DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Talladega I Race Advance

Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) travel to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway – a track where anything can happen –for Sunday’s Geico 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Talladega has long been considered a bit of a wild-card race, where a driver’s fate is not entirely in his or her own hands. It is one of only two racetracks on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit where restrictor plates are used. A restrictor plate is a device installed at the air intake of an engine to limit its power in an effort to reduce speeds, increase safety and help provide an equal level of competition. The horsepower-restricted engines require drivers to draft together, side-by-side, at speeds approaching 200 mph.

As a result, superspeedway events often produce wild, unpredictable racing.

“The cool thing about superspeedways is that anybody can win,” Patrick said. “It’s a toss-up, what’s going to happen.”

And that toss-up always includes the distinct possibility of the seemingly inevitable “big one” – a multicar accident that typically eliminates multitudes of drivers from the event. This type of racing leaves teams wondering what it will take to survive the “big one” and make it to victory lane at the end of the day.

While Patrick has set records at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the other restrictor-plate superspeedway on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule – she’s yet to find the same level of success at Talladega. With eight prior starts at the track, her career-best finish is a19th-place effort she earned in October 2014. Last year, a late-race accident left her with a 24th-place result in May and, when the series returned to the track in October, she finished 20th.

Patrick enters this weekend at Talladega fresh off of an 18th-place result at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. The effort marked the team’s second-best finish of the season and first top-20 result since the March 5 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

As the NASCAR Cup Series returns to Talladega this weekend, Patrick and the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford team will be ready to survive the “big one” and go for the win on Sunday.

 

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

You’ve always liked going to Talladega. Why is that?

“The fans really make that place. The campgrounds, all that stuff, make it one, big party. You see how much fun the fans are having and that makes it fun for us as drivers. It’s just a unique place. The sheer size of the facility is amazing. I liked it from the first time I went there and, hopefully, we can have a good run and a good finish. The cool thing about superspeedways is that anybody can win. It’s a toss-up, what’s going to happen. On top of that, SHR’s superspeedway cars are really good.”

 

Describe the intensity of restrictor-plate racing.

“It’s super easy to drive around the track flat-out by yourself. It’s not hard at all. When you put all of the other cars around you, it’s not necessarily about how the car feels on the track, although that can be an issue, for sure, at times. It’s more about what everyone else is doing around you. You’re constantly looking at what’s happening in front of you. You’re also looking at what’s behind you. Probably more important than what’s happening in front of you is what’s happening behind you – who’s coming, who’s following you, who’s helping you move forward. There have been plenty of times that I’ve gone to the bottom and complained, ‘Where’s my help?’ It seems like I’ll slot in on the bottom line and then everyone behind me disappears. You really have to have people behind you, pushing you. The race is constantly evolving and you and your spotter have to be on it. It’s a big race for spotters, so having a really good one that you trust is very important.”

What are three words that describe restrictor-plate races?

“Three words that describe plate racing would be: crazy, fast and risky.”

 

What is your favorite part of going into the Talladega infield?

“My favorite part about going into the infield at Talladega is seeing things you’re not supposed to see. I mean, it’s a crazy party and I feel like those are the kinds of things that keep people coming back. It’s the atmosphere and the whole package of the weekend – not just the racing – but the parties, having fun and making memories.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2017 Talladega I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick is heading to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway this weekend for the GEICO 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race hoping to score his first victory of the 2017 campaign and also share in his partner Jimmy John’s appreciation for all things “Freaky Fast!”

The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing is looking to help his partner celebrate its once-a-year Dollar Sub Day by capping off the week with a win. Jimmy John’s is offering $1 sandwiches from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at all participating locations. The Dollar Sub Day is limited to in-store purchases only. All sandwiches – Nos. 1 through 6 on the menu, as well as BLT, Unwich lettuce wraps and slims – are part of the deal. Jimmy John’s first started Dollar Sub Day with “Customer Appreciation Day” in April 2016.

While race fans have a chance to enjoy their favorite Jimmy John’s sandwich for only a dollar, Harvick will be looking to secure his best finish of the season at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. He has reason to be optimistic that he can finish the race at the front of the field.

In his last 10 restrictor-plate races, Harvick ranks second in points with 320 and top-10s with six. But his last points-paying NASCAR Cup Series win on a restrictor-plate track came at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in 2010. He will be looking to add his fourth points-paying NASCAR Cup Series win on a restrictor-plate track this weekend at Talladega.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion has one career win at Talladega in NASCAR’s premier series. In April 2010, Harvick started fourth and led just two laps but, in the closing laps, he pushed Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 car and the two pulled away from the pack. As they navigated the tri-oval one final time, Harvick jumped out of line to beat McMurray to the finish line by .011 of a second, which still ranks 15th among the closest finishes in NASCAR Cup Series history.

