The following are daily news and noteworthy items from the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
BERGMAN EDGES HAFERTEPE JR. IN FRIDAY NIGHT’S ASCS A-MAIN
10:49 p.m. — Seth Bergman outlasted Sam Hafertepe Jr. in a green-white/checkered finish to win the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series A-Main on Friday during the Tony Stewart presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track.
Hafertepe Jr., the Sunnyvale, Texas resident who swept both features of this event last year, was in position for his third TMS win in the row when he overtook Bergman for the lead with one lap remaining. However, the caution came out and the field was reset by the positions of the last full lap, moving Bergman to the point and Hafertepe Jr. second.
Bergman, of Snohomish, Wash., had a strong restart and never looked back as Hafertepe Jr. never closed to challenge in the two-lap shootout of the 25-lap event. Bergman’s margin of victory was 1.007 seconds.
Sammy Swindell finished third, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart was fourth and Blake Hahn fifth.
Kale Westover, of Blair, Okla., won the A-Main of the Limited Modified Division of the Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals. Shane Herbert, of Lafayette, La., was second and Devin Burgess, of Stephenville, Texas, took third.
The Tony Stewart Presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals culminates Saturday with a full schedule of American Sprint Car Series and Limited Modified racing action beginning at 7:30 p.m. CT.
DIRT TRACK ACTION UNDERWAY
|6:00pm||Gates and Suites Open|
|7:00pm||Limited Modified Hot Laps (3 Laps)|
|7:15pm||ASCS Sprint Car Hot Laps (3 Laps)|
|7:35pm||ASCS Sprint Car Heats (8 laps)|
|8:20pm||Limited Modified Heats (8 laps)|
|8:50pm||ASCS Sprint Car Qualifiers (8 laps)|
|9:15pm||Limited Modified B-Mains (8 laps)|
|9:35pm||ASCS Sprint Car B-Mains (12 laps)|
|10:00pm||Limited Modified Feature (15 laps)|
|10:15pm||ASCS Sprint Car Feature (25 laps)|
KURT BUSCH WILL START ON CUP POLE AT TMS
5:50 p.m. — Knockout qualifying for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race began with series record-holder Kurt Busch emerging atop Round 1. Due to weather-related concerns about lightning in the area, Rounds 2 and 3 were cancelled, handing the pole to the 2004 Cup champion.
Busch topped a list of 37 entries with a Round 1 hot lap around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval at 197.368 mph. Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion, began Friday’s Cup activity by pacing the opening practice at 196.200 mph after just seven laps.
As was the case during that practice, Busch led a sweep of the top three spots for Stewart-Haas Racing after 15 minutes of time trials. Kevin Harvick, a three-time race-winner this season, will start second in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford. And Clint Bowyer, winner of the most recent race at Martinsville Speedway, will grid third in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Fusion.
The team co-owned by Gene Haas and retired three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart never had posted a 1-2-3 start in Cup.
Busch, now a three-time Cup pole-winner here, set the series track qualifying record at 26.877-seconds/200.915 during time trials for last November’s AAA Texas 500 Playoff race.
HEMRIC PACES FINAL XFINITY PRACTICE
4:20 p.m. — Daniel Hemric actually went slower to emerge atop the final practice sheet Friday afternoon for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
Hemric, of Richard Childress Racing, toured TMS’ 1.5-mile oval in 28.963-seconds/186.445 mph on the sixth of his 41 laps. Hemric, driver of the No. 21 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet Camaro, was second-fast in the first practice after lapping in 28.884-seconds/186.955 mph. That session was led by Ryan Truex of Kaulig Racing at 28.836-seconds/187.266 mph in the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International Camaro.
Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, who was third in the first practice at 28.894-seconds/186.890 mph, moved to second in the final at 28.995-seconds/186.239 mph in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang.
The series’ qualifying record was set by Jeff Green in 2002 at 27.908-seconds/193.493 mph. Xfinity qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11:10 (CT). The 200-lap/300-mile race is set for 2 p.m. Saturday and will be televised by FOX Sports.
