Despite top-10 finish, Joe Graf Jr. frustrated with Salem Speedway finish

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – In his quest to become a key player in the 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship hunt, Joe Graf Jr (@joegrafjr) left Sunday’s rain-shortened Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200 frustrated despite posting his first top-10 finish of the season for Chad Bryant Racing.

It was a chaotic weekend for the sophomore ARCA driver who saw his third start at Salem Speedway filled with leaps and bounds. From a cracked oil pan in practice to a strong fifth-place qualifying effort to an untimely caution and mistakes on pit road during the third race of 2019, Graf left the historic short track wondering “what if.”

“To a point it’s really frustrating,” said Graf. “We struggled the first two races to put ourselves on the map and I felt we could go to Salem this past weekend and really put our season back on track.”

With weather vastly approaching Sunday afternoon, the race wasn’t to 200 laps – but to halfway and with a long green flag run to stretch 89 laps, Graf learned his No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion was tuned to the longer run than a short sprint.

Starting a season-high fifth, Graf was able to maintain a presence inside the top-five, but over the course of the first 50 laps, a loose race car, especially in Turns 3 and 4 dropped him in the running to eighth before the car’s handling improved significantly the longer he ran allowing Graf to pick up his positions lost one by one over the next 35 laps.

Clawing his way forward, Graf was approaching the top-five when a caution waved for a spin in Turn 2. Despite being one lap down, the EAT SLEEP RACE driver was confident in his car’s capabilities and felt he could easily return to lead lap status.

When pit road opened, Graf came to his attention of his No. 77 team but with no pit road sign showing, he nearly overshot his pit before being boxed in by another competitor.

Unfortunately, those were the least of his troubles on pit road. A mistake by a crew member making a chassis adjustment cost the No. 77 team valuable seconds on pit road.

Graf returned to the track but lost four spots in the process. With rain approaching, the field went back to green for less than two laps, where Graf was able to pick up a spot to ninth before Mother Nature soaked the 0.5-mile track.

A short time later, ARCA officials declared the race complete with Graf scored ninth.

“We’ve got to clean up pit road,” added Graf Jr. “This isn’t the first time that we’ve encountered these type of problems this year and with the season getting ready to be really busy here soon, we need to be making up positions on pit road, instead of losing them.

“I’m frustrated because we had a fast race car. But we should be fast. There’s no excuses not to be fast. Everyone expects us to be and when I don’t perform to my expectations – I’m not happy. I expect us to contend for the win. Our partners expect us to win and Chad (Bryant, crew chief and owner) expects us to win.

“With every point crucial, we need to leave our problems in Salem behind us and focus on Talladega and make sure we’ve learned from the miscues of the first three races and be a lot better for the remaining 17.”

If there’s an upside for Graf Jr. – the championship points lead is still within reach. Unexpectedly, former series points leader Christian Eckes became sidelined Sunday morning with an unexplained illness. With his absence, the points changed significantly, and it brought several drivers including Graf within reach.

With three races complete, Graf maintains fourth in the championship standings and a mere 55 points out of the lead.

“First, my thoughts and prayers are with Christian, sounded Graf. “I hope he gets better and is able to get back behind the wheel at Talladega. But, with his misfortune, it’s made it anyone’s game when it comes to the championship lead.

“For us, we need to be as flawless as we can be moving forward. Finishing second at Talladega Superspeedway in one of the closest finishes in ARCA Menards Series competition last year, it definitely gives us some momentum for the next race – but we’ll need to execute in two weeks to stay in this championship hunt.”

For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter (@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

About EAT SLEEP RACE:

EAT SLEEP RACE (eatsleeprace.com) is a racing lifestyle apparel company based out of New Jersey.  Since 2001 the brand has offered a full product line including accessories and apparel for men’s and ladies.  As one of the pioneers of motorsports apparel, the brand has deep roots in the racing industry and was created to offer fresh designs for all racing enthusiasts.

