Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Jack Roush: "Clint (Bowyer) has been on my radar screen"

   In an interview Wednesday night with Claire B. Lang during her show "Dialed In" on SIRIUSXM Radio, team owner Jack Roush admitted he has had conversations with driver Clint Bowyer and that Bowyer "has been on my radar screen for a long, long time."

   "We'd certainly welcome him to the Ford camp if he accepted (Richard Petty Motorsports') offer. That would certainly be, I think, in Ford's interest and I would be very happy about that," Roush said. "If he decided to take a look at one of our programs, and we had room for him, that would also be of interest.

   "The way the sponsors are going to line up for next year and which cars they're going to be on and which opportunities you might have, is not clear. We're having discussions on many topics."

   Bowyer, who currently drives for Richard Childress Racing, is in the last year of his contract with the No. 33 Sprint Cup Series team. He has been in contract negotiations for months, leading to speculation he may end up elsewhere when all is said and done.

   Roush said Bowyer was "a lot out of the Carl Edwards mold."

   "He's a Midwest guy and he has good judgment on the race track. He's earned a lot of respect from his competitors as well as a lot of insiders like myself who have been watching him during his career," Roush said.

   Roush currently fields four Cup teams with drivers Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Edwards and David Ragan.

   Asked if he really had a spot available at Roush Fenway Racing, Roush said, "I don't know what kind of sponsor lineup I will have for next year. It's just not clear. It's not clear the way all of our programs are going to shake down."


NASCAR goes to college this fall

    As students head off to college this fall, many will encounter the work of one of NASCAR's newest marketing campaigns.

   UNC Charlotte and UNC Chapel Hill are among the schools NASCAR has targeted this fall with its College Brand Ambassador Program, which will utilize student ambassadors to host events including viewing parties and trips to loca tracks to watch NASCAR events.

   NASCAR U CREW, with the assistance of two brand ambassadors per school, will help integrate NASCAR into the college lifestyle of 12 colleges and universities in the 10 Chase for the Sprint Cup markets.

   “NASCAR, and the social component of watching and attending races, lends itself very nicely to the college lifestyle,” said NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps.

   Besides the two North Carolina schools, the pilot program will also debut at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; University of New Hampshire; University of Delaware; University of Kansas; Auburn University; Virginia Tech; University of North Texas; Arizona State University; Florida International University; and the University of Miami (Fla.).

   Responsible for establishing and executing at least 10 unique NASCAR events and integrating the sport into existing campus events, each school’s ambassadors will also be charged with working closely with their respective track to create and promote a college ticket package as well as a designated hospitality/tailgate area for local students.

   “NASCAR is a fast-paced, high intensity, adrenalin rush, and that is exactly why it is already so popular with 18-34 year olds. It’s a sport for the young and adventurous, and we just have to open more college students’ eyes to it," said Madison Phillips, a NASCAR ambassador at UNC Chapel Hill.

Can fans accept the ever-changing landscape of NASCAR?

   In many respects, advances in technology bring positive, beneficial changes.

   That is also true in NASCAR, particularly in the area of driver safety. The use of the HANS device and extensive work done on car chassis to make them more durable and help prevent serious injury – or even death – has been seen in countless examples over the last 10 years.

   But at its heart, NASCAR was always a simple sport.

   Build a car and engine that’s durable, run fast, outrun your competitors. Try to find an advantage others don’t have or ‘slip’ something by the track officials.

   Hopefully, make enough at the race to pick up your stuff and take it to the next one.
   It’s worked for over 60 years.

   These days, however, NASCAR – at least in competition terms – has been battling technology more than it has benefited from it.

   With changes in competition, technology and even society, rules have been changed or added in the sport affecting how races are run or even how drivers may act.

   The addition of a multitude of millions of dollars in corporate sponsorship has imposed greater demands on drivers and teams and greater responsibility, sometimes to the detriment of the once rough-and-tumble operation of the sport.

