NASCAR Returns To The Milwaukee Mile And Auto Racing Notes

NASCAR returns to the historic Milwaukee Mile this weekend with the Camping World RV Sales 200 Craftsman Truck Series race Friday night and the Camping World RV Rental 250 Nationwide Series race the following night, Saturday June 21. The “Camping World’s Summer Speed Weekend” encompasses both NASCAR event days at America’s Legendary Oval this weekend, and for upcoming NASCAR events to be held at The Mile in 2009 and 2010.

This year the pressure may be on Joe Gibbs Racing’s talented youngster Joey Logano. Logano inherits a car that won last year’s Nationswide Series race. That race is remembered for the Aric Almirola-Denny Hamlin controversy. That team finished second in ’06 with Hamlin driving the Almirola qualified entry. Logano who won last time out in Kentucky should be a contender on the tricky flat one-mile oval.

The old NASCAR Busch Series-then known as the Grand National Series first visited the Milwaukee Mile in 1984 and 1985 with Sam Ard and Jack Ingram winning. NASCAR returned to The Mile in 1993 when Alabamian, Steve Grissom won the 250-mile event. A lot has changed since then, of the 37 drivers in that race, only six are full-time drivers on the NASCAR trail (Jeff Burton, Todd Bodine, Jack Sprague, Joe Nemechek, Jason Keller and Mike Wallace) and two have passed on (Bob Dotter and Davey Allison). Grissom won over Larry Pearson with Hermie Sadler, David Green and Tom Peck rounding out the top-5.

Aussie, Marcos Ambrose will attempt to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut on Sunday in the No. 21 Honey Buns Ford Fusion owned by Wood Brothers Racing. Ambrose will also race his No. 59 Kingsford Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at The Mile on Saturday night.

Colin Braun, driver of the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford F-150, will also be heading to the flat Milwaukee Mile for the Craftsman Truck Series race. He has four top-10 finishes this season and leads the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings. Braun will be a double-duty driver this weekend at the Mile, racing in both Truck and Nationwide Series events. Erik Darnell, last week’s Truck Series winner was originally scheduled to run the No. 17 Roush Nationwide Series car at The Mile, however the No. 17 Riush-Fenway entry is not running this weekend.

The aforementioned Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) had all been winless nine races into the 2008 season.

However, in the Irish Hills of Michigan, Darnell broke the drought, winning the Cool City Customs 200 in a side-by-side dash down the frontstretch to the checkered flag. Darnell edged Johnny Benson (No. 23 Exide Batteries Toyota) by .005 seconds, the closest finish in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history since implementation of electronic scoring.

“I think the finish was a little more exciting than I wanted it to be,” said Darnell. “It definitely makes for exciting racing, the way these trucks go around here.”

Runner-up Benson held on and gave it his all. “I saw the win in grasp and got beat at the line,” Benson said of his mad dash to the checkered flag. “The fans couldn’t have seen a better race. I don’t think it’s going to get any better than that.”

It’s been 29 races since Darnell visited Victory Lane. His first NASCAR career win came in 2007 at Kansas Speedway. His win marks the 49th win for Jack Roush and Roush-Fenway Racing in the series. A Ford hadn’t won since Travis Kvapil’s victory in Las Vegas last September.

Scott Speed finished third to Darnell and Benson at Michigan in the Truck Series race. The former American F-1 driver has had a successful June thus far, transitioning nicely in the heavier trucks. Look for Speed to move up quickly in the NASCAR ranks.

Ron Hornaday loves the Milwaukee Mile, the driver for Kevin Harvick Racing explains, “Milwaukee has been a really good track for me. My racing career started on flat tracks like Milwaukee and I think that is why I have been so successful on the shorter flat tracks. I won there in 1997 and finished in the top five in every race there but one. Last year, we started 14th and finished second. It’s definitely a track I know how to get around and we’ll be looking at making another good run.”

When Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the LifeLock 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the Michigan International Speedway it was first victory for Chevrolet at their “home track” since 2001. The win was the 18th of Earnhardt’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career and the first for NASCAR’s Most Popular driver since May 2006 at Richmond International Raceway.

Jeff Gordon has the most wins (5) going into this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NCTS) race at Infineon Raceway

Three cheers for Tom Hubert of the Bill Davis Caterpillar Team. Hubert, rear tire changer on the No. 22 Camry, will once again compete in the NASCAR Camping World Series West Bennett Lane Winery 200 presented by Supercuts on Saturday afternoon. Hubert has run a variety of NASCAR Series and has shown himself quite well on the road-courses.

Also, this weekend marks the return of amateur drivers to the scenic four-mile Road America track. Over 500 competitors from across the nation will be racing at the traditional Chicago Region SCCA June Sprints, June 19-22. The June Sprints is the first trophy stop to win amateur racing’s most prestigious title, the Triple Crown of Racing. To earn this title, competitors must win in their class at the June Sprints, win their respective divisional title and win at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs. People return year-after-year to see the wide variety of cars that range from showroom stock to highly modified, purpose-built racing machines. The paddock is a great place to visit with the drivers and get a close look at the cars. One of racing’s most famous families will be represented over the weekend with Mike Rahal serving as Grand Marshal. Mr. Rahal participated in some of Road America’s first events and his passion for road racing has been carried on through his son Bobby and grandson Graham.

And don’t forget the IndyCar Series. The Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer will be the second IndyCar Series event conducted at Iowa Speedway. Dario Franchitti won the inaugural event. Scott Dixon is the defending pole winner.

Twelve drivers entered in the Iowa Corn Indy 250 presented by Pioneer raced in last year’s IndyCar Series event at the track. Six of those drivers led laps (Vitor Meira 71, Helio Castroneves 59, Scott Dixon 10, Buddy Rice 5, Marco Andretti 4 and Danica Patrick 1).

Andretti-Green Racing is looking to rebound. AGR drivers finished 1-2 at Iowa last year, with Dario Franchitti winning the race and Marco Andretti finishing second. This season, the team has one victory in the first seven races, compared to last year when it went to Iowa with three wins.

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