Veteran Crafton plays mentor role to up-and-coming rookies
CONCORD, N.C. -- Being a two-time champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has its share of perks for Matt Crafton . But besides the laurels, there's also a certain amount of responsibility, one that involves helping the next generation of drivers learn their way. For the third straight season, Crafton has helped preside over the series' rookie orientation meetings, joining series director Elton Sawyer in providing insights for the truck tour's new crop of talent. In recent years, the duty has fallen to the reigning series champion, which Crafton achieved with consecutive titles in 2013 and 2014. But with last year's champ, Erik Jones , shifting to the NASCAR XFINITY Series full-time this season, Crafton was asked back. "If it's something where I feel I can help the rookies and possibly make it better racing, that's what it's all about," said Crafton, who's back on top as the series' points leader after last weekend's victory at Dover International Speedway . "I remember being a rookie and going to some of these places and not having a damn clue what I was doing or what to expect on some new race tracks, so if you can give them a little bit of insight as a group and then I always tell them at the end, if you ever have any questions, they're always free to ask me whatever they need to ask me in the trailer afterward. It's part of it." It's been 15 years since the 39-year-old Crafton was a truck series newbie, almost as long as the lifespan of some members of this year's rookie crop. When Crafton was on the other side of the first-year drivers' orientation, he learned from a rotation of the series' pioneers -- Ron Hornaday Jr ., Mike Skinner , Todd Bodine . Times may have changed over the course of Crafton's career, with the driver roster seemingly skewing younger. But it's also tilted to an even more ambitious and talented class in one of NASCAR's most competitive divisions. "Just to think they're racing in the Camping World Truck Series at 16 years old like they can do, it's nuts," Crafton says. "It's just crazy the amount of pressure that's on these kids. The thing is, they're in great, great equipment. I can honestly say, everybody always says each and every week that, 'oh, there's such a great group of rookies out there.' There's been a great group of rookies a lot of years in the Camping World Truck Series since I've been here, but not all of them have always been in great equipment." On this damp Thursday morning, Sawyer and Crafton hold court in the suites over Charlotte Motor Speedway 's pit road. A group of 15 young drivers -- some true rookies and some who were preparing for their first start on the 1.5-mile track -- circled around, awaiting direction over the racket of the Air Titans drying the pavement. Before diving into a discussion about race procedure, Sawyer singled out John Hunter Nemechek , attending his last required rookie meeting at Charlotte -- the last track missing from his truck series portfolio. "I thought Elton was going to bring me a cake this week, a certificate or something for graduating," the 18-year-old Nemechek joked later. "He said he forgot, so I may have to get a cake in to him that says 'Race Director' or something on it." Sawyer emphasized the high notes from the crew chief's handout, providing watch-outs about gamesmanship on restarts and other procedures. But he also ceded plenty of time to Crafton, who answered a question from ThorSport Racing teammate Rico Abreu about the blend zone off pit road and how hard he could hustle back onto the race track. The inquiry led to a detailed description from Crafton about one of the most finicky tracks on the circuit. In vivid terms, Crafton explained the speedway's character, how much the groove widens in time, how delicate side-by-side racing can be, and what he called the "gnarliest" transition as trucks dive into the Turn 1 banking. "When we go to a new race track, it's just learning the basics of the things that we need to look out for, especially here," says 18-year-old rookie William Byron, who became the series' newest first-time winner two weeks ago at Kansas Speedway . "He's talking about the transitions and just things to watch out for in the race. It's good to have a broad perspective of what it's going to be like racing here. It gets you a little bit more comfortable." Even Nemechek, already a two-time truck series winner on intermediate-sized tracks, has seen the benefits. "It was a good experience. They all helped every time you went," Nemechek says. "… Any veteran that you can get and talk to and listen to that you know is going to shoot you somewhat straight when you come to a new place, it can only help you -- from race trends to how to get on and off pit road to the characteristics of the race track." Crafton's 366 career starts -- an all-time series best -- count as an encyclopedic amount of experience, and the back-to-back titles speak to his success. But the longtime veteran says he still finds time to pick up on things from the cub drivers with single-digit starts on their record. What does he learn? "Some of these kids nowadays, they just know more than we do," Crafton says with a playfully satirical grin. "I have a daughter who's 3 and she already knows more than me."
