Development Journalists

RFR Solid at Bristol and Making Progress

All three Roush Fenway Racing cars battled for much-needed solid finishes in Sunday’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. In the closing laps, RFR drivers Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Greg Biffle all had good track position, running in the top 10.

Bayne finished fifth for his first top five since winning the 2011 Daytona 500. After being stuck in the bottom lane on late restarts, Biffle and Stenhouse Jr. got shuffled back to 12th and 16th place finishes, respectively.

“Every restart we were on the bottom,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “I thought we had a top-five car there at the end with speed, but we just couldn’t break out.”

Biffle said the advantage on restarts was in the top lane.

“We were up in sixth, and those last two restarts we started on the bottom and that just killed us,” Biffle said. “But I will say that all day long I started on the top. Those last two were the only ones where I didn’t, and that’s just luck. You’re not gonna get the top every time and the last two I didn’t get it.”

Bayne had the preferred top lane for the final three restarts, and it pushed the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford to its fifth-place result.

“We had a really good race car,” Bayne said. “That’s what paid off. You can’t come back if you don’t have good race cars and we’ve got that now.”

Last August at Bristol, RFR’s best finish among the trio was Bayne’s 15th-place showing. Stenhouse Jr. and Biffle finished 21st and 25th respectively, so Sunday’s race marked an improvement in the team’s overall performance at the half-mile track.

This season is shaping up better than 2015 as well. RFR cars compiled a total of only four top-five finishes in 36 races last year, and Biffle was the only driver with an average finish in the top 20. Through the first eight races of 2016 though, the organization has two top fives and two drivers have improved their average overall showing: Bayne’s average is up from 25.8 in 2015 to 19.6 this year, and Stenhouse Jr.’s average has improved from 24.3 in 2015 to 18.8.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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

Development Journalists


Derrike Cope made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in the final race of the 1982 season at Riverside International Raceway. Since that race, he’s experienced both highs and lows in the sport and watched stock car racing evolve throughout his career.

Cope, a Spanaway, Wash. native, has started 409 Sprint Cup races and 260 XFINITY events to date. He has one career XFINITY win and two career Cup wins, one of which was the 1990 Daytona 500.

Cope said winning the Daytona 500 is the biggest thing that can happen to a NASCAR driver and felt his expectations were raised after the victory.

“It was my first win, so I knew that I was capable of winning,” Cope told POPULAR SPEED. “Later that year, I think we enforced the fact that we can win at the highest level at Dover. My expectations were, ‘yeah I feel like I should go on to win more races,’ but I was also realistic — the teams I drove for were all middle-of-the-pack teams.”

Cope drove the No. 10 Purolator Chevrolet for Bob Whitcomb in 1990. He notched his two career Cup Series victories that year and finished the season 18th in the points standings. After 1990, he scored four more top-5 finishes in the rest of his Cup Series career.

Today, the 57-year-old racer is the owner and driver of the No. 70 Chevrolet for his team, Derrike Cope Racing, in the XFINITY Series. The single-car team has raced full time since 2014 with Cope at the wheel, but the team struggles with finding adequate sponsorship and has not averaged a finish better than 31st the last two seasons.

“We’re still in a relative infancy of the program — it started by doing driver development outside the XFINITY Series and then it escalated to [that series],” Cope said. “It’s been a building process to find the necessary funding to really put yourself in a position to showcase your potential in a proper manner. I feel like we’ve been making some inroads, and we’re definitely starting to give ourselves an opportunity to become more consistent.”

Cope understands the changes NASCAR has made since he began racing and that the progression of the sport has caused his race team to change their approach to building and preparing racecars.

“I’ve been in the sport a long time — about 35 years, so I’ve certainly seen a lot of change in both the Cup cars and the Busch Series cars, which are now XFINITY cars,” Cope said. “The [cars] all have technology changes. A lot of things have transpired so that we approach these cars more from the platform for aerodynamics, which maybe overweighs the actual mechanical and grip side.”

Cope wonders how making different decisions over the years would have affected his 35-year career.

“When people say that they have no regrets, that’s not what I would [agree with],” Cope said. “I think it’s how you learn and never stop learning. When you make choices that you feel like you could have altered or have a chance to go back and change, I would certainly change a lot of things, and I think I could have made some better decisions.”

Cope knows that at this point in his career, some opportunities are no longer available to him, so he hires team members that give him a sense of confidence.

“It takes a lot of money and a lot of good people,” Cope said. “You have to surround yourself with good people, just like any other good business.”


