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The Return to Pocono

Sprint Cup Series

 

From Denny Hamlin

What are your expectations heading back into Pocono this weekend?
“Pocono is a track that this FedEx team has a lot of success at over the years. Before they repaved it a few years ago, it was a track that we circled on our calendars as one to expect to run up front and compete for the win. It has been a little bit challenging the last few races, but our team is working hard to try to get back that advantage. We weren’t the strongest car at Pocono in June, but we got ourselves a top-10 finish and we need to start stringing some good finishes together. Pocono is a great place to do that.”

FedEx Express Notes

Pocono Preview: The Series heads back to Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s 400-mile event on the ‘Tricky Triangle.’ Hamlin finished eighth at Pocono in June, driving up from a 17th starting position after rain washed out qualifying. Hamlin has four wins and 10 career top-10 finishes in 15 starts at the three-turn track in central Pennsylvania. The 32-year-old driver swept both Pocono races from the pole as a rookie in 2006, and also scored victories at the track in August 2009 and June 2010. He has led a total of 663 laps at Pocono, with an average finish of 10.5.

Indianapolis Recap: Denny Hamlin piloted the #11 FedEx Express Toyota to an 18th place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After starting the day on the outside of Row 2, a stubbornly loose racecar dissolved Hamlin’s hopes of a first career win at The Brickyard. Indiana-native Ryan Newman took the checkered flag for his first win of the 2013 season, followed by Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth. Hamlin worked with crew chief Darian Grubb throughout the 160-lap event to try to tighten up the #11 machine, both under green flag pit conditions and under caution. Passing was at a premium during the race, and the team tried various pit strategies to make up track position. During green flag stops late in the race, Hamlin stayed on track to lead four laps, but was forced to come to pit road for fuel with less than 20 laps remaining, settling for an 18th-place finish at the checkered flag.

 

Kyle Busch Quotes

What are your thoughts on the shorter, 400-mile distance at Pocono?

“I think that’s a positive change. You know, certainly sometimes I felt like it may be a bit long there or drawn out. Now it might add less of a lull during the middle part of the race. So, you’ll have the beginning and people trying to make moves and get themselves in position. Then you’ll have guys working it and getting themselves in position for the final pit stop and the final run, thereafter. Hopefully, we’ll finally get that win at Pocono with our M&M’s Camry.”

Until the last three seasons, Pocono seemed to be a place where you struggled. What changed there to help you be in contention for wins, of late?

“Pocono used to be a place I didn’t look forward to going to but, lately, I’ve been looking forward to it because of Dave Rogers (crew chief). I struggled there and Dave does a really good job of working with our teammates. With Denny (Hamlin) being so good there, we used some of the baseline stuff from his 11 car and tweaked it more to my liking. Denny is still way better than I am there, but Dave, along with everyone on the M&M’s team and JGR, have done a good job of giving me solid racecars and it’s given me more confidence there. We really didn’t get to race the full distance either time there because of mechanical issues, so I’m hoping to get a full race in and see what we are capable of in the second year with this surface.”

How did you like the job they did repaving the track at Pocono?

“The pavement job was great. They did a really nice job. They took out a lot of bumps. There are still a few little bumps in it, which is fine. It’s only going to get worse over time, which is fine. It gives the track character.”

Did the repaving of the track at Pocono improve the racing last year?

“I thought the racing there was kind of the same, not much different. It was a little bit harder to pass because it seems like, when you’re out front in clean air, you have so much more of an advantage than being back in traffic than what it used to be – slightly, not much. To me, it was always a hard, tricky place, but it’s actually finally started becoming a two-lane racetrack in turn three. You could run the bottom and you could run the top with what we call ‘the grip strip.’ Now, it’s all grip, so it’s all back to the bottom again and you can’t really make up much time on the outside, anymore.”

Pocono is the most unique track on the circuit with three distinct corners. What’s the most difficult part of the track for you?

