Friday Feature: Bruncati Pursues Passion

Friday Feature: Bruncati Pursues Passion

Southern California Businessman Successful On And Off Track

There was a time that Bob Bruncati got all the inspiration he needed by looking in the bathroom mirror.

During his early years as a Southern California car dealer, Bruncati went to a presentation by a motivational speaker.

“Times were tough for a while,” Bruncati recalled. “I stopped paying myself just to keep the doors open. I was looking for help.”

There were a couple things he took away from the presentation, he said. One he wrote on his bathroom mirror where he could see it every morning. It said:

“If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Decades later, that could easily have been the mantra for his life.

Today, Bruncati is the semi-retired owner of two of the most successful Ford dealerships in the nation. He also is owner of the two-car Sunrise Ford team in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Derek Thorn, who is backed directly by the dealership and some of its suppliers, is leading the championship standings by a 23-point margin.

Dylan Lupton, sponsored by Vadio, Lupton Excavating and Bruncati’s dealerships, is fifth in the points and leading the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.

For Bruncati, cars and racing have always been a passion.

“It’s all I ever wanted to do,” he said. “I still get excited about them.”

But how does a guy who paid the bills by mopping out the remains of Saturday nights at neighborhood bars in New York City end up as an auto dealer in Southern California?

It began in 1965. Bruncati was newly married and scheduled to begin work as a factory representative for Chevrolet in Detroit. But when he and his wife, Maureen, returned from their honeymoon, there were more than wedding cards in the mailbox. Bruncati had been drafted.

“I remember being in Missouri, where we got on a plane for my next posting and it was 13 degrees when we took off. Twelve hours later we landed at Oakland and it was 80 degrees and I called my wife and said that when I get out, we’re moving to California,” he said.

So in 1967 he and his wife packed everything they owned into a 1967 Chevrolet Super Sport and headed west.

He went to work at a local Ford dealership, handling customers who came through the door.

“It was really dull,” he said. “You just kinda waited around for someone to show up, and then you tried to sell them a car.”

He met another sales associate who was working in the fleet sales operation, dealing with business and corporate clients. And he was doing quite well.

“So I began working extra hours,” Bruncati said. “If I was supposed to begin work at 2 p.m., I’d come in at 10 a.m. and start going through the yellow pages of the phone book. I figured every one of those businesses was a potential sale.

“I had an index card on just about every one of them. If they said they didn’t need a car for another year, I put the card in a tickler file so I could contact them before they bought somewhere else. If they were looking for a car now, I’d be at their business with a new one when they opened the next day. And everyone I talked to got a follow up letter,” he said. “We had a bunch of form letters and my wife would type them up the next day and mail them for me.

“Maureen is the real reason for my success,” he said. “I was actually very shy and she kept encouraging me and gave me the confidence to meet people and try the things I would have been too timid to do without her.”

http://motorsportsunplugged.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bob-bruncati_feature_nknps-west_083013_300.jpgPretty soon he was working fleet sales full time, and within six months he needed help processing the paperwork. He also became one of Ford’s top sales people in the nation.

Then he decided to go out on his own.

Looking back on it, Bruncati admits he must have been a little bit crazy to think he could make a living selling cars in Tujunga, Calif.

First of all, Tujunga, was barely a wide spot in the road. In fact, it was miles and miles from the nearest major highway exit.

It was early in the 1980s. The unemployment rate in Los Angeles County was 17 percent. Interest rates hovered around 20 percent. Ford didn’t have much of a product line. And the dealership he was buying ate up owners.

It may have been prophetic that he got the keys to the dealership he named Sunrise Ford on April 1.

It was a tiny business with only a 2.5-acre lot and the barest bones for service and parts.

Bruncati worked the floor. He worked the phones. He worked with the people he had on the payroll. And in 1982, Sunrise Ford sold 3,200 cars and trucks.

In 1989 Ford held a national contest for truck sales, and the little dealership that could moved 780 of them to new owners in three months.

That sales sweep got Bruncati and his wife and invitation to an all-expenses paid trip to Europe with other dealers and Ford executives. It was a trip that paid dividends, as he made connections with executives who would help him move and expand.

“Some of the success came from doing things differently, and making decisions that paid off later,” he said.

In the early days of auto marketing, dealers would pick a poorly-equipped car on the lot and advertise it at a rock bottom price.

“Then the salesman had to convince the buyers they really wanted something nicer, with whitewalls, an automatic, maybe a bigger engine,” he said. “I began looking at what we were really selling, what buyers wanted, and ordered those cars. Then I’d advertise them, with all the options, for less than other dealers wanted. Eventually, dealers stopped using the loss-leader to get customers into the store.”

He also tells of buying a contract for TV commercials that ended up being his biggest bargain.

“It was one of those contracts where to buy a certain number of ads at a discount, many of them are placed in different, less desirable, time slots. Some of them are at three in the morning, and others get better time.

“The contract I had included ads for a time slot when reruns of the old ‘Simon and Simon’ show were on. The viewership was awful, but the ads were cheap. A few months into the contract, the station dropped “Simon and Simon” and picked up “Geraldo Rivera” when he was really popular. The station tried to buy me out of the contract but I wouldn’t sell. It was a gold mine.”

