Monday, July 30, 2018

Travel Tips: Watkins Glen International – Aug. 3-5, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and K&N Pro Series East visit the Finger Lakes region of New York State for the final road course race on the Cup Series schedule for 2018. The Go Bowling at The Glen weekend takes place Friday through Sunday, August 3-5 at Watkins Glen International.

Fans with a weekend pass can check out Friday night’s concert featuring the Preston James Band and opening act Small Town Shade beginning at 7 p.m. ET. Saturday night following the Xfinity Series race, the Pete Frank Band will be on-stage at Gate 7, while the Devon Franks Band will be on-stage at Gate 1; both sets start at 7 p.m. ET.

Key on-track event times:

Friday, Aug. 3 –
  • K&N Pro Series East practice – 11 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 12:35 and 2:05 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East qualifying – 3:30 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East Great Outdoors RV Superstore 100 at The Glen – 4:45 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 4
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:05 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:35 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Zippo 200 at The Glen – 3 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 6:35 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 5 –  
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Go Bowling at The Glen – 2:30 p.m. ET
Get tickets and more information about the race weekend at www.theglen.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Gander Outdoors 400 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

by Stacey Owens

Not every driver on the pole wins the race. Kyle Busch can attest to that.

Starting from the 28th position meant that Busch had some work to do to make it to the front. Crew chief Adam Stevens talked about the team mentality with such a mediocre starting position.

"Well, you're always thinking you have a chance to win. We have Joe Gibbs Racing equipment, we have Mars backing us, and we have Kyle Busch driving. I know if I do my job and keep my team focused that we'll have a chance to win. Practice and qualifying don't really play into the mental aspect of that at all, so I had high hopes we were going to have a good car, and we did.

"You know, we made quick work up there to the top 10, and once you get in the top 10, it's just a regular race from there," Stevens said.

After their tech issues, which relegated them to a less-than-stellar starting position, Stevens made some wholesale changes to the car to pass technical inspection before the green flag dropped. Was Stevens concerned about what those changes might mean for his team's speed?
"Not really. The issues that we had in tech, the reason we failed was completely my oversight. There's a rule with a number of fans that you're allowed to have to cool the tires and brakes, and I didn't misread it, I just neglected to read it, and says plain as day that you can only have one, and when you have two, you're outside of the rules. They can point to it and tell you, and you say, oh, yeah, I'm an idiot. You fix it and you move on.
"But we were on post-race tolerance, post-qualifying, and then we had to go to pre-race tolerance for some of the chassis measurements. But I wasn't really concerned that it was going to affect the speed of our car. I was gravely concerned that it was going to hurt our pit selection and have a negative impact on us every time we came down pit road, but the speed of the car not so much," Stevens explained.
Rebecca Kivak for Skirts and Scuffs
With the problems the team had getting through tech inspection, Stevens was asked whether he apologized to Busch for his oversight.
"Kyle and I don't really do a lot of apologizing. He knows I'm trying to do my best, I know he's trying to do his best. You'll make mistakes and you'll have oversights. I'm embarrassed about it. I'm not sorry about it. It's not that big of a deal. Nobody died. Nothing caught on fire. You know, it was just one of those things. I've just got to maybe read the whole rulebook in my downtime. Maybe I'll do it on the plane ride home," Stevens said.
Oversights aside, the duo has figured out how to win at Pocono Raceway. They've won two of the last three Monster Energy Series races at the track and swept this past weekend. Stevens discussed their approach to the track.
"You know, for me, we've been here -- gosh, this is our fourth year, I guess. We've been fast, arguably fast enough to win every single time, and that's because we have good cars and good equipment and strong engines, and Kyle knows how to get around this place. His feedback is such that if you give him what he's looking for, you're going to be fast. The reason why you don't win them all is because this is a really difficult place to win with the pit strategy and not losing a lap if you're within the gap, and now the segments, and it's just too easy when you're running fourth or fifth to do the opposite of the leader and put him in a bad spot.
"I expect to come up here and be competitive again next year. I have no idea if we'll be in a spot to win a race for all of those reasons," Stevens explained.
Every driver expects to be competitive, but the No. 18 team has figured out how to turn their competitive edge into multiple wins. The victory at Pocono moved the younger Busch to 13th on the all-time wins list, which ties him with Tony Stewart, and puts him a great position to remain competitive as the races wind down closer to the playoffs.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
  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, July 28, 2018

Trackin’ Trucks: Kyle Busch Wins at Pocono

Kyle Busch celebrates his win at Pocono Raceway with a burnout.
Credit: Chris Trotman

by Courtney Horn

Kyle Busch earned his second Camping World Truck Series win of 2018 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday afternoon, holding off teammate Erik Jones by 1.469 seconds for his 51st victory in the series.

