Saturday, May 26, 2012

Global Rallycross course at Charlotte gets a fix

   The frontstretch jump planned to be used as part of the Global Rallycross race set to debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway was removed from qualifying runs Friday night out of fears cars bottoming out upon landing could damage the track surface.

    Several officials involved in the competition confirmed to The Observer on Saturday participants were notified the jump would be reconfigured for Saturday night's competition to avoid any potential damage to the track..

   Charlotte Motor Speedway is hosting the first race of the 2012 series schedule.

    The race is still expected to begin on schedule later Saturday night after the conclusion of the NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

    Global Rallycross, a mix of motorsports and action sports featuring action sports stars such as Brian Deegan, Ken Block, Travis Pastrana and Tanner Foust, competes on a custom-built, three-quarter-mile course constructed along the frontstretch and pit road of the 1.5-mile speedway.

    The course features hairpin turns, crossover jumps and chicanes and water features all designed to test drivers’ focus and control.
   Photo of original jump configuration, courtesy of Ford Racing:

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Is your name on the Brickyard 400?

   Country music stars, The Band Perry, visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend to announce the finalists for Crown Royal's Your Hero's Name Here" contest, which will name the July 29 race.

   The five finalists are : Dale Beatty, veteran and co-founder of the nonprofit organization Purple Heart Homes from Statesville, N.C.; Lindsey Marquez, ICU nurse from Sun Prairie, Wis.; Curtiss Shaver, Fire Lieutenant and EMT from Troy, Ala.; John Thomas, Deputy Sheriff from Sarasota, Fla.; and Brandon Veatch, veteran and Purple Heart recipient from Bloomfield, Ind.  

   In addition to having their name on all race signage, TV broadcasts and apparel, the winner will experience a true VIP experience – from waving the green flag to start the race to delivering the trophy in Victory Lane.

    Adult consumers can log on to and click the “Crown Your Hero” tab to vote for the hero they think is most deserving of naming rights to the race. Voting runs through June 28. The grand prize winner will be announced in early July.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NASCAR pleased with All-Star Race

   Jimmie Johnson certainly was pleased with the format of this year's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race since he claimed his third victory in the event and its $1 million top prize.

   NASCAR liked how the night played out as well.

   "I thought it was probably one of the more competitive All-Star Races I've seen throughout the night," said NASCAR's vice president of competition, Robin Pemberton. "If there is something to look at it's what some of the competitors did by winning and laying back.

   "But that was part of the format and sometimes the format gets tweaked. When you look at those 20-lap segments, I thought the racing in them was better than I've seen in a long time for an All-Star Race."

   Pemberton said NASCAR liked the format because it produces something similar to four heat races.

   "I thought it was good to give something for somebody to go win," Pemberton said. "Now, whether you disagree with the placement of the drivers when they come down pit road, all-in-all, I think there was good, competitive racing."

   Pemberton said series officials will meet before the end of the year, review the race and the format and consider changes.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Want to see a NASCAR driver this week at Speed Street?

   Food Lion Speed Street is delivering the drivers who know speed best. From 2011 Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart to Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth and more, the three-day festival will play host to autograph and question-and-answer sessions May 24 - 26 in uptown Charlotte.

   Scheduled driver appearances

The lineup of attendees is below (subject to change):

Thursday, May 24
Driver/Guest, Time and Location of Appearance
Donny Schatz - World of Outlaws - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Kyle Petty - SPEED and TNT analyst - Motorola Display - Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Mackenna Bell - NASCAR Whelen Late Model Series - Revolution Racing Display – Autographs
2 - 3 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m.

Trey Gibson - NASCAR Whelen All-American Series - Revolution Racing Display – Autographs
2 - 3 p.m. and 5 - 6 p.m.

Cale Gale - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
4 - 6 p.m.

Johanna Long - NASCAR Nationwide Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
4 - 6 p.m.

Jeremy Clements - NASCAR Nationwide Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
4 – 6 p.m.

General Mills Characters - Food Lion Kids’ Zone presented by General Mills – Appearance
Tony the Tiger & Ernie the Elf, Kellogg’s Display – Appearance
WBTV News Anchors - WBTV Display – Autographs

Friday, May 25

Driver/Guest, Time and Location of Appearance

Amber and Angela Cope - NASCAR Nationwide Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Matt Kenseth - No. 17 Best Buy Ford - Kellogg’s Display – Autographs*
Noon – 1:25 p.m.

Kyle Busch - No. 18 M&M’s Toyota - Food Lion Cooking Stage – Appearance
Noon – 1 p.m.

