Friday, January 31, 2014

Jeb Burton loses his 2014 NASCAR Truck series ride

   Turner Scott Motorsports announced Friday that Arrowhead, the primary sponsor of the No. 4 entry driven by Jeb Burton in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, has defaulted on payment to the team. As a result of Arrowhead's failure to make payments, Turner Scott Motorsports will not be able to field Burton and the No. 4 truck full time for the 2014 season.

   The loss of the primary sponsor also means that the company must begin making staff reductions. It is anticipated that the reductions will affect up to 20-percent of the current TSM workforce. The company is moving as quickly as possible to give the affected employees the maximum opportunity to seek employment with other teams.

   "The breakout success of Jeb Burton and the entire No. 4 team in 2013 makes these decisions especially painful," said team co-owner Harry Scott Jr. "However, we will do everything we can to put Jeb on the racetrack with our organization going forward. He is a great talent and has a great career ahead of him.

   "Despite this setback, Turner Scott Motorsports remains strong overall and will compete for championships in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. We are extremely proud of the talent of our workforce here at TSM, and it is very difficult for us to lose anyone within our organization. We understand the way that this affects the lives of everyone involved, and we will do our best to assist in placement elsewhere in the sport."

Said Burton: "Obviously, these are tough circumstances for everyone involved, not just for me, but also for my teammates who are affected. I am working with Turner Scott Motorsports to identify any potential opportunities for me to get on the track this year."

Burton, the 21-year-old son of former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, won a race and finished fifth in the series standings during his rookie season in 2013.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

New Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format unveiled

  DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 30, 2014) – NASCAR announced a new championship format today that will put greater emphasis on winning races all season long, expands the current Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field to 16 drivers, and implements a new round-by-round advancement format that ultimately will reward a battle-tested, worthy champion.

    “We have arrived at a format that makes every race matter even more, diminishes points racing, puts a premium on winning races and concludes with a best-of-the-best, first-to-the-finish line showdown race – all of which is exactly what fans want,” said Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO. “We have looked at a number of concepts for the last three years through fan research, models and simulations, and also maintained extensive dialogue with our drivers, teams and partners. The new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be thrilling, easy to understand and help drive our sport’s competition to a whole new level.”
   Changes announced by France to the championship format include:
- A victory in the first 26 races all but guarantees a berth in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – a change that will put an unprecedented importance on winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race all season long
- Expanding the Chase field from 12 to 16 drivers, with those drivers advancing to what now will be known as the NASCAR Chase Grid
- The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship will decrease after every three Chase races, from 16 to start in the Chase Grid; 12 after Chase race No. 3; eight after Chase race No. 6; and four after Chase race No. 9
- The first three races of the Chase (27-29) will be known as the Challenger Round; races 30-32 will be known as the Contender Round; races 33-35 will be the Eliminator Round and race No. 36 will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship
- A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Chase race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next Chase round
- Four drivers will enter the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship with a chance at the title, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the prestigious NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.
   Eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
   The top 15 drivers with the most wins over the first 26 races will earn a spot in the NASCAR Chase Grid – provided they have finished in the top 30 in points and attempted to qualify for every race (except in rare instances). The 16th Chase position will go to the points leader after race No. 26, if he/she does not have a victory. In the event that there are 16 or more different winners over 26 races, the only winless driver who can earn a Chase Grid spot would be the points leader after 26 races.
   If there are fewer than 16 different winners in the first 26 races, the remaining Chase Grid positions will go to those winless drivers highest in points. If there are 16 or more winners in the first 26 races, the ties will first be broken by number of wins, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points.
   As was implemented in 2011, prior to the start of the Chase, all Chase Grid drivers will have their points adjusted to 2,000, with three additional bonus points added to their total for each win in the first 26 races.
   Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Structure
   After the third Chase race, the Chase Grid will be left with 12 drivers. After the sixth Chase race, the field will drop to eight drivers, and following the ninth Chase race, only four drivers will remain in championship contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
   The first round (races 27-29) will be called the Challenger Round. If a driver in the Chase Grid wins a Challenger Round race, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions 1-12 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 3,000.
   The second round (races 30-32) will be called the Contender Round. Likewise, if a driver in the top 12 in points wins a race in the Contender Round, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions 1-8 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 4,000.
   The third round (races 33-35) will be called the Eliminator Round. If a driver in the top eight in points wins a race in the Eliminator Round, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions 1-4 that have not been filled based upon wins will be based on points. Each will then have their points reset to 5,000.
   Additionally, drivers who are eliminated in the Contender and Eliminator Rounds will have their points readjusted. Each eliminated driver will return to the Chase-start base of 2,000 (plus any regular season wins bonus points), with their accumulated points starting with race No. 27 added. This will allow all drivers not in contention for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title to continue to race for the best possible season-long standing, with final positions fifth-through-16th still up for grabs.
   Four Drivers, First-to-the-Finish Championship Finale
   The 36th and final race of the season will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. Simply stated, the highest finisher in that race among the remaining four eligible drivers will win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.
   Bonus points for laps led will not apply in the season finale, so the official finishing position alone will decide the champion.
   Note: All rules outlined above also apply to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner championship structure.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Blake Shelton's speech inducting Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame

   BLAKE SHELTON:  Honored to be here, everybody, and I didn't think this was going to be an emotional deal for me until the airplane ride over here to Charlotte today, and so I decided, I got to thinking about what this is and what it means to you and what it means to me.  So I decided to write this stuff down because I knew I would screw it up if I tried to wing it.  I'm going to read this to you as it came to me on the airplane today.

   People ask me all the time how I became a NASCAR fan, and my answer is always, man, I guess I was just born that way.  You see, my dad was a driver when I was a kid, not like y'all, but he raced on local tracks, stock cars, and what are the ones with the wing?  Okay, sprint cars but without the wing on them, that look like a sprint car, a midget.  I guess my dad raced midgets, okay.  You know what I'm talking about.
   See why I wrote this down?
   He was also a huge fan of races on TV, and I can't remember my dad ever missing a Daytona 500 or an Indy 500, and I put in parentheses here, although compared to NASCAR, those other cars blow.  I just put that on there. 
   Anyway, I think my dad always had a secret dream of one of us kids becoming a race car driver.  He entered all three of us into local motocross events.  My brother was good, my sister was okay, and I sucked.  So I learned to play the guitar, thank God.
   Ironically, though, that's how my history with NASCAR came full circle.  Country music and NASCAR go hand in hand, y'all, and I take great pride in being a meaningless but very loud, very defensive ‑ Clint ‑ sometimes pot‑stirring voice among the fan base and the inside of this sport.
   Over the years, I've been lucky enough to witness in person some really cool things hanging around you people, and the best part is back in the day I got to bring my dad along with me.  My dad was there the day that Elliott Sadler dove off the SPEED stage here in downtown Charlotte, missing the crowd by about the length of his face.  Do you remember that?  Man, that was funny.
   He got to see Michael Waltrip ask meaningless question after meaningless question at a drivers' meeting at Texas Motor Speedway.  To us that was a big deal, I guess.
   I watched him shove old women and children aside at Talladega to shake the hands of his favorite drivers:  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Richard Petty, and this man right here, Dale Jarrett.  As years went on, Dale and I crossed paths many times, and although my dad's health began to keep him from traveling, he loved hearing all the stories about the time I spent with Dale.
   I didn't tell him everything.
   Dale even spoke to him on the phone a time or two.  I believe it was little things like that that kept my dad happy those last few years.  You guys were his heroes.  And even though I know he was beyond proud of my accomplishments in music, he just couldn't get over the fact that I got to spend time with guys like Clint Bowyer and Elliott Sadler, and most of all, Dale Jarrett.  And man, what I'd give if he could have seen the old boys standing around talking about what was the biggest flower arrangement at his funeral, not because it was so big but because it came from Dale Jarrett.
   I hope you drivers realize the kind of impact you have on the lives of everyday, hard‑working people, people like my dad, and that's why it's my honor to be here tonight to induct Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  So on this 29th day of January 2014, I want to present the NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and officially induct my friend Dale Jarrett into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Could Jeff Gordon retire after the 2014 NASCAR season?

   Could four-time Cup series champion Jeff Gordon finally step away from fulltime competition after the 2014 season?

   Maybe, Gordon said. Then again, maybe not.

   Like if he were to win a fifth Cup series championship this season in the season finale at Homestead, Fla.

   "I will call it quits - I'll tell you that right now - right there on the spot," Gordon, 42, said Tuesday during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. "I think that would be a great way to go out.

   "But I know if we did that, I'd be thinking, 'Maybe we could do it again next year.'  So, don't hold me to that. I'm jokingly serious."
   As Gordon has gotten older, he said it's not uncommon to take time each season to consider his future.

   "I've done everything I've wanted to do in sport. I want to go out feeling good about who I am and what I'm doing and being competitive," he said. "Then you have a bad year and  your back is hurting and you say things like (it might be my final year)."

