Saturday, February 28, 2015

Marcus Smith: Safety changes possible next week to Las Vegas

   Speedway Motorsports Inc. CEO Marcus Smith told the Observer on Saturday that he expects more safety enhancements will be made to SMI's tracks, including the possibility of changes to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, site of next weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity series races.

   "I don't know if NASCAR officials have been out there to review it, they've been pretty busy between Daytona and Atlanta," Smith said. "I wouldn't be surprised that come Monday we have some additions."

   Before Kyle Busch's wreck at Daytona last weekend, SMI had already planned additions to energy-absorbing SAFER barriers at three of its tracks - Charlotte, New Hampshire and Kentucky. 

   Upon a recommendation from NASCAR, SMI sent 1,100 tires this week to Atlanta Motor Speedway to cover some areas of the track with tire packs that are not protected by SAFER barriers.

   "With Kyle's accident in Daytona, it's caused us to look twice at everything and we're working with NASCAR to see what else there is out there and I expect there will be more additions to SAFER barriers," Smith said.

    "We rely on NASCAR's guidance on that. We have installed SAFER barriers wherever they have asked us to put it."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck: Teams 'pushing it' in pre-qualifying inspection

   Thirteen teams failed to pass pre-qualifying inspection Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway and failed to post a speed during group qualifying. The problems transcended the series from struggling low-budget teams to those of Sprint Cup Series stars Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart.

   The Cup series director, Richard Buck, addressed questions about the problems encountered during Friday's inspection process, in which every team made it through inspection but 13 could not fix their issues in time to participate in qualifying.

   Q.  Richard, was there a common issue with most of the cars, or what was the predominant problem for people being unable to get through inspection? 
    Buck: I think we saw different areas where the teams were pushing the limits to get through it.  We've got a new rules package here, and obviously the history of Atlanta and the grip is so important here, I think we've seen that with the test yesterday, teams getting to the limits, and we were open yesterday for all day on the laser inspection station and templates and such, and we had quite a few cars that came through.  We did see the area of the laser inspection station where teams were pushing it, and that's their job.  They're trying to get every bit that they can. We made every effort ‑‑ our goal was to make sure everybody has a fair opportunity to get through there, so our focus was to make sure that we ran ‑‑ were able to run every car across there at least once to give them an opportunity, and that's what we did. 

    Q.  Did you consider delaying the start or increasing the length of the first round even more, and then also, there were some people who said that you kind of stopped giving out sheets of paper as far as go or no go, and they felt like you were kind of more lax near the end or once kind of the qualifying session started. 
   Buck: Yeah, as far as the time goes, we worked with the teams, we worked with everybody.  Obviously we have partners with television and we're time certain, but we could see the trend starting to develop there, so our job was to try and work with the teams and allow them to meet the parameters, the rules that we have set in place, and so we were able to push it 15 minutes in an effort to give them as much time as we could, in answer to that question.

   In answer to your second question as far as slacking off at all on that, we don't do that.  We treat everybody the same.  There was cars that came through there two and even a couple cars that came through three times, effort.  Everybody got a fair shot at coming through there in a timely manner, and then obviously at the end, we saw the time frame and we were hustling and pushing.  I was pushing all of our officials, but that pushing on the officials was ‑‑ is pushing to physically keep the same accuracy when it was a mechanical job, but the laser itself, it's automated, so there's no ‑‑ there was no difference from the first cars that went through there to the last ones. 

    Q. What's the solution here, because obviously it's not something that you want or the teams want to have a situation like this.  Is it all on the teams to just have their stuff together the first time they come through? 
   Buck: That's a good question, and that's where we work with the teams on a daily basis.  We'll look at the process and try to understand it.  We put more cars through there today than normal, and in a timely fashion.  Last year about four races into it, we were putting a lot of pressure on the crew chiefs, we had a lot of work for them to get ‑‑ it was new.  We had the ride height rules, and we could see that process was strained, if you will, so we worked with the teams to adjust that, and we actually last year about, I think it was the third or fourth race in, we were able to work with our tracks and our partners and be able to extend that inspection time to allow them more time to get through there. 

   But it's tough. The teams have to hustle, the crew chiefs will tell you, they've got a brand new package here with new downforce and new driver combinations and new teams, and to put it all on them, the first one, it was a tough one. We'll look at it as we always do with a fine microscope and get input from the teams, and then if down the road, if we can and see the need, we'll make an adjustment. 

