Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (17340)

Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) officials today announced several changes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup team’s executive lineup. Brian Moffitt, who previously headed up the RPM sales and marketing department, has been named chief executive officer for the multi-car team and Mike Hargrave has taken over the EVP, sales and marketing position. In addition, Robbie Loomis has been named chief operating officer for the organization.

“We’ve worked hard to put together a solid executive management team,” stated team co-owner Richard Petty. “Brian Moffitt has played an important role in the Petty organization for many years. He knows the ins and outs and strengths and weaknesses of this organization and he was an obvious choice to lead the team.

“We’re excited about the addition of Mike Hargrave as well,” continued Petty. “He is extremely well-respected in the industry and brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to our sales and marketing team. We’ve beefed up our sales department and put a solid plan in place to ensure that there is growth and success in the future of Richard Petty Motorsports.”

Moffitt previously served as executive vice president of sales and marketing for Richard Petty Motorsports. For the past 15 years, he has overseen the acquisition of sponsorship and services for team owner Richard Petty and his entries in NASCAR. Prior to his current position, he held the position of sales representative at United Parcel Service.

Hargrave comes to RPM most recently from Bank of America where he served as senior vice president, global sponsorship marketing. In that role, Hargrave oversaw strategy and activation development for the organization’s motorsports sponsorship platform.

Andrew Murstein, team co-owner, concludes, “We will continue to add strong management and provide all of the financial resources needed to take Richard Petty and the entire organization to the next level and back in the winner’s circle where they belong.”

RPM PR

In an up-and-down race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a tenacious Tony Stewart made sure he finished Sunday’s Brickyard 400 on the upswing. The driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) rallied from as low as 32nd to finish sixth, securing his eighth top-10 finish of the season and lifting him into the top-10 of the championship point standings.

“We just fought all day and I’m really proud of Darian Grubb (crew chief) and the guys on this Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy,” said Stewart after notching his ninth top-10 finish at Indianapolis and his eighth of the season. “They kept fighting and I fought for everything I could get all day.”

The day got off to an inauspicious start when after rising to 16th after starting 24th, Stewart was assessed a pass-through penalty for hitting the commitment cone as he entered pit road during a lap-25 pit stop, which came from Stewart avoiding a rapidly slowing Kevin Harvick.

“Kevin lifted earlier than I did coming off of turn four and instead of running into him, I went to the outside of him, and when we got to the cone there, I was in the wrong spot,” Stewart said. “It was just one of those things. You’re trying to get everything you can get. It was either hit the cone or run over the guy in front of me, so I chose to hit the cone. We got the penalty for it. I’m proud of our guys for working from behind and getting us where we got at the end.”

Stewart served the pass-through penalty on lap 29, which consisted of driving down the length of pit road at the mandated speed limit of 55 mph while his counterparts zoomed past on the racetrack at 200 mph. When Stewart came off pit road, he was 31st but still on the lead lap.

With a fast, but tight-handling racecar, Stewart began a charge to the front. The charge was stout – so much so that Indianapolis’ 2.5-mile confines couldn’t contain Stewart. He slapped the turn four wall enough to scrape his car’s paint but not enough to do significant damage.

Stewart worked his way up to 26th when the yellow caution flag waved on lap 49. He and Grubb took the opportunity to come to pit road for the requisite four tires and fuel, but also so crew members could look at the damage and determine for sure that nothing was awry.

Although the encounter with the wall did nothing to hurt the Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy, its tight-handling condition persisted, especially whenever Stewart would get back in the throttle through the track’s sweeping, flat corners.

Grubb made a myriad of changes to the car, going so far as to raise the track bar three rounds and add a round of wedge to both rear corners during a pit stop on lap 81.

The tight-handling condition persisted, and when the caution flag waved again on lap 95, Stewart and Grubb took advantage by making another trip to pit road. But just as Stewart was turning into his pit stall, Kyle Busch – who had taken two tires in the pit stall behind Stewart – pulled out and ran into Stewart. The result was a dinged left-front fender for Stewart and bashed right-front fender for Busch. Both drivers had to return to pit road on the next lap so their respective pit crews could fix the damage.

