Toyota/Save Mart 350

Everything you need to know for Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

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The first of two road course races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup calendar goes off this Sunday at Sonoma Raceway with the Toyota/Save Mart 350.

The 1.99-mile, 12-turn layout is a highly technical circuit filled with multiple elevation changes. As with any road course, track position is important, so expect various fuel/pit strategies to come into play.

Last season, Martin Truex Jr. broke a 218-race winless streak in the California wine country. Don’t be surprised if this race yields our 11th different Sprint Cup winner this season, as well as another spot filled on this year’s Chase Grid.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s everything you need to know for Round 16 of the 2014 Sprint Cup championship…

SONOMA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS

Marcos Ambrose (No. 9 DeWALT Ford)
· Two top fives, five top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 11.8
· Average Running Position of 10.5, second-best
· Series-best Driver Rating of 108.0
· 58 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 89.904 mph
· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (81.6%), ninth-most
· 207 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most

Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-Hour ENERGY Toyota)
· One win, five top fives, six top 10s
· Average finish of 9.1
· Average Running Position of 14.1, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 95.2, seventh-best
· 35 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 530 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.543 mph, sixth-fastest
· 216 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet)
· One win, six top fives, six top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.0
· Series-best Average Running Position of 10.0
· Driver Rating of 107.8, second-best
· 56 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.869 mph, third-fastest
· Series-high 761 Laps in the Top 15 (76.3%)
· 201 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Pretzel Toyota)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 20.4
· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best
· 50 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.529 mph, seventh-fastest
· 518 Laps in the Top 15 (52.0%), 11th-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford)
· Two top fives, four top 10s
· Average finish of 15.6
· Average Running Position of 15.5, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 86.8, 10th-best
· 27 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most
· Series-high 548 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.482 mph, eighth-fastest
· 544 Laps in the Top 15 (54.6%), ninth-most
· 196 Quality Passes, ninth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Panasonic Chevrolet)
· Five wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; five poles
· Average finish of 8.2
· Average Running Position of 12.6, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 101.6, fourth-best
· 64 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 493 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.707 mph, fourth-fastest
· 666 Laps in the Top 15 (66.8%), fourth-most
· 230 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 13.4
· Average Running Position of 12.5, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 97.3, fifth-best
· 52 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.470 mph, 10th-fastest
· 717 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9%), third-most
· 240 Quality Passes, second-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· One win, two top fives, three top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 20.4
· Average Running Position of 16.1, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 84.3, 12th-best
· 32 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 552 Laps in the Top 15 (55.4%), eighth-most
· 210 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 13.1
· Average Running Position of 14.4, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 88.0, eighth-best
· 507 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.464 mph, 11th-fastest
· 572 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), sixth-most
· 185 Quality Passes, 10th-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1 / Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· Two wins, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 11.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 102.4, third-best
· Series-high 79 Fastest Laps Run
· 475 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.881 mph, second-fastest
· 740 Laps in the Top 15 (74.2%), second-most
· Series-high 261 Quality Passes

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· One win, one top five, two top 10s
· Average finish of 19.1
· Driver Rating of 86.5, 11th-best
· 42 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 487 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 89.559 mph, fifth-fastest

source:

Sonoma Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 16 of 36 (06-12-14)
Track Size: 1.99-miles
Number of Turns: 12
Race Length: 110 laps / 219 miles / 350 Kilometers

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Sonoma
Marcos Ambrose………………….. 108.0
Kurt Busch………………………….. 107.8
Tony Stewart……………………….. 102.4
Jeff Gordon………………………… 101.6
Jimmie Johnson…………………….. 97.3
Juan Pablo Montoya………………. 95.5
Clint Bowyer…………………………. 95.2
Kyle Busch…………………………… 88.0
Ryan Newman……………………….. 88.0
Carl Edwards………………………… 86.8
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Sonoma Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light Pole winner: Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 94.986 mph, 75.422 secs., 06-21-13
2013 race winner: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 76.658 mph, (02:51:20), 06-23-13
Track qualifying record: Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 95.262 mph, 75.203 secs., 06-22-12
Track race record: Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 83.624 mph, (02:39:55), 06-24-12

