ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 Charlotte Race Advance

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will head just a few miles down the road from the race shop for the second consecutive weekend for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Last weekend’s Monster Energy All-Star Race was a non-points event that paid $1 million to the winner, but it’s back to racing for points with this weekend’s 600-mile marathon.

“This weekend is always really special,” Almirola said. “Being able to race and pay tribute to the men and women who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for me to live in the greatest country in the world is really cool. I grew up in a military family. My dad was in the Air Force, so I know firsthand what the families have sacrificed. There are men and women who wake up every day and fight for our freedom and some of them lay down their lives for us. We get to do really cool things and I get to drive a racecar for a living without the worry of being attacked. We take it for granted that we live in a safe and free country.”

Once again joining the Memorial Day weekend tradition of honoring America’s fallen service members as part of the NASCAR Salutes initiative, the windshield header of each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series car will feature the name of a fallen service member. The No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang will feature United States Army Warrant Officer John Patrick Bartone. A native of Hampton, Virginia, Bartone was born on Nov. 21, 1949, and was part of the Battery A, 2nd Battalion (Airmobile), 20th Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. He paid the ultimate sacrifice in South Vietnam when he laid down his life for his country’s freedom on July 15, 1970.

Bartone was selected to be on Almirola’s car because he is the uncle of No. 10 team engineer Mark Hendrickson’s wife. Ten of Bartone’s family members will be in attendance this weekend to watch Almirola attempt to drive a hero’s name to victory lane in the Coca-Cola 600. Almirola says it’s the least he could do in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice Bartone made to give his countrymen and women the ability to live free in America today.

“Having Warrant Officer Bartone on the racecar, with his personal connection to someone on our team, means even more,” he said. “Hopefully, we can give him one hell of a ride and make his family proud.”

Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, which is based approximately five hours northeast of SHR headquarters in Smithfield, Virginia, will adorn Almirola’s Ford Mustang with America’s patriotic red, white and blue. Smithfield is in its eighth season with Almirola and its second 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.

Almirola’s ability to excel on 1.5-mile ovals like Charlotte so far this season indicate a strong run anticipated for the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team. The No. 10 driver has earned a top-10 at three of the four 1.5-mile tracks he’s visited.

The 35-year-old has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Charlotte and garnered one top-five finish, three top-10s and has completed 99.4 percent of all possible laps. He also has two starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Charlotte, which both resulted in top-10 finishes.

Almirola has one pole, a top-five finish, seven top-10s and has led 99 laps this season in his bid for the Cup Series championship.

 

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

 

What does it take to win at Charlotte? 

“It’s a hundred miles longer than any other race we run, which provides a challenge in and of itself. On top of that, there is an extra stage, which gives us the opportunity to earn more points. The cars have less grip when the sun is out and they tend to slip and slide a lot more. As the sun goes down, the track gets more grip and we start going faster. That’s one of the very unique things about this race. What you have from a driveability and balance standpoint from the racecar at the beginning of the race is not what you have at the end. You’re trying to figure out what it takes to get your car to win at the end and you have to be good at all facets because there are a lot of points to be made.”

COLE CUSTER – 2019 NXS Charlotte Race Advance

Date: May 25, 2019
Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 11 of 33)
Venue: Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway
Television: 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 71 points
– Chase Briscoe: 6th; trails points leader by 127 points


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You’ve been strong at 1.5-mile tracks throughout your stint in the Xfinity Series. What would a win at Charlotte mean to the team since it’s a home race for everyone?

“Charlotte is one of the toughest 1.5-mile tracks we go to because it’s so line and temperature sensitive. To be strong in the race we will have to make smart adjustments following practice, which will depend on the track temperature and the high temps that we are predicted to endure.”

CHASE BRISCOE – 2019 NXS Charlotte Race Advance

Date: May 25, 2019
Race Name: Alsco 300 (Race 11 of 33)
Venue: Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway
Television: 1:00 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 1
Point Standings: 
– Cole Custer: 3rd; trails points leader by 71 points
– Chase Briscoe: 6th; trails points leader by 127 points

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The last time you were at Charlotte Motor Speedway you were in Victory Lane. What does the team need to do to get the win on the 1.5-mile oval?

