Popular Speed Visits Chase Elliott in Victory Lane

By Matt Weaver – Chase Elliott has had an eventful transition to the upper levels of stock car racing this season.

The son of Bill Elliott — the 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion — has quickly adjusted to the heavier and faster cars and tracks, winning in both the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR Camping World Trucks this season.

His victory at Pocono in the ARCA Series came in his seventh start on the circuit and first on a superspeedway, while his Truck Series breakthrough came in just his sixth start, on the road course at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario.

In fact, he was off to the best six-race start in Truck Series history with six straight top-10s before an accident ended that run of finishes last month at Iowa Speedway. His victory in Canada came at the expense of Ty Dillon who was crashed by Elliott in a final lap altercation — nothing about Chase Elliott has been under-the-radar this season.

Popular Speed Executive Editor Matt Weaver caught up with Elliott in Victory Lane (he won a Pro Late Model race) on Saturday night in Pensacola, Fla. and discussed a variety of topics, including his search for a new primary sponsor and his relationship with the younger Dillon brother following their Truck Series dispute.

A sample of that interview has been transcribed below and you can watch the full interview at the bottom of the post.

Popular Speed: Have you cleared the air with Ty Dillon?

Chase Elliott: No, I haven’t talked to him. I’m just proud of these guys at Aarons, and everyone who supports our Truck Series program. It’s been a lot of fun this year. The last couple of races haven’t gone quite like we’d wanted so hopefully we can put it together by Martinsville.

And hopefully Ty can do the same.

Popular Speed: You brought up Aaron’s. It’s been announced that they are not coming back next season, having moved on full-time to Michael Waltrip Racing. What has Aaron’s meant to your career and have you figured out your sponsorship plans for next season?

Chase Elliott: Regardless of their future plans, I couldn’t have made it this far without them, the opportunity they’ve given me to get where I am; to push my career to where I am right now. They’ve done so much for me and I can’t thank them enough.

And as far as next year, it’s still up in the air. We’re still trying to figure things out and hopefully we’ll figure them out soon.

Popular Speed: Can the same be said of your schedule?

Chase Elliott: Right. Nothing — not yet.


Number 17 Pays Off for Timothy Peters

LAS VEGAS – Timothy Peters took advantage of a rare mistake by Ron Hornaday Jr. on the final restart at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to win the Smith’s 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.

Peters started 12th and when the final caution came out late in the race, he was running second to Hornaday, who is known for his prowess on restarts. When the green flag flew with two laps to go, Hornaday spun his tires and Peters powered to the lead. As Hornaday faded back, Peters held off Johnny Sauter to record his seventh career victory, his second of the season and his first in Las Vegas.

“Track position was so important,” said Peters. “You had to get all you could on the restarts because once you spread out that dirty air, it was bad to pass. I mean, they were crazy. I was really thankful for that last caution. I was getting good restarts all night long. Just everything went our way tonight. This is huge.”

In a city where numbers mean everything, Peters, who drives the No. 17 Toyota, won the 17th race of the season in the series’ 17th race at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Sauter finished second, followed by Miguel Paludo, pole winner Ty Dillon and Darrell Wallace Jr., the highest finishing rookie in the race.

“It was a crazy race,” said Sauter, who posted his seventh top-five finish of the season. “That last restart it looked like Ron (Hornaday) spun the tires a little bit and he lost momentum. Then he fanned out and I thought, ‘Hey there’s a hole there and I’m taking it.'”

Matt Crafton held onto the series points lead with an 11th place finish.

He led two times for 30 laps and was leading with less than 30 laps to go when the handling went away on his No. 88 Toyota and he started to fall back through the running order. It marked the first time in 2013 that Crafton has finished outside the top 10.

“All of the sudden it just went dead loose,” Crafton explained. “Within one lap it was a little bit loose and then it went to un-drivable and we lost one second on that run.”

Crafton’s lead holds steady at 41 points over James Buescher with five races to go in the season.

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will take the next two weekends off before returning to action at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 19.