   Q. Can you explain the process of determining the order for inspection for everybody, because I know there's been a lot of questions about how do you decide who went first, who goes last?
   Buck: There's a couple of key things that we look at, and it's how to be as fair as we can through the inspection process. That trickles down, as well. It's a random draw. It's random, and that is your order on pit road for qualifying, your pit stall, and it also is your order for inspection. At 55 minutes after the final practice before qualifying, we put on the crew chiefs a tremendous load to put their setups on and be in line, but we stop the work for everybody.  It doesn't matter if you're last in line or first in line, at 55 minutes, to be fair to everybody, all work stops on the cars, we push them to the back of the garage, and inspection starts.  They may sit there for a while but they're not having that opportunity to continue to work on the car which makes it unfair.  That's how the process works. 

   We have each station that's timed.  It's about two and a half minutes per station, and we try to manage that dynamic, and if a car comes through there, the incentive today, unlike years ago where you could cut the line and keep the incentive, today it's to come through right because everybody gets one opportunity to come through the entire inspection process, and their job is to be right, and if they're not right at that inspection station, that's when they go in a holding pen if you will or a holding pattern and have to stay there until everybody else has the opportunity to come through to be fair to everybody.  Once that's through, then we allow them in the order that they were received to begin with, that's the order that they go back through inspection.

Travis Kvapil's race car stolen; Denny Hamlin's motorhome wrecked

   It's been an eventful morning at Atlanta Motor Speedway so far with one Sprint Cup Series driver's race car allegedly stolen and another driver's motorhome sustaining damage from a SUV that somehow rolled down an embankment and through a fence.

   Team Xtreme, which planned to field an entry this weekend with driver Travis Kvapil, reported a truck and small hauler stolen from its hotel parking lot in Morrow, Ga., this morning. Inside the hauler was the No. 44 Chevrolet Kvapil planned to run Sunday's Folds of Honor 500.

   The incident was first reported by TV station KFVS-12. 

   Without the car, the team was forced to withdraw from the race.

   Here are Twitter posts from Kvapil referring to the incident:

   Also this morning, Cup crew chief Rodney Childers posted a picture on Twitter of a white SUV that somehow rolled backwards through a fence, down an embankment and into a motorhome owned by driver Denny Hamlin.

   According to a team spokesman, the owner of the SUV thought he had put the vehicle in park. He had not and it rolled down the hill causing superficial damage to the motorhome. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Kyle Busch undergoes successful surgery on left foot

   Kyle Busch, driver of Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 18 Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, underwent successful surgery on his left foot Wednesday afternoon at a Charlotte-area hospital, the team confirmed.

   Busch suffered a compound fracture in his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot in an accident in Saturday Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Busch's No. 54 Toyota slammed nose-first into an area of retaining wall not protected by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.

   Busch's surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina. Busch remains hospitalized for observation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ISC statement on the development of additional safety measures for its tracks

Statement from International Speedway Corporation (ISC) President John Saunders:

   “Beginning with our two superspeedway motorsports entertainment facilities, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, ISC is developing a significant plan for the installation of additional impact-absorbing technologies including but not limited to SAFER barriers (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction). We will utilize all available tools to ensure the safety of the drivers and our fans. It will remain our top priority.

   “A thorough review of our other ISC facilities will continue with the focus to prioritize each track’s most critical areas first. This includes but is not limited to our upcoming races at Phoenix International Raceway and Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. ISC is working very closely with NASCAR and industry experts to identify areas for additional safety protections. As we finalize our plans, we will communicate them to the drivers and necessary stakeholders ahead of our races at each ISC facility.”

David Ragan emerges as leading candidate to fill in for the injured Kyle Busch

   Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan has emerged as the leading candidate to fill in for injured driver Kyle Busch this season at Joe Gibbs Racing, multiple sources confirmed to The Observer on Tuesday.

   Ragan was at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., on Tuesday morning meeting with JGR officials, sources confirmed.

   Ragan, 29, a two-winner in the Cup series, has spent the past three-plus seasons at Front Row Motorsports and finished 17th in Sunday's Daytona 500 in the No. 34 Ford. He would have to be released from his contract at FRM in order to make the move.

   There was no immediate response from JGR officials for a request for comment.

