COLE CUSTER – 2017 Fontana Race Advance

Event:               NXS 300 (Round 5 of 33)
Date:                 March 25, 2017
Location:          Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
Layout:             2-mile oval

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

 

  • The NXS 300 will mark Cole Custer’s 10th career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his first XFINITY Series start at his hometown track, Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.
  • Custer was born and raised in Ladera Ranch, California, where he began his racing career turning laps at local short tracks including Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino and I-10 Speedway in Blythe.
  • Custer is no stranger to winning at California tracks where he has never competed. In 2012, Custer won his first start at I-10 Speedway in the Late Model Stock Car division.
  • In 2005, Custer won six races in the Jr. Novice Series at Pomona Valley on his way to winning the Quarter Midget championship in the Jr. Novice Series. Custer would go on to win Quarter Midget championships in the Sr. Honda and Sr. Stock Divisions four years later.
  • In 2011, Custer became the United States Auto Club (USAC) National Young Gun Champion, winning 15 of 22 races.
  • Custer is currently 12th in the XFINITY Series championship standings, 66 points behind series leader Elliot Sadler.
  • Custer’s best finish in the four XFINITY Series races run thus far is 10th, earned in the second race of the season March 4 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. It was his third top-10 finish in nine career XFINITY Series starts.
  • Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool manufacturer in North America and sponsor of Custer’s No. 00 Ford Mustang, is headquartered just two hours from Auto Club Speedway in Oxnard, California. Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation Inc., first opened for business in Sun Valley, California, in 1983 machining parts for the electronics and aerospace industries.

During this time, Haas developed a fully-programmable 5C collet indexer to boost productivity in his own shop. The Haas 5C was the industry’s first device to automatically re-position parts accurately for machining by simply pressing a button, as opposed to having to reposition the material by hand – a cumbersome and time-consuming process. The machine-tool industry received the economical and reliable Haas 5C Indexer with enthusiasm, and in 1983, Haas Automation, Inc., was born. The company started with three employees in a 5,000-square-foot facility. During the next four years, Haas expanded his product line to include a wide selection of fully-programmable rotary tables, indexers and machine-tool accessories. Haas Automation quickly became the leader in fourth- and fifth-axis parts positioning.

In 1987, Haas took what he learned from the 5C Indexer and designed and developed his first vertical machining center (VMC) – the VF-1. The prototype was introduced to the manufacturing world in 1988 at the International Machine Tool Show (IMTS) in Chicago. Haas listed the machine at the unheard of price of $49,900. Industry experts were skeptical that an American company could manufacture and sell a machine tool for less than $50,000. Haas Automation silenced the skeptics. The new product was a success. Today, virtually every manufacturer of vertical machining centers worldwide produces a similar machine in the $50,000 price range.

Over the next five years, Haas Automation began to grow. In 1992, Haas Automation moved to a larger facility in Chatsworth, California, to keep up with demand. In 1997, again seeking to keep up with the success of its growing product line and production demands, Haas Automation moved once more, to its current location in Oxnard where all of its products are manufactured. The 1-million-square-foot facility is one of the largest, most modern machine tool manufacturing operations in the United States. Haas Automation currently produces four major product lines: vertical machine centers (VMCs), horizontal machine centers (HMCs), computer numeric control (CNC) lathes and rotary tables.

Cole Custer, Driver Q&A

 

What are your expectations for the NXS 300?

“We’ve had some solid cars the last few weeks that I feel have been top-10 every single week. Our goal is to go into this weekend with a top-five car and make a solid top-five run. I’ve never been to Fontana before, but hopefully I can learn it pretty fast. It looks like we’ll have a great Haas Automation Ford Mustang this weekend. It would be great to bring home a solid finish for the team.”

 

What does it mean to race at your hometown track in California?

“It means a lot. I’ve never raced there before, so it will definitely be cool. I’ve had some friends come out for a couple of races on the West Coast swing and we’ll have a lot of family in California, so it will be cool having a lot of support there. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s like at my hometown track.”

 

Talk about growing up in Ladera Ranch, California, where racing wasn’t exactly on the main stage.