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Could Jeb Burton's 2014 NASCAR season get derailed?

    Last-minute sponsorship problems could derail Jeb Burton's planned 2014 season in the NASCAR Truck Series.

    A team spokesperson confirmed to the Observer on Tuesday that if sponsor Arrowhead Electronic Cigaretes is unable or unwilling to fund the Turner Scott Motorsports team this season, then the organization will have to "review" its options for the season.

    Reports surfaced on Monday that the company would not be serving as Burton's sponsor for the 2014 season. Last year, the Internal Revenue Service raided raided Cherokee Tabacco LLC, the parent company of Arrowhead Electronic Cigarettes, seizing business records.

    Burton, the son of former NASCAR driver Ward Burton, had a successful rookie season in Trucks in 2013, earning a win and finishing fifth in the series standings.

    The team spokesperson said the organization hoped to have an update on the situation in the "near future."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Where does auto racing rank among America's favorite sports?

   According to a survey taken this month by the Harris Poll, which has been asking adult fans, ages 18 and over about their favorite sport since 1985, pro football is the most popular sport in America for at least the 30th straight year.

    In 2014, 35 percent of fans call the NFL their favorite sport, followed by Major League Baseball (14 percent), college football (11 percent), auto racing (7 percent), the NBA (6 percent), the NHL (5 percent) and college basketball (3 percent).

   Read more here.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hockey + NASCAR drivers = Human Bowling ???

    NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer will headline the Charlotte Checkers’ annual "Race Night," which will take place Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Time Warner Cable Arena in uptown Charlotte. 

   The drivers will take part in an autograph session before the game and the human bowling intermission activity after the first period. Additionally, Newman will participate in a post-game jersey auction.

   The Checkers will wear specialty race-themed jerseys which will be up for auction live after the game. Proceeds from the auction will benefit Rescue Ranch, Hospitality House of Charlotte and the Isabella Santos Foundation.

   The first 2,500 fans through the door will receive a Checker cowbell and the first 5,000 fans will receive a Bojangles' mystery card worth $1 to $100.

   The following drivers and celebrities will be available for autographs:
   Ryan Newman
   Joey Logano
   Clint Bowyer
   David Latour
   Tyler Lester
   Michael McDowell
   Corey Joyce
   Bob Dillner
   Justin Boston
   Chris Buescher
   Brennan Poole
   Ray Dunlap
   Steve Arpin
   Joey Coulter
   Brandon McReynolds
   Clint King



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NASCAR qualifying changes almost like adding more racing

   NASCAR on Wednesday officially unveiled its qualifying format changes for 2014, switching to a group "knockout" qualifying process in all three of its national series - Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks.

   Each driver entered in each race will take to the track during the opening qualifying round, going out in a randomly selected order. Either two rounds of qualifying or three will be used depending on the size of the track until a final group composed of the 12 fastest drivers remain.

   Those 12 will determine who wins the pole. The 12 drivers in the final group will start 1-12 in the race.

   The practical effect will be to see almost mini-races.

   “This style of group qualifying has all the makings of being highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television and online," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition.

   Nationwide and Truck teams will use the new format next month at Daytona but the Cup series will retain its traditional qualifying format for the Daytona 500. The Truck series will retain its heat-race format for its annual stop at Eldora Speedway.

   Although NASCAR considered the idea, it will not award points to series pole winners.

Cheerios honors the 'Legacy of the 3'

   Race fans in Cincinnati got revved up for the start of the 2014 NASCAR season as Kroger and General Mills partnered to bring NASCAR star Austin Dillon to Kroger’s hometown where he met with fans, employees and unveiled new Cheerios packaging that honors the continued legacy of the No. 3 in the sport.

   Dillon, who will be competing in his first full season in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, revealed an over-sized version of the Cheerios box at Kroger in West Chester, Ohio earlier this afternoon while meeting fans. 

   The one-of-a-kind packaging showcases the iconic No. 3 on the front of the Cheerios box with historic photos and facts about the No. 3 covering the entire back side of the cereal package. Fans will be able to purchase their collectible Cheerios box exclusively at Kroger beginning Feb. 16.

