The Frontstretch Newsletter: September 3rd, 2011 Rockingham, Nationwide Results

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THE FRONTSTRETCH NEWSLETTER
Presented by Frontstretch.com
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
September 3rd, 2011
Volume V, Edition CLXXXIII

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FRONTSTRETCH AT THE TRACK ALL DAY! Be sure to follow us through our Facebook page at Frontstretch Writers, Twitter @TheFrontstretch plus @Writer_Amy (Amy Henderson) AND the main page of Frontstretch.com for all your racing news from Atlanta.

NEW PODCAST! Don't forget our new FREE weekly audio segments hosted by Doug Turnbull. Click here for the September 2nd edition that features Kurt Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. as our main racing guests.

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Nationwide Practice Results
by the Frontstretch Staff

The first two practices for the Nationwide Series are over at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Here are your top-10 results from Happy Hour; for a full list, click here.

1 *20 Ryan Truex # Schick Xtreme3 Toyota 31.545 175.749
2 22 Brad Keselowski(i) Discount Tire Dodge 31.602 175.432
3 88 Aric Almirola Hellmann's Chevy 31.634 175.254
4 19 Mike Bliss TriStar Motorsports Chevy 31.646 175.188
5 18 Kyle Busch(i) Z-Line Designs Toyota 31.655 175.138
6 31 Justin Allgaier Brandt Chevy 31.763 174.543
7 62 Michael Annett Pilot Travel Centers / Flying J Toyota 31.851 174.060
8 66 Steve Wallace 5-hour Energy Toyota 31.867 173.973
9 30 Jason Leffler Great Clips Chevy 31.867 173.973
10 7 Jamie McMurray(i) GoDaddy.com / Get Together Chevy 31.886 173.869

The 19-year-old Truex, in his first drive for Joe Gibbs Racing is wasting no time making an impression; he was nearly half-a-tenth faster than returning Brad Keselowski while turning consistent lap times in practice. Among the title contenders, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. was 13th, Reed Sorenson 14th and Elliott Sadler 20th. For Bliss, a fourth-place practice run, if it holds would be the best result for TriStar Motorsports this season.

Breaking News
Rockingham To Get Truck Series Date In 2012?
by Mike Neff

Rockingham Motor Speedway will hold a press conference at the track on Wednesday, September 7th with track management and North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue.  The details of the press conference are not known at this time; however, there is rampant speculation that the track will announce the return of a NASCAR national touring race to the historic speedway, which hosted NASCAR for the better part of four decades until 2004.  The last hurdle for the speedway to overcome was the lack of SAFER barriers, but track owner Andy Hillenburg announced recently that the SAFER walls would be installed beginning this month and be ready for 2012 competition.

Later Friday evening, ESPN The Magazine confirmed what our sources were hearing: the race is likely to be a Camping World Truck Series event on a date to be determined next season. The date would likely replace Nashville, which will not host a CWTS event next season.

Other News
Hornaday Stretches Fuel, Wins Truck Series Race In Atlanta
by Mike Neff

Ron Hornaday's night did not start off looking like he was going to take the win at Atlanta Motor Speedway Friday night. When the green flag flew, he rear-ended the truck of Josh Richards, damaged his front fender and turned the rest of the night into a mission of survival.

Turns out that perseverance got him all the way to Victory Lane. Hornaday's crew did an A+ job repairing the fender, bare bond and perfect handling adjustments keeping the truck competitive throughout the night. Then, on their final pit stop Hornaday returned to the track in sixth position and realized his only chance to win was conserving fuel. In the end, he had just enough to outlast the trucks of Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch, who were the class of the field all night. Blake Feese played the fuel conservation game as well after damaging his truck in the middle of the race to come home fourth while Ryan Newman soldiered home to the last position in the top five.

Bowyer was the fastest truck for almost the entire race, grabbing the lead from polesitter Ricky Carmichael at the drop of the green and leading the first 37 laps. Busch quickly moved up to the top three from his sixth-place starting spot and took the lead from Bowyer on lap 38 during the second caution of the race brought out by Johanna Long and BJ McLeod getting together in Turn 4. Busch led three green flag laps after the restart before Bowyer beat him back to the line to lead lap 46. The two would continue swapping the lead back and forth, taking control on speed until fuel conservation during the final laps of the race ruined any chance for both to wind up victorious.