Las Vegas Hosts Latest Truck Series Title Bout

By Vito Pugliese – The Camping World Truck Series is playing host to its own stand-alone event this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Be prepared for a barrage of clichés about gambling, heavyweight bouts, and uh, gambling – it kind of comes with the territory out there. So far just 29 trucks are on the entry list, but if you’re a truck series regular, take heart; Las Vegas native Kyle Busch is not entered in the event.

His trucks however, still are. Joey Coulter will take the helm of the No. 18 this weekend, two weeks after KB and company hung one on them as he hung out the window (and nearly fell out) celebrating his latest Truck Series triumph at Chicagoland. Busch led the final 24 laps to a .338 second win over fellow Cup Regular and Truck Series owner, Brad Keselowski. It will be a Truck Series regular winning for sure this week, and Las Vegas is a track known for first-time winners.

Nelson Piquet, Jr. won his first career NASCAR race here last year in the Truck Series, holding off current Series points leader Matt Crafton by .223 seconds. If there’s one driver who’s primed to win his first race, it’s his former teammate and fellow countryman, Miguel Paludo. 2013 has been Paludo’s coming-of-age season, scoring three Top 5’s and nine Top 10s – with six races left to go. He sits sixth in the point standings, one out of fifth, and 13 points out of fourth position. While a shot at the title is unlikely barring some big time wreck at Talladega – and perhaps and engine failure or two between Crafton and James Buescher, a win is a definite possibility.

Things have gotten a bit off-track for him the past few weeks. A stuck throttle at Iowa during practice had him relegated to a back-up truck, while Chicagoland was nothing really to write home about either. All is not lost however; Paludo finished fifth at MIS last month and led 20 laps at the 2.0-mile oval which has similar high-speed characteristics that Las Vegas possesses.

The title fight – or for Matt Crafton right now, point-management exercise – will be the center of focus as Crafton looks to extend his lead on James Buescher, who had been steadily gaining ground on the No. 98 ThorSport driver until last week at Chicago. The defending Series champion has won twice in the last five races, and trials Crafton by 41 points. Crafton has one win this year at Kansas, which is a low-bank 1.5-mile track like Las Vegas. With James Buescher finishing sixth in that race, fourth at Kentucky, and winning Michigan, the stage is set for the race to come down between these two. While Crafton just needs to stay out of trouble and maintain his lead, he still wants to be able to contend for wins, as those provide maximum points.

That isn’t to say these two will have the race to themselves. Ryan Blaney, fresh off his first Nationwide Series win at Kentucky last Saturday, will be back in the Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Ford – which he drove to a third place run at Chicagoland Speedway. Jeb Burton won his fifth pole of year at Chicagoland, led 42 laps and had the race in hand, when trouble with a broken jack on the No. 4 Turner Motorsport team’s pit stop had them playing catch-up the rest of the night. He was the turning in the fastest lap times on the track at the end, and rallied back to a ninth place finish.

With that being said, if you’re in Vegas this week and want to lay some money down on something other than the NFL or NCAA Football – I’d feel comfortable putting something on the No. 4 truck for the Smith’s 350 – the longest event the Truck Series runs all year.


Follow Vito Pugliese on Twitter, @VitoPugliese — it will change your life.





Cup Drivers Duel for Truck Win

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) JOLIET, Ill.–Kyle Busch held off Brad Keselowski in the closing laps of Friday night’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway to win for the 34th time in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series.

Busch won for the fourth time this season, the third time at Chicagoland and the 34th time in his career. Frustrated in his quest to win in the Truck Series, Keselowski finished second for the fifth time in 58 starts.

Ryan Blaney who drives for the team Keselowski owns, ran third, followed Matt Crafton, who extended his series lead to 41 points over eighth-place finisher James Buescher. Austin Dillon came home fifth.

Keselowski and Busch waged a scintillating battle during the last half of the 150-lap race, trading the multiple times before Busch took the point on Lap 130.Busch held the top spot and opened an advantage the reached nearly one second before Keselowski began to close with 10 laps left.

By Lap 143, Keselowski had pulled within a truck-length of the No. 51 Toyota, but Busch kept his rival at bay by running the high line around the 1.5-mile speedway.


