Tuesday, January 31, 2012

NASCAR returns to Charlotte radio

   It was touch-and-go last year for many Charlotte-area terrestrial radio listeners trying to catch NASCAR racing on a regular basis.

   At the start of last season, neither MRN nor PRN - which combine to broadcast all the NASCAR events of the year were able to secure a long-term commitment from a local station to carry all their events.

   MRN, however, has struck a deal with WZGV-AM/ESPN 730 to carry all of their broadcasts this season in the Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series. The first event broadcast in the new deal will be the Feb. 18 Budweiser Shootout from Daytona International Speedway.

   "We’ve been looking for a strong partner in this market and could not be happier to launch our 43rd year of broadcasting with this announcement," said MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt.

   "This gives us a strong voice in what is widely recognized as the heart of American stock car racing and we’re certain the partnership will reverberate throughout the region as the new season begins."

   WZGV's 10,000-watt signal – licensed to Cramerton, N.C. – saturates the metro Charlotte market. WZGV-AM/ESPN 730 is now one of 32 MRN affiliates in the Carolinas.

   ESPN 730 will also broadcast all of PRN's Nationwide Series races this season, which means the station will broadcast the complete Nationwide and Truck series schedule in the Charlotte area.

   PRN's Sprint Cup races will once again be broadcast on WRFX 99.7 FM in the Charlotte area - a deal that came together in March of last season.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Kyle Busch already a winner in 2012

   The 2012 CRA Super Series SpeedFest 200 may have started at a new venue, but for Kyle Busch and his No. 51 KBM Camry the race ended in a familiar location - Victory Lane. Busch, who won back-to-back SpeedFests in 2009 and 2010 when the event was held at Lanier National Speedway in Braselton, Ga., led 86 of the final 100 laps of Sunday's race at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Ga. en route to his third career SpeedFest title.

   "It feels good to be the SpeedFest 2012 winner and to get my first win as a member of the Monster Energy family of athletes," said Busch. "It was an awesome weekend -- the turnout in the grandstands was great and the car count was phenomenal.

   "Everyone with the CRA Super Series does such a great job and I love competing in their events. I can't say enough about Chris Gabehart and all the guys that work on this KBM Camry -- they build fast cars that are a lot of fun to drive."

   Bubba Pollard finished second, followed by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular David Ragan in third. Casey Smith and T.J. Reaid rounded out the top-five finishers. The race featured 13 cautions for 86 laps. Seven of the 30 cars were unable to finish the race.

Living Legends honored at Daytona

   The Living Legends of Auto Racing will be hosting their 20th Annual Awards Banquet on Wednesday evening, February 22, 2012 in the Grand Ballroom at The Shores Resort and Spa, 2637 S. Atlantic Avenue, Daytona Beach Shores, Florida.

   This year's award recipients are; Junior Johnson, Richard Childress, Ken Ragan, Buzzie Reutimann, Clare B. Lang (Sirius XM NASCAR Radio), Joe Mihalic, Eddie MacDonald Sr. and Racing's North Turn Beach Bar and Grill.

   The event will begin at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour (cash bar). Dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Tickets for the event are $45. Reservations are required. For information or to purchase tickets please call Joan at (386) 255-7428.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pocono Raceway founder dies

   Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Pocono Raceway Founder and Chairman of the Board, passed away today at the Lehigh Valley Hospital Center, surrounded by his loving family, following a lengthy illness. He was 86.

   “Doc” as he was known to friends and associates, was one of the most respected and admired men in automobile racing. He founded Pocono Raceway in the early 1960’s and has been at the helm of Pocono ever since. Under his leadership, the track grew in stature and has hosted 68 very successful NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Events. His passion and drive helped Pocono Raceway succeed when other tracks fell by the wayside. Pocono Raceway is the only remaining family owned and run track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. He was always concerned that race fans and race car drivers and their families were treated with the upmost respect and constantly upgraded procedures and Raceway facilities to meet that goal.

   He kept his fingers on the pulse of stock car racing and read everything printed concerning the sport. He was in the office daily, until last fall, and oversaw all aspects of the Pocono Raceway operations. At age 83, Dr. Mattioli spearheaded an ambitious solar energy project. He built a three megawatt photovoltaic solar energy system on 25 acres at Pocono Raceway. It is the world’s largest solar-powered sports facility, making Pocono Raceway a leader in the renewable energy and environmental fields.

