Sunday, October 31, 2010

Services set for NASCAR's Jim Hunter

   Funeral services have been set for former NASCAR vice president and Darlington (SC) Raceway president Jim Hunter.

   Visitation is 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Darlington Raceway.

   A celebration of Hunter's life will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Darlington Presbyterian Church, 311 Peark Street, Darlington, S.C., followed by a reception at Darlington Raceway.

   In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to The NASCAR Foundation, NASCAR Plaza, 550 South Caldwell Street, Suite 200, Charlotte, NC 28202; or to Halifax Health-Hospice of Volusia/Flagler, 3800 Woodbriar Trail, Port Orange, FL  32129.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Did you know Jim Hunter?

   So many times in life you don't really find out some things about people you thought you really knew until their death. It's sad that happens, but in a way it's also serves as a reminder to all us that we don't always know people as well as we think.

   Also, it serves as a reminder that there is a lot more to people than what we find out from talking with them or spending time with them. So, it is with Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for special projects and former president of Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

   In the last few days and weeks I've come across some very interesting tidbits about Hunter, things I didn't learn myself in the 13-plus years I've known them. I decided to share a few:

   Did you know Hunter was the recipient of the Order of the Palmetto? He was awarded South Carolina's highest civic honor in 1995 by then-S.C. Gov. David Beasley.

   Did you know Hunter was an author? In 1975, his book "The Gamecocks: South Carolina football" was published by Strode Publishers of Huntsville, Ala. He also authored a widely-read biography of David Pearson titled, "21 Forever."

   Did you know Hunter once worked for Dodge? He broke into the public relations business in the 1960s, working with Dodge motorsports. He also handled public relations for a number of top IndyCar drivers before embarking on his NASCAR career.

   Hunter spoke from authority because it did it all - he worked in newspapers, both at The State in Columbia, S.C., and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He worked in public relations. He worked as a track executive.

   He did all that and so much more.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Promoting the causes of Jeff Gordon

   As four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon advances further in his NASCAR career, race fans are getting an unintended closer glimpse into the things Gordon cares about most.

   Endorsing charitable causes is nothing new for Gordon.

   Gordon's most recent endeavor has been serving as spokesman for the Sounds of Pertussis campaign promoted by Sanofi Pasteur and the March of Dimes. The campaign encourages parents to protect themselves and their children by getting a booster shot for pertussis, or whooping cough.

   Beginning next season, Gordon will take on a bigger and more expansive campaign - fighting hunger in America. The AARP Foundation is coordinating a Drive to End Hunger campaign, which will serve as primary sponsor on Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet for 22 races in each of the next three seasons.

   So, it is by chance or by choice that Gordon seems to find himself engaged more in promoting causes than peddling products at this stage of his career?

   "I like to be involved in good causes and the work of my Foundation has picked up tremendously over the last several years and I think that sort of builds up the branding that comes with myself and my race team," Gordon said.

   "I think it's pretty well known we enjoy giving back. I think it's a little bit of where I am in my career, and I say that not just because I'm getting older, but I noticed this and I tell Jimmie (Johnson) this with some of the things he's going through - I'm telling you 10 years from now you have no idea what kind of respect you'll have and what type of interest you'll have in a totally different way."

   Gordon said he believes opportunities present themselves to those who remain consistent in their careers in what they say and what they do.

   "I'm at that stage in my life and my career where this type of sponsorship makes perfect sense," he said.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Anti-hunger campaign to sponsor Gordon's No. 24 Chevrolet

  Jeff Gordon is taking up a cause and getting a new sponsor as a result.

   Beginning in 2011, the primary sponsor of Gordon's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for a majority of races will be a major anti-hunger campaign, the Observer and have learned.

   The campaign, which may be the first multi-race cause-related sponsorship of its kind in NASCAR, will be coordinated through the AARP Foundation and eventually involve other companies, sources said.

   The AARP Foundation is the charitable organization of the AARP and dedicated to serving older Americans in need.

   While the anti-hunger campaign will serve as primary sponsor for a majority of races, DuPont and PepsiCo are expected to return as primary sponsors for the remainder of the races in 2011 as well, sources said.

   Gordon's sponsorship and details of the anti-hunger campaign will be unveiled at a news conference on Wednesday at Hendrick Motorsports, sources said.

