KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Martinsville I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick will have Mobil 1 as his primary sponsor for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. It will be the first of nine races Harvick will be sponsored by Mobil 1, which has a long history of great success in auto racing.

For 2019, the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) has switched to a black base color conveying power, strength and sophistication. And one of Harvick’s SHR teammates will have a car that looks very similar this weekend.

Harvick and SHR’s Clint Bowyer will each sport a Mobil 1 paint scheme at Martinsville. Mobil 1 isn’t just the world’s leading synthetic motor oil brand, it also provides the entire SHR organization with leading lubricant technology, ensuring that all SHR Mustangs have a competitive edge over the competition on the track. In its 17th consecutive season as the “Official Motor Oil of NASCAR,” Mobil 1 is used by more than 50 percent of teams throughout NASCAR’s top three series.

The No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang was driven to victory lane twice last year, one as a co-primary sponsor in August at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and as a full primary in October at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. But the lubricants Mobil 1 provided helped Harvick to all eight of his 2018 wins, plus a victory in the prestigious NASCAR All-Star Race.

Harvick is hoping for another victory in this week’s Martinsville 500. He has one win, five top-threes, 17 top-10s and has led a total of 628 laps in his 35 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at the flat half-mile, paperclip-shaped oval. His average start there is 14.3, his average finish is 15.3, and he has a lap-completion rate of 98.0 percent – 17,196 of the 17,539 laps available.

It’s been eight years since he won a Cup Series race at Martinsville, and he would like another grandfather clock, which is awarded to the winner of each race.

But he has won in other divisions. Harvick has made the most of his one and only NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Martinsville Speedway. He started sixth in the Goody’s 250 on July 22, 2006, and went on to lead 149 of 250 laps en route to a victory. In NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series competition, he has three wins, seven top-five finishes and nine top-10s in 17 starts.

He’s back in black this week at Martinsville. And he’s hoping to score a huge win.

 

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

 

Mobil 1 is your sponsor this week. Talk about the company’s involvement.

“Mobil 1 is technical partner, not just a sponsor. Their technology under the hood of the No. 4 Ford gives our cars an advantage over other teams. They are a huge reason we won eight races and the All-Star Race last year. The Mobil 1 guys work just as hard for us as we do for them. They provide us with an advantage over the other teams and they are always at the racetrack and race shop looking over the engine oil, chassis lubricants, gear oil and even power steering fluid to make sure we have the best technology available.”

Does winning a grandfather clock mean more to you than other trophies?]

“The clock at Martinsville in pretty unique. I think, as you look at the clock and the history that comes with the clock and being represented by that particular trophy, it’s something that I like. I think some of the racetracks have boring and stale trophies and, when you go to Martinsville, they’re cool clocks that represent who Martinsville is. When you go to the Daytona 500 and win the Harley J. Earl Trophy, it represents who Daytona is. When you go to some tracks and have a Plexiglas and sticker trophy, well maybe that represents some of the racetracks that we go to and some of them are the same.”

Where do you want to be at Martinsville to help you avoid trouble on the racetrack?

“I think the best position to be in at any racetrack is in the lead. You want to be in control of the race and try to get yourself in a position to where you can have a good, clean restart and have as much clear track – especially at Martinsville – just for the fact that there is so much pushing and shoving on the restarts to get to the bottom lane that you want to try to be as far forward as possible.”

When you think of Martinsville, what comes to mind?

“Some guys just have a knack for Martinsville. There are some weekends when I show up and I feel good about where I’m at and some weekends I just feel like I’ve never been there before. You look at this little bitty racetrack and you think it would be so simple, and you go out there and it becomes so hard.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Martinsville I Race Advance

Not all heroes wear capes. Some don firesuits and helmets behind the wheel of the fastest cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. This weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Aric Almirola will sport the No. 10 Shazam!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in superhero fashion.

