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News

NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing Preview: Homestead-Miami

By Brandon Butler – The focus of many fans have been towards the points battles between drivers in all three of NASCAR’s top sanctioned series. At the same time, NASCAR’s “other” series only has one race to go before deciding its champion.

As some might not be aware, the NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series is an officially sanctioned series recognized by NASCAR that is powered by the iRacing.com Software. The NASCAR sanctioned series was recognized in 2010 through the sport’s licensing partnership with iRacing.com Motorsports Simulations. The iRacing.com Software allows sim racers to drive laser-scanned versions of the Sprint Cup Series’ Gen-6 race car and virtual counterparts of all 23 tracks on the NASCAR schedule.

After 16 races in the 17-race schedule for the NPAS, it all comes down to one race to win it all.

For three drivers, they have the chance to win a check for $10,500 dollars, a all-expense paid trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway for Ford Championship Weekend (to celebrate the NPAS championship like the real drivers do), a championship ring, as well as bragging rights.

Michael Conti, two-time NPAS Champion Ray Alfalla, and Nick Ottinger come into Homestead-Miami Speedway with a chance to be crowned the 2014 NASCAR Peak Antifreeze Series champion.

Conti is the current points leader heading into the season-finale. At the same time, he has been the most dominant car all season long. He has three wins, nine top-5’s, 11 top-10 finishes, as well as 3 poles. While Conti is in the catbird’s seat, do not count out two-time NPAS champion Ray Alfalla. Alfalla has two wins, 8 top-5’s, 9 top-10’s, and 4 poles. Alfalla is only 13 points behind Conti heading into Homestead. Nick Ottinger has had himself a good season, notching 2 wins, 6 top-5’s, 10 top-10 finishes and 1 pole. While he is still mathematically still in the championship battle, he has a very slim chance of taking the title.

For Conti, this race will be all about survival. Given that he has been very dominant throughout the season, he is in a great position to take the title.

For Ray Alfalla, he tells POPULAR SPEED that while he is ready and confident, he also knows Homestead is a must-win race.  “Homestead is basically a must win scenario for us. We are ready to give Michael Conti a run for his money, and think we have a good shot at coming out on top.”

For Nick Ottinger, he has a very slim chance at winning the title realistically. He would need for a miracle to happen in order to capture the title, nevertheless be in contention.

For all three drivers, this is going to be a nerve-wracking, stress-inducing, mind-numbing race. For Michael Conti, this race will be the most important race in his career. Can he have another dominating performance and take home the title? Will he make a mistake that allows for Ray Alfalla to take his third NPAS title in four years? Or will Nick Ottinger provide us with a cinderella story and pull off the impossible?

All of these questions will be answered on October 7th at 9 P.M. EST. Tune into the live broadcast by PSR TV, and you can also hear/view the race live on the Motor Racing Network.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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XFINITY

Bayne: ‘Hopefully We Can Build on This’

By Brandon Butler – Heading into his final season as the full-time driver of the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, @TBayne21 had a lot to prove to not just himself, but his team and team owner Jack Roush.

To start off the season, Bayne finished no worse than ninth in the first five races.  He would then consistently finish inside the top-10 week in and week out until he had a bit of a rough stretch. But as the Nationwide Series rolls on through its summer stretch of the schedule, he is the driver who has continued to get progressively better and faster week in and week out.

After finishing 15th at Kentucky Speedway back on June 27, Bayne has not finished outside the top-10.  He was ninth at Daytona, ninth at New Hampshire, and came away second at Chicagoland (while having the strongest car late in the race), and wound up ninth at Indy.

After capturing the pole for the U.S Cellular 250 this past weekend at Iowa Speedway, Bayne lead 31 laps and ultimately finished third in a wild three-lap dash to the finish. Though the 2011 Daytona 500 winner won the final $100,000 cash prize in the NASCAR Nationwide Series “Dash 4 Cash” promotion for not only himself but one lucky fan.

While clearly proud of what his team accomplished this weekend, Bayne knows it is time to build upon the recent success as the championship battle heats up.

“I’m proud of our team this weekend because I felt like we were in this thing from the beginning to the end of the weekend,” Bayne said.

“We haven’t been able to put together a whole race weekend like that yet this year. Hopefully we can build on this. I feel like we did everything but go to Victory Lane this weekend.”

