Truex : “Our team is ready to go” for Richmond

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With his fractured right wrist in a new cast, Martin Truex Jr. is ready to grit his teeth again this weekend at Richmond International Raceway with his Chase hopes on the line once more.

Truex held on to the second Wild Card spot that transfers into the Chase by virtue of a painful but rewarding third-place result last weekend at Atlanta. Even so, he only holds a five-point edge over Ryan Newman for that Wild Card.

And with both having one win each this regular season – Truex at Sonoma, Newman at Indianapolis – the two drivers will be a focal point in tomorrow night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 that will determine who goes on to race for a Sprint Cup this fall.

But when asked if a part of him only feels like he has to come out ahead of Newman to make the Chase, Truex replied in the negative.

“That’s not a guarantee either,” said Truex on Thursday. “Somebody could fall out of the Top 10, be ahead of us, take that spot. We need to go out there and do what we can. The best way to go out would be to go out and win the thing.”

Truex had an opportunity to win at Atlanta, but was unable to get past eventual race winner Kyle Busch after a restart with 21 laps to go. Had the battle gone to Truex, his Chase chances would’ve been in much better shape going into tomorrow.

Another near-miss that Truex is thinking about as he ponders over his 2013 campaign is Texas. Back in April at “The Great American Speedway,” he led 142 laps and was out front going into the final pit stops of the night.

But Kyle Busch was able to beat him off pit road, and then pulled away from Truex in the race’s closing laps to win. It still pains him.

“That’s the one I thought about this week,” Truex admitted. “Damn, if we could just have Texas back, if we could have won that race – it wasn’t that difficult, should have just done it.”

“That’s the way it is in this sport. It’s so difficult, so tough. You’re always thinking back. I can count up hundreds of points in my head that we’ve given away this year, [and] very easily could have gone a different way.”

But for Truex and the rest of the Chase hopefuls, Richmond represents a chance for redemption. Get in the Chase and the anxiety will give way to clarity: Ten races, one champion – may the best driver win.

“Our team is ready to go,” Truex insisted. “For us, it’s important to focus on doing our jobs, trying to go out front, do the best job we can, not let what others dictate how we call the race.

“We have a good plan going in. I feel good about our chances and hopefully, it will happen.”

NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

Photo courtesy NHRA
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If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”