CLINT BOWYER – 2018 Phoenix II Race Advance

Clint Bowyer’s strategy is about as clear-cut as it gets this weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix when he competes in the next-to-last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2018 season.

If the No. 14 ITsavvy Ford driver wins Sunday, he advances to the Championship 4 round next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway to compete in the four-way, winner-take-all title race. Anything less this weekend at Phoenix sends Bowyer to Homestead battling for a finish of fifth to eighth in the final point standings.

It’s going to take a spectacular effort for the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver to advance Sunday, but Phoenix is a pretty good place for Bowyer and his SHR organization.

“It’s a pretty simple strategy this weekend for us: win and we’re in,” said Bowyer, who owns two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in 26 races at Phoenix. “We’re obviously going to do our best. Phoenix has been good to us in the past. Now, we just need her to be great to us.”

The mile-oval in the desert is SHR’s best track, with six victories and 17 top-five finishes in 58 starts. Kevin Harvick owns five of SHR’s six victories, including a win in this season’s April race. Bowyer had a good run of his own that day, ending with a sixth-place finish.

It will be a different-looking Phoenix facility when the Cup Series begins practice Friday. As part of its $178 million project, the track’s start-finish line has been moved from the middle of what was the frontstretch to what was turn two – now turn four. The change was made because the track added 45,000 grandstand seats to that area of the track as part of its huge renovation project. Restarts and the race finish will be in front of the majority of fans attending the event.

“I’m telling you I think moving the start-finish line is going to be a bigger deal than anyone thinks,” Bowyer said. “I’ve raced at a lot of racetracks all over the country and I have never seen a start-finish line right out of the corner. It’s very, very unique and it’s going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.”

Bowyer said the change could make an impact during the race.

“I think where you will see that really play out is on restarts and finishes,” he said. “How it comes down to that last-lap pass for a position to maybe put yourself in the playoffs or something – you kind of just have to make it out of that corner. You just have to kind of have forward momentum to make it across the line. That, in my opinion, can bring on some wild, wild things, I think, over the next few years there.”

For the fans, these changes bring new and improved access to the garage. The renovations also include new restaurants, plus a state-of-the-art facility inside the gates that includes two separate entertainment venues.

“I can’t wait to get to Phoenix – it’s a fun racetrack, fun atmosphere and fun fan base,” Bowyer said. “Everything about Phoenix is awesome. By the way, she’s a new Phoenix. The start-finish line has moved. So are the garages, plus everything else that is being done. I’ve seen some pictures, but I can’t wait to get out there and see what it looks like.”

For the second time in 2018, Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Fusion will carry the paint scheme of ITsavvy (pronounced I-T-savvy). The Addison, Illinois-based company is one of the fastest-growing resources for integrated IT products and technology solutions in the United States. ITsavvy has catapulted rapidly from a Midwest startup to a national leader in IT products and solutions.

Founded in 2004 by Mike Theriault and Chris Kurpeikis, ITsavvy has been consistently recognized as one of the fastest-growing businesses of its type. ITsavvy is a single-source, end-to-end IT partner. The company combines a comprehensive, value-added reseller business of more than a million computer, hardware and software products with an industry-leading advanced solutions group. ITsavvy has access to $8 billion in daily inventory in 46 distribution centers around the country with the ability to ship in-stock items the same day they are ordered.

Bowyer arrives at Phoenix eighth in the playoff standings, 73 points behind the fourth and final transfer position to the Championship 4 after finishing 26th Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. Bowyer qualified second, but opening-lap contact with Denny Hamlin forced Bowyer to pit road for repairs, dropping him two laps behind the leaders that he could never regain.

Points no longer matter to Bowyer. Only a victory guarantees his place in the title battle.

“We’re going to try like hell,” he said.

 

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

 

Does it mean anything to have all four SHR Fords in the Round of 8?

