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NASCAR Daily News Headlines * June 14, 2008
Lofton Wins Rain-Delayed ARCA RaceARCA RE/MAX Series rookie Justin Lofton led the final 11 circuits Saturday at Michigan Int’l Speedway to win the Racing For Wildlife 200. Lofton, in the Lofton Cattle Dodge, capitalized on the late-race misfortunes of Sean Caisse and then kept Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. at bay to earn his career-first series victory in only his eighth series attempt.
“I came into this series a young driver from California,” said Lofton. “I knew that I had the talent to be successful here, but I came in a little too aggressive and trying too hard. The last couple of weeks I just relaxed, spent some off-time to myself, and regrouped. I came into this a lot more relaxed and just let the race come to me. Also, honestly I had Eddie Sharp as my crew chief the last two weeks, and Laurin Ranier as my spotter. Eddie Sharp is the best crew chief and car owner in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. This was an emotional win for us.”
Lofton, who earned the SunTrust Highest Finishing Rookie of the Race award, became the eighth different winner after nine events in 2008. The Westmorland, California driver also established a new race record with an average speed of 150.596 mph, surpassing the old mark of 145.956 set by David Stremme in 2006.
Caisse, who led 51 of 100 laps, was leading with 12 laps to go when the Pelham, New Hampshire rookie made an unscheduled pit stop to replace a left-rear tire that had gone flat. Caisse, in the Shigeaki Hattori-owned Toyota, went one lap down in the exchange and finished 19th. Despite Caisse’s misfortunes, he earned the Klotz Halfway Leader award and the Aaron’s Lap Leader honors for leading the most laps.
Stenhouse, in the Roush Fenway Racing Ford, finished second nearly two seconds behind the winner. The Olive Branch, Mississippi driver also padded his point lead. “We definitely didn’t start where we wanted to (21st), but we knew we had a good race car,” said Stenhouse. “We drove up through there to the first caution. I think we got up to 12th, then Lumpy decided to make a two-tire stop there. We got out in first and got the five points for leading a lap. The top three cars got by us with new tires, but we could stay right with them and they started coming back to us. Then we came in for our four-tire stop and got back out in the lead. It just wasn’t too good on new tires but it was pretty good on old ones.”
Frank Kimmel, who started 15th, steered the Ford Drive One-ECC Ford to the finish in third. “We’re really happy with it,” said Kimmel. “It’s the third race with this car for us and we’re still learning on it. It’s a car we got from (Jack) Roush. It’s a really a nice race car; it’s a lot better than we are right now.”
Scott Speed, who fought a tight condition much of the race, finished fourth in the Red Bull Toyota. He also earned the Accel Fastest Lap of the Race award. Brian Scott, in the Venturini Motorsports Chevrolet, battled back from a lap down to finish fifth.
SIM Factory Pole winner Speed led the first 14 circuits before Scott took control on lap 15. However, Scott gave up the lead to Stenhouse during first round pit stops when Stenhouse got off pit road first. Stenhouse led just two laps before Scott reassumed command. Then Caisse passed Scott for the lead on lap 31 and began to pull away from the field. Caisse led up through lap 59 before giving the lead back to Stenhouse during second round pit stops. But with Caisse on the continual charge, Stenhouse did not lead long before Caisse made the pass for the top-spot on lap 68. From there, Caisse continued to pull away from Lofton, who by then had also passed Stenhouse for position. But with a tire going down, Lofton quickly caught Caisse inside of 12 laps from the finish.
Patrick Sheltra finished sixth in the Ferguson Pipe-FloraGanics Dodge in front of Ken Butler III, who finished seventh in the Aaron’s Lucky Dog Dream Machine Toyota. Jesse Smith finished eighth in the Lloyd’s Barbeque-Hormel-Spam-Jones Group Dodge. Dexter Bean was ninth in the Glock Chevrolet. AJ Henriksen, who started 30th, finished 10th earning the Casite Hard Charger award for advancing the most positions.
Lofton’s crew chief Eddie Sharp earned the Cometic Gaskets Crew Chief of the Race.
The next event for the ARCA RE/MAX Series will be the Cayuga ARCA RE/MAX 250 at Cayuga Motor Speedway in Nelles Corners, Ontario Sunday, June 29th.
NASCAR Suspends Two OfficialsTwo officials named in a $225 million racial discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against NASCAR have been placed on administrative leave for violating company policy. The officials, who were not immediately identified, were sent home from Kentucky Speedway on Friday evening, a person familiar with the NASCAR investigation told the AP. The person requested anonymity because NASCAR's investigation is ongoing.
NASCAR sent a team of investigators from its human resources and legal offices to Kentucky this weekend to interview those named in the suit. Of 27 interviews conducted away from the track Thursday and Friday, two officials were found to have engaged in behavior that violated NASCAR policy.
Their leave is indefinite, but paid.
"We take this issue very seriously, and we're going to always do everything we can to maintain a professional work place," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said.
Mauricia Grant filed her suit Tuesday, alleging 23 specific incidents of sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of racial and gender discrimination during her time as a technical inspector for NASCAR's second-tier Nationwide Series.
Named in the suit are Balash, assistant series director Mike Dolan, two supervisors, NASCAR's senior manager for business relations, the human resources director and 17 officials who were Grant's co-workers.
