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Rolex 24 At Daytona impossible to predict
Strong field includes Sprint Cup Series drivers and actor Patrick Dempsey DAYTONA BEACH -- When the checkered flag falls on the 2015 Rolex 24 At Daytona at 2:10 p.m. Sunday afternoon, there's only one thing we now know for sure: The car that's the first under the flag will have earned the victory. "This is a strong field," said Scott Atherton, IMSA president and chief operating officer. "A very strong field." That may be an understatement. One year ago, the 2014 Rolex 24 was the first race for the new TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, which consisted of the combined GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. Cars, personnel and schedules were combined, and no one really knew what would happen the first time the new TUDOR Championship took to the track. What happened was a race that ran at an absolutely frantic pace for the full 24 hours. Long gone are the days where teams could cruise at 90 percent, saving their equipment for the last few hours. Now, it's flat out, all day and all night. Bringing home the overall victory last year was the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP driven by Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais. That car was followed by three more Corvette DPs and a Nissan ORECA P2 car in fifth. For 2015, there are four Corvette DPs in the field, including the No. 5 Action Express entry, all sporting the new Stingray styling in the front and rear. For the stars to align and have all four Corvettes up front again is a long shot – even through the top three cars were all on the same lap at the finish, 695 laps after the start – the Prototype field is very strong this year. There are 16 Prototypes, including a pair of brand-new Honda HPD ARX cars racing under the Tequila Patrón ESM banner, as well as a Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 that Michael Shank Racing is bringing to the party. There's another new Ligier fielded by Krohn Racing, but it has Judd power. Mazda is back for its second year with a pair of diesel-powered Prototypes built and raced by SpeedSource that are showing a lot more speed than last year. And you can never count out the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates twins, both powered by Ford EcoBoost engines in Riley chassis. With a driver lineup that includes Scott Pruett, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, Kyle Larson , Jamie McMurray , Joey Hand, Charlie Kimball and Sage Karam, the two Ganassi cars have to be counted among the favorites. And, of course, there's those other three Corvette DPs – the No. 31 Whelen Corvette DP, a sister car to the Action Express No. 5; the VisitFlorida.com No. 90 and the always-formidable Konica Minolta No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing, which has brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor teaming with veteran Max Angelelli. Looking for a dark horse? The DeltaWing Racing Cars Claro/TracFone was fast in practice, as was the Starworks Dinan-powered Riley, which has an all-star driver lineup that includes Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rubens Barrichello. Of the four classes racing in the Rolex 24, the aforementioned Prototypes are the fastest, but not far behind are the open-cockpit Prototype Challenge cars, which use ORECA FLM09 chassis and Chevrolet engines. It's tough to pick a favorite from the eight entries, but expect the Starworks No. 8, the CORE Autosport No. 54, the RSR Racing No. 11 and the BAR1 Motorsport No. 16 to contend during the 24 hours. The GT Le Mans (GTLM) class is invariably among the most competitive and the highest profile, as the production-based cars are all backed by the manufacturers, and bragging rights are a strong motivation. Corvette Racing has its usual two-car entry and is always a threat to win, especially at a horsepower track like Daytona. There are three Porsche 911 RSR entries, two backed by Porsche North America, and one by Falken Tire, coming off an end-of-the-season victory at the 2014 Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. The Bobby Rahal -led BMW Team RLL has a pair of BMW Z4 GTEs, and there are two Ferrari F458 Italias, one from AF Corse and one from Risi Competizione. But don't forget the lone Gulf-sponsored Aston Martin Vantage V8, which has a world-class roster of drivers. At 19, the largest of the four classes is GT Daytona (GTD), which – like GTLM, are familiar production-based cars – but don't have quite the power, or the price tag, of the GTLM entries. GTD is impossible to handicap, though the fact that there are nine Porsche 911 GT Americas in the field gives them the numerical advantage. There are three Ferrari 458 Italias, two Aston-Martin V12 Vantages, two Dodge Viper SRTs, a pair of Audi R8 LMS entries, and a lone BMW