   A Hendrick Motorsports spokesperson confirmed an announcement is being planned for Wednesday but declined further comment.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Q&A with Robbie Loomis, director of competition at RPM

  Robbie Loomis, Director of Competition for Richard Petty Motorsports, held a question and session outside the No. 43 team hauler Saturday morning at Martinsville Speedway.

   First of all, I want to thank Kasey.  Kasey did a great job for us and if you look at the banners in the shop, a lot of them are there from Kasey and I really wish him well in his new deal.  I think that
started a lot of the stir and speculation throughout the whole week, but we’ve been working really hard and everyone is working hard.  I couldn’t be prouder of the job the guys have done with the Aric
Almirola seat change on Thursday at the last minute, and we’re just looking forward to continuing into 2011 and finishing this year up strong.  I’ve heard a lot of things about our relationship with Roush and Roush has been great to us.  They’ve been a great sponsor, a great provider and work for us in a lot of different ways to help us from the engine shop side with Doug Yates has been amazing.  If there’s anything I have not felt good about is they had three cars make the Chase and we didn’t.  That’s up to us to get our program better, but I think Robbie Reiser and the whole organization over there has always done everything we’ve wanted.  They work really hard to provide good cars for us.

   I think it’s our full intention to go forward.  Like I said, most of the things we’ve been working on throughout the week is, ‘What do we look like in 2011?  What’s our driver lineup look like the rest of the year since we lost Kasey?’  I told the guys yesterday, I sat back at lunch and said, ‘Look, this is no different than running a race when you’re a crew chief.  I’ve been right here at Martinsville leading a race and
all of a sudden hit a pothole and you’ve got to figure out what to do and how to react to it and move forward.’  That’s what we’re looking forward to do with Richard Petty Motorsports.  I think a lot of people
have their thoughts and prayers with Richard. He’s dealing with Lynda and she’s going through some issues and Richard is with her.  His thoughts are with her.  We might see Richard up here tomorrow.  As you
guys know, he usually comes to Martinsville on Sunday, but right now he’s spending a lot of time with Lynda.

   Like I said before, there’s been a lot of speculation about a lot of things, there always has been in this sport, but what gives me confidence is that we’ve always had the ability to move forward.  We do our best today.  I was thinking riding up the road this morning with Dale (Inman) and I said, ‘You can’t look too far out in the future because today is all that we really have,’ and many of you know that from being around this sport.

   ANY DECISION ON IF ARIC WILL REMAIN IN THE CAR PAST THIS WEEKEND?   Most of the things we’ve been working on has been our models for 2011 and what our race teams look like moving forward.  Aric is somebody we were looking at to drive for us next year and the timing of it didn’t work out and come together, so he got the deal with Dale Jr’s Nationwide deal, which is a great opportunity for him and a strong organization.  For us, we had Marcos Ambrose come available and we’re
real excited about AJ and Marcos as we go into next season.  All of the drivers have really stepped up.  I know AJ met with all the guys yesterday and have really been team leaders.  I called Marcos last night and putting a good qualifying lap up there was encouraging for that, too.

   There hasn’t been any change.  Max Jones, our president, has been working really hard with the Roush crowd and everybody on the plans for the future. I think it’s been a collective effort.  The only change we’ve really had is Kasey and his spotter, Cole.  I like Cole, Cole is a great spotter for Kasey, those are the two guys that are gone.

   Yes.  The Gillett’s, they’ve been through a lot obviously – everyone knows that.  They’ve worked really
hard to be a four-car team last year and continue it this year, and now we’ve got to look at what our teams are gonna look like going into next year.

   Yeah, we’ll be at Talladega.  I hope we’re all in Talladega.  It’s our full intention to keep rolling right
   I don’t want to speculate on anything like that.  Like I said, there are a lot of people working collectively together to make this thing more successful as we go forward in the future.  Like Richard said when he
came down on Thursday, he said, ‘Look guys, we’re in the same business.  We’re trying to provide winning race cars and give them to AJ Allmendinger and Elliott Sadler and our drivers that are driving the cars today, so the game hasn’t changed.  It’s the same thing we’re doing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kasey Kahne talks about his early move to Red Bull Racing

   Kasey Kahne met with the media Friday at Martinsville Speedway to talk about his early departure from Richard Petty Motorsports and move to Red Bull racing, beginning this weekend.

