Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tony Stewart said what ????

   I heard it, but to be honest it's still hard for me to believe who said it.

   Soon after NASCAR Chairman Brian France's announcement of the sport's new scoring system there was a driver on Speed praising the change and concluded his commentary with this: "I don't think there should be too much emphasis on winning."

   First of all, I think such a statement is just silly. Sports is ONLY about winning. Even in NASCAR I've always heard the adage, "Second is the first loser."

   But what was most disconcerting was who said this. It was Tony Stewart.

   Are you kidding me? Tony Stewart, the same driver who throughout his career we've heard nothing but comments about how much he wants to win?

   Tony Stewart, the same driver who has blown off multiple media interviews after races when he came up short because "He's just upset because he wants to win so much"?

   This is the same Tony Stewart who said on Aug. 11, 2010, in an interview with, "For me, racing is not about the money, it's about winning."

   Is this how bad things have gotten? A driver who has been championed throughout his NASCAR career for his passion for winning and had some of his questionable antics defended by those around him for holding that same passion, now suddenly believes winning isn't all that big a deal after all.

   Who knew? That's fine. I guess he'll just have to come up with a new excuse the next time finishing second ticks him off. Can't wait to see what it is.

If no accident in 2001, what would Dale Earnhardt have done?

There has been a lot of discussion so far this week at various stops on the Sprint NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway regarding the approaching 10-year anniversary of the death of the late Dale Earnhardt, who died on Feb. 18, 2001, in a last-lap wreck in the Daytona 500.

Throughout the stops we have met and spoke with many drivers and crew chiefs and team executives who worked with Earnhardt about a variety of issues. One I found interesting on Tuesday was a conversation with Ty Norris, who is now with Michael Waltrip Racing, but also was formerly executive vice president Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Earnhardt was 49 years old when he died and conversation turned to whether Earnhardt had ever talked of retirement plans.
"He had a good three in him left as a driver for sure, maybe more," Norris said. "We hoped that he had a lot more years left because we knew he would be a miserable SOB outside of the race car.

"He'd come in the office all the day and be bitching all the time and we'd be like, 'God Almighty, I hope he races forever.'"

Norris said he asked Earnhardt "at least a 100 times" about whether he wanted to drive a Cup series car from his DEI organization and Earnhardt always responded, "You guys can't afford me."

"Dale said he would never do that to Richard (Childress). He would never leave Richard Childress."

Earnhardt won six of his seven Cup championships while driving for Childress, who continues to this day as one of NASCAR's most successful car owners.

Monday, January 24, 2011

NASCAR's Felix Sabates: Unplugged

Felix Sabates, part owner of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing, is never a loss for words, even if they sometimes get him in hot water. Sabates was on hand Monday for the first stop of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway and he had plenty to say on a variety of topics.

On his relationship with the late Dale Earnhardt: We had a pretty good relationship away from the race track. Dale was a man’s man. For him, a race car was something that had four wheels and you had to drive it and how you drove it was up to you not up to somebody else. He is probably saying today, ‘These cars drive by themselves.’ Which they don’t because you still have to have the guy pushing the gas. He would have had a hard time adjusting to all these new things that we have now.

On team owner Chip Ganassi: Chip is very quiet and very easy going, but don’t take that the wrong way. When he has to, he has to, but his style of management is completely different from my style of management and his obviously works better than mine did because he’s winning. Chip is hands on. He’s on the phone everyday with everybody from the drivers to the crew chiefs to me and the man only knows one thing and that’s racing. He might watch a football game every now and then, but his whole life is around a race car. He’s very well respected. He’s not feared, he’s respected. A lot of people are feared. I think Jack Roush is feared by his people. Chip is not feared, but they respect him.

On the difference he sees in driver Jamie McMurray: I can see a huge difference and I think mainly, when Jamie (McMurray) drove for us before, I don’t think we were the race team that we are today to begin with. I think those four years that he spent away from us – people change a lot and Jamie was probably one of the most changed person that I have ever seen in my life. He’s a completely different person. Jamie became an old guy this year. He was always a kid. People looked at him as a young kid and he wasn’t a young kid anymore.

His thoughts on a proposed change by NASCAR to alter how it distributes points in races: I think is great to change it because the system we have right now, I will never figure it out. If there is one of you guys that tells me that you understand the points system, you’re crazy and you’re lying. The new points system that they are talking about – the 1 to 43 –
I think is great, but I think that they need to give the four worst races of the year and throw them away. So only count, for the Chase, only count 22 of 26 races. That would change the whole dynamics of the Chase.