   The development of car technology has made them far more durable – thus eliminating the attrition factor once a part of 500-mile races – and also created unexpected problems in areas like aerodynamics.

   There are more big tracks than short ones, a trend which only adds to the aero problem and thus the cost of correcting those issues.

   NASCAR tried to keep its engines in line with its origins, but next year carburetors will yield to fuel-injection. Is there anyone who doesn’t think a whole new line of unpredicted issues will develop as a result in the years ahead?

   Yes, technology has done wonders for NASCAR competitors and fans, who now have access to more information than ever before about the sport they love.

   Yet, technology has also changed that once simple sport forever. I do not doubt that in some ways that’s occurred in every sport, but in NASCAR – where many argue equipment has more influence than the competitor – it’s far greater.

   The question remains: In the long term, will that be for the better?

   The answer is likely yes, but only if the sport’s fans are willing to accept the ever-changing landscape.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chase would be great, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. wants a championship

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. would certainly like to end his career-worst winless streak. And making the Chase for the Sprint Cup after missing it for two consecutive seasons would be a plus, too.

   But does Earnhardt really want? A Cup championship.
   Earnhardt was asked Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway how important was to make the Chase and his take was very telling:

   "I don’t know how important it is. It is probably all professional really. You have a lot of race fans; a lot of sponsors and me as a driver; my car owner; everybody. That is your ultimate goal to get in the Chase at the start of the season. It is important to us all on a professional level. On a personal level, I don’t really know how much it matters to me.," he said.

   "Making the Chase is just an afterthought. I really want to win the championship, you know. Making the Chase is great and all, but as a person, you want to be the champion. Making the Chase doesn’t really make you feel better at the end of the season if you don’t win a championship, you are really disappointed. I don’t really think about, I need to make the Chase, personally, those aren’t my thoughts. I think more about what could we have done last week? What do we need to go into Bristol? What did we do last time we raced here?

   "I’m thinking more about the particular day-to-day stuff and I want to win a race. How can we put ourselves in position to do that? Things like that. The Chase stuff, the points and everything sort of takes care of itself. You try to do the best you can throughout the year to put yourself in the best position there, but, I miss the Chase, I’ll probably catch a lot of s*** about it. It will save me a lot of s*** if I make the Chase so that is probably the only thing personally that I have to worry about."

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

No pulling hair in NASCAR

   NASCAR fined crew chief Jerry Baxter $5,000 on Tuesday and placed him on probation until Dec. 31 for pulling the hair of driver Steve Wallace as Wallace drove down pit road following Saturday's Nationwide Series race in Montreal.

   Baxter was crew chief for the No. 99 Toyota that competed in the race with driver Patrick Carpentier.

   As Wallace was driving down pit road after the race with his helmet off, Baxter reached into Wallace's car and had pulled Wallace's hair. The incident was caught on Wallace's in-car camera and shown on the ESPN broadcast.

   Wallace and Carpentier had been involved in an inicident on the track early in the race.

   On Monday, Baxter issued an apology for his actions.

   "I'm sorry for what happened after the race on Saturday and I take responsibility for my own actions," Baxter said in a statement. "I was just very frustrated and let my emotions get to me. That was Patrick's last race and we wanted to make it special.

   "We really thought he had a shot for the win and everything boiled over when that chance went away in the wreck. Everyone was just racing hard and there was no intent to wreck anyone. There's no excuse for what I did after the race and I apologize to everyone."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Truck series driver Shane Sieg suspended by NASCAR

   Shane Sieg, a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the sanctioning body's substance abuse policy.

   Sieg, a 28 year old driver from Tucker, Ga., has been fielding his own entries in the Truck series this season. He has started 12 of 15 races so far with a best finish of 12th on March 12 at Darlington, S.C.

   In his NASCAR career, Sieg has made 68 starts in Trucks and two in the Nationwide Series (both in 2004). His career best finish is an eighth at Milwaukee in Trucks in 2004.