Ross Chastain - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Jennifer Jo Cobb - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Max Gresham - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

John King - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Timothy Peters - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Dakoda Armstrong - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Creative Loafing Display – Autographs
1 – 3 p.m.

Kyle Busch - No. 18 M&M’s Toyota - M&M's Display – Autographs**
1 – 2 p.m.

Aric Almirola - No. 43 Smithfield Ford - M&M’s Display - Autographs
1 – 2 p.m.

Matt Kenseth - No. 17 Best Buy Ford - Food Lion Cooking Stage – Appearance
1:30 – 1:55 p.m.

Aric Almirola - No. 43 Smithfield Ford - Food Lion Cooking Stage – Appearance
2 – 3 p.m.

Kyle Petty - SPEED and TNT analyst - Motorola Display - Appearance
2 – 3 p.m.

Bryan Ortiz - NASCAR K&N Pro Series - Revolution Racing Display - Autographs
2 – 3 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m.

Jorge Arteaga - NASCAR K&N Pro Series - Revolution Racing Display - Autographs
2 – 3 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m.

Doug Herbert - Top Fuel Dragster - N.C. Highway Patrol Display - Appearance
2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Kyle Busch - No. 18 M&M’s Toyota - N.C. Highway Patrol Display - Appearance
2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

Cole Whitt - No. 88 Chevrolet - Food Lion Cooking Stage - Appearance
3:15 p.m.

Drew Blickensderfer - No. 31 Wheaties Crew Chief - Cheerios Stage
3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

No. 31 Wheaties Racing Pit Crew - Cheerios Stage
3:30 - 5:30 p.m.

Ryan Newman - No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet - Food Lion Cooking Stage – Appearance
5 – 5:30 p.m.

Jeff Burton - No. 31 Wheaties Racing Chevrolet - Cheerios Stage – Autographs***
5 – 7 p.m.

Ryan Newman - No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet - Kraft Display – Autographs****
5:30 – 7 p.m.

Ryan Newman - No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet - Coca-Cola Stage - Appearance
7:30 – 8:15 p.m.

Bobby Labonte - No. 47 Bush’s Baked Beans Toyota - Coca-Cola Stage - Appearance
7:30 – 8:15 p.m.

Brad Keselowski - No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge - Miller Lite Stage – Appearance & Autographs
7:45 - 8:15 p.m.

Todd Peck - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Stopain Display - Autographs

General Mills Characters - Food Lion Kids’ Zone presented by General Mills - Appearance
Tony the Tiger & Ernie the Elf, Kellogg’s Display – Appearance, WBTV News Anchors, WBTV Display - Autographs

Saturday, May 26

Driver/Guest, Time and Location of Appearance

Ryan Gifford - NASCAR K&N Pro Series - Revolution Racing Display - Autographs
2 – 3 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m.

Kyle Larson - NASCAR K&N Pro Series - Revolution Racing Display - Autographs
2 – 3 p.m. and 5 – 6 p.m.

Elliott Sadler - No. 2 OneMain Financial Chevrolet - Coca-Cola Stage - Appearance
7 – 7:45 p.m.

Tony Stewart - No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet - Coca-Cola Stage - Appearance
7 – 7:45 p.m.

Todd Peck - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Stopain Display - Autographs

Tony Stewart - No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet - N.C. Highway Patrol Display - Appearance

Kyle Busch - No. 18 M&M’s Toyota - N.C. Highway Patrol Display - Appearance

General Mills Characters - Food Lion Kids’ Zone presented by General Mills – Appearance

Gecko, Geico Display – Appearance, Tony the Tiger & Ernie the Elf, Kellogg’s Display – Appearance

WBTV News Anchors, WBTV Display - Autographs,

Akinori Ogata, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, Creative Loafing Display - Autographs TBD

Michael Leavine - ARCA Racing Series - Creative Loafing Display - Autographs  TBD

Scott Speed - NASCAR Driver - Creative Loafing Display - Autographs  TBD

Kerry Earnhardt - Creative Loafing Display - Autographs   TBD

Steve Park - NASCAR Driver -Creative Loafing Display - Autographs TBD

*Matt Kenseth: Limited Number of wristbands will be distributed.

**Kyle Busch: Autograph session wristbands will be distributed at the M&M's tent beginning at 11 a.m.

***Jeff Burton: Wristbands guarantee an autograph for the first 200 fans in line at the Cheerios Stage beginning at 4 p.m.

****Ryan Newman: There are a limited number of wristbands to be distributed at the Kraft Display starting at noon on Friday, May 25.