Opening April 5 nationwide, Shazam! is a DC superhero movie from New Line and Warner Bros. about a streetwise 14-year-old who can magically transform into the adult superhero Shazam simply by shouting out one word. His newfound powers soon get put to the test when he squares off against the evil Dr. Thaddeus Sivana.

“It’s awesome we get to be superheroes this weekend at Martinsville,” Almirola said. “Growing up, my superhero was my grandfather. He raced Dirt Sprint cars a lot in the Southeast. He won a lot of races and track championships at Eastbay Raceway in Riverview, Florida, so growing up watching him race and me loving racing and seeing how successful he was with his career made him my hero. Like the movie, the 14-year-old me wanted to be just like him and here I am competing in the top series. This is my Shazam!”

While Almirola can’t shout the word “Shazam” to earn new powers, he’ll rely on the horsepower of Roush Yates Engines that has earned him four consecutive top-10 finishes, a top-five, a pole, 69 laps led, and the sixth spot in the point standings just five races into the season. His and the No. 10 team’s consistency has Almirola off to his best career start to a season through the first five events and has him and the No. 10 team positioned to be serious contenders in the championship hunt.

Last weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, Almirola finished ninth to earn his first top-10 at the 2-mile oval, and he led laps – seven in all – for the first time ever at the California track.

In 20 career starts at Martinsville’s half-mile paperclip, the 35-year-old Almirola has three top-10 finishes, one top-five and has led 56 laps. His two Martinsville starts with SHR proved to be competitive, but he’s yet to crack the top-10 while the SHR organization has four victories, 10 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s and have led 720 laps in 62 starts there.

“Martinsville is a really challenging racetrack,” Almirola said. “It’s the smallest racetrack we go to on the circuit. One of the most challenging parts about Martinsville is that the tires wear out pretty rapidly and, when that happens, you really struggle to get the power down to the ground.”

This year, NASCAR mandated a new rules package allowing 750 horsepower at tracks 1 mile in length or shorter. Almirola, among other drivers, will be challenged with something new.

“We make about 750 horsepower now with this new rules package and we can spin the tires very easily when we push the gas pedal down,” he said. “To get the traction in the rear tires and to keep that as best as you can throughout the course of a run as the tires wear out is really challenging.”

As Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team head to the first short-track race of the season, they look to expand on their consistency by crossing the finish line yelling “Shazam” all the way to victory lane.

 

Aric Almirola: Driver of the No. 10 SHAZAM!/Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Are you confident in yourself and the team to bring the same consistency we’ve seen this year to a short track like Martinsville? 

“The thing about Stewart-Haas Racing is that they can adapt and win anywhere and in anything. Clint (Bowyer) won there last year and had a great car in both races last year. I have full confidence in our 10 team and Stewart-Haas to bring fast Fords this weekend. We’ve been hitting on all eight cylinders all year and it’s almost our time.”

Who was your favorite superhero growing up and how cool is it to be one this weekend at Martinsville? 

“Growing up, Batman was my superhero. Watching all of the different Batman movies growing up, the Batmobile is what really sold it for me. Being a lover of cars, the Batmobile was just an incredible machine. It’s pretty cool I get to dress up as a superhero and race at Martinsville this weekend.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Martinsville I Race Advance

After wrapping up the early season, three-race West Coast swing, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for Sunday’s Martinsville 500. Daniel Suárez will pilot the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang in this weekend’s event.

Established in 1947, Martinsville is one of the oldest tracks on the circuit. Even though the sport has evolved over the years, Martinsville has always provided great racing for NASCAR’s premiere series. The short track creates the need for the bump-and-run technique, which is often used for passing as competitors work to advance their way through traffic.

Suárez has four Cup Series starts at Martinsville with a best finish of ninth, which he earned in last year’s fall event. He has an average starting position of 16.2 there and an average finishing position of 18.5. Additionally, he has four Gander Outdoors NASCAR Truck Series starts at the flat half-mile, paperclip-shaped oval, which he used to gain experience for his Cup Series endeavor since the Xfinity Series does not race at the venue. In the Truck Series, he accumulated three top-10 starts, including one outside pole position, and two top-10 results, earning him an average starting position of 6.2 and an average finishing position of 11.5.

