Heading to Kansas
From Brian Vickers
How do you feel heading to Kansas after the results after the first Cup Series race with JGR?
“I’m looking forward to it. I really am. I think we learned a lot tonight. Texas is the first time that I’ve driven a Cup car, a Gen-6 car on a big track. It was a big learning curve for me. Just learning about these cars and the trend it takes under a green flag run and the difference between practice and race, etc. It was a learning curve. I think obviously working with a new team, being in the Gen-6 car at a mile-and-a-half for the first time for me was a lot to learn. I think we’ll take away from it tonight and go to Kansas and hopefully go after that win.”
How has it been working with JGR on the Cup side?
“It’s been really good. These guys have been great. They’ve been great to work with. Everyone has really welcomed me into the team. Working with Darian (Grubb, crew chief) and all the engineers has been pretty easy. I think at the end of the day we still have to learn what I want out of the race car and I’ve got to learn their cars and I have to communicate that to them. Some of that is just me learning what I need in this car and learning what I need in their cars and some of it is just understanding what that is. We’ll get there.”
FedEx Express Notes
Kansas Preview: Brian Vickers will make his second start in the #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry this weekend at Kansas Speedway. The FedEx Racing team returns to the 1.5-mile track as the defending race winner, with Hamlin guiding the car to victory lane one year ago. He led 32 of 267 laps from a fourth-place starting position for his second win of the 2012 season. Vickers is making his eighth career Cup Series start at Kansas this weekend. In seven previous trips to the track, Vickers has one top-10 finish, an eighth-place result in 2006. He has qualified in the top-10 in three races at Kansas, including fourth in 2006 and 2011, his last race there.
Texas Recap: Vickers finished eighth in Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, battling throughout the 334-lap event in the #11 FedEx Office/March of Dimes Toyota to score the team’s third top-10 finish with three different drivers in the 2013 season. Vickers benefited from a timely caution on Lap 282 just before he was to make a green flag pit stop from third place after many cars in front of him had already come down pit road for service. He was able to pit during the caution and restart fifth after spending the previous run just outside the top-15. One more caution bunched the field with less than 20 laps remaining, and Vickers took the checkered flag eighth behind race winner Kyle Busch. Vickers started 15th in the special FedEx Office/March of Dimes paint scheme, and quickly worked himself into the top-10 in the opening laps. He was one of the fastest cars in the first run as he moved into the top-five, but developed a loose condition on corner entry that nagged him throughout the race. A series of chassis adjustments on pit road tried to tighten the car up as the track temperature dropped, but nothing seemed to bring the car to life. Quick stops by the FedEx crew helped gain track position every stop, and Vickers searched around the 1.5-mile oval for a racing line that optimized the car’s performance. The finish by Vickers is the third top-10 of the year for the #11 team, following a 10th-place result by Mark Martin last week at Martinsville and a third-place run at Phoenix by regular driver Denny Hamlin, who is currently sidelined with an injury. The #11 team moved up one spot to eighth in the NASCAR owner’s standings after Texas, 54 points behind the #48 after seven races this season.
Kyle Busch Quotes
Kansas is a place where you’ve traditionally struggled over the years, but with the momentum swing you’re on, will that help you there this weekend?
“I’m looking forward to Kansas with the roll that we’re on. I thought we were running decent there last year. Actually, I was leading, and I spun myself out while I was leading. So, hopefully, we have a good car like that this time around and I don’t make a mistake like that. But, you know, Kansas is newly repaved. It’s got a winter on it, now, so we’ll see how that changes things. But I still expect it to be fast. It’s a place that you want to run well at because it hosts a Chase race in the fall. So we’ve got to develop our notes in Kansas this weekend and, fortunately, I’ve got a really good teammate in Matt Kenseth. He and I have been working really well this year. His team and our team have been really, really good with one another. Unfortunately, Denny (Hamlin) is not with us at this point where we’re not being able to use his notes much because we’re kind of ‘driver of the week’ over there. But it feels really good to have good chemistry between all three.”
Why has Kansas been so difficult for you over the years?
“It’s not that you might not like a track or might not like a race, or something like that. It’s just a matter of trying to figure it out. Once you kind of get it figured out or get the right situations kind of lined up, you can have a shot. I look at this place a lot like Michigan. That’s a place where I struggled for a long time, but we finally were able to break through there for a win two years ago. Of course, just like Michigan, as soon as I figure it out, they repaved it along with Kansas.”
