NASCAR: Milka Duno to race selected Nationwide Series events

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Milka Duno – she of the four-year IndyCar career that included this memorable disagreement with then-fellow IndyCar driver Danica Patrick at Mid-Ohio, and not a single top-10 finish – has since made the switch to ARCA stock cars, and raced without much in the way of success for several years.

Despite the limited success, Duno has always enjoyed a healthy level of support from her native Venezuela. She’s just been less than stellar on track for the majority of her career.

And it’s with that as a preamble that we reveal this news: she’s racing selected NASCAR Nationwide Series events for RAB Racing.

Ordinarily with press releases like this you just pick out a quote or two, offer a stat or two to complement it and leave it at that for a quick post.

But in this case, I’m gonna say it’s important to show the whole thing, because it’s an… erm… shall we say there were some “performance enhancements” within the release.

Duno signs limited NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with RAB Racing

Los Angeles, Calif. (August 4, 2014) – RAB Racing has signed multiple race-winning driver Milka Duno to compete in select races in the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series and with the entry Duno will become the first Hispanic female driver in history to compete in a NASCAR national series in the United States.

A successful driver who has competed in multiple racing series Duno has eight major race wins in the highest classes (Prototype) in the American Le Mans Series and the Grand American Rolex Series and the highest finish ever by a female driver (2nd place) in the 24 Hours at Daytona – in the now 52-year history of the race.

When she won the Rolex Series Grand Prix of Miami she became the first woman in history to win a major international race in the USA.

In 2007, Duno was also the first Hispanic female driver, in the now 103-year history of the race, to qualify for and compete in the world famous Indianapolis 500. Duno competed in the Indianapolis 500 for three consecutive seasons and in the IndyCar Series for four consecutive seasons – running partial schedules in 2007, 2008 and 2009 and a full schedule in 2010.

In making her transition to stock car racing and her ultimate entry into NASCAR Duno has been competing in the ARCA Racing Series (ARCA) for the past three seasons. In 2011 and 2012 she competed in partial schedules and in her first full ARCA season in 2013, competing with Venturini Motorsports, she finished the season 7th in the driver point standings and became the 2nd highest finishing female driver in ARCA’s now 62-year history. Duno is also the first Hispanic female driver to compete in ARCA.

During her 2013 ARCA season Duno started 2nd in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and took the lead on the first lap and led the race for several laps – becoming the first Hispanic female driver to lead an ARCA race.

At Talladega Superspeedway she earned the pole, led the race and became the first Hispanic female driver to earn an ARCA pole. She also became only the fourth female driver in ARCA history, and only the second female driver in 25 years, to earn an ARCA pole at Talladega. Duno finished her 2013 ARCA season 3rd in most laps completed and 3rd in hard charger points.

“I’m really very excited and honored to enter into NASCAR and the Nationwide Series,” said Duno. “It has always been a goal and dream of mine to compete in NASCAR and I worked very hard in ARCA to turn this goal into a reality. I always strive to challenge myself as a driver and I’ve been fortunate to compete in many types of racing – and while the competition is always my number one focus – I am very proud of the history that I have made as a female driver, and the Hispanic sports history as well, that has been made along the way.” Added Duno, “NASCAR is the most competitive and popular racing series in the USA and I’m very proud to enter the series with RAB Racing and I look forward to competing with them in their No. 29 Toyota Camry.”

Veteran crew chief Chris Rice will helm Duno’s NNS effort. In 2013, Rice lead RAB Racing’s No. 99 Toyota Camry to two poles, two top-5 finishes, and six top-10 finishes.

“We’ve watched Milka develop in the ARCA Racing Series and feel she is prepared for the next step in her stock car racing career,” said RAB Racing owner Robby Benton. “I think that working together with Chris Rice, Milka can find a home in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. She has a very strong fan base and we hope we can attract them to follow her in her NASCAR endeavors. Milka is very intelligent and educated and we look forward to working with her.”

If you’ve followed Duno’s career for any length of time, you’re aware how enhanced those quotes and stats can be.

That aforementioned Rolex Grand Prix of Miami, Duno ran less than half an hour in the two and a half hour plus race, and co-driver Andy Wallace needed to perform a minor miracle to recover the lost time, claw back the deficit and win the race.

She was frequently black flagged in IndyCar for failing to sustain the minimum pace on road and street courses.

Leading an ARCA race at Daytona is hardly the racing world’s most memorable accomplishment.

All that aside, I do wish Duno the best, and I also hope for her sake and the team’s sake that her past performances in other forms of motorsport do not negatively impact her NASCAR career.

If it means to her as much as she says it does within this release, ideally she’s improved her craft enough in ARCA to where she will not be a potential liability on track.

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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