   “Not only is it an honor for me to drive the No. 3 Cheerios Chevrolet SS, it’s very humbling to have the heritage of the No. 3 featured on a Cheerios box,” said Dillon. “When I began racing, I wanted to race the No. 3 because that was the number my grandfather, Richard Childress, raced before Dale Earnhardt made it famous. It’s a special number for our family and to see the history of the No. 3 being showcased on a box of Cheerios is really cool. It’s a great example of the support General Mills and Kroger has for our sport and its fans.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

2014 Daytona Speedweeks schedule

  2014 Daytona Speedweeks schedule
   (subject to change)

   Thursday, Feb. 13
   1-5 p.m.  ARCA practice

   Friday, Feb. 14
   2 p.m.  ARCA qualifying
   5-5:45 p.m. Sprint Unlimited practice
   6:30-7:30 p.m. Final Sprint Unlimited practice

   Saturday, Feb. 15
   9:30-10:15 a.m.  Final ARCA practice
   10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Sprint Cup practice
   4 p.m.  ARCA race
   8:15 p.m.  Sprint Unlimited race 

   Sunday, Feb. 16
   1:05 p.m. Sprint Cup qualifying

   Monday, Feb. 17
   No track activity

   Tuesday, Feb. 18
   7 p.m. Whelen Modified Tour race
   8:45 p.m. K&N Pro Series East race

   Wednesday, Feb. 19
   2:30-3:50 p.m. Trucks practice
   4-5:30 p.m. Sprint Cup practice
   6:30-8 p.m. Sprint Cup practice

   Thursday, Feb. 20
   Noon-1:20 p.m. Nationwide practice
   1:30-2:50 p.m. Trucks practice
   3-4:20 p.m. Final Nationwide practice
   4:40-6 p.m. Final Trucks practice
   7 p.m. Duel 150-mile qualifying races

   Friday, Feb. 21
   11:30 a.m.-12:55 p.m. Sprint Cup practice
   1:05 p.m. Nationwide qualifying
   2:30-3:55 p.m. Sprint Cup practice
   4:05 p.m. Trucks qualifying
   7:30 p.m. Trucks race

   Saturday, Feb. 22
   10:30 a.m.-noon Final Sprint Cup practice
   1:15 p.m. Nationwide series race

   Sunday, Feb. 23
   1 p.m.  56th Daytona 500 race


Monday, January 20, 2014

Humpy Wheeler: NASCAR's changes are an NFL-like move

   Former Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Humpy Wheeler offered the following response to NASCAR's proposed changes to its championship format:

   "NASCAR'S plan to dramatically change the point structure would eventually rank right up there with what the NFL did years ago that has produced so many gasping playoff games.
Under the potential change drivers would no longer run steady races to finish fourth and proclaim: "had a great day with this fourth place finish," a statement to old timers like Smokey Yunick, Glen Wood, Ralph Moody and Ray Fox would have been met with a pipe wrench over the driver's head. This kind of thinking is one thing that got racing in trouble. The way the points were skewed a driver could finish well and never win and actually win the championship.

   No longer! This idea which came out of the secret strategy chambers of Brian France, Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton with a few other good thinkers has been aimed at greatly increasing the quality of NASCAR racing and
result in what has been missing so long … passing for the lead! A season or two of this format which places the emphasis on winning could bring those fans back to the empty seats they left when races became boring.

   Now if we can eliminate the dreaded aero push -- that great mysterious force that keeps the lead car in clean air and almost disallows the second place driver from passing him -- NASCAR races could get back to being one of the most entertaining in sport. NASCAR won't admit this but they are attacking that great dilemma full force in the R&D section.

   One more item that NASCAR can do nothing about including talking about it and that is …sponsors, let these drivers be themselves. Quit trying to remold them into plastic mannequins who only drive flying billboards. Let Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Tony Stuart, etc., be themselves for gosh sakes! Now, certainly all sponsors don't try to keep the corporate thumb on their heroes. Lowe's is one but Jimmie Johnson is so perfect and has been since long before he had a sponsor there is nothing to do there. However, most of the sponsors want no negative stuff out of their wheelmen. Let 'em go boys!

   So, when you want to bash NASCAR think about what they are doing to make racing more competitive and return it to the strongly accelerating sport it was back in the 1995-2005 period one must give them a strong pat on the back."

Friday, January 17, 2014

Is NASCAR just 'wrestling on wheels?'

   Frank Jolley, a columnist for The Daily Commercial newspaper in Leesburg, Fla., certainly thinks NASCAR and World Wrestling Entertainment are virtually one and the same and makes no bones about making the comparison.

   Jolley's column is sparked by NASCAR's likely move to alter its points system again this season.

   "I guess with sagging television ratings and acres of empty seats at race tracks, NASCAR has decided to sacrifice reality in an effort to attract new fans and boost viewership," he writes.

   "Why doesn’t NASCAR come out and admit they’re in the sports entertainment business?
It’s become wrestling on wheels."

