Bell Outduels Larson For The Turkey Classic At Ventura

Christopher Bell

Thanksgiving is the day each year when we take a little extra time to realize how fortunate we are and to give thanks.

For those in attendance at Thursday’s “Turkey Night Grand Prix,” the realization quickly came to how thankful we are to have witnessed Christopher Bell and Kyle Larson duking it out against each other for 98 laps in USAC Midgets at Ventura Raceway.

The three official lead changes listed in the box score aren’t indicative of the back-and-forth battle these two titans waged with sliders being exchanged like currency on both ends of the racetrack!

On the 54th lap, Bell ultimately made the winning pass on Larson with a daring outside move on the front straightaway, but would have to endure the relentless persistence of Larson all the way down to turn one of the final lap when he stifled Larson’s slider before it even had time to develop.

Bell, of Norman, Oklahoma, joined the ranks of two-time “Turkey Night” winners just six days after wrapping up his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title at Homestead (Fla.) Speedway.  Though he and Larson have reached success in the NASCAR ranks in recent years, their home lies in the dirt tracks, just like old times when they were regulars on the USAC trail.

“Oh my god, it’s so much fun,” Bell exclaimed.  “I just told Kyle that if he would’ve beat me, I would’ve been, maybe not just as happy, but still happy because it was just that much fun.  That race was one of the most fun races I’ve run in a long time.”

Straight from the outset, polesitter Larson had the upper hand as inside second row starter Bell followed in his wake on the bottom.

As Larson ringed around the berm lining the bottom of the racing surface, Bell became the first in line to venture to the top on the 12th lap, using a big bite off turn four to pull to a dead-heat at the line alongside Larson before nudging into the lead by a sliver into the first turn.

Bell never wavered in his decision to go “high, wide, and handsome”, and it would pay off one lap later when he slipped by Larson off turn four to secure the lead.

“I could tell that the top was going to be good,” Bell theorized.  “Watching the sprint car feature, we saw that it got pretty good.  They tilled the bottom and I could tell it was going to be really good at the beginning.  Once it started going away, I tried the top and it was right there.”

On lap 40, Brayton Lynch got sideways in a shuffle for position at the exit of turn four.  Facing oncoming traffic, Chad Boat met front-bumper to front-bumper with Lynch, melding the noses of each car together as Boat attempted to peel away to no avail.  Courtney Crone and newly-crowned five-time USAC Light Up the World Beverages Western States Midget champ Ronnie Gardner were also involved, but would restart.

When racing resumed on lap 52, Larson went to the bottom and slid his teammate Bell to snare the lead.  One lap later, Bell returned the favor and slithered by Larson with just inches to spare as he tunneled between Larson’s right-side wheels and the front straightaway wall.  Larson attacked again into turn one with a slider, but the motion was denied, and Bell cleared away the Tryptophan after the wake-up call and sprinted back into the lead.

Following a lap 57 tangle between the two most recent USAC National Midget feature winners – Brady Bacon and series champion Spencer Bayston – Larson harassed Bell, putting it all on the line in the prestigious race in an attempt to become just the third driver to win the event three times.  On lap 66, Larson got on the bike, lifting the left side wheels as he ripped the edge of the turn three cushion in his tireless pursuit.

With three-quarters of the race in the rearview mirror, it was time to turn up the wick!  The bottom became just a distant memory as the two were now inside the barrel, riding the wave in turns three and four above the cushion.  On lap 80, Larson slid Bell into turn one momentarily.  Bell retaliated by crossing underneath Larson off the second turn to recapture the point.  In turn three, the second verse played out the same as the first as Larson slid to the lead and Bell, so Allen Iverson-esque, used a killer crossover to bolt back to the front.

“The majority of drivers understand you have to be good at the end of the race to win the race,” Bell said.  “At the beginning, you’re just cruising and making sure you make It to the end of the race.  That’s the biggest thing.  Kyle and I were both rolling around there about quarter-throttle at the beginning, trying to save our tires and kill some laps.  It worked out and we were racing our butts off at the end.”

Larson, the five-time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup winner, set up another Hail Mary that was denied as Bell wheelied away off the top of turn two to remain in front.  Tyler Courtney, the USAC West Coast/VRA Sprint Car feature winner earlier in the night, slowed to a stop in turn one to bring out the yellow and provide a breather for both the drivers and fans alike.

