DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Charlotte I Race Advance

The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend has long been a special day for racing enthusiasts around the world. Considered by many as the “Greatest Day in Motorsports,” it starts with the Grand Prix of Monaco, where Formula One drivers navigate through the streets of Monte Carlo. That’s followed by the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the day closes with the Coca-Cola 600, the longest race on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule, at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

Racing on Memorial Day weekend is nothing new for Danica Patrick, driver of the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford Fusion team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), as she’s done it at the professional level for many years. For seven years, Patrick competed in the 500-mile race at Indianapolis, and on Sunday Patrick will make her sixth start in the Coca-Cola 600.

In the seven years Patrick competed in the IndyCar Series, nowhere did she perform better than in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” In May 2005, she stunned the world by leading three times for 19 laps and finishing fourth in her first “500” – becoming the first woman to lead laps and score a top-five finish in the iconic race.

She set numerous records during her Indy 500 debut and set the tone early when she posted the fastest lap on the opening day of practice. She went on to set the fastest practice lap five times throughout the month, including Pole Day and Carburetion Day. On race day, with 11 laps remaining in the 200-lap event, Patrick blew past leader Dan Wheldon and held the point until lap 194, when she was forced to slow down in order to conserve fuel to make it to the finish. Her efforts earned her Rookie of the Year honors.

All told, Patrick scored six top-10 finishes in seven starts at Indianapolis and qualified 10th or better five times. Her third-place result in 2009 is the best finish ever for a woman in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

For the sixth consecutive year, however, Memorial Day weekend will be different for Patrick, as she’ll watch the Indy 500 on television as she prepares to race in the Coca-Cola 600.

When Patrick hits 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.

While Patrick’s best result in the Coca-Cola 600 is a 21st-place effort she earned last May, her best finish at the track is an 11th-place result she scored last October in the Bank of America 500.

Entering Sunday’s race, Patrick and the No. 10 Code 3 Associates Ford team hope to improve on last fall’s performance at Charlotte and close out the night celebrating the “Greatest Day in Motorsports” with an ice-cold Coca-Cola.

 

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

 

The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race on the NASCAR schedule. Do you notice those last 100 miles?

“The Coca-Cola 600 is obviously our longest race, but it very much depends on how the car feels. If the car feels good and you’re racing hard and trying to have a great finish at the end of the night, that’s one thing. I’ve also been in some where there’s crash damage and you just can’t get out of the way fast enough and those last 100 miles seem like 400. So, it very much depends on the state of your race. Hopefully, it feels like it just (snaps fingers) whizzes right by this year.” 

What are your overall thoughts about racing at Charlotte? 

“I like Charlotte. It’s really nice for the crews because it’s a home race for them. They get to sleep in their own bed and a lot of their family and friends are there. So, you want to give them a good performance. It’s fun for me at Charlotte because a lot of the crews have young kids, so it’s fun to meet them and see them around the hauler during the race weekend. It’s just a bit of a different experience than a lot of the tracks we go to.”

 

How much do you pay attention to the goings-on with the Indianapolis 500, even though it’s a few hours before you have to go racing yourself?

“I definitely set up my race day for the Coca-Cola 600 to accommodate the Indy 500. I like to watch the beginning and, of course, I like to watch the end, so usually I’ll pop on out for a couple meet-and-greets during the middle of the race, but I do really like to watch it all. I have such great memories of the Indy 500 and that’s why I also like going back to Indy in a stock car.” 

Do you have any desire to go back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an Indy car to compete in the Indy 500?  

“I feel so lucky to have competed in the event with great teams and some luck every now and again that I almost won the Indy 500 a couple of times and was always very competitive. I don’t want to do anything to take away from that just to participate. I don’t race to just participate, so if I felt like I had an opportunity to win, you never know. But I’m not necessarily seeking that out, so it would just have to kind of fall in my lap, I think.” 

Last year and again this year, there is a real reason to more than just tune in to the F1 race in Monaco. Your team owner Gene Haas will again be a part of the event with Haas F1 Team. How much do you pay attention to Monaco before you switch gears to Indy, and then finally switch gears to the Coke 600? 

“Usually Monaco comes on at home when I’m making breakfast in the morning because we’re racing in Charlotte, and since we all pretty much live here, you end up watching that at home during breakfast. Then you go to the track and have lunch and watch the Indy 500 and then you have a quick bite before you go out for the Coca-Cola 600. We watch them all. We might not catch every lap, of course, but we watch them all.” 

Looking at Memorial Day, what’s that day like for you as you prepare for the Coca-Cola 600?