“It’s a long pit road, but it’s a narrow pit road,” Stewart said. “I feel bad for Kyle and those guys because they had a good day going at that time, too. Just a rough day, but we fought for everything we could get.”

The fight continued after that pit road miscue left Stewart deep in the field, this time in 32nd when the race resumed on lap 118. At this point in the race, however, fuel mileage was becoming an issue, and teams like the No. 14 SHR squad could roll the dice.

Stewart needed track position, but he also needed at least another splash of fuel to make it to the full, 160-lap distance. Grubb keenly brought Stewart to pit road during the race’s final caution on lap 122 for a fuel-only stop. The strategy kicked Stewart up to 12th with 33 laps of green-flag racing remaining. But there was a catch – Stewart was a lap-and-a-half short on fuel under even the most optimistic scenario.

As other drivers pitted for fuel under green, Stewart worked his way up the leaderboard. He cracked the top-10 on lap 129 and then busted into the top-five on lap 132. With 27 laps to go he was third, and on lap 134 he was second. By lap 135, Stewart was in the lead for the first time.

The two-time Brickyard 400 winner paced the field for 10 laps and opened up a margin of nearly 14 seconds over his nearest pursuer, Brian Vickers. But even as Stewart worked to save fuel, the pace of the race and deeper calculations by Grubb hinted that Stewart was actually three laps short on fuel.

With 31 drivers on the lead lap, the gamble to go the distance was not worth it. Grubb called Stewart into the pits on lap 145, whereupon right-side tires were changed while precious gallons of fuel were added to Stewart’s tank.

The considerable lead Stewart had built prior to his pit stop paid off, for he returned to the track in 16th, still ahead of some drivers who had pitted under green before him.

Able to go all out while many ahead of him had to slow down and conserve fuel, Stewart again marched up the leaderboard. In the race’s last five laps, Stewart went from 15th to sixth as drivers in front of him either pitted for fuel, ran out of fuel or ran a pace so slow to conserve fuel that Stewart was able to blow by them.

“We ran those last 10 laps as hard as we could,” said Stewart, who won the Brickyard 400 in 2005 and 2007 and hails from nearby Columbus, Ind. “Come to find out we were three laps short, and there was no way we could make up three laps. A lap-and-a-half I think I could’ve done, but there was no way we could make up three. We inherited the lead anyway because we stayed out and everybody else in front of us came in, so we knew it was a borrowed lead. But it sure was nice to lead here at Indy again. We had to fight from the back a couple of different times to get up there.

“We just had a long, long hard day. To get almost a top-five out of this thing – running sixth was a good day for us. We did the right thing when we pitted and it paid off for us. We’ll take it.”

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet Impala for SHR and fellow Hoosier, as he grew up in South Bend, Ind., finished 12th to score his 12th top-15 finish of the season.

Paul Menard won the 18th annual Brickyard 400 to notch his first career Sprint Cup victory, and in doing so, became the fourth first-time winner of 2011, joining Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan.

“I’m really happy for Paul Menard,” Stewart said. “Paul’s been around this place (Indianapolis) for a long time. He’s been here since he was a kid. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy. That is a pretty deserving win, right there. I’m happy for him getting his first one that way.”

Stewart Haas Racing PR

Ryan Newman overcame nearly 100-degree temperatures and tough track conditions on Sunday to score a respectable 12th-place finish in the 18th running of the Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The driver of the No. 39 Haas Automation Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) spent much of the 160-lap race trying to find clean air so his car would handle better. His efforts in that regard were made harder as he started in the middle of the field in 23rd.

Newman spent much of the race between the 17th and 23rd positions as he and crew chief Tony Gibson attempted to work on the car’s handling via track bar, wedge and tire pressure adjustments. But while the car gradually became better throughout the day, track position was still incredibly vital. And while Newman’s car was fast and handling well, he found it difficult to pass other cars as the air coming off their respective machines would make Newman’s car unstable – a trait all the drivers in Sunday’s race dealt with at one point or another.

