Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hamlin agrees to contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing


   Denny Hamlin has agreed to a multi-year contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing, the driver confirmed Saturday evening. Hamlin made the announcement during TNT's broadcast of its pre-race show Saturday night. 

   Hamlin agreed to the extension even though his current deal was not set to expire until the end of the 2013 season.

   "If I'm going to win a championship, I'm going to do it with Joe Gibbs Racing," Hamlin said. "They worked hard with me to get the deal signed. I'm lucky to have a team and sponsor (Fed Ex) who want to be with me."

   Hamlin, 31, has 19 wins in the Sprint Cup Series in nearly seven full seasons with JGR. He has finished as high as second in the series standings, in the 2010 season. He also has 11 wins in the Nationwide Series and one in the Truck series.

   So far this season Hamlin has a pair of Cup wins and is eighth in the series standings entering Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Nationwide winner fails post-race tech

   Austin Dillon's tenure atop the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings is likely to be short lived.

   Dillon's car failed post-race inspection Friday night following his victory in the Feed the Children 300 at Kentucky Speedway - his first series win. His No. 3 Chevrolet was found to be too low in the rear.

   With the win, Dillon took over the series points lead and holds a two-point lead over Richard Childress Racing teammate Elliott Sadler.

   However, similiar penalties this season have resulted in a $10,000 fine to the crew chief and a loss of six driver points. If the same occurs here, Sadler will retake the series lead once penalties are announced by NASCAR next week.

Daytona prepares for major facelift

   Daytona International Speedway has filed a Planned Master Development application with the City of Daytona Beach, Fla. - the first step in the beginning of new redevelopment projects at the track.

   International Speedway Corp., which owns the track, needed to file the application in order for the property to be rezoned to provide the most flexibility in the track's development.

   Speedway president Joie Chitwood III said the projects could include a complete overhaul of the entire frontstretch grandstand and new suites, entry points, new fan amenities and a redesigned midway area.

   Our filing with the City of Daytona Beach is only the first step in a long process and there are still many unanswered questions that could impact or even derail this initiative,” Chitwood said. “Multiple internal and external factors will influence the economics and project feasibility, and construction design and costs must still be determined.”

   The track recently underwent a repaving of its surface.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Harvick: "Everyone has to step up, myself included."

  Kevin Harvick didn't mince words on the radio last week and he didn't again Thursday in the media center at Kentucky Speedway.

   If he and his No. 29 Richard Childress Racing team are going to remain contenders for this year's Sprint Cup Series championship, the team needs to stop making mistakes.

   “It’s mistakes. It’s mistakes from top to bottom. There is nothing to hide on the cars run fast enough to win races. The cars run fast enough to be in the top 10 and until the mistakes stop … stuff can’t fall off the car, you can’t run out of gas for the fifth time this year," Harvick said.

   "It’s just flat out mistakes and those guys know that. I know that. It’s not something that we have set out and planned it’s just … and we talked about it very openly this week. This isn’t something that I’m getting defensive about or anything. It’s very obvious as to why this team hasn’t won a race. We are fortunate to be in the position that we are in points, but we can’t scramble. You can’t win a championship and you can’t win races on a week to week basis making the mistakes that we’ve made."

   During the road course race at Sonoma, Calif., last week, Harvick at one point over his team radio said the mistakes had to stop or "We're all going to lose our jobs."

   "You just cannot do the things that we’ve been doing and expect to win races in this garage. Everybody has to step up, myself included. On the way home and Monday you’ve got to figure out how you can lead and try to help fix the situation," he said.
   
