Tag Archives: MENCS

Larson Captures Third Straight Michigan Victory on Final Restart

(Courtesy: NASCAR Media)

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Sitting in his racecar during a red flag delay near the end of the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Kyle Larson pondered the possible routes to an overtime victory. He was in fourth-place and would restart for the final two-lap shootout behind leader Martin Truex Jr. 

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Larson hadn’t had a fast racecar all day at Michigan International Speedway, but he thought with a gutsy move on the restart, he could steal a win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Ahead of him, Truex, the race leader, was in the opposite positon. He had had a fast racecar all day, and he figured he needed a strong restart to repel whatever move Larson or somebody else would throw at him. Like Larson, he was trying to figure out which scenario would be most likely to take him to Victory Lane.

As it turned out, Larson and Truex both drew up the same plan—they both wanted Larson to hit Truex on the restart. They just had different ideas about what would happen after that.

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Truex hoped the contact would push him forward and to the victory, and for a very brief second, that seemed possible. But Truex spun his tires, which played right into Larson’s strategy.

“I wanted to time it and get to his bumper and act like I was pushing him out to the lead and duck underneath him and get to his left-rear quarter and pull him back,” Larson said. “It’s crazy how when you get to someone’s left rear quarter how much it slows them down. It did just that.”

Larson bounced off of Truex as he passed him, and for a split second the race fanned out four wide. That never ends well—especially not on the penultimate lap when all four drivers are going for the win. But somehow they all stayed off each other, and afterward, rookie Erik Jones, one of those drivers, was at a loss to explain how. “I was pointed at the infield for half of (Turns) one and two,” said Jones, who finished third. 

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Erik Jones, driver of the #77 5-hour ENERGY Extra Strength Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

After the pass, Larson’s car was loose for the rest of the restart lap and the white flag lap. But he put enough distance between him and Truex that Truex couldn’t catch him and had to settle for second. Those were the only two laps Larson led all day. The thrilling win in a car that had no business doing so looked like a career defining move for Larson, the young driver from California.

The win was an exclamation point on an already great week of racing for Larson. He finished second late Saturday night in the Knoxville Nationals, one of the biggest dirt races in the world. His contract forbids him from running on dirt the night before he has to be on track for NASCAR, be it practice, qualifying or a race. But on Thursday, he talked team owner Chip Ganassi into making an exception.

Ganassi harbored misgivings about the decision—he thought Larson, who didn’t get back to Michigan from Knoxville, Iowa until 2:30 a.m. Sunday might be too worn out for the 400 mile race, and those doubts grew bigger in the middle of the race as Larson languished in the middle of the pack. But after the win, Ganassi joyously shook team members on the pit box and planted a kiss on Larson. 

It was Larson’s third consecutive win at Michigan. The only other drivers to accomplish that are David Pearson and Bill Elliott, both of whom are in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The race was slowed by five cautions for 28 laps.

BROOKLYN, MI – AUGUST 13: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Ford, races Daniel Suarez, driver of the #19 ARRIS Surfboard/McAfee Toyota, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 13, 2017 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Michigan native Brad Keselowski won the first stage. He dominated the first half of the race, leading five times for 105 laps. But he faded to 17th. Truex led three times for 57 laps and won the second stage. Truex kept his position atop the points race, but finished runner-up.

Paul Menard to Fill Vacancy Left by Blaney at Wood Brothers Racing

Courtesy: Wood Brothers Racing

STUART, VA (July 26, 2017) – Wood Brothers Racing, the oldest active NASCAR team and one of the winningest teams in series history, and veteran driver Paul Menard, will join forces for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENSC) season, the two parties announced today. The new partnership will see the team continue to compete full time for the coming seasons with Menard driving the legendary No. 21 Ford Fusion.

Menards, the industry-leading home improvement store company, will sponsor the No. 21 Ford for 22 MENCS races.  Additional sponsorship, including plans for long-time partner Motorcraft/Quick Lane, will be announced at a later date.

“It’s fantastic to have the ability to continue to race in the highest level of motorsports full-time and something we look forward to doing with Paul for years to come,” said Eddie Wood. “I know this will allow us to continue to perform as an organization and will give Paul a great opportunity to go out there and compete for wins. Paul is not only a great driver with a lot of experience in the Cup Series, but he’s great with partners, which is a big part of what we do these days. We are looking forward to finishing out this season with Ryan (Blaney), going for more wins and maybe even a championship, and continuing that with Paul in 2018.”

Over the course of its history, the Wood Brothers Racing team has amassed 99 MENCS victories, the most recent coming this season with current driver Ryan Blaney at Pocono Raceway. Legendary drivers such as AJ Foyt, David Pearson, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Cale Yarborough, Neil Bonnett, Buddy Baker and Dale Jarrett have all earned victories for the team. Both Glen and Leonard Wood have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The team’s relationship with Roush-Yates Engines and the technical partnership with fellow Ford Performance organization, Team Penske, will also continue in 2018.

Menard has competed full-time in MENCS since the 2007 season. He won the 2011 Brickyard 400 at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway and qualified for NASCAR’s Playoffs in 2015. In addition to his Cup Series victory at Indianapolis, Menard has also earned three NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) wins over the course of his career.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in NASCAR and as a Cup Series driver, but to get the chance to drive the iconic No. 21 for the Wood Brothers is the coolest thing I’ve ever got a chance to do,” said Menard. “I’m looking forward to working with the team, working with Roush Yates, Ford Performance and Team Penske to see what we can do. Ryan (Blaney) has done a fantastic job and is a constant threat to run up front. Hopefully, we can do the same thing and keep the momentum going into 2018 and beyond.”