“Winning at the ROVAL will always be special to me and it would be pretty neat to not only win at the ROVAL but the oval as well. I feel like our team has been making great gains lately and that we will have a fast Nutri Chomps Ford when we show up this weekend.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Charlotte Race Advance

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Coca-Cola Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will compete in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season’s longest race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Sunday night. And Suárez will stray from his usual Haas Automation and ARRIS liveries to pilot the red-and-white Coca-Cola Mustang. This weekend marks the second time this season he’ll pilot the No. 41 Mustang with Coca-Cola branding. He finished 12th at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in the Orange Vanilla Coca-Cola scheme.

“This season has been very good so far but I’m looking to turn it into a great season,” Suárez said. “We are moving in the right direction and I’m looking forward to doing even better. We’ve had strong cars over the last month and a half and hopefully I can do my part as the driver and make it a great race this weekend. The one thing I’ve been dreaming about from this race is the amazing vintage Coca-Cola vending machine you get if you win. I really want to bring that thing to my house.”

The traditional Memorial Day weekend event is not only the longest race on the Cup Series tour, it presents an important opportunity to remember fallen service members. The traditional Cup Series windshield headers have been replaced with names of fallen soldiers who paid the ultimate price while serving their country.

Riding along with Suárez this weekend is United States Army SFC Randy Michael Shugart, who received the Medal of Honor Citation. Shughart distinguished himself by actions above and beyond the call of duty on Oct. 3, 1993, while serving as a Sniper Team Member, United States Army Special Operations Command with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. Shughart provided precision sniper fire from the lead helicopter during an assault on a building and at two helicopter crash sites while subjected to intense automatic weapons- and rocket-propelled-grenade fire. While providing critical suppressive fire at the second crash site, Shughart and his team leader learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the site.

Shughart and his team leader did not hesitate to volunteer to protect four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After their third request to be inserted, Shughart and his team leader received permission to perform this volunteer mission. When debris and enemy ground fire at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Shughart and his team leader were inserted 100 meters south of the crash site.

Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Shughart and his team leader, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Shughart pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter that placed him and his fellow sniper in a most vulnerable position.

Shughart used his long-range rifle and sidearm to kill an undetermined number of attackers while traveling the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. Shughart continued his protective fire until he depleted his ammunition and was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life. Shughart’s extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest standards of military service and reflect great credit upon him, his unit and the United States Army. The heroism of Shughart and Army MSG Gary Gordon, whose name is on Suarez’s SHR teammate Clint Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford for Sunday’s race, were chronicled in the 2001 movie Black Hawk Down.

On the racetrack this weekend, Suárez hits the 1.5-mile Charlotte oval where he has three Cup Series starts with one top-10 starting position and one top-10 finish. He has an average starting position of 14.7 in his three starts and an average finishing position of 10.7 with 99.9 percent of all possible laps completed.

In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, the Mexican native has made five Charlotte starts with two top-fives and four top-10s, along with one pole position in October 2017. He’s earned a 6.6 Xfinity average starting and finishing position at Charlotte, along with 115 laps led. He also made one NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series start in May 2016.

Fans watching the race on television Sunday will have the opportunity to enjoy a unique view from inside Suárez’s cockpit with an in-car camera provided by Coca-Cola.

 

DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 Coca-Cola Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

The Coca-Cola 600 is such a long race. How do you prepare for it?

“As a human being you try and perform at 100 percent the entire time, but when you’re running a marathon you’re not going to be as strong in the last 30 minutes. That’s normal. Fatigue is setting in, your muscles are tired, you’re running out of fluid, and you’re hungry. Racing is the same way, especially in the Coca-Cola 600. We start running out of energy and you’re mind gets tired after four hours of racing. But I look to this race as a marathon and you have to be on top of your game for the last part of this race. So I always try to keep that in my mind when I’m in the car. This isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

What hurts the most after the Coke 600?

“It’s a combination of things. Your neck is tired, your lower back is tired, legs are tired and you’re just fatigued. You definitely feel it the next morning after a 600-mile race. You feel like you worked out a lot the day before, and you did inside the car. Two-and-a-half of these 600-mile races and I could be home in Monterrey, Mexico. It’s crazy to think of it that way.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 Charlotte Race Advance

Clint Bowyer plans to rest, drink lots of water and prepare for a long, hot race late Sunday afternoon at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series holds its longest event of the season – the Coca-Cola 600.

With temperatures expected to touch the 97-degree mark Sunday in North Carolina, it’s appropriate Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will carry the decals of PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze in the 600-mile race. He thinks seeing his car on the track will be a good reminder for race fans to prepare for the hot weather, just like the drivers and race teams.