Harvick would like to grab the NASCAR Cup Series trophy in victory lane Sunday like so many people who grab their dollar sandwiches will today. While he has run up front and scored three stage wins this year, Harvick is still in search of his first race win of the season. Since joining SHR at the beginning of 2014, Harvick has never gone to Talladega in May still in search of his first win of the season. He hopes to change that luck with a dominant performance Sunday at Talladega.

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

 

Describe the intensity of restrictor-plate racing?

“Plate racing is something you have to be aggressive at just for the fact that, if you’re not aggressive, it always seems like you are not going to be where you need to be. Nine times out of 10, I believe, the aggressor is going to be the guy who comes out on the good side of things just for the fact that you’re making things happen and you’re not waiting for something else to happen. When you wait for something else to happen, that’s usually when you get in trouble because it’s usually someone else’s mess. You can still get in trouble if you’re aggressive, but it seems like, with this rules package and the way that things are, it’s best to stay aggressive and try to stay up front.”

You’ve won at both superspeedways on the circuit – Daytona and Talladega. Do you approach these races with a strategy in mind?

“I think, with the current points system, it’s better to stay up front and try to get as many points in each stage as you can throughout the day. Obviously, if you don’t qualify well, that makes it much more difficult but, with the new points system, I think you’re going to see a much different race. Guys aren’t going to be able to leave 20 potential points and playoff points on the table. They’re going to be racing for every point – that’s a good thing for the fans and should make it an exciting race.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2017 Talladega I Race Advance

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tackles the high banks of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway Sunday for what is normally one of the sport’s most exciting races of the season. By now, everyone knows Talladega racing often leads to nearly 40 cars racing four-abreast, 10 rows deep at 200 mph for more than three hours.

Talladega is about crashes and near crashes with short tempers among stressed-out drivers. Tune in to the radio or television broadcast of the race and the commentators are sure to call the action a “high-speed game of chess.”

But Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 14 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), isn’t buying that cliché.

“Chess is sitting there, bored out of your mind, thinking of all the other things that you would rather be doing,” Bowyer said. “There’s a guy across from you, you’re trying to figure out if he’s actually into it or doing the same thing, bored out of his mind, thinking about all the things he would rather be doing.”

Bowyer said NASCAR restrictor-plate racing is so much more than any cerebral pursuit.

“You’re literally freaking out, making knee-jerk-reaction decisions the whole race,” he said. “You’re reacting to things that you don’t even remember. You’ll get out of the car at the end of the race, and somebody’ll be like, ‘Man, that was an awesome move that won you the race!’ And you’re like, ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ There were at least 4,000 instances of what won that race or didn’t win that race.”

Don’t let Bowyer kid you; he knows what he is doing on restrictor-plate tracks, especially at Talladega, where he’s won twice and posted six top-five finishes in his 22 career starts at the 2.66-mile track. Bowyer has scored the most points of any driver in the last 10 Talladega races but, even after successful days like he has enjoyed there, he says he’s mentally and physically weary after each race from all the exertion.

“There’s so much going on inside the car, whether you’re listening to the spotter, or you’re looking at – as you’re listening to him, you’re following along to – that story in the mirror, right?” he said. “You’re living it through the windshield. I mean, there are so many things that are going on, you just – you flat out – don’t take it all in. I mean, your brain is registering so many things that, at the end of the race, you don’t even remember half of it.”

Bowyer rides a wave of success to Talladega with top-15 finishes in all nine of the 2017 races except for the season-opening Daytona 500, where a midrace accident ended his day. He’s earned two top-five finishes and four top-10s this season. The No. 14 team led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz has climbed to ninth in the standings.

“Everybody is working really hard and we are just having fun,” Bowyer said. “SHR is a fun organization and Ford is a fun manufacturer to work with. We still haven’t put everything together and been the best we can be, but Sunday will be our 10th race working together and we expect things will continue to improve.”

Bowyer’s racing fortunes have improved since arriving at SHR this season to replace three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR competition. Bowyer would like to go down in the history books as the first driver to bring SHR a Talladega victory. The organization’s 37 victories in 864 Cup Series races since its 2009 inception have come at every track except Talladega and Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

Whether or not Bowyer makes history for SHR Sunday afternoon in the normally unpredictable Talladega race, it will be more entertaining than, say, a game of chess.

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

 

How important are teammates during restrictor-plate races?