The win ties Busch with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. for the lead on the all-time series win list.

“They (Jones) had a better truck,” Busch acknowledged. “I tried and tried to work on this thing to make it better and probably made it slower with all the things I changed on it, rather than making it faster.

“I knew Erik was going to be fast in that truck—I knew Noah was going to be fast in that truck. They were the ones that we had to beat. I wish we were a tick faster, but obviously, being a bit slower, we put on a better show. Erik was able to run me down, and I did everything I could to hold him off.”

Busch led three times during the Gander Outdoors 150 for a total of 43 laps, passing Jones in the closing laps after a battle through lapped traffic.

Jones finished second in his first CWTS event in two years. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver replaced an ill Noah Gragson, who was sidelined by NASCAR because of a stomach virus.

“I saw the lapped trucks, and they gave me the opportunity to get there,” Jones said, “I was like, ‘This is going to be my shot, probably my only shot to get the lead, and if we can get the lead, I think we can hold him off.’

“We came within about six inches of doing it, and I had to kind of check up. There were four lapped trucks. We passed three of them on the straightaway, and there was one more in the Tunnel Turn, and I had to check up on the bottom or run him over, which I wasn’t going to do.

Dalton Sargeant had his strongest race of the year, finishing third and earning the first top-five finish of his career. Stage 2 winner Stewart Friesen and Justin Haley rounded out the top five.

Grant Enfinger finished sixth, Stage 1 winner Todd Gilliland finished seventh, while Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, and Joe Nemechek completed the top 10.

A Look Ahead

The Camping World Truck Series takes a two-week hiatus before returning on August 11, 2018, at Michigan International Speedway.

Sauter remains the series points leader, now 65 points ahead of Gragson, who has been granted a playoff waiver by NASCAR because of his illness at Pocono.

Myatt Snider is in the cutoff position, 85 points behind Ben Rhodes in eighth. Cody Coughlin and Sargeant are ninth and 10th, respectively.

All three drivers are in must-win situations with only two races remaining in the regular season.

Who will win at Michigan? Find out on Saturday, August 11th at 1 p.m ET on Fox Sports 1.

Friday, July 27, 2018

TV Schedule: July 27-29

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
NASCAR splits its time across the Poconos and the Midwest this weekend.

The Monster Energy Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series head to Pocono Raceway. The 2.5-mile triangular track is one of the most unique on the circuit. Meanwhile, the Xfinity Series returns to fan-favorite Iowa Speedway for some short track racing.

The following is a handy guide to track events at Pocono and Iowa. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, July 27:
Noon Camping World Truck Series practice, not televised (follow live on NASCAR.com)
2 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice (not televised (follow live on NASCAR.com)
5 p.m. Xfinity Series practice, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. Xfinity Series final practice, NBCSN

Saturday, July 28:
9 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, CNBC
10 a.m. Camping World Truck Qualifying, FS1
11:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, CNBC
12:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series RaceDay, FS1
12:30 p.m. Whelen Series: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (All-Star), NBCSN
1 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Gander Outdoors 150, FS1
3 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Post-Race Show, FS1
3 p.m. Xfinity Series Qualifying, NBCSN
4 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN
5 p.m. Xfinity Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
5:30 p.m. Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 presented by The Rasmussen Group, NBCSN
10 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Gander Outdoors 150 (re-air), FS2

Sunday, July 29:
11 a.m. Camping World Truck Series Gander Outdoors 150 (re-air), FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400, NBCSN
6 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Post Race, NBCSN

Thursday, July 26, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono


By Carol D'Agostino

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

By Track
All with 7 - Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick
Both with 6 - Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin
Both with 4 - Kyle Larson and Ryan Newman 

Recent Pole Winners:
2017 Kyle Busch
2016 Martin Truex Jr.

Last Year's Race Winner: Kyle Busch

The Likely Suspects: The "Tricky Triangle" is notorious for having a committed fan base, and it's also popular with the Pocono elite drivers. Keep an eye on these drivers this weekend: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, and Martin Truex Jr.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is Kyle Busch, who after last week's bump and run from Kevin Harvick may have a little something to prove. My next picks are and Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, and Ryan Blaney. I will complete my team with Michael McDowell and Chris Buescher.

