Thursday, April 30, 2015

Erik Jones to sub for injured NASCAR driver Kyle Busch until his return

   As first reported by The Charlotte Observer on April 24, Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed on Thursday that Truck and Xfinity series driver Erik Jones will fill in for the injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota beginning with next weekend's race at Kansas. Jones, 18, is expected to remain with the team until Busch returns to action.

   “I’m pretty excited and grateful for the opportunity to drive the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota Camry in the Sprint Cup Series and make my debut for Joe Gibbs Racing. This is a really good opportunity for me. We are going to try to manage our expectations and if we can go out and get a top-15 run and gain some experience, that would be a great day for us," Jones said. 

   At Kansas, Jones will be running a special paint scheme highlighting M&M’S support of Red Nose Day on the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota. Mars is proud to be a partner of Red Nose Day, a major charitable event that will be held on May 21.  

   With three races complete in the 2015 Truck season, Jones sits third in the series standings, six points out of the lead. In eight Xfinity Series starts this season, he has one win, three poles and five top-five finishes.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Three arrested in Richmond International Raceway NASCAR garage in jacket thefts

   Three men from Newport News, Va., were arrested Friday afternoon in the infield of Richmond International Raceway and charged with grand larceny, police confirmed. 

   According to Lt. Chris Eley with the Henrico County Police Department, Henrico Police were contacted at about 4 p.m. by the victim, who remains unidentified, who stated three males had taken jackets belonging to the victim without consent.

   The suspects were located by police wearing the stolen property, arrested, and charged, Eley said. The property was recovered and returned to the victim.

   The incident took place in the Xfinity Series garage area, according to several witnesses.

   Arrested were Zachary T. Garner, 22; Colton S. Ketchum, 19; and Joshua G. Moschler, 21; all of Newport News.

   Officials with RIR and NASCAR declined any further comment.


Timothy Peters wins the Denny Hamlin Short Track Challenge

   NASCAR Truck Series regular Timothy Peters ended up an unexpected winner in Thursday night's Denny Hamlin Short Track Challenge at South Boston (Va.) Speedway.

   It was unexpected because Peters wasn't capable of winning but rather the circumstances that determined the outcome.

    Peters avoided a spinning Lee Pulliam on the final lap of the green-white-checkered finish to claim his first win in the charity race at his home track. Peters started second to Pulliam on Lap 208 and the two raced side-by-side for the lead at the white flag.

   Josh Berry, who was third at the time, slammed into Pulliam going in to the final turn of the final lap, sending Pulliam around. Peters was able to stay high and finish just ahead of runner-up William Byron.

   Mark Wertz, who started on the final row, finished third with Tommy Lemons Jr. and Tyler Ankrum rounding out the top five. Berry was penalized for aggressive driving and finished 17th after being moved to the last car on the lead lap.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Services scheduled for Fox broadcaster Steve Byrnes and where to send cards

    Services for Steve Byrnes

   Visitation is 6 to 8:30 p.m. Monday at Calvary Church of Charlotte, 5801 Pineville-Matthews Rd., Charlotte. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Tuesday, with visitation to follow, also at Calvary Church. 

   Palmetto Funeral Home of Fort Mill, S.C., is in charge of the arrangements.

   If you are interested in sending a card to the Byrnes' family, you can send them to :

   Attention: Family of Steve Byrnes
   c/o Fox Sports
   1220 W. W.T. Harris Blvd.
   Charlotte, NC   28262 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Complete text of President Obama's remarks honoring NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick

Remarks made by President Barack Obama honoring reigning Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick and his team

   THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  Please have a seat.  Welcome to the White House on this beautiful day.  And congratulations to Kevin Harvick, the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.  Hey!  (Applause.)  It is always wonderful to have the NASCAR family here.  We’ve got huge fans in the White House, and we’ve got some big fans, including some members of Congress who are here. 

   It’s great to have Kevin’s crew chief, Rodney Childers, who is here. We’ve also got Greg Zipadelli – almost messed it up there; it’s like Obama, too many vowels.  And the team from Stewart-Haas Racing. NASCAR’s leadership is here as well. Brian France is here and Mike Helton. Welcome back.  

   And even though the Budweiser Chevy got the White House parking pass this year, I am sure Tony Stewart doesn’t mind adding another Owner’s Championship to his collection.  So congratulations to Tony.  