“The hardest part of the track, for me, is probably turn one, and then turn two is the second-hardest, and then turn three is the third-hardest. Turn three, last year, because of the patch they laid down. We couldn’t go down low and get underneath somebody and get a run on them because, when you come off the corner, you’re 8- to 10-mph slower than the guy on your outside, and they’re just going to blow right by you going down the straightaway.”

Since the track is unique, where is the best place to make a pass at Pocono?

“Most of your passing is going to be done probably through turn one and off of turn one and getting into turn two, if somebody can get a good run off of turn two, get back up high and get in line to get on that patch getting into turn three. Besides that, in turn one, we just can’t get the cars to turn down there because there’s so much load on the bump stops from going 210 mph down the front straightaway and then trying to slow it down to about a ‘buck-40’ (140 mph). Turn two is kind of bumpy and kind of rough. There are different areas where you’ve got to maneuver through the tunnel turn to get your car right. If you miss it just by a little bit, you tend to knock the wall down off the corner, so it’s tight.”
 

Kyle Busch: Turning ‘M’ into a ‘W’

Just 50 miles separate the headquarters of Mars Chocolate North America and the site of Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

A pre-race visit to the Hackettstown, N.J., headquarters by driver Kyle Busch and his No. 18 M&M’s Toyota team for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) might be just the spark that will help them capture their first-ever win together at Pocono.

Busch will no doubt find plenty of encouragement during the pre-race visit to Mars Chocolate North America. There, the M&M’s driver and the entire No. 18 JGR team will have the opportunity to meet with hundreds of Mars associates, and many of those same associates will travel just down the road to Pocono Sunday to cheer for Busch.

The Las Vegas native 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, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and, of course, Pocono.

Busch makes it no secret that Pocono has given him fits over the years as he has six top-10 finishes in 17 previous starts there, along with eight finishes of 22nd or worse. But, three of his top-five finishes have come during his last seven outings at the 2.5-mile triangle, and some of his best finishes have come since he joined JGR at the start of the 2008 season.

The M&M’s team will hope to glean some positive vibes from the Mars associates to finally push the racing team over the top at Pocono. This week’s visit will help Busch & Company be “Better with M,” calling upon the latest integrated marketing campaign by M&M’s, which showcases how the company’s irresistible chocolate makes moments more fun and delicious.

So, as the series heads back to the Pocono Mountains for Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400, Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and the entire M&M’s team will hope they can use some extra motivation from a visit to “M” in order to find victory lane for the first time at Pocono.

 

From Matt Kenseth

“I think we learned a fair amount during the July race at Pocono. It seemed like the first Pocono race was the point where everybody was kind of changing their theories and setups, and I think that people have been constantly trying to get the cars better since then. I think the stuff we did at Pocono we can learn from as we head into this weekend, but I think things will change a fair amount from the first race as we head back for this weekend’s race. I really enjoy racing at Pocono now since they repaved the track because that track surface is incredibly smooth, so we’ll see how our Husky Toyota handles as we continue to build upon our notes there.”

From Jason Ratcliffe, Crew Chief
“I thought we ran well at the first Pocono race earlier this season. Thankfully we got home to the shop and we were able to look at a handful of areas that we felt we could do better with, and I felt like we had some immediate answers to say here’s what we could have done to be even better. We got caught up in a wreck and had a few other issues, but I thought we had some good speed in our car, and we have some new ideas to take back to Pocono this weekend. It’s a track that Matt (Kenseth) has done well at, especially after the repave, so I’m looking forward to going back there with an even better Husky Toyota this second time around.”
 

