KURT BUSCH – 2018 Pocono II Race Advance

The Triangle Offense.

How do you stop the triangle offense? Well, no one stopped it when Phil Jackson coached the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles, then followed that up with five more championships as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Triangle Offense was formed by Sam Barry, who coached at the University of Southern California in the 1940s. One of his players was a young Tex Winter, who further developed the offense. Once Winter started coaching with Jackson, they went on to win 11 NBA titles.

The system is the best way to spread the five players on the floor and produces a great chance at victory.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), hopes to use the triangle offense in this week’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway – aka “The Tricky Triangle.”

Busch is fifth in points and all but guaranteed to be in the 16-driver playoffs with just six regular-season races remaining. The only thing that has eluded him in 2018 is a victory. Perhaps Pocono is the place to score that win.

He first won at Pocono in July 2005, driving for Roush Fenway Racing, when he led 131 of 203 laps after starting second. Busch then dominated in August 2007, driving for Roger Penske. He started second again but led 175 of 200 laps en route to victory at the 2.5-mile triangular racetrack. Both races were 500 miles in length.

In June 2016, driving for SHR, he started ninth and led 32 of 160 laps of the now 400-mile race to score his third career Pocono victory.

Perhaps Busch’s success is tied to the track’s unique design. The three-cornered layout was designed by two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rodger Ward and remains unlike any other track in the world, with a trio of unique turns each modeled after a different track.

Turn one, which is banked at 14 degrees, is modeled after the legendary Trenton (N.J.) Speedway. Turn two, banked at eight degrees, is a nod to the turns at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. And turn three, banked at six degrees, is modeled after the corners at The Milwaukee (Wis.) Mile.

Busch’s first-ever NASCAR victory came on July 1, 2000 at Milwaukee, when he started on the pole and led 156 of 200 laps to win the Camping World Truck Series race. Former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Greg Biffle was third, while a young Jamie McMurray finished 31st. Joe Ruttman, who is the brother of Troy Ruttman, the 1952 Indianapolis 500 winner, finished 24th. Troy Ruttman competed against Ward 10 times in the Indianapolis 500 during the 1950s and 1960s.

The No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion will be led by crew chief Billy Scott. Both Busch and Scott hope they can use the triangle offense and score the kind of success Barry, Winter and Jackson did for so many years.

 

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

 

You’ve won three times at Pocono, but the 2007 win was so dominant. Can you describe that race?

“The win in 2007 with Penske Racing – that was the fastest car that I’ve ever driven. That car would turn, stick, drive down the straightaway – that car did everything. It didn’t have a single flaw. I knew how good that car was on the first lap of the race. I remember telling myself, ‘Don’t screw this up.’ I ran the rest of the race more nervous than I had in years prior. I’ve never dominated a race like that. We led 175 of 200 laps. That was, by far, the best car I have ever driven. It was a great race to show the balance of that team and the strength of where we were at that point. I think the 25 laps that we didn’t lead were from a bad pit stop at one point. My first win at Pocono in 2005 was pretty great, too. It’s fun to win at a racetrack that is so unique because of how different that track is compared to all the other oval tracks. Pocono is a little bit like Darlington in that all the corners are different, so you have to manage them the best that you can and not be perfect in one corner versus another.”

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you go to Pocono?

“How unique the place is. You drive in through the Tunnel Turn and that corner to me is one of the most unique corners of all the tracks that we go to. When you go to Pocono, the first thing you really think of is compromise – you have to juggle all three corners being different. It’s called the Tricky Triangle for a reason.”

Of the three turns, which is the most important to you and why? 

“It’s weird, I’ve had winning cars there a few different times and turn two always feels the best when my car has a chance to go to victory lane. But, I think turn three, if you are able to pass cars and maneuver around them, you’ve got to get a good run off turn three to be ready to pass them in turn one. All of them are important. You can’t exclude one from another.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 Pocono II Race Advance

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is going into the Gander Outdoors 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race looking to master Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.

A trip to the “Tricky Triangle” has always proven challenging for Harvick. In fact, it is one of only two racetracks where Harvick has yet to record a NASCAR Cup Series win. Kentucky Speedway in Sparta is the only other Cup Series track where Harvick has yet to reach victory lane in the premier series.

