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“They Said What?” NASCAR Home Tracks Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2019 season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

I think the biggest thing is – I don’t want to sound negative, but just be prepared that it might not work out. I think it’s easy for all of us, whether you’re a dad, you’re a friend of a racer or a competitor of a racer and look at people and say, “Oh, they’ll make it. They have plenty of talent. They’ll be in Cup one day, or they remind me of Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon.”

But there’s no model there anymore. So I think young guys that growing up in racing, whether quarter midgets, bandalero, late model, or even the K&N division, is just take advantage of every single opportunity that you can. Don’t waste it, because it cost way too much money to be out there and there’s jobs on the line for a lot of crew guys that are working on those cars. But don’t waste your opportunity, and be prepared that you can go out there and do everything right – you can win races, and you can win championships, and there’s still a really big chance that due to the business, you’re not going to make it on Sundays and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I work with Noah Gragson and I tell him this all the time – just don’t waste your opportunity because if you go out there and win five races over the year and do everything you can, and you’re prepared, and you’re preparing your body to battle, and you’re communicating with your team – if you come up short and you can’t make it to the Cup Series, then you can still lay your head down at night and say you gave it your all. But don’t be the kid that wastes the opportunity and doesn’t take advantage of it, because then you’re going to be feeling a lot of regrets.

So I think it’s about being mentally prepared of the challenge to work your way up through the sport in today’s atmosphere to where it’s not just about talent, but the funding you have in place and what you do with that and whether you take advantage of it.

Brandon McReynolds

BILL MCANALLY RACING

It’s a really cool position I’m being putting in this year. I’ve raced for the past 15 years and I’ve always kind of been one of the very few girls in the midwest for the up-and-coming drivers to admire and to learn off of. Now that you’re getting into the higher NASCAR series, your platform gets bigger and bigger.

 

My role for that is to go out there and do what I love; go out there and win and show that it really doesn’t matter, boy or girl, you can go out there and do whatever sport you want. So if they’re looking for inspiration to gout there and race against all the guys, that’s great; but if they can use what I am doing on the race track to help them pursue their dreams, whether racing or another sport, that’s a really cool spot for me to be  in and I hope to do that for them.

Brittney Zamora

JAGGER JONES RACING

It definitely helps being involved and having a racing family. I mean, my dad is always there and my grandpa – I can always go to them and ask. But it’s also what they know, their experience, in putting me in the right position and just being involved with a lot of other people in the NASCAR world has really been a help for us. It’s good to know that I can go to my dad and ask for advice, really, for anything about the cars, or anything really around racing.

Jagger Jones

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

The K&N and ARCA car are really similar, so going back and forth between those two isn’t too drastic; it’s really just horsepower. But when we go super late model racing and TransAm Racing, that’s completely different and that’s just more or less for experience. So I don’t really take those for competitive, but rather just for learning, like road courses and stuff like that in the bigger cars. The Super Late Model is more so for the competitiveness of the series.

Sam Mayer

JOHN HARRELSON | NKP

Really, just how to race these cars. These cars have 650 horsepower, but they’re so heavy and really tall; it’s kind of like racing a school bus with a jet engine. It’s just a really big bulky car so you have to learn how to drive it, especially on these short tracks. It’s all about who has the most speed through the center; it’s a big long drag race down the straightaway with whoever can get the power down.

We ran several short track races and we qualified third at Thompson, but we ended up having a really loose car. I think just from everything I learned from that will help for New Smyrna. For the big tracks, I’ve been to the big tracks now so I can be able to use that knowledge with how the air works, how not to use much brake, and that stuff, and going to these tracks for the second time is going to help a lot.

First time I went to New Hampshire, we qualified 13th or something like that. But the next time we went, I qualified sixth, a tenth off the pole. So it definitely helps going to these tracks for a second time.

Colin Garrett

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

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ASHLEY ASKS…… Jagger Jones

Jagger Jones is no stranger to motorsports, having grown up around it and watched the success of both his father P.J. Jones and grandfather Parnelli Jones. The 16-year-old is now trying to carve out his own career, and will race the full NASCAR K&N Pro Series West campaign in 2019. 

Recently, Jones spoke with POPULAR SPEED about the upcoming season and his career to date.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into the upcoming K&N Pro Series West season?

JAGGER JONES: I’m really excited for this year. It’s definitely a big step for me in my racing career along the path to achieve my goals, and I’m excited. I think I have a great team, and great people around me. I’m really looking forward to it.