And then there was the TV ad slated to run during a program that followed the Super Bowl.

“But the Super Bowl ran into overtime. It was the best $200 ad I ever bought,” he said.

Eventually he closed his original dealership and opened one in Fontana.

“When Ford asked me to open the Fontana store I told them I already had one Tujunga and didn’t need a second one. But the research said the area was ready to grow and the store would prosper. And they were right,” he said.

He followed it with a second store in North Hollywood.

Both dealerships consistently rank inside the top five in sales in California and the top 100 in the nation.

The success has allowed Bruncati to hand the day-to-day controls to his sons as he enjoys semi-retirement.

“They still call me if there is a problem,” he said. “And I’ll go to work if one of them wants to take time off.”

But he’d prefer to spend time cruising with his wife in his Corvette or Ford GT, or running around in a Lotus Seven.

But his passion is the race team.

He entered the series beginning in 2006 and has compiled an impressive record.

During the 2007 season, Jason Bowles finished third in points and earned Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year honors with one pole and two wins. The next year, with the addition of Bill Sedgwick as crew chief, Bowles got five poles and four wins to end the season in second place. In 2009, he picked up four poles and three victories to capture the season championship.

http://motorsportsunplugged.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/derek-thorn_6_car_bob-bruncati_feature_nknps-west_083013_800.jpgDerek Thorn leads the championship standings in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, driving the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford owned by Bob Bruncati. Getty Images for NASCAR

“I can’t imagine a better team owner,” said Sedgwick. “He’s about the most honest guy you’ll ever meet in racing. When he says he’ll do something, you can trust he’ll do it.

“In return, all the crew is really devoted to him. Our job is to win races and make sure Bob has a good time.”

Some of the Sunrise Ford success has been in the stability of the crew. There is a small handful of full-time employees, but most work other jobs and turn out at the track on weekends.

“It’s like spending the weekend with the family,” said Jeff Harrison, who works full time as an aircraft mechanic and has been on the Sunrise team for eight years. “Bob treats us well, lets us do our own job and is always encouraging.

“Because we are a family, sometimes we get into family feuds, but Bob has a way of getting things settled so we get on with the job,” he said.

“Most of the crew is here because they love it,” Bruncati said. “They are passionate about what they do and really care about the results. They would be successful in anything they do.” 

Bruncati added a second full-time team to the series in 2010, with one funded driver and one who competes under the Sunrise Ford banner.

“My sons raced for a while a few years ago, but as they got more involved in the dealership, they became less interested in racing,” Bruncati said. “During the time they raced, I was struck by the number of talented young drivers who never got a chance to race in really good equipment and develop their talents,” he said. “So I decided to give them a chance.”

“It’s a two-year deal,” said Thorn, who is in his second year with the team and is expected to be looking for a new ride at the end of the season. “Bob’s been straight-up about it.  He gave me two years in really good equipment with a great crew, and it is up to me to show what I can do.

“I wish I could say teams have been calling me about driving for them next year,” he said, “but that isn’t the case. Right now I’m not sure what I’ll be doing.”

Not being able to place talented drivers is a source of frustration for the team owner, who has no ties to NASCAR’s Nationwide Series or Sprint Cup Series teams back East.

“I’d love to be a development team,” Bruncati said, “but I’ve got to run Fords and Jack Roush already has his own extensive farm team program. He doesn’t need me.”

So, for Bruncati, success is its own reward. It’s been that way since he began thumbing through the yellow pages looking for customers, and remains that way today as he and his crew search for victories.

And when wins are hard to come by, he goes back to another saying he retained from that motivational seminar decades earlier:

“It’s OK to fail, if no one else, given the same circumstances, could have succeeded.”

It is a phrase he doesn’t have to fall back on very often.

http://motorsportsunplugged.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/sunrise-ford-team_victory-lane_nknps-west_colorado_072713_700.jpgThe Sunrise Ford Racing team celebrates in Victory Lane at Colorado National Speedway. Getty Images for NASCAR 

FRIDAY FEATURE: Turn In The Road

FRIDAY FEATURE: Turn In The Road

Whelen Euro Series Sees Big Benefit In Crossover Traffic

See video

It is 4,448 miles – or 7,157 kilometers, if you will – between Paris, France, and Daytona Beach, Florida.

The gap between European racers and their NASCAR dreams, though, has grown considerably smaller thanks to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.

In its second year under the NASCAR banner, the European-based stock-car series is not just making enormous strides with its on-track competition, but it’s become a gateway for drivers looking for the opportunity to pursue their dreams of racing in the highest levels of NASCAR.

For Max Papis, who has experienced open-wheel and every level of NASCAR in addition to winning GRAND-AM Road Racing Rolex Series’ Rolex 24 at Daytona, the European series provides a perfect setup.

“Six years ago, nothing like our NASCAR stock cars existed over in Europe,” Papis said. “What the series is bringing is a perfect training ground for an Italian kid who maybe doesn’t have the money to travel all the way to America to get his experience. He can get his experience driving a NASCAR-type car on a track where he’s more familiar and prepare himself to go run a Watkins Glen or a Mid-Ohio.

“They’ve got a really good thing going there, and they’ve got room to grow.”

 

PHOTO GALLERIES: NOGARO | DIJON | BRANDS HATCH | TOURS

And the driver experience works both ways.