On the ensuing restart, Bell jetted away from Larson and, with ten to go, held a lead of over one second with a full nest of lappers resting in the distance.  Just prior to lapped traffic possibly becoming a factor with a mere four laps to go, Holly Shelton and Bacon performed a synchronized spin between turns one and two that brought out the final yellow and one more stanza that Bell had to deal with Larson.

“The track was so technical,” Bell explained.  “It was all about hitting your marks and minimizing mistakes because you weren’t going to make a mistake-free lap tonight.  You just had to make sure when you made a mistake that you could recover from it.  Once I got going on those green flag runs, I could get my momentum built up and make good, competitive laps.  But after the yellow flags, it was tough to pick your rhythm back up.  I knew I was a sitting duck their leading on the restarts.  On the final one, Kyle got one last bomb on me and I was able to get him back.”

Larson’s first lob of a bomb was a success in turn one on the lap 95 restart as he scraped across the surface to snag the race lead from Bell.  Bell counter-punched and ripped away the lead back away from Larson with a slider into turn three.  Entering turn one with two laps remaining, wheels banged and nerf bars clanged as Larson shot to the lead past Bell once again.

As a uncertain as a game of tug-of-war teetering on a see-saw, Bell launched like a missile on a hell-bound train to slide across the nose of Larson and into the lead between turns three and four to capture the lead for good.  Larson threw a haymaker entering turn three coming to the white flag, pulling side-by-side with Bell at the exit of four where it momentarily became three-wide with Shane Golobic arriving seemingly out of the clear blue sky to mount a challenge for the lead.

Larson tried once more on the final lap, but Bell savagely, and wisely, took a lower entrance into turn one, thus preventing a final pull of the pin from Larson.  Bell carried on with a 0.193 second lead across the finish line as Larson blasted off the top of the final corner to nip Golobic by a wheel at the line for the runner-up spot.  Past “Turkey Night” winner Tanner Thorson was fourth and Don Basile “Rookie of the Race” Zeb Wise was fifth in his second-career USAC National Midget start.

Bell was 4 for 7 in USAC National Midget feature appearances in 2017 for a .571 batting average.  His 21st career series victory tied him with Steve Cannon, Jimmy Caruthers, Rex Easton and Ken Schrader for 27th all-time.

The fourth-straight “Turkey Night” win for the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team began with Bell’s victory in 2014. Firsts are always special in any circumstance, but this one has even more meaning for the 22-year-old, 2013 USAC National Midget titlist.

“I definitely had to work harder for this one.  This one was even more fun and more special.”

Contingency award winners Thursday night at Ventura Raceway were Kyle Larson (ProSource/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifier), Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers 1st Qualifier Winner & Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Chad Boat (Competition Suspension, Inc./Brown & Miller Racing Solutions 2nd Qualifier Winner), Zeb Wise (Chalk Stix/Keizer Aluminum Wheels/Saldana Racing Products/Indy Race Parts Last Chance Winner) and Ryan Robinson (KSE Racing Products/Esslinger Engineering Hard Charger).

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ray Black, Jr. To Run Full Cup Schedule In 2018

Ray Black, Jr.
Ray Black Jr. is making the next jump of his racing career in 2018, as he will compete full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with Rick Ware Racing.

Both Rick Ware, owner of RWR and Black confirmed to this at Homestead-Miami Speedway that the plan is to run the entire 36-race schedule and challenge for Rookie of the Year. The Florida native will pilot the #51 car.

Black made his Cup Series debut in mid-September at Chicagoland Speedway, finishing 40th for RWR. He made two other starts during the playoffs at Texas Motor Speedway and the season finale at Homestead, resulting in 34th and 38th-place finishes, respectively.

The 26-year-old has 89 career starts among the top three national touring series since 2014. In 2015, Black finished 11th in the Camping World Truck Series standings with a fifth-place effort at Daytona. In 2016, he piloted the No. 07 car for SS-Green Light Racing, finishing 19th in points.

The #51 machine will have a guaranteed spot in all 36 races in 2018, as Ware has acquired one of the 36 charters. The team owner would not confirm who he purchased the charter from.

Ware also confirmed that he will be running a part-time #52 machine from anywhere between 10-18 races. He expects BJ McLeod, Cody Ware, Kyle Weatherman and John Graham to all have seat time in the second race car.