    Dr. Mattioli was also well respected in the community. In 2009, he received the Philanthropic Lifetime Achievement Award presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals for his generous and continuous contributions to local civic organizations, hospitals, schools and charities. He served on the board of directors of numerous organizations and was dedicated to improving the quality of life in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

    He served in the Pacific during World War Two as a Navy medic. Using the G.I. bill, he enrolled in the dentistry program at Temple University (where he met his soon to be wife, Rose.) Upon graduation, he developed his dental practice into a very lucrative business by working 12 to 14 hour days, six and sometimes seven days a week. He then began investing in and developing properties in Philadelphia and Northeastern Pennsylvania where he became involved in the start up of Pocono Raceway.

   Dr. Mattioli is survived by his wife of 63 years, Dr. Rose, daughters Louie and Michele and son Joseph Mattioli III, seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

   Service Arrangements for Dr. Joseph Mattioli are incomplete at this time.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Six NASCAR drivers make Power 100

   The 2012 Power 100 ranking of the most powerful professional athletes in the U.S was released Wednesday night by Bloomberg/Businessweek, revealing six NASCAR drivers in the top 100. 

   Bloomberg Businessweek teamed up CSE, a leading integrated marketing agency that created the Power 100 list for the third consecutive year using proprietary methodology; Rick Horrow, host of Bloomberg TV "Sportfolio," and CEO of Horrow Sports Ventures and the Nielsen/E-Poll N-Score.

   The NASCAR drivers who made the poll:

   No. 22 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

   No. 29 Jeff Gordon

   No. 37 Jimmie Johnson

   No. 60 Tony Stewart

   No. 62 Carl Edwards

   No. 92 Kevin Harvick

   CSE’s Analytics team, lead by VP, Analytics, David Newman, evaluated more than 3,000 athletes across a variety of sports, with 50 percent based on"off-field" measurements and 50 percent on "on-field" performance. CSE’s proprietary analytics utilizes a range of industry statistics, including data from E-Poll.

   The New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees (No. 1), Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers (No. 2) and New England Patriots’ Tom Brady (No. 3) topped the poll.

   For more information on the poll, go here.

Brendan Gaughan returns to Cup

   Veteran NASCAR driver Brendan Gaughan will compete in four Sprint Cup Series races for Richard Childress Racing in 2012 in addition to his previously announced 18-race NASCAR Nationwide and Truck series schedule with the organization.

   Gaughan, 36, competed full time in the Cup Series during the 2004 season, finishing 28th in points with one top-five and four top-10 finishes in 36 starts. He competed full time in the Nationwide Series in 2009 and 2010, earning one pole and 17 top-10 finishes in 71 career starts. He finished ninth in points in  2009 and 11th in 2010.

   Leading the effort for the No. 33 team will be veteran crew chief Gil Martin, RCR's Nationwide Series program team manager. Martin has been at RCR since 2000 and has served as crew chief for Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Kerry Earnhardt and Robby Gordon.

   "The opportunity to run four races for Richard Childress in the Sprint Cup Series is truly amazing,' said Gaughan. "RCR has top-notch equipment and teamed me with a winning crew chief in Gil Martin. Everyone deserves a second chance and I am ecstatic that my second chance in the Sprint Cup Series is in the No. 33 Chevrolet with RCR."

    Gaughan's four-race Cup Series schedule will kick-off at Phoenix in March, followed by a doubleheader weekend where Gaughan will pilot the No. 33 South Point Chevrolet in both the Nationwide and Cup events at Las Vegas. Completing his 2012 schedule is Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, Calif.) in March.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Kyle Busch talks NASCAR Trucks

   While Kyle Busch will run from 13 to 15 Nationwide Series races this season, he will no longer complete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - the first time he hasn't made a series start since the 2003 season.
   During Monday's first day of the Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch talked more in-depth about the decision not to compete in the series and how it may affect his quest to win 200 races in NASCAR's three national series.

   Q: Do you see any situations where you may start competing in the NCWTS again in the future?
   Busch: “To me, I think we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. Truthfully, I don’t have to run Truck races. My fans love it and I love racing Truck races for them, but, like I said, I would love to see Kyle Busch Motorsports be able to sustain itself on its own and not have to have me in the seat every single week in a Truck race or Nationwide Series race.”

   Q: Does this make your 200 wins goal more difficult and eliminate something you find fun?
   Busch: “We’ll see. There’s no telling. Certainly, I wish that we could win eight races a year in Cup and eight races a year in Nationwide and right there you’re at 16 wins a year, so that’s not that bad. Granted, you run Truck races you can probably win five or six, so that puts you at 21 or 22 races a year. The focal point now is -- and has been -- although I want the 200 wins someday, the focal point needs to be on the Cup deal and trying to win a championship there, of course, and put my primary focus into that.”