“For race day, I like to carve out as much time as I can to watch the Indy 500. It’s an amazing event. I can still put myself there and feel it when I watch the race. I like to watch and see how the drivers I know are doing. It’s a great race. It’s just part of tradition. I do have to do meet-and-greets and stuff like that on race day, but I usually try to schedule them early, or during the middle of the race, so I can watch the end, for sure.”

How challenging is the Coca-Cola 600? 

“A lot is made about the Coca-Cola 600 being another 100 miles longer and it being a long race. We have a lot of races that are already 500 miles long and we have a lot of races that go from day to night, so it’s really not unfamiliar territory. It can make a bad day worse if the race is even longer. If the car is good, then the day is easy. It never feels all that long and, hopefully, it’s not super-hot out. Other than that, it’s just another race, honestly. But, it is a big event that you want to do well at.”

COLE CUSTER – 2017 Charlotte I Race Advance

Event: Hisense 4K TV 300 (Round 10 of 33)
Date: May 27, 2017
Location: Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway
Layout: 1.5-mile oval

Cole Custer Notes of Interest

  • The Hisense 4K TV 300 will mark Cole Custer’s 15th career NASCAR XFINITY Series start and his second XFINITY Series start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
  • In Custer’s first XFINITY Series start at Charlotte, he led one lap around the 1.5-mile oval and finished a career-best fourth. He was the highest-placing XFINITY Series regular behind Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Joey Logano.
  • Custer’s best finish in the nine 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 14 career XFINITY Series starts.
  • Custer is fourth in the XFINITY Series Rookie of the Year standings, 27 points behind leader William Byron and two points behind third-place Matt Tifft. He has earned two Rookie of the Race awards this season at 1.5-mile tracks (fifth at Texas Motor Speedway and 11th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway).
  • Custer is 12th in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, 165 points behind series leader Elliot Sadler.
  • Custer’s best qualifying effort in the nine XFINITY Series races run this season is third, earned in the seventh race of the season April 22 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Custer has five top-10 starts and two top-five starts this season.
  • In seven XFINITY Series starts and nine Camping World Truck Series starts at 1.5-mile tracks, Custer has three top-five finishes and eight top-10s.
  • Custer has earned three of his best finishes this season at 1.5-mile tracks – Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (fifth), Atlanta Motor Speedway (10th) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (11th).

Cole Custer, Driver Q&A

Some of your best finishes in your XFINITY Series career have been at 1.5-mile tracks. Why is that?

“I think we’ve unloaded some great cars at the 1.5-mile tracks, which seems to be our strong suit this year. The team has given me some great Haas Automation Ford Mustangs that have helped me adapt to the track faster than I normally would. The team has done a great job with the cars and it has given me the opportunity to race up front.”

What is a lap around Charlotte Motor Speedway like?

“I would say it’s a really edgy racetrack. Age-wise, it’s in the middle of a grippy track and a really worn-out track. It has a lot of tiny, high-speed bumps throughout the track that will upset the car. It’s a really challenging place to get around. Honestly, it’s one of the most difficult tracks I’ve been to. You have to hit your lines and your marks just right, but it’s a fun track.”

What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“Coming back to Charlotte is pretty important because you have all of the shop members around and all of their families and friends. It’s an important race for everybody and everyone wants to step their game up to win here. On the other hand, you may have a few more distractions being home with family all around, but it’s great having all of your friends around at the race.”

 

Jeff Meendering, Crew Chief Q&A

You were raised in Concord, North Carolina, just a few miles from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tell us about your background in racing.

“I started racing at the Concord Motorsports Park when I was 16 years old in the Street Stock division. I raced that division for a few years, then moved up to the Super Late Model division and ran that for about 10 years.”

What are your thoughts on racing at Charlotte?

“I’ve attended every race at Charlotte for as long as I can remember. For that reason alone, it makes the track special to me – the fact that I can sleep in my own bed over the race weekend is just a bonus. We are bringing the car that we were running well with in California before getting wrecked. Our fabrication shop hung a new Mustang body on it and I feel like it’s the best Haas Automation Ford in our fleet. We had a good test in Charlotte at the beginning of the month so, going in, I feel really good about the weekend.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2017 Charlotte I Race Advance

Clint Bowyer is as big of a racing fan as anyone sitting in the grandstands or watching on television. The Emporia, Kansas native races in NASCAR, runs his own Dirt Late Model team, and has his motorhome television dialed into racing most of the time. He can’t wait for Sunday.

Like everyone else, he will tune in early Sunday morning when Formula One takes the green flag in Monaco, followed by the Indianapolis 500 at noon. A few hours later, he’ll leave the couch to put on his Haas Automation Ford uniform and climb in his Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) No. 14 Ford.

Bowyer and 39 other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will battle for 600 miles Sunday night in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.

“Sunday is just a hell of a day of racing,” Bowyer said with a laugh. “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.”