Pocono Raceway’s unique three-turn design presents many challenges for race teams in setting up the car. The track, which was designed by two-time Indy 500 winner Rodger Ward, features very distinct turns each modeled after famous tracks from the past and present. Turn one was modeled after Trenton (N.J.) Speedway, turn two is like Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turn three is similar to the Milwaukee (Wis.) Mile.

Thankfully, Harvick has an impressive partner in Mobil 1, an entity known for standing up to the toughest challenges.

Mobil 1 is the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR” and the Mobil brand of lubricant products are the “Official Lubricants of NASCAR.” Mobil 1 engine oils have long been the lubricant of choice for race teams competing in the most demanding and popular motorsports series around the globe.

The history of Mobil 1 in motorsports dates back to rally competition during the early 1970s. However, its involvement in racing became more official in 1978 through sponsorship of the Williams Formula One team and the 1987 sponsorship of Rusty Wallace’s No. 27 car in NASCAR.

From that time, the presence of Mobil 1 on racetracks and circuits has grown by global proportions. Today, Mobil 1 is relied upon for its ability to deliver exceptional engine performance and protection even under some of the most extreme conditions. Automotive technicians, racecar drivers, team owners and the world’s leading automotive manufacturers can all testify to the advanced technology delivered by Mobil 1 lubricants.

Harvick’s performance in recent years, with Mobil 1 under the hood, could be an indication that the time has come to finally cross Pocono off the list. The driver of the No. 4 Ford Fusion has finished in the top-five in his last three Cup Series starts at Pocono, including two runner-up finishes, and he has four runner-up finishes in his nine starts at the 2.5-mile triangle since joining SHR.

What is most important for Harvick coming into this weekend at Pocono and the five races that follow is the accumulation of playoff points that are so critical at this point in the season. Thus, even more pressure to start up front and, ultimately, to try to win the Busch Pole Award. Harvick’s series-best 32 playoff points heading to Pocono is just two makers ahead of Kyle Busch’s 30 and six points ahead of Martin Truex Jr.

The “Big Three” of Harvick, Busch and Truex has accounted for 15 of the 20 race wins in 2018 and 66 percent of the total playoff points accumulated – 88 of 133 available through 20 races.

The best way to score maximum playoff points in a race is to start up front, earn stage points and win races. Harvick and the No. 4 team can accomplish all of those goals with a win this weekend in the team’s final visit to Pocono in 2018.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your thoughts on heading to Pocono this week?

“As we go to Pocono, we obviously want to win there, especially since its one of the two tracks we haven’t won at. I know that Rodney (Childers, crew chief) and the organization itself has put a lot of effort into this particular weekend trying to get to victory lane and take that race off the list. It’s a place I enjoy going – not so much the place I enjoyed going in my previous life before I came to Stewart-Haas Racing. It was never a track we ran very well at, but we’ve come to find out that if you have the cars where they need to be and the people around you, things are much different. So, Pocono is a place that I’ve learned to enjoy more than I did in my previous life at RCR.” 

The group at Pocono has done so much to improve the infrastructure and fan experience. What does that mean for the racetrack?

“Well, people see effort. When you go to Pocono, you see effort from the time you turn into the tunnel and see the waterfall – going through the tunnel to the guardrails all the way to the campgrounds. Everything there has been in a transition. You feel like you’re having more fun when you go to Pocono now than you did, say, six or seven years ago.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2018 Pocono II Race Advance

If ever an example is needed to illustrate the highs and lows of a racecar driver’s life, then look no further than the last time No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Clint Bowyer raced at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway and the days that followed.

Bowyer qualified ninth for the June 3 race at Pocono and ran in the top-five much of the day. In the closing laps, it appeared Bowyer was in line to battle for the victory, but a missed shift with five laps remaining dropped him to the back of the pack and left him with a 20th-place finish.

“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Bowyer after he left the racetrack mulling his misfortune. “I let my team down today.”

He beat himself up for the next several days as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series headed to the next race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn.

