FIVE PLAYOFF CONTENDERS PREPARE FOR NOVEMBER’S AAA TEXAS 500 WITH GOODYEAR TIRE TEST

FORT WORTH, Texas (August 15, 2018) – The following is an event recap with photo and video links from the Goodyear Tire test session Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway featuring five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers preparing for the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Playoff race on Sunday, Nov. 4.

Event Recap

Five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers representing the three car manufacturers – Chevrolet, Toyota and Ford – participated in a two-day Goodyear Tire test session on Texas Motor Speedway’s 1.5-mile oval.

The drivers that took part in the two-day session were reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing, Kurt Busch of Stewart-Haas Racing, Joey Logano of Penske Racing, Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing and Alex Bowman of Hendrick Motorsports. Dillon and Bowman represented Chevrolet, Busch and Logano were on hand for Ford and Truex Jr. for Toyota.

JoeyLogano1The drivers were gathering data and information as well as experimenting with different tire compounds for Goodyear in preparation for the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 4, the eighth race in the 10-event NASCAR Playoffs to determine the series champion.

“It’s good that Goodyear is here to try some things that are different,” Logano said. “We made a bunch of 25-lap runs earlier this morning on a bunch of different tires. Some of them are brand new that we have never seen before, some of them are from other race tracks. They tried to mix them together. Try this, try that. Try to hit on something and improve the racing ultimately for the fans. That’s the goal. We want to make the cars drive better and get faster, but it’s all relative we are all going to drive faster on a softer tire. We want to look for something that has that fall-off that doesn’t change the balance a lot throughout a run and ultimately widens the race track by rubbering up the race track up more.”

The first test day was hampered by ongoing rain showers in the area, delaying the 9 a.m. CT start time to the early afternoon with temperatures in the mid to high 80s. Goodyear extended the test session to 7:30 p.m. from its usual conclusion time of 5 p.m. to gather more information. The teams returned Wednesday to sunny skies and temperatures in the low to mid 90s for a full day of testing.

A Goodyear Tire test is a chance for the teams to collaborate and work together in a unique way where Joey and I wouldn’t necessarily communicate about how our car is handling on a race weekend, where at a Goodyear Tire test there is open dialog, good communication on what the tires felt like,” Busch said. “There is basically four sets of tires. You put on a set and go run. A car will pick up half a second. But is it a good half a second. Drop off on lap time, drop off on pace and that makes the driver search around for a better line around the race track to find a better lap time. It is about the integrity of the tire, the quality of the tire.”

Added Bowman: “I think it’s kind of interesting. I think they (Goodyear) had a pretty firm, solid idea of what they were going to bring back to the race here before we got here. But we’ve gathered a lot of data for them on different tires. I’m just trying to give them the best feedback I can and as far as what I feel on each tire and what it does.”

To access additional photos as well as a b-roll video package of the driver interviews and on-track footage, click here for the TMS Media Portal

AlexBowman2

The Highlight

Kurt Busch meet Kurt Busch. The 2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion had the opportunity following Wednesday’s media availability to unveil his life-sized bobblehead for the upcoming Texas Motor Speedway promotion for the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 4.

IMG_1598The first 30,000 fans attending the AAA Texas 500 will receive the smaller version of the Busch bobblehead, the seventh in the ongoing series. The Busch bobblehead is sponsored by State Water Heaters, which will also be on his No. 41 Ford for the AAA Texas 500.

“This is pretty neat; we have a  life-sized bobble head. Look at that! He’s handsome,” Busch said. “Great job! Thank you guys. State Water Heaters, they’re a great sponsor at Stewart-Haas. They helped put this together with Texas Motor Speedway. Thank you, it’s special treat because it’s like a new level of stardom. I have not had a bobble head, so it’s exciting, it’s new, something different and fun. There have been different toys and different trinkets over the years, cars of course. But a bobblehead, that’s a new level.”

The life-sized Busch bobblehead will join the Texas Motor Speedway family that consists of Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal and James Hinchcliffe.  

Fast Fact

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500Martin Truex Jr. has led 595 career laps in 25 starts at Texas Motor Speedway, but has yet to record a victory at the 1.5-mile oval. The total is the most laps led for a non-winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Texas Motor Speedway and ranks seventh overall. The six drivers ahead of Truex Jr. in laps led have combined for 20 victories at Texas and each has recorded multiple wins, led by Jimmie Johnson’s seven.