After making the approximately 36-hour trip home from last weekend’s event at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, NASCAR’s hauler drivers have a relatively short trek to Martinsville, which is located just about two hours northeast of the SHR shop.

Suárez qualified 20th on the 2-mile oval at Fontana last weekend, then ran in the top-10 and earned four stage points before being relegated to a 13th-place finish. So far this season, Suárez has earned 16 stage points and looks to add to that number this weekend at Martinsville. Suárez and the No. 41 team look to improve their results, which so far this season show an average starting position of 19.6 and an average finishing position of 19.2, along with 12 laps led.

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets. This weekend marks the fourth time Suárez has piloted the Haas Automation scheme.

A year ago this weekend at Martinsville, Suárez’s SHR teammate Clint Bowyer captured the win in dominant fashion on Monday after the regularly scheduled Sunday race was postponed due to snow. Bowyer’s Martinsville win was one of 12 points-paying victories SHR earned last season.

The Virginia track is the shortest of the season for the Cup Series but one of the toughest. Suárez looks to earn his best finish of the season there venue Sunday.

Ford has 29 all-time series wins at the “paperclip,” including a sweep last year by Bowyer and fellow Ford Performance driver Joey Logano, who won the fall race.

 

Daniel Suárez: Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What do you like about going to Martinsville?

“Martinsville is cool because it’s one of the old-school tracks that we go to. I drive back and forth from home and it’s a unique place. It reminds me kind of like a Late Model race, where it’s just a different environment from the big tracks we usually go to. You have to move guys out of the way to pass, usually, and it’s just so different.”

Is there a favorite type of exercise that you prefer to do to stay fit?

“I have been into the fitness or workout programs since I was about 15 years old. I just like to be in good shape and I like to feel good. I feel like when you get a good workout in, you have a good feeling the rest of the day. I like the high-intensity programs in the workout room or on the bike. The bike has been something that I have enjoyed a lot for the last couple of years. I have been working out high-intensity, high heart rate, for a while now. I just feel like it’s a lot of fun. I have always liked to push myself a lot and I feel like it helps you physically a lot, but the most important part is mentally. I feel like you get used to pushing yourself harder and harder, and you do that in the workout room or the bike and you learn how to do that, as well, in many other places like the racetrack.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Martinsville I Race Advance

It might have been the best picture of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang driver Clint Bowyer had just ended his 190-race winless streak and notched his first victory at Stewart-Haas-Racing (SHR) driving the organization’s famous No. 14.

Bowyer climbed from the car on the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway front stretch and looked to his left to see his wife Lorra and daughter Presley led by then 3-year-old son Cash running from turn four toward Dad.

He couldn’t resist running toward his family.

“You know I make fun of these other drivers sometimes for having tears in victory lane, but I’ve got to admit that moment got to me,” said Bowyer with a laugh about embarking on a raucous victory celebration that saw him climb into the stands with the Martinsville fans who stayed in Southern Virginia an extra day because snow cancelled the race scheduled for the previous day.

“Cash is young enough that he had never been to victory lane before, so it was his first chance to be there,” Bowyer said. “That’s something I always wanted to make happen.”

Bowyer said Cash still asks him when he’s going back to victory lane.

“Oh, yeah, it’s just funny how kids are,” he said. “We were all kids once, and kids are probably as competitive as any adult. When their parents race for a living and compete week in and week out – that’s all he knows. He literally hasn’t been old enough to understand anything else. Competition and that edge on the competition is all he knows. All he wants to do is beat all of his buddies and bragging rights are part of it. That Martinsville win was big for his bragging rights.”

Bowyer should be one of the favorites once again this weekend at Martinsville. In addition to his March victory on the flat, half-mile oval, he owns six top-five finishes and 15 top-10s in 26 starts there. Located just 90 minutes from his Mocksville, North Carolina home, he says the facility reminds him of the roots of the sport.