As a result of missing last year’s Chase, did that help your team refocus on the offseason and help with your fast start so far in 2013?
“We were close. We were three points from making it and, if it wasn’t for a brake rotor exploding at Pocono, or maybe a motor issue here or something else there, we would have made the Chase. But, unfortunately, we didn’t. It was tough. It was really, really tough to have to go through that. But we bounced back and ran strong in the final 10 weeks. We wanted to carry that momentum over into this year. It didn’t start out that way in Daytona, unfortunately, and again in Phoenix. We put the race at Phoenix on my shoulders and I didn’t do a very good job carrying it. So that was my bad. Since then, we’ve talked and we’ve worked and we continue to grow and make our cars fast each and every weekend. So, right now, it’s having good stuff, having good communication, having our people with their backs not against the wall, and everybody being able to work, and work smart.”
You won at Texas last weekend in your 300th start at 27 years old. What do you think of the numbers that you’ve put up with 26 wins in that time?
“There’s a guy named Jimmie Johnson out there who has absolutely shredded the stat book for the rest of us. It’s great for what I’ve been able to accomplish in this sport and I’m thankful for that. And I’ve got a lot to be thankful for and a lot of people to be thankful to, including Joe Gibbs and Dave Rogers, just to name a few. I’m a competitor so, of course, you always wish your stats were a little bit better. I’d love to say I’ve had 50 wins by now, or something near that. But you take everything in stride as best you can, and we’ll continue to work hard. Hopefully, we can continue to increase that number for many years to come, starting with this weekend in hope we can get M&M’s its first win of the season.”
Kyle Busch: Riding the Wave
After his win at Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, his second of the young season, Kyle Busch said he felt like he was “riding a wave right now that’s 30 feet tall and ready to keep riding.”
Even though the next race on the schedule occurs at land-locked Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Busch will hope to continue riding that wave of momentum in Sunday’s STP 400.
Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR), is on quite a roll as of late, winning two of the seven Sprint Cup races contested so far and four of the six Nationwide Series races this season.
At Texas, Busch was victorious in his 300th career Sprint Cup start, and it was his first Sprint Cup win at Texas in 16 tries. On the heels of that long-awaited breakthrough, Busch will hope to make a similar turnaround at Kansas, a track where he’s struggled over the years. With an average finish of just 21.0 and just two top-10 finish in his previous 11 visits in a Sprint Cup car, Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire M&M’s team are focused on turning those numbers around.
Busch has won at 17 of the 23 tracks at which the Sprint Cup Series competes. The only six tracks Busch has failed to reach victory lane in the Sprint Cup Series are: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Kansas – site of Sunday’s STP 400.
Despite the dry spell at Kansas in NASCAR’s top series, Busch has tasted success at Kansas in NASCAR’s second tier of competition – as is the case at most racetracks on the Nationwide Series schedule – with a victory in 2007, a runner-up finish in 2009, and a pair of third-place runs in 2006 and 2010. The best he has to show for his nine visits on the Sprint Cup side, however, is a seventh-place finish in 2006.
Busch and his M&M’S team will commemorate Earth Day during Sunday’s race, with Mars planting a tree in the Topeka, Kan. area for every lap that Kyle leads during the STP 400. The initiative is part of NASCAR’s Race to Green program, which includes several fan-focused activities taking place in April to showcase sustainability efforts in the sport. The Topeka area will be home to a new Mars facility scheduled for completion in late 2013 and will manufacture M&M’S and SNICKERS Brand products.
So, as Busch heads to the Heartland of America this weekend, it’s going to be “surf’s up” at Kansas as he vies for that long-awaited first Sprint Cup win there.
From Matt Kenseth
“Heading into Kansas, I’ve felt confident every week because Jason (Ratcliff) and the guys have built me some really fast cars already this season and I think we’ve been competitive every week. I really like racing at Kansas and I thought we ran well all weekend there with the new pavement last October with our win. I think that the racing this weekend will be similar to Vegas because the groove at Kansas will widen out a bit after the surface has been able to age over the winter and hopefully that will move the groove around so that we have a little more room to pass.”