Ryan Newman talks about being a dad

Ryan Newman was asked Monday about how conversations among Sprint Cup Series drivers have been changning with so many of them becoming new fathers. Newman's wife, Krissie, gave birth to the couple's first child, Brooklyn, in November.

Q. The motorcoach lot has changed quite a bit. Do the other drivers talk about this whole kids (thing) and what you’re going through? Because your lifestyle is very unique compared to anyone else in the world with the travel and the motorcoaches and everything. Do you share stuff and talk about the kids when you’re hanging out?

We have, more recently. Just like testing last week, (I) talked to Jimmie (Johnson) about it. He’s further ahead, so I can learn from him. Jamie McMurray and myself were about the same time going through the same thing, so we can compare what’s right and wrong and women and kids and everything else.

I guess, ultimately, you might see some more trailers behind golf carts in the motorcoach lot. That’s about it. We are just adapting to it. It’s a big change for us and I think it’s weird if you look back at the history of the sport. I’ve heard the stories of the Pettys and all that stuff back in the day. It’s like it skipped two or three generations, it seemed, and now there’s a big influx of mass production of kids, it seems.

There are guys who are doubling up quicker than we ever thought. So it’s different, for sure. It changes the conversation from set-ups to baby cribs and things like that.”

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Cars at Daytona test are slowing down

   Perhaps the cars were going a bit fast at the December Goodyear tire test after all.
   Several NASCAR drivers and teams confirmed Thursday they have been informed the sanctioning body has decided to reduce the size of the holes in the restrictor plate used in next week's Sprint Cup Series test at Daytona International Speedway from 30/32nds of an inch to 29/32nds of an inch.
   The change will likely reduce speeds - which reached nearly 200 mph at the December test - around 5 mph in the draft.
   “When we tested during the Goodyear tire test at Daytona, I could see the speeds of two cars that got together being high,” said Bobby Labonte, who drives for JTG Daugherty this season. “When you get to actually racing, things always go a little faster.
   "I think making the restrictor plate smaller is a deal where NASCAR was foreseeing that speeds would be really high."
   All Cup teams will participate in next week's test, which begins Jan. 20. Only 18 teams were involved in the December test.
   The tests are being held because of the repaving of the speedway.
   "I think now, we can expect to see the cars a lot closer together and more in one pack versus two, three or four. It’s going to make for some great racing for sure," said Pat Tryson, crew chief for Martin Truex Jr.
   "I expect to see more three, maybe four-wide racing at Daytona which is exactly what we saw at Talladega Superspeedway."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Mark Martin will race in all three NASCAR series in 2011

   Mark Martin has never been one to slow down.

   In addition to driving a final fulltime season for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevrolet in the Sprint Cup Series this season, Martin has also added four races in the Nationwide series and two in Camping World Trucks to his schedule.

   He will drive the No. 32 Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports in Nationwide races at Las Vegas, Auto Club Speedway, Michigan and Kentucky this year with crew chief Trent Owens and sponsored by Dollar General. Martin will also drive the No. 32 Chevy in Truck races at Michigan and Pocono for the organization.

   “I’m excited to be running back in the Nationwide and Truck Series again,” said Martin. "Working with Turner [Motorsports], I get to extend my relationship with Chevrolet and continue to have Hendrick horsepower under the hood which is really, really good.”

   Martin holds the all-time Nationwide Series records for most wins (48) and most pole positions (30). In 2006, motorsports media members named him the greatest Nationwide Series driver of all-time. 

   “The races we picked for both series are personal favorites of mine. I’d love to win another Truck race, and I’ve got to get back to Victory Lane in the Dollar General car so I can keep Kyle [Busch] from breaking my Nationwide Series record,” Martin joked.

   Team owner, Steve Turner, is excited about having Martin on board.

   “Mark shares my same passion for helping groom young talent and has expressed interest in helping us get our young drivers to the NASCAR Sprint Cup level. I can’t think of a better mentor than Mark Martin," Turner said.  

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Carl Edwards makes wishes come true

   NASCAR star Carl Edwards helped out a friend and in the process helped to make wishes come true for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

   Edwards is friends with World Wrestling Entertainment star John Cena, who has been involved in a personal campaign to raise 3 million Delta frequent flyer miles for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

   Edwards recently donated his Delta frequent flyer miles to help Cena reach his goal, and with an extra contribution of 1 million miles by Cena, Make-A-Wish received 4.2 million Delta miles from the campaign.