My Final Four: Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Ryan Blaney and Michael McDowell.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Jimmie Johnson. Are the Chevys ready to turn the corner? This could be Jimmie Johnson's breakout weekend. Johnson has three wins and four poles at Pocono and leads all active Monster Energy Series drivers with 20 top-10 finishes here. Back on June 3 he had a decent performance finishing in eighth place and leading two laps. Last week's second-look driver, Kasey Kahne, finished 19th after starting 26th.

Points to Ponder:
  • Eight different manufacturers have won in the Monster Energy Series at Pocono led by Chevrolet with 32 victories, followed by Ford with 23, Dodge (seven), Pontiac (six), Toyota (six), Buick (four), Mercury (two) and Oldsmobile (one).
  • The first starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing the most winners (16) – a 20% winning percentage.  
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active series drivers in wins at Pocono with four (2006 sweep, 2009 and 2010). 
  • Five active drivers have multiple wins at Pocono: Denny Hamlin (four), Jimmie Johnson (three), Kurt Busch (three), Kasey Kahne (two) and Martin Truex Jr. (two).
  • Two of the seven drivers to win consecutive races at Pocono are active: Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep; 2009 fall and 2010 spring races).
  • Kurt Busch leads all active drivers in runner-up and top-five finishes at Pocono. He has five runner-up finishes followed by Kevin Harvick with four (and 14 top fives), followed by Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick with 11 each.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active MENCS drivers with 20 top-10 finishes at Pocono.
  • Brad Keselowski (17 starts) leads all active drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at Pocono with a 10.176.
  • Kyle Busch leads all active drivers at Pocono with four Busch poles (spring 2010, fall 2015, 2017 sweep).
  • Of the 43 Pocono pole winners, only six have won consecutive Busch poles, including active drivers Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep), Joey Logano (fall 2011 and spring 2012) and Kyle Busch (2017 sweep).
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Saturday, July 28th, and your final picks by 2:30 p.m. EDT on race day Sunday, July 29th.

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

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Fast Facts: Stewart Friesen

Stewart Friesen earned the pole for the Truck Series race
at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year
credit: Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton

Camping World Truck Series driver Stewart Friesen may be a NASCAR newcomer, but he’s a veteran when it comes to dirt racing. Learn more about this Canadian driver – celebrating his 35th birthday this week – in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Stewart Friesen was born July 25, 1983 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. His family owned Ransomville Speedway in Ransomville, NY for more than 40 years, and Friesen grew up around the local dirt tracks in Western New York and Southern Ontario.
  • Friesen began his racing career in go-karts, then moved into dirt modifieds and occasionally raced sprint cars. He has amassed more than 230 victories on dirt, including five in the NAPA Super DIRT Week Big-Block Modified event (four at the NYS Fairgrounds, one at Oswego Speedway).
  • With those credentials, it’s no surprise that Friesen’s first NASCAR race was the Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway in 2016, where he started 12th and finished 28th after a wreck. He raced five more asphalt Truck Series races that season, with a best finish of 13th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
  • In 2017, Friesen and Chris Larsen created Halmar Friesen Racing to compete full-time in the Truck Series. Friesen finished 14th in points that year, earning five top 10 finishes, including a career-best to date runner-up finish at Eldora. So far in 2018, he has added two more second-place finishes to his resume and has finished in the top 10 in eight of 13 races.
  • Friesen is married to fellow driver Jessica Zemken; they have a son, Parker, who often visits victory lane at northeastern dirt tracks with his father.
  • Find out more about Friesen at his website, stewartfriesen.net.


Monday, July 23, 2018

Travel Tips: Pocono Raceway – July 27-29, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is joined by the Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series during its second trip to the “The Tricky Triangle,” Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, Friday through Sunday, July 27-29, for the Gander Outdoors 400 weekend.

Pocono Raceway FanFest will be held on Friday from 6-9 p.m. ET, beginning with the NASCAR Cup Series hauler parade at 6 p.m. ET and currently featuring eight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, including Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman (subject to change). Find out more about the event here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 27 –
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 9 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – noon and 2 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 1 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series ModSpace 150 – 4 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 28
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 9 and 11:40 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 10 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Gander Outdoors 150 – 1 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. ET
Sunday, July 29
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Gander Outdoors 400 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Find a complete weekend schedule here.

Find out more about the event and purchase tickets at www.poconoraceway.com.

Travel Tips: Iowa Speedway – July 27-28, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and K&N Pro Series East and West head back to Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, for the U.S. Cellular 250 weekend, taking place Friday and Saturday, July 27-28.