Notebook

This was the second Goodyear Tire test session this year at Texas Motor Speedway, with Martin Truex Jr. representing Toyota during both visits to Fort Worth. Truex Jr., along with Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola, took part in the two-day test session that was held Jan. 8-9 on the 1.5-mile oval that was reconfigured and repaved for the 2017 season. … In the 13 AAA Texas 500 races held since the race debuted in 2005, Chevrolet has a distinctive edge over the other manufacturers with seven wins. Ford has three, Toyota two and former manufacturer Dodge one. In the last three years, however, the manufacturers have alternated wins with Chevrolet in 2015 (Jimmie Johnson), Toyota (Carl Edwards) in ’16 and Ford (Kevin Harvick) last year. …

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 - Qualifying

Kurt Busch has won the pole position at the last two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway. He established a track record with a lap of 200.915 miles per hour in last year’s AAA Texas 500 and followed up with the pole in April’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500. Busch owns the track record with three career poles, with the other coming in the 2015 spring race. … Heading into November’s AAA Texas 500, Joey Logano has finished seventh or better at Texas Motor Speedway in 9 of his last 11 visits, including his lone win here in the spring of 2015.

What They Are Saying

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Media TourIt’s been a really good season. It’s just tough to really say that it’s been one of those championship-type seasons. Going against those big three with Kyle my little brother, Truex, and Harvick are six, seven wins between them. And then for us, we are right there but we are still so far behind. To Joey’s point, it’s a good thing that we are here testing to try and experiment with new things and try to find that speed we know that we are missing. But to go back to the beginning of what I was saying it’s been a great year. It’s been solid, top 10 each and every week; we are leading more laps this year than we did last year at this point. It’s just a matter of finding that one last little bit of speed and transferring some of the luck that we are not quite having, whether it’s a restart lane or a pit stop issue. We just have to tie it all together for the whole race.” — Kurt Busch on evaluating his season and prospects for the NASCAR Playoffs.

The siren was going off in Dawsonville. Chase Elliott winning at Watkins Glen. It really was a big moment. It’s nice to see the kid win and put it all together for a full race. It was overdue. We know he has the talent, he’s got the pedigree, he’s with a great team. A story like him is our main guy. The buddy system of the young kids with (Ryan) Blaney and Bubba (Wallace), Chase; all the kids are doing a good job. It’s just a matter of when they are going to knock off our group as far as making it tougher on us, so to speak. If they start collecting the wins, that is going to help this sport. Just like with Tiger Woods, it’s a sentimental value of coming back after some difficulties and putting on Tiger’s run and I think these kids that are coming up through now just need a couple more wins here or there and it will start to blossom from there.” — Busch on the sport needing the “guy” to draw like golf witnessed with Tiger Woods during last weekend’s PGA Championship.

It’s frustrating and motivating. I have a teammate (Kevin Harvick) that’s out there and he’s won seven races and we don’t have a win yet. It’s frustrating that it’s in-house and we’re not able to duplicate that. You can understand Truex’s situation as a single car team. They get to keep their notes close and they’re the toughest team out there and it’s because they are that one-car team and all the resources are plugged into him. My little brother is the same scenario with Gibbs’ situation – there are four cars there, but only one (Kyle) has all the wins. It’s unique that there are a couple big teams that one has broken away and here’s the other ones fighting for table scraps, but our table scraps are top 10s every week so it’s hard to complain but at the same time it’s starting to shape up. Joey’s looking at me, I’m looking at Joey. Brad’s there in our group, there’s (Denny) Hamlin and (Clint) Bowyer. So there is us four in this little mix. Once you get to the playoffs, sprinkle everyone into that. (Jimmie) Johnson is gaining speed. Chase (Elliott) just won. Erik Jones is gaining more confidence. It’s going to be a barn burner the first two rounds of the playoffs to just try to be that guy that’s going to position himself fourth going into Homestead.” — Busch on the season-long dominance of the Big Three, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.  

“The biggest thing is quality of car and quality of team and, at the this point at 40 years old, quality of life. Feeling respected and continuing to have chances to win. That’s what it’s all about and if you feel like there is an opportunity with other team then that’s what you have to explore, but it’s also the respect for what I’ve done out on track over the years I’ve raced. The statistics, so to speak, but also with the sponsorship that I bring along.— Busch on being a free agent after the 2018 season and what he is looking for in a future team.

