Sunday, March 30, 2014

Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch give their take on pit road incident

During the second caution of Sunday's STP 500, Brad Keselowski got hit on pit road by Kurt Busch in an incident that also included Kasey Kahne. After repairs were made to his car, Keselowski returned to the track and rubbed on Busch's car several times. Both talked after the race about the incident:


WHAT HAPPENED WITH KURT OUT THERE? “The replay shows it. We jumbled up on pit road and he just drove right through me and ruined our day. We probably had a race-winning car and it doesn’t matter. That’s the way it goes.” 

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT HIM WINNING? “That’s just racing. You can’t get caught up in that stuff. It doesn’t make you happy, but it’s just racing.” 

DID YOU TRY TO GO AFTER HIM? “I’m good with that.” 

YOU HAD AN ISSUE AT KENTUCKY WITH HIM WASN’T IT? “Yeah, the same thing. He wrecked me for no reason 15-30 laps in, whatever, early in the race just being overaggressive. Aggressive is good, but lap 50 wrecking somebody, if you’re gonna be aggressive wreck yourself don’t wreck me. I’ll remember that when it’s lap 50 and he needs a break and he’ll find his ass turned around in the wall just like he tore my car up. That stuff will come around. Once or twice when it happens you go, ‘Oh, it happens,’ but when it happens repeatedly then you just realize who the person is that’s at fault and you just have to make sure that you show them you’re not gonna take that, and I’m not gonna take that. I know this 2 team is not gonna take it. We had a race-winning car today, instead we finished thirty-whatever with the whole front end tore off of it. That’s inexcusable and I’m not gonna put up with that.”

YOU HAD A LOT OF RESPECT FOR HIM WHEN YOU WERE TEAMMATES. “I still do. He does awesome things for charity and he’s probably the most talented race car driver, but he’s also one of the dumbest, so put those three together.” 

HE SAID HE WANTED TO REARRANGE YOUR FACE. “Tell him come here. I’m right here. He knows where I’m at. Leave victory lane and we’ll go.”


AS FAR AS WHAT HAPPENED ON PIT ROAD WITH KESELOWSKI, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AND WERE YOU SURPRISED THAT HE WAS UPSET? "Yeah, I can't believe he overreacted and he's as upset as he is. The 5 car was trying to pull into his box, Brad ran into the back of him, I steered right to go around Brad and then he clobbers our left‑side door, and it's like, okay, accidents happen on pit road. It's congested. It's not a place to race, because of all the pit crew guys down there and I didn't think much of it, and then once we were back out running, he targeted us, he was aiming for us. He tried to flatten all four of my tires. That's a no‑fly zone. That's a punk‑ass move and he will get what he gets back when I decide to give it back."

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Martinsville NASCAR Truck race postponed until Sunday

   Saturday's NASCAR Truck Series race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway was postponed by persistent rain showers and has been rescheduled for approximately 5:30 p.m. ET Sunday (Fox Sports 1) - to be run immediately after the conclusion of the Sprint Cup Series race.

   Qualifying for the Truck race was also rained out. Darrell Wallace Jr. will start from the pole as he was fastest in practice on Friday.

Friday, March 28, 2014

New Hampshire Motor Speedway seeking to add night racing

   Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of New Hampshire Motor Speedway, hinted in on Tweet on Thursday that his track could have a night Sprint Cup Series race in the 2015 season.

   The 1-mile paved oval located in Loudon, N.H., currently hosts races in July and September and both are held on Sunday afternoon.

   The Observer on Friday asked for comment on the potential of night racing at New Hampshire and the following statement was provided attributed to Gappens:

   “Night racing requires an agreement from a number of stakeholders, and if we do it, we want to do it right and with community support. A recent survey shows Loudon residents support lights, and it has been the top request from our fans for years," Gappens said.
   “The first step is to get approval from NASCAR and NBC. We started dialogue in September and I am awaiting an answer. We are hopeful, with the collective work of everyone involved, that the future of New Hampshire Motor Speedway will indeed be bright."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Former NASCAR driver Shawna Robinson diagnosed with breast cancer

    Former NASCAR driver Shawna Robinson, the first woman to win a pole in what is now the Nationwide Series, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

   Robinson, who now works in interior design and is creator and owner of Happy Chair which restores old chairs, announced on her Facebook page this week that she would begin five to six months of chemotherapy and then require surgery.

   Here is her entire post:

   "I'm getting ready to start a new journey that was unexpected but I am prepared to take it on as I would any challenge ..with direction and strength. I have breast cancer…when they tell you you have cancer you don't hear the rest you just see talking and you seem to be there but your not hearing the words. But it is real, start Chemo next week for 5-6 months then surgery….there is such progress in cancer treatment..…still scared but prepared for battle. Thankful for the family and friends….I'm blessed to have….ready to go wide open and get this thing!!!"

   Robinson won three races in the now defunct NASCAR Goody's Dash Series and has completed in NASCAR's three national series - Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Trucks. Her best Cup series finish was 24th in the 2002 Daytona 500.

NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin cleared to race Sunday

   From team press release:

   Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Denny Hamlin will race this weekend at Martinsville Speedway after NASCAR received official confirmation from his doctors that he has been medically cleared to return to regular racing activities.
   Hamlin first visited the infield care center at Auto Club Speedway Saturday night bothered with an irritation in his eye. He returned to the infield care center again on Sunday morning because his condition had worsened. It was at this time that it was determined by the medical team ons ite that he would not be allowed to race due to a sinus infection that was impacting his vision. The doctors at the infield care center referred him to the local hospital for further evaluation.  
   During the evaluation at the hospital a small piece of metal was also found to be in Hamlin’s eye. Doctors were able to remove the sliver of metal and Hamlin felt immediate improvement to his condition. A CT Scan did not find any other complications and thus it is believed that the metal was actually the source of Hamlin’s vision issues. He was released from the hospital Sunday afternoon and was given the doctor’s approval to fly home.
   Hamlin was then evaluated by a doctor in the Charlotte area on Monday and was sent home to rest. He was instructed to return Wednesday for a follow-up examination.  Following today’s examination, his doctors provided the necessary approval for Hamlin to resume all racing activity without restriction. NASCAR has received official confirmation from his doctors clearing him to resume racing this weekend at Martinsville Speedway.
   Hamlin is scheduled to meet with the press in the media room of Martinsville Speedway this Friday at 2 PM ET.

Matt and Katie Kenseth welcome the arrival of their third daughter

   Joe Gibbs Racing press release:
   HUNTERSVILLE, NC (March 26, 2014) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver of the No. 20 Toyota, Matt Kenseth, and his wife Katie welcomed a new bundle of joy Tuesday evening with the birth of the couple's third daughter. 
   Clara Mae Kenseth was born March 25 at 7:39 p.m. EST weighing in at eight pounds and five ounces. Both mother and daughter are doing well as the family enjoys the latest addition who joins the couple’s other daughters Kaylin and Grace, along with their son Ross. 
   Kenseth will be able to spend a few days at home with his brand new baby girl before traveling to nearby Martinsville, Virginia for this weekend's STP 500 Sprint Cup Series event at the Martinsville Speedway.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lynda Petty, wife of Richard Petty, died on Tuesday

Richard Petty Motorsports press release:

March 6, 1942 - March 25, 2014

Lynda Gayle Owens Petty, 72, one of the first women of NASCAR and its most beloved wife, mother and friend, passed away peacefully at her home in Level Cross, North Carolina today. She was surrounded by her family.

Affectionately known as "Mrs. Lynda" to so many, Lynda Petty set a standard for being a loving, supportive and, when needed, an authoritative wife and mother. She also set the benchmark for being a leader in her local community while raising a family in the fast-growing sport of stock car racing.

It was with strong will that Petty fought cancer over the past several years. It was the same determination that led her to make a difference as a Red Cross volunteer, a school volunteer, the president of the athletic booster club and a Girl and Boy Scout leader in her lifetime. She also served on the Randolph County School Board for 16 years and was on the board of the Randolph County Hospice.