   "That was the attitude that I went in Tuesday with was to try to help Richard (Childress) analyze and help Shane (Wilson, crew chief) analyze as to what he needed to do better to help his guys and my guys be better people on a week to week basis. They all can do the job it’s just a matter of crossing the ‘T’s’ and dotting the ‘I’s’ that is what it takes to win races in this garage. It’s tough enough to win, but when you are making the mistakes that we make it’s impossible."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sponsor weighs in on Villeneuve/Patrick incident

      Discount Tire, the sponsor of Jacques Villeneuve's No. 22 Dodge in last Saturday's Nationwide race at Road America, issued the following statement about the late-race incident between Villeneuve and driver Danica Patrick:

   "Together Penske and Discount Tire have achieved great success in the Nationwide Series, including a championship, and have maintained the highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship throughout that relationship. Although we believe the contact between Villeneuve and Patrick to be unfortunate, it is a part of professional racing. However, Villeneuve’s post-race comments did not reflect our ideals regarding sportsmanship. Having said that, we continue to be very proud of our relationship with the Penske organization."

   To read more about what happened in the race, click here.

A wild ride to the NASCAR Chase

   The addition of two "wild card" berths to the Chase for the Sprint Cup field last season brought an unexpected level of anticipation and excitement as the weeks wound down to the start of the final 10 races of the season.

   At the time it seemed hard to imagine the battle gettting any better in the future.

   Wrong.

   So far anyway, the chase for the two wild card berths this season has risen to a whole new level.

   Entering Saturday night's race at Kentucky Speedway, four drivers – all with one win – are vying for the two wild card spots.

   It's yet another sign the level of competition has increased this year. Already there are eight drivers in the Top 10 in points with wins and drivers from seven different teams have won races – and we're not yet at the halfway point of the season.

   The list of drivers who haven't won yet this season is just as distinguished as the list of who has. Among the 2011 winners yet to visit Victory Lane this season: Kevin Harvick, who finished third in points the bast two seasons, and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon.

   Last season showed the increased importance of winning, particularly in getting into the  Chase, and even in the determination of the series champion. Tony Stewart won his third series title in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards decided by victories in the season.

   A win alone this year may not be good enough to make the Chase and there's nothing wrong with that.

   In fact, the more winning becomes a dominant part in who is eligible to compete for the championship and who ultimately wins it, the better for NASCAR.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Ford statement on Matt Kenseth's departure from Roush

   Statement from Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing on the Matt Kenseth announcement by Roush Fenway Racing:

   JAMIE ALLISON -- "All of us at Ford are certainly disappointed to hear that Matt will be leaving, and he will be certainly missed by us and the Ford Racing fans. We are thankful for Matt's winning efforts and championship-caliber success with the Roush and Ford racing programs these past 16 years, both on and off the track. We will focus on this year and look forward to more success on the track in his No. 17 Ford Fusion this season."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Nationwide and Truck awards banquet returns to South Beach

   The combined NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series Awards will return to South Florida for 2012 and be held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, located in the heart of South Beach. The event is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 19, following the Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

   Similar to past award shows, this year’s event will honor the Nationwide and Camping World Truck series champions, as determined during the Homestead-Miami Speedway race weekend, November 16-18.

   “Celebrating the champions of the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Miami Beach enables us to continue the wave of excitement out of championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “The backdrop makes for an ideal location to honor those champions — and their teams and sponsors — after their great seasons.”

   As previously announced, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards will return to Las Vegas, and take place Friday, Nov. 30, at the Wynn Las Vegas. A full lineup of activities for Champion's Week will be announced at a later date.

Time again for the Legends Big Money 100 at CMS

   Legends Big Money 100

   What: The largest grassroots racing event in the country, the third annual Legends Big Money 100, returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway July 2-3. The event boasts a total purse of $100,000, with the Legends Big Money 100 A-Feature winner guaranteed to take home $25,000. The two-day racing spectacular will feature fierce competition among the nation's best Legend Car and Bandolero racers.

   Action on Monday will include qualifying and heat races for the Young Lions/Semi-Pro, Masters and Legends Big Money 100 divisions. Tuesday will include Young Lions/Semi-Pro, Masters and Legends Big Money division feature racing, concluding with the Legends Big Money 100 A-Feature that night.

   Bandolero Bandit and Outlaw drivers will also have the opportunity to compete in a Bandolero championship event, with qualifying sessions and heat races on Monday and feature races on Tuesday.

   Sunday, July 1, all divisions will practice.

   When: The event will take place Monday, July 2 รข€“ Tuesday, July 3, with practice on Sunday, July 1.