   Q: Is the goal of cutting the NCWTS races to be stronger in the Chase?
   Busch: “Certainly, it all relates to one another. It’s all circumstantial upon something else. I think running less races is also a conditioning tool. I’ve been working really hard in the off-season in doing some things and running less races will also help that, but just being more focused and just trying to operate more on a level field with Dave (Rogers, crew chief) and how much he works and how hard he works and I’ve got to do the same.”

   Q: Do you think cutting back on your Nationwide and Truck schedule will be beneficial?
   Busch: “It’s certainly a possibility, but you know in 2008 and 2009 I ran the most races that I’ve ever run in a season and didn’t have any issues. Things went pretty well those couple of years. I think it’s been most frustrating for me because I’m getting more and more into my Cup Series career and I have yet to win a championship. For me, you get down to the end of the season and the first 26 races go well and then you start the Chase and you kind of fumble a little bit and you’re chasing a ball sometimes. We still had a shot -- we were running fourth or fifth in points at Talladega and then got crashed out there. Then we’re fifth in points or something like that in Martinsville and we get crashed out there. Your whole season’s shot. It’s not like one week’s gone -- like you didn’t win that race or something. You’ve got to wait all the way until next February to start a whole new year in order to get down to November. Think about it -- when you throw a whole year of your life away, it’s like, ‘Damn, this sucks.”

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ryan Newman adds a sponsor

   Stewart-Haas Racing has added another primary sponsor for its No. 39 Chevrolet team in the Sprint Cup Series driven by Ryan Newman.
   Aspen Dental, one of the largest and fastest-growing networks of dental care providers in the United States, has reached a multi-year agreement to serve as primary sponsor on Newman's car for two races and as associate sponsor for all remaining races, sources confirmed on Sunday.

   The addition of Aspen Dental is the third new sponsor SHR has landed for its No. 39 car for 2012. Only six races remain to be sold on the car. The Nos. 14 and 10 teams of 2011 Cup champion Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, respectively, are sold out.
   Since Stewart joined the organization as co-owner and driver beginning with the 2009 season, this is the best position SHR has been in with primary sponsorship entering a season.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

2012 Miss Sprint Cup lineup unveiled

   The 2012 Miss Sprint Cup lineup was unveiled during Saturday's NASCAR Preview. Sprint announced returning members Kim Coon (Orlando, Fla.) and Jaclyn Roney (Ann Arbor, Mich.) have been joined by newcomer Kristen Beat of El Cajon, Calif.
    “The Miss Sprint Cup platform has evolved to become an integral part of our NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sponsorship,” said Tim Considine, director of sports marketing at Sprint. “We’ve found three incredibly intelligent, talented young women who love the sport, technology and directly interacting with NASCAR fans. With more than 1 million followers on Facebook and Twitter and crowds of fans lining up each weekend for pictures and autographs, the platform’s celebrity has exceeded our wildest expectations.”

   Miss Sprint Cup represents the Sprint brand around the track and in Victory Lane wherever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes. The three representatives also serve as the fans’ “friend on the inside,” delivering via Facebook and Twitter behind-the-scenes updates, pictures and video, while highlighting Sprint products and offers.

   To follow Miss Sprint Cup, visit:

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ryan Blaney lands a NASCAR ride

   Ryan Blaney, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, has signed with Tommy Baldwin Racing to run a combination schedule in the NASCAR Nationwide and K&N Pro series schedule in 2012.

   Ryan will drive the No. 36 Chevrolet in six Nationwide races, with his debut set for the April 27 race at Richmond, Va. He will also run six K&N Pro series races with his family-owned DB Racing, beginning March 17 at Bristol, Tenn.

   Blaney made three starts in the K&N Pro series last year, winning in his third start at Phoenix International Raceway. He also won the 2011 PASS South Championship and found success in ARCA, where he finished in the top-10 in both two starts.

   “We were really competitive in the K&N Series last year, and I think we will be even more competitive this year. Hopefully, we will have an opportunity to win all six races," Blaney said. "We will have good equipment racing with TBR. It will be great to race with and learn from the Nationwide guys. To be able to race on bigger tracks will be a good learning experience too."

   “We are really looking forward to restarting our Nationwide program as we have had much success in the past in that series,” said team owner Tommy Baldwin. “Watching Ryan the last few years, we are excited to get to the track and see him perform. As we look to the future, this Nationwide program is a stepping-stone for the Cup program, and we are excited to start with Ryan.”