No. 20 Husky Toyota News & Notes:

  • KENSETH BY THE NUMBERS: In 27 Sprint Cup Series career starts at Pocono Raceway, Matt Kenseth has an average finish of 14.7, has completed 5,056 of 5,107 (99.0 percent) career laps, and has led for a total of 54 laps (15 of those laps came in 2012 after the track was repaved.) Kenseth has earned three top-five and 10 top-10 finishes at the 2.5-mile track.
  • JOE GIBBS RACING AT POCONO Joe Gibbs Racing has 89 Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono Raceway and has earned nine wins, 23 top-five, and 40 top-ten finishes. The organization has led for a total of 1,068 laps, has an average finish of 15.8, and completed 16,051 of 16,946 (94.7 percent) laps.
  • COME ONE, COME ALL: Kenseth is scheduled to sign autographs on behalf of Gatorade on Thursday, August 1st from 5:00pm-6:45pm at the Wegman’s grocery store located at 3791 Easton/Nazareth Highway, Easton, PA.
  • RACE INFO: The GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile) begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 4th. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio.
 

Nationwide Series

 

From Elliott Sadler

“Honestly, Iowa Speedway is one of my favorite stops on the circuit. The fans are incredible… it’s like tailgating at college football games. Everyone comes out and has a great time. Historically, we’ve been really good at the track, and I think in part, that it really fits my driving style. In five starts at the track, I’ve won the pole three times, and then won here a year ago… which I am hoping that we repeat.”

No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota Preview

  • IOWA SUCCESS: This weekend Elliott Sadler and the No. 11 Sport Clips team will unload at Iowa Speedway for race number 20 of the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series season. For Sadler Iowa Speedway is a track where he has seen success capturing three poles, five top-five finishes and one win in just five starts at the short .875-mile track. He has an average start of 3.2 with an average finish of 2.8 and has led a total of 100 laps. Sadler is the defending winner of this race from one year ago and earlier this season in the Pioneer Hi-Bred 250, scored a third-place finish.
  • JOE GIBBS RACING AT IOWA: Joe Gibbs Racing has 19 Nationwide Series starts at Iowa Speedway and has earned one win with Kyle Busch in 2009, one pole with Drew Herring in 2011, four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes. The team has led a total of 404 laps, completed 4,678 of 4,750 laps (98.5 percent) and has an average starting position of 7.6 and average finishing position of 10.6.
  • THINK PINK: TElliott Sadler will sport pink Oakley driving shoes throughout the entire Nationwide Series season to show support for breast cancer awareness and honor his mom, Bell. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, and is now a survivor. This season, he will also wear special pink Oakley driving gloves. Fans will have the opportunity to bid on his race-worn shoes throughout the season, with proceeds going toward breast cancer research and education. For more information, visit www.SadlerFoundation.org.
  • POINTS UPDATE: With 19 races of the 2013 season in the books, Elliott Sadler is currently third in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver Point Standings, 13 points out of first. The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Sport Clips team remains fifth in the Owner’s Point Standings, 122 points out of first.
  • RACE INFO: The US Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway is scheduled for Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 8:00 p.m. ET. Watch and listen live on ESPN2, Sirius XM Channel 90 and PRN Radio beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.
 

From Brian Vickers

“This will only be my second time racing at Iowa Speedway. Our last race in June didn’t turn out the way we had hoped. We had a really good car, but got collected in a spin about midway through. It tore the car up pretty bad, but the guys got it patched up in the garage and we made it back out on the track later in the race. It’s a great track though, and I’m excited that our series has two events there. It’s an amazing facility. It’s a fun track to drive, has multiple grooves. We’ve positioned ourselves in a good spot in the points standings, and we’re looking to continue our success this weekend in Iowa.”

From Kevin Kidd, Crew Chief

“We love it when we go to Iowa. The enthusiasm of the surrounding area and the crowd turnout are spectacular. I really like the racetrack as well. It has a very nice design, which allows for higher speed short track-style racing. It’s almost perfect for our cars. Iowa is similar to Richmond and typically the setups transfer from one to another. However, you have to negotiate the bumps at Iowa unlike Richmond.”