“Well, I think that’s where the problem lies, right? You have teammates out there, and you need ’em, to get right down to the end. And, by the way, now you need to beat ’em, so it’s an interesting problem when you have teammates like mine who you need all the way through. And then, hopefully, we line up one-two-three-four there at the end. You’re like, ‘Well, which one can I use right there to the end, who I know I can trust the most?’ Nobody’s trustworthy during these things. You can’t be.”

 

What are your thoughts on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement?

“His retirement is going to be a huge void. We are all going to miss Dale Jr. We all enjoy him being around. He was making fun of me on Twitter Sunday morning in Richmond. That’s what I’m going to miss as a friend and person, forget the racetrack. We are all cooped up in the motorhome lot most weekends like a bunch of animals, so that time we get to enjoy with one another is what you will miss the most.”

KURT BUSCH – 2017 Talladega I Race Advance

For years, when Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Kurt Busch would head to Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway or Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, he’d wonder if the race at hand would be the one – the one in which he’d finally be able to pull into victory lane and complete the checklist of having won at every type of track on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series circuit.

From the shortest racetrack – Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – to a road-course victory at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, the driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion had won at almost every type of track. He’d won on racetracks ranging in length from .526 of a mile, .533 of a mile, .75 of a mile, 1 mile, 1.5 miles, 1.99 miles and 2 miles. He’d celebrated in victory lane at the high-banked ovals and flat tracks. He’s even had a seat at the head table at the year-end banquet.

But one trophy eluded Busch. He’d won 28 NASCAR Cup Series races, but never a points-paying one at either of the two restrictor-plate tracks – Daytona or Talladega. That all changed in February. After 17 years of trying, Busch was finally able to check that box. And he did it in a big way, by winning for the 29th time in his career, at the 2017 season-opening Daytona 500.

The win was significant on many levels. Not only was it his first win in what is arguably NASCAR’s most renowned race, it was SHR’s, as well. It was Busch’s first race behind the wheel of a Ford, the manufacturer with whom he won the 2004 Cup Series championship, since November 2005. It was the first outing for SHR with the Dearborn, Michigan-headquartered manufacturer. And, for Daytona Beach native Tony Gibson, it was his first trip to victory lane at the famed speedway as a crew chief.

So, while Busch is now one of just a handful of drivers who own victories at each type of racetrack, his focus can shift to winning at each active racetrack on the NASCAR Cup circuit. He’s found his way to victory lane at 15 of 23 active racetracks on the circuit and can now shift his focus to checking those boxes. He’ll head to Talladega this weekend looking to return to his winning ways by putting a check in the win column there.

In his first start at Talladega in April 2001, Busch recorded a third-place finish, which happens to be his best at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. He’s finished third there three times since – in April 2002 and 2007, and October 2006. But this time Busch has the confidence he can improve on those results despite not having the same race-winning Ford Fusion he had at Daytona in February. The Daytona 500-winning racecar traditionally goes on display for a year at the Daytona 500 Experience Museum.

This weekend, Busch would like nothing more than to add another win to his already impressive resume. Not only would a victory cross Talladega off his win list, it would also give Busch and his No. 41 team a second victory in 2017 and another five valuable bonus points for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. With his postseason eligibility already in place, they can head to Talladega and welcome the opportunity to race aggressively for the win.

 

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

 

Talk a little bit about racing at Talladega. 

“It’s so difficult to predict Talladega. You can ride around in the back, or charge up front all day and, either way, your day can end with your car on the hook. You just hope to have Lady Luck guide you to a good finish. Restrictor-plate races have turned into this pattern that it is hard to have any type of advantage over any other team. It just comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”

Restrictor-plate racing has been described as a 200 mph chess match. How would you describe it?  

“That’s pretty much it. You’ve got to be able to know the draft, understand the draft, use the draft, block other guys, find holes, make holes. It’s definitely a chess game because you’re always thinking three or four steps ahead. It’s tough to get caught up when you make a mistake. You’ve got to quickly get rid of that and put together a new plan. At the end of the race, everybody is saving their best for the end. Cars are just going everywhere. The plan you thought you had, you’ve got to make a new one. You’ve got to go on the fly.”

In order to be successful in a restrictor-plate race, you need some assistance from other drivers. How do you get that assistance when every driver out there is trying to beat one another?

“Cash? I don’t know. There are certain guys you know to draft with. There are certain guys you know they’re going to be tough. There are certain guys you might see work their way up, like the Fords always come in strong with Front Row Motorsports. The Roush cars are always there. The Penske cars have been tough the last five, six years at the restrictor-plate races. So, you just get a gauge as the race goes on who’s been up front all day. But you’ve got to keep track of the guys who have been hanging out in the back and they’re going to show up at the end.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2017 Richmond I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will feature Busch Light for the first time this season during Sunday’s 400-mile Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

This weekend marks the first of five appearances by Busch Light on the No. 4 Ford Fusion in 2017. It will next appear May 13 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, then July 8 at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, Aug. 13 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, and Nov. 12 Phoenix International Raceway.