“A lot of the kids my age didn’t know a lot about racing, so it was kind of weird because you couldn’t relate to people, sometimes. I was pretty much the only person in my whole school who liked racing, so it was out of the ordinary, but I always had my dad who was really into it. A lot of people supported what I was doing because it was so different, but you always looked forward to going back East and seeing all those guys where racing was big. You have a lot of great drivers who come out of California, so it wasn’t a bad place to grow up.”

 

Do you attribute your success to growing up around the local tracks in California?

“A little bit. There were a lot of great Quarter Midget tracks and short tracks that helped me learn, and I’ll always appreciate that. It’s all about what you do with it, what you make of it and what opportunities you get, so growing up in California was definitely a great thing for me.”

Besides racing, what was life in California like?

“I was never the average ‘California Kid.’ I didn’t care for the beach as much as everyone else, but I loved hanging out with my friends and doing average things outside of racing. I grew up playing football, baseball and soccer, so I always had friends through that, as well as friends in racing. Other than having to travel so much, I lived a pretty normal life. Those are things you can never experience again, so I’m thankful to have been able to grow up that way.”

 

Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A

 

What are your thoughts for the upcoming NXS 300 at Auto Club Speedway?

“California is Cole’s hometown track, so there will be a lot of pressure there for us. I’m sure he’ll have a lot of friends and family. Auto Club Speedway is such a large track and you have to deal with the bumps down the backstretch that are really rough, and then you’ve got such long sweeping corners. It’s a big compromise between setting your car up for downforce to handle through the corners. Then, as big as it is, you’ve got to take as much drag out almost similar to a superspeedway. It’s kind of a difficult track to set up for, but we’re looking forward to it.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2017 Fontana Race Advance

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), heads to Fontana, California this weekend for the final race of the three-race West Coast swing – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

The visit to Fontana serves as a home game for the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion, who grew up approximately 150 miles northwest of Auto Club Speedway in Bakersfield.

The stop at Auto Club Speedway should provide confidence for the Bakersfield native. He is one of three drivers from California to win a Cup Series race at Fontana, joining Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson.

Harvick scored his only Cup Series win in Fontana on March 11, 2011. Kyle Busch dominated the afternoon, leading 151 laps of the 200-lap event but, in the closing laps as Busch attempted to hold off a hard-charging Johnson, Harvick worked the top of the racetrack and ran down the leaders. On the final turn of the final lap, Harvick passed Johnson and beat him to the finish line by .144 of a second. He led only one lap on the day, but it secured the victory at his home track.

Both of Harvick’s last two Cup Series starts at the 2-mile oval came ever so close to victory. He started and finished second in both 2015 and 2016. In 2015, he led 34 laps but finished runner-up by .710 of a second to Brad Keselowski after a late-race restart. He led 143 of 200 laps in 2016 but finished runner-up to Johnson by .772 of a second in an overtime finish.

Harvick also has had success in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Fontana. He has one win, one pole, 12 top-five finishes and 17 top-10s in 20 career starts. He scored his lone Xfinity Series win there in 2015, when he started sixth, led 100 of 150 laps and beat second-place Brendan Gaughan to the finish line by 3.317 seconds.

The 41-year old Harvick also has four starts at Fontana in the Camping World Truck Series but has yet to score a win at his home track in that series.

He has two starts at Fontana in the K&N Pro Series West, resulting in a runner-up finish to Ken Schrader by 1.314 seconds in May 1998 and a trip to victory lane in July 1998, when he led 52 laps and beat Austin Cameron to the checkered flag by 1.15 seconds.

But, it’s more than winning on the Fontana track that makes Harvick a hometown favorite.

In March 2016, he and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr. cut the ribbon to unveil the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park at the Boys & Girls Club in Bakersfield, which provides a clean and safe environment in which local youth can play, learn and grow. The Bakersfield facility marks the second collaboration between the two organizations, which commenced their alliance by opening the Kevin Harvick Foundation Park in Greensboro, North Carolina in November 2015.

The state-of-the-art facility in Bakersfield is designed for multisport use, featuring four outdoor fitness stations, a rubber track surface circling the field’s perimeter, and a digital scoreboard. The park, a gift to The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of Kern County, is maintained by the organization, with which the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and Kevin Harvick Foundation collaborate to create and implement character education programming and clinics for the children who utilize the facility.

