Sunday, September 30, 2012

Thorn Awesome In Albuquerque

Collects 2nd K&N West Win After Charge To Front
By Shon Sbarra, NASCAR
September 29, 2012 - 11:47pm

See video

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Derek Thorn won the NAPA Auto Parts 150 in NASCAR K&N Pro Series West action on Saturday night at NAPA Speedway.

Thorn, out of Lakeport, Calif., started from the seventh position and charged to the front after Dylan Kwasniewski, who earned the pole position earlier in the day, set a blistering pace in the early going. Thorn, who collected his second win of the season, had built a more than seven-second lead on Lap 120, but had to hold off rookie Dallas Montes and Eric Holmes on a green-white-checkered finish after a late caution.

1 Derek Thorn
2 Dallas Montes
3 Eric Holmes
4 Taylor Cuzick
5 Austin Dyne
With the 150-lap race being run without any scheduled pit stops, tire management was the key to success, according to Thorn.

“I knew this race was going to be hard on tires,” said Thorn, who has championship crew chief Bill Sedgwick calling the shots for the No. 6 Sunrise Ford/Lucas Oil/Eibach Ford. “Even when the car felt good, you had to back off in the car even more.”

Nevertheless, Thorn was able to open up a lead of more than seven seconds before several cautions bunched the field late in the race. He pulled away on each restart and held a margin of .808 seconds in taking the checkered flag.

Montes – filling in for David Mayhew, who was competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Las Vegas – took second while Holmes crossed the line in third. Rookies Taylor Cuzick and Austin Dyne completed the top five.

“I don’t know what to say,” an emotional Montes said, while thanking car owner Steve McGowan and his sponsors for the opportunity. “Running good like this is huge for us.”

Montes was recently named to participate in the upcoming 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, in which candidates compete for an opportunity to be a part of the 2013 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class of drivers.

“I can’t thank the NASCAR Diversity program enough for the opportunity,” he said. “I’ve been able to go back there the last two years. I’ve done pretty well, but not quite good enough. Hopefully, this year’s the year.”

Fifteen-year-old Hannah Newhouse, who was also selected for the Diversity Combine and was also in her series debut, finished sixth at Albuquerque. She was followed by her teammate at Rich Thompson Racing and fellow rookie Braeden Havens. Points leader Greg Pursley, Kwasniewski and Carl Harr rounded out the top 10.

In the championship standings, Kwasniewski trimmed Pursley’s lead to 14 points – 547 to 533. Thorn is 37 points out of the lead with 510. Holmes is fourth with 489, while Michael Self is fifth with 471. Mayhew slipped to sixth at 470, followed by Cameron Hayley at 427, Austin Dyne at 424, Jonathon Gomez at 412 and Ryan Philpott at 370.

Dyne, meanwhile, has opened up an eight-point lead over Hayley in what has been a tight challenge for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Dyne leads with 107 over Hayley with 99.

The NAPA Auto Parts 150 will air on SPEED on Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. ET.

The next event on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West schedule is the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 at All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., on Oct. 13.
Derek Thorn (No. 6) set the pace as the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West
race wound down at NAPA Speedway. Steve Snowden/Getty Images for NASCAR


NASCAR Fan Wins Ride With Dale Jr.

Bette Paquet will get a ride around Charlotte Motor Speedway from Dale Earnhardt Jr.,
but her cat, Junior, will just have to live the moment vicariously through Paquet
(Photo courtesy of Lionel Collectables)

(I am not a grandmother yet, so there might still be time for me . . . . . so jealous, I would love to run a lap with Dale Jr.!)

Bette Paquet, a 65-year-old grandmother with a cat named Junior, has always wanted to meet her favorite NASCAR driver. 

But she never dreamed she would get to take a ride in a racecar with him. 

Bette Paquet will get a ride around Charlotte Motor Speedway from Dale Earnhardt Jr., but her cat, Junior, will just have to live the moment vicariously through Paquet (Photo courtesy of Lionel Collectables)
Paquet, who lives in Franklin, N.H., will take a spin around Charlotte Motor Speedway with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Oct. 15 as the grand prize winner of the “Dale Jr. Ride of Your Life Sweepstakes” held by Lionel NASCAR Collectables and Racing Collectables Club of America. 