As Bayne hopes to continue to build upon the success he’s had over the last few weeks, he knows he has his work cut out for him.  The NASCAR Nationwide Series heads to the road course the next two weeks of Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. At Watkins Glen, Bayne only has one top-10 in three races, while at Mid-Ohio, in his only race at the facility, he finished ninth.

EMAIL BRANDON AT: brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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Home Tracks

Eddie MacDonald to Run Sprint Cup Race at New Hampshire

By Brandon Butler – For NASCAR K&N Pro Series driver Eddie MacDonald, he has always dreamed about racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at his home track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Thanks to FAS Racing and a New England-based sponsor, the Rowley, MA is going to live out his dream.

FAS Racing announced today that the team has tabbed the K&N Pro Series Driver to drive the #32 Go FAS Racing Ford Fusion in next months Camping World Sales 301. The team also announced that Blue Vase Marketing and President and CEO Michael Alden, based out of Beverly, Massachusetts, will be the primary sponsor on the car.

With the announcement, MacDonald couldn’t be more thankful.

“This is my dream come true,” said MacDonald.  “I can’t thank Archie, Frank, and Mike enough for giving me this opportunity to race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It has always been a goal to drive in a Cup car and to do it at my home track with family, friends, and supporters from all over New England is something very special to me.

“I have been lucky enough to win a number of races here so hopefully my experience will provide me the opportunity to run well for Archie and the team. I have driven for Archie a couple of times in the Nationwide Series and I appreciate all he has done for me. Archie is truly one of the nice guys in racing and has always been supportive f me and is always trying to help me out. Archie, Frank, and Mike are providing a great experience to compete on the big stage and I just hope I can learn quick enough to be competitive. I love racing at Loudon and this is the icing on the cake.”

Archie St. Hilaire and long-time NASCAR crew chief Frank Stoddard put together the all New England team.

“I was talking with Mike (Alden) some time ago and he expressed interest in sponsoring a New England driver for the NHMS race and asked me if I knew anyone. I immediately gave him Eddie’s name,” St. Hilaire said. “Eddie is a great driver with a lot of successful experience at this track with six wins.  I love Eddie, his family, and his entire team.  They are a great bunch of people and I could not be happier for Eddie and our team.  It will be a lot of fun and with Eddie’s experience, we hope to have a strong run.”

MaDonald currently sits 18th in K&N Pro Series East points with a win at Bristol after running seven of the season’s nine races.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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Categories
Editorial

After Charlotte, Jimmie Johnson Could Go On A Winning Tear

By Brandon Butler – Winning the Coca-Cola 600 wasn’t about getting the winless dry spell off of @JimmieJohnson‘s back. It was about letting the rest of the competition know that the sleeping giant known as the 48 team is awake and ready to compete.

“They know we are awake,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, the 48 is heading that way and we can give other people something to think about.”

It was only a matter of time before we saw the 48 team back in victory lane. Johnson has the talent, the equipment, the pit-crew, and the composure to handle pressure and win races. Despite the dry spell, the entire 48 team wasn’t worried about the lack of winning. Neither was car owner Rick Hendrick. But while the rest of the field wasn’t worried or concerned about Johnson’s slow start up to this point, the field should start to be.

As NASCAR begins its summer tour where stops include Dover, Pocono, and Michigan, we could very well see Johnson go on a winning tear. It’s pretty simple why.

Dover has become Johnson’s playground. Literally. With eight wins, 12 top-five’s and 17 top-10’s in 24 races at the Monster Mile, it would not be much of a surprise to many if the six-time Sprint Cup champ can win at Dover once again and score his second consecutive at the track, his ninth overall. That could be where his winning tear begins.

Pocono is also one of Johnson’s better tracks.  In 24 races, he has three wins, 10 top-five’s, 16 top-10’s, and an average finish of eighth at the tricky triangle. As a matter of fact, Johnson is, you guessed it, the defending winner of the Pocono 400.

After that comes Michigan, which has been a track where luck hasn’t been on Johnson’s side. After all, Michigan is one of the only facilities on the Sprint Cup Series schedule where Johnson hasn’t won.  In 24 races, the six-time champ has four top-five’s, nine top-10’s and with an average finish of 16th.

Despite the engine issues that have plagued the 48 team over the last two years on the 2-mile oval, they’ve always had the ability to run up towards the front. With that in mind, it’s definitely possible to see him win a race at NASCAR’s fastest track.

