Kurt Busch to Attempt The Indianapolis-Charlotte Double
posted by Phil Allaway
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Andretti Autosport announced this morning that Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series, will attempt the Indianapolis 500 in a fifth entry for the IndyCar Series team. Once the Indianapolis 500 is completed, Busch will fly from Indianapolis to Charlotte, jump in his No. 41 Chevrolet and compete in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch considers the opportunity to do the double as an old-school throwback moment.
“This is really to challenge myself within motorsports,” Busch said in Andretti Autosport’s press release. “Perhaps I am a bit of an old-school racer; a throwback, I guess. I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series. It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it. While NASCAR is my home, I have been fortunate to compete in Pro Stock on the NHRA circuit a number of years ago and test a V8 Supercar. This opportunity was a talk with Michael [Andretti] over dinner one night, a “What if,” and now it’s becoming a reality for me to drive in the Indy 500 with Andretti Autosport. It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”
Busch will be doing the Indianapolis-Charlotte double as a Memorial Day mission to men and women serving in the U.S. Military via the Armed Forces Foundation. Fans can contribute to the cause by texting AFF to 50555 to donate $10.
Busch, who has never raced an IndyCar, passed Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year during a test session. At the time, Busch was more or less testing the Dallara DW12 for fun.
Busch will be the fourth driver to attempt the Indianapolis-Charlotte double. John Andretti was the first driver to attempt it in 1994. After finishing four laps down in tenth in Indianapolis, Andretti crashed and had engine problems in the 600. Robby Gordon has attempted the double five times, most recently in 2004. However, Gordon failed to make it to Charlotte on time and did not start the 600 in 2000 (P.J. Jones started Gordon’s No. 13 Ford in that instance). Finally, Tony Stewart has attempted the double twice (most recently in 2001) and is the only driver to ever complete all 1100 miles. Neither of the three drivers has won either leg of the double. The best finishes are Stewart and Gordon’s sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis 500 (although Gordon’s came in 2000, the year he didn’t make it to Charlotte in time to start the Coca-Cola 600), and Stewart’s fourth-place finish in the 2001 Coca-Cola 600.
Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier Talk About Phoenix Incident
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
A disappointing start to the year for Danica Patrick won’t include continued conflict. Patrick met with rookie Justin Allgaier Sunday, shortly after the Phoenix Cup race after a wreck ruined both drivers’ days. Patrick, who was critical of the No. 51 car on the radio, claiming Allgaier was “driving all over the track” appeared receptive to a conversation that quickly settled differences over what will be a long season.
“She was just upset because she got involved in the crash that we had,’’ said Allgaier to the Motor Racing Network. “She says she’s been through this and that she felt like I needed to settle down at that point. I explained my position on why everything happened. I think she understood where I was coming from. It doesn’t fix either one of our racecars. It doesn’t fix either one of our days. Unfortunately, we were both having pretty decent days.’’
Allgaier wound up 30th due to the incident while Patrick was 36th. The incident, which was caused by Allgaier’s spin also involved the No. 32 team and Travis Kvapil, which wound up 38th after sustaining heavy damage.
Camping World Close to Extending Title Sponsorship of NCWTS
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Camping World, Grand Marshal of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway, and star of CNBC’s “The Profit,” made the announcement over the weekend that the retailer is very close to announcing a deal that would continue its title sponsorship of NASCAR’s Truck Series. The original agreement with NASCAR is scheduled to conclude after the 2015 season.
According to the sanctioning body, no formal contract has been signed, but “the agreement between the two parties has proven to be a beneficial one.”
“In about a month, we’ll be announcing a significant extension to that contract. It’s been great for us,” said Camping World’s Lemonis in a statement. “The NASCAR relationship has worked well for Camping World. When we started, we had 35 stores. Now, we’re up to 120 stores. As we travel the country and we meet new customers in stores, they always are very appreciative of our relationship with NASCAR. It’s been good.”
Gaining a long-term commitment from Camping World to sponsor the Truck Series would be a relief for NASCAR, which is set to lose Nationwide Insurance as title sponsor for the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the end of the 2014 season. The sponsorship of the Cup Series by Sprint runs through 2016.
The NCWTS is back in action on March 29th at 2:30 PM (ET) when the trucks visit Martinsville Speedway in the Kroger 250, which can be seen on Fox Sports 1. Ratings for the season opener were up 11 percent.