CHRIS BUESCHER DANCES OUT OF OFF-WEEK A NEW HUSBAND
By John Sturbin
4:06 p.m. — The majority of NASCAR drivers likely spent their Easter holiday off-weekend coloring eggs with the kids, watching the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament or knocking items off their honey-do lists.
Native Texan Chris Buescher added a partner for life.
“We went and got married over Easter weekend, so that was really good,” Buescher said during a media session Friday at Texas Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. “Emma and I started planning last year before there was a schedule out for this season, and that made it very difficult because she didn’t want a winter wedding and we didn’t know our off-weekends yet. We knew we wouldn’t be racing on Easter. And then it threatened to rain-out Atlanta and threatened to snow-out Martinsville. It seemed like Easter weekend was always the fill-in date. So it definitely had us nervous through all of that.”
Buescher, of nearby Prosper, Texas, will wheel the No. 37 Bush’s Beans Camaro ZL1 in Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event around TMS’ 1.5-mile oval.
But back to the wedding of Chris and Emma. “We did it on Saturday because we didn’t want an April Fool’s Day wedding, which happened to be Easter this year, as well,” Buescher said. “And we didn’t want our anniversary to be a big joke every year. So, we tried to make it work out. We had a lot of friends and family come into town and come out and hang out with us. Now we’re back to racing. We’re done with our off-weekend, and I get to come home, of all places. So, not a bad last couple of weeks.”
Buescher admittedly is dealing with some post-wedding razzing from his Cup garage peers. In particular, JTG Daugherty teammate A.J. Allmendinger reported watching Buescher put on a display of “wicked dance moves” during the reception.
“I thought he was gone by then,” Buescher deadpanned. “I didn’t know he was still watching. We took dance lessons. We did two lessons. The woman that did it did a fantastic job. We met up with her in Uptown Charlotte and she asked what we wanted to know and first off, what you already know. I don’t know anything. I can’t sway. I can’t even do that. I can’t sit here and act like I know what I’m doing. And she’s like, “OK, what do you want to learn?’ I said, “The Dirty Dancing lift at the end.’ And she said, ‘All right, we’re going to back that down a bit.’
“We compromised and it actually came out really good. We were able to at least look like we had some clue of what we were doing out there. I got a big surprise from one of my best friends, so that was cool.
“I don’t come from a family of dancers, for sure. My mom was terrified of the mother/son dance. She was absolutely terrified; more than I was. And I will tell you, for the months leading up, the only thing I was worried about with the whole wedding was the dancing. I was good for everything else. We’ve been together almost six years. I was ready to get married and go through that. We had everything in place but the dancing was terrifying.”
Buescher said to the best of his recollection, no videos of his dancing performance exist.
“But who knows? You know A.J.’s got something,” Buescher said. “He hasn’t shown me anything yet, but I’m sure somebody’s got something.”
SUAREZ AIMING FOR “MIRACULOUS” CUP WIN
By John Sturbin
3:10 p.m. — Daniel Suarez’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win will break the bank … if he visits Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon.
The series’ first Mexican-born driver, Suarez is wheeling the No. 19 STANLEY “Racing for a Miracle” Toyota Camry this weekend at TMS. It’s a sponsorship that touched Suarez’s heart Thursday, when he visited Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth.
For the 12th consecutive year, STANLEY and the ACE Foundation are teaming up to donate $100,000 to Children’s Miracle Network hospitals. If Suárez drives his Joe Gibbs Racing entry to victory here, the donation will increase to $1-million.
To kick-start the program, Suárez visited Cook Children’s Hospital to unveil a Camry designed by Chip Foose and four patient champions. Foose, the star of the Overhaulin’ reality series on Velocity, and the patient champions will be in attendance for Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event.
“Yesterday at the hospital, they were extremely excited,” Suarez said of the kids he met. “They wanted to be here every day and they are ready to go. They know that they are part … they know that they designed the car, but that’s not everything. They are part of the pit crew now. They are going to be before the race in the grid with us. They are going to be in the pit box. They are going to be part of the racing this weekend and they are extremely excited about that.
“We have a nickname for the car already as well, #GoFroggy. Overall, I feel like it’s going to be a lot of fun. I just have to do my part. But for whatever reason when you have that positive energy of kids, that transfers to yourself and I feel that already on me. I feel like I have a lot of positive energy from these kids and I’m sure we’re going to do very well this week.”
