Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Trackin’ Trucks: John Hunter Nemecheck wins at Martinsville

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

John Hunter Nemechek earned his sixth career Camping World Truck Series victory on Monday, two days after the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 was delayed by a snowstorm.

Nemechek led 31 laps and finished .106 seconds ahead of Kyle Benjamin for his first win at the .526-mile track, earning the famous grandfather clock trophy along the way.

“I felt pretty confident going into today about our truck,” Nemechek said, “We unloaded with a lot of speed. We just kept working on our truck all day. I kept telling (crew chief) Gere (Kennon) kinda what I thought I needed.  He made a couple slight adjustments, but really nothing.”

Nemechek took the lead on Lap 220 and held off a charging Benjamin, who got to the bumper of the No. 8 Chevrolet in the final lap but ran out of time to make a pass for the victory.

Benjamin, who was making his Martinsville debut, led 74 of 250 laps before finishing second.

“We had a really good truck, mostly for long runs, and unfortunately, it came down to a short run,” said Benjamin. “It’s Martinsville, so I figured I had to give him a run for his money in the last corner.”

Brett Moffitt finished third after pitting late for fresh tires, while Grant Enfinger and Noah Gragson rounded out the top five.

A multi-truck accident on Lap 87 occurred when the No. 4 of Todd Gilliland pushed Johhny Sauter into the No. 52 of Stewart Friesen. Harrison Burton, Cody Coughlin, and Tyler Matthews were also involved.

Burton recovered to finish eighth.

Pole sitter Ben Rhodes picked up where he left off on Saturday, when he led 23 laps before rain and snow forced the event to be postponed until Monday, March 26th, by leading the most laps and winning Stage 1 and Stage 2, however, he struggled on pit road on Lap 145 and that resulted in the ThorSport Racing driver finishing in the 12th position.

Matt Crafton and Sauter were involved in a wreck on Lap 224 after the No. 21 suddenly lost power. Crafton spun after getting into the rear-end of Sauter but finished 15th.

Sauter finished 19th after losing two laps to change the battery in his Allegiant Airlines Chevrolet.

A Look Ahead 

The Camping World Truck Series returns on Friday, May 4th at Dover International Speedway.

Sauter won the event one year ago after leading 33 laps. Sauter leads the 2018 points standings by 29 over Enfinger and 31 markers ahead of Moffitt.

Don’t miss the CWTS action when they return on May 4, 2018. Coverage starts at 5 p.m ET on Fox Sports 1.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Right Sides Only: Notes from the STP 500 Winning Crew Chief, Mike Bugarewicz

by Stacey Owens

Dry spells aren't fun. Long dry spells can be downright depressing, so it's always nice to see one come to an end. Clint Bowyer's dry spell had to wait an extra day... because of snow at Martinsville Speedway.

Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz talked about his expectations throughout the race, which had been postponed from Sunday and was run as the second race of a Monday double-header.

"Yeah, in my 10 years so far in this sport, I've learned that you don't expect anything in the last few laps; it could come down to the last one. You could have led all the laps all day long, and it may not work out for you in the end," Bugarewicz said.

Bowyer led more laps in the STP 500 than he's led in the last three years. More importantly, he led the last one.

Bugarewicz discussed the team's focus, which ultimately helped Bowyer grab his first win in almost 200 races.

"We just stayed focused, kept digging until the end of the race, and for him to have that winless streak of 190 races, I'm so happy for him to finally get another one, get a picture with his son. I know he's been wanting that for a long, long time, and I really liked it for this team. It's not always seen because we're not always up there leading all the laps in every race, but these guys work just as hard as any team out there. We're a really tight-knit group, and well deserving for this whole team and whole company who's really dug hard all winter long," Bugarewicz explained.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

The win marked the fourth victory for Stewart-Haas Racing this season. When asked what the win means to him personally, Bugarewicz talked more about what this win means for everyone on the SHR team.

"Yeah, that's a pretty easy one for me to answer. You know, I'm always most happy for all the guys and Clint driving our car and all the people back at SHR. In all honesty, I don't really even think about myself in the equation. I know it takes a lot more than one or two people to make this happen.  It takes everybody, every single person that touches the car or a part or anything on this thing.

"It's a team win. It's a company win is the best way to describe it in my opinion. Everybody has worked so hard, so I'm most proud for them," Bugarewicz said.

During the off-season, SHR moved Tony Gibson off the pit box into the production chief role. Gibson is ultimately responsible for providing highly functioning race cars to each of the teams in the SHR stable. Bugarewicz talked about his role as crew chief versus what Gibson does for the No. 14 team. 