   I also want to offer my condolences to everybody in the NASCAR community on the passing of a legendary reporter and broadcaster, Steve Byrnes. And I know a lot of fans’ thoughts and prayers today are with his wife, Karen, and his son, Bryson.  

   We are here to celebrate, though, Kevin Harvick. This was an exciting year for the “Four Car.” As the season started, Kevin had a new team, a new crew chief to adjust to. It usually takes a little time for a driver and a crew chief to find their groove, but Kevin and Rodney seemed to figure out each other in a hurry -- sort of like when Joe Biden joined my team.
So they had instant chemistry. And as Kevin can tell you, when you have a trusted partner shouting world-class advice into your ear at every turn, you can’t lose. 

   It wasn’t long before Kevin and Rodney and the team behind the Budweiser Chevy were firing on all cylinders. ut the season was not without its ups and downs. By the second race in the season, Kevin had picked up his first checkered flag with Stewart-Haas. And then came a tough stretch – the kind where most championship seasons are forged. There were blown tires, engine failures, cut oil lines, a slew of obstacles that held the “Four Car” from finishing any higher than 36th in three out of four straight races. 

   But Kevin and Rodney stuck with it, and by the time the Chase rolled around, this team was ready. A win at Homestead capped a season where Kevin picked up five wins, led more laps than anybody on the grid – picking up his first Sprint Cup championship.  

   And by the looks of it, with two quick wins and the points lead already in place, 2015 isn’t shaping up to be too much different. 

   Kevin has also found the time to match his contributions on the track with his commitment to family and community away from racing. His wife, DeLana, and his son, Keelan, are constant presences on the track. And I know at one point, DeLana even had her own fire-suit. I’m sure it looked better than it did on Kevin. And I’m sure that if Michelle decided we were going to start wearing matching outfits, it would be me who adapted to her style. 

   Together, Kevin and DeLana run the Kevin Harvick Foundation, which aims to help underprivileged youth to excel both as students and as athletes. From helping his hometown Boys and Girls Club in Bakersfield, California renovate a gym and a playground, to supporting programming which prevents bullying and violence in his former high school, Kevin – like so many others across NASCAR – is working to make a difference. 

   So, Kevin, congratulations to you again for an outstanding season. The whole team at Stewart-Haas Racing, keep up the great work.  NASCAR, looking forward to seeing more excitement on the track. 

   Thank you so much.

Longtime NASCAR on Fox TV broadcaster Steve Byrnes dies at age 56

   Longtime NASCAR on Fox Sports TV broadcaster Steven Patrick Byrnes, who has waged a difficult and public battle with cancer over the last two years, died Tuesday. Byrnes, a resident of Fort Mill, S.C., was 56.

   Byrnes joined Fox Sports in 2001, hosting and reporting for multiple NASCAR programs and served as a pit road reporter for NASCAR on Fox’s broadcast of Sprint Cup Series races from 2001 through the 2014 season. He most recently served as the play-by-play announcer for Fox Sports 1 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and was co-host of "NASCAR Race Hub" for the network.

   Last weekend, in conjunction with Fox, Speedway Motorsports Inc. and NASCAR, the Cup race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway was renamed the Food City 500 In Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer. 

   Prior to joining Fox, Byrnes also hosted "Darrell Waltrip's Racers" on TNN, worked as a pit road reporter for CBS, WTBS and TNN, and hosted a variety of NASCAR programs for The History Channel and TNN. A 1981 graduate of the University of Maryland, Byrnes' first on-air job was at WCIV-TV in Charleston, S.C., in 1982. Byrnes also called play-by-play for a Carolina Panthers/Minnesota Vikings NFL game on Fox and Cup series races for DirecTV's "Hot Pass."
   Survivors are his wife, Karen; son Bryson; parents, Jerry and Claire Byrnes of Charlotte; sister, Betsy Byrnes of Charlotte; brother, Dan Byrnes and his wife, Tammy, of Charlotte; nephews, Tyler and Dylan Byrnes; and niece, Samantha Byrnes.  

   In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to: Church of Christ at Gold Hill Road, 1055 Gold Hill Road, Fort Mill, SC  29708; Charlotte Christian School, 7301 Sardis Road, Charlotte, NC 28270; or NASCAR Foundation, One Daytona Blvd., 6th Floor, Daytona Beach, FL 32114.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why did Kurt Busch pit from the lead late in Sunday's race?

   It's probably one of the most puzzling questions from Sunday night's rain-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway - and that's saying a lot considering all that transpired.

