Sunday, September 30, 2012

Is this the year Penske wins his first NASCAR Sprint Cup title?

   Brad Keselowski's continued improvement this season and he's impressive performance so far in the Chase for the Sprint Cup raises the prospect of whether 2012 may be the year veteran team owner Roger Penske could win his first Cup title.

   Until Keselowski's Nationwide Series championship in 2010, Penske had never won a championship of any kind in NASCAR, although he has enjoyed enormous success in open-wheel racing.

   Penske, who was on hand for Keselowski's victory at Dover International Speedway, talked about his NASCAR title hopes after the race. 

   "You know, obviously I look up to folks like (Rick) Hendrick and Joe Gibbs and (Richard) Childress and (Jack) Roush, the other teams that have been so good here. We've never had a chance to get to the top. We were close a couple times with Rusty (Wallace)," Penske said. "This competition is just very, very tough.  A lot of smart people.  A lot of experience.  I think you got to build it.  I see how these other guys have done it.  They haven't done it overnight. 

   "When you look at Brad, he and Paul (Wolfe) have been able to attract the people that are giving us the performance on and off the track.  Certainly Mike Nelson, Tim Cindric, the guys back at the shop, Travis (Geisler), there are so many people pulling on this.  They're maybe people no one knew about three or four years ago, but we sure know about them in our shop.  To me that made the difference.  We have to put our arms around those folks and say, 'Let's keep going.'"

Friday, September 28, 2012

A sneak peek at the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule

   NASCAR has only released its 2013 Sprint Cup Schedule but The Charlotte Observer and have obtained a copy of the Nationwide Series schedule, which is expected to be released to the public next week.

   There are no major surprises in the schedule. There are 33 points-paying races, beginning Feb. 23, 2013 at Daytona and concluding Nov. 16 at Homestead, Fla. The only notable change is slight change in dates involving Iowa Speedway's two races. 

   There are no additional night races added to the schedule. 

   The 2013 Nationwide Series schedule

   Feb 23 Daytona
   March 2 Phoenix
   March 9 Las Vegas
   March 16 Bristol
   March 23 California
   April 12 Texas
   April 26 Richmond
   May 4 Talladega
   May 10 Darlington
   May 25 Charlotte
   June 1 Dover
   June 8 Iowa
   June 15 Michigan
   June 22 Road America
   June 28 Kentucky
   July 5 Daytona
   July 13 New Hampshire
   July 21 Chicagoland
   July 27 Indianapolis
   Aug. 3 Iowa
   Aug. 10 Watkins Glen
   Aug. 17 Montreal
   Aug. 23 Bristol
   Aug. 31 Atlanta
   Sept. 6 Richmond
   Sept. 14 Chicagoland
   Sept. 21 Kentucky
   Sept. 28 Dover
   Oct. 5 Kansas
   Oct. 11 Charlotte
   Nov. 2 Texas
   Nov. 9 Phoenix
   Nov. 16 Homestead

"Dean of American Motorsports" Chris Economaki dies

   Chris Economaki, known as the "Dean of American Motorsports," died early Friday morning. He was 91.

   Economaki began selling single copies of National Speed Sport News at age 14 and eventually became the publication’s editor - a position he held for 60 years.

   Economaki next turned his attention and energies to broadcasting, covering several Indianapolis 500s, Daytona 500s, Formula 1 Grand Prixes and other motorsports events for “ABC Wide World of Sports” in the ’60s. Two decades later, he moved on to CBS Sports and later contributed to ESPN and TBS motorsports programming.

   Funeral arragements are incomplete.

   For more information, read Economaki's obituary at National Speed Sport News here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Your chance to go After the Lap with NASCAR's best

    Tickets are now on sale for tell-all fan event, "NASCAR After The Lap." Returning to Las Vegas for its fourth consecutive year, After The Lap will take place on Nov. 29 at 5 p.m. Pacific at PH Live at Planet Hollywood. ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little will host the event.

   Fans in attendance will interact with all 12 Chase for the Cup drivers, which in the past has resulted in unfiltered answers and unpredictable antics. Last year, 2011 champion Tony Stewart drove his car into the venue, which set the tone for the event’s highlight: Jeff Gordon’s break dancing performance that took the audience by surprise.

   “Our top drivers take their helmets off and celebrate the season with our fans, resulting in a wildly entertaining evening and a unique platform for two of our long-standing partners, Ford and Coca-Cola," said Norris Scott, vice president of partnership marketing for NASCAR.
   One fan will also win a grand prize package that includes a 2013 Ford F-150 FX4 truck, round trip for two to Las Vegas, two nights at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and two VIP tickets to NASCAR After The Lap.
   To purchase tickets and enter the “NASCAR After The Lap” Sweepstakes, fans can visit Tickets are $20 each, with proceeds benefiting The NASCAR Foundation. Grand prize sweepstakes entries will be accepted up until Nov. 18 at 2 p.m. Eastern.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kurt Busch joins Furniture Row Racing for 2013

   Official press release

   Furniture Row Racing announced today that Kurt Busch has been hired to drive the team’s No. 78 Chevrolet during the 2013 Sprint Cup season.

   Busch, a former NASCAR Cup champion, will replace Regan Smith, who joined Furniture Row Racing at the beginning of the 2009 season. 

   “Though we have made strides as a resourceful single-car Sprint Cup team, we are not where we want to be, which led us to the difficult decision of making a driver change as we move forward,” said Furniture Row Racing's general manager Joe Garone. “Kurt’s exceptional driving talent has the capacity to take a team to another level. We look forward to having Kurt join our Denver-based organization and feel his racing experience will play an important role as we plan ahead to 2013.”

   Garone added, “As our team driver the past four years, Regan has represented Furniture Row Racing with both class and competitiveness. His win at Darlington in 2011 – the first for Furniture Row Racing – will be a memory forever etched in our organization’s history. He is a friend, and will always be a friend of Furniture Row Racing. We wish him all the best.”

   Busch, a 34 year-old native of Las Vegas, has been a full time driver in the Sprint Cup Series since 2001. He has 427 Cup starts and has scored 24 wins, 89 top-fives, 171 top-10s and 15 poles. He has qualified for the Chase six times in the past nine years and won the 2004 inaugural Chase season championship in only his third full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.

   “Furniture Row Racing has the commitment, talent and resources to compete at a high level in the Sprint Cup Series,” said Busch. "I have watched with admiration on how this team has grown over the years and that is why I am excited about the opportunity as I eagerly look forward to a new chapter in my racing career."

   Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Busch has driven the No. 51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing. His previous two teams in the Sprint Cup Series were at Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Pastrana to make NASCAR Truck series debut at Vegas

   Motorsports star and pop icon Travis Pastrana will compete in both the Smith’s 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and the Sylvania SilverStar zXe Global RallyCross Championship Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

   The Sept. 29 Smith’s 350 will mark Pastrana’s first race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Pastrana, headlined in the recently-released Nitro Circus: The Movie 3D, is a star of the ESPN X Games and a champion motocross rider. He will drive the No. 98 AM/PM Toyota in the Smith’s 350 and the Red Bull/Discount Tire Dodge Dart in the GRC event. Pastrana won the July 14 GRC race at Loudon, N.H.

   Although a newcomer to Trucks, Pastrana has competed on a limited schedule in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and K&N Pro East series. He made his stock car racing debut last year in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Irwindale, Calif.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Vote for most popular driver in NASCAR Nationwide and Trucks

   For the fifth consecutive year, fans can vote online on for the 2012 Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck series. Voting begins Sept. 21 and runs through Friday, Nov. 16, prior to the season finale for both national series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

   New this year: two fans and their guests will win an all-expense paid trip to the 2012 Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series Awards on Nov. 19 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel by registering for the Most Popular Driver Vote Sweepstakes after placing their vote on The sweepstakes is open to fans 18 and older in the 48 continental states. Eligible fans may register once (1) per 24 hours. The sweepstakes entry period ends November 3, 2012 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The Most Popular Driver winners from both series will be announced at the combined gala event. 

   Each series has a dedicated page on for voting. Fans can go to for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and to for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Fans are encouraged to vote once per day leading up to the Nov. 16 deadline.

   To be eligible to receive votes, drivers must have selected either the Nationwide Series or Camping World Truck Series for their 2012 driver championship points. Additionally, drivers must have attempted at least half of each series’ races this season.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NASCAR reinstates Allmendinger

NASCAR has reinstated suspended driver AJ Allmendinger after he successfully completed the Road to Recovery program.

Allmendinger had been suspended by NASCAR on July 24 after failing a drug test. He was subsequently released by Penske Racing.

Allmendinger was temporarily suspended after failing a drug test taken in June in Kentucky. When a backup, Sample B test also failed, he was indefinitely suspended.

“I want to thank everyone for their support through this entire process,” said Allmendinger in a statement. “I appreciate that NASCAR created the the Road to Recovery program, and am grateful for the opportunity to return to competition. The Road to Recovery program was really helpful to me in getting my priorities reset away from the race track. And, honestly, that helped find my love of racing again and why I began racing in the first place. I’m looking forward to taking this experience and be better for it moving forward.”

Team owner Roger Penske said last weekend in Sonoma, Calif., that he would consider giving Allmendinger another chance.  But Joey Logano has signed to drive Penske's No. 22 Dodge in 2013. Sam Hornish Jr. has been in the car in Allmendinger's absence. -- David Scott

Larry McReynolds dishes on Danica and JR Motorsports

   Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief Larry McReynolds has worked with some of the most successful organizations in NASCAR. Now a TV analyst with Speed, McReynolds offered up his thoughts this week on the recent departure of Tony Eury Jr. and Tony Eury Sr. from JR Motorsports.

   While McReynolds agreed a change was needed based on performance, he had some straight-forward comments about that organization's driver lineup, which this season includes Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt.

   “I think their current driver lineup is running as well they’re going to run. In the Nationwide Series, Danica Patrick is probably as good as she’s going to be. She’s going to run between ninth and 15th and maybe score a top five on a really good day," McReynolds said. "I don’t care if you put Chad Knaus in as her crew chief. She’s going to run where she is running. 

 JR Motorsports announced Tuesday that Ryan Pemberton will serve as Patrick's interim crew chief this weekend at Kentucky. A decision past Kentucky hasn't been made.

 "As much as I’d love to say she could run fender-to-fender with Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Austin Dillon or Elliott Sadler, I don’t think it’s there. Danica is great for our sport and I’m excited about her running fulltime in the Cup Series. But she has run 51 Nationwide Series races, and that’s a lot of races.

   "By the same token, Cole Whitt is going to run where he is running. He was thrown into the deep end pretty fast. I think he’s between a sixth and 12th place driver right now. That’s where he ran with the Eurys, and that’s where he’s going to run without them."

   McReynolds said Richard Childress Racing's Nationwide program offers up a valid benchmark for comparison.

   "JR Motorsports is a Chevrolet team. RCR is a Chevrolet team, and they’re winning races and sitting second and third in the points, so it’s not a Chevrolet problem. JR Motorsports runs Hendrick engines but Turner Motorsports is winning races with Hendrick engines, so it’s not the engines," he said. "So, I think this is why they had to do something to try to make their race cars better.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A sneak peek at the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule

   NASCAR hasn't released any of its "official" 2013 schedules yet, but The Charlotte Observer and have obtained a copy of the Sprint Cup Series schedule, which is expected to be released to the public this week.

   There are no major surprises in the schedule. It remains 36 points-paying races, beginning Feb. 24, 2013 at Daytona and concluding Nov. 17 at Homestead, Fla. The only notable change is a swap of the fall Kansas and Talladega races. The fall Kansas race is now Oct. 6, 2013 and the fall Talladega race is Oct. 20, 2013.

   There are no additional night races added to the schedule. The spring Kansas race - on April 21, 2013 - was rumored to change to a night race, but remains on Sunday afternoon.

   In addition, there are expected to be 33 Nationwide Series races in 2013 with no new venues added to the schedule.

   The 2013 Sprint Cup Series schedule

   Feb 24 Daytona
   March 3 Phoenix
   March 10 Las Vegas
   March 17 Bristol
   March 24 California
   March 31 OFF/Easter
   April 7 Martinsville, VA
   April 13 Texas
   April 21 Kansas
   April 27 Richmond
   May 5 Talladega
   May 11 Darlington
   May 18 All-Star race
   May 26 Charlotte
   June 2 Dover
   June 9 Pocono
   June 16 Michigan
   June 23 Sonoma
   June 29 Kentucky
   July 6 Daytona
   July 14 New Hampshire
   July 21 OFF
   July 28 Indianapolis
   Aug. 4 Pocono
   Aug. 11 Watkins Glen
   Aug. 18 Michigan
   Aug. 24 Bristol
   Sept. 1 Atlanta
   Sept. 7 Richmond
   Sept. 15 Chicagoland
   Sept. 22 New Hampshire
   Sept. 29 Dover
   Oct. 6 Kansas
   Oct. 12 Charlotte
   Oct. 20 Talladega
   Oct. 27 Martinsville, VA
   Nov. 3 Texas
   Nov. 10 Phoenix
   Nov. 17 Homestead

Post-race transcript of Ryan Blaney's first NASCAR win

   Media Center interviews following 18-year-old Ryan Blaney's victory Saturday night in the NASCAR Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway. Blaney became the series' all-time youngest winner. He also gave Brade Keselowski Racing its first victory.

   Ryan Blaney (No. 29 Cooper Standard RAM) Race Winner
   YOU ARE THE SEVENTH FIRST TIME WINNER IN THE SERIES THIS YEAR, THE 12TH DIFFERENT WINNER IN 15 RACES. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO CAPTURE THIS WIN FOR BRAD KESELOWSKI RACING? “Well it definitely really special. Like you said, getting the first one for Brad Keselowski Racing, that’s great, that I could do it here. This Trucks team really means a lot to him and for me to do that for him really means a lot. We were good all weekend. We were not as good as the 7 truck (Parker Kligerman) leading up into the race. I think we could hang with the 7 truck in the race. He was a little bit better than us on long runs but it seemed like on restarts we were better than him for about five or seven laps and then at the end on restarts it kind of played to our advantage. I knew if we were just side-by-side with some second place guy getting into one, we were probably going to beat ‘em off of two. We were just strong on restarts all night. It was good to have Cooper Standard on board and here in Iowa where half my family is. Overall just a good night to have my family here; it was a good night so hopefully we can have some more.”

   Doug Randolph (Crew Chief, No. 29 Cooper Standard RAM)
   WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO COME TO IOWA WITH RYAN IN HIS THIRD START AND CAPTURE THE WIN? “Well I mean it’s a great feeling. It was really fun tonight watching Ryan and he made some incredible passes. I really want to thank Brad for giving us all this opportunity. He’s really helped us. We know we’ve been behind with our program and he’s allowed us to continue to improve and make it better. I really enjoy and it’s pretty neat to be here with Ryan and Dave ‘cause my first crew chiefing job was with Dave and you know I felt like there was a lot of nights that we should have been sitting right here and it didn’t quite work out. I felt like a couple of ‘em got away and it’s great to come full circle and make it happen with Ryan.”

   Dave Blaney (Ryan Blaney’s Father)
   YOU GOT HERE THIS AFTERNOON RIGHT BEFORE THE START OF THE RACE. TALK ABOUT GETTING TO THE TRACK AND BEING HERE WITH RYAN AND A PART OF HIS FIRST WIN. “I was glad I could get over. It sounded like it went really well yesterday and this morning in practice and you know Ryan was fired up. Like Doug said, he did a tremendous job all night in traffic, ran really hard when he needed to and not so much when he didn’t. He just did it all right. You know Doug made a really good call on tires there midway through the race. It ended up being the perfect call and got him in position and brought it home.”

   Ryan Blaney: WHY WERE THERE SO MANY CAUTIONS TONIGHT? “You tell me. I couldn’t see ‘em all. All I knew is I’d run a lap, get away about three truck lengths and then a caution would come out. I’m not sure why there were so many at the end and so little there in the middle of the race. Guys just getting antsy I guess.”

   YOU LIKED TO RESTART ON THE HIGH SIDE. WAS THAT AN ADVANTAGE? “Well in the K&N car we always start on the high side. You can get over the bump better and you can kind of pinch that guy down in one and just limit his room to get a run off the corner. It’s really just getting over the bump a lot better than the guy so you choose the outside if you’re the leader there.”

   Dave Blaney: HOW SPECIAL IS IT FOR YOU BECAUSE ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST WINS CAME JUST DOWN THE ROAD HERE? “Well that’s true. My wife is from within an hour of here and her whole family is close and a lot of ‘em were here tonight. That’s a very cool thing. I’m just glad I was here to see it. You know I got to see his first K&N win at Phoenix last fall and this one. He does a really nice job and he’s coming along so quick it’s just cool to be a part of it. You know I can’t thank Brad Keselowski and everybody at Penske enough for having the faith in him to go ahead and run him in all this stuff and look at his future and Brad’s been instrumental in bringing Ryan along and help him get through the learning process here.”

   Ryan Blaney: HAVE YOU HEARD FROM BRAD YET? WHAT DID HE HAVE TO SAY IF YOU’VE HEARD FROM HIM? “I haven’t heard from him yet. Haven’t had my phone on me. Probably going to call him here in a little bit.”

   WHAT’S THE FIRST THING YOU’RE GOING TO TELL HIM WHEN YOU TALK TO HIM? “Probably thank you for giving me this opportunity and letting me drive his truck. It’s been great getting in with Penske and getting in with Brad. I’ve learned a whole lot from him in just about a month and a half that I’ve been close to him. I think we just keep building on our relationship making his team better, me getting better and hopefully we’ll have even a lot better runs here, a lot better finishes here.”

   YOU ARE SCHEDULED TO RUN BOTH THE TRUCK AND NATIONWIDE RACES AT KENTUCKY. WHAT DOES THIS WIN DO FOR YOUR MOMENTUM HEADING INTO NEXT WEEKEND? “Well every time you win the week before it always boosts your team, boosts your self-confidence going into the next week. It’s really just a bonus and everyone is all fired up from the previous week. And as a driver confidence is a really big thing driving race cars. Your confidence level is just sky high when you win the week before. So I think it’s just always an added bonus being the winners the previous week and everyone always looks out for you.”              

Saturday, September 15, 2012

NASCAR mandates safety changes

   Earlier this week, NASCAR issued technical bulletins in both the Cup and Nationwide series that address a safety enhancement to the driver’s roll cage and will take effect beginning in January 2013.

    The cars in both series will feature an additional forward roof bar and a center roof support bar that will intersect near the front center of the roll cage. This addition comes following extensive testing at the NASCAR research and development center in Concord.

    NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said the intent was to strengthen the top front area of the roll cage in the event of a car rolling over. The change can be made to cars this year but is not mandatory until 2013.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Look out for the NASCAR traffic jam

   The garage area every weekend at NASCAR races is probably the busiest area of the track, particularly when practice sessions are underway and cars are running laps, returning to the garage for adjustments, then heading back out to the track to test them.

   Friday afternoon, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. were involved in a NASCAR version of the fender-bender.

   As Keselowski was leaving the garage area to head to the track a NASCAR official waved at him. Keselowski thought it was a signal to stop, so he did. However, Truex was directly behind him and ran into the rear of Keselowski's No. 2 Dodge.

   Both cars suffered cosmetic damage and neither team had to move to a backup car.

   "My bad, totally my fault," said Truex, who like Keselowski, is among the 12 drivers competing in this season's Chase for the Sprint Cup. "I looked up and Keselowski just slammed the brakes on and I just hit him.

   "You get in a hurry getting out of the garage and it was just hard to see what the (official) was doing."

   Keselowski's crew chief, Paul Wolfe, said it wasn't a big issue. "It didn't affect us other than losing a few minutes of practice," he said.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Who do NASCAR fans support in the presidential election?

   Mixing politics and sports generally produces a toxic combination and it's certainly true among NASCAR fans as well.

   In recent years, however, there has been considerable discussion in politics among the NASCAR fan as a voting demographic. After all, there is a reason Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has made two appearances at NASCAR races this season (although because of bad weather he has yet to see a green-flag lap of racing).

   This week is the first time I've come across any stories about this year's presidential election that include polling results of the two main candidates specifically broken down among self-described "NASCAR fans."

   The results were surprising.

   A new JZ Analytics national poll of likely voters released Thursday showed President Obama leading Romney 47.7 percent to 42 percent. It also indicated Romney is not polling well as expected among some conservative demographic groups: NASCAR fans, evangelicals, and the so-called “Walmart voters.”

   According to JZ Analytics pollster John Zogby, Romney leads Obama 48.4 to 44.6 percent among voters who shop weekly at Walmart. He narrowly trails Obama among self-identified "NASCAR fans," 44 percent to 43 percent.

   “That’s a number you would never expect to see,” Zogby said.

   For more on the JZ Analytics poll released Thursday, go here.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 Most Popular Driver finalists named

    The National Motorsports Press Association announced the 10 finalists for the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award. With more than a half-million votes cast, the top 10 drivers that earned the most votes will now be reset to zero with voting continuing over the next 10 weeks, coinciding with the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

   The 10 finalists are, in alphabetical order: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

   Fans now have 10 race weeks to cast their vote once a day at to determine the winner from the final 10 drivers. Voting will conclude Nov. 18 at 11:59 PM ET and the winner will be announced at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in November.

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. collected his ninth consecutive Most Popular Driver award at the end of the 2011 campaign, joining Bill Elliott as the only drivers to win the award eight years straight. Elliott holds the record for most consecutive Most Popular Driver wins with 10, and he also holds the record for total wins with 16.

We interupt the NASCAR Chase to bring you a race

   We interrupt this year’s Chase by pausing to reflect on the race.

   Once again 12 drivers this weekend will begin their quest for the Sprint Cup Series championship with Sunday’s kickoff of the 10-race sprint to the title.

   And once again, the other 31 drivers in the field will take a back seat for the rest of the season to the media attention, whether it’s TV, radio or print.

   There is an argument to be made that those who don’t perform well enough to make the Chase haven’t earned the right to such exposure.

   In general there is merit to that argument, but it assumes a fact not in evidence: Race fans are fans of their particular driver all season – all 38 points and non-points races – not just the first 26 races of the season.

   In other words, fans of Carl Edwards and are still looking to follow Edwards the same way in the final 10 races as they did in the first 26 points races, regardless of whether he made the Chase.

   This has always been struggle of the Chase format.

   Indeed, it creates multiple new storylines at the end of the season, but those new storylines overshadow many of the ones that typically covered when the Chase is not underway.

   NASCAR veteran Mark Martin has been outspoken in his career about how winning individual races was once held in far more reference than it is today.

   In large part that is because winning the Chase – and the issues affecting its participants – become the focus of attention in the final 10 races.

   Martin, who is running a partial schedule and not in the Chase, reiterated his stance again this week.

   “We race for the same reasons that we raced before the Chase started and that’s to win. The Chase does a lot of wonderful things, but it isn't the only thing going on. The event is about winning,” Martin said.

   “Clint Bowyer won Richmond. That to me is more important than points. The championship, the points and the Chase all do add to what we do. I am not degrading it. But I also think in today’s age that winning a race is underrated.”

   You can’t say it better than that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Team swap at Richard Petty Motorsports

    Richard Petty Motorsports  announced on Monday it had swapped the crew chiefs and team members between its Nos. 9 and 43 Sprint Cup Series teams, effective this weekend.

   Mike Ford will serve as crew chief for driver Marcos Ambrose on the No. 9 Ford team while crew chief Todd Parrott has been assigned to driver Aric Almirola's No. 43 Ford team. In addition, team members from both teams will also make the switch.