Buescher Zeros in on Title

By Vito Pugliese – If things in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series keep going the way they are, James Buescher may end up being the first back to back champion the series has had in its 18 year history. With his win Sunday in the Fan Appreciation 200 Presented by New Holland, at Iowa Speedway. While Kevin Harvick is know as “The Closer” in the Cup Series, James Buescher is starting to garner a reputation of being the go-to guy in the closing laps of Truck races. It was the second win for Buescher in four races, a late race charge on new tires that was game planned from the beginning of the weekend, and with the help of a Green White Checker finish was played to perfection.

In the last five races, Buescher and his No. 31 Turner Motorsports team has whittled their points deficit to leader Matt Crafton from 67 points leaving Pocono, to 37 points after Iowa. The timing couldn’t be better as the series heads to Chicago this weekend along with the Cup and Nationwide Series; last year Buescher won at Chicago, and if they’re going to be bringing the same truck that chased down and passed Kyle Busch for the win at MIS a few weeks ago – he stands to gain even more ground on Crafton and the ThorSport bunch.

That isn’t to say that Crafton has been a slouch – far from it. He’s finished in the Top 10 every race this year. Let me say that again: Every. Race. He has points to spare because he’s been running so well every week, and not putting himself in a position to do something ill-advised. For those who have followed the sport since before we went to the current Mario Kart points structure with it paying one point per position, his current 37 point advantage over Buescher would be the equivalent of a 150 point lead under the prior points system that many are familiar with. With Crafton having finished fourth at Chicago last year, and having won at Kansas in the spring – a track that looks remarkably similar to Chicago – that bodes well for this weekend as well.

With the Truck Series being only 22 events, it makes each and every race count that much more: less opportunity to gain an advantage in the points, and less time to recover if you make a mistake. That kind of steady-as-she-goes performance that Crafton has displayed has many of the competition in scramble mode, particularly if they have been incident prone this year (please see Ty Dillon and Johnny Sauter), but with just one win and five of those Top 10’s being 10th and ninth place finishes, it makes the two races that follow Chicago and Las Vegas that much more decisive.

Oh those tracks just happen to be Talladega and Martinsville. Two completely different tracks that are equally similar and devastating to a championship quest should something go awry. At Talladega it’s expected; the threat of a field-clearing crash is ever present, while at Martinsville if you have a flat tire and need to pit under green, have fun making up two laps. Last year Crafton ended up 18th at Talladega and fourth at Martinsville – Buescher came home third and sixth respectively. Nothing to really read into there, except with a points lead that could be completely eliminated in one race, the championship battle in the Truck Series is far from over.

Expect this one to go down to the wire at Homestead just like last year.


Crafton the Man to Beat

By Stephanie Adair – Matt Crafton has led the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings for a majority of this year. His stats have been stellar with one win, five top 5s and no DNFs. In all of the 14 races this season, he has finished in the top 10 every single time. With nine more races to go, he is currently sitting 47 points ahead of second place James Buescher. Can anyone beat Crafton this season?

The NCWTS drivers seeded from second to fifth are currently sitting within 21 points of each other. This group includes James Buescher (-47), Ty Dillon (-63), Jeb Burton (-65) and Miguel Paludo (-68). Many of them have at least one win and several top 10 finishes this season.

Despite those statistics, none of them have been as consistent as Crafton. Additionally, each one of these drivers have at least two finishes outside the top 15 with two having one DNF. Based on these current stats and continued consistency, Crafton could secure his and ThorSport Racing’s first championship.

In the 18 years this race team has fielded cars, their highest finishing position was second with Crafton in 2009. This is shaping up to be the breakout year for both the team and their driver.

In the homestretch of the 2013 season, should Crafton and ThorSport Racing feel relaxed with their lofty points lead? Not exactly. As we have seen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year, a point lead can be dissolved in a matter of a few races. Five-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson had dominated the series standings all season long.

