Saturday, February 23, 2013

NASCAR fans, can you hear your phones now?

   If you have paid a visit to Daytona International Speedway during Speedweeks, you may have noticed a better cell phone signal – even if you are not a Sprint customer.

    It won’t be the last time.

    When Sprint signed its contract extension with NASCAR to sponsor its Sprint Cup Series, it allowed – for the first time – other cell carriers to boost their respective signals at race tracks as long as they did not engage in any marketing.

    Many fans have long incorrectly believed Sprint’s sponsorship allows the carrier’s signal to block those of other cell carriers. Instead, its sponsorship simply allowed it to be the only carrier to boost its signal at the track.

    That has now changed.

   "Sprint understands our desire to enhance the at-track connectivity for all our fans," said NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps.  

   “Enhancing the event experience is a key plank in our Industry Action Plan, and they were immediately supportive of making a change moving forward when we discussed it with them more than a year ago. Sprint subsequently has provided great input and assistance in the roll out of improved connectivity at tracks this season.”

    The contract extension – and the change – was to go into effect in the 2014 season but NASCAR and Sprint worked out an arrangement to make the change effective this season.
   All NASCAR tracks will now be able to offer Wi-Fi to all fans in attendance and can offer other cell carriers the option to provide the necessary equipment to boost their signal on property.

    Sprint service customers will continue to enjoy several premium benefits – many for free – unavailable to other customers of other carriers.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why Tony Stewart is sitting out Saturday's Daytona 500 practices

   So, why won't you see Tony Stewart participate in Saturday's Sprint Cup Series practice sessions? Simply put, Stewart doesn't know how he can make his No. 14 Chevrolet any better in preparation for Sunday's Daytona 500.

    Let him explain:

    "It always makes you nervous because you always want to win the biggest race of the year. But when I say nervous, it’s not like you lose sleep over it. But I guess today when I say I’m calm about it, it’s like I’m really happy with my car. I got out and I looked at (crew chief) Steve Addington and he’s like I’m content if you are and I’m like I honestly don’t know what else to ask for with the car. So, it’s nice from a driver’s side to be able to say I don’t know what else to ask you for. I don’t know what else I need. So, it’s a good scenario," Stewart said.

    "When there’s not a scratch on it, it’s ready to race. Those guys are going to have the whole day tomorrow to just get everything ready and go over everything with a fine-tooth comb and make sure everything is absolutely perfect and ready for Sunday. That’s a position I don’t know that we’ve ever been in. I think we’ve always run final practice and if nothing else, at least run 15 or 20 laps in final practice. To have this year and know that we’re finished and ready to go, it’s nice for those guys to have that opportunity and time to get ready for the race and we’re not going to be doubled-up tomorrow, so we’ll have a pretty relaxing day tomorrow to get ready for Sunday.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 Chevrolet comes to life for the Daytona 500

   Go behind the scenes as members of the Nos. 48 and 88 shop paint and decal Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS for Sunday's Daytona 500 in this time-lapse video created by Hendrick Motorsports.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr. reflects on his Speedweeks so far

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. hasn't found Victory Lane yet during Speedweeks and already suffered one blown engine, but he continues to have a positive outlook heading into Sunday's Daytona 500.
   Earnhardt talked about his Speedweeks so far following his ninth-place finish in Thursday's first Gatorade Duel.
   Q: What did you learn out there?
   "We've got to work on our handling. Our car was really really tight. At the first, we were on the splitter pretty bad; we worked on it yesterday and went a little too far. Got a little too aggressive with that. But put a packer in on that pit stop, and it was still real tight. I was having to lift in the center of three and four, just to get off the corner. I had to lift real big getting into one on the first lap where Juan (Pablo Montoya) got into the fence behind us. We hadn't been around any packs. I didn't anticipate really the balance being a big deal because the car does have a good downforce package; we thought the balance would be pretty close. Figured we would be fighting loose a little big. We have to work on it. We will; we'll fix it."
   Q: Anything you learn going to help you for the 500?
   "We've got a good car. I was able to do some things. I did learn a few things about when those guys get up top. I found some ways to make gains; make passes one car at a time. If you get greedy and try to get a couple, you end up getting trained to the back. Learned a lot of things out there. Just how this car is working with this package that will help us on Sunday."
   Q: How indicative is that of what we'll see on Sunday?
    "I think it is exactly what you are going to see. You'll see a lot of racing. It'll be single file around the bottom some. It will be single file around the top some. Then all of a sudden everybody will start racing for no apparent reason. Then it'll go back to running single file for awhile. We don't really dictate that as driver. Not the field. The field really is at the mercy of the guys of front. If those guys up front chose to race a certain way, the filed sort of has to follow suit just to be able to maintain the draft. I think it will be a good race. It's a long race, you know. We can't run three-wide every lap as much as everybody would like to see that. I think its good racing."
   Q: Can you win?
   "Anybody can win, but we've got a good piece. We've got a real good car. We get that balance right, and get the thing to turning good, we'll have a great shot."