Rick Crawford, a longtime fixture on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, became the next in line to join the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series across the pond for a race in the only NASCAR-sanctioned series in Europe. He competed in the July race at Tours Speedway, along with NASCAR K&N Pro Series West rookie Giles Thornton and Papis.

What Crawford remembered most about a 108-lap event around a temporary quarter-mile oval bullring in Tours, France, was not his 14th-place finish – it was the entire experience there.

“One thing I really commend them on is all of the activity they had for the fans,” said Crawford, who has more than 350 Camping World Truck Series starts on his resume. “There are no garages – they’ve got big awnings and tents, and they work on their cars right beside the haulers. The fans get to see all of this go on; they get right up close to all of it.

“It was some great racing all weekend, and it was like a big festival. I was proud to be part of it and be an ambassador to NASCAR over there. I had a really nice time, and I would go love to go back again.”

 

friday-feature_nascar-whelen-euro_shirt

The event at Tours Speedway is the only NASCAR-sanctioned points event run on an oval in Europe. NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

While Crawford got his first taste of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series this summer, some European-born drivers were getting their first taste of NASCAR stateside.

From France’s Anthony Gandon making his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Watkins Glen to 15-year-old Thomas Ferrando of France competing in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Sportsman division races at Bowman Gray Stadium, 2013 has been something of a coming-out party for the European stock car racing. Spain’s Ander Vilariño competed in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series portion of the UNOH Battle At The Beach in February, earning the spot by winning last year’s title in Europe.

“It’s very important for us to create this bridge and give drivers this experience,” said Jerome Galpin, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series director. “It’s very big for the series in Europe. The more we can come closer to the U.S., the better it will be for the series. We cannot do exactly the same things here, but the most important thing is that the series shares the same values.”

VIDEO: NOGARO | DIJON | BRANDS HATCH

Papis pointed to his experience at Tours as a prime example of the series’ potential.

“They’re using the right concept,” Papis said. “I really love the fact that when I showed up there, we had over 20 cars, the field was packed, a lot of people attending the event. Considering that everything else in Europe – with the exception of Formula 1 – is basically a non-success, to me it showed there is room for that series to grow.”

Though the success of NASCAR in Europe – and vice versa, with the success of European drivers in NASCAR – would bring with it more interest for the stock-car racing globally (and lead to different marketing and sponsorship opportunities, involving companies not currently involved in NASCAR), such a bridge does hinge on the infusion of new talent.

Crawford believes he saw plenty of talent in the Euro Series.

“There is some young talent in Europe that can make it in the United States if they get the right break,” Crawford said. “I’d like to see some come over here and try a K&N Pro Series car, a Nationwide car, a Camping World Truck – because I really think they have some great young talent. A lot of them could go to the United States and really become a young star in this sport.”

When Crawford, a Mobile, Ala., native, got his start on the short tracks of the southeast, the concept of racing in Europe wasn’t even on the radar. Now he’s been embraced in France as an ambassador of the sport.

“I thought NASCAR had always been a good old boy sport, and we’re going to start out in Daytona and North Carolina and just barnstorm around on asphalt and dirt tracks and have a good time,” Crawford said. “All of a sudden, we branch out to California, the northeast, the northwest. You’ve got these untapped markets that want NASCAR.

“Well, you’ve got an untapped market in Europe, too.”

Of course, Crawford made sure to impart a little grassroots, stock-car knowledge on the Euro Series teams before he left.

“I was doing some work with some of the teams, teaching them about this left-turn thing,” Crawford said. “I loved going there and can’t wait to go again, and I see it from those guys looking at me, they want to come over here and work in NASCAR. It can work hand in hand.”

Which is exactly what the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series is hoping happens.

friday-feature_nascar-whelen-euro_crowd

Large crowds have flocked to the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series events like the American Fest at Brands Hatch in England. NASCAR Whelen Euro Series

St. Onge In Battle For Barrie Title

St. Onge In Battle For Barrie Title

NASCAR Division II Driver Plans Advance

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.  — Darryl St. Onge is part of the fabric of Barrie (Ontario) Speedway. In his 14-year career he’s seen racing from almost every angle at the third-mile paved oval.

St. Onge, 44, of Barrie, has a lot of success at the seventh-year NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track. He’s been a crewman, a track champion as an owner-driver, and a track official. Now he’s challenging for a second support division championship while preparing to move to the top division in 2014.

This week St. Onge leads Barrie’s NASCAR Thunder Car division standings by three points over defending track champion Rick Walt.

Meanwhile, he’s preparing a recently acquired Limited Late Model to run full time next year.

“I drove the Late Model once earlier this year. It’s a very different type of race car than the Thunder Car,” St. Onge said. “We’ll race both of them for the rest of the season to get some seat time in the Limited Late Model.”

He shook down the new car in a pair of 30-lap Limited Late Model features Saturday night and posted finishes of 11th and 10th.

Thunder Cars are classified as NASCAR Finalist Division II at Barrie. St. Onge ranks 81st in this week’s NASCAR Division II Top 100 with wins, 13 top fives and top 10s in all 14 starts.

ASPHALT STANDINGS | DIRT STANDINGS

St. Onge got his start in racing after he participated in a driving school at Barrie about 1999, and got hooked immediately.

