Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guess which NASCAR driver's car will be at the White House Easter Egg hunt?

   This year’s 135th Annual White House Easter Egg Roll will kick off Monday, April 1 with Roush Fenway's No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion featured at The Ellipse in the nation’s capital. NASCAR star Carl Edwards drives the No. 99 in the Sprint Cup Series.

   The 2013 Easter Egg Roll, which takes place on the South Lawn of the White House, is focused on promoting health and wellness with the theme, “Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!” The event features live music, sports courts, cooking stations, storytelling and, of course, Easter egg rolling. The activities encourage children to lead healthy, active lives in support of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative.

   “It will be an honor to have the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion on site at the White House,” said Pat Resch, Fastenal’s VP of Marketing. “We’re looking forward to being a part of this Easter tradition and presenting the Fastenal brand to 30,000-plus attendees.”

Friday, March 29, 2013

Brian Vickers will now sub for Denny Hamlin in four races

Statement from Joe Gibbs Racing:

         Joe Gibbs Racing Announces Brian Vickers Will Drive No. 11 FedEx Camry in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Beginning in Texas
Mark Martin Remains Behind the Wheel of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota in Martinsville
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 29, 2013) – Joe Gibbs Racing announces today that Brian Vickers will take over behind the wheel of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for the injured Denny Hamlin starting on April 13 at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was previously released that Mark Martin would handle the duties behind the wheel for the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team while Denny Hamlin recovered from injury. Martin will drive the car in Martinsville, but Vickers will now take over the duties beginning in Texas.
 “Obviously having to find someone to fill in for Denny is not an ideal situation to have to be in and when you start a process like this you obviously begin to look at the drivers that are not only available but also able to drive for your race team and manufacturer. We were a bit premature in determining Mark’s status past Martinsville however,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “We're real happy to have the opportunity to get Brian in our Cup cars and with him driving Nationwide for us we think we have some continuity there that is beneficial.
“We really appreciate everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing and Toyota for working with us through this process,” added Gibbs. “The good thing for us is that we have drivers the caliber of Mark and Brian to help fill in until Denny comes back.”
Vickers is currently driving JGR’s No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He has recorded two top ten finishes through the first five races of the season.
Vickers has 264 career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts over his 11-year career on the sports’ top level. He has two wins, 24 top-five and 63 top-ten finishes. He has one start thus far this season having finished eighth in at Bristol Motor Speedway for MWR. Last season, Vickers made eight starts for MWR with three top-five and five top-ten finishes.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Felix Sabates: Tony Stewart is one of the best rear view mirror drivers

   Felix Sabates, part owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, said he was surprised with NASCAR driver Tony Stewart's reaction to Joey Logano after Sunday's race and a little taken aback by some of his comments.

    "Tony is a great champion and one of the most competitive drivers of all time, tough as nails and fun to watch him race, plus Tony is a real nice man, I love his driving style. Tony is one of the best blockers - rear view mirror drivers - in all of racing. Hell, Tony threw a block in Talladega last year and took out 17 cars from the race, that is racing, did Tony forget that? I am sure he has not forgotten that one. Ryan Newman, his driver, is one of the hardest guys to pass. They all are doing what they get paid to do. Tony was hot after the race and I am very sure had he finished in the top 5, he would have patted Joey in the back and would have told him “good job kid.” Unfortunately for Tony he finished in the back of the pack. Surely he can’t blame Joey if he was passed by 20 other cars? Tony was trying to snooker the kid by going below the yellow line to pass, all the kid did was go down there and protect his position," Sabates said.

    Sabates called Stewart's "rich kid" comments about Logano "unfair."

    "Someone please answer this to me, is it a crime for your parents to have wealth and help their children realize their dreams? No it is not, no matter how much money anyone might have, no one CAN BUY a premier Sprint Cup ride with two of the best teams of all times Gibbs and Penske. These two great car owners are very proud competitive people, Gibbs a Super Bowl multiple winner, and Penske a winner at every level of racing as well as a winner well respected icon in the business world. Joey has a lot of talent. If his father helped him along with his racing career, what is different than Richard Petty helping Kyle, and then his grandson Adam, or Bobby Allison helping Davie, or Buck Baker helping Buddy, or Coo Coo Marlin helping Sterlin, or Bill Elliot helping his son, and now Richard Childress helping not one but two of his grandsons? I think it is ridiculous that anyone would make comments about a father helping a son or a daughter. Lots of today’s drivers will see their children racing in NASCAR. Would someone please tell on what book did they read that it is a sin to help your children career? My sons are too old, but if any of my 6 grandkids want to go racing and I see they have talent, heck yes, I will help them get there."

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Have you noticed something missing from the NASCAR spotter's stand?

   If you follow several of the spotters for NASCAR drivers on Twitter you may have noticed something missing this past weekend at Auto Club Speedway - their tweets.

   Several spotters have become regulars over the past season of tweeting pictures or updates on their respective drivers or commenting on who appears to be fast during a practice session.

   No more.

   Race director David Hoots met with Nationwide and Sprint Cup series spotters prior to the races at California and informed them they are not to use mobile devices while they are on the spotter's stand.