From Jason Ratcliffe, Crew Chief
“Matt (Kenseth) is the only Sprint Cup driver to have won on the new track configuration at Kansas so I’m really looking forward to this weekend. Who else would you like to have in your car than the guy who visited Victory Lane already? The No. 20 team had what I thought was going to be a really good race at Kansas last year because we were really fast during the test on the new pavement. We just didn’t run as well during the race as I was hoping we would, so I feel like we have some work to do going into this weekend. Knowing that Matt won there in the fall, I hope that he can help us with where we may have missed the boat in last year’s race.”
No. 20 Husky Toyota News & Notes:
- JOE GIBBS RACING AT KANSAS: Joe Gibbs Racing has 38 Sprint Cup Series starts at Kansas Speedway earning a pair of wins, six top-five, and nine top-ten finishes. The organization also has led for a total of 109 laps and has an average start of 15.2 and an average finish of 18.2 at the 1.5-mile intermediate track.
- HEY BATTER BATTER: The race is on as drivers from NASCAR (including Matt Kenseth) and NHRA will take the field in a charity softball game at CMC-Northeast Stadium, home of the Kannapolis Intimidators on Wednesday, April 17th. An hour-long pre-game autograph session begins at 5:00 p.m. with the first pitch at 7:00 p.m.
- NEW LOOK ONLINE: Matt Kenseth’s 2013 season has been one full of exciting change – new team, new manufacturer, new sponsors and new crew chief. Earlier this month, the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion also received a new website with the launch of the freshly designed MattKenseth.com by RACERSITES.
- KENSETH BY THE NUMBERS: Following Kansas Speedway’s 2012 track surface repave, Kenseth is the first Sprint Cup Series driver who has earned a win at the 1.5-mile freshly repaved track with his October 2012 victory. In 14 Sprint Cup Series starts at Kansas, Kenseth has completed 3,472 of 3,686 laps (94.2 percent) and has led for a total of 316 laps. Kenseth has earned one win, five top-five, and eight top-ten finishes at Kansas including one pole award.
- HERE’S YOUR SIGNATURE: On Friday, April 19th, Kenseth will participate in the NASCAR autograph session at Kansas Speedway slated to begin at 5:30pm CT. Fans can win wristbands by visiting The Sprint Experience on Friday where Miss Sprint Cup and her team will be giving them away as game prizes throughout the day.
- RACE INFO: The STP 400 at Kansas Speedway (1.5-mile) begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, April 21st. The race will be broadcast live on FOX, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio.
Elliott Sadler Quotes
You have 10 Sprint Cup starts at Kansas with one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Your last Sprint Cup start there was 2010. Talk about racing at Kansas this weekend.
“We’re looking forward to going back to Kansas because it is a fun racetrack. It’s a very new racetrack as far as being repaved, so I think it’s kind of new to everybody. We really feel like we’re going to be on a level playing field when we get there. Everybody from JGR has done a really good job getting this No. 81 Alert Energy Camry ready to go. They’ve run very, very well on the mile-and-a-half tracks as a company. Matt Kenseth won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kyle Busch won last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. I have high hopes going there. I’ve got a lot of optimism. We feel really good about the setup in the car and everything we have in place. We’re just looking forward to getting on the racetrack.”
You raced on the new pavement at Kansas last year in the Nationwide Series and finished fourth. Do you think what you learned in that race will help you once you get back on the track in the No. 81 Alert Energy Toyota Camry on the Sprint Cup side?
“I think some of it will translate. It’s funny that you asked that. Chris (Gayle, crew chief) and I have had a lot of conversations about how the Cup cars reacted on the new asphalt and my experience in the Nationwide cars there last year on the new asphalt. I think the one good thing is that I have a race under my belt at least in racing conditions. I know it was a Nationwide car. At least being on the new asphalt, knowing what tires did – what two tires did, what four tires did – how my car reacted in traffic, one or two lanes of traffic as far as racing is concerned, I do have some track time there just as much as anybody else does. We took my background knowledge and what I learned from my team last year, and we took everything Chris and those guys learned last year with the new paving job and we’ve put it all together and we really feel like we have a good plan for this weekend.”
What does it mean to you to get back in a Sprint Cup car this weekend, and the first time in a Sprint Cup car for Joe Gibbs Racing?
