ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 Darlington Race Advance

At Darlington (S.C.) Raceway this weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams will sport various throwback paint schemes. In keeping with the tradition of the past several years at the track “Too Tough to Tame,” Aric Almirola will pilot the No. 10 Helping Hungry Homes Ford Fusion for his throwback paint scheme.

The significance of the No. 10’s livery for this weekend’s event at Darlington is the celebration of Helping Hungry Homes’ 10th anniversary. Helping Hungry Homes is Smithfield Foods’ initiative founded in 2008 to focus on alleviating hunger and helping Americans become more food secure. Helping Hungry Homes provides nutritious, high-quality protein to food banks, school nutrition programs, disaster relief and community outreach efforts.

In addition to Almirola piloting the Helping Hungry Homes Ford, he will also represent the initiative at noon Friday at the Harvest Hope Food Bank in nearby Florence, South Carolina to make a protein donation. Friday’s donation is the fourth contribution Almirola has participated in this season. The event is open to the media.

In Almirola’s last 10 starts at tracks shorter than 1.5-miles in length, he has one top-five finish and four top-10s. He’s completed 98.2 percent of the laps raced on those tracks and led 44 in all – 42 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. The other two laps led came at the most recent Cup Series event two weekends ago at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Almirola was working on another excellent finish at Bristol but was unable to complete all of the laps due to a mechanical issue after running in the top-five.

Almirola looks to improve on his best Cup Series Darlington finish of 11th this weekend. His best qualifying effort at the “Lady in Black” is third, which he earned in April 2014. The Tampa native also has two starts there in the Xfinity Series and one in the Camping World Truck Series.

The clock is ticking on the summer season, as well as the chance for fans to have their grilling hero’s name on Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Fusion. Fans have the opportunity to continue celebrating 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 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, or by texting SMOKE to 82257.

Darlington marks the 22nd 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.

In 24 Cup Series starts this year, Almirola has earned an average start of 18.3 and an average finish of 14.0, with one top-five finish and 10 top-10s. He’s also led 115 laps this season, already a career best. Almirola rounds out the four-driver SHR contingent at 12th in the point standings.


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


What is your favorite part of the weekend at Darlington?

“I like the fact that it is a laid-back feeling. When you think about racing back in the ’70s and ’80s, it wasn’t so corporate. It wasn’t so clean cut, it wasn’t what it kind of is today. It was more laid back and, kind of, ‘boys have at it,’ like they say, so I kind of like that. Doing it once a year is fun. I just go into it with the attitude where it is a very relaxed environment and fun, and it allows you to kind of goof around and enjoy the moment.”

Not only is Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes on your car this weekend, but you’re involved in the program. Talk a little bit about that.

“We can affect and touch the lives of so many people with Smithfield’s Helping Hungry Homes program. We go across the country and into communities where we race and make donations. Last year, I got to go to my hometown of Tampa, Florida, to give back. It’s nice to engage in the communities and help people out. Some of them were once my neighbors and that is something I’m very proud of.”

What would it mean to win at Darlington?

“The Southern 500 is one of NASCAR’s crown jewels. It is such a physically demanding track, it’s such a demanding track on the car, on the crew, on everybody. When you win at Darlington, you’ve done something. Darlington is just a really tough racetrack. It’s called ‘Too Tough to Tame’ and the ‘Lady in Black’ for a reason. It such a challenging place. To go there and have success, to walk away with a Southern 500 trophy is a bucket list kind of race that you want to win.”

What does Darlington mean to you?

“Darlington is an incredible weekend. It’s Labor Day weekend and what they’ve done over the last several years with the throwback weekend and everyone who participates and gets involved, it’s so much fun. To honor the past and the present is just a really fun weekend. It a special place and it has been on the NASCAR circuit for so long. All of the nostalgia really takes you back to the roots of NASCAR and it’s one of the places you really want to win at.”

COLE CUSTER – 2018 NXS Darlington Race Advance

Event:               Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 (Round 24 of 33)
Date:                 Sept. 1, 2018
Location:          Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
Layout:             1.366-mile oval