Knowing a race victory was going to be extremely difficult to obtain as the laps wound down, Gibson and Newman decided to score the best finish they could. With 29 laps remaining, Newman headed to pit road for three seconds worth of fuel, ensuring that his Haas Automation Chevrolet could make it to the finish.

Other drivers opted to gamble on fuel, and while some ran out and others had to slow way down to conserve, Newman could operate at full strength. With 10 laps to go he cracked the top-20, and with five laps remaining Newman was up to 15th before crossing the line in 12th at the conclusion of the 400-mile race.

“When you get back in traffic, it’s tough,” said Newman, who scored his 12th top-15 finish of the season. “We never could get to the front and get clean air. We rallied to finish 12th and that will help us in the points, but I wish we could’ve had a better day with our Haas Automation Chevrolet.”

“It’s hard to adjust on a car when you’re in the middle of traffic like that,” said Gibson. “There’s no air back there. You can over-adjust way too easy, so we just tried to tinker with it. We just knew we were sucking that air and there wasn’t much we could do. The balance was going to change. We just did damage control today. We just tried to finish the best we could without killing ourselves in the points and it worked out well. The No. 14 (Tony Stewart) finished ahead of us and everybody else that we needed to outrun, we did today. That’s what we’ve got to do right now. We’ve got that win, so now we’ve got to just manage our points.”

Stewart, Newman’s SHR teammate and driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet Impala, finished sixth to score his ninth top-10 finish at Indianapolis and his eighth of the season.

Paul Menard won the 18th annual Brickyard 400 to notch his first career Sprint Cup victory, and in doing so, became the fourth first-time winner of 2011, joining Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan.

Jeff Gordon finished .725 of a second behind Menard in the runner-up spot, while Smith, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Stewart, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were five caution periods for 22 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.

With round 20 of 36 complete, Newman leads the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He remained eighth and now has 618 points, 64 markers back of series leader Carl Edwards and 31 points ahead of 11th-place Denny Hamlin. Stewart gained two spots to climb to ninth. He now has 609 points, which puts him 73 points behind Edwards while giving him a 22-point cushion over Hamlin.

Stewart Haas Racing PR

Jeff Gordon earned his second runner-up finish of the 2011 season during Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. All four Hendrick Motorsports drivers ran up front during the 160-lap event, but in the end it came down to Gordon and Mark Martin, who were running in the top three.

Gordon, who now owns 10 top-five finishes at the 2.5-mile track, spent the majority of the day running in the front of the pack. Just six laps into the 400-mile event, the driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet started his charge for the lead. Gordon jumped between the first and second position throughout the majority of the race and led a total of 36 laps.

On Lap 135, Gordon pitted for two tires and fuel as the race came down to fuel-mileage strategy. With five laps to go Gordon again made his charge to the front, passing teammate Mark Martin and finishing second behind Paul Menard. Gordon, who holds the records for most wins (four), most top-five finishes and most top-10s (14) at Indianapolis, remains seventh in the championship standings.

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 5 Quaker State/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, started 12th and finished eighth during Sunday’s Cup event. Martin, who currently owns 11 top-10 finishes at the super speedway, was running fifth with 25 laps to go; 10 laps later the veteran driver made it to third-place and battled for the lead. Martin, the only Hendrick Motorsports driver who elected to not pit under green flag, was passed by Gordon and ran out of fuel coming into turn three on the final lap.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson came down pit road with less than 30 laps to go. Both drivers received fuel; Johnson took four tires and Earnhardt took only two. The Hendrick Motorsports drivers were held off by the front of the field that did not pit and were unable to advance to the front of the pack where they had spent the majority of the day.

Earnhardt, who led seven laps, finished 16th in his No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet. Earnhardt struggled to regain track position after pitting on Lap 130 and moves to 10th in the championship standings.

Johnson started the day third and led one lap at the legendary track, but finished the day 19th after he was held off by traffic leaving his last pit stop. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s/KOBALT Tools Chevrolet remains second in the championship standings after his 10th start at Indianapolis.

