Monday, June 30, 2014

Want to drive your car around Talladega Superspeedway?

   Race fans will have the opportunity on Saturday, July 26, to drive their own personal car around the high banks of Talladega Superspeedway during the track's “Fan Track Drive,” a fundraising event for the American Red Cross. 

   The “Fan Track Drive” event will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. ET and guests can drive their passenger vehicle two laps around the Talladega Superspeedway for a $50 contribution. Each vehicle will closely follow one of the speedway's emergency services vehicles, which will lead the field at highway speed. 

   Currently, there are no other fan “drive” events planned for the remainder of 2014 at Talladega. 

   In addition to the “drive,” guests can take a high-speed ride around Talladega in one of the speedway’s official pace cars – the Ford Mustang or the Chevrolet Camaro – at a cost of $100. All money for rides will be directly donated to the American Red Cross Talladega-St Clair Chapter. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Brad Keselowski won the race ... and ended up in the care center

   Brad Keselowski dominated and won Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway but not long into his Victory Lane celebration he was on his way to the infield care center.

   While shaking a champagne bottle in Victory Lane, the bottle broke and Keselowski received a nasty cut on his right hand which required four stitches to close. After a change of driver's suit, Keselowski returned to Victory Lane to complete his media obligations.

   “We were playing around with some champagne bottles and as I told my good friend, ‘We should have stuck with beer.’  We were having too much fun with champagne and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open.  It’s no big deal," he said.

   Keselowski was reminded that earlier in the week he spoke about how everything was an adventure with him.

   "Yeah, welcome to the party," he said. "It’s all good. I’m just glad we won. It’s a lot better story when you win and get hurt.”

Brad Keselowski cut his hand on a champagne bottle while celebrating Saturday.
(Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Jeff Gordon: 'We don't need 43 cars out there to put on a great race.'

   Add Jeff Gordon to those who don't see a short field in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway as a bad sign for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series.

   “We don’t need 43 cars out there to put on a great race," Gordon said Friday at Kentucky Speedway. "I’m not really that focused on it. There is no doubt that times have changed with how much the cost has gone up. How much we are asking out of our sponsors and some of the crowds have gone down.  

   "We are searching hard to find the income to match what the cost is. That is about the only thing that anybody should make of anything that is going on out there. Whether there are 35 cars or 45 cars to me that doesn’t really make a big difference.”

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Two major sponsors re-up with NASCAR teams

   Two major sponsors for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams are extending their sponsorship deals this week.

   On Thursday, Caterpillar Inc. announced it had agreed to a multi-year contract extension with Richard Childress Racing to sponsor its No. 31 Chevrolet team and driver Ryan Newman. The partnership between RCR and Caterpillar began in 2009. Newman took over the driving duties for the team this season.

   "Cat dealers have been building relationships with customers at NASCAR events for more than 20 years.This contract renewal reaffirms our confidence in Richard Childress Racing and their commitment to excellence," said Pablo Koziner, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for the Americas Distribution Services Division.

   On Saturday, Joe Gibbs Racing is expected to announce a contract extension with Dollar General, which sponsors the No. 20 Toyota team and driver Matt Kenseth. Sources said Dollar General has also agreed to a multi-year extension and will be expanding its sponsorship with the Cup team.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Global Rallycross returns next month to The Dirt Track at Charlotte

Global Rallycross racing - featuring 600-horsepower, all-wheel drive turbocharged compact cars - will return to The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway July 25-26. The series made its debut on the dirt track last season after running on a course on the speedway's infield 1/4-mile oval in 2012.

 "It's awesome to have Global Rallycross back for a third consecutive year," said speedway president Marcus Smith. "These guys put on an unbelievable show and the fans enjoyed every second of it."

Expected to enter the event is defending Charlotte champion and X Games gold medalist, Scott Speed, a former NASCAR and Formula One driver. Also entered is 2014 X Games gold medalist Mitchell DeJong.

Qualifying is Friday, July 25. On-track action begins on Saturday, July 26 at 11 a.m. Gates open at 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday. The main event on Saturday will be broadcast live on NBC at 2 p.m. ET.

Friday, June 20, 2014

High speeds contribute to Tony Stewart's Indy tire test accident

   Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, said driver Tony Stewart was running speeds as much as a second faster than norm when he blew a tire during a test earlier this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

   “Like a lot of race tracks we’ve been to this year with this new car package, it appears the race pace can be significantly faster than it’s been in the past,” he said.

   “It appears that increased, sustained speed over that run generated a significant amount of heat, which eventually caused the right-front to go down (on Stewart’s car). Those are the condition we have to consider in making the right decisions for the race.”

   Asked Friday afternoon about the cause of his accident, Stewart said he wasn't sure. "I’ve asked them what the cause of it was, but that’s part of tire testing," he said. "That’s why you go to the test. I’m sure they’ll learn something from it and go on.” 

   Goodyear will continue to talk to the Indianapolis test teams and review the data from the session to come up with its final recommendation in the next week. Goodyear also has tire tests planned at Richmond, Va. (July 8-9) and Homestead, Fla. (Aug. 26).

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Helton: Idea limiting Cup drivers in other NASCAR series 'doesn't go very far'

  NASCAR President Mike Helton sat down with "NASCAR Race Hub" co-host Danielle Trotta on Wednesday on Fox Sports 1 for the first of a two-part interview.

   During the interview, Helton was asked about limiting Sprint Cup drivers in NASCAR's other series but his answer didn't seem very encouraging for those who support that idea.

   Q: Is NASCAR considering limiting the number of starts that Cup series drivers can make in the Nationwide or Camping World Truck series? 

   Helton: "It’s a conversation point that doesn’t so far go very far because NASCAR is open-minded. It’s open-field, too. We don’t believe it’s correct to tell someone they cannot compete somewhere.  We have NASCAR drivers who go compete in IndyCar or ARCA or a weekly track or a weekly show or open-wheel racing in different programs, and that’s the culture of NASCAR to be open-minded about who participates. No one is excluded from participating. You can earn your way in. We have, however, changed some of the rules and regulations around in hopes to encourage and get attention to the ones who are competing on a fulltime level in the Nationwide. It happened a couple of years ago. We had the drivers to select what series they would gather points in … We saw some signs of being successful there. We’re just not of the mindset to exclude somebody from participating. We’d rather encourage everyone who wants to participate to participate. So, if we said, ‘You can’t play over here,’ it’s kind of contrary to our culture.’ ”

   Part 2 of the interview will air Thursday at 5 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Humpy Wheeler on Ray Fox: 'He made a car go fast and last'

   Long before becoming president of Charlotte Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc., H.A. 'Humpy' Wheeler worked in Firestone's racing division, and Ray Fox was one of his most prominent race car testers. In the ensuing years as president of CMS, Wheeler maintained a close relationship with him.
   Fox died over the weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla. He was 98.

   "Ray was one of the most accomplished men in the history of American racing right in there with Smokey Yunick, George Bignotti, A.J. Watson, Banjo Matthews and other mechanical geniuses. Ray and Smokey were quite the pair, both being from Daytona Beach and highly competitive with each other. Ray was also a hard nosed guy who liked to win. However, he could turn around and help a young driver find success like he did with David Pearson and Buddy Baker. David's first win came in Ray's car at the 1961 World 600 in Charlotte, a feat Baker later did in a Fox Dodge," Wheeler said. 

   "Ray was a true pioneer back in the days when the super speedway era had just begun. People just didn't know what was going to happen on those new big fast tracks that frankly scared more than a few people. His great legacy will be, like city rival Smokey, mastering horsepower in his day. Ray was one of the guys who helped figure out how to make a car go fast and last at the same time. His 1960 win at the Daytona 500 with Jr. Johnson proved that."

   Wheeler is currently chairman of Speedway Benefits, a firm specializing in North America's short tracks and drag strips.

   You can read Fox's obituary here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Kyle Petty: 'We look at the Hendrick organization as a leader'

   Even before Jimmie Johnson won Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, former NASCAR driver and now TNT analyst offered a prophetic commentary on the Hendrick Motorsports organization and why it would be likely one of its drivers would win the race.
   Here was Petty's take on TNT's "Countdown to Green" prerace show: 

   "I think Hendrick has the upper hand from an engine and team perspective. We look at the Hendrick organization as a leader. Nobody ever seems to leave there - guys check in, but they never check out," Petty said.

   "They’ve got the cream of the crop when it comes to crew chiefs, and look at their drivers. They’ve got Kasey Kahne, multiple Daytona 500 winner Dale Jr., Jeff Gordon and 'Mr. Everything' Jimmie Johnson. Why wouldn’t you expect those guys to run up front and win every week?”

   And Hendrick drivers have now won five consecutive races.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Kasey Kahne has work to do to remain at Hendrick Motorsports

   Kasey Kahne wants to remain at Hendrick Motorsports beyond his current contract which ends after the 2015 season but he knows he has work to do to make that happen.

   HMS announced this weekend that sponsor Farmer’s Insurance had re-signed through 2017 but did not extend Kahne’s contract at the same time.