Paquet will ride shotgun with Earnhardt for three laps around the 1.5-mile track as part of The Dale Jr. Foundation’s ride-along program. 

“To meet and greet Dale Earnhardt Jr. is beyond my wildest dreams,” Paquet, who has four grandchildren, said. “I have loved that boy ever since he started in the sport and I can’t believe he’s going to drive ME around the track.” 

A merchandise coordinator for T.J. Maxx, Paquet has been an Earnhardt fan all her life. She named her cat after NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver and says she cried “happy tears” when Earnhardt Jr. won a 2010 Nationwide Series race at Daytona in a No. 3 Wrangler-sponsored car his father made famous. 

“I can’t express our love of the sport,” Paquet said. “I love the smell, sounds and all that is part of NASCAR. And I love Dale Jr.’s attitude and his demeanor and I love his success this year.” 

Earnhardt Jr. has one win this season and is in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is seventh in the Chase standings. 

Paquet also will get two tickets to the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Charlotte, travel accommodations and various other prizes and perks.

Monday, September 24, 2012

K&N West News & Notes: Albuquerque

Pursley, Kwasniewski Chase Title As Series Visits New Mexico
By Kevin W. Green, NASCAR

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The battle for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship continues as the series heads into its final three races of the season. Defending champion Greg Pursley holds a 15-point advantage over second-year driver Dylan Kwasniewski in the championship standings as the series makes its inaugural visit to NAPA Speedway just west of Albuquerque, N.M., for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Pursley and Kwasniewski are teammates at Gene Price Motorsports. They both excel on track and are driven to win, but beyond that the two are quite different. Pursley is a 44-year-old former motorcycle racer who can be found working in the GPM shop when he is not behind the wheel of a stock car. Meanwhile, Kwasniewski, as a member of NASCAR’s Next 9 program, is one of nine NASCAR K&N Pro Series drivers who represent the next wave of young talent set to make an impact on the national series scene. He became the first 15-year-old to race in the series when he joined the circuit early last season and has said he wants to be the David Beckham of NASCAR.

Pursley was dominant a season ago, winning six of the first eight races en route to the series title. Although his four wins this season have been more spread out over the schedule, it was his two most recent wins – July 28 at Colorado National Speedway in Dacono, Colo., and Aug. 26 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway – that fueled his move past Kwasniewski in the standings. If he retains the lead through the final three races, Pursley will become the 13th driver in series history with back-to-back championships with the most recent being Mike Duncan in 2004 and 2005.

“We plan to go out there and keep doing what we’re doing, keep our heads down and keep trying to pull off these top five finishes,” Pursley said. “Our goal now, obviously, is to finish in front of the 03 car for the last three races. We had a feeling it was going to come down for the championship to the last race. It’s pretty cool to have both teams come out of Gene Price Motorsports and do that.”

Kwasniewski also had a great season in 2011, with a record–setting year as a series rookie. His success has continued this year, with two wins and three poles. When he took over the lead in the championship standings just before his 17th birthday, he became the youngest driver in series history to lead the points. Now, he’s looking to gain the lead back and take the title.

“I think we definitely have a chance,” said the Las Vegas teenager. “We have a great team and great sponsors, with Rockstar and Royal Purple. It’s going to be tough to beat Greg. I think our team can pull together and I think we can get the strength to succeed in those last couple of races.”

Race: NAPA Auto Parts 150
Place: NAPA Speedway
Date: Saturday, Sept. 29
Time: 8 p.m. MT
TV Schedule: SPEED, Oct. 11, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .5-mile paved oval
2011 Winner: Inaugural event
2011 Polesitter: Inaugural event
Event Schedule: Saturday: Practice 12-12:45 p.m., 1:15–2 p.m., Qualifying 5 p.m.
Track PR Contact: Dennis Latta, 505-220-9563
Twitter: @NAPASpeedway
Event Hashtag: #NAPA150
NASCAR IMC Contact: Kevin W. Green (661) 392-8543

The Race: This event is the 13th of 15 events on the 2012 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West. It marks the first visit by the series to NAPA Speedway.

The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 22 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (75 miles).