Hendrick Motorsports PR

Kyle Busch rallied from a myriad of issues and saved just enough fuel to score a solid 10th-place finish in Sunday’s Brickyard 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The result was Busch’s 12th top-10 finish of the season and his fifth top-10 in seven career Sprint Cup starts at Indianapolis.

“Definitely had no idea that the day would be so ugly, but yet we came out of it smelling like a rose with our M&M’s Camry,” Busch said. “All in all, the guys did a great job. We worked our butts off this whole weekend trying to get something out of nothing.

“We just could never get the car to be fast at the beginning of a run. That kind of hurt us in qualifying a little bit and got us back there in traffic. Got up front and on one of those pit stops there, I didn’t know the ‘14’ (Tony Stewart) was coming around me. We ended up running into him on pit road and tore up the car and were stuck back in traffic the rest of the day. Then had some pit strategy there at the end to try to make it on fuel and we did. Commend Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and the guys for giving me good fuel mileage and the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) engine shop – they did a nice job today. We’ll take 10th and go on to Pocono.”

While the aforementioned qualifying effort relegated Busch deep within the 43-car field for the start of the 160-lap race, the driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry began to methodically move up from the drop of the green flag. The talented 26-year-old worked his way up to 15th by lap 30, and eighth by lap 65 as a two-tire pit stop helped Busch gain precious track position.

With each stop crew chief Dave Rogers continued to make small adjustments to the M&M’s Camry. While the handling was decent overall, Busch just needed a little more help with getting the back of the car to turn.

But after finally gaining the track position he needed, things began to go incredibly wrong for Busch during a lap-95 pit stop. As Busch was leaving his pit stall after taking just two tires, Stewart was attempting to enter his stall, which was just ahead of Busch’s. The result was the right-front of Busch’s machine colliding with the left side of Stewart’s car. Busch quickly backed up his Toyota and the M&M’s team worked feverously to fix the damage, making repairs fast enough to stay on the lead lap.

But despite the quick work by the No. 18 team, Busch had lost the track position he had worked so hard to attain, and was forced to restart in the 27th position on lap 98. Yet again, the Las Vegas native went to work and managed to reach 20th by lap 107, but shortly thereafter bad luck struck again. As Busch was exiting turn two on lap 112 whole being passed by Carl Edwards, the air off Edwards’ car forced Busch up into the SAFER Barrier exiting the turn. The hit was enough to bring out the caution, whereupon Busch brought his M&M’s Camry to pit road in

order to fix the right-side damage.

While Busch had a wounded M&M’s Camry, he and the No. 18 team never gave up. Even though they had little chance of salvaging a good finish, Rogers began work on a fuel strategy that might help dig them out of the hole their two incidents put them in. During what turned out to be the final caution period of the 160-lap race, Rogers brought Busch down pit road one lap prior to when the race was set to go back green and took fuel on lap 125. With that, Rogers calculated that Busch needed to save approximately three laps of fuel throughout the final 34 laps

in order to finish the race without pitting again.

To his credit, Busch did a masterful job of backing off just enough in order to make it to the finish on fuel, while many in the field were forced to pit road for a quick splash of gas in order to make it to the end.

“We had to save two to three laps of fuel on the final run,” Busch said. “What really surprised me was that those guys that were running up front were running hard and making it. Like the ‘27’ (Paul Menard) made it and the ‘78’ (Regan Smith) made it. Those guys, I expected them to run out. They must have had just enough. We barely made it back into the pits according to what the paper says. We did the best with what we had. We knocked the nose in and it was an ugly way to salvage a 10th-place finish, but we’ll take it.”

At the other end of the spectrum were Busch’s JGR teammates, who lost out on the fuel mileage game. Joey Logano wound up 25th and Denny Hamlin finished 27th.

Menard won the 18th annual Brickyard 400 to notch his first career Sprint Cup victory, and in doing so, became the fourth first-time winner of 2011, joining Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith and David Ragan.

Jeff Gordon finished .725 of a second behind Menard in the runner-up spot, while Smith, Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top-five. Stewart, Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Busch comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were five caution periods for 22 laps, with nine drivers failing to finish.