Edwards rallies to sixth-place finish at Loudon after penalty
RELATED: Results " Chase Grid " Standings WATCH: Edwards receives penalty LOUDON, N.H. – Coors Light Pole Award winner Carl Edwards hovered in and around the top five for nearly all of Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway but nearly had his afternoon derailed due to a costly penalty with less than 40 laps remaining. During the fourth caution of the day, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver came to pit road and incurred a commitment line violation, sinking his running position all the way back to 19th on the ensuing restart on Lap 268. For a minute there, it certainly appeared Edwards would be fighting for Chase for the Sprint Cup survival next week at Dover International Speedway in the final race of the Round of 16. But Edwards rallied hard over the final 30-plus laps to salvage a sixth-place finish and now holds a 16-point cushion over the cutoff line. He'll need to avoid similar gaffes moving forward -- though he doesn't necessarily agree he even made a gaffe -- and realizes he may have gotten away with one here. "I gotta see the replay, but I was pretty sure I made it onto pit road. I felt pretty comfortable," Edwards said on pit road after the race. "I don't know about that (penalty), but we still recovered well. I think we could've been top three or four because we got off sequence, but as it turned out to finish sixth with that penalty is pretty much a gift. My guys didn't quit, I'm proud of them. "Now we head to Dover with a little bit of a point cushion, and Dover is one of my favorite race tracks, one of my best tracks and this team should have won this race in the spring so hopefully we can go there and lock ourselves into the next round. … Anything can happen, but there's no better race for us to be a cutoff race." Following the race, Edwards' crew chief Dave Rogers had a discussion with NASCAR officials to get clarity on the penalty. "Yeah, NASCAR showed me the notes, and the notes that they had were all four tires below the orange box and our right-rear (tire) touched it," Rogers told NASCAR.com. "So it's one of those deals where we knew it was close, and we didn't intentionally drive over the box, first of all. It was a last-minute call to pit. We thought the rule was all four on or below and it wasn't. The rule's all four under, so hence the penalty." Edwards' teammate Denny Hamlin also was victim to a pit road penalty on the same stop, as an errant tire got away from his No. 11 Toyota crew. Hamlin, however, was not as fortunate as Edwards and finished 15th. The 2016 Daytona 500 winner declined post-race interviews and sits seventh on the Chase Grid, still higher than Edwards despite the worse finish. "Unfortunately, we had a pit road penalty; two stops in the end that got us really far behind and just got kind of shuffled out of the mix on a couple restarts and finished about five to 10 spots worse than we should have, but still alive," said Hamlin's crew chief Mike Wheeler. "Hit the restart button and try again. Dover is a decent track for Denny. He hasn't had a win there yet, but has had some good runs and hopefully we can have another good run there."
Part 2: The Intimidator's Day at Talladega
MORE: READ PART 1 HERE The Build-up "That's what we've been wanting is being able to draft up and race these guys. I think the things they've done and changes they've made will make a difference. I think you'll see a better race, a closer race." -- Dale Earnhardt, NASCAR teleconference, Oct. 11, 2000. Bobby Labonte was steaming toward his first premier series championship, heading into Talladega with a commanding 252-point lead -- more than any driver could earn in one race under the former Latford points system -- over Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt ranked third, 258 points off the top with Dale Jarrett further back in fourth, 388 points in arrears. Dunlap: I think he saw those upcoming races as a real chance for him to make a run. ... Earnhardt was so focused on getting that eighth championship and, I think, at that moment that late in the season he had kind of felt it slipping away. Bobby Labonte: At the time where we were in points, it was risk over reward and if you were the chaser, it was easier to make those risks. If you're being chased, this is one of those places where you bide your time and you wait toward the end of it more. Dale Jarrett (driver, Robert Yates Racing No. 88 Ford): It was such an unknown. I won't say that I dreaded the race because I looked forward to racing there. We had been very successful at Talladega, but with the unknown and being in the midst of a championship battle was something that we were a little bit leery of in making the right choices and the right calls, so, as always, you're on edge racing at Talladega. In addition to the ratcheted-up championship pressure, teams and drivers also faced polarizing new aerodynamics rules that altered the looks of the cars and the type of racing they produced. McReynolds: The aero package was interesting. NASCAR had been searching all throughout the early part of 2000. ... In the summer of that year they took about 10 or 12 of us down to Daytona to do a test, and it was really an open sheet of paper. We went down there and they told us to bring all types of spoiler material and aluminum. I don't know that they really knew what they wanted to try and we just started trying things. Helton: We'd kind of eased up to it, but back in those days, we would kind of settle in on what we would use at the Daytona 500 by the Talladega race and use it there so that everybody would get used to it or we'd find any hidden ghosts and goblins in it before we unveiled it at the Daytona 500 . Bobby Labonte: I think we were there for the test and it was like some people liked it and some people didn't. If I went from 18th to first on the last lap, I loved it. I didn't like it quite as good at the end of the day. Childress: As good as I can remember back, we had the package with the wicker on the spoiler and the wicker across the roof. It was a whole new package and the cars really drafted, really raced. Nemechek: We called that the old taxi cab