PS: What are your goals and expectations?

JAGGER: I definitely am aiming for rookie of the year. I think that’ll be a pretty cool and achievable accomplishment for me. I also want to win some races, so those are two are my two goals so far that I have going into the season.

PS: What track are you most looking forward to getting to?

JAGGER: I’m really looking forward to – probably the first one is Kern (County), just because I’ve won a lot of races there before. I know how to get around that place and I have a lot of laps there so maybe have an advantage on some of the other guys there.

I’m also looking forward to the road course at Sonoma. I think that’s going to be really fun, and I love road courses. I grew up racing go-karts on road courses so I think that’ll be pretty fun to get back on the road course. I’m also looking forward to Phoenix for a hometown race.

PS: You mentioned Kern County. What did it mean for you to pick up the championship last season?

JAGGER: Oh yeah, it was super cool to get my first oval championship at Kern County, a track that is a pretty big track where a lot of people like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick have raced at recently, and a place we’re going to go in the K&N West Series. So it was super cool to win there, and win the championship in the late model.

PS: What is the one moment from your late model season last year that stands out above all the rest?

JAGGER: I think last year was pretty cool getting to race back east with Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. and be able to win my first night out with that team, second team. It was super cool to go down to Myrtle Beach and score the win.

PS: How did you get started in racing?

JAGGER: So I just always grew up around the track with my grandpa and my dad. From when I was little, my whole life has evolved around racing; that’s all I’ve known. So my mom didn’t want me to become a racecar driver really, but it was determined to happen. There was no way around it. When I was little, I was always playing with toy cars or anything with wheels. So I’ve always just dreamed of becoming a professional racecar driver one day.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

JAGGER: I’d probably say Jimmie Johnson.

PS: We’ve seen a lot of drivers running different cars and series recently. What is a series/type of car that is on your bucket list to one day try?

JAGGER: I think one day definitely the Indy 500. Of course, I want to be racing full-time in the (Monster Energy) NASCAR Cup Series, and contending for wins in that. But outside of that, I think the Indy 500 would definitely be super cool to follow in my family history and race there.

PS: Having so much family involved in racing, what does it mean to have them to lean on for support and advice?

JAGGER: It definitely helps being involved and having a racing family. I mean, my dad is always there and my grandpa – I can always go to them and ask. But it’s also what they know, their experience, in putting me in the right position and just being involved with a lot of other people in the NASCAR world has really been a help for us. It’s good to know that I can go to my dad and ask for advice, really, for anything about the cars, or anything really around racing.

PS: If you were able to make it up the ranks and race in the Cup Series, what would that mean to you?

JAGGER: It’d definitely be a dream come true. Since I was little, I’ve been always watching NASCAR every week and pictured in my head me leading one day. So it would kind of just be – just getting there would be really cool. Then having success, that would be even greater. It would just fulfill my dream that I’ve had since I was a kid and hoped for, and now am on the path trying to achieve.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

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ASHLEY ASKS…… Brittney Zamora

After winning the Washington NASCAR Rookie of the Year title in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, Brittney Zamora will take the next step of her racing career, set for the full NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule in 2019 with Bill McAnally Racing.

The 19-year-old Toyota Racing Development driver shared her thoughts on upcoming year and more recently with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts entering the season?

BRITTNEY ZAMORA: I’m really excited for this opportunity that I’ve been wanting for several years now. I never thought it’d happen, just because I don’t have the kind of money to back me to do those opportunities. But with great sponsors, they’ve made it possible so not going to take any moment for granted and give a 110% every time I am out there.

PS: What are your goals and expectations?

Photo Courtesy of Brittney Zamora Racing

BRITTNEY: This has been a tough question for me. Everybody wants to go out to win the championship and every race they compete in. But obviously, that’s unrealistic as you can’t win every race; that’s just not how it goes in racing sometimes. But I feel it’s hard to set my expectations. I haven’t raced with this team before, these cars, and there’s several new tracks that I will be going to.

As far as expectations and goals, I just want to be able to lead laps and be competitive and the more laps you lead, the more wins will come your way. As far as expectations, I want to be a sponge this year. I want to be adaptive and absorb up all the new information and the experiences that I get to learn from. If I can be quick at learning at each track I go to, it should be a good year for us.

PS: What track are you looking forward to the most?