“Í bought a four cylinder Pure Stock and I ran the second half of that season,” St. Onge said. “We built our own car for the second season and finished fourth in points. The third season we bought a Thunder Car. My brother Steve and I shared driving the car and we won just about every race.”

The brothers shared the car for about three seasons, making both part-time drivers. They took what they learned and built a new 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix-bodied Thunder Car for the 2006 season. Steve St. Onge was the full-time driver and he finished about seventh in points despite missing three races. Darryl took over driving duties and finished third in the track point races 2007-08. He went onto win the division championship in 2009.

Then he sold the car and believed he was going to take a break from racing.

“Since I wasn’t driving, they asked me to be the race director at Barrie Speedway,” St. Onge said. “I took the job but I never stopped wanting to race.”

He held the position for two seasons and got the experience of race nights from the officiating side.

“It got to the point that if I was going to be at the track every weekend I’d rather be racing,” St. Onge said.

He was able to buy his old race car back and did some updates including a 2003 Grand Prix body. In his first year back in 2012, he placed fifth in points. After the completion of the 2013 season he plans to sell that car.

“My oldest son Nick turned 14 and we’ll start him off in a four-cylinder Pure Stock next year. I’d like to drive the Limited Late Model three years. Then if he wants to race it, I’ll retire from driving and be his crew chief.”

Between them, St. Onge and his wife Kayla have two other sons Justin, 12 and Coulton, 10.

St. Onge credits two crew chiefs during his career for much of his success. The first was Ron Mace, who moved onto a Late Model team when St. Onge took his break from racing. The next is Ray McCaughey, who will lead the new Limited Late Model team effort.

“Ron taught us how to drive, build and maintain race cars. We would have been a 10th-place car without him,” St. Onge said. “Ray is another veteran worked with CASCAR and NASCAR Canadian Tire Series cars. They’re both really talented.”

Team members include Steve Stewart, Dave Simpson and Danny Marco Cosena. Primary sponsors include Industrial Commutator, Recycling Specialties and Georgian Waste. St. Onge is a recreational vehicle dealership mechanic.

The NASCAR Finalist Division program recognizes drivers who compete in support divisions at NASCAR Whelen All-American Series tracks. With Division I being each track’s top division, the NASCAR Finalist Division line-up at each track highlights drivers competing in their second, third, fourth and fifth tier divisions. Through Sept. 15 a NASCAR-licensed driver’s best 14 finishes are counted toward their final point total for the year. Points are kept separately for dirt and asphalt tracks.

The top three asphalt track NASCAR Finalist Division leaders in each division this week include: Division II Ricky Martin, Raceway Park in Shakopee, Minn.; Zack Clifton, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.; Adam Gray, Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. Division III Blake Dorweiler, Raceway Park; John Ketron, Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway; Chase Dowling, Stafford. Division IV Arlyn Roush, Rockford (Ill.) Speedway; Jeff Watkins II, Kil-Kare Raceway, Xenia, Ohio and Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway; Terrance Robinson, Rockford. Division V M.J. Reed Jr., Lake County Speedway in Painesville, Ohio; Jack Cook, Kalamazoo (Mich.) Speedway; David Secore, Stafford.

The top three dirt track NASCAR Finalist Division leaders in each division this week include: Division II Andy Wilkinson, Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb. and I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb.; Mark Leiting, Junction and I-80; Sean Merkel, Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. Division III Jared Umbenhauer, Grandview; Jerod Weston, I-80 and Adams County Speedway in Corning, Iowa; Tony Rost, Adams County, Junction and I-80. Division IV Jason Vandekamp, Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis.; Tony Hardisty, Adams County and I-80; Cody Clark, Adams County and I-80. Division V Jeremy Purdy, Adams County; Art Reed, Salina (Okla.) Highbanks Speedway; Andy Davison, Adams County.

2013_nwaas_darrylstonge_secondary_photo_082913.jpg

No. 16 Whelen Modified Tour Team Penalized For Rules Violations At Bristol

No. 16 Whelen Modified Tour Team Penalized For Rules Violations At Bristol

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR announced today the No. 16 team that competes in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has been penalized as a result of rules violations committed Aug. 21 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

The No. 16 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-I (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20D-10.5A (Only a one-piece magnetic steel drive shaft with a minimum outside diameter of two (2) inches and a minimum thickness of 0.090 inch will be permitted: Drive shaft did not meet the minimum thickness.) of the 2013 NASCAR rule book. The violation was discovered during post-race inspection.

Stanley “Sly” Szaban, crew chief of the No. 16 car, has been fined $500, suspended from NASCAR until the fine is paid and placed on NASCAR probation until Oct. 30.

Owner Eric Sanderson has been penalized with the loss of six NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship car owner points, while driver Ryan Preece has been penalized with the loss of six championship driver points.

 

Top-10 Ranks Should Swell After Atlanta, But Nothing Is Certain

Like Carl Edwards, if Kevin Harvick finishes inside the top 30 at Atlanta, he will most likely clinch a position in the Chase.

After this weekend’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which gets the green flag at 7:46 p.m. ET on Sunday night (what the hell?), the roster for the Chase for the Sprint Cup should be nearly complete.