The Boys & Girls Club of Kern County is not the only project Harvick has completed in his hometown to help area youth.

After he won the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series championship, he planned an additional stop as part of his champion’s tour – a visit to Bakersfield. Harvick wanted to bring the Cup Series trophy to his high school, where he spoke to more than 2,000 kids in the school’s gymnasium and encouraged them to follow their dreams.

In fact, Harvick regularly gives back to his hometown through donations from his foundation. Donations have included funds to provide wrestling, baseball and golf equipment to his high school in order to ensure that anyone who wants to participate can do so without worrying about paying for proper equipment.

Harvick hopes he can give his hometown fans another thing to cheer about at the track Sunday as he attempts to capture his first win of the season in the Auto Club 400.

 KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

NASCAR used to be considered a Southern regional sport, but now so many drivers have come out of California. Can you describe what the culture was like here, racing-wise, when you and some of the other drivers came up and how it led to what we have now?

“I think, when you look at California, there are a lot of racetracks up and down the coast. Whether it’s asphalt, dirt tracks, go-kart tracks, there is a well-supported community of racing up and down the state of California, even into Washington and Oregon. As I was coming up, there was the Southwest Tour, Winston West Series, and the (NASCAR Camping World) Trucks that raced on the West Coast a lot. There was also a fairly good following for Late Models. Things have slowed down from what they used to be, but you have the Kern County Raceway in this particular area. There is definitely a lot of racing when you look at way back in the day it was mostly a Southeastern sport. I think Jeff Gordon was obviously somewhat responsible for being able to allow guys like myself in and pave the way for us to have a path to have an opportunity to come and race in NASCAR. It’s always been a well-supported racing area and I was fortunate to grow up in Bakersfield, California, which is a very well-supported racing town no matter what you race. There is a lot of racing. It just took a while for everybody to figure that out.”

Now that there is just one race a year at Fontana, talk about what the atmosphere has been and how the crowds have gotten better and how the drivers’ perceptions of the way things are starting to turn around there.

“This racetrack is a great example of lessons that a lot of people who run racetracks don’t pay attention to. Sometimes, if you take one really great thing, you can easily make them into two mediocre things. I don’t understand that with racetracks a lot of the time, but this one has come full circle. When you look at the crowds that we’ve had over the last couple of years, they’ve been really good. The racing has been really good as that track surface has aged. As a driver, you look forward to coming here now because it’s one of those tracks where you can run all over the place, the cars slide around, and you’re going to have fun from the driver’s seat. That bleeds over into the perception that the fans get because everybody is talking about enjoying racing on this particular track. Some markets are just one-race markets. I would say ninety percent of them are one-race markets, but a lot of them still have two races and you just see those mediocre crowds and, when people know that you’re only coming once a year, you have to go to that one particular race. Having a race with a good date is obviously good for the weather and the people to come out and enjoy it. It’s not 115 degrees in August, which was always fun to be a part of in the racecar (laughs). But, I think, it’s all come full circle and everything is going well for this particular track.”

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Fontana Race Advance

The NASCAR Goes West journey continues for Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) as they travel to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

The race in Fontana marks the third and final event of this year’s three-race jaunt out West for NASCAR Cup Series teams. The No. 10 Aspen Dental team was credited with a 36th-place finish on the first leg of the trip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after engine failure. Patrick finished 22nd in the second round of the West Coast adventure last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

As the No. 10 team moves on to Fontana this week, it is looking to end the NASCAR Goes West journey with a solid run. Sunday’s race will mark Patrick’s fifth NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway. Her top finish at the track is a 14th-place effort she earned in March 2014. Patrick also has three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at the 2-mile oval.

In last year’s race at Fontana, Patrick started 31st and ran as high as 16th before midrace contact with a competitor sent Patrick into the wall, ending the team’s day early. She was credited with a 38th-place finish.

In addition to her stock car experience at the track, Patrick also competed in the 2005 IndyCar Series event at Fontana. She started fourth and led two laps before being involved in an accident late in the race and finished 18th.