   "As Hoots said, as the additional set of eyes for the drivers, the spotters’ focus needs to be on the cars/trucks on the track," said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp. "In the best interest of safety, NASCAR will be restricting the use of any such mobile device on the spotter stand while cars/trucks are on the track."

   Hoots plans to have a similar conversation with the Truck Series spotters next week at Martinsville, Va.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Check out Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s ride for the Coca-Cola 600

  From Lionel NASCAR Collectables:

    NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. will have 600 miles of Charlotte Motor Speedway to conquer when he pilots the No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet SS in the longest race of the season. This patriotic, multicam paint-out is scheduled to run at the Coca-Cola 600 on May 26.

NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin to miss at least six weeks



    HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (March 26, 2013) – Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Denny Hamlin was evaluated today by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates after suffering an L1 Compression Fracture during an accident on the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

    Dr. Petty determined that Hamlin will not require surgery, but will need time to properly heal, which is estimated around six weeks time. Dr. Petty will make the determination when Hamlin will be able to return to racing this season.

    No decision has been made on a replacement driver for Hamlin during his absence from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Hamlin suffers fractured vertebra, may miss races

   By Jim Utter

   FONTANA, Calif. – NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has been diagnosed with a fracture of his L1 vertebra which may require surgery and force him to miss time from the Sprint Cup Series this season.
   Hamlin was expected to be released from Loma Linda University Hospital sometime on Monday to begin his return plane flight home to North Carolina.

   Hamlin was transported to the hospital following a hard wreck on the last lap of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in which he slammed into a retaining wall that was not covered by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.

   He remained in the hospital Sunday night for further observation.

   Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed Hamlin’s back injury in a statement released Monday.

   “He will be evaluated by Dr. Jerry Petty of Carolina Neurosurgery & Spine Associates later this week,” the statement said.

   Earlier Monday, Hamlin posted a simple message on his Twitter account – his first since Sunday’s race. It read, “I just want to go home.”

   While the JGR statement did not address the prognosis of Hamlin’s recovery, sources close to the team said two options have been discussed – surgery and the wearing of a back brace to help in healing.

   Hamlin already has a history of lower back pain.

   Both options could require Hamlin to miss time in his No. 11 Toyota, sources said. The Cup series is off this weekend for the Easter holiday and returns to action April 7 at Martinsville, Va.

   According to the BACK Center – which specializes in back pain and spine surgery – the most common treatments are pain medications, decreasing activity and bracing. There are also new neurological procedures being used.

   Vertebral fractures usually take at least three months to fully heal, according to the center.

Introducing the 2013 NASCAR Appeals Panel members

   The members of the NASCAR Appeals Panel for 2013 are:

    Mark Arute, Stan Lasky, Christiane Ayotte, Bill Lester, Buddy Baker, Steve Lewis, Lee Baumgarten, Grant Lynch, Jeff Belskus, Denis McGlynn, Dick Berggren, Bud Moore, John Bishop, Bill Mullis, Paul Brooks, Steve Page, Clay Campbell, Don Panoz, John Capels, Buddy Parrott, Joie Chitwood, Dale Pinilis, Ken Clapp, Robert Pressley, Ed Clark, Cathy Rice, Barbara Cromarty, Shawna Robinson, Robert L. DuPont, Shawn Rogers – Appellate Administrator

    Also: Laurel Farrell, Jay Signore, Doug Fritz, Lyn St. James, Richard Gore, H.A. Wheeler, Jr., Janet Guthrie, Kevin Whitaker, Russell Hackett, John White, David Hall, Jim Williams, Hurley Haywood, Jo DeWitt Wilson, John Horton, Waddell Wilson, Jack Housby, Robert Yates, Brandon Igdalsky.

Friday, March 22, 2013

According to Dale Earnhardt Jr., the winner of the NCAA tournament is ....

   According to NASCAR's most popular driver, the winner of the 2013 NCAA Tournament will be Indiana.

    "I think Indiana will beat Duke (in the final). I’m not a Duke fan," Dale Earnhardt Jr.

    Earnhardt filled out an NCAA Tournament bracket on a public Web site for the first time this year.

   “I got asked to do it. I never filled out a bracket before so it was my first time. I kind of like to watch the tournament, it’s interesting to see who the Cinderella teams are and how far (North) Carolina can go. I tend to pull for Carolina in college basketball," Earnhardt said."

    "I think Jimmie (Johnson) and I got asked to do it together so Mike Hoag (road manager) came over to the house the other day and we sat down, thought it through and made my picks. I think I was 11-5 this morning, I don’t know how I’m doing today.”

Home to NASCAR team planes doesn't make FAA cut

   The air traffic control tower at Concord (N.C.) Regional Airport, home to many planes owned by NASCAR teams and drivers, will shut down by April 7 due to federal budget cuts.

    In a press release Friday, the FAA said:
    "Today, the Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reached the decision that 149 federal contract towers will close beginning April 7 as part of the agency’s sequestration implementation plan. The agency has made the decision to keep 24 federal contract towers open that had been previously proposed for closure because doing so would have a negative impact on the national interest."

    Concord was not among the towers kept open. Airports can remain open without towers but it will be left to pilots to coordinate take off and landings with other pilots.