In NASCAR, sometimes one dominating victory could be all it takes to go on a winning tear. And I think with the schedule coming up, it could be Jimmie Johnson’s time to kick it into gear and win multiple races on his way to contending for a seventh Sprint Cup championship.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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Categories
News

Unexpected Sponsorships Continue to Push Josh Wise Forward

By Brandon Butler – The 2014 Sprint Cup season has thus far been a great year for @Josh_Wise and Phil Parsons Racing and it appears to be getting even better.

After users involved with the online digital currency Dogecoin raised enough funds to sponsor Wise and the No. 98 for Talladega earlier this month, and the Sprint All-Star Race in Charlotte, which included voting him into the big event, another sponsor has stepped up to help fund the team.

iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations will be sponsoring the No. 98 Chevrolet along with Reddit.com for this weekend’s Fedex 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.

In addition to the sponsorship this weekend, iRacing.com has teamed up with the Riverside, California native to help fund his team in the Sprint Cup Series going forward. Current iRacing.com members as well as non-members have the chance to help Wise’s efforts by purchasing a discounted membership or the iRacing Sprint Car. Those who purchase a membership or purchase the Sprint Car will have a chance to win VIP experiences with the No. 98 team.

For more information on this special promotion, fans can visit iRacing.com/Jose-Wise-Promo.

iRacing.com is the worlds premier motorsports simulation that allows anyone to compete against sim racing enthusiasts and fans from across the globe. With choices to race in vehicles from many different motorsports series: NASCAR, IndyCar, Aussie V-8 Supercar Series, Grand-Am, as well as car manufacturers Ford, Chevrolet, BMW, Toyota, and many more.  NASCAR teamed up with iRacing.com to launch an officially sanctioned racing series on the iRacing service – now known as the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series – under the NASCAR banner in 2010.

More good news came this past week in addition to the iRacing/Reddit.com sponsorship. Dogecoin will return to the No. 98 for the GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 19th after the community sold enough No. 98 replica pit-crew t-shirts featuring the Dogecoin currency branding.

The amount of support that Josh Wise has received from the online community has been surprising, yet astonishing at the same time. Certainly a feel good NASCAR story for the little guys. Not only was Wise able shock the NASCAR world by winning the All-Star Fan Vote, he has successfully gained more funding and fans for his team, which he and team owner Phil Parsons probably weren’t expecting.

With all the sponsorships and fan support the Phil Parsons Racing organization has received, this shows that NASCAR fans have a voice in what goes on not just at the racetrack, but also behind the scenes in the race shops.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW BRANDON ON TWITTER: @butlerb92

Categories
Trucks

New Sponsor Secures Burton for the Rest of Truck Season

By Brandon Butler – After @JebBurtonRacing lost his ride at Turner-Scott Motorsports because of sponsorship funding in early January, he quickly landed at ThorSport Racing. But competing in the first four races on the Truck Series schedule, the question remained however, whether the son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton could find sponsorship in order to run the full 2014 schedule.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Burton can breathe a sigh of relief.

ThorSport Racing announced that Estes Express Lanes will become the primary sponsor of the No. 13 Toyota Tundra beginning with Friday’s Lucas Oil 200 at Dover. Estes Express Lanes is a full-service freight transportation provider that handles a variety of different shipping methods. With this new sponsorship, Burton is thrilled to have the privilege of representing the Estes Express Lanes company.

“It’s an honor to be driving the No. 13 Estes Toyota. Each time I get behind the wheel, I’m not only representing the Burton family and ThorSport Racing, now I have the privilege of representing everyone at Estes, which means a team of almost 15,000 employees including more than 6,000 truck drivers,” he said.

ThorSport Racing team owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson are also excited about having Estes Express Lanes come on board to support the driver who finished fifth in points last season after winning his first career race in Texas.

“Everyone at ThorSport Racing has a lot of faith in Jeb as an up-and-coming driver and we’re happy to have found a company with Estes’ professional legacy and values to sponsor our program,” Duke Thorson said. “We’d like to thank everyone at Estes for their support and confidence as this relationship moves forward.  We’re proud to be the team Estes chose for its NASCAR debut. We can’t wait to see Jeb and the No. 13 Estes Tundra on the track at Dover this weekend and throughout a safe and successful 2014 season.”

