Sunday, October 30, 2011

Has Tony Stewart been too nice?

   Has Tony Stewart been too nice this season?
   Stewart said he received some advice prior to Sunday's Tums 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway that he needed to stop being so pleasant to some of his competitors on the race track.

    "I was reminded by Darian (Grubb, his crew chief) this morning, I was reminded by my spotter this morning, and I was reminded before the race by many crew members to not be so nice today, which I know sounds odd of me," Stewart said. "You know, this is a tough race. I think right at the end, a perfect example is having Jimmie (Johnson) there racing you, Jeff, Jeff Burton, the guys that we were around at the end of the day. You race these guys with respect and they're going to race you back with respect.

   "Could Jimmie just hauled it off in the corner, blown the corner to try to take us down? Absolutely. He could have done that to anybody. He didn't do that to us. I think he knows we respect him and have that level of respect."

   But Stewart wasn't pleased with many drivers Sunday. On Friday, he said the sport had become too political. Sunday it was a lack of respect that bothered him.

   "NASCAR is going to have to at some point make these drivers be responsible for their actions amongst each other and not baby sit and not protect these guys. Let them get their butt kicked. That's what used to happen in the old days. You didn't have guys dumping each other and taking cheap shots like that," he said.

   "I used to be as guilty of it and bad as anybody about taking a cheap shot at guys early. But you realize that it's not about the two guys driving the cars out there as much as it's there's a bunch of guys that go back to the shop. There's a car owner that spends a lot of money. There's a bunch of crew guys that spend a lot of hours and put a lot of heart and soul into what we have as a product each week with these race cars. I think at times we all forget about that.

   "You let a guy get his butt kicked once or twice, he'll quit doing stupid stuff like that. I saw a bunch of it today out there. Luckily we weren't one of the guys that were in the middle of it a lot."

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dale Jr. offers his plan to end two-car tandem drafting

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been an outspoken critic of the two-car drafting tandems that have become commonplace at Daytona and Talladega this season. He has maintained from the get-go he much preferred the racing in large packs.

   Earnhardt came up on the short end last Sunday, running much of the race in the back of the pack with teammate Jimmie Johnson. The two failed to make a planned run to the front late in the race, frustrating Earnhardt again.

   Friday at Martinsville Speedway, Earnhardt was asked for his suggestion to NASCAR to change the tandem drafting. This was his response:

   "Well, we need to go test, we need to take a lot of race cars out there and test a lot of things and get creative and unique in the ideas and get everybody on the same packaging and go thoroughly through it. We have three days of testing in Daytona and to be honest, you don’t really do a lot while you are testing in Daytona. You have three days, so you fill it up with ideas and gimmicks and carry on, but you don’t really find things that bring a lot of speed," Earnhardt said.

   "You have a rules package in the back of the car as far as shocks and springs and you have such a stringent guidelines on the bodies, but there are not a lot of things to do in three days, so really it is just your burning fuel and wasting a lot of time. When we go to Talladega, we put the car together, you unload it, you make a couple of laps, make sure nothing falls off and you are ready to race. There is not much to it. We could take those three days or invent another test sooner, and take 15 cars or whatever, go down there and go to Daytona or Talladega and try smaller spoilers.

   "I think the spoilers are way too big, when I look at that spoiler, I can’t imagine there was a lot of study that went behind how effective it would be and what it would do, it is just a big square piece of steel, as wide as it could possibly be, and pretty tall. Make the spoiler more narrow, or smaller, run some softer springs in the back to get the cars a little lower. They have to make the hole that we punch in the air a little smaller. Right now, it is so giant it is very easy for another guy to fit up in that void and draft and push all the way around the race track. They need to bring the ceiling down that the car creates by the hole it pushes in the air, the car just punches a hole in the air and they need to bring that hole closer to the ground. Get a little bit more air on the second car’s windshield cause a little more drag on that car. I think the spoiler is just way too big. The corners on the ends, they could cut those off and round that spoiler off, going back to anywhere from 1998 to 2004, that type of spoiler was a little bit better, even smaller than that."

   Earnhardt's proposed change wasn't limited to the spoilers.

   "We have de-tuned the cars so that they go very slow and we have also resurfaced the race tracks to where they have a lot of grip so you could really take quite a bit away from the spoiler on the back of the car before I believe you would start to feel the handling effects of that. Otherwise, that entire thing does is really try and drag it down. Hopefully, we will get fortunate and the fuel injection will throw a few curve balls in the positive aspect that will change the drafting and change the ways the cars work in the draft. You never know and it might not change anything but maybe those going to fuel injection might have some positive effects," he said.