Bowyer has a rooting interest Sunday morning in Monaco. Haas F1 Team is owned by SHR co-owner Gene Haas and fields cars for Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

“I’ve always been a fan of F1 and admired what they do, but now that the boss has cars in it and is competing in it, you follow and pull for those guys even that much more,” Bowyer said.

After the Formula One race, Bowyer will watch the Indianapolis 500 in his motorcoach from the infield in Charlotte.

“Having the Indy 500 leading up to our 600 is awesome for a race fan and, hey, I’m a race fan,” he said. “Who’s not, right? I want to watch that race, and do. The last few years have been phenomenal.”

Normally, he’ll begin his sponsor and media obligations for the Cup Series race during the closing laps of the Indy 500, but he’ll keep a close eye on the ending.

“I remember I was with one of the sponsors, doing a hospitality deal already, and looking over peoples’ shoulders at the TV behind me, trying to focus on what I’m supposed to be talking about, and selling the 600, how we’re going to run there,” Bowyer said. “And, oh, by the way, trying to see who’s going to win the Indy 500.”

Bowyer is in his first season driving for SHR replacing three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR at the end of the 2016 season. Stewart, who raced in five Indy 500s, plans to attend Indy on Sunday, then arrive in Charlotte before the start of the 600 race.

Make no mistake – by the time the green flag drops in Charlotte for NASCAR’s longest race of the season, Bowyer will be all business. He won at Charlotte in October 2012 and owns two top-five finishes and five top-10s and has led 119 laps. Last week in the NASCAR All-Star Race, Bowyer finished 13th after winning Stage 1 in the NASCAR Monster Energy Open. It marked the third time in four seasons Bowyer advanced from the Open to the All-Star Race.

Last week’s racing was about speed over a short distance. Sunday’s race is the longest the drivers will race all season. Bowyer said the strain of the extra distance is as much mental as physical.

“It just depends on how your ole’ hot rod is, how your night’s going,” he said. “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.”

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

 

What are your thoughts on the 600?

“I think you saw from the All-Star Race that track position is going to be key. But we will have longer green-flag runs Sunday and handling will come into play. We had a really good car last week. If we could have gotten out front in the All-Star Race like we did in the Open, then we would have been tough to handle.”

Do you have any desire to compete in the Indianapolis 500?

“No. No, I don’t. Open wheels just doesn’t make much sense to me. No. They fly. I don’t like that. Flying’s just for – flying is for airplanes.”

KURT BUSCH – 2017 Charlotte I Race Advance

When Kurt Busch, driver of the Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), takes to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, he will do so in the very first, all in-house-built No. 41 Ford Fusion.

For Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, the largest computer numerically controlled (CNC) machine-tool builder in North America, the term “very first” has significance. It goes back to the first machine manufactured by Haas Automation, the VF-1, in 1988. The “V” stands for vertical, which is an industry standard designation for a vertical mill. Haas added “F1” to the name to unofficially designate it as the company’s “Very First One.”

The tradition continued when Haas was granted a Formula One license by the FIA. When Haas F1 Team unveiled its “Very First Racecar” at preseason testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, it was billed as the “VF-16” to mark both the milestone and the season it debuted.

So this weekend, Busch will attempt to duplicate the success Haas’ other very first ones have had. And he’ll do so in one of the most demanding races on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. Aside from the distinction of being the longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600 is also one of the most prestigious events on the circuit due in no small part to its durability implications – it’s a race that tests man and machine.

Endurance is a concept with which competitors in the NASCAR Cup Series are well acquainted. Every race run tests the endurance of its drivers, whether they’re racing 300, 400 or 500 miles. That weekly test gets a little more aggressive as the series prepares for its marathon 600-mile race.

Busch is among the drivers who have met the challenges that come with competing in the 600, winning the 2010 version of the annual Memorial Day-weekend event. After just missing out on the pole that year, Busch started second and wasted no time jumping to the lead. He took over the top spot on lap 12 and led the next 40 laps before surrendering the lead briefly for a round of green-flag pit stops. Busch owned the lead 12 different times for a race-high 252 laps, including the final 19. With the win, he became the seventh driver in series history to follow a victory in the NASCAR All-Star Race with a win in the 600 a week later.

So, while another triumph Sunday would put Busch in elite company with drivers Richard Petty, Fred Lorenzen, Neil Bonnett, Jim Paschal, Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick as a two-time Coca-Cola 600 winner, it would also do much more than that for his 2017 championship hopes, as it would give Busch and his No. 41 team a second victory in 2017 and another five valuable bonus points for the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.

 

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

 

What are your thoughts about the Coke 600 this weekend?