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

Development Journalists


A.J. Foyt, one of the most legendary racecar drivers, achieved success in both NASCAR and open-wheel racing throughout his life. In recent years, he has been the team owner of A.J. Foyt Enterprises in the Verizon IndyCar Series and has dealt with health issues, which has forced him to spend time away from the racetrack.

Foyt, 81, holds the record of 67 career USAC wins and had seven career NASCAR wins, including four Indianapolis 500s and a Daytona 500. He and Mario Andretti are the only drivers in history to have won both races, but Foyt’s fondest memory from his racing career was merely qualifying for his first Indy 500 in 1958.

“My happiest moment in my life was just making the race,” Foyt told POPULAR SPEED. “It was my goal, and I was fortunate enough to qualify for the race. Back then, there would be 75 or 100 cars [trying to qualify] and only 33 of them made it.”

In 1963, the seven-time USAC champion qualified for his first Daytona 500, which was only his third career NASCAR start. Foyt never competed in more than seven Cup Series races in a season but attested to the difference between driving a bulkier stock car versus driving a smaller open-wheel car.

“It’s two different types of cars,” Foyt said. “It’s like a little car against a big Greyhound bus, and they drive different altogether, but the name of the game is always trying to win.”

Foyt won the 1972 Daytona 500 in the No. 21 Mercury for Wood Brothers Racing. He started on the front row alongside Bobby Isaac, led 167 laps, and lapped the entire field by the race’s end.

“It was a great race and we kind of ran away with it all day after sitting on the pole and all,” Foyt said. “Anytime you win, it’s great — I don’t care if it’s a little race or a big race.”

Recently, the Texas native has struggled with multiple health problems. He spent a lot of 2015 recovering from surgeries on his heart and his right knee.

“The last three of four years, I’ve spent so much time in the hospital,” Foyt said. “I had both knees [replaced] and then I had a staph infection, which was terrible.”

In 2015, Foyt had a PICC Line inside his body leading to his heart because of the infection, which lasted about six months. Along with the infection, he has undergone three operations on his left knee, two on his right, a hip replacement, and triple bypass heart surgery, which occurred in late 2014.

The heart surgery forced him to miss the first five races of the 2015 IndyCar season. He had an operation on his right knee done later that year and missed the last two races of the season.

“It’s been kind of rough, but I’m getting better,” Foyt said. “Every day, I’m getting stronger and stronger, and I finally got rid of the wheelchair and the cane. It’s been a great career, and I’ve been very fortunate throughout the years.”

Development Journalists


This is the next installment of the Five Minutes with…. Each week, John Haverlin will chat with some of the most interesting personalities in the sport to see what’s on their minds

Longtime radio personality Dave Moody has had a passion for racing all his life.

Once a young, small-time reporter at a short track in Vermont, he has become a well-known and respected broadcaster throughout motorsports.

Moody, known as “The Godfather” by his peers, has hosted SiriusXM Speedway, the popular afternoon talk show on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, since 2003. He’s also an announcer for the Motor Racing Network. Moody spends his weekends at the track with MRN duties, while SiriusXM keeps him busy during the week.

Speedway gives Moody an opportunity to not only interview drivers and team members, but to hear firsthand from fans across America on a variety of NASCAR-related topics. In recent weeks, the low downforce package has been a popular subject for race fans and media alike. NASCAR has received praise for the quality of racing to begin the 2016 season, and many people point to the aero setup as the reason.

Moody agrees, but believes that it is more than just the new aero package that’s providing the great racing.

“I think we’re four-for-four with this new aero package, but I think Goodyear should get a lot of credit too, because they’ve brought a really good tire to the racetrack every week,” Moody told POPULAR SPEED. “We have tire falloff and it has brought pit strategy back into the game — do you take two tires or do you take four, or do you take none at all?”

The radio host enjoys the debates he has with his listeners and gives his insight on all subjects. His daily preparation before the talk show typically begins around 11 a.m. before taking the air for four hours at 3 p.m.

“The bulk of the work really is just reading everything that’s being written and reading everything that’s being talked about in the sport every single day,” Moody said. “When you have an open phone line type of show like we have, you have to stay up to speed with everything that’s going on.”

Moody says he doesn’t have a preference between hosting Speedway and announcing races for MRN, but one aspect of the show he likes is hearing directly from the fans and knowing how they feel.

“I enjoy all of it, and I think it’s because I’m a race fan first and foremost,” Moody said. “I love being on the air and getting that direct feedback from fans. With the talk show, you find out very quickly what people think, how people feel, what turns them on, and what, quite honestly, doesn’t interest them.”