Admission to Food Lion Speed Street is free. The festival opens each day at noon. For a schedule of events, visit

Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Q&A with NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson

   Pioneer Dodge car owner Cotton Owens is one of 25 candidates being considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame this week. In 1966, the Spartanburg, S.C., native teamed with David Pearson to win what is now known as the Sprint Cup Series title. He claimed 38 Cup victories, 31 of which came with Dodge.

   Pearson: Well, I’ve known Cotton for a long time. In fact, I always pulled for him before I ever started racing; he’s always been my hero. I’d go by his shop. I always liked him because he’s in my hometown right here. He doesn’t live far from me and, in fact, I go see him quite often now.

   Pearson: The Dodge people were the best people I’ve ever worked for, if you want to know the truth. Anything we needed, we got it. We’d tell ‘em we need this or need that and they would get it for us. They furnished us cars, whatever we needed and whatever we wanted. It seemed like they’d bend over backwards to help us and give us everything we needed.

   Pearson: Well I run against him one time at Richmond. We were running what is now the Sprint Cup cars back then; we called ‘em Grand National. Anyway, I was leading the race and when it was time to pit, they told me to pit. I looked and here come Cotton in, so I had to sit and wait until they got through with Cotton’s stop before they could change my tires. When he went back out, he was in front of me and he ended up winning the dadgum race. He’s always kidded me about that – he’d tell everybody that he went up there on dirt and showed me how to drive (laughs). We’ve always had a good time.

   Pearson: He ask if I wanted to run all the races and I said well sure, I’d like to run more races. So we run quite a few races that first year (1965) trying to get ready to run the next year, which we did. We run quite a few races and tested a lot while we were running. We changed the car a lot, just experimenting with different things while we were running. It paid off ‘cause the next year, when we run all the races, we won the championship.

   Pearson: He was good. During the week I’d go over there and help work on the cars too. When they were building new ones, I did a lot of welding on the things. We got along well, we really did. I enjoyed working with him and driving for him. He never did do like some of the drivers say the owners do and try to tell ‘em how to drive and all that. He never said a word to me about what to do or how to drive. I drove it just the way I thought I could drive it and he was satisfied with it. Like I say, we got along good. At motels at night, we would wrestle. We’d do all kind of stuff. He wasn’t like a boss man or nothing like that. He was just like a friend and we enjoyed doing what we were doing together.

   Pearson:  We set out to win the championship and we did it. That was a big accomplishment for us to do something like that, especially the first year that we really tried. It meant a lot to me, it really did.

   Pearson: I can’t really remember what all I did win there or how many I won that year (NOTE: he won 15 races). A lot of it was short tracks back then which we’d run good, extra good as far as that goes. Cotton was a good mechanic, too. He built the engines and everything. Every once in a while, he would stick something in there that I didn’t think had enough horsepower. “I remember running Greenville-Pickens one time. It was a dirt track and I told him ‘Cotton, this thing won’t run,’ And what happened, we broke the motor or something and he put a stock motor in the thing and I ended up winning the race with a stock motor. That was fun. Of course the track was muddy and we didn’t need much horsepower. It was really helping us more than it was hurting us because the car wouldn’t spin as much.

   Pearson: A lot of times we’d run three races in one week. When we made the Northern Tour, we just run the same car and we would make any changes at the motel after each race. We’d go on to the next town that we were going to race in and we’d work on the car there at the motel. We’d change springs and things like that, whatever we thought was right. We run well about everywhere we went. “Cotton did all the work. He’d build motors, he’d build cars. He won the championship in the modifieds too I reckon. He did real well in everything he did. A lot of people don’t know he drove, took the cars to the racetrack, he built it, he’s done it all. He won a bunch of modified races and he won races as a car owner. He did a lot of stuff himself getting the car ready, things a lot of people hadn’t done. Anybody that deserves going into the Hall of Fame, he definitely needs to. I thought he might have gone in last year. I’d like to see him go in. I’d like to see him go in the Hall of Fame before anything happens to him. He needs to get in there right now. I think if he knew he was going in, something like that would help him a lot.