Seven days after the Pocono disappointment, a late, two-tire stop for track position, combined with some of the best driving of his racing career at the high-speed Michigan oval enabled Bowyer to edge SHR teammate and always tough competitor Kevin Harvick. Rain ended the race early, putting Bowyer in victory lane for the second time in 2018.

It was a race that saw SHR sweep the top three spots for the first time in its 10 years of Cup Series racing, and Ford claim seven of the top eight spots. It was in the final laps that Bowyer earned the victory.

“When we went out there on two tires, I looked in the mirror and I was so far ahead of everybody else I was like, ‘Oh man, we are in trouble,’ Bowyer said. “The rain came just in time. I was trying to hold (Harvick) off. I was cutting him off and taking his line away pretty bad. If it wasn’t for a win, you wouldn’t be doing that.”

It capped a pretty emotional week of disappointment and success, but that’s part of the sport.

“This sport can beat you down and I’ve certainly been beat down at times in my career,” Bowyer said. “But that’s what makes the highs so high. That’s why you celebrate the way you do.”

Bowyer arrives at Pocono after a disappointing run in New Hampshire, where a late-race accident left him with a 35th-place finish. Like he did at Michigan, he hopes to rebound this weekend when the Cup Series returns to the 2.5-mile Pocono triangle. Bowyer’s No. 14 Haas Automation Ford should be one of the fastest on the track and battling for victory.

He hopes the battle for victory comes down to the last few laps of the race like it did at Michigan. He said his favorite part of the sport is when everything is on the line.

“That’s when the pay window’s open, the money’s on the line, it’s go time,” he said. “Let’s see what we’re made out of. Let’s line these things up and get after it.”

He hopes that attitude pays off in the NASCAR playoffs that begin in just seven races.

“For me, I love that aspect,” Bowyer said. “A lot of guys, it makes them nervous. I’ve always looked to the playoffs as an opportunity. I’ve always liked the racetracks in the playoffs, but it’s just that feel, that competitiveness. It doesn’t matter what your regular season did. You get it there and your cars are running well, your communication, your boys are all – you got the swagger and what it takes, you’ve got to be set on ‘kill.’ You’re out of time, you’re out of Mulligans, it’s time to go.”

Bowyer arrives at Pocono sixth in points with two victories, six top-five finishes and 10-top 10s in 2018. Only Bowyer, Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch own multiple victories in 2018. Bowyer has played a key role in SHR’s team success in 2018.  Harvick’s win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon last weekend marked SHR’s series-leading eighth points-paying victory 20 races into the 2018 season. SHR also won the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race. New Hampshire was SHR’s 11th Cup Series victory with Ford.

Bowyer has proven that, in NASCAR, disappointment one week can quickly turn to success the next week. He hopes that’s true Sunday at Pocono.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Do you like returning to Pocono just 56 days after your last race there?

“As we go through these races, the thing I love the most about the season is we start going back to these races for the second time – especially in the playoffs. That notebook is even bigger for us because our cars have been unloading fast. Now, it’s just fine-tuning.”

What are your thoughts on the track at Pocono?

“Pocono is a really tough track with three different turns. I want to make sure we qualify well so we can get a good starting position and pit stall. Winning in Pennsylvania with (Lehighton, Pennsylvania native and No. 14 crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) would be cool. He’d be thrilled. Heck, so would all of us.”

 

MIKE BUGAREWICZ, Crew Chief of the No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What does Pocono mean to you?

“There’s a simple, one-word description I have of Pocono, and it’s ‘home.’ I grew up about 20 minutes from the racetrack. I’ve raced up in the Northeast and attended many of the races at Pocono. I used to go to qualifying all the time there. Pocono means a lot to me. It would really mean a lot to me to have a win there at some point in my career. I haven’t been successful with that, yet, but I hope to change that shortly.”