   Busch remained hospitalized in Daytona Beach, Fla., hospital Tuesday morning with a compound fracture in his right leg and a mid-foot fracture in his left foot.

   Busch suffered the injuries in Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series opener at Daytona International Speedway when his No. 54 Toyota got caught up in a multi-car wreck and plowed nose-first in an interior retaining wall which was not covered by energy-absorbing SAFER barriers.

   Busch is expected to miss a significant amount of the 2015 season.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

What Jeff Gordon had to say about his final Daytona 500

   Jeff Gordon, who started from the pole, ended up getting caught in a last-lap wreck in the final Daytona 500 of his distinguished career. Here is what Gordon had to say about his last 500 start:

   WHAT ARE YOU THINKING AND FEELING RIGHT NOW KNOWING THIS IS IT? “For some reason I’m still smiling and enjoying every moment of it.  Obviously, I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second half.  What an amazing car we had.  Just out there in the front with our Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet just controlling the race.  Had one restart where I started on the outside and just couldn’t get our line going.  We got shuffled back and kind of played catch up from that point on.  This was an amazing week and an amazing day.  I am just in a different place that is so foreign to me, but so incredible.  To just be taking it all in and enjoying every moment.  Yeah, right now I’m a little bit sad this is my final Daytona 500, but I’m more upset we didn’t have a shot at winning there at the end.

   “Congratulations to Joey Logano.  That moment you saw there with his dad that is what it’s all about.  These types of moments, such a big race it means so much to all of us.  You want to share that with the people that you are closest to that have been there along the way.  Congratulations to him and I don’t know what else to say other than I enjoyed it.  I’m not going to miss those final laps. That was just crazy, but certainly would have liked to have had a shot to win.  If you are over there in Victory Lane it is awesome and you enjoy it.  If you are not in Victory Lane you are like ‘oh gosh when is that next restrictor-plate race.” 

   DID YOU ENJOY YOUR FINAL DAYTONA 500? "I enjoyed every moment of it. I enjoyed the pre-race and the race; all the way up to that wreck."

   WHAT PUT YOU OUT OF POSITION BECAUSE THE BOTTOM DIDN'T MOVE? "The biggest thing to me, you saw there weren't a lot of lead changes out there because the leader has such an advantage. We were just dominating and it was really easy in some ways. I was just having to really watch my mirrors.  My pit crew did an amazing job. So it was kind of business as usual, but that one restart, I chose the outside, I was really basing it off who I thought was behind me that could push me. We just didn't go. The inside lane went better. We got shuffled back. And we just never recovered after that. We were doing everything we could. I think we were between fifth and 10th and I could never break through to get any further forward."

   DID THE BOTTOM LINE JUST NOT GO QUICKLY? "The bottom lime was not as organized and then we stacked them in the middle of one and two. The outside line formed and got a little bit of a run. At that point everybody is just trying to shuffle and take their momentum and do something with it. Believe it or not I actually got a good run with Kasey Kahne up the middle. It was hairy. I knew there was high potential of a wreck. I was just following him through that hole and was just holding on tight to get through the corner. I saw where I had a pretty good amount of momentum coming. I think we maybe could have gotten a top-five out of it. Then they started wrecking, or somebody hit me. I don't know."

   WAS THE BOTTOM GROVE GOOD EARLY ON AND THEN THE HIGHER GROOVE?  "It just depends on who is pushing, how you are pushing. Sometimes if you push too hard you actually stall the momentum because the cars start getting out of shape.  If you take five cars and they all go at the same time, you take five cars and their kind of domino affect then the ones on the outside are going to prevail. It wasn't an inside/outside lane thing to me, it was just how the guys restarted."

   HOW TOUGH FOR YOUR LAST DAYTONA 500 TO END LIKE THIS? "It is disappointing because things were going so well, especially that first half. That first half was amazing. I was enjoying that moment very, very much. Just being out front. Being in control of the race. I felt like we were just doing everything perfectly.  The car was amazing. I knew it was going to be crucial to maintain that track position. That one restart I chose the outside and that line just didn't go. From that point on, we were just playing catch up."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Statement from Patricia Driscoll's ex-husband, Geoffrey Hermanstorfer

   Statement to the Media - From Darin Rumer on behalf of Geoffrey Hermanstorfer regarding Driscoll vs. Busch Matter


   Mr. Geoffrey Hermanstorfer, the father of Houston Hermanstorfer is making a public plea to both the media and the public in general who are following the Kurt Busch ongoing legal issue with Patricia Driscoll, Houston Hermanstorfer’s mother.  Mr. Hermanstorfer requests that the media please refrain from using images of Houston, mentioning Houston by name, or even referring to him as the son of Patricia Driscoll in reference to her allegations of domestic violence.  Mr. Hermanstorfer believes Houston to be a child who deserves to not be attached to adult situations and his privacy should be respected and protected, as every child’s should.