With round 20 of 36 complete, Busch continues to lead the JGR trio in the championship point standings. His 10th-place finish bumped him up one spot to fourth, where he has 666 points and is 16 markers behind series leader Carl Edwards. Hamlin lost one position and now sits 11th with 587 points, 95 markers back of the top spot. Logano also dropped one spot in the standings and now sits 19th with 529 points, 153 points behind Edwards.

Kyle Busch PR

With his win in Sunday’s Brickyard 400, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard is qualified to be a finalist for a chance to earn a $3 million payout in the Sprint Summer Showdown presented by HTC EVO™ 3D.

If Menard can also win the Advocare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day weekend, he will claim the Sprint Summer Showdown presented by HTC EVO 3D title and win $1 million for himself, $1 million for his designated charity, Habitat for Humanity, and $1 million dollars for a lucky race fan.

Later this week, a fan will be randomly selected from the pool of entrants who correctly picked Menard to win the Brickyard 400 at sprint.com/speed. That lucky fan will enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to Atlanta Motor Speedway and be there in person to see whether Menard can win at Atlanta. If he claims the Sprint Summer Showdown presented by HTC EVO 3D, the fan will win $1 million.

Fans should visit sprint.com/speed before each of the four remaining qualifying races to choose which driver they think will win that week’s event. A different fan will be randomly selected after each race and will be in Atlanta for the final event of the six-consecutive-race series to cheer on their driver as he vies for the $3 million payout. Fans can change their picks until the scheduled start time for each event.

Sprint PR

If there was freshly sheared grass blowing across Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Trevor Bayne, along with many others had an unfortunate way of finding it.

Three times during the running of the race, the first coming after just six laps, Bayne had to make an unscheduled pit stop to have grass removed from the grille of his car or risk ruining the engine from overheating. But all three times, he and his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team were able to bounce back, and as the laps wound down, Bayne found himself running fourth.

Once again, he had to head to pit road – this time for fuel – and he wound up 30th at the finish. He said having to turn onto pit road with seven laps to go, when he was running just a few car lengths behind eventual race winner Paul Menard Jr., was a hard move to make.

Bayne went on to say that the earlier, unscheduled pit stops, were a bigger factor in the final result.

“We had a few times where we had to pit when we didn’t want to with grass getting kicked up into our grille a few times,” he said. “When you get back in the pack like that those things are going to happen."

"We were just unfortunate to have it happen to us three times and have to pit so many times.”

Bayne had the misfortune of finding himself running just behind drivers who veered off into the grass, with the splitters of their cars clipping the grass and sending it blowing across the speedway to be picked up by oncoming cars.

But he and the team hung in there and had a strong run at the finish, even if the final result didn’t reflect it.

“It was a hard-fought day for a 30th-place finish,” Bayne said. “It doesn’t feel like that, but we learned a lot.

Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he’s confident that Bayne did gain a lot of knowledge about racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, one of the most demanding tracks in all of motorsports.

“This race was a learning experience, and we got through it,” Wood said. “We came here to run 160 laps, and that’s what we did.”

Wood also said that the team’s decision to stop under the green flag to clear grass from the grille was the right thing to do.

“There’s no need to take chances that early in a race, it doesn’t take but a couple of laps to burn an engine down.” he said.

Bayne and the Wood Brothers team will rejoin the Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway on the weekend of Aug. 21, where the No. 21 Ford Fusion will carry the colors of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which is the charity of choice for Ford’s Customer Service Division and its Motorcraft and Quick Lane brands.

Wood Brothers Racing PR

After finishing third in Sunday's Brickyard 400, it is becoming apparent that Regan Smith and Furniture Row Racing like to perform on the big stage.

Prior to the 2011 season neither Smith nor the Denver, Colo.-based Furniture Row team had a top-10 result. But that has changed this season in a big way.

The 27-year-old Smith has secured top-10 finishes in four of NASCAR's crown jewels. He was seventh in the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 20), won the Southern 500 (May 7 in Darlington, S.C.), was eighth in the Coca-Cola 600 (May 29 in Charlotte) and third in today's mid-summer classic at the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"We just have to figure out how to perform on the other stages," Smith said jokingly. "It was an awesome day and we're having an awesome year -- a credit to the entire Furniture Row Racing organization."