 

COLE CUSTER – 2018 NXS Iowa II Race Advance

Event:               U.S. Cellular 250 presented by the Rasmussen Group (Round 19 of 33)
Date:                 July 28, 2018
Location:          Iowa Speedway in Newton
Layout:             .875-mile oval

 

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

 

  • The U.S. Cellular 250 presented by the Rasmussen Group will mark Cole Custer’s fourth career NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Iowa Speedway in Newton.
  • Custer’s four pole awards this season is most among all Xfinity Series regulars. 
  • While the S. Cellular 250 will be Custer’s fourth Xfinity Series start at the .875-mile oval, it will be his 11th overall start there. Custer also has three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and four NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts at Iowa.
  • Custer scored his first career Pro Series victory Aug. 2, 2013 at Iowa from the pole. At 15 years, six months and 10 days, he became the youngest winner in Pro Series history. In addition to breaking Dylan Kwasniewski’s record for youngest race winner by nearly six months, Custer also became the first driver to lead every lap (150) in the combination East/West race.
  • Custer’s best Truck Series finish at Iowa is second, earned in 2016. Custer finished .431 of a second behind race-winner William Byron.
  • Custer has earned a win, a pole, six top-five finishes, eight top-10s and has led 243 laps in his 10 career starts at Iowa.
  • Custer’s best finish in the 18 Xfinity Series races run this season is second, earned in the 11th event May 26 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
  • Custer has earned four poles, seven top-five finishes, 14 top-10s, and has led 128 laps in the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
  • Custer has qualified inside the top-five at seven of the last eight races this season. He has earned 13 top-five starts and 14 top-10 starts in the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
  • In 56 Xfinity Series starts, 42 Camping World Truck Series starts and 29 K&N Pro Series starts since 2015, Custer has five wins, eight poles, 16 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and 969 laps led at tracks currently on the NASCAR circuit that are approximately a mile in length or shorter.
  • Custer is the only full-time Xfinity Series driver to earn top-five finishes in each of his last two starts at Iowa.
  • Custer is fourth in the Xfinity Series driver standings, 13 points behind series leader Daniel Hemric.
  • Last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, Custer raced as high as second place and earned his 14th top-10 of the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
  • No Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are entered in the U.S. Cellular 250.

 

Cole Custer, Driver Q&A

 

With one last shot at Iowa this season and no Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver entered, do you feel this is your race to take home the win?  

“It definitely should be by now. We’ve actually run really well in the Xfinity Series, lately. We hit on a great set-up last time at Iowa, but it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We have four poles this year and have such fast Haas Automation Fords. When it comes to the race, we fall off in some areas and excel in others. Our time is coming. We’re bound to put together a perfect race sooner or later. We did it at Homestead last year.”

What was it like to get your first win and pole at Iowa Speedway then leading all 150 laps to become the youngest winner in Pro Series history? 

“It was definitely a day I’ll remember. I can’t explain how amazing it felt. Iowa is a special place for our Haas Automation race team. I feel like that win gave me a lot of confidence because it was my first in the K&N Series and I always look forward to coming back. I just love the track. The fans are awesome and it was always one of my favorite tracks growing up. I can’t believe I got to go there and go to victory lane.”

 

Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A

 

Does Cole’s previous success at Iowa transfer over to the success in the Xfinity Series?

“It helps that Cole has a great track record at Iowa, so he can talk about the handling of the car better for us to improve on. He obviously knows how to wheel his way around Iowa. It just comes down to our team making the best adjustments to fit Cole’s style. We’re almost there. This might be the one.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2018 New Hampshire Race Report

Event: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (Round 20 of 36)
Series:  Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon(1.058-mile oval)
Format: 301 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/151 laps)
Start/Finish: 15th/35th (Accident, completed 255 of 301 laps)
Point Standing: 6th (638 points, 206 out of first)

Race Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Ended at Lap 75):

Bowyer started 15th and finished eighth to earn three bonus points.
Initially reported his car was good but just stuck in traffic.
Climbed through the field, moving into 10th by lap 26.
Pitted for four tires and fuel during the lap-35 competition caution and returned to the track in 22nd.
Raced back to 10th by lap 42 and finished the stage in eighth.

Stage 2 Recap (Ended at Lap 150):

Bowyer started seventh and finished seventh to earn four bonus points.
Crew made adjustments during the stage break, but Bowyer reported handling difficulties on the flat oval.
Bowyer held his position but couldn’t gain any spots. He said the rear grip of his car wasn’t good enough to run the high groove.
Crew said Bowyer was about third quickest each lap as the stage drew to a close.