A message from Kurt Busch's crew chief

  Tony Gibson, who was set to begin his first full Sprint Cup Series season with driver Kurt Busch in Sunday's Daytona 500, posted a short message on his Twitter account Saturday morning, his only comments so far following Busch's indefinite suspension on Friday.

   Xfinity Series driver Regan Smith will substitute for Busch in Sunday's race.

Friday, February 20, 2015

NASCAR indefinitely suspends driver Kurt Busch

   NASCAR on Friday indefinitely suspended Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch after a Kent County (Del.) Family Court commissioner issued his opinion detailing the domestic violence acts allegedly committed by Busch against his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

   The Observer first reported the suspension on Friday afternoon.

   "Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately," a NASCAR statement said. "We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved."

   Xfinity Series driver Regan Smith will replace Busch in Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 41 Chevrolet in Sunday's Daytona 500, the team confirmed. 

   In his order on Monday, Kent County (Del.) Family Court commissioner David Jones found "by a preponderance of the evidence" that Busch committed an act of domestic violence against Driscoll.

   On Friday in a 25-page written opinion, of copy of which has been obtained by The Observer, Jones said he believed Busch "manually strangled" Driscoll in a confrontation in his motorhome on Sept. 26, 2014. The commissioner also believed there was "substantial likelihood" Busch could commit similar matters in the future.

   The commissioner also found that Driscoll provided "false testimony" at times during the hearing but believed enough independent evidence existed to find merit in Driscoll's claim.

   Driscoll sought the order after alleging Busch smashed her head against the wall of his motorhome three times during last September's NASCAR race weekend at Dover, Del. 
   The Dover (Del.) Police Department investigated Driscoll's complaint but elected to send its findings to the Delaware Attorney General with no recommendation. The Attorney General's office has yet to decide whether to seek any criminal charges against Busch.

   Among the restrictions placed on Busch by the order: 

   - Busch cannot threaten, molest, attack, harass or commit any other act of abuse against Driscoll and any minor children in her household.

   - Busch cannot come with 100 yards of Driscoll's person, residence or workplace. At NASCAR races, Busch must maintain a "practicable distance" from Driscoll if both are in attendance. 

    - Busch cannot attempt to contact Driscoll in any way.

   - Busch must be evaluated for "mental health problems" and follow any recommendations by the evaluator.

Watch Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart share the 'NASCAR love'

   As one of the first tweets from its new @Mobil1 Twitter account this week, the brand unveiled a video featuring a comedic exchange between Stewart-Haas Racing drivers Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart feeling the "NASCAR Love."

   Watch how these two NASCAR champions get under each other’s skin on the heels of Harvick’s 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Kurt Busch's lawyers seek to re-open protective order hearing; ask for investigation of Driscoll

   Lawyers for Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch filed a motion in Kent County (Del.) Family Court asking commissioner David Jones to re-open the hearing on the protective order he issued Monday prohibiting Busch from contacting or going near his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll.

   Busch's lawyers said they are also asking the Delaware Attorney General's Office to open an investigation of Driscoll to determine whether she has violated the Delaware criminal code offense of tampering with a witness.

   Driscoll sought the order after alleging Busch smashed her head against the wall of his motorhome three times during last September's NASCAR race weekend at Dover, Del.

   The Dover (Del.) Police Department investigated Driscoll's complaint but elected to send its findings to the Delaware Attorney General with no recommendation. The Attorney General's office has yet to decide whether to seek any charges.

   Driscoll has granted several media interviews in recent days repeating her allegations. 

   One of Busch's lawyers, Rusty Hardin, released the following statement on Thursday afternoon after filing the petition: 

   "As Ms. Driscoll's contentions became ever more public, independent witnesses, who are close personal acquaintances of Ms. Driscoll's, have come forward and provided information that contradict her version of events after the split, before the alleged assault and immediately following the incident.  