The team owner said that RWR will run all three manufacturers in 2018.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Roush Fenway Racing Fields NXS Developmental Driving Team in 2018

Chase Briscoe

(Chase Briscoe)
Roush Fenway Racing will field a driver development team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) in 2018, with Ty Majeski, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe, each a driver in the Ford family of NASCAR race teams, sharing the iconic No. 60 Ford Mustang. The project is intended to continue the progression and development of the three drivers and will be run by Roush Fenway with collaboration from Ford Performance and Team Penske. Roush Fenway veteran Mike Kelley, who helped guide Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to a pair of NXS championships, will serve as crew chief on the car.

“Driver development has always been part of our DNA at Roush Fenway and Jack Roush has always taken pride in providing opportunities for up and coming drivers,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “All three of these drivers have exhibited a great deal of potential on and off the track and it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch as they hone their skills together and grow into the next generation of champions in our sport.”

Majeski, who finished 10th in his third NXS start last weekend at Homestead, recently captured his fourth-consecutive ARCA Midwest Tour championship, winning six of the 12 races. In 32 Late Model races this year, the Wisconsin phenom has scored an impressive 20 wins and 29 top-three finishes. He is coming off a dominating performance in the Governor’s Cup at New Smyrna, where he won the event for the third consecutive year. Majeski is also the No. 1 ranked iRacer in the world, with over 830 wins in 1,112 starts.

Austin Cindric

(Austin Cindric)
At the age of 19, Cindric has a very diverse racing background. He has won races in rallycross, IMSA, ARCA, the NASCAR K&N Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). In only his rookie season, Cindric advanced to the championship round in the NCWTS playoffs at Homestead. In 2017, Cindric scored eight top fives and 16 top-10 NCWS finishes; including a win this season at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

Briscoe, whose family has a rich history driving and owning sprint cars, scored 10 top-five and 14 top-10 finishes and finished sixth in the points standings in his NCWTS rookie season, including a dominating victory in the season finale at Homestead. He won the 2016 ARCA championship in dramatic fashion, tallying six victories, leading almost 1000 laps and distancing himself from the second-place finisher by over 500 points.

The trio will look to build on the rich history of Roush Fenway’s No. 60 that includes a NASCAR record 93 wins and almost 16,000 laps led. Mark Martin was a dominating fixture in the car in the 90s and Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Chris Buescher each drove the car to NXS championships.

The No. 60 is set to run all of the NXS races in 2018, while competing for the NXS Owner’s Championship. Further details will be made available – and a media availability for all three drivers will be conducted – after the Thanksgiving Holiday.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

NASCAR Standardizes At-Track Pit Rosters

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
NASCAR announced Wednesday morning that it will standardize at-track team rosters across all three national series in 2018, providing a structure for the number of personnel working on each vehicle during the course of a race weekend.

The biggest competition impact from the rules update is the the number of crew members who go over the wall for pit stops moving from six to five.

At-track rosters for all three series will fall under three headings: Organizational, Road Crew and Pit Crew. Job descriptions and roster maximums for each category:

• Organizational: Examples include competition director, team managers, technical director, IT specialists. In the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, teams will be allotted three organizational roster spots for one- and two-car operations, and four spots for three- and four-car outfits. XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series teams will be allowed one organizational roster spot each.

• Road Crew: Examples include crew chief, car chief, mechanics, engine tuners, engineers, specialists (for areas such as tires, aerodynamics and shocks) and spotters. The limits for these personnel by series: Monster Energy Series, 12; XFINITY, 7; Camping World Trucks, 6.

• Pit Crew: This designation refers solely to team members who perform over-the-wall service during pit stops. The maximum is five for all three series.

The exceptions to these numbers are slight. Monster Energy Series teams are allowed one extra road crew position at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the three road courses (Sonoma, Watkins Glen, Charlotte), where teams often use multiple spotters. Also, an additional road crew roster spot will be allowed for XFINITY teams at 10 races and Truck Series teams at five.

It will be left to the teams’ discretion on how to best assemble their team – including the over-the-wall crew – within the roster limits. All rosters will be made public – for fans and media – before each race weekend.

For routine four-tire stops starting next season, teams could forgo one tire carrier and devise a new framework for servicing their vehicles.

The responsibilities of the fueler will also be narrowed, with other over-the-wall duties such as wrenching out chassis adjustments prohibited in 2018.