In 2014, the Duel at Daytona will debut at night

   The Budweiser Duel, the 150-mile qualifying races that determine the starting lineup for the Daytona 500, will move under the lights in 2014, Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III announced.

    The Budweiser Duel At Daytona, scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20, will start under the lights and will be televised by Fox Media Group, which may mean Fox Sports One.

   “To earn a coveted starting spot in the Daytona 500, the stars of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will have to perform under the lights and in front of a primetime audience in the Budweiser Duel,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “Moving the Budweiser Duel under the lights will add another dimension to Budweiser Speedweeks.”

   The Budweiser Duel joins The Sprint Unlimited and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race as the three nighttime races held during Budweiser Speedweeks.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Charlotte Motor Speedway implements smoke-free policy for 2013

   Charlotte Motor Speedway has implemented a smoke-free policy for all three of its track this season.

    The following information is posted on the CMS Web site:

    For the health and comfort of our guests, grandstands and concourses at Charlotte Motor Speedway, zMAX Dragway and The Dirt Track are smoke-free. This policy also applies to terrace boxes, kids’ play zones, bathhouses and restrooms.

    In conjunction with this policy, smoking lounges with flat-screen televisions and high-top tables will be conveniently located at each of our three venues. Smoking is also allowed in open-air campgrounds, parking lots, hospitality and souvenir display areas.

    It is our goal to reduce the risk of secondhand smoke exposure to our fans, while still allowing the freedom of choice with convenient smoking locations during our events.

    Enforcement -- Ushers will direct those found smoking in the grandstands to the nearest smoking lounge, and repeat offenders will be asked to leave.

   To see pictures of available smoking lounges at the tracks, click here.

Sprint Unlimited not a hit on TV

   The 2013 NASCAR season got off to a rough start last weekend, at least when it came to TV ratings.

   The Sprint Unlimited, formerly Budweiser Shootout, earned a 3.3 overnight rating on Fox Saturday night, down 18 percent from last year (4.0) and down 15 percent from 2011 (3.9). It was by far the network's lowest overnight rating ever for the event.

   The Sprint Unlimited finished well behind TNT’s NBA All-Star Saturday Night in the metered markets (4.3), though the final number may improve that somewhat.

   The race was promoted as the first featuring the 2013 model Sprint Cup series cars which feature much more manufacturer identity. It also featured several options for fans to vote their preference on how the race's format would unfold throughout the night.

   Kevin Harvick won the race.


Earnhardt’s legendary No. 3 subject of new ESPN NASCAR spot

  ESPN will debut a new promotional spot paying homage to the legendary No. 3 of the late NASCAR champion Dale Earnhardt in a new promotional spot that will begin airing in the telecast of Saturday’s season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hayley claims NASCAR K&N Pro Series event; Park wins modified race

   Cameron Hayley came from behind during a green-white-checkered finish to win the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach NASCAR K&N Pro Series race Tuesday night at Daytona International Speedway.

    It was only fitting that the third and final race of the two-day event concluded with cars trading paint, given that the first two races ended with last-lap contact and late lead changes.

    Hayley took advantage when the race leaders tangled in Turn 2 to drive to the victory.

    Fifteen-year-old Gray Gaulding finished second in the Krispy Kreme Toyota, while Puerto Rican Bryan Ortiz took the third spot in the Putinka Vodka Toyota.

   “It was a tough race overall,” said Hayley. “When I was sitting there on that last restart, I was thinking they were going to wreck in front of me. There’s going to be something happening in front of me. My crew chief and my spotter coming over the radio telling me to be patient and when you see a hole - go.”


   Steve​ Park raced to the finish line to capture the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race, the first of two races Tuesday night at the UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway.

    Park, a Daytona Beach resident, overtook Eric Goodale coming out of Turn 2 after making contact with Mike Stefanik’s back bumper on the white flag lap. Eric Goodale finished second in the RBS Showroom Chevrolet, while Ted Christopher took third place driving the Cape Cod Copper/Silver Dollar Construction Chevrolet. Stefanik claimed 13th place in his Robert B. Our Co./Canto & Sons Paving Chevrolet.

   “You can win races all over this country but you are not going to have a Daytona trophy like we have here,” said Park, who had previously raced in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. “I’ve had the opportunity to race here 14 or 15 times and I never had a Daytona trophy but now I do. It’s a big deal for me.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Larson wrecks Falk to take Battle at Beach win

   Kyle Larson wrecked C.E. Falk III coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap to win the NASCAR Whelen All-American race, the inaugural event in the UNOH Battle At The Beach at Daytona International Speedway on Monday night.

    Larson hit the back of Falk’s car once on the white flag lap which got Falk loose but he continued to lead. Larson then punted him out of the way to grab the race win. Ben Rhodes took second place while Falk wound up third.

   “This is a pretty big race and I wanted to be the first to win it,” Larson said.

    Falk, who attended UNC Charlotte, and Larson battled during the later stages of the race with Larson overtaking Falk in Turn 3 on lap 141. Falk regained the top spot on Lap 142 and held it until the rush for the checkered flag when the two cars made contact.

   “I think I got monster trucked at the end,” Falk said.

    The 150-lap race, which featured 29 drivers from 12 different U.S. states, saw nine caution flags.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Does Danica Patrick have a weight advantage?

   There has been growing talk this week that Danica Patrick, who is quite diminutive in size compared to other Sprint Cup Series drivers, has a weight advantage over other competitors.

   While NASCAR does take driver's weight into account in its inspection process, how it calculates that differential leaves some wiggle room for a person like Patrick.

   The current rules say a driver's weight can change the overall minimum car weight based on the following schedule:

180 lbs. – Above / 3,300 lbs.
170 lbs. – 179 lbs. / 3,310 lbs.
160 lbs. – 169 lbs. / 3,320 lbs.
150 lbs. – 159 lbs. / 3,330 lbs.
140 lbs. – 149 lbs. / 3,340 lbs.

   Notice the schedule only goes to 140 pounds. Assuming Patrick's weight is a good deal less than 140, she may not have to add as much weight to the overall minimum car weight as some others.

   So, is there an advantage? NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton said maybe.

   "It's hard to give a yes or no answer. When you are trying to race anything, there is a balance between the weight you need and whether it's a balance between left and right-side weight or overall weight. When you go to places like Daytona, it probably means very little," Pemberton said. "Where it would mean the most is probably Martinsville or New Hampshire. That's just my opinion."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Danica Patrick gets to talk about - gasp - racing!

   Danica Patrick met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway after leading the final practice session for the 55th running of the Daytona 500.

   “I mean I suppose being the fastest going into qualifying is as good as you could hope for.  But, I also understand that it’s a whole different day.  We could go out there on the track and just for some reason not have as much speed as we had hoped for.  We could be in an unfortunate situation with wind or weather, temperatures, clouds, so I understand that.  We have done everything we can to prepare for it.  We all feel pretty confident, but tomorrow is a different day.”

   “We came here this weekend for the race with another car than what we tested.  We weren’t sure if we were going to bring the same one back or not because it ran so well.  This other car was really good in the wind tunnel so we brought it.  You always hope that the numbers from the wind tunnel translate to speed on the track and it did.  I guess that is kind of the way that it has gone here at Daytona for us is that everything that we think is going to work a certain way works the way we expect it to.  What should be faster is and that is not always the case.  Everything just seems to be going really smoothly.”

   “Well, I have always felt in my career that when things go well on the track the media responds to it.  So, I appreciate you all showing up here and thank you.  Make sure that you write about how good the crew is that made this car and the last car that was really fast and how strong the Hendrick engine is.  I think that is really important here at Daytona.  We are going to spend plenty of time the rest of the year talking about if a driver does something at tracks that aren’t speedways. Here at Daytona and then at Talladega it is very much about the potential of the car and the engine.”