As Patrick returns to Fontana this weekend, her No. 10 Ford Fusion will feature the blue-and-white branding of Aspen Dental. One of the largest and fastest-growing brands in the United States, Aspen Dental has been a partner of SHR since 2012 and aligned with Patrick since 2014. In the brand’s sixth year with SHR and fourth with Patrick, it will serve as the primary sponsor of Patrick’s No. 10 Ford Fusion for a double-digit slate of races in 2017.

Patrick has helped shine a spotlight on oral health across a multitude of channels since partnering with the brand. She promotes Aspen Dental’s Healthy Mouth Movement – a community-giving initiative that has delivered more than $7.5 million in donated dentistry for veterans since its inception, and also appeared in “A Taste of the Future” – a hidden-camera video campaign designed to raise awareness about the long-term consequences of delaying dental care.

Sunday, Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team will look to head home with a smile and close out the West Coast swing with a solid finish at Fontana.

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your overall thoughts on Fontana?

“Fontana’s pavement has not aged gracefully (laughs), so it makes for a challenging race. It’s a challenge to set up the car – the seams move the car around a lot. It’s very fast, yet you still have to get the car to rotate and it seems really tight off of (turn) two. It’s one of the tougher places to get the balance right. But, if you do strike a good balance in practice, you have a chance to have a really good day on Sunday.”

 

Coming out of Daytona, we hit a stretch of the season that includes Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana. How important is that slate of races?

“The first five races of the year are super-critical for the points championship but, in particular, they’re a good indicator of how the rest of the year is going to go from a performance standpoint. With those tracks, you’re covering all the bases with a short track, being Phoenix, a mile-and-a-half with Atlanta, a mile-and-a-half with Vegas – with Vegas being high-grip and Atlanta being low-grip – and then you go to Fontana, which is a 2-mile, flat, wide oval. So, you’ve got a lot of different challenges. If we can perform well as a team at all of those tracks and have the mechanical handling that we need, and good understanding as to what we need there to balance out the aerodynamics – which, hopefully, aero-wise we’re in good shape – then we’ll have a great start to the year.”

KURT BUSCH – 2017 Fontana Race Advance

For Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), this weekend’s Auto Club 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is one for bragging rights as he and the team converge on Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California looking to claim the victory in the backyard of both primary sponsors.

Headquartered is in Oxnard, California approximately 100 miles from Fontana is Haas Automation, the largest CNC (computer numerically controlled) machine tool builder in North America. Founded by Gene Haas in Sun Valley, California in 1983 to manufacture machine tools, Haas Automation entered the industry with the first fully automatic, programmable collet indexer – a device used to position parts for machining with high accuracy. Haas moved the company to its current purpose-built facility located on 86 acres in Oxnard in 1997. By then, the company had shipped its 10,000th CNC machine and, less than 10 years later, had installed its 75,000th machine. To date, more than 175,000 Haas CNC machines have been put into service worldwide.

Based in Corona, California is Monster Beverage Corporation. Its subsidiaries develop and market energy drinks, including the brand that adorns the quarterpanels of the No. 41 Ford – Monster Energy. A company that typically passes on traditional forms of advertising and instead earns significant brand exposure through its roster of extreme athletes, Monster Energy made the jump to the NASCAR Cup Series with Busch in 2015. Renowned for a tenacious driving style that has earned him 29 wins and the 2004 Cup Series championship in a career spanning more than 17 years, Busch fit the bill as a Monster Energy athlete. Located approximately 20 miles due south of Fontana, this weekend’s race will be a home one for Monster’s more than 2,000 employees.

While Busch may downplay that there is added pressure to perform well this weekend, he’d like nothing more than to return to his winning ways at the 2-mile oval and give both Haas Automation and Monster Energy the trophy from their home track. While it’s been a number of years since he won there – 14 to be exact – his recent performances there make him difficult to overlook.

Augmenting Busch’s Fontana win are four poles, seven top-five finishes and 12 top-10s in 23 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts there. Two of those top-fives and four of those top-10s have come in his last five starts.