   Why did Kurt Busch - in the lead late in the race - elect to pit for new tires? As it ended up, Busch was the only lead-lap car to pit which left him with a lot of ground to make up once the race went back to green.

   Here is what Busch said about the decision to pit:  

   "We had 100 laps on our tires. I thought we needed to pit. (John) Klausmeier (engineer) thought we needed to pit. Then I was thinking this is the Bristol of old we might be able to get away with staying out. It turned out that (Matt) Kenseth brought it on home to Victory Lane. Congratulations to him," Busch said.

   "We had fresh tires coming up through. (Carl) Edwards pushed the cushion. He hit some ice, I hit the same stuff or he was throwing the marbles out on the track and I just got sucked right in there. I was like, 'I’m avoiding the wreck,' but I couldn’t do anything to avoid them.  We salvaged 15th.  The car could have won."

Pair of NASCAR's future stars battle it out for K&N Series win at Bristol

   They were both 17-years-old, battling not only for a victory in Saturday's K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol Motor Speedway, but also for bragging rights.

   And perhaps to cement their respective futures in NASCAR.

   Kyle Benjamin and William Byron battled side-by-side in the last 30 laps of Saturday's PittLite 125 before Benjamin finally pulled away for his first series victory in seven career starts. Byron, who won the series' most recent race at Greenville-Pickens (S.C.) Speedway, finished second.

   Benjamin, a Roush Fenway development driver, won by 0.910-seconds over Byron, who also runs Late Models for JR Motorsports.Scott Heckert followed in third with Kaz Grala and Brandon Jones completing the top five.

   Eddie MacDonald, last year's winner of this race, rebounded from a spin early in the race to finish sixth with Austin Hill, Daniel Hemric, J.J. Haley and Rico Abreu completing the top 10.

   Bryon takes over the points lead by three points over Austin Hill (128-125) with Benjamin third with 119 points. 

PittLite125 Results

(Start position in parentheses)
1. (8) Kyle Benjamin, Easley, S.C., Ford, 125 laps, 69.968 mph.
2. (4) William Byron, Charlotte, N.C., Chevrolet, 125.
3. (6) Scott Heckert, Ridgefield, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
4. (12) Kaz Grala, Westborough, Mass., Toyota, 125.
5. (2) Brandon Jones, Atlanta, Ga., Chevrolet, 125.
6. (16) Eddie MacDonald, Rowley, Mass., Chevrolet, 125.
7. (11) Austin Hill, Winston, Ga., Ford, 125.
8. (3) Daniel Hemric, Kannapolis, N.C., Chevrolet, 125.
9. (5) J.J. Haley, Winamac, IN, Chevrolet, 125.
10. (7) Rico Abreu, St. Helena, Calif., Chevrolet, 125.
11. (19) Gray Gaulding, Colonial Heights, Va., Toyota, 125.
12. (20) David Garbo, Jr., Stonington, Conn., Chevrolet, 125.
13. (10) Nick Drake, Mooresville, N.C., Toyota, 125.
14. (15) Travis Miller, Chesapeake, Va., Chevrolet, 125.
15. (14) Ronnie Bassett, Jr., Winston-Salem, NC, Ford, 125.
16. (13) Trey Hutchens, Lexington, NC, Chevrolet, 125.
17. (23) Chad Finchum, Knoxville, Tenn., Toyota, 125.
18. (28) Dillon Bassett, Winston-Salem, N.C., 125.
19. (24) John Holleman, IV, Winston-Salem, N.C., Chevrolet, 125.
20. (26) Sarah Cornett-Ching, Summerland, B.C., Toyota, 124.
21. (21) Jay Beasley, Las Vegas, Nev., Toyota, 122.
22. (9) Codie Rohrbaugh, Petersburg, W.Va., Chevrolet, 122.
23. (27) Chuck Buchanan, Jr., Hildebran, N.C., Chevrolet, 117.
24. (22) Collin Cabre, Tampa, FL, Toyota, 100, accident.
25. (1) Jesse Little, Sherrills Ford, N.C., Toyota, 63, electrical.
26. (17) Dalton Sargeant, Boca Raton, FL, Chevrolet, 61, accident.
27. (18) Kenzie Ruston, El Reno, Okla., Toyota, 52, engine.
28. (25) Devon Amos, Rio Rancho, N.M., Toyota, 36, accident.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Todd Parrott returns to Cup garage to be crew chief for a day

   Former Sprint Cup Series championship crew chief Todd Parrott made an abbreviated return to the Cup garage on Friday serving as interim crew chief for Richard Childress Racing’s No. 31 team and driver Ryan Newman while the team mulled whether to appeal its tire penalty again.