In another effort to bring further recognition to team members, rostered crew will be assigned letters or numbers worn on their uniforms and on armbands to identify their duties.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

DXC Technology, Team Penske And Simon Pagenoud Partner For 2018

Simon Pagenaud

Team Penske announced today that it has reached an extension agreement with DXC Technology (NYSE: DXC) for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

In its first season as a motorsports sponsor in 2017, DXC Technology built on an established presence with Team Penske’s successful Verizon IndyCar Series program and 2016 series champion, Simon Pagenaud, driver of the No. 22 Dallara/Chevrolet. DXC Technology celebrated with Pagenaud in Victory Lane of the season-ending series race in Sonoma, California, to claim its first INDYCAR win.

For the 2018 season, DXC Technology will return and serve as the primary sponsor on Pagenaud’s car for six races, which will begin with the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15. DXC Technology will also continue as an associate sponsor on the remaining races for the No. 22 team.

“Team Penske is excited to grow the partnership with DXC Technology for 2018,” said Roger Penske. “This is a technology-dependent sport and we were able to integrate DXC into our INDYCAR program this season and we will be ready to take our performance, and hopefully our results, to the next level with them in 2018.”

DXC Technology was the primary sponsor aboard Pagenaud’s car for six races in the company’s first year with the team in 2017, including the memorable win in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway.

“I enjoyed working with DXC Technology and representing their brand this past season,” said Pagenaud. “DXC Technology shares a similar philosophy with us at Team Penske, which is to strive for excellence. We are very proud to work together relentlessly toward further limits in our respective industries. We were excited to get a win with them in Sonoma and everyone at Team Penske wants to build on that as we welcome them back for 2018.”

DXC Technology is the world’s leading independent, end-to-end IT services company. Formed by the 2017 merger of CSC and the Enterprise Services business of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, the company has more than 155,000 employees across 70 countries, serving some 6,000 clients. Its mission is to lead digital transformation for clients by tapping into global talent, developing powerful next-generation IT solutions and leveraging extensive partner relationships.

“Our partnership with Team Penske provides a great opportunity for DXC Technology,” said Mike Lawrie, DXC Technology chairman, president and CEO. “Performance and reputation make Team Penske the type of organization with which we want to align. Like us, they strive for excellence in everything they do and work diligently to provide value for both sides of the relationship.”

The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season opens on March 11 in the Streets of St. Petersburg in Florida, the 1.8-mile temporary circuit set up on city streets and a runway of Albert Whitted Airport.

Read how Team Penske and DXC Technology collaborated to enhance the engineering process with a “digital transformation workshop” designed to optimize the team’s engineering software: How a championship-winning race team cut engineering cycles by 30 percent.

 

 About DXC Technology

DXC Technology (NYSE: DXC) is the world’s leading business transformation company, helping clients harness the power of innovation to thrive on change. Born of the merger of CSC and the Enterprise Services business of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, DXC serves nearly 6,000 private and public sector enterprises across 70 countries. DXC’s technology independence, global talent, expertise and extensive alliance of partners combine to deliver the most powerful end-to-end next-generation IT services and solutions. DXC is recognized among best corporate citizens globally. For more information, visit https://www.dxc.technology.

 

About Team Penske
Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports and celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 2016. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 470 major race wins, over 540 pole positions and 31 National Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. In its storied history, the team has also earned 16 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win and overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Team Penske currently competes in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series. The team also races in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske. For more information about Team Penske, please visit www.teampenske.com.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kyle Busch: “It Wasn’t Quite What We Wanted”

Kyle Busch

The final race came down to the finals laps, among the top cars from the dominant manufacturer, and ultimately, the most successful driver won the championship!

But even still, 2015 series champion Kyle Busch couldn’t take much comfort in fellow Toyota-driving Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing winning his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday. Busch, driving for affiliate Joe Gibbs Racing, would have much preferred that he had made up the final .681-second distance between the race-winner and champion and his slot in second place.

“It wasn’t quite what we wanted there at the end,” said Busch, who closed on Truex Jr. doggedly in the final 10 laps. “I thought we had a really great race car, especially on the long runs we were really, really good. Just came down to there at the end not having enough tire when I got to [Truex Jr.], so I just overused my stuff, and I knew I overused my stuff when I was running with [Joey Logano, then holding second place] trying to get by him and just overworked everything. And got to [championship-eligible Kevin Harvick], got by him pretty quick, I tried to make sure that I could do that pretty quick so then I could have at least a little more tire life, but didn’t seem to pay me off any when I got to [Truex Jr.].”