Z4, but that car is fielded by he respected Turner Motorsport, so don't write it off. If you have to play favorites, the two Alex Job-prepared Porsches (Nos. 22 and 23) should be there in the end, because few have mastered race strategy as well as Job. The No. 63 Ferrari of Scuderia Corsa seems to love the longer races, as does the Magnus Racing No. 44 Porsche. If you are looking for star power, that would be the No. 58 Dempsey/Wright Motorsports Brumos Porsche, with "Grey's Anatomy" actor Patrick Dempsey leading the four-driver team. Bottom line: Don't expect a runaway winner in any of the four classes – competition is simply too strong. Weather could be a factor, if the forecast for some damp weather for the weekend comes true – some cars, and some drivers, seem to thrive on wet pavement, and a slick surface tends to cripple the highest-horsepower entries, leveling the playing field and enhancing the importance of driver finesse. So keep your money in your pocket this weekend – the 2015 Rolex 24 at Daytona is simply too close to call. The Rolex 24 at Daytona will be broadcast from 2-4 p.m. Saturday on FOX; 4-8 p.m. on FOX Sports 2; 8-10 p.m. on FOX Sports 1; 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. on IMSA.com , and on Sunday, 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on FOX Sports 1. All times are Eastern. For more information on where to watch or listen to the 2015 Rolex 24, log onto IMSA.com .
Junior, Rahal train with National Guard
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Graham Rahal journey to Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, Indiana to train with the National Guard.
Born: February 25, 1961 Hometown: Corpus Christi, TX Premier Series Stats Competed: 1991, 1993-2016 Starts: 729 Wins: 21 Poles: 26 Years on Ballot: 1 The ultimate grinder, Bobby Labonte raced any car he could get behind the wheel of before he got his first break as a full-time premier series driver at 28 years old in 1993. His persistence paid off with a career highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 premier series title. A success in all three of NASCAR's national series, Labonte was the first of four drivers to win both an XFINITY and premier series championship. He is also one of 27 drivers to win a race in all three national series. The Texan showed up on the biggest stages throughout his 2000 premier championship season, earning two of his four wins in the Brickyard 400 and Southern 500. He beat out second-place Dale Earnhardt by 255 points for the series crown. Bobby and his brother, Terry Labonte, are one of two pairs of brothers (Kurt and Kyle Busch), who each boast a premier series championship.
NASCAR Hall of Fame: Bobby Labonte
The ultimate grinder, Bobby Labonte got his first break as a full-time premier series driver at 28. His persistence paid off with a career highlighted by 21 trips to Victory Lane and the 2000 championship.
Bobby Isaac joins NASCAR Hall of Fame Class 2016
RELATED: Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame In a different era, in which stock cars driven to and past their limits didn't break with frequency, there's no telling how many races or championships Bobby Isaac might have won. Isaac, the 1970 NASCAR premier series champion, won 37 of his 309 starts. But he was a DNF -- did not finish -- 129 times. His 49 poles rank 10th all-time, with 19 -- a still-standing, single-season mark -- coming in 1969. Only 38 drivers have won 19 or more poles in a career. Nobody ever had to tell Isaac to "stand on it." " Bobby was a never-give-up kind of guy," said Buddy Parrott, a member of Isaac's No. 71 K&K Insurance Dodge crew and a 49-time winner as a premier series crew chief for NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace and Darrell Waltrip among others. " Bobby had no fear." Isaac's accomplishments are such that he'll join the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2016 along with Jerry Cook, Terry Labonte , O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner. Their induction will take place Jan. 22 in Charlotte, N.C. The ceremonies will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET by NBCSN. Isaac, born on a farm near Catawba, North Carolina in 1932, saw his first stock car race at nearby Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway and at age 17 bought a 1937 Ford and put roll bars in it. He flipped the car on the race's second lap but that didn’t dampen his desire. Working at a variety of low-paying jobs, Isaac began racing the NASCAR late model sportsman circuit. He survived but sometimes just barely. "One time I drove 200 miles to drive a fellow's modified car with $4 in my pocket," he once said. "I figured that I'd have enough to buy gas and get down there and eat a hot dog before the race. The gas was $3 but I had to put two quarts of oil in my car so I was broke when I left