Cole Custer Notes of Interest


  • Darlington (S.C.) Raceway is hosting its fourth annual NASCAR “Throwback Weekend.” In conjunction with teams, the track this year is showcasing iconic paint schemes, personalities and moments in history.
  • Custer will participate in the official throwback weekend of NASCAR by honoring A.J. Foyt and his iconic No. 00 1965 Ford Galaxie that he ran at Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway. For the full release visit:
  • In his 2017 Xfinity Series start at Darlington, Custer ran as high as second and raced in around the top-10 for the majority of the race.
  • Custer has earned four poles, nine top-five finishes, 19 top-10s, and has led 237 laps in the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
  • Custer’s second-place finish May 26 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway is his best in 23 races this season.
  • Custer’s four pole awards this season leads all Xfinity Series regulars.
  • Custer’s 19 top-10 finishes is tied with Elliott Sadler for most among Xfinity Series regulars.
  • Custer is fourth in the Xfinity Series driver standings with 833 points, 13 behind series leader Christopher Bell.
  • Custer has earned 16 top-five starts and 21 top-10 starts in the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
  • Custer is competing for his eighth consecutive top-10 and third consecutive top-five this weekend.
  • Last weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, Custer ran as high as second and piloted the Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to his third consecutive road-course top-10. His efforts were enough to close the championship points gap to Bell by six points.
  • There are only three races left until the Xfinity Series playoffs begin Sept. 21 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The winner of the regular-season points championship will earn an additional 15 playoff points – equivalent to winning three races.


Cole Custer, Driver Q&A


What does it mean to honor A.J. Foyt’s iconic No. 00 Vel’s Ford Galaxie this weekend?

“A.J. Foyt is one of the toughest guys in the history of racing. I’ve always been inspired by his career because he never gave up, no matter the circumstances. That wreck he had at Riverside was vicious, but he bounced back and just kept on winning. A.J. and this paint scheme remind me that, no matter how hard things get on the racetrack or in life, you never stop fighting. His will and determination set the bar. It’s an honor to run this throwback scheme at Darlington in tribute to everything that A.J. stands for.”

What are your thoughts on racing at Darlington and what are your expectations heading back? 

“My first impression of Darlington was that it was just a real racetrack. Darlington is a place where you really have to drive it and you really have to be up on the wheel and pay respect to every single lap out there. It’s a really cool place to run and it’s challenging. I wish we had more tracks like Darlington. We had a good run in our first start there last year. It’s always good coming back to a track after you actually have notes and you know what to expect heading into the weekend. I’ll lean on Kevin (Harvick) a good bit because he runs well there and he’s obviously pretty good everywhere.”


Jeff  Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A


What are the challenges of a crew chief heading into a track like Darlington?

“Darlington is unique in so many ways. We unloaded well last year, but the biggest challenge there is communicating with the driver on how the car is doing. At Darlington, you put so much into the driver’s hands because they’re on the edge of their seat every lap. It’s not a track that you can just ride around on with a good setup. You have to constantly work with the car and the driver to succeed throughout the race. I’m really looking forward to seeing the A.J. Foyt tribute scheme out there.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2018 Darlington Race Advance

With two of the most historic tracks  up next on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar, then a 10-race playoff to determine the 2018 champion, No. 14 Carolina Ford Dealers Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Clint Bowyer says the needle on the sport’s intensity meter is about to be pegged.

“The pay window is starting to open and it’s time to get going,” said Bowyer, who’ll race in the 69th running of the Southern 500 Sunday night at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway followed by the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 2. “This sport has two pretty big races the next two weekends and then it’s playoff time and we decide a champion. It’s the time of year when you show everything you have. This is what we’ve worked for. The intensity will pick up on the track and in the pits. This is the best time of the season.”

With so much on the line, who better to have on Bowyer’s side Sunday night than 50-time Cup Series winner and 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ned Jarrett, who has a special affinity and skill at the South Carolina oval. Jarrett won the September 1965 Southern 500 by 14 laps – the largest victory margin in NASCAR history.

Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Fusion will mimic the design Jarrett ran on his race-winning 1965 Ford Galaxie by sporting a royal blue paint scheme with period-specific graphics. The scheme is in keeping with “The Official Throwback Weekend of NASCAR,” during which the industry honors the sport’s history. Last year, nearly all the NASCAR Cup Series teams competed with throwback paint schemes in the Southern 500.

“If you want to be the best, you might as well go and join the best and Ned’s race down there that day is the best in the sport’s history,” Bowyer said. “I’m glad Ned will be with us this weekend. Maybe some of his success will rub off on us. Darlington has become such a cool weekend with our look back at the history of the sport.”

In the 1965 race, Jarrett drove his No. 11 Richmond Ford Motor Company Galaxie to the dominating Southern 500 victory. It marked the 49th of Jarrett’s 50 career wins and it helped secure his second and final series championship, bookending the title he won in 1961. Jarrett ran 21 races in 1966 before transitioning to a broadcasting career.

“I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the Southern 500 and seeing everyone this weekend,” said the 85-year-old Jarrett, who will be in Darlington on Sunday. “I don’t think in this day and age you’ll see anyone win by 14 laps, but I think if you ask Clint and any of the other drivers, they’ll tell you they don’t care about the margin of victory. They just want the victory.”