   Also, NASCAR has reinstated Denise Harmon-Mixon, a crew member in the Nationwide Series, following her successful completion of the Road to Recovery program. Harmon-Mixon had been suspended July 5 for violating the substance abuse policy.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kyle Petty on Danica Patrick: "Do they give out trophies for 25th?"

    Former Sprint Cup Series driver and Speed analyst has been pulling no punches lately in discussions about IndyCar fan favorite Danica Patrick making a fulltime move to NASCAR next season.

   During Sunday's "NASCAR RaceDay" Petty reiterated his opinion Patrick is not ready for a fulltime Nationwide season or a move shortly thereafter to the Cup series.

   Here's Petty's exchange with NASCAR RaceDay co-hosts John Roberts and Kenny Wallace on Sunday morning:

   On the expected announcement Patrick is coming to NASCAR fulltime in the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series:
   Petty: “I really don’t have much to say on this. So, finally marketing is coming to NASCAR because we know driving isn’t coming to NASCAR. Let’s be serious about this. She ran 12 races last year. She’s made an improvement this year. To run the Nationwide Series, she’s basically going to have to run two full seasons during one. What I mean by that – the IndyCar season is only 15, 17 races. NASCAR Nationwide Series is a tough, freakin’ series. I don’t think she can be competitive. Was she competitive yesterday (Saturday in the Nationwide Series race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal)? Do they give out trophies for 25th? No, I ran 25th my whole life. I never got a trophy for 25th.”

   Roberts: They don’t give out trophies for 25th but she was running up near the front when the car broke … in the teens …
   Petty: “In the teens! Oh my gosh, Danica’s in the teens (joking). She’s not ready for Cup by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve said this before. I don’t think people realize how good a driver Joe Nemechek, Travis Kvapil, David Gilliland – how tough they really are. She can come up, she can bring marketing, she can sell t-shirts. These people out here (fans) can scream for her and pull for her but she’s going to have to do something on the race track at some point in time and she has yet to do anything on a NASCAR track yet. Give her a chance. I’m all for chances.”

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Michigan: What to watch for

What to watch for at Sunday's Pure Michigan 400:

-- The one-week statistical oddity -- Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch tied for the top spot in the Sprint Cup standings with 752 points each – will certainly come undone today. Will one of them emerge alone in first place – or could it be Jimmie Johnson (six points back) or Kevin Harvick (eight back)?
-- Here’s another strange stat: Five-time champ Johnson has never won at Michigan in 19 starts. He’ll start 19th today.
-- Brad Keselowski says his broken left ankle continues to bother him. But Keselowski has won and finished second in the two races since he was injured.
-- Two drivers – pole-winner Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth – qualified with speeds in excess of 190 mph. But Biffle doesn’t think that’s too fast. He points out that qualifying is a one-off run, and tires wear down on each successive lap during the actual race. Speeds, accordingly, lessen the longer a car is out there.
-- Denny Hamlin’s lone victory of the season came in Michigan’s June race, but he has just one top-five finish since then. Since he’s 12th in the points and has that victory, he’d qualify for the Chase as a wild car (with Keselowski) if the regular season had ended this week. But he doesn’t have much wiggle room.
-- Dale Earnhardt Jr. starts eighth today, his best qualifying effort since he was sixth at Daytona in July. And, yes, Michigan was the track where Earnhardt last won, 115 races ago in 2008. -- David Scott

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

NASCAR season preview coming to hall of fame

The NASCAR Hall of Fame's 2012 induction ceremony, already moved to January from May, will now have an even more fan-friendly feel to it.

The Charlotte-based hall of fame announced Tuesday it will combine the induction of the five members of its third class -- Darrell Waltrip, Richie Evans, Dale Inman, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough -- with a 2012 NASCAR season preview the weekend of Jan. 20-22.