Harvick will look to continue his momentum gained over the last two races and score his first win of the season this weekend and his third consecutive top-five finish.

Harvick’s history with Busch Beer goes back to his days racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, which was then known as the Busch Series. He won two championships in the stepping-stone division to the Cup Series. He won his first championship in 2001while racing in the No. 2 car for Richard Childress Racing. The Bakersfield, California native won five races, scored 20 top-five finishes, 24 top-10s and led 1,265 laps in 33 starts that season and beat runner-up Jeff Green for the championship by 124 points.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion scored his second Busch Series championship in 2006 while racing both the Nos. 21 and 33 cars for Childress. He scored nine wins, 23 top-five finishes, 32 top-10s and led 1,197 laps. That season, he dominated the competition and won the championship by 824 points over now-retired NASCAR Cup Series driver Carl Edwards.

Harvick is hoping to continue his success racing with Busch Light this weekend. He has 10 wins at Richmond between NASCAR’s top two touring series – three Cup and seven Xfinity. His most recent Cup Series win there came in April 2013, when he led only three laps but beat runner-up and current SHR teammate Clint Bowyer to the finish line by .343 of a second in overtime.

Harvick’s history at Richmond should give the No. 4 Busch Light team reason for optimism. He has 32 career Cup Series starts there and is the active leader in top-10 finishes with 20, lead lap finishes with 25, and has finished every race. He also has led laps in 17 of his 32 starts and ranks second in laps led with 1,050.

While his history at Richmond is impressive, so has been his speed to start the 2017 season. Through the first eight races, Harvick is the only driver to win two poles – the first at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the second at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. He leads the Cup Series in laps led with 433 and miles led with 697.642. He has also scored three stage wins to pick up playoff points, but unfortunately has had to overcome some subpar finishes, as well, due to contact on the racetrack.

This weekend, Harvick will attempt to put Busch Light in victory lane for the first time with his first win of the season and his fourth Cup Series win at the .75-mile Virginia oval.

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

 

What makes Richmond unique to you?

“Richmond has been a very successful racetrack for us as we’ve gone through the years. We finished both races in the top-five last year at Richmond so I think, as we go back this year, we’re going to shoot to be a little better than we were last year. We’ll try some different things. It’s been a very good racetrack for me in the past and I’m looking forward to going back. I like the short, flat tracks.”

Is back-to-back short tracks a good thing for the No. 4 team this time of year?

“I think short-track racing is something that we all enjoy any time we get to go do that. I don’t know if having back-to-back short tracks is good or bad for us. I think right now we are fortunate to be on the side of things going well. We’ll just show up and race again.”

Do you have a favorite win at Richmond?

“I remember the ones I lost more than I do the ones I won. I think the first one where Ricky Rudd and I were racing in 2001 was pretty cool. But I think, as you look back at the last one, we won in 2013 as part of a green-white-checkered finish and I think we came from seventh to win, so I didn’t really expect to win that one. I think the other two were probably fairly strong nights for us.”

 

CLINT BOWYER – 2017 Richmond I Race Advance

After finishing second Monday afternoon at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, one of the first people Clint Bowyer sought out on pit lane was Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) teammate and friend Kevin Harvick, who finished third.

Congratulating each other after a good race was like old times for the pair. They have history.

Bowyer leaned on Harvick’s driving knowledge when he started his NASCAR career at Richard Childress Racing in 2005. The Emporia, Kansas native was new to the sport and Harvick was already winning races on a regular basis. Instead of reinventing the wheel, Bowyer quickly figured out it might be easier and wiser just to mimic what seemed to work well for Harvick both on and off the track. 

“Everything I have learned in this sport of racing and racecars was always in his seat, with his pedals and where his steering wheel was,” Bowyer said. “Kevin always had it and I didn’t know any better. I had never driven one of these cars before. Everything I did when I learned how to drive these cars was how Kevin did it.”

It seemed to work. At Childress, Bowyer started 217 Cup Series races, earning five victories and posting 31 top-five finishes. In the Xfinity Series races, he notched eight victories, including the 2008 series title. Bowyer and Harvick, who ultimately won 23 races at Childress, were not only friends but teammates who knew if one outran the other, then it was likely a good day. But those days came to an end when Bowyer left the team and joined Michael Waltrip Racing before the 2012 season and Harvick joined SHR in 2014.

