Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RCR loses court fight to prevent Matt McCall from joining Chip Ganassi Racing

   The North Carolina Business Court, a court which hears cases involving complex commercial and corporate law disputes, has denied an attempt by Richard Childress Racing to obtain a temporary restraining order to prevent former employee Matt McCall from joining Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

   McCall, who was a team engineer on Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman's team this past season, is slated to become crew chief for driver Jamie McMurray beginning with the 2015 season.

   In its order issued on Dec. 19, the court ruled, "the Court finds that Plaintiff (RCR) has not
presented sufficient evidence to show that it is likely that it will succeed on the merits of its claims, that Plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if a temporary restraining order is not entered, or that the issuance of a temporary restraining order is necessary to protect Plaintiff’s rights during the pendency of the litigation."

   In the case, RCR claimed that even though McCall was employed as a team engineer, he “routinely performed the tasks of the crew chief.” When no crew chief position was available in the Cup series with the organization, McCall notified RCR he was resigning at the conclusion of the 2014 season. Days later, McCall accepted the crew chief position with Ganassi.

   RCR claimed McCall’s contract included a clause that he could not work for a competitor in a similar capacity for 12 months and sought a temporary restraining order preventing him from working immediately at Ganassi.

   You can read the court's full opinion here.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Cam Newton and others star in new Gatorade commercial

   In 2015, Gatorade is celebrating its 50th anniversary and kicked off the celebration on Christmas Day with the debut of its new “50” television commercial. 

   The ad celebrates five decades of fueling champions through a montage of 50 iconic sports moments ingrained in the brand and includes athletes like Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Cam Newton among many others. Each moment corresponds with a number relevant to Gatorade.

   HINT: Jimmie Johnson is No. 48.

   To watch the "50" commercial go here. You can also find the back story on each of the 50 moments selected.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Dr. Jerry Punch to remain with ESPN, covering college basketball and football

   Dr. Jerry Punch, a longtime staple of ESPN's NASCAR coverage, will remain with the network and return to his former role covering college football and basketball. Punch will also serve as a pit reporter on ABC's telecasts of the Indianapolis 500 and other IndyCar Series races.

   “ESPN has been my home for a long time and I’m grateful for the opportunities presented to me to remain part of the team,” said Punch. “I love the passion of college sports and look forward to helping bring those stories to our viewers and to reconnecting with the college coaches and staffs I’ve enjoyed relationships with over the years.”

   Punch has worked with ESPN since 1984 and was a pit reporter and play-by-play announcer on ESPN's NASCAR coverage over the years. ESPN recently completed its final season of live NASCAR race coverage.

   Punch's first game will be Jan. 15 as he calls the Ohio Valley Conference match-up between Murray State and Belmont (Tenn.) on ESPNU.

    In his on-air work, the native of Newton, N.C., has sometimes called on knowledge from his first career as an emergency room physician to explain injuries. He spent 14 years as the director of emergency room services at a Florida hospital and served two terms as chief of staff there. He remains active in the medical profession today.

   After working as a track announcer at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway, Punch made his broadcasting debut on radio for Motor Racing Network at the 1980 Daytona 500. He branched into television in 1982. He is ESPN’s sixth longest-tenured announcer, following Bob Ley, Cliff Drysdale, Chris Berman, Dick Vitale and Mike Patrick. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Sprint Experience' pulled from all NASCAR tracks beginning in 2015

   Sprint, which announced earlier this week it would discontinue sponsorship of the Sprint Cup Series at the end of its current contract, will no longer host its 15,000-square-foot Sprint Experience interactive display area at NASCAR tracks, multiple sources confirmed to The Charlotte Observer and

   The Sprint Experience is a 14,400-square-foot interactive display that brings fans closer to the sport by offering custom interactive games, driver and celebrity appearances, participation in stage games, and the latest handsets and technologies available from Sprint. 

Read more here:

   Hospitality industry workers and others associated with transporting and operating the mobile display were informed this week they would not be used next season, sources said.

   Fans took to social media in July to complain when Sprint first failed to bring the display at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Until that race, the Experience had appeared at every race track on the schedule for several seasons.

   At the time, the company said it was "focusing on markets most important to Sprint corporate priorities."

   When asked Thursday for comment on its decision to discontinue the Sprint Experience, spokesperson Kimberly Meesters provided the following statement to The Observer:

   "We will continue to use the NASCAR Sprint Cup sponsorship platform in 2015 and 2016 to drive our business. Every season we evaluate our specific NASCAR programs and adjust as needed. We are finalizing the details of our 2015 plan now and will be ready to kick off the season Feb. 14 for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona."     

   When asked about Sprint's decision, a NASCAR spokesman declined to comment and deferred to the sanctioning body's statement released Tuesday when Sprint announced it was discontinuing its sponsorship after the 2016 season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NASCAR releases 2015 K&N Pro series schedules

   NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

   The coast-to-coast 2015 slate features a combined 27 dates in 17 different states, highlighted by nine NASCAR national series companion weekends and four new events.


New Smyrna Speedway
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Greenville Pickens Speedway
Greenville, S.C.
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tenn.
Richmond International Raceway
Richmond, Va.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS West)
Newton, Iowa
Bowman Gray Stadium
Winston-Salem, N.C.
Langley Speedway
Hampton, Va.
Columbus Motor Speedway
Columbus, Ohio
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Loudon, N.H.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS West)
Newton, Iowa
Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Motordrome Speedway
Smithton, Pa.
Virginia International Raceway
Alton, Va.
Dover International Speedway
Dover, Del.

Kern County Raceway Park
Bakersfield, Calif.
Irwindale Speedway
Irwindale, Calif.
Tucson Speedway
Tucson, Ariz.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS East)
Newton, Iowa
Shasta Speedway
Anderson, Calif.
Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif.
Stateline Speedway
Post Falls, Id.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS East)
Newton, Iowa
Evergreen Speedway
Monroe, Wash.
Colorado National Speedway
Dacono, Colo.
Meridian Speedway
Meridian, Id.
All American Speedway
Roseville, Calif.
Phoenix International Raceway
Avondale, Ariz.

Monday, December 15, 2014

NASCAR alters eligibility rules for Sprint Unlimited at Daytona

News release

Coming off an exciting 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, NASCAR announced today all 16 Chase drivers will be eligible to compete in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). The 75-lap, non-points race will once again kick off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing season Saturday, Feb. 14 (FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and will feature an expanded field of drivers based on new eligibility requirements.

A minimum of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are eligible to participate in the Sprint Unlimited at DIS.  In addition to the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup participants, the field also will include 2014 Coors Light Pole Award winners, as well as former Sprint Unlimited race winners and Daytona 500 pole winners who competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time in 2014. Any remaining spots will be filled by drivers highest in 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship points who are not already eligible.

“The 2015 Sprint Unlimited has potential to be one of the most competitive ever,” said NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell. “With more drivers eligible, the intensity level increases for our fans and competitors, making for a compelling start to the 2015 season.”
The 2015 eligible participants include:

·         Kyle Busch (2014 pole winner)
·         Austin Dillon (2014 pole winner)
·         Jeff Gordon (2014 pole winner)
·         David Gilliland (2014 pole winner)
·         Denny Hamlin (2014 pole winner)
·         Kevin Harvick (2014 pole winner)
·         Jimmie Johnson (2014 pole winner)
·         Matt Kenseth (2014 pole winner)
·         Brad Keselowski (2014 pole winner)
·         Kyle Larson (2014 pole winner)
·         Joey Logano (2014 pole winner)
·         Jamie McMurray (2014 pole winner)
·         Brian Scott (2014 pole winner)
·         Tony Stewart (2014 pole winner)
·         Brian Vickers* (2014 pole winner)
·         Kurt Busch (former Unlimited winner)
·         Dale Earnhardt Jr. (former Unlimited winner)
·         Carl Edwards (former D500 pole winner)
·         Danica Patrick (former D500 pole winner)
·         Greg Biffle (former D500 pole winner)
·         Martin Truex Jr. (former D500 pole winner)
·         Ryan Newman (2014 Chase driver)
·         AJ Allmendinger (2014 Chase driver)
·         Kasey Kahne (2014 Chase driver)
·         Aric Almirola (2014 Chase driver)

* – Michael Waltrip Racing today announced that Brian Vickers will not be available to race during the early part of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season due to health issues.)

Statement from Brian Vickers on missing the start of 2015 Sprint Cup season

   “First, I want to thank everyone for their sincere support. I have faced obstacles before and it has made victory that much sweeter and I know that will be the case again," Vickers said.