Understand, the entire 12-man lineup for NASCAR’s “playoffs” won’t be entirely complete. It’s likely a few drivers will have to rely on good performance – and good luck – to make it at Richmond on Sept. 7.

But a sizable handful of competitors will make the Chase at Atlanta, and rather easily.

Jimmie Johnson, the current points leader with four wins, Clint Bowyer, second in points and only 18 behind Johnson and Matt Kenseth, sixth in points with a season-high five wins, have all made the Chase.

At Atlanta, any driver who winds up 49 points ahead of 11th in the standings will earn a spot in the top 10. The number drops to 48 points if the driver owns the tiebreaker.

At Atlanta some drivers will make the top 10 regardless of how others finish – which, I might add, is a very comfortable position.

It means that in all probability these “comfortable” drivers certainly won’t be taking chances in Atlanta – unless it’s to get the victory, of course.

Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing only needs to finish 38th or better at Atlanta – or 39th with one lap led and 40th with most laps led.

I would suspect that Edwards, currently third in points, isn’t sweating over Atlanta.

Defending champion Brad Keselowski risks losing a place in the Chase. He’s 11th in points with no victories this year. But at Atlanta he can race into the top 10.

Kevin Harvick is fourth in points with two victories and needs only to finish 31st or better (32nd with one lap led, 33rd with most laps led) to clinch a position in the top 10.

Harvick will show up at Atlanta calm and unconcerned.

It gets a little harder for Kyle Busch, but given how he’s performed this year, the odds are in his favor.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has to finish 10th or better – 11th with one lap lead and 12th with most laps led to end up in the top 10.

Given that Busch as 14 top-10 finishes this season, second only to Johnson’s 15 – you have to rate his odds as pretty good.

Besides, Busch is an Atlanta fan.

“The race track has aged really nice where it’s probably aged too much, but you can’t repave Atlanta — that would just be stupid,” Busch said. “It’s a place where you can run the bottom all the way from the white line all the way to the wall and anywhere in between.

“It’s a neat race track with the way that you can race around and move around and not get too comfortable running one lane.”

While Kenseth is locked into the Chase – and currently holds the edge when the field is reseeded – he firms his position up with a finish of seventh or better (eighth with one lap lead, nine with most laps led).

Kenseth ain’t worried over Atlanta. He, too, likes the place.

“It’s fast, it’s got really long corners, but the track is so wore out that it’s more about tire management, having a car that will run fast on new tires, but be fast on old tires as well,” he said. “It’s a fun compromise – a fun track to race at.”

For the remainder of the drivers in the top 10 it gets a little dicey.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. is seventh in points with a 33-poin cushion over 11th, Kasey Kahne is next at eighth in points with a 20-point margin, Greg Biffle is No. 9 with a 17-point cushion and Joey Logano, who rounds out the top 10 with a four-point lead, could all conceivably reach the 49-point number.

Note the word “conceivably.” It’s in there to strongly indicate all four drivers aren’t going to clinch at Atlanta.

A couple of them can by other means. Kahne has two wins and would clinch with a third if Busch, Kenseth and Harvick make it into the top 10.

If they make it, Kahne is in if anyone other than Biffle, Logano, Martin Truex Jr. or Ryan Newman wins.

Truex Jr., Logano and Biffle all have one win this year and can clinch with another one – and some help.

“It’s not the situation you want to be in, obviously,” Truex Jr. said. “I quit looking at the points two months ago and I told myself that all we can do is what we’re going to do.

“There’s no sense in worrying about it.  There’s no sense in losing sleep.  It’s hard not to think about it sometimes for sure, but again, I think if we think about it too much and worry about it too much, that we will beat ourselves and we don’t need to do that.”

Defending champion Brad Keselowski is on shaky ground. He’s 11th in points and without a victory. At this point he’s not even a “wildcard” candidate.

“Well, we aren’t in a very enviable position, but we have two good tracks coming up for us,” Keselowski said. “We’ve tested at both Atlanta and Richmond, both with very positive results.

“We’re only four points outside of the top 10 – which is very doable – but we can’t have any issues.”

 

 

 

‘Frankentire Factor’ – Fantasy Insight Atlanta

Kasey Kahne

Another factor that crosses over from horse race handicapping to fantasy race handicapping is the equipment change. In the past I have talked at length about how you have to mentally adjust someone’s chances in a particular race if you see the driver in different equipment.

But one other factor that affects each driver in the race is tires. This week at Atlanta Motor Speedway Goodyear is introducing the tire dubbed as “Frankentire” and the fantasy handicapper has to wonder how this might change the dynamic of the race. This week the “Frankentire Factor” needs to be considered in addition to the other variables.

When it comes to tires we have one useful piece of data to consider. NASCAR and the tracks let us know which drivers went to tire testing. If we combine that info with the Power Ratings we can diagnose if one of the drivers that tested a new tire at a track might have an advantage.

The right side tire at AMS this week is unique because it uses a compound used at Kansas and Michigan on the inside three inches of the tire with the compound used at Atlanta in the past on the rest of the tire. We usually do not have test times to compare one driver to the next so it is more about familiarity with the tire than pure speed that helps us develop our educated guess on the “Frankentire Factor” this week.