 Lynda helped start the Racing Wives Auxiliary and will always be remembered as the wife to Richard Petty. Their steadfast love endured trials that only a marriage of over 50 years can. Through triumph and heartache, Lynda Petty was the castle that supported a king in private and public moments.  

 Lynda is proceeded by grandson Adam K. Petty and is survived by her loving husband Richard; son, Kyle and daughters Sharon and husband Terry Farlow; Lisa and husband Charlie Luck; Rebecca and husband Brian Moffitt. In addition, she is survived by grandchildren Austin Petty and wife Sarah; Hannah and husband Brad Leonard; Montgomery and husband Randy Schlappi; Maggie and Kyle Farlow; Richard, Sarah and Margaret Luck; Helen, Thad and Harrison Moffitt, and great grandchildren Sullivan Mae Schlappi and Adam Christopher Stonewall Petty.    

 A private memorial service for family and friends will be held at Reverie Place in Randleman, North Carolina which Pastor Kenny Crosswhite will officiate. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following:

Petty Family Foundation
311 Branson Mill Road
Randleman, N.C. 27317

A public memorial service will not be held and the family asks for privacy at this time.

The family offered the following statement to the public:
"We wish to sincerely thank everyone who has supported us and our family throughout the years and at this time. We will forever love and miss a wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The bumpy California road of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

   Most Sprint Cup Series teams had no tire problems in Sunday's Auto Club 400, including race winner Kyle Busch. Several did - and there seemed just as many explanations for the issues as there were teams that experienced problems.

   The aging pavement at the 2-mile track has been credited for helping to produce an exciting style of racing in recent seasons, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes the root of tire problem may not rest with teams or Goodyear, but instead of some sizable bumps on the track.
   After Sunday's race, Earnhardt spoke at length about what he perceives as an issue with the California track.
   "To be honest with you, the back straightaway is very rough and I think the tire can’t handle the load that it goes through on that back straightaway. And it’s just tearing the tire up where the sidewall and tread are put together. There ain’t another race track on the circuit besides Kentucky that has bumps like that. They’re incredible huge, huge bumps. And I think that plays a big role in it because the tire must see astronomical loads through that section of the race track that it never sees any other time at any other circuit," he said.
   "So, I don’t think it’s good to cycle a tire through bumps like that. I think that’s why the tire comes apart. I think that’s why a left rear here and a left front there and it’s not air pressure and things like that. We’re moving air pressure around and it ain’t saving the tire. There’s bumps on the back straightaway that get worse and worse. They don’t need to pave the race track. Just pave the back straightaway. Not very cheap, but I’ll bet you won’t have any tire problems anymore.”
   Earnhardt was asked if the tire issue some teams experienced was a result of the cars coming off or running over the bumps on the track.
   “They show it in slow motion during practice all the time. Like the Nationwide guys, they were just banging through there and the cars are moving six to 10 inches in travel; and that’s ridiculous. We run these cars and work within sixteenths of an inch getting them around the race tracks. And for it to be going through that much movement, that many times through the back straightaway can’t be good for the tire. You’re just taking the tire and it’s like taking a piece of aluminum and just keep twisting it back and forth and it’s going to break in half," Earnhardt said.
   “The bumps are getting worse and worse and are too bad now. I don’t think it’s low air pressure. That doesn’t help when you get down too low. I imagine that Goodyear is going to look into that. But I’m telling you, the bumps back there and unlike any other thing we see. If they don’t tear the tire up, I don’t care that it’s bumpy. You just go through them and fix the track whenever you feel like fixing it. But, if it’s tearing the tires up and if that’s why, we need to look into it. Us, as a team, the team’s got to fix it all the time. It might be something fundamental like bumps on the race track there. They’re really bad on the back straightaway.
   “I feel bad for Goodyear. I think the tire is fine. I like the tire. It’s just those bumps. If you watch the cars go through there in slow motion, it shouldn’t be like that. And grinding them, they tried to grind them and they’re huge. You’d have to grind into the ground into the dirt to get those damn things to move."

Denny Hamlin to miss Sunday's race at Fontana

   It's become an unwelcome yearly visit to a California hospital.

   Less than 30 minutes before the start of Sunday Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sprint Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin was being transported to a local hospital for vision problems related to a sinus infection.

   Hamlin will miss Sunday's race. Sam Hornish Jr., who runs a partial Nationwide Series schedule for Joe Gibbs Racing, will drive Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota in Sunday's race.

   One year ago, Hamlin was transported to a local hospital following the race after suffering a serious back injury in a last-lap wreck with Joey Logano.

Three observations heading into Sunday's NASCAR race at Fontana


   • Four different winners in as many races in the Sprint Cup series this season has suddenly added fuel to the idea there well could be 16 or more different winners in the first 26 races of the season, somehow diluting the idea a win all-but guarantees a berth in the Chase. Well, when was the last time this phenomenon happened? Uh, last season, when the year began with five different winners in the first five races. By race No. 26, there were still only 13 different winners. Rest easy, folks. Win and you’re in.

   • In four races so far this season, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has one top-five and two top-10 finishes, including a career-best second last weekend at Bristol, Tenn. In all of last season – his rookie year in Cup – Stenhouse had one top-five and three top-10s. Clearly, he is a good example of a driver making progress the more time he spends on the track.

   • Something I don’t quite understand: Each time Fox broadcasts knockout qualifying sessions it typically ends up about 12-15 minutes behind live action simply because it insists on showing every minute of on-track action in each round. Yet on race day – which is far more relevant than qualifying – the network has no problem breaking away from live action in the race in order to run commercial breaks. What gives?

Read more here:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tire problem at Bristol not "our fault," Jimmie Johnson says

   Jimmie Johnson’s chance at a victory or good finish in last weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol, Tenn., was cut short after his left-front tire shred and came apart midway early in the event, putting him several laps down.
   Goodyear officials said at the time the car setup contributed to the problem. Johnson discussed the issue Friday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
   Q: Last week, (crew chief) Chad Knaus made the comment on the radio, something like 'I suppose that is our fault, too.' What was that about?
   Johnson: “Definitely frustrated and then if you look at how things transpired from there when Goodyear had a chance to respond it was our fault. That is what Chad was preparing us for. That of course it was going to be our fault. I went in the truck and sat down and talked with (Goodyear's) Rick Campbell and I get along with Rick great and we had a great conversation about the wear on the tire and what potentially could have happened. From a team standpoint we are still very adamant that the wear on the tire was not the issue. A lot of guys had left-front wear and issues with the left-front and some stuff going on there. We are very confident, and the tire was still intact. Just a half inch strip came unwound from the inside corner of the tire and it was some 60 feet long. We laid it out from the front of the truck all the way to the back of the trailer. We could see every wear hole on it. It wasn’t worn out. That is all Chad was kind of referencing is that it would be our fault in the end and it was blamed as our fault.”
   Q: Did you get any answers that made you feel better about it from Goodyear?
   Johnson: “At that point there is not a lot that you can do. We just try to learn from it and try to give them the tire and all the information we can so they can make a better product. They tested there in October or something last year and the temperatures were far different. It became apparent to everybody early in practice that the temps weren’t the same and the tire wasn’t acting the same. It’s not an easy job that they have, but I think we can come back with a little better tire there.”

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Miss Sprint Cup, Brooke Werner, resigning for 'personal reasons'

   Miss Sprint Cup Brooke Werner posted the following message on her Facebook page announcing she was resigning from the Miss Sprint Cup program for 'personal reasons':

   Here was the message:

   "Hey fans, difficult decisions are always tough to communicate to people you love so much…like you guys. I recently made the hard decision to resign as Miss Sprint Cup for personal reasons (all good!) and hang up my firesuit. It's been one of the greatest times of my life and I have you all to thank for that. I'll miss you all very much but I know that you'll all be excited to meet the new Miss Sprint Cup soon! " -BW

   Werner is one of three women who serve as Miss Sprint Cup throughout the NASCAR season. Kim Coon and Madison Martin are the others. This is Werner's second season in the program.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Three observations from Sunday night's race at Bristol

   Three observations from Sunday's race:

   - Long after Sunday night’s race was over, NASCAR’s vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton, provided a thorough, clear explanation of why caution lights inexplicably came on with two of 500 laps remaining. Unfortunately, Pemberton’s explanation wasn’t the only one offered by NASCAR after the race. Even if the original explanation – a mechanical malfunction – was honestly thought to be the correct one at the time, NASCAR should never issue statements or explanations until it is certain it has the right one. The best of intentions can easily be overshadowed by a mistaken perception of a cover-up, or even worse, incompetence.

   - If there is one sport whose fans should always be wary to assume a particular outcome, it’s NASCAR. How many of the sport’s most famous race finishes came about because something unexpected happened on the final lap of a very long race? Dozens. It is silly to suggest ‘the right driver’ won Sunday night’s race simply because it was the same driver leading before the caution miscue. We know who won because of a mistaken caution and subsequent downpour. We have no idea who would have won had the race remained under green.

   - On the surface, both Jimmie Johnson (19th) and Joey Logano (20th) had average finishes in Sunday night’s race. It would have been interesting to see how the outcome may have changed if both had not suffered issues during the race – Johnson with a shredded tire and Logano with broken power steering. Both were very fast early in the race.

Rain delays are interrupting Sunday's NASCAR race at Bristol

   Periodic rain in northeastern Tennessee is playing havoc with Sunday's Food City 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

   The start of the race was delayed by nearly two hours before it was halted on Lap 125 of 500 by rain once again. Matt Kenseth was leading the race.

   Rain is forecast into the evening. At least 250 laps have to be completed for the race to be counted as official. If not, the remainder of the race will be completed on Monday.

   You can check out the National Weather Service's forecast here.



Saturday, March 15, 2014

What Carl Edwards found scary at Las Vegas last weekend

   Roush Fenway Racing as an organization struggled a lot last season on 1.5-mile intermediate tracks and worked hard in the offseason to help improve their race package. 

   Sprint Cup Series driver Carl Edwards said when the organization again struggled on a 1.5-mile track last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he found the situation very "scary."

   "We did struggle in the Chase and we struggled at the mile-and-a-halves at the end of the year last year," Edwards said. "We basically changed everything and worked really hard, and that’s what was so scary about struggling at Vegas because it was like, ‘Hey, this is the problem we’ve been addressing.’ 

   "Now, once we went back and looked at the race and thought about it a little bit, towards the end of the race on that last restart I had the fastest car on the track for eight or 10 laps. We just kind of lost the balance there and I think we need to understand that, so there’s a big glimmer of hope and some evidence that we can do it, we just have to understand a couple of things the car is doing a little bit better."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Dale Junior and Kyle Busch can reach NASCAR milestones this weekend

   BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are on the verge of reaching a pair of significant NASCAR milestones this weekend.

   If he can lead at least 140 laps in Sunday’s Food City 500 – something he’s done four times previously – Busch will become the 15th driver in Sprint Cup Series history to cross the 10,000 laps led threshold for his career.

   “There’s a lot of things that I want to accomplish still that I haven’t,” said Busch, who has five Cup series victories at Bristol Motor Speedway. Whatever things come along the way that we’re able to accomplish is awesome – it’s fun.

   “It means you are a namesake in the sport and that hopefully things continue to go down that path.”

   Earnhardt can join an even more exclusive club on Sunday should he finish first or second. Only one other driver in Cup history – Richard Petty – has finished second or higher in the first four races of the season (He did so in 1974). Earnhardt has finished first, second and second in the first three races.
   “Anytime you’ve done anything that Richard has done and you put yourself in the conversation with him to do with any statistic, it’s a pretty awesome accomplishment,” Earnhardt said. “He’s such a fixture in the sport still today.”

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

NASCAR penalizes three Nationwide Series teams

   Three Nationwide Series teams were penalized on Wednesday for rules violations stemming from last weekend’s race at Las Vegas.

   Chris Gayle, crew chief for the No. 11 Toyota driven by Elliott Sadler, was fined $10,000 and he and car chief Todd Brewer were placed on probation until Dec. 31 for having weight attached in an unapproved location.

   Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet driven by Chase Elliott, was placed on probation until Dec. 31 after the front of the car was found to be too low. Jeremy Bullins, crew chief for race winner Brad Keselowski, was fined $5,000 and placed on probation until Dec. 31 for having a shock absorber that exceeded maximum pressure.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Tony Stewart: "I just want to be 100 percent"

   Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is three races into his return from a serious leg injury suffered in a sprint car race last summer. While Stewart has been cleared to driver by doctors he has repeatedly said his leg is not near 100 percent.
   To add insult to injury, so to speak, Stewart is off to a tough start to the season. He has two finishes of 33rd or worse and best finish of 16th at Phoenix.
   Sunday's race is at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, one of the most physically demanding in the series. Stewart was asked if he had any fear in returning to racing and his thoughts heading into this weekend's race.
   Here is his complete answer:
   “The fear was not getting back out. Being out of my Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy is what bothered me more than anything. I’ve had injuries before. I’ve had broken hands and raced dirt cars and stock cars. I’ve had broken bones that weren’t healed 100 percent and still went out and did what we needed to do. This was just a bigger setback. This was one that I didn’t have a choice of being in the car and fighting through it. This was one where the ante was up a little bit," he said.
   “Honestly, there hasn’t been one day or night where I’ve sat and questioned whether it’s what I wanted to do or whether it was something I could do. It was just, when can we do it? I just want to be 100 percent, and we’re pushing toward that. The passion and desire I have for the sport, that’s never wavered, and that’s what gets you through some of this stuff. 
   “People that want to compete, want to compete. They fight through injuries, they persevere, they work hard to get back where they want to be, and this is no different. There’s nothing about this process that has taken away my desire to do what I want to do. You don’t live for what could happen, you live for what you can make happen.”


NASCAR bans cool down laps in knock out qualifying

   Daytona Beach, Fla. (Mar. 11, 2014) — NASCAR notified its teams this afternoon that effective immediately the following modifications apply to all elements of its national series qualifying including the breaks: 
   - One cool down unit connected through either the left side or right side hood flap/cowl flap is allowed to cool the engine
   - The hood must continue to remain closed
   - Plugging in the generator will not be allowed
   - Two crew members will be allowed over the wall to support the car and driver
   - No cool down laps will be permitted

   NASCAR instituted a new group qualifying format for its three national series in January and has continued to evaluate the process through the first three races of the season. The new format has been well-received by fans, competitors, race tracks and other key stakeholders. NASCAR believes that the modifications announced today should help make the qualifying even better and more compelling.

   “The qualifying is new to all of us and as we have said over the past several weeks, we are looking at it from all aspects,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition and racing development. “Following discussions, both internally and with others in the garage area, we moved quickly to make a few revisions that will be effective starting with our two national series events at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. We believe this will only enhance and improve what has demonstrated to be an exciting form of qualifying for our fans, competitors and others involved with the sport. Moving forward we will continue to look at it and address anything else that we may need to as the season unfolds.”

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Three observations from Sunday's NASCAR race at Las Vegas

   Three observations from Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400:

   - There have been several doubters of whether NASCAR’s new Chase format would live up to its promises. Three races into the 2014 season, it’s safe to say it’s already delivered. The is no way Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s team elects to roll the dice on fuel three races into the season to gain a second win if he wasn’t already virtually ensured a spot in the Chase. He and his crew chief, Steve Letarte, confirmed that after the race. And the downside – which really isn’t one – is there are already three very talented drivers known who will battle for the title – Brad Keselowski, Earnhardt and Kevin Harvick.

   - For much of the weekend, it appeared Danica Patrick may be primed for one of her better NASCAR performances. She was fast in practice on Friday and did well in qualifying. She was also good in Saturday’s first practice session. In Saturday’s final practice, however, she seemed to fall off and in Sunday’s race she quickly fell back in the field. But it wasn’t all bad, by the end of the race Patrick finished 21st, one lap down, but she was the highest finisher of all four Stewart-Haas Racing drivers.

   - No idea if it’s a sign of things to come but fans certainly turned out in much larger numbers this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway than a year ago. The tone was set on Friday which saw one of the largest qualifying crowds in several years for any NASCAR track. It’s much too early to tell if NASCAR changes this season are the reason, but it’s safe to say they haven’t hurt.

Chip Ganassi Racing adds Dylan Kwasniewski as development driver

   Two-time NASCAR K&N Pro series champion and current Nationwide series driver Dylan Kwasniewski has joined Chip Ganassi Racing as a development driver.
   Kwasniewski, 18, will continue to compete in Nationwide with Turner Scott Motorsports but team owner Chip Ganassi hopes to move the 18-year-old Las Vegas native to the Sprint Cup series in two to three years.

   “This young man has impressed us from the moment we saw him,” Ganassi said. His poise, skill and determination on the race track are remarkable for someone so young.”

   Kwasniewski called the move "a dream come true."

   "I have wanted to do nothing but race for as long as I can remember," he said. "I look forward to being part of Chip's organization and will hopefully be a key contributor to its future success."

Saturday, March 8, 2014

NASCAR will evaluate new qualifying process and make changes if necessary

   NASCAR officials will continue to monitor and evaluate its new knock out qualifying procedures, which have drawn almost universal praise by competitors and fans but have also raised some potential safety concerns.

   During Friday’s Cup series session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, there were some close calls on the track with cars running at full speed to post fast laps nearly missing cars running off the pace while attempting to cool their engines between runs.

   Driver Brian Vickers, who won the first of three rounds, called the session “the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done in a race car.”

  Friday’s session was just the first on a superspeedway and first using the three-round format.

   “As we discussed with the teams in the offseason, we expected to use the first few weeks of the season to get a good snapshot of how things went and how things played out on various size race tracks,” said NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp. “We’re still in that process.

   “However, the new format has been deemed a success almost universally by the competitors, promoters and fans and that is a very positive development for the sport. We’re getting great feedback and ideas from the garage and if we can tweak it to make it even better moving forward we will.”

   Teams have the ability to address the problem now, if they elected to remove tape from their front grille areas. But unless every team decided to do so, some teams would have an advantage over others.

   When NASCAR first announced the new qualifying procedures it was not going to allow teams to make any changes to the cars during the sessions. It was only upon receiving feedback from teams NASCAR elected to allow some changes to be made.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Who does Dale Junior think is NASCAR's next Chad Knaus?

   Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson's six Sprint Cup Series championships, is not going anywhere soon, but Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., has an idea of who the next brightest crew chief mind in the sport may belong to.

   That's Rodney Childers, new crew chief for driver Kevin Harvick, who won last weekend's race at Phoenix.

   “I think that people perceive him as maybe the next Chad Knaus. He has got a lot of respect from his peers because people really realize his potential and his talent. He has got a great opportunity to showcase that," Earnhardt said of Childers. "I think that obviously Jimmie (Johnson) is going to be one of the guys as a favorite early in the championship. But I think that (Kevin) Harvick has been consistently in the top five in points year after year. 

   "I believe that he is really in a program where he can shine with the opportunity with Rodney to excel even more. They will be extremely challenging. I think that the Phoenix race was just a sign of more to come. When we went to test at Charlotte his car was by far superior to everyone else there. I was like ‘man everybody better watch out, everybody better wake up because this is going to be a strong team.’ They are going to be tough and deservedly so. I think Rodney has already had some good success, but this is a great opportunity for him to really showcase his talent. I think he’s got a ton of it.”