   Where: Charlotte Motor Speedway, on the quarter-mile oval located on the speedway's front straightaway.

   Ticket info: (704) 455-3200.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Rick Hendrick talks about Dale Junior's win at Michigan

SPEED Interview with Rick Hendrick


Q. Rick, first of all, we're sorry you couldn't be here to actually witness this thing. Logistics kept you away from it. How satisfying is this and how well is the season going for you guys?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, a little bit of a slow start, but we had a lot of speed. Then we get the 200th win and then the All-Star race, and Kasey gets a win, Jimmie gets another one, and I thought Dale had a real shot last week at Pocono. But to get it this weekend, that's outstanding. It's like ahuge load off our backs.

Q. Rick, everybody has been looking to this team, and again, you never lost your focus and the confidence in this group as a whole. Steve Letarte as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr. … what kind of advice have you given these two?

RICK HENDRICK: You know, they just get along so good. I think the chemistry is the best I've seen with any crew chief and driver. And you just look at the way they've been running and had a lot of speed, you knew it was going to come. And just try to say, Dale, don't worry about that, man. You're almost leading the points here. You've got more top tens than anybody. When you run second, third and fourth, you're going to win races. And we hated Pocono, took a chance, but there was too much on the line. I can tell you that's the longest 18 laps I've ever spent, at the end of this race.

Q. Rick, we're having fun with this victory. You know where you were at when you got married, what church. On this day where were you exactly when you saw Junior cross the start/finish line and win this race?

RICK HENDRICK: I was doing laps around my couch, trying to end this race, man. Batman was in a hurry. I was too nervous to stand still. Linda and I were just watching it, come on, no problems. I was so afraid there was going to be a caution, or something was going to happen.

Q. What do you think about the championship potential for the number 88 team?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, you know, when you see a car, and a driver get momentum, and all of the cars are running real well, they're sharing a lot of information, and Dale is just -- he's just switched on. He's got the confidence, Stevie has got the touch and every week they're the best by far. I think he's sitting in the cat bird seat to win his first championship.

Q. Well, Rick, when you -- what will you guys do to celebrate this?

RICK HENDRICK: Well, we had Brad Paisley come down and play for our 200th win. No telling what we might do for this one, I don't know, but we're going to do something. We do like to celebrate together, because the organization just works so hard, and they want to see Junior do so well. So stay tuned.

Friday, June 15, 2012

What Tony Stewart taught Jeff Gordon

   Jeff Gordon said he views the Chase for the Sprint Cup and the series standings in a whole new way following Tony Stewart's run last season to his third series championship.

   "(Points) mean nothing other than you're in (the Chase). And to me, I've not seen one standout team or driver to this point in the season yet," Gordon said. "I don't think we will because Tony was nowhere in sight and just got on fire, you know?"

   Entering the Chase last season Stewart had no wins. He won five times in the 10-race Chase, including the season finale, and won the championship in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards.

   "Who knows who that team could be when the Chase starts. Matt Kenseth is such a great driver and a consistent driver with a great team, why would you not put him down as a real threat?" Gordon said.

   "I think there's a handful of guys out there right now that you can say that about."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Greg Biffle's words speak volumes

   "We have to walk that fine line of not killing people and creating excitement."

   That's not necessarily anything new heard in NASCAR considering the dangers of the sport and it's history, but those words on Thursday during a test at Michigan International Raceway certainly provoked a big response.

   Perhaps that's more because of who spoke them. Greg Biffle has won numerous races in all three of NASCAR's national series and has championships in two of them - Trucks and Nationwide. For most of this season he has been the Sprint Cup Series points leader.

   During his career, Biffle has certainly not been known for tossing out "pipe bombs" - comments that invoke instant controversy or criticism. He's generally fairly reserved and thoughtful in his comments, although he has had his share of run-ins on and off the track with other drivers.

   Perhaps that's why his comments seemed to stand out. Perhaps that's also why more attention should be paid to them.

   Here are a couple of the questions addressed to Biffle during his media availability on Thursday. Everyone should consider his answers carefully.