strip and they put a lot of drag in the car and turbulated a lot of air. … Once the air hit that thing on the roof, there were some very unique things going on with that, and I think between our two teams we were able to understand that quicker than most. Kenny Wallace (driver, Andy Petree Racing No. 55 Chevrolet): Andy Petree was by far, in my opinion, the best at getting the most out of his race cars on the superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega. He was the king of aerodynamics and getting the car low to the ground. Petree: I loved it. In my opinion, it was one of the best packages that we ever had for restrictor-plate racing because it kept the cars obviously in a big pack, but it made a big, huge hole in the air and it took a lot more power to push that aero package, so the car had more power, more response and I thought it was one of the best packages they ever had. Bobby Labonte: Back then, we didn't run a pack of 43 cars in a full pack like you do today. I don't think we circled it as much as these guys do, say in the last five or 10 years, but it was somewhere you knew that just whatever happened, you could be running in the top five one lap and then 18th the next lap. Hailey: There was a tremendous amount of unknown with the new wicker bill across the top of the car. We had no idea what we were in for. A new aero package had drivers and crew chiefs wondering how their respective cars would react in traffic. This No. 3 Chevrolet Monte Carlo had no problem adjusting. The vehicle that carried Dale Earnhardt to his final NASCAR victory still resides in the team museum. Though the aerodynamic devices were intended to slow and bunch up the cars, the speeds shown in early practices were deemed too fast. That led to NASCAR officials making a change to the size of the restrictor-plate openings -- from 1 inch to 15/16ths -- just before final practice in an effort to further slow the cars. The modification added an extra layer of intrigue to what was already shaping up to be a true wild-card race. Petree: They had a restrictor-plate size, if I recall correctly, it was a one-inch plate that we started with, which made quite a bit of power. So we sat on the pole with the 33 car (Nemechek) and that one-inch plate changed everything as far as restrictor-plate motors. Helton: I don't think it would be called unprecedented, but it wasn't something we did every superspeedway race, but we also watched very closely the top speeds, and so if I recall correctly, it seems to me like this package during practice produced some speeds that had crept up and the aero package around the car was still such that the lift-off speed was critical to us. We shrunk the plate in the middle of that event to get the speeds in a better position for the event. Skinner : The aero platform, the whole rules thing with the engine package that they brought, for some reason everything was perfect on our car that weekend and we were extremely fast. And then NASCAR decided to put a smaller plate on, and I went up into the NASCAR truck and raised hell. It didn't take Mike Helton long to come out of his chair and explain to me that NASCAR had been there long before I was and it will be there long after I'm not. His job is to make sure that we don't put cars in the grandstands and keep our fans safe, and he basically just shut me right up and they did what they wanted to do anyway. Hailey: At that time, I was actually the dyno operator in the shop, so it was my job to run the engines on the dyno. We did a lot of testing before each race because we always had the idea, 'They may go a little smaller restrictor plate or they may go a little larger.' So we had a little background. We knew kind of what to do if they changed restrictor plates as far as the engine, as far as the tuning and everything, so it wasn't a big surprise that we had to change it. We were ready.
New Hampshire marks 500th Truck Series race
RELATED: Cup drivers in the Truck Series " Timeline of the Truck Series Born to modest beginnings in the American Southwest, NASCAR's launching pad, otherwise known as the Camping World Truck Series, will celebrate a major milestone on Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . There, shortly after 1 p.m. ET (on FS1), the green flag will signal the start of the 500th race in a series that has provided indispensable impetus to the careers of some of NASCAR's top stars. Carl Edwards , for one, recognizes the debt he owes to the series and to longtime owners such as Mike Mittler, who gave Edwards his start in trucks. "The Truck Series means a lot to me, and it means a lot to my career, for the fact that Mike Mittler has owned a truck since the beginning of the Truck Series," Edwards said. "If it weren't for that opportunity from Mike Mittler, and Jack Roush hiring me to drive his trucks, I would not be here today. "So I'm really grateful for the Truck Series, and I had a lot of fun driving those trucks." Edwards won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title in the Truck Series in 2003 before graduating to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Austin Dillon and Ryan Blaney are other former Truck Series Rookie of the Year winners currently racing at NASCAR's highest level. The Truck Series has changed markedly since its debut on the national stage in 1995 at Phoenix International Raceway , where Mike Skinner , already 38 years old at the time, won the Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic by .09 seconds over Terry Labonte . In its formative years, the Truck Series was a repository for veteran drivers. Skinner won the first series championship. Ron Hornaday Jr ., perhaps the most identifiable name in series history, claimed the title in 1996, the first of his record four championships. Veterans Hornaday and Jack Sprague were kings of the series from 1996 through 1999 before Biffle won the title in 2000 to advance another rung up the ladder that would take him to the Cup series in short order. The periodic appearances of Kyle Busch notwithstanding, it's fair to say that older, more experienced drivers dominated the Truck Series until 2011. Hornaday won his third championship in 2007 and his fourth in 