FONTANA, Calif. – Four motorsports stars joined Auto Club Speedway’s tribute to short track racing by participating in a special “Five Wide Q&A: A Short Track Tribute” on Sunday, March 17 prior to the start of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400.
Moderated by Steve Post, co-host of Winged Nation and Pit Reporter for MRN, the panel featured Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drivers and short track racing team owners Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer; Sprint Car and former NASCAR driver Dave Blaney; and seven-time USAC champion Damion Gardner.
“Right now, I’m mostly racing on the west coast,” said Damion Gardner. “I race out of Perris Auto Speedway a lot, and if you’ve never been there, it’s one of the best facilities in all of the country, so we’re pretty spoiled having that.”
“It’s just fun,” said Kyle Larson. “I enjoy that part of dirt track racing a lot. The fans are able to get up close and personal with us, even more than we can here. I just go there and have a good time racing, but it’s also relaxing to hang around the hauler and the fans, signing autographs, taking pictures, it’s very intimate at the dirt tracks.”
“I think the weekly racing is what brings us all together,” said Clint Bowyer. “It all starts with weekly local racing. Everybody gathers at their local track. Mine was in the Midwest, lakeside, in Kansas City. Every chance you get, that’s where you’re drawn back to. That style and level of racing has always been my go-to. It’s always a lot of fun to go back and interact not only with that track, but that series and the fans. The same fans you see at the short tracks are the same fans I see any given Sunday across the country. That’s what we all share in common.”
“After NASCAR, I was drawn back to sprint car racing by boredom,” said Dave Blaney. “Growing up, being around sprint cars, my dad did it, and it’s all I knew. It would have been hard to go down a completely new path and forget about the one that got me there. That’s why I went back. I still love doing it.”
For the first time ever, during the pace laps prior to the drop of the green flag for the Auto Club 400, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will line up for a “Five Wide Salute” as a nod to short track racing.
When asked about expectations for today’s race, Kyle Larson said, “After the first practice, I was a little disappointed, but we made adjustments to the car after our second practice and it feels a lot better, so I’m really happy. I don’t really know what to expect. You can get a big tow off the guy in front of you, and then it’s just making sure you pull the trigger at the right point. That’s gonna be important. It’s will be tough to pass, I think, because we’ve got so much on-throttle time. It will definitely be fun and should be a good race.”
Clint Bower said, “The problem is that my expectation is the same expectation he has, which is to go out there and smoke um’. But there’s thirty-nine other maniacs with that same expectation. We are wide open around the racetrack. If you crack the throttle, it’s very, very minimal. Ya know, 10-20% and then you’re back wide open. It’s hard to make up ground like that. Drafting is a premium. They do draft up. One thing is for sure. I’m going to have to beat this little turd [Larson] to win the race. So that’s what I plan on doing.”