   Pearson: We’re just as close friends now and we didn’t get mad at each other. We were getting ready to go to Columbia (S.C.), to the race down there. He had the truck pulled outside (of the garage) and went home to take a shower. All of us were out there ready to go. We were running a little bit late so we just decided, me and the crew, we got in the car and took off to get some ice for the cooler so we wouldn’t have to when he come out. So when we went to get the ice, Cotton came out and he thought we run off and left him. He kind of got a little ill about that and he just pulled the race car and truck and everything back in the garage. So when we got back we thought he’d left us and we’d have to hurry up and go catch him. So we took off to Columbia and when we got there, there was no Cotton. He got mad and pulled his truck and stuff into the garage and we thought he had already gone. When we got back, we didn’t see no car or truck or nothing. He had pulled it back into the shop. We thought he run off and left us and he thought we had run off and left him. It all ended up on account of that bag of ice we went to pick up. “But the next morning I went up there and the boys were standing on the outside. I said ‘What are ya’ll doing standing out here?’ They said ‘He just fired us. He got mad, said we run off and left him last night.’ I couldn’t believe it and I went back in there and I said ‘What are you doing Cotton, getting mad at these boys and running them off. We thought that you run off and left us. We went to get ice.’ He said if you don’t like it you can go too. I said, well, I don’t like it so I just turned around and walked out. I told the boys when I went outside ‘Well, I’m gone too’ so that’s what we broke up about. Neither one of us was mad. He said that and when he said that, I didn’t like it. I lost a bunch of points. I didn’t race. Anyway, it worked out all right. “I wasn’t mad. I understood why he got mad ‘cause he thought we run off ad left him and later on, he felt the same way that I was. He wasn’t mad at me; he just didn’t understand what happened. We’re real close friends. In fact, I went to see him before the Darlington race. Before he got sick, I used to go by and pick him up every Sunday and take him to lunch after church. He’s a nice fella, he really is.

   Pearson: We were a small organization, but you don’t need all those people like Hendrick and others have. They’ve got two or three hundred people working at the shop. I think we had probably six or eight people. That’s all we had at the shop. If you get any more than that, you probably get in each other’s way. Everybody knew what they had to do and they did it, whatever they had to do. We didn’t make a lot of money, as far as that goes, but it was enough to keep you going. Dodge paid him as well as I guess anybody else was getting as far as that goes. Cotton has always been fair; at least he has to me. We had a good bunch of boys, too. All of us were from around here and we enjoyed each other. We were always carrying on with a bunch of stuff. I always had something going on. “I remember one time we were up in Maryland running on a short track and I was leading the race and had a pretty good lead. And I looked and they (the crew) were over on the backstretch watching the race. They weren’t far from the pits. So I started cutting the switch off and on like it was skipping and they took off running to the pits. They knew I was coming in and I laughed when I went by because there wasn’t anything wrong with the car. We were always doing something like that. 
   Pearson: He was more hyper, like a little ol’ banty rooster jumping around. He was always in a hurry to get something done. It was a lot of fun just working with him. He’s always been my hero, all the way back when he ran the modifieds. I’d go around looking to see what all they would do to the cars. There were a bunch of shops here in Spartanburg; Bud Moore was here and Jack Smith. At one time there were nine teams here in Spartanburg, so I’d go around to different teams and see what they were doing, trying to learn things for my own car. They were a lot of people that helped me, tell me about different things. I’d ask questions, especially when I was running my car and before I ever started with Cotton. I’d ask things about what made this work or what made that work. They were good to me and they would explain things to me.

   Pearson: It was everything. We always run pretty good and always handled pretty good. We all just worked together. If I wanted to try something, I’d tell him and we’d try it. And if it didn’t work, we’d go back and do something else. We just worked well together.s

Friday, May 18, 2012

Update on All-Star Fan vote

   Nearly 2 million votes have been cast in the 2012 Sprint Fan Vote for one driver to gain entry into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

   Top 20 drivers (in points) Jeff Burton (17th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd), Joey Logano (15th), Jamie McMurray (20th), Juan Pablo Montoya (19th) and Martin Truex Jr. (6th) need to claim a win or runner-up finish in the Sprint Showdown or rely on the Sprint Fan Vote to capture a spot in the All-Star Race field.

   The five drivers leading the Sprint Fan Vote standings (in alphabetical order) are: A.J. Allmendinger, Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Bobby Labonte and Logano.

   Earnhardt Jr. (2011), Logano (2009) and Truex Jr. (2005) are all former winners of the Sprint Fan Vote.

   Voting will continue until 5 p.m. Eastern Saturday. Fans can vote by visiting, using the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile application on Sprint Android devices, or by texting “VOTE” to 229466 on any wireless carrier (standard text messaging and data rates apply).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Who has the best burnout in NASCAR?

   It's time again to find out who does the best post-victory celebratory burnout in NASCAR.