   Ryan Blaney will join his dad, Dave Blaney, with TBR this season. The elder Blaney drove the No. 36 Chevrolet last season in the Sprint Cup Series, which included a third-place finish at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

   “I’m proud that Ryan is making the next step in his racing career,” Dave Blaney said. “I think it is a great opportunity for him to run with TBR and still run some races in the K&N Series. He has learned very quickly in every series he has driven, so I am anticipating what competing in the Nationwide series brings."

   Ryan Blaney’s Racing Schedule:
   · March 17th – NKNSE – Bristol Motor Speedway
   · April 26th – NKNSE – Richmond International Raceway
   · April 27th – NNS – Richmond International Raceway
   · May 11th – NNS – Darlington Raceway
   · May 19th – NKNPSE – Iowa Speedway
   · June 29th – NNS – Kentucky Speedway
   · July 28th – NNS – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
   · August 3rd – NKNPSE – Iowa Speedway
   · August 24th – NNS – Bristol Motor Speedway
   · September 28th – NKNPSE – Dover International Speedway
   · October 12th – NNS – Charlotte Motor Speedway
   · November 10th – NKNPSW – Phoenix International Raceway

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Looking for a job in NASCAR?

   This press release came in today about jobs with a NASCAR team:
   TMG Offering Motorsports Opportunities In Preparation of 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Season

    Mooresville, NC (January 17, 2012) The Motorsports Group (TMG), located at 222 Pitt Road in Mooresville, North Carolina, announced Tuesday the availability of several positions as the team prepares for the rapidly approaching 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season.

   The four-car operation will race in all thirty-three scheduled events with drivers Josh Wise, Chase Miller, Erik Darnell and Scott Speed piloting Chevrolet Impala’s.

   Veteran NASCAR crew chief Gary Showalter is overseeing day to day activities of the organization and is seeking qualified mechanics, fabricators and truck drivers who are ready to start work immediately. Showalter says the company will hire at least 10 additional people during the next few days.

   “We have about five more weeks before we leave for Daytona with quite a bit still to be accomplished,” said Showalter. “TMG has a great opportunity for 10 to 15 serious people who want to make a difference this year. It is a good thing to be able to offer these positions in this economy and we look forward to working with the highest quality individuals we can find.”

   Showalter requests any interested parties to send a current resume via fax 704-663-2929.

NASCAR history lives at the Hall

   On Saturday, the four floors of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., will come to life with more than a dozen legends recalling their memories to guests in a casual, up-close-and-personal Evening of Living History. 

   The event is free with a general admission ticket to the NASCAR Hall of Fame and will feature Inductees Bobby Allison, Dale Inman, Ned Jarrett, Junior Johnson, Bud Moore, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough. They will be joined by NASCAR notables Donnie Allison, Jeff Hammond, Tom Higgins, Bondy Long and Leonard Wood.

    “As the NASCAR Preview Presented by Sprint winds down Saturday, we invite fans to stop by the Hall for a memorable nightcap,” said Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. “We have an impressive lineup of NASCAR legends stationed at various exhibits throughout the building to interact with guests. I personally can’t wait to hear the Allisons and Cale Yarborough rehash the 1979 Daytona 500, and I know others are looking forward to free samples of Junior Johnson’s famous brew -- his newer, legal kind.”

    Evening of Living History schedule:
   4-8 p.m. cash bar and food stations open
   5-6 p.m. First Session
   Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough at the 1979 Daytona 500 exhibit, Level 4
   Darrell Waltrip and Jeff Hammond near the Mountain Dew No. 11 in the Great Hall, Level 2
   Ned Jarrett and Bondy Long in the Hall of Honor, Level 3
   6:15 – 7:15 p.m. Second Session
   Junior Johnson and Tom Higgins at the Moonshine Still exhibit, Level 4
   Glen Wood and Leonard Wood near the No. 21 Ford in the Great Hall, Level 2
   Dale Inman and Bud Moore near the Inspection exhibit, Level 3
   The Evening of Living History will conclude a full day of activities inside the NASCAR Hall of Fame including breakfast with Junior Johnson (7 a.m.), a Jeff Gordon and Richard Petty new conference (1 p.m.), hourly guided tours of the Hall of Fame and Inductee meet and greets (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.). The Hall will be open for general admission guests 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

    NASCAR Acceleration Weekend is highlighted by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony for the Class of 2012 Inductees Richie Evans, Dale Inman, Darrell Waltrip, Glen Wood and Cale Yarborough Friday, Jan. 20. On Saturday, Jan. 21 NASCAR Preview 2012 Presented by Sprint will offer a festival-like experience for fans that features driver autograph and question-and-answer sessions, show car appearances, simulators, games and more. The weekend activities will conclude with the unveiling of the Class of 2012 Inductee Tribute exhibit in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Sunday, Jan. 22.