The Track: NAPA Speedway is a .5-mile paved oval with four degrees banking in the turns and two degrees in the frontstretch and backstretch.

The Records: To be established.

Track Testing: NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers and teams will get to check out NAPA Speedway’s half-mile oval a day early. The track is holding an optional test session beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28

Area Appearances: A contingent of NASCAR K&N Pro Series West drivers will be making special appearances at sponsor locations in Albuquerque from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 28.

Tight Battle For Sunoco Rookie Award: Austin Dyne has edged in front of Cameron Hayley in a tight battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Dyne, who has come from behind after not competing in the season opener, has a three-point lead in the rookie standings.

Local Driver: Isaac Sherman will be returning to competition in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at his home track, driving the No. 38 Supercuts/Motiva/Car Crafters/B&H Capital Limited Chevrolet. The 17-year-old from Albuquerque has made three series starts – two in 2011 and one this year in the season opener at Phoenix.

NASCAR Newcomer From England: Jack Clarke is set to make his series debut at Albuquerque, driving for Creation-Cope Racing. The 24-year-old driver from London comes to NASCAR with a resume of competition in sports cars and Formula Two, beginning in 2006.

15-Year-Old Set For Series Debut: Fifteen-year-old Hannah Newhouse of Twin Falls, Idaho is slated to make her debut in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West at Albuquerque. As a rookie this year, the second-generation driver contended for the championship in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Super Stock division at Magic Valley Speedway in Twin Falls. Newhouse was recently named to participate in the 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine in which candidates compete for an opportunity to be a part of the 2013 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class of drivers.

Montes To Sub For Mayhew: Dallas Montes will make his series debut at Albuquerque, subbing in the No. 17 MMI Services/Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet for David Mayhew, who will be competing in a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. Montes, 19, has been competing for a track title at Madera (Calif.) Speedway this season.

East Coast Run: Dylan Kwasniewski heads to Albuquerque after turning in a fourth-place finish in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Milestones: A couple of drivers are approaching milestones in their careers. Ryan Philpott, the driver of the No. 52 Philpott Race Cars Ford, is set to make his 30th career series start at Albuquerque. Philpott made his series debut at Altamont Raceway Park near Tracy, Calif., on Sept. 15, 2007. Meanwhile, for three-time series champion Eric Holmes, his next top-10 finish will mark the 70th of his career. Holmes finished fifth in his series debut at Mesa Marin Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif., on Oct. 11, 1997.

Portland Victory For Pursley: Greg Pursley won the NAPA Auto Parts Salute to the Troops 125 at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway on Aug. 26, marking his fourth win this season and 13th of his career. Pursley also captured the Coors Light Pole Award for the event, his fourth pole of the year and 15th career pole. He led wire-to-wire for the win.

No Repeat Winners: With his victory at Portland International Raceway, Pursley became the fifth different winner in five visits by the series to the Portland road course.

Three Straight Podiums For Holmes: Eric Holmes finished third at Portland, marking his third consecutive podium finish at the 1.967-mile road course. He finished second there in 2010 and 2011.

NEXT TIME OUT: RosevilleThe NASCAR K&N Pro Series West heads to Northern California for its annual visit to All American Speedway in Roseville, Calif., with the Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150. Eric Holmes, who won the most recent series race at Roseville, has four wins at the historic track – more than any other driver.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My Conversation with #24 Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon Telephone Call
Pepsi ‘Max It Now.’ Winner

Recently, I participated in a competition entitled Pepsi ‘Max It Now.’ You had to register your username and sync your social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare, Google, Instagram, and IntoNow) and then complete challenges.

The challenges included posting a Sponsor-requested photo or video, answering a Sponsor-requested question, sharing Sponsor-requested information, checking into a location, or identifying a television commercial or show. The challenges were not easy, but fun and educational.

Imagine the surprise and excitement, when NASCAR Race Mom received an e-mail stating that I was a winner!

While NASCAR Race Mom (NRM) did not win the grand prize, I was lucky enough to snag the only “Personal call from Jeff Gordon (pre-recorded) given away.” My excitement waned a bit when I noticed the “pre-recorded” part.