   THINK IT IS GOOD FOR THE SPORT OCCASIONALLY TO HAVE A TRACK LIKE THIS WHERE THE SPEEDS ARE WAY UP THERE? IS THAT DANGER GOOD?
   Biffle: “I think so. I don’t see anything wrong with this. It definitely is going to gain some attention going 218 miles per hour and I don’t know, it has been a long time since we have gone that fast. I think that it is good for our sport to have a little – lets face it, controversy is why we have all these reality shows right? – a little action and controversy doesn’t hurt us from giving us something to talk about. It is worthy of talking about. It is fast and a new track and not quite as smooth as Pocono was but it is pretty fast.”

   SOME OF THE CRITICISM HAS BEEN THAT THE SPORT HAS GOTTEN TOO SAFE AND SOME OF THE REASON PEOPLE TUNE IN ON SUNDAY IS BECAUSE WE ARE NOT CRAZY ENOUGH TO GO 218.
   Biffle: “Yeah, but we don’t want to kill anybody either. We have to walk that fine line of not killing people and creating excitement. I think the biggest thing is that when people say that it is too fast or whatever is that it makes it hard to race other cars at that speed. You look at the places we go the absolute fastest and sometimes those aren’t the best races to watch. Sometimes the tracks that are a little bit slower put on a little better side-by-side action and more bumping and grinding. I promise you that you aren’t going to bump somebody at 218 mph, I promise you that. It isn’t going to happen. Saying that just because we are going that fast, doesn’t mean it is going to be a great race. Just because the speeds are the thrill or excitement. TV tames it down a lot. Watching in the grandstands here and watching on TV at home is a lot different. It numbs you from that speed. High speed doesn’t always mean exciting racing. Sometimes a little slower speed actually could be a little more exciting and thrilling. You are seeing guys root and gouge and go.”

  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Brad Keselowski, Twitter cult hero?

   During a national teleconference on Wednesday, Brad Keselowski took a question submitted by a NASCAR fan on Twitter and was asked later about how he sees Twitter as a communication tool with fans considering he had become "a little bit of a cult hero on Twitter."

   Here was Keselowski's answer:

   "I think it's funny that you think of it as a little bit of a cult, and sometimes I have the same thoughts, but it's a good cult to be a part of. It's a group of people that enjoy having some of the further access that the sport has the capability of providing and sometimes you're put in a spot where it doesn't work out, whether that's doing appearances and so forth and being able to tell people where I'm going to be; or just giving feedback how our weekend is going, I think it's a great tool for that.

   “I feel very fortunate to have a role as a leader in the sports integration of social media, specifically through Twitter. So that's a bit of an honor that I feel lucky to have, certainly from a competitor standpoint. I would look to other members of the media, NASCAR media, specifically, who pioneered that process, and I really feel like I'm just following a bit of their lead and I'm just lucky to get a little more attention for it. So you know, as far as that's concerned, I feel lucky to be a part of it. Those people, those members of the media that started it, were certainly some of my motivation. To be honest, what actually sold me on it was the fact that I got an iPad from Nationwide when I won the championship, I couldn't find anything else to do other than be on Twitter, so it seemed perfect. It's funny how it's progressed since then.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

James Finch talks about retaining driver Kurt Busch

   Phoenix Racing owner James Finch was on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Tuesday night with hosts Buddy Baker and Jim Noble talking about his meeting with driver Kurt Busch.

   James Finch:
   "I said, 'Kurt, we've wrecked 14 cars. You know, you didn't wreck the 14 cars. You were driving them but we did this as a team.' I said, 'We've got to get better at what we're doing and you've got to get better at what you're doing. And we're only going to talk about it here for just a little while and then it's going to be results. I believe in this kid. He's got the talent. I mean, the kid was the champion at 25 years old or whatever. He's got the talent. He's got some issues that he says he's going to get squared away, and that's what we're gonna do and hopefully he does that. And if he doesn't, then I've got to move on. But right now, we're going forward with him straightening out and doing what he needs to do. And let's get it done."

    Host/Jim Noble: "In order to move forward were there things you had to hear from Kurt today?"
   Finch: "Yes. You know, I told him, 'Everybody's got to take care of their day job. You should be tickled to death at the job you've got. You race on the weekend, you make good money and you look back in the back of the shop, and a guy back there works all year for what you make in a weekend. He seems to be happy. So I don't know why you're not happy, and if you're not happy, you need to get happy. Because that's life and life's going to go on. And we're going forward and we're going forward today after we get out of this meeting. I said, 'I don't care if you've got an argument with a driver out there but these fans and this media [are] going to have some respect from us.' And we're going to go forward and he agreed to that."

   Click here to catch up on why Busch's job may have been in jeopardy.

NASCAR drivers' take on the "new" new Bristol

   Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton took part in a Goodyear tire test on Tuesday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. They are the first NASCAR drivers to make runs on the track since track owner Bruton Smith made changes to the surface in hopes of bringing back more close-knit racing.

   Tony Stewart (who is the only driver to try to run the high groove):
   “Well, you’ve definitely lost the top groove. Guys who run up there aren’t going to be able to do that because it’s pretty slick up there. There’s going to be less room to race, that’s for sure. We’ve gone from a three-groove track to two grooves and any time you’ve got less room to get around it can get pretty interesting.

   “I’m one of the guys who likes that high groove so it’s really going to change things up for me. It’ll change things for everybody though because when you take away room to race on a track this small with 43 cars… yeah, it’s going to tighten things up.”

   Clint Bowyer:
   “That outside line – the upper groove – is out of play now. There’s going to be a lot closer racing then we’ve had here in the past. I don’t typically run up there but a lot of guys do and I can’t see them going up there now. If they do… it’s pretty slippery and they’ll figure that out in a hurry.

   “The closer we have to race just means something’s going to happen. Is it going to make fans happy? Well, narrowing up the track means less room to get around so there’s no question there’s going to be closer action.

   “I tell you what though… this place has always been – and will always be – far and away the best race we have. You wanna see a great race in the best atmosphere we have? Just be here in August. “

   Jeff Burton:
   “Goodyear is looking to bring a tire with more grip. I really think they have found some stuff that is really promising. As for the track itself, I really can’t imagine running up there in that top groove. I think it is going to force everyone more to the middle and bottom of the track. The drivers aren’t going to be happy, but the spectators probably will be because it is going to put more cars in a closer space.

   "By taking away that groove, it is going to change your mind about going up there. I think it is going to be two grooves, unless Goodyear brings a tire with a lot of grip. If that is the case, you’ll want to run around the bottom. Making the groove smaller is a good thing, it is going to put the action back to the bottom and middle of the track. What has changed is up near the wall, the bottom is the same. Tony experimented and tried out that top groove, and I know he won’t be trying that again.

   "If people liked the older track more than the new, they are going to like this. This takes the top groove out and brings it back toward the old track. Taking the groove out moves the track closer to what it used to be. Taking the banking out is what is going to make the difference. You won’t run the top groove on a short track without more banking. There is no way you will run around the outside. If there is less banking on a short track near the wall, you are not going to go there.

   "Every race track should look at the fan experience. The fans come to see action here because this is Bristol. That is why there are so many seats. This is why it is like a gladiator stadium. We always will walk a tight rope of what is in the best interest of the fan. The sport is under more scrutiny all the time. For us, it is a more constant conversation about changing. Some races are better than others. Some are phenomenal, some are sleepers. But all sports are like that. Not every NBA game is great.

   "This track always has been different. Fans always want to see action here. That is why pressure is always put on this track."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ford makes changes to its 2013 Fusion in NASCAR

   After unveiling the 2013 Ford Fusion its plans to run in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway in January, Ford Racing has made some design updates to the car, including enhanced design cues, including new grille work and hood lines.

   Gone is the stickered front grille from the January reveal and in its place are actual grille bars which will adorn the 2013 Cup Fusion, in addition to several other key tweaks to the front end of the car.

   “We had an opportunity to add more personality and detail to the race car,” said Garen Nicoghosian, Ford design manager in charge of the NASCAR project. “We took advantage of this opportunity and sculpted a more aggressive front end and we added grille bars that are identical in design to the production car. We also added more detail to the fog light housings, and created a more detailed headlight area as well.
  
   “In addition, we also sculpted a more aggressive hood, and were able to achieve a closer look to the production car. Our race car is even closer in design to the production car now, and we are very pleased with the results.”

   The latest enhancements have allowed Ford to more closely match the production Fusion while remaining within NASCAR guidelines as the manufacturers inch closer to submitting their final designs to NASCAR for the 2013 season.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why Dale Junior doesn't want to mess up on pit road

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. was not among the drivers caught speeding on pit road during Sunday's Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. Apparently, that's a very good thing.

   While Earnhardt never wants to make mistakes on pit road - which can ruin an opportunity at a win or even a good run - there is a particular reason Earnhardt would like to avoid such issues.

   You might be surprised at the reason, which Earnhardt describes in this answer to a question about the abundance of speeding penalties on Sunday.

   "Steve (Letarte, crew chief) told me about them and just said to be careful. So I was extra careful. I was probably really ridiculously slow coming onto pit road. But I just don’t want to get popped.," he said.

   "I get burned on TV and by the fan base whenever we do anything stupid on pit road such as miss our stall or something. It takes me about a year-and-a-half to get over that in a lot of people’s eyes; so I can’t make too many mistakes on pit road. We have to be pretty careful."

Cotton Owens laid to rest

   Everett "Cotton" Owens, recently elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame, was laid to rest on Sunday in Spartanburg, S.C. The funeral was held at Milestones Church. A private burial was held in Sunset Memorial Gardens.

   Owens, 88, was elected last month to the Hall of Fame and will be among five inductees in the Hall's 2013 class in February.

   Memorials may be made to Mobile Meals, P.O. Box 461, Spartanburg, SC 29304; or Spartanburg Regional Hospice, 101 E. Wood Street, Spartanburg, SC 29303.

   Dunbar Funeral Home & Crematory is serving the Owens' family.

   Click here to read the complete obituary.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Is Tony Stewart changing his tune on Kurt Busch?

   It was just a few days ago Tony Stewart made it absolutely clear he had no problem with the comments from driver Kurt Busch toward a reporter that drew a 10-day suspension from NASCAR.

   Last Saturday at Dover, Del., Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass asked Busch a question about a run-in with another driver while he is on NASCAR probation. Busch's response: “It refrains me from not beating the (expletive) out of you right now because you ask me stupid questions.”   

    On his Sirius Satellite Radio show Tuesday night, Stewart said he agreed with Busch and “liked his answer.”

   Yet, during Stewart's media availability on Friday at Pocono Raceway, Stewart seemed to indicate that as an owner he may shy away from a driver like Busch who continues to run afoul of NASCAR.

   "You definitely have to look at that, for sure because you know half of the battle is getting a good partner and sponsor. And if the sponsors are leery, then it puts you in a bad spot as an owner unless you have unlimited funding and can just put in there whoever you want," Stewart said. "It’s definitely a huge concern."

   Do Stewart the driver and Stewart the owner have different perspectives? Or has Stewart's opinion of Busch's comments changed?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bob Pockrass talks with Speed's Race Hub about Kurt Busch

SPEED’s NASCAR Race Hub Talks to Bob Pockrass about Kurt Busch

   Bob Pockrass, NASCAR writer for The Sporting News, came onto the set of NASCAR Race Hub this evening to chat about his challenging interview with Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch.
   Busch’s actions towards Pockrass resulted in a NASCAR suspension that lasts through June 13, along with an addition to his probation until Dec. 31. The following are quotes from his interview with host Steve Byrnes.


   Steve Byrnes: Did you feel Kurt’s tone was threatening? Did you feel that his words were abusive?

   Bob Pockrass: I was not threatened by him. Athletes and the media often don’t see eye to eye, and I just thought it was one of those situations. I hope that NASCAR’s penalties (aren’t) necessarily just for what he said to me, but to keep other incidents from happening, and possibility from worse incidents from happening. Again, I thought it was just one of those media-athlete tiffs with no big harm.


   Byrnes: Bob, to your point about the totality of Kurt’s behavior, you’ve worked in the sport a long time. I think you, myself, a lot of us have witnessed – I wouldn’t call it hostile relations to the media - but this is not his first run in with the media.

   Pockrass: No it’s not, and to be fair, there have been times when I have asked questions and he’s been like, ‘Ah… this is like People Magazine and not racing. This is not the first time I’ve heard that from Kurt. Again, we just don’t see eye to eye on maybe what’s news or how things should be viewed. That happens. Kurt, obviously, has a little bit of trouble handling these types of situations.


   Byrnes: You know, Bob, you have taken some criticism some people feel like you were adding fuel to the fire. As just a personal aside, I thought you asked some legitimate questions, being on probation, does it affect the way you race?

   Pockrass: I’ll agree with you, Steve, I appreciate that. Especially because Kevin Harvick has said in the past that he’s felt like he’s kind of had a hand tied behind his back when he’s been on probation. I want to say Brad Keselowski may have said a similar thing. So I was kind of curious whether Kurt felt that way, especially with the way he said Justin Allgaier was racing him. Look, we all try to be professional and we try to treat drivers with respect. But, you have to ask the question at a time when it’s pertinent. This was the pertinent time to ask it. Just because some has a history of having some confrontational moments with the media, that doesn’t mean they don’t get asked those questions any more. If so, we would just be asking all the hard questions to guys like Justin Allgaier and Jeff Gordon. Nobody gets a free pass.


   Byrnes: James Finch (Busch’s car owner) was quoted again today saying that they were going to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting – his words not mine – with Kurt. And he said, ‘It’s simple. He’s got to to quit wrecking race cars, and be nice to people. In your opinion, do you think he will continue – that being James Finch – with Kurt Busch after Pocono?

   Pockrass: First off, I haven’t talked to James because of the situation I am in – in this deal. So I don’t know exactly what he’s thinking. But, I think he will. I think if he did want Kurt, Kurt would already be out the door.

NASCAR's Hall of Fame has Cure for the Common Summer

   The NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte has several opportunities designed specifically designed for kids this summer:


   FIRST 1000 KIDS IN FREE WITH PAYING ADULT - Begins Friday, June 8
   The first 1000 kids (12 and younger) receive FREE admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame with a paying adult courtesy of Coca-Cola. One child per paying adult.


   FREE SIMULATOR RIDE OFFER - Begins Friday, June 8
   Bring any Coca-Cola product to the NASCAR Hall of Fame box office throughout the summer and receive a FREE SIMULATOR RIDE with the purchase of a general admission ticket. Offer valid through August 31, 2012.

   WRFX Father’s Day Dad vs. Kid Video Game Challenge - Sunday, June 17
   Don't miss this showdown! Enter our video game bracket to play for a chance to win a VIP trip to Talladega (tickets & hotel) and a Family Membership to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Other prizes include Memberships, souvenirs and more. Jeff Kent from WRFX will be at the Hall of Fame from noon until 2 p.m. for the festivities. To register, listen to WRFX 99.7FM in Charlotte or visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame on June 17.


  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Jimmy Spencer: 'Kurt's suspension is long overdue'

NASCAR on Monday suspended Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, until June 13 following a confrontation with a reporter after Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway.

Busch, who already was on probation following an incident at Darlington Raceway last month, will sit out this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway.

Jimmy Spencer, SPEED analyst and former driver, offers his perspective on Busch's situation and the resulting punishment:

"Kurt Busch's suspension is long overdue, and that is coming from someone who learned his lesson after sitting out a race for punching him a few years ago.

"Kurt has been given plenty of chances to right his wrongs and put himself back on the right path, but he has failed to take advantage of any of those opportunities.

"NASCAR had to do something to restore a sense of respect toward the sport on Kurt's behalf because he seems to consistently flaunt his disrespect for everything and everyone in this sport. Maybe sitting out and watching the race from the pit box or his couch will wake him up to how great he really has it.

"If Kurt is under the microscope, it is because he has put himself there by acting as if the rules don't apply to him. But the rules apply to everyone, and if you cannot treat your fellow competitors, crew members and members of the media in a respectable manner, you do not deserve to race. He's a hell of a driver, but until he gets his temper under control, he has no business in a race car.

"Speaking from experience, I can say that my suspension was extremely upsetting to me, but it made me a better person off the track. That's what Kurt needs now, and I hope this helps him. It seems to have straightened his little brother, Kyle, out, and I hope the same is true for Kurt."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Jeff Gordon: "We need wins."

   Jeff Gordon clearly had a car on Sunday that could contend for the win at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and you could hear the disappointment in his voice when he described afterwards how another chance at a victory slipped away.

   Gordon spoke to members of the media immediately after the race:

   Gordon: The fastest car doesn’t always win the race. And we’re sitting here in 13th or whatever; it’s silly.

   Q: AS BAD AS YOUR MISFORTUNE WAS, IT SEEMED LIKE IT WAS GOING TO WORK OUT AND YOU WOULD BENEFIT FROM IT.
   Gordon: Until that debris caution? Yeah, I can’t wait to see that debris on TV. I’d like to see it because I certainly never saw it. I’m not going to make any comments until I see what they’re reasoning for it was. I don’t know who you blame if there really wasn’t much out there because all the media has been talking about all week long is oh, there’s no cautions, there’s no cautions. It used to be debris cautions. So, who do you blame that on?

   Q: IS IT FRUSTRATING BECAUSE YOU WERE IN THE LEAD AND THEN YOU HAD THE TIRE PROBLEM AND YOU WERE MAKING YOUR WAY BACK?
   Gordon: Ultimately, we put ourselves in this position to get his finish. So, that’s very frustrating. We’ve had things out of our control this year. And I’m not really sure what happened. But obviously something happened. And then I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. But we definitely had a loose left rear. It didn’t go on right to begin with and the left-rear tire-changer knew that. And so when I started to complain about it, we knew that there might be an issue there and there was. So, in some ways we got fortunate today. I could have stayed out there and wrecked because it wasn’t really vibrating. It was getting real loose.

   Q: WERE RESTARTS AS CRITICAL AS THEY LOOKED?
   Gordon: You know, it was the greasiest restarts that I’ve ever felt here. There was just zero-grip for the first three, four, or five laps. So you really couldn’t even race one another on a restart because you were so out of control. And there’s a lot of rubber laid down on the race track and then the way the rubber on the tires matched up to it after you got going there was horrendous. Other than that, the tire was awesome. I really liked it. We ran great with it and the restarts were definitely hairy.

   Q: YOU’VE HAD SO MANY FRUSTRATING MOMENTS THIS SEASON. DOES THIS ONE TAKE THE CAKE? OR HAVE YOU JUST HAD SO MUCH CAKE THAT IT’S ALL THE SAME?
   Gordon: It’s always more frustrating when you’ve got a car that can win; and you show it by going up there and taking the lead. We don’t care about finishing top 15 or top 10 right now. That does nothing for us. We need wins.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Anger issues resurface for Kurt Busch

DOVER, Del. -- Kurt Busch, who's already in trouble with NASCAR, was at it again Saturday at Dover.

Busch, who was put on probation by NASCAR after he did a post-race burnout in Ryan Newman's pit stall at Darlington in May, was asked by Sporting News reporter Bob Pockrass if the probation had an effect on how he raced Justin Allgaeir in Saturday's 5-Hour Energy 200 at Dover International Speedway.

"(Probation) refrains me from not beating the --- out of you right now, because you ask me stupid questions," Busch said in an interview that was also filmed by Speed. "But since I'm on probation, I suppose that's improper to say as well. If you could talk about racing things, we could talk about racing things, Bob."

Pockrass replied that the question was about racing.

"It's not racing," Busch said. "You're in this just to start stuff. That's all you're out here for."

It's not the first time Busch has had a run-in with the media. He had two confrontations with reporters at last season's Richmond race and was also seen on video verbally abusing ESPN reporter Dr. Jerry Punch. -- David Scott