   Combo tickets for NASCAR Hall of Fame and NASCAR Preview 2012 Presented by Sprint start at $20. For tickets and updates about NASCAR Acceleration Weekend, guests can visit www.nascaracceleration2012.com.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Front Row sets NASCAR driver lineup

    Front Row Motorsports made the following announcement on Monday:

   Front Row Motorsports will follow up its best season in the team's young history by bolstering its line-up for 2012, adding race winner David Ragan to drive the No. 34 Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Front Row veteran David Gilliland will build off an impressive 2011 season, returning to the team behind the wheel of the team's second entry, the No. 38 Ford Fusion.

   Ragan joins Front Row after completing a 2011 season that delivered his first Cup win (Daytona International Speedway in July), two poles, and four top-five and eight top-10 finishes. The 26-year-old Unadilla, Ga., native is already a NASCAR veteran, first joining the national stock-car ranks at the age of 18 and quickly ascending to premier-level Sprint Cup racing. His No. 34 team is locked in to the starting line-up entering the 2012 season, including a guaranteed starting spot in the prestigious Daytona 500 next month.

   "Front Row has made great progress in the last few years, and I look forward to helping them advance to the next level," Ragan said. "I think the team appreciates what I can bring to the table, and I think it's a good opportunity for both of us. I've also enjoyed a long relationship with Ford and I'm glad that I'll get to keep working with them."

   Gilliland returns for his third season with Front Row and his seventh in the Cup series. The 35-year-old Riverside, Calif., native will return to the No. 38, the number he drove as a Sprint Cup rookie as well as the car he drove in his first season with Front Row. The No. 38 team is also locked in to the field entering 2012. Last season, Gilliland raced his way to a third-place finish in the Daytona 500 to start off an impressive 2011 run, in which he proved to be a force on superspeedways and road courses.

   "We've gotten better year to year and even week to week in the time I've been with Front Row, so I'm excited to be back for a third year and to have David (Ragan) as a teammate," Gilliland said. "It's good to be back in the '38' car, too. It was my dad's number, and I've also had some pretty good days at the racetrack with that number on the door."

   Front Row Motorsports, which is owned by restaurant and transportation entrepreneur Bob Jenkins, enters its fourth full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series. The team turned in its best results in its young history in 2011, earning one top-5, two top-10, three top-15 and five top-20 finishes in 2011, including the history-best third at Daytona.

   "I am committed to building a competitive race team by employing the same fundamental business principles that have worked for my other successful endeavors, and it all begins with the people," Jenkins said. "We took some pretty big steps in our race program last year and adding David Ragan is another giant step in the right direction.

   "When you look at some of the large, storied teams in NASCAR that have been running for decades, we're still pretty young by comparison," Jenkins continued. "But I like the upgrades we're making and the improvements we're seeing, and I am confident we will be able to compete with them on a consistent basis in the not-too-distant future. Ragan is a proven competitor and race winner, Gilliland had a really solid season for us last year, Roush Yates engines are the best in the sport, and Ford continues to provide invaluable support, so I feel like 2012 is really going to be our year to step up to the next level. Plus, I now have two Davids to engage Goliath, and we know how that day ended."

    Sponsorship for the Front Row Motorsports entries is being finalized and will be announced soon.

   "We've worked hard to build an organization that can deliver compelling value propositions for our partners, and we can win immediately on that front given our size, efficiencies and cost structures," said Jerry Freeze, Front Row Motorsports' General Manager. "Fortunately, a few leading corporate partners have taken notice and others are conducting their due diligence. That's very encouraging and bodes well for our future."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

David Ragan lands a Cup ride

   David Ragan, who spent the past five seasons driving for Roush Fenway Racing, will drive for Front Row Motorsports in the Sprint Cup series in 2012, the Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.

    An official announcement is scheduled for early next week, sources said.

    It remains unclear which team Ragan will drive for at Front Row, which fielded Ford teams last season for David Gilliland and Travis Kvapil.

    Ragan earned his first career Cup win in the 2011 season, at the July race at Daytona. The 26-year-old native of Unadilla, Ga., also has two wins in the Nationwide series.