"It is great racing with Kyle out there in these Trucks," Bowyer said, quickly over the disappointment of losing the race on gas. "It is really fun when you can race that close to a guy who you know is going to be able to keep it down there and not take you out"

Bowyer maintained the lead until he had to pit for fuel on lap 111. Austin Dillon took over the lead for two laps before he had to pit as well which gave the lead to Hornaday on lap 114. Hornaday made his fuel last the final 17 laps, despite running lap times two seconds slower than Bowyer; in the end, he made it to the finish line 1.5 seconds ahead of the hard charging driver from Emporia, Kansas.

"I got snookered by a guy who played a better poker hand than I did," Bowyer added after the race ended. This was the first loss for the No. 2 truck in a month after Kevin Harvick piloted it to three consecutive victories; at least the runner-up finish put them ahead of Busch by the checkered flag.

"We were just too loose all night to catch up to Clint," Kyle Busch said following his third-place run, also over the disappointment easily - the result kept his team solidly in the running for the owner's championship. "We tried to tighten it up all night and we finally got it pretty good at the end. We couldn't see Clint when we came in for that last pit stop and by the time we got to the checkers, we were only 10 spots behind him. It was a good points night for us."

Hornaday knew he pulled off a caper winning the race. "See that trophy right there, we stole that one," he said. "I screwed up at the start and ran into the No. 15 and damaged the fender. The guys taped it up, you can't believe what a piece of tape can do to one of these trucks. When they got me out sixth on that last stop I knew our only chance to win was to stretch the fuel, so that's what we did."

The win is Hornaday's 49th victory in the Camping World Truck Series and his second this season. Hornaday is the all-time leader in wins in the series, 20 ahead of Kyle Busch; the win was his second career triumph at Atlanta.

In the standings, James Buescher took over the points lead from Johnny Sauter with his 10th-place finish. Sauter had trouble just before the midway point of the race and ended up crossing the line in 29th place. Timothy Peters is third in points, 14 out of the top spot and three ahead of Austin Dillon. Hornaday is fifth, 48 points in arrears.

For more on Sauter's troubles, the keys behind winning the race and more don't forget to read Beth Lunkenheimer's Tracking The Trucks column, Sunday on the Frontstretch.

Friday News 'N' Notes
by Amy Henderson

Kids Get In Free to Nationwide Race In Atlanta

Looking to increase its fan base, Atlanta Motor Speedway is looking towards the youngest, newest generation to get people in the seats this weekend. Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 will be a family affair, with children 12 and under admitted free with a parent holding a regular-price ticket to the race.  Multiple children can get in with one paying adult as well.  Atlanta Motor Speedway offered the same deal for Friday night’s Camping World Truck Series Race.  There will be designated smoke and alcohol-free sections in order to better accommodate families in attendance.

Chevrolet Hosts Cancer Survivors at AMS

Chevrolet played host to 30 breast cancer survivors and their families at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday morning, beginning with pace car rides around the track with
Chevy drivers Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, and Ron Hornaday, Jr.  The Camaro pace cars are also distinctive with their pink paint schemes.

“As we like to say at Chevy,” commented the manufacturer’s Assistant Marketing Manager, Maria Stenbom, “We’ve been a part of people’s lives for a hundred years, even through the detours.” 

Chevrolet will also donate $200 to the American Cancer Society for each caution lap in Sunday’s AdvoCare 500. The survivors who joined the festivities on Friday were not all race fans prior to the event, but as Alice Ramsay said afterward, “I am now!” 

“We’re all sisters,” Ramsay commented Friday.  “We’re like sorority sisters but of a sorority we didn’t rush for and wouldn’t have picked.” 

The pink pace cars for the weekend’s events will serve as a reminder that while the prognosis for breast cancer is better than it’s ever been, there is still a long way to go.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and several teams will show off their pink cars then in support of finding a cure for a disease that kills thousands each year.

Office Depot Announces Small Business Finalists

Office Depot announced the finalists in its annual contest in which a company will become the Official Small Business of NASCAR for a year.  Office Depot and 3M partner on the promotion, and will offer an extra incentive for drivers Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle this weekend: each driver is partnered with one of the businesses, who will receive a $1 million bonus if the car with their logo wins the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday.

Stewart’s car features HuckleBerry Pets, a Daytona Beach-based company owned by Kacie Howard.  Howard and her husband, Chris, created the company last year and make custom pet beds, which can be made to order and are especially beneficial to large or older dogs with chronic conditions such as arthritis. 

Bales Mold Services, Inc. is on the rear panel of  Biffle’s car.  Sara Mortensen inherited the business when her father passed away in 2009.  The company, which has just three full-time employees, produces a variety of coatings and finishes for use by mold-making industries, including consumer, medical, and automotive products.

Both businesses received $10,000 from Office Depot for a home office makeover.  The winning company will have the exclusive use of the “Official Small Business of NASCAR, Courtesy of Office Depot” logo for one year.  “That’s not exposure that a small business could normally afford,” noted Howard.

Keselowski Tops Charts in First Cup Practice

Brad Keselowski picked up right where he left off last week, topping the speed charts in the only Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday night.  Keselowski, who has won twice and finished no worse than third in the last four weeks, laid down a 187.722-mile-per-hour lap to top the board.  The rest of the top-10 cars included Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex, Jr., Mark Martin, Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle, A.J. Allmendinger, Jimmie Johnson, and Kasey Kahne.

Other News And Notes

- After last week's comments by Kevin Harvick that the landscape at KHI will be drastically different next year, people are wondering where that will leave veteran Ron Hornaday, Jr.. But when asked about it in the garage at Atlanta, he was very matter of fact: no one's told him he's getting released.

"I have no idea what I'm doing next year," said the former Truck Series champ. "I haven't heard anything yet about what I'll be doing." He would not comment further on any rumors of a pending separation with KHI.

Hornaday, who won the race Friday night is fifth in the standings, with two victories and 11 top-10 finishes through 17 races. Rumor has it there's not enough sponsorship to keep the No. 33 Truck going for 2012; Hornaday, who is 53 years old has been working with patchwork sponsor deals throughout the year to make it through.

- Joey Coulter is making his first start at Atlanta in his truck this weekend. Asked to explain what it was like running Atlanta he put it in terms that many of the local racers from the Charlotte area can understand. "This place is like running the dogleg at Concord constantly," he said. "The only difference is that you have about half of the grip that you do at Concord in a Late Model."

- Many drivers are unsure about where their career is going to be next season. Timothy Peters is one of those drivers who does not know what the plan is for him at Red Horse. "I don't know what is in store for me next year," he said. "I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I'll be back in this truck next season." The uncertainty comes as a bit of a surprise for a driver who's currently third in points, just 14 behind James Buescher with eight races left. But the team, struggling for sponsorship will need some outside financial support to continue in 2012.

Peters was also asked if he'll be running in the Late Model race at Martinsville where he won in the past and made a name for himself. "I'm not going to run the race, unfortunately," he said. "You have to do it right and I'm focused on this truck so I can't do the Late Model like I'd like to."

- Frontstretch caught up with a couple of the members of Shane Sieg's pit crew at the start of the Truck race Friday night. They were asked about how Shane is doing after his suspension for violating NASCAR's substance abuse policy; all agreed he's working hard to get his life on track, but it's going to be months before we see him behind the wheel.

"Shane is doing good," said a crew member who preferred not to be identified. "He's getting his stuff in order so he can start doing whatever it is that he has to do to get reinstated. We doubt he'll get back this year, but hopefully he can get everything done that they want him to so he can be back next season."

Have news for Mike and The Frontstretch?  Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at phil.a...@frontstretch.com with a promising lead or tip.

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Hey, Frontstretch Readers!
We know you love the roar of raw horsepower under the hood that powers 43 of the best drivers in the world every weekend, but did you ever wonder how the sponsor on top of that hood also contributes to keeping the sport moving? What about the contributions of official NASCAR companies? If you think they are simply writing checks, think again. Check out our newest feature - Sunday Money. This weekly Frontstretch exclusive provides you with a behind the scenes look at how NASCAR, its affiliates and team sponsors approach the daunting task of keeping fans interested and excited about the sport for 38 weeks of the year.

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Special At-The-Track Commentary
by Amy Henderson

Sprint Showdown Perfect Mix Of Veterans, Longshots

When Sprint released their Summer Showdown bonus program, they probably wopuld not, in their wildest dreams, have predicted that when it came down to Atlanta, the four finalists would be Paul Menard, Marcos Ambrose, Brad Keselowski, and Kyle Busch would be the drivers in the running for the $3 million bonus.  Well, thye probably dreamed of Kyle Busch grabbing a win over the last four weeks.  Maybe even Keselowski if someone ate a whole pizza before bed or something.  But Menard and Ambrose? 

And now one of them will have to beat the odds again to win.

None of the four drivers has consistently run at the top of the leaderboard at Atlanta, and it’s been a full year since they’ve raced here.  Busch, the best of the four in terms of average finish at 17.3, holds the group’s only win.  Both Menard and Ambrose have midpack averages of 22.0 and 22.2 respectively, and Keselowski’s average of 30.5 is something you would expect of a backmarker, not the series’ hottest driver for the last month. 

Should one of the four win, the driver, the charity of his choice, and a fan who selected each driver to win the qualifying races will receive $1 million each (two fans will split the money of Keselowski wins.  It’s slightly reminiscent of the old No Bull 5 bonus, which pitted the top five drivers from a previously selected race against one another for a bonus, with the top 5 in that race making up the field for the next race in the challenge.

It’s likely when Sprint created the program, that they expected the drivers involved to be a little more high profile, a little more likely to win.  Carl Edwards was in attendance when the program was launched, but conspicuously absent from the press conference held on Saturday with the four participants.  Also absent is five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who has just one win all year.

While it’s likely that Sprint created the program with drivers like Edwards and Johnson in mind, perhaps the actual field is better.  After all, everyone loves an underdog, and half of the four are definitely underdogs.  Even Keselowski could be counted in that category based on his Atlanta record.  And while Busch is probably the favorite to take home the cash, his past performance at the track is fairly mediocre. 

Also, with Busch guaranteed a Chase berth and Kesleowski all but, and considering that both Menard and Ambrose have little hope of making the Chase unless they can pull off a win, you have four drivers in position to forget about points and go for the win.  That’s something you wouldn’t have with Edwards or Johnson; while both are locked into the Chase, neither is running where they want to be as they start their championship bids, which likely means a more conservative approach from the two. 

In other words, all four participants have something in common:  they have absolutely nothing to lose but a million dollars.

That in itself makes this unexpected group the best possible mix for the bonus program, better than the bigger names and the former champions and the favorites to win on Sunday.  They’re dangerous in that they can and will put it all on the line.  Busch and Keselowski, in particular, are already known for being aggressive on the track and that’s the kind of driver fans need to see in a program like this one, especially coupled with a pair of nice guys who finished first to get there.  Keselowski has had an intense and long-standing rivalry with Busch as well.

So, while the field for the inaugural Summer Showdown might not be the lineup Sprint hoped for at first, it may just be that even if Sprint could have picked the drivers who will race for the extra prize, they wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Amy Henderson is a Senior Editor for Frontstretch.com. She can be reached at amy.he...@frontstretch.com.

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Hey Frontstretch Readers!
Get THE ANNUAL, 2011 Racing Preview for your mobile device!

Go to Frontstretch.com and click on "The Annual" link on the right side to order and download this special issue that includes: Track Information, Driver profiles and In-Depth Features.
 
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Coming Monday in the Frontstretch Newsletter:
-- Advocare 500 Race Recap by Mike Neff
-- Mouthing Off: Advocare 500 by Brody Jones
-- Links to your favorite Frontstretch articles, and more!
 
Monday on the Frontstretch:

Matt McLaughlin's Thinkin' Out Loud: Advocare 500 by Toni Montgomery and Bryan Keith
With Matt still out of commission, two of your favorite Frontstretch writers will be here with their overall thoughts about the action from Sunday night's action from Atlanta.

Bubble Breakdown by Bryan Davis Keith
Who's hot and who's not towards the back end of the owner points battle? Bryan brings the stories you didn't hear about into print from Sunday's race from Atlanta.

Special Commentary by Ron Lemasters
Ron returns for a website look at one of the big stories from Sunday's race from Atlanta.

Bowles-Eye View by Amy Henderson
Filling in for Tom, Amy has all of the insight you need from a weekend of racing from Atlanta.

Big Six: Advocare 500 by Amy Henderson
Amy has your who, what, when, where, why and how from a weekend of racing at Atlanta.

Nationwide Series Breakdown: Great Clips 300 by Bryan Davis Keith
Bryan has all the post-race analysis you need after Saturday night's Nationwide Series race from Atlanta.

Tracking the Trucks: Good Sam Club 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer
Beth has all the post-race analysis you need after Friday night's Camping World Truck Series race from Atlanta.

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