Stage 3 Recap (Ended at Lap 301):

Bowyer started seventh and finished 35th.
Held his position in the early going of the stage, running about 12 seconds behind the leader with 80 laps remaining.
Reported he had a left-side issue that caused the car to bounce and bottom out on the track.
During a routine stop on lap 223, Bowyer was black-flagged for pitting outside the box and forced to serve a one-lap penalty.
Bowyer returned to the track in 25th two laps behind the leader.
A few laps later Bowyer hit the wall, ending his race and bringing out the caution flag.
Crew later determined the left-rear shock mount broke on the No. 14.

Notes:

●  Kevin Harvick’s victory in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 marked the 52nd overall win for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). It was the organization’s 47th points-paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and its fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.
●  This was SHR’s 11th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory with Ford. The team won its first race with Ford when Kurt Busch captured the 2017 Daytona 500.
●  Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was 1.877 seconds.
●  There were seven caution periods for a total of 31 laps.

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation VF-1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“I was trying to nurse it around. Something in the left-rear was broke, and Brett (Griffin, spotter) told me, ‘We’re having trouble, let’s just get off the track,’ and I was kind of thinking the same thing. Literally, as he was saying that and I’m thinking it, something broke on the right side, and away it went. That sucks. I hate it for (SHR teammate) Aric (Almirola who was leading the race at the time).”

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, July 29 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN beginning at 2 p.m.

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 New Hampshire Race Report

Event:               Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (Round 20 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:          New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1.058-mile oval)
Format:             301laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/151 laps)
Start/Finish:      13th/3rd(Running, completed 301 of 301 laps)
Point Standing:11th(575 points, 269 out of first) 

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner:Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

  • Aric Almirola started 13thand finished 10thto earn one bonus point.
  • Almirola ran as high as seventh before the competition caution on lap 35.
  • He pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments, but an issue with the right-front wheel set the Smithfield Ford team back to 28th.
  • Almirola weaved through traffic and re-entered the top-10 on the final lap of Stage 1.
  • He pitted at the conclusion of the stage for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments. The Smithfield team gained one position on pit road.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

  • Almirolastarted ninth and finished fifth to earn six bonus points.
  • Almirola gained two positions during the opening laps of Stage 2.
  • Despite noting loose-handling conditions, he gained another two spots before Stage 2 ended.
  • After Stage 2 concluded, he pitted for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-301):

  • Almirolastarted fifth and finished third.
  • The Smithfield Ford driver passed teammate Kurt Busch for the lead on lap 211.
  • Almirola led 15 laps before pitting from the lead under green-flag conditions for four tires and fuel. When he exited pit road he was passed by teammate Kevin Harvick.
  • Almirola regained the lead on lap 232.
  • During a caution on lap 257, Almirola pitted for four tires and fuel. His Smithfield Ford was third off pit road.
  • Almirola fell to fifth on the final restart but battled his way to third, his best finish of the season.

Notes:

  • Almirola earned his best finish in 16 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at New Hampshire. His previous best result was fifth in July 2013.
  • This was Almirola’s first top-five finish of 2018 and his second top-five in 16 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at New Hampshire.
  • Almirola finished 10th in Stage 1 to earn one bonus point and fifth in Stage 2 to earn an additional six bonus points.
  • Almirola led twice for 42 laps – his first laps led at New Hampshire.
  • Harvick’s victory in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 marked the 52ndoverall win for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). It was the organization’s 47thpoints-paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and its fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Hismargin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was 1.877 seconds.
  • There were seven caution periods for a total of 31 laps.
  • Only 19 of the 37 drivers in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 finished on the lead lap.

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“I’m disappointed. You would think I’d be really excited to run top-five, and I’m not. We had the best car, hands down. I’m really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. They’re giving me incredible racecars, and we showed up with cars capable of running in the top-five and challenging to win races these last seven weeks. I’m really proud of everybody back at the shop. I’m really proud of (crew chief) Johnny Klausmeier and all the guys on this No. 10 team. We’re going to get Smithfield and Ford Motor Company and Mobil 1 and everybody that helps us out to victory lane really soon.”