SHR put the band back together when it announced Bowyer would take over the No. 14 vacated by three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR competition after the 2016 season. Bowyer had some big shoes to fill in replacing a legend in Stewart, so he found a familiar friend to lean on for guidance.

“When I came to Stewart-Haas, they asked what I want to do with my pedals and seat and I said, ‘Hell, I don’t know, ask Kevin,’ Bowyer said. “It has been that way my whole career.”

Bowyer and Harvick are tied for eighth in the series standings and look to be contenders for the Cup Series title this season. Harvick seems to relish in his teammate’s success.

“I watched him drive his first stock car at RCR and, from that point on, he progressively learned and listened and brought a lot to the table as a driver,” Harvick said. “And we are good friends, which is something you can’t really buy. You either get along with somebody or you don’t. You communicate and drive like them or you don’t. It has been refreshing and fun to have him there and seeing him progress.”

Harvick isn’t Bowyer’s only resource. Bowyer said he values both SHR teammates Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch. Plus, there is always Stewart.

“Danica brings so much to SHR through her open-wheel experience and what she does away from the track,” Bowyer said. “Kurt really dissects his car more than anything I have ever heard. It really gets your mind going about maybe what you thought, or a trick somewhere. Makes you think about what maybe you were feeling when you thought you were feeling about something else. It’s a breath of fresh air to be in the meetings with those guys and debrief with them and work on the next week, or even just the race after practice.

“It is really cool to have those guys’ input going into a race, or the following week. What can I say about Tony except he’s one of the greatest drivers in the history of motorsports. Add in all the competition guys and you realize there’s a lot of brainpower at SHR. Gene Haas and Tony have built a really great racing organization.”

This week, Bowyer and his No. 14 Haas Automation Ford team led by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, who was Harvick’s engineer before moving to the No. 14 team, visit Richmond (Va.) International Raceway for Sunday’s 400-lap race. Two of Bowyer’s eight career victories came at the .75-mile oval – in September 2015 and May 2008. He’s also notched four top-fives and led 348 laps there.

Bowyer would like nothing better than to visit victory lane again at Richmond. If he does, Harvick might be one of the first to come by victory lane or send a congratulatory text message.

Just like old times.

 

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

 

You’ve come a long way in the last 18 months. Why would you be frustrated with second place after Bristol?

“You struggle and struggle and struggle for a year and a half here and, hell, next thing you know you’re being greedy about second. You know what I mean? That’s just the way racers are wired and the way it’s always been. Having a ton of fun and working hard and seeing the results is gratifying for this race team. I mean, we need sponsorship on the side of this car rather than the boss, and good runs like we had at Bristol, and positive momentum and mojo, is a good way to do that. You start getting that close to wins – know what I mean? – you can’t let too many of those go by the wayside. You’ve got to use those opportunities and capitalize on those opportunities but, definitely, a confidence- and momentum-builder, for sure.”

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Richmond I Race Advance

Looking back at the history of Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, members of the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) organization have left their mark over the years.

SHR co-owner Tony Stewart scored his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at the .75-mile oval in September 1999 and has three career wins at the track.

Kevin Harvick first found his way to victory lane at Richmond in the September 2006 NASCAR Cup Series race and has since earned two additional wins there.

Kurt Busch scored his first NASCAR Cup Series win at Richmond in September 2005 and won his second there in April 2015.

Clint Bowyer first won at Richmond in the NASCAR Cup Series ranks in May 2008 and made a return trip to victory lane at the track in April 2012.

While Stewart, Harvick, Busch and Bowyer have made their respective marks in the NASCAR Cup Series, Danica Patrick’s success at Richmond thus far has come in the open-wheel ranks.

The IndyCar Series competed at Richmond from 2001 to 2009, and Patrick competed in five of those events. She finished sixth in 2007 and 2008, then scored a fifth-place result in 2009.

Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford Fusion for SHR, will make her ninth trip to Richmond in the NASCAR Cup Series for Sunday’s Richmond 400. In the September 2016 NASCAR Cup Series race at the .75-mile oval, she started 29th and scored her best-ever finish at the track – a 15th-place effort.

When Patrick returns to the track this weekend, her No. 10 Ford will carry the colors of Code 3 Associates, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing professional animal disaster response and resources to communities, as well as administering professional training to individuals and agencies involved in animal-related law enforcement and emergency response. Its mission is accomplished through hands-on animal rescue and care operations during disaster events in the United States and Canada, and through certified animal welfare training seminars, which include animal cruelty training for investigators.