Busch led 43 laps and held a 21.4-second lead as part of a fuel strategy play on Lap 216 of 267, but was forced to surrender the lead to pit. He worked backed through the field because of his strength on lengthy runs and overtook Kyle Larson – who led a race-high 145 laps – for second place.

Busch’s five wins this season were second only to Truex Jr.’s eight.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Dale Jr. And Kenseth Say Goodbye In Their Own Way

Matt Kenseth

The crew in black and yellow fire suits went methodically about its business, check-listing last details before the beginning of the final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

A few feet away, the crew in the red and black fire suits was performing the same series of tasks, but a throng of onlookers and well-wishers pressed in at every movement.

It was a surreal scene, or rather scenes, both on Sunday and 14 years ago. But in each case, the careers and personas of NASCAR’s most popular driver and his understated friend and contemporary had intersected. In 2003, it was in the garage bays in the hours before Matt Kenseth finished off his first and only championship at NASCAR’s highest level. On Sunday, it was as he and Dale Earnhardt Jr. posed for a series of photographs for friends and family beside their cars staged in Turn 4 as they prepared to undertake their final races before retirement.

Earnhardt Jr. eventually broke from his gathering on Sunday, slinked under a rope and waited through a television interview to speak with Kenseth. He’d been “adamant” Kenseth said, that their cars be parked next to each other for their moments, and was particularly intrigued that they were both using versions of their early career paint schemes for their farewells. They shared a quip and a hug and then prepared to get on with the last vestiges of their careers. In keeping with their divergent personalities – Earnhardt Jr. – compelled to accommodate the scores who wanted to share in the moment with him – and Kenseth joined the field of cars to begin the start of the race, and NASCAR’s 14-time most popular driver slowly drove pit road to exchange handshakes with crewman from other teams waiting near the wall.

Earnhardt Jr. and Kenseth have always been different people seeking the same career goals, since they entered first the Busch Series [now XFINITY Series] and then Cup together, and it can be argued that Kenseth accomplished more. Both won the Daytona 500 twice, but Kenseth claimed the 2003 championship and contended for others more frequently than his friend, who finished a career-high second in the same season. Kenseth won 39 career Monster Energy Series races, Earnhardt Jr. 26. When Earnhardt Jr. won consecutive XFINITY titles in 1998 and 1999, Kenseth finished second, and third, respectively.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

But Earnhardt Jr. always was and always will be the focus. It was his birthright and burden.  Understated and wry, Kenseth saw up close the scrutiny and demands on his friend and wanted no part of them. He learned that early. In 2002, the bachelor Earnhardt Jr. hitched a ride with Kenseth and his wife, Katie, driving back from a race at Rockingham, when they cruised into a McDonald’s. Earnhardt Jr. was inundated. Kenseth and Katie walked to the front of the line. Demands came with such fame and Earnhardt Jr. came to accept them as his part of the bargain.

NASCAR legend dictates that Kenseth’s march to his championship for Roush Racing was so banal – after winning one race he entered the final 226 points ahead of Jimmie Johnson – that it prompted the series to institute the first version of what was then called the “Chase” in 2004. Earnhardt Jr. arrived in third place, 264 behind for Dale Earnhardt Inc. and still gathering momentum as the standard-bearer of the sport and a crossover marketing star just two years after his father and namesake perished on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500. In keeping with the Budweiser sponsorship on his red No. 8 Chevrolet, the mood on the edge of his camp that November was festive bordering on hysterical. Such was the reason that security stations theater ropes several feet beyond the mouth of his garage bay so crewman could work and push through mobbing fans carrying gear back to their transporter. Kenseth’s crew went about its business unbothered.

Ultimately, their departures from the series were in keeping with the way they conducted their careers, or at least had them dictated to them. Returning this season after missing half of the 2016 season because of a recurrence of concussions, Earnhardt Jr. announced in April that he would discontinue full-time racing at the end of the season. A hashtagged farewell tour ensued, allowing his scores of fans and appreciative admirers to partake in his moment. Kenseth, who will be replaced next season at Joe Gibbs Racing by 21-year-old Erik Jones, refused to accept a lesser job and eventually accepted his career was over.

Earnhardt Jr. chugged a beer as a massive mob surrounded his rubber-clumped car and engaged in a long embrace with team owner Rick Hendrick after exiting the car following a 25th-place finish. Hendrick, whose son, Ricky, died with nine other Hendrick family members or employees in a 2004 plane crash, claimed Earnhardt Jr.’s helmet as a souvenir and slid away from the scene. He’d done the same in 2015 after four-time series champion Jeff Gordon’s last race as a full-time driver at Homestead and wouldn’t be without a token from someone he said he loves “like he’s flesh and blood.”

“I don’t want to get any more helmets,” Hendrick said, becoming emotional. “He and I have such a special relationship.  We were talking about it. Now we can go fishing. So, it’s unbelievable to see his driving career come to an end, but he’s excited about the next stage and I am too, We have a special bond, so we are going to do a lot of fun things together, and that’s a commitment we made this year, early on when he told me he thought it was time. I’ve turned the page now and we’re going to start planning the trip tomorrow morning.”

At the absolute end of pit road, in the quiet, Kenseth sipped on a sports drink and joked with crew chief Jason Ratcliff. It was fitting.

There is the feeling that their paths will cross again, as Earnhardt Jr. remains around the sport as an XFINITY Series team owner and NBC analyst. Kenseth, with three daughters younger than eight and another imminent said his life will become filled with recitals and sports events. In the near-term, he planned to “go up to Wisconsin and be cold.”

“That was fun,” he said of exiting alongside Earnhardt Jr., including taking a group photo with their teams on Friday. “We went for a bike ride when we were in Darlington and I told him this was going to be it, but I never really announced it just because I kind of knew by September, I pretty much had my mind was made up the way things were going and kind of knew it then. It’s kind of cool we came into Cup together and now we go out together.”

And in their own ways.

On a personal note:

What a really cool NASCAR ride the last 17 years have been with both of these excellent drivers.  Kenseth always has been a low keyed, dry witted race car driver that never really sought the limelight, but was eager to compete and win races at the highest level.  Dale Jr. had the awesome weight of NASCAR thrust on his shoulders to carry after his father’s untimely death.  But carry it he did with class and humility!

Gentlemen, thanks for allowing this person to ride shotgun in your race cars, to experience the thrill of victory and the agony defeat vicariously!  I am eternally grateful to you for your class, and humility!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Michael McDowell Earns A Top 25 Finish At Homestead

Michael McDowell and Paul Menard
Michael McDowell and Leavine Family Racing (LFR) finished 24th in their final Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 The team had a phenomenal start to the weekend, finishing first and second practice eighth and 13th, respectively. McDowell finished the first round of qualifying 11th fasteston Friday, but had a slight mishap in the second round, securing a 23rd place starting spot for Sunday’s season finale race.

 At the start of the Ford EcoBoost 400, the field only made it to the sixth lap under green flag before the first caution came out for a blown engine. McDowell reported that the handling of his No. 95 Rohto® Jolt™ Chevrolet SS felt fine, but that he did not want to burn up his tires too quickly, as the fall-off at Homestead is significant. McDowell pitted for a new set during the first caution, while the majority of the leaders did not.

 McDowell made his first green flag pit stop on lap 40 and controlled the Lucky Dog position for a time. He then reported his No. 95 Rohto® Jolt™ Chevy was extremely tight handling but was able to finish the stage in 21st.

 Within the first 10 laps of the second stage, McDowell reported a very tight handling car and went down a second lap on lap 114. He made his second green flag pit stop on lap 132, before a caution came out just under 10 laps later, allowing McDowell to take the wave around and gain one lap back. He went on to finish the second stage in 22nd.

 McDowell pitted for tires and adjustments during the caution and was able to gain a spot on pit road to start the final stage in 21st and in position to race for the Lucky Dog spot. On lap 186, McDowell reported that he felt like one of his tires was beginning to go down. He made it just seven laps before the right front tire went completely flat, forcing the team to make an unscheduled green flag pit stop, which put them down a third lap.

 In an effort to not lose any more spots, Crew Chief, Jon Leonard told McDowell to save fuel, as they could make it until the end of the race without pitting. The rest of the field began their green flag pit stops, allowing McDowell to gain one lap back. As the fifth caution of the day came out on lap 229, the team was able to take the wave around to put McDowell down only one lap.

 McDowell restarted in 22nd as the field went green with 34 laps remaining. While he made it back up to 20th, McDowell ultimately ran out of fuel on the last lap, crossing the start / finish line in 24th.

 “Not the day we wanted,” said McDowell. “We went a few laps down there and got off sequence with strategy there. Cautions didn’t fall our way either. We struggled today just being tight, and we just lost the balance a little bit. We did all we could and got a Top-25 finish again. I’m looking forward to next year!”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Truex And FRR Is The Little Train That Did!

Martin Truex, Jr.
Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season with a tenacious late-race drive to capture the NASCAR Cup Series championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex, who led four times for 78 laps in his No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota, held off a hard-charging Kyle Busch while leading the final 51 laps. His margin of victory over Busch was 0.681 seconds. Truex needed to finish ahead of Busch and the two other Championship 4 drivers — Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski — to claim the season title.

The victory was the eighth of the season for Truex, who now owns 15 career Cup wins. Thirteen of those wins have been with the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row Racing team.

The 2017 season for Furniture Row Racing also saw the No. 78 team win the regular season championship and Erik Jones of the No. 77 team win Rookie of the Year.

Truex was no doubt deserving of the title. In the 10-playoff races he won four times and scored nine top fives. The only non top-five finish was 23rd at Talladega where he was involved in a multicar accident.  His overall playoff average finish was 4.3.  Take away the Talladega result, his average finish in the other nine races was 2.2.

When the white flag waved at Homestead Truex knew the championship was his, and when he crossed the finish line the emotion of the herculean moment left him speechless.

“I balled like a baby, I couldn’t talk,” said Truex. “I was a wreck thinking about all the tough days, the bad days, the times where I thought my career was over and times when I didn’t think anyone believed in me. But the people who mattered did — my fans, my family and then when I got with this team they resurrected my career and made me a champion.”

Truex added, “This means the world. (team owner) Barney Visser 11 years of working towards this goal. He couldn’t be here tonight and we’re all thinking of him. Definitely wish he could have been here. I know he’s probably as much in shock as I am. Jim Watson, Cole’s best friend (Jacob Damen) and Sherry. This one is for all of you!”

Truex, started the 267-lap race second. He had some handling issues early, but as the race wore on, his Toyota Camry found more grip in a lane he never ran in the past on the 1.5-mile oval.

“It’s the dumbest lane I’ve ever run here, but it worked, so I have to put it in the memory bank for later,” explained Truex. “Just all came together – it was meant to be. This whole year has been a dream year.

“We’ve got the best fans in the world and Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that puts so much into this — Bass Pro Shops, Auto-Owners, WIX, 5-hour ENERGY, Furniture Row, Denver Mattress, the road crew and the guys back at the shop in Denver. The list goes on and on of people who help us do this and make it all possible. And Barney Visser back home had heart surgery last week and we’re missing him today. Thanks to everybody at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) for the chassis and cooperation and running one-two tonight was pretty awesome.”

According to crew chief Cole Pearn, the planning for Homestead started long before the championship race.

“We just focused on this race for a long time,” said Pearn. “We knew if we were going to be champions, we were going to have to get a lot better here. I can’t thank the number of hours that everybody put into this car and into this race. You know coming here and testing there are a lot of wives on our team who will be happy that this car made it and did what it did and it took every hour of it.

“We had to race three other great guys and the No. 18 (Kyle Busch) was really good. I think they were honestly a little better than us and Martin was able to dig down and get it done. I don’t really know how to comprehend it at this point. Just so so thrilled and be able to truly call ourselves champions is unbelievable.”

Truex and Furniture Row Racing will take center stage during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, which will culminate with the NASCAR Awards Banquet at The Wynn on Thursday, Nov. 30.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Team Penske Recaps The Ford EcoBoost 400

Joey Logano

Track:                  Homestead-Miami Speedway

Race:                   Ford EcoBoost 400

Date:                   November 19, 2017

 

No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – Brad Keselowski

Start: 5th

Finish: 7th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 267/267

Laps Led: 1

Point Standings (behind leader): 4th

Recap: Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion team came into Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of four teams that could end the night as the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) champions, but a seventh-place finish resulted in a fourth-place finish in the final series standings. A solid qualifying effort on Friday night saw Keselowski take the green flag from the fifth position, and a quick caution on lap five gave crew chief Paul Wolfe an opportunity to put four, fresh Goodyear tires on the Ford Fusion to gain track position on the other playoff teams that did not elect to pit. The strategy worked as Keselowski restarted from the 15th position on lap 10 but quickly drove into the second spot by lap 30. When teams all began making green flag pit stops around lap 40 this strategy placed the Miller Lite team on the same pit cycle as the other playoff teams, albeit with better track position. As a result, Keselowski will finish the first, 80-lap stage in the second position. The biggest handling issue on the day for Keselowski was looseness on corner entry and Wolfe made several air pressure and wedge adjustments to help his driver contend for the team’s second MENCS title. After starting the second, 80-lap stage from the second position after a solid pit stop by the Miller Lite crew, Keselowski settled into the top five and would remain there to finish fifth in the stage. The final, 107-lap stage would setup the run to the championship and Keselowski began this portion of the race from the seventh position. With his driver still dealing with a loose-handling condition on corner entry, Wolfe called for a short-pit on lap 198 that brought most of the other playoff competitors to pit road as well. The short pit placed Keselowski back inside the top five and he radioed to Wolfe that the handling was improving. Unfortunately the Miller Lite Ford was a bit off the pace to the other championship contenders over the final run and would cross the finish line in the seventh position, the team’s 21st top-10 finish in 2017.

Quote: “You know, it was a hard‑fought battle with a long night, but might not have gotten the result we wanted with the Miller Lite Ford Fusion. Of course the result you want is to win the race, win the championship, but the effort was phenomenal, and I was really proud of our group for everything they put into that, trying to be the best with this package. We weren’t quite best in class, but we ran up front.”

 

No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion – Joey Logano

Start: 19th

Finish:  6th

Status: Running

Laps Completed: 267/267

Laps Led:  0

Point Standings (behind leader):  17th

 

Recap:  Joey Logano and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion started 18th and finished sixth in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the season finale for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.  Logano worked his way forward at the start of the event, battling a car that was tight on throttle and loose at corner exit. Fortunately, the race was slowed on the sixth lap for a single car incident. Crew chief Todd Gordon elected to bring the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to pit lane for a four tire stop with a wedge adjustment. As expected, the advantage from sticker tires allowed Logano to race from the 17th position to the top-five in six laps. The Shell-Pennzoil Ford ran inside the top-five, reaching the fourth position before pitting under green at lap 39. As the green flag stops cycled through, Logano returned to the running order in the fifth position. The adjustments made under the stop were in the right direction as Logano reported the Shell-Pennzoil Ford was tighter overall through the long green flag stretch to end the first stage. However, at the stage break, Logano reported that the car was too tight in the center of the corner, hurting entry and exit. Gordon elected to go back on the adjustments from the first stop slightly, as Logano went from fifth to ninth by the end of the stage. Logano restarted ninth and quickly moved to seventh in the opening lap of the second stage, the adjustments worked to give the driver more speed at the start of the run. The stage continued to run green, bringing Logano and the Shell-Pennzoil Ford back to pit road at lap 120 for a green flag adjustment. The team made an air pressure adjustment, continuing to look for corner entry security. Logano cycled out into the fifth position but then settle to seventh by lap 128. On lap 136, Logano reported the brakes were pulsating slightly, more like they were too cold versus a wear issue. Logano also reported the balance was the best it had been all race, letting Todd Gordon know he would continue asking for more entry security and center turn throughout the night. At the end of the second stage, Logano brought the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to pit road in the eighth position, quick pit work by the crew sent the team back to the track in the sixth position. With a great restart, Logano put the high line to use, moving the Shell-Pennzoil Ford to the fourth position. As the opening run to the final stage ran green, Logano settled into the sixth position, but reported that the car had started coming to him over the course of the run, saying he was only slightly loose on corner entry and exit. As darkness continued to set on Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano continued to assert himself in the top-five. A lap 227 caution flag setup the Shell-Pennzoil crew for a potential final stop of the night. Todd Gordon again called for a piece of tape to be added to the nose, slight air pressure attempting to give Logano more security and center turn. A quick stop again gained the team a position leaving pit road, putting the Shell-Pennzoil Ford on the outside of the second row for the restart. Logano would settle into the third position after the restart, running lap times as fast as the two cars in front of him. As the run went on, Logano began losing rear grip hurting the car on corner exit. Logano would ultimately finish in the sixth position, caping of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

 

Quote  “That was a good night for the Shell-Pennzoil Ford team. We never quit through the whole year and we end it on a strong note. It is always important to have a good run at Homestead because you have the whole offseason to think about it. I wanted that top-five but just wasn’t quick enough up by the wall. I don’t know why our cars don’t go fast up against the wall. The 4 couldn’t do it either. Maybe it is something we are doing. I am not sure. Altogether, I am proud of getting a sixth place run out of a car that we thought we would struggle to finish 20th with. We made good changes and had something to race with and get to head off on a good note.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!