“It means a lot to me. I don’t really know that I can give it justice by the words. I can tell you today that it means a lot to me. J.D. Gibbs and Coach Gibbs have given me a great opportunity. J.D. is such a first-class guy, very upfront. From the first time we sat down and talked to each other about my future at JGR and the opportunities that may come up ahead of me, he’s just been right on the money. For those guys to give me this chance, for Alert Energy Gum to come on board and put this all together and really make this come true is very special to me. To be able to come back to the Sprint Cup Series in a competitive situation with a team that is really standing behind me for these few races, really means a lot to me. To be able to do it at Kansas, it’s a place that I’m very comfortable at. I really like mile-and-a-half racetracks. It’s just a great situation, and I really can’t put into words how much to thank the Gibbs family and everybody at JGR for this opportunity.”
You have a new brand – Alert Energy Caffeine Gum – on your car this weekend. It’s a product that will be launching nationwide in the coming days. How important is it for you to help them build the brand and the fan base through the race this weekend?
“I think this is neat because I’m coming back to the Cup Series for the first time in a long time this weekend. I ran the Daytona 500 last year, but my last full season was in 2010. Alert Energy Gum has never been in the sport and they are doing a great product launch and kind of surrounding themselves around the NASCAR fan and a NASCAR program with us as their team. That’s cool. Not everybody gets to help introduce a brand. For them to put their trust in me and for them to put their name on the hood and sides of my car and put their trust in JGR for us going to Kansas and being part of this launch means a lot. This is a new product to the sport, so we want to represent it well. We want to come out of the box and do a really good job. It’s a neat product, man. It’s got a great concept, and I think a lot of race fans can relate to it. I think a lot of people in the race industry can relate to it because we live on the road so much. I know that Alert Energy Gum is perfect for me because it keeps me going from one thing to the next. I think they’ve hit a home run with this product, and we’re privileged and honored to have it on board this weekend.”
As you’ve talked about, Alert Energy Gum is a new product. But this weekend, you are also reunited with an old friend as Alert Energy Gum is part of the Mars, Inc., brand, which you raced for from 2003 to August 2006. What does that mean to you?
“I don’t think it’s any secret that I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the folks with Mars, Inc. I made really good friends within the company, and I’ve always been proud that I had the opportunity to represent them. While I was driving the M&M’s car and even after we went our separate ways, we kept a really close relationship with everyone up there. For them to entrust in me to represent one of their brands on the Wrigley side means a lot. It’s a small world, sometimes, and sometimes your paths come back across. The way they’ve treated me the last 10 years has been absolutely phenomenal – just really good people, great friendships. I love to see them doing well each and every weekend on that 18 car with Kyle (Busch), and for them to give me this opportunity means a lot to me. It puts the pressure on me because I want to be able to give back to them half as much as they have given to me, so we want to go out there and do a good job this weekend.”
Elliott Sadler: No. 81 Alert™ Energy Toyota Camry Debuts in Kansas
On-the-go. That’s where you’ll catch Elliott Sadler.
He’s a full-time driver on the NASCAR Nationwide Series circuit in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) Toyota. He’s a NASCAR TV analyst and a sports fanatic. He’s a family man – a husband to Amanda, and a dad to two small children, 3-year-old Wyatt and 1-year-old Austyn.
And that’s just a handful of roles the 37-year-old Emporia, Va., native juggles.
Beginning this weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, add one more line to Sadler’s job description – part-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. Sadler will pilot JGR’s No. 81 Alert Energy Toyota Camry for three races, including this Sunday’s STP 400, and also at both the May and October races at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.
With Sadler’s busy lifestyle and past history with Mars, Inc. – he drove the M&M’s car from 2003 through August 2006 – it’s only fitting he’s the driver helping to introduce Alert™ Energy Caffeine Gum to NASCAR fans. For Sadler, who keeps a packed schedule both on and off the racetrack, Alert Energy is the perfect solution to help him keep going from one thing to the next.
Alert Energy, which is available nationwide in stores this month, is a new energy product for adults that lets people control the amount of caffeine they want on-the-go. One piece of gum is equivalent to about a half cup of coffee.
With only one Sprint Cup start to his credit since 2010 – last year’s season-opening Daytona 500 – Sadler is especially eager to get back behind the wheel of a Sprint Cup car for JGR and compete at the sport’s top level once again. And the opportunity to partner once more with Mars, Inc., and help a company that has meant so much to his career is something he relishes.