Sonoma Raceway History
· The track opened as a 2.52-mile road course and drag strip in 1968.
· The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 11, 1989 – won by Ricky Rudd at a speed of 76.088 mph.
· The first nine races were 300 kilometers and switched to a 350k format in 1998.
· The track was reconfigured to 1.949 miles in 1998 with the installation of an 890-foot chute between the original Turns 4 and 7.
· The track was reconfigured to 2.0 miles in 2001 and re-measured at 1.99 miles in 2002.
Notebook
· There have been 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma Raceway since the first race there in 1989 – one race per season.
· 191 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway; 133 in more than one.
· Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Bobby Labonte and Terry Labonte lead the series in starts at Sonoma with 21 each.
· Rusty Wallace won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Sonoma in 1989 with a speed of 90.041 mph.
· 15 drivers have Coors Light poles at Sonoma, led by Jeff Gordon with five.
· Two drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Sonoma Ricky Rudd and Jeff Gordon. Ricky Ruddholds the record for most consecutive poles at Sonoma with three; fall 1990 through 1992.
· Jeff Gordon is the only active driver to have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Sonoma: 1998-‘99 and 2004-’05.
· Youngest Sonoma pole winner: Joey Logano (06/26/2011 – 21 years, 1 month, 2 days).
· Oldest Sonoma pole winner: Rusty Wallace (06/25/2000 – 43 years, 10 months, 11 days).
· 17 different NSCS drivers have won at Sonoma Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with five wins. Tony Stewart has the second most wins (two) among active drivers at Sonoma.
· Jeff Gordon leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in road course wins with nine (Sonoma, five; Watkins Glen, four); Tony Stewart has the second most road course wins all-time with seven (Watkins Glen, five; Sonoma, two).
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record for the most wins (six) at a single road course track – Riverside International Raceway.
· Jeff Gordon is the only driver to post consecutive wins (three total) at Sonoma Raceway (1998 and 1999 each from the pole and 2000 from the fifth starting position).
· Youngest Sonoma winner: Kyle Busch (06/22/2008 – 23 years, 1 month, 20 days).
· Oldest Sonoma winner: Ricky Rudd (06/23/2002 – 45 years, 9 months, 11 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Sonoma in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six: Jeff Gordon (five) and Jimmie Johnson (one).
· Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Sonoma; led by Chevrolet with 10 victories; followed by Ford with six and Toyota with three.
· Five of the 25 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Jeff Gordon in 2004. Gordon is the only NSCS driver to win from the pole at Sonoma more than once.
· The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more wins (five) than any other starting position at Sonoma Raceway.
· Eight of the 25 (32%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from the front row: five from the pole and three from second-place.
· 18 of the 25 (72%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Seven of the 25 (28%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from a starting position outside the top 10.
· Two of the 25 (8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Michigan was 32nd, by Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007.
· Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Sonoma with four; followed by Tony Stewart with three.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Sonoma with 13; followed by Ricky Rudd with 10.
· Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-10 finishes at Sonoma with 17; followed by Mark Martin with 13.
· Marcos Ambrose leads the series in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Sonoma with a 4.500.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Sonoma with an 8.238. Clint Bowyer (9.125) is the only other active driver with an average finish in the top 10.
· Jimmie Johnson and Mark Martin competed at Sonoma Raceway eight times each before visiting Victory in Lane; the longest span of any the eight active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. Johnson won in 2010 and Martin won in 1997.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Sonoma without visiting Victory Lane at 16.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway was the June 27, 1999 race won by Jeff Gordon over Mark Martin with a MOV of 0.197 second.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Sonoma Raceway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): 2008 (110/112); 2009 (110/113) and 2012 (110/112).
· None of the 24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Sonoma Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions.
· Qualifying has never been cancelled in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Sonoma Raceway.
· Boris Said posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Sonoma Raceway (6/22/2003).
· Juan Pablo Montoya posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Sonoma Raceway (6/24/2007).
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Sonoma with 454 laps led in 21 starts.
· Danica Patrick is the only female driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to compete at Sonoma Raceway.
source:

NASCAR in California
· There have been 134 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at 15 tracks in California.
source:
· 429 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as California.
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Hamilton: Reliability issues pattern a concerning element

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 28:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP in the post qualifying press conference during qualifying for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 28, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton believes that the reliability problems he has encountered on his Mercedes car so far this season are developing into a pattern, rather than simple mistakes, after encountering yet another setback in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday.

Hamilton arrived in Monaco trailing Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg by 43 points, and is without a win since last October’s United States Grand Prix.

After suffering failures on his engine during qualifying in both China and Russia, Hamilton looked set to be sidelined once again when he stopped in the pit lane at the start of Q3 in Monaco.

Mercedes confirmed that Hamilton’s car had a fuel pressure problem, but fixed it in time for him to complete one flying lap run towards the end of the session, qualifying third.

Hamilton was downbeat after qualifying when speaking to NBCSN, hinting that if he continually made errors as Mercedes was doing, it would not be accepted.

“Acceptable? I don’t know whether that’s for me to say,” Hamilton said.

“Of course, if I was messing up my laps every time, perhaps they’d say that’s not acceptable.