They say familiarity breeds contempt in relationships but in tires familiarity can be the key to a trip to Victory Lane. Aric Almirola, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Paul Menard, David Ragan, David Reutimann, Martin Truex Jr. and J.J. Yeley were the drivers testing at Atlanta on the new tire.

Kasey Kahne was the only driver involved in the tire test to choose the new tire that returned for the regular test at Atlanta. This gives Kahne a slight advantage on the “Frankentire” and when combined with the third best Power Rating that makes Kahne my choice this week.

Good luck with your fantasy racing picks this week and don’t forget to send in your pick for “Whiteboard Fantasy Racing” this week for Atlanta.      

Send in your pick to win this week’s Cup race to dennis@racetalkradio.com for a chance to win a copy of the National Speedway Directory from SpeedwaysOnline.com.

National Speedway Directory

Hot off the press the 2013 edition of the National Speedway Directory is now available. For over 3 decades the NSD has given race fans and teams information about every track in North America. Order your copy today at http://speedwaysonline.com

Weather Report

Variable cloudiness with a threat of thunderstorms; high temp in the mid to upper 80s; temps falling into the mid 70s during the race.

If you have a question about Fantasy Racing send it to dennis@racetalkradio.com and get it answered next week.

NASCAR by the Numbers

Using a proprietary race analysis technique we take the fans inside the numbers every week. DMIC’s rating system has been in use since 2002 and has proven to pick the contenders from the pretenders!

Consistency is King (Last Five Races)

Joey Logano

Driver

Last 5

J Logano

94

K Kahne

91

R Newman

89

JP Montoya

89

Ku Busch

88

C Bowyer

88

Ky Busch

88

J Gordon

87

M Kenseth

87

C Edwards

86

Horses for Courses (Track Rating)

Driver

Course

J Gordon

92

M Kenseth

91

Brian Vickers

90

JP Montoya

90

K Harvick

89

Ku Busch

89

D Hamlin

87

AJ Allmendinger

86

Ky Busch

86

B Keselowski

85           

Type Casting (Track Type Factor)

Driver

Type

J Johnson

92

J Logano

92

C Edwards

92

M Truex

92

D Hamlin

92

Ky Busch

91

M Kenseth

91

K Kahne

90

K Harvick

90

B Keselowski

89

Power Rating (240 Minimum to Qualify as Contender)

Driver

Power

M Kenseth

269

Ky Busch

265

K Kahne

264

K Harvick

264

J Logano

262

Ku Busch

261

J Johnson

260

B Keselowski

260

M Truex

260

Brian Vickers

259

C Edwards

259

G Biffle

258

JP Montoya

257

R Newman

257

J Gordon

256

D Hamlin

255

C Bowyer

254

P Menard

252

D Earnhardt Jr

251

AJ Allmendinger

248

M Ambrose

247

A Almirola

244

J McMurray

242

Austin Dillon

242

M Martin

242

J Burton

241

R Stenhouse Jr

236

C Mears

225

D Ragan

223

D Stremme

222

D Reutimann

221

D Gilliland

221

B Labonte

220

T Kvapil

219

D Patrick

219

D Blaney

218

Kyle Busch

DMIC’s Fantasy Picks presented by Speedwaysonline.com

Each week we will take you beyond the numbers to handicap the field from top to bottom to help your Fantasy Racing team succeed. You are also invited to join Lori Munro and I on “White Board Fantasy Racing” every Monday night on “Doin’ Donuts” at 8pm ET on RaceTalkRadio.com. Win fun prizes by picking just the race winners in our unique format. Send your picks to info@racetalkradio.com to enter.

Top Pick (Last Week Finished 11th)

Kasey Kahne- “Frankentire Factor” and strong Power Rating add up to a winning pick

(7 to 1 Odds) 

Best Long Shot (Odds of 20-1 or More) (Last Week Finished 4th)   

Joey Logano- Needs a win so team willing to take a strategy gamble

(20 to 1 Odds)

Top Dogs (Group A in Yahoo) (Last Week Finished 30th)

Jimmie Johnson- Should bounce back big from two sub par performances

(5 to 1 Odds)

Second Class (Group B in Yahoo) (Last Week 20th)         

Kyle Busch- Hottest driver in NASCAR right now

(7 to 1 Odds)

Middle Packer (Group C in Yahoo) (Last Week Finished 18th)         

Austin Dillon- Will offer a solid group pick to manage your Stenhouse usage

(100 to 1 Odds)

Crazy 8s for Atlanta

Each week Lori Munro and Dennis Michelsen battle in the most unique racing game around! We pick one driver each from each 8 driver group using the current points’ standings. Our picks can help you round out your fantasy racing lineup!

Dennis won 3-2 in week 24 and Lori leads the game 14-10 for the year

Group 1: Dennis picks Jimmie Johnson and Lori picks Matt Kenseth

Group 2: Lori picks Joey Logano and Dennis picks Brad Keselowski

Group 3: Dennis picks Paul Menard and Lori picks Denny Hamlin

Group 4: Lori picks Mark Martin and Dennis picks Danica Patrick

Group 5: Dennis picks Brian Vickers and Lori picks Austin Dillon

Do you have what it takes to handicap the races? Join Lori and Dennis every week and play in the Whiteboard Fantasy Racing Series! Send your pick for the Cup race to info@racetalkradio.com to enter. Weekly prize given away! 