However, I was later informed that my five-minute phone call with the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion would actually be live! Now I was truly animated. My husband and I have been huge Jeff Gordon fans for quite some time now! The two weeks before the scheduled telephone conversation inched by slowly.

“Hello, this is Jeff Gordon,” our conversation started. “How are you doing?” he asked. I am sure that this NASCAR legend had no idea just how great I was feeling.

Jeff Gordon presented himself so at ease and polite, he immediately calmed my nerves. As I was allowed to direct the dialogue, I asked him about the highs of Richmond International Speedway versus the lows he experienced during the last race.

“That’s just part of racing,” Jeff explained. “It is definitely not how we wanted to start the chase as we already had to start twelfth in the points; but we are not out of it yet. You have to be careful not to dwell on all that good and bad. Ten races are a lot more than most people realize. We need to get everything we can out of it and make up some ground. Never give up!”

This weekend you will see Jeff race in New Hampshire, minus his famous mustache. When I asked him why he lost the mustache, Gordon chuckled. “First of all, the real question is why did I open my mouth about growing the mustache in the first place. But I did and true to my word, I grew it. Then after the type of weekend we had, I thought I enjoyed the mustache long enough. But we had fun with it.”

“I hear that you live in San Diego.” Gordon asked me. After stating that he was correct, Jeff went on to hypothesize “Other than Jimmy Johnson fans, I don’t know that we have a lot of big NASCAR fans out there. I am glad that a true fan from San Diego won this phone call.” I assured him that there are lots of us NASCAR fans here in California!

Unbelievably, Jeff asked me about my son (Moses Smith) and his racing endeavors. When I explained that Moses had to take this year away from NASCAR to focus on his duties as the Manufacturer for the Formula Mazda series; Jeff stated that he had heard of the series. Gordon inquired, “He actually builds the race car? That is a pretty good business to be in. I bet he has plenty of challenges and stays busy.”

In my last question to Jeff Gordon, I asked him how having children (son Leo and daughter Ella) has affected his racing career? “No doubt that it affects you; it affects everything. You don’t realize what it is to be a Dad. In some ways it motives me more. I want to do something that makes them proud and that they can be a part of. The only thing that has really changed is my sleep pattern. I was not a morning person, but I am now. I am lucky that I have such an understanding wife.”

NASCAR Race Mom has not attended a Sprint Cup race this year, but I expressed my desire to attend the Phoenix race in November. Both my favorite NASCAR Series will be at the same track. The Cup cars run on Sunday and the K&N Pro Series West races a day earlier.

“Yes Phoenix is a great town and a great track. I hope to see you and your son out there.” Jeff responded. Now that would be a thrill!

NASCAR Race Mom is a huge fan of fellow Californian, Jeff Gordon. If you are not a #24 NASCAR fan, you should reconsider. He is a great athlete and quite a gentleman.

***Quick reminder: You can still purchase your 2012 Corvette Raffle Ticket today and you could be driving home in Jeff's personal 2011 Convertible Grand Sport 4LT. Only 7500 tickets available. September 24, 2012 is the last day to purchase your ticket.  Click here to purchase your ticket!

The mission of Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation is to support children battling cancer by funding programs that improve patients’ quality of life, treatment programs that increase survivorship and pediatric medical research dedicated to finding a cure.

In addition, the Foundation provides support to Jeff Gordon’s Children’s Hospital in Concord, NC, which serves children in the community by providing a high level of primary and specialty care, regardless of their ability to pay.

(I bought a ticket for the raffle . . . . a girl can dream, can't she!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

2012 NASCAR D4D Combine Candidates Selected

September 20, 2012

Click here To Download Word Document
Click here To Download PDF Document

2012 NASCAR Drive For Diversity Combine Candidates Selected
17 Drivers To Compete For Spot On Next Year’s Roster

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 20, 2012) – As the NASCAR season hits the home stretch, preparations for 2013 are already underway. That process will begin in earnest for select drivers Oct. 16-18 with the 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity (D4D) Combine at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.

NASCAR and Rev Racing today announced 17 candidates invited to take part in the three-day evaluation.