“But I really don’t know what to say at the moment. Honestly, it’s not a great feeling right now. I’m just trying to keep myself together.

“We’re getting further and further into the championship with more and more problems.

“This is becoming a norm for me.”

Hamilton was then asked by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton: “At what point does this stop being about mistakes and start being something that’s deeper that you need to as a team get on top of?”

“I think it’s already at that point personally,” Hamilton replied.

“For me, personally, it’s not a good feeling right now.

“The other car just keeps going, and going, and going. And for whatever reasons…

“I was quickest today. The weekend’s gone great. Just when it counts, something seems to happen quite often.

“But I’m sure we will regroup and shoot the s**t and try and figure it out.”

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown beginning on NBCSN at 7am ET.

Castroneves still chasing fourth Indianapolis 500 victory

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 27:  Helio Castroneves #3 of Brazil watches alongside owner Roger Penske during Carb Day ahead of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Trying to persuade Helio Castroneves to rank his three Indianapolis 500 victories is tantamount to asking an adoring mother or father to rank their children in order of affection.

Ask him what it would be like to win a record-tying fourth – at the 100th running of the iconic race Sunday and on the 50th anniversary of Penske Racing – it is impossible for Castroneves to deny: It would mean more than any other victory in an open-wheel career spanning nearly two decades.

“It’s a special number,” he said. “It’s something bigger.”

The road to immortality began in 2001, when as a rookie he weathered a lengthy rain delay and a battle with Gil de Ferran to first get his face engraved on the Borg-Warner Trophy. He took a victory lap and then parked on the yard of bricks, climbing up the catch-fence with several crew members in a wild celebration.

He made the same climb the following year, when a crash just before Paul Tracy passed Castroneves on the 199th lap gave him the victory. There were protests and appeals hearings, and many still believe Tracy deserved to win the race, even though Castroneves had the victory officially upheld that July.

There was no such controversy seven years later.

Two months after he was acquitted of federal charges of tax evasion and conspiracy, he won the race from the pole position in dominant fashion, never allowing Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick to make a run.

Three victories in less than a decade.

It’s almost hard to fathom he’s been chasing No. 4 for so long.

“The good news is we’re here. We’re pushing,” said Castroneves, who will start outside on the third row Sunday. “We’re finding every inch in the track to make sure that we can make it happen.”

For all his wins, there have been just as many near-misses.

Castroneves was leading the 2003 race with about 30 laps to go when de Ferran passed him, the two of them eventually giving Team Penske another 1-2 finish. He finished third behind Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon four years later, and was fourth in 2008, when Dixon drove to victory after a late restart.

None of those was as painful as two years ago.

After a late wreck had brought out a red flag, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti joined Castroneves in a high-speed game of musical chairs. Castroneves took the lead with two laps to go as Andretti began to fade, only for Hunter-Reay to overcome him on the final lap. Castroneves made one more move, coming out of the last corner, but wound up second by 0.0600 seconds – the second-closest finish in race history.

“Listen, every time we don’t win, that’s part of the sport, but you remember it for a long time,” Castroneves said with a brave smile. “The team does not have a short memory. They always remember the success. But I remember the ones that I didn’t get. They hurt more.”

The fact that he could smile about a defeat, even if it was merely a facade, is one of the reasons he’s been so successful. The Brazilian’s effervescent personality permeates Gasoline Alley, and the perpetual optimism that he carries onto the speedway has allowed him to overcome plenty of misfortune.

“He’s got this spark when he drives. You see it sometimes,” said Team Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud. “He has that something special, for sure. His spirit makes him so he doesn’t give up. He believes he can.”

That personality may rub some the wrong way, but it’s also made Castroneves plenty of fans.

“He behaves like a 22-year-old. He’s such a good spirit,” Pagenaud said. “It’s inspiring.”

Castroneves is back this weekend in Roger Penske’s renowned “Yellow Submarine” car that he nearly won in two years ago, and that Rick Mears made famous in the 1980s. And if he can guide it to victory lane Sunday, he will join Mears, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser in the exclusive club of four-time winners.

That mere thought made Castroneves reminisce about his first trip to Indianapolis.

“I came here to do something, an appearance, and I came to the track but I went to the museum – that’s as far as I went,” he said. “I remember touching the trophy and said, `One day, my face will be on here.”‘

Three times and counting.

Horner lauds Ricciardo for ‘dynamite’ Monaco pole lap

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 28: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates his pole position in parc ferme during qualifying for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 28, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner heaped praise upon Daniel Ricciardo following his charge to pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix on Saturday.

Ricciardo claimed Red Bull’s first pole position since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix with a stunning final lap in Q3, beating the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

“Amazing. That first lap? Mighty!” Horner is quoted as saying by the official F1 website.