VIDEO: Scenes From Bristol

VIDEO: Scenes From Bristol

Whelen Mods And Southern Mods At Thunder Valley

The Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen Southern Modified Tour convened at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for their annual combination event on Aug. 21 in the TitanRoof 150.

Seven-time Modified Tour champion Mike Stefanik held on through a green-white-checkered finish for his 74th career victory. 

VIDEO: Mid-Season Review

VIDEO: Mid-Season Review

Canadian Tire Series Gets Ready For Stretch Run

The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1 recently visited Autodrome St. Eustache (Quebec), Circuit de Trois-Rivieres (Quebec) and Riverside International Speedway in Antigonish, N.S.

Scott Steckly completed a three-race win streak at St. Eustache to take over the points lead. D.J. Kennington battled back with a road course win in Trois-Rivieres. And Jason Hathaway threw his hat into the championship mix by snapping a long winless streak in Nova Scotia.

Take a look back at all the exciting action as the Canadian Tire Series season gets ready to head down the homestretch.

Ceravolo Gunning For Top-10 Finish

Ceravolo Gunning For Top-10 Finish

Pulliam Winless; McCaskill Takes Two

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Todd Ceravolo is having a satisfying season in SK Modified competition at two Connecticut NASCAR Whelen All-American Series paved tracks. A well-planned 2013 campaign brought competitive results.

Ceravolo, 49, of Gales Ferry, Conn., is second in Modified division track points at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl and fourth at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. His consistency has kept him in or near the top-10 in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national point race since mid-June. His highest weekly point ranking so far was eighth in late July.

Ceravolo won plenty of Modified features over the years, but won only once in 2012 at Thompson. He got another taste of victory lane at Waterford last fall when he drove in relief for an injured Keith Rocco who got credit for the win. Rocco is Ceravolo’s son-in-law, married to daughter Cassie.

This week Ceravolo stands 16th in national points and fourth in state points this week with a record of one win, 17 top-fives and 27 top-10s in 27 starts. Ceravolo’s July 20 feature win was his first at Waterford since September 2010. Rocco currently leads the Waterford SK Modified track point race by 62 over Ceravolo.

“We bought a 2010 Spafco chassis to match the one we were racing and became a two car team this year,” Ceravolo said. “Racing one car on Thursdays at Thompson and Saturdays at Waterford was intense. We were changing the rear end, shocks, springs and motor to get ready for the next track twice a week. If we had a rain-out, we still had all that work to do to change it back.”

Without major weekly car change-overs, the team has time to prepare, tune and maintain the two cars.

“You’ve got to be on your game week to week,” Ceravolo said. “Having a matching chassis means we’re working with the same equipment, tools, and parts. It’s a lot less complicated than swapping one car over and over.”

NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national point leader Lee Pulliam was winless over a racing weekend for the first time since June 29 and for only the fourth time this season. Meanwhile, season-long second in points driver Deac McCaskill won twice. The results cut Pulliam’s national point lead to 26 from 32 last week. Both drive pavement NASCAR Late Models.

NATIONAL TOP 500 STANDINGS | STATE/PROVINCE TOP 20 STANDINGS

Pulliam’s battleground over the weekend was Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C. The track hosted twin 40-lap features Friday. He placed second to Tommy Lemons Jr. in the first event. In the second feature he was contending for the win on the last lap when he was collected in an incident not of his making. The track remained under green flag conditions and Pulliam limped home in ninth place. Ryan Wilson won the event.

McCaskill picked up points by winning two 75-lap features Saturday at his NASCAR Home Track, Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, N.C. He won over Corey Strickland in the first feature. Joey Coulter placed second in the nightcap.

The heated two-way battle for third in points tightened between two pavement SK Modified drivers. Keith Rocco and challenger Ryan Preece each posted a win and a runner-up finish over the weekend. Rocco won at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway Thursday while Preece placed third. Preece won Friday night at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway while Rocco placed fourth. On Saturday Rocco ran second to Tyler Chadwick at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl while Preece placed second to Tom Rogers Jr. at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway. All that action cut Rocco’s third place margin over Preece from eight to just four points. Rocco is the series’ 2010 national champion.

Lemons’ Friday win at Caraway helped him advance to fifth-place in national points. He finished 12th in the second Caraway feature. He had finishes of second and fourth at Southern National on Saturday. Chad Finchum, who was fifth in points last week, was inactive over the weekend and dropped to eighth in points. Kingsport (Tenn.) Speedway’s regular season concluded Aug. 16 and Finchum is the 2013 NASCAR Late Model track champion.

C.E. Falk III moved up one notch to sixth in points with finishes of second and third in twin NASCAR Late Model features at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., Saturday. Dirt Modified driver Craig VonDohren (Grandview Speedway, Bechtelsville, Pa.) improved to seventh followed by Finchum in eighth. Burt Myers won his sixth NASCAR Modified title at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Saturday and is ninth in national points. Grandview’s Duane Howard completes the top 10 in national standings.

“I thought we’d win sooner and more often this year, but we’re ecstatic with our success,” Ceravolo said. “We have nothing to complain about. We wanted to win a track championship and finish in the top-10 of national points this year. Racing is racing and anything’s possible.”