   How excited are you for this new opportunity?
   I’m excited.  It’s a big change for myself.  I’ve been doing really the same thing for six and a half years.  To make a change like this is -- it’s new people, it’s new cars, manufacturer, sponsor -- everything is different.  It’ll be a big change for myself.  Just starting to work with new people, but I’m looking forward to it.  I’ve been looking forward to next year and now we have a little bit quicker start on that.  I was with the guys yesterday putting seats in the cars and just trying to get prepared as well as we could for today and for this weekend.  The atmosphere and the excitement up at Red Bull right now, it’s nice to be part of that.  I’m looking forward to the last five races and getting started this weekend.

   How did the decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports come about?
   Really, to me I was leaving.  I was going on starting next year and it made sense for RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports) to start working on their things for next year and for myself to get with the Red Bull guys at this point.  It’s kind of a jump start on next year, is what I see it as.  That’s the biggest thing.  It’s been kind of a crazy week.  There’s been a lot of different things going on and maybe different opinions on what happened or what’s going to happen and that kind of stuff.  I’m looking forward to this weekend and I’m happy that I’m in the Red Bull car.  Hopefully, I can work well with this group of guys and go pretty fast at times.

   Are you still owed money from Richard Petty Motorsports?
   On that side, I’m paid up to date from RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports).  I’m paid up to date.  They’ve met their commitments there and that’s been really good that they have.  I thank them for that.

   Are you relieved to leave Richard Petty Motorsports?
   I don’t know if it’s relief, but it’s my future and it’s something that I’ve been looking forward to was next year.  We get started a little bit earlier.  Last weekend, Saturday night, to have a problem like we had on lap 30, that just doesn’t happen at a track that you don’t use very much brake at.  And then to happen before.  We’d had things go on throughout the season.  At that point in time, it was difficult and I think the timing of all this made sense.  It was nice for me when it happened and I think it’s good for RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports) when it happened.

   What have you heard about the status of Richard Petty Motorsports?
   I’ve heard a lot.  I think everybody has.  It’s just speculation.  I think it’s a lot of talk.  For me, I certainly hope that RPM (Richard Petty Motorsports) keeps rolling.  I hope that they finish out this season and put together another great season next year.  That’s what I want them to do.  I want that team to keep going.  There’s a lot of good people there that deserve to have job and deserve to be working on these race teams.  For me, I hope they keep rolling for sure.  You’d have to ask RPM about some of the other stuff to get the right answers because I think a lot of it could just be speculation.

   What have you heard about the financial situation at Richard Petty Motorsports?
   I’ve been able to stay out of it and start working on the Red Bull side.  I’ve talked to Kenny (Francis, former crew chief) and talked to the guys there, but as far as that stuff goes, I really have stayed out of it, so I’m not sure on that.

   How were you released from Richard Petty Motorsports and will Kenny Francis (former crew chief) join you this year?
   It was a mutual release and for me, I think that’s a good thing for both sides.  They’re happy about it and we’re happy about it.  On the Kenny Francis thing, he’s gonna stay there throughout the rest of the year.  That’s his deal and next year he’ll come over to Red Bull.  He’s gonna stay there and I’m gonna work with Jimmy Elledge (crew chief) the rest of this year and I look forward to it.  I think it should be fine.

   How do you respond to a driver calling you a ‘prima donna’ after Charlotte?
   On the things that have happened in the past, that’s the past and we’ve gotten through them.  I’ve worked hard to get through them. Everybody has that’s worked for Evernham, Gillett, RPM, that was part of it that time.  I don’t know who the driver was, but it’s what happened. I put a commitment in.  Anyone that questions my commitment doesn’t know me very well and doesn’t know how much I love this sport and how much I put into racing.  I don’t think there’s anybody out there that puts as much in it as I do throughout a week.  Some guys may, some guys may not.  I feel like I do everything I do to make myself the best I can be and we kept having problems.  And I was sick to my stomach. It was time for me to just call it a day and that’s what I did.  I’m happy I did it and ready to go onto this weekend.