   Last year's Pennzoil Victory Burnout Challenge winner Kasey Kahne and 2010 Burnout champion Joey Logano will be joined by Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer and A.J. Allmendinger in this season's competition, which will be held Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway prior to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

    The Pennzoil Victory Burnout Challenge has become a fan-favorite staple in the weekend’s activities. Five drivers will participate in this year’s competition, burning rubber in identical stock cars prepared by the Richard Petty Driving Experience and a chance to win a $10,000 donation to the their favorite charity. A panel of judges will score the drivers’ creativity during a 30-second freestyle burnout.

   A text-to-vote opportunity will begin after the conclusion of the first burnout. Fans in the stands at CMS can vote by texting specific codes that will be displayed on giant HDTV. The top-two drivers will advance to the final voting round and the winner will be determined by a celebrity judging panel.
   The Pennzoil Victory Burnout Challenge will be tape-delayed and can be heard on Sirius XM Satellite Radio (channel 90) on May 20 at 11 a.m. Eastern prior to the start of NASCAR Nationwide Series race coverage from Iowa Speedway.

Welcome the Chevy SS to NASCAR

   Three down, one to go.

   Chevrolet became the third manufacturer in NASCAR to unveil its 2013 car when it announced on Thursday the Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series next season. Ford and Dodge have already unveiled their 2013 cars, which look much more like their respective production models.

   The V-8 powered, rear-wheel-drive performance sedan will be a limited production model 2014 model car that will arrive in showrooms in late 2013. The race car will debut in the 2013 Daytona 500.

   Chevrolet has a long history of using the SS (Super Sport) designation on high-performance models of some of its most enduring nameplates. The SS designation first appeared in 1957 on a Corvette prototype race car built under the guidance of Zora Arkus-Duntov with the plan to enter it in the Le Mans 24-hour race.

   The Chevrolet SS will be a derivative of the award-winning global rear-wheel-drive architecture that spawns performance vehicles like Chevrolet Camaro and Holden’s upcoming VF Commodore. The Australian-built car will benefit from significant technology advances to enhance overall performance.

   “As a passionate race fan and performance enthusiast, I am thrilled that Chevrolet will deliver a true rear-wheel-drive NASCAR race car in the SS that is closely linked to the performance sedan that will be available for sale,” said Mark Reuss, president of GM North America. 

   “The Chevrolet SS is a great example of how GM is able to leverage its global product portfolio to deliver a unique performance experience that extends beyond the track. I am personally looking forward to driving it.”

   Toyota plans to unveil its 2013 model Camry next week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Jimmy Spencer REALLY feels about Kurt Busch

   It's no secret former Sprint Cup Series driver and now Speed analyst Jimmy Spencer has his own history with Kurt Busch. 

   Read a reminder of that history here.

   Spencer, thus, is no stranger to controversy and he decided to weigh in on Busch's actions last weekend at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway and the penalties he has subsequently received by NASCAR.

   Here's Spencer's comments in their entirety:

   "You’d think a driver would know when he has stepped over the line and would learn from it. But not Kurt Busch. He got fired from Roush after he won a championship. Then he got hired by one of the most honorable men in motor sports and in the business world, Roger Penske, and you’d think he would learn something from Penske. But it’s obvious Kurt didn’t learn anything from him either.

   Fines and probation are just a joke to Kurt. I think they just make him angrier. I think Kurt needs to be suspended for a week or two or even longer. Bill France would have suspended him. You do not conduct yourself in the public eye the way that Kurt has. You just don’t do that. He has gotten to the point that he has not only offended the media and fans; he’s also offended his fellow drivers.

   He ran into Tony Stewart’s car on pit road at Dover a few years ago, and fortunately missed Stewart’s crew guys. I said then that he needed to be suspended, but NASCAR didn’t do it. He drove through the 39 pit at Darlington on Saturday and could have hurt some of those guys. He is dangerous, not only to himself but to other drivers and crew members because he absolutely short-circuits. Kurt has major, major problems. Everybody has faults and we try to work on them, but it seems like Kurt tries to make his worse.

   Kurt should be suspended for his conduct in general over the past five years. His brother, Kyle, was suspended at Texas for something I thought was much more of a part of racing than what Kurt has been doing. Kurt has done stuff way more dangerous than any driver I can think of in history.

   NASCAR needs to put their foot down. The guy is a talented driver and the sport needs him because of his talent, but the way he acts out gives the sport a black eye. He has no respect for this sport, and to me, that's the worst part of it all.

   Look at Matt Kenseth, Bill Elliott, David Pearson and other guys who have been level-headed. They didn’t scream at their crew members and car owners like Kurt has. He has gotten away with it, so a couple of weeks off might put it all in perspective for him.

   Kurt doesn’t have respect for anyone and doesn’t have it for the sport. NASCAR needs to suspend him to teach him the sport doesn’t need him. Take a couple of weeks off and figure out if you really want to race, and if you do, then you learn to play by the rules better. That’s what Bill France would have done.

   Never have I seen a driver act like this. Every driver has gone through a problem at some point in their career – Rusty Wallace, Geoffrey Bodine, Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt, me – every driver has had an issue at one time or another, but they’ve all straightened out. I was suspended for poking Kurt Busch in the nose, and I learned my lesson. We've all been reprimanded and learned. But I’ve never seen a driver where the same problem goes on for years and doesn’t get any better." 

Who's competing for the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge title?

   Entering its eighth year of competition, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge will feature 24 of the top Cup team pit crews in a head-to-head competition at 7 p.m. Eastern on Thursday at Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. 

   Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased online at or by calling Time Warner Cable Arena box office at (800) 745-3000. Speed's broadcast of the event begins at 8 p.m.
   The 20 teams eligible for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on May 19 automatically qualified for the Challenge. The remaining four positions were assigned to the car owners ranked highest in the 2012 Cup series owner point standings as of May 14.

   The official entry list for the event is outlined below.

   No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge
   No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet
   No. 9 Stanley Ford
   No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota
   No. 14 Office Depot-Mobile 1 Chevrolet
   No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota
   No. 16 3M Ford
   No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
   No. 18 M&M’s Toyota
   No. 20 Home Depot-Dollar General Toyota
   No. 21 Good Sam-Camping World Ford
   No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet
   No. 27 Menards Chevrolet
   No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet
   No. 31 CAT Chevrolet
   No. 34 MHP-Power Pak Pudding Ford
   No. 39 U.S. Army-Quicken Loans Chevrolet
   No. 48 My Lowe’s Chevrolet
   No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet
   No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota
   No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota
   No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet
   No. 88 National Guard-Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet
   No. 99 Fastenal Ford

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How Hendrick got to win No. 200

   Hendrick Motorsports wins by driver
   Driver, Wins

   Jeff Gordon, 85
   Jimmie Johnson, 56
   Terry Labonte, 12
   Darrell Waltrip, 9
   Tim Richmond, 9
   Geoff Bodine, 7
   Mark Martin, 5
   Ken Schrader, 4
   Kyle Busch, 4
   Ricky Rudd, 4
   Brian Vickers, 1
   Casey Mears, 1
   Dale Earnhardt Jr., 1
   Jerry Nadeau, 1
   Joe Nemechek, 1

   HMS Wins by Crew Chief
   Crew chief, Wins

   Chad Knaus, 54
   Ray Evernham, 47
   Robbie Loomis, 23
   Alan Gustafson, 12
   Harry Hyde, 11
   Gary DeHart, 10
   Steve Letarte, 10
   Jeff Hammond, 9
   Waddell Wilson, 4
   Darian Grubb, 3
   Richard Broome, 3
   Andy Graves, 2
   Brian Whitesell, 2
   Dennis Connor, 2
   Gary Nelson, 2
   Jim Long, 1
   Lance McGrew, 1
   Peter Sospenzo, 1
   Randy Dorton, 1
   Tony Eury Jr., 1
   Tony Furr, 1

   HMS Wins by Track
   Track, Wins

   Martinsville, 18
   Charlotte, 16
   Darlington, 14
   Dover, 13
   Pocono, 12
   Atlanta, 11
   Talladega, 11
   Daytona, 10
   Richmond, 10
   Auto Club, 9
   Bristol, 9
   Phoenix, 9
   New Hampshire, 8
   Indianapolis, 7
   Watkins Glen, 6
   Infineon, 6
   Las Vegas, 5
   Michigan, 5
   Kansas, 4
   North Wilkesboro, 4
   Rockingham, 4
   Riverside, 3
   Texas, 3
   Chicagoland, 2
   Nashville Fairgrounds, 1

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Former NASCAR exec Jim Hunter to be honored

   Former NASCAR executive and Darlington Raceway President Jim Hunter is among the members of the Class of 2012 to be inducted into the S.C. Athletic Hall of Fame.

    Hunter joins South Carolina football great Duce Staley and former baseball coach June Raines; Clemson basketball standout Dale Davis; Spartanburg High’s Stephen Davis; and AAU legend Evelyn “Eckie” Jordan in the 2012 class.

    Wilhelm and Hunter will be enshrined posthumously in the ceremony Monday night at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center.