“Martinsville for me is my new home track,” he said. “Everybody lives down in the Charlotte area. We live up north – Winston-Salem area. That’s my home track. That’s the one racetrack you drive back and forth on qualifying day, then go back up there for the race.

“Martinsville has such an old-school feel – even the two-lane road going up to it where you can’t ever get around anybody. You’re stuck in traffic and then you finally get on the open road. Then, you get a (speeding) ticket as soon as you get across the Virginia line. I had the same guy pull me over three years in a row. Finally, he gave me a ticket, which I deserved, and then you get to the racetrack. You’re pulling into these people’s backyards and here’s this awesome racetrack.”

Bowyer arrives at Martinsville after the Cup Series’ three-race West Coast swing. He finished 38th last weekend at Auto Club Speedway Fontana, California, when mechanical issues ended his race early. That finish, coupled with a 20th at Daytona, fifth at Atlanta, 14th at Las Vegas and 11th at Phoenix, has Bowyer 15th in the standings. His SHR team has had a great deal of success at Martinsville Speedway, as well, posting four wins, 10 top-five finishes and 24 top-10s in 62 starts.

“Mobil 1 gives SHR a competition advantage with its technology and lubricants,” Bowyer said. “The success SHR has enjoyed in recent years shows the technological advantages Mobil 1 are giving us on the track every single week. The Mobil 1 synthetic oil I put in my cars at home prolongs the life of every car. I hope Kevin and I can show off that Mobil 1 technology Sunday with a one-two finish. Naturally, I want to be the one to bring home another one of those grandfather clocks (traditional Martinsville winner’s trophy).”

That would make the Bowyer family happy.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Where is the grandfather clock you won at Martinsville last year?

“It’s right in the living room. First thing you see when you walk in. We did have to silence it from going off every hour. For a while it was kind of cool for it to wake you in the middle of the night and remind you that you won that race. But honestly, with two kids, you stop anything that will wake anyone up in the house. But given this is Martinsville week, we might just have it back going this week.”

Was winning at Martinsville a shock?

“No. I remember telling someone that I was going to win at Martinsville someday. I’ve always run well there. I just knew some day when everything went right we’d be in victory lane, and we were.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Fontana Race Advance

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads west to wrap up its three-race West Coast swing. Daniel Suárez will pilot the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) for Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. It marks the third time Suárez will pilot the black-and-red Haas Automation livery this season.

Fontana is the home track for Haas Automation, which is located approximately two hours west in Oxnard, California. Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.

Last weekend at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Suárez had a tough qualifying session which relegated him to a 28th-place starting spot. As the Mustang driver was working his way forward in the 500-kilometer race, an electrical issue plagued the No. 41 team, causing Suárez to lose multiple laps that he was never able to regain. Even though the record book shows a 23rd-place finish, the No. 41 team continued on its path to gel and provides a solid racecar each week.

Suárez has two Cup Series starts at the 2-mile Fontana oval. In March 2018, he earned both his best starting position of 10th and his best finish of seventh. The 2016 Xfinity Series champion also has two starts in that series at Fontana. In March 2016, he earned the pole position and went on to lead four laps and finish fourth.

Fontana is the first 2-mile track on the schedule this season with the new rules package implemented. “Restarts were pretty crazy the last two weekends at Atlanta and Phoenix,” Suárez said. “They’ve always been a little crazy at Auto Club, so I can only imagine how they’re going to be this weekend with the new rules package. The fans are going to enjoy it, that’s for sure.”

Suárez climbed behind the wheel of the No. 41 Ford Mustang for the first time this season in a Goodyear tire test at Fontana January 9 and 10. It was also the first time Suárez had a chance to try out the 2019 rules package.

Before hitting the track this weekend at Fontana, Suárez will tour Haas Automation’s headquarters Thursday with SHR team co-owner Haas. Suárez who grew up working on cars in his father’s restoration shop in his native Mexico has an affinity for CNC machines. “I went and toured the Roush Yates engine shop and spent hours in there just looking at everything and all of the Haas CNC machines they use to build everything for engines,” Suárez said. “I was like a kid in a candy store, so I’m really excited to go to Oxnard and see where Gene builds the machines.”