Four races ago, after Watkins Glen, he led the standings by 75 points. After a small streak of bad luck, his point standings lead has dwindled down to only 28 points. A big lead like Crafton’s could be spent in only one bad finish.

The 13-year NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran and his team will have to stay on their toes. When a team runs exceedingly well, they are usually prone to a “slump”, like we have seen with Johnson. If Crafton has a slump then James Buescher, Ty Dillon, Jeb Burton, and Miguel Paludo will be ready to take advantage of it. In the upcoming races, the current point leader will need to balance caution and aggression. If Crafton does this and continues to run well, we might be seeing his name engraved on the trophy at the end of the season.

Stephanie Adair is a Popular Speed Development Journalist. 


Truck Series Action Trending Upward

By Vito Pugliese – While the Camping World Truck Series takes a bit of heat for following up the first race of the year at Daytona with almost two months of inactivity, it sure has made up for it in the past two months. The most talked about NASCAR race of the year outside of the Daytona 500 was the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora back in late July, and to follow things up with late race restarts, wrecks, and the type of racing action that came to define the Truck Series at Pocono, Michigan, and Bristol – things have definitely been on the upswing.

Then enter Canadian Tire Motorsports Park – aka – Mosport.

The last lap of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 was the type of thing you expect to see at a local short track, as well as the action that happened on the cool down lap and in the pits. 17-year old Chase Elliott made a last-ditch apex ambush on Ty Dillon coming to the checkered flag on the last lap of the 2.459 mile road course, sending him head-on into the tires. In the pits, it looked like an impromptu installment of Summer Slam was about to break out, as the No. 3 team confronted Elliott’s bunch. The irony was as thick as Canadian maple syrup, with the No. 3 getting its cage rattled and passed almost-in-the-grass by the son of the Awesome one – and Terry Labonte fans, take heart: 94? 9-4 = 5.

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t script this stuff, and I’m not that good at math either.

Meanwhile behind them, Mike Skeen in a one-off appearance for Eddie Sharp Racing drove into the side of Max Papis on the final turn, sending the Italian native into the tires and into his protégé Ty Dillon, while Skeen beached his No. 6 truck as well. On the cool down lap, Skeen was about to climb out of his truck while in motion to get a piece of Papis. In the pits afterwards, a member of Skeen’s team tried to climb into the cab, then got MTV Scared Straight face-mushed by Papis’ bunch. Following his interview, Papis one-upped Joey Coulter’s girlfriend at Bristol, shoving Papis’ wife out of the way, and gave the Italian one across his laps, Sanford-style. Reports are that the blow actually dislocated Papis’ glass jaw.

With the regularity that FOX Sports 1 has been running ads touting this season’s episode of The Ultimate Fighter with Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, I think they have a contender waiting in the wings. Apparently GSP isn’t the only Canadian who can fight, and Skeen’s old lady is more of a striker than ground and pound.

All of this sets up yet another showdown in Iowa. Last year it was Parker Kligerman dominating the first half of the race leading 107 laps, but was relegated to 23rd after a spin with only 19 laps to go. Then-rookie Ryan Blaney held off then-rookie Ty Dillon by about a truck length after a late race re-start. (Need a refresher? Check out

Dillon was in position to pick up a substantial amount of points to leader Matt Crafton had he been able to maintain position on Sunday, but instead fell to 63 points markers behind the points leader. While Dillon is still in the hunt, he was more focused on retribution as he leaned in Elliott’s truck and gave him an earful as the rookie was en route to Victory Lane.

“You’ve got to show respect,” Dillon said. “I hope he runs Iowa (next week). He won’t finish the race.”

Memo to Ty: he will be there.

Meanwhile, Miguel Paludo continued his string of strong runs with a third place finish. An untimely caution given the team’s pit strategy conspired to take away a shot at the win, however he did lead 10 laps and moved into fifth in points; he now sits five points out of third, and 68 points from first. Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. missed the melee in front of him, and scored his second Top 5 of the season, his first since Martinsville in April.

With FOX Sports 1 being the new network of the Camping World Truck Series, they sure have had a great collection of races here the past few weeks to help promote their new product.

                                                                                                                                                        Let’s Talk About This…


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Elliott Spins Dillon for First CWTS Victory

BOWMANVILLE, Ontario — Sunday’s inaugural Chevrolet Silverado 250 saw Chase Elliott send race leader Ty Dillon hard into the tire barriers in the 2.459-mile road course’s final turn and collect his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Canadian Motorsport Park.

Elliott, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, won in just his sixth series start. At age 17 years nine months, the Georgia driver became the series’ youngest winner.

Dillon, who’d last pitted for fuel on lap 32, had retaken the lead under caution on lap 47 and was pushing his mileage when the contact with Elliott occurred.

“I felt like the 3 (Dillon) was sputtering. I felt like he was out of gas of something and got to his right rear quarter panel and tried to move him out of the way and unfortunately (I) ended up putting him in the fence. That’s not how I race.” Elliott said in a post-race interview.

Max Papis and Mike Skeen made considerable contact with one another as they battled for third on during the final two laps. The rivalry culminated in Skeen and Papis both spinning out in a cloud of smoke in the last corner.

Chad Hackenbracht weaved his way incident to finish an impressive second in running a limited 2013 series schedule for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Miguel Paludo came home fourth as KBM driver Darrell Wallace Jr. was the highest finishing rookie in fifth.

Series championship leader Matt Crafton struggled to a 10th-place finish but retains a 47-point lead over James Buescher.


Turning West and East, North of The Border

By Vito Pugiliese – As if racing on dirt in the middle of the week wasn’t weird enough for the Camping World Truck Series this year, things are getting ratcheted up a notch this weekend. Trucks, on a road course; in Canada. Even better? The two guys most likely to succeed are from Italy and Brazil.

The Chevrolet Silverado 250 will be run at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park – Mosport to those who have been watching road racing for a while. Located in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada it is a bit like our Sonoma/Infineon/Sears Point — multiple names, same track and storied history. One of the most popular road courses in North America that has hosted Formula One, IndyCar, and CART, now plays host to NASCAR. Sunday’s action on FOX Sports 1 at 2:00pm EST serves as a fitting set up to the Sprint Cup race in Atlanta later that evening at 7:30pm on ABC.

Expect this race to be just as different as the last two events; Michigan saw Kyle Busch with things well in hand, until James Buescher side-drafted by him with four laps to go. At Bristol, it looked to be a replay of 2012 with Timothy Peters having at the point for 125 of 200 laps. He had a shot at Kyle Busch on the last lap, but lost control coming to the line and struck the inside wall on the frontstretch. There are no Cup drivers on the entry list this weeks, with just 31 trucks currently entered. There is however one ringer to keep an eye on: Max Papis in the No. 14 Sport Clips Chevrolet for Joe Denette Motorsports.

Papis has been a familiar face across all three NASCAR Series the past few seasons. When the No. 13 GEICO Toyota team of Germain Racing was in its infancy, Papis was the pilot who was able to bring the car home with to an 8th place finish at Watkins Glen in 2009. He has recently been working as a driver coach for Richard Childress Racing, shepherding the Dillon brothers along, while competing in select Nationwide Series races for RCR as well. He finished fourth at Mid-Ohio just two weeks back, and brought Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Sprint Cup effort home to a 14th place finish at Watkins Glen. Papis has earned four Top 5 finishes on road courses in the Nationwide Series, and should be the odds-on favorite to win this weekend.

There is one Truck Series regular, who has showed he is poised to break through and win his first race anytime, and that time might just be this weekend – and that driver is Miguel Paludo. The Brazilian-born driver of the No. 32 Turner Motorsports entry has posted five Top 10’s in the last seven races, and won the pole at Pocono. Currently sitting sixth in the standings, Paludo won the Porsche GT3 Cup in 2008 and 2009, so suffice it to say, he’s comfortable doing this sort of thing. He’s also a series regular in a well-funded and prepared effort – something that cannot always be said for road course ringers.