"I think two things that come to mind in general is, one, the load that he's taken off of me. A lot of little things that I had to worry about and spend half my week that I am in the shop, wondering if it's right, if it's the way I want it to be, this and that. It's handled, it's taken care of.

"So that lets me focus on other areas to prepare for the race. The other side of it... is when you show up to the track and you're closer on speed, you're more in the ballpark, you're already top 5, top 10 speed-wise, you kind of can relax a little bit in the sense of now, 'Okay, we can just focus on how do we make this comfortable for the driver to race,' where at times even last year, I felt like you're trying to fix balance issues, but you're also trying to find speed.

"Well, a lot of times they don't go hand-in-hand. A lot of times what you're doing to make speed out of the car doesn't necessarily make it drive better. You're trying to find that balance, and you get yourself stuck in the middle, and then when you're trying to race in traffic or all these other things, it just becomes that much more difficult on the driver. So those two big things come to mind," Bugarewicz explained.

It's evident that Bugarewicz is happy in his job right now.

"I believe in this company. I love working here, and it's the best place I've ever worked, and these people are going to keep digging hard," Bugarewicz said. 

With four wins in six races, Stewart-Haas is proving to be the team that's digging deeper than any other in the garage.


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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Five Questions before Martinsville

Kyle Busch with the coveted grandfather clock trophy in Martinsville Victory Lane, October 29, 2017
credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

by Lisa Janine Cloud 

It’s the first short track of the season this Sunday and I’m excited! With all the recent talk about racing’s roots, seeing the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series beat and bang around the half-mile track in Martinsville, Virginia, feeds my soul. Be warned though, there are three phrases you’ll hear repeatedly. You can make one of them your drinking-game word, but only one, because alcohol poisoning is a real threat otherwise.

Martinsville is known for its radioactive red hot dogs, aka Jesse Jones Southern Style Red Hot Dogs. You’ll hear more about hot dogs this weekend than any time of the year other than the Fourth of July.

It’s also known for having a unique trophy, a Ridgeway grandfather clock. Drivers covet the clock more than just about any trophy on the circuit, with the possible exception of the Harley J. Earl Daytona 500 trophy. Expect to drink a lot if you pick “grandfather clock” for your trigger word.

Finally, Martinsville is famous for being shaped like a paper clip, with long straightaways and tight corners. Take care if you choose “paper clip” as your drinking word!

While we wait to see whether Mother Nature is going to be kind to and only dust the track with snow, let’s pause for five questions, shall we?

Which Gilliland will finish better, David or Todd? The father-and-son duo competes against each other for the first time in a NASCAR national series race. The younger Gilliland has three top-ten finishes in six CWTS starts, with a fifth at Martinsville last fall. His father has 11 Truck starts with three top-ten finishes and a 23-place finish in his only Truck race at the Paper Clip (drink!) in the fall of 2015. Based on that record, I think Todd has the edge over his father.

Will Johnny Sauter keep up his streak of top-three finishes? The 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion has finished first, third, and second, respectively, in three races so far this season. He ended the 2017 season with third-place finishes at Martinsville and Homestead, bookending wins at Texas and Phoenix, giving him a total of seven top-three results in a row. He has three wins and 11 top tens in 20 Martinsville starts, with finishes of first, second, and third in the last three races so his chances are not bad at all.

Will we have a new winner in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season this weekend? Five races in and we have had only three winners: Kevin Harvick (3), Martin Truex Jr. (1) and Austin Dillon (1). Of the three, only Harvick has a win at the Paper Clip (drink!). Dillon has a better average finish (15.6)  than Truex Jr., (17) over the last 10 races at Martinsville, but that may be because Dillon’s only had 8 starts.

Will we have a different driver win at the Paper Clip? (Drink!) Only seven active drivers have won at the .526 mile oval: Jimmie Johnson (9), Denny Hamlin (5), Kyle Busch (2), Kurt Busch (2), Kevin Harvick (1), Ryan Newman (1) and Brad Keselowski (1). Only two of Johnson’s and Hamlin’s wins have come in the last 10 races, and Keselowski is the defending race-winner. Clint Bowyer has the best average finish among non-winners (14.0) and Joey Logano is right behind with a 14.2 average finish. Could this be the week the No. 14 returns to Victory Lane? Can Logano score a grandfather clock to go with his collection of coolest trophies on the circuit? Both Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace Jr. have Truck wins at Martinsville - can either of them capitalize on that experience?