This weekend, fans will have the opportunity to view Suárez’s perspective from inside the Haas Automation Mustang courtesy of Coca-Cola, which is sponsoring his in-car camera for this weekend’s event. Additionally, there will be 500 of “Daniel’s Amigos” in the grandstands Sunday, supporting the Monterrey, Mexico driver. “Daniel’s Amigos” is a fan-focused movement to engage and celebrate with Latino NASCAR fans.

 

Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

You’re four races in to the season. How do you feel things are going with your team?

“The expectations are high and we’ve had fast racecars, but for one reason or another we’ve had things happen. Qualifying and track position are more important than ever. We’ve been putting so much time into our qualifying plans because it is so important to get a really good starting spot and a good pit stall. We’ve had a lot of speed in the cars, but that hasn’t translated over to results. We had the electrical thing at Phoenix and, before that, we had some pit-road issues, so we have a couple of things to clean up. We’ve had top-10 cars the entire year, but we haven’t had those results every week.”

What do you enjoy about going to Fontana?

“Fontana is a fun race for me. We don’t get to race in Mexico, so Fontana is one of the closer tracks to home for me. A lot of Hispanic fans come to the race and it feels really good to see a lot of Mexican flags in the stands. I know when I see them exactly who they are supporting.”

Out of all the racetracks out West, which one is your favorite?

“I like Phoenix a lot, but Fontana is my favorite. It is just so different from everywhere else we go. You get into the corner and it’s a super-wide race track compared to the other tracks we go to. We go into the corners on restarts four-, five-, or six-wide. It’s just incredible.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Fontana Race Advance

Date: March 16, 2019
Race Name: Production Alliance Group 300 (Race 5 of 33)
Venue: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
Television: 5:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 11 points
– Chase Briscoe: 13th; trails points leader by 57 points
CHASE BRISCOE NOTES OF INTEREST:

 

Crew Chief: Richard Boswell        Spotter: Tim Fedewa

 

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Neither you or your crew chief, Richard Boswell, have ever competed at Auto Club Speedway. What are your goals heading into this weekend?
“I’m really looking forward to racing there for the first time and learning as much as we can. Fontana is a big track with little grip and a lot of room to search around, so it seems like dirt guys have success there. I am hoping that holds true for us and we can put the Nutri Chomps Ford Mustang up front and contend for a win.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Fontana Race Advance

Date: March 16, 2019
Race Name: Production Alliance Group 300 (Race 5 of 33)
Venue: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California
Television: 5:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1
Point Standings: 

– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 11 points
– Chase Briscoe: 13th; trails points leader by 57 points

 

COLE CUSTER NOTES OF INTEREST:

Crew Chief: Mike Shiplett        Spotter: Joel Edmonds


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You’re at your home track, Auto Club Speedway, this week. What are you looking forward to the most while being out there?

“Fontana is always one of the biggest races for me with it being my home track. It’s also one of the most fun tracks we go to as a driver with the multiple lanes and worn out surface. It’s a place we have had a lot of speed in the past, so hopefully we can put it all together this time.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Fontana Race Advance

There’s a consensus NASCAR’s new rules package in 2019 offers some of the wildest and craziest racing the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tour has witnessed in years – especially on the restarts.

Cars are often four- and even five-wide as they battle for all-important track position once the green flag flies. Drivers know that it’s easier to gain spots in the opening laps than later in the run, when passing is most difficult. This weekend, the Cup Series travels to 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which has long been known for its frenzied restarts.

Combining this year’s new rules package with Fontana’s wide turns might be the recipe for something NASCAR fans and competitors will long remember after this weekend’s Auto Club 400 is done.

“I think the crew chiefs will be covering their eyes on restarts,” said Clint Bowyer with a laugh about piloting his No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) on Sunday. “These restarts are going to be crazy. They have been in the past at that track, so who knows how wild they’ll be this weekend.”