   Click here to read press release.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do you think NASCAR's Joey Logano would drive this?

   Penske Racing engineer Alex Sinoyannis recently shared his racing experience on NASCAR stock cars with a new generation of engineers from James B. Dudley High School in Greensboro, N.C., who will enter their concept car (pictured) in April’s Shell Eco-Marathon Americas. This initiative challenges students to develop vehicles that can travel the farthest on a gallon of fuel, and is one way Shell connects people who are interested in the energy challenges of today and tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Voting underway for 2013 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

   Race fans can now cast ballots for their favorite Sprint Fan Vote eligible driver in the hopes of putting him or her in the May 18 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Voting ends at 5 p.m. ET on the day of the race.

    Fans can vote an unlimited number of times by downloading the NASCAR Mobile ’13 application or visiting Votes cast on NASCAR Mobile ’13 will count twice towards a driver’s total. The driver receiving the highest number of votes and not already in the race will earn a spot in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

    To date, 26 drivers are eligible for the 2013 Sprint Fan Vote including rookie of the year candidates Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. To be eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote, drivers must have finished in the top 55 of the final 2012 Cup series driver standings or attempted to qualify for the 2013 Daytona 500.

Drivers eligible for the Sprint Fan Vote include:
A.J. Allmendinger
Aric Almirola
Dave Blaney
Mike Bliss
Jeff Burton
Landon Cassill
Bill Elliott
David Gilliland
Travis Kvapil
Bobby Labonte
Terry Labonte
Michael McDowell
Jamie McMurray
Casey Mears
Paul Menard
Juan Pablo Montoya
Danica Patrick
David Ragan
David Reutimann
Scott Speed
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
David Stremme
Martin Truex Jr.
Michael Waltrip
Josh Wise
J.J. Yeley

It's NASCAR vs. NHRA .... in softball

   Drivers from the worlds of NASCAR and NHRA will face off on April 17 in a charity slow-pitch softball game at CMC - Northeast Stadium in Kannapolis, N.C. In addition, country recording artist Darrell Harwood will sing the national anthem prior to the game, and will then be the star of a post-game concert.

    The NASCAR team will include Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Michael Waltrip, Darrell Waltrip, David Ragan, Brad Sweet, and Parker Kligerman.

    The big names from the NHRA include Top Fuel Dragster stars Tony Schumacher, Brandon Bernstein, Antron Brown, JR Todd, Shawn Langdon, Clay Millican, and Bob Vandergriff. They will be joined by a number of Funny Car competitors, including Courtney Force, Ron Capps, Del Worsham, Chad Head, and Matt Hagan.

    Proceeds from the event will be donated to charities specifically selected by each team. The NASCAR drivers have selected The Armed Forces Foundation, while the NHRA team has designated Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.

    Game time is 7 p.m. Eastern. Tickets are $20 for reserved seats, $15 for general admission, and are on sale now.

    Click here for direct link to tickets.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Mark Martin overseeing construction of MWR's training facility

   NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and fitness advocate Mark Martin is overseeing the construction of Michael Waltrip Racing’s new 7,500-square-foot training facility. The multi-level gym at the team’s Cornelius, N.C. shop will further the skills of pit crew members.

    The facility includes an inlaid car silhouette so crews can practice agility drills around a car, free weights, weight machines, Cross Fit elements, cardio equipment as well as locker rooms and offices. Construction should begin this week with completion expected within 90 days.

    "I'm really enthused and excited about what we're working on getting at MWR. This has been a 10-month crusade to get the green light. It's fun. It's my second passion. I’ve been consulting with the strength staff and the coaching staff picking out equipment and designing the layout," Martin said.

    "We hope to have the nicest facility in the sport. You spend a lot of money on equipment in the sport and I think you are starting to see the teams invest even more in human performance."

    Martin said he got started focusing on fitness in January 1988.

    "All through my career I had to work day and night and I didn’t have time to carve out to go to the gym. When I signed with Jack Roush, I didn’t have to spend as much time in the shop. I had time to carve that out, so I was able to pursue it. I had always wanted to do it anyway," he said.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Now, it's Denny Hamlin vs. Joey Logano

   Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took what was a battle on Twitter after the Daytona 500 to the track on Sunday. While Logano was running second on Lap 348, Hamlin knocked him out of the way and into the wall.

  Both Hamlin and Logano had issues the rest of the race but after it was over, Logano attempted to stick his head into Hamlin’s car to talk to him but was yanked away by one of Hamlin’s crew members. The two teams traded shoves before the group was dispersed.

 “That’s a freaking genius behind the wheel of the No. 11 car – probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now,” said Logano. “He decided to run in the back of me, so, whatever. I have a scorecard and I’m not putting up with that.”

  Hamlin dismissed Logano’s complaints.

   "You really got to control your car and he slipped up into me," Hamlin said. "Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice ... I didn't mean to spin him out but his day was fine. He still had a bad day anyway for whatever reason and we finished bad, too. It's even.”
   After the race, Logano and Hamlin traded messages on Twitter, much like they did after the Daytona 500.
   Logano: Hey great job protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on
   Hamlin: Why's that.. What would u do? “: Hey great job protecting that genius brain of yours by keeping your helmet on

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dylan Kwasniewski wins NASCAR K&N race at Bristol

   Dylan Kwasniewski, the reigning K&N Pro Series West champion out of Las Vegas, took the lead on Lap 30 of Saturday's K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway and held off Brett Moffitt for his first East victory. 

   Moffitt was followed by Ryan Gifford – racing out of the Rev Racing stable – in third. McGuire rebounded from the early incident to finish fourth while CJ Faison came home fifth.

   Gray Gaulding, Eddie MacDonald, Jimmy Weller, Ben Rhodes and Ben Kennedy rounded out the Top 10. 

   Kwasniewski, 17, who led a race-high 96 laps, is competing for a K&N East championship in 2013 with Turner Scott Motorsports in its first full season of competition. It’s his sixth overall K&N Pro Series victory in 29 career starts.

Has NASCAR come full circle?

   Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, never shy on tackling difficult topics, provided an interesting look back on NASCAR history as it pertains to driver criticism, particularly in light of the recent fine of driver Denny Hamlin for making what NASCAR called "disparaging remarks" about the performance of the new Cup series car.

    Told it was interesting he and Hamlin - who have had dust-ups on the track in the past - appear to finally be on the somewhat of the same page, Keselowski offered this introspective:

   “It’s funny how things go full circle, and maybe that’s where this sport is at. I like to look back at the history of this sport. It’s not talked about much, but the 1980s were really tough on this sport, and there are a lot of interesting parallels between that era and where we’re at right now. Hopefully, it’s a cycle – the late 70s to early 80s – and hopefully it will cycle back around for this sport with interesting stories to tell and better and better competition. I was talking to Darrell Waltrip for a while about when they first came out with the short wheelbase car in 1981. A lot of people don’t talk about it, but there were short fields and there were tough times. You look at a track like Pocono and a lot has been made about how it has two events, but a lot of that is out of appreciation NASCAR has for them taking two races when they couldn’t get tracks to take races. I think that shows you how hard of a time it was for them in the 80s and maybe that’s where we’re at now – maybe it’s gonna cycle back around and in 10 years it will be like 1992 all over again and we won’t be able to miss the dart board. I hope so.

    "It’s difficult because we’re looking at other things, and I think the measuring stick we put ourselves up against, whether it’s right or not, is the NFL. But if you look at some of the other major sports, they’re struggling too. You look at the NHL and the issues they had with the lockout. You look at MLB and if you go to one of their games, there’s nobody there. And then I’ve gone to several NBA games this year where attendance has been dismal. Maybe we should be comparing our sport to them, instead of the NFL. I don’t know, but I think things are probably not as bad as they seem, and they’re probably not as good as some people would like to make them out to be. It’s probably somewhere in-between.”

Friday, March 15, 2013

Would Danica Patrick give Formula One a try?

   Danica Patrick was asked Friday if she would consider giving Formula One racing a try in her career, or perhaps at least take part in a test. The question has come up previously and Patrick again did not seem to indicate any serious interest.

    In an interview prior to this weekend's season opener at Australia, Ecclestone was asked whether Formula One would soon have a female driver on par with Patrick. He said he thought the series had the appeal to lure Patrick from the Sprint Cup Series.

    Here was Patrick's response:

   “I’ve always said that unless that it would be something I would want to do for real, as in race a Formula One car, I don’t see any point in testing it. It is a lot or work to get fitted in the car comfortable enough to go drive it. Then as a driver, for me at least, I run the risk of what if it doesn’t go well, and then people judge me for that. So, unless it was something that I was really serious, I wouldn’t do it. I will say that Bernie (Ecclestone, president and CEO of Formula One Management) over the years has actually sent a lot of messages. Any kind of big high point that happens in my career, whether it be at Indy, or Daytona now, or winning in Japan – things like that, he has sent messages. He even sent me like a big picture one time that was signed by him. He’s actually been really nice. I don’t necessarily think that his comments a long while back are representative of his opinion of me.”

Denny Hamlin unplugged (again)

   DENNY HAMLIN, No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing
   How do you feel about having this incident concluded?

   "The biggest thing is I think that we won in the judge of the people and their opinion I think some of the peers of mine -- at least the ones that have a backbone had the nerve to stick up for what they know is right and wrong -- agreed.  But what was the point in going another week or so.  We've got bigger fish to fry than to argue over what I said just for $25,000 and it's better just to move on and let NASCAR get its credibility back and they're going to do that and I'm going to move on and just focus on a championship."

   Is this something that Joe Gibbs helped to mediate?
   "No, (Joe) Gibbs (team owner, Joe Gibbs Racing) really supported -- whatever I wanted to do, he was fine with it. Ultimately, I had some conversations with Brian France (NASCAR CEO) and we had a lot of the same ideas.  And I think that in hindsight I really believe they (NASCAR) overreacted and I believe that they think they overreacted once they thought about it a little bit, but now we're at a point that we're good with each other and we're just going to move on from here."

   Did Brian France say that NASCAR overreacted?
   "What exactly the things that we said we've got to keep between us for the sake of my relationship with them, but I definitely feel like we were on the same page when I left the hauler."