Jarrett is NASCAR’s version of the NFL’s John Madden appealing to multiple generations of fans. Some fans know Madden as the Super Bowl-winning coach, others as a television commentator, while younger fans know Madden from popular video games.

NASCAR fans first met Jarrett as a champion driver. The next generation watched as he made the transition to the broadcast booth that included tenures at MRN Radio and on television with CBS, ESPN and TNN. Jarrett was the first widely known television analyst to work for different broadcast networks at the same time. He spent 22 years at CBS and 19 with ESPN while co-hosting the weekly, one-hour Inside NASCAR program on TNN.

A third generation of fans knows Jarrett as the patriarch of one of NASCAR’s first families. He and his wife Martha have two sons – Glenn and Dale – who are both former NASCAR drivers and daughter Patti J. Makar. Ned and Dale became the second father-son combination to win NASCAR Cup Series championships when Dale earned the 1999 title. Glenn followed his father’s career into racing and broadcasting and, after retiring as a driver in 2008, Dale joined Ned and Glenn as a broadcaster. Patti also worked in racing and married Jimmy Makar, who worked with Dale for three years at Joe Gibbs Racing and was the 2000 championship-winning crew chief for Bobby Labonte. Dale’s son Jason scored several ARCA victories and made numerous starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Bowyer hopes the Jarrett paint scheme is once again productive in Darlington. The Emporia, Kansas native is a 10-time NASCAR Cup Series winner and is in his second year driving SHR’s No. 14 Ford Fusion. Victories earlier this year at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway earned Bowyer a berth in the NASCAR playoffs that begins Sept. 9 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. 

Bowyer arrives at Darlington after enjoying the final off weekend of the 2018 season by taking his family of four on a vacation to the beach. He led 120 laps before finishing sixth at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway Aug. 18, the most recent Cup Series race.

In addition to winning at the historic tracks in the coming weeks, Bowyer’s goal at Darlington and Indianapolis is to add to the 10 playoff points he already owns. His 10 points are the fourth-most behind “Big Three” drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Playoff points are crucial for drivers with dreams of making it to the season finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway because they are added to each driver’s tally after the point totals are reset at the end of the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Drivers earn five playoff points for a victory and one point for a stage win. Additional points are earned based on the regular-season points finish after Indianapolis. The regular-season champion earns 15 points, second place earns 10, eight for third and seven for fourth, continuing in descending increments to one point for 10th place.

Bowyer enters the Darlington race fifth in regular-season standings, trailing fourth-place teammate Kurt Busch by 20 points and leading sixth-place driver Joey Logano by eight points.

“We have a lot to race for these next two races,” Bowyer said. “Not only are winning at Darlington and Indy dreams of most drivers, but good runs at both places earn you those points that are really important if you want to advance in the playoffs.”

With historic tracks, the regular-season points race, playoff points and an upcoming playoff battle, it’s easy to see why there could be a broken needle on the sport’s intensity meter before all is said and done.


CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Carolina Ford Dealers Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:


What are your thoughts on Darlington?

“I just love the old-school feel. The racetrack lends that feel. You know, you can’t get on that racetrack and not feel old school. They repaved it and it’s already worn out. You run right up against the wall, it’s unique, you’ve got to be able to attack the track, but be patient enough and respectful enough to not ruin your day and destroy your car. It’s just very, very old school as you go back through there.”

Do you ever wish you could race back in the day?

“I would have loved to compete in the 1970s and ’80s. You were able to go to the shop and work your ass off and reap the benefits after you dusted the competition that weekend by having something that they didn’t, or because you outfoxed them.”

Why is this time of year important in NASCAR?

“First, everyone who has ever raced in NASCAR has wanted to win in Darlington. Taking that trophy home will be one of the best feelings in the world. Second, in the big picture, it’s close to money time. This is when the pay window opens and we put everything we’ve learned in 2018 on the line. All the hours put in by the folks at the race shop, at the track and all of our supporters, this is what our whole year has focused on. And then, in just a couple of weeks, 16 teams will have 10 races to win a championship.”

What are your thoughts on Darlington? 

“I like the uniqueness of the track. I’ve struggled to have good finishes there but we’ve always raced well. We just can’t seem to seal the deal at the end. Something always goes haywire in the end but, sooner or later, we are going to overcome that and have a good weekend.”

Do you remember your first Darlington experience?

“My first Cup race at Darlington was 2007 and I won the pole. Truth be told, it scared the daylights out of me.”


KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 NXS Darlington Race Advance

Event:             Sport Clips Haircuts Help A Hero VFW 200
Date:               Sept. 1, 2018
Location:        Darlington (S.C.) Raceway
Layout:           1.366-mile oval

Kevin Harvick Notes of Interest


  • Hunt Brothers Pizza makes its fourth start of 2018 as a primary sponsor with driver Kevin Harvick in the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste (SHR) during Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.
  • Hunt Brothers Pizza will pay tribute to the 20th anniversary of Harvick’s 1998 NASCAR West Series Championship with a throwback paint scheme on the No. 98 Ford Mustang. The 2018 scheme was inspired by the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing car that Harvick raced to five wins, 11 top-five finishes, 12 top-10s and five poles in 1998 en route to his first NASCAR championship.
  • Hunt Brothers Pizza and Haas CNC Racing first teamed up for the 2008 season. In 2014, Hunt Brothers Pizza reunited with what had become SHR to serve as a sponsor in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. When SHR formed an XFINITY Series team for the 2017 season, Hunt Brothers Pizza became a primary sponsor with Harvick and the No. 41 team – which is now the No. 98.
  • Harvick is making his final of five scheduled XFINITY Series starts in the No. 98 Ford Mustang for SHR in 2018.
  • He won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in his first start of the season in the No. 98, finished 19th at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, eighth at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and second at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.
  • Harvick has one pole, three top-five finishes, nine top-10s and 189 laps led in 15 XFINITY Series starts at Darlington.
  • Harvick won the pole at Darlington in August 2003 with a lap at 167.516 mph.
  • His XFINITY Series career includes 47 wins, 185 top-five finishes, 259 top-10s, 25 poles and 9,688 laps led in 345 starts.
  • Harvick will be joined Saturday by SHR teammate Cole Custer in the No. 00 Ford Mustang.


Kevin Harvick, Driver No. 98 Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang


The Hunt Brothers Pizza paint scheme gives a nod to your beginnings in NASCAR, inspired by your 1998 NASCAR West Series championship. What does running the Hunt Brothers Pizza throwback scheme like that mean to you?

“The throwback scheme Hunt Brothers Pizza is doing for us is pretty awesome – the 1998 throwback to the Spears championship car. That was probably one of the most fun years I’ve ever had in racing. We traveled up and down the road in a 1977 Winnebago and a 24-foot trailer because that’s what Wayne (Spears) told us that we had to use when we didn’t have the truck and trailer that were at the Truck races, so we had more fun in that motorhome than we probably did any other time that I’ve ever raced stock cars. We had one car. We had a group of guys who just loved to race and we raced all but one race, I believe, that year with the Truck series and wound up winning the West Series championship that we weren’t even supposed to run. So it was a fun year, and to have Hunt Brother’s kind of throw it back to that year for me is a lot of fun and definitely had some input on that one.”

What makes Darlington Raceway so unique in terms of the racing?

“Darlington is a track with a lot of history and is one that you circle on your calendar each year. This track has a lot of character and it is easy to make mistakes, so we just focus on ourselves, race the track and try to avoid making any of those mistakes.”

What is it about Darlington that makes it special for you as a competitor?

“For me, personally, I look forward to coming to Darlington every year just for the fact that it means so much to our sport and has such a huge history in what we have accomplished as a sport altogether. To be able to come back and race and be able to experience things they have experienced through the years on a racetrack that has been repaved, but its original shape is still the same – to me, it’s something that is pretty neat. I’m looking forward to the weekend.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 Darlington Race Advance

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is helping Busch Beer celebrate its deep history in NASCAR by featuring a car inspired by Busch’s racetrack-specific collectable can series dating back to 1996 during Sunday night’s Southern 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

The Busch Beer collectable can series from 1996 featured the layout of NASCAR tracks throughout the series along with facts about the configuration of each racetrack. Darlington was one of the featured tracks in the series of collectable cans.

Busch Beer’s rich history in NASCAR dates back nearly 40 years to the sponsorship of Cale Yarborough’s No. 11 car during the 1979 season, starting with one of the most significant races in NASCAR history – that year’s Daytona 500.

Darlington is the perfect setting to celebrate Busch Beer’s deep racing roots. Highlights of Busch’s storied racing heritage include sponsoring the Busch Pole Award in 1978, presented to Cup Series pole winners each week. Busch introduced the Busch Clash in 1979, held each year at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway the week prior to the Daytona 500. And it was title sponsor of NASCAR’s steppingstone division – currently known as the Xfinity Series – from 1984 through 2007. Busch Beer also held the “Official Beer of NASCAR” status from 1988 through 1997.

Busch Beer reclaimed its “Official Beer of NASCAR” status and sponsorship of the Busch Pole Award at the beginning of the 2018 season.

While Harvick will drive a No. 4 Ford honoring the history of his sponsor Busch Beer, he is looking to score his second Cup Series win at the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval.