“What a weekend for PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze to make its debut on our Mustang,” Bowyer said. “I’m willing to bet, among the thousands of cars this weekend in the heat and humidity at Charlotte and with the hot weather all over the country, someone is going to wish they had put PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze in their car. If you’re going home and you see someone with their hood up on the side of the road, you’ll know they didn’t.”

Bowyer hopes the weather won’t lead to any mechanical issues on the racetrack as he tries to win one of the sport’s crown jewels. Sunday marks the greatest day of the year in motorsports with the running of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, and the 600. Bowyer will join PEAK customers and fans at SHR’s race shop to watch some of the Monaco race, where PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze and BlueDEF brands adorn the rear wing endplates of the Haas F1 Team cars driven by Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas.

After the Monaco race, he’ll drive to the Charlotte track to fulfill more sponsor obligations, watch the Indianapolis race and prepare for 600 miles of racing.

“This is like Christmas Day for a race fan,” Bowyer said. “You could start watching Monaco early in the morning and keep watching racing until we are done late at night on Sunday.”

Bowyer should be one of the favorites this weekend. He won the pole and finished 12th in the Monster Energy All-Star Race last weekend at Charlotte. He owns a fall 2012 victory, two top-five finishes and five top-10s in 25 career starts on the Charlotte oval.

Amid the racing, the weekend is about honoring those in the military who gave their lives to their country. The Bowyer family is well aware of the sacrifices made by the military throughout history. Bowyer’s paternal grandfather Dale E. Bowyer was a 1st Lieutenant in the United States Army. He won the Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism while fighting the armed enemy in Germany during World War II.

The Distinguished Service Cross, awarded for extraordinary heroism, is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the Army. While leading his platoon under heavy fire in an attack near Sinz, Germany, on Jan. 25, 1945, Lt. Bowyer was severely wounded by an enemy mine. He refused evacuation even though both his feet were shattered. He shouted instructions and encouragement where he lay. Inspired by his bravery, the men re-formed, moved clear of the minefield and continued the advance. Only then did Lt. Bowyer allow himself to be evacuated, crawling clear of the minefield to avoid injury to people.

“His devotion to duty and to his men, and his courage and fearless determination, are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service,” read the commendation he received. Lt. Bowyer eventually lost a leg due to his injuries. After his career in the Army, he lived in Iola, Kansas, and worked in the dairy business. He passed away in June 1974. Bowyer never met his grandfather.

This Sunday, his grandson Clint Bowyer will carry the name of Medal of Honor Citation recipient Master Sergeant Gary Gordon of the Army. Gordon died Oct. 3, 1993, while serving as Sniper Team Leader, United States Army Special Operations Command, with Task Force Ranger in Mogadishu, Somalia. The heroism of Gordon and Sergeant First Class Randy Shughart, whose name is on SHR teammate Daniel Suarez’s No. 41 Ford in Sunday’s 600-mile race, were chronicled in the 2001 movie Black Hawk Down.

Gordon’s sniper team provided precision fires from the lead helicopter during an assault and at two helicopter crash sites while subjected to intense automatic weapons and rocket propelled grenade fires. When Gordon learned that ground forces were not immediately available to secure the second crash site, he and another sniper unhesitatingly volunteered to be inserted to protect the four critically wounded personnel, despite being well aware of the growing number of enemy personnel closing in on the site. After his third request to be inserted, Gordon received permission to perform his volunteer mission.

When debris and enemy ground fire at the site caused them to abort the first attempt, Gordon was inserted 100 meters south of the crash site. Equipped with only his sniper rifle and a pistol, Gordon and his fellow sniper, while under intense small arms fire from the enemy, fought their way through a dense maze of shanties and shacks to reach the critically injured crew members. Gordon immediately pulled the pilot and the other crew members from the aircraft, establishing a perimeter that placed him and his fellow sniper in the most vulnerable position. Gordon used his long-range rifle and sidearm to kill an undetermined number of attackers until he depleted his ammunition. Gordon then went back to the wreckage to recover some of the crew’s weapons and ammunition.