The company has expanded to now offer a dedicated children’s product line of apparel and accessories branded as the Fast Kids Club with it’s hot selling ABC book for future race car drivers.

Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 Race Recap

Salem (Ind.) Speedway | Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 Race Recap
Team: No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion
Driver: Joe Graf Jr.
Follow the Team: @ChadBryantRace; @JoeGrafJr
Start: Fifth
Finish: Ninth; Running (100 | 101 laps completed)
Unofficial Driver Points Position: Fourth

Joe Graf Jr. Quote: “Man, I wish the rain would have held off. We had a pretty good No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion early in the race – but we struggled as the run progressed in Turns 3 and 4 getting the car to grip towards the top.

“Chad (Bryant, crew chief) made an adjustment there after we came in for tires and I would have liked to see how it would have played out under green. We got trapped a lap down during the long green flag run – but I think we had the speed to get back on the lead lap and hustle back to the front if the rain would not have come.

“Our performance this weekend from start to finish though was a step in the right direction moving forward and we’ll take our first top-10 finish of the season and carry on to Talladega in a few weeks.

“I can’t thank EAT SLEEP RACE and all of the Chad Bryant Racing team for their continued support, it means a lot.”

Next Up: General Tire 200 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Fri., Apr. 26, 2019.

For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter (@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

For more on Chad Bryant Racing, please like them on Facebook (Chad Bryant Racing) and follow them on Twitter (@ChadBryantRace). Also, visit the new ChadBryantRacing.com.

About EAT SLEEP RACE:

EAT SLEEP RACE (eatsleeprace.com) is a racing lifestyle apparel company based out of New Jersey.  Since 2001 the brand has offered a full product line including accessories and apparel for men’s and ladies.  As one of the pioneers of motorsports apparel, the brand has deep roots in the racing industry and was created to offer fresh designs for all racing enthusiasts.

The company has expanded to now offer a dedicated children’s product line of apparel and accessories branded as the Fast Kids Club with it’s hot selling ABC book for future race car drivers.

Joe Graf Jr. ready to “EAT SLEEP RACE Salem” with Chad Bryant Racing

SALEM, Ind. – Upbeat about a recent ARCA Menards Series test at Salem (Ind.) Speedway with his Chad Bryant Racing, sophomore driver Joe Graf Jr. (@joegrafjr) heads to the historic short track eyeing his second career series victory and an opportunity to put his season back on track in Sunday’s Kentuckiana Ford Dealers ARCA 200.

Sitting fourth in points and within reach of second place, Graf Jr. is ready to get down to business and in the spirit of his marketing EAT SLEEP RACE – the rising star is eager to “EAT SLEEP RACE SALEM” aboard his No. 77 Ford Fusion.

“Yeah, I’m pretty hungry to go out there and have a good run on Sunday,” offered Graf who will make his third ARCA start at Salem Speedway. “We had a pretty good test. Did a lot. Learned a lot and I think we should be in good shape on Sunday afternoon.”

In his previous two starts at the half-mile bullring, Graft Jr. narrowly missed top-10 efforts with back-to-back 11th place performances in April and September respectively.

“I was frustrated with 11th – because I felt like we were so close to top-10 runs both times,” recalled Graf. “Salem isn’t a walk in the park when it comes to a particular driving style. Its relatively rough surface demands a pretty physical race where you have to get up on the wheel and drive.

“I’m prepared to get up and drive my No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion to the front and stay there. We had a decent recovery at Five Flags – with an 11th (chuckles) – but I’m ready to get our Chad Bryant Racing team back inside the top-10 where we belong.”

For the third straight race, EAT SLEEP RACE, a racing lifestyle apparel company headquartered in New Jersey returns as the primary sponsor of Graf Jr.’s No. 77 Ford Fusion for the 200-lap race.

Since 2001, EAT SLEEP RACE has offered a full product line including accessories and apparel for men’s and ladies. As one of the pioneers of motorsports apparel, the brand has deep roots in the racing industry and was created to offer fresh designs for all racing enthusiasts.