   Late Friday afternoon, RCR decided it would appeal its NASCAR penalty one more time to the Chief Appellate Officer, Bryan Moss. Until the appeal is heard, RCR's three suspended crew members - including regular crew chief Luke Lambert - can return to work.
   Parrott, who won the 1999 championship with driver Dale Jarrett, has most recently served as RCR’s competition director for its Xfinity Series programs.

   “I have a lot of years in the Cup garage,” Parrott said. “Hopefully, it shows the depth of RCR, while Luke is going through his deal here with his suspension. We have a great bunch of guys."
   Lambert, a team tire specialist and an engineer were all suspended six races by NASCAR for their involvement in a tire-tampering incident during the March 22 race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. 

   Most of the penalties assessed to RCR were upheld by the National Motorsports Appeals Panel. The CAO can overturn all the penalties, accept the appeals panel's decision or even increase the penalties. 

  Asked about the mood of the No. 31 team, which has lost 50 driver and owner points, Parrott said, "It's been tough because there has been a lot of focus, a lot of media attention on them and their team. The talks that Luke has had with the guys back at the shop, I feel like the mood of the team is really good."


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Richard Childress statement on decision of Appeals Panel

Statement from Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing
   "I'd like to thank the Appeals Panel for taking the time to hear our appeal today. While they decided to reduce the penalties to the minimum penalties for a P5 violation, I am disappointed that the entire penalty was not overturned given the facts we presented.  

   "In order for the team to move forward, and focus our efforts on the upcoming races, Luke (Lambert), Phil (Surgen) and James (Bender) will begin serving their suspensions this weekend at Bristol. Veteran crew chief Todd Parrott will fill in as crew chief for this weekend's race.  

   "We are still discussing our options and have not yet determined whether to appeal the penalties to the Final Appeals Officer."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What Kyle Busch learned about his accident from a trip to NASCAR's R&D center

   In an interview last weekend with The Observer, NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell said driver Kyle Busch had made a recent visit to NASCAR's research and development center in Concord, N.C, to go over his damaged Daytona race car and go through feedback on his accident.

   During Busch's first media availability Wednesday at Joe Gibbs Racing, I asked Busch what, if anything, new he learned from going through the process at the R&D center compared to just watching video replays of the incident.

   Here was his response:

   "I had seen cars wreck, and I had seen some pretty bad crashes, we all have and you’ve seen a lot of cars destroyed, whatever you want to say. As far as the compression of the race car, I felt like there was a lot there, and a lot to learn for myself, Joe Gibbs Racing, for our engineers here, but also the engineers at NASCAR, to learn and understand. I know they’re kind of thankful that I was actually able to get out under my own power and they didn’t cut the car so they could actually take it back and review it more and more and really do a diagnostic on it. They still are, they’re still working through it as we speak," he said.

   "I feel like when I saw the wreck, it probably was worse than I expected it to be when I looked at it. Now seeing it and looking at it and understanding what happened in the cockpit – I didn’t sit there when I was in the car and getting out of the car, ‘Man look at that, holy smokes.’ I had a few other things on my mind at that time. When I got back to go to the NASCAR R&D Center, obviously that was when I had a good chance to see what it looked like and to see how much safety innovations NASCAR has come up with over the years to keep me here today.

   "I’m alive today just because the fact that the restraints worked, the seat worked, the HANS device worked – everything worked. It was just the pure foot cockpit of the area that obviously injured me. I can’t say enough about NASCAR and their innovations. From knees up, no problem, not a mark on me, not a bruise, not a headache, not a neck ache, nothing – it was all great. It was just a matter of your flailing feet when you’re in a wreck like that.” 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Appeals panel reduces NASCAR penalty to Circle Sport team

   A three-member National Motorsports Appeals Panel on Tuesday reduced the NASCAR penalties imposed last month on the Circle Sport No. 33 team in the Sprint Cup Series for an unapproved rear truck trailing arm.

   NASCAR originally imposed a  $50,000 fine and three-race suspension to crew chief Slugger Labbe and placed him on probation through the end of the year. In addition, a 25-point penalty was assessed to team owner Joe Falk.