   “I’ve never been someone that is thrilled or drawn in to racing by speed so for me I just want to be a little faster than the rest of them.  It feels like we were a little faster than the rest of them.”

   “Everything that we do is to make sure that we do whatever we can to be on the pole tomorrow.  That is what we all are shooting for.  As I said earlier tomorrow is a whole other day.  You’ve got to hope that the weather stays very consistent or perhaps better at the beginning when I’m going to go than at the end.  All those things play into it.”

   “I think it would mean a lot of work for Joe (Crowley) and Haley (Moore) with the media (laughs).  It would be really nice.  It is a very big pole of all of them in the year for attention.  Especially for GoDaddy who is on the car, people like that, that is who that helps the most.  I mean there are other races throughout the year that as a driver you feel maybe more pleased or proud of yourself to get.  This one is a whole team effort.  I understand I know I don’t give much credit to myself about driving and turning left.  And that is true it’s very much about the car and the engine.  It is a team effort I understand that the driver can make tiny little differences out there, be smooth, and nail your shifts and being smooth with the wheel.  The pole at Daytona is very much a team pole.”

   “I think being fastest on the chart, just being fast in general shows everyone else how dead serious Tony Gibson is with his guys and how he wants poles, he wants to give me the fastest car possible.  He is doing absolutely everything he can and is putting so much hard work into it.  I think that just shows his confidence in everyone including myself about what we can do.”

   “Tonight will be very telling in the Sprint Unlimited race there is no doubt.  I saw Juan (Pablo Montoya) as I was walking back from my bus last night.  I asked him how it was and he was talking about how it felt.  He said there are five cars out there he said it is going to be completely different when we get 20 of us out together.  I have a feeling that it’s going to be what shows what you are going to see next weekend tonight.  I’m curious just like everyone else is.  I want to know how it feels and I will be listening on the radio and I will be paying very close attention to where the runs come, what the car feels like and the trouble zones.  You’ve got to get through all 500 miles to get to the end.  As I found out last year it’s not a lot of fun to fall out of the race after a few miles.”

   “It feels good, it does.  There is a lot of year left and we are going to have a lot of challenging weekends.  I have no doubt about it.  But, we need to enjoy the good ones.  So far this has been a good one.  There is no better place to have a good race than the very first one of the year.  It sets the tone and gives the guys confidence and after we go away a good memory, which is nice to have too.  So far so good for us, however, all the stuff that counts is what’s next.  Hopefully, that keeps going in the way that it has already.”

   “With the new qualifying scenario I think it would be really nice for all of us to know we were in the race for Sunday.  Obviously, there is not, there are only a couple of cars extra, but it’s still a nice thing.  It’s nice to know as a team, but it’s also nice to know for your partners like GoDaddy and all the other people that are involved in the car.  That is who really pays for you to be out there on the track and have their name.  Being on the front row would lock in a front row.  Being in the top-six would lock in a start which both of those would be very good.” 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Get a sneak peek of the 2013 Chevrolet SS production car

   Check out these pictures of the 2013 Chevrolet SS production model car which will be officially debuted on Saturday at Daytona International Speedway prior to The Sprint Unlimited.

Jack Roush sees benefit to Stenhouse/Patrick relationship

   On Thursday, Roush Fenway Racing driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. said his team owner, Jack Roush, was supportive of his relationship with fellow Sprint Cup driver Danica Patrick.

    Thursday night, Roush appeared on Sirius XM Satellite Radio's show "Dialed In" with host Claire B. Lang and offered his take on the relationship which has dominated NASCAR headlines.

    "I wouldn't give (Ricky) and guidance. I think the relationship between Danica and Ricky is going to be good for both of them," Roush said. "They both have energy and they'll add to one another's brands and the excitement fans have for them. They will look to see if they are helpful and cooperate with one another or will they be competitive and fight with one another.

    "I think there will be a component of interest that will be there that would otherwise not be there that will be to both their benefit."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

NASCAR, Swan Racing to pay tribute to Newtown, CT, community

   Using the biggest race of the year as a backdrop, NASCAR, Swan Racing and two-time Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip announced on Thursday a special tribute to raise awareness and contributions for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund.

    Following a private meeting with town officials, community leaders, first responders and victims’ families last week in Newtown, Conn., NASCAR, Swan Racing and Waltrip announced that the No. 30 Lean1 Swan Racing Toyota will instead garner the No. 26 Sandy Hook School Support Fund Toyota. Waltrip’s ride for the Daytona 500 will honor the 26 victims of Sandy Hook Elementary School and prominently feature a call-to-action decal encouraging the NASCAR community to make $10 donations by texting NEWTOWN to 80888.

   The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, established jointly by United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Savings Bank, supports the healing process for the broader Newtown community including children, teachers, first responders, families, residents, mental health professionals, counselors and others, following the tragic events that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. One hundred percent of the funds raised for the Sandy Hook School Support Fund go to meet the needs of the Newtown community.

   “Americans everywhere are heartbroken about the tragedy in Newtown and Swan Racing is proud to join NASCAR and the United Way of Western Connecticut to help the community move forward,” said Swan Racing owner Brandon Davis.

    In addition to piloting the No. 26 Newtown car in the Great American Race, Waltrip confirmed today that all three Michael Waltrip Racing entries will run the “text NEWTOWN to 80888” decal for the Daytona 500.

    NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France also announced he and his wife Amy would personally kick off the NASCAR industry support with a $50,000 donation that will be matched by The NASCAR Foundation.

   “Being in Newtown last week and delivering a moment of happiness to that community was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” said France. “Looking out at a room of smiling faces amidst the aftermath of a horrible tragedy was very powerful."

    The NASCAR community can contribute to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund by texting NEWTOWN to 80888. Donations can also be made online at or by mail to:

    Sandy Hook School Support Fund
    c/o Newtown Savings Bank
    39 Main Street, Newtown, CT, 06470

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

NASCAR unveils "Air Titan" track-drying technology

   Less than eight months ago, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France tasked the team at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., with developing a means to shorten the delay caused by rain.

   The reasons for the initiative were many, but at the top of the list: Fans, whether in the grandstands or watching on television, should not have to wait long before racing resumes following a downpour.

   NASCAR announced on Tuesday Phase 1 of France's vision, introducing the Air Titan track drying system that will debut during Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. This innovative technology, steeped in science and created by the NASCAR R&D Center, will reduce track drying time, improve the racing product and enhance the fan experience.

Any NASCAR fans want to be part of a new TV show?

   Travel Channel will be filming at this year’s Daytona 500 and is seeking NASCAR superfans for a new series.

    They are looking for:
    • A NASCAR-obsessed family in need of a tailgate upgrade – Do you love Daytona but wish you had a better tailgate setup?
    • The best food – Do you have the ultimate signature dish, award-winning food creations, or one-of-a-kind recipes?
    • The most unbelievable tailgate setup – Do you have a tricked out RV, unique tailgating inventions, or the perfect tailgating spot?
    • The best Daytona 500 events – Do you host the best Infield parties, potlucks, contests, or games?
    • The most unique Daytona 500 fan traditions – Do you have any peculiar or outrageous customs or superstitions?

    If you or your family fit any of the above descriptions and will be at this year’s Daytona 500, then Travel Channel wants to hear from you!

    Contact them by emailing U​ltimateNas​carFanCast​ing@gmail.​ with subject line “Daytona 500,” and include photos of you and your family showing off your NASCAR/Daytona 500 pride.

Monday, February 11, 2013

NASCAR tightens up rules on race car communications

In a technical bulletin issued on Jan. 30, NASCAR officials made some more changes to what is and is not allowed in regards to in-car communications.

The changes include:

• In-car communications will be permitted only between team members of the same car number. Translation: A spotter for, say Kevin Harvick, cannot communicate with his Richard Childress Racing teammate Jeff Burton.

• Direct vehicle-to-vehicle communications will not be permitted. Translation: Drivers cannot communicate with each other directly, even if they are teammates.

Last January, NASCAR altered its radio policy to prohibit drivers from communicating with other drivers during the race. The communication was used primarily at Daytona and Talladega when two-car drafting tandems became commonplace.

Wood Brothers' winning car on display at Speedweeks

During Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona, race fans will be able to take a special glimpse into the storied history of Wood Brothers Racing as a replica of the 1963 Daytona 500-winning car -- the No. 21 Ford Galaxie driven by Tiny Lund -- will be on display in the Sprint FanZone.

The replica car was constructed by Leonard Wood, who was recently inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The car, which was part of Wood's induction ceremony, will be on display for the next year at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte.

Before the 1963 Daytona 500, Lund didn't even have a ride for "The Great American Race." Ten days before the Daytona 500, Marvin Panch suffered severe burns when he crashed a sports car during testing for the 250-mile American Challenge Cup race. Among the first to arrive on the scene was Tiny Lund, who helped Panch escape from the burning car. For his efforts, Lund, along with several others, received the Carnegie Medal of Heroism.

Following the crash, Panch was unable to race in the Daytona 500 so Glen and his brother Leonard selected Lund to be his replacement. Lund went on to capture the Daytona 500, which was the first win for Ford in "The Great American Race."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Remembering a NASCAR legend: Dale Earnhardt

   Dale Earnhardt Inc. will be hold its annual "Candlelight Remembrance of Dale Earnhardt" on Monday, Feb. 18.

    The DEI showroom will be open to the public and will be illuminated with candles. Commemorative decals and prayer cards will be distributed to all in attendance. A memorial guest book will be available throughout the day for those who would like to share their memories of the late seven-time NASCAR champion.

    Fans are invited to attend from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., at Dale Earnhardt Inc. on Highway 3, in Mooresville, N.C. Those unable to attend are encouraged to light a candle at home that evening in remembrance of Earnhardt's life.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Wood Brothers rise again

    A great deal of the Wood Brothers' success in NASCAR came well before new fans started paying attention. But in recent years, the Wood Brothers have taken center stage iN NASCAR again for several reasons - the induction of Leonard and Glen Wood in the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Trevor Bayne's surprise win in the Daytona 500 in 2011.

   After Friday night's induction ceremony, Eddie Wood was asked if the recent spotlight has helped raise the visibility of his family's contribution to NASCAR's history.

   "It really has. It probably really started when David (Pearson) got in the Hall of Fame, which was in '10, I guess, or '11. And we changed the ‑ to honor David's accomplishments and his Hall of Fame induction, that's when we went back to the red and white car that they had had for so many years," he said. "That seemed to just be the right thing to do that day. I'm not even sure how we came up with it, it was just like, let's just do it, and the guys at Motorcraft said, okay, that's fine.

   "That just started that whole ball rolling, and then we got fortunate enough to win the 500, and dad getting in and then Leonard getting in. You know, there's a lot of young fans that are really, really young that probably ‑ they don't know anything about what happened in the '60s and '70s and stuff like that, but that did ‑‑ I mean, just the attention that we got since then has just been like it was back in the '70s with winning a lot of races, which is really, really cool.

   "I was a little bitty part of that in the '70s. I was his gopher, but I was there. So I remember all of that and how much fun it was and how special it was. Winning that race kind of brought all that back. And then the people, we heard from people after we won that race that we hadn't heard from in 40 years. I mean, it was just unbelievable the attention that it brought, which is ‑‑ that's NASCAR. That's the way it works."

Rusty Wallace and the privilege of racing in NASCAR

   As he has done several times this year, Rusty Wallace again talked about the need of today's NASCAR drivers to appreciate the opportunity they have. He mentioned it during his acceptance speech on Friday night during his induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

   Afterwards, I asked Wallace why he felt it necessary to continue to share that message and why it was so important to him.

   Here is his answer:

   "Because I think there are some people that don't appreciate it enough. I think some people take it for granted, and I think some people really need to know that there's so many people out there that don't have a proper education like I don't have, and you go out there and you get in these damned race cars and you drive and they pay you millions and millions of dollars, and that's a hell of a privilege to do something like that," he said.

   "And I get it, I understand it, and I know unless there's people packed in them grandstands that the popularity of the sport is going to go down and we're all going to be looking for different work. But I'm just really grateful that I was able as a young kid out of St. Louis to be able to do this, and it pisses me off when I see some of these people that don't appreciate it enough, and I want all the drivers to appreciate NASCAR like I appreciated it. You don't have to think like I think, but you'd better damned think like I think on that issue."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Darrell Wallace Jr. to run Trucks fulltime in 2013

   Darrell Wallace Jr., a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and successful participant in NASCAR's Drive for Diversity program, will run fulltime in the NASCAR Truck Series in 2013, the Observer and have learned.

   Wallace, 19, will drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports but remain under contract with JGR. Busch drives in the Sprint Cup Series for JGR.

   An official announcement of Wallace's move is expected Saturday during the NASCAR Preview, part of NASCAR Acceleration Weekend activities, multiple sources confirmed Thursday.

   JGR officials declined to comment.

   Wallace would become the first African-American driver to run fulltime in one of NASCAR's three national series since Bill Lester's last season in Trucks with Bill Davis Racing in 2006.

   Wendell Scott remains the only African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's three national series. He won in what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series on Dec. 1, 1963, at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Fla.
   Wallace made four starts in the Nationwide Series in 2012 with JGR and earned three top-10 finishes, including a career-best seventh at Iowa. He has six wins in the K&N Pro Series East since 2010, including one in 2012.

   Born in Mobile, Ala., Wallace has spent most of his life in the Charlotte area and graduated from Northwest Cabarrus High School in Concord.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Kurt Busch ranks eighth among America's Most Disliked Athletes

   Forbes released its 2013 list of America's Most Disliked Athletes and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch comes in at No. 8.

    The latest public surveys from Nielsen/E-Poll show Manti Te’o and Lance Armstrong in a virtual dead heat for the dubious title of America’s most disliked athlete (though we give the nod to Armstrong based on higher name recognition, which gives his score a bit more heft). Each appeals to just 15% of the public, according to Nielsen’s polling, which it conducts on a rolling basis with the help of E-Poll, an Encino, Calif.-based market research firm.

    See the story and whole list here.

Charlotte mayor proclaims Friday "Buck Baker Day"

   In anticipation of his induction to the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday night, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx has proclaimed Friday "Buck Baker Day."

    In the proclamation, Foxx said Baker, a longtime Charlotte resident who died in 2002, had "established himself as one of NASCAR's early greats, becoming the first to win consecutive NASCAR premier series championships in 1956 and 1957."

Kyle Larson joins NASCAR Nationwide Series this season

   Kyle Larson, who won the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship in 2012, is moving up.

    Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, which has Larson, 20, under a driver development contract, announced Wednesday Larson will compete in the 2013 Nationwide Series driving the No. 32 Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports.

    Before attempting to run in the Nationwide season opener at Daytona, Larson will first compete in the Daytona ARCA race and will also participate in the Battle at the Beach held on a temporary 0.4-mile short track on Daytona’s backstretch that features three non-points special events from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and the Late Model division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

    “This is truly one of the happiest days of my life. I have been thinking about something like this since my very first days of racing," Larson said. "I am very proud to be part of Chip Ganassi’s organization and to be running with Turner Scott Motorsports. Daytona cannot come fast enough for me.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

NASCAR enacts pit road rule change

   Here it is, in black and white:

    9-15 Pit Procedures During Race
The fuel handler must be in control of the fuel can at all times when fuel is being added to the car. The fuel handler will not be permitted to perform any adjustments or other pit stop procedures while the fuel can coupler is engaged with the car-mounted adapter.

    Translation: So long as the gas man is pouring gas into the car, he is prohibited from doing anything else during the pit stop (In past, the gas man has helped make adjustments or stuck wrenchs in wedge-adjustment holes. This role expanded when catch-can position was eliminated).

It's "Midnight" at the NASCAR Hall of Fame

   "Midnight" - one of the most famous cars in NASCAR history - will be featured in Rusty Wallace's exhibit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, beginning Saturday, Feb. 9.

    "Midnight" (PSC-009), the ninth stock car assembled by Penske Racing South, made its debut in the Sept. 12, 1992 ,Miller Genuine Draft 400 at Richmond, Va., with Wallace at its helm. The Missouri native started the event from the third position and dominated the night, leading 231 laps on his way to victory.

    Throughout his storied career, Wallace had a tradition of naming each of his cars that had won a race. Thus, he drove into Richmond's Victory Lane around the midnight hour, his veteran PR representative, Tom Roberts, suggested naming the car "Midnight." It was then that a legend was born.

    Midnight became the workhorse of Wallace's Penske fleet during 1993 and 1994 - seasons that produced 10 and eight wins, respectively.

    "Back then, it was Dale Earnhardt and I racing for the win all the time. I remember every week when we got to the track, he'd come up and ask me, 'What car you got? It's not that darn Midnight is it?' If it was, he knew he had his work cut out for him," Wallace said.

    Starting with its 1992 debut, Midnight amassed a staggering record of 13 wins, 30 top-five and 31 top-10 finishes in 38 starts. The car led over 5,000 laps during that period - as both a Pontiac Grand Prix and a Ford Thunderbird -accounting for nearly one-third of all possible laps in those events. To this day, the car's 13 wins still comprise nearly 20 percent of Penske Racing South's Cup Series win total.

    Midnight's restoration began in mid-2012 and was performed by former Penske Racing fabricator, Chuck Gafrarar, along with other former members of Wallace's Penske team. The car has been fully restored to race-ready condition, as a 1994 Ford Thunderbird featuring the famous black and gold Miller Genuine Draft livery. As part of a complete team effort, Penske Corporation, MillerCoors and Ford Motor Company all participated in the project.

What's left on Rick Hendrick's NASCAR bucket list?

   Throughout his distinquished career as a NASCAR owner, Rick Hendrick has amassed quite a resume: 14 drivers' championships (10 Sprint Cup Series, 1 Nationwide Series, 3 Camping World Truck Series); 257 race wins (209 Cup Series, 23 Nationwide Series, 25 Trucks); and 245 poles (189 Cup Series, 35 Nationwide and 21 Trucks. Reaching the 200-win Cup series plateau in 2012 was one of Hendrick's biggest goals.

    With that out of the way, what's next for Hendrick? Is there any one thing he'd still like to accomplish in an owner in NASCAR? What's left on the bucket list for one of NASCAR's most successful owners? I asked Hendrick during the recent NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.

    "What I want to see is the drivers I have here reach their potential. Jimmie (Johnson's) done it. Jeff (Gordon's) done it. I want to see Dale (Earnhardt Jr.) do it. I want to see Kasey (Kahne) do it. I want to see championships come out of the complex. I want to be there every year to try to win it. I know we can't win them all - and nobody will - but to see these guys hit their potential and the company continue to be competitive is what I want," Hendrick said.

    "Other than that, I never thought I'd win one championship, let alone 13 or 14. So, do I have to do anything? It's just the satisfaction of seeing these guys put another mark on the wall. Can we get to 275 wins? Can we get to 15 championships? I don't know.

    "I'd love to see Jeff win No. 5. I'd like to see Jimmie win No. 6. But I'd really like to see Dale win one and I'd like to be a part of Kasey's. It's so cool to be able to say I've been a part of three guys winning championships (Gordon, Johnson and Terry Labonte). It would be so cool to get Dale and Kasey ones, too. That's what drives me."

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Daytona beach race course is (temporarily) back in business

   This year, the town of Ponce Inlet, Fla., officials of Volusia County and Racing's North Turn Restaurant will stage a parade of vintage race cars and motorcycles on the old NASCAR beach/A1A road course south of Daytona Beach.

    The last race held on the beach/road course was in 1958, the year before Daytona International Speedway opened.

    The parade will begin at 9 a.m. ET on Saturday, Feb. 16 and is free and open to the public. There is no entry fee for entering a car in the parade. The parade will leave from in front of the North Turn Restaurant, located at 4511 South Atlantic Avenue in Ponce Inlet at 9 a.m. The parade route will follow the NASCAR race course south on Atlantic Ave (Hwy A1A) through the South Turn onto the beach.

    Following the parade, race cars will be on display in the Racing's North Turn Restaurant parking lot. Invited racers and others from the Beach Racing days will be signing autographs and will be interviewed inside the restaurant by NASCAR historian Buz McKim. Spectators may park in the vacant parking lot at the corner of Toronita Avenue and Highway A1A and a complimentary trolley shuttle from the parking lot to the Racing's North Turn Restaurant and back will run from 8 a.m. until noon.  

   The event is open to race cars and race car replicas from model years 1958 and older. Modified cars with fenders are welcome and open-wheel race cars that date from the beach racing era are also welcome as well as motorcycles from that era.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Watch Shane Hmiel drive a race car once again

   On Jan. 26 at Rockingham Speedway, former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel took another amazing step on his road to recovery. More than two years after a crash that left him paralyzed and nearly dead, thanks to Accessible Racing and Racing4Vets, Hmiel got back behind the wheel of a race car again along with two retired Marine Corps veterans who lost their legs in IED explosions. 

   It was an amazing feat that his doctors said would never be possible. Watch his inspirational journey here to get back behind the wheel of a race car again.

   To read the story of Hmiel's original accident, go here.