Patrick enters Richmond looking to turn things around and get back to scoring top-20 results. While she knows her IndyCar experience at Richmond won’t assist her this weekend, Patrick and her No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford team will be leaning on the knowledge of their SHR teammates in an effort to find NASCAR Cup Series success there.

 

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your overall thoughts on Richmond?

“I’ve always enjoyed going to Richmond. I had fun racing Indy cars there. I liked driving the Xfinity car there, as well. We didn’t have the greatest results, but it was still fun.”

 

What makes the racing so good at Richmond?

“When you have a good car, it creates opportunities to pass. Turns one and two are kind of tight, and three and four are more of a long corner, so it’s a challenge to set the car up. We slip and slide there a bunch, anyway. In the past, we typically raced at Richmond at night, so there’s usually more grip. I’m sure we’ll be sliding around this weekend, since it’s going to be a day race again this year.”

 

This is the second year in a row that the spring race at Richmond is scheduled to run during the day versus racing at night. What are your expectations for Sunday’s race?

“We are definitely going to be moving around a lot more than you typically see when we race at Richmond at night. I kind of think we’re going to be miserable some of the time. I mean, there are times where the tires fall off and you’re like, ‘Shoot me out here, it’s terrible.’ And I have a feeling we’re going to have a few ‘shoot me’ moments this weekend where it’s just going to be moving all around and it’s going to be a lot of work. But as long as we have the opportunity to pass, I mean, even if you’re slip-sliding around and it feels like crap and you’re passing somebody, it’s still fun.”

KURT BUSCH – 2017 Richmond I Race Advance

ExxonMobil’s new high-performance product line provides exceptional performance benefits. It’s no wonder, then, that 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), was chosen to fly its colors during Sunday’s Richmond 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Mobil 1 Annual Protection allows customers to go longer between oil changes – one full year or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first. It’s a low-impact product designed to help safely reduce the amount of used oil generated through regular oil changes. In fact, more than 2 billion quarts of oil would be saved each year if every driver in the United States switched to Mobil 1 Annual Protection.

Busch will look to exceed expectations as Mobil 1 Annual Protection does this weekend at Richmond, a track where he’s had some exceptional results.

In 32 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Richmond, Busch owns a pair of victories. The first came in September 2005, when Busch started fifth and led 185 laps en route to the win. Busch scored his second Richmond victory in April 2015 driving an SHR-prepared racecar. He turned in a dominating performance, leading six times for a race-high 291 laps and holding off his teammate Kevin Harvick, to score his first win of the 2015 NASCAR Cup Series season. In addition to his success in NASCAR’s top touring series, Busch also has a NASCAR Xfinity Series win at the .75-mile track, scoring the victory in April 2012.

But Richmond has been a bit fickle for Busch, who has had a handful of races in which he flirted with additional victories but wound up with less-than-stellar results. It was a trend the Las Vegas native changed, however, during this very race just two years ago when he was finally able to take advantage of a dominant racecar and found his way to victory lane once again.

There’s no doubt Busch has the know-how and the determination needed to put his No. 41 Mobil 1 Advanced Protection Ford Fusion in victory lane at the .75-mile oval known as “The Action Track.”

Busch heads to Richmond after a disappointing outing in Monday’s rain-delayed race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Since winning this year’s season-opening Daytona 500, Busch and his No. 41 team have scored three top-10 finishes in the first eight races but have experienced a string of bad luck. Despite that, their goals remain the same – scoring another early season victory, accumulating playoff points and returning to victory lane at Richmond.

 

KURT BUSCH, Driver of the No. 41 Mobil 1 Advanced Protection Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How much does a short-track move, like what Ricky Stenhouse did to Kyle Busch at Martinsville, pushing him out of the way at the end of the stage, open everybody’s eyes?

“I think that moment at Martinsville is a perfect definition to the stage racing. It creates opportunities for many different things to happen, whether you’re a lapped car or you’re the leader. Short tracks, superspeedways, road courses – those are the three types of tracks that I thought would be impacted the most by stage racing. At the mile-and-a-half racetracks, we get a little bit spread out, yet there are still certain things you do because certain mile-and-a-halves chew up the tires, big-time, compared to other mile-and-a-half tracks, so the pit strategy still gets sprinkled in. I think what happened at Martinsville is a perfect definition of what the stage racing was meant to do.”

 

Why do you like racing at Richmond so much, and why do you think it suits your driving style? 