No. 20 Dollar General Toyota News and Notes

  • VICKERS WINS DASH 4 CASH AT INDY: Series sponsor, Nationwide Insurance, held their fourth and final Dash 4 Cash race last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brian Vickers drove away with a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash check in tow. Heading into Indy, Vickers, who qualified for three of the four Dash 4 Cash races, had yet to win one of the $100,000 bonuses, but his fourth-place finish on the historic 2.5-mile speedway earned him the prize. Vickers wasn’t the only one taking home a Dash 4 Cash check. A lucky fan, Pam Nabors of Santa Cruz, Calif., who was paired with Vickers earlier in the day also took home $100,000 courtesy of Nationwide and got the opportunity to share the experience with the No. 20 Dollar General team.
  • POINTS REPORT: Heading into this weekend’s Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway, Vickers is positioned fifth in the championship point standings thanks to a recent string of four top-five finishes in the last five races. Now only 28 markers separate him from the points leader with 14 races remaining in the 2013 season.
  • JOE GIBBS RACING AT IOWA SPEEDWAY: Since the series’ inaugural race at Iowa Speedway in 2009, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Nationwide Series program has had 19 starts at the .875-mile track. In those 19 starts, JGR entries have captured one win, four top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes and one pole with nine different drivers. Joe Gibbs Racing has led 404 laps at Iowa Speedway and completed 4,678 of 4,750 (98.5 percent) laps contested.
  • THIS WEEK ON THE NO. 20 DOLLAR GENERAL TOYOTA: Dollar General vendor partners Gildan, Renuzit, Scott Products, Glad, Nestle Drumstick, Finish, Oreo, Capri Sun, STP, Colgate, Slim Jim and Sundown Naturals will be featured on Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota Camry this weekend at Iowa Speedway.
  • RACE INFO: The Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by Enlist Weed Control at Iowa Speedway kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 3. Watch and listen live on ESPN2, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio.
 

From Drew Herring

You drove the No. 54Camry earlier this year, how will you approach it this time in order to achieve your first win?

“I’m really looking forward to hitting the track at Iowa for the second time this year. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the result we wanted the first round, but we learned a lot. All we need to do now is apply what we learned to the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota and I know we can get the result we are capable of. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) is working towards a top-five result, but it sure would be special to surprise everyone with a win. Adam and the guys have continued to be impressive and I am ready to get back to the track and work with these guys. I know I’ll learn a lot.”

From Adam Stevens, Crew Chief

How do you prepare with Drew to improve your finish in the second Iowa attempt this week?

“We underperformed last time. I feel like we just missed the setup. We are going this week with the package the No. 20 team raced last time. We need to get through the bumps better. I feel like we have a good game plan going into the weekend and we are looking forward to a strong run.”

Drew Herring Pilots Second Iowa Event in No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota

This week the No. 54 Monster Energy seat will again see 26-year-old Drew Herring in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) eight-time season-winning Camry. Herring, a familiar face at JGR, along with the 2013 winners look forward to week 20 running the U.S. Cellular 250 presented by the Enlist Weed Control System at Iowa Speedway in Newton. The team drives into the Iowa event, on a race high, having won the previous NASCAR Nationwide Series event at the Indianapolis (Ind.) Motor Speedway – the famed Brickyard, with driver Kyle Busch. With the week 19 victory, the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 54 group and owner J.D. Gibbs maintain first place in the series’ Owner’s Championship points. This week they look to extend that lead with the help of Herring, who while young, has good statistics as a driver in Iowa.

In 2010 Benson, N.C. native Herring began his Nationwide Series career at Baker Curb Racing with his debut race at Iowa Speedway. He accomplished a 15th-place finish in that inaugural series run and then continued that year with two top-20 finishes in four series starts.

The next year, Herring connected with Joe Gibbs Racing and finished 12th or better in all four of his Nationwide Series starts. In the spring 2011 race, Herring started from the pole position, since the No. 20 team was leading the Owner’s Championship Point Standings, at the time, and qualifying was rained out. He led 39 laps that event and finished 12th. Overall in 2011, Herring improved his statistics by achieving two top-10 finishes in four starts and by completing all 929 event laps.