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, July 29 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN beginning at 2 p.m.

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 New Hampshire Race Report

Event:               Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (Round 20 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:          New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1-mile oval)
Format:             301 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/151 laps)
Start/Finish:      14th/1st (Running, completed 301 of 301 laps)
Point Standing:  2nd(791points, 53out of first) 

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner:Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75): 

  • Kevin Harvick started 14th and finished seventh to earn four bonus points.
  • The Busch Beer driver stayed out during the first two cautions of the race prior to the competition caution.
  • Harvick came to pit road under the competition caution on lap 35 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
  • The No. 4 Busch Beer Ford raced into the top-10 on lap 56.
  • Harvick brought the car to pit road for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment at the conclusion of the stage.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150): 

  • Started sixth and finished fourth to earn seven bonus points.
  • Harvick raced into the top-five on lap 85 and up to fourth by lap 103.
  • The No. 4 Ford struggled with a tight-handling condition late in the stage.
  • The Busch Beer Ford came to pit road for four tires, fuel and air pressure and wedge adjustments at the conclusion of the stage. 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-301): 

  • Started fourth and finished first to earn five playoff points.
  • Harvick struggled with a loose-handling condition at the beginning of the stage and fell to the sixth position.
  • He raced back into the top-five on lap 188 and up to third by lap 202 as the handling improved on the longer run.
  • The Busch Beer Ford came to pit road under green on lap 125 for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.
  • Harvick raced to the lead on lap 228 following the green-flag pit stop.
  • The No. 4 Ford dropped back to the second position on lap 232 when he was passed by teammate Aric Almirola.
  • Harvick came to pit road under caution from the second position for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment on lap 258.
  • The Busch Beer Ford restarted second on lap 262 and patiently stalked the race leader. Harvick battled with the No. 18 car as the laps wound down, taking the lead for the final time with only seven laps to go and cruising to the victory. 

Notes:

  • This was Harvick’s 43rdcareer NASCAR Cup Series win, and it keeps him in sole possession of 18thon the all-time NASCAR Cup Series win list. One more win will tie Harvick with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott for 17th.
  • This was Harvick’s 20thMonster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory since joining SHR in 2014.
  • This was his series-leading sixth victory in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
  • This was Harvick’s third victory in 35 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at New Hampshire.
  • Harvick finished seventh in Stage 1 to earn four bonus points and fourth in Stage 2 to earn an additional seven bonus points.
  • Harvick led three times for 12 laps to increase his laps-led total at New Hampshire to 718.
  • Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was 1.877 seconds.
  • There were seven caution periods for a total of 31 laps.
  • Only 19 of the 37 drivers in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 finished on the lead lap.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“Winning is important, and you’ve got to try to take every opportunity you can. I felt like my car was better. He (Kyle Busch) was in the lane that I needed to be, and as you get to the end, as you saw at Chicago, you’ve got to be aggressive and do what you’ve got to do sometimes to win these races. It’s one of those deals, and we want to win. Points are everything, and getting a ‘W’ is what it’s all about.

“I’m just really proud of everybody on our No. 4 Busch Beer Ford. I’ve got to thank Jimmy John’s and Mobil 1, Outback, Hunt Brothers, Morton Buildings, Textron Off-Road, LiftMaster, everybody who helps from Stewart-Haas and Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Next Up: 

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, July 29 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN beginning at 2 p.m.

KURT BUSCH – 2018 New Hampshire Race Report

Event:               Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (Round 20 of 36)
Series:               Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location:          New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1-mile oval)
Format:             301 laps, broken into three stages (75 laps/75 laps/151 laps)
Start/Finish:      1st/8th(Running, completed 301 of 301 laps)
Point Standing:  5th(646points, 198 out of first) 

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner:Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75): 

  • Kurt Busch started first and finished fifth, earning six bonus points.
  • The Monster Energy/Haas Automation driver indicated the car was a tick tight.
  • Busch was leading when the competition caution came out on lap 35. Pitted on lap 27 and took four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. Some cars took two tires and some cars stayed out so Busch restarted 18th.
  • Said car was a bit tight when he got behind other cars.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150): 