   "All the witnesses confirm Mr. Busch's testimony that Ms. Driscoll presented herself to close friends and acquaintances as a covert agent involved in deadly conduct on behalf of the government. One witness was threatened not to talk; and another finds Ms. Driscoll's story completely incredulous based on his knowledge of the parties involved.

   "Ms. Driscoll’s frantic media onslaught of the last 48 hours at a time Mr. Busch is scheduled to drive in the most important NASCAR race of the year is further evidence that this is not about domestic violence, but instead about ruining the career and reputation of the man who left her. We are also asking the Attorney General’s Office to open an investigation of Ms. Driscoll to determine whether or not she has violated the Delaware criminal code offense of Tampering with a Witness through her repeated attempts to harass and intimidate witnesses who she fears will come forward with evidence that will totally undermine her credibility."

   Jones on Friday is scheduled to release his written opinion supporting the reasons for granting the order.  

   The petition filed Thursday included several attached exhibits including sworn witness statements and copies of text messages between Driscoll and potential witnesses.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

'I'm Jimmie Johnson the NASCAR driver NOT Jimmy Johnson the coach'

   Check out this new video from Fox Sports, in which six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson 'joins' the cast of 'NFL on FOX' to promote this year's Daytona 500. 

   But he's not who they think he is! 

NASCAR tweaks group qualifying rules for Xfinity and Truck series at Daytona

   NASCAR has made some modifications to its group qualifying procedures and will utilize it for qualifying this week for the Xfinity and Truck series race at Daytona International Speedway.

   The changes come after several drivers complained about the process used in Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying session. The changes, however, do not alter the format but help prevent the gamesmanship by teams that was causing a bottleneck on pit road during each round.

   As part of the changes, the fields will be broken into four groups in Round 1 by random draw. Each round will last just two minutes and 30 seconds (they were five minutes), barely long enough for teams to leave pit road and complete a qualifying attempt.

   Before the start, teams must start nose-first in their pit stall and will line up single-file on pit road for the start of the session. Once a car moves, it must go and complete its qualifying attempt or it will have its time disallowed.

   In Round 2, there will be two groups of 12, split by odd and even ranked cars and lined up fastest to slowest. In Round 3, the top 12 cars will compete for the pole in one, 2 1/2 minute session.

   "We continue to work in collaboration with the industry to implement the most exciting and competitive qualifying format, especially as it relates to superspeedways," said NASCAR executive vice president Steve O'Donnell.

   "We will continue to review the qualifying format for future superspeedway events."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

De-icing help is on the way from Charlotte Motor Speedway

   Charlotte Motor Speedway mobilized three jet dryers to nearby Concord Regional Airport to help with drying the runway. 

   That also will help local NASCAR teams traveling to Daytona Beach, Fla., for this week's race and related activities.

   More than a dozen flights with more than 700 racing personnel are scheduled to depart in the next couple days for the season-opening NASCAR races at Daytona International Speedway, officials said.

   - Adam Bell

Monday, February 16, 2015

Patricia Driscoll granted protective order against NASCAR driver Kurt Busch

   Patricia Driscoll has been granted a protective order by a Kent County (Del.) Family Court judge, ordering NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch to stay away and not communicate with his ex-girlfriend.

   In the order, a copy of which has been obtained by The Observer, the court makes the following declaration:

   "The Court finds by a preponderance of the evidence that the Respondent has committed an act or repeated acts of domestic violence against the Petitioner."

   Among the restrictions placed on Busch by the order:

   - Busch cannot threaten, molest, attack, harass or commit any other act of abuse against Driscoll and any minor children in her household.

   - Busch cannot come with 100 yards of Driscoll's person, residence or workplace. At NASCAR races, Busch must maintain a "practicable distance" from Driscoll if both are in attendance.

   - Busch cannot attempt to contact Driscoll in any way.

   - Busch must be evaluated for "mental health problems" and follow any recommendations by the evaluator.

   Busch's attorney, Rusty Hardin, provided the following statement to The Observer: 

   “Though we are not surprised by the Commissioner’s ruling, in light of the restrictions on the evidence he considered, we are deeply disappointed because we believe the evidence of Ms. Driscoll’s total lack of believability was overwhelming. It is important to note that the Commissioner’s ruling is a civil family court matter and totally unconnected to any criminal investigation or finding.

