CALIFORNIA CHRONICLE: This weekend marks the fourth trip to Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) for the Toyota Camry in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) competition. In the rain-delayed February race, Camry drivers Kyle Busch (fourth)...
CALIFORNIA CHRONICLE: This weekend marks the fourth trip to Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) for the Toyota Camry in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) competition. In the rain-delayed February race, Camry drivers Kyle Busch (fourth) and Tony Stewart (seventh) finished among the top-10. Brian Vickers has three top-15 finishes behind the wheel of a Camry -- 10th, eighth and 11th-place results, respectively -- in the three most recent events at the two-mile Southern California track.
RECORD RECALL: Camry driver and current NSCS points-leader Busch earned a spot in the NASCAR record book with speed and versatility shown at the Auto Club Speedway. The Las Vegas-native earned his first career pole position (Feb. 2005) and race win (Sept. 2005) at the Fontana, Calif., track all before turning 21 -- becoming the youngest Cup driver to earn such recognition. "I like California," says Busch. "It's fun because you can run all over the place. You can run low, you can run high, and there are plenty of opportunities to pass.
WALTRIP'S WORDS: After this weekend's 500-mile NSCS race in California, team owner and driver Michael Waltrip will have logged more than 10,000 miles at Auto Club Speedway since it opened in 1997. Currently at 9,890 miles, the driver of the No. 55 NAPA Auto Parts Camry has competed in 15 NSCS races, 10 NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) events and two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) races at the track. "I love going to California," says Waltrip. "I will never forget the first time I went there back in the late 90's to see the progress they were making and what they were going to turn into what is now Auto Club Speedway. It was just an old steel plant. I'm proud to be able to take my NAPA Camry to the west coast and be able to race in front of the fans of Southern California."
MENTOR MIKE: In addition to his full-time driving duties in the Craftsman Truck Series, Mike Skinner is using his racing experience to mentor younger drivers in the Sprint Cup Series. The NASCAR veteran is set to make his third start in the No. 00 Toyota Camry for Michael Waltrip Racing at California, after subbing for rookie Michael McDowell at Michigan and Bristol. Earlier this year, the Ontario, Calif.-native who grew up in Susanville, Calif., ran six races in the No. 84 Red Bull Racing Camry to assist driver AJ Allmendinger in his development. Skinner earned the NSCS pole position at Fontana, Calif., in 2000, and has one win (2007) and one pole (2005) driving a Tundra in NCTS competition at the two-mile oval.
PERFORMANCE & PROGRESS: Since returning to the No. 84 Red Bull Camry, Allmendinger has qualified for all 16 races, recorded seven top-20 finishes and registered his first top-10 NSCS finish at Indianapolis. Allmendinger also won the NASCAR Sprint Showdown last month, putting his team in the All-Star event in Charlotte.
SLIDING SIDEWAYS: This Thursday, Allmendinger will learn the sport of drifting from fellow Red Bull athlete and Formula Drift champion Rhys Millen, who lives in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. Since the age of five, and way before joining the NASCAR ranks at the beginning of the 2007 season, Allmendinger has spent time racing BMX, quarter-midgets, Skip Barber National and Pro series, the Atlantic Championship and Champ Car, but has never taken on the art of drifting. He'll learn from Millen, who in addition to his Formula Drift racing has shown his talent as a stunt driver in the recent films 'Indiana Jones 4,' 'Dukes of Hazzard,' 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith,' and 'The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.'
CALIFORNIA CONNECTIONS: Several Toyota team members hail from the 'Golden State,' including Allmendinger, who is from Los Gatos near San Francisco. Four crew members also call Southern California home. The Red Bull Racing Team has Doug Newell, gas man for the No. 83 Camry, from Oxnard, Chad Avrit, rear tire changer for the No. 84 Camry, is from El Centro. Jeff Patterson, the gas man for the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, is from Escondido, and Gabe Barajas, the rear tire carrier from the No. 22 Bill Davis Racing Camry, is from Saugus.
SPECIAL DELIVERY BY DENNY: As part of the 2008 FedEx Racing 'Deliver the Drive' program, Denny Hamlin and FedEx will visit the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank on Thursday to donate a Toyota Prius. Los Angeles-area FedEx employees will join Hamlin as they volunteer in the kitchen prior to making the vehicle donation. "In three years of driving for FedEx and Joe Gibbs Racing, I have been able to see first hand the impact FedEx has in the community," says Hamlin. "This year we are focusing our attention on the groups that serve their communities by collecting and redistributing food to those in need, and FedEx is donating four new Toyota Prius hybrid vehicles to help these groups accomplish their goals in this time of growing need, all while saving on fuel costs. To see firsthand the work that the people at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank are doing is a great experience, and to help deliver this vehicle with FedEx makes it that much better."
BACK TO BRISTOL: Last Saturday night's 500-lap short track race in Bristol, Tenn., saw a tr io of top-10 performers with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) teammates Busch (second), Hamlin (third) and Stewart (eighth). Busch led 415 laps, but was passed by eventual race-winner Carl Edwards late in the race. Camry drivers Vickers (20th), Ken Schrader (21st), David Reutimann (25th), Skinner (28th), Waltrip (30th), Allmendinger (34th) and Blaney (38th) were also in the field.
CHASING CHECKERS: Busch has registered eight wins this season in the Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) No. 18 M&M's Camry. "It hasn't been easy, Cthat's for sure," says Busch. "We always try to run better -- It's Cwhat you try to do every week."
CHASE CHATTER: Busch continues to be the NSCS points-leader and has already clinched the top spot in the 'Chase for the Sprint Cup' with his win at Watkins Glen (Aug. 10). With eight wins to date this season, the 23-year-old Las Vegas- native will have 80 bonus points when the 'Chase' begins at New Hampshire (Sept. 14), as NASCAR gives 10 points for every win prior to the 10-race 'Chase' playoff. Camry drivers and fellow JGR teammates Stewart (sixth) and Hamlin (11th) also are in the top-12. Vickers is on course for his career-best NSCS season and currently ranks 16th in points.
TWO TO GO: There are two races remaining before the 'Chase' begins and Camry driver Hamlin feels the pressure mounting. "We're definitely in a vulnerable spot," says the 27-year-old driver of the No. 11 FedEx Camry. "This is not how we had planned. We're going to try our best to minimize mistakes. Right now, we're just going to try to concentrate on getting back to consistent runs week in and week out instead of every other week."
JOEY JUMPS IN: Joe Gibbs Racing announced Monday that The Home Depot will continue its sponsorship of the NASCAR Sprint Cup No. 20 Toyota team in 2009 and beyond, and that Joey Logano will take over the duties behind the wheel of one of NASCAR's most successful race teams. Logano will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup series debut at Richmond, Sept. 6, in the No. 02 Home Depot Camry. "I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be in this position," said Logano. "Joe Gibbs Racing has provided me tremendous support each step of the way and the opportunity to work with the absolute best in the business. I can't explain the feeling to become a part of such an awesome Home Depot team and I'm going to focus on working as hard as I can to prepare for next season."
-credit: toyota motorsports