2009, amassing a series-record 51 victories along the way. Todd Bodine won the second of his two titles in 2010, at age 46, before Dillon and James Buescher notched back-to-back championships in 2011 and 2012 at ages 21 and 22, respectively. Dillon and Buescher are emblematic of the changing face of the Truck Series, which now features more teenagers and 20-somethings than drivers in their 30s and 40s. For one thing, team owners like Kyle Busch , Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., have embraced the Truck Series as an affordable way to give back to the sport by launching the careers of young drivers. Erik Jones , 19, who drives for Kyle Busch Motorsports, is the current series leader. Tyler Reddick , also 19 and a Brad Keselowski Racing protégé, is second. "I think the Truck Series is a great division," Busch said. "It's certainly a lot of fun. I enjoy it. It's a level at which I can be competitive owning a race team. ... "This level ... I feel it gives us a great chance to bring up the (young) talent to the upper level of NASCAR racing." Owning his own team also gives Busch a chance to compete in the occasional race. With 44 victories in the series, he is second only to Hornaday, and he'll have a chance to move one win closer this weekend at New Hampshire. "Having its 500th race and being in that race is going to be special for me," Busch said. Keselowski is part of the Truck Series' present and future, but his love for the trucks is rooted in the past. His father, Bob Keselowski, raced in the series debut at Phoenix. Bob Keselowski took his only checkered flag in the series in 1997, and he and Brad remain the only father/son combination to win races in the trucks. "The Truck Series for me has been a huge part of my career and a huge part of my family from the get-go," Keselowski said. "My dad ran in the first-ever truck race at Phoenix, and I still remember that day. "I still remember watching that race, and I remember how big a deal the Truck Series was when it started and how big a deal it is now to young drivers and the future of our sport." Two-time defending Truck Series champion Matt Crafton once would have been typical of the series. Now, at 39, he's a throwback to an earlier era. But Crafton is content to race for wins and titles in the Truck Series, as opposed to driving less competitive equipment at a higher level. "If I stay here for the rest of my driving career, I'll definitely be happy with that," Crafton said. "I know each and every week I can go win races. I have no desire to go somewhere where I'm going to run 15th to 25th and be happy with that." A nine-time winner in the Truck Series, Crafton is seeking his first New Hampshire victory this weekend, as he tries to stave off the growing youth movement in the Camping World Truck Series for yet another season.
#TBT: First-ever Truck Series race
First race came 20 years ago at Phoenix Twenty years ago, a black Goodwrench No. 3 Chevrolet outran a rainbow-schemed vehicle to earn a historic victory. No, it wasn't a race involving Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Gordon . It wasn't even in the premier series. This particular event was the 1995 Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic, the first-ever Truck Series race, and it was held Feb. 5 at Phoenix International Raceway , the site of this weekend's stop on the NASCAR circuit. Mike Skinner won that race -- and later that year, the series championship -- after a thrilling late duel with Terry Labonte , who was driving the Rick Hendrick-owned No. 5 Chevrolet. The field also included Ken Schrader , Geoff Bodine, Roger Mears and Bob Keselowski, as well as future series champions Mike Bliss , Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr . Twenty years later, the present-day NASCAR Camping World Truck Series consists of talented veterans driving alongside NASCAR's next stars. Camping World and NASCAR announced a seven-year extension in 2014, ensuring moments like the one below will continue for a long time to come. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
#TBT: Broken collarbone can't keep Dale Earnhardt down
Dale Earnhardt earned his Intimidator nickname by handing out some lickings on the racetrack, but he could take one, too, as he proved in 1996 at Watkins Glen. He couldn't breathe and he couldn't raise his right arm as NASCAR's premier series headed to the road course in New York. Earnhardt had been in a hard wreck at Talladega two weeks earlier, suffering a disclocated sternum and broken collarbone. But he wanted to both qualify and race at The Glen after running just six laps at Indianapolis the week after Talladega before handing over the No. 3 to relief driver Mike Skinner . Dr. Jerry Punch recalled in 2014 for NASCAR.com how he was called to the motorhome with Dale and Teresa Earnhardt and Richard Childress as the debate went on about whether Dale would pilot the Goodwrench Chevrolet that weekend. "In spite of us telling him how dangerous it was, and how painful it was, he wanted to be in that car," Punch said. "Richard and Teresa were getting me to help convince him to not get in the car, for his own safety. He looked right at Richard and said, 'If you tell me, Richard, I'm going to hurt this race team by being in your race car, I won't get in it.' Richard said, 'Are you kidding me? You're Dale Earnhardt. I can't tell you you're going to hurt my race team by being in my car.' And Dale said, 'All right, it's done.' " A loose sternum was very disconcerting at the road course, as any impact could send bone fragments into nearby vital organs -- the heart and lungs. But those around Earnhardt were more worried about his body, and he was concentrating hard on the racing. All that shifting and steering didn't stop the tough-as-nails driver, who reportedly used his knees to help steer on his way to winning the pole for The Bud at The Glen. Earnhardt stayed in the car for the whole race on Aug. 11, 1996, as well, despite Jeff Green standing by in case he needed or wanted relief. The No. 3 finished sixth. After finishing the 220.5-mile race, Earnhardt said, "It hurts. But it's a good hurt." That season he wound up fourth in the points standings.