   How did this situation come about this week?
   It just started Monday and we just put it together and got it figured out and we went our separate ways.  I think there’s a lot of things on both sides that made it make sense.  For me, next year’s going to be, it’s one year and it’s going to be a short year and I’m happy to be prepared and get prepared a little bit early, knowing a little more about the company, about the cars, the engines and the things that I’m going to be driving next year.  I want to come out and win next year and the only way to do that is to be prepared and get off to a great start at the start of the season.  Hopefully this will help in some of that and we will be a little quicker when we start at Daytona.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

What's going on at RPM?

What is going on at Richard Petty Motorsports?

For most of this season, the organization has been encircled with rumors and stories of financial problems with most cast aside as long as RPM continued to field four Sprint Cup series teams.

In recent months we’ve learned a four-car team was going to cut down to a two car operation in 2011 featuring two drivers - AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose - who are talented but have zero Cup wins between them.

Kasey Kahne is moving to Red Bull in 2011 and then Hendrick Motorsports in 2012. Paul Menard is moving to Richard Childress Racing next year.

Now, five races before the end of the season, more trouble has beset the organization.

We learned Kahne had been working on a deal to move to Red Bull as soon as this weekend and late Wednesday night RPM announced it had released Kahne effective immediately.

RPM said Aric Almirola would drive its No. 9 Ford at Martinsville, Va., this weekend but a driver lineup after that “is to be determined.”

Also Wednesday night, two sources directly associated with RPM told the Observer and the organization had no car or engines from Roush Fenway Racing beyond what’s needed for this weekend. And, no, that’s not a normal occurrence.

In fact, with Martinsville cars and engines already ready and none for Talladega to work on, several RPM employees effectively had nothing to work on Wednesday afternoon at the shop, sources said.

In the background of all this lies the sale of the Liverpool soccer club, which George Gillett owned along with other investors, for far less money than he had hoped. Gillett is also the majority of RPM.

Perhaps we’ll know more when Kahne speaks to the media Friday at Martinsville. But I can tell you, there are many employees at RPM worried about their futures.

It seems rightfully so.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One on one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett

   Thanks to Ford Racing which provided the transcript of this interview with Ned Jarrett, one of five members of the 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame class.

   Jarrett won Ford’s firstCup Series driver's championship in 1965. Jarrett, who won two championships overall, is Ford’s all-time winningest driver with 43 victories and is part of only two father-son duos to win NASCAR’s most-coveted championship.

   It’s beginning to sink in more each day as each day goes by. When it happened, I was almost in shock.  I am one of the three retired drivers that was asked to serve on the voting committee long before any nominee was ever announced, so going into the meeting on Wednesday I didn’t think I had a chance.  But after some of the discussion and I saw I had a lot of support in there, I began to have a better feeling about it. 

   Still, I tried to not let my hopes get too high because I didn’t want too big of a letdown in case I wasn’t voted in.  I was prepared for that, but it’s sinking in and I’m realizing what a great thing it is.  Of course, I knew when they announced the NASCAR Hall of Fame that it would be something very special and special to be a part of, and to be able to get in this early is very rewarding.

   My relationship with Ford Motor Company over the years has been great and something that I really appreciate.  Having won the most races in a Ford race car in NASCAR history is very important to me and to have won the first championship for Ford in 1965 is very meaningful to me as well.  I certainly appreciate all that Ford has done for the sport of auto racing over the years.  It’s much more than many fans realize and I appreciate my association with them, too.  They’ve always been a great company to be associated with. 

   I grew up in a Ford family on the farm.  My dad had a Ford car.  We only had one car and that was a Ford, and then when they came out with a Ford tractor, he bought a Ford tractor for the farm.  He had a Ford truck that hauled the lumber from the sawmill that we had, so I grew up in a Ford family and then for one day to be able to race Ford cars and have some success in them is very meaningful to me.

   That is very special, too.  Having Dale go along and win a championship in a Ford car, and now is one of the largest Ford dealers in the country, means a lot to our whole family.

   It was one of the worst rounds of golf I’ve ever had on the golf course.  I told my buddies that I wish they wouldn’t have inducted me into that Hall of Fame because it just tore my golf game up (laughing).  But it was fun to just get out there and relax a little bit.