The New England native grew up in Vermont and his love for racing began around the time he was 5 years old. His uncle, Doug MacDonald, frequently took him to Thunder Road International SpeedBowl, a local short track owned by MRN co-founder and legendary broadcaster, Ken Squier.

Moody’s passion for motorsports grew throughout his youth, and when he started working as a reporter at the track, Squier took him under his wing.

“There has to be a love of the sport, and I think he [Squier] saw that in me because I grew up at that racetrack as a race fan, and then I did some writing for some of the local trade papers,” Moody said. “He knew I had a reasonable vocabulary, and I could write a little bit.”

Squire helped Moody get his first job with MRN as a reporter for the 1983 Daytona 500. In 2001, Moody was promoted to MRN’s lead turn announcer position, and has served as the play-by-play voice for several NASCAR XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series events.

Moody devotes every day to being on the radio. Announcing races, preparing for and hosting Speedway, and keeping his finger on the pulse of the NASCAR world keep him extremely busy.

“Some days are busier than others, but every single day I spend nearly as much time getting ready for the shows as I do on the show,” Moody said. “You don’t really get a day off in this business.”

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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


Suarez Comes Up Empty with Fontana Victory in Sight

XFINITY Series sophomore Daniel Suarez came within half a lap of capturing his first career NASCAR win, but he ran out of fuel on the backstretch and Austin Dillon took the checkered flag.

Suarez was running second behind Kyle Busch when Busch suffered a flat tire going into Turn 1 on the final lap. It looked like the race was Suarez’s to win until he came out of Turn 2 off the pace.

After Suarez and Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Erik Jones, ran out of fuel a few laps from the end, Suarez knew he had to race conservatively and that fuel might be an issue for him, too.

“I knew that we were one to one-and-a-half laps short. I was saving fuel,” Suarez said. “I wasn’t worrying about the 20 (Jones) or 18 (Busch), I was just trying to finish the race because I knew that we were short.”

The two JGR drivers fought for the lead down the backstretch, even with Busch limping on three tires and Suarez’s empty fuel cell.

“I passed the 18 when he blew the left front tire in (Turns) 1 and 2 and on the exit of two I ran out of fuel,” Suarez said. “Very unfortunate, but it’s part of racing.”

Dillon, who was running third when the white flag waved, took the lead coming out of the final corner, making the pass as he was sandwiched between the outside wall and Busch’s wounded car. Suarez ended up fourth, with Darrell Wallace Jr. third and Busch second.

Suarez scored a top-10 finish in every race this season and his worst qualifying effort of the year is third. He and his JGR teammates have the speed — it appears to be just a matter of time, and luck, before the Mexican-born racer will make his way to victory lane.

“We had a really fast race car and won the pole. I think it’s been the closest race that I ever had and would have loved to get that first victory,” Suarez said. “The team is amazing with the chemistry that we have. We win, and we lose together and today we were close, and that’s pretty much all I can say. I can tell you our first victory is coming, and it’s coming fast.”

Suarez leads the XFINITY Series points standings and has a 10-point lead over JR Motorsports racer, Elliott Sadler.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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

Development Journalists

Kyle Busch Starts Last, Finishes Third in Atlanta

After his pole-winning lap time was disallowed, Kyle Busch fought his way from a 39th place starting spot to a third place finish in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday.

Busch’s time was disallowed after NASCAR penalized him because the No. 18 M&M’s Camry failed the laser inspection in the right rear toe. No other penalties were given to Busch or his team.

Busch, the 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, had a quiet, but solid race on Sunday. He led only two laps, but was a contender for the win on the race’s final restart. Busch restarted third, on the inside lane behind leader Jimmie Johnson, who won the race.
Busch was able to pass Kevin Harvick, who restarted second and dominated the race by leading 131 laps, and chased Johnson for the lead.

“Once I cleared the (Harvick) getting into Turn 1, I thought I had a really good shot at being able to overtake the 48,” Busch said. “I tried running a little bit higher than him to see if I could get some momentum off Turn 2 and I never really got any.”

Last week, Busch took third place behind Denny Hamlin’s and Martin Truex Jr.’s photo finish at the Daytona 500. He ended up third again Sunday at Atlanta after a close battle of his own with Dale Earnhardt Jr., who edged him at the line and took second place by a nose.

After the race, Busch said he and Earnhardt Jr. were having fun on the track throughout the race, showing off what the low downforce package can do.

“It was (Earnhardt Jr.) and Brad (Keselowski) and I that were just battling back and forth, slide jobbing one another, high lane-ing it, cutting each other off and everything, so it was pretty fun,” he said. “This package lends itself to that.”

There were three cautions for a total of nine laps throughout the race, but drivers enjoyed the long runs of green flag racing. It made the race more challenging for both drivers and crew chiefs, according to Busch.

“Pretty good race I felt like — a lot harder than some of us may want it to be, but that makes it good for the drivers and the crew chiefs to have to work together to come out here and build a good package for themselves and a comfortable race car,” he said.

Busch now has five top-five finishes at Atlanta in 18 career starts. Before Sunday, he last raced at the track in August 2014, and finished 16th, but missed the race in 2015 after being injured in an accident at Daytona International Speedway the week before.

Busch is the current leader in the Sprint Cup Series standings, with a three-point lead over Truex Jr. Next week, he goes for his second career win at his home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in the Kobalt 400.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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

Development Journalists

Teamwork, Years of Perseverance Push Toyota to First Daytona 500

For cars with Toyota Racing Development engines in the 58th running of the Daytona 500, teamwork among the drivers of Joe Gibbs and Furniture Row Racing helped deliver Toyota their first win in the event.

Camrys dominated the ‘Great American Race,’ leading 156 of 200 laps. Denny Hamlin won the race, after leading 95 laps and completing a last lap pass on teammate, Matt Kenseth.

Three Gibbs Toyota’s finished in the top-five and Martin Truex Jr., Furniture Row’s driver, finished second to Hamlin in a drag race to the line. It was the closest finish in Daytona 500 history.

“It was really amazing what we were able to do all day and really just control the race the way we did,” Truex said.

Furniture Row Racing switched manufacturer, from Chevrolet to Toyota, before the 2016 season and the single car team joined Gibbs in a technical alliance. Their No. 78 is essentially a fifth JGR car.

“This is a team victory,” Hamlin said. “My teammates did an amazing job all day working together –- all the Toyota’s.”

As the race neared the end, the four Gibbs cars and Furniture Row’s single car made up the top-five, with Kenseth in the lead. Kenseth fell back to 14th when the checkered flag waved after trying to block Hamlin through the final corner.

“When you have a game plan and you work together and you stick together, it works for you,” Kyle Busch said. “That’s probably the longest and the best I think our JGR cars have ever worked together and it certainly showed.” Busch, the 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion, finished third and led for 19 laps.

Hamlin, Busch, and Kenseth were at the front of the field for most of the race. Carl Edwards, who had damage and fell a lap down during the race, was able to get a Lucky Dog award and salvage his race with a fifth place finish.

The five drivers drove together in practices during the week and from there, they planned to stick together throughout the race too.

“When we went out in practice, the five Toyotas lined up, and we were the top of the timing and scoring,” David Wilson, TRD’s president, said. “We realized that our five cars working together could truly do something special on Sunday.”

Toyota’s first race in NASCAR came in 2007. When they arrived on the scene, performance was lacking and the manufacturer’s teams were not able to keep up with the competition, initially.

“When we came into the sport, we struggled,” Wilson said. “We were not ready. We didn’t know. So it’s taken time for us to collectively build an organization with our team partners that is capable of winning races and competing for championships.”

Now in their tenth season, Toyota can finally say they’ve accomplished NASCAR’s greatest feats. In the past three months, they’ve won a Sprint Cup Series championship and now, a Daytona 500.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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

Development Journalists

Kligerman Teams with Ricky Benton for Daytona Truck Race

Parker Kligerman will be back behind the wheel later this month after joining Ricky Benton Racing Enterprises.

Kligerman will race the No. 92 Valvoline/Advance Auto Parts/BTS Tire and Wheel Distributors/Goodyear Commercial Tire Network Ford F-150 at Daytona International Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series first race of the 2016 season.

Kligerman raced two full seasons in the CWTS in 2011 and 2012 and has one career win, Talladega in October 2012. He last raced in the series at Daytona in February 2014 but was involved in a wreck and finished 29th. Since then, he was a part of the now defunct Swan Racing team in the Sprint Cup Series and drove one XFINITY Series race in the No. 97 Chevrolet for Obaika Racing in 2015 at Darlington Raceway.

“Parker comes to us with a great racing rėsumė,” RBR owner, Ricky Benton, said. “He has proven that he can be competitive and win races in good equipment. Now it’s our job to make sure we give him fast trucks and put him in a position to be successful.”

RBR has run the No. 92 truck since 2010 with multiple drivers. The team’s best finish came at Daytona in February 2011 with Clay Rogers, who finished third. In 2015, NASCAR veteran David Gilliland scored two top-10 finishes for the team, a season high for RBR.

