Turner Scott Motorsports and HScott Motorsports field 10 full-time entries in NASCAR, from the K&N Pro Series East all the way up to the Sprint Cup Series. Harry Scott, Jr., co-owner at TSM and owner of HSM returns to Frontstretch this season as a part of the diary rotation. This week, he checks in with a look at the drivers in both teams’ stables and the work that’s been put into taking his new Cup team in HSM to the next level.
Turner Scott Motorsports has a great group of drivers this season, and we’ll start with the Truck Series. We’re running Ben Kennedy full time this year for rookie of the year, and we’re running a second truck that will be a full-time fielded truck (the No. 32) which will have a variety of drivers. We started with Ryan Truex in Daytona — he did very well and finished fourth — followed by our part-time third entry with Ron Hornaday, Jr., who finished fifth. We’re not quite ready to announce the full lineup for that No. 32 this year, but there will be a number of drivers — some that are in our stable, some that are in our K&N stable, some that are associated with our team and some that have not been historically associated with us. It will be fun with a variety of drivers, and all of them are very capable, so it should be a competitive truck.
Over on the Nationwide side, Kyle Larson is back, and he’s going to do all of the Cup companion races in the No. 42 (changed from the No. 32 to sync the number with Target on his car). He’s sponsored by Cartwheel, which is the loyalty and savings program that Target has. The majority of this year, Cartwheel will be on the car, and we’re happy to have them. We also have the K&N East champion Dylan Kwasniewski in the No. 31 car, and he has been off to a very good start. He had a tough weekend last time out in Las Vegas, but he showed speed, he’s learning and has a ton of potential. I’m excited for him after the announcement last week that he is Chip Ganassi Racing’s next development driver.
Moving back to the K&N Pro Series East, we’ve got five full-time cars this season, and they’re back on track at Bristol this weekend. We’ve got Ben Rhodes, Scott Heckert, Brandon Jones, Kaz Grala and Cameron Hayley. Cameron won the K&N Pro Series West championship last year, so he’s on a similar trajectory that Dylan Kwasniewski is on, since Dylan won the West championship before coming to us to run for the East championship. We’ve got some really talented young drivers over there, and we’re very optimistic about how they’re going to perform.
Sponsorship has been a bit of a challenge this year, but we’re doing everything we can to move forward with it. Since we weren’t able to secure a program that had full funding for an entire season in the Truck Series, we’re doing the No. 32 with a variety of drivers where we could find funding for those drivers. All of those races are funded — it’s like in the Cup Series, where you used to have one major sponsor. Now, you may have three or four major sponsors throughout the year. Over in the Truck Series, in order to find those three or four, you sometimes have to change those drivers up to those that sponsors are associated with and used to working with to put together a full season.
Over on the Cup side at HScott Motorsports, we’ve got Justin Allgaier running full-time in the No. 51, and we’ve got a part-time entry with Bobby Labonte in the No. 52 for a handful of races this year. Daytona was his first — he did a great job qualifying the car in and ending up with a 15th-place finish. He did a really good job in the Daytona 500.
I’m really encouraged by how the guys are gelling together in the No. 51 team. Since we’ve got a new team, new owner, new crew chief, new car chief, new crew members, new cars and a new simulation program, there are a lot of elements there where you can begin to see them starting to gel. It’s going to take a little bit of time before everybody understands everyone else’s communication styles. I believe the cars have been good. It was a challenge last week at Las Vegas with our first mile-and-a-half with the new rules package. We spent a little bit of time working that out, but I think Justin did a really good job at Las Vegas. You’ll see the performance improve as we get everything fully set up.