A 26-year-old native of Monterrey, Mexico, Suarez calls TMS his home track as it’s the nearest venue for family and friends to see him compete in NASCAR’s premier series. Last month Suarez visited the Consulate de Mexico in Dallas to meet with Hispanic community leaders, curious onlookers, media and fans. He added a new group to the latter list via his visit to Cook Children’s.
“I feel like the most important part is just to give these kids an amazing experience. An experience that they will remember for life — forever,” Suarez said. “And I feel like so far it’s been just like that, but just on my side as well, designing the car with someone like Chip Foose. Actually, I’m a big fan of Chip. He’s an amazing car-builder that I’ve been following for a long time. And all these kids, you can tell right away the experience that they’re having.”
RYAN TRUEX PACES XFINITY PRACTICE
2:20 p.m. — Ryan Truex of Kaulig Racing upstaged the usual NASCAR Xfinity Series powerhouses by pacing Friday’s first practice for the My Bariatric Solutions 300.
Truex toured Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in 28.836-seconds/187.266 mph on the 21st and final of his laps in the No. 11 Bar Harbor/Sea Watch International Chevrolet Camaro. Daniel Hemric of Richard Childress Racing was second at 28.884-seconds/186.955 mph in the No. 21 South Pont Hotel & Casino Chevy. Ryan Blaney was third at 28.894-seconds/186.890 mph in the No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang fielded by Team Penske.
The series’ qualifying record was set by Jeff Green in 2002 at 27.908-seconds/193.493 mph. A final, 50-minute practice for Saturday’s 200-lap/300-mile event is set for 3:05 p.m. Friday. Xfinity qualifying is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11:10 (CT).
KURT BUSCH FASTEST IN CUP PRACTICE
2:10 p.m. — NASCAR track record-holder Kurt Busch led a Stewart-Haas Racing sweep of the top three spots Friday following the first Monster Energy Cup Series practice for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500.
Busch, the 2004 Cup champion, toured Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval in 27.523-seconds/196.200 mph in his No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion. He was followed by Kevin Harvick, a three-time race-winner this season, at 27.559-seconds/195.943 mph in the No. 4 Busch Light Ford. Meanwhile, SHR teammate Clint Bowyer _ winner of the most recent event at Martinsville Speedway _ was third on the chart at 27.632-seconds/195.426 mph in the No. 14 Mobil 1/Rush Truck Centers Ford.
Busch set TMS’ NASCAR qualifying record with a hot, hot lap of 26.877-seconds/200.915 mph during time trials for last November’s AAA Texas 500. A field of 37 cars are scheduled to qualify for Sunday’s 334-lap/501-mile event at 4:35 p.m. Friday.
THIS DRIVER KNOWS ABOUT SCREW DRIVERS
2:06 p.m. — Native Mexican Daniel Suarez will be sporting primary sponsorship from STANLEY “Racing for a Miracle” on his No. 19 Toyota Camry for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.
So, does Daniel have a favorite STANLEY tool?
“I use tools a lot,” Suarez said. “I work on cars a lot, so it’s very hard to choose just one because you need more than one just to work on cars. Something that you need to have, it doesn’t matter what, are screw drivers. You need to have screw drivers to make everything work, you have to start with that. So for sure I have my STANLEY screw drivers.”
SMOKE’S FAVORITE WEEKEND HAS ARRIVED AT TMS
1:52 p.m. — Tony Stewart is anticipating “the best of both worlds” at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend.
Stewart, the retired three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, plans to patrol the Cup garage as co-owner with Gene Haas of Stewart-Haas Racing. But the majority of Smoke’s weekend will be spent at the Texas Motor Speedway Dirt Track, site of Tony Stewart presents the Vankor Texas Sprint Car Nationals.
“It’s the second year we’ve got to do this and it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year,” Stewart said during an interview session alongside Sunnyvale, Texas driver Sam Hafertepe Jr. “I get to work on the Cup side and then get to do what I really love to do, which is drive my Sprint Car.”
The Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series presented by Sawblade.com will run Friday and Saturday at 7:30 CT each night.
Stewart said the program here was championed by Kenton Nelson, TMS’ assistant general manager/vice president of event services.