   “My previous experiences have given me a very keen understanding of my body. Late last week I knew something wasn’t right, so I went to the hospital to be checked out. Following several tests, it was discovered that my body was rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in my heart. Saturday, I had to have corrective surgery to repair the hole and now I am beginning the recovery process. I will need plenty of time, rest and rehab but this temporary setback will not stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.”

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#SixTime Jimmie Johnson gets a new hashtag for a day - #KeepPounding

   Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is getting a new job - at least for one day.

   The NFL's Carolina Panthers on Saturday announced that Johnson, who lives in Charlotte, had agreed to be the "Keep Pounding" drummer for Sunday's Panthers game vs. Tampa Bay at Bank of America Stadium.

   Following the coin toss before every home game, an honorary drummer hits the "Keep Pounding" drum four times to signify four quarters.

   Johnson's participation comes at a crucial point for the Panthers this season. They are seeking their first home victory since Oct. 5 and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kyle Busch has successful foot surgery; expected to make full recovery

   Team press release

    Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had successful surgery on his left foot this morning. Busch is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2015 NASCAR season in February.

   The scheduled offseason surgery was performed to relieve a recurring source of inflammation in his left foot. The surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

There's plenty of testing in NASCAR's 'No Testing' policy

   When NASCAR announced in September it was banning all private team testing, the perception was teams would not likely see the opportunity to do much on-track testing. 

   NASCAR at the time said it hoped to incorporate more teams into the 12 to 15 tire tests done each season by Goodyear but that plan seemed to hit logistical roadblocks in recent months.

   The finished product, outlined in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rulebook, actually provides teams many opportunities to test on series tracks in the coming season. 

   At Atlanta, an extra testing day has been added to the regular weekend schedule. In addition, an extra day of open testing as been added to Goodyear tire tests at Charlotte; Richmond; Kentucky; Indianapolis; Dover, Del.; Darlington, S.C.; Chicagoland; Bristol; Homestead, Fla.; Kansas; Phoenix; and Fontana, Calif.

   Proposed 2015 NASCAR testing dates for Sprint Cup Series
   Date                   Type of test

   Jan. 19               Goodyear tire test, Las Vegas
   Feb. 26              Open team test, Atlanta 
   March 2-3          Goodyear tire test, Atlanta
   March 10            Goodyear tire test, Charlotte
   March 11            Open team test, Charlotte
   April 7                 Goodyear tire test, Richmond
   April 8                 Open team test, Richmond
   April 13-14          Goodyear tire test, Kentucky   
   April 15               Open team test, Kentucky
   April 27-28          Goodyear tire test, Indianapolis
   April 29               Open team test, Indianapolis
   May 11-12           Goodyear tire test, Dover
   May 13                Open team test, Dover
   June 9-10            Goodyear tire test, Darlington
   June 11               Open team test, Darlington
   July 13-14           Goodyear tire test, Chicagoland
   July 15                Open team test, Chicagoland
   July 28-29           Goodyear tire test, Bristol
   July 30                Open team test, Bristol
   Aug. 24-25          Goodyear tire test, Homestead
   Aug. 26               Open team test, Homestead
   Sept. 14-15         Goodyear tire test, Kansas
   Sept. 16              Open team test, Kansas
   Oct. 12-13           Goodyear tire test, Phoenix
   Oct. 14                Open team test, Phoenix
   Oct. 27-28           Goodyear tire test, Fontana
   Oct. 29                Open team test, Fontana

   Note: All Goodyear tire tests typically involve four teams.

Brian France: No changes to Chase format in 2015

   Considering how well-received the Sprint Cup Series season finale race at Homestead-Miami Speedway was and the TV ratings boost during the Chase, it should come as little surprise that NASCAR Chairman Brian France said in an interview Tuesday there would be no changes to the championship format in 2015.

   France was a guest on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Tuesday afternoon and was asked if he anticipated any tweaks or changes to the format. Here is France's answer: 

   “No, I don’t. We’re obviously pleased with everything. And there may be some adjustments down the road. They’ll be very small. Nothing, for ’15, nothing anybody would notice. But if we can make an already great thing better we will always look at that but we are very content that we have the right positioning of elevating the drivers to have moments as I just described, and then also balancing this whole thing in auto racing, which is very difficult to balance, which is how do you balance winning and consistency? And they don’t necessarily always go together. And how do you have any kind of a championship run that represents that? I think we’ve done the best job that we think we can do to balance that.”

   In an interview during championship weekend but before the series finale, France had said he thought there could be "very modest to zero" changes made to the format.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sneak peek of HBO's State of Play episode featuring DeLana Harvick and 'First Ladies'

   DeLana Harvick, the wife of NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick, talks about the challenges of married life in HBO's latest installment of "State of Play" as it talks about "First Ladies."

   The episode debuts Tuesday, Dec. 9, at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Darrell Wallace Jr. receives release from his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing

   Darrell Wallace Jr., who won four races this season in the NASCAR Truck Series and finished third in the series standings, has been released from his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, the team confirmed to the Observer. 

   Although Wallace, 21, has experienced substantial success in the Truck series with Kyle Busch Motorsports the past two seasons, JGR - with whom he is under contract - had been unable to secure sponsorship for Wallace to run fulltime in any NASCAR national series in 2015.

   The move will allow Wallace, whose victory at Martinsville, Va., last season made him just the second African-American to win a national series race in NASCAR history, to join another organization that can provide him a fulltime ride.

   A spokesman for JGR on Monday confirmed the organization has released Wallace from his contract but declined to comment on Wallace's destination.

   The most likely destination for Wallace appears to be Roush Fenway Racing, sources said. RFR already plans to field Nationwide teams for drivers Elliott Sadler, Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed in 2015. 

   A request for comment was not immediately returned by RFR. 

   Wallace was expected to run up to a 10 races next season with JGR in what will become the Xfinity Series on Jan. 1. JGR owner Joe Gibbs had said he expected to have a "big program" for the driver who was born in Mobile, Ala., but grew up in the Charlotte area. 

   In interviews before the end of the season, Wallace said he was not worried about the lack of a fulltime ride. “I'll take what I can get,” he said. “I can only go out there and continue to run up front, lead laps, and win races."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Qualifying results for Sunday's 47th annual Snowball Derby

Qualifying results for 47th annual Snowball Derby, scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday at 5 Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla.
Position, car number, driver, time

118Hunter Robbins16.212
221Johanna Long16.228
38John Hunter Nemechek16.232
4112Augie Grill16.239
583Scotty Ellis16.262
63Ross Kenseth16.264
795Derrick Griffin16.272
898Daniel Hemric16.274
91Mike Garvey16.291
1051Erik Jones16.292
1143Derek Thorn16.300
129Chase Elliott16.301
1342Chad Finley16.304
1429Jeff Choquette16.319
1526Bubba Pollard16.320
1641TJ Reaid16.323
172Donnie Wilson16.330
1831Kyle Grissom16.334
1926Preston Peltier16.339
2051Stephen Nasse16.343
2137Brian Hoar16.343
222DJ Vanderley16.355
2307Corey LaJoie16.367
2411Logan Boyett16.374
255Dalton Sargent16.391
2699Casey Smith16.403
279Mark Kraus16.417
2842Dennis Prunty16.422
2990Grant Enfinger16.433
3010Steve Dorer16.436
3129Anderson Bowen16.439
3201Travis Braden16.442
3311David Rogers16.443
3457Cole Timm16.446
3588Garrett Jones16.455
3667Clay Jones16.456
37147Daniel Webster16.460
3845Dwayne Buggay16.465
3916Jacob Gomes16.472
4057Austin Theriault16.473
4112Harrison Burton16.480
4258Gus Dean16.485
4322Jeremy Pate16.495
4491Ty Majeski16.501
4571Johnny VanDoorn16.511
467Paul Shafer Jr.16.530
47129Spencer Davis16.530
484Kyle Plott16.539
4905Bayley Currey16.552
5098Mason Mingus16.567
5179Kyle Bryant16.581
5299JJ Haley16.584
5343Dennis Schoenfeld16.589
542Clay Rogers16.596
555Jerry Artuso16.626
5622Josh Bragg16.679
5788Roger Reuse16.679
585Will Gallaher16.751
591Tim Martin16.767
6012Garrett Campbell16.804
6147Chris Fontaine16.863
6247Jordan Sims16.874