Truck Series looks back to the future
We look back over the past 20 years of the Truck Series from Mike Skinner winning the series first race at Phoenix International Raceway to Matt Crafton’s consecutive championship titles.
Dillon dominates Loudon, wins 500th Truck Series event
RELATED: Complete results from New Hampshire LOUDON, N.H. -- The milestone 500th race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series produced important "firsts" for two key figures on the winning team. When Austin Dillon took the checkered flag in Saturday's UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , he delivered the first victory in the series to both team owner Maurice Gallagher of GMS Racing and to crew chief Shane Huffmann. Dillon pulled away after a restart on Lap 167 of 175, a resumption that followed the sixth caution of the race, for Tyler Reddick 's spin off Turn 2 on Lap 161. Dillon, who had stayed out on older tires while most other lead-lap trucks came to pit road under caution on Lap 142, crossed the finish line 1.054 seconds ahead of two-time defending series champion Matt Crafton . "It's very special," said Dillon, whose grandfather, Richard Childress, fielded the winning truck for Mike Skinner in the inaugural Truck Series race at Phoenix in February 1995. "I owe a lot to the Truck Series for getting me to where I am today. "I've had a lot of success qualifying, racing and winning in the Truck Series. It taught me a lot about how to race hard when you have to. It's definitely a fun series to be in, and I'm thankful for it. Hopefully, we can have thousands of races in the Truck Series. I've enjoyed all of mine." Huffman, who once drove for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, was elated with the victory. "This is a big day for Mr. Gallagher here," Huffman said. "He's put a lot of effort and financial support into this team -- a lot of hard work and effort over the last couple years. It's just great to be able to reward him with a win." Dillon, the 2011 series champion, won his first event of the season, his first at New Hampshire and the seventh of his career. Johnny Sauter ran third, followed by Timothy Peters and John Hunter Nemechek , last week's winner at Chicagoland Speedway . Daniel Hemric , Jones, Austin Theriault , Dalton Sargeant and Gray Gaulding completed the top 10. With his runner-up finish, Crafton, now second in the standings, closed his deficit to leader and seventh-place finisher Erik Jones to seven points. Reddick came home 15th and trails Jones by 19 points. "The 33 (Dillon) was definitely a little better," Crafton said. "We missed it a little today. We fought tight, tight and just kept freeing it up, and I was just a little too free on the short run right there. I don't know what I was doing wrong, but I was missing my restarts so bad. "My teammate Johnny (Sauter) helped me on those last couple restarts and gave me a good shove and got me down in there. I just missed it, and we'll get them next week." Jones was disappointed with his seventh-place finish. "We just missed it by a long ways," said the series leader. "We didn't get the finish we wanted, and we'll just have to go back and make our Tundras a little bit better. "It's just we can't do that this late in the year -- we can't be that far off. We'll just have to work on it and figure out what was wrong and how to be better here for the next six weeks." Kyle Busch , who fields the trucks Jones drives, started second on Saturday but developed a tire rub late in the race. An unscheduled pit stop to address the problem relegated Busch to an 11th-place finish.