BRITTNEY: There’s a few. I really like Irwindale, so I’m looking forward to that track. Up here in the northwest, my home track last year Evergreen, I feel we’ll be pretty decent there. But then you get to the tracks in the midwest like Bristol, Iowa, Gateway, New Hampshire – those are all fun tracks, and then you get to end the year at Phoenix. So I don’t know.

I know you said the one track that I am looking forward to, but there’s several. The whole season has a lot of good tracks in the line-up.

PS: You’re going to have a pair of great teammates in Hailie (Deegan) and Derek (Kraus). What are your thoughts on working with them?

BRITTNEY: It should be a good season. We’re all around the same age, and we’re all here because we love racing so it should be a good year to be able to learn off each other. Hopefully it will be a good season for all three of us.

PS: Speaking of Hailie, there’s been a lot of talk about of woman in motorsports. What does it to you to be a role model to a lot of young ladies out there?

BRITTNEY: It’s a really cool position I’m being putting in this year. I’ve raced for the past 15 years and I’ve always kind of been one of the very few girls in the midwest for the up-and-coming drivers to admire and to learn off of. Now that you’re getting into the higher NASCAR series, your platform gets bigger and bigger.

Photo Courtesy of NW Motorsports News Service

My role for that is to go out there and do what I love; go out there and win and show that it really doesn’t matter, boy or girl, you can go out there and do whatever sport you want. So if they’re looking for inspiration to gout there and race against all the guys, that’s great; but if they can use what I am doing on the race track to help them pursue their dreams, whether racing or another sport, that’s a really cool spot for me to be  in and I hope to do that for them.

PS: How did you get your start in racing?

BRITTNEY: My dad actually raced for about 20 years and I just followed in his footsteps. I went to the race track when I was four days old and ever since, I’ve been hooked. I’ve been at the race track my entire life. It was kind of just the direction that felt right for me. When I was four-years-old, I got into a go-kart and ever since, racing has been my passion.

PS: What’s been the most memorable moment of your racing career to date?

BRITTNEY: I’ve been asked this question a few times, and there’s two moments in my racing career that stand out for me. My first super late model win – that was huge for my team and I. It was during my second year of super late models and we’d been close several times before that and we finally got the win, and it was pretty cool because it was on father’s day. It was kind of cool to do that for my dad and my team.

So it’s between that moment, and also getting my championship this year for the second year in a row. It kind of solidifies and proves that we earned our championship last year, and it was neat to come back and do it again.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

BRITTNEY: That’s definitely dad. I know a lot of people have their NASCAR drivers that are their heroes, but throughout my racing career and growing up, my dad was the one I always looked up. He was my favorite driver ever and being able to learn off of him, and then come home and work on the car together, then seeing my dad race, and then him coming to my races – we’ve been super close all the time throughout racing. Getting to progress up the ranks with my dad by my side is cool for myself.

PS: We’ve seen a lot of drivers running different cars and series recently. What is a series/type of car that is on your bucket list to one day try?

BRITTNEY: I don’t know. I’ve always looked forward to driving the K&N car. With the opportunity in this car, hopefully I can prove myself and keep working my way up. This year has been a huge step for myself in going in that right direction. I don’t know – I think it’d be cool to drive a Cup car. Those are what everybody looks forward to, and if you ask any driver, their goal is to make it to the Cup Series.

That’s when you know when you made it – when you’re in the Cup Series. So to be able to hop in that car and take it for a few laps and get the experience, that’d probably be the one on my bucket list.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

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

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NASCAR K&N Pro Series West 2019 Schedule Announced

Las Vegas And Phoenix Bookend Exciting Calendar

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2019 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule will kick off on the dirt of Las Vegas and culminate on the big stage in Phoenix, with a challenging mix of tracks in between that will test the top drivers and teams throughout the west.

The 14-race schedule will visit 13 different tracks in nine states from February to November. It will include two combination races with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and three companion races with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“This is one of the most dynamic and diverse schedules we’ve had, and it’s going to be a lot of fun for fans of the series to watch their favorite drivers compete at a variety of venues,” said Brandon Thompson, NASCAR managing director for regional racing. “You have a tremendous mix of a dirt track, road course, historic bullrings and speedways that is sure to produce an exciting season.”

The 66th season of the series, which traces its roots back to the Pacific Coast Late Model Series, will kickoff with a distinct old school feel: racing stock cars on dirt. The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the Star Nursery 100 on Thursday, Feb. 28, as part of the track’s Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube NASCAR race weekend.

The inaugural Star Nursery 100 was won by eventual ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion Sheldon Creed and was the first NASCAR K&N Pro Series race on a dirt track since 1979.

The 2019 titlist will be crowned in a much-anticipated return to ISM Raceway as part of the track’s NASCAR Playoff weekend in November. The 1-mile track recently completed a $178 million renovation project and hosts the penultimate round of the NASCAR national series playoffs.

The K&N Pro Series West last ran in Phoenix in 2015, when Todd Gilliland scored his first career NASCAR win as a prelude to back-to-back West title campaigns. The track was also the site of 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano’s first NASCAR win in 2007 as well as Ryan Blaney’s first NASCAR win in 2011.

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will also return to another popular stop: Irwindale Speedway, on Saturday, March 30. The graduated banking on the half-mile speedway outside of Los Angeles has produced thrilling racing since it first opened in 1999; it has hosted 26 events between 1999-2011, and from 2014-17.

Other schedule highlights include:

  • Tucson Speedway in Arizona will again host twin 100-lap features, on Saturday, May 11. Kody Vanderwal scored the underdog sweep in the inaugural 2018 event.
  • The series will race on the road course at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, June 22, as part of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend. Will Rodgers scored the win over a trio of Cup drivers in 2018.
  • Twice the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will go head-to-head with its East counterparts. The first is the annual stop at Iowa Speedway, on Friday, July 26, and the second as part of a doubleheader with the INDYCAR Series on Saturday, Aug. 24, at Gateway Motorsports Park, just outside of St. Louis.
  • The series will make its traditional summer visits to Colorado National Speedway (Saturday, June 8), Washington’s Evergreen Speedway (Saturday, Aug. 17) and Oregon’s Douglas County Speedway. Colorado has hosted the West series each of the last 12 seasons. Evergreen has held 56 races since 1965, including the last eight seasons. Douglas has held 16 West races, bringing the series to the fairgrounds each of the last three years.
  • Idaho’s Meridian Speedway will bring the series back for the fifth consecutive year on Sept. 28, a run that included Hailie Deegan’s historic first NASCAR win in 2018. It’s followed by back-to-back California dates – first at the tight quarter-mile of All American Speedway in Roseville on Saturday, Oct. 12, and then the high-speed half-mile of Kern County Raceway Park in Bakersfield on Saturday, Oct. 26. All American has been part of the West series every season since 2008, while Kern will be hosting its 10th race since it opened in 2013.

2019 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Schedule

Date Track Location Laps
Thurs., Feb. 28 Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Las Vegas, Nev. 100
Sat., March 30 Irwindale Speedway Irwindale, Calif. 150
Sat., May 11 Tucson Speedway * Tucson, Ariz. 100s*
Sat, June 8 Colorado National Speedway Dacono, Colo. 175
Sat, June 22 Sonoma Raceway Sonoma, Calif. 64
Sat, June 29 Douglas County Speedway Roseburg, Ore. 150
Fri., July 26 Iowa Speedway Newton, Iowa 150
Sat., Aug. 17 Evergreen Speedway Monroe, Wash. 175
Sat., Aug. 24 Gateway Motorsports Park Madison, Ill. 120
Sat., Sept. 28 Meridian Speedway Meridian, Idaho 208
Sat., Oct. 12 All American Speedway Roseville, Calif. 150
Sat., Oct. 26 Kern County Raceway Park Bakersfield, Calif. 175
Sat., Nov. 9 ISM Raceway Avondale, Ariz. 100

* Twin 100-lap championship points races

Schedule subject to change

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ASHLEY ASKS…… Derek Kraus

Competing in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, Derek Kraus is off to a solid start with five top-fives in eight races, including a victory at Kern County Raceway. The Bill McAnally Racing driver recently spoke with POPULAR SPEED about his thoughts on the campaign thus far, and more.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on how your season has gone so far?

DEREK KRAUS: So far, this year has been definitely been – well, the win at Kern gave us some momentum, but we struggled at Tuscon and Orange County a little bit so hopefully we turn that around this weekend.

PS: What are your goals overall for the season?

DEREK: For sure, you wanna win as many races as you possibly can. Then if you do that, the championship will play into your favor and you’ll most likely win the championship at the end of the year. So that’s the main goal at the end of the year, but right now it’s just taking it race-by-race each weekend and trying to win races.