The NAPA Auto Parts Concert Series will feature Dylan Scott on Friday night after the K&N Pro Series race, while the post-race party on Saturday will feature the Cody Hicks Band.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 27 –
  • K&N Pro Series practice –2 and 3:15 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 4:05 and 5:35 p.m. CT
  • K&N Pro Series qualifying – 5 p.m. CT
  • K&N Pro Series Casey’s General Stores 150 – 7:30 p.m. CT
Saturday, July 28 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 2:05 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 presented by The Rasmussen Group – 4:30 p.m. CT
Visit www.iowaspeedway.com for more information on the weekend and to purchase tickets.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Foxwoods 301 Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens

Sometimes you have to run a horrible race to figure out how to run a better one.

Crew chief Rodney Childers had a better car this weekend after having spent a great deal of time making cars better for short-track racing following an abysmal run at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2017.

"Yeah, we had a good race. We had a really good weekend in general. You look back at the fall race here last year, and we were absolutely horrible, embarrassed to say the least. From that race on, we really went to work and made our cars a lot better for the short tracks. I think that showed with Phoenix this year, then coming up here and running good. Richmond ran really good all night. But the whole company in general really worked hard making this a better short track car. Everybody did a great job today," Childers said.

One element of performance in which Childers said the team has made good progress is on pit road.

"I mean, in general, it seemed like we had a good day on pit road. We've had our ups and downs. I think a lot of attention was toward that way this week after Kentucky.
"You look back at Chicago. We had stops. We had one stop at Chicago, we picked up five spots. The problem was we couldn't do that consistently.
"This week was really about matching personalities, matching the skill sets of different people. We felt like we did that as a company. I can't speak for everybody else. I don't know what all happened with the other three teams.
"Our stops weren't clean by any means, but I can say when they are clean -- they weren't clean when they had thirteen twos. When they are clean, they'll be right there with the 18.
"We have to have people working together. They had one day to practice with each other before we came. Overall they did a good job," Childers explained.
Credit: Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Late in the race, especially given the not-so-stellar weather outlook, Childers cautioned his driver to do whatever it took to win. Childers talked about that philosophy after the win.
"It's short-track racing. Like I said earlier, I won lots and lots of short track races growing up. Not one of them did it win without bumping somebody. You listen to Kyle's radio. As soon as it happened, he said, 'Man, I was holding him up.'
"It's just part of it. You got to do what you got to do. On the other hand, we're sitting there watching the radar. There are people on the spotter's stands complaining about it raining. In those situations, you got to try to win the race.
"We look back at Michigan all the time thinking it's a race we should have won. You have to take advantage of every circumstance," Childers said.
With six wins this season, the team is certainly taking advantage of every circumstance that comes their way. This team will be difficult to beat as the series marches toward the playoffs in a few short weeks.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
  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.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Trackin’ Trucks: Chase Briscoe wins at Eldora


Chase Briscoe celebrates his win in Victory Lane at Eldora.
Credit: Matt Sullivan

by Courtney Horn

Chase Briscoe earned his second career Camping World Truck Series victory on Wednesday night, beating teammate Grant Enfinger by a bumper to win at Eldora Speedway. 

Briscoe and Enfinger came door-to-door in overtime after a multi-truck accident brought out the final caution on Lap 147 during the sixth annual Dirt Derby.

“I know (Enfinger) is running for a championship and he’s our teammate,” said Briscoe. “I wasn’t going to wear him out. I wasn’t going to just wreck him for the win. We rubbed, and I definitely let it float on the way to the wall and I’m sorry for that, it’s not how I race. 

“I’m so thankful that Ford allowed me to do this race. I was begging them about three weeks ago to let me do it and it came together at the last minute. It’s awesome to be in Victory Lane.”

Enfinger didn’t express any hard feelings about the way he was raced. In fact, he stated he would’ve done the same thing.

“I feel like we had a position on him, we were pretty good right there,” said Enfinger. “He used me up and I was going for it, he didn’t do anything dirty, it was just the last lap for a really, really big race. 

Stewart Friesen overcame an early race spin to finish in third place. Friesen was in a four-wide battle with Ben Rhodes, Logan Seavey, and Chris Windom when contact from the No. 54 Toyota sent Friesen spinning. 

Matt Crafton and Brett Moffitt rounded out the top five. Noah Gragson finished sixth, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Seavey, Justin Haley, and Nick Hoffman.

A Look Ahead


The Camping World Truck Series heads to Pocono Raceway to end a three-consecutive-race stint on Saturday, July 28, 2018.

Matt Crafton is still winless after 13 races this season. He sits sixth in the points standings, just 16 points to the good for the Playoffs. Last week’s winner Rhodes is seventh in the points standings, while Haley sits in the eighth position with three races to go in the regular season.

Myatt Snider is the first driver below the cutoff, 83 points behind Haley. He is in a must-win situation to make the Playoffs.

Johnny Sauter remains the points leader, 32 points ahead of Gragson and 80 points over Moffitt.

Will a new winner punch their ticket into the 2018 Playoffs? Find out on July 28th at 1 p.m ET on Fox Sports 1.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 at New Hampshire

By Carol D'Agostino

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

By Track
Matt Kenseth - 9
Kyle Busch - 8
Brad Keselowski - 7
Both with 6 - Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson

Recent Pole Winners:  
2017 Martin Truex Jr.
2016 Jimmie Johnson

Last Year's Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

The Likely Suspects: New Hampshire Motor Speedway flat track is perfectly suited to these "Shire" masters  Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a Brad Keselowski. My next picks are Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez. I will complete my team with Alex Bowman and Landon Cassill.

My Final Four: Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Alex Bowman.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Kasey Kahne. Kasey has a decent record at New Hampshire with one win, three top fives, 10 top 10s. If the car comes off the track with some good speed he may have a good run on race day. Last week's second-look driver Aric Almirola finished in eighth place at Kentucky after starting in 12th.

Points to Ponder:
  • The first starting position is the most prolific starting position in the field, producing more winners (six) than any other starting position at New Hampshire. 
  • In total, 21 different Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers have won the Busch Pole Award at New Hampshire, led by Ryan Newman with seven poles.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing leads the series in wins at New Hampshire in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 12 victories, followed by Hendrick Motorsports (9), Roush Fenway Racing (seven), Team Penske (six), and Richard Childress Racing (four).
  • Three drivers have posted consecutive wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Jimmie Johnson (2003 sweep), Kurt Busch (2004 sweep) and Matt Kenseth (2015 fall, 2016 spring). 
  • Daniel Su├írez leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in average finishing position at New Hampshire with a 7.00 in two starts; followed by Brad Keselowski with 9.823 (17 starts) and Denny Hamlin with 10.083 (24 starts).
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Friday, July 20th, and your final picks by 7:30 p.m. EDT on race day Sunday, July 22nd.

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

Monday, July 16, 2018

Travel Tips: New Hampshire Motor Speedway – July 20-22, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

There will be plenty of action on and off the track this weekend, Friday through Sunday, July 20-22, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is joined by the Xfinity Series, the K&N Pro Series East and the Whelen Modified Tour for a weekend full of racing.

Fans can meet the up-and-coming stars of NASCAR at two autograph sessions on Saturday featuring Whelen Modified Tour drivers (10 a.m. ET) and K&N Pro Series East drivers (10:45 a.m. ET). Find a complete schedule of events, including entertainment, here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 20 –
  • Whelen Modified Tour practice – 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – noon ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour All-Star Shootout (timed event) – 2:10 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East practice – 4 and 6 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East qualifying – 7:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 21 –
  • Whelen Modified Tour qualifying – 9 a.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:05 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:05 a.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour Eastern Propane & Oil 100 – 2 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Lake Region 200 – 4 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East United Site Services 70 – 6:45 p.m. ET (time approximate)
Sunday, July 22 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 – 2 p.m. ET
To purchase tickets for the NASCAR weekend, or to learn more about NHMS, visit www.nhms.com.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Travel Tips: Eldora Speedway – July 17-18, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

The Camping World Truck Series returns to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH, for the sixth annual Eldora Dirt Derby on Wednesday, July 18. The event is the only dirt track race on any of NASCAR’s three national series schedules. Also on the schedule are the DIRTcar Series UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks. The historic clay oval is owned by three-time Cup Series champ Tony Stewart.

Key on-track times:

Tuesday, July 17 –
  • Spectator gates open at 3 p.m. ET
  • DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks qualifying – 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 7:05 and 9:05 p.m. ET
  • DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks heat races – 8:15 p.m. ET
  • DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks features – 10:20p.m. ET
Wednesday, July 18 –
  • Spectator gates open at noon ET
  • DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks practice – 4:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:35 p.m. ET
  • DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks heat races – 6:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series heat races – 7 p.m. ET
  • DIRTcar UMP Modifieds and Eldora Stocks feature – 7:55 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Last Chance race – 8:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Eldora Dirt Derby (150 laps) – 9 p.m. ET
Find out more about the race and the track, and purchase tickets for the event at www.eldoraspeedway.com.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Trackin’ Trucks: Ben Rhodes Wins at Kentucky

Ben Rhodes. Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

Ben Rhodes earned his second career victory and secured his way into the Camping World Truck Series playoffs at Kentucky Speedway.

Rhodes won Stage 1 and led 38 laps of Thursday's Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 before earning his first win of the season. The win is Rhodes’ first at his home track.

“I still don’t have any words,” Rhodes said. “This is amazing; a dream come true. This has been such a long time coming. These guys deserved it so much. They’ve been working their butts off and we’ve been having such bad luck this year.

“We’ve had trucks like this all year long, finally we could showcase it. I’m so proud of this team. This is exactly what we needed.”

Rhodes led four times and took the lead for the last time on Lap 127. A fuel-only pit stop in the final laps allowed the ThorSport Racing driver to win by .922-seconds over Stewart Friesen.

Friesen came up short of his first series victory after an issue with the right rear tire cost the No. 52 team.

“We had an engine problem during time trials and the whole team stepped in,” Friesen said. “It was awesome. We had less than an hour to go to swap ’em out and we had a good finish. We led some laps. Didn’t get off the way we needed to on pit road at the end and it was the difference of about 100 yards and a lot of clean air. Proud of the guys, but I made a little mistake there and it cost us.”

Matt Crafton finished third for his first top five since finishing fifth in Fort Worth, Texas. Brandon Jones and John Hunter Nemechek rounded out the top five.

Pole sitter Noah Gragson finished in the eighth position after winning Stage 2. He led 62 laps on Thursday, the most of the night.

A Look Ahead

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Eldora Speedway to sling some dirt next Wednesday, July 18th.

Only four seeds remain available for the CWTS playoffs. Justin Haley sits on the bubble with four races left in the regular season, with Myatt Snider in ninth, 75 points behind the cutoff position.

Johnny Sauter remains the points leader by 42 points over Gragson and 91 ahead of Brett Moffitt.

Crafton won the event one year ago. Can the two-time series champion do it again and secure his place in the playoffs?

Find out on July 18 at 9 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky

Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Darlington Raceway • Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.5 Miles

By Carol D'Agostino


Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race & Track
Kevin Harvick - 5
All with 4 - Kyle Busch, Matt Kenneth, and Joey Logano

Driver Rating 
Since 2015 - Factors in Wins, Finishes, Top-15 Finishes, Average Running Position While on Lead Lap, Average Speed Under Green, Fastest Lap, Led Most Laps and Lead-Lap Finish. A driver can score a maximum driver rating of 150 points per race. Updated Prior to the 2018 race.
SOURCE: MRN.com

DriverHigh RatingDriver Rating
Kyle Busch148.4128.1
Martin Truex Jr.149.0120.3
Kevin Harvick131.3116.0
Matt Kenseth113.5105.3
Erik Jones102.7102.7
Brad Keselowski126.0100.8
Denny Hamlin117.197.3
Chase Elliott104.494.6
Jamie McMurray103.893.0
Kyle Larson107.687.6
Recent Pole Winners:
2017 Kyle Busch
2016 & 2015 Rained Out
2014 Brad Keselowski

Last Year's Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

The Likely Suspects: Kentucky racing is all about track position. These drivers have mastered Kentucky to an extreme: Kyle Busch,  Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenneth, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott. 

My 2 Cents: Okay, I think we've all seen this scenario so many times this season, but my no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Larson are also pretty stout here. My next picks are last week's race winner Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray. I will complete my team with Bubba Wallace Jr. and Chris Buescher.

My Final Four: Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace Jr.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Aric Almirola. Aric has proven performance on 1.5 mile tracks this season. He stands in sixth place in laps led this year at 1.5-mile tracks with 70. Last week's second-look driver Paul Menard was one of the many drivers caught up in wrecks at Daytona last week. Paul started the race in 30th place on the grid and made it through the field to eighth place. In Lap 49 he was hit behind by Jimmie Johnson. Although his crew was able to get him back on track and up to speed, laps later the air cleaner which was damaged in the earlier crash began to come apart sending the No. 21 car to the garage for repairs. He returned to the track 16 laps down and finished the race in 28th place.