In 2014, Harvick won the 65th running of the iconic Southern 500 – one of the crown jewels on the 36-race Cup Series schedule – in dominating fashion. He started from the pole and led 238 of 374 laps en route to beating runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr., to the finish line by .558 of a second.

The win at Darlington was the second of Harvick’s five Cup Series wins during his championship season.

With only two races remaining before the start of the 10-race Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Harvick would like to add to his series-best seven points-paying wins of the season at Darlington Sunday night. In addition to adding to his win total, Harvick is trying to close the gap on points-leader Kyle Busch, who holds a 43-point advantage through 24 of 26 regular-season races.

At the conclusion of regular-season-ending Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the points leader collects 15 playoff points while the driver who finishes second collects 10. That five-point differential between first and second in the regular-season championship could play a vital role in whether a driver makes the winner-take-all Championship 4 playoff finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Harvick has clinched his spot in the playoff field for the 12th time by way of his career-best seven wins. He only needs to attempt to qualify for the remaining two regular-season races to make his playoff status official.

While Harvick and the No. 4 team are locked into the playoff field by points and wins, gaining playoff points via stage wins and race wins is now their top priority through the next two races, starting this weekend at Darlington.


KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion:


Your thoughts about heading back to Darlington for this special race weekend?

“Darlington has kind of found its niche with all the throwback schemes and all the things that they do with the snack bars, tickets and all the cars. It’s great to see all the teams participate – and for me it’s something that bring backs a lot of memories as to when (Founder of Action Performance) Fred Wagenhals was around selling diecasts and creating programs and things like we used to do in the past. It’s great when you see a program come together like that.”

What’s it like to have so many drivers from the past at the track for throwback weekend at Darlington?

“We had a car inspired by Cale Yarborough’s a couple of years ago. We had him at the racetrack, driving around in the pace car and seeing some of the old-school guys who work on my racecar be as excited as they were, guys who don’t ever really get excited about anything. To see how excited some of those guys were when Cale came, we took a picture with the whole team at the car and, to have the whole paint scheme and everything to go with it, was really great. We do a lot of things with those guys now at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. To see those guys now at the racetrack signing autographs for the fans adds just a little bit to that event. To me, having Cale there was really neat, to have him around and talk to him. It’s something that means a lot because they’re a big part of the reason we’re here today.”

KURT BUSCH – 2018 Darlington Race Advance

He’s got the Daytona 500 and he’s got the 600-mile race at Charlotte. Now he just needs Darlington and Indianapolis. And Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is ready to try and win another crown jewel event at Sunday night’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Busch is coming off a win Aug. 18 in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race that solidified his spot in the 16-driver playoffs. It was the 30th victory of his career and he now has earned six trips to victory lane at Bristol.

But before the playoffs begin, Busch would love to make a little history at two of the greatest tracks in the world.

Only four drivers have won the four crown jewels and they are legends of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the only drivers to see the checkered flag first at the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.

Busch has had some success at Darlington, including nearly winning the spring race in 2003. In one of the most memorable finishes in NASCAR history, Busch came up .002 of a second shy of victory at the track “Too Tough to Tame” when he was nosed out by Ricky Craven in one of the closest finishes in Cup Series competition since NASCAR instituted electronic timing in 1993.

His No. 41 Haas Automation Ford this weekend will sport a paint scheme that looks very much like the No. 97 Ford Taurus he raced 15 years ago.

Busch added a third-place finish at Darlington in 2010, and he won the pole position in September 2001 and April 2013. If Busch is to be successful this weekend, he’ll have to battle the odd shape of Darlington’s racing oval.

Darlington is egg-shaped, 1.366 miles in length – the odd shape because its western half needed a tighter radius in the turns as founder Harold Brasington promised Sherman Ramsey, who owned a farm next to the property, that he wouldn’t disturb his minnow pond when he built the track in 1949.

The odd shape also means that, to find the fast way around the track, drivers run against the outside walls in each turn, sometimes brushing up against the wall and thus earning what has affectionately become known as a “Darlington Stripe” on the right side of the car. And the black marks left on the walls by the tires rubbing up against them all race weekend have led to the track’s other nickname, “The Lady in Black.”

Busch is hoping he can get a little stripe on his car on the road to victory, and to get another of the four crown jewels of NASCAR.


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


What would a win at Darlington mean?

“I’ve been close and it would mean the world to me because, when I first went there, I had no idea how difficult that track was going to be. And how narrow it is and how different both ends of the track are. Over the years, I quickly gained an appreciation for the nostalgia and the setting of Darlington, South Carolina and what it means for our sport. With all that mixed in together, I’d love to win that race. It’s a tough track because it changes dramatically with rubber and you have to have tire management there. You have to balance a lot of things over 500 miles.” 