   “Regardless of the Commissioner’s finding, we know that Kurt never committed an act of family violence. The evidence was un-contradicted that Ms. Driscoll committed the criminal offense of trespass when she entered his motor home at night, while he was sleeping, uninvited, without permission,  and refused to leave when he repeatedly asked her to get out. Mr. Busch’s conduct was totally reasonable and legal under the circumstances. He never intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly caused her any injury. 

   “We intend to appeal the Commissioner’s ruling and will seek to persuade the family court judge hearing the appeal to consider new and previously unknown evidence from various people that have come forward since the conclusion of the hearing before the Commissioner.  We have provided this additional evidence challenging Ms. Driscoll’s testimony and credibility to the Attorney General’s office for their criminal investigation, and we hope to persuade the family court judge to consider the same evidence.”

   NASCAR officials did not have an immediate response by expected to release a statement sometime on Monday. 

   The order from the family court was issued Monday and a notice that supplemental details and the opinion supporting Commissioner David Jones's order would be released Friday, two days before Busch is scheduled to compete in the 2015 season-opening Daytona 500.

   Driscoll filed a domestic assault claim Nov. 5 against Busch at the Dover (Del.) Police Department, nearly six weeks after the time of the incident, which allegedly took place during the September NASCAR race weekend in Dover.

   Dover police concluded that investigation just before Christmas and forwarded the case file to the Delaware attorney general's office, which has yet to decide whether to file charges. Driscoll also filed for the protective order in November.

   The hearing, however, lasted four days over two months before the decision was finally issued on Monday. Driscoll testified in the protective order hearing that Busch had slammed her head three times against the wall of his motor home on Sept. 26 after she visited him at his motorhome in Dover. Busch denied the allegations.

Candlelight tribute for the late Dale Earnhardt set for Wednesday at DEI

   On Wednesday, race fans can honor the life of the late Dale Earnhardt during the annual candlelight tribute, which has been held on the grounds of Dale Earnhardt Inc. every year since 2001 in coordination with the Dale Earnhardt Foundation.

   The seven-time champion of NASCAR's biggest series died in a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18, 2001.

   From 6 to 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, DEI will be closed and illuminated with candles, and a Guest Book will be available for signing and sharing special memories of Earnhardt. The showroom and store will be open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

   For more information on the work of The Dale Earnhardt Foundation, go here

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Clint Bowyer goes off on NASCAR about Daytona group qualifying

   Q.  What do you see and what were you thinking when you were behind the 44?

   CLINT BOWYER:  I wasn't behind the 44.  He came flying around, come up on the apron, jumps in front of me, then runs over the 51, stacks us all up and then I run into him.  It's idiotic to be out here doing this anyway.  There's no sense in being able to try to put on some cute show for whatever the hell this is.  Then you have a guy out there doing this in desperation. 

   There's no reason to be out here.  These guys have spent six months working on these cars, busting their butts on these cars. But it ain't his fault.  It's NASCAR's fault for putting us out in the middle of this crap for nothing. 

   We used to come down here and worry about who would set on the front pole in the biggest race of the year.  Now all we do is come down here and worry about how a start‑and‑park like this out of desperation is going to knock us out of the Daytona 500. 

   We've been in meetings for 45 minutes just trying to figure out what in the hell everybody is going to do just so we can make the race.  It's stupid.  There's no sense in doing this.

What Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano each said about their post-race face-off

   After the checkered flag waved in Saturday night's Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano began slamming into each other as they headed down pit road. Once there, they engaged in a sometimes-heated conversation which otherwise ended without incident. 

   Here is what each driver said about what prompted the run-in:

   Harvick: “He just drove us straight in the fence. Everybody is trying to be aggressive, but you still have to know when and where you can do things. You can’t just drive somebody in the fence. I’m just disappointed for my guys on my Jimmy John’s team just for the fact that they worked hard to get their car back where it needed to be. And then just one of those deals where you just know that is going to work. Whether it is an all-star race or not, it doesn’t really matter, you can’t just take your head off and throw it on the floor board and not use your brain.” 

   (What was particularly frustrating?)  “There was no frustration it was good hard speedway racing, but he (Joey Logano) hooked me halfway down the backstretch and then just literally drove me in the corner until I hit the fence. I have had a few issues with him on the speedways. You can’t just take your head off and detach it and throw it on the floor board and not use your brain. It’s an all-star race, but you still have to have some common sense.” 