The preview, similar to a preseason fan-fest held in Winston-Salem from 1990-2003, will allow fans to get  autographs and attend Q&A sessions with drivers at the Charlotte Convention Center (which is adjacent to the uptown hall of fame).

The induction ceremony will be Friday Jan. 20, followed by the day-long preview on Saturday, Jan. 21. On Sunday, the hall-of-fame displays of the five inductees will be unveiled inside the hall.

Waltrip, one of the inductees, looks forward to the return of the preview. He remembers the 14 years it was held in Winston-Salem, where it was put on by then-NASCAR sponsor R.J. Reynolds. And he thinks it will help with the hall's struggling attendance.

"In Winston-Salem, the fans got to see everything first," said Waltrip. "If a driver has a new sponsor or new team, the preview always gave you the opportunity to see that, and it made it special. The hall should be a destination, and this will help with that." -- David Scott

Monday, August 15, 2011

So what, exactly, was that caution for?

   It was the final lap in Monday's rain-delayed race at Watkins Glen International. The white flag had flown. A caution now would freeze the field and ensure then-leader Marcos Ambrose would win the race, but without a race to the checkered flag.

   In Turn 2, Boris Said hit David Ragan and knocked him into the wall. Ragan's car bounced off the wall and back onto the track and collided with David Reutimann, sending Reutimann's car spinning wildly in the air.

  OK, obviously NASCAR has said in the past if there is no danger to the cars or drivers involved, they will hold the caution to get the green-flag finish.

   Yet, a couple turns later, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer started a chain-reaction incident and suddenly NASCAR threw the caution flag. So, the field was frozen anyway and although it looked like Brad Keselowski could run down Ambrose for a try at a pass, Ambrose took the victory under caution.

   But there's a problem.

   In the official race report for Monday's race, it lists a caution for the final lap of the race. That's certainly correct. But NASCAR always cites a reason and here's the catch. The reason for the last lap caution is listed as "#00, 6, 51 Accident Turn 2."

   So, the official reason for a caution on the last lap according to NASCAR is the incident involving Ragan, Reutiumann and Said (when the flag didn't come out) and NOT the one involving Stewart, Bowyer and others (when the flag did come out).

   Either someone made a mistake, or NASCAR inadvertently admitted it should have thrown the caution flag earlier.

   Which is it, I wonder?


Boris Said said what???

   Boris Said and Greg Biffle already weren't buddy, but a run-in on the track in Monday's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International added a new twist.

   Biffle confronted Said while he was still sitting in his No. 51 Chevrolet after the race, then Said tried to extend the confrontation after getting out of the car, but crew members broke up the incident.

   Biffle wasn't immediately available after the race to comment, but Said had plenty to say.

   Here is Said's take on the race: "It was crazy. I mean ... the last lap; the No. 6 car (David Ragan) was getting into me a lot. I didn't want to wreck him, but I had to stay on the track and he didn't give me any room. We both collided. That is the only thing I feel bad about.

   "I'm more upset with Greg Biffle. He is the most unprofessional little scaredy cat I've ever seen in my life. He wouldn't even fight me like a man after. So, if someone texts me his address, I'll go see him Wednesday at his house and show him what he really needs. He needs a...whooping and I'm going to give it to him. He was flipping me off, giving me the finger. Totally unprofessional. Two laps down. I mean he is a chump.

   "I went over there to go talk to him. He wouldn't even let me get out of the car. He comes over and throws a few little baby punches and then when I get out, he runs away and hides behind some big guys. But, he won't hide from me long. I'll find him. I won't settle it out on the track. It's not right to wreck cars, but, he'll show up at a race with a black eye one of these days. I'll see him somewhere."

   Said's crew chief, Nick Harrison, also chimed in.