Busch heads to Fontana this weekend having posted two less-than-desired finishes due to electrical issues that plagued his No. 41 Ford. He’s looking to get back to his winning ways this weekend at Fontana by scoring both his second win at the 2-mile racetrack and of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Talk about heading to Auto Club Speedway this weekend and racing in the backyard of your primary sponsors Haas Automation and Monster Energy. Do you feel any extra pressure to perform there?

“It’s a lot of fun to race at Auto Club Speedway with both Haas Automation and Monster Energy headquartered nearby. I’m going to both headquarters to visit, to see all the employees. It’s a busy week. Then you want to go to the racetrack and have a good run because everybody’s there, and they’re that close to the action one time a year. So, of course you want to do well. There’s some added pressure. We want to come away with the win. We almost got it a couple of years ago but, last year, we missed the setup. You’re going to be hot, you’re going to be cold – we hope it’s a race we’re going to be hot for.”

 

What’s the key to success at Auto Club Speedway? 

“I think the key to success is short-run speed. It always seems to come down to a green-white-checkered finish or a quick pit stop at the end to put four tires on. You’ll be five-, six-wide going down into turn one and off of two, you’ve got to find the right holes at the end of the race even though you’ve been out there for 400 miles.”

 

What’s the difference between the asphalt at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway?

 “They’re really similar, it’s just that there’s no banking at Auto Club Speedway compared to what we have at Atlanta. You’re really slip-sliding around and the pace drops off a ton at Auto Club.”

 

CLINT BOWYER – 2017 Phoenix I Race Report

Event:               Camping World 500k (Round 4 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Format:             312 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/162 laps)
Start/Finish:      13th/13th (Running, completed 314 of 314 laps) 
Point Standing: Three-way tie for 13th (97 points, 87 out of first) 
Race Winner:    Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing in overtime (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

  • Started 13th, finished 16th.
  • Bowyer reported his car was loose into the turn and tight in the center.
  • During the stage’s only pit stop, the No. 14 crew made chassis adjustments to improve the car’s handling.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):     

  • Started 16th, finished 14th.
  • Raced as high as 13th during stage.
  • Bowyer told the Haas Automation crew the car lacked grip on the hot, slick track.

 Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312 & Overtime):    

  • Started 13th, finished 13th.
  • Climbed as high as 10th with 48 laps remaining, but faded to 17th in the closing laps.
  • Rallied from 17th to 13th in overtime after pitting for tires. 

Notes:              

  • Race marked Bowyer’s third consecutive top-13 finish.
  • Bowyer made his 24th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix.
  • Air temperature exceeded 95 degrees when the race began.

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:           

“It was that kind of weekend for us really. Just a little off all weekend long. We got it better Saturday and I really thought we were going to be good there but we actually ended up racing the way we struggled all day Friday. We came full circle.” 

Next Up:          

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 26 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Phoenix I Race Report

Event:               Camping World 500k (Round 4 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Format:             314 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/164 laps)
Start/Finish:      26th/22nd (Running, completed 314 of 314 laps) 
Point Standing: 29th (52 points, 132 out of first)
 Race Winner:    Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing in overtime (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

  • Danica Patrick started 26th and finished 27th.
  • The No. 10 TaxAct Ford Fusion was scored as high as 22nd during the first segment of the race, but dropped back to 27th as Patrick struggled with a car that was too unstable on corner entry.
  • Crew chief Billy Scott called Patrick to pit road twice during Stage 1 for tires, fuel, wedge and air pressure adjustments to help improve the car’s handling. 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 75-150):     

  • Patrick started 22nd and finished 20th.
  • At the start of the run, Patrick noted the car’s handling was loose in and tight in the center of the corner. The team made a wedge adjustment under caution at lap 119 and at the end of the stage she reported the car was better that run.
  • When Stage 2 ended, the team pitted for tires, fuel and adjustments. 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-314):          

  • Patrick started 21st and finished 22nd.
  • The No. 10 TaxAct Ford team pitted three times during the last stage of the race. On each trip to pit road they took four tires and fuel, and made chassis and air pressure adjustments to help improve the car’s handling.
  • While Patrick dropped to 28th with about 60 laps to go, she was able to rally back in the final laps to take the checkered flag in 22nd. 

