Petty, Childress, JTG, Furniture Row teams testing at Watkins Glen

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After this coming weekend’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono Raceway, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will travel to perhaps the final “wild card” race of the regular season at the Watkins Glen International road course.

The Cheez-It 355 at the Glen on Aug. 10 could be the last big opportunity for teams not currently locked into the Chase for the Sprint Cup to steal a regular season win and make the 10-race playoff run.

In the most recent “wild card” earlier this month at Daytona, Richard Petty Motorsports’ Aric Almirola won a rain-shortened Coke Zero 400 to become the 11th different driver on the Chase Grid.

Now, RPM is focusing on getting its road racing ace, Marcos Ambrose (pictured, from 2013), into the Chase. Both Almirola and Ambrose are among a group of Chase hopefuls that will be testing today and tomorrow at the Glen.

Other Cup drivers involved in the two-day session are Richard Childress Racing rookie Austin Dillon, JTG Daugherty Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger, and Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr.

Additionally, RCR Nationwide Series driver Ty Dillon is getting seat time in a Cup car after winning last Saturday in the NNS race at Indianapolis.

Among the four currently winless Cup drivers involved in the test, only Austin Dillon would make the Chase if it started now. He’s four points up on Kasey Kahne for the 16th and final spot on the Chase Grid.

But while Austin Dillon can possibly make it on points, it’s win or bust for Ambrose (22nd in Chase outlook, 48 points behind Dillon), Allmendinger (24th in Chase outlook, 93 behind Dillon), and Truex (25th in Chase outlook, 94 points behind Dillon).

One would assume the Glen would be right in Ambrose and Allmendinger’s wheelhouses. Ambrose has won two of the last three Sprint Cup races on the New York road course, while ‘Dinger earned two Nationwide Series road course wins last year and the Sprint Cup pole position this past June at Sonoma.

But Truex has performed well at the Glen in his Cup career, too (three Top-5s, 5 Top-10s in eight starts). He also won last year at Sonoma for Michael Waltrip Racing.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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