‘Magnet for trouble’ Martin Truex Jr. looks to reverse personal Bristol history

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Martin Truex Jr. has only managed to figure out Bristol Motor Speedway twice in his NASCAR Cup career.

In the fall 2011 and spring 2012 races, Truex earned the only two top five and top-10 finishes of his career at the half-mile track when he finished second and third.

His other 20 starts in “Thunder Valley” have seen the Furniture Row Racing driver tend to be a “magnet for trouble.”

Since finishing third in 2012, Truex has failed to finish on the lead lap in six of nine Bristol starts. A crash in the 2013 night race gave Truex his second Bristol DNF and left him with a fractured wrist.

“Bristol is Bristol and you’re rarely going to beat the house,” Truex said in a press release. “The track is known for its wild races and it seems that I have been a magnet for trouble. Our recent record might not show it, but we do have a car that can compete and contend at the Bristol short track. We just need to be patient and stay out of the wrecks.”

Truex’s best Bristol result since joining Furniture Row Racing in 2014 was 14th in last years’ spring race.

But the driver of the No. 78 Toyota has made a habit of reversing career trends over the last three seasons. Though he’s still looking for his short track victory, Truex has six wins since 2015 after only winning twice in his first nine full Cup seasons.

The most recent was March 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

When it comes to short tracks, Truex has manged to increase his fortunes in recent seasons.

After only two top fives and four top 10s at Martinsville from 2006 -2014, Truex has added three more top 10s and 239 laps led since taking over the No. 78.

He even won Stage 1 in the last month’s race, giving him a series best four stage wins through seven races. But Truex’s day fell off from there and ended with him in 16th.

With nine playoff points earned, Truex trails only Brad Keselowski (10). Those will be added the drivers’ point totals once the playoffs begin.

“Those are going to be crucial, definitely once the playoffs starts,” crew chief Cole Pearn said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway.” “You want to have consistency all across the board. But really, it’s about race wins. The stage points, yeah, it’s great to pick up one point here and there. But vying to win the race is still where the money is at. Those are the ones you want to collect”

Said Truex, “The next two weeks (Bristol and Richmond) will give us a good gauge on where we stand with our short track program.”

At Richmond International Raceway, Truex had finishes of ninth and third last year and led 193 laps in the fall race. That was after four top 10s and 20 laps led from 2010 – 2015.

Now Truex takes his early season momentum, with an average start of 10.9 and average finish of 8.7, to his second worst track on the circuit.

“We want to get into a consistent rhythm with all the different types of tracks,” Truex said. “We had a variety of things happen to us this year – good breaks, bad breaks – but overall we have come out of the gate with a decent start. It was sure nice to get that win early in the season.”

One thing that’s been consistent this season so far is that no races have been impacted by rain on race day. Only qualifying for Martinsville has been canceled.

But rain is in the forecast each day of the race weekend in Bristol.

“I think this week everyone is a little concerned about the weather,” Pearn said. “Limited track time is a possibility. Hopefully we got decent notes to fall back on if it comes to that.”

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Dale Jr’s priorities shifted last season while away from track (video)

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. is unsure how the rest of his life will look now that he’s made the decision to retire.

On Wednesday’s edition of NASCAR America, Greg Biffle and Kyle Petty discussed how Junior’s time away last season prepared him for his retirement decision.

Sponsor expanding its partnership with Danica Patrick’s team

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Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday that Code 3 Associates will partner with One Cure initiative for three races on Danica Patrick‘s car this season and that Code 3 Associates will add another race on Patrick’s car.

Code 3 Associates is using its partnership with One Cure, a project led by the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center, will be on Patrick’s car at Kansas Speedway (May 13), the Monster Energy Open at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 20) on All-Star weekend and Aug. 19 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Code 3 Associates will serve as the primary sponsor of Patrick’s car June 25 at Sonoma Raceway.

“We need a new way to find potential cures for cancer, and pets may provide the answer,” said Dr. Rodney Page, director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center. “Cancer is cancer, so what is learned in pets being treated for cancer holds promise to benefit people and vice versa. This approach is known as comparative or translational oncology, and it is the core of the One Cure concept. This partnership helps educate more people about comparative oncology and improves the lives of all cancer patients, whether they have two legs or four.”

“Code 3 Associates has championed animal welfare for more than 25 years, and One Cure allows us to take what’s learned from treating animals that are fighting cancer to people who are fighting the same battle,” added Nan Stuart, founder, Code 3 Associates. “Danica and Stewart-Haas Racing have been strong advocates for animal welfare and this extension of our partnership with them helps more people understand and appreciate One Cure’s mission.”