   You can read the whole column here.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The NASCAR season hasn't started and Kyle Larson is already a winner

   Kyle Larson, who will embark on a rookie campaign in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, has already earned a victory in 2014.

   Larson snapped Sammy Swindell's three-race winning streak and won Tuesday night's Invitational Race of Champions during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals at the Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway.

   Larson earned $20,000 for winning the 20-lap event, which included Swindell, Kevin Swindell, Bryan Clauson, Tracy Hines as well as NASCAR Cup series star Kasey Kahne, among others.

   To read more about the race, go here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Want to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame for free ??

   For the first time since its 2010 opening, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will offer fans unlimited access to the attraction ... for FREE.

   On Saturday, Feb. 1, fans will be admitted into the Hall for free as part of NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day -- a full day of special activities that includes autograph and Q&A sessions with current drivers and NASCAR Hall of Famers.

   "Our sport is unique in many ways, starting with our fans -- the most loyal fans in all of sports," said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "Any successes we have start with our fans, which is why we always look for opportunities to 'give back.' "

   Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle headline a group of more than 20 NASCAR national series drivers scheduled to interact with fans during this first-of-its-kind event in uptown Charlotte. Several NASCAR Hall of Famers, including Class of 2014 inductees Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett and Maurice Petty, will also be on hand.  

   Fans will have free access to the Hall on a first-come, first-served basis in lieu of needing a ticket. However, fans need to secure free tickets for the driver autograph sessions in advance at, where they can also find schedules and details about NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day.

    Several new exhibits will be on display, including a revamped Glory Road; newly rewrapped Gen-6 racing simulators; a Champions exhibit honoring Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon and Matt Crafton; and a Memorable Moments exhibit highlighting recent significant NASCAR milestones. In addition, fans will be among the first to see the new Hall of Honor exhibit featuring artifacts from the Class of 2014, which will open Thursday, Jan. 30.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Did you know there is actually a 'NASCAR Car Wash' ?

   NASCAR not only likes sponsored cars but clean ones as well.

   A business with a name tied to high-speed auto racing is scheduled to open this month in Elmwood Park, Ill., hoping to attract lots of cars to looking for a speedy wash.

   Dean Tomich runs the day-to-day operations of NASCAR Car Wash, headquartered in Joliet. The company has other NASCAR Car Washes in Illinois and Michigan and is planning to expand into other states.

   Read more here.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Dave Burns and Mike Massaro to join NBC Sports' NASCAR team

   The team which will bring NASCAR telecasts back to NBC in 2015 is close to being finalized. 

   Dave Burns and Mike Massaro, both members of ESPN/ABC’s NASCAR broadcast team, will make the move to NBC Sports in 2015, The Observer and have learned. 

   Burns is expected to become part of NBC’s pit road reporting team in NASCAR while Massaro is expected to become an in-studio host, sources said. Burns currently serves in a similar role with ESPN as does Massaro, who has hosted the show “NASCAR Now” and worked pit road during race telecasts. Burns worked with NBC when the network previously broadcast NASCAR events. 

   Earlier this week, NBC completed its lineup for its broadcast booth with the announcement current crew chief Steve Letarte will join driver-turned-analyst Jeff Burton and play-by-play announcer Rick Allen for NASCAR broadcasts. 

   A spokesman for ESPN declined to comment. A spokesman for NBC also declined comment.

Speeds from the abbreviated Sprint Cup preseason test at Daytona

   Final speeds from Friday's rain-shortened preseason test at Daytona International Speedway (with car number, driver, car make and speed):

   1. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 195.109 mph
   2. (33) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 194.582
   3. (27) Matt Crafton, Chevrolet, 194.342
   4. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 193.828
   5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 193.411
   6. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 193.353
   7. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 193.249
   8. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 193.116
   9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 193.071
   10. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 193.063
   11. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 193.021
   12. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 192.988
   13. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 192.934
   14. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 192.893
   15. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 192.682
   16. (26) Cole Whitt, Toyota, 192.480
   17. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 192.448
   18. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 192.201
   19. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 192.189
   20. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 192.102
   21. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 191.857
   22. (9) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 191.693
   23. (21) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 191.657
   24. (51) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 191.628
   25. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 191.274
   26. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 191.225
   27. (7) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 191.160
   28. (14) Mark Martin, Chevrolet, 191.050
   29. (52) Bobby Labonte, Chevrolet,  190.828
   30. (55) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 190.706
   32. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 190.070
   33. (30) Parker Kligerman, Toyota, 190.018
   34. (95) Michael McDowell, Ford, 189.865
   35. (77) Dave Blaney, Ford, 189.553
   36. (99) Carl Edwards, Ford, 189.482
   37. (40) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 188.399
   38. (93) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 187.986
   39. (32) Reed Sorenson, Ford, 187.727
   40. (87) Joe Nemecheck, Toyota, 185.399

Friday, January 10, 2014

Two things will drive Jeff Burton's work in TV: Enthusiasm and facts

   On Friday at Daytona International Speedway, Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte were asked how their approach will change to races once both move to NBC Sports and the broadcast booth and what they will add the broadcast and how.