Harvick Takes Win At Phoenix In Second Race With New Team
posted by Justin Tucker
Tuesday March 4, 2014
Phoenix International Raceway has become Kevin Harvick’s home away from home. Sunday Afternoon was no exception as Harvick charged to the front early and would dominate for much of the day, leading 224 of the scheduled 312 laps to record his record fifth win on the one mile oval and his third win in the last four races at Phoenix.
Harvick, coming off of a disappointing Speedweeks which was capped by a last lap crash in the Daytona 500 in his debut with Stewart-Haas Racing, set the tone on Saturday by winning both practices while having the best 5 and 10-lap averages in the first practice of the day on Saturday. On Sunday, Harvick and his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet was nothing short of flawless as he was able to hold Dale Earnhardt, Jr. by .489 seconds after a late race restart to claim his 24th career Sprint Cup Series victory.
“Man, this is awesome,” Harvick said after his dominant victory on Sunday. “Man, this just solidifies so many things and so many decisions. It’s been so much work with all the time and effort that these guys (the crew) have put in—but what a race car.”
Stewart Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas shared in Harvick’s excitement after the race.
“It took long enough,” Haas joked. “This is phenomenal. I think there was a lot of skepticism last year about what myself and Tony (Stewart) what we were up to, was there a lot of madness to this. Quite frankly, it’s a great team, there’s a lot of synergy at the shop, people working together. I don’t know what we did, but I think we put together a great organization.”
Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. continued his hot start to the 2014 season. Earnhardt Jr. would finish second on Sunday, marking his seventh consecutive top 10 finish since the end of the 2013 season. Earnhardt Jr. was pleased with the effort after a coast-to-coast whirlwind week after winning his second Daytona 500 and also gave great praise to the efforts of Harvick and the No. 4 team.
“I’ve got to congratulate Kevin. Those guys were two-tenths faster than everyone all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal,” Earnhardt said. “To be able to run with them all day was a big confidence builder for us.”
Joining Harvick and Earnhardt in the top 5 of The Profit on CNBC 500K were Brad Keselowski with his second consecutive top 3 run of 2014 in third. Keselowski’s Team Penske teammate Joey Logano would finish fourth, and Jeff Gordon would come home fifth in his No. 24 Pepsi Max Chevrolet.
Jimmie Johnson finished in sixth, followed by Ryan Newman with a nice rebound after Daytona in seventh. Carl Edwards would carry the banner for Roush Fenway Racing by finishing eighth, Kyle Busch was ninth, and Jamie McMurray would finish tenth.
A look at the Profit on CNBC 500K by the numbers. There were 14 lead changes among eight different drivers, there were eight cautions for 39 laps which slowed the race pace to 109.229 MPH.
Next Sunday, the Sprint Cup Series heads to Sin City and the Las Vegas Motor
Starting Lineup: The Profit On CNBC 500K
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday March 1, 2014
Drivers in RED (i) are those ineligible to collect Sprint Cup points
Daytona 500 TV Ratings Down
posted by Frontstretch Staff
Wednesday February 26, 2014
What was the longest weather delay in Daytona 500 history turned out to bring NASCAR lower ratings and TV viewership Sunday night than expected. According to a report Monday from FOX Sports, the 56th running of the Daytona 500 airing at 8 PM (ET) posted a 5.6/10 national household rating/share which averaged 9.3 million viewers. That’s down 44 percent from last year’s 9.9, easily making it the least-watched Daytona 500 of all-time.
Due to the six-hour, twenty-two minute rain delay in Daytona, the race was up against the primetime coverage of the Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony from Sochi, Russia on NBC (15.25 million viewers). FOX also reported that 69% of the pre-rain delay viewers of the race, which began at 1 PM (ET) kept tuning in.
In comparison, the 2013 Daytona 500 on FOX was the most-watched race in five years, posting a 9.9/22 rating/share, commanding 16.7 million viewers. The Daytona 500 in 2012, the first to ever be run on a Monday and in the primetime slot did a 7.7/13 overnight rating/share which resulted in 13.67 million households viewing the race according to Nielsen TV ratings data.
Earnhardt, Jr. Claims Second Daytona 500 Victory
posted by Justin Tucker
Wednesday February 26, 2014
Ten years is a long time. For Dale Earnhardt, Jr., it felt like an eternity. NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver endured many near misses and close calls at the Daytona 500 since his only win in the Great American Race in 2004. Earnhardt had finished second in two of his last three Daytona 500s coming into Sunday’s race. He was also riding the tail of a 55-race winless streak, dating back to Michigan in 2012.
However nothing would stop Dale Jr. on Sunday, not even a 6 hour and 22 minute rain delay from capturing his second Daytona 500 win. Earnhardt Jr. led a race-high 54 laps on the evening and used some timely drafting help from teammates Jimmie Johnson and, on the final restart, Jeff Gordon to separate from the pack and secure the victory.
“Winning this race is the greatest feeling that you could feel in this sport besides accepting the trophy for the championship,” said a jubilant Earnhardt after pulling into Victory Lane. “We could fight off battle after battle. We got a little help at the end there from Jeff to get away on the restart. This is amazing. I can’t believe this is happening. I never take this for granted, man because it doesn’t happen twice, let alone once.”
Aside from the race itself the big story of the race was the 6 hour and 22 minute red flag, which threatened to move the race to Monday evening (had the race been postponed, FOX Sports’ Chris Myers had tweeted that the race would resume at 5:00pm EST). However, Mother Nature would cooperate and would allow the race to be run under different conditions from which they practiced this week. Once the race resumed, the intensity picked up from the changing track conditions. This allowed the pack to race side-by-side and at times 3-wide up to seven rows deep.
Joining Earnhardt Jr. in the top 5 for the 2014 Daytona 500 were: Denny Hamlin who closed out a spectacular Speedweeks in second, Brad Keselowski in third, Jeff Gordon in fourth, and Jimmie Johnson who overcome two wrecks leading up to the 500 in fifth.
Rounding out the top 10 in the Daytona 500 were Matt Kenseth in sixth, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in seventh and Greg Biffle would bring his No. 16 Ford home in eighth. Austin Dillon would come home ninth in his first Cup Series race in the iconic No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing, while Casey Mears would round out the top 10.
A couple of major contenders for the Daytona 500 win would see their hopes dashed early on as Martin Truex, Jr. would blow up just 30 laps into the race, relegating him to a 43rd-place finish in his debut for Furniture Row Racing. Crew chief Todd Berrier was already in Nashville for a test session before the race was even over. Kyle Busch, meanwhile would have a pit road violation just before halfway and would spend much of the race battling back from that mistake. Busch would eventually finish 19th after leading 19 laps.
Danica Patrick would also be bit by bad luck as she was caught up in a multi-car wreck on lap 145. Patrick would lead her second consecutive Daytona 500, but wouldn’t have the finish to show for it finishing 40th. Tony Stewart would encounter a frustrating evening as well, with a fuel pickup problem derailing his quest for his first Daytona 500 win. Stewart would finish 35th.
A look at the Daytona 500 by the numbers. There were 42 lead changes among 18 drivers, while seven cautions for 39 laps would slow the race pace to 145.290 MPH.
Next week, the Sprint Cup Series heads to the “diamond in the desert,” Phoenix International Raceway for The Profit on CNBC 500K. The Green flag is scheduled for 3:15pm EST.
Nationwide Series Post-Race Quotes: Drive4COPD 300
posted by Thomas Bowles
Tuesday February 25, 2014
Frontstretch Interviews – Courtesy Mike Neff
ELLIOTT SADLER – FINISHED 4th
Thoughts on the race?
It’s definitely a lot different racing than what we’re used to.
Comfortable with it?
Yeah, it’s just different. You’re worried about what you’re doing, but you’re also worried about what everyone else is doing and they’re not doing more than you’re doing. Physically pushing a guy is way better than just riding so you just gotta time it right and push it to the edge.
Happy to start the year with a top 5?
Yeah. Hell, that was the worst we ran all day, I think. I have no idea how they put the 3 car in front of us on that last restart. I hadn’t seen the 3 car hardly all day. When they put us from fifth to sixth, on the outside line, it just really boxed us in. I would have really restarted behind my teammate and given him a good push to the front. Anyways, it is what it is; we’ll take it and move on.
Looked like you were up front all day.
The guys did a good job. We had a fast race car. Great pit stops, just really proud of these guys. The car’s in one piece and we can take it to Talladega now. Great job by my guys. A lot of effort came into coming down here to Daytona and giving ourselves a shot to win. We had that chance to be up front and make some things happen. Fifth is not what we want, but we’ll take it and move on.
Bumping vs Pushing?
It’s way harder. You don’t want to lay on the guy in front of you, so it’s tough racing. A lot different than what we’re used to, ‘cause you gotta go. You gotta drag the brake too ‘cause you don’t want to hit the guys and you don’t want to stay on him. It’s a lot harder mentally than what we’ve done in the past.
Car was strong all day. Pushing vs. Bumping, is that harder to do than just getting on somebody and pushing them?
Yeah, it is a little bit. When you bump ‘em, you jar ‘em, it kinda jacks ‘em a little bit. It’s a little more abrupt, obviously. I thought it was OK there at the end. It was certainly fun and hopefully entertaining. But a little bit of a struggle in the early part of the race and the midpart of the race to see a good race. And that’s unfortunate for the fans. You can’t do that the whole race, you can’t tear up your stuff, knock your grill in, overheat your motor, all that stuff so there’s no sense in doing all that until you get down to the last lap. The 7 and the 6, they did a good job. Man, the 7 really held the 22 and I tight on the bottom. I was rubbing his door and hitting the apron at the same time, no room whatsoever. So it was good; wish we were the ones who could have won but a lot better now than what we were last year.
Going home in one piece makes it a lot better, right?
Yeah. My back feels good. My foot feels good. Past years here, I’ve been going home with pain so I’m alright.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Truck Series Post-Race Quotes: Daytona (Exclusives)
posted by Thomas Bowles
Saturday February 22, 2014
When you’re on the outside like that, how frustrating is it?
It’s so hard. Timothy Peters has won here. Kyle Busch has won everywhere. Ron Hornaday has been running Trucks forever, probably before I was even born. I was surrounded by veterans there, and like I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there. I really appreciate that. He just bounced off me and we got to the front. I tried my hardest to sidedraft Kyle. I was probably touching his door.
Top 5 in the No. 30 truck. This deal come together at the last minute, but you had a heck of a truck. Tell us about your night.
Yeah, I’ve got to thank Turner Scott Motorsports. The guys worked so hard on this Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet. Exciting! Just got hung up on the outside and had to wait for my teammate there to catch up. And then he got to the bottom, so… I got the old 32 and started pushing ol’ Ryan to the front. So, it’s not bad. We’ll take it. You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.
Connect with Mike!
2014 Budweiser Duels Post Race Quotes
posted by Matt Stallknecht
Friday February 21, 2014
BUDWEISER DUELS POST-RACE QUOTES
They’re saying the wheel bearing burned up in it. I don’t know what caused it, they’re taking it all apart to figure out what the heck happened. Something abnormal that’s for sure I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen at all. Hopefully, we made the race and hopefully we can fix the problem before Sunday.
WHAT WAS THAT LOUD BOOM ONCE YOU TURNED INTO THE GARAGE?
Loud pop was a tire… thankfully, it popped, hopefully it didn’t hurt anybody. All the heat created in the left front that popped was pretty weird.
REALLY GOOD RUN. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF IT?
Yeah, it was good. We have a car we can work with for the 500. Got a good starting spot, so we’re going to rest easy, fluff and buff our car for a couple of days and get ready for Sunday.
ANY DIFFERENCE ON WHETHER THE TOP OR BOTTOM LANE WORKED?
Yeah, I was just moving around, trying to stay with the flow. For me, this car works on all parts of the racetrack. So I’m pretty happy with it.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.
GOT SHUFFLED BACK, AFTER PIT STOPS AND THEN COULDN’T GET BACK UP TO THE FRONT. WHY?
Nah, we were just sitting there waiting until the last few laps to make a move. You didn’t want to pull down and get sent to the back. Seen a couple of guys get sent to the back really quick so we were just kind of waiting for the end. I felt like we had a good situation there with Ambrose behind us — we had a good run off Turn 2 and I went. It was the last lap, time to go do something, nobody went with us but hopefully Sunday is a different story.
We got a great car. We don’t have to work hard. We learned, we got a good race car. Got a car in one piece, ready to go so we’ll try and get through the next couple of practices, deliver it to the starting group this Sunday and we’ll be real happy.
YOU’RE IN THE DAYTONA 500!
Yeah, it’s pretty awesome. This Whitetail Chevrolet was so fast that I knew all I had to do was stick it behind smart, intelligent drafters and we could have a good finish. That’s what we did in the Duels and I’m excited. I’m excited to go do some stuff with the Nationwide car and have some more practice with this. But to know that we’re locked in the Daytona 500’s pretty cool.
YOU WERE OBVIOUSLY IN FRONT OF THAT MELEE AT THE END. WHEN YOU WERE UP FRONT THERE IN THE BEGINNING, WERE YOU HOPING TO JUST STAY IN LINE AND LET YOU FINISH TOP 5?
I was pretty content to ride and luckily I knew a lot of people around us were. It was nice to have a little calm and not really have to be racing hard the whole time. I knew that the pit stop was going to shake everything up and that’s exactly what happened. Fell back a little bit there but made the right moves at the end to get a good finish.
HOW STRONG ARE THESE RCR CARS?
They’re very strong! They definitely have the capabilities to be winning one of these races.
YOU’RE IN THE TOP 5 FOR YOUR HEAT IN THE DAYTONA 500. YOUR PRIMARY CAR IS SITTING RIGHT IN THE GARAGE, KIND OF WADDED UP. DID YOU THINK THIS ONE HAD IT IN IT?
Yeah, it’s a brand new car also. It’s just not quite as good as the primary but still a damned good car. I’m just proud of everybody at RCR for building such fast race cars. All of our cars have been fast, ECR motor’s been strong, even our affiliate teams have been qualifying really good and racing good. So… excited about 2014! It’s going to be a good year.
WELL MAN, YOU STARTED IN THE BACK BUT WORKED YOUR WAY TO THE FRONT WHEN IT COUNTED MOST. WERE YOU JUST BIDING YOUR TIME THROUGHOUT THE RACE?
Eh, you never know if you’re going to get back up there or not. We had to start at the back, we had to make a run early and see what we could do. We drove right to 10th, or something like that and then it got stagnant. We tried to make something happen, and went to the back again. Drove back up to the front. Again, just really proud of my guys. Matt Kruder did a hell of a job on that pit stop getting just enough gas in to gain some spots there.
RCR CARS SEEM PRETTY DARNED STRONG. DO YOU THINK THE RCR CARS HAVE SOMETHING FOR THEM ON SUNDAY — ESPECIALLY THE THREE JOE GIBBS RACING CARS THAT SEEM TO BE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW?
Oh yeah. The 20 car was extremely fast. The 11 didn’t qualify that good, but he’s a good drafter. I think he won. We definitely have something for him.
Check in with Matt and Jay on their site at CareyandCoffey.com.
In a Nutshell: Matt Crafton took the checkered flag 0.167 seconds ahead of Joey Coulter to score his third career victory in Saturday afternoon’s SFP 250 from Kansas Speedway. Crafton took the lead with fresher tires for the second and final time on lap 138, and despite numerous challenges from Coulter, he led the final 30 laps to become the 13th different winner in 13 events at the speedway. Rookie Ryan Blaney, Brendan Gaughan and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Some would argue that James Buescher clearly had the truck to beat, and on Friday and early Saturday, that was the case as he swept both practice sessions before barely edging teammate Miguel Paludo for the pole. But in the end it was Matt Crafton who truly had one of the best trucks on the track. After struggling for much of the day Friday, the driver of the No. 88 Menards Toyota thought it would be another race to run for their best finish possible rather than a trip to victory lane. After starting sixth, he remained inside the top 10 for much of the day, with the exception of a round of green flag pit stops. After that stop, he steadily climbed through the field until taking the lead two laps after the tenth restart of the afternoon, a lead he held until the checkered flag flew.
Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks! In this section for each race, we’ll take a look at the most important things to know just in case you weren’t able to watch it. Love it? Hate it? Just want to tell me something about? Let me know in the comments below.
Turner Scott Motorsports continues to show their strength … sort of: The Turner Scott Motorsports teams once again flexed their performance muscles, this time at a mile-and-a-half track, the type that was so good to them last season. Defending champion James Buescher led both practice sessions on Friday and backed that up with a record-breaking pole speed. And if that’s not enough, his teammates Miguel Paludo and Jeb Burton posted laps good enough for second and third, respectively.
When the race began, the trio remained together on the track for much of the early stages. But despite their strong start, things started to turn sour for the organization. On lap 35, Buescher got loose inside Paludo and pushed him into the outside wall, causing significant damage to the No. 32 Chevrolet. The damage turned out to be terminal, and the Brazilian was credited with a 31st-place finish.
“This is a tough one to swallow. Today should have been our first win, a top 3 for sure, and instead we’re in the garage. I’m so disappointed for my guys. they’ve been doing such a good job, both on pit road and in the shop, so I hate that this is how our races ended,” Paludo said. “This is going to be a huge hit for us in the points, unfortunately. But the bright side is that for the fourth race straight, we had a truck that could have won. We had the handling right from the first lap of practice. This is a race-winning team, a championship-winning team.”
Buescher apologized for the incident on the radio almost immediately, but it’s gotta be difficult for any driver to accept that a teammate took them out of the race less than a quarter of the way in. Despite that contact, Buescher ended up running well for much of the remainder of the race before struggling for grip with his final set of tires. Turner Scott Motorsports continues to bring strong trucks each and every week for all three of its drivers, and if they can manage to start posting the results that reflect their on-track performance, the rest of the drivers will be trying to play catch up.
ThorSport Continues Strong Start: With just four races completed on this year’s schedule, ThorSport Racing boasts three victories, with the only other one—Rockingham—going to Kyle Larson with the aforementioned Turner Scott Motorsports. After struggling much of last year, ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton continue to make waves and now hold the top two spots in the standings. Though teammate Todd Bodine has posted back-to-back DNFs, the drivers of the No. 88 and No. 98 trucks have more than made up for it. When asked during his post-race press conference about their success this season, race winner Crafton’s response was short and sweet.
“I have to thank Duke and Rhonda Thorson (team owners)—doing it out of Sandusky, Ohio. Everybody said it can’t be done and we are making fools out of all the ones that said it can’t be done.”
While there’s still plenty of season left to race, it appears the field may be chasing the ThorSport drivers for many weeks to come.
Cautions, Cautions, Cautions…and a Red Flag: If there’s one story that truly dominated the day more than any other one, it’s the number of cautions the drivers sat through all day. For a while it seemed like every time the green flag flew, the yellow flag wasn’t all that far behind. The race was slowed by 11 cautions for 52 of the 167 laps. Additionally, the red flag came out alongside the eighth caution after debris was strewn all over the track from an incident that involved Todd Bodine, Brennan Newberry and Bryan Silas. And as a result of those cautions, only half of the field actually finished the race.
First Truck Series race on the repaved surface: The last time the Camping World Truck Series came to Kansas Speedway, the track surface was a bit different. Following the April race weekend, the Speedway put down a fresh layer of pavement and reconfigured the 11-year-old track. In addition to changes to the frontstretch and infield, the old 15-degree banking in the turns was changed to progressive banking that varies from 17 to 20 degrees, and since the series only visits the 1.5-mile oval once each season, the SFP 250 was the first event most of the drivers got to experience it on.
Perhaps the biggest difference drivers saw was the change in the amount of grip they found on the track. I spoke with several drivers in the garage area on Friday that bragged about how easy it was for them to run without needing to peddle the throttle.
“This new pavement, there’s so much grip, you can drive these trucks wide open the whole time,” Joey Coulter said. “Kansas has always been one of my favorite tracks, and the repave made it all faster. You can run everywhere. These trucks can’t go any faster than what they’re going. It’s fun to race them like that.”
But aside from that grip, the speeds have increased tremendously. Both practice sessions saw at least 20 drivers running laps faster than the track qualifying record, set by Bill Lester in 2005.
“This is definitely a different Kansas than it has been in the past, that’s for sure,” Crafton said. “At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the track, because everybody was around the bottom. Halfway through the race, people started moving up, and we started getting a second groove. It wasn’t easy to run side-by-side, but you could run somewhat side-by-side, and that’s what was really cool about it.”
As evidenced by the large number of cautions caused by drivers getting loose inside their fellow competitors, it’s clear to see what Crafton meant by running “somewhat side-by-side.” Even when they weren’t wrecking, there was definitely plenty of competition and passing on the track, and as the surface ages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that improve even more.
Spencer Gallagher may want to forget his debut weekend: After failing to qualify for last weekend’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200, Spencer Gallagher came into Kansas knowing he would make the field by virtue of only 36 trucks on the entry list. But despite the pressure being off, it wasn’t exactly the weekend that the young driver had hoped for. His troubles began on Friday with two spins in practice, and it didn’t get any better on Saturday. His engine blew during qualifying, forcing his small team to scramble to change engines before the drivers needed to get on the track.
Gallagher started the race at the back of the field and brought out the second caution with a spin. With no damage, his teamed bolted on a fresh set of rubber and moved on with their race. But on lap 110, he was involved in an incident with David Starr that damaged his truck enough that he was forced to call it quits early. Gallagher was credited with a 22nd-place finish.
Truck Rookie Report
No. of Rookies in the Race: 6 (add a debuting Spencer Gallagher)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Ryan Blaney, finished third and Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished seventh
“My team today battled hard and it paid off. This is a testament to all the work BKR and Ford Racing have put in the past months to get to a competitive level week in and week out at the race track. We look forward to heading into a small break in action, building on the momentum we currently have achieved. Charlotte is a few weeks away and I can’t wait to get back in my Cooper Standard Ford F-Series and go racing!” Ryan Blaney, finished third
“Our Liberty Tire Toyota Tundra was pretty good all day. We were on the tight side and we weren’t able to do much when we caught the draft. Learned a lot and we’ll take this truck onto Charlotte and see what we’ve got there.” Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished seventh
“I feel very bad. We had a very good truck. For sure it was a top 5 truck and we were fighting for position, and unfortunately Kyle (Busch) kept me down, pinched me down and I went loose, so we touched the wall and the guys did a very good job to repair the damage. We came back from being a lap down to almost fighting for a top 10. We ended up 11th with this Toyota Tundra Net10 Wireless 77 truck, but I wish this could be a better result for us. I mean, I feel bad. I don’t feel like and 11th spot. I tell you this: I feel like last.” German Quiroga, finished 11th
Johnny Sauter continues to sit atop the standings and holds a 12 point lead over teammate and race winner Matt Crafton, who moved up one spot. Rookies Jeb Burton, who dropped one spot after a 15th-place finish, and Ryan Blaney sit third and fourth, respectively. Ty Dillon rounds out the top 5.
Defending champion James Buescher gained another position after posting his first top-10 finish of the year, and Brendan Gaughan, who gained four spots on his fourth-place result sit sixth and seventh. Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr., who moved up one position sits eight followed by Joey Coulter, who moved up three spots is ninth. Dakoda Armstrong rounds out the top 10.
The biggest loser inside the top 10 was Miguel Paludo, who fell six spots following a wreck after contact with teammate James Buescher while the two battled for the lead. He ended up credited with a 31st-place finish after completing just 35 laps.
“It feels damn good [to be in victory lane]. I can’t thank the guys enough. This truck was junk yesterday. This thing was horrible. The guys changed so much on this thing—you always hear people say it, but they changed four springs, sway bar, sway bar arms—I mean tons of stuff. There’s a bunch more stuff that they changed that would probably lose everybody. But they made a wholesale change and what that comes down to is teamwork and believing in each other and then going out there and doing it.” Matt Crafton
“It felt like Daytona [chasing Matt Crafton in the closing laps]—I knew we were both in the gas and stood on it all we could. It didn’t seem like either one of us could gain or lose anything. I’m just so proud of these (No.) 18 Tundra guys—we’ve kind of gotten off to a slow start. We came here, regrouped. We got in a little bit of a jam at the beginning of the race and these guys just kept digging, kept digging and great pit stops. Harold (Holly, crew chief) played pit strategy perfect. It’s just awesome—I’m so happy for everybody on this Tundra.” Joey Coulter, finished second
“I can’t believe Ryan (Blaney) got around me on the last lap using the outside line. I didn’t think anyone ran a higher line than I do. He made a great move at the end and it was tough to give up third, but I’ll take a top-5 finish any day. Shane Wilson (crew chief) made some great calls today that helped us gain track position, and my crew did a great job in the pits. our team is getting into a pretty good rhythm right now. I hope we can keep this momentum going even though we’re about to take a three-week break.” Brendan Gaughan, finished fourth
“I can’t thank my guys enough for all the hard work they put into this Rheem Chevrolet for this weekend. We had a fast Rheem Silverado all weekend and I felt like we had a legitimate shot at the win, but our last set of tires didn’t have the grip like our previous set. I feel like we are gaining on the competition and I feel like we will be in victory lane very soon.” James Buescher, finished tenth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series goes into another nearly month-long break before heading off to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 17th. Last season, Justin Lofton scored his first career victory over Brad Keselowski despite struggling on every restart throughout the night. The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 will be televised on SPEED beginning at 7:30 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.
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