   (Will this carry over at all?) “No, like I told him (Joey Logano) last year that kind of stuff catches up with you. It caught up with him last year and you can only do things like that so long before it catches up with you.”

   Logano:  “That is Kevin (Harvick) just being an instigator just like everywhere else. It is a new year and the same stuff. I was trying to help really, to be honest with you, we had a run and I was pushing. I was doing the same thing with the No. 78 all night and it was working. We got in the corner and he got tight and he got into the fence. I was trying to help. He just doesn’t understand I was trying to help. I understand his frustration but I was trying to help out and get to the front and try to win this thing. There are no points or anything like that so you go for the win.” 

   (What was your side of things on pit road?) “I was truly trying to help. It is just the same old stuff with him. I was trying to work my way back up there and had a good run on the backstretch pushing him and when he got in the corner his car got tight. I know he has a lot of damage on his car too and that could have been why too. I was doing it with the 78 all day and keeping ourselves up there. Unfortunately he hit the fence. It wasn’t on purpose, I was trying to get to the front. All-Star races like this mean nothing unless you win so you go for it.” 

Friday, February 13, 2015

What NASCAR driver was seen on TV last year more than any other?

   What NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver was seen on TV more than any other last year?

   The answer will probably not surprise you, when you consider the mainstream marketability of four-time series champion Jeff Gordon.

   According to Repucom, which specializes in sports and entertainment intelligence solutions, Gordon was seen on TV for a total of just over 24 hours of broadcast time in 2014. He and his sponsors also generated more than one billion online impressions.

   Gordon's fan base is approximately 14 million strong and one in five NASCAR fans identified Gordon as the favorite driver, according to data from Repucom.

   "From Saturday night racing under the lights to 'Saturday Night Live,' the four-time Sprint Cup champion has provided a tremendous amount of exposure for NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, sponsors and charitable causes," said Peter Laatz, executive vice president of Repucom.

  "Jeff Gordon's skills as an ambassador are surpassed only by his racing accomplishments."

   Gordon is ranked third among current NASCAR drivers, behind Danica Patrick and Dale Earnhardt Jr. in overall marketability upon Reucom's Celebrity DBI, an independent index that quantifies consumer perceptions of more than 5,000 celebrities worldwide.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Danica Patrick disappointed original GoDaddy Super Bowl ad didn't run

   NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drive Danica Patrick said Thursday she was "definitely disappointed" GoDaddy, which sponsors her No. 10 Chevrolet at Stewart-Haas Racing, pulled its original Super Bowl after an uproar from animal rescue activists.

   Patrick also scoffed at the notion GoDaddy put together the first ad with intentions of pulling it all along as some sort of publicity ploy. 

   "GoDaddy had every intention to run that commercial, and I feel like I heard from a lot of people that it was like choreographed and it was planned and stuff. I think that's so funny. We thought it was a really funny, absolutely left‑sided joke, but it really was not intentional," Patrick said Monday at Daytona International Speedway.

   "So was I surprised? I don't think anything in this culture surprises me anymore. I mean, people have opinions about everything, especially when you get into that world of animal rights or tree rights or whatever rights. They all have an opinion ... We were here to be funny, and enough people didn't think it was funny."

   The original ad, entitled "Lost Dog," showed a puppy that falls out of a truck and then eventually finds its way back home. Upon arrival, the puppy discovers its owner used GoDaddy to set up a Web site to sell the dog to a new owner. Patrick drove the van which carries the puppy to its new owner. 

   You can read more about the controversy and see the original ad here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Kevin Harvick on relationship with his dad: 'I don't know that you could fix all of that'

   Reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick was interviewed recently at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the nationally-syndicated sports interview show, "In Depth with Graham Bensinger," which will air nationwide this weekend, including 12:05 a.m. ET Sunday on WBTV in Charlotte.

   In the interview, Harvick talks about coming from a broken home and the lessons he learned from his relationship with his father, Mike, when he was growing up. Harvick told Bensinger the fallout between the two may not be fixable.