town. When the feature started my stomach was not only growling but I didn’t have enough gas to get back home. "I drove that car as hard as I could and won. I had to win." Isaac, described by some as "mercurial," went sportsman racing fulltime in 1958, driving for Ralph Earnhardt. He won 28 feature events, competing against the likes of NASCAR Hall of Famers Ned Jarrett and David Pearson. Isaac, at age 28, competed in his first premier series event in 1961. Driving a Dodge for Ray Nichels, he won his first race in 1964 -- a 50-lap Daytona 500 qualifier in which he edged Jimmy Pardue in a photo finish after Richard Petty ran out of fuel. With factory-supported teams jumping in and out of the sport in the mid-1960s, Isaac went from top ride to no seat at all. His fortunes changed in 1968 when he was hired by Indiana insurance magnate Nord Krauskopf and paired with legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, whose larger than life persona was captured as Harry Hogg in the film "Days of Thunder." Over the course of five seasons, 1968 to 1972, the trio's "Poppy Red" Dodges won 36 times -- 17 alone in 1969 when Isaac won 17 times in 50 starts. Bedeviled by 19 failures to finish, Isaac wound up sixth in the championship standings. Isaac "only" won 11 times in his championship season, but the DNFs were reduced to just nine. The K&K team is remembered best for its winged Dodge Charger Daytona, the needle-nosed, high rear-wing version of the standard Charger. Remarkably, Isaac visited Victory Lane only once in that model, at Texas World Speedway in 1969, his 20th career win and first on a superspeedway. "We won a lot of short-races, but we couldn't pull it all together on the big tracks until the last race of the season," said Isaac in Greg Fielden's book "NASCAR: The Complete History." "Winning the championship gave me personal satisfaction, but I'd rank it second to the Texas win. "The way I look at it, it took me seven years to win a superspeedway race and only three years to win the championship." In September 1971 the team took its winged car to the Bonneville Salt Flats in western Utah where Isaac set 28 speed records, including a 217.368 mph "flying kilometer" mark. "That car weighed 3,900 pounds and it had 650 horses in the motor," Hyde told Car and Driver's Bob Zeller in May 2002. "And when Bobby set it sideways, it looked like a hydroplane on water. He came by at 200 mph broadside with a big rooster tail of salt comin' out the back." Driving part-time schedules for a number of owners, Isaac ran his last premier series race in 1976. He returned to Hickory Motor Speedway the following year where, on Aug. 14, he pulled out of a sportsman race feeling ill and was taken to a local hospital where he succumbed to heart failure at age 45. Isaac was inducted into the National Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1979 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1996. In 1998, NASCAR honored him as one of its 50 Greatest Drivers of all time. Tickets are available for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Ceremony (limited quantities available). Individual ticket and ticket packages are available at ticketmaster.com, the NASCAR Hall of Fame Box Office or by calling 800.745.3000.
Judy Allison, wife of Bobby Allison, passes away
Judy Allison, wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison, died Friday following complications from surgery, the Allison family announced. She was 74. The Allisons released a statement Friday night: "The Allison Family is sad to announce the passing of Judy A. Allison, age 74, after complications from surgery earlier today at Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville. " Bobby Allison, NASCAR Hall of Famer driver, and Judy were married for 55 years. She was surrounded by her family, daughters Bonnie Farr and Carrie Hewitt, grandson Robbie Allison, brother-in-law Donnie Allison and his wife, Pat. "At this time, funeral and memorial arrangements are pending and will be announced when finalized. The family members ask for privacy during this difficult and sad time." NASCAR also issued a statement on Judy Allison's passing. It reads: "NASCAR extends its condolences to the friends and family of Judy Allison, the wife of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison. Judy, the matriarch of a cornerstone NASCAR family, provided the foundation for the careers of a legendary husband and two sons who both lost their lives entirely too soon. Her love extended well beyond her own family, as many in the NASCAR family leaned upon Judy for support and compassion during many difficult times. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of a true friend, and a woman who has given much to our sport." Bobby Allison won 84 premier series races during his NASCAR career. He was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2011.