   Burton's answer provided an interesting insight into what race fans should expect to hear once the 2015 season gets underway.

   "I think Steve and I both have a passion for this sport. It's something that we've both grown up with doing. It's not something you walk away from. That's the thing, I can't speak for Steve, but I feel like he feels the same way I do. We don't want to walk away from the sport. This is another opportunity in the sport, to bring our enthusiasm to the broadcast and hopefully bring our knowledge," Burton said.

   "Steve has worked with some of the best drivers in our sport. I've driven for some of the best car owners in our sport. I think we bring a unique perspective, as every broadcaster does. But ultimately it's about enthusiasm, excitement and facts, honestly facts. When we're talking, we need to be talking accurately. When we're talking, people are assuming what we're saying is factual, and we've got to make sure it is because I think that's a disservice to our race fans if we don't know what we're talking about. 

   "Bringing truth to it and making sure we do it with enthusiasm and excitement, which I don't think that's going to be a problem, that really to me is what it's about."

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dale Jr.: 'It's a tough deal to go through' losing crew chief Steve Letarte

  Thursday night, Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke with Claire B. Lang of SiriusXM Satellite Radio about the decision of his crew chief, Steve Letarte, to leave the team at the end of the 2014 season and move to the NBC Sports broadcast booth.

   Here are Earnhardt's comments on the situation:

   "It's a tough deal to go through. Steve has really put the team in a difficult situation because we all enjoy working with him so much. It has been rewarding for me personally to work with him and something you'd love to continue to do but he has an opportunity - he's a family man - and he has the opportunity to be with his family more with this position he's been offered at NBC. So, I am happy for him as a person and as a friend to have that opportunity and something that he's excited about and something he wants to try to go do. I've been able to be in the discussion with him about this for several months so it's something I've been able to wrap my brain around. I know a lot of people out there are finding out about this today and it's a bit of a shock.

   "I look at it as an opportunity to work with Steve for another season. I enjoy doing that, so I look at it as an opportunity to work with him one more year before he goes off and does his deal. I feel really, really confident the team can run well all season and he's going to stay dedicated. He's that kind of a guy. He's a professional and we're going to have an opportunity to continue to try to improve on what we've been doing. We'll cross the bridge on who's the next crew chief when we need to. We haven't even had those discussions yet."

Fans will determine the starting lineup for Sprint Unlimited

   For the second year in a row, fans will decide upon a number of competition elements for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, the 75-lap, non-points race that kicks off the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing season on Saturday, Feb. 15.
   Starting today, fans can cast their votes to set the overall format and determine key racing elements. Fans will set the number of laps in each of the three segments, while also voting on how drivers will line up at the start of the race and how they will line up for the restart of the final segment.
   Fans can submit their votes within the official NASCAR app, NASCAR MOBILE, or at
   Voting is unlimited and all votes cast through NASCAR MOBILE will count twice. The voting window for the race format will close on Saturday, February 15 at 6 p.m. ET, while voting for the starting order and final segment restart order will close at various times during the race broadcast.

   Voting Categories:
  • Race Format: Number of laps in each race segment (Voting ends at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 15)
    • Option A: 30 laps/35 laps/10 laps
    • Option B: 30 laps/30 laps/15 laps
    • Option C: 30 laps/25 laps/20 laps
  • Starting Order: How drivers will line up to start the race (Voting ends at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 15)
    • Option A: Most Career Poles (most to least)
    • Option B: 2013 Driver Points Standings
    • Option C: Final Practice Speeds (fastest to slowest times)
  • Restart Order for Final Segment: How drivers will line up for the final segment (Voting ends at the conclusion of the second segment)
    • Option A: Fastest lap in the race (first and second segments both count)
    • Option B: Most laps led (first and second segments both count)
    • Option C: Mandatory pit stop (drivers lineup how they come off pit road)


NASCAR gets a new Sprint Cup Series director

  When the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gets underway this year it will do so with its first new leader in a dozen years.

