Tuesday, April 22, 2014

JR Motorsports adds another Nationwide Series driver


   Austin Theriault will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this season, as JR Motorsports has signed him to drive three races in the No. 5 Chevrolet.

   Theriault, a 20-year-old late model racer from Fort Kent, Maine, will make his debut on May 18 at Iowa Speedway, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet replete with primary branding from SPY, the eyewear brand behind team co-owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Signature 88 Collection . 

   Nationwide Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 12) and Kentucky Speedway (Sept. 20) will fill out Theriault’s three-race schedule. The seat of the No. 5 is filled by multiple drivers throughout the season.

   “Our company is known for putting young talent in cars and giving them a shot on one of NASCAR’s biggest stages, and that is what we are giving Austin with this three-race opportunity,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. “This keeps our No. 5 car on the track, and it gives Austin the chance to show what he’s got with a lot more eyeballs taking notice.”

   Theriault was the 2012 Maine Vintage Race Car Association’s Driver of the Year, and he made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut after winning “Maine Young Guns” inaugural competition in 2012. It was that same year he became a part-time developmental driver for Brad Keselowski Racing.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Pit crew coach for Hendrick's Nos. 48/88 teams steps down

   Hendrick Motorsports confirmed on Monday that Lance Munksgard, who most recently served as pit crew coach for its Nos. 48 and 88 teams, had stepped down from his position and was moving to Texas to work for a family business.

   A Hendrick spokesman said Greg Morin and Chris Krieg will coach the team until a new head coach is named.

   For more information about Munksgard's decision, you can read an interview with him on PitTalks.com here.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Competition in Sprint Cup Series is off to a strong start

   The first eight races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season certainly have given the impression the season is off to a very competitive start, but there are some statistics from NASCAR's Loop Data, which provide some strong evidence to back up the claim.

   Among them:

   - All three manufacturers have won races thus far, led by Chevrolet's four victories.
   - An average of 12 different leaders per race, compared to 8.6 at this point last year.
   - An average of 25.6 lead changes per race, compared to 17.4 in 2013.
   - A total of 29,541 green flag passes, compared to 23,178 in 2013.
   - A total of 346 green flag passes for the lead, compared to 181 in 2013.
   - An average margin of victory of 0.588 seconds, the smallest since the start of the 2008 season.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Talladega winners are getting a sharp new trophy

   Track press release

   In support of the United States Military, Talladega Superspeedway is thrilled to announce the “Freedom Trophy,” which will be awarded to every winner of a Sprint Cup Series race at the 2.66-mile grand venue, beginning with the May 4 Aaron’s 499. The special trophy showcases all five branches of the United States military - Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

   Military personnel will be on hand at each Talladega Sprint Cup Series race to make the presentation of the Freedom Trophy in Victory Lane. Not only will they be in the winner’s circle to award the coveted trophy, but they will also participate in pre-race ceremonies as well. Each Talladega Superspeedway race weekend, a different United States military base will be given the opportunity to present the Freedom Trophy.

   The creation of Talladega Superspeedway Vice President Brian Crichton, the Freedom Trophy is an honor to all military men and women on behalf of the speedway, a patriotic entity since 1969. Crichton enlisted the assistance of Fast Forward Marketing Owner Mike Barth (Spring, TX), who has custom designed trophies in motorsports since 1996. MTM Recognition in Oklahoma City, OK spearheaded the design.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Three observations from Saturday night's race at Darlington

   Observations from Saturday night's Southern 500:

    -- Congratulations to new Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile. I was among many who were skeptical of the change of Darlington’s race day this season, which coincided with the Master’s and spring football games at South Carolina and Clemson. Thanks to the work of Wile and his staff, Saturday night’s crowd was near capacity. It was a perfect weekend of racing – from the weather down to the action on the track both Friday and Saturday nights. Well done.

   -- A lot was made of the struggles in recent weeks by Kevin Harvick and  his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team but any concern that the team would not be able to make the Chase was vastly unfounded. It remains highly improbable there will be 16 different race winners in the first 26 races – Harvick’s win Saturday night is first sign that idea has been wishful thinking at best. The one constant each week by the teams who end up winning multiple times a season is being consistently fast and there are several viable candidates remaining besides Harvick’s team.
   -- Speaking of consistently fast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has a win and has now finished third or higher in five of eight races this season. Earnhardt and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team are primed to join Harvick as multiple-time winners this season.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Contract updates on Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards

    The contracts of Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are both up at the end of the 2014 season and neither has yet re-signed with the organization. Both were asked Friday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway to address their respective contract status. Here are their responses:

   Q: Are you any closer to a contract extension?
   Biffle: I think so. I think we are getting closer. There are a lot of moving parts to a contract and a lot of new people at 3M but I know the folks are going up there next week to visit some more. I have a feeling it is getting closer. I know there has been a lot of activity. The program works really well for them and we have the America Red Cross on the car this weekend so it is a good program for 3M and I think they are happy and it looks like we are closing in on an announcement. Hopefully here soon we will have something.

   Q: Greg Biffle said he was close on a contract extension. Anything you want to share on that front?
   Edwards: No. I would rather not even talk about it. I have no news and when there is nothing to say all I could do is stir it up. I promise you, no drama. No drama.

NASCAR owner Gene Haas granted Formula One team license

   Team press release:

   Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been granted a Formula One license by the FIA.

   The following is his statement.

   “Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One.

    “Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid.

   “I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.”

   Founded in 1983 and based in Oxnard, Calif., Haas Automation is the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world. Stewart-Haas Racing won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011.