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Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wow … someone actually beat Kyle Busch; and KB teams with Formula 1 superstar

If you watched Saturday’s Truck series race, you saw a rare site … A Truck series regular, Johnny Sauter, made a late-race pass on Kyle Busch – yes, that same Kyle Busch who usually drives away from the competition – and won the race.

Busch wasn’t too happy, but I’m guessing he’s the only one with that view. Instead of seeing him pick on the regulars in these lower series, we finally saw the reverse. It may have been a fluke, and likely had something to do with the tire issues this weekend, but I was very happy to see it. It gives hope to those Nationwide and Truck series regulars, who may have wondered if they could ever beat Kyle Busch again.

More KB news … teaming with F1 star Kimi Raikonnen
Speaking of Kyle Busch, he’s about to have a very high-profile driver in his trucks. Kimi Raikonnen, who has won a Formula 1 championship but left that series last year to go over to World Rally racing, will debut in a truck at Charlotte in May.
Initially, there were reports Raikonnen would work with a team connected to Foster Gillette, but that led some people, including Ray Evernham, to question his sanity – considering the long list of failed sports ventures in the recent past for the Gillette family. Thankfully, it appears this rumor was false, and instead Kyle’s team will provide the hardware for Kimi to drive in several races this year.

Anyone who has watched Formula 1 knows Raikonnen doesn’t have a very dynamic personality, but can get it done on the racetrack – which is what counts the most. It’s pretty surprising to hear he is interested in NASCAR, and I never thought I’d see him in the Truck series or any stock car for that matter, but he picked a good team to go with – Busch’s trucks are usually up front even when he’s not in them.

I’m not sure what is behind the interest from overseas from people like Raikonnen and Nelson Piquet Jr. Maybe they see Juan Pablo Montoya doing well and think they can do the same. Regardless of the reason, it’s further proof that despite the feelings of many snooty race fans who look down on NASCAR, us simple Americans do offer some competitive racing that is worth the talents of the world’s best.

Oddly enough, the Kyle Busch deal came out without any interaction between the two drivers.

"Agents -- that's how it came about. I have yet to speak to Kimi (Raikkonen) myself. Apparently there's an interest in him that he wants to run in NASCAR. He's shopped it around to quite a few teams and apparently we won the war. It's exciting for us at Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Busch said. “Kimi, from what I understand, was real adamant about trying to work with me and our teams and being able to put a deal together to go out there and try to get him success in NASCAR. With our trucks, the way we've been running this year, he felt like that was a good place for him to come."
Busch said there is potential for worldwide interest in this partnership.
“I think it does lend some worldwide exposure. I think with a guy being as talented and as good as he's been in the realms of motorsports that he's competed in -- certainly I would like to expect that he runs well here in NASCAR as well. Maybe this could lend to a longer relationship than just a few races."

Busch said Raikkonen is bringing sponsorship for the races he is competing in, and there are plans for 3-5 races – Charlotte being the only confirmed one. Busch said that based on his past performances in racing, Raikonnen should adapt quickly to NASCAR.

" I have a little bit more belief in Kimi Raikkonen that he's got the talent to do it. I've seen him race Formula 1 -- he's obviously a world champion over there. He's done real well in the Rally stuff. I can't see why he wouldn't be successful in our equipment."

Other drivers, including Jeff Gordon, agree that Raikonnen should be able to adapt well.
“I think the Rally cars that he’s been driving probably give him more experience or get him better-prepared to come over here to this series than any of his Formula One cars that he’s ever driven. The last thing you want to do is to try to get one of these cars feel like a Formula One car or hope that maybe one day you can, because you never will,” Gordon said. “So I’d just tell him to be patient and try to stay in the best equipment that he can and try to go out there and follow the guys that are going fast to learn the lines and the braking points at each of the tracks that he goes to. That would be the quickest way I think to learn and adapt and be competitive.”

Stewart not worried about points
Tony Stewart calls it like he sees it. So when he was asked about the new points system and how it affects his racing, he let his feelings be known: He doesn’t care.
“I don’t even worry about it Bud. I look at where I am at and I go to the next race. Everybody wants to analyze it. Nobody is worrying about it but you guys. You guys are the only ones that ask any questions about it. We don’t care. It is what it is. We know what it is to start with,” Stewart said. “It doesn’t matter whether we like it or dislike it. This is what we have got. I don’t think anybody has complaints. I don’t think anybody cares really right now. You go out and try to win races and get as many points each week as you can. It’s not…it doesn’t matter whether we tell we like it or dislike it. Nobody is going to change it, right? So why are we talking about it? It doesn’t matter.”

Menard hopes to keep streak going
Heading into Martinsville, Paul Menard has a unique streak going – he has a career-best finish at all the tracks he has visited in 2011. He hopes to keep that up this weekend.
“Sure as hell going to try. We have had fast race cars but the neat thing is that at four of the five races we felt like we could have finished better than where we did. We finished 16th at California and we probably would have finished 9th or around there if we didn’t have a caution towards the end. We got shuffled back in those last two restarts but it’s just luck of the draw and everything is so close in Sprint Cup racing that a few tenths of a second and one tenth, goes a long ways. In Martinsville you are going to see the whole field covered by three or four tenths and it doesn’t take much to shuffle back and it seems like it takes a lot to go forward. I think we finished 13th here last year and we will try to improve on that for sure.”

In the past, Menard has had to listen to people talk about how he only had a ride because of his dad’s sponsorship, but he said that even if people thing that, it’s nothing that worries him.
“You know, people are always going to talk about it. Which is fine, let them talk. I am confident in who I am and what I do so if they want to bring it up, then shame on them I guess.”

TRG moves to Ford
There is a new member of the Ford family – TRG Motorsports and the #71 car. After running Chevys for three years, owner Kevin Buckler will switch to Ford starting at Texas next week.
"We are really excited about the partnership with Roush Yates Engines and it will be an outstanding improvement for our team," said Buckler. "We are confident that fielding the FR9 engine program will add to the success of our organization and the competitiveness of our performance on the race track."
The addition of the TRG Motorsports machine will bring the Ford count at each race up to 11 cars.

Mustang ’5.0 Fever’ sweepstakes
For the fourth year in a row, Ford Customer Service Division brands Motorcraft, Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center and will give away a Mustang to one lucky winner. This year’s contest has already kicked off, and the Grand Prize package includes a 2012 Ford Mustang GT (maximum MSRP $29,995) with $5,000 in Ford Racing Performance Parts and Ford Custom Accessories. Fans age 18 years and older are invited to enter at the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Experience at select NHRA Full Throttle Series events, online at and, or by texting FORDNHRA to 57682 through Nov. 21, 2011. The winner will be chosen by random drawing.

“Ford consumers are passionate about the brand, from purchase to maintenance, and that passion gets passed down,” said Brett Wheatley, Director of Marketing, Ford Customer Service Division. “We see fans from all generations stopping by at our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Racing Experience display. We’re proud to see them experience Ford’s latest products, and happy to give one winner a new Ford Mustang GT.”
Follow the contest on Facebook (Motorcraft and Quick Lane Racing) and Twitter (MQL_Racing) for the latest updates.

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