Through the first four races of the 2014 season, Burton and the team have had rocky statistics.  Despite finishing outside the top-10 at Martinsville (21st) and Charlotte (15th), they have two top-10 finishes at Kansas (6th) and the season opener at Daytona (7th).

Burton sits eighth in points heading into Dover.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW BRANDON ON TWITTER: @butlerb92

Categories
Editorial

Social Media Proving to Be Both Good and Bad for NASCAR

By Brandon Butler – Over the last decade, social media has not only become part of popular culture, it has become part of our everyday lives. Whether we check to see the latest news around check what is going on with family and friends, social media has become a must do.

For sports like NASCAR, social media has become the ultimate tool to allow fans access to everything going on within the sport.

With a sport like NASCAR that doesn’t have as big of a following as Major League Baseball or the National Football League, social media has become a huge source of promotion and outreach to fans and sponsors alike. And over the last several years, NASCAR’s impact on social media has continued to grow tremendously. The credit to NASCAR’s impact on social media goes to the drivers.

Brad @Keselowski‘s tweeting during the red flag of the 2012 Daytona 500 ultimately allowed NASCAR to grow and make an impact inside the social mediasphere.  After that, the sport has grown more of a following because of the impact it has made on social media.

Today, the drivers are able to communicate with fans more than ever before.  And while this can be positive for everyone involved, it can also be a negative in the process. They personal reply to fan tweets and posts, they share their personal lives both on and off the track through photographs and short video clips, and they even reward fans with giveaways and special offers from their sponsors.

As a fan, even if you are not at the track, you can get all-access to everything going on with NASCAR, as well as the teams and drivers. As we saw recently, social media also has the power to create heartwarming and surprising stories.

@Jose_Wise and his #98 Phil Parsons Racing Chevrolet were running well at tracks like Daytona and Bristol. Those runs grabbed the attention of a 16-year old from Chicago, Illinois who turned to users from Reddit.com. His movement resulted in the cryptocurrency Dogecoin to fund sponsorship for the Aarons 499 at Talladega earlier this month. Then the Dogecoin and Reddit community turned their attention to the Sprint All-Star race through selling replica crew shirts.

After securing funding for both Talladega and the All-Star Race last weekend, the Reddit community then helped shock the NASCAR world by successfully voting Jose Wise into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race through the Fan Vote.

That’s the positive, but while drivers are able to share their personal lives with fans, they are also open to criticism for their actions. Whether it’s from a die-hard fan, or just a troll looking to create some anger and tension, social media can work for drivers and the teams as well as against them.

For example, drivers find themselves upset over a race or become fed up with a fan making negative comments and suddenly they react in a way that doesn’t sit well with their team or sponsors.

Overall, driver and fan interaction on social media has been a great thing. The access fans have in being able to communicate like regular folk with their favorite drivers and be able to see what goes on both on the track and off. Though there is a chance that one tweet, one post, one troll could ultimately put a driver’s reputation and respectability within the NASCAR fan base and community at risk.

And that’s something that the drivers themselves (or their public relation representatives) need to keep in check.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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Categories
Editorial

With Move to Friday, NASCAR Should Change the Sprint Showdown

By Brandon Butler – For the last several decades, the Sprint Showdown was run right before the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night. For 2014, things have changed.

NASCAR shook up the schedule to where All-Star qualifying will be run on Saturday night before the All-Star Race and the Sprint Showdown, which was previously the event before the actual All-Star Race, will be an appetizer to the Camping World Truck Series race Friday night. With the change, the Sprint Showdown will continue to have the same two 20-lap segments as before.

Moving the Sprint Showdown to Friday night isn’t necessarily a bad idea, as fans who are at the track on Friday will be able to enjoy double the racing action. What is a bad idea however, is keeping the Sprint Showdown segments down to two 20-lappers with no changes whatsoever.

NASCAR should consider making the Sprint Showdown different and here is why.

From the fans perspective, there was always more racing action on Saturday night. After the Showdown ran for 40 laps, fans were able to see an additional 90 laps of racing when the All-Star Race was run! In order to compensate for the lack of racing we’d see on Saturday night with now only the All-Star race being run, why not add 10-15 more laps to the Showdown segments?

Why not also add a mandatory pit stop on top of that as well? After all, this gives the pit crews their chance to shine. Especially as this year there was no annual Pit Crew Challenge, which in years past was the one day where the crews were the sole focus of the NASCAR community. By adding a pit stop in the Showdown, those individuals have their chance to not only stand out, but will also play a major role in helping their driver get into the big All-Star event.

With 10-15 added laps to every segment (with the current 20 laps per segment), you’ll see about 70-75 laps of racing in the Showdown. It’s a mini-race that drivers and their team must both play a part in perfecting if they want to be around the following night for a chance at the big money. And then, the main event is the Camping World Truck Series back in action, which is always a good part of the weekend.

If this truly is NASCAR’s All-Star weekend, the more racing the better. I say for the fans, it’s a win-win.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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Categories
Trucks

Taylor Malsam Running 12 CWTS Races for Turner Scott Motorsports

By Brandon Butler – After taking several years away from NASCAR, @TaylerMalsam is getting a new opportunity to return.

Turner Scott Motorsports announced this morning that Malasm, who last ran in the Nationwide Series for TriStar Motorsports in 2012, will be running 12 Camping World Truck Series races this season in the No. 32 Outerwall Chevrolet Silverado.  Malasm made his Trucks debut in 2008 before running full-time a year later and finished 12th in points.  His last ride in the series was when he drove for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2010.

“It’s great to be back in the NASCAR garage and back on track with the Truck Series.  I can’t thank Outerwall and Turner Scott Motorsports enough for their support and for giving me this opportunity,” Malsam said.” Mike (Hillman Jr.) is an accomplished crew chief and I think, together, we can get the Outerwall Chevy Silverado in victory lane this season.”

At TSM he will be under the direction of crew chief Mike Hillman Jr, who worked with Jeb Burton when the two won one race and seven pole awards in the Camping World Truck Series in 2013.

Malsam will be balancing his new CWTS duties as well as the sprint car racing he’s been doing in 2014. He makes his return starting with this Friday’s SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway. After Kansas, Malasm is scheduled to race at Charlotte (5/16), Texas (6/6), Gateway (6/14), Kentucky (6/26), Iowa (7/12), Michigan (8/16), Chicagoland (9/12), Las Vegas (9/27), Talladega (10/18), Texas (10/31), and Homestead-Miami (11/14).

“We’re excited to partner with Turner Scott Motorsports and sponsor Tayler as he drives the No. 32 truck,” said J. Scott Di Valerio the Outerwall CEO. “This is a fresh approach to raise awareness among NCWTS fans for Outerall and its popular brands – Redbox, Coinstar and ecoATM.”

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Is 2014 The Year JR Motorsports Wins the Nationwide Series Title?

By Brandon Butler – For @DaleJr and JR Motorsports, 2014 has so far been their season to shine the brightest.

Through seven Nationwide Series races JRM has snagged three victories, with @Regan Smith scoring the season opener at Daytona and @ChaseElliott winning his first two career wins in back-to-back weeks at Texas and Darlington.

Both Elliott and Smith are on top of the standings with rookie Elliott extending to a double-digit point lead after his Darlington victory this past Friday. With the amount of success JRM has had over the course of the last several months, this leads me to ask the following question:

Is 2014 the year that JR Motorsports is the team to beat for the Nationwide Series championship?

Right now, its obvious that they are. The son of former Sprint Cup champion Bill Elliott has now led the points for the past two weeks and surprised everyone after winning consecutive races in somewhat dominating fashion, as well as by beating Cup drivers. He continues to prove he is mature beyond his years.

While @KevinHarvick does not run for points in the series, he’s a consistent top-5, if not top-3 driver, every week. Meanwhile Smith has become “Mr. Consistent.” Through the first seven races he is the only Nationwide Series regular who has finished in the top-10 every week.

Yet for JR Motorsports to be considered a very serious contender for the Nationwide Series title, Smith and Elliott will need to survive the road courses on the schedule like Road America, Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen, as well as finish inside the top-10. Smith had a commanding point lead heading into the summer months last year when he went through a slump of poor finishes, which started at Road America. He ultimately fell off the top of the standings and never recovered.

If JRM can get past the summer months and still be up towards the top of the standings, it might be a good bet to consider them in great shape to hoist their first Nationwide Series championship. Whether it’s with Regan Smith or Chase Elliott, we’re just going to have to find out.

EMAIL BRANDON AT brandon.butler@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW BRANDON ON TWITTER: @butlerb92