“The first two laps in Q3 were just dynamite. He has been driving sensationally all weekend – just so clean, and the lap times just rolled together for him.

“It’s a great moment for him with his first pole – and for us, with our first pole since 2013. A great way to start the weekend.”

The result also marked Ricciardo’s first pole position in F1, although he has claimed three grand prix victories across the course of his career.

However, it was far from being a perfect qualifying for Red Bull as Spanish Grand Prix winner Max Verstappen crashed out in Q1, leaving him 21st on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

The Monaco Grand Prix is live on NBC from 7:30am ET on Sunday, with F1 Countdown beginning on NBCSN at 7am.

CK crew, trio of Brabham cars highlight PIRTEK Team Murray’s week

CKCrew_5
Photo: PIRTEK Team Murray
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Following extensive training and preparation, the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation CK Crew made their debut in Friday’s TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge. The result wasn’t the end goal on the day, and having been stuck in the troublesome right lane of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pit lane that almost no one won from didn’t make it any easier.

Still though, rookie Matthew Brabham and the No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet team led by Brett “Crusher” Murray fully enjoyed the experience.

The pit stop competition was not the first cool thing the team did this week.

Brabham with all 3 cars. Photo: IndyCar
Brabham with all 3 cars. Photo: IndyCar

Earlier, three cars from three generations of Brabhams – the Brabhams are the third third generation family to compete at Indianapolis along with Andrettis and Vukoviches – were assembled on the yard of bricks. A video about that is below:

Meanwhile, the team release and an assortment of photos from Friday are below:

Matt Brabham has completed final preparations for the 100th Indianapolis 500 Friday afternoon, whilst PIRTEK Team Murray’s rookie pit crew of military and first responders brought the crowd to its feet when it entered pitlane flying the American flag.

Brabham got through the one hour practice without drama despite the only major incident in the session – a spin from Pippa Mann – happening directly in front of him.

He was able to work through race simulations and build upon his racecraft among traffic ahead of Sunday’s race, whilst also working on heavy fuel loads.

The Chris Kyle Frog Foundation CK Crew were crowd favorites as they walked to the #61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet. The team – who have trained for the last week in Indianapolis at Pitfit Training with Jim Leo – came together from military and first responder backgrounds around America.

They drew the American flag from their fire suits and proudly waved it in front of the huge Miller Lite Carb Day crowd. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in association with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation drew the CK Crew together to highlight the work of the Foundation and promote the American Sniper – Chris Kyle Commemorative Edition Blu-Ray that went on sale this May.

Up against Ryan Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport, they put in one of their best stops of the practice week, however Hunter-Reay got away slightly better than Brabham and crossed the line first.

The team were valiant in their efforts and walked away proud of what they had achieved during the week and created lifelong friendships – while also bringing awareness to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation and the work it is doing to enhance military and first responder marriages.

Saturday, Brabham continues the round of rookie media presentations, a special photograph of the 33 drivers with Indianapolis 500 veterans. He will then transfer downtown for the annual parade.

Then on Sunday, he will take the start in the 100th Indianapolis 500.

“Carb Day final practice was great, I was just getting comfortable in the car and trying a few things and avoiding crashes basically! It was a tight one out there with Pippa she was right in front of me when she went off, so that was a bit interesting,” Brabham said.

“I was comfortable out there and getting used to everything. Everyone was checking up, I was getting used to how it was – speeding up and working on racecraft ahead of Sunday. It was enjoyable.

The weather should be similar. We got a really good good read on everything. So I will go back with the PIRTEK Team Murray crew, work through the data and everything else and have it sorted out for the race.”


CKCrew_1
CKCrew_2

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Preparation process. All photos; PIRTEK Team Murray

“I’m so proud of the efforts of all the CK Crew team that came together for the Pit Stop Challenge,” said Taya Kyle, executive director, Chris Kyle Frog Foundation.

“To bring all of them together from such different backgrounds, but all having done so much for our country and develop them into the teamthey became was amazing.

“The Challenge didn’t go our way, but they’ve all had an awesome time, worked their butts off, learnt some new skills and along the way created some new friendships.

“The thing that stood out for Chris above all else when attending the races was the pit crew – their strength, precision and teamwork. He likened it to his SEAL training, which is how the idea for the pit crew came together.

“I can’t thank all of them enough, along with PIRTEK Team Murray, Warner Bros Home Entertainment, Bell Helmets, Kryptek Outdoor Group, Jim Leo at PitFit, their pit stop trainer – Chris McFadden – himself a hero that has served for our country – and everyone else that contributed to this terrific program.”

Photo: PIRTEK Team Murray
Photo: PIRTEK Team Murray