“There are things you have to do on a short track to work on conserving the tires. Also, making sure you are good on the short run, making sure you are good on the long run, because restarts have become so much more important over the last couple of years. You don’t know if you are going to have a long run to finish the race or if you are going to have short run. You’ve just got to be ready for everything and, it seems like, at the short tracks, the preferred lane on restarts is becoming more and more important. You hope you are on the inside lane when it comes down to one of the final few restarts and, that way, you are able to gain positions instead of having to be on the defense. Richmond is a fun track. They used to call it the action track. That was when the groove would widen out and get to two, three lanes wide. We always hope to get back to that and it’s a matter of finding the right tire and the right downforce combination to allow the cars to race competitively, side-by-side, in safe situations. That is what we want to do – put on a good show.”

 

What is the hardest thing to figure out at Richmond? 

“For me, it’s turn four. The races I’ve won there, I had a good car on the exit of turn four. Races I’ve lost or ran poorly, my exit of turn four wasn’t that good. It’s really a tough corner to get good traction put down.”

COLE CUSTER – 2017 Bristol I Race Advance

Event:               Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 (Round 7 of 33)
Date:                 April 22, 2017
Location:          Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
Layout:             .533-mile oval

Cole Custer Notes of Interest:

 

  • The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will mark Custer’s 12th career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his first XFINITY Series start at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
  • While the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 will be Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Bristol, it will be his sixth overall start at the .533-mile oval. Custer has three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and two NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts at Bristol. Custer’s career-best Bristol finish is sixth in the 2016 Truck Series race.
  • Custer’s best race at Bristol was the 2015 Truck Series race, despite his 16th-place finish. Custer started fifth and led twice for a race-high 111 laps, holding off such veterans as Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Kyle Busch. But when Custer was coming up on Spencer Gallagher to put him a lap down less than 40 laps from the finish, Gallagher spun right in front of Custer. With nowhere to go, Custer crashed into him, all but ending his race.
  • Since 2013 across nine Camping World Truck Series starts and two K&N Pro Series starts, Custer has one pole, one top-five finish, four top-10s and 226 laps led at half-mile tracks currently on the NASCAR circuit.
  • Custer’s best finish in the six XFINITY Series races run this season is fifth, earned in the sixth event April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. It was his fourth top-10 and second top-five finish in 11 career XFINITY Series starts. Custer was the highest-finishing XFINITY Series regular and rookie, earning him his second Rookie of the Race award of 2017.
  • Custer is the second-highest-finishing rookie in the XFINITY Series season and is third in the Rookie of the Year standings, 27 points behind leader William Byron.
  • On April 11, Custer and Bristol Motor Speedway general manager Jerry Caldwell unveiled two new Kid Zone locations on the concourse level of turns two and four.
  • The Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 is the second of four Dash 4 Cash races on the 2017 XFINITY Series schedule. This means drivers will race for a $100,000 cash bonus. Each of the top-two full-time XFINITY Series drivers from Stage 1 and Stage 2 will become Dash 4 Cash-eligible in the final stage.
  • As a Dash 4 Cash race, no full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers with five or more years of experience are entered in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300. With the only NASCAR Cup Series drivers competing in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 being Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson, regular XFINITY Series drivers are expected to have a better chance to win.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway added a chemical compound to the inside portion of its oval surface to enhance the lower racing groove. This will mark the second year Bristol has applied the chemical to improve grip on the bottom of the racetrack.

 

Cole Custer, Driver Q&A 

After being the highest-placing XFINITY Series regular in the series’ last race at Texas, do you feel you and your team have built momentum going into Bristol?

“Absolutely. We had a quick car in Texas and I think our Haas Automation Ford Mustang will be fast in Bristol. We have a smart program with a lot of great people.”

 

Are you a fan of the new bottom groove at Bristol?

“I was sad when they put it down last year because I felt like I figured out the top groove really well the year before, but it’s a new challenge that we’ll have to adapt to. Hopefully, I can learn how to run the car down there. The bottom groove will take Bristol back to what it used to be back in the day, so that’s actually pretty cool.”

 

How will the Dash 4 Cash play into your race strategy?

“Drivers are probably going to put a lot of focus on the stage points and placing in the top-two at the end of the stages. It will definitely affect our strategy going in, but our ultimate goal is to just stay up front at the end of each stage.”

 

What does it take to be successful at Bristol?

“You definitely need some speed, and the main thing is that you just have to stay out of trouble, which is hard to do because you’re going so fast. Having a good car going in is crucial to performing well at Bristol.”

 

Why do you like racing at Bristol?

“It’s something completely different than what we’re used to. There’s so much banking – it’s a concrete track and the grooves usually move around a bit. It’s something that’s unique and hard to figure out but, once you figure it out, it’s really rewarding. It’s one of the coolest places we go. Some of the characteristics from the local short tracks I grew up on apply at Bristol. It’s really quick and you don’t have to deal with as much dirty air, but it’s definitely hard to get used to the high banks and the large amount of rubber buildup. “

 

Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A

 

What is your plan for a successful race at Bristol?

