIA – Dale Earnhardt Jr. was in position to pounce on Sunday, punching his ticket to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by winning his second race this season and his first-ever at Pocono Raceway.

It took a little racing luck.

Runner-up Brad  Keselowski was terrific in clean air. What he lacked was a clean grille.

On Sunday, when Keselowski’s car began to overheat due to a piece of trash on his front end, Earnhardt roared by, becoming the fourth consecutive Hendrick Motorsports driver to put a Chevrolet in Victory Lane at Pocono Raceway.

“Brad had the better car; he had me beat,” said Earnhardt, who has known his share of late-race misfortune. Take the third race of the season at Las Vegas, when he ran out of gas on the final lap, enabling Keselowski to win.

“I’ve lost some in some strange ways, so it feels good to win one like that,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt’s triumph in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Pocono 400 gave him two victories this season, his first multiple-win campaign since 2004 when he won six times. He has seen and appreciated the gradual-but-steady strides his team has made.

“The difference between running fourth at the end of this race and running second is a very small thing,” said Earnhardt, praising the effort of his crew chief Steve Letarte in the process. “In years past, it was someone else seizing the opportunity. We’d be third or fourth, watching it happen.

“Each year we’ve seen a progression of performance. What I’m seeing us do and how I’m seeing us run makes a lot of sense to me. We’ve been fast every week. We started [to improve] toward the middle of last year. We haven’t peaked, but we’re certainly doing some of our best work right now.”

Keselowski led 95 of Sunday’s 160 laps and led Earnhardt by more than one second when his engine temperature forced him to take decisive action with five laps to go. Keselowski tucked in behind the lapped car of Danica Patrick, hoping to draw the debris off his grille.

“I felt really bad for Brad to see him in a situation to be that desperate,” Earnhardt said. “He’s a good friend … he had it won. We weren’t going to get to him. I could not believe he was going to do that when I saw him go up the race track behind the No. 10 (Patrick’s car). His temperature had to be super-hot for him to do that.”

Keselowski said he was desperate and felt he had no choice.

“There was debris on the grille, so I had to do something,” Keselowski said. “[Maybe] I should have just ran it to see if it would have blown off … but I had to make some kind of move or the car wasn’t going to make it. The car was starting to blow up. It was going to break or I was going to get passed because we were really down on power in the straightaway.

“I took a shot to clear it off and not lose time, but I misjudged it. [The move] made enough difference for me to lose the lead in the process. When I got down in the corner and the car finally got sideways, I realized I’d made a mistake.

In 28 previous Sprint Cup starts at Pocono, Earnhardt had managed seven top-five finishes including a pair of second-place finishes despite what he thought were some excellent cars.

“We’ve had so many opportunities slip away,” he said. “We’ve been so close. So it feels so good to get into Victory Lane here. I used to come here as a kid because it was a summer race. I just always wanted to win at this place.  We’ve had some good cars here, so it feels good to finish the deal.”

Kurt Busch finished third, polesitter Denny Hamlin fourth and rookie Kyle Larson took fifth. Hendrick driver Jimmie Johnson, winner of the previous two Sprint Cup races, started 20th, overcame a pit road collision with Marcos Ambrose that dropped him as far back as 31st, and wound up sixth.

Categories
News

Crafton Gets Breakthrough Truck Series Win at Texas

By John Sturbin (NASCAR Wire Service) FORT WORTH, TEXAS – Matt Crafton put a definitive end to his 13-year/26-race winless streak at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night, steamrolling the field while stretching his fuel mileage en route to a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in the 18th annual WinStar World Casino 400.

Crafton and crew chief Carl Joiner gambled on fuel, running the final 61 laps/91.5 miles without pitting the No. 88 Slim Jim/Menards Toyota Tundra fielded by ThorSport Racing. Crafton, 37, scored his fifth truck series victory in 322 career starts and second of the season after winning on the half-mile Martinsville Speedway in March. It’s the first time Crafton has won multiple races in a season.

“I asked if we could make it all the way [on fuel], and they said, ‘Yeah!’” said Crafton, referring to Joiner and team general manager David Pepper. “That helped because I could slow down so much. They’d let me run for five laps and then slow down for five laps. That is the hardest thing to do for a driver. But we had the fastest truck.

“It’s awesome to be able to do it in this fashion. We marched through them. We had a brand new motor package from Triad and they stepped up as well. I’m just lucky enough to drive it. We have an awesome organization. We have every tool to work with and it’s so cool to be in Victory Lane in Texas.”

Crafton finished second in both 2009 Texas truck series races and the spring race in 2012. Friday he led a race- and career-high 118 of 167 laps around the high-banked, 1.5-mile TMS quad-oval to finish a massive 13.302-seconds ahead of runner-up and pole-sitter Justin Lofton.  Ironically, Crafton failed to lead a lap here last year while finishing fourth and 10th in the spring and fall races, respectively, on the way to his first truck series championship.

Crafton’s margin of victory set a new series record at TMS, besting the previous mark of 11.817 seconds by Dennis Setzer in this event in 2004. Still, the margin failed to dampen Lofton’s spirit after scoring his best TMS finish in eight starts.

“It’s definitely an exciting day for me at Texas Motor Speedway,” said Lofton, who was making only his second start of the season. “Sometimes a driver just clicks with a track and we had a great truck and qualified on the pole. We made adjustments throughout the race but right at the end we definitely hit on something. As soon as I left my pit box (on his final stop) we were on fuel conservation mode. I wish we could have pushed him (Crafton) to run him out of fuel. He said his truck ran out of fuel when he started his (celebratory) donuts. But we’re here. Our guys did a great job calculating fuel.”

Meanwhile, NASCAR veteran Joe Nemechek scored a solid third for his privateer team in the No. 8 MD Anderson Cancer Center/Smoke -N- Sear No. 8 Toyota Tundra. Sid Mauldin, owner of SWM Gun Runners located in Pampa, Texas, and partner in SWM-NEMCO Motorsports, currently is receiving treatment for stomach cancer at MD Anderson in Houston. Nemechek’s unsponsored black truck carried the MD Anderson logo on its hood as a show of support for the facility.

“It’s definitely big,” said Nemechek, a former NASCAR Nationwide Series winner at TMS who was making his first truck series start the track. “You look at what our team is … seven or eight guys, we’re building everything. We built seven trucks so far this year and trying to get performing better.”

In addition, Nemechek is sharing driving duties with his 16-year-old son, John Hunter.

“As a team we’re getting better; this is our first year,” the elder Nemechek said. “We’ve never run trucks and I can now tell my son I’ve got a third-place finish and he’s got a sixth (at Dover International Speedway). So it’s all good.”

Crafton also took over the championship points lead by 11 points (232-221) over teammate Johnny Sauter, who finished seventh in his No. 98 Nextant/Curb Records Toyota after pitting for fuel under green on Lap 163.

“We were hoping to have a 1-2 finish but I couldn’t be happier,” said Pepper, referring to Crafton and Sauter. “We’re building great trucks. It’s good to have the points lead again, but there’s a lot of racing to go.”

Timothy Peters, who began the night with a one-point lead (185-184) over Crafton and Sauter, suffered through a miserable night that started with a cut tire that sent his No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota to pit road on Lap 8.

Down two laps early, Peters’ night ended on Lap 51 when he got caught up in oil dumped by the grenading engine of German Quiroga in Turn 1 and hit the outside wall. The truck suffered extensive right-side damage, prompting Peters to head directly to the garage area for the night. Peters, who finished 24th in the 27-truck field, exited Texas fifth in points through six starts, 27 points behind Crafton.