Stats advance: Analyzing the Auto Club 400
A stats-based look ahead to the fifth race of the 2015 Sprint Cup season Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California going into the Auto Club 400 on FOX at 3:30 p.m. ET on March 24. AUTO CLUB-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Clean Harbors Ford) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 17.8 · Average Running Position of 13.5, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 93.7, eighth-best · 217 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 1,243 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.601 mph, seventh-fastest · 2,484 Laps in the Top 15 (67.3%), eighth-most · 676 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 10th-most Clint Bowyer (No. 15 BlueDEF Toyota) · Two top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 12.9 · Average Running Position of 12.9, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 92.1, ninth-best · 74 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · 1,211 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.347 mph, 11th-fastest · 1,918 Laps in the Top 15 (60.2%), 12th-most Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · One win, six top fives, 11 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 11.9 · Average Running Position of 14.6, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 90.6, 12th-best · 94 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 1,368 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.271 mph, 12th-fastest · 2,401 Laps in the Top 15 (65.1%), ninth-most · 762 Quality Passes, fourth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 Subway Toyota) · One win, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 8.5 · Average Running Position of 12.5, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 97.8, fifth-best · 154 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.692 mph, fifth-fastest · 2,773 Laps in the Top 15 (75.1%), fourth-most · 754 Quality Passes, fifth-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet) · Three wins, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 11.8 · Average Running Position of 10.2, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 97.3, sixth-best · 252 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · 1,391 Green Flag Passes, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.729 mph, fourth-fastest · 2,756 Laps in the Top 15 (74.7%), sixth-most · Series-high 831 Quality Passes Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota) · One top five, four top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 19.0 · Average Running Position of 13.9, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 90.7, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.376 mph, 10th-fastest · 1,926 Laps in the Top 15 (64.6%), 11th-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, four top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 16.4 · Average Running Position of 12.5, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 94.7, seventh-best · 126 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 1,277 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.559 mph, eighth-fastest · 2,662 Laps in the Top 15 (72.1%), seventh-most · 742 Quality Passes, seventh-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Pro Services Chevrolet) · Five wins, 12 top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 6.7 · Series-best Average Running Position of 6.0 · Series-best Driver Rating of 120.1 · Series-high 504 Fastest Laps Run · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 172.393 mph · Series-high 3,432 Laps in the Top 15 (93.0%) · 767 Quality Passes, third-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet) · One win, four top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.0 · Driver Rating of 91.5, 10th-best · 109 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 1,264 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · 2,315 Laps in the Top 15 (62.7%), 10th-most · 738 Quality Passes, eighth-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 DeWalt Toyota) · Three wins, nine top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 9.8 · Average Running Position of 9.1, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.2, third-best · 137 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.784 mph, third-fastest · 3,066 Laps in the Top 15 (83.1%), second-most · 735 Quality Passes, ninth-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Chevrolet) · Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 13.5 · Average Running Position of 10.5, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 100.7, fourth-best · 226 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.657 mph, sixth-fastest · 2,773 Laps in the Top 15 (75.1%), fourth-most · 752 Quality Passes, sixth-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Auto Club Speedway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 21 0 1 4 9 2 16.4 94.7 2 Joey Logano 8 0 0 2 2 0 18.4 78.1 3 Martin Truex Jr . 14 0 0 0 3 2 20.1 75.7 4 Kasey Kahne 18 1 1 4 10 3 16.0 91.5 5 AJ Allmendinger 10 0 0 0 1 1 19.1 71.5 6 Dale Earnhardt Jr . 22 0 0 5 6 5 19.5 78.1 7 Jimmie Johnson 20 1 5 12 14 0 6.7 120.1 8 Ryan Newman 20 1 0 4 8 3 17.4 81.4 9 Brad Keselowski 6 0 0 0 0 0 23.3 71.6 10 Matt Kenseth 22 1 3 9 15 0 9.8 106.2 11 Paul Menard 12 0 0 0 2 0 22.0 62.3 12 Casey Mears 18 0 0 0 2 1 22.3 65.8 13 Denny Hamlin 13 3 0 1 4 3 19.0 90.7 14 Aric Almirola 7 0 0 0 0 3 31.6 49.3 15 Clint Bowyer 14 0 0 2 7 1 12.9 92.1 16 Greg Biffle 20 0 1 4 7 3 17.8 93.7 * – Based on last 16 races at Auto Club Speedway (2005 – 2014). Auto Club Speedway Data Season Race #: 5 of 36 (03-22-15) Track Size : 2-miles Banking/Turns 1 & 2 : 14 degrees Banking/Turns 3 & 4 : 14 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 11 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 3 degrees Frontstretch Length : 3,100 feet Backstretch Length : 2,500 feet Race Length : 200 laps / 400 miles Top 10 Driver Rating at Auto Club Jimmie Johnson ........................ 119.6 Kyle Busch ............................... 109.2 Matt Kenseth ............................. 105.5 Tony Stewart ............................. 102.0 Carl Edwards .............................. 98.5 Jeff Gordon ................................ 96.2 Kevin Harvick .............................. 95.8 Greg Biffle .................................. 95.5 Clint Bowyer ............................... 92.9 Kasey Kahne .............................. 91.4 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (16 total) among active drivers at Auto Club Speedway Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Matt Kenseth , Toyota 187.315 mph, 38.438 secs. 03-25-14 2014 race winner : Kyle Busch , Toyota 132.987 mph, (3:05:53), 03-27-14 Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch , Chevrolet 188.245 mph, 38.248 secs. 02-25-05 Track race record: Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet, 155.012 mph (3:13:32); 6-22-97 Tony Stewart , Chevrolet, 160.166 mph, (1:36:39; rain shortened), 03-25-12 At Auto Club Speedway : History · Groundbreaking for California Speedway, as Auto Club Speedway was originally known, took place in November 1995. · The first race at Auto Club Speedway was a NASCAR K&N Pro Series, West race won by Ken Schrader on June 21, 1997. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 22, 1997 and won by Jeff Gordon . · September 2004 was the first night race at Auto Club Speedway and that also was the first year both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series ran two races in a season there. · The track name was changed to Auto Club Speedway (ACS) in February 2008. Notebook · There have been 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Auto Club Speedway , the track hosted one NSCS race a season from 1997-2003, then two races per season from 2004-2010. In 2011 Auto Club Speedway returned to a single race season. · 137 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club; 108 in more than one. · Jeff Gordon leads the series in starts at Auto Club Speedway with 25. · Joe Nemechek won the inaugural Coors Light pole (1997) with a speed of 183.015 mph (39.341 secs.). · 16 drivers have poles at Auto Club Speedway , led by Denny Hamlin and Kurt Busch with three each. · Denny Hamlin (2011, 2012), Kurt Busch (2006 sweep) and Jamie McMurray (2010 sweep) are the three drivers to win consecutive poles at Auto Club Speedway . · Youngest ACS pole winner: Kyle Busch (2/27/2005 – 19 years, 9 months, 25 days). · Oldest ACS pole winner: Mike Skinner (4/30/2000 – 42 years, 10 months, 2 days). · 14 different drivers have won at ACS, led by Jimmie Johnson (five). Three other drivers have multiple wins at Auto Club Speedway : Jeff Gordon , Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth each have three wins, Tony Stewart has two. · Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with nine, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven and Stewart Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing each have two. · California-native Jimmie Johnson became the first and only driver to win from the pole at Auto Club Speedway in 2008. · Only two ACS races have been won from the front row both by six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson , fall of 2008 (pole); and the fall of 2007 (second-place). · Nine of the 25 (36%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway have been won from a top-five starting position. · 13 of the 25 (52%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Auto Club Speedway have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Seven of the 24 (28%) races have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started was 31st, by Matt Kenseth in the spring of 2006. · The most proficient starting position at ACS is pretty random. Three starting positions (third, ninth and 24 th ) have produced three winners each. · Youngest ACS winner: Kyle Busch (09/04/2005 – 20 years, 4 months, 2 days). · Oldest ACS winner: Rusty Wallace (04/29/2001 – 44 years, 8 months, 15 days). · Jimmie Johnson leads the series in runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway with five; followed by his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon with four. · Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-five finishes at Auto Club Speedway with 12; followed by Jeff Gordon (10), Matt Kenseth (nine), Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch (eight each). · Matt Kenseth leads the series in top-10 finishes with 15; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards (14 each) and Tony Stewart (13). · Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finish at ACS with a 6.650. · Jimmie Johnson (6.6) , Carl Edwards (8.5) and Matt Kenseth (9.8) are the only three active drivers with an average finish in the top 10 at Auto Club Speedway . · There have been three green-white-checkered finishes at Auto Club Speedway : 2005 (250/254), 2006 (250/251) and 2014 (200/206). · Three active drivers have posted their first NSCS Coors Light pole at Auto Club Speedway : Carl Edwards (9/4/2005) and Joe Nemechek (6/22/1997). Kyle Busch won his first pole (2/27/05) and first series win (9/4/05) at ACS in 2005. · Greg Biffle (4/28/02) and J.J. Yeley (9/5/04) made their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career starts at Auto Club Speedway . · Jimmie Johnson posted his first series career win at Auto Club Speedway on April 28, 2002. · Jimmie Johnson (fall of 2009 – spring of 2010) and Kyle Busch (2013, 2014) are the only drivers to win consecutive races at Auto Club Speedway . · 12 of the 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers who have won at Auto Club Speedway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Jeff Gordon (1997 – inaugural event) and Jimmie Johnson (2002) are the only drivers to win at ACS in their first appearance. · Tony Stewart competed at Auto Club Speedway 18 times before winning in the fall of 2010; the longest span of any the 14 winners. Only Stewart (18) and Kevin Harvick (17) have made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Auto Club Speedway . · Dale Earnhardt Jr . leads all active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Auto Club Speedway without visiting Victory Lane at 22. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Auto Club Speedway was the (3/27/2011) race won by Kevin Harvick with a MOV of 0.144 second over Jimmie Johnson . · Three reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win at Auto Club Speedway the following season: Tony Stewart (2012), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Jimmie Johnson - the only one to do it multiple times (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010). · Two drivers have won at Auto Club Speedway and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season: Jeff Gordon (1997) and Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010). · Two female drivers have competed at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick . ** Note: Robinson first attempted to qualify for the race at ACS on 4/29/2001 but failed to make the event. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Shawna Robinson 43 42 4/28/2002 Danica Patrick 40 26 3/24/2013 Danica Patrick 27 14 3/23/2014 · Only three car numbers have produced three or more Auto Club Speedway NSCS wins: Car Number – Drivers – (Years) o No. 48 – Jimmie Johnson (2002, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010) o No. 17 – Matt Kenseth (2006, 2007 and 2009) o No . 24 – Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999 and 2004) NASCAR in California · There have been 137 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among 15 different tracks in California. · Auto Club Speedway has hosted the second most NSCS events among active California tracks. Track Name City NSCS Riverside International Raceway Riverside 48 Sonoma Raceway Sonoma 26 Auto Club Speedway Fontana
NASCAR Foundation to donate $1 million to NYU Langone Medical Center
NEW YORK -- The NASCAR Foundation will donate $1 million to NYU Langone Medical Center, as part of a multi-year partnership to benefit hospitalized children. Through this partnership, The NASCAR Foundation will enhance the Child Life Program at the Hassenfeld Children's Hospital of New York at NYU Langone. The partnership will be commemorated at the first-ever NASCAR Foundation Honors Gala taking place at The Marriott Marquis in New York on Sept. 27. This is The NASCAR Foundation's first multi-year partnership with a New York area hospital and marks its commitment to reach more kids nationally. NASCAR’s charitable arm has donated $25 million and impacted more than one million children since its inception in 2006. "This is an important partnership for The NASCAR Foundation," said NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton. "The work being done by the NYU Langone Medical Center is changing lives, each and every day. The NASCAR Foundation is proud to have an opportunity to support that important work and expand our commitment to improving the lives of children in need." Through this partnership, the Child Life Program will ease the anxiety of children and their families during their hospital stay, which is essential to recovery. The NASCAR Foundation will support an enhanced child and family experience, fund two Child Life specialists, and provide resources, equipment and supplies to complement the wide-range of supportive and therapeutic activities currently offered at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at no charge to patients. This marks an expansion of The NASCAR Foundation's commitment to supporting children with Child Life programming as part of its signature Speediatrics program, which has provided more than 500,000 children with state-of-the-art medical care. "As leaders in the field of pediatrics, we're proud to partner with The NASCAR Foundation whose generous philanthropic support provides extensive and meaningful programs to help children and their families," said Catherine S. Manno, MD, the Pat and John Rosenwald Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone. "This sponsorship, in concert with our Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care, will strengthen our national exemplar model of care for children and their families." The NASCAR Foundation Honors Gala, which was planned to celebrate "10 Years of Giving," has taken on additional significance following the unexpected passing of its Founder and Chairwoman Emeritus Betty Jane France last month. The Gala will be a tribute to Betty Jane France's life and is being hosted by the France family including NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France (son) and his wife Amy France, International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy (daughter) and NASCAR Vice Chairman and International Speedway Corporation Chairman Jim France (brother-in-law). At the Honors Gala, various awards will be bestowed, including: -- Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide : One of four finalists will be announced as the winner following a fan vote which has taken place since July 13. The NASCAR Foundation will donate a total of $175,000 to the charities represented by the finalists -- with the winner's charity receiving a $100,000 donation. This year's finalists include Jim Giaccone of Bayville, New York, representing Tuesday's Children; Andy Hoffman of Atkinson, Nebraska, founder of the Team Jack Foundation; Logan Houptley of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a founding member of Mikayla's Voice; and Parker White of Greensboro, North Carolina, founder of BackPack Beginnings. Since the award's inception, nearly $900,000 has been contributed to charities represented by the finalists . -- Children's Champion Award: Dr. Howard B. Ginsburg : The William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, and Division Chief, Pediatric Surgery at NYU Langone, will receive the award recognizing his commitment to children. -- Founder's Award: NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus will receive the award recognizing his contributions to philanthropy. The Honors Gala will be headlined by Grammy® and Tony® nominated singer Sara Bareilles . The following NASCAR champions and rising stars will be in attendance: six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson , seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Richard Petty , reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch , NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series Champions Martin Truex Jr . and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., Danica Patrick , Kyle Larson , Kasey Kahne , Ben Kennedy and Julia Landauer. This event builds on NASCAR's long history in New York. The racing organization opened its first office in Manhattan in 1996 and is based out of the newly renovated New York headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue. This partnership also marks further collaboration between NYU and NASCAR. In March, Brian France participated in NYU's first Social Responsibility of Sports Conference where he pledged NASCAR's support to improve social responsibility in sports. For ticket information or table sponsorships, please visit www.nascarfoundation.org/honors-gala .