Those guys have the extra bonus points, so they have the insurance and they don’t have to push for the win and they can still have that 30-point cushion to help them work through each round. Can’t concede anything, no, but we haven’t won yet and why can’t we just go out and win, but we need to play to our strength and our strength is consistency and that’s what going to help us.” — Busch on the NASCAR Playoffs format actually helping the other teams close the gap on the Big Three.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Media TourOur evaluation so far is that we have been somewhat consistent. We can run from the top five to the top ten pretty consistently. We have to find a little bit more speed. That probably is one of the things that we’ve been searching for to catch the top three (Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr.) that everyone talks about all the time. We’ve got to get a little bit quicker to be racing with those cars. There are some weeks we are closer that others, but time is running out before the playoffs start and that’s why for a test like we have here in Texas. Obviously, we are testing tires but they allow us to play a little bit too and try something we don’t get to try on a typical race weekend when we don’t have a whole bunch of practice. So that part is kind of nice. Hopefully, we can hit on a couple things to find some speed in our cars on the faster mile-and-a-half type race tracks and carry that in to the playoffs here in a few weeks.” — Joey Logano on evaluating his season and prospects for the NASCAR Playoffs.

I would agree with Kurt, Chase’s win was important. But I also think that of some of the stories that are happening this year. You look at the domination of certain athletes in other sports and you see people like LeBron (James) and things like that. You see this excellence where they can just go out there. People want to watch that. People want to watch someone that is really good. When you see the top three right now at the top of their game, racing. I think that also draws a lot of interest. So there are some good things going on with our sport right now. As the kind of new wave that Kurt is talking about is rolling in, you also have some teams that are really on fire now. That is also interesting to watch. We just want to be one of those teams. Both of us are not that far off; we race each other about every weekend. We just want to be doing that for the lead a little bit more often.” — Logano on the sport needing a Tiger Woods-type personality.

“I think it’s both. You see them win and it frustrates you, but it also at the same time makes you more determined to go out there and figure it out. It’s something that we’ve been able to do before. We’ve been able to win quite a few races in a season before so we know how to do it; we just have to solve the riddle of what the little things are that stack up. It’s never going to be one thing. Once you stack up six pennies and a couple quarters, eventually you get a dollar and you get something.” Logano on the season-long dominance of the Big Three, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr.  

Yeah, it would not surprise me that only two of them got to Miami. That can happen. Yes, they have a bunch of playoff points when you get to that third round something can happen. It could happen here (Texas). Where one of those three does not win here and maybe Martinsville and that knocks one of them out. That’s the way this playoff system works. It gives them a great advantage, which they deserve 100 percent because they have outperformed the field all year long so they deserve an advantage going into the playoffs, but at the same time it doesn’t knock anybody out. There are still cars that are 25th in points and possibly have a chance. They can win next week and run through the playoffs like crazy. That can happen. It’s a long shot. That’s the way this playoff system is set up. It’s great that they have an advantage and they earned it, but at the same time nobody is ever out of it. You don’t know what the championship four is going to look like in Miami.” Logano on the NASCAR Playoffs format actually helping the other teams close the gap on the Big Three.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Media Tour“Yeah I don’t think you could ever feel good when you’re the bubble guy, but we have 62 points on the next guy behind us so that helps. But I don’t think I’ll be comfortable by any means until checkered flag flies (in the Sept. 9 regular-season finale) at Indy.” – Alex Bowman on his prospects of making the 16-driver field for the NASCAR Playoffs.

“Obviously driving for Hendrick Motorsports is a big opportunity for me, I’m trying to make the most of it. But I don’t really think there’s really any added pressure because of the (car) number or anything like that, so I’m just trying to be my own person. To me, you can’t really see the door number from the seat, so it’s just a racecar and I’m trying to make it go as fast as I can.” – Alex Bowman on replacing superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr. full-time this season in the No. 88 Chevrolet.

“I think there are a lot of great personalities in the sport. I think it takes winning to kind of boost yourself, so you know, it’s kind of hit or miss. You have a guy like Jimmie Johnson who everybody just didn’t want to win when he was winning all the time. I think now that he’s had a rougher couple of years, I think he’s become more popular than ever almost. It’s interesting to see how that kind of works, but it’s hard to pick a person. Obviously with Tony (Stewart) retiring and Jeff (Gordon) retiring and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) retiring, there’s been a lot of big personalities that have stepped away from the sport, but I think it just takes time. I don’t think Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, obviously Jeff made a big splash as soon as he got in, but it took time to develop their personalities and their fan base.” – Alex Bowman on having prominent personalities in NASCAR like other sports.

“Yeah, we’ve had our fair share of ups and downs. We definitely started the year off of where we expected, want and need to be.  We made a good bit of progress this past weekend at Michigan. Watkins (Glen) didn’t really go our way either, but we’re getting better. Our race cars are getting better, our whole team is working really well together, so we’re going in the right direction.” — Bowman’s evaluation on his season at this stage.

“He’s definitely there to help whenever I reach out to him and we talk quite a bit, so it’s good to have him to lean on. He’s been a big help over the course of my career. Obviously I wouldn’t be here without his help so I’m very thankful for that and he’s always there when I need him.” — Bowman on Earnhardt Jr. lending help throughout the season.

“I think there are a lot of great personalities in the sport. I think it takes winning to kind of boost yourself, so you know, it’s kind of hit or miss. You have a guy like Jimmie Johnson who everybody just didn’t want to win when he was winning all the time. I think now that he’s had a rougher couple of years, I think he’s become more popular than ever almost. It’s interesting to see how that kind of works, but it’s hard to pick a person. Obviously with Tony (Stewart) retiring and Jeff (Gordon) retiring and Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) retiring, there’s been a lot of big personalities that have stepped away from the sport, but I think it just takes time. I don’t think Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, obviously Jeff made a big splash as soon as he got in, but it took time to develop their personalities and their fan base.” — Bowman on NASCAR having personalities as big as in other sports.

“Yeah you know, it’s kind of an awkward situation, because he’s the next guy and we’re trying to catch him in points to make ourselves feel a little bit better about the bubble spot so I definitely lean on him as much as I can. He’s a big part of Hendrick Motorsports and having a seven-time champion that you can text or that you can lean on or do whenever is a huge help. Not so much probably about the Playoff situation and stuff like that, more of just the every day situations at the racetrack with what I’m feeling with the racecars and stuff like that.” — Bowman on gaining knowledge from Hendrick Motorsports teammate and seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.

“You know it’s been a lot of little things. Everybody is different, everybody feels different things in race cars, and everybody approaches weekends differently, so I try and take little bits and things, but there hasn’t really been one thing that’s really changed something dramatically. It’s been a lot of the little things. ” — Bowman on advice that Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Jimmie Johnson has given him that has really stuck with him.

“I think we are getting closer for sure. I think our cars are catching up to where their cars are. That’s the biggest thing; they’ve had a lot faster race cars than we have for a good chunk of the year. We’re getting there, obviously third at Pocono was really good. We were top five at Michigan and then kind of fell off there, so obviously we’re getting closer – but we still have a good bit of work to do to catch up to where they’re at though.” — Bowman on being able to compete with the Big Three – Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.

“Obviously with the way the point system works, they’re going to have a huge advantage when they get there as well. You know, I think I’m not super fixated on the Playoffs right now just because we’re not really running well enough to make a splash when we get there. If we make it, we’re not really at a point that we can make it count, so hopefully we can gain on that. We have been gaining on it, but we just need to be more consistent. Days like Michigan are frustrating when you run third for the first part of the race and then somehow finish 19th.  You know we have a lot of work to do and continue to get better. If I make the Playoffs, I want to do more than just be out in the first or second round, obviously.” — Bowman on the upcoming NASCAR Playoffs.

Upcoming Event At A Glance

AAA Texas 500 NASCAR Playoff Tripleheader, Nov. 1-4

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500

Thursday, Nov. 1

9:00am – 5:30pm Texas Motor Speedway Credential Office Open

3:05pm – 3:55pm NCWTS 1st Practice

5:05p – 5:55pm NCWTS Final Practice

Friday, Nov. 2

9:00am – 7:30pm Texas Motor Speedway Credential Office Open

1:00pm – 1:55pm MENCS 1st Practice

2:05pm – 2:50pm NXS 1st Practice

3:10pm NCWTS Qualifying

4:35pm – 5:25pm NXS Final Practice

6:00pm MENCS Qualifying

7:30pm JAG Metals 350 (147 Laps, 220.5 Miles)

Saturday, Nov. 3

9:00am – 3:30pm Texas Motor Speedway Credential Office Open

11:30am – 12:25pm MENCS 2nd Practice

12:40am NXS Qualifying

2:00pm – 2:50pm MENCS Final Practice

3:30pm NXS O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 (200 Laps, 300 Miles)

Sunday, Nov. 4

8:30am – 2:00pm Texas Motor Speedway Credential Office Open

2:00pm MENCS AAA Texas 500 (334 Laps, 501 Miles)

The media credential deadline for the AAA Texas 500 race weekend is Friday, Oct. 19. To apply for credentials, please visit www.smicredentials.com.

Tickets are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

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