For proof of Bowyer’s claim, one only needs to tune in to FOX at 3:30 p.m. EDT Sunday to watch the fifth race of the 2018 Cup Series season. Bowyer says the wild restarts at the track east of Los Angeles pose a dilemma for the drivers.

“The restarts at California have always been awesome,” said Bowyer, who added that drivers can choose from among five different racing lines on the 2-mile, D-shaped oval. “I think it’s great for the fans. As a driver, you think I should get up there and race and get as many positions as I can. But, part of you is thinking that maybe I should just be safe this early in the race, hang back a bit and make sure we survive. Problem is, if you hang back and they don’t wreck, you feel stupid.”

Two years ago at Fontana under the old rules package, Bowyer restarted a third overtime in seventh place and raced to third in the two laps of competition before the checkered flag waved.

NASCAR officials in October announced two baseline rules packages for the 2019 season, making a move to bolster competition with enhanced aerodynamic and engine configurations. The different packages are tailored to the specific tracks on the Cup Series circuit, with a combination of a smaller tapered spacer to reduce engine horsepower to a target goal of 550 – from 750 – and aero ducts to foster tighter racing on a majority of speedways measuring longer than 1 mile. Both features will be in place for 17 of the 36 races.

Sunday, Bowyer will make his 473rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start and his 19th career Cup Series start at Fontana. He owns three top-five finishes and eight top-10s and has led 47 laps there. Bowyer said he loves the challenge the track presents to the drivers and teams.

“The speeds are always very fast at California and, on top of that, the grip level goes away drastically fast,” Bowyer said. “For me, I love that. I love how the track slicks off and you have to focus on the balance. You can’t have that front end turning too good and have that rear end pulling out from under you, and vice versa.”

The width of the track also poses some challenges for both the driver and his spotter.

“You really have to focus in on the communication with your spotter,” Bowyer said. “When your spotter says they are running the top, you have to think about what he really means. With a track as wide as California, you have to know where the other cars are at all times.”

Bowyer arrives at the end of the Cup Series’ three-race West Coast swing after finishing 11th at ISM Raceway near Phoenix last weekend. That finish, coupled with a 20th at Daytona, fifth at Atlanta and 14th at Las Vegas, vaulted Bowyer to 11th place in the standings. His SHR team has had a great deal of success at Auto Club Speedway as well, posting two wins, 11 top-five finishes and 15 top-10s in 35 starts.

Bowyer’s No. 14 Mustang will carry the logos of Rush Truck Centers and Haas Automation this weekend. Rush has been the primary partner for the No. 14 team since Bowyer arrived at SHR in 2017 and has been with the organization since 2010. The Texas-based company has used Bowyer and the team to appeal to NASCAR fans as one way to recruit the technicians it needs to operate the largest network of commercial truck and bus dealerships in the country, with locations in 22 states. According to Rush Truck Centers, the trucking industry is expected to need 200,000 diesel technicians over the next 10 years to keep up with maintenance demands. Rush Truck Centers wants to make NASCAR fans aware of these opportunities and knows that, with Bowyer’s background, he is the right guy to help get the message out.

Haas Automation, owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 1.1 million-square-foot manufacturing facility in nearby Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets

“I know Rush and Haas will have a lot of guests this weekend,” Bowyer said. “I’d love nothing better than to give them a good run. Heck, I’d let the Haas folks take the trophy back to Oxnard if we win it.”

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your thoughts about SHR co-owner and California native Gene Haas?

“Everybody knows what Tony (Stewart) brought to the table. Gene is that rock. He is the rock behind all of us. That enables us to go out and perform at our best. It’s never a question of, ‘What does it take financially?’ or anything else. It’s, ‘What does it take to win?’ What does it take to be better? What does it take to find victory lane?’ Those are the questions Gene Haas asks and that’s it. He doesn’t talk about, ‘Well, that was a good top-10 finish.’ You can be proud of a good run somewhere. Maybe that was a track you struggle at, maybe you run fifth or sixth – no call. Winning and winning only is what he does in his industry. It bleeds through to his employees and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.”

What is it like to drive at Auto Club Speedway?

“I think these new rules are going to have a drastic impact on the race you are going to see this weekend. Who knows what to expect, other than some pretty wild restarts and lots of room in the corners. We’re all curious to see what happens.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Fontana Race Advance

Racing is a lot like farming. Laying down a strong foundation at the beginning of the season usually set up farmers and racing teams, alike, for a successful harvest later in the season with a lot of hard work, grit and determination. The No. 10 Smithfield Farmer John Ford team heads west one more time to wrap up the three-race “NASCAR Goes West” swing with Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This time, Aric Almirola heads to the 2-mile Fontana oval fresh off his third consecutive top-10 finish and first top-five of the season. It’s a solid foundation laid for the rest of the 2019 season.

Last weekend at ISM raceway near Phoenix, Almirola fought hard for a fourth-place finish after leading 26 laps. Crew chief Johnny Klausmeier and Almirola devised a plan at the end of the race to save fuel, give up a position, and run consistently to the finish while holding off the No. 11 of Denny Hamlin for fourth. It was the first time Almirola has earned three consecutive top-10s in the first four races in NASCAR’s top-tier series, and the first time Almirola has earned a top-five in the first four races of his Cup Series career. That kind of consistency and patience is what makes a great race team better and a good farmer great. \

This weekend, The No. 10 Smithfield Farmer John Ford Mustang will adorn a special blue, red and white paint scheme. They are the colors of Farmer John, a branch of Smithfield Foods, which is a Los Angeles-based company that is the No. 1 bacon and sausage brand in Southern California. Founded in 1931, Farmer John is well known in Southern California for its famous “Dodger Dog,” served at Dodger Stadium since the late 1950s. For more information and delicious West Coast recipes, visit www.farmerjohn.com.

While laying a foundation for a successful season is top of mind for Almirola and the No. 10 Ford team, they are fierce competitors and are hungry for more.

“I’m so proud of our team so far this year,” Almirola said. “If we keep chipping away like this, we’re going to be a serious contender this season. We have to keep our heads down and keep finding more speed every weekend. We’re almost there, but we have to be proud of what we’ve accomplished so far.”

To this point in the season, Almirola has completed a total of 1,094 laps with an average finish of 12.8. He continues to surpass his previous Cup Series record after four races and sits seventh in the point standings – 43 behind leader Kyle Busch.

His teammates Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Daniel Suarez are all currently inside the top-20 in the standings and, as a team, have earned two poles, three top-five finishes and eight top-10s. Almirola is among just seven other drivers who have earned three top-10s this season.

In addition to his Cup Series experience at Fontana, Almirola has three NASCSAR Xfinity Series starts with two top-10s and an 11th-place finish, along with five laps led. He also made a NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start in 2006.

Ford has garnered a total of 11 wins at Fontana and has visited victory lane at two of the four races this season, giving the manufacturer the second spot in the manufacturer points – just two points behind the leader.

While Almirola has never earned a top-10 at Fontana, the Tampa native is on track to get his first this weekend after his strong and consistent start to the season and newly found momentum.

“We have obviously worked really well as a team so far this year,” he said. “Auto Club will be a true test to how well we can adapt and learn how to get better. We have managed to overcome all the adversity we’ve run into this season, so I’m excited to show what we can do.”

 

Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Farmer John Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Is the West Coast swing one of the most difficult stretches of races throughout the season?

“This is where it really becomes the grind. You go out to Vegas, you come back home, then go back out to Phoenix. The jet lag is really starting to set in and, when you wake up, you’re trying to figure out when you wake up in the morning what time zone you’re in, and then you have to go back and do it one more time. Some of the crew guys stay out on the West Coast but, with me having a 6- and a 5-year-old and wife at home, I’ve been going back and forth. This coast-to-coast travel definitely turns into a grind.”

What kind of racing can we expect this weekend at Auto Club Speedway? 