   NASCAR on Thursday announced Richard Buck as the series' new managing director, replacing John Darby. Darby will remains at NASCAR as managing director of competition. Buck, along with Nationwide series director Wayne Auton and Truck series director, Chad Little, will report to NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton.

   Buck currently serves as vice president of racing operations for the International Motor Sports Association, a role he will maintain through the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona later this month.

   "I'm eager and ready to pursue this unique opportunity to serve as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director," Buck said in a statement. I appreciate the faith that NASCAR's management team has entrusted in me for this role."

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rusty Wallace gets one more NASCAR ride

  Team Penske and Miller Lite announced Wednesday that Rusty Wallace, NASCAR Hall of Famer and the 1989 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, will drive the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion on Thursday during preseason NASCAR testing at Daytona International Speedway.
   The occasion coincides with the 25th anniversary of Wallace’s 1989 championship and the approaching 40th anniversary of the original Miller Lite beerThe Hall of Fame driver and current ESPN analyst will be wearing a firesuit with the original Miller Lite logo during the test. This retro firesuit will also be worn by Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford team crew members at the upcoming Daytona 500 as well. The Miller Lite Ford Fusion will also feature a commemorative white Miller Lite paint scheme for the “Great American Race.”
   “I am pretty pumped up about this,” said Wallace. “This is a big deal, and I can’t wait to get the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford up to speed – especially at Daytona. This will be my first time driving the new Gen-6 car, and I think it will give me a better perspective on how I cover the races for ESPN as an analyst. This is going to be a lot of fun, yet there is also a business component too. I can’t thank Miller Lite, ESPN and Team Penske enough for giving me this opportunity. Man, what a fantastic way to start the year.”
   The last time Wallace piloted the storied No. 2 Penske machine was at the season ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20, 2005.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Statement from BK Racing on departure of driver David Reutimann

  Team released this statement on Monday afternoon:

   "After completing a full season with BK Racing in 2013, the decision has been mutually made to part ways between driver David Reutimann and BK Racing effective immediately. Due to the current uncertainty of the team's 2014 driver lineup, driver David Reutimann has decided not to pursue a seat with BK Racing for 2014. No official driver lineup for the upcoming season is currently available at this time. "

Monday, January 6, 2014

One-on-one with new NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Chase Elliott

   Chase Elliott, the 18-year-old son of former NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, will move fulltime to the Nationwide Series in 2014, driving the No. 9 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports and sponsored by longtime NASCAR sponsor NAPA Auto Parts.

   The Observer spoke with Chase on Monday morning about his new move, the prospects of racing against Sprint Cup Series drivers and his new sponsor, among other topics.

   Q: Are you excited to go full-time NNS racing?
   Elliott: Absolutely. Couldn’t be more excited about it.  For me, it’s really the opportunity of a lifetime.  Again, this is my chance to do what I love to do and to race and to make the most of it.  This is my opportunity to race for a long time.  This is a chance that I’m going to try to make the very most of.  This is a big step for me, but at the same time I feel like as a person and personally and as a driver as well, I feel that it’s definitely doable for me.  I feel like I can get the job done.  It’s going to take a lot of hard work.  I don’t feel like at this point right now, I don’t have a lot of experience.  It’s not going to be easy.  Starting off it’s definitely going to be tough and hopefully get some races under our belt and try to get some experience quick and get in these cars as much as possible.  I think if we can do that and if I can get things figured out that need to be done then we can do things together as a group like they should be and all do our jobs to the best of our ability then I think we can have success here.

   Q: Will this be the first time you have run a full season for a championship?
   Elliott: I’ve run for a couple track championships.  A Gulfco championship down around the Gulf coast -- Mobile, Pensacola area.  Other than that, this will be the first one.  Going to be really cool.  This will be the longest whole season for one championship that I’ve ever done.  This is going to be a really different experience for me because of travel with the series and just focus on the series and just doing this one thing, this is going to be cool.  It’s going to be something different, but I’m ready for it.

   Q: Do you welcome the chance to race against Sprint Cup Series drivers in Nationwide?
   Elliott: One hundred and fifteen percent!  I’ve said this all along, any time I have a chance to race against Kyle Busch whether it be in a Late Model or whatever when he comes to run those races, I welcome him and I want him to be there.  I want to have an opportunity to out run those guys and I feel like when those guys run those races, you’re racing with the best of the best and there are a lot of Nationwide guys that have just as much experience and just as much success as they do now, but to have those guys obviously come out of the Cup Series and come run those races has a lot more emphasis on it and I welcome them.  I’d love to race against them every single weekend if I could and I feel like a lot of them will be doing that so I’m looking forward to that side as well.