   It certainly had taken its toll as far as my physical and mental being. I didn’t sleep much that night, so I was tired. That didn’t help my golf game any, but, nevertheless, it was nice to be able to go. Our group tees off at 10:30 in the morning and when we make the turn we stop and have a sit down lunch, and then we go out and play the other nine holes. When I walked into the lunch room at Catawba Country Club, there was a good crowd inside and they all stood and gave me a standing ovation. I really appreciated that and it made me feel real good.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Services/memorials for former Bristol Motor Speedway president Jeff Byrd

    Jeff Byrd’s family invites his friends to join them in celebrating Jeff’s life at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20, at Grace Fellowship Church, 2314 South Greenwood Drive, Johnson City, Tenn., with Dr. Greg Jordan and Dr. David Cagle officiating. 

   A community appreciation service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 21, in the infield at Bristol Motor Speedway.

   In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Jeff Byrd Foundation, c/o Kingsport Community Foundation, 625 Market Street, Suite 1400, Knoxville, TN 37902.  Donations also can be made through the website at

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Jeff Byrd, president and GM of Bristol Motor Speedway, dies

    Jeff Byrd, who was a visible friend to race fans as president and general manager of Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, died on Sunday after a length illness. He was 60.

   Under his leadership, Bristol became one of the most popular tracks in NASCAR. He had led the speedway and its adjacent dragway since January 1996 when Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased the facility.
   “From his days as a sportswriter to his time at R.J. Reynolds to the last 14 years, Jeff Byrd was one of the greatest promoters both stock car and drag racing has known,” said SMI Chairman and CEO Bruton Smith. “To say his passing leaves a void would be an understatement.
   “Simply put, Jeff got it. He understood that more than what happened on the track, it was the experience that fans took home with them that stayed in their memories. And those fans, and the people he worked with at Bristol Motor Speedway, were truly  like family to him.
   "Because of the mindset that he possessed, Jeff will stay in our hearts and memories forever."
   Prior to joining BMS, Byrd served 23 years in the sports marketing department at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., departing as vice president of business development. He began his career as a sportswriter at the Winston-Salem Journal.
   He is survived by his wife, Claudia, daughter, Belton Caldwell and her husband Jerry; son, Christian Byrd and his wife Amy; and seven grandchildren.
   Funeral services remain incomplete.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Looking for volunteers to be last one inducted in NASCAR Hall of Fame

   There has been much discussion about next year’s NASCAR Hall of Fame class, but I couldn't disagree more with the theory that it doesn’t matter when anyone is inducted, just that they are.

   If that were really true, why are five inducted at a time? If it doesn’t matter who is first and who is last, then why not induct everyone considered worthy in the very first class?

   The reason is simple: It does matter. It matters to those who do and who do not get in, and it matters to the folks who run the place, whether it’s to sell tickets or get more exposure.

   There's an old addage in journalism: If you aren't first, you're last. Why? Because people remember who is first; people remember who found out first, got in first, did the first of something. There's a similar phrase used in racing: Second is the first loser.

   While in a perfect world it would nice to believe over the course of history of the NASCAR Hall everyone will be held in the same high regard as the first group inducted, the truth is that isn't so.

   Argue about why one nominee got in before another, argue over the process, argue over whether some have been left off the list entirely. But please, don't tell me it doesn't matter when someone gets in.

   I’m still waiting for any of those who believe that to volunteer to be the last one inducted.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Should Carl Edwards be expecting a NASCAR 'secret' fine?

   Carl Edwards had plenty to say about the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and although it was said in a much different environment - a formal media availability rather than outside the infield care center - it became obvious the message is one we've heard before.

   Back in the spring, after taking another wild wide in a bad-looking crash in a race at Talladega, Ryan Newman emerged from the infield care center and unloaded on the racing there.

   He said restrictor-plate races shouldn’t be points races, and that racing at Talladega "was something different besides racing.” He claimed Talladega and races like it were more marketing tools than competitions.

   On Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Edwards was asked pointedly, "Should there be races like Talladega?"