   Were you concerned this might impact your team?
   "Yeah, I mean that ultimately plays into any decision.  It's really -- to keep it going on and go through an appeal just to prove that I'm right, I don't need to prove it.  I just feel like everyone knows that we were right and I can give you a hundred interviews that we were way worse than mine through the last few seasons that nobody said anything about.  They
(NASCAR) were very, very sensitive about this car.  This is their baby.  What I was most frustrated with was it's not even the opinion I have -- I like the car.  I think the car is better.  That's me giving the 100 percent honest truth.  I was more frustrated with the tire that we were on than anything, so that's the part that frustrated me is it put me on an island feeling
like I was bashing the race car, which was definitely not how I felt."

   Did you drop the appeal once you knew they wouldn't suspend you?
   "I was prepared either way, honestly.  They (NASCAR) are ultimately not going to want to suspend -- that would be their last resort.  I was prepared to do it and I let my sponsors and everyone know that it's a possibility, so everyone was behind me to do whatever I wanted to do.  But, ultimately after talking with NASCAR and (Joe) Gibbs (team owner, Joe Gibbs
Racing) and everyone and really thinking about it more, it just needed to end.  I didn't need to prove anyone wrong.  It was just -- it needed to end and just move on from this point.  By me saying I was not going to hand them the check and I was not going to give them anything, it was then in their court to decide what they wanted to do to ensue the fine."

   Q: Are you disappointed that more drivers didn't speak out in your favor?
   "Everyone wants to stay on NASCAR's good side and so that ultimately plays a lot of what you hear in interviews -- 90 percent of what you hear on a weekly basis is just guys that are trying to stay on NASCAR's good side.  There's very few that really give the honest and true truth."

   Q: Did you learn a lesson in this situation?
   "I think so.  I think that I definitely could have handled things differently.  If I had a frustration, I feel like I could have went in the hauler.  I really thought my comments were very, very casual and very, very small in the grand scheme of things. Really no one even knew about it until it got brought to light.  Definitely, I think from this point forward I will be voicing my opinions to John (Darby, NASCAR managing director of competition/NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director), Mike (Helton, NASCAR president) and all them on what we need to do to make it better.  Ultimately, I knew they were sensitive I just didn't know they were that sensitive."

   Q: Did NASCAR tell you if they were going to take the fine out of your winnings?
   "They haven't told me anything as far as that's concerned.  I just told them what I was going to do and they released a statement based off of that."

   Q: Will you answer questions about competition with your honest opinion moving forward?
   "I don't know.  I will have to really, honestly think about that.  I think as long as I can give 100 percent honest answer and not get in trouble then I will answer the question.  If I know my answer could have repercussions, I will just refer to no comment."

   Q: Did you see the statement from NASCAR before it was released?
   "No, I didn't see it before.  They saw mine, but I didn't see theirs."

   Q: Will Joe Gibbs take the money from your salary?
   "That's a good question and I will guess that I will look at my pay statement and find out."

   Q: Will this impact you moving forward on the race track?
   "Probably it really won't affect anything as far as my season.  I think that after my conversations with NASCAR, we are of the same opinion of what happened.  I'm in their good graces.  I feel good about them, they feel alright about me.  I think it should be smooth sailing from here on out.  I don't think it will affect anything on the race track."

   Q: Did your conversation with Brian France end with you feeling you could talk to him?
   "That was the biggest complaint I had was that if I was Jeff Gordon, Tony (Stewart), Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. or any Hendrick (Motorsports) driver -- let's just say that -- they would have had a conversation with me before.  Just to slap the fine on me and not tell me anything is what really, really bugged me a lot.  That felt like I had not earned my place in this sport and I've grinded it out here for eight years and I really feel like I've done what it takes to earn the respect of both my peers and NASCAR and I felt like if I had been somebody else the outcome may have been different."

Annett hopes for accelerated return to NASCAR competition

   Michael Annett, who suffered a cracked sternum in a wreck in the Feb. 23 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona, will meet with his surgeon Monday at Carolinas Medical Center to check on his progress.

    Reed Sorenson is currently filling in for Annett in Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford until Annett is cleared to return to driving. The initial assessment was he would miss six to eight weeks of action.

   Annett said his team and NASCAR officials remain uncertain how he suffered the injury.

   “It was just that everything came together the worst way possible – the speed, the impact, the angle of impact,” Annett said. “Twelve years ago I wouldn’t be able to be standing here talking to you guys if we didn’t have the safety devices we have now.
   "The pain is gone pretty much right now, but sneezing and there are certain things I do where I get a little bit cocky and think I can do more than I can and tweak it a little bit, but, right now, it's just about time and everything healing back."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hamlin drops appeal but NASCAR will still get its money

   Thursday afternoon brought a quick - yet untidy - resolution to the standoff between NASCAR and driver Denny Hamlin over the $25,000 penalty assessed to Hamlin for making what NASCAR considered "disparaging remarks" about the on-track competition following the Sprint Cup race two weeks ago at Phoenix.

   Hamlin on Thursday dropped plans to appeal the penalty but still vowed not to pay the fine. NASCAR will instead, per its rulebook, take the money from Hamlin's race winnings or points fund earnings.

   Statement from Hamlin:
   "After a lot of thought I have decided not to appeal the fine NASCAR has issued. Dragging myself, my team and NASCAR through the mud for the next 2 weeks would not be good for anyone. I firmly believe I am in the right on this issue and will stand behind my decision not to pay. I understand NASCAR will do what they feel is necessary based on my decision. Thanks to all of my fans and peers who have supported me in this decision. I look forward to putting it to rest."

   NASCAR statement:
   "NASCAR announced today that the $25,000 fine assessed to driver Denny Hamlin on March 7 will be settled per Section 12-3 of the 2013 NASCAR rule book after being informed by Hamlin that he will not appeal the penalty. Hamlin was fined after the sanctioning body determined he had violated Section 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing). NASCAR considers this matter closed."

Forbes' list of the highest paid NASCAR drivers

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the way for the fifth straight year as NASCAR's highest paid driver, according to this year's rankings put out by Forbes. 

   It may or may not surprise you to know Earnhardt's three Hendrick Motorsports teammates - Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne - all rank in the Top 10.

   Earnhardt's earnings topped $25.9 million, with off-the-track earnings of $13 million.
   Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

NASCAR reinstates Nationwide Series driver Jeremy Clements

   Release from NASCAR:

    NASCAR has reinstated driver Jeremy Clements upon the successful completion of stipulations following his indefinite suspension from NASCAR on Feb. 27 for violating the sanctioning body’s Code of Conduct policy. Clements will be on NASCAR probation until Sept. 13, 2013.

    “As part of the requirements for reinstatement, Jeremy Clements participated in an individualized program with Dr. Richard Lapchick and his staff at the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “In Dr. Lapchick’s judgment, Jeremy has successfully completed the program. We’re pleased that Jeremy has taken these important steps and will return to racing starting this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.”

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Check out NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon's wild ride

  Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Seires champion Jeff Gordon and sponsor Pepsi MAX go to a car dealership where a disguised Gordon takes an unsuspecting car salesman on the test drive of his life.

    I'm thinking he won't forget this one!

You can own a piece of a Brad Keselowski burnout

   Miller Lite and Brad Keselowski have teamed up to auction off a unique piece of NASCAR memorabilia. On March 6 at a MillerCoors Distributor Convention, Brad performed a traditional “burnout” for fans in the Orlando World Center, leaving his mark on the carpet on the way out.
   Fans can own their very own “burnout” by bidding on one of 10 individual pieces of the carpet that feature the tire marks of the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion. Each item will be 2'x1' and will include an 8"x10" photo of the No. 2 Blue Deuce after the burnout signed by Brad.

    All of the proceeds of the eBay auction will benefit Brad’s Checkered Flag Foundation.
   To get to the auction, click here

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr. adjusts Nationwide schedule

   JR Motorsports general manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller announced Monday a change in NASCAR Nationwide Series schedules for drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne.

    Earnhardt Jr. was previously scheduled to race in the May 4 race at Talladega Superspeedway as part of his four-race Nationwide slate in 2013. Now, he will compete in the Sept. 14 race at Chicagoland Speedway instead. In turn, Kahne will now compete at Talladega as part of his 11-race line-up in 2013. Both drivers will compete in Great Clips-sponsored Chevrolets – Earnhardt in the No. 88 Camaro and Kahne in the No. 5.

    “Kasey and I were chatting about our Nationwide Series schedules, and I was looking for more track time at a place like Chicago,” said Earnhardt Jr. “Kasey mentioned how he would love a shot at winning at Talladega.

    "One of our 2013 goals at JR Motorsports is to be a better asset to Hendrick Motorsports. For me personally, this scheduling change helps us do just that.”

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hey NASCAR, if you can't say something nice ...

   Consistency has never been one of NASCAR’s strong suits.

   Trying to figure why one driver’s actions result in a certain penalty while another’s do not under similar circumstances can be frustrating.

   That frustration arises again in the case of a $25,000 fine levied on Denny Hamlin this week for what NASCAR called “disparaging remarks” about the on-track competition in last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix.

   The fine, though, isn't the most troubling issue.

   Hamlin's comments – he said it was hard to pass in the new model Cup series car – were innocuous at best. NASCAR’s own telemetry showed there were 40 percent fewer green-flag passes for the lead in the Phoenix race than a year ago.

   The message from NASCAR was clearer: The governing body will not tolerate any negative comments about its new Cup car, which it refers to as “Generation 6.”

   Repeatedly since late last fall, NASCAR has trotted out members of its competition department at various tests of the new car to talk about the car’s progress. Repeatedly, drivers at those tests were brought into media centers to talk about the new car.

   The reviews were uniformly glowing. And NASCAR penalizing Hamlin suggests none of them can be trusted.

   If no one is allowed to speak negatively about the car, who can reasonably believe any answer is genuine?

   The answer is you can’t.

   But I have the solution.

  • NASCAR should stop trotting in officials at tests or during race weekends to tell us how the car is progressing. We know what they'll say.

  • Drivers should stop answering questions about the new car. We know what they'll say.

  • And the media (myself included) should stop asking questions about the competitiveness of the new car. We already know the answer.
   We should all watch the races and let the product speak for itself.

   In other words, if you can only say something nice, whether it's
true or not, just say nothing at all.

A.J. Allmendinger lands IndyCar ride

    A.J. Allmendinger, who was suspended for failing a NASCAR drug test last season and later reinstated after completing a recovery program, has landed a new ride in the IndyCar Series with Penske Racing.

   Allmendinger lost his NASCAR ride with Penske over his NASCAR suspension but will drive in at least two IndyCar races this season for the organization – the April 7 race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., and the May 26 Indianapolis 500.

   “It is exciting to welcome A.J. back to Penske Racing,” said team owner Roger Penske. “He obviously went through a tough time last year but he has done everything he needed to in order to get back to racing at the top level of the sport.

   "We have always believed in A.J. and his ability and he deserves this opportunity."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Text of Sen. Chris Murphy's letter to NASCAR regarding NRA sponsorship

   This is the Connecticut Democrat's full letter to NASCAR Chairman Brian France:

   Dear Mr. France,
   On Monday, it was reported that NASCAR and the Texas Motor Speedway had just completed a deal to make the National Rifle Association (NRA) the title sponsor of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on April 13th—the NRA 500. As a U.S Senator representing the community of Newtown, Connecticut, I write to you today to ask that you reconsider this decision.
   After the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 20 children and six educators, the NRA has taken an unprecedented extreme position in the debate over the proper response to this tragedy, placing themselves at odds with the overwhelming majority of the American people, and even their own members. Given the emotional state of the national conversation, I believe it would be imprudent for NASCAR to step into such a heated political debate and take sides in this debate by allowing the NRA the title role in the race.
   NASCAR has a long history of supporting our troops, our children, and our communities, and your racing events attract fans from across Connecticut and the country. I also know how deep your own commitment to the Newtown community runs—your donation of $50,000 to Sandy Hook School Support Fund is the very example of NASCAR’s commitment to community. And less than two weeks ago, one of the cars at the Daytona 500 advertised a way to donate money for the Newtown community, and was dubbed #26 for the number of lives lost on December 14th.
   But by giving the NRA sponsorship of a major NASCAR race, NASCAR has crossed a line – you have decided to put yourself in the middle of a political debate, and you have taken a side that stands in opposition to the wishes of so many Newtown families who support common sense gun reform.  Whether or not this was your intention, your fans will infer from this sponsorship that NASCAR and the NRA are allies in the current legislative debate over gun violence.  By announcing this new partnership at the very height of Congress’s deliberations over gun reform, NASCAR has inserted itself into a political debate that has nothing to with the business of NASCAR.  To me, this seems an unwise break with precedent.
   This tragic event has led many individuals and organizations to re-evaluate their views towards guns.  Millions of Americans, including responsible gun owners, have resolved that our nation must do more to protect our children and citizens from gun violence. Reasonable measures that are being considered in Washington have widespread support.  Consider that 92 percent of Americans, 91 percent of gun owners and 74 percent of NRA members support proposals to require background checks for all gun purchases. Yet, instead of playing a constructive role in this debate, the Washington-based leadership of the NRA has become more radicalized.  For example, in 1999, after the horrific shooting at Columbine High School, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre gave a full-throated endorsement of universal background checks.  Yet, after Newtown, the NRA reversed their position, testifying recently before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the organization now opposes this proposal.
   Furthermore, over the past two months my office has released a series of reports looking at the NRA, its sources of funding and its agenda on the state and federal levels.  The findings may surprise you and make you reconsider their sponsorship.  The NRA increasingly relies on support from the firearms industry, including manufacturers of military-style assault weapons that have been used at Newtown and other mass shootings. The NRA also pushes an extreme agenda in state capitols across our nation.  Defying common sense the association has backed laws that allow gun owners to bring concealed weapons into bars, restaurants and sports stadiums.  In possibly the most egregious example, the NRA supported an Indiana law that proscribed when an individual can use force, including deadly force, against a police officer.

   NASCAR has historically been careful not to insert itself, and its hard-earned good reputation, into political and legislative fights.  Why then, start now?  Why take sides against the families of Newtown, Connecticut, by teaming up with the NRA in the middle of an intense legislative fight over gun laws?
   In light of your extensive charitable work and generosity to the Newtown community, I hope that you will reconsider affiliating with the NRA at this time. Thank you in advance for your consideration.
   Christopher S. Murphy
   United States Senator

Daytona 500 champ Jimmie Johnson races 1-on-1 with Ellen Degeneres

   Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson took part in another big race recently but not in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.

    This race took place in the parking lot of the Warner Bros. studio in California.

    And his opponent was talk show host Ellen Degeneres.

    Check out the winner.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What the Fox Sports 1 change means to NASCAR fans

   Fox Sports Media Group made official on Tuesday its plans to change the current Speed Channel over to Fox Sports 1, a new, national, multi-sport network. The change will take effect on Saturday, Aug. 17.

    Currently, Speed hosts an abundance of NASCAR-related programming. Some of that will change, but many of the bigger changes won't take effect until after 2013.

    The following are "programming highlights" Fox provided for NASCAR coverage on the new Fox Sports 1:

    - Select NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as soon as 2015 (the exact number was not disclosed).
    - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
    - NASCAR Sprint All-Star race.
    - All Daytona Speedweeks events leading up to the Daytona 500 including: Daytona 500 qualifying, Sprint Unlimited at Daytona (2014, 2017-22) and the Budweiser Duel, now in prime time; Cup and Truck series practice and qualifying sessions.
    - NASCAR RaceDay, providing pre- and post-race coverage.
    - NASCAR Victory Lane, a weekly wrap-up show.
    - Race Hub, a daily mid-day studio show with the latest from drivers, owners and garages.

Reed Sorenson to sub for injured Michael Annett at RPM

   Reed Sorenson will fill in for NASCAR Nationwide Series team driver Michael Annett, who was injured in a crash at Daytona International Speedway and had to undergo surgery for a fractured and dislocated sternum.

    Sorenson will race the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford beginning this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and remain the driver until Annett is healed and cleared by NASCAR officials to race. Sorenson made his Nationwide Series debut in 2004 and has four wins, 38 top-five and 85 top-10 finishes.

    "It's an unfortunate situation for the team and Michael," said Sorenson. "I have been to the hospital to see him, and he will be fine, but it's going to take some time to heal. As a friend for a long time, my initial reaction was concern. I'm glad that he's recovering now.

    "It was very unexpected to get the opportunity to step in. The best part is that my friend, Michael, will be cheering for me and the whole 43 Pilot Flying J team. I talked to him about it, and he really wants to see me do well. This is a big deal for me, and I am going to make the most of it."

Kasey Kahne, driver of the No.  5 Great Clips Chevrolet, Danny Efland, driver of the No.  4 Flex Seal Chevrolet, Jamie Dick, driver of the No.  55 Viva Motorsports Chevrolet, Michael Annett, driver of the No.  43 Pilot Ford, Johanna Long, driver of the No.  70 Foretravel Chevrolet, Mike Bliss, driver of the No.  19 G-Oil Ford, and Hal Martin, driver of the No.  44 American Custom Yachts Toyota, are involved in an incident during the NASCAR Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 23, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Monday, March 4, 2013

TRD on its engines: "It's our responsibility" to get them right

   David Wilson, Senior Vice President of Toyota Racing Development, joined co-host Danielle Trotta on Monday night's edition of NASCAR Race Hub on Speed to talk about the recent engine trouble hampering Toyota’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race teams.

   He talked about some of the early season difficulties and how the manufacturer, working with the teams, is remedying the situation.

   Danielle Trotta: You’ve described the problems that we’ve seen in the first two races as an emotionally charged issue, what has the past few weeks been like for you and TRD?

   David Wilson: Certainly, the last thing you want to do is start off the season by digging a hole for any of your drivers. It’s our responsibility to give them enough trouble-free weekends and build that confidence back up. I feel the most for Kyle (Busch) because purely by circumstance, purely by misfortune, he’s suffered the most amongst all of our drivers in the past couple of years. We likely cost him (Kyle) a shot in The Chase last year. We all know how well he ran during those last 10 races, and we’ve all done the math there. First a foremost, is to first ‘man up’ and take responsibility, and try and give them the confidence that we are going to get this sorted, and we are going to put them in position to win races, which we know our equipment is capable of.

   Trotta: When you experience problems like this in the first two weeks of the season, I know you are already at the track; do you increase personnel at the track or back in California in any way, when you’re going through something like this?

   Wilson: Absolutely, it’s a great question. We typically do (have more people) at Daytona anyway because it is our Super Bowl. Coming there, with the new ‘Gen 6’ Toyota Camry, it is all hands on deck, so we staffed up specifically for that. Given the fact that we did have some issues at Daytona, we did bring out a couple more engineers, a couple more technicians, which was made a lot easier because we are out here on the West Coast. We have plenty of hands and plenty of resources at the race tracks to handle these issues as they come up.

   Trotta: Moving forward to Vegas, you’ve said that you’ve got enough performance, but what (you) don’t have enough of is margin and safety. That’s where your focus is. Could you explain more about that?

   Wilson: As we take our engines to the race track, one of the most important things that we do in developing those engines, is making sure that they do have the reliability and the durability because clearly, if we’re not seeing failures here at the shop, but we’re seeing them at the race track, then we’re not pushing the engines hard enough. Based on what we saw at Phoenix, our engine configuration heading to Vegas is essentially the same as we ran this past weekend. We’re quite comfortable that we’ll not just have some good performances, but good reliability for all of the Toyota teams in Vegas.

If only the air wasn't so clean in NASCAR

   Several NASCAR drivers, including Denny Hamlin and reigning champion Brad Keselowski, in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix expressed frustration with the difficulty in passing.

    After the race, Keselowski was asked how important 'clean air' was with the new model Cup car. His answer sounded strangely familiar.

    "I think it’s probably more important than ever. I think these cars probably drive easier than any race car I’ve ever driven in my life by themselves, and probably the hardest to drive of any race car I’ve ever driven in traffic," he said. "I think we can get that a little bit better and probably make them a little more difficult to drive by yourself, but a little easier to drive in traffic, we could have even better races than what we had today."