   RPM currently has one win, three poles, 10 top-10 and three top-five finishes this season in the Cup series between the two teams. The team was also in position to make the Chase for the second consecutive season with Ambrose.

   "We're continuing to make improvements at Richard Petty Motorsports and we've added talented people to our organization this season," said Sammy Johns, director of competition. "This move is to make sure that we are using that talent to the fullest to get the best results for our teams each weekend. We feel this adjustment will strengthen the organization, allow us to continue to compete for wins and ultimately challenge for championships."

   Ford and Parrott are both veteran, winning crew chiefs. Parrott has one Cup championship, a Daytona 500 victory and 31 Cup wins to his credit. Ford has six Chase berths and 25 Cup wins on his resume.

   "Aric has really shown the desire and dedication to get his first Sprint Cup Series win," Parrott said. "It was great our team helped lead Marcos to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win and poles. We are now ready to help direct Almirola and the No. 43 team to the same results and better."
   Ford is also ready to work with Ambrose and the No. 9 race team. "Marcos is a racer who has proven to win poles and races," Ford said. "Our goal is to take my experiences and make sure we can consistently run up front and continue to win races."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Carl Edwards talks about missing the NASCAR Chase

   This year's Chase for the Sprint Cup will be missing one half of the tandem that battled down to the wire for last season's championship.
   When the dust cleared at Richmond International Raceway, Carl Edwards - who lost last season's title to Tony Stewart in a tiebreaker - was left outside the Chase looking in.
   It was going to take a near-miracle for Edwards to get in the Chase at the Richmond race, but he had remained hopeful. Edwards talked about his season after the race.
   “Yeah, this isn’t about one race. It is 26 races and we just let too many points get away for a bunch of different reasons. There was a lot of luck involved and everyone tried really hard. This is the fastest we have been the last six weeks all year and I am proud of everyone for rallying around Chad (Norris) and Bob (Osborne) included for making the best effort we could," Edwards said. "We will just go try to build the best team we can for next year and try to make sure a Ford wins this championship.”

   Edwards was asked what he and his No. 99 Ford team will do in the final 10 races.

   "It makes it pretty simple for the last 10. We just go race as hard as we can. That has been kind of fun lately to do that but man, I don’t know, it is going to be wild to not be in the championship hunt. It won’t be as much fun at all," he said.

   "I'll be the best teammate I can be and to help (Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle) develop any set-ups they can and help them during practice. There isn’t much I can do on the race track once the race starts, but before the race starts I can help."

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Seeding for 2012 NASCAR Chase

   How the 2012 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup will start next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway:

   1. Denny Hamlin, 2012  points
   2. Jimmie Johnson, 2009 points
   3. Tony Stewart, 2009 points
   4. Brad Keselowski, 2009 points
   5. Greg Biffle, 2006 points
   6. Clint Bowyer, 2006 points
   7. Dale Earnhardt Jr., 2003 points
   8. Matt Kenseth, 2003 points
   9. Kevin Harvick, 2000 points
   10. Martin Truex Jr., 2000 points
   11. Kasey Kahne, 2000 points
   12. Jeff Gordon, 2000 points

Friday, September 7, 2012

JR Motorsports looking for new competition director

   JR Motorsports, a Nationwide Series team co-owned by Sprint Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., is looking for a new director of competition after its current director, Tony "Pops" Eury Sr., had "amicably" parted ways with the organization.

   Eury, Earnhardt's uncle, is a winner of 55 NASCAR races in both the Nationwide and Cup Series as a crew chief. He has 28 years in the NASCAR industry, the last five of which were served as competition director and crew chief for JR Motorsports. The company has amassed all nine of its victories under Eury’s watch. JR Motorsports’ last victory came on Sept. 4, 2010, with driver Jamie McMurray.

   “The conversation Tony Sr. and I had was one of the most difficult I’ve ever been a part of,” said Kelley Earnhardt-Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. “I believe Tony Sr.’s passion for the sport is exceeded only by his yearning to excel in it, and that itself became the issue that both he and I struggled with. 

   "At JR Motorsports we do this to win races and compete for championships, and lately we have not met that standard. Being the competitor that Tony Sr. is, I know that bothers him more than anyone.”

   Eury Sr.’s son, Tony Eury Jr., remains crew chief for JR Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet and co-owner of the company with Earnhardt Jr. and Earnhardt-Miller. Danica Patrick is running a fulltime schedule in the No. 7 this season.
   “I want what’s best for Dale Jr., Kelley, Tony Jr., and all those employees. I really do,” said Eury Sr. “We accomplished a lot in a short time, and nobody is prouder of that than I am. I’m not sure what’s next for me, and I’m not sure I’m in a hurry to find out.”
   Earnhardt said he didn't know anyone who had impacted his NASCAR career more than Eury Sr.
   “I know my dad ultimately put me in the Nationwide Series car back in the ’90s, but Tony Sr. was the one who convinced him to do it," Earnhardt said. "He was with me through two Nationwide Series championships and five full seasons as a Cup driver.
   "We won a lot of races together, and as much as he impacted my career as a race car driver, he means more to me on a personal level. He’s done a lot for this organization, and I thank him for it.”


   After he won the pole for Saturday night's Cup race, Earnhardt Jr. offered some additional comments on Eury Sr.'s departure from JR Motorsports:

   "It was tough. It was a difficult decision we had to make. You know, as a company we felt like we wanted to make some changes. The environment for our Nationwide team and I'm sure for a lot of Nationwide teams, is so different that what we have in the Cup series. In the Cup series, you have commitments that stretch over years and you can map a future further ahead than 12 months. In the Nationwide series, a lot of our programs are structured over single years and you re-up each year. Every year you don't really don't know what February will look like sponsor-wise, whether you're going to have one fulltime sponsor for a team or you're going to have three or four to outfit a car. During this time we felt we wanted to make some changes and try to improve our company and our teams. We needed to do something directional that was different than what we were doing. This is one piece of that," he said.

   "I think there will be some more things we will do to try to be a better race team for next year and there's a lot of moving parts and missing pieces that have we've got to fill in like sponsorship and so forth to give us a better idea of the direction we want to go. You can't sit and say, 'Man we're going to run three cars next year' without three cars being fully funded. You can't just make that decision. You have to wait until all the things play themselves our and people make their commitments to you.

   "Even in the last three or four years that series has become more of a challenge. We want to be there and I believe in what we do in that series. I enjoy our efforts there. The change with Pops was really difficult because he's mean so much to me in my career and to me as a person. At the same time, we want to try to see if we can change our performance level and change a bit of the culture in the shop and see if that helps."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Newman agrees to 1-year deal with SHR

   Ryan Newman has agreed to a one-year contract extension with Stewart-Haas Racing, the Observer and have learned.

   The extension will ensure Newman is the driver of SHR's No. 39 Chevrolet through the end of the 2013 season, two sources confirmed on Wednesday night. Newman and SHR have been involved in negotiations for several weeks.

   Both Newman and team co-owner Tony Stewart have said repeatedly in recent weeks they were close on a deal. An official announcement from the team could come as soon as this weekend, sources said. 

   A request for comment by SHR officials wasn't immediately returned.

   Newman, 34, has 16 wins in his 11-plus seasons in the Sprint Cup Series, including one this year at Martinsville, Va. He has finished a career-best sixth in points three times, most recently in 2005.

Ford Racing statement on Joey Logano's move to Penske

   Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing, statement on Penske Racing announcement of Joey Logano coming to the No. 22 Fusion beginning in 2013:

   "We welcome Joey to the Penske Racing Ford program next season," said Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. "Joey is a proven winner in NASCAR, and we think he, along with Brad, will give the Penske Racing-Ford team a strong 1-2 punch to win races and help us win the manufacturers' championship.

   "Joey now adds to our young lineup of Ford NASCAR drivers for the future, complementing the veteran, championship-battle tested drivers we have in our program right now. It's a great mix of Ford Racing drivers that we believe give us a strong outreach to the passionate fan base and a great opportunity to win NASCAR championships for many years to come."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Penske Racing makes it official: Joey Logano in the No. 22

   Official press release from Penske Racing:

   Penske Racing announced today that Joey Logano will join the team in 2013. He will drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Logano, 22, a two-time Sprint Cup Series winner who is currently competing in his fourth full season, will begin a multi-year agreement with Penske Racing.

   “I am very excited to join Penske Racing and begin the next phase of my career,” said Logano. “I am looking forward to the opportunity as it will be an honor to drive for Roger Penske and race for wins and championships. I am also proud to represent Shell-Pennzoil as they are a respected global brand that does a great job of activating in the sport on and off the track."

   In addition to his pair of victories, four poles and 16 top-five finishes in his young Cup Series career, Logano has also produced 15 wins and 19 poles in five seasons competing part time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

   “Joey Logano is a very talented driver who has already achieved a lot of success at a young age,” said Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing. “Joey is a great fit for our organization and we look forward to building on his success as he takes his place behind the wheel of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford.”

   With an impressive track record of winning from an early age, Logano has established himself as one of NASCAR’s fastest rising stars. He started racing quarter midgets at the age of six and won his first championship just one year later. After rising up quickly through the racing ranks, Logano became the youngest winner in Nationwide Series history when he won at Kentucky Speedway at the age of 18 in 2008. Just one year later he won at New Hampshire to become the youngest winner ever in Cup Series competition. Logano went on to be named 2009 Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year, setting the stage for a bright future in the sport.

   “We welcome Joey Logano to the Shell-Pennzoil team, and we know he will do a great job representing our brands and Penske Racing in 2013 and beyond,” said Lisa Davis, president, Shell Lubricants Americas. “Joey is clearly a special talent on the race track, and we look forward to working with him off the track as well.”

   Logano will join Brad Keselowski, a three-time race winner and championship contender in 2012, and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team to form a potent combination for Penske Racing in the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Joey Logano to join Penske Racing

Joey Logano, who earned his second career Sprint Cup Series victory this season and leads all drivers in the Nationwide Series with six wins, will join Penske Racing as the driver of the No. 22 Ford next season, The Observer and have learned.

   Logano, 22, has spent his entire NASCAR career with Joe Gibbs Racing, but JGR did not have a fulltime Cup ride available for him in 2013. Logano's move comes just as JGR is set to officially announce on Tuesday that former Cup champion Matt Kenseth is joining the organization in 2013.

   An official announcement of Logano's move to Penske could come as early as Tuesday as well, multiple sources confirmed.

   A request for comment from Penske Racing was not immediately returned.

   Sam Hornish Jr. now drives the No. 22 Dodge for Penske on a temporary basis after former driver A.J. Allmendinger was released by the team after being indefinitely suspended by NASCAR for failing a random drug test. Logano would be the fourth driver in the No. 22 in less than two seasons.

   Logano is still technically in the hunt for one of the two wild card berths in the Chase this season. He has one win this season, at Pocono, and a second victory Saturday night at Richmond, Va., could qualify him for the Chase for the first time.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Harvick happy to have crew chief back

   Kevin Harvick finished third in the Sprint Cup Series the past two seasons so it was sort of a surprise when his crew chief, Gil Martin, was replaced in the offseason by Shane Wilson.

   While Harvick has run well enough this season to cement a berth in the Chase, he has yet to reach Victory Lane this season. In recent months, Harvick and Wilson's relationship appeared to deteriorate and two weeks ago Wilson was replaced by - surprise - Martin.

   The move was said to be on an interim basis, but in the two races since Martin's returned Harvick has finished 15th at Bristol, Tenn., and fifth Sunday night at Atlanta. Sunday night, Harvick led laps for the first time since the June race at Dover Del.

   After Sunday night's race, Harvick expressed his appreciation for Martin's return.

   "I just have to thank Gil for coming back with everything we put him through, it wasn't a great situation," Harvick said after the race. "It takes a big man to do what he did and things are going in the right direction.

   "I feel like we hadn't missed a beat. It took a lot of conversations and things to try to convince him to come back and do it. Obviously, for myself I learned a big lesson and it takes a big man to do what he did."



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Keselowski explains 'Bottle-gate'

   Brad Keselowski was shown on ESPN footage tossing a water bottle out of his car during Saturday night's Nationwide race at Atlanta. At first, ESPN thought the bottle may have been the cause for a caution on Lap 184. It wasn't - ESPN later showed footage of the debris which did bring out the caution. But the damage was done.

   Keselowski was asked to explain what happened after the race:

   "If the water bottle would have been the cause for the yellow it went out of my car 15 to 20 laps before the yellow came out. I don’t know verbatim what lap it was or specifically what lap it was. I guess that’s why I was caught off guard with the comments about the water bottle causing a yellow. I don’t know why the yellow’s come out. The yellow’s come out all the time in the race without an explanation. It is what it is. That’s not a question for me; it’s a question for everybody that runs the show. I’m sure they felt there was a reason; they threw the yellow, that’s their right. That’s their job as the sanctioning body of NASCAR, any questions to that need to go to them," he said.

   "Do I feel guilty for throwing a water bottle out of my car? No. Everybody throws that stuff out the car. You watch on Lap 15 or 20 when the sun went down, tear-offs and water bottles go out of every single car. That’s how racing works. If you go down on the infield at these tracks after the race I’m sure that you’ll find water bottles. NASCAR knows that, and if they decide to throw a yellow that’s their prerogative, but most times they don’t. That’s their call. I can’t speak for NASCAR. I’m not going to say that I didn’t throw a water bottle. Heck ya, I threw about three of them out through the course of the race and I do every race and will continue to do so. I think most of the field will so I don’t know how the two are linked together without NASCAR saying so. 

   "The questions need to go to (them) or Kevin’s questions do, not to me. I can understand Kevin being frustrated. I’d be frustrated too. I was very frustrated after Watkins Glen when I had the dominant car and didn’t win. But you know sometimes in racing you do everything right and it just doesn’t work out. If you’re not mad about it you’re not a racer. So how can I sit here and bash Kevin? Kevin is a racer; he had the best car and didn’t win. If he wasn’t mad as hell I’d personal be mad at him because that’s his job and that’s why he’s a great racer. Just give his some time. He’ll figure out the situation with NASCAR and cooler heads will prevail. That’s just the way it is.”