Can Chevy start catching up to Ford and Toyota? Since Stewart-Haas Racing made the switch from bow ties to blue ovals, the overall performance of Chevy teams has been inconsistent at best. Teams hoped that the introduction of the Camaro body would help, but they don't seem to quite have a handle on it yet. This time last year, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott led the point standings. Going into the STP 500 this season, Larson in seventh and Austin Dillon in 12th are the Chevy standard-bearers. Elliott seems almost snake-bit, mired back in 21st, while his teammate 16th-place Alex Bowman leads all Hendrick drivers. Can Jimmie Johnson build on last week’s top-ten finish? Will Jamie McMurray make some noise? How will rookie William Byron fare?

We’ll find the answers to these and other questions Saturday in the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 at 2:00 PM on FS1 and Sunday afternoon in the STP 500,  2:00 PM on FS1.

The Xfinity Series takes a break, returning April 7 in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.   

Thursday, March 22, 2018

TV Schedule: March 23-25

Martinsville Speedway. Credit: Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
NASCAR goes short-track racing for the first time this season at Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the circuit. Get ready as close quarters breed short tempers.

The Paperclip will host the Monster Energy and Camping World Truck Series, which returns after an extended break.

The XFINITY Series is off this week and will return April 7 at Texas.

The following is a handy guide to this weekend's on-track action at Martinsville. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, March 23:
1 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
9 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS2 (re-air)
10 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS2 (re-air)

Saturday, March 24:
8 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice (re-air), FS1
9 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
11 a.m. Camping World Truck Series qualifying, FS1
12:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2:00 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250, FS1
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Post-Race Show, FS1
5 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series qualifying, FS1

Sunday, March 25:
7 a.m. Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (re-air), FS1
12:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series STP 500, FS1

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Short-track racing & that pink hot dog at Martinsville

By Carol D'Agostino

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

By Track
Brad Keselowski- 7
All with 6 - Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer
All with 5 - Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Kevin Harvick   

Recent Pole Winners:
2017 Rained Out 
2016 & 2015 Joey Logano

Last Year's Race Winner: Brad Keselowski

The Likely Suspects:
 Martinsville is home to some great short-track racing and seriously pink hot dogs. I will be focusing on these drivers this week: Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney.
My Two Cents: For this week's final picks, focus on drivers with open-wheel experience. Road racers perform particularly well at short tracks. My no-brainer pick this week is Brad Keselowski. My next picks are Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Dillon. I will complete my team with Chris Buescher and Cole Whitt. 

My Final Four: Brad Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Clint Bowyer and Chris Buescher

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Aric Almirola. Although Aric has only one top five and three top 10s in 18 races at Martinsville, he has had a spectacular start to the 2018 season. He is currently 10th in the driver standings. Earlier in his career, he raced open-wheel modifieds, which should serve him well this week. Last week's second-look driver Erik Jones finished in seventh place at Auto Club Speedway after starting in the fourth position.

Points to Ponder:
  • The first starting position is the most successful starting spot in the field at Martinsville, producing more wins (21) than any other starting position. 
  • 99 of the 138 (71.7%) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races at Martinsville Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position. 
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 24. 
  • Jimmie Johnson leads the series among active drivers with nine wins at Martinsville; followed by Denny Hamlin with five. Only seven active drivers have won at Martinsville. 
  • Joey Logano leads the series among active drivers with the most poles at Martinsville with four – 2015 sweep, Spring 2016 and Fall 2017. 
  • Joey Logano (18 starts) leads all active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in average starting position at Martinsville Speedway with an 8.667. 
  • Jimmie Johnson (32 starts) leads the series among active drivers in average finish at Martinsville Speedway with a 7.687; followed by Denny Hamlin 10.0 (24 starts). 
  • Joey Logano (8.7), Chase Elliott (9.4), Ryan Blaney (9.5), Ryan Newman (9.6), and Denny Hamlin (9.6) each have an average starting position at Martinsville inside the top 10. 
  • Jimmie Johnson can become the third driver in series history to record 10 or more wins at more than one track with a win this weekend.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 2:59 a.m. EST on Saturday, March 24, and pick your starters by 2 p.m. EST on race day, Sunday, March 25.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Fast Facts Redux: Gray Gaulding