In addition, Menard will run a handful of NXS races for Team Penske beginning in 2018.

The 2018 MENCS season will begin Feb. 18 with the 60th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Wood Brothers Racing

Wood Brothers Racing was formed in 1950 in Stuart, Va., by Hall of Famer Glen Wood. Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest active team and one of the winningest teams in NASCAR history. Since its founding, the team won 99 races (including at least one race in every decade for the last seven decades) and 117 poles in NASCAR’s top-tier series. Fielding only Ford products for its entire history, the Wood Brothers own the longest association of any motorsports team with a single manufacturer. Glen’s brother, Leonard, is known for inventing the modern pit stop. The team currently runs the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion driven by Ryan Blaney in the famous No. 21 racecar.

About Menards
With 306 stores in 14 Midwestern states, Menards has the tools, materials and supplies for all your home improvement needs whether just needing a light bulb or can of paint to building a deck or new home. Menards is known throughout the home improvement industry as the low price leader; it’s no wonder their famous slogan – “SAVE BIG MONEY” – is so widely known and easy to remember. Menards does things right – the company’s strength and success can be seen in the well-stocked and maintained stores, the lowest prices in town and the way guests are always treated like family in a hometown hardware store atmosphere. For more information, visit www.menards.com.

Kasey Kahne Snatches Improbable Victory at the Brickyard

Courtesy: NASCAR Media

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — In semi-darkness, as the sun set behind the frontstretch grandstand at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Kasey Kahne did all he could to dispel the shadow overhanging his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and his racing career. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JULY 23: Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, kisses the yard of bricks with his crew after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on July 23, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

With a phenomenal restart in the second overtime of Sunday’s Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400, Kahne cleared race leader Brad Keselowski through the first two corners and crossed the overtime line on the backstretch before NASCAR called the record 14th caution of the race. 

That ended the event with Kahne in the lead, and when he took the checkered flag under yellow a lap and a half later, the driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had his first victory since an eleventh-hour win at Atlanta in August of 2014 that propelled him into NASCAR’s postseason. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JULY 23: Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on July 23, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kahne was breathless with exhaustion in Victory Lane, the result of withering heat inside the cars in a prolonged race that featured three red flags, one for rain and lightning and two for incidents. But the implications of the triumph weren’t lost on him. 

“The career is big, for sure—but the win and the history here,” Kahne said. “To win at this track is unreal. We used to always be really close. We lost to Jeff (Gordon) and we lost to Tony (Stewart); just some fast cars back then. 

“Today, strategy got us here. This Farmers Insurance Chevrolet was great once I got out front. I just had to get there. I’m exhausted. But, an unbelievable win. The team just kept working. We had great pit stops.” 

The pit stop that mattered most occurred on Lap 150, when Kahne came to pit road moments before a vicious wreck on the frontstretch eliminated the cars of Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Erik Jones, all of whom had been running in or near the top 10 throughout the afternoon. 

Kahne had fresh rubber and stayed on the track when the cars ahead of him came to pit road for tires on Lap 151. Suddenly at the front of the field, Kahne battled Keselowski on three successive restarts before the decisive second overtime. 

Kahne status in the No. 5 car has been grist for the rumor mill this season. Asked Sunday morning about plans for the ride next year, team owner Rick Hendrick would say only “That’s another day,” during a press conference heralding Alex Bowman as the successor to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. 

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – JULY 23: Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet, drives on the apron after an incident during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on July 23, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

Asked post-race what the victory does for Kahne’s future, Hendrick replied, “It puts him in the (playoff).” 

But the uncertainty that surrounds Kahne’s status in the No. 5 did nothing to diminish his accomplishment at the vaunted Brickyard. 

Keselowski had taken the lead during the first overtime restart, but a huge wreck on the frontstretch—triggered when Trevor Bayne turned sideways after a push from Michael McDowell as the cars approached the start/finish line—aborted the attempt. 

For the second overtime, Keselowski chose the outside lane, leaving Kahne on the bottom in a racing groove covered with Speedy Dry fluid absorption material. But Kahne pulled off a magnificent restart and powered into Turn 1 at full steam. 

“Well, the one before just didn’t work,” said Kahne, who picked the outside lane and lost the lead on the short-lived restart for the first overtime. “Everything went wrong. On the final one, everything went right. And once I got to Turn 1, I had good power and was able to clear him off (Turn) 1. I’m exhausted. And, it’s pretty crazy.” 

Keselowski, who was trying to give team owner Roger Penske a first Brickyard 400 victory, gave credit where credit was due. 

“Kasey did a heck of a job today and drove a hell of a race,” Keselowski said. “I’m happy for him. I thought we were in the right spot. You had seen the same thing all day when you’d get somebody on the outside, and in the corner you got real loose. 

“He drove in there and it just stuck. I don’t know. I may have had the wrong lane there or made the wrong call. I’m not sure. The car was on edge and then some.” 

By the time Kahne took the checkered flag, the two fastest cars in the race had long since been eliminated—in the same wreck. Polesitter Kyle Busch, who led a race-high 87 laps, was racing side-by-side with Martin Truex Jr. after a restart on Lap 111 when Truex’s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota got loose underneath Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, causing a collision that crippled both cars. 

Ultimately, it was Kahne who seized the opportunity their exit presented. 

Notes: The victory was the first for Kahne’s crew chief, Keith Rodden… Kahne visited the infield care center for treatment after Victory Lane ceremonies in which Kahne looked drained. … Jimmie Johnson, with his eye on a record-tying fifth Brickyard victory, spun in Turn 3 while battling Kahne and Keselowski for the lead on Lap 159, causing the caution that set up the overtimes that eventually took the race seven laps past its scheduled distance.