Notes:              

  • Patrick’s finish of 22nd earned the team 15 points, giving her a total of 52 points. That puts Patrick 29th in the driver point standings.
  • Patrick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick earned a sixth-place finish in Sunday’s race. As a result, with TaxAct’s “Premium Finish” promotion, NASCAR fans can file their 2016 federal and state tax returns using the TaxAct Online Premium Bundle for only $10 (currently priced at $70). This gives filers access to the federal and state forms needed to complete their TaxAct Online return no matter how complex their tax situation, all in, for $10 (offer and pricing subject to change). Filers can lock in their “Premium Finish” price online by visiting TaxAct.com/Ten and the applicable discounted pricing offer is available through Saturday, March 25. With TaxAct’s Price Lock Guarantee, filers are guaranteed to pay the price offered for its online products at the time they register, no matter when they choose to file. TaxAct will offer additional opportunities for NASCAR fans to file returns with “Premium Finish” pricing for the NASCAR Cup Series races up to the tax filing deadline on April 18, 2017. 

Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 TaxAct Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

“The TaxAct Ford started out loose in and tight in the center. It was alright in the middle stages of the race, but in the final segment it just took too long to come in during the runs and we lost a ton of ground. We were able to pick some spots back up late in the run and then it took off pretty good on the last restart. I have to thank the guys for doing a great job in the pits all day.” 

Next Up:                                                                        

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 26 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

KURT BUSCH – 2017 Phoenix I Race Report

Event:               Camping World 500k (Round 4 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 
Location:          Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval) 
Format:             312 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/162 laps)
Start/Finish:      11th/25th (Running, completed 314 of 314 laps) 
Point Standing: 9th (105 points, 79 out of first) 
Race Winner:    Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing in overtime (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

  • Kurt Busch started 11th, finished 18th.
  • Battled a loose-handling condition on corner entry and tight through the middle for much of the Stage.
  • Reported that his voltage meter was flashing on lap 29 and was forced him to shut off everything but the fan for the rear gear.
  • Visited pit road twice at the conclusion of Stage 1 to replace both batteries, take four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.
  • Received a speeding penalty on pit road, and was held for one lap as a penalty. 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

  • Started 36th, finished 33rd.
  • Continued to experience electrical issues.
  • Brushed the wall on lap 138.
  • Visited pit road twice under caution to replace a battery, take four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.
  • Visited pit road at the conclusion of Stage 2 to replace a battery, take four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

  • Started 33rd, finished 25th.
  • Visited pit road twice under caution to replace a battery, take four tires, fuel and chassis adjustments.
  • Got the free pass when the caution flag waved on lap 206 to get back on the lead lap.
  • Continued to experience electrical issues. Due to not being able to use his fans, had intermittent brake issues.

Notes:

  • Busch made his 29th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Phoenix.
  • Busch led lap 79.
  • For the second consecutive week, electrical issues plagued the No. 41 team. 

Next Up:                                                                        

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 26 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by FOX.

 

KEVIN HARVICK – 2017 Phoenix I Race Report

Event:               Camping World 500k (Round 4 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)
Format:             314 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/164 laps)
Start/Finish:      23rd/6th (Running, completed 314 of 314 laps)
Point Standing: 7th (123 points, 61 behind new series leader Kyle Larson)
 
Race Winner:    Ryan Newman of Richard Childress Racing (Chevrolet) in overtime
Stage 1 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

  • Kevin Harvick started 23rd, finished 13th.
  • The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford was tight in the center of the corner and loose off on throttle.
  • Harvick came to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments on lap 29 and gained two positions on pit road.
  • He struggled on the first few laps following a restart, but the car came to life after a handful of laps.
  • Harvick came to pit road for four tires, fuel and adjustments on lap 79 following Stage 1 and gained three positions on pit road. 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):     

  • Started 10th, finished 10th.
  • Harvick noted that the No. 4 car started off loose and got tighter throughout the run.
  • The No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford came in for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments under caution on lap 120.
  • The Jimmy John’s pit crew gained three positions on the lap 120 start, allowing Harvick to restart seventh.
  • Harvick came to pit road for four tires, fuel and multiple adjustments on lap 153 following Stage 2. 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-314):          