Sadler has one top-five and three top-10 finishes in 10 Sprint Cup starts at Kansas, with a best finish of fourth in 2004. His last Sprint Cup start at the track came in 2010, but he has earned two top-five finishes in two starts in the Nationwide Series in the two seasons since then.
Sadler hopes that a strong run at the 1.5-mile Kansas oval this weekend will help introduce his grown up fans to Alert Energy.
From Darrell Wallace Jr.
“Kansas (Speedway) is a track I haven’t been to yet, so I am looking forward to getting there this weekend with my team and taking my first laps around the place. We are going there with a new Toyota Tundra and a new partner in Liberty Tire Recycling. I think it will be a lot of fun and the guys have worked really hard to give me the best Tundra to be able to run up front all weekend. We’ll go out and try to learn as much as we can in practice and then apply that to the race Saturday afternoon. Should be a good race and hopefully we can finish up front with Liberty Tire.”
From Jerry Baxter, Crew Chief
“We have a brand new Toyota Tundra this weekend for Kansas and I think there is almost four hours of practice, so we should have a lot of time for him to get acclimated with a track that big and that fast and we’ll just go forward from there. We can’t dwell on what happened last weekend; we’ll just get back in the action this week. It’ll be a positive having Kyle there too, to be able to help him and to talk not just talk about past stuff, but to talk about things that are happening that day.”
No. 54 Liberty Tire Recycling/GroundSmart Rubber Mulch Toyota Tundra News & Notes:
- WELCOME ABOARD: This weekend at Kansas Speedway for the fourth stop of the season for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS), the No. 54 Toyota Tundra team will welcome aboard Liberty Tire Recycling as the primary sponsor for Darrell Wallace, Jr. Liberty Tire recycles more than 140 million tires annually to produce crumb rubber and industrial feedstock for molded products; as tire-derived fuel for industrial kilns, mills and power plants; and as rubber mulch for landscaping and playgrounds. With Liberty Tire Recycling on the hood, decklid, and TV panel, the No. 54 Toyota Tundra will feature GroundSmart Rubber Mulch, a product of Liberty Tire Recycling, on the quarter panels during the SFP 250. In addition to Kansas, Liberty Tire Recycling will serve as the primary sponsor for two additional races later this season with Wallace and the No. 54 Toyota team. For more information about Liberty Tire Recycling, please visit LibertyTire.com
Liberty Tire and NASCAR recently joined forces in a new partnership that designates the tire recycling service provider as the Official Tire Recycler of NASCAR Green. The announcement was made early this month as part of NASCAR Race to Green, a month-long industry-wide effort to reduce the sport’s carbon footprint.
- A WEEKEND OF FIRST: With new partner Liberty Tire Recycling on board this weekend at Kansas Speedway, Darrell Wallace, Jr. will make his first start at the 1.5-mile track with a brand new Toyota Tundra. The first laps the Rookie of the Year Contender will make will take place during Friday’s first practice session as the team prepares for 167 laps of racing on Saturday in the SFP 250.
- AUTOGRAPH SESSION: Darrell Wallace, Jr. will be at the Toyota Pit Pass display from 9:15 – 9:45 a.m. on Saturday, April 20, for a Q and A session, as well as autographs. Stop by to meet Wallace and purchase his newest t-shirt available at the Toyota Pit Pass and online at Shop.JoeGibbsRacing.com and at KyleBuschMotorsports.com.
- ROOKIE UPDATE: With his 27th-place finish at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway on April 14, 2013, Darrell Wallace, Jr. dropped one position to third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Standings. Jeb Burton continues to lead the standings.
- ALONG FOR THE RIDE: As a new face in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) this season, follow Rookie of the Year Contender Darrell Wallace, Jr., better known as Bubba Wallace, as he chronicles his journey in the social media world. Follow Wallace on Twitter and Instagram: @BubbaWallace. Be prepared for an exciting year as Wallace makes his way around the NCWTS circuit, and looks to add many first to his growing racing resume.
- TUNE IN ALERT: Tune in each Wednesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. ET to SIRIUS XM NASCAR radio Channel 90 to listen to Darrell Wallace, Jr. as he checks in with Dave Moody and Angie Skinner throughout the season. Follow along as the 2013 Rookie of the Year Contender shares stories from both on and off the race track!
- RACE INFO: The SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway is scheduled for Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. ET. Watch and listen live on SpeedTV, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.