Points to Ponder:
  • Team Penske (2012, 2014 and 2016) and Joe Gibbs Racing (2011, 2013 and 2015) lead the series in wins at Kentucky with three each.
  • Brad Keselowski leads the series in wins at Kentucky with three; Kyle Busch is only other driver with multiple wins at Kentucky with two.  
  • Four different Monster Energy Series drivers have won at Kentucky Speedway: Brad Keselowski (6/30/2012, 6/28/2014 and 7/09/2016), Kyle Busch (7/09/2011 and 7/11/2015), Matt Kenseth (6/30/2013) and Martin Truex Jr. (7/08/2017). 
  • Six of the seven (85.7%) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Kentucky have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • A total of 19 different Monster Energy Series drivers have posted top-five finishes at Kentucky; led by Kyle Busch with five top-fives, followed by Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski with three each.    
  • A total of 25 different Monster Energy Series drivers have posted top-10 finishes at Kentucky; led by Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch with six each, followed by Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson five each. 
  • Kyle Busch leads the series in average finishing position at Kentucky with a 5.143.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Friday, July 13th, and your final picks by 7:30 p.m. EDT on race day Saturday, July 14th.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Fast Facts: The Eldora Dirt Derby – The First Five

credit: NASCAR Media

In November 2012, NASCAR announced that one of its top-tier series was going dirt racing for the first time since 1970. 2018 marks the sixth edition of the Eldora Dirt Derby for the Camping World Truck Series, taking place at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH. Here’s a look at the first five races (2013-2017) in anticipation of this year’s event, taking place on July 18.
  • The inaugural “Mudsummer Classic” went green on July 24, 2013. Among the heat race winners: NASCAR veterans and avid dirt racers Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace. Brennan Newberry won the Last Chance qualifying race, while the inaugural event was won by 2011 Camping World Truck Series champ Austin Dillon.
  • “Mudsummer Classic” No. 2 was held on July 23, 2014 and featured more of a youth movement, as Erik Jones, Jeb Burton and Ryan Blaney raced to heat wins – they didn’t keep veterans Johnny Sauter and NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. out of victory lane in their respective heats, however. The Last Chance race went to John Wes Townley, and Darrell Wallace Jr. took the checkered flag in the feature.
  • The third “Mudsummer Classic,” held on July 22, 2015, was the last to use that name after a dispute with Major League Baseball (their All-Star Game is known as the “Midsummer Classic”). The youth movement continued, with Bobby Pierce, John Hunter Nemechek, Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick earning heat wins – along with Schrader for a second time. Cody Erickson won the Last Chance qualifier, while Bell gave Kyle Busch Motorsports its second-straight win in the feature.
  • The fourth “Eldora Dirt Derby” went green July 20, 2016, with Pierce, Reddick and Schrader repeating as heat winners. Cody Coughlin won the Last Chance qualifying race, and Cup Series regular and dirt racing aficionado Kyle Larson came home with the win.
  • “Eldora Dirt Derby” No. 5 took place July 19, 2017 and saw Bell joined by a few new names as heat winners: Cup Series regular Ty Dillon, Kaz Grala, Truck Series champ Matt Crafton and dirt racing veteran Stewart Friesen. Pierce was relegated to the Last Chance race, which he won, and Crafton came up with the big win.
  • Find out more about the Eldora Dirt Derby at www.eldoraspeedway.com.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Travel Tips: Kentucky Speedway – July 12-14, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

All three of NASCAR’s top series – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Trucks – roll into Kentucky Speedway this week, Thursday through Saturday, July 12-14, highlighted by the Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart on Saturday night, July 14.

On Saturday at 5:15 p.m. ET, there will be a pre-race concert from country newcomers High Valley. Fans can access the stage for the show as well as driver introductions with the purchase of the Kroger Fan Zone Pass, which is available for one day or the entire weekend. Find out more the Fan Zone Pass upgrade here.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, July 12
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9:05 and 11:05 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 4:05 and 6:05 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 5:10 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Friday, July 13 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – noon and 2 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 5:05 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 6:35 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Alsco 300 – 8 p.m. ET.
Saturday, July 14 –
  • High Valley pre-race concert – 5:15 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart – 7:30 p.m. ET
Find a complete weekend schedule here.

First time at the track? Check out the Kentucky Speedway Fan Guide here for all kinds of information you’ll need for a fun weekend at the track.

For additional information on Kentucky Speedway, and to purchase tickets and upgrades, visit www.kentuckyspeedway.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Coke Zero Sugar 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chris Gayle

by Stacey Owens

Sometimes all it takes for a driver to win a race is a little maturity and a little confidence. Erik Jones has been building up both of those traits for a while, and it all paid off big at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

Crew chief Chris Gayle talked about how Jones has grown as a driver.