“Super pumped to have EAT SLEEP RACE back on board this weekend at Salem,” offered Graf Jr. “We are working with them on several different projects and they have been instrumental in making our social media campaign surrounding Daytona a success.

“I’m also really happy about my own clothing through EAT SLEEP RACE and look forward to seeing that thrust as the season goes on. A lot of good things going on for me both on and off the track.”
Graf’s crew chief and car owner Chad Bryant says Salem is the perfect opportunity for the No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE team to get back on the throttle and gain some momentum ahead of the summer stretch.
“Joe has always done a good job at Salem in the past – but he’s determined to take that experience and use it to the fullest potential on Sunday,” said Bryant.

“He will be one of the most experienced drivers in the field and that should play into our hands. A win on Sunday would be huge for me, Joe, the guys and EAT SLEEP RACE.”

To bring exclusivity to his No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion, Graf will carry the Fast Kids Club on-board camera for his third start at Salem Speedway. The Fast Kids Club is the designated youth division of EAT SLEEP RACE.

For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter (@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

For more on Chad Bryant Racing, please like them on Facebook (Chad Bryant Racing) and follow them on Twitter (@ChadBryantRace). Also, visit the new ChadBryantRacing.com.

The Kentuckiana Ford Dealers 200 (200 laps | 111 miles) is the third of 20 races on the 2019 ARCA Menards Series schedule. Practice begins Sat., Apr. 13 with an hour and a half session from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. General Tire pole qualifying is set for later in the day at 3:00 p.m. The race in the 67th consecutive ARCA season is set to take the green flag the following day, Sun., Apr. 14 beginning at 2:00 p.m. The event will be televised live on MAVTV, while ARCARacing.com will stream live timing and scoring throughout the entire weekend festivities. All times are local (ET).

Joe Graf Jr. using Daytona misfortune to bring awareness to plastic bag epidemic

MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Misfortune can turn into opportunity.

And that sentiment couldn’t be truer for ARCA Menards Series driver Joe Graf Jr. (@JoeGrafJr.).

In his sophomore season driving for Chad Bryant Racing (CBR), Graf Jr. made his superspeedway debut at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway driving the No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford Fusion.

While maneuvering his way towards the front of the race in the season-opening Lucas Oil 200 -– a plastic bag from the grandstands found itself on the grille of Graf’s Ford Fusion which subsequently led to his race car overheating and ruining the opportunity to win his second career victory.

Instead of placing blame on the hardship, Graf Jr. has elected to raise awareness about the consequences of plastic bags and the encouragement of using reusable shopping bags.

To help with his mission, Graf and his sponsor EAT SLEEP RACE recently launched a contest where anyone can visit EATSLEEPRace.com/win to enter a chance to win $1,000 cash in a reusable shopping bag as a promise to educate and evaluate.

The team has also created a humorous video surrounding the episode at Daytona mixed of interesting facts and tidbits about the ongoing epidemic.

“It was unfortunate what we had to experience at Daytona, but this is a prime opportunity for us to turn a negative into a positive thanks to my sponsor EAT SLEEP RACE,” offered Joe Graf Jr. “Who couldn’t use $1,000 to help with their every day needs all with a vow to help spread our message. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Graf Jr. will announce the winner of the contest next month at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway where the 20-year-old returns to the 2.66-mile superspeedway after drafting into the spotlight by being a part of the closest finish in the series’ 66-year history – crossing the start-finish line in a dead heat against competitor Zane Smith.

Graf Jr. lost the race by 0.0029 seconds, a photo finish.

The winner does not need to be present to win and no purchase is necessary.
For more on Joe Graf Jr, please like him on Facebook (Joe Graf Jr.) and follow him on Twitter (@JoeGrafJr) and visit his brand new website at JoeGrafJr.com.

For more on Chad Bryant Racing, please like them on Facebook (Chad Bryant Racing) and follow them on Twitter (@ChadBryantRace). Also, visit the new ChadBryantRacing.com.