   “We still have a year-and-a-half before my deal’s up. We’ve struggled some this year for really no reason. We can’t have that,” Kahne said. 

   “If we can get rid of some of those struggles, I would hope that I would be at Hendrick Motorsports for a long time.”

   Kahne is the only HMS driver without a win this season and is 22nd in the series standings with just one top-five finish.

   “I like being at HMS. It is just an unbelievable place,” he said. “Getting to work with the three teammates that I get to work with each week is better than anything I’ve ever done in racing as far as guys I’ve been able to work with.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

Ryan Newman had to hitch a ride to get to Michigan on Friday

   Drivers occasionally ride together on each others' private planes to the track each week and Ryan Newman had earlier in the week asked to catch a ride to Michigan International Speedway with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

   When Newman didn't send a reminder on Thursday night that he was coming, Earnhardt forgot about him when he and his group departed Friday morning, leaving Newman stranded at the Statesville, N.C., airport.

   Newman caught a ride with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett on Friday and made it to the track in time for Sprint Cup Series practice.

   During his media availability on Friday, Earnhardt explained the mix-up:

   "On Tuesday, (Newman) asked me if he could take a ride to the race track, which is common for drivers to do. “We were leaving at 8:30 (a.m.). That’s what it said on my calendar. Since Tuesday, we added some media (obligations) ... so my PR guy Mike Hoag moved take-off time to 8 o’clock," Earnhardt said.

   “I didn’t know about it. I didn’t look at my calendar. When I got up this morning, I didn’t look at the clock. I just got in the shower and went downstairs and got in the car, drove to the airport and got in the plane, and I forgot about Ryan. Even if we were taking off at 8:30 and he wasn’t there, I probably would have left him. He should have texted me last night. I think he got a ride. That was unfortunate, for sure. It happens.’’

   Newman said he was lucky to find someone else who hadn’t left for Michigan as yet.

   “That was probably as close as I’ve ever come to missing a practice,” he said.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dale Junior is having the time of his life. Here's why

   In the many interviews Dale Earnhardt Jr. did immediately following his Sprint Cup Series victory last Sunday at Pocono, he repeatedly made mention that he was having "the time of his life" right now and believed the crew members on his team felt the same way.

   Earnhardt has won a pair of championships in what is now the Nationwide Series, won a pair of Daytona 500s and has enjoyed a fair share of success in Victory Lane, so what is so special in 2014 that leads him to say that?

   Certainly it can't all be about winning his second race of the season, and it isn't. I asked Earnhardt after the win Sunday, what all goes into him making that statement. Here is his complete answer:

   "When I go to the garage or when I go to the shop and visit with (my crew guys) and talk to them, my car chief, Jason Burdette, brings his son over to my property to run around our little go‑kart track, and Steve (Letarte) and I have a great relationship off the race track. I let his son into our clan, in Clash of Clans a couple months ago. That's been a thrill for Tyler.But we had to clean up the language a little bit, but he's having fun," Earnhardt said.

   "We do a lot of normal things together, and there's a real appreciation for each other individually as people. There's a great ‑‑ we're real fortunate because there's not a guy in that group that's hard to be around. We're all easy going, and everybody really gets along. We set aside our flaws and really enjoy the relationship and working together, and we've done that for a couple years now. But now that we're having success, it makes it a lot more fun. But the fact that we can get along when things weren't the best, I mean, that team had just ‑‑ Jeff (Gordon) and that team split up and we all knew what kind of talent he is, and so the way they wrapped their arm around me and put me under their wing and made me feel comfortable and made me confident and made me feel worthy of the opportunity to work with them was great. They've been just genuine, genuine people, Burdette and Kevin Meander and all the guys are just so genuine. They're real. Their feelings and relationships are real.

   "I'm enjoying that. I said it out there in victory lane. Winning races is great, but it's nothing unless you enjoy who you're doing it with, and when you can do something great and it's with people you enjoy being around, man, it really adds to it, so this is why it's so special right now."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Longtime and popular NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey dies at age 90

    Longtime NASCAR team owner Junie Donlavey, who fielded cars for dozens of NASCAR stars at some point in their respective careers, died Monday, according to family friends. He was 90. 

   A member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, Donlavey fielded his No. 90 cars for scores of drivers including Joe Weatherly, Tiny Lund, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Dick Brooks, Bobby Isaac, Fred Lorenzen, David Pearson, Johnny Rutherford, Harry Gant, Buddy Baker, Charlie Glotzbach, Ken Schrader, Jody Ridley, Bill Dennis and Ricky Rudd.

   “Life has really been fast, I can tell you, but it’s been pleasant,” said Donlavey following the International Motorsports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  “I didn’t regret a minute of it even though we ran against heavy-backed teams.  We still had fun!”

   Donlavey began fielding his team in 1950. He drove for his team at first, but soon gave way to other drivers. He earned a reputation as working well with young drivers over his tenure. Donlavey  was a Navy veteran and son after his stint in the Navy started his own auto repair business which fostered into his interest in racing. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007. 

   Funeral plans are incomplete as of Monday morning.

   Donlavey was a Spirit of Ford Award Winner for his contributions to motorsports and fielded Ford vehicles from 1961 until his retirement in 2004.
   “All of us at Ford Motor Company mourn the passing of Junie Donlavey and we send our thoughts and prayers to his family and friends. Junie was a true gentleman whose legacy won't be measured in wins on the track," said Edsel Ford, member of the Board of Directors at Ford Motor Co.  

   "His legacy will be the hundreds of drivers and crew members who he helped that went on to great careers.  All of us will miss his friendly smile and engaging stories in the garage.”

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Greg Biffle to remain with Roush Fenway Racing

   NASCAR veteran Greg Biffle and his primary sponsor, 3M, will remain with Roush Fenway Racing, multiple sources have confirmed to the Charlotte Observer and

   An official announcement of contract extensions for Biffle and the sponsor with RFR could come as soon as this coming week, sources said.

   A team spokesman said the organization would continue its policy of not commenting on drivers' contract status until an official announcement was made.

   Biffle, 44, has spent virtually his entire NASCAR career with team owner Jack Roush and won championships in the Truck and Nationwide series. He has 19 Cup series wins in 415 starts and has finished as high as second in the series standings (2005).

   With Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. remaining and the addition of driver Trevor Bayne to its Cup lineup in 2015, Roush will need to expand to a four-car operation to field a team for driver Carl Edwards, whose contract is also up at the end of the season.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Kyle Larson picks up an early win at Pocono

   In what he hopes is a prelude to a strong run on Sunday, Sprint Cup Series rookie Kyle Larson won Saturday's Pocono 200 Automobile Racing Club of America series race by running down Mason Mitchell in the final 10 laps of the race.
   "I was nervous for a while there," Larson said. "He was real aggressive and got the lead, then started to pull away."

   Larson, 21, however, fought back and regained the lead and became the fifth different winner in as many races this season.
   "We had a good car, a dominating car," Larson said. "We definitely wanted to win. I was glad that we had to work for it there in the end. I learned something in all of this. In the end, it was a lot of fun."

   Mitchell finished second for the fourth time in his ARCA career. John Wes Townley was third, Will Kimmel fourth and Justin Allison fifth.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Was Dale Jr.'s pairing with Steve Letarte his "last straw" at Hendrick Motorsports?

   During a break this week during testing at New Hampshire International Speedway, NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., raised an interesting issue during a discussion of how his crew chief, Steve Letarte, has influenced his career as a driver.

   Earnhardt had not experienced much success at Hendrick Motorsports before he was paired with Letarte and said the pairing may have been "my last straw" at HMS.

   Here is Earnhardt's complete answer to the question involving Letarte:

   "He's just a common factor and a friend and I trust him a whole lot and believe in what he does and believe in every move he makes and makes me feel comfortable behind the wheel. I don't question the cars, I don't question the preparation, I don't question our initiative or motivation and our determination. I've never felt more confident and being able to depend on my team, especially after we've been able to work together for years and have just gotten better and better. It's been an amazing experience and he's a big part of that," Earnhardt said. 

   "We took off, before we ran our first race. I think that we really had an agreement that we were going to do this together and make it work. We both kind of needed each other in the moment. He was coming off kind of frustrating seasons with Jeff (Gordon) and both of them kind of needed a new start, so me and Steve both definitely maybe deserve each other. I'm glad it's worked out the way it has and I knew that when we got together that it was kind of my last straw. We'd been through so much, I'd been through so much, so I needed to get something going and fast. It couldn't have been a better or a more enjoyable few years than what I've had the last few years with Steve."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Former NASCAR team owner Hoss Ellington dies at age 79

    Former NASCAR team owner Charles Everett “Hoss” Ellington, of Wilmington, N.C., died May 31, 2014, after a long battle with cancer. He was 79.

   In 262 races in what is now the Sprint Cup Series, Ellington's team won eight poles and five races, including the 1977 Talladega 500 with driver Donnie Allison.
 His teams had 52 top-five and 92 top-10 finishes. Sterling Marlin, A.J. Foyt, Buddy Baker, Davey Allison, Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett were among his many drivers.

    A private graveside service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Duke Cancer Institute, 512 S. Mangum St., Suite 400, Durham, NC 27701. 

   To read the full obituary from go here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Humpy Wheeler: NASCAR looked the other way but drivers (and sponsors) did not

    Former Charlotte Motor Speedway general manager and president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler offers a diagnosis of what is missing from NASCAR these days. You may be surprised to learn that he believes NASCAR itself is working hard to produce the environment necessary to build more excitement but is running into a big roadblock - the drivers, or in particular, their corporate sponsors.

   Let him explain: 

   "What is wrong with NASCAR?

   We have heard it all in the past two months -- the economy, lack of passing for the lead, high ticket prices, confusing car paint changes, the weather and everything else but the pink elephants.

   Folks, what it is … is simple. It is the lack of real rivalries and the absence of a superstar in the realm of Ali, Brady, LeBron, Namath, etc.

   Sure we have Johnson, Gordon, Tony Stewart but you can't be a great superstar without tremendous rivals. Ali had Frazier; Namath the entire NFL; etc.

   What made NASCAR? The fierce battles between Curtis Turner and Jr. Johnson; Tim Flock vs. Buck Baker; Bobby Allison against Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough; Darrell Waltrip and Rusty Wallace; Earnhardt, Sr., battling Geoff Bodine and Bill Elliot, etc. 

   Those were in the days before vast changes were made in the cars and before huge mega dollar sponsors who wanted their flying billboards to be quiet and the drivers as well behaved as Philadelphia nuns.

   Drivers sometimes didn't talk just right; dressed the way they wanted and were as tough as a Mohawk riveter. Kind of reminds us of the rodeo riders today.

   America loved these guys when they came on their stage in 1979 on CBS on a snowstorm Sunday and guess what: got into a fight on live TV! It was the Dukes of Hazzard; Andy Griffith; the Civil War on Wheels and the Friday Night Fights all rolled into one piece of technicolor drama. 

   And -- as we all know -- it took off like a Bonneville streamliner. Gutsy, clever and smart promoters saw their chance now and came up with all kinds of ways to get the media to cover it including bringing a lot of talented, fancy and not so fancy guys to come in and put on a show and did they ever from dirt tracks like the Robinwood Speedway in Gastonia, N.C. to the high banks of Charlotte and Daytona.

   In those building days cars hit one another -- rubbin' was the mild word. There were few sponsors to regulate behavior and NASCAR looked the  other way and the people loved it and there were few empty seats.

   Sometimes I remember the fights AFTER the race … the ones you didn't hear about. Those behind the rest room! One driver taking another and almost drowning him in an infield lake after he was knocked into the fence.

   Or the time Tim Richmond called David Pearson "an old man" and found himself flat on the hot concrete.

   These things just don't happen today and rivalries are quickly snuffed out by the huge disinfectant that comes into play when the boys get rowdy.

   So, with all sorts of PR people, button collared suits and enough security that we wonder if Godzilla is about to attack. No wonder drivers hurl themselves into their impenetrable tractor trailers after an incident.

   Probably the most dangerous place in the track after an incident is the track hospital where NASCAR commands all in a wreck to go and get checked out. 

   So, what happened to 'have at it boys?'

   I think NASCAR obeyed its own command but did the rest of NASCAR Town? No, because
that's the street where the sponsors live and their commandments.

   I do believe that the organization NASCAR is trying to get this whole thing back on track with rules changes and attempts at making the cars easier to pass for the lead (although we haven't seen this much). They, especially Brian France, know this whole rivalry element must
happen to get it back on track.

   But then maybe the answer is some rail-tough 20 year old from the backwoods of America whose only dream is going fast and whipping people with his determination and driving talent that ranks up there with Johnson, Foyt, Andretti, Yarborough, the Allisons and the Pettys who isn't handsome, dresses wrong, talks badly and doesn't particularly like any driver who has ever tried to beat him. He will flat put you in the fence if you cross him. He is as tough as the truck he drives and sometimes as mean as those rattlesnakes he has killed by the barn. He could pass the Secret Service rifle sniper test and sometimes disappears for days with his rod and reel. 

   He loves dirt so much his friends thought he had a vitamin deficiency. He has a girl friend but few have ever seen her and if anything gets in the way of his racing it is eliminated. He is frustrated by all the  rich kids racing who he knows won't last but keep him where he is. He dreams of the day he can get underneath their quarter panel.

   If you know this guy we need him bad!"