   "Boris has had a problem, actually I think (Greg) Biffle has had a problem with Boris from a previous race so leading into this race, they already had some aggression toward each other. Early in the race, Biffle had run out of gas and was multiple laps down and was racing Boris. Boris thought dirty, so Boris relayed a message to the spotter he wanted to meet him after the race," he said.
   "And the deal with the No. 6 car (David Ragan). I think Boris just got into him and that was a really ugly wreck. I think that was just hard racing. But, Greg Biffle and Boris Said has some problems and Boris wanted to handle it with his fists. That is what was going on."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Montoya not concerned with loss of two crew members

   Juan Pablo Montoya said Friday he did not think the loss of two crew members - including one member of his pit crew - would adversely affect his race team.

   On Wednesday, Chip Ganassi Racing fired two employees - Trevor Lysne and Jerome "J.D." Frey - who were arrested on Tuesday by Huntersville (N.C.) Police in connection with the shipment of 10.5 pounds of marijuana from California.

   Lysne was the front tire changer for Montoya's pit crew while Frey was a mechanic who worked in the shop. Both have been indefinitely suspended by NASCAR.

   Asked if the loss of the crew members was a concern, Montoya said, "Not really. It is something that the team had to deal with it and NASCAR had to deal with it. We left it at that.

   "Personally, we made some changes in our crew. And that’s it. We get on with our business to try to win here and that’s it.”

   Lysne, 40, is charged with trafficking marijuana, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana and maintaining a dwelling to distribute marijuana. Frey, 27, is also charged with trafficking marijuana and possession with intent to sell and deliver.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Two Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing employees arrested in drug bust

   Two employees of Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, including a pit crew member for Sprint Cup Series driver Juan Pablo Montoya's No. 42 team, were arrested this week on drug charges.

   On Tuesday, officers with the Huntersville (N.C.) Police Department arrested Trevor Lysne and Jerome "J.D." Frey in connection with a drug bust that netted 10.5 pounds of marijuana that had been shipped from California, the police report said.

   Lysne, 40, is the front tire changer for Montoya's pit crew. Frey, 27,  is a part-time racer and a mechanic who works in EGR's shop.

   Lysne is charged with trafficking marijuana, possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana and maintaining a dwelling to distribute marijuana. Frey, 27, is also charged with trafficking marijuana and possession with intent to sell and deliver.

   According to the Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Web site, Lysne was released on a $30,000 secured bond and Frey was released on a $25,000 secured bond. Both have court appearances scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

   A spokesman for EGR said the organization was still gathering facts about the incident and had no immediate comment.

   NASCAR officials were expected to address the matter later Wednesday afternoon.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's time for Parade of Power

Charlotte Motor Speedway's Parade of Power is set for Tuesday at noon, beginning at Concord Mills Mall and traveling along Bruton Smith Boulevard to the track.

Vehicles from from every form of motorsports competing at CMS this fall will be in the parade.

Drivers scheduled to appear in the parade include NASCAR's Reed Sorenson, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and David Ragan; and NHRA's Doug Foley, Doug Herbert, Matt Smith and Angie Smith. -- David Scott

Ryan Truex lands Nationwide ride

   Ryan Truex will have an opportunity to return to the NASCAR Nationwide Series this season, as he will drive six races in Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 Toyota beginning with the Sept. 3 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Observer has learned.

   Truex, the 19-year-old younger brother of Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr., competed in 10 races this season with Michael Waltrip Racing until a lack of sponsorship sidelined him.

   In addition to Atlanta, Ryan Truex will also drive the No. 20 for JGR in Nationwide races at Richmond, Va.; Chicagoland; Dover, Del.; Kansas and Phoenix.

   In 17 career Nationwide starts, Truex has one top-10 finish, an eighth at Richmond earlier this season. He won the 2009 and 2010 K&N Pro Series East championships driving for MWR.