Are these 500 miles at Darlington the most difficult in all of NASCAR?

“Yeah, it’s flat out the most difficult. I think 500 miles at Darlington is tougher than 600 miles at Charlotte because you are up on the wheel all race long and you’re right on the edge and, when you slip over that edge, you get that Darlington stripe and usually you get a fender rub and then you’re working out of a hole. Attrition usually wipes out a few guys and you don’t want to be one of those, and so you’re just right on that edge all night long.”

What makes Darlington unique? 

“Darlington demands so much attention and respect. It’s similar to a Bristol like that. It’s hard to get the setup perfect because both ends of the racetrack are so different.”

What do you think of the retro feel of Darlington?

“It’s really a fun weekend. It feels like a field trip experience when you’re a kid. It’s like when you go out with your friends and you all get dressed up together. The first year, it was about the cars. The second year, it seemed like the crew guys took over and they had all their outfits. There are diecasts that are made just for that race. Chip Wile (former president of Darlington) hit a grand slam with throwback weekend and I think all of us look forward to that. And I think the fans do, as well. It definitely helps bridge the past to the present and overall just creates a fun weekend.”

Do you remember your first race at Darlington? Your first stripe?

“My first race and first stripe – that place chewed me up and spit me out. I think I wrecked 20 times, kept bouncing off wall. I wore out the tires but kept going. I probably finished 40th my first time there. It really was an eye-opener on how tough NASCAR was going to be.”

Other than the finish with Ricky Craven at Darlington, do you have any other memorable moments that stand out? 

“The biggest moment at Darlington I ever had was finishing second to Ricky Craven in 2003 – everyone knows that race. It’s one of the best finishes in NASCAR history. But, probably the next-biggest moment would be during my championship run in 2004. I had an ill-handling car and still managed to finish sixth with it due to good pit stops. That was a perfect moment because it was our championship to lose, with where we finished that day in 2004. That was back when Darlington used to be in the playoffs.”

DEKALB® Joins Stewart-Haas Racing

DEKALB®corn waved the green flag on the annual Farm Progress Show inside its “Fuel Your Yield” tent by announcing a new partnership with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), the championship-winning NASCAR team.

The opening day of the nation’s largest outdoor farm event saw the agricultural brand unveil the No. 14 DEKALB Ford Fusion Clint Bowyer will race throughout the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend Oct. 19-21 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.DEKALB will be the primary sponsor for Bowyer and the No. 14 team at Kansas with the brand serving as an associate partner of Bowyer and the No. 14 team at all other races.

The Kansas race is a homecoming for Bowyer, who hails from nearby Emporia.

“Farming and racing have many parallels that present a natural connection between Clint and DEKALB,” said Pete Uitenbroek, DEKALB Asgrow®Brand Lead. “It’s all about performance and the team supporting you – whether that’s a pit crew or agronomic experts. With his rural Kansas roots, Clint is the ideal person to help tell that story.”

DEKALB has been helping farmers ensure a future of performance with industry-leading corn seed products for more than 100 years. And while driving a purpose-built racecar that puts out more than 850 horsepower is his day job, the affable Bowyer is also a farmer who oversees a 650-acre spread in North Carolina.

“I grew up in farm country and saw firsthand the hard work that goes into growing crops and taking care of livestock,” said Bowyer, who literally began his racing career on Kansas dirt by racing motocross and then late models at Lakeside and I-70 Speedways in Kansas City. “Farming takes time, energy and incredible attention to detail. DEKALB understands all of that, and they know what farmers need to take care of their crops. It really is an honor to represent DEKALB and spend time with their customers.”

Bowyer will greet farmers at the Farm Progress Show from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, Aug. 29 inside DEKALB Asgrow’s “Fuel Your Yield” tent.


DEKALB, a Bayer brand, provides farmers superior performance with exclusive genetics, integrated solutions and agronomic expertise to help maximize yield potential. For additional information, farmers can contact their DEKALB Asgrow dealer or visit


About Bayer:

Bayer is a global enterprise with core competencies in the Life Science fields of health care and agriculture. Its products and services are designed to benefit people and improve their quality of life. At the same time, the Group aims to create value through innovation, growth and high earning power. Bayer is committed to the principles of sustainable development and to its social and ethical responsibilities as a corporate citizen. In fiscal 2017, the Group employed around 99,800 people and had sales of EUR 35.0 billion. Capital expenditures amounted to EUR 2.4 billion, R&D expenses to EUR 4.5 billion. For more information, go to


About Stewart-Haas Racing:

Stewart-Haas Racing is the title-winning NASCAR team co-owned by three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart and Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation – the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. The organization fields four entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – the No. 4 Ford Fusion for Kevin Harvick, the No. 10 Ford Fusion for Aric Almirola, the No. 14 Ford Fusion for Clint Bowyer and the No. 41 Ford Fusion for Kurt Busch. The team also competes in the NASCAR Xfinity Series by fielding a full-time entry – the No. 00 Ford Mustang for Cole Custer – and one part-time entry – the No. 98 Ford Mustang. Based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Stewart-Haas Racing operates out of a 200,000-square-foot facility with approximately 380 employees. For more information, please visit us online at, on Facebook at, on Twitter @StewartHaasRcng and on Instagram @StewartHaasRacing.

COLE CUSTER – 2018 NXS Road America Race Report

Date: August 25, 2018
EventRoad America 180 (Round 23 of 33)
SeriesNASCAR Xfinity Series
LocationRoad America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (4-mile, 14-turn road course)
Format: 45 laps, broken into three stages 10 laps/10 laps/25 laps)
Start/Finish: 2nd/4th (Running, completed 45 of 45 laps)
Point Standing: 4th with 833 points (13 points behind leader Christopher Bell)

Race WinnerJustin Allgaier of JR Motorsports (Chevrolet)
Stage 1 WinnerMatt Tifft of Richard Childress Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 WinnerDaniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing (Chevrolet)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-10):

● Custer started second, finished seventh and earned four bonus points.
● Custer piloted the Haas Automation Ford Mustang in the second and third position for the majority of Stage 1.
● After a lap-seven caution, Custer restarted the one-lap shootout from second place until he drove the Haas Automation Ford hard into Turn 2, resulting in a flat-spotted tire.
● He fell back to the seventh position before the stage ended to earn four bonus points.
● After the stage ended, Custer pitted for four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 11-20):

● Custer started 11th, finished seventh and earned four bonus points.
● Custer powered the Haas Automation Ford into seventh place when the green flag waved to start Stage 2.
● He ran inside the top-10 for the entirety of the stage.
● Custer pitted when the stage concluded for four tires, fuel and adjustments.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 21-45):

● Custer started 13th, finished fourth.
● Custer quickly climbed to eighth place and was promoted to fourth when regular-season championship contenders Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell made contact in front of him.
● On lap 28, Custer steered the Haas Automation Ford off the track to avoid a multicar spin.
● He pitted for four tires, fuel and air pressure adjustments during the caution period.
● The California native restarted in 15th place and drove to sixth until a lap-37 caution.
● With three laps to go, Custer was promoted to third when the second and third-place cars spun off the track. He fell one position before earning his first top-five at Road America.


● This marks Custer’s 19th top-10 of the season and first at Road America.
● This marks Custer’s 9th top-five of the season and first at Road America.
● Custer earned eight bonus points in the Road America 180 at Road America.
● Seven cautions slowed the race for 10 laps.
● Justin Allgaier won the Road America 180 to score his ninth career Xfinity Series victory, fourth of the season and first at Road America. His margin of victory over second-place Matt Tifft was 5.403 seconds.

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

“We had a car to contend with all day. I’m glad we were able to take away another great points finish after a rollercoaster of a day. Really proud of the team for improving our road-course cars. We’re in a good spot as we get close to the end of the regular season.”

COLE CUSTER – 2018 NXS Road America Race Advance

Event:               Road America 180 (Round 23 of 33)
Date:                 Aug. 25, 2018
Location:          Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
Layout:             4-mile, 14-turn road course


Cole Custer Notes of Interest


  • The Road America 180 will mark Cole Custer’s sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series road-course start and second at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
  • In his 2017 Xfinity Series start at Road America, Custer ran inside the top-10 for the majority of the race and finished eighth to earn his best road-course finish of his debut Xfinity Series season.
  • Custer’s second-place finish on May 26 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway is his best finish in 22 races this season.
  • Custer owns 10 top-10 finishes, four top-fives, two poles and led 80 laps in 15 road-course starts.
  • Custer has earned four poles, eight top-five finishes, 18 top-10s, and has led 237 laps in the 2018 Xfinity Series season.
  • Custer’s four pole awards this season leads all Xfinity Series regulars.
  • Custer’s 18 top-10 finishes is tied with Elliott Sadler for most among Xfinity Series regulars.
  • Custer is fourth in the Xfinity Series driver standings with 791 points, 19 behind series leader Christopher Bell.
  • Custer is competing for his seventh consecutive top-10 and second consecutive top-five this weekend.
  • Last weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Custer battled in and around the top-10 for the majority of the race before finishing fourth.
  • There are only four races left until the Xfinity Series playoffs begin Sept. 21 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway. The winner of the regular-season points championship will earn an additional 15 playoff points – equivalent to winning three races.