PS: What track are you most looking forward to?

DEREK: I look forward to Gateway, and Iowa. I like higher speed, bigger race tracks just because of the adrenaline rush that you get.

PS: What does it mean for you to be part of the NASCAR Next Program?

DEREK: It’s my opportunity to follow in the footsteps of drivers like Darrell Wallace Jr. and Chase Elliott, just because those two they were once in the NASCAR Next Program and got to the top-two series in NASCAR and they’re fan base is big. So this is my opportunity to follow in their footsteps and that’s what I want to do.

PS: What would it mean for you one day to race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series alongside those guys?

DEREK: It’d mean a lot, just like at Kern when we were side-by-side with Kevin Harvick on the front row. That was crazy – just 16-years-old and I got to race against Kevin Harvick. It’d definitely be a big accomplishment for me just to make it up to the top level in NASCAR.

PS: How did you get your start in racing?

DEREK: My dad. He raced and then he put in a go-kart, and I really liked it, and I told him this is what I want to do, and here we are now.

PS: What’s been the most memorable moment of your career to date?

DEREK: Probably the win at Bakersfield. That was a really big win just because of how good the field was, and how big the race was just because of being the first time for 175 laps at Kern. That was a big win for sure, and got our season off to a good start.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

DEREK: I really like Carl Edwards. He seems like he’s really good with the friends, and was a really good driver behind the wheel and never got really mad, so I look up to him.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

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Will Rodgers: I Need To Be More Aggressive

With no finishes outside of the top-five, Will Rodgers‘ rookie campaign in K&N Pro Series West has started off well.

“I think it has gone well so far, being that we just started this relationship with my new team – Jefferson Pitts Racing,” he told POPULAR SPEED. “(With) having never worked with Jeff Jefferson before or any of the guys before Tucson, for some reason we clicked right then and there. We could convey what we wanted to each other, understood what we were talking about, and we were able to apply a lot of it to the race track and improve.

“I didn’t think we were going to do as well as we did those first four races, being that I’d never been to those tracks before or been with this team before, or ran up front consistently with guys like Todd Gilliland and Chris Eggleston.”

The positive results have only helped the 22-year-old grow more confident in himself, and his equipment.

“Because I’ve been confident, I’ve been able to focus on the more specific details of how the car’s reacting on the race track and staying consistent and keeping my mind open for learning,” he said.

In search of his first career victory, Rodgers says the key is setting up to be stronger in the race’s second half.

“Also, my driving style needs to become a little bit more aggressive towards the end of these races,” he added. “I come from sports car racing, so being the nice guy there is what you’re supposed to be. But in NASCAR, sometimes you have to push yourself through to get what you want. I think I’m adapting to that, and that is what everybody will see these next few races from me.”

He will get his next opportunity at Spokane County Raceway on May 13.

“I’m really excited,” he said. “Being that the track is so proximity to the shop, we’re able to go test there and dial in our equipment. I’m the kind of driver that if I can take one day of track time and sleep on it, and I come back – we’re 10 times better out of the box there. So I’m feeling pretty good about that.”

For Rodgers, he got his start as a result of his mother discovering two of his classmates were racing go-karts.

“My mom found out and shortly after, we were down there at the go-kart track,” he said. “From that point, you skip ahead a year, and we won the championship. When we did that, we ended up bumping up to full-scale karting program, moved to Southern California and the rest is history.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

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Landauer Expects to Win, Contend for Championship in 2017

After a successful campaign last year in the K&N Pro Series West, Julia Landauer will return to the series once again in 2017. It was announced earlier this month she had signed with Bob Bruncati’s Sunrise Ford Racing Team for the 2017 season.

“I’m really excited,” she told POPULAR SPEED. “I’m really looking forward to taking everything I learned last year and going back this year and having that confidence if you will. Just looking forward to going out there, winning races and going for the championship.”

With the successful year she had in 2016, she is entering this year confidently, expecting to reach victory lane while contending for the championship.

“That’s what the primary focus is,” she added. “To go from winning a championship in 2015 to not in 2016 is not what I wanted to do, so that’s what I’m hoping to do.”

With the diversity of the schedule, Landauer says the pair of the tracks she’s most looking forward to returning to this year are both tracks in which she scored poor finishes in 2016.