“Yeah, it means something to all of us and everyone involved at Stewart-Haas Racing. That army of people who are back at the shop working tirelessly day in and day out. Those people – it is unbelievable the people who are in the Stewart-Haas camp. I am not saying other teams are not racers, but I have been with about all of them now and I have never seen a group of just sheer racers. What I mean by that is, when you have down time, you see them with their kids racing Late Models or a dirt car somewhere, or they are racing on their weekends. Some of our shop guys – it’s amazing how many true die-hard, hardcore racers there are at SHR. For me, I think that speaks volumes about our performance. When we do get behind, if we do, they close the gap in a short amount of time. Their attention to detail and willingness to work all across the board, everybody involved pushes one another to be better. I think we have closed the gap drastically from last year to this year. It was my first year last year when we really only had one car running good each week. We could have a good run and would back it up with a couple of bad ones. We were spraying it all over the place. This year, we are there with all four cars every week.”

Is there pressure in the playoffs? 

“The pressure this time of year is intense. In any weekend, there is always pressure but, inside these playoffs, it increases. It’s the drivers, the teams you are competing against. At this time of year you are going against the best of the best. But, we all feed off that. You have to be able to eat that up and enjoy that and somehow make peace with it because it’s there. There’s no getting around the pressure side of that. You have to be able to perform at your best within that pressure.”

What does it take to be a NASCAR champion?

“To be a NASCAR champion, you have to have the total package and that’s the team and driver and everyone in the organization, as well as the folks you work with at Ford Performance and Roush-Yates Engines. You’ve got to be the total package if you want to beat these guys in the Cup Series. We have all the pieces of the puzzle. Now we just have to put them together.”

KURT BUSCH – 2018 Texas II Race Report

Event:               AAA Texas 500(Round 34 of 36)
Series:               Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Format:            334 laps, broken into three stages (85 laps/85 laps/164 laps)
Start/Finish:      7th/7th(Running, completed 337 of 337 laps)
Point Standing:(5thwith 4,100 points, 25 points outside the top-four cutoff)
Note:                Race extended three laps past its scheduled 334-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish. 

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):

  • Kurt Busch began Stage 1 in seventh and finished it in the second position, earning nine bonus points.
  • The No. 41 State Water Heaters Ford Fusion was in sixth when the competition caution came out on lap 30.
  • Busch said the car was a bit tight, especially in turns one and two. He pitted on lap 32 for two tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.
  • After pitting, Busch restarted second. 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170):

  • Busch started Stage 2 in second place and ended it in eighth, earning three bonus points.
  • The No. 41 State Water Heaters Ford Fusion pitted on lap 88 for four tires, fuel and a tire pressure adjustment.
  • Busch was second when he pitted on lap 150 for four tires and fuel. 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 171-337):

  • Busch started the final stage third and ended it in the seventh position.
  • The No. 41 State Water Heaters Ford Fusion pitted on lap 172 for right-side tires and fuel.
  • Busch was in eighth place when a caution came out and he pitted on lap 227 for four tires, fuel and a wedge and tire pressure adjustment.
  • On lap 282, Busch pitted for four tires and fuel.
  • Busch remained in the top-10 for the rest of the race and finished seventh. 

Notes:

  • Kevin Harvick won the AAA Texas 500 to score his 45thcareer victory, his eighth of the 2018 season and his second at Texas.
  • This was Busch’s 21sttop-10 finish of 2018 and his 19thtop-10 in 32 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.
  • Busch finished second in Stage 1 to earn nine bonus points and eighth in Stage 2 to earn three more bonus points.
  • Ford took five of the top-10 positions, including the top-three.
  • There were eight caution periods for a total of 37 laps.
  • Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the AAA Texas 500 finished on the lead lap. 

Kurt Busch, Driver of the No. 41 State Water Heaters Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“I just didn’t get the restarts nailed at the end. I was on the loose side. We thought we were going to be loose, but each restart just got worse and worse and we had no right-rear grip. I don’t know what really leads to that other than just heat cycles on the tires. We are in a good position. There are a lot of other people I would like to be right here. We just didn’t have the speed the 4 (Harvick) car had today, and hopefully we will get it next week.”

 

 Playoff Standings: (with one race to go before the Championship 4):

1.       Kevin Harvick (4,143) 1 win
2.       Kyle Busch (4,128) +28
3.       Martin Truex Jr. (4,125) +25
4.       Joey Logano (4,119) 1 win
5.       Kurt Busch (4,100) -25
6.       Chase Elliott (4,086) -39
7.       Aric Almirola (4,068) -57
8.       Clint Bowyer (4,052) -73

  • SHR is the only team to feature all four of its drivers in the Round of 8.

Next Up: 

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Can-Am 500k on Sunday, Nov. 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. It is the penultimate race of the 10-race playoffs and the cutoff race to make the Championship 4. It starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

CLINT BOWYER – 2018 Texas II Race Report

Event:               AAA Texas 500(Round 34 of 36)
Series:               Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Format:            334 laps, broken into three stages (85 laps/85 laps/164 laps)
Note:                Race extended three laps past its scheduled 334-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Start/Finish:      2nd/26th (Running, completed 334 of 337 laps )

Point Standing:8thwith 4,052 points, 73 points outside the top-four cutoff
Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Ended at Lap 85):

  • Bowyer started second and finished 30th.
  • Bowyer and Denny Hamlin made contact on the opening lap, forcing both to pit road for repairs and dropping Bowyer two laps behind the leaders.
  • Bowyer reported his car was loose in the corners.
  • Crew made significant handling changes but could not improve Bowyer’s lap times.

Stage 2 Recap (Ended at Lap 170):

  • Bowyer started 30th and finished 29th.
  • Crew continued to work to improve the No. 14’s handling, but Bowyer said it was loose in and tight in the middle.
  • Team stretched his fuel mileage at the end of the stage hoping for a caution that never came.

Stage 3 Recap (Ended at Lap 337):

  • Bowyer started 29th and finished 26th.
  • Bowyer reported smoke in his car throughout the race, likely caused by the early damage.
  • No.14 team took the wave-around and gambled on a caution but had to pit under green on lap 244.
  • Bowyer dropped to four laps behind the leader, but he regained a lap in the closing moments.

Notes:

  • Kevin Harvick’s victory in the AAA Texas 500 marked the 58thoverall win for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). It was the organization’s 51stpoints-paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and its third victory at Texas.
  • Harvick’s win marked SHR’s series-leading 12thpoints-paying victory 34 races into the 2018 season. SHR also won the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
  • This was SHR’s 15thMonster 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 triumph delivered the 107thpoints-paying victory for Ford’s Fusion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It was Ford’s 676thall-time win in the NASCAR Cup Series.
  • This was Ford’s 14thMonster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Texas, the most all-time among manufacturers.
  • Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .447 of a second.
  • Ford took five of the top-10 positions, including the top-three.
  • There were eight caution periods for a total of 37 laps.
  • Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the AAA Texas 500 finished on the lead lap.

Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

“That stinks. First corner of the race. I’m sick. It wasn’t what we were hoping for today. We were having to turn right to get into the corner and were ploughing in the middle. I think something was going on with the car when it was getting in the corner. We’ll go to Phoenix and try to win. This isn’t over yet.”

Playoff Standings: (with one race to go before the Championship 4):

1. Kevin Harvick (4,143) 1 win
2. Kyle Busch (4,128) +28
3. Martin Truex Jr. (4,125) +25
4. Joey Logano (4,119) 1 win
5. Kurt Busch (4,100) -25
6. Chase Elliott (4,086) -39
7. Aric Almirola (4,068) -57
8. Clint Bowyer (4,052) -73

  • SHR is the only team to feature all four of its drivers in the Round of 8.

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Can-Am 500k on Sunday, Nov. 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. It is the penultimate race of the 10-race playoffs and the cutoff race to make the Championship 4. It starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 Texas II Race Report

Event: AAA Texas 500 (Round 34 of 36)
Series: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Format: 334 laps, broken into three stages (85 laps/85 laps/164 laps)
Start/Finish: 4th/8th (Running, completed 337 of 337 laps)
Note: Race extended three laps past its scheduled 334-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Point Standing:   7th with 4,068 points (57 points outside the top-four cutoff)

Race Winner:     Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner: Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85):

Aric Almirola was sent to the rear of the 40-car field for an unapproved body modification after inspection.
● The Round of 8 contender was able to work his way up to 10th to finish the stage.
● He raced his way into the top-20 by lap 26 and was inside of the top-10 by lap 53.
● The No. 10 Smithfield Ford Spirals team executed an excellent stop at the end of the stage, earning two spots on pit road prior to Stage 2.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170):

Almirola started Stage 2 in eighth and ended it in sixth.
● The Tampa native started Stage 2 strong but began to battle a “tight and chattering” condition shortly into the run.
● The Smithfield Spirals team pitted for a scheduled green-flag stop on lap 134 for four tires, fuel and adjustments. As the field cycled through stops, Almirola was running in the sixth spot.
● After Stage 2 Almirola pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments to help with lateral grip.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 171-337):

Almirola started the final stage ninth and ended it in the eighth position.
● With less than 100 laps to go, Almirola raced his way inside of the top-five.
● The Smithfield Spirals Ford team was the first out of all the playoff contenders inside the top-10 to make a scheduled, green-flag stop on the lap-278 cycle. The crew serviced the No. 10 with four tires, fuel and light handling adjustments to assist the balance.
● With just over 30 laps remaining, Almirola was shuffled back a few spots after restarting third and ultimately finished eighth.

Notes:

● This was Almirola’s 15th top-10 finish of 2018.
● Almirola earned his second top-10 in 16 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.
● Almirola finished 10th in Stage 1 to earn one bonus point and sixth in Stage 2 to earn five more bonus points.
● This was Kevin Harvick’s series-leading eighth victory of 2018 and his second victory in 32 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.
● Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .447 of a second.
● Ford took five of the top-10 positions, including the top-three.
● There were eight caution periods for a total of 37 laps.
● Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the AAA Texas 500 finished on the lead lap.

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

“We were a third-place car, and that restart there where we finally were in position we fought all day from the back and started at the tail and worked diligently all day to get up to the front and finally got ourselves in position to at least have a shot and race with those guys. The 22 just went down in turn three and put it right on my door and about wrecked us both. I am not sure. I will have to talk to him. He just continues to make things harder on himself. If that is the way he wants to race me when he is already locked into Homestead and we are out here fighting for our lives, that is fine. When Homestead comes around, if I am not in, he will know it.”

Playoff Standings: (with one race to go before the Championship 4):

1.      Kevin Harvick (4,143) 1 win
2.      Kyle Busch (4,128) +28
3.      Martin Truex Jr. (4,125) +25
4.      Joey Logano (4,119) 1 win
5.      Kurt Busch (4,100) -25
6.      Chase Elliott (4,086) -39
7.      Aric Almirola (4,068) -57
8.      Clint Bowyer (4,052) -73

SHR is the only team to feature all four of its drivers in the Round of 8.

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Can-Am 500k on Sunday, Nov. 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. It is the penultimate race of the 10-race playoffs and the cutoff race to make the Championship 4. It starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

KEVIN HARVICK – 2018 Texas II Race Report

Event:               AAA Texas 500(Round 34 of 36)
Series:               Monster EnergyNASCAR Cup Series
Location:          Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Format:            334 laps, broken into three stages (85 laps/85 laps/164 laps)
Note:                Race extended three laps past its scheduled 334-lap distance due to a green-white-checkered finish.
Start/Finish:      3rd/1st(Running, completed 337 of 337 laps)
Point Standing:  1stwith 4,143 points with one win, advances to Championship 4

Race Winner:    Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)
Stage 2 Winner:Kevin Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-85): 

  • Kevin Harvick started third, finished first, earning 10 bonus points and a playoff point.
  • The Mobil 1 Ford raced up to the second position on the restart and held steady until the competition caution at lap 30.
  • The No. 4 Ford team took two tires and fuel during the competition caution and came off pit road as the leader.
  • The team held the lead for the remainder of the stage to score its series-best 17thstage win of the season.
  • Harvick came to pit road at the conclusion of the stage for four tires, fuel and an air pressure adjustment.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 86-170): 

  • Harvick started first, finished first, earning 10 bonus points and a playoff point.
  • The No. 4 team chose to stay out following an early caution on lap 97 to keep the lead.
  • Harvick surrendered the lead to come to pit road under green on lap 132 for four tires and fuel.
  • He reclaimed the lead on lap 159 and continued out front from for the rest of the stage to score his series-best 18thstage win of the season.
  • Harvick came to pit road at the conclusion of the stage for four tires, fuel and a wedge adjustment. He rejoined third behind Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski, who took just two tires. 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 171-334):

  • Harvick started the stage third and finished first.
  • He kept pace with the leaders over the next 51 laps and came down pit road from third place under caution for his next-to-last scheduled fuel-and-tire stop on lap 228, rejoining the race in fifth.
  • Harvick was fourth when the race restarted on lap 231 and he was motored his way back into the lead on lap 254, where he stayed for the next 27 laps before pitting a final time for tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment under green.
  • Twelve laps later, Harvick was the leader once again as the field cycled through the day’s final scheduled round of pit stops.
  • The No. 4 team elected to keep Harvick on track during three caution periods over the final 40 laps to the scheduled race distance and, each time, Harvick was faced with restarting in the lead alongside Ryan Blaney.
  • On the lap-302 restart, Harvick chose the inside lane and was able to hold off Blaney, keeping the lead until the next caution flag flew on lap 306.
  • Harvick again chose the inside lane on the lap-310 restart but, this time, Blaney was able to slip past for the lead, where he stayed until Harvick was able to get around him on lap 318.
  • The caution flag flew a final time on lap 331, three laps before the scheduled 334-lap race distance, sending the event into overtime. ● Harvick chose the outside lane on that final restart and, after a Blaney was able to take the initial advantage at the wave of the green flag, Harvick powered his way around the outside and drove away for the win.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“That last restart, I knew I needed to pick the top. I wanted to be on the bottom to be safe because the top got such a good sidedraft getting into (turn) one and the outside groove got rubbered up. I thought if I could keep him (Ryan Blaney) from finishing the corner, I could drive back by him. It all worked out. Everything went well today on our Mobil 1 Ford and we were able to get to victory lane. (Looking ahead to the Championship 4 at Homestead,) I think it is really just week to week. We don’t try to do anything different. We come to try to put ourselves in position to win. With the equipment we have right now, you need to take advantage of it. It might not be this way forever, so you want to take advantage of the situation, and today we did. It was a big day for all of us – for me, on the restarts and to win the race on the restart late at the end. The guys on pit road had a solid day and gained spots on pit road, and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) made great calls. All around, just a great day of execution.” 

Notes:

  • Harvick will compete in the Championship 4 for the fourth time in the last five years. He won the championship in 2014.
  • This was Harvick’s series-leading eighth victory of 2018 and his second victory in 32 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Texas.
  • Harvick won Stage 1 to earn 10 bonus points and one playoff point. He then won Stage 2 to earn an additional 10 bonus points and one more playoff point. Harvick leads the series in stage wins with 18, eight more than any other driver.
  • Harvick led five times for a race-high 177 laps to increase his laps-led total at Texas to 495.
  • Harvick’s victory in the AAA Texas 500 marked the 58thoverall win for SHR. It was the organization’s 51stpoints-paying Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and its third victory at Texas.
  • Harvick’s win marked SHR’s series-leading 12thpoints-paying victory 34 races into the 2018 season. SHR also won the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race.
  • This was SHR’s 15thMonster 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 triumph delivered the 107thpoints-paying victory for Ford’s Fusion in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. It was Ford’s 676th all-time win in the NASCAR Cup Series.
  • This was Ford’s 14thMonster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win at Texas, the most all-time among manufacturers.
  • This was Harvick’s 45thcareer Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win and it gives him sole possession of 17thon the all-time NASCAR Cup Series win list.
  • This was Harvick’s 22ndMonster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory since joining SHR in 2014.
  • Harvick’s margin of victory over second-place Ryan Blaney was .447 of a second.
  • Ford took five of the top-10 positions, including the top-three.
  • There were eight caution periods for a total of 37 laps.
  • Only 17 of the 40 drivers in the AAA Texas 500 finished on the lead lap. 

Playoff Standing (with one race to go before the Championship 4):

1. Kevin Harvick (4,143) 1 win
2. Kyle Busch (4,128) +28
3. Martin Truex Jr. (4,125) +25
4. Joey Logano (4,119) 1 win
5. Kurt Busch (4,100) -25
6. Chase Elliott (4,086) -39
7. Aric Almirola (4,068) -57
8. Clint Bowyer (4,052) -73

  • SHR is the only team to feature all four of its drivers in the Round of 8. 

Next Up: 

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Can-Am 500k on Sunday, Nov. 11 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. It is the penultimate race of the 10-race playoffs and the cutoff race to make the Championship 4. It starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage on NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

COLE CUSTER – 2018 NXS Texas II Race Report

Date: Nov. 3, 2018
Event: O’ Reilly Auto Parts 300 (Round 31 of 33)
Series: NASCAR Xfinity Series
Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (1.5-mile oval)
Format: 200 laps, broken into three stages (45 laps/45 laps/110 laps)
Start/Finish: 3rd/1st (Running, completed 200 of 200 laps)
Point Standing:   (1 win – Advanced to Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway)

Race Winner: Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste (Ford)
Stage 1 Winner:  Daniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing (Chevrolet)
Stage 2 Winner: Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing with Biagi-DenBeste (Ford)

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-45):

● Custer started third, finished second earning nine bonus points.
● The Autodesk Ford driver said the No. 00 Ford Mustang was a bit loose early in the stage.

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 46-90):

● Custer started third, finished first earning 10 bonus points.
● The No. 00 Autodesk Ford Mustang pitted on lap 48 for four tires and fuel.
● On lap 80, while attempting to pass Tyler Reddick for the lead, both cars nearly hit the spinning car of Joey Gase. Both cars avoided him and Custer was the leader.

Final Stage Recap (Laps 91-200):

● Custer started 11th, finished first.
● The No. 00 Autodesk Ford Mustang pitted on lap 93 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.
● Custer pitted on lap 127 for four scuffed tires and fuel. He was penalized for a man over the wall too soon and restarted 23rd.
● On lap 135, Custer pitted for fuel only. Restarted in18th position.
● By lap 150, Custer was up to eighth
● On the last restart with two laps to go, it was Custer and Tyler Reddick starting one-two. Custer dove below Reddick on the backstretch and they made contact, but the No. 00 car got by Reddick to score the all-important victory.

Notes:                   

● Custer won the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 to score his second career Xfinity Series victory, first of the season and first at Texas.
● With this win, Custer automatically advances to the Championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway Nov. 17.
● Custer earned 19 bonus points in the O’ Reilly Auto Parts 300.
● There were 13 cautions slowed the race for 54 laps.
● Only 16 of the 39 drivers finished on the lead lap.

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

“I can’t believe it. The 1 (Elliott Sadler) is the best pusher in the series and I hated that I didn’t have him behind me. We did all we could. I drove it in deeper than I have all weekend and it worked out. I am pumped for Autodesk, their first time on the car. Gene Haas, I wouldn’t be here without him and Haas Automation. I am pumped. We are going to Homestead and I think we have a great shot of winning.

On the last restart when Tyler Reddick got away, what were you thinking? Did you know you had enough to time to get back to him?

“No, I thought it was going to be tough. I knew I had to make it happen in turns one and two because it was just hard to pass in three and four all day. I drove it into turn one probably five car lengths deeper than I had all day and it worked out somehow. I was able to get him loose on his bumper and get to his inside and we were side drafting on the back stretch and got together and it worked out in our favor I guess.”    

Thoughts on Homestead?

“I think we have some confidence going in there but also I think it is just a point of us having to execute well and we have a really good baseline to go off of from last year. Things will change this year. There is a different tire and different body rules. The track will be the same. We need to stay on our game to make sure it is good but I think we have the best baseline out there and we will do our jobs to make sure it is right and I will make sure to do my job to make sure I am driving the car right.”

Playoff Standings:            

1.       Tyler Reddick (3105 +7)
2.       Elliott Sadler (3098 points, -7)
3.       Daniel Hemric (3097 points, -8)
4.       Justin Allgaier (3085 points, -20)
5.       Matt Tifft (3083 points, -22)
6.       Cole Custer (3063 -42 – 1 win, Advanced to Championship Four)
7.       Christopher Bell (3063 points, -42)
8.       Austin Cindric (3,036 points, -69)

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2018 Texas II Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth for the 34th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this season. The event also marks the second race in the Round of 8 in the 2018 Cup Series playoffs. Almirola is coming off of an 11th-place finish Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.