It’s been a while since the Trucks have had to turn right, unless you count sliding around Eldora last month. 2000 at Watkins Glen was the last race on a road course, and considering there isn’t a whole lot of road racing acumen within the field, this weekend’s race should be interesting to say the least. Road Course racing has evolved into what we used to think of short track racing; beating, banging, hot tempers, and wrinkled racecars that somehow still remain competitive.


Truckin’ Through Thunder Valley

By Vito Pugliese – There are precious few tracks on the Camping World Truck Series schedule that can affect a season and a championship pursuit like Bristol Motor Speedway. While size-wise it’s on the opposite end of the spectrum, Bristol is one of those tracks like Daytona and Talladega that in the blink of an eye can turn a year upside down and have an immediate impact on a championship battle, which as of late has been controlled by long-time CWTS driver Matt Crafton.

Crafton is having a career year in the No. 98 ThorSport Toyota, capturing his second career win at Kansas back in April. Matt Crafton has been the longest overnight success story in the Truck Series, with the Series record for consecutive starts (306), and currently holding a 51-point lead over Jeb Burton, who two weeks ago turned the ripe old age of 21.

With four poles and a win already this year, Burton has shown both the speed and maturity of a driver twice his age. This uncommon seasoning will be of benefit this weekend, as Bristol has long been known as a check-your-emotions-at-the-door venue. Things happen quick at the track that Mark Martin once described as flying an F-16 in a gymnasium, and a 200 lap race doesn’t leave much time to rebound should an unscheduled pit stop cause a team to go two laps down.

Then again, there is the other possibility of the type of domination that occurred last year, when Timothy Peters led flag to flag for 204 laps, surviving a Green White Checker restart win over Parker Kligerman to take home the victory. The year prior, Kevin Harvick lead 103 of 200 laps to bring home a win to KHI in its final year of operation before merging with RCR, while Kyle Busch won three in a row here from 2008-2010 — including the 2010 sweep of all three races in Trucks, Nationwide, and the Cup Series. Busch will be in the No. 51 Wednesday, and is likely the odds-on favorite of who the regulars will have to beat.

One regular whose season has been anything but, is Johnny Sauter. He started off the season strong winning the first two races at Daytona and Martinsville, followed up with Top Fives at Rockingham and Martinsville. Since then however, it has been a windfall of woeful luck and misfortune galore. At Charlotte he was involved in an incident with defending “Truck Series Champion James Buescher”: then during the last mid-week race in Eldora, he got roughed up into the wall by Ty Dillon during a heat race, causing substantial damage to the No. 98 machine. The two tangled again on a “GWC restart at Pocono, relegating Sauter to a lackluster 19th place run”:  . At Michigan last weekend the bad luck continued, with Sauter getting caught up in a crash with “Max Gresham and Darrell Wallace, Jr. on the very first lap”:

Sauter is well-known for humbly thanking Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in his post-race winning interviews, but has been frustrated of late to the point of just blurting out, “whatever…” to explain the latest malady to afflict his team. He has a 95-point deficit to Crafton, but with 10 races left has enough time to catch him should the bad breaks stop, and those in front of him start experiencing the rotten luck he has been relegated too as of late.

On the other end of that spectrum, check out Miguel Palludo in the No. 32 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet. A pole at Pocono and back to back Top Five finishes have the Brazilian native fifth in points, and showing the sort of week-to-week improvement and consistency that indicates that first career win is just around the corner. With 10 races remaining, he already has more Top 10s (8) this year than he did each of the past two seasons.

While Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s freshman season has been a bit of an up and down affair, he’s shown speed everywhere he’s been so far. That bodes well at a track that rips off 16=second laps. Five of his seven Top 10 finishes so far this year, have been on tracks one-mile in length or less, and with a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck under him, this could very well be the weekend the 19-year old rookie captures his first Truck Series win. Fellow 19-year old phenom Ryan Blaney in Brad Keselowski’s Ford F-150 won two weeks ago in Pocono, and looks to rebound from that first lap melee at MIS last weekend, and capture his second win of the year.

Fear not SPEED fans – the race will be aired live, with pre-race coverage starting at 7:30pm on FOX Sports 1.


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