   Q: How have you approached each step of your career?
   Elliott: It’s easy to get ahead of yourself.  I can say that and I’ve caught myself doing that in the past and really a couple years ago I caught myself doing that really, really bad and saying that stuff is really going good and I want to be here a few years and then I need to go do that.  That’s not the way at all to go about this and to go about racing in general.  I feel like I’ve looked past that a lot and you really have to focus on what you have going on right now.  There’s absolutely no guarantees on what the future holds.  One thing that I do guarantee is that I have to get the job done regardless of what’s going on.  I have to go out there and do the best that I can and contend for wins.  At the end of the day I have to get the job done to move forward and I’m going to try to do just that this year.

   Q: Is it a big benefit to get an established team and crew?
   Elliott: I think so, as far as the team side goes there’s going to be a few changes around on people and what not, but to have Greg I think is going to be a big help to me.  Just his experience.  He’s been on the box at Cup races with Jimmie and Chad and to have that experience and that knowledge and from last year he worked with Regan all year long and to understand the Nationwide Series and understand what it takes to win races -- they obviously did that a couple times last year and to have his knowledge and experience and for him to come help a guy who has no knowledge and no experience in these cars is going to be a big help.  Again, don’t really have very much knowledge about these race cars and it’s going to be a big learning curve for me to try to figure that out and figure out what they want and what they don’t want.  Having Greg’s knowledge and not only just his knowledge and experience, but fresh knowledge and fresh experience and things that he went through last year and things that I’m going through this year and him coming fresh off that is going to be a big help to me.

   Q: How did the number 9 come about?
   Elliott: It was never asked.  Me wanting to be number 9 and has always been assumed and has always been the correct assumption.  I’ve always wanted to be it and the only time I haven’t been number 9 is whenever I can’t be or it’s taken.  Ran some races in the 94 last year and that is also a meaningful number to the Elliott family, but to have the 9 and for me a throwback to the 80s when my dad was having a lot of success in the Coors car and what not, that was a little before my time, but my memories come from the Evernham days and that was kind of where I gained my love for the number 9.  It’s always the number I try to get and fortunately it worked out to get it this year since nobody had it and it’s kind of the next number with 5, 7, 9 so that kind of worked out, too.

   Q: Was NAPA a perfect fit since they are based in Atlanta?
   Elliott: It really is and to have that personal connection with the guys at NAPA is really neat.  Their headquarters and offices are only about 30 minutes from my house, which is another really cool thing.  Just have a lot in common with those guys.  Being from Atlanta, obviously I feel like another cool thing is that Mr. Reardon, the main guy over there, we’ve talked to him a lot to kind of get things going and I feel like those guys and myself, I’m as big of a fan of racing as whenever I’m a part of it too.  I’m a bigger fan more than anything and I think those guys are as well and they respect that side too and to have that relationship and that connection is going to be really neat.  Obviously, being from the same area makes it even better.

   Q: What are you most looking forward to this season?
   Elliott: Getting started for sure, just getting started.  Obviously, there’s been a lot of talk and today finally the announcement and just getting through today and I’m really excited about today, but at the same time this is just the beginning of the year and the real thing starts here in February in just a few weeks.  I’m anxiously awaiting getting down to Daytona and getting the season started off and hopefully started off on the right foot.  It’s going to be a difficult process I think for me to learn and get to where I need to be in these cars and I’m looking forward to that side as well.  You’re going to have good days and bad days and you have to learn and move forward and I’m looking forward to just getting started and seeing where things go.

   Q: What is the most important advice you have picked up?
   Elliott: Fortunately for me I’ve been surrounded by some awesome people.  I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Mr. Hendrick and his support and his belief in me to give me all these opportunities that he’s done for me, couldn’t be any more thankful for that.  To have the people around me that I’ve had, whether it be Mr. Hendrick or my dad or Dale or all these great people that have had so much great success in this sport, I don’t feel like there is really one thing that I could narrow down.  I’ve obviously gotten some great advice over the years and especially looking forward to this year.  Moving into this year I’ve gotten a lot of advice and I feel like as the year rolls along whether it may be on the race track or off the race track, the knowledge from those guys is really going to benefit more than anything.

   Q: Will there be pressure to win the NNS most popular driver award working with Dale Earnhardt Jr.?
   Elliott: I know that’s always been an Elliott and Earnhardt deal winning the most popular driver.  Between my dad and him, they pretty much dominated that award.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to give him a run for the money one day.