"It was a real big letdown leaving Bristol last year. It's all Bristol. That's the one where we led the most laps, thought we had a shot to win it, and then Kyle nipped up there at the end. That was the one we thought, okay, this one just got away from us.
"He was down for a little bit, but you've kind of got to -- this racing thing you've got to move on really quickly, have a short-term memory, move on. We talked about it a lot in the off-season about the things he needs to do to grow and to win races. I mean, it's tough to win races. It is at this level.  He's got immense talent, but there are 15 other people, 20 other people with his same story at some point in time in their career, and they have experience on him.
"So you know, he's just got to move past that. He's done a good job of really focusing on the things he needs to do better. I would tell you the last three weeks I've really noticed a change in him. Sonoma was a turning point for us. We went to Sonoma, and we were just awful last year at Sonoma. It was terrible. He didn't feel like he knew what he needed to do, I didn't feel like I could help him. He went to work. We did some racing school stuff there for Sonoma. We went into that weekend knowing it was going to be tough and we were going to have to battle, and the first 10 laps of that race were pretty tough. It could have gone either way. I thought we were going to slip back and have a bad weekend, and he kind of dug a little deeper, found something different, stopped kind of complaining, focused more on what he could do better, and we get a seventh-place finish out of that, and I think that confidence carried over to Chicago.
"So I'm really expecting even bigger things from him. You get a little confidence in him, we all know we can do it at this level; it just kind of helps you once you kind of get the first win. Everyone in the entire team knows that. So I'm looking for big things," Gayle explained.
Photo credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
Driver and crew chief spent time during the off-season talking about what went well and what didn't in 2017 and how they could strengthen their team this year.
"Last year was odd, right, because you had a lot of winners behind us in points. Like at one point during last year we thought we were going to points our way into it and you may not have to win a race, and then you have so many winners that are behind you in points kind of sneak in to where we kind of got clipped and didn't have a shot to get in that way. Some of it was about just maximizing our finishes. When we've got a 10th place car, let's bring that thing home 10th place. Don't try to do more than is necessary and wind up bringing it home 25th because we tried to do more than what the car could do. And I think he's done a great job at that.
"Some of that was on me, too, though. There were four races last year where we didn't qualify. That's me being too aggressive, so I've got to take some of my same advice that I gave him about just doing what we can do and getting out there and qualifying and not necessarily pushing so hard that I don't get to qualify and put him behind and then he feels like he needs to work hard to overcome that mistake," Gayle said.
Some fans may still find it difficult to see anyone other than Matt Kenseth behind the wheel of that No. 20 car for Joe Gibbs Racing, and Gayle recognizes that. He also contends that Jones isn't trying to replace or even compare himself to Kenseth.
"We've never had conversations about him following in Matt's shadow and replacing the car. I think he's more a guy of knowing what his capabilities are, knowing what he thinks he should be capable of doing and measuring into what he thinks he should be doing and not necessarily measuring to the guy before. I think there have been plenty of conversations we've had where he's been upset with how he ran and just thought he was better than that, but nothing that we've ever had comparing to previous drivers or anything," Gayle explained.
If anything, Jones is actually much more like current teammate Kyle Busch.
"You know, he's similar to Kyle, being aggressive. He's similar to a young Kyle being aggressive. I was around when Kyle first came to JGR and Toyota, so I was a part of a lot of seeing how aggressive Kyle was, how even he'd over drive a little bit at that point. Erik has a lot of those tendencies. But Erik I think has a little more patience than Kyle did at that point in his career.
"He's most similar to Kyle in just about everything. Denny is way different, except I would say their personalities away from the track, away from the race car are totally different. Erik is as laid-back as you will be around, but behind the wheel, very aggressive.
"And for me, just to talk about the first interaction I had with Erik was 2015. When Kyle was hurt, got injured here at Daytona in the beginning of the season, I was the crew chief on the 54 then. Erik got to sub for seven races for me that year, and I can vividly remember it was the second Chicago race, he didn't get to practice because he was running trucks somewhere and we had Drew Herring practice for us. Erik showed up, qualified that car, and we had the car too loose, we had it set up for Drew, it was too loose, so he qualified 11th and he was bummed about it, down. He got over that really quickly. He drove that car from 11th to the lead and led the rest of the race, and that was what solidified it for me was like, he can not practice this thing, get here, show up and run with everybody.  That's kind of where I knew he had the ability to do it. It's just a matter of continued learning and progressing," Gayle said. 
All that learning and progressing paid off with Jones's first Cup win and a potential trip to the playoffs this fall.
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  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.