We are excited to see the continued interest in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program as evidenced by the increased breadth and depth of applicants for the evaluation,” said Marcus Jadotte, NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development. “The NASCAR Drive for Diversity program provides opportunities for female and minority drivers and crew members, and we are proud to be working with Rev Racing to foster great talent that will continue to enrich our sport.”

The NASCAR D4D program created in 2004 is now executed by Rev Racing and the team is competing in their third season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. Currently the top two rookies in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Kyle Larson and Bryan Ortiz are in the 2012 D4D class, while Larson and Rev Racing graduate Darrell Wallace Jr. made their national series debuts this year. Larson has top 10s in both starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Wallace has a top 10 in all three of his NASCAR Nationwide Series races.

The 2012 Combine will be a three day driver evaluation of on-track performance, marketing and media aptitude, and physical fitness. Langley, a .4-mile asphalt oval, is the NASCAR-sanctioned track hosting the event for the second consecutive year.

“Langley truly challenges those who take part in the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine,” said Derik Crotts, general manager of Rev Racing, the executing partner for the program. “Participants will have several on track sessions to present their racing abilities. This will include some unique challenges that we will throw at them to make sure that they are on their game.”

The 2013 Rev Racing team will be selected from among the 2012 Rev Racing drivers and the Combine participants. 

The 2012 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine participants include: 
Devon Amos
Rio Ranch, N.M.
Dustin Ash
Las Vegas
Annabeth Barnes
Hiddenite, N.C.
Collin Cabre
Thonotosassa, Fla.
Kayla Cazares
Goffstown, N.H.
Amber Colvin
Mooresville, N.C.
Jessica Dana
Olympia, Wash.
Paige Decker
Eagle River, Wis.
Cassie Gannis
Phoenix, Ariz.
Lindsay Katz
Kalamazoo, Mich.
Jack Madrid
San Clemente, Calif.
Kate McCall
Port Orange, Fla.
Dallas Montes
Bakersfield, Calif.
Hannah Newhouse
Twin Falls, Idaho
Dylan Smith
Randolph, Vt.
Daniel Suarez
Monterrey, Mexico
Erica Thiering
Sherwood Park, Alberta

For more information on NASCAR diversity initiatives visit or follow @NASCARDiversity on Twitter. Rev Racing’s official website and Twitter is and @RevRacin.

Headquartered in Concord, N.C., Rev Racing, owned by Max Siegel, operates the NASCAR Drive For Diversity program, which is the industry's leading developmental program for ethnic minorities and women drivers and pit crew members.  For more information about Rev Racing visit or follow us on Twitter @RevRacin.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for one of North America's premier sports. NASCAR races are broadcast in more than 150 countries and in 20 languages. In the U.S., races are broadcast on FOX, TNT, ABC/ESPN/ESPN2, SPEED, MRN Radio, PRN Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. NASCAR fans are among the most brand-loyal in all of sports, and as a result more Fortune 500 companies participate in NASCAR than any other sport. NASCAR consists of three national series (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), four regional series, and one local grassroots series, as well as three international series. Also part of NASCAR is GRAND-AM Road Racing, known for its competition on road courses with multiple classes of cars. NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races at 100 tracks in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., NASCAR has offices in eight cities across North America. The next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, will air Sept. 23 on ESPN at 2 p.m. ET, with coverage starting at 1 p.m. with “NASCAR Countdown” on ESPN. For more information and a complete schedule, visit Follow NASCAR on or on Twitter: @NASCAR.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Win a $25 Gift Card From Mountain Dew

Congratulations to our winner - Chrissy Nestor 

Thanks to all the participants - this contest is now closed. 

I am not a huge soda fan. However, when I crave a fresh bubbly flavor, I have to consume a Mountain Dew.

What do I like about Mountain Dew?

Well there is nothing like the taste of an ice cold Dew on a warm summer day at the raceway. That cool lemon-lime concoction feels very satisfying as it slides down my parched throat.

Additionally, when I want to drink something alcoholic, Mountain Dew makes a subtle mix. Vodka Dew is my favorite.

How would you like to win a $25.00 Gift Card?  This will be a very quick and easy contest.

Giveaway Guidelines:

The giveaway ends Friday, 9/21, at 5pm PST.

Please make sure that your submission is entered before 9/21/2012 at 5:00 p.m. PST to be eligible for the opportunity to win the gift card.