   "I think we can take the spoiler away, get the back down with softer spring or whatever and different shock package in the back of whatever, and make the cars a little tougher to connect to, when you do those two things it will create a little bit of a beach ball effect in between the cars, like it is an imaginary beach ball in front of you. When you drive up to a guy, you kind of push him away. We will be able to open up the motors a little bit, get the qualifying faster, have a little more response in the cars when we are racing and driving them, but yet, we probably will not draft faster than we do now."


NASCAR statement on Chad Knaus

   NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp issued the following statement on Friday about a meeting between series officials and crew chief Chad Knaus:

   "We had the opportunity to visit with Chad and Jimmie this morning in Martinsville. As the sport's governing body we were doing our due diligence to look into this and gain some insight into the comments Chad made before the race at Talladega. We have a responsibility to the rest of the garage area to ensure that everyone is competing on a level playing field with the inspection processes we have in place. The 48 organization knows that from this occurrence that their car is likely to be a regular customer at the R&D Center for post race inspection the balance of this season."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Tony Stewart talks safety in IndyCar

   Tony Stewart, a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and also former IndyCar Series champion, was asked Tuesday his thoughts on the accident two weeks ago that claimed the life of IndyCar star Dan Wheldon and what safety changes he might like to see.

   Here is Stewart's response:

   "It was a freak accident. It was something that nobody ever wants to see happen, but unfortunately it's a part of all of auto racing. It doesn't matter whether it's NASCAR or IndyCar or drag racing or motorcycle racing. It's just an aspect of our sport and everybody involved knows that and understands that and accepts it going into that," he said.

   "You know, it's definitely something that none of us wanted to see but I think it's been very easy and unjust for people to sit back on Monday and point fingers and say, well, this needs to be done and that needs to be done. And most of the people that are making the suggestions are not even people that are involved with race teams or sanctioning bodies and really don't know what they are talking about.

   "It really boils down to the basics of, it's auto racing. Auto racing, football, hockey, they are all dangerous sports. But we all love to do it and the fans love to watch it. I think safety has come a long way in all of our sanctioning bodies across the board. But you're still not going to make it 100% safe all the time, and everybody is doing everything they can to keep incidents like that happening in the future. But it's never going to be 100% safe. You're always going to have that element of danger that's involved in it."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Statement from Jack Roush

   Oct. 25, 2011- Statement from Jack Roush, co-owner Roush Fenway Racing regarding Sunday’s Sprint Cup Race at Talladega:
   “At Roush Fenway Racing we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race. That is a philosophy that we have lived by for over two decades, and one that we will continue to abide by going forward.

   "Of course, as in any team, we would prefer for our drivers to work together when possible. However, to be clear, we did not micromanage or dictate to any of our drivers, nor any other Ford drivers, how to race with other drivers at Talladega last Sunday. There are unique codes that all drivers establish and have to live by on the track. How they manage their code is up to our drivers as individuals. This weekend, there were no team orders, from myself or anyone at Roush Fenway, given to any of our drivers as to whom they could or could not choose to run with or assist, nor did I give similar directions or suggestion to any of the other Ford drivers.

   “I’ve spoken with Trevor (Bayne) and understand that he was put in a situation requiring a split-second decision on the track and in his response to questions justifying his actions afterwards, where it was almost certain that not everyone was going to be satisfied. Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy. I’m confident in his decision making, his ability and actions on the track, and I'm excited as we continue to move forward with his development."

Friday, October 21, 2011

NASCAR goes window shopping

      NASCAR on Friday confiscated the front windshields on three Sprint Cup Series teams fielded by Michael Waltrip Racing - the No. 00 driven by David Reutimann, the No. 47 driven by Bobby Labonte and the No. 56 driven by Martin Truex Jr.

   The windshields were taken for having unapproved modifications and were on display Friday outside the Cup series hauler.

   NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said additional penalties were expected and will be announced next week.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Labonte to remain with JTG Daugherty

   Former Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte will return for a second season with JTG Daugherty in 2012 driving for the No. 47 team, The Observer has learned. An official announcement of Labonte's return is scheduled for Sunday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

   At that time, JTG Daugherty will also announce with what organization it plans to team with in 2012 to field its No. 47 team. JTG Daugherty has been running its team out of Michael Waltrip Racing.