   The panel decided to reduce the fine to $20,000 and reduce the points penalty to 10 owner points. The suspension and probation remain in effect. The panel said two of the three rules the team was accused of violating were "subject to interpretation."

   The panel consisted of Russell Hackett, Lake Speed and John White.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Who does a driver have to trust? 'The tire guy' says Dale Junior

   NASCAR this season stopped policing whether lug nuts were loose or missing on tires during pit stops. Instead, the sanctioning body has left that duty to the teams, although a team can face a serious penalty should it lose a wheel during the race. 

   However, the first person who knows whether a team made a mistake is the driver and Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, several were forced to make unscheduled pit stops for missing lug nuts or loose wheels.

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke at length after Saturday night's race about the dilemma teams find themselves in on this issue and the trust drivers must place in their pit crews and particularly those who change tires.

   "I think we all were a little worried when NASCAR said we were going to have to police it because that's just a big change from the norm and what we've done in the past. The question is can we police ourselves? NASCAR doesn't have the officials on pit road to do it anymore, so they made a change and put it on our laps. You've got understand how serious a situation is," Earnhardt explained.

   "You get out there on the race track and we got the corner speeds are 18 miles an hour faster in the middle of the corner, and if you lose a wheel going that fast, it's not going to be very good. So you have to have guys that are up front and honest that you trust. If your tire guy done makes a mistake, if he makes a mistake and raises his hand and says 'Look, man, I made a mistake,' you catch it right then, right under the caution, you get it fixed, you get a chance to get back going. Otherwise if you don't speak up, you get a bad vibration, the driver is going to come in, and he ain't going to knock his head against the fence out there when you think the tire is coming off and you lose a lap. Then you're in big trouble.

   "It's a bit of a process, but I think that the guys, the tire guys that are honest and feel confident about I got them tight or didn't get them tight, that's the kind of guys you want coming over the wall to help you. You need them guys looking out for you the same way you look out for them."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Next change on pit road? Jeff Gordon says 'The speed limit is the speed limit'

   Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon is a big supporter of the new camera enforcement procedures on pit road this season and he'd like NASCAR to take it yet another step.

   Gordon believes it's time NASCAR do away with speed or timing lines on pit road and just enforce the speed limit on pit road from beginning to end.

   Currently, NASCAR monitors the average speed of a car between timing lines. So in theory, a car can go faster than the limit in one area if it goes slower in another.

   "I think that’s the next step. We’ve got to get rid of these speed lines. It doesn’t make any sense. The speed limit is the speed limit. You should never be able to break the speed limit," Gordon said. "You should carry the speed limit all the way down pit road. What we do is find pit stalls to try to get around that. So we’re ramping up and slowing down and that’s what got us in Martinsville. We were just too aggressive with it.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Richard Childress Racing's appeal of NASCAR tire penalty will be heard next week

   The National Motorsports Appeals Panel will hear Richard Childress Racing's appeal of an unprecedented NASCAR penalty for tire tampering on Thursday, April 16. 

   Until the hearing, the fines and suspensions as part of the penalty will be placed on hold but the 75-point driver and car owner penalties remain in effect. Should RCR win its appeal those points will be restored. 

   NASCAR fined Luke Lambert, crew chief of driver Ryan Newman's No. 31 team, $125,000 and suspended him for six races, including all non-points events during that time period. He was also placed on probation through the end of the season.

   In addition, tire technician James Bender and engineer Philip Surgen were each suspended six races and placed on probation through the end of the year.

   NASCAR found the team had tampered with tires used in the March 22 Sprint Cup Series race at Fontana, Calif., and send the tires to a third party to confirm its findings before issuing the P5 penalty - the second most serious in the penalty scale.

Read more here:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

At Monday's White House Easter Egg Roll, Jeff Gordon must also meet a #GimmeFive challenge

   Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, “Black-ish” star Anthony Anderson and tennis star Caroline Wozniacki will join the lineup of guests stopping by “Live with Kelly and Michael’s” special broadcast from the White House on Monday.
   For the first time, the full hour of the morning talk show will originate live from the White House, during the annual Easter Egg Roll. The show also includes a sit down with First Lady Michelle Obama and "Nashville" star Connie Britton.

   In addition to a sight-seeing tour of D.C. and his kids, Ella and Leo, participating in the Easter Egg Roll, Gordon has also been challenged to do five push-ups on the show as part of the #GimmeFive social media fitness challenge initiated by the First Lady.

   Watch the video below to see who challenged Gordon: