Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fast Facts: 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Martin Truex Jr.

2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champ
Martin Truex Jr.
credit: Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Toyota Camry for Furniture Row Racing, is living the dream as the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champ. Learn more about this New Jersey native in this week’s championship edition of Fast Facts.
  • Martin Lee Truex Jr. was born June 29, 1980 in Trenton, NJ and grew up in Mayetta, NJ in the Stafford Township. His father was a former race winner in the Busch Grand National North Series (now the K&N Pro Series East) who also owned a seafood business in Mayetta. Truex Jr.’s younger brother Ryan is a two-time K&N Pro Series East champ who currently races in the Camping World Truck Series for Hattori Racing Enterprises.
  • Truex Jr. started racing go-karts at age 11, then progressed to Modifieds at age 18 at the famed Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey. In 2000, Truex Jr. moved up to the Busch North Series, winning five races in four seasons with his family-owned team. In 2003, he was approached by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who at the time operated Chance 2 Motorsports in cooperation with Dale Earnhardt Inc.; Truex Jr. competed in 10 Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) races that season – six for Chance 2/DEI, three for the family team and one for Stanton Barrett – before going full-time with Chance 2 in 2004. In 2004, Truex Jr. won six times and captured seven poles on his way to his first Busch Series title, then matched that in 2005 with another title, six more wins and three poles.
  • In 2006, Truex Jr. moved up to the Nextel Cup (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup) Series full-time with DEI after having made nine starts in 2004 and 2005 for the team. He earned his first career win at Dover International Speedway and made the Chase for the Cup for the first time.
  • In 2010, Truex Jr. left Earnhardt Ganassi Racing (formerly DEI) to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing, where he raced until the end of the 2013 season. For the 2014 season, he joined Furniture Row Racing in the No. 78, and in 2015 snapped a 69-race winless streak with a popular victory at Pocono Raceway; he went on to finish fourth in points that year.
  • In 2016, Truex Jr. earned four wins, 17 top 10 finishes and five poles, once again qualifying for the Chase, but a blown engine early in the day at Talladega in October knocked him out of the hunt for the championship. He made up for it in 2017, winning eight times, collecting 26 top 10s and three poles, and winning the “regular season” championship along with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup.
  • In 2007, Truex Jr. and his girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, created the Martin Truex Jr. Foundation, which works to support underfunded cancer initiatives specific to ovarian and childhood cancers, and assist the individuals and families affected by them. In 2014, Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and has since shared her story and others at www.sherrystrong.org.
  • Find out more about Truex Jr. at www.shopmartintruexjr.com, and learn more about his foundation at www.martintruexjrfoundation.org

Monday, November 20, 2017

Dear Matt Kenseth: An Open Letter to a Champion

Dear Matt,

Yesterday, I sat in the stands and watched you cross the start/finish line for what may very well be your last time in NASCAR's premier series. I cried. I wish I could have heard you thank the team, and everyone involved in your career over the scanner, but I know I wouldn't have been able to see through the tears.

The funny thing is, I still couldn't see through them. I cried a few times. I didn't need a scanner to convey to me what I knew you'd be saying to the team.

As I stood for the anthem and looked up and down pit row, I saw legions of people surrounding the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr., then looked to your pit stall. (You know you're easy to find on pit road, right? Just look for one of three spaces: the first stall on pit-in, the last one before the entrance to the garage, or if you have the pole, the last spot before pit-out.) The faithful stood by you, just as we always have. Kenseth Nation is still very much alive, and we plan on being there forever.

You got a raw deal.

There's no other way to say it. How is it that a championship-winning driver who's still very competitive gets pushed out of the sport he's dedicated his whole life to, while a young driver with not-nearly-enough experience gets to take over a high-profile ride? How is it that no car owner has room, and no marketing team can secure you sponsors?

Your talents are not limited to one type of track. You drive the car from the back to the front in record time because, as you've said in the past, you're just not great at qualifying. You accumulated so many points in 2003 that NASCAR had to reformat the way the Championship was won. You have two Daytona 500 wins under your belt, and 37 other wins to go along with them. You're kind, humble and a leader in the garage.

NASCAR will never be the same.

I know three drivers walked away tonight, but you deserved more accolades than you received. That's your nature though. You're never one to want the spotlight, never one to want the parades and showers of gifts. You came to race. You wanted to the focus to remain on racing until there was nothing left to race for but that one last win, which you claimed in Phoenix. Would you have wanted a tribute video? Probably not. Did you deserve a tribute video? Yes.

I came into NASCAR as a Jr. fan, but came upon a documentary called "Matt Kenseth: Beyond the Glory," on my local Fox Sports affiliate about 13 years ago. I was really into racing, so I watched it, and was fascinated by your drive to succeed, while remaining a shy, humble guy from Cambridge, Wisc. I listened to the story of how you and your father came to an agreement on the purchase of your first car, and how you worked on it all the time, and then late model after late model, just trying to make a name for yourself. A notice from Mark Martin and driving for Robbie Reiser made your jump to the next level possible, and DeWalt came along for the ride (but not before their VP of Marketing took a spill onto the floor of Robbie Reiser's office after his chair broke). Thank you, DeWalt for taking this journey.

Kids want to be race car drivers because they saw Matt Kenseth: a guy who never gives up, no matter how his day is going, and a guy who races everyone clean, and (usually) gets the same respect in return. "The incident" has been beaten to death, but you stood your ground, because you had been wronged. That day, you were the bat.

I can't tell you how awkward it will be not seeing you in a car next season. My heart hurts for you. But, as I wrote in an old blog right after you announced that you'd be leaving Roush Fenway Racing for Joe Gibbs Racing, I picture you taking Katie's hand, surrounded by your girls, and walking off into the sunset. Life awaits you, a new baby awaits you. Normalcy awaits you. 

But maybe you weren't ready to be normal.

I know I wasn't ready.

Thank you for making me a passionate fan. Thank you for giving me hope, inspiration and the knowledge that anything is possible, if it's what you want.

NASCAR may not know what they'll be missing without your leadership and guidance on the track next year, but I know, and it speaks volumes.


Stephanie Stuart Landrey

Winner Took All - Martin Truex Jr.'s Victory at Homestead Nets MENCS Championship

credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
by Lisa Janine Cloud

Sometimes nice guys do finish first.

Martin Truex Jr., widely acknowledged as one of the nicest guys in NASCAR, held off a relentless Kyle Busch to win both the Ford Ecoboost 400 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The win was his eighth in a season in which he more than doubled his career total, and finished in the top 10 in 26 of 36 races, 19 of those in the top five. He more than earned the respect he'd been seeking for several years.

Championship contender Kevin Harvick finished fourth behind Kyle Larson, who was eliminated from playoff contention going into the Round of 8. Chase Elliott came home fifth, one of the 10 top-12 finishers who were in the original 16 playoff contenders.

Truex became one of just 32 drivers to hold the title of Cup Champion and the first to win under Monster Energy’s reign. He’ll be able to bookend the trophy with a pair of Busch Series championships, one of only five drivers to also win both a Cup championship and what’s now the Xfinity Series championship. Bobby Labonte, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski each scored one championship in the lower-tier series.

Larson led the most laps with 145 and won the first two stages, but as the sun went down, the No. 78 team found a way to get their car out front when it counted. Truex and Busch traded the lead over the final 100-plus laps of the race, with Truex leading, appropriately enough, 78 laps total.

credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
“You know, all day long, we didn't have the car where we needed it, to be honest with you. You know, we were probably third best out of the four for the most part for a while, and just kept clawing and scratching. I just kept trying to get everything I could out of it and giving them the info, giving Cole and the guys the info that I needed, the adjustments I needed, what I needed the car to do different [sic]. We really weren't making a lot of ground on it. I felt like we just missed it a little bit. But we stayed positive,” Truex explained.

“We kept working, and Cole had some pit strategy, got us the lead, and then once he got me the lead, I was like, okay, now it's all up to me now. There's no one in the world that I want to let down less than them. I was like, I can't ‑‑ I've got to hold the lead no matter what happens. This is it. This is my opportunity. They gave me the lead, and I've got to find a way to get it done.”

The challenges Truex and the team have faced, both personally and professionally, gave them the experience they needed to get in position and gave Truex the reserves on which to draw when the championship was on the line.

“I found a way to ‑‑ I just found a line that worked for my car with 20 laps to go that I couldn't find all day long. I had searched for it all day, could never find it, then all of a sudden with 20 to go, I found it. Not only did it help my car but it hurt Kyle's car, the 18. He got to second, and when he did, he was three, four tenths faster than I was before I found the line, and that was the difference.” Truex said.

“Just found it when I needed it. The timing was right, and we made it happen.”
credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who ran his last race as a full-time Cup driver Sunday, visited his former DEI teammate in Victory Lane. Truex gave Earnhardt a great deal of credit for his success.

"Dale gave me my opportunity to move to North Carolina, to race cars for a living. You know, I wouldn't be here today without him. My path would surely be different. I wouldn't have won two XFINITY championships right out of the gate. There's a lot of things that would be different if it wasn't for Dale, and just the friend he's been over the years, the mentor that he's been to me over the years, it's been amazing."

Sunday's victory overwhelmed Truex, who as recently as the end of the 2013 season wasn’t sure he’d race again. He only had two career wins in eight full-time seasons at that point and had lived through some of the sport’s murkiest days. At the AAA Texas 500 in November 2013, he announced his deal with Furniture Row Racing and began the climb to the championship.

In 2014, his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, his biggest cheerleader, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, making that season a rough one indeed.

“I don't know how to explain it other than I was surrounded by a lot of good people. That's all I can tell you,” Truex said. “You know, that Sunday night [in 2013] when I found out after Richmond that NAPA was leaving, that I was losing my sponsor and that my contract would be gone, I truly didn't know if I would ever race competitively in the Cup Series again. I didn't know if I'd ever have a chance at winning. Hell, I didn't even know if I'd have a chance of driving, period. So Sherry said, 'Don't worry, it's going to be fine, things happen for a reason.' I was like, yeah, whatever, you're damned crazy.”

“But that's true ‑‑ truer words have never been spoken. That's how it was,” he said.

“A few days later, I heard from Joe Garone from Furniture Row Racing, said, 'Hey, we think Kurt is leaving, we're going to blah blah blah blah blah.' You know, from those days until now, I don't know. I mean, I've always thought about it the same way. I love to race cars. I knew it was a privilege to race cars. I always gave it all I had no matter what, and I loved going to the track and working with a team to try to get somewhere. But this year definitely felt different. I feel like before we ever started this year, we knew we had this in us because we talked about it. We were like, 'Let's go get that championship; we can do it.'”

Pollex reinforced that attitude. She told NBC post-race, "We always say, if you can fight a struggle with a positive attitude and just have a smile on your face and find the good and the silver lining in everything, in the end you'll come out, and karma will pay you back and good things will happen to you."  .

Right Sides Only: Notes from the 2017 Champion Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

Sometimes, the best answer to a question is a simple, "I don't know." In describing his emotions after winning his first championship as crew chief for the No. 78 Furniture Row team, Cole Pearn gave a simple answer.

"I don't know. Still in disbelief, I guess. I don't know, I can't believe it. Yeah, I don't know, we really tried to focus on being good once it turned nighttime, and I don't know, I was really trying there because a lot of those other guys were a little bit better during the day, and we kept pace, we weren't as good by any means, especially not on the long run, and we kept in the top 5, kept in position, and the pit crew was amazing all night, never once faltered. We just continued to adjust on it. We knew kind of when the track cooled down where we needed to be, and then, I don't know, we weren't going to beat the 18. There was no way. I knew kind of they were going to go on that one stop, so we decided to go to the two-stop strategy to try to provide opportunity to at least do something different, and we were fortunate enough to catch a caution that we didn't even need to come down, just straight speed, and really those last 30 laps, that's Martin.
"For anybody that doesn't believe that he's a champion, he's -- I don't know, that was one of the best drives I've seen. We didn't have the best car by any means, and he found a spot on the track to be able to make it work and outran the best car, and the best car was Kyle Busch," said Pearn.

There comes a time in every race--but especially during the final race of the season--that a crew chief knows he's done all he can do for his driver, and the outcome of the race is out of his hands. For Pearn that moment came in the closing laps after the last pit stop of the afternoon.

"I think for me I probably had more tension with like 15 to go because the 18 was coming, and I wasn't sure where we were going to find the grip to be able to beat him [Kyle Busch]. Once Martin started finding a groove that was working for him and when he started to pull away at times a little bit from him, all I did was continue to watch where we were running, continue to watch where Kyle was running and try and find the lane that was -- at least give the feedback to Martin on what lane was working the best. Really, I think that need to be attentive was a calming factor in a way. I still felt surprisingly calm and surprisingly at peace as we approached those last few laps, and I think really when we got down with a couple to go, just started thinking about everything we've been through and started to let it kind of soak in or pour in on you, I guess, in a way, and just was really in disbelief that we were able to do it," Pearn explained.

The driver/crew chief bond is special. The pair know each other well and can anticipate the other is thinking. As well as Pearn knows Truex, did he know his driver had the ability to pull out all the stops in the waning laps?

"I don't know. I continue to believe every day that his talent level, and a lot of times we get a lot of credit as a team because maybe in his career he didn't have the success he's had since we've been together. I think that bodes for us getting a lot of the praise. I really -- he's a champion. You know, I think for me, one of the most clutch wins for the year was Charlotte when we were able to win and pull that off when maybe we weren't our best, either, and I didn't know that we had another performance like that in the bag, and somehow we found it. This is by no means or strongest track by any means. We hadn't had it Kansas or at Charlotte. We'd have worn him out. But this was not an easy one for us, and really he put it on his shoulders there because we were out of ideas. We were doing everything we could, and we made the best calls we could. I can't take away from that. But at the same time, he put it on his shoulders and made it happen," Pearn explained.
Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

In those last few laps, Truex had a driver he certainly didn't want to see in his rearview mirror. How nerve-wracking is that for a crew chief who can't fix that situation?

"Oh, absolutely, yeah. I was worried for sure. I knew they were coming, and I knew how good they were on the long run all night, and he was starting to find his groove and find his speed. They're an unbelievable team, unbelievable competitors. The fact that Martin was able to find some speed and find a lane that was working for us, it was like, okay, well, we started to stretch it out. I just really tried to stay focused on what was working and just tried to stay focused on the task at hand. It was just eerily calm in a way. I think in a way I felt like we were probably -- high chance they were going to get us, and I think the fact when you realized that was quite possible, it allowed you to just calm down and we've got to fight tooth and nail for everything we can. I think that brought a lot of resolve and a lot of focus to what we needed to do, and I think -- I can't think of a better way to be a champion than to beat the other best team I can think of in those closing laps," Pearn said.

The team's quest for their first championship started early in the season. With the advent of stage racing, the No. 78 held a clinic for the rest of the field.

"I think early in the year, we were fortunate enough to be qualifying well and having good speed, and allowed us to win a lot of stages. I think really when the playoffs come, it's a product of everybody raising their game. There was a lot of races where maybe we weren't the best car early in races that we would have been early in the year, and I think that's kind of the difference.
"We had Chicago, we had a penalty, had a loose wheel; that really took us out of being able to win stages. Loudon we were going to run away with it, I think, and got crashed on the backstretch going to win the second stage there. Charlotte we sucked early in the race and really came through at the end. I think a lot of races we've faced a lot of adversity really early in races. It's maybe something that didn't happen early in the year. So I think that's just a difference in stage wins in the playoffs versus the regular season. It wasn't really any different strategy-wise, it was just kind of the way the races played out," Pearn said.  

The No. 78 team has experienced a lot of off-track heartache, so winning the championship is cathartic on many fronts. Not only has Martin Truex Jr.'s long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, been valiantly battling ovarian cancer, but Pearn lost his best friend a few months ago. Pearn talked about how the win affected him.

"You know, it's a medicine at times, I guess. I was able to overcome kind of those last couple laps -- I don't know, I've got a hard time talking about it honestly.  I wish -- I lost my best friend, and I still think about him every day and every night. I don't know, I'm not sure.  It's pretty crazy to be able to win. You know, I just can't wait to get back home and see all my friends and family and be able to share this with them," Pearn said.

Pearn isn't kidding when he talks about taking time to spend with friends and family. Most championship crew chiefs visit the media center following the Homestead finale and tell the members of the press that they have no plans to celebrate because they want to get started on the next year as soon as possible. Pearn is an exception.

"We just won a championship in NASCAR; are you kidding me? I don't really give a crap what we do next week. (Laughter.)
"I don't know, I mean, we're going to enjoy it. I think -- I'm 35 years old and I've raced every year of my life since I was six years old and I spent every year of my life before that going to watch my dad at the racetrack. Barney [Visser] asked me on the way to work on Tuesday how long have I been doing this, and I had to add it up, and I never would have dreamt that this would have been possible, especially growing up where I did in Canada. That's kind of unheard of to break into a predominantly Southern sport and then to do it as a team in Colorado and win a championship, definitely going to take some time for reflection on that and think about what we've accomplished before we worry about 2018," Pearn explained.

He has, indeed, earned some time to reflect on his accomplishments before he concerns himself with next season. 


Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover.


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Trackin’ Trucks: Briscoe wins race, Bell wins championship at Homestead

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

Two drivers celebrated in victory lane at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night. Christopher Bell hit his marks and rejoiced as the 2017 Camping World Truck Series champion, while Chase Briscoe was able to put a full race together to earn his first career victory.

Bell, who graduates to the Xfinity Series in 2018, lead 10 laps and won Stage 1 of the Ford EcoBoost 200. Bell clinched the championship by finishing second, 13 seconds ahead of fellow Playoff contender Johnny Sauter.

“You never know when your last win is, when your last championship is, so to be able to be standing here as a NASCAR champion is something I would say I dreamed of, but I didn’t ever think it was a possibility, so I didn’t ever really dream of it,” Bell said. “But it – I’m just really speechless.”

Along with the earning the driver’s championship, Kyle Busch Motorsports also clinched the owner’s championship for the fifth straight year.

Credit: Sarah Crabill

The majority of the Friday night race belonged to Chase Briscoe and Ben Rhodes. The drivers exchanged positions for the lead multiple times, but it was Briscoe who took home the checkers.

Briscoe also grabbed Rookie of the Year honors in his last race for Brad Keselowski Racing. The team is set to cease operations after nine years in the series.

“We brought a really good truck, first off,” Briscoe said, “For us to not be in the Playoffs and to be shutting down to still bring trucks that can win races and sit on the poles is a huge statement from the organization in general.”

“I got kinda shuffled on the restart. I didn’t do a good job on my end, fell back to fourth. I felt like we were pretty right there at the end because I started to catch everybody again, but really our pit crew was awesome tonight.”

Ryan Truex earned his eighth top-five of the year, finishing fourth to cap off a tremendous season.

Briscoe’s teammate, Austin Cindric, rounded out the top five.

Matt Crafton finished sixth, while Stewart Friesen, Grant Enfinger, Justin Haley, and Timothy Peters all finished inside the top-10.

The final 2017 NCWTS Standings:

Champion: Christopher Bell
Second: Johnny Sauter
Third: Austin Cindric
Fourth: Matt Crafton

Friday, November 17, 2017

TV Schedule: Nov. 17-19

Homestead-Miami Speedway. Credit: Photo by Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
It all comes down to this. Three series, three champions.

NASCAR's playoffs will be determined at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Who will wield the trophy in the Monster Energy, XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series?

This will also be an emotional weekend for fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth as the two celebrated drivers embark on their final Monster Energy race. The guard is changing as we enter a new era in NASCAR.

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage at Homestead-Miami. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Nov. 17:
8:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
10 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
5 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN
6 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN
7:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FS1
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: Ford EcoBoost 200 at Miami, FS1
10 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Post-Race Show, FS1

Saturday, Nov. 18:
6 a.m. Camping World Truck Series: Ford EcoBoost 200 (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, CNBC
11 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, CNBC
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
3 p.m. XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Ford EcoBoost 300 at Miami, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN

Sunday, Nov. 19:
11:30 a.m., NASCAR RaceDay: Miami, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR America Sunday, NBC
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Countdown to Green, NBC
2:45 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Ford EcoBoost 400 at Miami, NBC
3 p.m., NASCAR Hot Pass, NBCSN
7 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Post-Race Show at Miami, NBCSN
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
9:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Caption This Winner for 11-11-17: Pam Rossman

Congratulations to Pam Rossmanwho contributed the winning caption for this photo of
John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton.  

All winners who include their twitter handles with their entries will be entered in a drawing for the end-of-season prize package of racing swag. 

What I'm telling you, John Hunter, is
that I am one of those "real men"
-- so I wanna wear pink, too!

Thanks to everyone who played Caption This during the 2017 NASCAR season. We'll announce the winner of the prize package soon. Stay tuned! 

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Crowning the 2017 champion at Homestead

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Kevin Harvick - 5
All with 4 - Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson
All with 3 - Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Clint Bowyer

By Track
Kevin Harvick -9
Both with 7 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch
All with 6 - Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch

Recent Pole Winners:  
2016 Kevin Harvick
2015 Denny Hamlin

Last Year's Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson

The Likely Suspects: With this being the last race of the season and with a championship on the line the excitement, particularly at the end of stages one and two, will be epic. I will focus my picks on my Homestead go-tos: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.  

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick at Homestead is a repeat offender from last week: the laser focused Kevin Harvick. He has an amazing record at Homestead and his eye on the championship. My next pick has to be Martin Truex Jr. My next picks are Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott. I will complete my team with Ty Dillon and David Ragan. 

My Final Four: Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon

Points to Ponder:
  • Playoff contenders have won 10 of the 13 (75%) previous Playoff races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Two non-Playoff drivers have won the Homestead-Miami Playoff race: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013).      
  • Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in Playoff race wins at Homestead-Miami Speedway with six, including five consecutive: Greg Biffle (2004 – 2006), Matt Kenseth (2007) and Carl Edwards (2008). 
  • A total of 14 different drivers have won a Coors Light Pole Award at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Among active drivers Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne lead with two each. 
  • There have been 12 different Monster Energy NASCAR Series race winners at Homestead-Miami Speedway; with four of the 12 having multiple wins. Denny Hamlin is the only active driver among them with two wins.
  • 12 of the 18 (66.7%) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Homestead-Miami have been won from a starting position inside the top 10 – most recently – Kyle Busch (third starting position; 2015). 
  • A total of 15 different MENCS drivers have finished runner-up at Homestead-Miami Speedway, led by Kevin Harvick with three second-place finishes; followed by Jimmie Johnson with two.  
  • A total of 35 different MENCS drivers have finished in the top-five at Homestead-Miami. Among active drivers Kevin Harvick leads with eight top fives; followed by Jimmie Johnson with five. 
  • A total of 52 different MENCS drivers have finished in the top-10 at Homestead-Miami. Among active drivers Kevin Harvick leads with 14 top 10s; followed by Jimmie Johnson with 11. 
  • Kevin Harvick leads the series in average finish position at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a 6.938
Remember, if you're playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, November 17, at 5 a.m. EST.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.com.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Homestead-Miami Speedway

credit: NASCAR Media
Four drivers – Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. – head to Homestead-Miami Speedway this weekend with a chance to become the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. Learn more about the track hosting the Ford Championship Weekend for NASCAR’s top three national series in this week’s Fast Facts, originally published in Nov. 2014.
  • The idea for Homestead-Miami Speedway stems from the destruction caused by Hurricane Andrew in Aug. 1992. In an effort to revitalize the area after the storm, promoter Ralph Sanchez presented his idea for a motorsports facility in Sept. 1992; on Aug. 24, 1993 – exactly one year after the Hurricane – groundbreaking for the track took place. The facility currently has a 1.5-mile oval and a 2.3-mile road course.
  • The first official NASCAR race at the track was a Busch (now Xfinity) Series race on Nov. 3, 1995, won by Dale Jarrett. The day before, Geoffrey Bodine won a Truck Series exhibition race at the track.
  • The first Cup Series race at the track was on Nov. 14, 1999, won by Tony Stewart. To accommodate the event, the speedway doubled its seating capacity.
  • After the Indy Racing League made its initial appearance in 2001, with Sam Hornish Jr. taking the checkered flag, the speedway was awarded NASCAR’s Ford Championship Weekend beginning in 2002; all three of NASCAR’s top series – Trucks, Xfinity and Cup – end their seasons at HMS.
  • In May 2003, a $12-million track reconfiguration transforms the nearly-flat track to one with 18- to 20-degree variable banking. In Nov. 2005, the first season finales took place under the lights.
  • In 2009, HMS hosted season finales for six of North America’s major motorsports series: IndyCar, Indy Lights, GRAND-AM, Sprint (now Monster Energy NASCAR) Cup, Nationwide (now Xfinity) and the Truck Series.
  • Greg Biffle and Stewart lead all drivers with three wins; Jeff Gordon has the most top fives (seven) and is tied for the most top 10s with Harvick (12). Keselowski set the NASCAR track qualifying record in Nov. 2014 (181.238 mph/29.795 seconds).
  • Find out more about Homestead-Miami Speedway at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com

Monday, November 13, 2017

Travel Tips: Homestead-Miami Speedway – Nov. 17-19, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The 2017 championships for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series will be decided this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Nov. 17-19, during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. Four drivers in each division will be vying for their respective titles as the 2017 season comes to a close.

On Friday, Nov. 17 from 8-11 a.m. ET, the Hot Rods and Reels Charity Fishing Tournament takes place on the infield lake at HMS. The event, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Quality of Life Chapter of the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, allows fans to spend quality one-on-one time with top NASCAR personalities; past participants have included Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer. Find out more about the tournament here.

Check out the Ford Car Show on Sunday, Nov. 19 from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on Speedway Blvd. near Gate 1. Jack Roush, Edsel Ford II, Wood Brothers co-owner Eddie Wood and NASCAR champ and team owner Tony Stewart will be checking out the cars on hand and judging the best. Find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Nov. 17
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 8:30 and 10 a.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 2:30 and 5 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 6:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 – 8 p.m. ET
Saturday, Nov. 18
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:15 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Ford EcoBoost 300 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Nov. 19
  • Pre-race concert featuring the Eli Young Band – 1 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com