Saturday, March 31, 2012

Look what NASCAR drivers are getting the most exposure on TV

   Through television coverage of the this season's first four Sprint Cup Series races, reigning champion Tony Stewart leads in securing on-screen time for his sponsors, while Carl Edwards collected the most verbal mentions for his supporting brands and Jamie McMurray bested all drivers with $18.3 million of exposure value.

   According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc.— which has monitored every NASCAR race telecast over the last 28 seasons — McMurray's appearance on the Fox set during the Sunday rain-delay portion of last month's Daytona 500 led to quality exposure for several of his brands during some of the most valuable broadcast time of the season.

   Joyce Julius calculates television exposure value by comparing the in-broadcast visual and verbal exposure to the estimated cost of a national commercial during the telecast and applying Joyce Julius Recognition Grading — which takes into account such factors as size and placement of the image on screen, as well as brand clutter and integration of the brand into the activity.

   Stewart ranked No. 1 in camera time, as 29 of his sponsors enjoyed a combined two hours, 42 minutes, 42 seconds of clear and in-focus exposure time during live and replayed coverage of the first four races. Brad Keselowski (2:28:34) was second and Jimmie Johnson (2:27:53) third.

   Carl Edwards, who led all drivers in sponsor mentions last season — either by him, or by announcers referencing his team — is off to another fast start with a series-high 37 verbal brand mentions.        

Friday, March 30, 2012

Townley apologizes to the NASCAR community

   NASCAR Truck series driver John Wes Townley opened a media availability session on Friday morning at Martinsville Speedway by offering an apology to the NASCAR community for his actions that led to a drunk driving arrest in February.

   Townley's team, RAB Racing, suspended him immediately and he did not drive in the series opener at Daytona. NASCAR has since placed Townley on probation for the remainder of the season and ordered him to seek an evaluation from a certified substance abuse counselor.

   Here was Townley's opening statement:

   "I want to start by apologizing to everyone -- to NASCAR, my team and to everybody that made this deal happen. This is something that I feel I'm really serious about as an individual and a driver in NASCAR. What happened that night, I take full responsibility for it. It reflected poorly upon my team, on my sponsors and everyone else and I want to sincerely

   "It's up to me moving forward to put this behind me and to make better decisions in the future and to really learn from this. I know that a lot of these words are real easily spoken, but its actions in the future that I'm going to be judged by."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Keep it simple, NASCAR

   Simpler always seems to work better in racing.

   Anytime issues in NASCAR get bogged down in the wording and interpretation of rules and regulations, generally confusion reigns and competition gets lost in the shuffle.

   The new rules unveiled for this season’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, unfortunately, seem headed in that direction.

   The motivation behind the change is a good one – encourage drivers to have to reason to win one of the four 20-lap segments by offering to those who do a “reward” heading into the final 10-lap segment, which decides the winner of the $1 million payout.

   The method chosen for the reward – making segment winners the first four cars to pit prior to the last segment – doesn’t sound bad on the surface, but in effect has the potential for complications.

   The new rule works great if four different people win the first four segments. But how often does that really happen? Answer: Rarely.

   Then comes the tricky part. If the winner of Segment No. 2 is the same as Segment No. 1, the runner-up in Segment No. 2 gets the pit reward. If the same driver wins all four segments, you end up with one true segment “winner” and three other runner-ups getting the reward.

   Please don’t ask what happens if in the above mentioned scenario the Segment 2 runner-up ends up winning Segment 3 or 4. Is that driver now a "true" segment winner or does he remain locked into his runner-up "win" from Segment No. 2? 

   Who can follow that from the stands? Who can follow that watching on TV? Oh, but Charlotte Motor Speedway will have it all spelled out on its giant HDTV.

   That begs an even bigger question: Should events like the All-Star Race have to come with a follow-along instruction booklet?

   Again, I think the concept here was laudable: Reward winning. The easiest way to do that would be to say if you win any of the first four segments, you move to the front in the final segment (regardless of pit stop and only true ‘winners’ of the segments).

   One additional benefit this year is the elimination of the 10-minute break prior to the start of the final 10-lap showdown.

   That’s great. Hopefully that time will not now be spent figuring out who starts where to win the $1 million.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Help your favorite driver make the NASCAR All-Star Race

    As the date of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race approaches, Sprint is asking fans to again help determine the starting lineup for what is one of the most highly anticipated events of the season.

   Through the annual Sprint Fan Vote, under way now, fans can cast ballots for their favorite eligible driver. The driver receiving the highest number of votes will earn a spot in the prestigious Sprint All-Star Race on May 19 and a shot at the $1 million payday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Last year, fans cast more than 2.4 million votes, a record number.

   Fans can vote by using the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile Android application on their Sprint phone, or by texting “VOTE” to 229466 on any wireless carrier (standard text messaging and data rates apply). Voting is also open at or by visiting the Sprint Experience, located in the midway at all Cup races. Voting will continue until 5 p.m. Eastern on May 19.

   As an added customer benefit, votes submitted from a Sprint, Boost, Nextel or Virgin Mobile device count double toward an individual driver’s total.

   Winners of the Sprint Fan Vote include: Ken Schrader (2004), Martin Truex Jr. (2005), Kyle Petty (2006), Kenny Wallace (2007), Kasey Kahne (2008), Joey Logano (2009), Carl Edwards (2010) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2011).

Ticket holders for Rockingham Truck race get a bonus

   Race fans attending next month's inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Rockingham Speedway will get an extra bonus with their ticket.

   The NASCAR Hall of Fame will offer a 20-percent discount on admission to anyone presenting a ticket from the April 15 race. 

   "The NASCAR Hall of Fame is committed to preserving and honoring the history of our great sport," said NASCAR Hall of Fame Executive Director Winston Kelley, "and Rockingham Speedway is an important part of that history. Considering that, it was a natural fit for the Hall to partner with Rockingham to offer this benefit for race fans."

   For more information on the Good Sam 200 Truck race, contact the speedway at (910) 205-8800 or visit online at For more information on the NASCAR Hall of Fame, visit them online at

Monday, March 26, 2012

Travis Pastrana running RallyCross with Dodge

   X Games star and part-time NASCAR driver Travis Pastrana will run a full schedule in the new Global RallyCross Championship Series this season with Dodge, driving its new Dodge Dart.

   Pastrana, 28, is a four-time Rally America champion and owner of multiple supercross and motorcross championships. He also owns Nitro Circus, an empire that includes a television show, live tours and 3D feature film project.

   “When I first heard about GRC, I was really interested, and after watching some of the rounds last year and then actually competing at X Games I was hooked!” said Pastrana. “Now to be able to partner with Dodge to field my own program this year is a dream come true."

    Ralph Gilles, President and CEO of Street and Racing Technology Brand and Motorsports, Chrysler Group LLC, called Pastrana a natural fit for its program.

   “Travis is a living example of what action sports activities are all about, so he fits in perfectly with the youthfulness and passion for performance of the Dodge brand,” he said. “He’s proven that he can handle just about anything with wheels."

   Global RallyCross is a spin-off of the X Games rally races. It combines the skill of rally racing with the excitement of X Games. The series consists of seven racing events in closed-course rally tracks and incorporates bumper-to-bumper competition among 600 horsepower all-wheel drive vehicles. The series begins May 26 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and concludes September 29 in Las Vegas.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Race halted in Fontana

FONTANA, Calif. - No fire but plenty of Smoke in California.

Sunday's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway has been red-flagged after 130 of the scheduled 200 laps, with Tony Stewart in the lead.

Since more than half the distance has been covered, if the race is not restarted, the race – and the win by Stewart – will count as official.

Kyle Busch is currently second, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is third, Kevin Harvick fourth and Carl Edwards fifth.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Harvick: Appeal ruling "like watching O.J. go free."

   You can always count on Kevin Harvick to offer up a fresh perspective on issues in NASCAR.

   On Friday at Auto Club Speedway, Harvick was asked about the NASCAR appeals process in light of this week's decision by NASCAR's chief appellate officer to rescind the points penalties and crew suspensions issued to Hendrick Motorsports' No. 48 team.

   "It’s a platform for everybody to state your case, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose just like in the court of law. It’s really no different than that. It’s no different than watching a case like OJ (Simpson), and watching OJ go free. Watching that case, there’s no way you thought that was going to happen. Then you see the verdict, and then it happens. It’s very similar to that," Harvick said.

   "Sometimes you think something is cut and dry, and you think this is going to be the verdict, and the next thing you know it’s not. You move on and you go to the next one. But there is a platform for the teams to present their cases to a board, and obviously to the last step they took this time to present it again. I’ve been involved in it before from the team ownership side, and you prepare no different than you would going to a court case. It’s literally the exact same process.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Townley placed on probation by NASCAR through Dec. 31

   NASCAR on Thursday placed John Wes Townley, a driver in the Camping World Truck Series, on probation until Dec. 31 as a result of his arrest last month on drunk driving charges in Georgia.

   At the time of the incident, Townley was indefinitely suspended by his RAB Racing team and did not compete in the series opener at Daytona.

   According to the statement issued by NASCAR, in addition to the steps already underway by RAB Racing, Townley will be evaluated by a certified substance abuse professional at NASCAR’s discretion and will be subject to random alcohol and drug testing.

   The Athens Banner-Herald reported that Townley was disoriented, seemed intoxicated and was bleeding from his feet at the time of his accident. His car, a 2012 BMW, had run off the roadway and hit a telephone pole, the newspaper reported.

   RAB Racing said it would welcome Townley back to the team "at the appropriate time."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sirius NASCAR radio now streaming online content

   Sirius XM Radio has now joined Motor Racing Network and Performance Racing Network is offering its content streaming online.

   Starting with this weekend’s NASCAR races in Fontana, Calif., subscribers who have SiriusXM Internet Radio access can listen to live broadcasts of every Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck series races on the SiriusXM NASCAR radio channel through their computers at and through the SiriusXM Internet Radio App for smartphone and wireless devices.

   SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90, is available to Sirius subscribers, XM Premier (formerly known as “The Best of Sirius”) and SiriusXM Premier subscribers. The channel’s daily talk programming will begin simulcasting online on Thursday, March 22. 

   MRN's online content can be found at and PRN's content can be found at

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What we didn't learn from Jimmie Johnson's appeal

   Two appeals and a month later, what have we learned from NASCAR's attempt to lower the boom on crew chief Chad Knaus and Hendrick Motorsports' No. 48 team?

   Honestly, not much. In fact, the situation is more confusing than ever.

   After NASCAR's chief appellate officer, John Middlebrook, rescinded the six-week suspensions of Knaus and car chief Ron Malec and the 25-point driver and owner penalties this week, Hendrick officials – perhaps rightfully so – believed their claims of innocence were validated by the decision.

   But were they?

   Yes, Johnson got his points back and Knaus and Malec will remain working at the track, yet Middlebrook left intact the $100,000 fine against Knaus and the probation period assigned to both Knaus and Malec until May 9.

   If Hendrick was cleared of all charges, why does the fine and probation remain?

   Given the remaining penalties left intact, it appears Middlebrook thought Knaus and Malec still did something wrong. But what?

   In his statement announcing his decision, Middlebrook declined to give the reasoning behind his decision. Absent any comment from Middlebrook, we are left to guess what parts of this entire process Middlebrook thought were handled wrong and which were correct.

   In other words, we are no better off now than we were when this issue first arose at Daytona.

   NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports and all the other Sprint Cup Series teams are left with no direction as to how to proceed from here.

   In the American court system, appellate courts issue written opinions with their decision with the purpose to offer guidance to the lower courts as to how to deal with similar issues when they come up again.

   No such help here.  

   As long as they are willing to pay a big fine, it appears teams can continue to do whatever it was the No. 48 team was doing on their car at Daytona.

   A month later, no one still has any idea whether it was right or wrong.

Ruling on Jimmie Johnson appeal


 On March 20, 2012, the Chief Appellate Officer heard and considered the appeal of the penalties resulting from the #48 Hendrick Motorsports NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team. This stemmed from an opening day inspection for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway on February 17, 2012.

 The penalties concern Section 12-1 of the NASCAR Rule Book “Actions detrimental to stock car racing;” Section 12-4(J): “Any determination by NASCAR Officials that the Race Equipment used in the Event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the NASCAR Rule Book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the Event;” and Section 20-2.1(E): “If in the judgment of NASCAR Officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance, will not be permitted: Unapproved car body modifications.”

The results of the appeal hearing were as follows:

Rescinding the loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Car Owner points (for Jeff Gordon).

 Rescinding the loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Driver points (for Jimmie Johnson).

 Rescinding the six (6) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Events suspension for the Crew Chief (Chad Knaus) and Car Chief (Ron Malec), however both will remain on NASCAR probation until May 9, 2012.

 $100,000 fine remains in place for the Crew Chief (Chad Knaus).

 John Middlebrook – Chief Appellate Officer

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stewart-Haas Racing nominated for Sports Team of Year

   The Boston Bruins, Dayton Dragons, Sporting Kansas City, Stewart-Haas Racing and Texas Rangers have been selected as nominees in the Sports Team of the Year category for the 2012 Sports Business Awards, presented by Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily.

   The Sports Business Awards recognize excellence and outstanding achievement in the business of sports for the period from March 1, 2011 through February 29, 2012. Sports teams in the major and minor leagues and U.S. national teams, in leagues whose central offices are located in North America, were eligible.

   Winners will be announced at an awards ceremony that will be held May 23 at the New York Marriott Marquis at Times Square.

   Stewart-Haas Racing captured its first Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011 with team-co-owner and driver Tony Stewart, who won five of the 10 races in the Chase including the season finale at Homestead, Fla.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Travis Pastrana to cut back NASCAR schedule

   While X-Game star Travis Pastrana still hopes to have a fulltime NASCAR career at some point, it looks like his schedule in NASCAR events will get curtailed again this season as he has committed to race the entire schedule of the 2012 Global RallyCross Series.

   Pastrana, who is running the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at Bristol, Tenn., on Saturday, spoke about his decision.

   "Unfortunately -- or fortunately -- my background in Rally, the sponsors know that I can do well. I've had a proven record in Rally. We're funding a lot of the NASCAR races through the Global RallyCross and, I tell you what, that's a fun series. It's something that I really enjoy doing," Pastrana said.

   " We had planned on doing more, kind of getting away from everything I was doing in the past, but with this it gives me an opportunity to keep racing, keep you in cars and it really helps with the sponsorship to hopefully continue on and do the best that we can in NASCAR. 

   "Unfortunately, I won't be able to make three of the K&N races and the initial plan was to do the entire K&N championship, so that was very disappointing, but at the same time I think we'll be able to hopefully use those races because they're at the NASCAR tracks.  Hopefully, we'll be able to acquire more sponsorship, more fans and, hopefully, build both programs as much as we can."


Friday, March 16, 2012

NASCAR Most Popular Driver voting now underway

   Voting for the 2012 National Motorsports Press Association (NMPA) NASCAR Most Popular Driver award is now underway. The 10-week playoff format will return, with the top 10, based on votes received, competing for top accolades at season's end.

   Fans can visit
and vote once a day for their favorite NASCAR Sprint Cup driver. Voting for the full field of drivers will end on Sept. 8 at 11:59 PM ET. The 10 drivers with the most votes will be announced as finalists, and the vote count will reset to zero.

Fans will then have 10 race weeks to cast their votes once a day to determine the 2012 NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver from the final field of 10 drivers. Voting will conclude Nov. 18 at 11:59 PM ET. The winner will be announced at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in December.

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. notched his ninth consecutive NMPA NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award last season. Only Earnhardt Jr. and Bill Elliott have won the award nine consecutive times since the award's inception in 1953.

Daytona needs more repave work

   Daytona International Speedway plans to make long-term repairs to the area of Turn 3 where Juan Pablo Montoya struck a jet-dryer during the Daytona 500 and ignited a large fire that delayed the race for more than two hours.

    Lane Construction, which handled Daytona's recent repaving project of the entire track, will remove the affected area of Turn 3 and repave it. The project will be completed in time for the July NASCAR race weekend.

    “Once this work is complete, we expect no further issues related to the jet dryer crash,” said track president Joie Chitwood III.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NASCAR drivers pick their Final Four

   It's March Madness time and even many in NASCAR pay close attention to the four weeks of basketball that culminates with the NCAA Championship.

   Here is a rundown of several NASCAR drivers' Final Four picks. Do they match yours? In my bracket, I have Kentucky, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Missouri.

   Brendan Gaughan: Georgetown, Florida State, Michigan State, Duke
   Kurt Busch:  Kentucky, Michigan State, Ohio State, Kansas
   Denny Hamlin: Kentucky, Kentucky, Kentucky, Kentucky (I wonder who he thinks wins)
   Elliott Sadler: North Carolina, Missouri, Floirda State, Kentucky
   Austin Dillon: Kentucky, Florida State, Missouri, North Carolina
   David Ragan: Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Syracuse
   David Gilliland: Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio St, Kansas
   Justin Allgaier: Kentucky, Missouri, Syracuse, North Carolina
   Jason Bowles: Kentucky, Murray St., Syracuse, Michigan
   TJ Bell: Kentucky, Louisville, North Carolina, Ohio St.
   Dakoda Armstrong: Indiana, Michigan St., North Carolina, Ohio State
   Paulie Harraka (and Duke senior): Duke, Duke, Duke and Duke
   Travis Kvapil: W. Kentucky, UNC Asheville, Long Island, and Lamar/Vermont winner (All 16th place seeds)
   Aric Almirola: Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio St., Michigan St.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Q&A with Rick Hendrick

   Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick took several questions following his appearance Tuesday before the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Board. The three-member board upheld all penalties assessed by NASCAR to the No. 48 team following rules violations found in opening day inspection for the Daytona 500.

   Hendrick: I appreciate the process. It was a lot of conversation today, and of course we’re disappointed that the outcome was the way it was. But we’re going to go ahead to the next level and present our case one more time. So I stand firmly behind our guys. But I do applaud NASCAR in giving us a process that we can present our side of things, and then try to come to a conclusion. So for that I’m very appreciative of the system that NASCAR has in place. So we’re just onward and upward. We’ll go to Bristol (Tenn.), and we’ll try to get No. 200, and we’ll deal with this one when the time comes.

   Q: Because of the appeal, will Chad Knaus be in Bristol?
   Hendrick: Chad (Knaus, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet) will be in Bristol.

   Q: When do you expect the next appeal to be heard?
   Hendrick: They’ll just have to tell me when to show up.

   Q: How comfortable do you feel about the appeals process?
   Hendrick: All I can tell you is I believe in my guys, and I believe in the system, but we’ll just have to take it. You know, you won’t know till it’s over, and I know how we feel, and so we’ll just have to go on. I appreciate you letting our guys do their jobs until it’s over.

   Hendrick: I think it’s best that I just wait till we go through the processes. There’s really nothing for me to talk about that you don’t already know, and when we have an opportunity to go through the process, then we can talk about how we disagree.

   Q: Would you like to see the process changed?
   Hendrick: You know, it’s hard to say. I think it’s a good process, and I say these guys are very capable people. I think it’s just hard to have someone to try to digest everything that you have to digest in this situation. But again, from the days I started in this sport, and what you had to deal with to today, NASCAR has made tremendous strides and none of us want to have to go through this. But sometimes you just disagree, and this is one of those cases.

   Q: Do you have a legitimate hope of having it overturned? Why don't you just accept it and move on?
   Hendrick: I don’t accept it. Period.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Does 2005 ruling doom Jimmie Johnson's NASCAR appeal?

   The year was 2005. But the argument made in the NASCAR appeals process is very similar to the one Hendrick Motorsports and Jimmie Johnson plan to make on Tuesday.
   Team owner James Finch had argued before the National Stock Car Racing Commission that he could not be penalized for an illegal carburetor used by his team in a Nationwide Series race at Texas because it had passed the NASCAR inspection process several times previously.

   The penalties for the unapproved carburetor were harsh - disqualification of driver Johnny Sauter from the event (no points and money from the event), and a four race suspension and probation for the remainder of the year for the team's crew chief.

   The appeals board, however, would have none of it.

   "The onus is on the entrant to present a car that is legal at ALL times. The onus is not on NASCAR to detect every rules violation at every inspection," the board wrote in its ruling.

   In fact, the argument worked so poorly, the board actually INCREASED the team's penalty - adding a $25,000 fine to Finch in addition to the penalties already handed down. This is one of just two times in NASCAR history the appeals board INCREASED the penalties - which it has the power to do.

   Johnson was docked 25 points, his crew chief and car chief suspended six races and crew chief assessed a $100,000 fine for having altered C posts on their car prior to qualifying for the Daytona 500.

   One of the main arguments being made by Hendrick officials is that the car passed inspection four previous times in the same fashion.

   Will it work?

   Given the history, my guess is not a chance. In fact, the situation may only get worse.

What's up with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Mark Martin?

   It was a little surprising when late in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked like he purposely ran into the back of Mark Martin in order to clear him while making a pass.

   For one, it's typically not a move made by Earnhardt. And second, it's even rarer to see Martin do something that upsets another driver so much.   

   Earnhardt was asked about the incident after Sunday's race.   

   "Personally, yeah, I don’t have a problem with Mark and have so much respect for him. But to me, personally, there is an unwritten etiquette that when the guy is running the top even if you are clearing him or passing him - if you barely clear him off the corner. I’m coming 10 miles an hour faster off the top of the race track, you stay low. Don’t knock a half second off my lap time being a jerk about it. Stay low. You are going to get it in the next corner and the position is going to be yours. Don’t pull up in front of somebody when they are going to come off the corner 10 miles an hour faster," Earnhardt said.

   “I didn’t really mean to put him in the wall but from the cosmetic standpoint it didn’t look like it hurt his car. Probably looked like it knocked some of the right front suspension off of it, and I am sorry about that. But, you know I felt like I was pretty frustrated at the moment before that happened, and that just kind of really sent me over the edge there.   

   "We just want to win really bad and felt like we should have finished better than we did today and I was just frustrated at that point and that is just not the way that I understand it to be done and I am sure he feels a different way about it but I think we definitely disagreed right there at that moment.”

Friday, March 9, 2012

Danica Patrick dialing back NASCAR expectations

    It appears after a rough Sprint Cup debut at Daytona and more frustrations last week in her Nationwide Series race at Phoenix, Danica Patrick is ready to dial back expectations.

    “I definitely feel like I want to do well for so many people,” Patrick said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “I think that I gave myself maybe a little bit of false expectation about running this year for the (Nationwide) championship and probably using those words ‘for the championship.’

   “It’s my first-ever full year, and what I’ve done still doesn’t add up to one year, and I didn’t have anything before that at all in stock cars.”

   After getting involved in three wrecks at Speedweeks – in a qualifying race, the Nationwide race and Daytona 500 – Patrick ran just the Nationwide event at Phoenix. But 30 laps in the race, she was a lap down. She finished three laps down and declined all media interviews after the race.

   Two races into the 2012 Nationwide season, Patrick is 21st in series points. In the offseason, she repeatedly said she believed she and her No. 7 JR Motorsports team could be contenders for the championship.

   Patrick is also running 10 cup races this season.

    “I think I need to remind myself every now and again of really where the expectation level should be, and where mine should be,” she said. “And I can’t let all of the exposure and hype and hope – I'm serious when I say ‘hope’ - I can’t let that be something that makes me feel like I have to do well.”

Monday, March 5, 2012

Scratch that Elliott Sadler-MWR deal

   Elliott Sadler will not be doing five Sprint Cup races this season for Michael Waltrip Racing after all.

   Over the weekend, MWR announced Sadler would drive the No. 55 Toyota in five of the races this season not on Mark Martin's schedule. Sadler drives the No. 2 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing fulltime in the Nationwide Series. He drove in the Daytona 500 but had no other Cup starts planned this season.

   By Sunday night, rumors were flying the deal was off and Sadler on Monday confirmed he was no longer driving for MWR in an interview with Sirius Satellite Radio.

   Sadler won the Nationwide race Saturday at Phoenix. He said team owner Richard Childress told him following that race he wanted Sadler to focus on winning the Nationwide championship.

   "Richard and the executives of RCR just don't think right now is the right time. It's in our best interest to win the Nationwide championship. After leading the points after the first two races, nobody wants any distractions," Sadler said.

   MWR has not yet announced a replacement for Sadler in the No. 55.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sadler to drive five Sprint Cup races for MWR

  Elliott Sadler will drive the No. 55 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in five Sprint Cup events this season starting at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 18.

  Sadler will drive both Bristol races, both Martinsville (Va.) races and the July 15 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

  Mark Martin is the primary driver of the No. 55 Toyota.
   "This is an awesome opportunity," said Sadler. "We’ve been talking about this for a while, but wanted to get through Daytona before we announced it to everyone. If I had to pick a place on the circuit to start then Bristol would be my first choice. I can’t thank Michael and everyone at MWR enough for giving me this opportunity."

-- Ron Green Jr.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chad Knaus: 'We didn't expect this'

     AVONDALE, Az. -- Chad Knaus, crew chief for Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet, said today that he's focused on the Sprint Cup race this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway while he awaits an appeal of the punishment handed down by NASCAR this week related to unapproved modifications of C-posts prior to the Daytona 500.

   Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races for the violation. A date for the appeal to be heard as not been set and Knaus is allowed to work until the appeal hearing.

  "Obviously, I'm deeply saddened of course. We didn't expect this," Knaus said at the track this morning. "It's not the way we wanted to start off the season but it's good to have the support of everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and we'll go after this thing and hopefully get it resolved and get back to business. Right now we're focused on Phoenix and trying to win this championship."

   Asked if he anticipated a problem, Knaus said it took him by surprise.

 "I didn't expect any of it to be honest with you. We do everything we can to build the best race cars we possibly can to bring to the race track and that's what we do. Unfortunately, they didn't like something so we've got to address that," Knaus said.

   Knaus reiterated team owner Rick Hendrick's earlier statement that the car was no different than the cars the No. 48 team ran in all four restrictor plate races last year, each of which passed inspection.

  "It did run all four (plate) races last year and went through inspection," Knaus said.

  Knaus said the violation was determined through a visual inspection.

   "The templates were never actually put on the car," Knaus said.

  -- Ron Green Jr

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Roger Penske talks Ford move

    Penske Racing and Ford Racing announced Thursday they will be joining forces for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and beyond. Roger Penske answered several questions about the move.

   Penske: We announced today that Penske and Ford will campaign in 2013 in NASCAR Sprint Cup. Penske Racing will obviously race the new 2013 Fusion. We’ll also run Mustangs in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013. I personally want to thank the Ford
leadership team -- Edsel Ford, Jamie, Mark Fields, Jim Farley and Ken Czubay for their commitment in this very important time for our team to Penske Racing. As you know, Dodge has been aligned with Penske Racing for the past 10 years. Together, we’ve had much success on and off the track. Obviously, throughout the 2012 season we are committed
to winning races, making the Chase and hopefully winning the championship. The timing of this announcement with Ford is obviously very important due to the implementation of the new 2013 NASCAR Ford Fusion, which we will compete with next year at Daytona. With only a year to go, we needed to plan for the future and make important commitments to our sponsors, drivers, crews and employees. As many of you know, Penske Racing is no stranger to Ford Racing. Over the years we’ve raced with Ford for 11 seasons with over 500 NASCAR starts. We have 27 victories and 36 poles, so, again, I’m very excited to join
Ford again in 2013."

   Q: Why are you making this move? Who is going to do your engines?
   Penske: From an engine perspective, if you go back in Penske Racing’s history, I would say that all the time we’ve been in many different motorsports, we have had our own engine company and developed our own engines. And I think this was not part of the agreement, from the standpoint with Ford, that we would use Roush Yates or use other people’s engine. This is certainly something that we’re going to evaluate going forward. We have got a great engine company with great people. You can see what they’ve been able to do
with the Dodge product, so we just want to be able to benchmark, and I think that’s one of the reasons when we looked at the change in 2013 is it’s going to be a difficult year for everyone as we have to change bodies on all of our cars and if we were going to make a change, this was going to be the year that we would do that. Obviously, our contract with Dodge ends at the end of 2012, so when you take the contract ending, I think the chance for us in this particular case to be able to benchmark against someone like Roush and Roush Yates will give us a chance to be sure that we can be a leading team in NASCAR in
the future. We’ve had a great relationship with Dodge. We’ll continue, as I said earlier, to commit 150 percent to what we need to do. There’s no disincentive for Penske Racing not to be the best in 2012, and I think that at this particular time when we assessed the
options, and this is something that didn’t come overnight. We had a relationship with Ford before, and I think at the end of the day we felt that this was an option that we couldn’t turn down.

   Q: Can you say how long the deal is for? Will you use Roush Yates Engines?
   Penske: This is a long-term deal. We don’t really comment on length of different agreements, but this is a multi-year agreement and we’ve obviously have multi-year agreements with Ford and Dodge in the past, so it’s consistent with what we’ve done in the
recent deals that we’ve had. From an engine perspective, we have a commitment to our people at the engine shop. We’ve got a big investment in dynos and other things, so this is something that we’ll take a good look at, but what I like about it is we’ll be able to benchmark our capabilities at Penske Engines versus the best in the business at Roush Yates.

   Q: Why is this a better deal than Dodge?
   Penske: Let me say this, this wasn’t about money and I want to make that clear from the standpoint of everybody that’s on the call. I think that we evaluated, when you look at the strength of the teams in NASCAR – the multiple car teams – the success that Stewart-Haas had and the alignment with Hendrick. Also with Gibbs and Waltrip and the teams that were out there. We’ve been operating for the last 10 years pretty much with some support in the previous years, maybe four or five years ago, but we needed to have a benchmark and I think that having that additional technical information flow through the process as Ford has outlined it to us, I think, was very important to us. The term was important to us. We wanted a long-term deal because I have to make commitments to sponsors. Obviously with drivers today you can’t just hire a driver at the last minute, so I think some of those things came into play. We want to thank Dodge for what they’ve done for us. I think we’ve delivered and they’ve delivered, and we’ve got a big job to do ahead of time, but this was a business decision. We had a long, important relationship with Ford in the logistics and dealership area, and all of these things carry some weight in our final decision.

   Q: How tough is it to leave Dodge and did you look at joining Chevrolet?
   Penske: This was a very tough decision and I think we had discussions with Dodge. This wasn’t something that happened in the last 24 or 48 hours. It was over a few months and I
think when we weighed the plusses and minuses of the opportunity, it was apparent to us that we need to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship and we have been trying to do it alone. I think with a certain amount of sponsorship available to us and we were fielding
two, three cars and then some in the Nationwide, but having the opportunity to benchmark with someone like Roush, who has been world-class, you could see the performance this past weekend with Kenseth and how good their cars are, we thought that it was the time
for us to evaluate other options. Chevrolet, obviously, when you look at that lineup, we’d have a hard time getting in that line with the teams that are already associated with Chevrolet, and I felt that the relationship in Detroit that we had with Ford, Chrysler and Dodge is very important to us, but at the end of the day, we had very good conversations with Ralph Gilles and Beth Paretta and the SRT brand is very important. In fact, the good news is that if you saw the activation at Daytona, they’re fully committed and I know they’ll move out on the racing circuits, not only just in NASCAR, but in other areas as we go forward. So it was a tough decision for me, but, on the other hand, I think it’s the right one.

   Q: Does this deal require a certain number of Cup cars and Nationwide series cars?
   Penske: We have committed to run a minimum of two cars in the Cup Series and we’ll be running two cars in Nationwide. At some point, once we have been able to stabilize from the standpoint of the changeover, we could move one of those Nationwide cars to run in the
Cup Series. So I think we have a very viable plan with Ford, one that has some elasticity so we can change from two to three and, obviously, we’ve been able to build a lot of good people through the Nationwide programs when you look at Paul Wolfe and Chad Walter and certainly Todd Gordon are the people that we have today that have come up
through that wing, and we expect to continue that, so you’ll see us performing and running in both series.

   Q: Is there a disincentive in performance for Dodge given they are now in a lameduck situation as far as developing their 2013 car?
   Penske: They’ve got a committed group of guys there and I know for a fact in having several conversations with key management around this discussion that both of us said we are going to do our utmost to perform, not only for the Penske Racing team, but for the Dodge brand and certainly SRT as they’re growing that brand throughout the world. I think that they have an option now to look at the different teams and other areas that they can invest in motorsports. They’re fully committed and I think this might incent them even more to do more. They’ve done a lot with us on the 2013. This wasn’t just thrown over the wall to us. They’ve been involved and I’m sure they have the ability to carry it on to get it to be competitive for whatever team they might choose in the future. Obviously, when you look at the Challenger, we developed that vehicle together with Dodge and you’ve seen the success with Brad and the way Sam ran this past weekend, so there are some good bones that they have to work with. Certainly, we’re going to live up to our obligations on our contract with them throughout 2012.