Friday, September 30, 2011

Dale Junior talks radio chatter

   Team radio communications have made their way into many storylines this season in NASCAR, especially when a driver and crew chief are sniping at each other, or a driver is venting his displeasure at an ill-handling car.

   Exchanges over the radio between five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief Chad Knaus in last weekend's race at New Hampshire have been a topic of conversation this week.

   On Friday, Johnson's Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was asked his take on team communications being on the open airways. Here was his response:

   “That’s sort of the nature of the way the networks want to provide the sport to the fans and that’s something that the media wants to cover. So I’ve kind of gotten used to it," Earnhardt said. "But I remember when you used to have a hard time getting a scanner or being able to listen to the teams or even when I was going to the races with Daddy, it was like pulling teeth trying to get a radio so I could listen to what they were doing. And nowadays it’s all sort of out there and in front of everybody.

   "Every driver and crew chief have their times where they are going to say and do some things that they would rather not be public, but under the circumstances you really could care less at the moment. But yeah, I would rather the public and the media not know what we were talking about on our radios but that’s not the way the world works today. And so you have to understand and accept that. And I think it’s good because it makes you be a better person. It makes you control yourself better.

   "Had we not have such freedom as we do today, who knows what kind of asses we’d be? I get a little bit more coverage than most guys, from what I’ve listened to. I’ve never crossed some of the lines these other guys cross, but that’s just the way it goes.”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kyle Busch leads way in NASCAR TV exposure in first 26 races

   Kyle Busch earned the most in television exposure value among NASCAR drivers during the first 26 races of the Sprint Cup Series season. His presence in TV coverage produced $57.8 million of exposure value to his sponsors.

   According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates - which has monitored every NASCAR race telecast over the last 27 seasons - Busch's sponsors as a group appeared for 21 hours, five minutes, 45 seconds (21:05:45) during live and replayed race telecasts.

   Also contributing were a season-leading 251 mentions of Busch's sponsors.    Reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson was second in cumulative sponsor exposure value with $43.9 million, trailed by Jeff Gordon ($42.1 million) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. ($35.1 million) a distant fourth.

Pattie Petty diagnosed with Parkinson's

    Pattie Petty, philanthropist and wife of retired NASCAR driver and TV analyst Kyle Petty announced late Tuesday she has been diagnosed with and is receiving treatment for Parkinson’s Disease.

   Petty, 60, suspected she had Parkinson’s in early 2010 when she began experiencing resting tremors and aching muscles – two symptoms her father suffered in the early stages of his 15 year battle with the disease. A doctor in Nashville, TN, confirmed her concerns giving her an initial diagnosis based on her distinctive outward symptoms and started her on anti-Parkinson’s drugs last summer.
   “After watching my father live with Parkinson’s, it was not a surprise when I was told that I may be suffering from this disease as well,” she said. “I followed my doctor’s advice and began a series of medications, so that I could continue my plan of working a couple of weeks a month in Kansas City laying the ground work to open Victory Junction Midwest.”

   Victory Junction Midwest is slated be the sister camp to Victory Junction in Randleman, N.C., a camp for chronically ill children started by Petty and her husband in honor of their oldest son Adam who died in a NASCAR practice session in 2000.

   Pattie Petty is the tenth person at The University of Kansas Hospital to undergo a breakthrough test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease and other tremors. The FDA earlier this year approved DaTscan, a test that uses a radioactive imaging drug injected into the bloodstream for the purposes of detecting dopamine transporters (DaT) in the brain. The University Of Kansas Hospital is the first in the region to offer DaTscan.

   The test confirmed Monday that Pattie has Parkinson ’s disease.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Katie Kenseth breaks shoulder blade

   Katie Kenseth, the wife of Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth, fractured her shoulder blade and sustained other "bumps and bruises," according to a message posted on Matt Kenseth's Twitter account late Monday night.
   Katie Kenseth was injured earlier Monday while practicing at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a Bandolero car in preparation for the "Better Half Dash," a 25-lap race featuring the wives and girlfriends of NASCAR drivers.

   The race is scheduled to run prior to the Oct. 15 Bank of America 500 at CMS.

   For a story on the incident, including photos from the scene go here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

NASCAR rules out messy bumpers

   Along with changes to the size of the restrictor-plate and the pressure release valves of Sprint Cup cars there is another change mandated by NASCAR that will affect the racing there next month.

    In the technical bulletin issued to teams this week outlining the changes at Talladega, there was also a note that “the addition of lubricants to the rear bumper cover will not be permitted.”

    The change covers all tracks, but in reality the use of lubricants on the rear bumper has been most commonly used this season at Talladega and Daytona to assist in the two-car drafting tandems.

    To keep the pushing car from spinning out the lead car in the two-car tandems, teams have used everything from grease, to ointment to cooking spray to keep the bumpers from getting locked up when they meet.