The entire four-car SHR contingent remains in the hunt for the winner-take-all Championship 4 season finale Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with only this weekend’s event at Texas and next weekend’s race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix left to try and qualify. The two-time championship-winning SHR organization, which makes up 50 percent of the remaining playoff field, is the first since Joe Gibbs Racing in 2016 to have all of its entries reach victory lane. Almirola currently ranks eighth in the playoff standings with 4,033 points, 25 behind the final cutoff spot for the Championship 4. A win this weekend or next would automatically lock him into the Championship 4.

The 34-year-old Almirola’s trip to Texas earlier this season resulted in an accident just past the halfway point in the race. Before this year’s spring race, Almirola had completed all of his previous starts at Texas. Almirola has one Cup Series top-10 there with an average starting position of 19.9 and an average finishing position of 20.6 in 15 starts.

Almirola and his No. 10 Ford Fusion team are hoping a special paint scheme featuring Smithfield’s Spiral Sliced Ham product will bring good luck this weekend. With the holiday season just around the corner, Smithfield is promoting its perfectly cooked, spiral sliced ham as an ideal addition to most every kind of holiday feast to make family and friends feel special, and by making holiday cooking a breeze, as well as providing equally flavorful leftover dishes. Fans can visit Smithfield.com/HolidayHub, for information on how to make every holiday soiree a breeze, as well as foolproof tips and simple recipes that are sure to wow holiday guests with flavor-filled dishes for all the celebrations the season brings.

Almirola and his team are also hoping their recent success at tracks like the 1.5-mile Texas oval – the bread and butter of the Cup Series schedule – will continue to yield positive results this weekend. In his last 10 starts at 1.5 mile tracks, Almirola has five top-10 finishes and has led 70 laps with an average starting position of 12.2 and an average finish of 14.4.

On Oct. 14, the Tampa native piloted a special bacon-themed Smithfield Ford Fusion to victory lane at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The unique paint scheme coincided with Smithfield’s Bacon for Life promotion. Yes, it’s possible to win bacon for life. The sweepstakes runs until Dec. 31, and fans can enter by finding specially marked packages of Smithfield bacon in stores, then visiting Smithfield.com/BaconForLife and entering the unique code provided in the package. More than 1,000 runners-up will be awarded select bacon merchandise.

Texas is the 31st 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.

Through 33 races this season, Almirola has amassed one win with an average start of 16.0 and an average finish of 13.3 with three top-five finishes and 14 top-10s. He’s also led 181 laps this season, already a career best with four races remaining.

 

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

 

What is the most difficult thing to get right or figure out at Texas Motor Speedway?

“I think the most difficult thing at Texas now that it’s repaved and they changed the banking in turns one and two is just the speed that you carry through the banked corner of turns three and four, and then you have to get slowed down for the flat turns one and two. That has made it very challenging. Then, the exit of turn two is very flat, so you’re carrying some speed there and the car just doesn’t have a lot of grip because there isn’t any banking.”

Do you think we’ll see some different strategies employed by the playoff teams in these final rounds, even if they’re at the end of a stage?

“I think there will be varying strategies, but it really is all dependent on when cautions come out and different things of that nature. But I think you will see guys who are maybe off on their setup and not performing the way they need to. They will maybe try and stretch their fuel run and hope for a caution, different strategies like that. I think desperation will start to set in and you’ll try and figure out any way you can to try and make it to Homestead.”

SHR has four teams in this Round of 8. What is an advantage, and what is a disadvantage with that scenario?

“I think the advantage of having all four cars in the Round of 8 is that everybody is still fully vested. There isn’t a team that’s checked out and just like, ‘Alright, let’s just get through the end of the year and get to the offseason.’ Everybody’s adrenaline it high and they’re still putting long hours in at the shop and shooting for excellence every week. I feel like that elevates everybody else around you and, when you have that in the four walls around you at Stewart-Haas Racing, it keeps the attention to detail very, very high on all fronts. I don’t think there is a disadvantage. I think it’s purely upside to having all four cars still in the playoffs, especially for the organization. As an organization, when you set out to build your team with the staff, the drivers and all of those things, you do it with every intention of having the four best. Currently, we have four of the eight cars in and now we have to figure out how to get as many as possible in the Championship 4 at Homestead.”