“Over the last few years, I have watched the Ricky Benton Racing team improve their program and results,” Kligerman said. “Having this opportunity, as they come off one of their best years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, is a massive honor.”

RBR said there are no major changes to the team in 2016. Mike Hester will continue his role as crew chief and the team will continue to be powered with Roush Yates Racing engines.

Kligerman hopes to leave a positive impression and a show a strong running at Daytona for RBR. The Westport, Conn. native has been without a steady ride since 2014 and has been a NASCAR America analyst for NBC Sports Network in his time away from the track.

RBR has not yet announced their plans beyond Daytona.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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

Development Journalists

Armstrong Joins JGL; Richard Petty Motorsports Unsure of 2016 Plans

@DakodaArmstrong has found a new home, signing with JGL Racing to drive the No. 28 Toyota in 2016. Armstrong will bring his longtime sponsor, WinField, along with him.

The 24-year-old from New Castle, Indiana, will run full-time in the XFINITY Series after competing for Richard Petty Motorsports the last two seasons.

“I am really excited to work with everyone at JGL Racing,” Armstrong said.  “I really look forward to racing a full season with this team along with my sponsor WinField and think we can have a good amount of success.”

JGL Racing ran two Toyotas in 2015, the No. 28 driven by @JJYeley1 and the No. 26 driven by multiple drivers. The team will now run the No. 28 with Armstrong and the No. 24 with a driver to be named in the coming weeks.

“All of us at JGL Racing are excited to welcome Dakoda and WinField to our organization,” James Whitener, owner of JGL Racing, said. “We think he is a great addition to our team and we look forward to the success on the track in 2016.”


The organization made great strides in 2015 with Yeley, who won a pole at Kentucky and finished fourth at Talladega in May. They hope to continue on an upward trend with the addition of Armstrong, who is set for his third full season.

“Adding Dakoda and WinField to our organization is just another step in our growth process,” Gregg Mixon, General Manager of JGL Racing, said. “We made significant improvements last year with the addition of Joe Gibbs Racing engines and pit crew. These improvements helped us grow and we look forward to continuing that growth and going to the next level with Dakoda and WinField.”

Steve Lane will return as a crew chief for JGL Racing and will serve as the leader of Armstrong’s No. 28 Toyota. It will be his second full season with the organization.

The team Armstrong departed, Petty, has not announced their 2016 plans. However, a representative for the organization says while their plans are unknown, they hope to continue competing in the series.

“We plan to compete in the XFINITY Series to some extent this year,” David Pruitt, a spokesman for RPM, said.  “Things are still in the works and not finalized yet.”

In two seasons with Petty, Armstrong scored four top-10s and one pole at Daytona International Speedway in July 2014. Armstrong’s best finish with the team was at Daytona in July 2015 when he finished sixth.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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

Development Journalists

Premium Motorsports Buys Out Hillman Racing

Premium Motorsports has announced the acquisition of Hillman Racing and plans to field one full-time car and one part-time car in the Sprint Cup Series in 2016.

Jay Robinson, Premium Motorsports’ owner, purchased equipment and hired staff from Hillman Racing, including former team owner Mike Hillman, who will be competition director. Mark Hillman will continue his role as a full-time crew chief.

Robinson ran the No. 62 and No. 98 entries full time in 2015. For the first half of the season, @Brendan62 piloted the No. 62 Chevrolet, but mutually parted ways with the team in July.

The No. 98 was owned by Phil Parsons Racing and driven by @Josh_Wise at the start of the season. A mid-season acquisition of the No. 98 team led to Wise’s departure and the team ran the rest of the season with multiple drivers, including drivers Timmy Hill, Reed Sorenson and rookie Ryan Preece.

Both cars ran a majority of the races unsponsored in 2015 and there’s no word on any sponsorship deals yet for 2016. A manufacturer has also not been announced by Premium Motorsports.

The team obtained Hillman Racing resources and reduced to a single full-time team to make one full-time car the linchpin of the organization. Its goal is to improve the overall performance level on the track for 2016.

“We had to upgrade our team moving forward and that included Mike Hillman, select key personnel and the purchase of additional cars and equipment,” Robinson said. “The racing bar is being raised even higher and this effort will enable us to commit more resources and become more competitive for 2016.”

Hillman Racing was a single car operation that fielded the No. 40 Chevrolet driven by Landon Cassill. Cassill appears to be leaving for Front Row Motorsports and replacing 10-year Cup veteran David Gilliland in the No. 38 Ford, though nothing has been made official yet.

Premium Motorsports will use owner points from the No. 40 for their full-time car.
There has been no announcement yet about who the full time driver will be yet or what car number will be used.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist


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