    Teams' inability to soften the blow, is likely to add to their unwillingness to utilize the drafting method, or at least use it more sparingly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

JJ Yeley's explanation of why he was pushing Matt Kenseth

      On the final lap of Monday's GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, JJ Yeley came up behind Matt Kenseth, who had run out of fuel, and gave Kenseth a shove through Turns 3 and 4 to help him make it to the finish.
   Kenseth crossed the finish line in eighth, but NASCAR later penalized Kenseth and moved him to 21st in the lineup, the first car one lap down.
   There is a rule which prohibits drivers from providing assistance to other drivers on the final lap of a race. NASCAR can penalize the driver being pushed as well as the one who does the pushing.
   Following the race, Yeley explained what took place during the race while making an appearance on Sirius NASCARXM Radio's post race show with Claire B. Lang and Jim Noble.
   Here is what Yeley had to say:
   "The rule I guess used to be is a little foggy and now, I guess, NASCAR has clarified it for me that no driver can get any assistance on the final lap. We were running along doing our own thing. We blew a right front tire which did significant damage to the front end. We were just minding our own business as we came to the white (flag). I went down to the apron and Matt went by me and as I got back behind him it appeared he was out of fuel, so I pushed him through Turns 3 and 4 and the way I thought the rule read was you weren't allowed to push them across the line. I got loose from Matt and went on my merry way.
   "It wasn't until I left the race track that (crew chief) Jay Guy called me and said I needed to have a conversation with NASCAR because they wanted to penalize the 17. It's not fair to them, you know, because he didn't ask me to push him. He just ran out of fuel in front of me and I was just trying to help out. Now I know the rule.
   "There is some clarification that is going to have to be made in the future because in every restrictor-plate race that we've run this year, there's been assistance on that final lap. In three restrictor-plate races, the winner has been pushed across the line. ... At the end of the day I don't think it was not fair to them."

Friday, September 16, 2011

NASCAR to take a look at Menard spin

   JOLIET, Ill. - NASCAR President Mike Helton said on Friday the sanctioning body will "take another look" at the spin by driver Paul Menard that brought out the final caution of last Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Richmond, Va.o

    The caution allowed the field to be bunched up one final time. Jeff Gordon, who was leading at the time of the caution, came out second behind Menard's teammate, Kevin Harvick, following a round of pit stops.

    Harvick went on to win the race.

    Helton and NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp confirmed no driver or crew chief complained about the caution to NASCAR officials after the race.

    Gordon was the first to raise the idea the caution may have been intentional, during his postrace comments Saturday night and again on Thursday.

Harvick and Kyle Busch sit atop the Chase standings entering Sunday's 10-race playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Keselowski: I still have a lot to prove

   There's pressure and then there's pressure.

   Brad Keselowski is making his first appearance in the Chase for the Sprint Cup in just his second full season of running in the series. That sounds like a lot of pressure.

   But as Keselowski pointed out this week, that pales in comparison to what it took for him to make it to this level in NASCAR and he hopes that journey has prepared him for the journey which lies ahead in the next 10 races.

   "There was a lot of pressure (when I started out). Quite honestly, I look back earlier at launching my career and think about how much harder they were than what this is. To me this is a cakewalk. I mean, I know it’s not going to be easy to win the Chase but from a pressure standpoint I really don’t feel any. I felt pressure when I got the opportunities to drive for Dale Jr., to drive for Rick [Hendrick], and drive for Roger Penske and Miller Lite. That was the pressure to me, was kind of proving that we belong," Keselowski said.

   "I think of the last two weeks and hopefully the last two seasons that I’ve been able to somewhat prove that. And now it’s out there just doing what we do, trying to get a nice smooth rhythm just like Kurt (Busch) talked about. I still have a lot to prove, don’t get me wrong, but the hardest pressure point was trying to prove that I even deserved a shot, so very thankful for the opportunities that I have now and hopefully, those moments are what will make me even more prepared for this moment here.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chase for NASCAR Most Popular Driver also underway

   Just as NASCAR launches its playoff season this week, so does the campaign for the NASCAR National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) Wheaties FUEL Most Popular Driver award.

   Voting for the full field of drivers ended Sept. 10 and only the 10 drivers with the most votes remain to battle it out for the title of 2011's Most Popular Driver. The 10 finalists are, in alphabetical order: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

   The "playoffs" now begin. Vote totals are reset to zero and fans have 10 race weeks to cast their vote once a day at to determine the winner from the final 10 drivers.

   Voting will conclude Nov. 20 at 11:59 PM CT and the winner will be announced at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in December.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Gilliland: What about safety first?

   David Gilliland doesn't understand why NASCAR waited to throw a caution during Tuesday's Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway as he sat in his powerless car at the entrance to pit road.

   On Lap 174 during a round of green-flag pit stops, Gilliland spun while attempting to enter pit road and his car came to rest along the pit road wall. He put his window down indicating he was OK and that he could not continue.