Despite the fact he was critically low on ammunition, he provided some of it to the dazed pilot and then radioed for help. Gordon continued to travel the perimeter, protecting the downed crew. After his team member was fatally wounded and his own rifle ammunition exhausted, Gordon returned to the wreckage, recovering a rifle with the last five rounds of ammunition and gave it to the pilot with the words, “Good luck.” Then, armed only with his pistol, Gordon continued to fight until he was fatally wounded. His actions saved the pilot’s life.

“These are the real heroes in life and I’m honored we will carry Gary Gordon’s name on our car,” Bowyer said.

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What is the appeal of the 600-mile race?

“I guess the anticipation and the unknown is what’s always been appealing to me. You don’t know what that 600 miles is going to give you. You could go out there and sit on the pole of that thing and, the next thing you know, make a mistake by getting caught speeding on pit road and that could be the very difference between winning and losing and putting yourself a lap down and never being able to get that lap back. That’s the crazy thing, when all the different challenges come because of the length of that race, a lot of different things – attrition with your equipment, attrition with your team, communication, any kind of weak link in the chain and you’re out, and that’s why I feel it’s important to have at least one of those long races.”

Do you notice the extra 100 miles in the Coca-Cola 600?

“It just depends on how your ole’ hot rod is, how your night’s going. The Coca-Cola 600 can be one of those deals where you feel like you could’ve gone another three or four hours, or it’s one of those where it’s like, ‘My God, is this thing ever going to end?’ You hope it’s the way I was describing before. You hope it’s, ‘This is easy,’ and wish it’d lasted a couple more hours.”

What is Sunday like for a race fan?

“Sunday is just a hell of a day of racing. You have one of the coolest races in Formula One in Monte Carlo, and then it’s the Indianapolis 500 – it’s one of their coolest races. Actually, no, it is their coolest race. And then the 600’s one of ours. I mean, it’s just a – it’s a hell of a day of racing. I’ve always been a fan of F1 and admired what they do, but now that the boss (Gene Haas) has cars in it and is competing in it, you follow and pull for those guys even that much more. Having the Indy 500 leading up to our 600 is awesome for a race fan and, hey, I’m a race fan. Who’s not, right? I want to watch that race, and do. The last few years have been phenomenal.”

What are your thoughts on the service of your grandfather and others in the military?

“I never got to meet him but I’ve seen a lot of letters from the President, medals and all these awards that he got. I have the highest respect for him and every soldier who has served this country. I love getting to meet them when they come to the track and I like getting to meet their families and just tell them thank you. We owe so much to everyone who’s served and we will always remember the ones who have given their lives. I love that we’ll honor them this weekend at Charlotte.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 Charlotte Race Advance

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of the summer season. It’s also known as the greatest motorsports weekend of the year as Sunday kicks off with the Formula One Grand Prix of Monaco, followed by the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

After those two iconic events, a third completes the day’s impressive schedule in the form of the longest NASCAR event of the year – the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

The Coca-Cola 600 is one of the four “crown jewels” of the NASCAR season. And Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) is one of only four drivers to win all four crown jewels.

Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Harvick are the only drivers to see the checkered flag first at the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500.

Harvick is hoping he can score his third Coca-Cola 600 victory after posting wins in 2011 and 2013.

And he’ll do so with Mobil 1 technology on board as a sponsor and technical partner.

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.

And no place will better expose this than Sunday’s 600-mile marathon at Charlotte. Harvick and his SHR teammates will have an advantage via Mobil 1 during a race that’s 100 miles longer than the next-longest events on the tour, making durability key to success.

Memorial Day weekend is also a somber time to remember those who have been lost fighting for freedom.

All cars will feature a fallen solider and the No. 4 Ford will represent Sergeant First Class Bryan Allen Hoover, 28th Military Police Company, who was killed in action on June 11, 2010.

SFC Hoover was a 10-year veteran who served four years in the Marines Corps prior to his service with the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. He received a bachelor’s degree in Sport Management at California University of Pennsylvania in 2009 and was an avid runner and cross country coach. He also loved playing hockey. SFC Hoover was killed by a suicide bomber in the Zabul Province, Shajoy, Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He left behind his beloved dog Newton, fiancé Ashley (Tack) Sherman, his father Melvin, brothers Rick (Sarah) and Ben, and his sister Samantha.

SFC Hoover is remembered by his comrades as an irreplaceable leader and friend.

 

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

 

Is the Coca-Cola 600 more physically or mentally challenging?

“It just depends on how hot it is, honestly. If it’s a good weekend and the weather is nice, then it’s more mentally challenging than physically challenging. Either way, it’s still challenging both mentally and physically in some way, shape or form. The hardest part mentally is just getting yourself to overcome those last hundred miles because you are used to the 400- or 500-mile races.”

You have an added advantage with Mobil 1 as a sponsor. It’s more than a sponsor, with its technology directly benefiting how you perform on the racetrack. How advantageous has this relationship with Mobil 1 been since you joined SHR in 2014?

“It was really mind-blowing when I first came to Stewart-Haas Racing. Every time we went to qualify, we really didn’t do anything different from the driver’s seat, but we’d always pick up a tenth-and-a-half or two-tenths of a second, and it literally came down to the oils in the engine, the oil in the transmission, the oil in the rear gear and the things they did from a lubricant standpoint. Those were the biggest changes we made to the car before we would go and qualify. So, when you see that level of technology and commitment to the things that go in your car, every piece of it adds up to a pretty big chunk of speed. It’s pretty remarkable.”

What does it mean to honor and remember a military member on your No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford this Memorial Day weekend?

“There isn’t any sport that honors the military any better than NASCAR. I know a lot of sports do a lot of things for our military but, when you roll into this particular weekend with the Coke 600 and you are a part of the celebration and remembrance for all the things that have happened with our military, to see the support that NASCAR and everybody in our garage gives the military, especially on this particular weekend, is something that gives you goosebumps. We are honored to carry the names (of fallen soldiers) on our cars.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2019 All-Star Race Advance

Clint Bowyer knows exactly what’s on the line Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in the 35th annual NASCAR Monster Energy All-Star Race.

“One million dollars to the winner,” said Bowyer, who’ll drive the No. 14 Toco Warranty Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in the annual race first contested in 1985. “Let that sink in. If you win this thing, you get a million dollars. That’s life-changing money and what I call a heck of an incentive.”

The non-points race has always produced some of the most dramatic moments in the sport’s history, as well as an opportunity to test future rules like night racing, double file restarts, and aerodynamic packages in actual racing conditions. This year’s event includes all 2018 and 2019 Cup Series race winners, former All-Star Race winners competing full-time, and former Monster Energy Cup Series champions competing full-time. Bowyer’s 2018 victories at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in April and Michigan Speedway in Brooklyn in August ensured he gets to bypass Saturday night’s Monster Energy Open. Fifteen drivers, including Bowyer’s SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola, are in the All-Star Race as of now with four more spots to be added – the three stage winners from the Open, and the winner of the NASCAR Fan Vote.

This year’s race will feature a modified rules package NASCAR anticipates including as part of its upcoming seventh-generation racecar set to arrive in 2021. The All-Star Race will again have four stages with a five-lap increase in the final stage over last year’s race. The stages will last 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 15 laps. All green-flag and yellow-flag laps will count in Stages 1 to 3 and only green-flag laps in the final stage. NASCAR overtime rules will be in effect for Stages 1 to 3. In the final stage, if the race is restarted with two or fewer laps remaining, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green-flag conditions.

NASCAR is also adding a single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan intended to improve ride height sensitivity for cars. The splitter is to provide a more stable aero platform and create a more consistent performance in traffic. A new radiator duct is the second element, which exits through the hood, as opposed to the current design that exits into the engine compartment. This feature is intended to improve aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.

With that much prize money, experimentation and no points worries, the racing is sure to be as intense as any during the year. Bowyer’s new sponsor Toco Warranty might be the perfect partner Saturday night. The company offers practical and straightforward vehicle service contracts with pay-as-you-go monthly plans.

“We figured there would be no better place for Toco Warranty to make its debut than last month at Talladega, where we were pretty sure there would be a lot of drivers with damaged vehicles. Unfortunately, I was one of them,” said Bowyer, whose car suffered extensive damage in a lap-10 accident and ended the race 25th. “Toco Warranty is on our car again this weekend for the All-Star Race, and I’m pretty sure someone is going to need help with their car after this race with everything that is on the line Saturday night. There could be some bent sheet metal.”

While dealing with bent sheet metal is just part of life for a NASCAR team, an unexpected car repair could really throw a wrench into race fans’ plans. Toco Warranty keeps drivers and their cars on the road with pay-as-you-go plans that are easy, simple and affordable. Customers can visit www.TocoWarranty.com to review their vehicle service contract, manage online monthly payments and access dedicated customer concierge services.

While at the site, race fans should check out the new Toco All-Star Sweepstakes announced this week, where one lucky winner and a guest will attend the season finales of both the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

The winner will be hosted by Tony Stewart Racing (TSR) for the World of Outlaws World Finals Nov. 8 to 9 at The Dirt Track near Charlotte, North Carolina, before jetting off to South Florida to see the NASCAR season finale Nov. 16 to 17 in Homestead, Florida  with SHR. Toco Warranty will provide VIP access that includes round-trip airfare, hotel accommodations, a rental car and event tickets. Tony Stewart, owner of TSR and co-owner of SHR, will be at both events, where the sweepstakes winner will see the three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion in action as an owner, facilitating meet-and-greets with 10-time and reigning World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz at Charlotte and 10-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner Bowyer at Homestead.

To register, fans simply need to go to www.TocoWarranty.com. A winner will be drawn by 5 p.m. EDT Sept. 16.

Of course, the All-Star Race is a warmup for the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 – the longest race on the circuit. Bowyer is ninth in points after finishing fifth at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City last Saturday night. He hopes to climb even higher and win one of the sport’s most prestigious races.

“I think it’s helpful having that All-Star Race ahead of that big, long, grueling 600-mile race that’s a points race,” Bowyer said. “The All-Star Race always has those kinds of stages and short runs, so it helps you kind of get ready for next weekend’s race that will have four stages. Plus, having that practice time on the racetrack is definitely going to be key to learning about the track and preparing for the 600.”

 

CLINT BOWYER, Driver of the No. 14 Toco Warranty Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your thoughts on the All-Star Race?

“Being a part of it, it is what it is. It is the All-Star Race and it is important to know that your team is a part of such a prestigious group. A million bucks are on the line and that is an opportunity. It isn’t every day you get a chance to race for a million dollars.”

What does a million dollars mean to Clint Bowyer?

“Same thing it means to you, buddy. I don’t know where you come from or how you would be any different, but a million dollars is a million dollars. That opportunity only comes around once a year but we will all be ready for it.”

DANIEL SUÁREZ – 2019 Monster Energy Open Race Advance

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 ARRIS Ford team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will compete at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway in Saturday night’s Monster Energy Open with their eyes focused firmly on advancing to that night’s featured Monster Energy All-Star Race that immediately follows. Suárez will drive the No. 41 ARRIS machine for the second time this season, having previously competed with the scheme in February at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The Open is a non-points-paying exhibition event whose drivers can race their way into the select field of the All-Star Race by winning one of its three segments – 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps, respectively – or by winning the NASCAR Fan Vote via NASCAR.com. The 15 drivers already locked into the All-Star Race by virtue of a race win in 2018 or 2019, or by being a former All-Star Race winner or Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, will be joined by the four who advance from the Open and will be vying for the $1 million grand prize.

Suárez will attempt to race his way into the non-points All-Star Race for the third consecutive year. In 2017, he finished first in the Open to advance, then was eliminated with 10 laps to go in the All-Star Race. Last year, the 27-year-old advanced to the All-Star Race by winning Stage 2 of the Open, then took the runner-up spot in the All-Star Race by a mere .325 of a second to SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, who dominated the event.

“I wasn’t even thinking about the money,” Suárez said in reference to his second-place finish in last year’s All-Star Race. “Money comes and goes, but the trophies don’t. I’m hoping I can get a trophy for Gene (Haas) and Tony (Stewart) this weekend because it means so much to them. These guys and most racers don’t race for the money, they do it for the trophies. The All-Star Race is one of the few times in the season when we don’t have to think about points and different things like that. All we really care about is crossing the start-finish line first.”

ARRIS has been involved with NASCAR since 2014 and is responsible for the most comprehensive Wi-Fi deployment in NASCAR history at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The company recently announced the first CBRS Private LTE network deployment at the newly renovated ISM Raceway near Phoenix. ARRIS also powers the communication between NASCAR drivers and their teams through its SURFboard SB6183® modem and E600® Converged Edge Router (CER) with integration and support from its global services team.

Even though Suárez is two-for-two in racing his way into the All-Star Race, this year presents a new challenge with a different rules package for the Cup Series cars. Like last year, NASCAR has implemented a new rules package specifically for this weekend’s race. One of the rule changes involves a radiator duct configured to exit through the hood as opposed to the current design which exits into the engine compartment.

Suárez’s SHR teammates Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola have secured a position in Saturday night’s main event. Additionally, team co-owner Tony Stewart most recently won the event in May 2009.

 

DANIEL SUÁREZ, Driver of the No. 41 ARRIS Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Do you have a favorite time of day during which you like driving?

“I like night racing a lot. Under the lights, the cars look really cool and it’s a lot of fun. The cars looks different and it’s a different feeling as a driver at night. It’s cool to see all of the signs lit up on pit road.”

How much do you notice what the fans are doing in the grandstands when you’re driving by?

“I do notice different things when we are on the slow laps. It’s hard to say, ‘Hey, that’s my mom,’ because we can’t see that kind of detail, but we can definitely see people motioning and when there are large groups doing something. Once we are up to speed, you aren’t looking to the right at the fans in the stands. You’re looking ahead and in your mirror and focused on your communication. Once you’re up to speed, you’re thinking about everything competition related – tires, fuel, strategy and those kinds of things.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2019 All-Star Race Advance

Kevin Harvick has started 658 point-paying races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and has raced 18 times in the non-points All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. In those 676 races, he’s never driven a car quite like what he will pilot this week.

Last week, Busch Beer officials released the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) that is “Millennial Pink.” Yes, Millennial Pink.

How did this occur?

Well, Busch Beer was so confident in Harvick at last year’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it tweeted the following on November 15, 2018:

“Old guys will rule again at Homestead. In fact, Busch is so confident that Harvick will win that if he doesn’t, we’ll give millennials the v lit paint scheme they always wanted in a race next year. Don’t @ us.”

Unfortunately, Harvick did not win Homestead or the Cup Series championship and, if that wasn’t bad enough, now he has to drive a Millennial Pink racecar in this Saturday night’s All-Star Race at Charlotte. The car also features things like avocados and toast, emojis, Snapchat filters and stickers reading “Squadgoals,” “Skrrrt Skrrrt,” “Busch is bae” and “AF.”

One can only imagine what the car would look like in victory lane after the All-Star Race, but that thought shouldn’t be brushed off.

In Harvick’s previous All-Star Race appearance, he has two wins, three second-place finishes, five top-fives, 11 top-10s and led 124 laps. He is the defending winner, having led 36 laps en route to victory in 2018.

And, Harvick hasn’t been bad in 35 career points-paying races at the Charlotte oval, either – two poles, three wins, four second-place finishes, eight top-threes, 16 top-10s and 528 laps led His average start there is 16.0, his average finish is 15.5 and he has a lap-completion rate of 94.2 percent, completing 11,863 of the 12,591 laps available.

As usual, this year’s All-Star Race will feature a different format and other significant wrinkles. The cars will feature two new technical elements that NASCAR may incorporate into the series’ Generation-7 stock car that is slated to debut in 2021. The event also will be five laps longer than the previous year’s running, increasing from 80 to 85 total laps split among four stages.

One new technical component is a single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that is expected to offer dramatic improvements in ride-height sensitivity for competitors. The splitter also is expected to provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic.

The other element requires cars to be configured with a radiator exit duct through the hood. This will separate aerodynamic performance and engine temperatures, creating more parity across the field.

Despite the technical and race format changes, the All-Star Race is meant to be a fun event and nothing would be more fun for Harvick and the Busch Beer team than a Millennial Pink car pulling into victory lane.

 

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

 

Your thoughts on the Millennial Pink your car will sport this week in the All-Star Race?

“I think as you look at this week, they made the tweet and I didn’t really pay attention to it. Sometimes they get pretty edgy on their things that they say on Twitter, so I didn’t really think anything of it. Then I saw all the plans and paint schemes – let me take that back – I didn’t see all the schemes, I saw all the plans. Obviously, I didn’t see that paint scheme but I thought that particular plan was fun just because it is interaction. It is just kind of poking fun at yourself. In the end, I had to look up and I still don’t even know what ‘Yeet’ means. It says ‘SKRRRT SKRRRT’ on the skirts with no ‘I,’ and I don’t think that is proper spelling. I can kind of relate to ‘squad goals’ but I don’t really know what the frog in the tea means. In the end, it is something that I believe is a lot of fun. Really, it is the perfect event to put that at and kind of create some interaction. They have had great interaction. For God’s sake, we got Jeff (Gluck, racing writer) to change his name (on twitter). There will be some great merchandise, some great Busch AF merchandise to go with it. It is fun. I have learned that sometimes it is more fun poking fun at yourself because you don’t know what something is and this is one of those situations. It is the ugliest racecar I have ever seen, though, but I think that is part of what makes it great. And who knew there was a color called Millennial Pink. That is an actual color. It isn’t the prettiest pink though.”

Have you seen the car with the updates as far as the radiator ducts coming through the hood?

“I have not seen the car. I have seen the drawings. The guys tell me that the duct fits in there well. These cars are really, really sensitive, currently, with this particular splitter to the height to the ground and, if that improves the sensitivity to the splitter height and the cars lose less downforce because of where the cars run on the racetrack behind each other, then I am a fan. They are losing 400 to 600 pounds of downforce when you get behind somebody. At Texas, we had a weird situation where the splitter was at a weird height and the car vibrated and bounced so bad that you couldn’t drive it. Those are the types of things that you don’t really know but it was a strange thing. The radiator duct is really for underhood temperatures and to keep the underhood temps down because they make the engine guys nervous with all the wires and things under the hood. I think everybody will be fine with that. The splitter is the part that I am excited about. When you get behind a car right now, the car raises up. If it raises up a couple hundred-thousandths of an inch, it is going to lose hundreds of pounds of downforce because of the car coming up off the racetrack. It is not all the splitter that loses all the downforce. It isn’t just the splitter.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – 2019 All-Star Race Advance

Saturday night at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Aric Almirola will make his second appearance in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race and first with Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) in hopes of bringing home the bacon in the form of a $1 million check in the typically wild, non-points feature event.

“We have the chance to win a million dollars and it’s such a challenging race because the package is different and everyone is learning together,” Almirola said. “The All-Star Race is such a cool event because we get to try new things and there’s no pressure on your point standings. But a million dollars is definitely incentive enough to race as hard as we can to bring it home.”

This year’s race features a new rules package that NASCAR anticipates including on its upcoming seventh-generation racecar set to arrive in 2021. NASCAR is adding a single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan intended to improve ride-height sensitivity. The splitter intends to provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic. A new radiator duct is the second new element, which exits through the hood, as opposed to the current design that exits into the engine compartment. This feature is expected to improve aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.

The All-Star Race will again be run in four stages, with a five-lap increase in the final stage compared to last year’s race. The stages will be 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 15 laps. Both green-flag and yellow-flag laps will count in Stages 1 through 3. Only green-flag laps will count in the final stage. NASCAR overtime rules will be in effect for Stages 1 through 3. In the final stage, if the race is restarted with two or fewer laps remaining, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish under green-flag conditions.

This year’s race includes all 2018 and 2019 Cup Series race winners, former All-Star Race winners competing full-time, and former Cup Series champions competing full-time. Almirola’s 2018 victory at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in October ensured he gets to bypass Saturday night’s Monster Energy Open, which precedes the All-Star Race. Fifteen drivers, including Almirola’s SHR teammates Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer, are locked into the All-Star Race with four more spots added from the Open. The Open’s three stage winners and the winner of the NASCAR Fan Vote will fill the remaining four spots in the All-Star Race.

Almirola has never been much for material objects, so his answer to what he would do with a $1 million was par for the course.

“I would invest it immediately because, in seven to eight years, it will be worth double,” he said with a laugh.

Almirola’s stats this year at 1.5-mile ovals like Charlotte indicate a strong run anticipated for the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team. The No. 10 driver has earned a top-10 at three of the four 1.5-mile tracks he’s visited this season. He has also finished inside the top-10 in five previous appearances in the Open, and 14th in his lone All-Star Race attempt in 2015.

The All-Star Race marks the 11th weekend the iconic black-and-white Smithfield livery has adorned Almirola’s No. 10 Ford Mustang. Smithfield, a brand of Smithfield Foods, is in its eighth season with Almirola and its second 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.

The No. 10 Ford driver has one pole, a top-five finish, seven top-10s and has led 99 laps this season in his bid for the Cup Series championship. But Saturday night’s low-pressure, non-points event will be a chance to just have a little fun.

 

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

 

What do you think about the rules package for the All-Star Race? 

“I think change and attempts at improvement are always a good sign. That’s the fun thing about the All-Star Race, though. We get to go test out a package and the first person to figure it out has a better chance to win. Our No. 10 Smithfield Ford team has always been good at adapting under pressure, so I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do.”