The smiles and fun reached another level for Smith when he crossed the finish line after conserving fuel during his final 33-lap, green-flag run.

Two weeks ago at New Hampshire in the previous Sprint Cup race, Smith ran out of fuel with a few laps remaining, spoiling a strong finish. But today the gamble paid off as Smith was begrudgingly saving fuel as he was approaching the leaders on the 2.5-mile oval.

"I wanted to push our Furniture Row Chevrolet a little harder and go for the win at the end," Smith stated. "But Pete (Rondeau, crew chief) kept on pulling me back. He kept on saying when I wanted to go, 'No, No, No, Save, Save, Save.'

"The competitive side of me wanted to take a chance -- it's hard for any racer to hold back when they smell victory. But the smart decision was to listen to Pete and you certainly can't be disappointed with a third. Pete and the crew did a great job today and they deserve this great finish."

Finishing ahead of Smith were Jeff Gordon (second) and race winner Paul Menard, a close friend of Smith.

"I am so happy for Paul, I know what he is feeling, especially at this place where his family has so much history," said Smith, who stopped by Victory Lane to offer congratulations to Menard.

The key moment for Smith came on Lap 121 when pieces of infield grass covered his radiator grill as he avoided Landon Cassill's spinning car.

The incident, which brought out a caution, forced Smith to come down pit road twice to clean off the grill. And on the final stop, the No. 78 crew used the opportunity to top off the fuel tank.

"That probably made the difference of having enough fuel," said Rondeau. "We lost track position due to the incident, but it also gave us an opportunity to go the distance while many of the other cars were forced to pit for fuel. A little luck plus a strong race car usually equals a solid finish. And that's how it turned out for us today."

Smith gained one position in the driver point standings.He is currently 26th, three points behind Jeff Burton for 25th place.

The next big stage event for Smith will be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Wednesday afternoon's (Aug. 3) Major League Baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and Philadelphia Phillies at Coors Field in Denver.

Furniture Row Racing PR

Years ago, as a garage rat at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Paul Menard dreamed of winning a race at the vaunted Brickyard.

On Sunday, the dream came true. In a season full of improbable first-time winners in NASCAR’s foremost races, Menard, 30, stretched his fuel mileage and held off charging Jeff Gordon to win the Brickyard 400 at the 2.5-mile track.
The victory was Menard’s first as a Sprint Cup driver, and it catapulted him into the conversation for a wild-card berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Gordon, who closed rapidly over the final five laps, crossed the finish line .725 seconds behind the season’s fourth first-time winner.
“My first year here was 1989, that I can remember anyway—I think I was here when I was 3 or 4 years old, too,” said Menard, whose father, John Menard, has fielded IndyCars for a variety of drivers. “I just spent a lot of time in the garage area. I didn’t miss an Indy 500 from 1989 to 2003.
“I was here for the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994. It’s just a really special place for my family and myself.”
Regan Smith, who notched his first career win in the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington in May, came home third, followed by Jamie McMurray, last year’s Brickyard winner. Matt Kenseth ran fifth, and Tony Stewart salvaged a sixth-place result despite a litany of problems throughout the race.
Greg Biffle, Mark Martin, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.
Smith, who counts Menard as one of his best friends, promised to attend Menard’s victory celebration, just as Menard joined Smith after the victory in Darlington.
“He always talks about coming up here,” Smith said. “He always talks about how much he loves this place. I know if he had to highlight one race to get his first win, I’m sure he’ll tell you in a minute he couldn’t be happier.
“It’s cool. You only get one chance to get your first win. It’s a special thing, especially when you do it here.”
Menard joined Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and Smith as first-time winners on NASCAR’s biggest stages. Unlike Bayne, who is not running a full Cup schedule, and Smith, who is 26th in points, Menard put himself in position to claim one of the two wild-card spots available to the highest-ranking race winners in positions 11-20 in points.
Menard improved five positions to 14th in the standings, passing polesitter David Ragan, who dropped three places to 16th after finishing 23rd Sunday. With six races left before the field for the Chase is set at Richmond, Denny Hamlin, Menard and Ragan are the only drivers in positions 11-20 with victories. Hamlin is 11th.
Menard, in his first season with Richard Childress Racing, also is the first qualifier for the Sprint Summer Showdown, in which he and the winners of the next four Cup races will try to claim a $3 million bonus by winning Sept. 4 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The bonus will be split three ways, with $1 million each going to the driver, a fan and the driver’s designated charity.
Gordon, who won the inaugural Cup race at Indy in 1994, said Menard perhaps can savor his first win at the Brickyard even more than he did 17 years ago.
“Just because he’s been here so much as a kid experiencing Indy, he knows how special it is to compete here, let alone win here,” Gordon said. “So I think the feelings are probably very similar. He probably has a greater appreciation for it than I did in ’94, because while I was watching from a distance and my heroes were Indy 500 drivers, I wasn’t in the garage like he was.
“So he could probably appreciate it even more.”
Notes: Ragan is the fourth driver to get his first Cup win this year. He won the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona on July 2. … The victory was the ninth straight at the Brickyard for Chevrolet. … Menard’s crew chief, Slugger Labbe, picked up his fifth victory and added the Brickyard trophy to his marquee win in the 2003 Daytona 500, when he was crew chief for Michael Waltrip at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Faced with the prospect of missing NASCAR’s second-biggest race, rookie Trevor Bayne and his Motorcraft/Quick Lane team took the conservative route in qualifying for Sunday’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But when Bayne sped over the famed yard of bricks on his qualifying lap, he’d run a lap at 181.134 miles per hour, which was good enough for the 25th starting position.