Bobby Pierce making a name for himself at Eldora despite faltering in the end
RELATED: Results " Standings " Updated Chase Grid ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Kyle Larson had never heard of Bobby Pierce until last year's running of this event, when the dirt track standout earned the pole, led 39 laps and finished second. After Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, won by Larson, there's a good chance the Sprint Cup Series driver -- and NASCAR fans in general -- won't be forgetting his name any time soon. Pierce, in just his seventh career truck start, stomped the field to a tune of 102 of 150 laps led, sometimes approaching a full 5-second lead on the half-mile short track. But the 19-year-old had his shifter stuck in fourth gear and was unable to get it unstuck before an impending restart with less than 30 laps to go. The issue relegated him to a disappointing 25th-place finish after wrecking and slowly landing against the inside wall. "Kind of what bit me there was I couldn't get it out of fourth gear on the caution, so I was riding around there just beating it, just trying to get it out," Pierce told NASCAR.com after he was cleared and released from the infield care center. "I was restarting in second or third and I'm sure that's what Larson was doing, too, but on the restart I just couldn't get going. "I got to second (place) and I caught him there and just kind of drove it in a little too hard. Kinda hit the baby powder or whatever it was. The baby powder made it a little slick getting in, and that was all she wrote. Hit the wall, knocked the right rear off the rim." Pierce was unable to get his truck moving after hitting the wall and, despite his pleas to get pushed back on the track, was required to exit his vehicle and make a trip to the care center even though he "only hit the wall going about 1 mile per hour." Even if he'd been able to get it going again, it was unlikely that his team could've fixed the shifter, patched up any body damage and gotten him back out on the track in time to compete for the win. That's just how racing goes, sometimes. "Heck, it's always gotta be something. If you're going to win the race, you've gotta have luck and be good at the same time," said Pierce, whose best CWTS finish of the season came at Kansas (23rd). "Larson had a flat there early on and he charged back through there, but unfortunately our deal was later on so we couldn't come in and get it fixed. Even if it did, I don't think they could've gotten the tranny fixed getting it out of fourth because I tried every single trick in the book to get it out and it just would not go." Pierce said he's planning on running the event again next year, and likely has to be the odds-on favorite at this point, whether or not Larson aims to repeat his win. While no more national series events are on his schedule for the season, Pierce isn't ruling them out for the future. "Heck, the two years I've done (Eldora) have been really good so far," Pierce said. "(MB Motorsports team owner) Mike Mittler has treated me really well so far; planning on doing it again next year. As far as asphalt goes, just gotta find sponsorship if I'm going to do it. "(I'm pursuing more races) a little. Our dirt late model year and the previous years have been so good that even if I don't get sponsorship to try it a couple more times or whatever, then I'll be all right. It's good to run these deals. It's good to run pavement, too, because it makes you a better driver, going back to the late model and trying to pick up sponsorship." People noticed. Some of whom are undoubtedly sponsors. Feel free to do a quick Twitter search. Race fans knew Bobby Pierce was there, and race fans know Bobby Pierce is a driver to watch after these thrilling performances. "Well, hey. If I can't win," he said. "At least I put on a good show, I guess."