“Cole’s been great at short tracks his whole career. I like the idea of the bottom groove so the track has more options for passing. I think Cole’s going to excel at Bristol. We’re going to lean on our Cup guys some and see what has worked for them in the past. It’s not a superfast track, so it’s not as aero-dependent. The difference in aero balance between the XFINITY and Cup cars doesn’t really show up on that track, so you can really use their setups more at Bristol than at an intermediate track.”

 

What do you think about Bristol being a Dash 4 Cash race and how will that play into your strategy during the race?

“Our downfall in Phoenix was that we didn’t qualify well and that’s going to be really important for the Dash 4 Cash races. We have to put in a good qualifying effort to have a shot at it. There are not enough laps to get in those positions to run for a win when you’re toward the back.”

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Bristol I Race Advance

Following the first off weekend of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Danica Patrick and the No. 10 Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) head to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Food City 500.

As Patrick enters the weekend with only one top-20 result to her credit thus far, she and the No. 10 Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford team will be looking to revisit their past success in the annual spring race at the .533-mile oval.

While Patrick’s overall record at Bristol has proven how challenging it is to race there, her best finishes at the track have been in her first trip to the “Last Great Colosseum” each season. In Patrick’s nine NASCAR Cup Series starts at Bristol, her average finish is 23.7, while her average result in the spring race is 20.5. That average includes one top-10 finish and two top-20s.

In April 2014, Patrick earned an 18th-place finish in the Food City 500, which marked her first top-20 result at the short track.

The following spring, she started 26th and overcame a number of hurdles during the race to score a ninth-place finish. That effort marked the sixth top-10 of her career and set the record for the most top-10 finishes by a female in NASCAR Cup Series competition.

When Patrick gets to Bristol this weekend, her No. 10 Ford will sport the colors of Mobil 1 Annual Protection, which is part of ExxonMobil’s new high-performance, low-environmental-impact product line that provides exceptional performance benefits and convenience. Mobil 1 Annual Protection helps to safely reduce the amount of used oil generated through regular oil changes. More than 2 billion quarts of oil would be saved each year if every driver in the United States switched to Mobil 1 Annual Protection.

With a fresh new Mobil 1 Annual Protection paint scheme, Patrick and the No. 10 team will be ready to “spring” into action at Bristol and try to score another top-20 result.

 

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Mobil 1 Annual Protection Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

What are your overall thoughts heading into Bristol?

“I’ve liked Bristol since I went there the first time. I remember when I set foot onto that track – it was the day before, it was load-in day and I looked out there and you’re standing on the straightaway, but it sure seems like a corner. It’s a very cool track and a spectacle for the fans. I feel like that is always the one that everyone says, ‘I want to come see a Bristol race.’ It’s always entertaining there for the fans and, hopefully, we can put on another good show for them this weekend.”

 How aggressive do you have to be?

“Every single one of us is going to go as absolutely hard as possible. There’s never a plan to back off or go easy or anything like that, other than if you are saving fuel out there on a strategy at the end of the race. You always go as fast as you can, all the time.”

There’s always a lot of beating and banging on short tracks. What’s acceptable and what isn’t?

“Well, I believe that, on a short track – any track – that you need to get next to them. I mean, I think you have to be able to get runs and get inside. Now, if they cut you off more than once or twice, then you start just putting a bumper to them and taking the air off the spoiler and you just have to make them understand that you know you’ve been patient and that you aren’t going to be patient anymore.”

How grueling is 500 laps at Bristol?

“It’s fine. I think it is a little daunting to say 500 laps, but there are a lot of times we do 500 laps, or 500 miles, and this is just one of them. I feel like, no matter what happens – whether it’s a 400-mile race or a 500-lap race – you find your rhythm. Time goes by fast sometimes, and then sometimes it’s slow. All I hope is the car has a good balance because, when it doesn’t, that’s when the laps seem wrong. If we can just get into a rhythm, find ourselves in a good spot and have a consistent car throughout the race, then the time does go pretty quickly, usually.”

Fans come to Bristol and typically expect a lot of beating and banging. Do you like that kind of racing?

“Yes, I enjoy it. I mean, I don’t mind some beating and banging out there. I don’t mind pushing your way around a little bit. It just happens. It’s just the nature of short tracks when you’re running really close to one another. You put 40 cars out on a track the size of Bristol and you’re filling up a lot of the track. The short tracks are conducive to close racing since aerodynamics don’t come into play quite as much.”