The two employees placed on leave Friday were among those 17 officials. Balash, Dolan and the two supervisors remained on site in Kentucky for Saturday night's Nationwide Series race.(sportingnews.com)
Heat Becomes A Problem?Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin said that he is concerned about the heat in the new model Sprint Cup car, though he believes NASCAR is addressing the issue. After competing at Pocono Raceway last weekend, Hamlin discussed how hot he was in his car. He says that he didn't get any temperature readings inside the car but that NASCAR is going to begin doing some testing to try to get a handle on the issue.
"It's an issue that NASCAR is going to address, and they've already started doing it here, testing six or seven of us on our [carbon monoxide] levels before and after practice," Hamlin said. "They're going to do it after final practice and then again after the race to see what's going on with it. They've already taken steps in the right direction. Us as a race team has got to get better with our ventilation as well."
Hamlin says that he believes NASCAR's new car is hotter than the old model used to be and relates that to the way the exhaust is run in the cars.
"It's closer to the floor board than what the previous car had, so I think that's a little bit of the heat," he said Friday at Michigan International Speedway, site of this weekend's Lifelock 400. "I don't know where the other heat is coming from really. I know I'm not the only one that suffers from these heat issues at times. I didn't have issues but up until last week and at Texas about a month ago. I know we haven't really hit the brunt of the heat wave yet for the summer, but we know it's coming, so we're just trying to work on our cars to make them better for that issue when we go to places like Indianapolis where it's going to be really hot." Hamlin said that NASCAR will check him and six or seven other drivers' carbon monoxide levels throughout the weekend since he has been complaining about the heat.(sportingnews.com)
NASCAR Holds Special MeetingSprint Cup Series drivers and team owners were called to a mandatory, closed-door meeting with NASCAR Friday morning before practice at Michigan International Speedway, one that drivers later characterized as a discussion of potential changes to the new model car. The meeting with NASCAR President Mike Helton and other officials caught teams off-guard, forcing some to juggle their schedules and postpone media sessions scheduled for Friday morning. NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter said the meeting was not a spur-of-the-moment decision.
The unusual eight-minute meeting, which took place in a windowless garage room as NASCAR officials stood guard outside, was characterized by NASCAR as a reminder that drivers and NASCAR should focus on all the good things about the sport.
"We have more fans than ever before," Hunter said. "We have more competitive teams than ever before. The racing is as good as it's ever been. We have more drivers who can win on any given Sunday today than ever before. I think there are a lot of good things going on in the sport and sometimes they're overshadowed."
He characterized the conversation as being a reminder of what fans go through.
"We felt like this would be a good time to sit down, and [with] our 'going-back-to-basics' theme of the year, to remind them don't forget the fans," Hunter said. "The fans are really going through a lot of hardships with the price of gasoline and all the sorts of things they have to do to get to a race."
Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr. said that the frank discussions made him think twice about some of the criticism he has made about the new car and helped him recognize the impact that can have beyond the garage.
"I was pretty critical and overly critical at times, and the only reason why the drivers are like that is because they want, we feel like our best avenue is through the media because it's very effective. But at the same time, not only NASCAR reads those opinions, and it's not good for the sport," he said. "If I enjoy what I do and I'm having fun and want to be here and want to be around for a while, I shouldn't tell people not to buy tickets."
He, like several other drivers, added that he felt good about the meeting and the things that were discussed.
Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby said drivers were not told to stop criticizing the new car, which has been the target of numerous driver complaints over the past several weeks.
"No, they were simply reminded that we are a fan-friendly sport, and the participation of our fans affects them directly," he said....MORE AT...(sportingnews.com)
Darnell Edges Benson In Michigan Truck RacePopular local driver Johnny Benson, from nearby Grand Rapids, has one consolation. At lease he can say he was a close second today in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Cool City Customs 200 at Michigan International Speedway. How close? How about five one-thousandths of a second (or 0.005). In inches that’s about three, maybe two. It was also the closest finish under electronic timing and the second closest in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history. It is the closest finish in MIS track history since electronic timing has been instituted at the speedway for NASCAR events in 1993.
And, yes, it was a photo finish as Erik Darnell edged Benson to give local team owner Jack Roush his 17th victory at MIS, including 10 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, four in the Craftsman Truck Series and three in the NASCAR Nationwide series. “That just hurts, it hurts bad,” said a smiling Benson, who won the Craftsman Truck Series race here in June of 2006. “I was a little concerned at the start and everything was kind of falling apart and then all of a sudden it was going pretty good again. The win was in my grasp and I just got beat at the line, but the fans couldn’t have seen a better race. I was able to get along side of him but I couldn’t clear him. It was just a drag race to the line. He started to do a little side drafting off me and I knew I was in trouble. The 99 was really, really strong. I knew I had one shot at them and I kept trying down in turns one and two but I couldn’t do anything down there. I tried that last little bit and thought I had a pretty good enough run on him but he just got back by me.”
Darnell, like Benson, wasn‘t sure who won the race. “It’s so hard to tell from inside the truck,” he said. “I thought we might have had him by a little bit, but I knew it wasn’t by much. I’d like to say I beat him by 20 truck lengths but we didn’t. It was close and when you’re done you really don’t know whether to come back and grab that checkered flag. You’re just in a state of confusion for a little bit. Once you get that figured out you’re all right. The finish was a little more exciting than I wanted it to be. The way you can side draft with these trucks I knew he was going to suck up next to me and pull off and try to get a run so I had to do the same thing to him.”
The race for third place was close to another photo opportunity with Scott Speed edging Todd Bodine and Brendan Gaughan, who crossed the finish line three abreast. Benson continues to lead the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings, with Todd Bodine a close second, just 15 points behind.
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