   This was Edwards complete answer: "Points should not be awarded at Talladega. In a fair competition they shouldn’t be because it’s so random. It’s just a treacherous race. Now, since there are points awarded, it adds a whole other level of stress to the race. You drive around and if you’re doing really well in the points, every lap your heart is pounding and you’re just trying to predict any wrecks that might happen and the best way to avoid them. I guess in a guy’s position like myself, the reasons that I don’t like it when I’m running well in the points are the same reasons that I look forward to it now.”

   There is one significant difference in the two responses: Newman received an unpublicized, hefty fine from NASCAR for making comments that "materially damage the sport." As of this morning, Edwards - as far as we know - has not.

   I look forward to learning how NASCAR officials plan to make the distinction between the two.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How come the disconnect in the NASCAR Hall of Fame voting?

   One thing was evident in Wednesday's results of the voting for NASCAR's Hall of Fame Class of 2011, and it was this: There was a significant disconnect between the published voting intentions of members of the NASCAR media (whether "official" voters or not) and the rest of the Voting Panel.

   Doesn't it strike anyone else as odd that 90 percent of the media members who made their personal preference choices known ahead of time or right after the vote all basically agreed with four of the five inductees?

   David Pearson, Bobby Allison, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip were selected by virtually anyone in the media who offered an opinion of what the second Hall class should look like.

   Yet when the actual vote of the entire panel was compiled Yarborough and Waltrip appeared on less than 45 percent of all voters' ballots.

   Even the fan vote, compiled by, revealed virtually the same thing: Pearson, Allison, Yarborough and Waltrip all found common support.

   For some reason, the remainder of the voting panel had a different thought process than most media members and NASCAR fans as a group.  I mean generally it's hard to get media and race fans to agree on a lot, but this seemed pretty straight forward.

   Yet one large segment of the voting panel thought differently. What did the media and the fans miss?

   Some component of recognizing NASCAR's history? Certainly, Yarborough and Waltrip and their respective careers encompass most if not all that has contributed to NASCAR's history.

   Is it, as Waltrip suggested, some idea of wanting to recognize people while they are still with us to enjoy it? That's certainly possible. Yet, it seems to me if that were the case, Raymond Parks would have been a shoo-in for the first class.

   In any case, no one should be willing to throw the word "lock" around when it comes to any Hall of Fame class for a long time to come.

NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2011 unveiled

   NASCAR announced on Wednesday the second class of inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. That class consists of: David Pearson, who was named on 94 percent of ballots; Bobby Allison - 62%; Lee Petty - 62%; Ned Jarrett - 58%; and Bud Moore - 45%.

    The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel, consisting of members of the Nominating Committee along with 31 others representing all facets of the NASCAR industry, met in a closed session in Charlotte, N.C., to vote on the induction class of 2011. The announcement was made in the Great Hall inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

   The class was determined by 53 votes cast by the panel and the nationwide fan vote conducted through The accounting firm of Ernst & Young presided over the tabulation of the votes.

   The Class of 2011 will be officially inducted in a ceremony in May 2011 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Also receiving votes were Dale Inman, Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

LIVE chat with Scott Fowler noon-1

Chat live with Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler from noon to 1 p.m. today. We'll launch about 11:45 and start taking your questions. Click here for the link. Can't join us? You can replay the chat later today at the same address.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tony Stewart talks about Shane Hmiel

   Sunday's Sprint Cup race winner, Tony Stewart, is a former USAC champion and very familiar with the series and former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel, who was critically injured in a crash Saturday during a Silver Crown series qualifying run.

   After his win, Stewart was asked to talk about Hmiel, who was banned from NASCAR after three failed drug tests, and his quest to start fresh in another racing series.

   Q. If anybody knows USAC talent, you've seen them all.  You know, where did you feel like Shane Hmiel is? Where do you feel like he is and what's your response to his actions?
   Stewart: I'll be honest, when Shane started running sprint cars and midgets and silver crown cars, it was like, oh, man, this could be very interesting because he had never really ran those types of cars, he had never raced on dirt.  Be he just never was scared of it, he never backed down from it, he said I've got to learn at this, and he has given 110 percent ever since day one.  He's really turned into a great open‑wheel driver.

   So that's actually part of the reason I had called Irish last night was to check on Shane, and he was going to the hospital to see him.  But you know, just ‑‑ it's something that doesn't happen a lot in open‑wheel racing.  It was just a freak accident that happened, and the way that he crashed was ‑‑ the way he hit the concrete wall was not too many guys hit like that.  But it was a devastating hit, and obviously his injuries reflected that.