   “We did it. We hit the 1 million mile mark in donations of Delta frequent flyer miles with the help of my good friend, NASCAR driver Carl Edwards, who donated his Delta miles to put us over the top,” Cena said.

   In addition to being friends with Cena, Edwards also served as a "guest host" of one of WWE's live "Monday Night Raw" TV programs in 2010.

   To read more about Edwards, Cena and the Make-A-Wish campaign, go here.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Yes, Kevin Conway's in the Shootout

   Yes, folks, there is actually a criteria in NASCAR that allows Kevin Conway to race in the 2011 season's first event while leaving out the likes of Brian Vickers, David Reutimann, AJ Allmendinger, Brad Keselowski and Elliott Sadler, among others.

   You remember Conway, the winner of the one-man Cup rookie of the year competition who registered one whopping top 20 finish this season?

   Because of a change in the eligibility rules for the Budweiser Shootout NASCAR announced on Friday, Conway - the 2010 rookie of the year "winner" - is eligible to race in the kickoff to this year's Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway.

   The rule change allows all former rookies for the previous 10 years eligible which coincidentally makes Kasey Kahne, Joey Logano and Juan Pablo Montoya eligible.

   I'm sorry, but the eligibility rules of the Shootout have now been tricked up more than the Chase, leaving it about a dozen drivers short of being just another Cup race.

   So, why not just make it one?

   Surely, holding a non-points, full-field Cup race at Daytona has got to be better than any event which somehow places Conway in a higher regard in NASCAR competition than the likes of Vickers, Keselowski and Sadler - all of whom who have won actual Cup series races.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Congrats to Ray Evernham on his new job, but what exactly is it ?

   I sincerely would like to congratulate Ray Evernham on his new job, but honestly I have little understanding what exactly he will be doing with Hendrick Companies.

   On Tuesday, Hendrick Motorsports distributed a press release announcing Evernham - a previous championship crew chief at Hendrick and most recently ESPN TV analyst - had signed on as a consultant for Hendrick Companies, formed in 2005 to oversee own Rick Hendrick's "strategic initiatives." Evernham, it appears, will be consult on "special projects."

   According to the release Evernham's role will be to help with the development of the Hendrick Performance retail brand of high-performance parts, vehicles, products and related services.

   No where in the release in regards to Evernham's work can be found the words "NASCAR," "motorsports" or "Earnhardt Jr." (of course there were rumors he was going to become Earnhardt's crew chief. Isn't everyone?).

   Given the hoopla surrounding the anticipation of this move to Hendrick by some of my colleagues in the media, I have to say I am a little underwhelmed by the initial details of his announcement.

   That's not to say Evernham may not be involved in some grand project with a long-lasting and highly profitable impact on Hendrick Companies, or even Hendrick Motorsports or perhaps in NASCAR itself.

   It's just that in reality I still have no clue what he's doing. Do you?


Saturday, January 1, 2011

Brad Keselowski goes back to school

   You're never too old to learn and for 26-year-old Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski, there was plenty he needed to know before starting the 2011 NASCAR Season promoting a new sponsor in the Sprint Cup Series for his No. 2 Penske Racing team.

   How about "Beer 101"? It's hard to imagine many young people passing up a chance to pass - or fail - that class.

   Keselowski recently took a trip to the MillerCoors brewery in Milwaukee to learn the history of Miller Lite and its history of sponsorship in NASCAR. He charged into beer fundamentals with Miller brewmaster Manny Manuele. There he learned the complex brewing process that produces the great taste of Miller Lite.

   The trip was capped off with the annual Christmas lighting ceremony on State Street, right in front of the site of the original Plank Road Brewery, which Miller purchased and transformed into the Miller Brewing Company.

   "The trip to Milwaukee was an awesome learning experience for me as I prepare to represent such a great brand in Miller Lite," said Keselowski. "A lot of adults know how to drink a beer, but it was really cool to see how it is produced, and even how to pair it with certain food.

   "There is tradition and greatness that comes with being associated with Miller Lite. The ‘Blue Deuce' has an unbelievable history in our sport. Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch set a very high bar, but I'm confident my team and I can carry on that successful legacy."

   Any chance Keselowski didn't get an 'A'?