“Kenton is a big dirt track fan and it’s a shame not to tie it in together (with the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series doubleheader),” Stewart said. “To have a first-class dirt track facility and not utilize it and bring NASCAR fans to dirt racing…the crowd was awesome last year on Saturday. It was a natural deal when you think about it. And the fans are always cool in Texas. It’s great cross-pollination.”
While retired from Cup competition, Stewart is anything but idle. His 2018 schedule features 95 races, including 91 in high-powered, open-wheel Sprint Cars.
In Fort Worth, Stewart expects a number of NASCAR crew members to fill the grandstands, along with Cup drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne and Kevin Harvick. “They’ll all tell me what I’m doing wrong,” Stewart joked.
Hafertepe earned the distinction of winningest Sprint Car driver at the TMS Dirt Track with his sweep of the Texas Sprint Car Nationals in 2017, giving him four wins on the four-tenths mile oval. Hafertepe currently is second in the tour standings to Roger Crockett, winner of the 2018 season opener at the famed Devil’s Bowl Speedway in nearby Mesquite on March 16.
“This place means a lot to me,” said Hafertepe, 32. “It’s close to my house and for me it’s a big homecoming. And what Tony does for the sport is unbelievable. We need stuff like this to get our series some exposure. They race here once or twice a year and it’s really prestigious to win this race. I got four cowboy hats at home (as TMS Dirt Track winner) and want to add two to it.”
Stewart and Hafertepe will be joined by two-time/reigning Chili Bowl Nationals champion and NASCAR Xfinity regular Christopher Bell as well as dirt track legend Sammy Swindell. The program also includes Limited Modified racing, with former NASCAR regular Kenny Wallace scheduled to compete.
Grandstands will open both days at 6 p.m., with hot laps at 7.
ANHEUSER-BUSCH LANDS NAMING RIGHTS FOR SPEEDWAY’S NEW, EXCLUSIVE RESTART BAR
1:40 p.m. – Beer brewing giant Anheuser-Busch has signed a multi-year partnership with Texas Motor Speedway for the naming rights of the Restart Bar, the venue’s latest fan amenity that will debut at this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend.
The deal was announced Friday during a special media sneak preview of the Busch Restart Bar featuring 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Beer Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing; Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage and Anheuser-Busch Senior Manager of Experiential Marketing Doug Mraw.
The Busch Restart Bar will provide guests with an exclusive experience and one of the best views in motorsports. Located approximately 26 rows above the Restart Zone at the start of the dogleg section on the frontstretch of Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval, this is the area where the field picks up speed to take the green flag for the start of the race as well as following each of the caution periods.
Fans will have the option to enjoy the race day from both spacious outdoor and indoor seating, combining the close proximity to the on-track action with a suite-style experience. The Busch Restart Bar will feature outdoor seating at half-round tables, bar stools and fixed seats as well as at bars backed by high-definition television monitors. There will be room to socialize and areas for games and other activities.
Guests also will have access to a climate-controlled indoor area to share conversation, enjoy food and beverage service, and follow the race action on high-definition televisions located throughout the area.
“After returning to NASCAR in 2016, we have continued to evolve our presence around the sport and make investments in the racing platform,” said Chelsea Phillips, VP of Value Brands at Anheuser-Busch. “NASCAR is a passion point for Busch drinkers, and we’re always looking for new ways to engage fans with unique experiences at track. Our new Busch Restart Bar at Texas Motor Speedway will do just that, allowing fans to enjoy even more crisp, cold Busch beer on race day.”
Admission to the Busch Restart Bar will include access to an all-inclusive food and beverage menu offering, a premium chair-back seat that sits above the Busch Restart Bar with every other row being removed to provide more spacious seating. There also will be room for in-seat, waiter service.
The Busch Restart Bar will debut with the NASCAR Xfinity Series My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, followed by the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday. Admission to the Busch Restart Bar is $150 for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 and $200 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. The Busch Restart Bar is sold out for Sunday’s race.
The Busch Restart Bar also will be open for the Rattlesnake 400 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday, June 8; DXC Technology 600 Verizon IndyCar Series race Saturday, June 9; JAG Metals 350 Camping World Truck Series race Friday, Nov. 2; O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Xfinity Series race Saturday, Nov. 3, and AAA Texas 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday, Nov. 4.