   But to get an update from those guys at Indianapolis this morning and hear how well he made it through the night and hearing the optimistic thoughts from the doctors, you know, it made us all, I think, breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that he made it through that first night, and that's a big step.  To hear the doctors say they don't think there's going to be any paralysis with a broken neck and broken back, we just went through that a month and a half ago with a close friend, and with Shane we didn't want to see that happen again.

   That's why we mentioned it in victory lane.  Definitely our thoughts are with him right now for sure.

   More info on Hmiel's wreck can be found here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pot, Kettle, Black ????

   So I was reading over the transcript of what Kyle Busch had to say Friday at Auto Club Speedway and it's clear he is still mad over his run-in with David Reutimann last weekend at Sunday.

   But one answer struck me as particularly self-serving.

   When asked if he would like to see a change to the "have at it, boys" philosophy from NASCAR, Busch said, "I think in the instance in which everybody knew payback was coming, I think that's kind of dumb to let it happen."


   You mean at Atlanta when everyone knew what Carl Edwards was doing, getting in a wrecked car dozens of laps down to get back out and mess with Brad Keselowski?

   Or when Kyle Busch himself got pushed aside by Keselowski in the Nationwide race in August at Bristol, Tenn., and he returned the favor by punting Keselowski to help gain the win.

   Who didn't see those coming?

   Has Busch been paying attention all season? He may want to review his own laundry list of actions before he begins calling on NASCAR changes to how it polices driver conduct on the track.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Where has NASCAR's TV audience gone?

   What’s going on with NASCAR’s TV audience?

   Over the past three weeks, according to weekly Nielsen Media Research numbers, NASCAR has lost an average of a fourth of its viewing audience from one year ago at the start of the Chase.

   Ratings for the Chase for the Sprint Cup opener at New Hampshire were off 28 percent. Dover was off 23 percent and figures from Sunday’s race at Kansas show a 28 percent drop from one year ago.

   Folks, those are huge numbers. Even worse is the fact it’s developing into a very disturbing pattern.

   Don’t get me wrong, it’s no secret TV ratings have been flat or down slightly most of this season, but there’s something more going on here when such a precipitous drop coincides with what is supposed to be the biggest part of your season – the crowning of the Cup series champion.

   I don’t for one minute believe the big drops beginning with the Chase is mere coincidence. So what is it?

   Everyone has theories. Here are the most common:
   -It’s because the races are on ESPN this year instead of ABC. That seems plausible to me except that an ESPN executive dismissed that reason in an interview last week discussing the ratings drop.

   -It’s because the races are running up against the NFL. Well, maybe if that was new. But races and football have run side-by-side for nearly 60 years now.

   -It’s the new 1 p.m. start time for most races. Well, that might make sense, except that NASCAR and its networks made the change to the earlier start times because “fans asked for it.” Did they all suddenly change their mind?

   Or could it be the elephant in the room – the Chase. Perhaps fans who took a look at it when it debuted in 2004 have soured on it. Perhaps those who didn’t like it to begin with, simply aren’t watching or not caring.

   I don’t know the answer.

   But I can tell you this: Everyone in NASCAR – not just executives – but everyone who has a stake in the sport best hope someone can find out why this is going on and attempt to fix it fast.

   It’s not a trend that is going to help the sport and especially if it gets any worse.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My list of Top 10 things found at the bottom of the sinkhole at Charlotte Motor Speedway

   In good humor, Charlotte Motor Speedway put out its list of Top 10 things found at the bottom of the sinkhole which has developed in the infield of the track. I thought I would add my own:

   10. All of the old signs and stationary with "Lowe's Motor Speedway" logos on it.

   9. Piles of sheet metal leftover from the wrecks caused as a result of the speedway's experiment with "levigation."

   8. The engine from Richard Petty's winning car in the 1983 Miller 500. It was so big, there was no where else to put it.

   7. Unused artillery leftover from many of Humpy Wheeler's invasions of the frontstretch done in coordination with the Memorial Day weekend race.

   6. Pounds and pounds of Ostrich meat. If you were there that year, you know what I'm talking about.

   5. Audio tape of the bad words Kurt Busch said to NASCAR officials over his team radio during the 2002 all-star race which resulted in a hefty penalty.

   4. The original Legends car - a 1950 De Soto.

   3. The "Speedway Boulevard" signs tossed away after it was renamed "Bruton Smith Boulevard."

   2. One of Ric Flair's 672 professional wrestling world championship belts he dropped after saying "Woooooooooooooooooooooo" one too many times.

   1. The remains of the seats of the pants of the Cabarrus County officials after Smith finished "negotiating" with them over building his zMax Dragstrip.

   Any other suggestions?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Full text from National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer on Clint Bowyer appeal

Following an appeal hearing earlier today in Concord, N.C., the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer has upheld the penalty for the No. 33 car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, with the following revisions:

Crew chief Shane Wilson’s fine has been reduced from $150,000 to $100,000 and Wilson and car chief
Chad Haney’s race suspensions have been lowered from six to four. Both are suspended from NASCAR until Nov. 3 and are on probation until Dec. 31.

The loss of 150 championship owner and driver points remains intact.

The No. 33 car was penalized by NASCAR on Sept. 22 as a result of rule infractions discovered during post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center following the Sept. 19 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Specifically, the car body location specifications in reference to the certified chassis did not meet NASCAR-approved specifications of the 2010 NASCAR Rule Book.

“After reviewing all the data, presentation and factors involved, I am ruling NASCAR was correct in its decision to levy penalties,” said John Middlebrook, the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer who presided over the hearing. “I believe that the revisions that have been made to the penalties are consistent and fair to both parties involved.”

– John Middlebrook, National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate

Monday, October 4, 2010

Waltrip response to Kyle Busch-David Reutimann incident at Kansas


“There are 43 drivers on the race track each Sunday and there is no delineation between Chase participants and non-Chase participants when it comes to respect. 

“Everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing is working hard to deliver great results to our owners, employees and sponsors.  All organizations have a lot at stake each week as we are all measured by our performance and finishing position.  When David Reutimann’s chance to compete for a win at Kansas was taken away, it set off a series of events that have been well documented.

“I stand behind David because his record of sportsmanship is flawless.  It is the duty of MWR’s drivers to deliver for Toyota and our other partners, and I expect them to be treated fairly while doing so.”

Here's my picks for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2011

   Next week, those with much more say than I have will make their selections to determine the next five members that will be inducted in NASCAR's Hall of Fame in May 2011. Since I have no vote in the "official" process, I decided to get a jump and tell you what my own five-member class would be.
   Bobby Allison - A native of Miami, Allison uprooted to Hueytown, Ala., and became the leader of the heralded "Alabama Gang." He scored 84 career wins in what is know called the Sprint Cup series, tying him for third on the all-time win list. He won 57 poles, three Daytona 500s and the 1983 Cup championship.

   Red Byron - All the focus these days in NASCAR is on the Cup champion and Byron was NASCAR's first, becoming the then-Grand National stock car racing’s first points champion in 1949. He also won the first NASCAR-sanctioned race on Feb. 15, 1948 in a Dodge prepared by Red Vogt. Byron won the Modified championship in 1948 after winning 11 races and finishing second five times.

   David Pearson - Pearson won three Cup championships and 105 races, ranking him second on the all-time list. He is the all-time leading pole winner on superspeedways with 64, including at least one every year from 1963 to 1982. He won a record 11 consecutive poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His best Cup season came in 1968 when he won 16 races and finished in the top five 36 times in 48 starts.

   Darrell Waltrip - One of nine drivers to win three or more Cup championships (1981-82, ’85), Waltrip won 84 times in 809 starts. He is tied with Bobby Allison for third place on the all-time win list. He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers as part of the sport's 50th anniversary celebration and is now a TV commentator for Fox Sports.

   Cale Yarborough - Yarborough was the first driver to capture three successive Cup championships (1976-78). He retired in 1988 with 83 race wins, 198 poles and more than $5 million in winnings. Among his 50 superspeedway victories were five Southern 500s and four Daytona 500s. He drove legendary owners the Wood Brothers, Harry Ranier and Junior Johnson.

   That's my Class of 2011. What's yours?