There will be one (1) winner:
  • the prize - a $25.00 Gift Card
Important: You must publicly follow the NASCAR Race Mom blog (with Google Friend Connect on right side bar) before entering this contest.

One - Time Entry: – Leave a comment below saying what you like about Mountain Dew. Also leave your Google Friend name and an email address so that you can be contacted if you are the winner.  (You can also leave your facebook url or twitter id if you would like to be notified that way)

Yup it is that easy. That one comment will put you in the running for a $25.00 Gift Card.

Bonus Entry: – If you would like a bonus entry, just go to my Kids Of NASCAR blog and follow it publicly.  Then return to this post and leave a comment below saying that you followed and what your Google Friend name is.

This contest will only be active for a few days
so your chances of winning will be very good.


*** Important - ***Off topic – generic comments (such as “hope I win”) will be disqualified from the competition.

  1. Make sure there is a way for NRM to contact you - if your email address is not on your profile or you are not a blogger, you may leave it in your comment. NRM hates to disqualify a potential winner because there is not a way to contact that winner – I will need your email address to contact you, should you be the winner.

  2. The winner will be chosen by

  3. The winner will be announced on this post and be notified by email; if the winner does not respond WITHIN 7 DAYS, another winner might be chosen.

  4. NASCAR Race Mom not responsible for missing or incorrect contact information.

Enjoy yourselves with this contest, and please share with your friends, family, co-workers.

*** Disclosure: MOUNTAIN DEW® and NASCAR Race Mom, support ethical blogging and strict adherence to the FTC guidelines pertaining to free samples and gifts. As a participant in a MOUNTAIN DEW® campaign, NASCAR Race Mom could be compensated by MOUNTAIN DEW® with product. However, NRM would have been pleased to share this news with my readers without said compensation. ***

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Blaney, Wallace Making A Name
For Themselves At The National Level

By Travis Barrett, Special to NASCAR Home Tracks
September 14, 2012 - 5:00pm

Darrell Wallace Jr. has finished top-10 in each of his first three Nationwide Series starts
With sudden ascension of drivers like Darrell Wallace Jr. and Ryan Blaney to national series success, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East is living up to its billing as a top feeder ground for the upper reaches of NASCAR. Both Wallace and Blaney have turned success at the development series level into not only starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – but into impressive runs garnering attention beyond the touring ranks.

Both made trips to Iowa Speedway in early August that translated into Top-10 finishes in a Nationwide Series race.

“I only told a few people this, but when I'm racing against Ryan, to me finishing better than seventh means finishing better than Blaney,” Wallace said. “Winning at Dover last year was pretty big, and also making a step into a Nationwide car and finishing ninth (in my debut). That was a pretty big deal – but I was a little frustrated, because Blaney finished seventh.”

With the rising stars of the sport competing against one another regularly in the K&N Pro Series, they have already begun to measure themselves – and their future prospects – against one another.
Blaney, 18, has started just four K&N Pro Series races this season, posting a pair of runner-up finishes, though his career has taken off this summer. Where Wallace's track has taken a larger arc toward the national series, Blaney's has been a bit of a meteoric rise.

The son of noted World of Outlaws and Sprint Cup Series driver Dave Blaney had a partial Nationwide Series schedule with Tommy Baldwin Racing to start the season, and recently inked a deal with Penske Racing to run in the Nationwide cars for a handful of races. He’s also competing part time in the Camping World Truck Series.

“I think it's right on schedule. Maybe it's a little bit ahead of time for what we thought, but we were fortunate to get where we're at right now,” said Blaney, who has two Truck starts this season with a sixth-place finish at Bristol and an 11th-place run at Atlanta. “I think it's going right as planned right now... You have to try to get in there as young as you can and learn as much as you can early.”

Blaney's performance has earned him three-differernt rides at the national series level this year. Getty Images for NASCAR

Though Blaney hasn't had as much experience in the K&N Pro Series as Wallace or point leader Brett Moffitt has, he has noticed how much there is to be gained from competing there.

“It's a really good series,” he said. “It teaches you about heavier cars and gets you on some bigger race tracks. It's a really good feeder series to get into the Trucks or the Nationwide cars.

“It's a great series to get started in.”

Wallace burst onto the K&N Pro Series scene as a rookie in 2010 – as a 16-year-old out of the Drive For Diversity program – and finished second in the final series standings that season. He followed that by winning three of 12 races in 2011, plus three pole awards, and now competes this season under the Joe Gibbs Racing banner after originally signing there in 2009.

While the on-track results haven't set the world on fire in the JGR Toyotas after the team won the 2011 series championship with Max Gresham, the development process away from the track has been instrumental in getting Wallace's career to the next level.

“Missing everything in school you wanted to go to. When I was just starting out, there were parties and football games I wanted to go to, and my dad would say, 'No,'” said Wallace, who just signed a contract extension with JGR. “Now, I don't regret missing out on those things. That's what you've got to have. You've got to make a lot of sacrifices and miss out on a lot of things, but you've got to look down the long road. It all pays out.”

Wallace has made three NASCAR Nationwide starts in his career, all of them this year, and has yet to finish outside the Top-10. He finished a career-best seventh at Iowa Speedway in August.

Those who haven't yet made their national series debuts – like 15-year-old Chase Elliott, who is prohibited by a minimum age requirement – has taken notice of what his competition is doing.

“When I look up on Saturday nights and see guys like Darrell and Ryan Blaney, buddies of mine that I race against in the (K&N) Series, being extremely competitive in the Nationwide Series, that's definitely a confidence booster in itself,” Elliott said. “To know that we go out and race on Friday and Saturday nights, short-track racing, and have a good time with it and do the best we can – then to see those guys have success in the Nationwide Series, that's pretty cool to watch.”

For both Blaney and Wallace, the pressure is not eased by simply having made inroads into NASCAR's national series.

Blaney, in particular, carries scrutiny simply because of his surname.

“I think that's an added bonus,” Blaney said. “My dad and the Blaney name is known, obviously, and it's opened some bridges up. It's definitely helped out. The name is just a bonus.

“Even though I have to carry it around, at the same time, I've still got to prove that Ryan Blaney can do it. I've got to prove that I can do this – when it gets to that point, a name can only mean so much.”
Like the “Next 9,” which could soon be replaced by the “9 Now.”

“They picked these nine guys for a reason, because they're the most promising in K&N Series now,” Blaney said. “There's definitely a good possibility that we'll all be up there (in the national series). For sure, there's a good possibility that at least half of us will be.

“Hopefully it's all nine of us and everybody knows our name in the bigger series someday. These guys are good – they're really good racers, and they're smart, too. It's a really good group of racers.”

Blaney and Wallace know what it takes to win at national series tracks, having K&N Pro Series victories at Phoenix and Dover to their credit. Getty Images for NASCAR

Monday, September 10, 2012

Huffman Works For A Ride

Sweat Equity Gains Army Veteran An Opportunity To Race
By Jerry F. Boone, Special To 

The braking point markers were whizzing by at an alarming rate.
500. 400. 300.

Zack Huffman was charging down the front straight of Portland (Ore.) International Raceway, heading nearer and nearer to the infamous right-left-right complex of corners that make up the track’s signature chicane.


He stood on the brake pedal and pushed with all his might.


And never got his rent-a-ride racecar to slow down enough to make the corners.
It is what happens when you try to convince a short track car it’s a road-course warrior.
But Huffman wasn’t overly concerned.

“Ya just drive what ya got,” he explained. “I keep out of everyone’s way and try to have a good time out there,” he said.

Normally, Huffman is a regular at the Stockton (Calif.) 99 Speedway oval near his hometown of Manteca, Calif., but on occasion he gets to run with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
The 33-year-old is not your typical rent-a-ride racer on the NASCAR tour. Rather that writing a healthy check and slipping into the seat of a pristine car prepared by one of the front running teams, Huffman pays for his rides with sweat equity.

During most K&N series race weekends, you can find him under the hood of the No. 38 Ford Fusion, working on the car for someone else to drive. The Ford is owned by John Wood, and is entered by Ryan Philpott Racing. It is available to drivers looking for a taste of NASCAR racing, but who don’t have the budget for a top of the line ride from one of the high profile teams.

