Saturday, August 31, 2013

What Mark Martin has to say about his 2014 plans


   NASCAR veteran Mark Martin met with members of the media at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday and was asked if he had made any progress on his 2014 plans. Martin is currently serving as a substitute driver for Tony Stewart for all but one of the season's final 12 races.
   Here is what Martin had to say about 2014: 
    “You know I was thinking about it and had some discussions before Tony’s (Stewart) injury. I will be real honest with you I could care less about 2014 right now because I am doing all I can to tread water. Making this change was pretty huge because not only is it different crew guys work on the car which really isn’t a huge thing, but it’s a whole different thought process, it’s a whole different bunch of guys that I didn’t have a chance to go to test in February and go hang out in the shop. Just jumping right in it added, I don’t know, about three races to my schedule what I had so I picked up three additional races. So I am really pushed and driven to try to get immersed in this team and figure out what I like in these cars so that we can start putting that in there week to week. We are still just throwing stuff at the car and me saying ‘nah, yeah that’s better, nah,’ " he said.
   "When you find something that really feels good to you there is a sense of continuity from track to track you can use that same logic. You might not use the same springs and all but you can use the same logic and you can simulate it out and shoot for those same kind of feels at other race tracks. We are not there yet obviously. This is not like making a change over the winter. It’s not like stepping out of a MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) Toyota into even a (Joe) Gibbs Toyota like I did at Martinsville. There is just a lot going on.
   "I think everybody in here heard what I said in February. I’m not a candidate for the No. 55 car for 2014. I did not want to drive that car. It was because I wanted to see those guys run for a championship, which is something I’m not going to do. So, I had really built a strong relationship with those guys and they’re championship material and I want to see them be able to go out there and go after that. So, for me, making a decision on what I do in 2014 is not important right now. I’m in no hurry because I’m not really worried about what I do. I do have a focus on what I can do in NASCAR. I want to do more in NASCAR than drive race cars. I want to do more than that."

Friday, August 30, 2013

An iconic NASCAR paint scheme makes a return visit

   Hooters of America, LLC, and Chanticleer Holdings, Inc., a franchisee of international Hooters locations, announced Friday that Hooters is sponsoring Nelson Piquet Jr.'s No. 30 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 14.

    The No. 30 car sponsorship celebrates Hooters 30th anniversary year, honoring the iconic legacy of the brand.

    The design is an intentional nod to the past, painted in the iconic Hooters orange and white color scheme and modeled to pay homage to the famous No. 7 car of the late NASCAR champion and Hooters-sponsored driver, Alan Kulwicki.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Add Denny Hamlin to the injured-but-still-driving list

   SiriusXM Satellite Radio's Claire B. Lang was asking NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin a question Thursday night about whether he had ever driven in his career with a cast on his arm or wrist, when she got a very surprising answer.

   As it turns out, Hamlin was also injured in the same wreck as Martin Truex Jr. on Saturday night at Bristol and suffered a very similar injury.

   This is what he told Lang:

   "Well, oddly enough I have the same injury as Martin (Truex Jr.). I've got a splint on my right hand, right on my right thumb, right where he broke his bone. Mine's all black and blue. I guess we had the same thing happen but his was obvious worse. I couldn't get my finger out of the wheel quick enough before it spun and obviously it took some ligaments with it. I feel the pain. It's going to be tough. I tested on Monday and Tuesday at Chicago and I couldn't put my thumb on the wheel - that's something I'm going to have to fight over these next six or seven weeks," Hamlin said.

    "It will get better. I've had this injury before. It's not that big of a deal in the big scheme of things but it really can affect how you grip the steering wheel. It happened in the same wreck (Saturday night Bristol). I guess we were both gripping the wheel and you can see in his in-car replay he didn't get his hand out of the wheel before - the wheel got spun out of his hand. Mine did the same doggone thing - just bad luck."

   Hamlin went on to say these injuries are why drivers try to keep their hands off the wheel once a wreck is underway. Hamlin said his injury hopefully will heal in a week or so.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bobby Labonte suffers broken ribs in cycling accident


   From team press release:

   TRINITY, N.C. (August 28, 2013) - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte is currently being treated at a local hospital near his home in Trinity, North Carolina after being involved in an accident while riding his bicycle near his home on the morning of Wednesday, August 28.
   Labonte was transported to the hospital by ambulance where he was diagnosed and is being treated for three broken ribs. There are no other injuries. He is being held overnight for observation.
   An update on Labonte's condition will be sent when determined. Mike Bliss will replace Labonte in the No. 51 Phoenix Racing entry this weekend in Atlanta.

Harry Scott Jr. agrees to buy Phoenix Racing

   Team press release:
   Harry Scott, Jr. has come to a definitive agreement with James Finch to purchase Phoenix Racing. Scott will formally take over control of the team as its owner on September 10, 2013 with Justin Allgaier behind the wheel of the No. 51 Chevrolet in time for the Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.
   "This is a very proud day for me as I will have the opportunity to compete against the best teams in motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as the owner of Phoenix Racing," said Scott. "I am going to build a championship contender with hard work, the right people and the right partners. This team has a great foundation thanks to the efforts of James Finch. There is a lot to build upon and I am looking forward to getting started."
   Scott's role as a co-owner in Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) is unchanged and he will continue to take an active role in that team on and off the track. "I owe a lot of gratitude to Steve Turner for bringing me into the sport as an owner. My experience at TSM will continue to serve me well in this next step," said Scott.
   Driver Justin Allgaier is making the move with Scott from TSM to Phoenix Racing and will be the team's driver in the No. 51 Chevrolet for its debut at Chicagoland Speedway on September 15 and two additional races this year. Allgaier, who is currently 5th in points in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS), will continue his pursuit of a championship in that series for TSM.
   "I'm thrilled for the opportunity and grateful to Mr. Scott that he's asked me to drive for him in the No. 51. Chevrolet. I love competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series but I must admit that making my debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be a special day for me," said Allgaier.
   Scott has signed a deal with BRANDT to be the primary sponsor of the No. 51 for three NSCS races this season. BRANDT, which also sponsors Allgaier in the NNS for Turner Scott Motorsports, will be the primary sponsor of the No. 51 at Chicagoland, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Allgaier will be the driver for each of those races.
   "We are celebrating the company's 60th Anniversary and so this move to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is made even more special because we are debuting at our home track at Chicagoland," said Brandt CEO Rick Brandt.
   Phoenix Racing, which was established in 1989, has one win, four Top Fives and 15 Top 20 finishes. The one win was the memorable 2009 victory at Talladega's Aaron's 499 with Brad Keselowski behind the wheel.
   Scott has committed to keeping the Phoenix Racing team intact for the remainder of the season. Allgaier's crew chief will be Nick Harrison. Harrison is a third year crew chief and has worked with several drivers including Kurt Busch, Landon Cassill and A.J. Allmendinger. Phoenix Racing's general manager, Steve Barkdoll, will continue in his role after Scott takes over.
   The team will continue its relationships and alliances with Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports and Earnhardt Ganassi Racing.
   Scott is working with NASCAR for final approval.  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Kyle Larson is moving on up to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014

   Kyle Larson isn't staying put very long.

   Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates will move the 21-year-old upstart to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series fulltime in 2014, multiple sources confirmed Tuesday to The Observer and

   An official news conference to introduce the team's new driver is scheduled Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

   Reached by phone on Tuesday evening, a team spokesman declined comment.

   Larson and team members of the Ganassi organization were notified of the decision this week, sources said. Larson will replace Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

   Larson is in his first full season in the Nationwide Series, running with Turner Scott Motorsports. He has yet to win in Nationwide but is eighth in the series standings and has finished second twice this season.

   The native of Elk Grove, Calif., earned his first Truck series victory earlier this season at Rockingham, N.C., and won the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship.

   As a teenager, Larson raced open-wheel cars, including USAC midget, Silver Crown and sprint cars. He also raced World of Outlaws sprint cars.

Martin Truex Jr. fractures wrist at Bristol; will race with cast


   Statement from Michael Waltrip Racing:

    An MRI on Monday confirmed a scaphoid fracture and sprain of Martin Truex Jr.’s right wrist suffered in Saturday night’s accident at Bristol Motor Speedway.

    Doctors fitted Truex with a special cast Tuesday he’ll wear indefinitely. The cast enables him to better grip the steering wheel and compete in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as well as the 11 remaining races.

    Truex worked closely with NASCAR this week and has been cleared to race.

    A multi-car crash collected Truex on lap 448 Saturday sending the NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota into the outside wall. Truex was treated in the medical center Saturday. MWR has yet to determine if a stand-by driver is needed for this weekend.

    Truex is 14th in the points and holds the first of two wildcard entries as he seeks his second consecutive berth in NASCAR’s Chase the for Sprint Cup.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Furniture Row Racing's response regarding Kurt Busch's decision

   Joe Garone, general manager of Furniture Row Racing in regards to Kurt Busch's decision not to continue as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet after the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

   “It was always our intention to extend Kurt's contract with Furniture Row Racing. We made him an offer last week to to continue as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet in 2014 and beyond. Though he did not accept our offer we respect his decision and wish him future success. His driving skill and being a dedicated team player will always be appreciated at Furniture Row Racing. But for right now the main focus for Kurt and the team is to qualify for the Chase and contend for the 2013 Sprint Cup Series championship.

   “Furniture Row Racing’s technical and engineering programs along with a talented road crew have made great strides this season, which have been evident with the consistently fast race cars that we have brought to the track week in and week out. We, along with our technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing, are deeply committed to continuing the work in progress. We are currently in a search process for a new driver in 2014, one who shares the same commitment and winning attitude that we all do at Furniture Row Racing.”

Kurt Busch to join Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014

   As expected, former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch will join Stewart-Haas Racing next season to drive a fourth car and become teammates with Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick and Kevin Harvick.

   Busch confirmed the signing of a multi-year deal with several reporters on Monday. An official announcement with team co-owner Gene Haas - the man behind the decision - is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday at SHR headquarters in Kannapolis, N.C.

   Sources say SHR is attempting to obtain the No. 00 for Busch to use beginning next season in the Sprint Cup Series.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Take that Joey Logano haters


   Joey Logano's Sprint Cup Series win was big for several reasons, including giving the driver of the No. 22 Penske Racing Ford a chance to make the Chase for the first time.

   Teammate Brad Keselowski was a big proponent of Logano getting the No. 22 ride and obviously, owner Roger Penske wouldn't have hired him if he were not talented. I asked Logano on Friday if he honestly had some self-satisfaction after winning last Sunday toward the people who doubted whether he belonged at Penske or would have preferred another driver in the ride.

   Here was Logano's answer:

   “Of course. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t. Anytime you win it’s kind of like an in-your-face thing. You want to do that.  We’re all competitors, so we’re gonna be excited when we win and I feel like I’m very privileged to be sitting in the seat that I’m in right now with a great team. Roger, I could never ask to work for someone better than that. He’s an amazing person, so it’s the best second chance I could ever have, obviously, and it will really be the best chance I’ll ever have, so I’m having a lot of fun with it," he said.

   "Yes, it was important for me to go out there and run well, and it is important for me to win races, especially after last year and going through all of that."

Brian Vickers has lost his crew chief before he started the fulltime ride

   When Brian Vickers was recently announced as the fulltime driver of Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 Toyota for the 2014 season, one of things he said he looked forward to was working more with the team's crew chief, Rodney Childers. T
he past two seasons, Vickers has shared the No. 55 ride with veteran Mark Martin.

   As it turns out, Vickers won't be working with Childers beyond this season.

   MWR officials confirmed Friday that Childers would not be returning to the organization next season and Vickers would get a new crew chief.

   Sources say Childers is headed to Stewart-Haas Racing where he will be paired next season with new driver Kevin Harvick. An SHR official said no new crew chiefs had been hired for 2014 but the organization thinks highly of Childers and he is on the "short list" of candidates.

   Friday at Bristol, Childress said his future location wasn't "100 percent done" but he would not be back at MWR.

   "I think everybody has a good idea what it is," Childers said of his new job. "There was not one big thing that stood out. MWR has been great for five years.

   "I've thought about this for a long time. I just woke up one day and this is what my heart told me to do. Hopefully, it all works out." 


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Who says drivers like Kyle Busch are bad for NASCAR's lower series?

   Who says Sprint Cup Series drivers like Kyle Busch are bad for NASCAR's lower series like Nationwide and Trucks?

   Not track owners. 

   Not fans of those drivers who get to see them compete in other NASCAR events at a lower cost than in Cup races.

   Not NASCAR itself, which actually promotes their appearances.

   Oh, fans who don't like Busch ... and the media.

   Well, it's a wonder the whole idea wasn't quashed a long time ago then.

   Take a good, long look at where the comments originate about whether Cup drivers should be allowed to compete in NASCAR's lower levels (and forget for a moment they have been allowed to do so since NASCAR's inception).

   The complaints come from fans, almost universally not from the driver involved in the discussion. And the questions come from media, who ask because of the complaints directed at them by fans, almost universally not from the driver involved in the discussion.

   After Busch received yet another question about his participation in a Truck race following his win Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, I asked him a serious question. In the course of his career, has any driver in any series other than Cup ever said anything to him complaining of his participation in that series?

   Here is his entire response (It's not a surprise for those who actually listen to what Nationwide and Truck drivers say week in and week out):

   "Probably a couple times I've had them say it jokingly. They would see me walking in the gate or something like that and walk in with me and say something like, 'Aw damn, you're here again,' or something like that. Other than that, no. Seriously, when I talk to any of the guys -- Matt Crafton and I, we're pretty close friends, probably the closest friend I have in NASCAR. After every practice we're like teammates. I'm trying to help him with his truck and with what those guys are doing and seeing if we can't help them achieve their ultimate goal of winning a championship this year," he said.

   "I think that when you have people that are true to you and respect you for who you are then you want to help those guys, but everybody else that isn't that way you don't give two craps about."

   Follow up question: "So, for all practical purposes, the complaints you hear are not from other drivers?"

   Busch: "Right. It's fans or from the media."


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NASCAR suspends Sprint Cup Series team pit crew member

   NASCAR announced on Tuesday it has indefinitely suspended Eric Maycroft, the front tire changer on Sprint Cup Series driver Martin Truex Jr.'s pit crew, for violation of its substance abuse policy.

    Maycroft is expected to be replaced by Terry Spalding. Truex's No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing team remains in contention for a spot in the 12-driver Chase for the Cup.

   “Michael Waltrip Racing fully supports NASCAR's substance abuse policies and those who complete the Road to Recovery program," the team said in a statement. "MWR’s zero tolerance policy has resulted in the immediate termination of the employee.”

Ryan Truex to make Sprint Cup Series debut at Bristol

   Richard Petty Motorsports development driver Ryan Truex will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at the Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway during Saturday night's Irwin Night Race.

   Truex will drive the No. 51 entry for Phoenix Racing. Truex signed a multi-year development deal with RPM earlier this year and the team is currently working to secure sponsorship funding. 

   The Mayetta, New Jersey native has two Nationwide series starts at Bristol and most recently posted a top-10 finish in the spring event in 2012. In his career, Truex made 35 Nationwide, three Truck and 22 K&N East starts. He won the K&N Series East Championship back-to-back in 2009 and 2010.

   "I'm excited to make my NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Bristol," said Truex. "It has been tough waiting on the sidelines while I healed from my collarbone injury, but now I am ready to go and make my Sprint Cup Series debut. It's pretty awesome that it's coming at Bristol at the night race."

   Team owner Richard Petty is also anxious to see the 21-year-old make his Cup debut.
   "It will be a big night for Ryan," said Petty. "He is a talented driver, and we look forward to his future with our team. We are working hard to find funding support to give him more opportunities behind the wheel."

Monday, August 19, 2013

How the NFL could put a damper on NASCAR fans in Charlotte

   NASCAR fans in seven affected markets will watch ABC’s telecast of Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway on alternate channels through arrangements made by their local ABC affiliates.
   ABC affiliates in Buffalo, Charlotte, and Rochester, N.Y., will join either "NASCAR Countdown" or the race telecast in progress following the conclusion of a 4:30 p.m. ET NFL preseason game between the Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins.

Obituary and funeral arrangements for Floyd R. Ganassi

Floyd R. Ganassi (1926-2013)

On Monday, August 19, 2013, Floyd R. Ganassi slipped away from his loved ones quietly and peacefully reuniting with his beloved wife Marie Moia Ganassi whom he married in 1957.  He leaves behind an incredible story of a life well lived and a legacy of family, friendships, mentoring, business leadership and philanthropy in the communities he touched. 
He was born the fourth of six children to Paul Ganassi and Dora Moire in Blythedale, Pennsylvania on July 25, 1926.  He was preceded in death by his brothers Mario, Eugene, Ronald and his sister Norma (Oldham).  He is survived by his brother Victor (Louise). He led his life with a combination of risk, persistence and loyalty to those who were fortunate enough to work with him.

Father of Annette D. Ganassi (Greg Terpin) and Floyd R. Ganassi, Jr., a.k.a. Chip Ganassi; grandfather of Tessa Ganassi; he is also survived by nieces, nephews, many loving family members and friends.
Floyd was a self-employed investor who began his career as a paper boy.  After attending McKeesport High School in 1944 he joined the U.S. Army where he eventually achieved the rank of Corporal in the 3rd Armored Division where he was responsible for driving a tank. Upon honorable discharge from the U.S. Army he was employed in Sacramento, California by United Airlines as a baggage handler.  Returning to McKeesport in 1947 he was employed as an appliance salesman.  His entrepreneurial spirit would not allow that job to continue and in 1950 he started Westmoreland Paving which he would eventually sell in the mid-1970s.   In 1966 he purchased Davison Sand and Gravel where for approximately 20 years he was the President.  Davison Sand and Gravel was a critical company in the Renaissance II rebirth of Pittsburgh supplying quantities of sand, gravel and stone from New Kensington for projects as large as the construction of the US Steel Building.  After selling Davison he formed the FRG Group located in the RIDC Park North where he would continue to work for the remainder of his life.  His ability to find value where others may have given up led him to business ventures ranging from telecommunications to manufacturing.
His investments and business acumen had a profound influence on companies including Applied Test Systems, Funding Systems, Pittsburgh International Teleport, Iron and Glass Bank and Presidents Casino.                                      
His philanthropy included serving on boards for MIMS, Passavant Hospital, the Birmingham Foundation (Chairman), the Ganassi Foundation, Family House, Duquesne University, Board of Visitors of the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the Civic Light Opera.  In terms of his charitable work perhaps he was best known for involvement in the Western Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Automobile Association where he proudly served as its Chairman for several years. 
He was an active member of the Allegheny Club, the Pittsburgh Field Club and the Duquesne Club.
Friends will be received at JOHN A. FREYVOGEL SONS, INC., 4900 Centre Avenue at Devonshire Street on Tuesday, Aug. 20 and Wednesday, Aug. 21 from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. Funeral Service to be held Thursday, August 22 in Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church at 10 a.m.

Who does Mark Martin compare Tony Stewart to?

   NASCAR veteran Mark Martin was officially announced as Tony Stewart's substitute driver for the remainder of the 2013 season at Stewart-Haas Racing. When asked to talk about the opportunity to fill in for Stewart, Martin had this to say about the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion and what other racing legend Martin believes Stewart is similar to:

    "Well, I'm incredibly honored. Sometimes I have a hard time understanding how Tony could possibly feel that way toward me when the guy is so amazing, the modern‑day A.J. Foyt. When I was growing up, A.J. drove anything and everything and was fast and won in everything he drove.  And Tony is the guy today that really does that and is successful at it," Martin said.

   "So it's hard for me to comprehend that, but he's made great friends ‑‑ we've been good friends for quite some time with amazing respect, mutual respect.  It's an honor to be in the situation where we're able to do this. I'm really, really sorry that it comes at the expense of Tony getting hurt.  But one thing I do want to say that is really important here is the amazing amount of cooperation that it took to get this deal done by so many parties, and I haven't seen this much cooperation in the past, and I think it was largely in part for the incredible amount of respect that everyone has in the sport for Tony Stewart."

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Mark Martin to take over Tony Stewart's No. 14 next week

   NASCAR veteran Mark Martin will take over the driving duties of Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 14 Chevrolet as soon as next weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol, Tenn., multiple sources confirmed to The Observer and

   Martin will drive the No. 14 while Tony Stewart continues to recover from two broken bones in his right leg, which he suffered in an accident in a Sprint car race earlier this month. Martin will remain the team's driver the remainder of the 2013 season if necessary, except for the Oct. 20 race at Talladega, Ala., sources said.

   If Stewart still needs a replacement driver for the Talladega race, Nationwide Series regular Austin Dillon will likely drive the car in that race, sources said. Dillon served as the team's driver Sunday at Michigan and finished 14th.

   An official announcement of the move is expected on Monday.

   Martin was scheduled to run several races yet this season with Michael Waltrip Racing's No. 55 Toyota team, but Brian Vickers is expected to take over those races for the remainder of the season, sources said. 

   Last week MWR announced Vickers would drive for the team fulltime beginning in the 2014 season.

   There was no immediate response from MWR to a request for comment.

   A spokesman for SHR called the report "premature."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Humpy Wheeler's take on Juan Pablo Montoya's NASCAR experiment

   Former Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Charlotte Motor Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler is never at a loss for words, especially lately with his YouTube postings. But Wednesday, he wrote down his thoughts on this week's announcement that Juan Pablo Montoya would not return to Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 42 Chevrolet in 2014:

   One of the world's greatest drivers Juan Pablo Montoya fired, booted, dismissed … what is going on?

   In case you were on sabbatical in Katmandu it was announced Tuesday he would part ways from car owner Chip Ganassi. I mean this guy is a hero in Colombia and South America. In Europe as a Formula One world champion he was as well known then as U2. However, in 239 starts in NASCAR this Indy 500 winner has won only two races.

   A more probing question is why great road and Indy racers can't cut it in NASCAR Cup cars? Do these heavyweights of racing possess some mysterious qualities that make them very difficult to drive?

   I have talked to just about all of them from A.J. Foyt, probably the most successful in NASCAR of all of them, to Juan Pablo himself. Foyt, the ornery Texan, could drive anything from a fork lift to a D8 dozer, and won the Indy 500 a record five times and seven NASCAR races.

   "You gotta remember I started off driving the old front engine sprint cars and later Watson Indy car roadsters. I learned the rear engine later. Stock cars are front engine, rear wheel drive so maybe I had an advantage there from these guys who have only driven rear engined cars. All of your Indy and Fl drivers today came from a background where they started driving rear engine cars," Foyt said.

   World champion F1 driver Jimmy Clark whom I worked with at Firestone once told me: "My background was rear engine, very light, very quick, darty  formula cars. When you ran that first test for us at Rockingham in the Holman Moody cars I thought they were beasts. First, they weighed about a ton more than my  Lotus-Ford and felt like it even though we were going very fast. Also, the brakes were awful. I never thought I would learn to stop on pit road. I couldn't believe how narrow the tires were which made driving them even worse compared to my Indy or formula car. Could I ever be successful in NASCAR? Maybe if I had started off with them. Now … it will take me a long time," he said. He died tragically a few years later in a F1 car and never had another crack at NASCAR.

   Former world champion Alan Jones hit the bell when I asked him about the NASCAR car. "It is bloody black magic. It looks easy. Everything seems so simple. It isn't. Anyone who thinks they can jump out of a formula type car into one of these beasts and do well right off is in for a big surprise. Also there is that element of drafting which one must learn. They are just so heavy and powerful at the same time," he said after spending a week at Charlotte Motor Speedway prior to the 600.

   A lot of guys have tried the 3,500 pound stock cars including Fl driver David Hobbs and Dan Gurney, Indy drivers Parnelli Jones, Gordon Johncock, Sam Hornish, A.J. Allmendinger, road racers Elliot Forbes Robinson, Max Papis, Marcos Ambrose to mention a few. Hornish, Papis and Ambrose are still racing in NASCAR.

   I have left out former Indy driver Tony Stewart because his background was like Kasey Kane, Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman. They all cut their teeth on front engined midget and sprint cars so were prepared for the NASCAR scene. Ambrose has been moderately successful but he came from the Australian Supercar series which  is really stock cars on tough road courses down under.

   Smokey Yunick, one the greatest wrench turners in NASCAR and the only person to win in both Indy and stock cars as a crew chief, once told me: "to make the crossover from Indy or formula cars to NASCAR is the most difficult of challenges in auto racing. It's like going from a hot jet jockey to flying a bush plane in bad weather in Alaska (Yunick was a bomber pilot in Europe during WWII). I don't know if it can be done today no matter how good the driver," he said.

   I believe that it is more the difficulty of heaving the weight of the NASCAR car around on high banked tracks on the narrowest tires in major racing than anything else. The rear engined Indy or F1 cars have huge tires and major downforce that greatly help the driver deal with their tremendous acceleration and corner speeds.

   Like one noted Indy driver told me: "If you have the courage of a bullfighter you can drive one of these. On the other hand, a stock car is much more difficult because it is all over the place compared to an open wheel car."

   So, to aspiring NASCAR wannabes my advice is to start with a Legends car and stay with front engine, rear wheel drive cars -- late models, midgets and sprint. For the open wheel novice start with rear engine cars and stick with them. Unfortunately, we probably will not see drivers successfully cross over like the old days again unless you are of the House of Stewart or Foyt.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ross Kenseth set to make ARCA debut in Wisconsin

   Ross Kenseth, the 20-year-old son of 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth, will attempt to make his first start in the Automobile Racing Club of America series  on Sunday, Aug. 25, at Madison (Wis.) International Speedway.

   Driving the No. 52 Blain’s Farm & Fleet Chevrolet for Ken Schrader Racing, Ross Kenseth’s ARCA debut will occur just 100 miles from his hometown of Little Chute, Wis., and only 20 miles from Cambridge, Wis., the home of his famous father.

    “It’s a great opportunity to get in a Ken Schrader Racing car," Ross said. "They always have good stuff, especially at short tracks. It’s also a big deal to make this start with Blain’s Farm & Fleet, which is based nearby in Janesville (Wis.) and has been with me each step of the way. I’m thankful to both for this opportunity and I’m excited to make my first start in a heavier-style stock car at Madison.”

   “We’re excited to get Ross in the car to go to Madison,” said team owner Ken Schrader. “He’s proven that he’s ready to race ARCA and he knows how to get around that track. We’re going to go up there and try to win this thing together.”

   While this will be his first start in a heavy stock car similar to the ones used in NASCAR’s top series, Ross Kenseth is no stranger to success at Madison International Speedway, having won at the half-mile paved oval five times in various series during his young racing career.

   But Kenseth’s ties to the Madison track run deeper than just his success at the 60-year-old facility. Matt Kenseth was the 1994 track champion and Ross’ grandfather, Roy Kenseth, has promoted races at the facility throughout the years.

   "There isn’t a greater place for Ross to get his first ARCA start than Madison," said Matt Kenseth. "That track has meant a lot to us through the years. We both have enjoyed some great times and have won some big races there."

   Ross Kenseth is also a mechanical engineering student at Clemson (S.C.) University.

   The TV broadcast of the Herr’s 200 ARCA Series race from Madison will air tape-delayed Thursday, Aug. 29, on NBC Sports.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Austin Dillon to replace Stewart at Michigan

Austin Dillon will replace the injured Tony Stewart in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevy this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

Stewart, who broke his leg in a sprint car race last week in Iowa, also missed Sunday's race at Watkins Glen International, where he was replaced by Max Papis. Stewart was released from the hospital Sunday.

Dillon, 18, the 2011 NASCAR truck series champion, is leading this season's Nationwide points standings. He has two Nationwide victories this season.

SHR hasn't announced who will replace Stewart, who could miss the rest of the season, at Bristol, Tenn., on Aug. 24.

“I’ve watched Austin for many years and at each stage of his racing career he’s been successful,” Stewart said in a statement. “He’s proven to be a very fast learner, and he’s able to adapt quickly. Being the youngest champion in the history of the Truck Series is proof of that. His background in dirt racing is an asset, and off the track we share many of the same interests, specifically, hunting and fishing. I know he’ll perform well at Michigan and I’m just as confident in his ability to properly represent Mobil 1 and Bass Pro Shops throughout the race weekend.” -- David Scott

Sunday, August 11, 2013

What Max Papis thought about as a substitute driver for Tony Stewart

   Max Papis substituted for NASCAR driver Tony Stewart on Sunday and finished 15th.

   Asked about his run:
   Papis: “I felt that we were definitely in bound to have a top 10 finish.  Really glad that Greg Biffle came over and apologized when he turned me around he said it was totally his mistake. I think that really cost us a solid top 10. Beside this I drove the wheels off the car every lap. Super proud of keeping the seat of Smoke (Tony Stewart) as warm as I could. I felt I did a pretty good job and I’m proud of myself.”

   What happened late in the race with the No. 9 (Marcus Ambrose)?
   Papis: "I don’t know. The guy was sideways going up the hill. I mean I’m going up the hill. I touched him I turned him, not on purpose obviously. I think that something broke in the back of his car. I guess. Pretty weird deal. It was not a good thing.”
   All things considered, an 'A' day? 'B' day? How do you look at it?
   Papis: "A+"

Friday, August 9, 2013

The race track where Jason Leffler lost his life plans to honor him

   The "Night of Wings" at Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey on June 12 was suspended after NASCAR driver Jason Leffler died following an accident in a sprint car during the night's racing activities.

   The speedway has decided to reschedule the event for Sunday, Sept. 8, and with a much greater purpose - to honor Leffler's memory and raise money to support Leffler's son, Charlie Dean.
   Most of the original 410 Sprint Car drivers who were in attendance in June night have agreed to return to not only support this race, but honor their former fellow driver. They will be joined on the card by the TSRS Sprints.

   Admission is free but it is suggested fans donate at least the regular admission price of $13. All admission donations will go to a fund set up to help care for Leffler's son. There are also plans to have raffles throughout the night to raise additional funds.

   Those fans who were in attendance in June will be able to turn their general admission tickets into special VIP tickets. Preferred seating will be established and these fans will also be admitted to the speedway one hour before everyone else.

   For more information, contact the speedway at (856) 467-4407.

What made Dale Earnhardt Jr. sick to his stomach

   NASCAR's most popular driver didn't mince words when asked Friday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International about his reaction when he first heard Tony Stewart got hurt racing at a dirt track on Monday and would be out for a while.
   Here was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s answer:
    “I was just real sick to my stomach about it. I woke up for some reason at five o’clock in the morning, which is rare and I just couldn’t sleep so I grabbed my iPad and that was the first thing that I saw and I just couldn’t believe it. I felt like I must have been dreaming. Tony (Stewart) is one of my competitors and you really aren’t supposed to have, you really aren’t supposed to have the kind of admiration I guess that I have for Tony as he is my competitor. You want to go out there and beat him on the race track and he’s fun to race with, he’s a hard racer and he takes it as good as he can get it. A lot of guys can’t take it very well. You all know what kind of guy he is so I won’t go on and on about it, but I hated it for him just knowing what being out of the car is like and knowing how much he loves what he does and loves how much he enjoys driving no matter what it is," Earnhardt said.
"I know he feels bad, you know. He hates to put his company and team in this situation and he personally is a bit upset and saddened. Just knowing the kind of guy he is, I hate that he has to go through that and I know they’ll be a lot of pain and rehab and things like that he will have to face and that’s unfortunate and you hate to see people have to deal with that.  He’s tough though, he’s really, really tough and everybody knows that he’s just going to beat the hell out of this and get back in the car before you know it. He’ll probably be back in the car before the doctors want to let him in. I don’t anticipate this really slowing him down at all.”