  • Started 10th, finished 6th.
  • Harvick reported that the No. 4 car took off better at the start of the final stage and raced his way up to seventh by lap 163.
  • The No. 4 car came to pit road for four tires and adjustments under caution on lap 194. The team gained two positions on pit road.
  • Harvick restarted fifth on lap 212 and gained a position up to fourth on lap 213.
  • He brought the Jimmy John’s Ford to pit road under caution for two right-side tires on lap 309.
  • He restarted sixth on lap 312 after three cars elected to stay out during the caution and crossed the finish line sixth on lap 314.

 Notes:                          

  • Kevin Harvick scored his second top-10 finish of 2017.
  • Harvick scored his 18th top-10 finish in 29 starts at Phoenix.
  • It was his eighth-straight top-10 finish at Phoenix in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track.
  • There were eight caution periods for a total of 45 laps.
  • Newman’s win in the Camping World 500k was the 18th of his NASCAR Cup Series career, his second at Phoenix and his first since winning the 2013 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a span of 127 races.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 “We just didn’t ever get it exactly how we wanted all weekend. Luckily it is a good race track for us and we were able to battle and use all the tricks of the trade we know to get ourselves up in contention. We definitely need to do some work on this style race track with our Jimmy John’s Ford but it was a heck of a battle all day.” 

Next Up:                                                                        

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 26 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX.

COLE CUSTER – 2017 Phoenix I Race Report

Date:                 March 18, 2017
Event:               DC Solar 200 (Round 4 of 33)
Series:               NASCAR XFINITY Series
Location:          Phoenix International Raceway (Mile oval)
Format:             200 laps, broken into three stages (60 laps/60 laps/80 laps)
Start/Finish:      9th/21st (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
 Point Standing: 12th (78 points, 66 out of first)
 Race Winner:    Justin Allgaier of Junior Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-60):

  • Started ninth, finished 18th.
  • Battled tight-handling car after the first 15 laps of Stage 1.
  • Team made major handling adjustments during caution between Stages 1 and 2.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 61-120):     

  • Started 23rd, finished 15th.
  • Before the stage began, NASCAR penalized Custer for driving through too many pit stalls on his stop and forced the No. 00 to restart at back of the field.
  • With improved handling, Custer gained eight spots during the stage, occasionally turning top-five lap times.

 Final Stage Recap (Laps 121-200):          

  • Started 15th, finished 21st.
  • Climbed to eighth with 14 laps remaining.
  • Made contact with Austin Dillon with 10 to go. During the caution, Dillon drove his damaged car into Custer’s car.
  • Custer pitted for repairs and restarted the race 26th with five laps remaining.

Notes:              

  • Custer tied his career-best NASCAR XFINITY Series qualifying effort.
  • This was Custer’s 10th NASCAR XFINITY Series start.
  • 95-degree weather with temperatures exceeding 130 degrees inside racecars.

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Tell us about the race and your take on the incident with Austin Dillon.“We had a great race leading up to that. We didn’t start out at all how we wanted to but, by the end, we were probably a fifth- to eighth-place car. I thought that was a really good sign for us. We had a really good Haas Automation Ford Mustang this weekend. The incident with Austin was 100-percent my fault. I got in there too deep, got really loose going in and couldn’t put any wheel into it. That was pretty much it. Something that won’t happen again. It’s unfortunate I cost us and the No. 2 car there.”

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Phoenix I Race Advance

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Danica Patrick and the No. 10 TaxAct Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enter this weekend’s Camping World 500k Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway looking to score a “Premium Finish” at the mile oval.

Entering Sunday’s race, Patrick brings experience from competing in three different series at Phoenix: the NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IndyCar Series. In her lone IndyCar start at the mile oval in 2005, Patrick finished 15th. She has competed in five Xfinity Series races at Phoenix and earned a 10th-place result in November 2012. Patrick has made nine NASCAR Cup Series starts at the track and scored her best finish there – a 16th-place effort – after overcoming a pit-road penalty in November 2015.

As the No. 10 team enters the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, it is looking to accomplish stronger on-track marks. Sunday’s race at Phoenix will be the second of four events during which TaxAct will serve as the primary sponsor on Patrick’s No. 10 Ford and the official tax preparation software partner of SHR, and Patrick is looking for good results from the team, as well.

The leading provider of clear, transparent and affordably priced tax preparation software for DIY filers, TaxAct once again begins this weekend offering race fans the chance to file their 2016 federal and state tax returns using TaxAct Online 2016 Premium Edition at a highly discounted price. If Patrick or any member of the SHR team grabs a top-10 finish in Sunday’s race, or any race before April 18, NASCAR fans can file their tax returns using TaxAct Online Premium Bundle for only $10 – currently priced at $70. This gives filers access to the federal and state forms needed to complete their return no matter how complex their situation, all in, for $10 – offer and pricing subject to change. In the event none of the SHR drivers finish in the top-10 in those races, NASCAR fans can take advantage of a $10 discount off their federal return when they use TaxAct Online Plus or Premium Editions.

Tax filers can get a “Premium Finish” with the running of the Camping World 500k, with applicable discounted pricing available through the following Saturday – offer and pricing subject to change. TaxAct will offer additional opportunities for NASCAR fans to file returns with “Premium Finish” pricing for the NASCAR Cup Series races up to the tax filing deadline on April 18. Fans can lock in their “Premium Finish” price online by visiting TaxAct.com/Ten. With TaxAct’s Price Lock Guarantee, filers are guaranteed to pay the price offered for its online products at the time they register, no matter when they choose to file.

Heading into this weekend at Phoenix, the TaxAct Ford team is looking to improve upon its results thus far with great hopes that a return to the “Valley of the Sun” will bring a “Premium Finish” and, in turn, help fans get a great deal on their taxes.

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 TaxAct Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

There are a lot of logistics involved in the West Coast swing. What do you do? Do you stay out West or do you commute like you would to other NASCAR races?

“I stay out on the West Coast. I lived in Phoenix full-time for 10 years. My house is there, so I base in Phoenix and it’s perfect. Those are long trips, back-and-forth, from the West Coast. Those are four- and five-hour plane rides each way, so it definitely functions logistically a lot easier to just base myself on the West Coast and I think more and more people are doing that. I think it’s smart.”

Are there any other areas on the West Coast that you make a point to visit when you’re out there or that you want to visit when you go out there?

“Not really. When I’m on the West Coast, Phoenix is my base and that’s where I lived for so long. I’ve got a lot of friends there, I’ve got a house and I’ve got all of the creature comforts. It’s not even home away from home, it is home.”

What are your thoughts on racing at Phoenix this weekend?

“We had a solid race at Phoenix last spring but struggled a bit in the fall. We’re looking to do a lot better when we return to the track this weekend. I like Phoenix and think it’s a great track, so I hope we can have a smooth run and do well.”

Talk about returning to Phoenix for this weekend’s race.

“The Phoenix area just has amazing amenities, like great grocery stores, great restaurants and great shopping. When it comes to the track itself, the fans are such a big part of everything. They get in early to camp out and it’s like they have their own little city. They even have a grocery store at the track. There’s always a really big crowd at Phoenix and it’s great to see how much this area supports our sport.”

Coming out of Daytona, we hit a stretch of the season that includes Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Fontana. How important is that slate of races?

“The first five races of the year are super-critical for the points championship but, in particular, they’re a good indicator of how the rest of the year is going to go from a performance standpoint. With those tracks, you’re covering all the bases with a short track, being Phoenix, a mile-and-a-half with Atlanta, a mile-and-a-half with Vegas – with Vegas being high-grip and Atlanta being low-grip – and then you go to Fontana, which is a 2-mile, flat, wide oval, so you’ve got a lot of different challenges. If we can perform well as a team at all of those tracks and have the mechanical handling that we need, and good understanding as to what we need there to balance out the aerodynamics – which, hopefully, aero-wise, we’re in good shape – then we’ll have a great start to the year.”

Do you have a lot of friends coming out for this race?

“I always have a lot of friends who come out for the races in Phoenix. It’s a nice track for everyone to come out to and, hopefully, everyone has a good time.”