Bobby Labonte to run XFINITY race at Daytona
Huntersville, N.C. (February 10, 2016) – Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announced today a partnership with NOS Energy Drink, as primary sponsor of the team's No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Camry in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch , the all-time race winning driver in the history of the XFINITY Series with 76 wins, will drive his first NOS program race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and in subsequent races that total 16 XFINITY Series events this season. To kick off the 2016 race schedule at Daytona International Speedway , Joe Gibbs Racing and NOS Energy Drink are excited to announce they are also bringing back another champion for the XFINITY series program start, longtime race winner and past Joe Gibbs Racing veteran racecar driver Bobby Labonte . "We've always sought out the most determined, fearless and committed athletes to represent our company and brands," said Vice President of Sports Marketing, Mitch Covington. He commented further, "With Kyle (Busch) in the seat most of the year and a strong Daytona start with Bobby (Labonte), we have every reason to believe our program will win." The NOS Energy Drink brand is no stranger to victory lane with Busch. A partnership between the two earlier in his career afforded them much success together. Between 2011 and 2008 (Busch's first season with Joe Gibbs Racing ) the orange and blue NOS colors were represented across 25 races in the XFINITY Series when Busch earned seven victories and three pole-position wins to further their brand exposure. Also in 2008 Busch represented the NOS Energy Drink colors with one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry, in which he earned a second-place result. Newly minted 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Busch remarked, "I'm pumped to be back with NOS Energy Drink, a brand that supported me initially when I came to Joe Gibbs Racing . We had a lot of success together and I can't wait to win with them again!" In 311 starts over 13 seasons, Busch has proven himself to be the winningest competitor in the history of NASCAR’s XFINITY Series. In addition to 76 career wins, the 30-year old has recorded 186 top-five finishes, 48 pole-qualifying wins and 15,766 laps led. In 2010 Busch made series history with a record 13-win race season. Past XFINITY Series Championships for Kyle include a Driver’s Championship in 2009 and Owner’s Championships in 2010 and 2008 –- all with Busch’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series team owner Joe Gibbs Racing . Labonte proved to be a strong selection to kick off the NOS Energy Drink program for the first race of the season as he rejoins Joe Gibbs Racing while they celebrate their 25th year of NASCAR racing. "I'm excited about the opportunity to drive for JGR again. I didn't think this would ever happen and when Joe called me about the program, it was a 'no-brainer.' Great race team, great cars, the opportunity is a good one. There would be nothing better than to hang a flag in this building too,” Labonte said of the Daytona opportunity in front of him with the No. 18 JGR XFINITY Series team. A Texas native, Labonte was an early driver of the No. 18 with JGR and earned them 21 victories and a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in 2000. Labonte is also a NASCAR Champion in the XFINITY Series (1991) and the IROC Series (2001) and has victories recorded in all three of NASCAR's premier racing series. 2016 marks Labonte’s 30th consecutive year as a professional racecar driver. The No. 18 team's goal will again be to capture an Owner's Championship in the XFINITY Series. With Busch and Labonte confirmed and the recent announcement of Matt Tifft as driver of the No. 18 for races later in the schedule, crew chief Chris Gayle is eager to attack that goal. Gayle remarks, "Owners points matter and it's important for us to keep striving for that team goal. Looking forward to having NOS Energy Drink back with us and hopefully we are able to give them more trips to Victory Lane." Joe Gibbs Racing and NOS Energy Drink are two brands at the top of the field in their respective industries. With this partnership, the two have positioned themselves for great success together in 2016. NOS Energy Drink will be featured on the No. 18 XFINITY Series Camry for 18 total races this season: Daytona International Speedway (February 20, Labonte); Atlanta Motor Speedway (February 27, Busch); Las Vegas Motor Speedway (March 5, Busch); Phoenix International Raceway (March 12, Busch); Auto Club Speedway (March 19, Busch); Texas Motor Speedway (April 8, Busch); Bristol Motor Speedway (April 16, Busch); Talladega Superspeedway (April 30, TBD driver); Pocono Raceway (June 4, Busch); Michigan International Speedway (June 11, Busch); Kentucky Speedway (July 8, Busch); Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23, Busch); Watkins Glen International (August 6, Busch); Richmond International Raceway (September 9, Busch); Chicagoland Speedeway (September 17, Busch); Dover International Speedway (October 1, Busch); Kansas Speedway (October 15, Busch); Phoenix International Raceway (November 12, Busch).