It also was the best performance of the “go or go home” drivers who had to qualify on speed. Bayne and the Woods are in that group despite winning the Daytona 500 because they’re running a limited schedule and therefore are no longer among the top 35 in car owner points. The top 35 are assured starting spots.


Team co-owner Eddie Wood said Bayne didn’t have much trouble adapting to the Brickyard, which is one of the most demanding race courses on the Sprint Cup circuit.


“Trevor did a great job,” Wood said. “He caught on quickly. He had three practice sessions, but that’s still not a lot of laps.”


Wood said the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team’s goal in qualifying was simply to get a starting spot for Sunday.


“We wanted to run a conservative lap,” Wood said. “Trevor did a great job and didn’t overextend himself.”


Bayne said knows where he gave up time on his qualifying lap and where he could have pressed the issue if he’d had the assurance of a guaranteed a starting spot.


“I would have carried more speed into [Turns] One and Three,” he said. “I think I could have definitely used a little bit less brake and carried it in and turned in earlier.”


He also said his qualifying lap was somewhat influenced by his double duties this weekend that have had him shuttling back and forth between the Nationwide Series action at Lucas Oil Raceway and the Cup race at the Brickyard.


“I’ve been at the short track, so I’m used to turning fast with a fast steering box, and then I got here and it didn’t turn quick enough,” Bayne said. “I was like, ‘Man, I’ve got to beat the wheel to this thing,’ so I just got down a little bit sooner and carried more speed into One and Three.”


Bayne’s challenge now is to get through 400 miles on a race track that is not very forgiving, especially for those starting in mid-pack. The drivers build speed down the long straight-aways, then have to navigate their way through tight turns will almost no banking, with 42 other drivers trying to do the same thing.


“We’ll have to be careful,” Wood said. “It’s a very narrow race track, especially on the start.”

Bayne said he’s confident that he can give the No. 21 Ford Fusion a strong run on Sunday.


“The Wood Brothers have been behind me from the beginning, and they’ve been behind me all weekend and we’ve picked up every time we’ve hit the track and that’s all we can ask for,” he said. “Now we’ve got 400 miles to pick up some more on Sunday.


“It’s awesome for Ford, Motorcraft and Quick Lane.  It’s a cool deal to be here and be out here on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time.”

 

Wood Brothers Racing PR

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