Cole Custer, Driver Q&A


What are the challenges of running a road course?  

“In road-course racing, the competition is more on the driver’s shoulders compared to your traditional oval-styled track. You’re on the edge of your seat for the entire race and even the smallest mistake could take you out of the race. I enjoy road-course racing and challenging my skills as a driver. This is our last road-course race of the season, so I’m hoping to drive my Haas Automation Ford Mustang to a solid finish.”

With the playoffs approaching, has your strategy changed at all?

“Jeff (Meendering, crew chief) did a great job last weekend putting us in a position to earn as many points as possible. That’s the goal. We need to get stage wins and points to either win the regular-season championship or earn playoff points going in. A win is what we’re after but, if we don’t have the car to do it, we need to be focused on points. We had the car to win in Bristol and I think we’ll have a big shot at it at Road America.”


Jeff  Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A


Are you happy with where your road-course program is heading to Road America? 

“We have certainly improved. We’ve had better equipment and notes to go off of, so we’re happy with where we’re at. Cole has learned a ton at these road courses and he’s getting much better. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s able to wheel the Haas Automation Ford up front the whole race. Road America was actually our best road course last year and we’ve already had great cars this year. Really looking forward to this weekend.”

KURT BUSCH – 2018 Bristol II Race Report

Date: Aug. 18, 2018
Event: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (Round 24 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (.533-mile oval)
Format: 500 laps, broken into three stages (125 laps/125 laps/250 laps)
Start/Finish: 9th/1st (Running, completed 500 of 500 laps)
Point Standing: 4th (796 points, 207 out of first)

Race Winner: Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Ryan Blaney for Team Penske (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-125):

Kurt Busch started ninth, finished seventh, collecting four bonus points.
● The Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford was involved in a multicar accident on lap three and sustained minor hood damage.
● On lap 11, Busch pitted for hood repair only and restarted 29th on lap 13.
● Busch returned to pit road on lap 63 for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. He came in 15th and went out 15th.
● Was in the top-10 by lap 85.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 126-250):

Busch started fifth, finished ninth, collecting two bonus points.
● The Monster Energy/Haas Automation driver pitted on lap 130 for four tires and fuel.
● Busch pitted under caution for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 251-500):

Busch started sixth, finished first, collecting five playoff points for scoring the victory.
● The Monster Energy/Haas Automation driver pitted on lap 254 for four tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.
● Busch was in the top-three from lap 255-353 and pitted on lap 354 for four tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.
● Busch lined up beside teammate Clint Bowyer on the lap-477 restart and was able to clear Bowyer as he exited turn two. From there, Busch survived one more restart and outlasted Kyle Larson on newer tires to bring home the win.


● Busch won the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race to score his 30th career Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his sixth at Bristol. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Larson was .367 of a second.
● Busch’s triumph delivered the 100th points-paying victory for Ford’s Fusion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It was Ford’s 669th all-time win in the NASCAR Cup Series and its 37th victory at Bristol.
● It was also his 11th top-five and 18th top-10 at the .533-mile oval.
● Busch led once for 24 laps to increase his laps-led total at Bristol to 1,086.
● There were nine caution periods for a total of 70 laps.
● Only 15 of the 40 drivers in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race finished on the lead lap.

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

Describe the victory tonight.

“It’s awesome to do it at Bristol. I love this place. We now have won six times here, and I have great teams that have always helped me win. This group of guys, Billy Scott, my crew chief, this is his first win, and to be able to do it with Ford and Monster and Haas Automation is just what it’s all about. It’s executing as a team, and we had good restarts when we had to, and then you’ve got to get clever and start throwing everything at it.”

How did you take the lead?

“It was up to (Clint) Bowyer to choose the lane. He chose the outside, and we got a perfect start on the inside. I dug it perfect right into turn one and two, and the spotter said, ‘Take it. Take it.’ – which meant go to the wall on exit, and I didn’t even bother to look in the mirror.  He said, ‘Take it,’ and when you trust your team to give you the right stuff setup-wise, you’ve got to trust the spotter the same way. Tony Raines. He’s a racer. That’s why he’s my spotter, and it worked out perfect.”

How big is it to solidify a playoff spot tonight?

“It just matters to win. It’s all about winning. I’m glad we did. We’ve been the most consistent team this year that hasn’t won. I wasn’t worried about not making the Playoffs, so we could kind of treat these races coming up as free-for-alls, and we’re just gonna keep going after it. The Southern 500 is after this week off, and we’ve got Indianapolis, and then my hometown kicks off the Playoffs, so we’re all about these next 12.”