Bobby Allison on two left feet, dancing with Nancy Reagan
Before President Ronald Reagan gave the command at Daytona in 1984, he had a fan in Bobby Allison. The feeling was mutual. The NASCAR Hall of Famer professed his respect for the president in 1982 and was later invited to the White House for a state dinner with Reagan and his wife, Nancy, who died earlier this week at age 94. The story below was told by Bobby Allison to Matt Crossman. When I won Daytona in '82, Reagan was going through a political deal where guys were really hammering him about he wasn't a good enough president about something. In Victory Lane at the 1982 Daytona 500 , when they stuck the camera in my face and the microphone in my face, I said, "I love Ronald Reagan." It went out all over. Ronald Reagan happened to be watching that broadcast that day and he saw that. So then (my wife) Judy and I got invited to go to the White House for a state dinner, which was quite an affair. We were up in New York for the '83 championship banquet. Somebody under his command called and said, "The president would like to have you and Judy at the White House for a state dinner." I had to go rent a tux -- we didn't wear tuxes yet at the awards banquet. I had a regular suit. I went across the street there in New York City, got a tux, tried on the pants and shirt, bow tie, all that stuff. I told the guy I wear size 10 1/2 shoe. So he grabs a pair of shoes and sticks them in a shoe box and says, "OK, they're in there." I go to Mike Curb's apartment in Washington D.C. to get dressed. I get my tux all on and my bow tie and my studs. I put my left foot down into my left shoe. I put my right foot down -- into another left shoe. So here I am, with two left feet. Mike wasn't there. His sister was there. She called him to see if he had a pair of patent leather shoes for a tux. He said, "Yeah, they're right there. But you know I have little tiny feet." Mike Curb had size 7 1/2 shoes. So I put my size 10 1/2 feet into those 7 1/2 shoes. I was so in agony. Nancy Reagan asked me to dance, and I couldn't dance. I could barely stand up. It hurt to sit down, even.
Eldora star Bobby Pierce goes for second Truck start
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Bobby Pierce has made countless dirt-track starts in his career, thanks to the barnstorming nature of Late Model racing. But when asked how many appearances he's made on paved speedways, the answer is also countless, but in a quizzical way. "About four to five races," Pierce says with a half-grin, recalling his handful of trips to asphalt tracks. Pierce, best remembered among the NASCAR crowd for his dirt-slinging performance this summer at Eldora Speedway , will attempt to change his answer to "about five or six" with his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start on asphalt in Saturday's Kroger 200 (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). He got his first taste of racing trucks on pavement in Friday's two practices, placing 30th and 29th on the afternoon leaderboards. "It's completely different, especially for a dirt driver," Pierce said after Friday's first practice session. "There's just a lot of things that you're kind of molded into that you've got to throw out the window. I'm just trying to take all those experiences that I've had in other asphalt cars and apply it to this." Pierce first wowed NASCAR fans on Eldora's dirt half-mile, taking his tattered No. 63 truck to a hard-fought, second-place finish in his series debut behind eventual winner Christopher Bell . He led 39 of 154 laps for underdog MB Motorsports, handing team owner Mike Mittler his best finish in his two decades in the series. The 18-year-old Pierce -- a native of Oakwood, Illinois -- said he still has the race saved on his DVR for the sake of posterity. Though he didn't hoist the golden shovel in Victory Lane, his feverish battle with Bell down the stretch raised the profile for both himself and the team. "I don't know, though -- finishing second in a Truck race whether it's dirt or asphalt, it's still a NASCAR truck race and when I was a little kid, you dreamed of doing stuff like this," Pierce said. "I don't think it'll really ever sink in to the full potential that it can, but I'll try." For Mittler, it was only natural that he would turn again to the driver who nearly snared the MB organization's first victory. "That's exactly what the feeling is with us that a guy that can drive, he can drive and it doesn't matter if it's dirt or asphalt," Mittler said. "Did we have the home-track advantage at Eldora? Sure we did. He's got tons of dirt experience, been driving dirt since he could almost walk, so we knew. We had no delusions that we were going to come here and run top-five right off the bat. By the end of the race, he'll be good. I know he will be. Experience is all it is." The spotlight has shown brightly on Eldora in its three-year affiliation with NASCAR, but at Martinsville, Pierce has a chance to grab more time in the public eye on a shared stage with the Sprint Cup Series. It's the next step toward potentially extending his relationship with MB Motorsports in 2016, a partnership Mittler hopes can continue. "There's nothing firm yet, but we're absolutely looking at what the options are and we really like Bobby , his family, Bob and Angie," Mittler said. "Just a great, great group of people who come from a parallel background in the Midwest with us -- a hard-working family race team, so there's just a lot of synergy between us. If we can figure out how to make it work, we're going to do it."