  • Started fourth and finished second, earning nine bonus points.
  • Busch pitted on lap 78 for four tires and fuel.
  • The No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion was a bit tight, but the lap times were strong. 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-301): 

  • Started first and finished eighth.
  • Busch pitted on lap 154 for four tires and fuel.
  • On lap 227, Busch pitted for four tires and fuel. While on pit lane and trying to enter his pit stall, the car of Ryan Blaney just finishing his pit stop. Busch opted to wait, but so did Blaney costing them both a few seconds.
  • Busch pitted on lap 258 for four tires and fuel. He restarted fifth.
  • On the restart, Busch fell back to 12thplace. He was able to work his way back up to eighth. 

Notes:

  • This was Busch’s 11thtop-10 of 2018 and his 15thtop-10 in 35 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at New Hampshire.
  • Busch finished fourth in Stage 1 to earn seven bonus points and second in Stage 2 to earn an additional nine bonus points.
  • Busch led twice for a race-high 94 laps to increase his laps-led total at New Hampshire to 635.
  • Kevin Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was 1.877 seconds.
  • There were seven caution periods for a total of 31 laps.
  • Only 19 of the 37 drivers in the Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 finished on the lead lap.

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

“The good news is we had good speed. We had good lap times most of the day. For 95 percent of the day we had pace to be a winner and to lead laps, so that’s what I take away from a day like today, where sometimes we’d be glued sixth to 10thand don’t have the power to lead laps a lot, so I’m happy with that. Pit road, once in 1,000 years that’s gonna happen. We just shouldn’t have pitted on that lap. (Dave) Blaney is a good kid. He wanted to let me go, but then I would have blocked him in. I was like, ‘No kid, go.’ That just turned into a total disaster and then restart I just didn’t’ get a good restart behind Almirola when we fifth, so you mess up twice you’re not gonna win the race. That’s just how it works in Monster Energy Cup. Thanks to Monster Energy, Haas Automation and Ford.”

Next Up:

 The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Gander Outdoors 400 on Sunday, July 29 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. The race starts at 2:30 p.m. EDT with live coverage provided by NBCSN beginning at 2 p.m.

COLE CUSTER – 2018 New Hampshire Race Report

Event: Lakes Region 200 (Round 18 of 33)
Series: NASCAR Xfinity Series
Location: New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon (1.058-mile oval )
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (45 laps/45 laps/110 laps)
Start/Finish: 4th/9th (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Point Standing: 4th with 637 points

Race Winner: Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 1 Winner: Christopher Bell of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)
Stage 2 Winner: Brad Keselowski of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-45):

● Custer started fourth, finished seventh and earned four bonus points.
● Due to a penalty from the pole sitter, Custer started the race in the third position.
● He noted loose-handling conditions that caused him to fall to seventh place after seven laps.
● Custer pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments at the end of the stage.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 46-90):

● Custer started seventh, finished 13th.
● Custer noted that his previous loose-handling conditions were shifting to become tighter.
● After a lap-79 caution, Custer pitted for four fresh tires, fuel and more adjustments.
● He restarted 13th and piloted his car in that position until the end of the stage.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 91-200):

● Custer started third, finished ninth.
● Custer ran as high as second place in the final stage.
● Due to handling issues, Custer fell outside the top-five.
● He pitted under green-flag conditions on lap 163 for four tires and fuel.
● After a final caution on lap 178, he restarted in eighth place and ran inside the top-10 before the checkered flag waved.

Notes:               

● This marks Custer’s 14th top-10 of the season and second at New Hampshire.
● Seven cautions slowed the race for 33 laps.
● Only 18 of the 40 drivers finished on the lead lap.
● Christopher Bell won the Lakes Region 200 to score his third career Xfinity Series victory, third of the season and first at New Hampshire. His margin of victory over second-place Brad Keselowski was .416 of a second.

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

“We fought it all day. We weren’t the best on the short run or the long run, so it was a struggle. We did whatever we could to keep track position and we did a good job there. We’ll try and make it better, but this is definitely not our strong suit.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 New Hampshire Race Advance

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon this weekend. Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head into the event coming off of an eighth-place finish Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

Almirola has amassed three top-10 finishes in his last 10 starts at tracks that are less than 1.5-miles in length. He has an average finish of 15th and has completed 99.8 percent of all possible laps at those tracks. The last such event was the 11th race of the season at the Dover (Del.) International Speedway mile oval, where Almirola finished 11th.

In Almirola’s Cup Series career at New Hampshire, he’s earned one top-five finish and two top-10s in 15 starts. He looks to improve his average finishing position of 21.3 with the help of crew chief Johnny Klausmeier and the No. 10 Smithfield crew.

Before heading to the Granite State this weekend, Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield team and SHR teammate Clint Bowyer spent Tuesday testing on the new “roval” configuration at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The Cup Series will race on the new Charlotte configuration in October. It will be a cutoff race concluding the opening round of the Cup Series playoffs.

In 19 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has accrued an average start of 19.3 and an average finish of 13.1, with eight top-10 finishes and 71 laps led. The 34-year-old rounds out the four-driver SHR contingent at 11th in the point standings.

Almirola has one NASCAR Xfinity Series start at New Hampshire, during which he started and finished in the top-five. The Ford driver has also made five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start as the 1.058-mile oval with two top-10 finishes.

With summer in full swing, fans have the opportunity to celebrate the grilling season by entering Smithfield’s “Hero of the Grill” contest that Almirola and five-time world-champion barbecue pitmaster Tuffy Stone helped launch earlier this year. Fans are encouraged to nominate their favorite grill hero by visiting SmithfieldGetGrilling.com. One “Hero of the Grill” nominee will win $5,000. Plus, the first 10,000 nominees will have the chance to see their name featured on Almirola’s No. 10 Smithfield Ford at Richmond (Va.) Raceway in September.

Fans can also enter for their chance to win Smithfield’s Smoke Machine Mustang designed by team co-owner Tony Stewart with the help of drifting champion Vaughn Gittin Jr. They helped create a one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang RTR Spec 3 that will be given away to one lucky fan. Fans can register for their chance to win the suped-up Mustang and a trip to November’s Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead by visiting SmithfieldRacing.com, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.

This weekend’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sparta marks the 18th points-paying event during which the Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, is in its seventh season with Almirola and its first with SHR. Founded in 1936, Smithfield is a leading provider of high-quality pork products, with a vast product portfolio including smoked meats, hams, bacon, sausage, ribs, and a wide variety of fresh pork cuts.

Ford has earned eight wins so far this season with Almirola’s SHR teammates earning seven of the victories for the Blue Oval – five by Kevin Harvick and two by Bowyer. Harvick also captured the non-points-paying All-Star Race win at Charlotte. Ford has 13 all-time series wins at New Hampshire and the manufacturer swept both races at the venue in 2014.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What do you like about going to New Hampshire Motor Speedway?

“It kind of takes you back to Saturday-night, short-track racing. It’s a mile track but it races like a short track. You go there and see the Modified division there and it makes you feel like when you were a kid and racing Late Models. It’s a fun track to race at, and I’ve had some success there and I’ve run well there in the past. I’m looking forward to carrying the momentum we’ve been building this season into Loudon.”

How do you feel about you chances of making the playoffs and, overall, how your team is doing this season? 

“I’m still pressing to get a win. I want to win for SHR and our sponsors – Smithfield, Ford Motor Company – and everybody who puts their support behind us. It’s important to win, regardless of where we are in the points. I feel confident about where we are, currently, in the point standings. I feel like we’ve consistently outrun most of the cars that are behind us in points. I’m not overly concerned, but you can’t let your guard down. We still have to go out and continue to perform at a high level. We’ve been fortunate this year that we’ve brought fast racecars to the track every week and I don’t expect anything different in the near future. I continue to be impressed with our organization and our team. We keep bringing faster and faster cars each week. For me being the new guy at the team and working with a new crew chief (Johnny Klausmeier) and our whole team being young, we are built to grow. To see the success we’ve had in a short amount of time, it has me really fired up about the potential we have, and the foundation we’ve built keeps getting better and better.”