Anheuser-Busch, a long-time NASCAR partner and sponsor that currently is aligned with Harvick, will receive significant Busch branding in addition to featuring its beer brands. Busch will enjoy signage throughout the Restart Bar and on the concourse level as well as other prominent areas of the facility. The track wall below the bar will incorporate the Busch brand and be known as the Busch Restart Zone.
ELLIOTT SADLER RE-INTRODUCES HIS BAD SELF
1:29 p.m. — NASCAR Xfinity Series point-leader Elliott Sadler walked into his media availability at Texas Motor Speedway’s infield media center Friday brandishing extra identification, just in case anyone dared ask … who are you?
“I’m so nervous right now. I haven’t been in a media availability in so long I forgot how this works,” Sadler joked. “I even wore my (NASCAR) Hard Card in case you guys wouldn’t let me in. I thought you were mad at me. I thought I did something wrong. Who decides who comes in here anyway for media availability?”
Check with NASCAR Integrated Marketing.
Sadler has built a four-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick in the championship standings after five events. In addition, teammate Justin Allgaier sits third, five points behind the leader going into Saturday’s My Bariatrics Solutions 300.
Sadler has posted four top-five and five top-10 results through the first five races of 2018. The Virginia native also leads the series in average finish with a solid 4.8 — the only series title-contender with an average finish inside the top-five. Sadler took home the XFINITY Series regular-season championship in 2017 on his way to the Playoffs.
“We’re off to a good start and we’ve got some momentum on our side,” said Sadler, driver of the No. 1 OneMain Financial Chevrolet Camaro. “But I’m 42, not 24, and it’s all about Homestead (and the season-finale). We’re going to keep our emotions level because we know we have to come back here in the fall and be good. It’s part of the Playoffs when we come back.”
Recall that Sadler emerged as a popular winner of the Samsung/RadioShack 500 Cup Series race here driving the No. 38 M&Ms Ford in his sixth TMS start on April 4, 2004. Sadler ended a 108-race winless streak that day edging series rookie Kasey Kahne by 0.028-seconds — still the closest Cup Series finish in track history. It was Sadler’s second career Cup win and first with Robert Yates Racing.
BRISCOE’S EXTENDED SPRING BREAK IS OVER
11:09 a.m. — Chase Briscoe will make his second start of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 60 Nutri Chomps Ford Mustang.
Saturday’s My Bariatrics Solutions 300 on TMS’ 1.5-mile oval will be the resumption of a 12-race schedule for the native of Mitchell, Ind. Briscoe started 18th and finished 15th in his first start in the RINNAI 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, sister 1.5-mile oval to TMS, on Feb. 24. Briscoe, 23, finished one lap down to race-winner/Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Kevin Harvick.
Briscoe, whose family has a rich history driving and owning Sprint Cars, competed as a rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2017.
“Going into Atlanta we didn’t test anywhere and it was a big learning curve for me, and honestly, pretty humbling,” said Briscoe, comparing competition in the Truck and Xfinity series. “I honestly felt like it was going to drive like an ARCA car. Competition-wise, it’s tougher every level you go. In Truck, there was probably eight or nine guys that can win a race realistically, where here there’s 15 guys that can win a race. It’s been a lot of learning.”
Briscoe finished the Truck Series schedule with a flourish, scoring a victory in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway — another 1.5-mile layout — to go with 10 top-five and 14 top-10 results.
Briscoe made two starts at TMS last year in the Truck Series, finishing second in the June 9 winstaronlinegaming.com 400 night race to Christopher Bell of Kyle Busch Motorsports. Bell edged Briscoe after a dramatic side-by-side, closing laps battle in a race that ended under caution.
Briscoe finished fourth in the JAG Metals 350 Driving Hurricane Relief event on Nov. 3, a race won by eventual series champion Johnny Sauter.
8:39 a.m. — On Thursday, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola visited B.B. Owen Elementary and Diamond Hill Elementary School to visit the winners Lionel Racing “Design A Die-Cast” contest. The following video is a final package of the day: