'HOPEFULLY, OPPORTUNITY AND PREPARATION CAN MEET' Reed Sorenson, the driver, has worked with Jimmy Elledge, the crew chief, in the past. For more than two seasons, in fact, from 2006 into 2008 with Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 41 team. And New...
'HOPEFULLY, OPPORTUNITY AND PREPARATION CAN MEET'
Reed Sorenson, the driver, has worked with Jimmy Elledge, the crew chief, in the past. For more than two seasons, in fact, from 2006 into 2008 with Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 41 team. And New Hamp- shire Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's Sprint Cup race, is Soren- son's favorite track.
Translation: Red Bull Racing Team's latest No. 83 driver-crew chief tandem has history and timing on its side.
"Knowing him, I know the what the expectations realistically should be - and they're high," Elledge said. "He's certainly a very talented race car driver and has a ton of potential. This could be a great op- portunity for all of us. We need to get back to running like we need to, and he's wanting to find his way back into Cup full time. Hope- fully, opportunity and preparation can meet."
Sorenson will drive the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota in the Lenox Indus- trial Tools 301. The 24-year-old takes over for Mattias Ekström, who replaced Casey Mears and drove the car last weekend at Infineon. Driver and crew chief immediately hit it off in Sorenson's rookie season of 2006. Only four races in, Sorenson earned the first top 10 of his Sprint Cup career at his home track in Atlanta. All totaled that season, they combined for 15 finishes inside the top 20. A year later, Sorenson had three top fives and six top 10s to go along with his first pole at Indianapolis.
The relationship with the No. 83 team goes deeper than Elledge. Sorenson also worked with handful of others from his days at Ga- nassi, including race engineer Tim Smith, tire specialist Mike Motil and shock specialist Adam Cooke.
"We are pretty excited about working together again," Sorenson said. "We know what we have to do and are focused on that. It will be nice to get on the track for the first practice and be able to tell him what the car is doing - and already understand each other."
82. SCOTT SPEED
LATE CHARGE TO 18TH: Speed discovered early in Sunday's race at So- noma that his No. 82 Red Bull Toyota was "too loose at high speed, too tight at low speed." The team kept pitting for handling adjustments as Speed kept the car within striking distance of the top 15 all afternoon. The final caution flag waved with eight laps remaining, and Speed wanted tires. He restarted 28th for the five-lap shootout and picked up 10 positions in less than 10 miles to finish 18th. It was Speed's best road- course finish in three starts.
NO MAGIC AT THE MILE: In his first trip to New Hampshire last June, Speed was on target for a top-20 showing before his No. 82 went spinning in turn one on lap 190 of the rain- shortened event. He finished 26th. Nearly three months later, Speed was caught up in a seven- car accident that unfolded on the backstretch on lap 168. The incident damaged the front end of Speed's car, and from there he nursed the injury to a 31st-place finish. He also started in one Nationwide race in Loudon, starting fourth and finishing eighth in June 2009
VITAL SIGNS: Ranks 26th in the driver standings - only eight points from 25th.
CRAZY EIGHTS: Comparing the first 16 races of Speed's rookie season of 2009 and this year: He's improved his finish 10 times with a total of 130 positions on the track. That's an average of 8.1 positions gained per race. He has seven top-20 finishes compared to four all of last season.
83. REED SORENSON
ELLEDGE ON EKSTROM: We'll let No. 83 crew chief Jimmy Elledge recap Sun- day's race at Infineon, where Sweden's Mattias Ekstrom, a Red Bull-backed touring car driver, led seven laps before settling for 21st. He was knocked off course late in the race. "It was a great day," Elledge said. "We didn't get to capitalize on the finish that we wanted. But all in all, it was a successful weekend. I thought Mat- tias did an outstanding job. He was a pleasure to be around, and it was an honor to be a part of his first Cup start and put together that kind of run. I wanted to run good and knew the guy's potential there and figured if we did our job right on our end that we'd have a great day. We did all of those things."
CRUSHIN' ON LOUDON: Sorenson, in July 2006, led 31 laps in his first race at New Hamp- shire. No wonder it's his favorite track. "From the first time I first raced there I have loved it," he said. "I don't know if it is my background growing up racing (Legends cars) on a lot of flat tracks, or if it is just that particular track. We race on a few flat tracks a year, but Loudon is definitely my favorite. The plan is to have a good solid weekend with no mistakes." Sorenson's best finish of sixth came in June 2008.
VITAL SIGNS: The No. 83 ranks 24th in the car owner standings - 186 points from 20th.
AN EXTRA 175 LAPS: Sorenson will drive Braun Racing's No. 32 Dol- lar General Toyota in Saturday's Nationwide Series race. In 10 starts this season, Sorenson has four top fives and eight top 10s with a best finish of third at Texas in April. He's driven a Nationwide car three times at New Hampshire, finishing ninth in June 2007.
DAYS OF THUNDER: 20 YEARS LATER
Two decades ago this Sunday, Tom Cruise strapped into a stock car as a cocky and talented driver named Cole Trickle. That's right It's the 20th anniversary of Days of Thunder - the movie that helped NASCAR enter mainstream Hollywood.
As soon as Cole Trickle dropped the hammer, Scott Speed was hooked on Days of Thunder - the 1990 movie that, despite its over-the-top special effects and plot, helped NASCAR enter mainstream Hollywood.
Days of Thunder tells the story of a young, hotshot stock car driver (Tom Cruise) getting his chance to compete at the top level while battling rivals Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker) and Russ Wheeler (Cary El- wes) on the track and romancing Dr. Claire Lewicki (Nicole Kidman) off it.
Days of Thunder hit theaters June 27, 1990, and will celebrate its 20th anniversary Sunday. It's become a cult classic of sorts, especially within the NASCAR community. It's hard not to find someone in the garage that can't at least recite one or two lines from the movie.
"It's not realistic whatso- ever," Speed said, "but the people that are represented in history it portrays real- life people, which is cool. Ev- eryone in there is based sort of off a real-life character. It's not totally a made-up movie like Talladega Nights, for ex- ample. It's actually based off of characters and personalities of certain people that were part of NASCAR. That makes the movie really cool."
Speed's favorite line from Days of Thunder? "When Cole says, 'I'm droppin' the hammer,'" he admitted, referring to when Trickle mashed the gas at his debut test session.
"When I was in Europe and was racing Formula Re- nault, they called me Cole," Speed remembered. "Ev- eryone in Europe knew about Days of Thunder and American race car drivers. Literally, on my pit sign, it had the name Cole written on it. That's what everyone called me over there."
No. 83 crew chief Jimmy Elledge, too, recognizes the significance of Days of Thunder. "It was a good mark for our sport and was one of the things, part of history, that helped grow it to what it is today," Elledge said. "It was a very cool movie."
Elledge often compares himself to Trickle's crew chief in the movie, Harry Hogge (Robert Duvall). Hogge was tasked with bringing along a young driver, much like Elledge has done most of his career.
"My most memorable part of the movie would be the time when Cole and Harry were about to kill each other and then they go test," Elledge said. "The old man is trying to tell the kid how to drive, and the kid is trying to tell the old man that he doesn't know what he's talking about. That's real. Even though it's in a movie, it's real. That really does happen."
"It's actually based off of characters and personalities of certain people that were part of NASCAR. That makes the movie really cool."