Mary Hendrick, mother of HMS owner Rick Hendrick, died Monday

   Mary Hendrick, mother of Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick, passed away Monday afternoon at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. Mrs. Hendrick, a native of Palmer Springs, Va., was 88.
   Fondly referred to as “Miss Mary,” Mrs. Hendrick was the car owner of the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 2005 to 2007.
   In 2008, she became the owner of the No. 5 Chevrolet. She won seven races as a car owner, with Mark Martin notably recording five of those wins during the 2009 season. That year, Martin drove the No. 5 Chevrolet to a runner-up finish in the championship standings, giving Mrs. Hendrick her best season as a car owner.
   In June 2004, then-N.C. Gov. Mike Easley presented Joe and Mary Hendrick with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine -- the state of North Carolina’s highest honor bestowed on a citizen for dedication and extended length of service to his or her organization.
   The family requests privacy at this time as arrangements are being finalized. Details will be released when available.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Pocono revised ticket/schedule plan

Dear Race Fans,

Due to today’s postponement of the Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service 125 (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series) & Pennsylvania 125 (ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards) races, Pocono Raceway will exchange a Saturday General Admission grandstand ticket for a $25.00 credit towards the purchase of any Sunday Grandstand ticket OR a similar Saturday Grandstand ticket in 2012. Pocono Raceway will also exchange a Saturday Terrace Club ticket for a $75.00 credit towards the purchase of any Sunday ticket valued at $75.00 or more. Fans can exchange their tickets by visiting the Gate # 8 ticket booth behind the Grandstands, beginning at 8:00 a.m.

If the Pre-Race Pits are not open due to competition on the track, Pre-Race Pit /Paddock Pass will be honored for Pre-Race Pit/Paddock admission for either NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway in 2012

Here is Sunday’s revised schedule of events is as follows:
5:00 a.m. – Parking Lots Open
8:00 a.m. – Grandstand Gates Open
9:00 a.m. – Good Sam RV Emergency Road Service 125 (Truck Series) race
TBD – Pennsylvania 125 (ARCA) race to immediately follow conclusion of Truck Series event
12:00 p.m. – Salute to the Armed Forces Pre-Race Festivities Begin
12:30 p.m. – Sprint Cup Series Driver Introductions
1:00 p.m. – Good Sam RV Insurance 500 (Cup Series) race

Pastrana postpones NASCAR debut

   Travis Pastrana will not make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut until the 2012 season due to injuries suffered during the 17th annual X Games last week, the driver announced on Saturday.

   The 11-time X Games gold medalist broke his right ankle and foot while attempting a Rodeo 720 with a back flip during the Best Trick competition in Los Angeles, forcing him to miss his scheduled Nationwide debut at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis last Saturday.

   The injuries required surgery, which were completed by Dr. Tom Dennis at Riva Road Surgical Center in Annapolis, Md., Wednesday evening. Dr. Dennis said the operation was a success and Pastrana should make a full recovery. Pastrana most follow a strict healing process which will require him to be immobilized in traction for at least one month and unable to apply weight on his right leg for another month.

   “To give my ankle and foot time to heal properly we have decided to wait until 2012 to make my NASCAR debut,” Pastrana said. “I probably could have been ready for the final couple of races in 2011, but it just makes more sense to start fresh in 2012.

   "We are already starting to talk about testing and what I need to do to prepare for next season. My sincere apologies go out to my NASCAR team, fans and sponsors for this delay. Thanks for all of the support. This will be a fun ride … eventually.”

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Keselowski to miss Nationwide race

   Due to injuries sustained in an accident on Wednesday while testing at Road Atlanta, Brad Keselowski will not drive in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide race at Iowa.

   The following is statement from Penske Racing about its plans for the weekend:

   "Due to Brad Keselowski's accident while testing at Road Atlanta yesterday, he will not participate in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Parker Kligerman will practice the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger on Friday, while Sam Hornish Jr. will qualify and race the car on Saturday. Penske Racing will continue to evaluate Brad's condition. Further information will be provided as it becomes known."