    A Charleston native, Hunter started with NASCAR in 1968 as the public relations director at Darlington and then served as track president from 1993 to 2001. He served as NASCAR's vice president of corporate communications at the time of his death in 2010.

    Hunter played football and baseball at the University of South Carolina and then joined The State newspaper in the 1960’s where he earned the nickname “Fumes” for his coverage of NASCAR.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Racing world responds to death of Carroll Shelby

   The following statements were released Friday regarding the death of legendary auto racer and car designer, Carroll Shelby:

   Edsel B. Ford II, member of the Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company and great-grandson of Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company:
   “Today, we have lost a legend in Ford Motor Company’s history, and my family and I have lost a dear friend. Carroll Shelby is one of the most recognized names in performance car history, and he’s been successful at everything he’s done. Whether helping Ford dominate the 1960s racing scene or building some of the most famous Mustangs, his enthusiasm and passion for great automobiles over six decades has truly inspired everyone who worked with him. He was a great innovator whose legend at Ford never will be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

   Bruton Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. Chairman:
   “Carroll was one of the best friends I ever had. He was known all over the world as an icon in the automotive industry and one of the greatest names in the history of motorsports. He was a great Texan and a great innovator with a style of his own. I’ll never forget how he would climb out of that sports car with bib overalls and a cowboy hat. Ford will do all but close the company because of his passing. I admired him a great deal and will miss him greatly as a friend and a business partner.”

   H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, former president of Charlotte Motor Speedway:
   "Perhaps in the history of auto racing Carroll Shelby was the most unique character rivaling Bill France, Sr., Enzo Ferrari, Smokey Yunick, Barney Oldfield and even Juan Manuel Fangio. It was not what Detroit taught him but what he taught Detroit, Akron and the other capitals of automobile performance. He could see the future of performance better than anyone I ever knew. He told me in 1965 when he was a major Goodyear distributor and I was with Firestone racing that there would be only two owners at Indy -- those two companies! In two years he was right because they financed everyone of the 33 cars.
   "His contribution to performance was so varied. First was his amazing Cobra that stormed Europe like Patton. Then Henry Ford 11's Ford GT-40 that smashed past Ferrari at LeMans. Also he was such a people person he left Ford and helped Chrysler develop the Viper and then came back to Ford! How many guys could do that.
   "With his heart  and subsequent organ transplants he told me he felt like a parts house and then said he was working on getting new eyes. I learned so much from him about
how to just keep going and at the same time developing new projects. He was a humble man who treated everyone the same."

   Chris Powell, president of Las Vegas Motor Speedway:
   “All of us at Las Vegas Motor Speedway are saddened by the passing of Carroll Shelby. Mr. Shelby was a true pioneer in the automotive industry as well as a very accomplished sports car racer. His Shelby Cobra is one of the iconic automobiles in our country’s history. We were honored to be associated with his company for two years as the sponsor of our NASCAR Sprint Cup event, and to have him serve as grand marshal for our races in 2009 and 2010. He leaves a lasting legacy and will be missed by all who knew him. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Cleo, his family and his legions of fans."

   Tom Compton, president of the NHRA:
   “The automotive industry has lost a pioneer and the motorsports world a legend with the passing of Carroll Shelby. He and our founder Wally Parks were very good friends and Carroll frequently attended events at the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum presented by the Automobile Club of Southern California.  On behalf of everyone at NHRA, our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends.”

   Brian France, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France:
   "Carroll Shelby was a giant in the motorsports industry and the automobile industry overall. Known primarily as an innovative automotive designer, he started building his legacy as an outstanding driver. Along the way, his name became iconic.
   "On a personal level, he was simply a good friend to so many of us. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

   Richard Petty:
   "Carroll Shelby was a visionary for performance and speed for the Ford Motor Company. It was his ideas that helped push the Cobra and most recently the Mustang brand to the American people. He was an innovator of his time and helped Ford become a leader in the racing and performance world. The entire Petty family sends their prayers to the Shelby family.”

Dale Junior: It's not just me

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes issue with the idea his current career-worst winless streak and lack of winning a Sprint Cup Series title are reasons why some tracks are still dealing with attendance problems.

   As Earnhardt has reiterated in the past, he believes economic factors still greatly affect race fans - many of whom travel long distances to the races they attend.

   "I don’t really think (TV) viewership and attendance is directly tied to the success of our team. We do have a great fan base and a loyal fan base that I think watches the races regardless of how we’re running. I just think it’s challenging financially for the demographic to afford to come out to a race," the sport's most popular driver said.