Since purchasing the Cup team late last season, James Finch has been an important aspect of HScott. He’s actually partnered with me on the No. 52 car that Bobby Labonte ran at Daytona, and he’ll do so for each race Labonte does as the listed owner on that car. It’s good because it keeps him around and I get advice from him, and he’s a big help to have around. He was there for qualifying, the Duels and he was there for practice and the race. It was nice to have him around, and I look forward to doing as much in that No. 52 car as we can find sponsorship for and he’s up for doing. Part of the reason he sold was to spend more time with his eight-year-old son, and I’m sure he’s still finding the balance of that and his desire to be involved in racing. I’d love to have him be as involved as he would like to be. In fact, he is going to be involved when the No. 52 is running and I always call him. I used to talk to him a couple times a week, so he is a resource that’s there and he’s almost like the fun uncle.
Even though we’ve been trying to bring the Cup team up to speed, I’m at least as involved in TSM as I was before the Cup team started. In the offseason, I was in each shop a couple days a week, just depending on what was going on. Sometimes, I would be in one shop and call in for the meetings we had at the other shop. It’s a little bit of a juggling act, but I’m having fun doing it. As we get some structure and processes in place at HScott Motorsports on the Cup side, it will be easier. A lot of what we’re doing now is enhancing the infrastructure and getting access to new tools for the guys so we can be competitive. That takes a lot of time initially, but once you get it set up, it’s more of a maintenance thing, so it should, theoretically, be easier. I’ve definitely been wearing out the path between the Cup and Nationwide garages the last three weeks between practices and qualifying.
We’ve got some really great guys everywhere. We brought on a new director of business and operations at TSM in Kevin Ray; he’s doing a great job in helping a lot. Over on the Cup side, we’ve got Steve Addington down there, who obviously has a ton of experience and is a great leader. He’s a big help. If I didn’t have the good people that I have in place, there’s no way I could juggle all of this, and I really rely on them. It’s all about having good people in the right positions. You’ve got to be able to rely on the people you put in place when you’ve got as much going on as we do.
Everyone has been abuzz with the Chase elimination format in the Cup Series. I think it’s a really good idea; I think NASCAR spent a lot of time and effort trying to figure out the optimal scenario to build excitement. Over the past three years, there’s been a theme that winning was not rewarded enough as far as the championship goes and there needed to be more emphasis on winning. I think this new format is going to be exciting and I think it achieves the importance of emphasizing winning. You’re probably going to see some better racing throughout the year, some more aggressive racing, especially like what the No. 88 car did last week, gambling on fuel. If he didn’t have his win from Daytona, he may not have taken that chance, and the race may not have been quite as exciting.
The other thing that it does is for smaller teams, like HScott Motorsports, it gives us — even in our first year — a chance to potentially make the Chase. There are certain tracks where we have a better chance to win than others, namely the restrictor plates, and with our team in particular, at the road courses because Justin is a really good road-course driver. It gives the smaller teams some incentive and changes our allocation of resources a little bit, for us to spend more time on those races where we think we have the best shot at pulling an upset. We’re going to pay very close attention to the superspeedways this year and to the road-course races. It’s a good shot in the arm to the guys, Justin and even BRANDT — we’ve got to do a lot of things right, and a lot of things have to go our way, but we’ve got more of a chance to get into the Chase with this new format than we did in 2013.
Another thing NASCAR changed this season was the qualifying format. It’s pretty cool and it does generate interest. You should have seen the fans in the stands at Las Vegas during qualifying — it was amazing the turnout they had. We had a conference call on Tuesday where they addressed some of the concerns that drivers and teams had, and I think NASCAR has done a really good job of listening and being willing to make changes that both the drivers and the majority of the teams think would make it better and safer. They made some rule changes about the number of guys over the wall — you can now have two when the session is hot, as well as cold, and you can use a cool-down unit. You still can’t raise the hood, so you’ve got to rig an extension from your cool-down connections under the hood to the left or right-side hood flaps. I was at the shop Tuesday night and they were already fabricating the bracket to hold the connections to the cool-down unit under the hood flap. I think it’s a really good idea and the smartest way to do it. We’ve already got that equipment and we’ve been using them for years, so it’s a good way to address it.