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stewart has successful second leg surgery; out indefinitely

   From Stewart-Haas Racing:

   KANNAPOLIS, N.C., (Aug. 8, 2013) – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart underwent a successful second surgery on his right leg Thursday, Aug. 8 after suffering a broken tibia and fibula in a sprint car crash Monday night, Aug. 5 at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa.

   The first surgery, which happened early Tuesday, Aug. 6 in Iowa, served as a preliminary procedure to stabilize and clean the Grade 2 injury. The second surgery, by a specialist in North Carolina, involved inserting a metal rod inside the tibia, pressing it to its anatomic position.

   Stewart will remain hospitalized for observation. A discharge date has not been determined.

   Stewart’s injury will sideline him indefinitely from driving his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team he co-owns with Haas Automation founder Gene Haas.

   Veteran racer Max Papis is serving as the interim driver for Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event Aug. 9-11 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International. An interim driver has not been determined for the following race Aug. 18 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, or for any future races.

   Stewart was leading the 30-lap American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) feature at Southern Iowa Speedway when a lapped car spun in front of him. Stewart hit the lapped car and flipped.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

One driver can clinch a spot in the Chase this Sunday. No guessing allowed

  One championship contender – Jimmie Johnson – can clinch a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

   The five-time Cup champion is the only driver holding a clinch scenario this weekend. Johnson has to leave The Glen with a 193-point lead over the 11th place driver. Currently, he holds a 178-point lead over 11th, which is occupied by Tony Stewart.

   Stewart will miss Sunday’s race after breaking a leg in a sprint car race on Monday night, and will be replaced by Max Papis in his No. 14 Chevrolet on Sunday. Reigning Cup champion Brad Keselowski is 12th, 180 points behind Johnson. Johnson is the only competitor to have qualified for the Chase field in all nine seasons.

   A win at The Glen will guarantee Johnson at least a wild card entry. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Is Tony Stewart's injury the 'straw that broke the camel's back'?

   Former NASCAR Cup champion and Speed TV analyst Darrell Waltrip was asked Tuesday whether Tony Stewart’s injury will cause more NASCAR Sprint Cup owners to prohibit their drivers from competing outside their fulltime rides.

   Here is Waltrip's response:

   “When an injury happens to a driver of Tony’s magnitude -- one of the sport’s most visible superstars -- such as when Dale Earnhardt’s death spawned safety innovations, everyone takes a closer look.  We already were questioning the wisdom of racing in other series, especially sprint cars.  But I think Tony’s injury probably is the straw that broke the camel’s back," he said. 

   "Some owners and drivers now might decide it’s too risky and curtail this.  When Tony has time to evaluate everything, he might come up with some safety innovations that could make sprint-car racing safer.  Anytime something like this happens to someone like Tony, everyone will benefit down the road.”

Tony Stewart's 2013 NASCAR season could be cut short with leg injury

   Tony Stewart’s 2013 NASCAR season may be cut short after the three-time champion suffered a broken leg following a serious accident Monday night in a Sprint car race in Iowa.

   Stewart sustained a broken right tibia and fibula in a violent wreck Monday night at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa, team officials confirmed.

   Stewart was transported by ambulance to a local hospital then airlifted to another facility in Des Moines, where he underwent surgery early Tuesday morning.

   The wreck is Stewart’s third in a Sprint car in as many weeks.

   According to a team release, Stewart’s planned test Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway has been canceled.

   Stewart will also miss Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International but a replacement driver has not been immediately named.

   Additional information is expected Tuesday afternoon, the statement said.

   Compound lower leg fractures with cast immobilization typically require 12 to 16 weeks of healing time. A period of rehabilitation is generally required as well.

   There are 15 races left in the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season. After his ninth place finish in Sunday’s race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, Stewart was 11th in the series standings.

   There are five races remaining before the 12-driver Chase for the Cup field is set. As of now, Stewart would have qualified for one of the two wild card spots.

   Once Stewart sits out a race, he’ll lose likely any chance at making the Chase this season.

   Just this past weekend, Stewart offered a vigorous defense of his frequent visits to dirt tracks across the country in addition to his NASCAR obligations.

   Stewart barrel-rolled his car several times last week in wreck in a Sprint car race in Ontario, Canada.

   “You guys need to watch more sprint car videos and stuff. It was not a big deal,” Stewart said at Pocono. “It's starting to get annoying this week about that, so that was just an average sprint car wreck. When they wreck they get upside down like that. That was not a big deal.”

Monday, August 5, 2013

What Kyle Petty said Sunday that Denny Hamlin didn't like

   What Speed TV analyst Kyle Petty said about NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin before Sunday's race
   Kyle Petty:

   “I think Denny’s a good race car driver -- really solid race car driver -- and he’s been banged up numerous times this year. We go to California. We can go to a lot of race tracks --Dover -- that hit he took up there. Honest to gosh, though, he didn’t have a shot at making the Chase, though. I’m sorry. He just didn’t. He was so far out. You can’t compete with teams like Jimmie Johnson and those guys and sit out five or six weeks. I think since that time now, he’s started to talk a lot. He’s talked about being the face of Joe Gibbs Racing. I think he’s got a little bit of the ‘BK (Brad Keselowski) syndrome’ in him right now. He’s not relevant to the sport right now as far as the Chase and what’s going on in the Chase and winning the championship. He can win the next four or five races, but it’s not going to change the championship this year, and it’s not going to change the Chase. It is what it is and he needs to focus on next year, get his body back together and come back and have a shot at winning next year.”

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Yes, Brad Keselowski's team is focused on the No. 48. There's a reason, too

   Former Cup series champion Dale Jarrett recently said on ESPN that he thought reigning champion Brad Keselowski and his team might be focused too much this season on Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 team, which could be distracting them.
   Keselowski's crew chief, Paul Wolfe, was asked about the issue on Saturday and basically agreed but with an important caveat.
   Here was his response:
   "Whether or not that is a problem, I don’t know. I think the reason you look at them is because, let’s face it, over the last five or six years they have been the team to beat. So when you are trying to reach a goal, you need to pay attention to what is going on around you. We definitely have focused on them," Wolfe said.
   "Now obviously, we were able to beat them fair and square in the Chase last year so that definitely gives us confidence and I think that is why we’ve set the bar higher for ourselves and we know that is the team we need to beat to be able to win another championship. I think that is where some of that focus was but as I said, now we are at a point where we need to get the best we can out of what we have to work with right now and that is what we are going to do for the next six weeks.”

Crew member dies at Southern National Motorsports Park near Raleigh

   Mike Sabiston, a crew member of New Day Motorsports, died Friday, Aug. 2, after falling from the lift gate of his team's hauler in the infield at Southern National Motorsports Park near Kenly, N.C., about 40 miles southeast of Raleigh.

   According to speedway officials, the remainder of the day's activities at the track were canceled after the incident. Saturday night's Pro All Stars Series South race remains on schedule.

   "We at Southern National Motorsports Park are saddened to report a member of our racing family was in a tragic accident while working with his team unloading their car. The owners, staff and all racing teams at Southern National would like to send our prayers and deepest sympathy to his family," said a statement posted on the track's Web site.

   New Day Motorsports, which fields a car for driver Brandon Ward, withdrew from the event.

   "Mike was a longtime friend and supporter of New Day Motorsports and was an integral part of our racing family. He was certainly loved by us all and deeply appreciated," said a statement released by the team.

   Ross Kenseth, son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Matt Kenseth, and Harrison Burton, son of Cup driver Jeff Burton, are among the drivers scheduled to compete in Saturday night's race at Southern National.

   The team's statement said funeral arrangements were incomplete.


Friday, August 2, 2013

What Jeff Burton means when he says, "Some drivers aren't race fans"

   Friday morning, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jeff Burton was asked about the different perspectives in what makes good racing - from the driver's seat and from fans watching on TV - and how they don't always mesh.
   Burton was asked if there was any way fans can appreciate what the driver's perspective and vice versa. Burton's answer may surprise you.
   “Not completely. Some drivers aren’t race fans. They race because it’s about them which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with that. We have other drivers that are big race fans. If a driver is a race fan, I think he can understand what the race fans are thinking and what they are saying but not in the extent that you pay however much money as you pay to sit in your seat and you watch a raced that wasn’t satisfying to you. The driver, no matter what the quality of the race is for the fan, his effort and his dedication it might be racing for 15th but he’s doing is best all day to find a way to go to 14th," Burton said.
   "I go up in the (race control) tower a few times a year, go up on the spotters stand or whatever and watch a race. Man, it’s a different perspective. It looks like everybody is just riding around. I’ll be honest, I’ve driven these things for a long time, there’s times I’m up there thinking, 'Man, just drive it in the corner', but it’s just not that easy. It’s hard for both sides to see the other side, but I think drivers understand the fans want to see exciting racing. I think the fans know that the drivers want to be involved in exciting racing. It’s way more fun to run side by side and be in the middle of a real tight battle than it is to be nose to tail trying to find your way around one guy. It just is, so we want to be part of that, too."


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Joey Logano relishes 'fresh start' at Penske


   NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Joey Logano was asked this week if he thought his career in NASCAR's top series had gone tougher than expected.

    Here was his answer:

    Logano: “Yeah, obviously it is tough. But this year has gone very well in my eyes. We've had really fast race cars. We've had opportunities to win, but, yes, we've had a lot of adversity. When you look at those two 40th place finishes, you look at the issues we had at the beginning of the year, you look at a penalty, I feel like this year we're easily a Chase contending team that's capable, I think, of winning a championship. Right now we're out of position because some things that were our fault and some things that we couldn't control. That's part of our sport, and that's how it goes, but we're in contention of winning races now. I'm excited about that.

    "I had to go through a learning curve when I first started racing Cup in a lot of different areas and in a lot of different things, and I feel like having this fresh start here at Penske Racing with Shell and Pennzoil and Roger (Penske) and Brad (Keselowski) and Todd (Gordon, crew chief) and all these guys, we're all working great together. So I feel like we're right on the verge of getting that win this season and getting ourselves in.”

Who says Fox Sports 1 isn't ready to roll out?

   NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Joey Coulter debuts a new partner at Pocono Raceway this weekend on his Toyota Tundra - FOX Sports 1.

   The rebranded Speed Channel will be America's newest sports network and set to launch Saturday, Aug. 17. The network will serve as TV home to the series. Pocono will mark the first of two consecutive appearances onboard the No. 18 Tundra for the network and will incorporate a unique concept to count down the days until its official launch the weekend of the Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.