“This weekend’s race is a big one and, being that it’s here in our backyard, it’s almost like a hometown race for everybody. All of the guys who work at the shop and don’t get to go to the track on a weekly basis usually get to come out and see all of their hard work on display. You want to really put the banner up for your team.”

What do you do to get ready for what is the longest race of the year?

“It’s just a marathon mentality. It’s the exact opposite of the All-Star Race. The race starts during the daytime and, even if you’re getting behind early in the race – although you can’t get too far behind – it’s difficult to find a setup that works well at both the beginning and end of the race because of how much the track changes from start to finish. It’s the end of the race, though, when they hand out the points and the check, so you hope your car will race the same way at the end as it did for the All-Star Race, provided you had a good All-Star Race. The mentality is that it’s just pit stop after pit stop with long sequence after long sequence. The All-Star Race is a 100-yard dash. The 600 is a marathon.”

Talk about the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, when you had such a dominant car.

“Well, to start, we just missed out on the pole. That’s one thing that sticks in my mind. You know how racers are – we want to win them all. That race, we were so good in the daytime that I was scared of what was going to happen when the sun went down and the track started to change and how the race would play out. I mean, you never really have a good car at the beginning and have it stay underneath you for the nighttime. It’s just the way you’ve always seen that race play out. But that car was that good. It was what we saw with it in the All-Star Race the week before. It was fast during both of those weekends. So it’s amazing how you can stumble across little things that make all of the difference in the world. Again, I was leading the beginning of the race just pacing myself. The car was so good in the daytime and I literally thought we would end up a lap down at night because cars never stay the same as the race goes on. But it worked out and we got the win in the 600.”

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Monster Energy Open Race Advance

For Danica Patrick, there are two ways to make it into Saturday’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway to contend for the $1 million winner’s check: win one of the segments in Saturday’s Monster Energy Open, or win the Monster Energy All-Star Fan Vote.

She has three chances to race her way into the field for the Saturday night’s featured event. This year, the winner of each of the three segments in the Open will advance to the All-Star Race. Patrick has earned top-10 finishes in all four prior starts in the Monster Energy Open.

Patrick’s other hope for making the All-Star Race is via the Monster Energy All-Star Fan Vote. She is one of 22 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers eligible for the All-Star Fan Vote this year. Fans can vote through 11:59 p.m. EDT Friday by visiting NASCAR.com/FanVote. In 2015, Patrick became the first repeat winner of the fan vote after previously winning in 2013. Last year, Patrick was also voted into the All-Star Race by the fans.

This weekend, Patrick’s No. 10 Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) will sport a special paint scheme featuring “Wonder Woman.” The iconic “Wonder Woman” logo appears on the hood and TV panel while “Wonder Woman” herself graces the hood and both door panels. In theaters June 2, Gal Gadot returns as the title character in the epic action adventure “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins.

In addition, Patrick’s No. 10 Ford will feature the One Cure initiative through a collaboration with Code 3 Associates. One Cure is a project led by the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, where innovative cancer treatments for pets are being evaluated in clinical trials to benefit people. The center sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 400 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope to the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.

Whether she races her way in or gets voted in by the fans, Patrick hopes to be racing the No. 10 “Wonder Woman”/One Cure Ford Fusion for a shot at $1 million in Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race.

 

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 Wonder Woman/One Cure Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

How do you feel about the Open and making the All-Star Race field?  

“By all means, as a driver, I want to get in legitimately by racing my way into the show. If being voted in is my last chance, then I’m grateful for my fans. My fans are always there for me. I’ve seen a number of posts on social media from my fans about voting and I’m grateful for their support.”

You’ve been voted into the All-Star Race three times, now. How did you feel about that?

“I’m extremely fortunate to have some great fans. They’re very active across all the social media platforms and just, in general, cheering for me out loud at the racetrack. I’m just extremely fortunate. I don’t take them for granted for a second. I have to say that, from a driver’s perspective, I would rather race my way in but, if I have to get in by fan vote, what other way is better than that? I mean, to have the fans put you in the race was something special. I have been so lucky in my career to have such great fans everywhere I go, so I have to say thank you for that.” 

How helpful is the All-Star Race weekend to prepare for the Coca-Cola 600?  

“I feel like the All-Star Race is a great opportunity for the teams. It allows a team to try something different. At this point of the year, you’ve kind of worked your way into the season pretty far, you’ve logged a lot of race miles and practice miles and there’s probably something at that point in time where you wish you had time to try it. And so, to have that opportunity to test a different car or a front clip, an aero package, a mechanical package, something different, the All-Star Race is a really, really good opportunity for that.”

CLINT BOWYER – 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race Advance

No. 14 Haas Automation Ford driver Clint Bowyer wants nothing more than to win Saturday night’s Monster Energy Open at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway – then never be part of the race again.

The three-stage Open precedes the Monster Energy All-Star Race with each stage winner, plus a fan vote winner, earning a spot in the All-Star Race, where the sport’s stars will compete for a $1 million prize.

“I love the Open and we’re going to do our best to run well Saturday night, but I expect this time next year the No. 14 car will already be part of the All-Star Race and we won’t have to worry about racing in the Open,” Bowyer said with a laugh.

The easiest way to earn a place in the 2018 All-Star Race is to either win this year’s race, or win a points-paying Cup Series race between now and this time next year. The way he’s raced in 2017, winning isn’t a longshot for Bowyer. He’s 10th in points with two top-five finishes and five top-10s in his first season at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He replaced three-time champion Tony Stewart, who retired from NASCAR competition at the end of 2016.

Last weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Bowyer avoided several close calls and rallied in the closing laps to finish ninth in front of the home state fans.

Bowyer is eyeing the $1 million All-Star prize, but before he thinks about taking home the trophy, he first has to advance beyond the Open. The trek begins Saturday at 4:35 p.m. EDT, when the Open field will be set by two rounds of traditional knock-out qualifying. The Open begins at 6 p.m. and will include three stages – 20 laps, 20 laps, 10 laps – with each stage winner advancing to the All-Star Race that begins at 8 p.m. If he doesn’t advance on the track, fans can vote Bowyer into the All-Star Race at www.NASCAR.com/fanvote.

He says advancing won’t be easy.

“There are some good drivers and teams in the Open this year,” said Bowyer, who won the 2014 and 2015 Open races. “But we will be disappointed if we don’t advance to the All-Star Race. That’s what we are here for. The No. 14 team and SHR are too good of a team and organization to race for anything less than victory.”

Saturday’s races also serve as a tune-up for the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 points race at Charlotte. Bowyer said preparation for winning the 600 begins this weekend.

“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 kind of stages and short runs, so it helps you kind of get ready for next weekend’s race that will have four stages for the first time. Plus, having that practice time on the racetrack is definitely going to be key to learning about the track and preparing for the 600.”

When the green flag drops Saturday night for the Open and hopefully again for Bowyer later in the evening in the All-Star Race, he isn’t going to be thinking about next year, preparation for the 600, points racing or anything else.

“Yeah, forget all that,” he said with another laugh. “There’s a million bucks on the line Saturday night. Think about that – $1 million!”

 

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

 

How close do you feel you are to winning?

“We ran third in California and showed some potential. In Bristol, had I got out in front of Jimmie (Johnson), I would have won the race. We are knocking on the door. We aren’t knocking enough but, at Talladega and Kansas, we led some laps and showed potential again. It takes the total package. You have to put it together. It all starts with consistency, running up front in a consistent manner week in and week out. We have a good baseline established and that is with no notes or nothing to work with. No experience with one another. No communication. We are learning all those things and you can see it getting better each week. Where you get excited is going back to these tracks a second time and having a notebook established and line of communication down, where you know what to expect and capitalize and better your position.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race Advance

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Bucks Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is racing for $2 million this Saturday night in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. That is not a misprint. Harvick is racing for $2 million.

In conjunction with the launch of Busch Beer’s loyalty program “Busch Bucks,” 42-year old Steve Sinanan, an accountant and consultant from Orlando, Florida, will have the opportunity to win $1 million – matching the first-place prize taken home by the All-Star Race winner – but only if it is Harvick who takes the checkered flag.

Sinanan, an avid Harvick fan, outdoors enthusiast and Busch Beer drinker, says he would use the money to pay off his student loans and invest the rest. He will be at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend to watch the excitement trackside and to see if he is taking home the $1 million grand prize. Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Bucks Ford Fusion will showcase a special paint scheme featuring a “million-dollar look” – literally.

Sinanan, who regularly drives the hour from his home in Orlando to Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway to attend the Daytona 500 each February, is just like most Busch Beer drinkers in his love of the outdoors. His hobbies include fishing and swimming, and he regularly makes home-cooked meals with Busch Beer as a key ingredient.

The good news for Sinanan is that Harvick is an experienced NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race competitor with a history of success in the annual event.

Harvick is making his 17th consecutive All-Star appearance, which moves him into a tie with Matt Kenseth for the sixth-most consecutive appearances ahead of Dale Earnhardt, Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Labonte. Mark Martin has the most consecutive All-Star appearances at 24, and Jeff Gordon is second after making his 22nd straight appearance prior to his retirement at the conclusion of 2015. Rusty Wallace and Tony Stewart are tied for third with 19, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. has 18.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion earned his first appearance in the All-Star Race during his 2001 rookie campaign, when he scored his first NASCAR Cup Series win in only his third Cup Series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway that March. He started the race fifth, led 18 laps and beat runner-up Jeff Gordon by .006 of a second for one of the closest finishes in Cup Series history. While he qualified for his first All-Star Race in only his third start, a brake issue in the All-Star Race forced him to retire after only 19 laps. He finished 21st.

Harvick won the 2007 All-Star Race when he started fourth, led 20 of 80 laps and beat runner-up Jimmie Johnson to the finish line by .141 of a second. The win made Harvick an automatic All-Star qualifier. However, he has qualified for the All-Star Race by virtue of a win every season since 2010 and also as the 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion.

In addition to the one win, Harvick has three runner-up finishes in the All-Star Race – two in the last three events. He started third, led five laps and finished second to race-winner Jamie McMurray by .696 of a second in 2014. In 2015, he started 20th and finished second by .923 of a second to Denny Hamlin.

The 2007 All-Star Race winner has three additional points-paying wins at Charlotte. He won the Coca-Cola 600 in both 2011 and 2013, in addition to his win in the 2014 Bank of America 500.

Given Harvick’s past performance at Charlotte, Saturday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race may be Sinanan’s best chance to cash a $1 million payday, all coming courtesy of Harvick and Busch Beer.

 

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

 

Is it added pressure racing to win $1 million for a race fan with Busch Bucks on the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford this week?

“We want to win every single week, but the Busch Bucks million-dollar giveaway definitely ups the ante and adds some serious pressure to the No. 4 team in the All-Star Race. Even though it’s a non-points race, the stakes are going to be about as high as they can possibly be on Saturday night.”

If you’re in the mix on the final lap of the All-Star Race, what would you do to win?

“Heck, you don’t have to put $1 million up to know what most of us would do to try and win a race. But, when there are no points on the line and $1 million at stake, plus $1 million for a race fan through the Busch Bucks program this week, you definitely throw caution to the wind and go for it. A lot of times you see that at the All-Star Race and it ends up with a lot of bent-up sheet metal due to moves that aren’t necessarily thought out very well – and we’ve all made them. It’s a fun race and it’s fun just for that reason. If you make a mistake, the repercussions aren’t really that great in terms of points or anything like that. It’s really about trying to win and that carrot that they dangle out in front of you is a trophy and a million bucks – so go for it.”

KURT BUSCH – 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race Advance

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), knows a thing or two about winning non-points-paying races in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Of the 15 drivers currently qualified for Saturday night’s Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Busch is one of only seven who has scored victories in each of the three exhibition races on the schedule. Those would be the All-Star Race at Charlotte, and two events at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway – the Can-Am Duels that set the starting field for the Daytona 500, and The Clash, which is the non-points race that kicks off the season there each year.

Both of Busch’s wins at Daytona came in 2011. His win in The Clash came after he swept past Ryan Newman off the final turn, thanks to drafting help from Jamie McMurray. In claiming the checkered flag, he became the 19th different winner of the event that began in 1979. Although it wasn’t a points-paying win, it was the first restrictor-plate victory of Busch’s career. Five days later, Busch again drove into victory lane, this time in the first Can-Am Duel. He started sixth and drafted with Regan Smith all afternoon en route to the win.

And, in a race where drama is always at a premium because its competitors have a million reasons to get to victory lane, Busch’s win in the 2010 All-Star Race was no exception. He started the $1 million-to-win race from the pole and brushed the wall early, but was able to get back to the front of the field after the final mandatory pit stop that set up a 10-lap shootout to the finish. He went on to avoid a late multicar accident en route to his first All-Star Race victory.

This weekend, the 2004 NASCAR Cup Series champion is ready to earn his second All-Star title.

Unlike any other event, the All-Star Race is about the fame, the glory, and a cool $1 million. And with no points on the line, Busch and his crew can do what it takes to earn the win.

This year’s All-Star format will include three 20-lap stages with the winner of each locking up a spot in the final segment, as long as he or she remains on the lead lap. The rest of the 10-competitor field in the final segment will be made up of the drivers with the best average finish in the first three segments, meaning some drivers will be eliminated from the race before the final stage. Cars will be lined up for the final stage by average finish during the first three stages – the driver with the best average finish will be positioned first, the driver with the worst average finish positioned 10th. Pit road will then open for an optional pit stop. The order off pit road sets the lineup for the final 10-lap segment.

Each team will be granted one set of softer tires to use at their discretion as part of their tire allocation for the race. The softer tires are designed to provide more grip and, thus, speed. There is a catch, though, as teams that choose to put on softer tires for the final stage must start behind those teams that choose regular tires.

It’s a simple format, really – checkers or wreckers. Bring back the trophy or bring back the steering wheel.

 

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

 

Talk about having a tire option for the All-Star Race this weekend at Charlotte.

“We’ll have a set in practice, and that will allow the team to adjust to the car according to that set, or find out that it’s not that much of an advantage. That’s something we’ll have to find out through practice. But that makes it that much more fun, going into a race where there’s a million bucks on the line, no points and the format is very crisp and clean this year. If these tires, if they’re soft and they go, I’ll run them all 70 laps.”

Talk about racing in the All-Star Race.

“There’s always something exciting about racing for $1 million. There’s a unique element about having that kind of money on the line in one night. It’s the prestige, it’s the intensity of it. I like coming onto pit road with no speed limit. I like that the pit crew is part of qualifying. The format itself is unique. It’s a fun environment for a novice fan to enjoy his or her first taste of NASCAR. It’s an even better environment for a longtime fan to see his or her favorite driver laying it all on the line for $1 million with no points at stake.”

What does it mean to you to be in the All-Star Race?

“It’s a who’s who of the Cup Series. It’s a big honor to be included in that race. Those are the winners, the top percent of our sport. To win that race in 2010 was a special moment. To beat the best of the best, and then to receive a check for $1 million, that’s a great feeling.”

Talk about winning the event in 2010. What do you remember about that race? And what would it mean to you to win another one? 

“The weekend was perfect. The car unloaded fast. We had an excellent pit stop during our run. We won the pole and it seemed like, in the race, we were the ones dictating what everyone else had to do because of the pace we set. That all starts with the trends that you’ve learned in the beginning of the season. That’s what is different about the All-Star Race and The Clash in Daytona. At Daytona, you’re coming off the offseason, there’s the buildup and excitement for another season and seeing what you’ve got. The All-Star Race is taking what you’ve learned in the first part of the year, applying that and trying to cash in on a big payday.”

KEVIN HARVICK – 2017 Kansas I Race Advance

Kevin Harvick is looking to score his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season and his second straight at the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. If Harvick is able to score his second win in a row at Kansas Speedway, he’ll have to do it under the lights Saturday night in the Go Bowling 400.

The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) won the most recent NASCAR Cup Series event at Kansas Speedway in October 2016, when he started 11th, led 74 laps and beat runner-up Carl Edwards to the finish line by 1.183 seconds. The win came in a must-win situation during the NASCAR Playoffs after Harvick suffered a mechanical failure the week before in the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway that resulted in a 38th-place finish that left him 12th in the standings. He trailed Denny Hamlin by eight points for the final transfer position into the Round of 8 with Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway looming the following week.

It was the second Cup Series win for Harvick, who also won the NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas in October 2013, when he started from the pole position, led 138 of 267 laps and beat current SHR teammate Kurt Busch to the finish line by 1.140 seconds to score his first Cup Series victory at the 1.5-mile oval.

The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion also owns the Cup Series qualifying record at Kansas, which he set May 9, 2014 with a lap of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 in the second round of qualifying. That attempt won him his second of three consecutive Sprint Cup poles at Kansas from October 2013 through October 2014.

He also has three runner-up finishes in six Cup Series starts at Kansas since joining SHR in February 2014.

This weekend will also serve as a warm-up for next weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race under the lights at the 1.5-mile Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway track. Harvick will have added pressure next week when he is behind the wheel of the No. 4 Busch Bucks Ford Fusion.

Busch Beer will reward a loyal Busch Beer consumer with an all-expenses-paid trip to Charlotte for the All-Star Race, but if Harvick takes the $1 million purse for winning the NASCAR All-Star Race, the lucky fan also will receive a $1 million grand prize from Busch Beer.

Aside from a cut tire at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March that resulted in a 38th-place finish, Harvick and the No. 4 team have been dominant at 1.5-mile racetracks in 2017. Harvick won the pole and led 292 of 325 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the second Cup Series event of the season. At Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Harvick won the pole with a lap of 27.217 seconds at 198.405 mph, then went on to lead 77 laps and finish fourth.

What makes those numbers even more encouraging is that the No. 4 team is bringing Chassis No. 4-929 to the Go Bowling 400. Chassis No. 4-929 has won the pole position for every race the team has ever brought it to. It made its NASCAR Cup Series debut at Charlotte in October, when it won the pole with lap of 27.547 seconds at 196.029 mph, led 12 laps, but failed to finish the race due to a mechanical issue. It made its second appearance in the 2016 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, when it won a second consecutive pole with a lap of 30.399 seconds at 177.637 mph. In its only 2017 appearance to date at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, Harvick won his third consecutive pole with Chassis No. 4-929 with a lap of 29.118 seconds at 190.398 mph in the final round of qualifying.

While Harvick has raced up front and scored three stage wins this year, he is still in search of his first Cup Series race win of the season. Since joining SHR at the beginning of 2014, Harvick has never gone to Kansas in May still in search of his first win of the season. He hopes to change that luck with a dominant performance Saturday night.

 

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

 

You’ve performed much stronger at Kansas the last couple of years. Is that because of the repave, or did you find something you were missing previously?

“The repave is definitely what changed and turned things around for us at Kansas. Really, I liked the racetrack the way it was before with the asphalt really worn out and cars sliding all over. But, once the repave happened, we were able to really hit on some things and, for whatever reason, it kind of fits my driving style and we have gotten some good results out of it. It has been a really good-performing racetrack for us and one that we look forward to going to and hopefully continue to get good results out of it because it’s been so good for us in the past.”

 

Take us on a lap around Kansas.

“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and a lot fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”

DANICA PATRICK – 2017 Kansas I Race Advance

When Danica Patrick gets to Kansas Speedway in Kansas City for this weekend’s Go Bowling 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event, she will be looking to celebrate another wonderful race at the 1.5-mile track.

Entering the weekend, Patrick is looking to score results similar to her May 2014 performance at Kansas, when she started ninth and finished seventh. The effort was one of two times in her career she has started and finished in the top-10, with the other being the 2013 Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, where she started on the pole and finished eighth. Patrick ran well throughout the night at Kansas in 2014 and was scored as high as third late in the race before finishing seventh.

After a top-10 run at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway Sunday was derailed by a late-race accident, the timing couldn’t be better for Patrick to return to Kansas. Aside from her seventh-place finish in May 2014, Patrick has earned a total of four top-20 results at the track in NASCAR Cup Series competition. In two NASCAR Xfinity Series starts there, she finished a career-best 10th in October 2012.

Patrick has also made six IndyCar Series starts at Kansas. She qualified on the pole in 2005, and earned one top-five finish and three top-10s at the track in that series.

For Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway, Patrick’s No. 10 Ford Fusion will sport a special paint scheme featuring “Wonder Woman.” The iconic “Wonder Woman” logo appears on the hood and TV panel while “Wonder Woman” herself graces the hood and both door panels. In theaters June 2, Gal Gadot returns as the title character in the epic action adventure “Wonder Woman,” directed by Patty Jenkins.

In addition, Patrick’s No. 10 Ford will feature the One Cure initiative through a collaboration with Code 3 Associates. One Cure is a project led by the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, where innovative cancer treatments for pets are being evaluated in clinical trials to benefit people. The center sees more than 1,500 new animal cancer patients every year, with approximately 400 patients enrolling in carefully monitored clinical trials specific to their cancer type. The canine and feline patients are helping pioneer cancer research, moving cutting-edge treatments out of the laboratory and into clinical practice, ultimately providing hope to the next generation of animal and human cancer patients.

Channeling “Wonder Woman” herself, Patrick and her No. 10 “Wonder Woman”/One Cure Ford Fusion team will be looking to have a wonderful weekend at Kansas Speedway.

 

DANICA PATRICK, Driver of the No. 10 “Wonder Woman”/One Cure Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

Your No. 10 Ford Fusion will feature a “Wonder Woman”/One Cure paint scheme this weekend. What do you think of the paint scheme?

“Funny enough, I think the Wonder Woman image on the hood kind of looks like me. Consider (the gauntlets) my front bumper blocking all of the bad stuff or pushing stuff out of the way. And it’s great to have One Cure on the car this weekend, as well. I love dogs and I’m glad we can bring more awareness to all of the work the team at the Flint Animal Cancer Center is doing. Our pets are members of our families and, when they aren’t well, we want to do everything we can to help. Cancer has touched so many of us. Knowing we can use what we learn from keeping our animals healthy to potentially helping save human lives is a cause I’m honored to support.” 

What are your overall thoughts on going back to Kansas this spring?

“I’ve always liked going to Kansas. It’s a nice facility and I’ve got a lot of experience there compared to some places, even if a lot of it was in IndyCar.”

What is the hardest part of the track to figure out at Kansas?

“It’s a fast track. I think it’s the same problem we face at most tracks we go to – you have to get through the center well enough to be comfortable enough to be very aggressive with the throttle at the same time. I think, for sheer speed, you can’t be too loose, but in the race you can’t be too tight or you’ll fall back. These cars are finicky. It’s about focusing on the small things and getting the most out of the car itself instead of trying to throw the kitchen sink at it if you’re a little off. It’s all in the little details. I think that’s the most important thing.” 

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. What has your mother meant to you?  

“She’s just a great, great person. She’s kind and she’s always been someone I go to when I need to be comforted. I feel like that’s the role of moms, and my mom definitely does a great job with that. I wish my mom and dad could be at the race every weekend, but they make it to as many as possible. I’m very grateful to have such great parents.”