   In his first season with JTG Daugherty, Labonte is currently 29th in the series standings with one top-five and two top-10 finishes. Labonte won the 2000 season title and has 21 career Cup wins. His most recently victory came in the 2003 season.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Go racing for Dan Wheldon

   Dan Wheldon Memorial Grand Prix
   The entire racing community was sadden by the tragic death of Dan Wheldon at the Las Vegas 300 IndyCar race on Oct. 16. This hit at Pole Position Raceway very hard since Wheldon was competing in a car owned by Sam Schmidt, one of the many professional racers behind the Pole Position Raceway chain of indoor kart tracks. Wheldon was also at our Vegas track just days before the accident to participate in a fundraiser to support Graham Rahal's Race For Research project.
   To honor the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, Pole Position Raceway is hosting the Dan Wheldon Memorial Grand Prix on Nov. 6 at 11 a.m. at all six of our tracks, and it's open to the public. Cost for this event is $60 per racer, and a portion of the proceeds will be donated to the Wheldon family to assist with the education of their two young children.
   The Grand Prix format features a practice, timed qualifier, and a head-to-head main event. Advanced registration is recommended and can be done by calling the tracks at the following numbers:

   Corona, CA 951/817-5032
   Las Vegas, NV 702/227-7223
   Murrieta, CA 951/461-1600
   New York / Jersey City 201/333-7223
   Oklahoma City, OK 405/942-2292
   Summerlin, NV 702/227-7223
   For more information check out

2012 NASCAR Nationwide schedule

The entire 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule

February 25 Daytona International Speedway
March 3 Phoenix International Raceway
March 10 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
March 17 Bristol Motor Speedway
March 24 Auto Club Speedway
April 13 Texas Motor Speedway
April 27 Richmond International Raceway
May 5 Talladega Superspeedway
May 11 Darlington Raceway
May 20 Iowa Speedway
May 26 Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 2 Dover International Speedway
June 16 Michigan International Speedway
June 23 Road America
June 29 Kentucky Speedway
July 6 Daytona International Speedway
July 14 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 22 Chicagoland Speedway
July 28 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
August 4 Iowa Speedway
August 11 Watkins Glen International
August 18 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
August 24 Bristol Motor Speedway
September 1 Atlanta Motor Speedway
September 7 Richmond International Raceway
September 15 Chicagoland Speedway
September 22 Kentucky Speedway
September 29 Dover International Speedway
October 12 Charlotte Motor Speedway
October 20 Kansas Speedway
November 3 Texas Motor Speedway
November 10 Phoenix International Raceway
November 17 Homestead-Miami Speedway

IndyCar sets Wheldon service

    INDYCAR will hold a public memorial service to celebrate the life of IZOD IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 at Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

   Wheldon, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion, sustained unsurvivable injuries in a racing accident Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He is survived by his wife, Susie, and two young sons. Wheldon was 33.

   The Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund has been established for the financial security of Wheldon's family. The public can make contributions to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund starting today at the following address:

   Fifth Third Private Bank
   Attn: Dan Wheldon Family Trust
   251 North Illinois St.
   Suite 1000
   Indianapolis, IN 46204

   More details on how to contribute will be available in the coming days.
   A memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances and a career photo retrospective, can be found at

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

IndyCar begins investigation into crash

   The IndyCar Series has started a "full investigation" into the death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon, who was killed in a violent 15-car car wreck Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

   On Tuesday, the IndyCar Series provided the following statement to The Observer in response to a request for comment for an article that ran in Tuesday's paper.

   Here is the statement in its entirety:

   "The entire INDYCAR family is saddened by Dan Wheldon’s tragic death, and our thoughts continue to be, first and foremost, with Dan’s wife, Susie, and his entire family at this incredibly difficult time.

   "The safety of our drivers, their crews, INDYCAR staff, racetrack staff and spectators is always our paramount concern. As part of our standard safety protocol, a full investigation has been launched by INDYCAR, with assistance from the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS) and Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA),the national and international governing organization, to determine the factors involved in this accident.

   "We hope to have preliminary findings to report within the next several weeks. In the meantime, it would be inappropriate to comment further until the investigative team has had the opportunity to conclude its work."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Take a ride on Jeff Gordon Expressway

   Ready for a ride on Jeff Gordon Expressway?

   If the Mecklenburg County Commissioners approved a resolution on Tuesday night, race fans will get to do just that on a stretch of Interstate 85 in Mecklenburg County.

   Mecklenburg County has recently been approached by NASCAR to request that the N.C.  Board of Transportation designate a portion of Interstate 85 as the "Jeff Gordon Expressway" for his 85th career Sprint Cup Series victory and his humanitarian efforts in Mecklenburg County and the State of North Carolina.

   The portion of Interstate 85 for which the request is being made (located in the unincorporated area of Mecklenburg County closest to the Charlotte Motor Speedway) is the segment from the City of Charlotte corporate limit line to the Mecklenburg/Cabarrus county line.

   Check out the proposed resolution county commissioners will consider here.