   "There were cars coming on pit road. There were cars racing on the race track. I assumed they would throw the caution," he said. "I even told my spotter (I couldn't continue) and finally I told him to tell NASCAR if they don't throw the caution, I'm going to get out because I don't feel safe sitting here on pit road.

   "I don't know how many laps they run but it felt like forever. I understand there was a pit cycle going on but at the end of the day safety is the foremost concern."

   When Gilliland drove off the banking to come to pit road his car wheel-hopped and his drive-shaft broke, which is why he could not move. NASCAR finally put out the caution on Lap 177 - once all teams had finished their green-flag stops.

   Asked if he spoke to NASCAR officials about the incident afterward, he said, "No, I never do."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What to make of KHI-RCR merger?

    On Wednesday, Richard Childress Racing announced it would be merging with Kevin Harvick Inc. to run a joint program in the Nationwide Series next season. Basically, it's the reversal of a deal announced over a year ago in which RCR said its Nationwide programs would be run out of KHI.

   The question remains about how this merger affects the future of KHI as an organization. Team owner Kevin and DeLana Harvick have yet to announce their plans - if any - to field teams in the Truck series in 2012.

   With the Nationwide program at RCR and without a Truck program, in essence KHI would no longer operate as an organization fielding multiple teams in NASCAR's national series.

   Any way you put that, that can't be good for NASCAR.

   One of the things I thought that was always a bonus for NASCAR was drivers who made their way through NASCAR's lower-tier series "giving back" to the sport, so to speak, by operating teams in those series when they have moved on to Sprint Cup.

   Think of the wins and championships of the last several years in Trucks and Nationwide and the role KHI teams and drivers have played in them. That's a big contribution to see exit the playing field.

   Organizations like KHI, Kyle Busch Motorsports and Brad Keselowski Racing epitomize what is best about many of the sport's drivers. Racing is not only a hobby to them, but a way of life - and one they like to share with others like them.

   We don't know the future of KHI yet. We don't know all of the reasons for the decisions that have already been made.

   What we do know is NASCAR is worse off today than it was yesterday.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

NASCAR deserves a caution

   NASCAR certainly does a great deal on safety, but one instance during Tuesday’s race was very perplexing. During a round of green-flag pit stops on Lap 174, David Gilliland spun out and his car came to rest at the entrance of pit road. Gilliland put his window net down indicating he was OK but also that he could not continue.

   However, NASCAR waited for three laps - presumably to allow teams to finish their green-flag stops - before waving the caution. The official race report lists the reason for the caution as “#34 spun frontstretch” but the first lap of caution is listed as Lap 177. A light rain developed during the caution period, but again, that is not what prompted the caution flag.

   If there was no issue of safety with Gilliland's car, why throw the caution at all? Otherwise, NASCAR purposely withheld the caution to allow teams that hadn’t pit to do so. That’s wrong. NASCAR should have no vested interest in whether a caution will hurt or help any teams during competition. Just as it should not matter to NASCAR whether some teams have pit or others haven't before a rain delay.

   There's a simple solution: Just call them if you need them, regardless who it effects.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Another Burton headed to NASCAR?

    Don't look now, but there's another Burton on the racing horizon.

   Harrison Burton, the 10-year-old son of NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton, races quarter midgets with the United States Auto Club (USAC) in an all-oval series for 5-16 year-olds. He currently leads the points in several divisions, including Light World Formula and Senior Animal.

   On Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the younger Burton was outfitted in a smaller version of his dad’s yellow-and-black CAT firesuit as he faced the assembled media.

   “It’s been really fun to go out and race,” Harrison said. “My favorite track was probably a banked track. It was really fun to race on that completely sideways track because it’s really good racing, and everybody was passing each other really often.”

   Jeff Burton said he has found racing a natural way for he and his son to spend time together, but it is Harrison's decision.

   “I have a passion for racing, and I love it, but he doesn’t have to,” Jeff said. “If he ever wants to quit, we quit. If he wants to play lacrosse, we play lacrosse.

   "Quarter midget racing is really a cool way to spend time with your son or daughter,” Jeff said. “It’s a safe, reasonably inexpensive way to get kids into auto racing. (The kids) are out there helping you work on the race car and see what it takes to be good at it, and I think there’s a lesson in life about that.”

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Carl Edwards weighs in on White House NASCAR visit

   Carl Edwards, one of four Sprint Cup Series drivers who won't be attending a function at the White House next week to honor last season's Cup champion and Chase participants, explained why on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

   Edwards actually makes at least four visits to the White House each year as a member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

   "I think that’s blown a little bit out of proportion. I proudly serve on the President’s Council for Fitness Sports and Nutrition. I spend a lot of time with Secretary Sebelius and Shellie
Pfohl and all the folks up there at the White House," he said.

   "This is not only the busiest time of the year, this is about the busiest time of my
life and the folks at the White House, I spoke with them. They understand and the NASCAR folks understand. If something changes, then I’ll be there, but, right now, I’m just not able to go.”

   Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle also declined invitations, citing scheduling conflicts.