But when there is no one to rent the car for a series race, Huffman gets the chance to drive it for the cost of fuel and tires and post-race repairs.

Huffman finished 20th at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., and 17th at Colorado National Speedway near Denver. At the NAPA Auto Parts Salute to the Troops 125 on the Portland road course, he squeezed into the field with a 28th-spot qualifying run.

AZack Huffman negotiates the chicane at Portland (Ore.) International Raceway
during practice for the NAPA Auto Parts Salute to the Troops 125. Jerry Boone

For people who know Huffman and his history, they know for him to compete in the “Salute to the Troops” race was especially gratifying. Long before he got behind the wheel of a NASCAR stock car, he was serving in the military.

“He entered the Army right out of high school,” said Wes Huffman, his father. “His mother and I had to sign for him, because he was only 17 at the time.”

Wes said Zack’s family has a history of military service that goes back generations.

“I had a bunch of National Guard uniforms and stuff hanging around when Zack was growing up, and he’s put that stuff on over the weekends and played Army with it,” he said.

So while most of his high school classmates went off the college, Zack went off to war.

“I wasn’t big into school, but I liked working on machines and figured the Army would let me do something for my country while getting more training,” the younger Huffman said.

He finished his training just in time to be sent to Iraq in Operation Desert Fox, which was part of the run up to the invasion of Iraq, but before the 9-11 attacks.

He was sent back to Iraq after 9-11.

His first tour saw him mostly in support areas, working on equipment headed to or returning from battle. During his second trip to Iraq, things became much more intense.

“We spent a lot of 16-hours days in the heat, driving equipment in convoys. Our convoys came under fire a number of times.”

Part of his job was to go into combat zones with the military version of a wrecker truck to bring back equipment that had been damaged or disabled.

“The combat guys would set up an area and try to keep it safe, but there was firing all around while we were trying to do our job. Some guys freeze up and just can’t even move under those conditions. My second nature was to just focus on the equipment. You just had to put all that other stuff out of your mind and concentrate on what you were supposed to be doing, but I’ll admit there were times I’d hook up to a vehicle and just tow it out of danger as fast as I could.”

He was injured when, during a blinding dust storm, his vehicle went off the road and down an embankment.

“There was zero visibility,” he said.

“It is the type of place where if you weren’t there, you can’t imagine what it was like. I’ve seen enough for a couple of lifetimes.”

"People ask me if I ever get scared in a race car," he said. "Hell, these guys just want to beat me...they aren't trying to kill me. I've been in that situation, and racing is a lot safer."

His dual role as a mechanic and driver keeps Huffman busy on race weekends. On Saturday of the Portland weekend, he spent far more time under the car than in it.

After the second round of practice, he climbed out the driver side window, shed his driving suit and dove under the hood for more tuning and repairs. He was in familiar territory.

Huffman and his dad haul their tires and equipment in a semi-enclosed trailer they tow behind the family car. When the race days are over, they drive through the night so he can go to work maintaining equipment at an Army depot near their home.

“I still love working on machines,” he said.

Huffman said he realizes he’s probably never going to make it to racing’s big leagues, and he’s fine with that.

“I’m too old to have any team interested in picking me up,” he said, “and the series is too expensive for someone like me, with a wife and family and a job, to run full time.

“Still, I enjoy working on the cars and learning everything I can about them. It would be nice to maybe get involved as a crew on one of the other, better funded teams.”

So he races within his limits.

That means that he began the Portland race at the end of the field and held his position for as long as he could.

“I’m getting so that I kind of like road course racing,” he said. “I didn’t at first, but it’s growing on me.”

The brakes went out first, so he had to use the gearbox and engine more and more to keep the car under control, and began slowing for the chicane on the front straight about where other competitors were still hard on the throttle.

“But then the clutch went out,” he said, ending his race after 28 of the 63 scheduled laps.

“At this level, we just run stuff until it breaks,” he said. “And it broke.”

He’ll take the car home and fix it again before the next race at Albuquerque, N.M. It’s what he does. And if no one signs on to fill the driver’s seat, maybe he’ll get to drive it again before the season’s over.

Zack Huffman spends much of his time at the track working on the race cars. Jerry Boone