“Our downfall this year has been rain outs at Thompson. Rain outs are like a punch in the gut, points-wise. We’ve got to finish races and we need more wins. The competition is tremendous.”

Dominic “Dick” Ceravolo, the driver’s dad, is car owner. A longtime successful driver, Dick Ceravolo won the Waterford Modified track championship in 1988. He retired as a driver and focused on fielding a car. Some of his drivers over the years have been Bob Potter, Richie Gallup, Charlie Pasteryak and Keith Rocco’s dad Ronnie.

“Working on cars and being around drivers like them made me more prepared when I started racing,” Ceravolo said. “Their advice to me on different questions was a key to my early success. It helped that dad always had good equipment.”

Ceravolo started out in his own Late Model at Waterford in 1993 and became driver of his dad’s Modifieds in 1995. He’s won Modified races and championships at both Thompson and Waterford.

“I was probably eight years old when I was sitting on the ground pushing plastic race cars around on the grandstand side of the fence at Waterford,” Ceravolo said. “It was a dream to be racing on the other side of that fence.”

Now in its 32nd season, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. There are 55 sanctioned tracks throughout the United States and Canada that participate.

A NASCAR Division I driver’s best 18 results through the Sept. 15 closing date count toward their state and national point totals and the champions are decided on overall point total. Once a driver reaches 18 starts, their point total increases incrementally as they replace some poorer runs with better results.

Under the point structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, a race winner receives two points for every car in the event up to 20 cars. Second place receives two fewer points and so on through the field. Race winners receive an additional five points. For example, if 20 cars are in the field, the winner receives 45 points, second place 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 35 points, second 28 and third, 26.

Track operators also designate support classes as NASCAR Divisions II-V and drivers in those divisions compete for points in the NASCAR Finalist program. The program brings added recognition to support division drivers. Points are kept separately for asphalt and dirt tracks.

Traditions May Change But Drivers Who Need Atlanta Win Don’t Care

Jeff Gordon, a past winner at Atlanta, desperately needs a victory to make the Chase this year and Atlanta on Labor Day weekend is his next chance.

Sometimes traditions need to be upheld as they bring connection to the past. Having Thanksgiving dinner together as a family is a perfect example.

Sometimes traditions need to be scrapped, as they are deadweight that offers no positive. Grandma’s Jell-O salad that nobody ever ate but Grandma fits the bill.

And sometimes traditions need to be mixed to create new ones. When couples marry they often make arrangements that satisfy both sides of their respective family traditions. Not traveling to two or more houses every Thanksgiving, and instead hosting the big dinner, is one.

There are many fans of NASCAR who believe traditions should be held sacred in our sport. The Memorial Day race from Charlotte should always be the World 600 and the Labor Day Race should have always been the Southern 500 at Darlington.

NASCAR, however, had different ideas.

There is no doubt that the evolution of the sport – and its desire to make major big money – included sponsors throwing their name up on the different race venue marquees.

The World 600 morphed with Coca Cola until the World was entirely dismissed.

If the change with the Southern 500 were just a case of semantics then perhaps we wouldn’t be discussing it. But the change was far more bizarre, intense and, for some, diabolical.

Instead of keeping the Southern 500 on Labor Day Weekend at Darlington, it was moved to Fontana in California in 2004.

The Southern 500 first ran at Darlington on September 4, 1950. It was a popular mainstay on the NASCAR circuit, one that commanded huge crowds and deep southern roots. For the next 53 years NASCAR fans were treated to their Labor Day tradition of racing at Darlington.

The change to Fontana was nothing short of disastrous. Older fans could never embrace the traditional race being run somewhere across the country. NASCAR fans in California clearly had “other plans” that did not include attending the races over Labor Day.

Tony Stewart, the pole winner at Atlanta last year who has also won at the 1.5-mile track, will sit out the weekend with an injury. Mark Martin will drive his car.

Eventually NASCAR understood the error – to a point – and brought the race back to the South. But instead of replacing the date at Darlington, Atlanta won it in 2009.

So the old tradition of the Southern 500 at Darlington is gone. It’s sad, frustrating, irritating, and just plain wrong, but it’s true and has been for nearly a decade.

The new tradition of holding the Labor Day race at Fontana died a relatively quick death.

And now we are left with a mix of traditions in Atlanta.

Being a Southern venue, it’s great to have the race at Atlanta. The weather is typically far better than its past dates used to provide.

And, being that Atlanta is the penultimate race before the Chase offers a lot of intrigue, strategy, and excitement.

It’s never going to be the Southern 500 from Darlington, but this new tradition at Atlanta has worked out well in recent years.

Past winners at the Labor Day race from Atlanta include Kasey Kahne,  Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Stewart is, of course, out of contention this season with a broken leg, but the other drivers all have a shot.

Kahne is looking to add more bonus points to his Chase race and Gordon is still seeking entrance into the big show. A win here at this late date could resurrect his bid.

The entire field of 43 drivers is looking for a win so I’ll be tuning in to see the action unfold at Atlanta this weekend.

Traditions are sometimes thrust upon us like Atlanta was for us NASCAR fans. I’m learning to live with it and even enjoy it.

 

 

 

Print This Post Print This Post