The car for Kansas will feature the upcoming “Wonder Woman” movie on it. The movie debuts June 2.

 

NASCAR America live at 6 pm on NBCSN: Exclusive Dale Jr. interview

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 6 to 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Krista Voda hosts from Stamford, Connecticut, along with Kyle Petty and Greg Biffle.

Here’s what’s on today’s show:

* We continue to follow up on Tuesday’s major announcement of Dale Earnhardt’s retirement at the end of this season. One of the biggest elements of today’s show is the exclusive interview our Marty Snider had with Junior. Check out the video above for some of that interview.

 Which drivers in the Cup Series’ current crop of young talent could ultimately replace Earnhardt as the face of the sport?

* Xfinity Series points leader Elliott Sadler also joins the show to share his reaction to yesterday’s news. Sadler joined JR Motorsports last season, but his friendship with the Earnhardt family goes back much farther.

* The next stop on NASCAR America’s My Home Track: 50 States in 50 Shows tour of the USA is The Bay State: Massachusetts. This state has seen major success recently with its Boston pro sports teams, and it’s also home to one of New England’s premier short tracks, Seekonk Speedway.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you also can watch it via the online stream at http://nascarstream.nbcsports.com

If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you plug-in that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s final Cup season could lead to greater ticket sales

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Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement Tuesday that he will retire from the NASCAR Cup Series after this season could help minimize attendance declines that have become common at tracks.

Asked about the impact Earnhardt could have in the final 28 races of the season, Marcus Smith, chief executive officer and president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., likened Earnhardt to another famous athlete.

“Dale Jr.’s announcement yesterday is significant, it’s similar to when Michael Jordan decided it was time for him to retire from basketball,’’ Smith said Wednesday in a conference call with investor analysts. “The opportunity for fans to see Dale Jr. race one more time is certainly special and something we expect will be inspiring to a lot of fans to come to races.’’

Speedway Motorsports Inc. reported that admissions revenue was down 4.5 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same time last season. The first quarter covered race weekends for Atlanta and Las Vegas. SMI reported that attendance at Atlanta was “up a little bit” and attendance at Las Vegas was “down a little bit” but did not provide numbers.

Earnhardt will be the fourth major NASCAR driver to leave the Cup series since last year Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart ran their final races last season. Carl Edwards announced before the season that he would not race this year.

International Speedway Corp., which owns tracks such as Daytona, Talladega, Darlington and Homestead-Miami Speedway, cited the absence of Gordon, Stewart and Earnhardt (when he missed the last 18 races of last year) as impacting admission revenue last season.

ISC reported its fourth-quarter admissions revenue was down 9.3 percent last year from the previous season. The company hosted Cup races at Darlington, Richmond, Chicagoland, Kansas, Talladega, Martinsville, Phoenix and Homestead during that quarter.

“The impact of Jeff Gordon’s retirement was underestimated, which was compounded with Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. missing races throughout the season,’’ said John Saunders, ISC president, in January about one of the reasons for the decline.

Earnhardt’s announcement that this will be his last Cup series already has some fans purchasing or looking to purchase tickets.

Richmond International Raceway reported an increase in interest for this weekend’s race after Earnhardt’s announcement. Richmond also is selling tickets to its fall race weekend. Earnhardt is scheduled to compete in both the Xfinity and Cup races there Sept. 8-9.

The series heads to Talladega next weekend and Grant Lynch, chairman of Talladega Superspeedway, anticipates more Earnhardt fans showing up.

“If you’re going to go see him one more time, why wouldn’t you go to the track where he runs the best,’’ Lynch said. “We think that’s the a positive for Talladega. He’s always been great at Talladega. It’s an Earnhardt track. I hope folks will take the attitude that ‘Wow, I’ll get two more chances to see him,’ see him next weekend and come see us again in October.’’

The greatest demands for tickets likely will come for races at the end of the season.

Earnhardt’s final Cup race will be Nov. 19 at Homestead. The track is selling three-day weekend packages. Deposits for single-day tickets, which go on sale May 5, are being taken. That race sold out last year.

The week before Homestead, the series races at Phoenix Raceway. The track is in the renewal process for the Nov. 12 race with fall race ticket holders. The track is selling tickets to its new Club 64 section above Turn 1 now. Grandstand tickets and camping go on sale June 2.

The week before Phoenix, the series races at Texas Motor Speedway. The track is selling weekend ticket packages only at this point. The track will sell individual tickets to its fall Cup race in June. A date has yet to be determined but it will come after the June 10 IndyCar race there.

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