Local drivers set for Rolex racing at N.J. track

Posted: July 21, 2011

RACING FANS don't mention New Jersey Motorsports Park in the same breath with Daytona, Lime Rock or Watkins Glen, where the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car series also races. But the Millville racetrack is growing on the drivers in the Grand-Am series.

For David Donohue and Jeff Segal, NJMP is their home track. Donohue lives in Malvern; Segal is from Wynnewood.

Donohue and co-driver Darren Law, driving Porsches, are tied for seventh in the Rolex series. Segal and Emil Assentato, in Mazdas, are sixth in the GT series. Segal and Assentato are the defending GT champions.

Sunday's American Red Cross 250 is the fourth appearance at NJMP for the two series. The Speed channel will carry the races at 1 p.m.

Donohue, the son of the late Mark Donohue, the 1972 Indianapolis 500 winner, describes the 2.25-mile 14-turn Thunderbolt Raceway track as "uniquely challenging. It requires skill in tire and care management. It's a challenge to pass on."

Segal, 26, is involved in private driving instruction at NJMP.

"The track is very tight and you're constantly working; there's not a lot of breathing room," the University of Miami (Fla.) graduate said. "The fans are more and more knowledgeable and enthusiastic every year. It's good for Grand-Am to be there."

Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas are the Rolex series points leaders, at 260 points, a 26-point lead over Max Angelelli and Ricky Taylor.

Donohue, 44, is looking forward to the Rolex series' racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year as part of the NASCAR Brickyard 400 weekend.

"Every driver in the series is pretty pumped about going to Indy," he said. "It's an iconic place. Everyone knows what Indy is above and beyond any track in the world.

"When I stood on that straightaway [after a news conference], it was an experience I hadn't felt in a really long time. Looking down that straightaway, the place is just electrifying."

After NJMP filed for bankruptcy 4 months ago, its reorganization plan was approved July 14. The track will have the same ownership, with new equity.

The B-plus Heroes Foundation Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge 200 also is at NJMP Saturday at 2:45 p.m. Area drivers in the race include Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs; B Wilmington; and Hugh Plumb, Unionville. For more details about the racing weekend check www.njmp.com.

100 WINS, BUT . . .

 NASCAR touting Kyle Busch as the third driver to reach 100 wins in its series is misguided.

Busch's achievement, at age 26, is phenomenal, but his 100 victories are in the Sprint Cup (22), Nationwide (record-tying 49) and Camping World Truck Series (29). Richard Petty's 200 W's and David Pearson's 105 were all in the top-level Cup series.

Someday, Busch probably will be among the leaders in Cup wins. But that's years away.

ERWIN BACK IN CUP

It didn't take long for Greg Erwin to get another crew-chief job.

Dismissed early last week as crew chief of Greg Biffle's No. 16 Ford team, Erwin will now guide A.J. Allmendinger's No. 43 Ford team for Richard Petty Motorsports.

As with Biffle, it's not as if Allmendinger was having a terrible season with Mike Shiplett as crew chief. Allmendinger is 16th in Sprint Cup points, 55 out of the 10th automatic qualifying position for the Chase. Biffle is 15th, 47 points out of 10th.

In the three previous seasons with Erwin calling the shots, Biffle qualified for the Chase (best finish: third in 2008).

Erwin, from Hatboro, wasn't surprised Jack Roush made the change, installing Matt Puccia as Biffle's crew chief.

"[Biffle] feels he's a better driver than where he is in points, and I felt we probably had a better race team than where we were in points," Erwin said last week. "We had a lot of issues with the cars. I'm the one responsible."

Four days after Erwin was dismissed, he said he and Biffle had not spoken.

QUOTEBOOK

With the Nationwide Series scheduled to race in Montreal next month, points leader Elliott Sadler was asked by a Montreal reporter on a conference call how well he speaks French.

"Not very good," Sadler replied. "Some people say I struggle with English sometimes, too, being from southern Virginia."

THIS WEEK

No Sprint Cup race

This weekend: From Nashville Superspeedway, the Camping World Truck Series' Lucas Deep Clean 200 will air tomorrow at 8 p.m. on Speed; the Nationwide Series' Federated Auto Parts 300 will air 7:30 p.m. Saturday on ESPN.

Track facts: Ryan Newman was stripped of his win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series at New Hampshire last Saturday after an illegal intake manifold was found on his car. Todd Szegedy, who finished second, is now the winner . . . Kyle Busch has led the most laps in Sprint Cup races this season, 1,060 . . . Brother Kurt is next, 510; Jimmie Johnson is third, 492. The 19 laps Johnson led Sunday at New Hampshire marked the first time in five races that he led. Note that the five-time reigning Cup champion is second in points, only seven behind Carl Edwards . . . Bobby Labonte's seventh-place finish at New Hampshire was his best since a fifth at Las Vegas in the third race of the 2009 season . . . Elliott Sadler leads Reed Sorenson by seven points in the Nationwide Series . . . Johnny Sauter is 22 points ahead of Austin Dillon in the trucks series.

Wins: Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, 3 each; Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon, 2 each; Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Trevor Bayne, Regan Smith, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, David Ragan, Ryan Newman, 1 each.

SPRINT CUP STANDINGS (Through 19 of 36 races)

1. Carl Edwards 652

2. Jimmie Johnson 645

3. Kurt Busch 641

4. Kevin Harvick 637

5. Kyle Busch 632

6. Matt Kenseth 626

7. Jeff Gordon 587

8. Ryan Newman 586

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 577

10. Denny Hamlin 570

11. Tony Stewart 570

12. Clint Bowyer 542

13. David Ragan 524

14. Kasey Kahne 523

15. Greg Biffle 523

16. A.J. Allmendinger 515

17. Juan Montoya 511

18. Joey Logano 510

19. Paul Menard 506

20. Mark Martin 500

Up next: Brickyard 400, July 31, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Ind., 1 p.m.; TV: ESPN.

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