Friday, October 14, 2011

NASCAR Hall gets another gem

   The NASCAR Hall of Fame set up an area at the entrance to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend where it has been bringing special NASCAR guests for question and answer sessions, running free shuttles from the track to the Hall and offering a glimpse to race fans to what the Hall has to offer.

   The Hall also unveiled a special NASCAR artifact for the first time, which right now can only been seen at the Hall's display at the track.

   The item - the front bumper of 2012 Hall inductee Cale Yarborough's 1977 Oldsmobile - was collected from "Tiger" Tom Pistone's auto shop. The veteran racer's collection of items date over half a century.


      The display will remain at CMS through Saturday afternoon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

NASCAR Hall takes show on the road

   For one weekend at least, the NASCAR Hall of Fame is going to take its show - well, at least part of it - on the road ... up the street to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

   The Hall will have a display at the main entrance to CMS this week featuring celebrity appearances, iRacing Simulators and historic items from a recent episode of “American Pickers.” In addition, shuttle buses to the Hall of Fame will depart daily from the speedway.

   Several guests will stop by for free question-and-answer sessions with fans. Rusty Wallace, Greg Biffle and Larry McReynolds will make appearances on Friday. Bobby Allison, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers, Cale Yarborough, Dale Inman, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood and Ned Jarrett will appear on Saturday.

   Fans can stop by the interactive area to learn more about the Hall. The simulators on hand operate on the same software as their larger counterpart permanently housed at the NASCAR Hall.

   For history buffs, the NASCAR Hall of Fame exhibits team will be on hand to show off one of the top finds from the recent NASCAR-themed episode of “American Pickers” on the History Channel. A “never-before-seen” artifact from the show will make its public debut this weekend at CMS and it will be on display in the Hall of Fame fan area Thursday through Saturday, weather permitting.

   Race fans can purchase a NASCAR Hall of Fame general admission ticket online or at the booth and receive free transportation to and from the venue, subject to availability. Roundtrip shuttles will depart CMS for the NASCAR Hall Friday at 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.; Saturday at 8:30 a.m.; and Sunday at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Guests should look for the NASCAR Hall of Fame signs to locate the shuttle.

   The NASCAR Hall of Fame fan area is scheduled to open at 2 p.m. on Thursday; 12:30 p.m. on Friday; and 11 a.m. on Saturday.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sponsor changes coming to JGR

   The sponsorship picture at Joe Gibbs Racing is set to undergo a vast change next season, The Observer has learned.
   At a news conference Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Dollar General is expected to announce will greatly increase its involvement in NASCAR, sponsoring both Sprint Cup and Nationwide series teams at JGR in 2012, several sources confirmed.
   Among the changes:
   -Dollar General will become the primary sponsor on driver Joey Logano's No. 20 Toyota in the Cup series for 10 to 12 races in 2012.
   -Dollar General will become the primary sponsor on JGR's No. 11 Nationwide Series team driven by Brian Scott.
   -The company will also be the primary sponsor for several races for JGR's Nos. 18 and 20 Nationwide teams.
   Dollar General will likely also continue its involvement with the Truck series team owned by JGR driver Kyle Busch, sources said.
   A JGR spokesman declined to comment on Tuesday when asked about the sponsorship changes.
   The move means Home Depot, which has been a primary sponsor in the Cup series with JGR since 1999, will relinquish roughly a third of the races on the No. 20 next season.
   There was no immediate comment from Home Depot officials.
   Dollar General has been involved in NASCAR sponsorship since 2006 with several organizations, including Kevin Harvick Inc., Braun Racing (now Turner Motorsports) and KBM.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Play "Hide and Tweet" with Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya

   Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing needs help in finding its NASCAR drivers, Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya.

   Well, not the real drivers, but cut-outs of each of them. The cut-outs will be photographed around the Charlotte area this week and if race fans can guess correctly where they are appearing, they can win driver apparel.

   Beginning today, the team will kick-off the “Hide and Tweet” contest across their social media platforms. Each day this week, two photographs will be released on Facebook and promoted on Twitter, and fans will have the opportunity to guess which local landmark the drivers are visiting.

   Fans will be allowed to submit their answers on the team’s Facebook page and the first person to guess where they were will win driver merchandise compliments of the team.
The contest will run twice per day through Saturday's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
   In order to participate in the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing “Hide and Tweet” contest, fans can “Like” its Facebook page and “Follow” @EGRTeams on Twitter.

Race week at NASCAR Hall of Fame

   Race fans can find the perfect complement to their Bank of America 500 experience in Charlotte this week as the NASCAR Hall of Fame presents a variety of special events beginning Tuesday.

