- Roush Looking For More Of The Same At Texas Motor Speedway
- Hendrick Motorsports Sets Bar With Early-Season Success
FORT WORTH, Texas (April 9, 2013) – The next generation of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be on full display during the NRA 500 as the new Gen-6 stock car makes its Texas debut.
If the first six races of the season are an indication of what will transpire during the NRA 500, NASCAR’s first Saturday night primetime race of the year will be filled with side-by-side racing, aggressive driving and late-race drama.
NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car, instituted this season to resemble the showroom cars of the three participating manufacturers (Chevrolet SS, Ford Fusion, Toyota Camry), has provided a new direction for the sport. Not only can fans connect to the race cars that compete on the track, but drivers agree the cars’ stylish look also brings with it an improved style of racing. And that is something drivers are looking forward to for Saturday’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“I do like the look of the car,” Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “I do feel like it’s racier as far as driving it around the track. It feels like you can be more aggressive with it and it gets a hold of the race track a little bit better. The older car, you were always complaining about the car feeling like it’s on top of the track and not in the track. A driver likes a car to really get in the track and get a hold of the race track. I anticipate this car to really revolutionize the sport. I’m excited about this direction.”
The Gen-6 car has excelled on intermediate ovals similar to Texas Motor Speedway with visits earlier this season to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway. The race at Las Vegas, a sister SMI track identical in size and similar in banking to Texas, featured 22 lead changes among eight drivers. It was the most lead changes at the speedway since 2007, the year before the then “Car of Tomorrow” was introduced.
At Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., the race featured 17 lead changes among eight drivers and included some dramatic door-to-door racing in the waning laps that resulted in fireworks. The rift brewing between Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin intensified as they battled for the win before the contact between the two wrecked both cars. Hamlin took the brunt of the accident as he sustained a back injury and could miss approximately six weeks. Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart also took Logano to task about his block on a restart that ignited a post-race melee on pit road.
“I hope it races something like (Fontana) California did as far as the racing was great at times out there,” said Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne, who won this race in 2006. “I really enjoyed moving around the race track. That place was a blast for us. Vegas, I could pretty go anywhere I wanted. Pass at any time depending on who I caught. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve had a lot of fun driving them this year. If we can get something in Texas close to Fontana or Vegas, somewhere in the middle of that, it will be a good show.”
The excitement of the new Gen-6 car will take center stage during the NRA 500, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday. Tickets for the NRA 500 are available by contacting the ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.
Texas Motor Speedway has become the “House of Roush” as Roush Fenway Racing has thoroughly dominated the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition at Texas Motor Speedway. In the previous 10 Sprint Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway, four times a Roush Fenway Racing driver ended up in Victory Lane.
During that 10-race span, Roush Fenway Racing drivers have amassed 27 top-10 finishes, including 18 among the top five, in 42 attempts. The team’s ability to remain consistent contenders for a victory is credit to the character of Roush Fenway Racing.
“I contribute it to good teams, good drivers and communication with equipment,” defending NRA 500 champion Greg Biffle said. “Teams will get on to A) setups, B) maybe their race cars cater to this type of race track a little bit better. I’ve had a lot of success here. We are sharing that information so Carl (Edwards) has that setup. Carl won here, we copied his setup. We learn together as a group and I think it helps us as an organization to be strong at particular race tracks.”
The Roush Fenway Racing Sprint Cup Series stable of Biffle, Carl Edwards and rookie Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all have won at Texas Motor Speedway in at least one of the three top-tier NASCAR series.
Edwards, who became the first Sprint Cup Series driver to sweep both races at Texas, sits atop the list for most victories with three while Biffle captured his second career win at during last year’s NRA 500.
Stenhouse Jr. earned his first career victory at TMS during last April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Nationwide Series race, helping Roush Fenway Racing sweep both Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races for the third time in the organization’s history. The organization’s success has him confident in his chances of maintaining the streak.
“Roush Fenway has been really, really successful here,” Stenhouse Jr. said. “In the mile-and-a-half testing that we’ve done, I feel confident that we are going to have a good race car. To win these Sprint Cup races you have to do everything perfect. We are definitely looking for a good showing here.”
Hendrick Motorsports is already in mid-season form as the organization heads to Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday evening’s NRA 500. The team has three wins on the young season, including Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Martinsville Speedway this past Sunday.
Johnson’s win propelled him to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, making him one of three Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the top five in points. Johnson is joined by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is third, and Kasey Kahne, who is fifth. The strong, early-season start has bolstered the confidence of the organization.
“I think the HMS guys have done a great job and we’ve made a lot of gains just from the start of the year even to where we are at now,” Kahne said. “The Cup cars are strong – as good as anybody’s stuff out there. We just have to keep after it because you know everybody else is. There has been a lot of competition.”
Earnhardt Jr., off to his best start in his 15-year career, has shown consistency during the first six races of the season. He already owns five top-10 finishes and is just 12 points behind Johnson in the standings.
His early-season success has him confident his team can help him reach the team’s ultimate goal – winning his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
“I've got good confidence in the team that we're going to be able to gain what I think we need to gain to be able to compete once the Chase comes around, and hopefully we'll have that opportunity to be in the Chase at that point,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “But we've still got more to gain. There's guys out there that I need that have more speed, and I think that's the only thing that concerns me.”
Brian Vickers was scheduled to run a limited number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races this season for Michael Waltrip Racing, but will now be thrust into action piloting the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 FedEx Toyota for the injured Denny Hamlin beginning with this weekend’s NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hamlin is sidelined after sustaining a fractured vertebra in his lower back following a last-lap accident with Penske Racing’s Joey Logano at Auto Club Speedway. Veteran Mark Martin filled in for Hamlin last weekend at Martinsville while Vickers drove the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
Vickers, who has 14 career starts at Texas Motor Speedway, is excited for the opportunity to sub for Hamlin and prepared for the challenges he will face joining a new team.
“We're there a day early so I guess that's somewhat like a test and I look forward to it to work with those guys in that type of environment,” said Vickers, referring to the 3½-hour test session for all teams on Thursday. “Obviously, to work with them on a race weekend with the limited testing schedule, there's not a lot you can really do. It's not like it's my first time in a Cup car or the first time at Texas or the first time – it's the first time with that team and I've known Darian (Grubb, No. 11 crew chief) since we raced together in Hooters Pro Cup. I've known Darian a long time and I've worked with him at different organizations. I suspect it will be fine once we get there."
If history is any indication, Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Martinsville Speedway this past Sunday increased his chances of winning the NRA 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson’s two previous victories at Texas Motor Speedway – last year’s AAA Texas 500 and the same fall event in 2007 – have come after winning the previous week.
Johnson, the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader heading into the NRA 500, has been a perennial contender at Texas Motor Speedway. In 19 career starts, he has 14 top-10 finishes and a 9.26 finishing average, which is second best among NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team are excited to continue their momentum at a track that has proven to be one of their best.
“Yeah, I feel good about it,” Johnson said of this weekend’s NRA 500. “We ran really good at Vegas, and California didn't go as well as we wanted, but it's a much different race track than what we have at Texas. I would say that Texas and Vegas are closer together than Texas and California. We'll go there and see. We're still learning this car on the big tracks. Fontana we were certainly trying some things, and smarter leaving there, and I know that these guys will work hard and give me a great car this coming race.”
Defending NRA 500 champion Greg Biffle is looking to become the first driver the 17-year history of Texas Motor Speedway to successfully defend a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race title. No one has repeated in the NRA 500 event since it debuted in 1997 or the AAA Texas 500 event that was added in 2005. … The NRA 500 once again will boast the fourth-largest purse in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with total of $7,196,789 awarded amongst the 43 drivers. This year’s purse is an increase from last year’s NRA 500, which totaled $7,132,592. … Jimmie Johnson has left little in doubt when he qualifies on the pole. Johnson’s victory in Sunday’s race at Martinsville was his third consecutive win while starting on the pole. Prior to Sunday’s victory, his previous victory from the pole came at Texas Motor Speedway when he went wire to wire to win the AAA Texas 500. The streak started last year with his victory from the pole at Martinsville in October.