“I’m most looking forward to redeeming myself at Sonoma,” she said. “It was the race that I was most looking forward to last year, and it ended up being my worst race of the season. So definitely looking forward to redeeming myself there, and definitely looking forward to going to Iowa. I really like that track, but we had a lot of problems there, so hopefully looking to do better at that race.”

Last season, Landauer put together an impressive campaign for Billy McAnally Racing, scoring seven top-fives and 13 top-10s en route to finishing fourth in the Pro Series West Standings. Notably, it marked the highest finish for a female driver in the NASCAR development series.

“I’m really proud of myself,” she said. “To come in as a rookie with races with so much longer than what I had ever raced before, and with a car that was quite much more power than I had in 2015, I’m really happy. We had some obstacles that we had to overcome as a team, and we put our heads together and did that. I’m glad to have finished pretty well for a rookie, and obviously to make it to fourth place to be the highest female finisher ever. That was all really good, and great to be racing in a televised series and become more involved in NASCAR.”

Looking back on the year, she notes the biggest thing she learned was equipment conservation, in saving the tires and not burning up the brakes throughout the event.

For Landauer, she was able to get her start in racing at a young age, beginning in go-karts at the age of 10.

“My family got me and my sibling into go-karts so we could do something as a family on weekends, and my sister and I could compete against the boys,” she said.

She was able to have success, steadily making her way up the racing ladder en route to making history in 2015. That season, she won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Limited Late Model Division Championship at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Virginia. She was the first female to earn a title in the track’s history. Looking back on her career, she admits her most memorable moment has to be the first win during that championship campaign.

Through her move up the ranks, she has been doing things her way, finding ways to get her name out there, including public speaking. She was recognized for her efforts as Forbes named her to their Sports 30 under 30 list.

“It was quite an honor to be named to the Forbes Sports 30 under 30 list,” she said. “It shows that the different approach that I am taking to racing, in that really I’m working on everything from the branding to the team building and to be from New York, be different and show that it’s making a splash – that’s really cool. It also adds a boost of confidence in knowing all the hours that have gone into my career over the past six years has been recognized. I’m really privileged to be part of that list.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

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

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Getting to Know Lt. Jesse Iwuji of the K&N Pro Series West

It’s not uncommon for a racecar driver to come from a family that has been a part of motorsports for at least a generation or two. Many of NASCAR’s stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Austin and Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney, and Chase Elliott all had family members who were racers before they became ones themselves.

But that isn’t the case for Lt. Jesse Iwuji, an active United States Navy officer, who drives the No. 36 for the Patriot Motorsports Group (PMG) in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Texas Roots

Iwuji, 29, is a Carrollton, Texas native whose parents were both born in Nigeria. Iwuji, growing up in the Dallas area, was a football player in high school and it was then that he realized the competitiveness in his personality.

“In ninth grade, I was getting on the A-team for football, and I remember in seventh and eighth grade, I was on the B-team for both years,” Iwuji told POPULAR Speed. “I thought, ‘This has to be my year, I have to step it up, I have to get better and compete so I can beat out everybody.’ Really, I learned about hard-working ethics in high school which has helped me progress to where I am today.”

Serving Our Country

After graduating from Hebron High School in Carrollton, he attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland on a full athletic scholarship to play football and compete on the track and field team. After four years at the academy, he served a total of 15 months of deployment time on two tours to the Arabian Gulf, where he was a Surface Warfare Officer.

He had been involved with racing his Dodge Challenger on drag racing strips in Maryland since 2010. In 2013, he bought a Chevrolet Corvette and often drove it on road courses in California. He ran a test session in a stock car at Irwindale Speedway in Southern California, and it was there that his racing career was born.

Auto racing: From “A Hobby to a Career”

Iwuji raced in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series after the successful test at Irwindale Speedway. He ran the All-American schedule in 2015 and was ready for the next step: racing the entire 2016 K&N Pro Series West schedule.

Competing in the K&N Series was a steep learning curve for Iwuji. The races were longer, and the drivers are faster, but his military experience helped him find success in his rookie season with PMG.

“When it comes to time management, being professional, and presenting myself to people whether on-track or off-track or wherever, being in the military and the things I learned in the Naval Academy has helped a lot and hopefully it continues to help me as I progress,” he said.

“The biggest thing I learned was finishing races. The big goal I think for the year was to finish every single race, which I was able to do. Doing that gave me the opportunity to be in the top 10 in points. I was able to get points every single race … I wasn’t wrecking. I wasn’t taking myself out early in races.