2012 brought continued growth for Herring when he made his first start in the No. 18 JGR entry at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, where he qualified fourth, led two laps and brought home a fourth-place finish. This was also the year when Herring made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut with Kyle Busch Motorsports, back at Iowa Speedway for the fall race. His first foray into truck racing accomplished a 17th-place start, 19 laps led and a seventh-place finish.

In addition to filling test session duties for both Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports now, Herring is also a shop employee within JGR, where he works the CNC machine making internal parts for the race team and learning more about each team member’s role. His goal has been to make himself available for any driving opportunities and this year he’ll compete in three total Nationwide Series events with the high-performing JGR Nationwide Series shop.

At the first 2013 NASCAR Iowa race in June, Herring and team battled weather and car conditions to produce an 11th-place finish. Both driver and team were disappointed with the result the last time together and look to improve that position Saturday, this time under the lights on the Iowa short track.

 

From Darrell Wallace, Jr.

“I’m excited to go to Pocono. I’ve never run there, but was supposed to run some laps there a couple of years ago until Mother Nature changed that. We’ve been working hard here at the shop to get ready to go and I’m excited to get there and learn the tunnel turn and characteristics of the track. We’ll start off kind of slow until we get comfortable with everything and figure things out. We’ll take our time and creep up on it. We’ve got Camping World and Good Sam on our Toyota Tundra again this weekend and looking for another good weekend and shooting for our third top-10 in a row. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll be near the top of the board, hopefully at the top of the board all weekend and maybe get us our first win.”

From Jerry Baxter, Crew Chief

“It’s going to be a good weekend. The truck we’re taking to Pocono has pretty low drag which you have to have to run good there. It’s the truck he ran at Charlotte and Kansas. He looked through all the Dart Fish from last year to learn where all the guys ran and I thought that went really well. Pocono is a 50+-second lap track and the tires they run there, you have to run a bunch of cycles on before you qualify so there really isn’t speed in the tires. The tires won’t drop off so he’ll learn from that and be able to continue going out on the same tires. There’s a 2-hour practice and it’s only a 50-lap race so he’ll learn quick.”

No. 54 Camping World/Good Sam Toyota Tundra News and Notes

  • TAMING THE TRICKY TRIANGLE: Continuing a season of many first, Darrell Wallace, Jr. will make his first-career start this weekend at the 2.5-mile Pocono Raceway behind the wheel of the No. 54 Camping World/Good Sam Toyota Tundra. Known as the ‘Tricky Triangle’ for its unique three turn design, Wallace will be looking to master the characteristics of each turn looking for his first-career win and third consecutive finish as the top Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender.
  • KBM AT POCONO RACEWAY: For the first time, Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) will not have a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular in the driver seat of a Toyota Tundra at Pocono Raceway. This weekend Darrell Wallace, Jr., Joey Coulter and Chad Hackenbracht will buckle in and try to continue KBM’s strong success at the ‘Tricky Triangle.’ In the three previous starts for KBM at Pocono Raceway, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin and team owner Kyle Busch each have one start. Of those starts, Kahne and Busch both have second-place finishes with Hamlin earning a fifth-place finish. One advantage the KBM team will have is Coulter who is the defending winner of the Pocono Mountain 125.
  • ROOKIE UPDATE: For the second race in a row, Darrell Wallace, Jr. earned the title of top finishing Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender in last week’s inaugural Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway. With his seventh-place finish at Eldora Speedway, Wallace remains third in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year point standings, but moves closer to the top spot, now just 16 points behind Jeb Burton.
  • 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 Pocono Mountain 125 at Pocono Raceway is scheduled for Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Watch and listen live on SpeedTV, Sirius XM Channel 90 and MRN Radio beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET.

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