“The racing is going to be incredible at Auto Club Speedway. The restarts have always been really wild and the track is really wide, so it promotes five-wide racing on the restarts. Now, with this new rules package, you’re going to see us all over the place. We’re going to be four- and five-wide for multiple laps in a row. I think it’s going to be insane and I’m excited. Any time you see the racing get crazy like that, it’s an opportunity. Hopefully, we can get our Smithfield Farmer John Ford Mustang positioned up front and they are doing four- and five-wide behind us and we can race off into the sunset.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Fontana Race Advance

Kevin Harvick grew up a big fan of four-time Indianapolis 500-Mile Race winner Rick Mears.

They are both from Bakersfield, California and found massive success in their racing careers. But they both started out racing as unknowns on now-closed racetracks.

Mears got his start in 1976 in the United States Auto Club IndyCar series driving for Bill Simpson in the No. 38 Do-It Wax System Eagle Offenhauser at Ontario Motor Speedway just outside of Los Angeles. He started 20th and finished eighth, completing 192 of 200 laps. He earned $6,886 that day, and who would have known that just three years later he would score his first of four Indianapolis 500 wins driving for Roger Penske.

Harvick got his NASCAR start in October 1995 at Mesa Marin Speedway in Bakersfield in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He drove the No. 72 Hall Ambulance Chevrolet and started and finished 27th, completing 176 of 200 laps. Who would have known that in just six years he would take over for the late Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing and win in just his third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Mears earned three Championship Auto Racing Teams titles, four Indy 500 wins and 29 total Indy car victories. Harvick has one NASCAR Cup Series title, two NASCAR Xfinity Series titles and is one of just four drivers to win the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway, the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. He’s won 45 Cup Series races.

Ontario was closed after the 1980 season and the land is part of a shopping mall. Mesa Marin closed in the fall of 2005 and Harvick competed in one of the final races there. It is now part of the Bakersfield Park District.

While Mears never raced at this weekend’s stop on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule – Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, which was built in 1997 – Harvick has had plenty of success at his latest “home track.” He made his first of four Truck Series starts at Fontana in October 1997. His best Truck Series finish of eighth came in 2007.

In 1998, Harvick drove the No. 75 Spears Motorsports car in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, when he finished second in May and won the pole and the race in July. Harvick also won the International Race of Champions race at the 2-mile oval in April 2002.

Harvick has made 19 starts in the Xfinity Series at Fontana. In 2015, he started sixth, led 100 laps and crossed the finish line 3.317 seconds ahead of runner-up Brendan Gaughan. Harvick has one win, one pole, 12 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s.

Sunday’s Auto Club 400 will mark Harvick’s 26th career NASCAR Cup start at Fontana and he has one win, six top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. The 43-year-old driver has led 237 laps, has an average starting position of 15.3, an average finish of 15.8, and has completed 98.6 percent – 5,674 of 5,756 – of the laps he’s contested there.

Harvick is hoping he can be Freaky Fast at the 2-mile oval and score his second career Cup Series win there.

 

KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 

 

Is Auto Club Speedway a place you look forward to going to, and why?

“Auto Club Speedway is by far one of my favorite tracks we go to. It’s top three on my list as far as tracks that I’m excited to go to, just for the fact that the asphalt is so worn out. It is very similar to Atlanta in a much different shape of a racetrack. It’s a very unique racetrack because it is so wide and you have so many options to run all over the racetrack. When you add in the tire falloff, then it becomes strategy and how many laps do you stay out when everybody else starts pitting because you’re going to give up three seconds a lap. If the caution comes out, you can get caught a lap down. So there are so many things that come into play, but it has become a great race and a great racetrack to race on. The crowd has been great over the last few years since we went from two races down to one. It has changed the whole vibe at Auto Club Speedway. It’s in my home state. It’s a big week and I know, from a driver standpoint, Auto Club Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway are right up there at the top of everybody’s list because there is so much falloff and the asphalt is so worn out.”

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

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

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

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