“It helped to get the most amount of seat time possible to continue to progress my driving skills for next year in 2017 … not only to go out and finish races but finish with better positions than I did this year.”

He ended the year 10th in the points standings with one top-10 finish and 94 percent of the laps completed on the schedule.

Social Media Sharing

At Phoenix International Raceway in November, Iwuji hosted NASCAR’s Snapchat account for the penultimate weekend on the Sprint Cup Series schedule. He utilizes social media frequently, which has helped him gain a following among racing fans.

“I think social media is huge, and NASCAR having me on their Snapchat for that weekend was pretty awesome, and I thank them a lot for it,” Iwuji said. “It definitely helps bring more awareness about all the stuff I’m doing and let people know that I’m out there racing. Whenever I’m able to get on a platform like the one they have with Snapchat is huge — it really helps bring a lot of exposure, which hopefully leads to more in my career.”

Supporting Our Troops

Iwuji has done a plentitude of charitable work for military veterans, both on and off the track.

In 2015, he worked with the Phoenix Patriot Foundation, an organization based in Southern California, and occasionally took a veteran to a racing event.

“Their whole mission is to support veterans,” he said of the foundation. “What I was doing with them was bring a veteran to the track to honor them and put their name on the car and stuff like that.”

He also worked with 208 Cares, a nonprofit organization from Idaho which helps disabled veterans reestablish their lives.

“Their whole mission is to give away a house to one of the veterans,” Iwuji said. “I try to promote it and push it, and it was really awesome helping people and kids who have dreams and are motivated to get certain places, and I try to do what I can to help.”

Bringing Diversity

Being of Nigerian descent, Iwuji’s journey into NASCAR is not one that many people would — or could — have predicted for a black student athlete from Texas. No one in his family had ever raced, and NASCAR has historically been a predominantly white sport.

However, the industry has embraced racial and gender variety with its Drive for Diversity program, which is marketed towards minority and female racers. He believes NASCAR will be more diverse in the future and does what he can to support it.

“The big thing in diversity is it just bring more relevance to the community and to reach out to as many minorities as possible,” Iwuji said. “The racing world isn’t closed just because in the past there hasn’t been a ton of minorities. [It’s] definitely open, NASCAR has opened doors and NASCAR wants to bring new types of people into the sport.

“It’s possible. I haven’t been racing my whole life. I wasn’t born into a racing family. No one in my family has done racing before.”

True to his Word

On Iwuji’s official website, his mission statement reads:

“At Jesse Iwuji Racing, our goal is to progress in NASCAR through the ranks while promoting sportsmanship through diversity, mentorship for youth and representing our nation’s Military Active Duty/Veteran community with the best professionalism.”

Having read this story, I think you’ll see that Lt. Iwuji has done all this no matter where he is in his professional life.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

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

Categories
News

Eggleston Wins At His Home Track

By Brooke Franceschini (DACONO, Colo.) Chris Eggleston didn’t let a rain delay prevent him from winning in front of his hometown fans Saturday night in the NAPA/Toyota 150 at Colorado National Speedway.

The 26-year-old Erie, Colorado native collected his second consecutive NASCAR K&N Pro Series West victory after leading 102 laps. It wasn’t an easy win however, Eggleston had to overcome a two hour rain delay and numerous battles for the lead, including one with his teammate Todd Gilliland with one lap to go.

This marks the Colorado native’s second K&N Pro Series West win at his home track. He earned his first in 2014 which resulted in him getting a full-time ride with Bill McAnally Racing and ultimately, the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship.

Gilliland, a member of the 2016-17 NASCAR Next class and the leader in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, finished runner-up to his teammate after winning the 21 Means 21 Pole Award earlier in the day.

Gracin Raz, last year’s NAPA/Toyota 150 race winner Ryan Partridge and Blaine Perkins rounded out the top five.

Fellow NASCAR Next members Julia Landauer and Noah Gragson finished sixth and 10th, respectively. While Ron Norman, Matt Levin and Cole Rouse completed the top 10.

The NAPA/Toyota 150 will air on NBCSN Thursday, June 16 7 p.m. ET/5 p.m. MT. 

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will be back in action Saturday, June 25th at California’s famed road course, Sonoma Raceway.

NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST-NAPA/Toyota 150 Results

1. (2) Chris Eggleston, Erie, Colo., Toyota, 150 laps, 51.139 mph.

2. (1) Todd Gilliland, Sherrils Ford, N.C., Toyota, 150.

3. (5) Gracin Raz, Lake Oswego, Ore., Ford, 150.

4. (4) Ryan Partridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Ford, 150.

5. (6) Blaine Perkins, Bakersfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 150.

6. (7) Julia Landauer, New York, N.Y., Toyota, 150.

7. (11) Ron Norman, Tucson, Ariz., Ford, 150.

8. (12) Matt Levin, Tucson, Ariz., Ford, 150.

9. (8) Cole Rouse, Fort Smith, Ark., Ford, 150.

10. (10) Noah Gragson, Las Vegas, NV, Ford, 150.

11. (13) Stafford Smith, Eagle, Idaho., Toyota, 150.

12. (15) Dan Phillippi, Los Angeles, Calif., Toyota, 150.

13. (9) Riley Herbst, Las Vegas, Nev., Toyota, 149.

14. (3) Cole Moore, Granite Bay, Calif., Toyota, 149.

15. (14) John Wood, Eagle, ID, Chevrolet, 149.

16. (16) Jesse Iwuji, Dallas, Texas, Toyota, 147.

Categories
News

Eggleston States His Case at Orange Show

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Through the first three races of 2016, Todd Gilliland and Ryan Partridge have dominated the conversation in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Chris Eggleston made a statement of his own Saturday night at Orange Show Speedway.

The defending series champion took the lead from Partridge with seven laps remaining and cruised to his first win of the season in the Sunrise Ford 150. With it, the Erie, Colorado, driver of the No. 50 NAPA Filters Toyota showed he’s very much in the hunt for the title again.

The win was Eggleston’s fourth of his career. Just as importantly, it was his fourth top five in as many races and moved him to within nine points of Gilliland for the top spot in the series.

Eggleston took the lead when race leader Ryan Partridge spun on the tight quarter-mile trying to avoid a lap-down car. Eggleston then held off Jefferson Pitts Racing teammates Gracin Raz and Noah Gragson — who finished second and third, respectively — on a green-white-checkered finish that pushed the race distance to 151 laps. Gilliland and Julia Landauer completed the top five. Partridge salvaged a sixth after winning the Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the day and leading most of the event.

It was Partridge’s first finish outside the top five, and kept him four points back of Gilliland and five points ahead of Eggleston in the standings.

Ron Norman finished seventh, followed by Matt Levin, Blaine Perkins and Jesse Iwuji.

The K&N Pro Series West’s first visit to the historic quarter-mile outside of Los Angeles in since September 23, 1978. The Sunrise Ford 150 will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, May 25 at 6 p.m. ET (3 p.m. PT).

The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West will head to Eggleston’s home track, Colorado National Speedway, for the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Saturday, June 11.

NASCAR K&N PRO SERIES WEST-Sunrise Ford 150 Results

1. (3) Chris Eggleston, Erie, Colo., Toyota, 151 laps, 38.663 mph.

2. (4) Gracin Raz, Lake Oswego, Ore., Ford, 151.

3. (2) Noah Gragson, Las Vegas, NV, Ford, 151.

4. (6) Todd Gilliland, Sherrils Ford, N.C., Toyota, 151.

5. (8) Julia Landauer, New York, N.Y., Toyota, 151.

6. (1) Ryan Partridge, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Ford, 151.

7. (11) Ron Norman, Tucson, Ariz., Ford, 151.

8. (14) Matt Levin, Tucson, Ariz., Ford, 151.

9. (5) Blaine Perkins, Bakersfield, Calif., Chevrolet, 151.

10. (13) Jesse Iwuji, Dallas, Texas, Toyota, 150.

11. (10) John Wood, Eagle, ID, Chevrolet, 146.

12. (12) Rich DeLong III, Santa Clarita, Calif., Chevrolet, 145.

13. (16) Rich DeLong, North Hills, Calif., Toyota, 142, accident.

14. (7) Cole Rouse, Fort Smith, Ark., Ford, 141.

15. (15) Dan O’Donnell, Oak Hills, Calif., Ford, 81, electrical.

16. (9) Riley Herbst, Las Vegas, Nev., Toyota, 74.

17. (17) Dan Phillippi, Los Angeles, Calif., Toyota, 35, accident.