Brad Keselowski to run 6 Truck races

   Brad Keselowski will run at least six NASCAR Camping World Truck series races this season in a second truck fielded by his Brad Keselowski Racing team.

    Keselowski will drive in the season opener at Daytona plus the races at Kansas, Charlotte, Kentucky, Pocono and Bristol, Tenn.

    Jeff Stankiewicz will serve as Keselowski's crew chief. Doug Randolph will serve as crew chief for Parker Kligerman, who drives BKM's No. 29 Dodge in the Truck Series.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Trevor Bayne talks Tim Tebow

   Last season's surprise Daytona 500 winner, Trevor Bayne, was asked on Friday why he thought Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's publicly professed religious beliefs were so polarizing to some people. Bayne is also very public in professing the role his religious beliefs play in his life, including his profession as a race car driver.

   Here was Bayne's answer:

   "Well, it's polarizing to me because it's something different that I think our world needs and I think it desires, and so when you look at somebody and you see something different, you wonder what that is, then I think Tim Tebow has made that very clear what that is, and I think that's our mission is to make it very clear. If we look different from the world, it's because of Jesus.

   "I think he's done a lot in my life. I can't speak for Jamie. I've seen some things that he's seen the same way. It's what we're here for. I started racing for me, I started racing because I wanted to be a driver and I wanted to be successful and I wanted to win races and I wanted to have the most followers on Twitter or the most fans or whatever it is.

   "But I think that's changed over the past few years. I got to go to something that was really incredible this year called Passion, which is for 18 to 25 year olds, and it really got me fired up to see what this is all about, that it's not about me, it never has been. It's not about what I do here, but it's about what happens for the kingdom. I think this year I'm a lot more fired up about storing my treasures in heaven instead of here.

   "I think it's a really great thing that Tim Tebow is staying firm in what he believes in. He's not letting that change him. I read an article today in USA Today that talked about that, and I can see how that would be really hard when you have that much flak that you're catching, whether it's good or it's bad, if people are talking about it so much, it would be easy to change and waver, but I think the reason he doesn't is because it's real. I think Jesus is something that can really change lives, and I think that if we believe all that he says he is and we believe like we say we do, then we'll look different just like he does and like we're trying to do here."

2012 NASCAR Speedweeks schedule

   Thursday, Feb. 16
   1-5 p.m. ARCA practice
   Friday, Feb. 17
   2 p.m. ARCA qualifying
   5-5:45 p.m. Budweiser Shootout practice
   6:30-7:30 p.m. Final Budweiser Shootout practice

   Saturday, Feb. 18
   10-10:45 a.m. final ARCA practice
   11 a.m.-1 p.m. Sprint Cup practice
   2-3:45 p.m. Cup practice
   4:30 p.m. ARCA race
   8:10 p.m. Budweiser Shootout

   Sunday, Feb. 19
   1:05 p.m. Daytona 500 pole qualifying

   Monday, Feb. 20
   No track activity

   Tuesday, Feb. 21
   No track activity

   Wednesday, Feb. 22
   noon-1:30 p.m. Cup practice
   2:30-4 p.m. Cup practice

   Thursday, Feb. 23
   9-9:50 a.m. Nationwide practice
   12:10-1 p.m. Truck practice
   2 p.m. Gatorade 150-mile qualifying races
   6-7:20 p.m. Final Truck practice

   Friday, Feb. 24
   11 a.m.-noon Cup practice
   2:05 p.m. Nationwide qualifying
   4:05 p.m. Truck qualifying
   7:30 p.m. Truck series race

   Saturday, Feb. 25
   10:30 a.m.-noon Final practice for Daytona 500
   1:15 p.m. Nationwide Series race

   Sunday, Feb. 26
   1 p.m. 2012 Daytona 500


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dale Junior talks about his new hire, Cole Whitt

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked Thursday at Daytona International Speedway about the process that led him and his JR Motorsports organization to pick upstart Cole Whitt as the new driver for the No. 88 Chevrolet. The team's previous driver, Aric Almirola, was hired by Richard Petty Motorsports earlier this month to drive its legendary No. 43 car.

   Q. How did you to pick Cole Whitt over the other drivers who are out there and what you think he brings to your team? 
   Earnhardt: Well, I thought that, no disrespect to any of the guys that we didn't choose, they know who they are, but we considered a lot of different people. I just felt like Cole had some potential that was untapped, that we hadn't ‑‑ he had potential and ability that we hadn't been able to ‑‑ he hadn't even discovered yet, and I feel like in the guys that we looked at, we sort of know what kind of hand and cars they had and what kind of talent they had and where they would take us.

   And I think it's more exciting, a lot more risky but more exciting to go with a guy who you don't really know what he's capable of and could be big things, but you've just got to take that risk. And that's really why I do it. I don't do it to make money. I don't have a whole lot of other reasons to be in the Nationwide Series other than just to help somebody. When I'm able to do that ‑‑ I enjoy seeing what happened to Brad and seeing Eric get a deal like he's got now. That's why I do it, you know.

   It's funner to help the new guy than it is to help the guy that's kind of been through the ringer a few times.  Everybody deserves their opportunity, and I just feel like that was going to be Cole's only shot.

   Q. You had watched Brad Keselowski and seen him on the track and kind of had him on the radar screen.  Did you have that same kind of interest with Cole because this really came together very quickly with Aric leaving.
   Earnhardt: I didn't really watch Cole like I did Brad. I knew Brad before I even thought about hiring him as a driver. I just knew him, knew his family and stuff and would see him and watch him drive and watch him do stuff. And he impressed me, but I didn't have the opportunity to sort of ‑‑ I didn't have the opportunity to watch Cole.

   The only time I really got to see Cole race was at Phoenix in the Cup car when I was out on the track with him. I never watched any of his truck races, never seen him drive before then. But everybody who works in that garage in there that has my phone number called me and told me Cole was the guy.  Every one of them.  People I don't even talk to, people that I don't really have relationships with took time out of their day to call me and say, that's the guy you need to hire. They had no other ‑‑ other than interest in seeing Cole do well and get an opportunity. I thought it said a lot for people to do that.

   And the ones that I reached out to, that was the first guy on their list. I trusted all these people, and I feel like the guy ‑‑ from what I can tell, what I can see, that he deserves an opportunity. This might be his only opportunity, so I wanted to be the one to give it to him.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Daytona test will unveil new rules

NASCAR is back in full gear as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams hit the pavement at Daytona International Speedway this week for three days of preseason testing.

The main focus of the test is for teams to work on their final preparations for 2012 Speedweeks – in particular, the 54th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26.

“This is an opportunity we are providing to the competitors to implement and test the new Daytona rules package for 2012,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition. “It’s a chance for them to get comfortable with the cooling package, the smaller spoiler and to practice drafting for next month’s Daytona 500.”

The new rules package is a result of information gathered during recent tests at Talladega last October and at Daytona last November.

 “While we have had other tests with these set-ups, this is the first opportunity for the entire field to test together and get more comfortable with this package as it relates to their cars,” Pemberton said.

 The new rules package includes:
· Smaller radiators
o Maximum of 2 gallon capacity
· Smaller overflow tank
o Maximum capacity of ½ gallon
· Radiator inlet is moved up closer into the front center bumper area
· Rate reduction in the springs – softer springs
· Smaller rear spoiler
· Base line restrictor plate of 29/32 inch (1/64 inch larger than plate size for the 2011 Daytona 500)

“This three-day test will allow the engine tuners for these teams to be able to work with their engine packages and see how they relate and react to the new cooling regulations,” Pemberton said.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mark Martin gets a race with JGR

Joe Gibbs Racing announced Friday that NASCAR veteran Mark Martin will drive the Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry in the 2012 Nationwide Series race in Las Vegas in March.

“We’ve always hoped to have the opportunity for Mark to drive for us and to have him behind the wheel of our Interstate Batteries Toyota for the Nationwide race in Vegas is exciting,” said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. “He is a great example to all drivers of the dedication it takes to be successful and certainly we’re honored to have him part of our efforts in 2012.”

While Martin is only currently scheduled to race in Las Vegas for JGR, the team is still working on opportunities for him to secure additional races this season.

Martin currently has 49 career victories in 235 Nationwide starts. His most recent victory came just last season when he piloted the No. 32 car to victory Las Vegas. He had four starts in 2011, with the one victory and three top-ten finishes.

"No organization has been better in the Nationwide Series over the past three or four seasons and to have the chance to get behind the wheel of a Joe Gibbs Racing Nationwide car will be a thrill," Martin said. "Maybe I can pick up a few more races and try to catch Kyle to get my record back again.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Are you a NASCAR all-star?

   NASCAR fans who think they have what it takes to be an all-star can win a role as an extra in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s new television commercial for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 19.

   Through Jan. 13, fans who visit and “like” the speedway’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/CharlotteMotorSpeedway can enter to win by explaining why they are an all-star and deserve a role in the commercial. The winning entry will join all-stars Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Junior Johnson on the set for the shoot, which takes place on Jan. 21. The winner will also receive two tickets, two pre-race pit passes and a VIP parking spot for this season's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

   The 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race commercial will feature the wild west theme launched by the speedway last year.

   Only one entry per person will be accepted. All entries must be received by Jan. 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The winning entry will be announced on Jan. 16. No purchase necessary. A complete listing of the official contest rules is available on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Facebook page.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Bayne back in the No. 21

   Trevor Bayne will be back in the Wood Brothers' No. 21 Ford this Sprint Cup Series season and will attempt to defend his surprising Daytona 500 victory of a year ago.
   Bayne, who delivered the Woods their fifth Daytona 500 triumph in just his second start in the No. 21 Ford , said he’s pleased to be putting any off-season uncertainty behind him.

   “I’m excited,” he said. “It’s a big deal for me. It’s what I had hoped for. We’re all excited to be back together.”

   Team co-owner Eddie Wood said he too is pleased to have Bayne back behind the wheel. "We all wanted to do what was best for Ford Motor Company and its young drivers, and to be sure everybody had a place to race," he said.

   The team will be sponsored in 12 races and is expected to enter about 17 to 18 events.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Zippy ready for another charity snowmobile ride

The Sixth Annual Zippy’s Crusade For Kids Charity Snowmobile Ride in Inlet, NY, will take place at The Ole Barn on Friday and Saturday, January 27 and 28. The 2011 Zippy’s Crusade For Kids donates much needed funds to many organizations and families, including the Shriners Hospitals for Children, the National Transplant Assistance fund, Motor Racing Outreach and the Children’s Homes of Iredell County.

Arctic Cat Inc. will provide snowmobiles for the celebrities to ride and share their passion.  Celebrities this year will include 2011 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart and Greg Zipadelli, competition direction for Stewart-Haas Racing as well as crew chief of the No. 10 Chevrolet for SHR. Also attending: Steve Addington, Crew Chief, Jeff Meendering, Car Chief, and Aaron Kuehn, Crew Member of the No. 14 team. Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 Sprint car racing team for Tony Stewart Racing will also attend.

Zippy’s Crusade For Kids Charity Snowmobile Event will begin at 5 p.m. on Jan. 27 with a meet and greet, autograph signing, heavy hors d’oeuvres and raffle prizes.  “Showtime” will begin to play at 9 p.m.  The snowmobile ride will begin with brunch on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. and “take-off” of the sleds will be at 11 a.m.  The event will conclude Saturday evening with a full buffet of excellent food, raffles, silent and live auctions and presentation of checks.

Zippy’s Crusade For Kids is a not for profit founded by Greg and Nan Zipadelli to raise funds through community events to donate to help kids in need.  Any questions or to purchase tickets, you can go to www.crusadeforkids.com.

Reutimann joins Tommy Baldwin Racing

An announcement from Tommy Baldwin Racing on Tuesday:

Tommy Baldwin Racing (TBR) added NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) driver David Reutimann to the team’s 2012 driver lineup alongside Dave Blaney. Still seeking sponsorship for both Reutimann and Blaney, details regarding car number, sponsors and team members will follow in the upcoming weeks.

Reutimann, a Zephyrhills, Fla., native, made his first NSCS start in 2005. He competed in four full NSCS seasons with Michael Waltrip Racing and compiled two wins, 12 top-fives, 26 top-10s and four poles. The 41-year-old racer also competed in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series where he captured two wins.

“Tommy has built a really good organization from the ground up in a really short amount of time,” said Reutimann. “One of the things I like about Tommy and what’s refreshing about him is that he is just a racer. There are lots of things he could be doing but instead he is at the shop every day working hard to build the organization from the ground up. There are not a lot of true racers in the garage, and he is one of them. It’s the way I was raised with my Dad, so we are on the same page. I’m just really looking forward to the season and see what we can do.”

TBR competed in every event in the 36-race NSCS schedule in 2011 and raced into the top-35 in NSCS Owner Points, meeting the team’s 2011 season goals. Blaney drove to the team’s best finish of third in the October event at Talladega Superspeedway. The team also fielded a second car for five events in the second half of the season.

"Reutimann will be a great addition to our program and to Dave Blaney,” commented team owner Tommy Baldwin. “Last season, we met our goal of running the entire schedule and making the top-35 in points. This season, our goals is to continue our progress on the competition side. Having two veteran drivers in Reutimann and Blaney is a very important step in our program’s growth.”