   Here's a short takeout from the interview: 

   Harvick: “I grew up in a little bit of a broken house. You know, the night I won my first late model race was the night my mom moved everything out of the house. So you go from, you know, having this moment where you think you’ve taken another step in your career to, you know that dad’s coming home to, he’s coming home to nothing … There was a lot of situations like that … He had a drinking problem as I grew up and you see and are exposed to a lot of things that you probably don’t want to do as a parent.”

   Later Bensinger asks Harvick if his dad has come around:

   Harvick: “I don’t know that that’ll actually ever all come back around … There’s just so many things that happened along the way that, you know, I don’t know that you could fix all of that stuff.”

   You can watch a short video take from the interview, which will air in its entirety this weekend, here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Burtons are back in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series

   Jeb Burton, the 22-year-old son of former NASCAR driver and Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, will move full-time to the Sprint Cup Series this season, driving the No. 26 Toyota for BK Racing, the team announced on Monday.

   In addition, the team said Ward Burton would join the organization as a 'team ambassador' and would make appearances with Jeb during the 2015 NASCAR season.

   In 49 starts in NASCAR's Truck series, Jeb had one win, seven top-five and 19 top-10 finishes and won seven poles.

    "I am so thankful for the opportunity that BK Racing has given me," Jeb said. "It has been a dream of mine to race in the Daytona 500 ever since I was 9 years old and I stood with my dad in Victory Lane.

   "I remember thinking to myself then in 2002, I would like to win the 500 one day. Now I have a chance at making that dream come true."

   Ward Burton last competed regularly in NASCAR in 2007 and his brother Jeff Burton, Jeb's uncle, has retired as a driver and will serve as a TV analyst this season for NBC Sports' NASCAR coverage.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Mark Martin no longer working with Roush Fenway Racing as NASCAR driver coach

   NASCAR veteran Mark Martin confirmed through messages to his followers on Twitter that he is no longer working as a driver development coach for Roush Fenway Racing.

   Martin spent the vast majority of his NASCAR career with the organization, and won 35 of his 40 career wins in the Sprint Cup Series with the team co-owned by Jack Roush.

  On Friday and Saturday, Martin replied, "No," when asked by fans if he would be working with Roush's group of younger drivers during the 2015 season. Last July, RFR announced Martin had returned to the organization as a driver development coach. 

   Also Saturday morning, Martin was asked by a fan for an explanation of what happened at Roush. Here was his reply:

   A spokesman for RFR confirmed Saturday that Martin would no longer be involved in the driver coach role with the organization.

   In recent weeks Martin announced he, along with dirt track veteran Scott Bloomquist, would field a pair of entries this season in the Lucas Oil Late Model championship. Bloomquist and upstart Jared Landers will drive for the team.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Did you know that NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson was also a scientist?

   With the help of NASCAR driver-turned-“scientist” Jimmie Johnson, Valvoline has launched its latest product development, Full Synthetic High Mileage motor oil with MaxLife technology.

   Valvoline teamed up with the six-time Sprint Cup champion and his No. 48 Chevrolet to bring the product’s benefits to life with an entertaining spot featuring none other than “Jimmie the Scientist.” 

   Check it out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brad Keselowski to join growing list of NASCAR driver dads

   Brad Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, announced in his blog on Wednesday that he and his girlfriend, Paige White, are expecting their first child, a girl.

   Keselowski, 30, is the latest NASCAR driver to become a father. Cup driver Kyle Busch and his wife, Samantha, are expecting a baby boy in May. Driver Kyle Larson and his girlfriend, Katelyn Sweet, welcomed a son, Owen, in December.

   In his blog, Keselowski asked that fans and media respect the privacy of his family.

   "I’m a public figure, and that’s what I’ve signed up for. But the baby girl we’re having hasn’t signed up for any of that. So if you can keep the focus on me, that would mean a lot to us," he wrote.

   You can read Keselowski's blog in its entirety here.

Monday, February 2, 2015

NASCAR issues a handful of rule updates before Daytona

   NASCAR issued a handful of rules updates in its rulebook on Monday as the sport prepares for the kickoff of the 2015 season. Among the changes issued:
  •    Only drivers licensed and approved for competition in the Sprint Cup Series will be eligible to participate in NASCAR-approved tire manufacturer tests.

  •     The tire test at Atlanta, originally scheduled for March 2-3, has been canceled. The open test for teams remains on Thursday, Feb. 26.

  •    Any crew member that interferes with another crew's pit stop, whether it causes the other team to incur a penalty or not, may be penalized.