credit: Getty Images/SeanGardner

BK Racing driver Gray Gaulding, at the young age of 20, is already in his fifth season of top-tier NASCAR competition. Find out more about this upcoming star – who has been racing for 16 years – in this week’s Fast Facts, originally published in June 2014.
  • Gray Gaulding was born Feb. 10, 1998 in Colonial Heights, Virginia. He began racing motorbikes at age 4 and moved into four-wheel vehicles at age 9. He raced Bandoleros at age 10, winning in his first race.
  • Gaulding became the youngest driver in the NASCAR Legends Division at age 12, winning a Legends car national championship that season. He also beat Cup Series star Kevin Harvick in a karting event at Harvick’s track, earning himself a driver development program spot with Kevin Harvick Inc.
  • At age 13, Gaulding raced Super Late Models and was named Rookie of the Year in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS), the youngest driver to ever win the award.
  • In 2013 at age 15, Gaulding raced in the K&N Pro Series East and West, winning the pole at Richmond International Raceway and becoming the youngest pole winner in K&N Series history (15 years, two months, 15 days). Later in the year, he became the youngest race winner in K&N West history at Phoenix International Raceway (15 years, eight months, 30 days).
  • In 2014, Gaulding – a member of the 2014 NASCAR Next class – competed in the Camping World Truck Series for NTS Motorsports, earning a fourth-place finish at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.  He has also raced in the Xfinity Series, earning two 13th-place finishes in 2016 for Roush Fenway Racing.
  • Gaulding, driving the No. 23 for BK Racing, finished 20th in his first Daytona 500 in February of this year.
  • Learn more about Gaulding at his website, www.graygaulding.com.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Travel Tips: Martinsville Speedway – March 23-25, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series visit “The Paperclip,” Martinsville Speedway, Friday through Sunday, March 23-25, for the STP 500 Cup Series race and the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck Series race. The 0.526-mile track was on the very first NASCAR season schedule, the only current track to have that distinction.

Upgrade your Sunday ticket to include the Pre-Race Experience – just $30 for adults and $15 for youth 17 and under. The Experience includes photo opportunities, the opportunity to sign the start/finish line and see driver introductions (weather permitting) and scheduled appearances, including Chase Elliott, Trevor Bayne and AJ Allmendinger (subject to change). Find out more about this package and others here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 23
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 11:05 a.m., 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 24
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:05 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 11:05 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 – 2 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 5:10 p.m. ET
Sunday, March 25
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 – 2 p.m. ET
Check out the track’s fan guide here, and the first time visitor’s guide here.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Auto Club 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

For a few weeks, every crew chief and driver has been trying to catch up. Another team has dominated the racetracks on the schedule, and no one has been able to run them down. Until now.

Crew chief Cole Pearn talked about how the No. 78 team has prepared to race with the No. 4 team and what he thinks has made a difference this week.

"I think getting the new rules package and everything kind of sorted out some more. We knew early on we just really weren't where we wanted to be. But we weren't bad. It was just a matter of getting those last little bits.

"It's always good when you're running top five, but you know there's room to grow, room to get better. This week was a step. Finally you get caught up where you can really make improvements.  This was the first week where coming to the racetrack I felt like everything was making a little more sense, we had a lot better plan going into the day," Pearn explained.

Though they were prepared to give Kevin Harvick a run for his money, Martin Truex Jr. and his team didn't get that opportunity when an early on-track incident with Kyle Larson effectively ruined Harvick's chances to score a fourth consecutive win. Would Pearn have matched up with what crew chief Rodney Childers had set up for Harvick if the accident hadn't happened?

"Hard to say. Those guys are an amazing race team. You know they're probably going to be there at some point.

"I thought we were a little bit off from them yesterday in practice. Last night we were able to make a lot of good sense of stuff, find a lot of gain setup-wise I felt like going into today. We had a quiet confidence that if everything lined up, we were definitely going to have a good run at them.

"You never know. We don't really have another high-speed mile-and-a-half for a couple weeks, Texas. They were really good there last year, too. It's going to be an ongoing battle as it goes," Pearn said.
Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Did Pearn adjust his strategy following the Harvick-Larson incident?

"Not really. I mean, really in this sport you can only do what you can do to yourself. You're focused on your own program. You know those guys are really good. Obviously they've been really successful so far this year. Whether they were in the race or not, I don't think we would have played anything any different. You just got to do the best you can for yourself. Really, that's the only chance you have," Pearn explained.

This season, the No. 78 is truly focused on its own program. Last year, the team was able to share information with the No. 77 team. However, with the departure of Erik Jones to Joe Gibbs Racing, Pearn and Truex are once again a one-car operation. Is it more difficult this year not having a teammate on whom he can rely for information?

"I don't think so. I think for us it's really no different. You always kind of focus. We operate in such a small window of stuff that's really focused on Martin. Whether we had one car or two cars, we were really focused on our one car.

It's less information in a way. In the same sense, it's easier in the shop now just having to prepare two cars a week instead of four. It's a lot more time and detail can go into them. For us, being a small team, it's not a bad problem at all," Pearn said.

You know what else isn't a bad problem? Following up their championship with an early win, putting the team in contention for a repeat later this 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... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: At Auto Club Speedway

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s in the Last 5 Years:
Joey Logano - 4
All with 3 - Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch 

Top 5 Driver Averages in the last 10 Cup Races
SOURCE: mrn.com
Best Fin.
Daniel Suarez
Chase Elliott
Jimmie Johnson
Kevin Harvick
Erik Jones
Top 10 Driver Rating at Auto Club
Active Drivers 2005-2017 races (19 total)
Jimmie Johnson........................ 116.9
Chase Elliott............................. 109.0
Kyle Busch............................... 108.6
Erik Jones................................ 100.6
Kevin Harvick............................. 97.4
Denny Hamlin............................. 92.3
Clint Bowyer............................... 89.8
Kurt Busch................................. 88.1
Kasey Kahne.............................. 88.1
Kyle Larson................................ 86.6

Recent Pole Winners: 
2017 Kyle Larson
2016 Austin Dillon

Last Year's Race Winner: Kyle Larson

The Likely Suspects: Auto Club Speedway is a driver's track where skillful drivers shine. I'm looking at these drivers to run well this weekend: Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch.

My 2 Cents: It's possible that someone besides Kevin Harvick may win this week. Rookies and wheelmen prevail at this track, so don't be afraid to go with a sleeper pick. My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between the Busch brothers. My next choices are Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez. I will complete my team with Matt DiBenedetto and William Byron.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Erik Jones. Although he only has one top 15 at Auto Club Speedway, he has the fourth-best average finish. He falls into that wheelman category, so keep an eye on him this weekend. Last year Jones finished 12th in this race. Last week's second-look driver, Alex Bowman, finished 13th at ISM Raceway after starting fourth. Although he didn't lead any laps, if you picked him, he did get you some qualifying bonus points.

My Final Four: Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch and William Byron

Points to Ponder:
  • 10 different organizations have won at Auto Club Speedway, led by Hendrick Motorsports with 10 victories, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven. Stewart-Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, and Team Penske each have two. 
  • Among active drivers Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes (5), top-five finishes (13) as well as top-10 finishes (16) at Auto Club Speedway. Kevin Harvick trails Johnson in runner-up finishes with three. Kyle Busch trails Johnson in top-five finishes with eight as well as in top-10 finishes with 13. 
  • Denny Hamlin (2012, 2013), Jamie McMurray (2010 sweep) and Kurt Busch (2006 sweep) are the only three drivers to win consecutive poles at Auto Club Speedway.
  • 16 different Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won at Auto Club Speedway, led by Jimmie Johnson with six victories (2016, 2010 spring, 2009 fall, 2008 fall, 2007 fall and 2002). 
  • California natives Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon) and Kyle Larson (Elk Grove) are the only two series drivers (7.1%) to win from the pole at Auto Club Speedway – Johnson (2008) and Larson (2017). 
  • Jimmie Johnson (7.1) and Chase Elliott (8.0) are the only two active drivers with more than one start with an average finish inside the top 10 at Auto Club Speedway.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 2:59 a.m. ET on Friday, March 16, and pick your starters by 3:30 p.m. ET on race day, Sunday, March 18.

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

Monday, March 12, 2018

Travel Tips: Auto Club Speedway – March 16-18, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series visit Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA for the Auto Club 400 weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 16-18.

On Thursday, March 15, Auto Club Speedway hosts its annual free FanFest in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Fan Zone from 5-9 p.m. PT. Activities for the evening include live music, interactive displays, Q&A with NASCAR drivers, the Fanatics merchandise store and the annual Hauler Parade. Find out more here.

A number of live musical performances will take place on the O’Reilly Auto Parys Fan Zone Main Stage and Viva La Fiesta Stage this weekend, including a Sunday performance from rock band Bush (10 a.m. PT on the Main Stage). Find a complete weekend schedule here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 16
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 11:35 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 12:35 and 2:25 p.m. PT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:15 p.m. PT
Saturday, March 17
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 9:35 a.m. and noon PT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 10:35 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series 300-mile race – 2 p.m. PT
Sunday, March 18
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 – 12:30 p.m. PT
Find a full weekend schedule here.

Find the online guest guide here, and new gate policies for 2018 here.

Get more information on the schedule, and purchase tickets at www.autoclubspeedway.com.