   The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The venue has extended hours of 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14 - Sunday, Oct. 16.

   This week's special activities:
   Tuesday - Race week events at the NASCAR Hall kick off with five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson. Guests are invited to join media for a special announcement and 30-minute Q&A session with Johnson in Great Hall at 2 p.m.

   Wednesday - Race fans can witness a press conference Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 2:30 p.m. in the Great Hall with Kerry Earnhardt to launch the Earnhardt Collection by Schumacher Homes.

   Saturday - 2012 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Darrell Waltrip starts the day at 9:30 a.m. with an autograph session for NASCAR Hall of Fame Members. He will participate in a fan Q&A session at 10:30 a.m. in the Great Hall for all visitors.

   Sunday - Fans can continue their race weekend experience meeting living legends of the sport at the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2012 Inductee Day. 2012 Inductees Dale Inman, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough will be onsite for a Q&A session from 11:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. Plus NASCAR Hall of Fame Members are invited to attend an autograph session from noon – 1 p.m. Legends Members receive the maximum face-to-face time with Inductees at a private reception attended by the Inductees at 1:30 p.m.

   Guests also can lace up their running shoes and do a little racing of their own at 10 a.m. Sunday in the second annual Kasey Kahne Foundation “Five Kahne.” The run begins at Bank of America Stadium and concludes at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and includes a 5K run and a Kid’s Dash. Following the run, fans can participate in a Q&A session with Kahne. Online registration is open at Registration begins at $10 for children and $20 for adults. Packages including admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame also are available.

   Guests can visit, or @NASCARHall on Twitter for updates.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Q&A with Travis Pastrana

   X Games star Travis Pastrana stopped by Dover International Speedway on Sunday to give an update on his recent injury, his future in that sport and he talked about his NASCAR plans, which had to undergone some revisions following his injury.

   How are you feeling?
   Pastrana: I was really excited to come out here to Dover, it’s kind of like my hometown track and this is the first time I get to see it up close. Just definitely disappointed to not be out there driving, for sure. Boost is jumping on again for next year. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to do the races this year but they’re on for the same amount of races for next year. Not
giving the equivalency of NASCAR to start out at Daytona is definitely a disappointment, we won’t be able to run the entire Nationwide Series, but basically looking to see how many we can do. I’m trying to run as many Nationwide, as many K&N -- as many of any kind of car races I can just to get as much experience as I can and driving. I haven’t finalized all the deals for next year. I’m definitely hoping to get more than less.

   How is recovery going for you?
   Pastrana: Right now, recovery has been going slow but really good, I guess. I get the pins out on Monday, which is always nice. Hopefully all the pins come out and start getting in the pool and be able to get down to the shop a little bit more, drive the iRacing simulator -- do whatever I can to try to get back driving cars as quick as possible.

   Are you still looking at 20 Nationwide races for next season?
   Pastrana: The goal is definitely the same, to race as much as possible. We’ll just have to work out sponsorship for after the first couple and hopefully those races will go well and we’ll be able to race more than 20. If not, definitely looking forward to running as much of the K&N Series as possible. I haven’t really had anything finalized yet, but my goal is just to get in as
many cars as possible.

   Does the disappointment from not being able to make your NASCAR start this year still linger?
   Pastrana: Definitely sitting on the sidelines here and not racing, every time I watch a race the disappointment is there. On a positive note, it’s a small positive, but I’m able to watch all the race -- I’m able to watch all the drivers. I actually know a lot more about who runs up front, who runs aggressive, who doesn’t, which drivers stay up there at the end, which drivers tend to qualify well. It’s been a great learning experience, but I would have much rather learning on the track, of course.

   Has this injury experience had any influence on the fun and crazy stunts you like to do?
   Pastrana: Definitely, to be perfectly honest, that was supposed to be my exit from X-Games. Not exactly the exit I was looking for, but it was still an exit. For me, we finished filming Nitro Circus 3D movie which Waltrip Racing had already helped us with a lot of the projects we did along the way. Kept us all more safe than we would have been on our own with building some of the stuff. For me, that movie is done filming -- I have to do a little bit of press for that starting next year before it comes out in theaters. But other than that, my action sports -- not to say my action sports career is done -- but as far as anything taking risks, I’m definitely going to be in this car and trying to do the best that I can to put my best foot forward.

   It was the most disappointing thing in my life, not only to have myself but to have an entire team that was waiting for me and banking on me being in the car and all those guys I’m seeing around the track, they’re all on different teams and it’s tough. Not only did we lose some of the top guys but a lot of friends had to find other work. Definitely something that took to heart and something I don’t ever want to have happen again.