   "I think hotel prices are really high and gas is really high and just trying to get here and enjoy yourself has become quite expensive. A lot of people are not willing to make that sacrifice. They can sit at home and either watch it on TV or mow the lawn -- I don’t know. I think that it will cycle around and things like this always do kind of have a cycle. It will improve over time. When the confidence is gained in the consumer to come back out and spend that kind of money.”


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

New exhibit at NASCAR Hall of Fame

    The NASCAR Hall of Fame kicks off a new exhibition in the Great Hall, "Grassroots Racing: Where NASCAR Heroes are Born" on Monday. The exhibition is included in general admission.

   "Grassroots Racing: Where NASCAR Stars are Born" tells the story of hometown racetracks, affectionately called “grassroots,” where many NASCAR drivers began their careers racing every Friday and Saturday night.
   “It’s a vital part of our mission to preserve, uphold and be a resource for the sport and its history," said Winston Kelley, executive director of the facility. "This is the eighth new Great Hall exhibition since opening in May 2010 and it is with these exhibitions the Hall continues to present new chapters in the history book" of NASCAR.

   The exhibit explores four race tracks historically known and recognized to be the beginnings of NASCAR racing – Greenville Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., Hickory Motor Speedway in Hickory, N.C. and South Boston Speedway in Boston, Va.

   Highlighting the exhibition are historic race cars – David Pearson’s Ford Modified (1937), Richard Childress’ Plymouth Modified (1937), Dale Jarrett’s Busch Series Pontiac LeMans (1986) and Denny Hamlin’s Late Model Chevrolet (2003).

   Tickets to the NASCAR Hall of Fame can be purchased by calling 877-231-2010 or at

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mark Martin has one fear in racing

   It's a good bet Mark Martin doesn't eat Lucky Charms for breakfast.

   Nothing he’s encountered has ever unnerved the 53-year-old Batesville, Ark. native who’s made 40 trips to Victory Lane in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. But, there’s still one thing in racing that makes his skin crawl. 
  "It's good luck charms,” Martin says. “I don’t like them at all.”

   To this day, Martin immediately hands off anything that most consider “lucky.”

    “I try not to insult fans when they give me something,” he said. “I try to be nice and say thank you, but I can’t get rid of them fast enough.”
   That’s unusual in a sport where some drivers carry a rabbit’s foot in the car, tape verses to the dashboard or put lucky coins in their uniform pockets. Martin said he has good reason to shun the supposed bringers of good fortune.

   His dim view of good luck charms dates back to one Sunday afternoon in 1993 at North Wilkesboro Speedway. A well-meaning fan gave Martin a four-leaf clover he taped to the dash of his car. 

   “I got hit in the back right after the green flag came out,” Martin recalled. “I got hit so hard it destroyed my car and ruined our race. We got all tore up.”

   That was the end of good luck charms for Martin. “I have been anti-lucky charm ever since," he said.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Eric McClure released from hospital

     NASCAR driver Eric McClure, injured in a violent wreck in Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Talladega, Ala., was released from UAB Hospital in Birmingham, Ala., on Monday.

   Team spokeswoman Emily Brandt said McClure suffered a concussion in the accident and mild internal bruising. She said he is expected to make a full recovery.

   McClure was airlifted to the hospital by helicopter after having to be cut from his car by track safety workers after striking the inside wall of Turn 3. The multi-car accident involving McClure's No. 14 Toyota brought out a 19-minute red flag.

 Brandt said McClure will be take part in a news conference Friday at Darlington Raceway, S.C.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sarcastic Tony Stewart at his finest

   Tony Stewart took a sarcastic tone to his post-race interview Sunday. Here is what Stewart had to say following Sunday's Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway:

   "We didn't quite crash half the field which is what we normally look to do here. I was excited about it. I thought it was a pretty good race. I made it further than I thought I would before I got crashed. I call it a successful day."

   "I wasn't sure to be honest. I'm not quite sure what the fuel issue was. The racing was awesome. It's fun to be able to race and have to watch the gauges at the same time. It makes us as drivers have to do so much more. Being able to make yourself run on the apron and everything else to try to get clean air, it makes it fun. I'm sorry we couldn't crash more cars today. We didn't fill the quota for today for Talladega and NASCAR."

   "I think they need to close it down. Honestly, I think if we haven't crashed at least 50 percent of the field by the end of the race, we need to extend the race until we at least crash 50 percent of the cars because it's not fair to these fans for them to not see any more wrecks than that and more torn up cars. We still had over half the cars running at the end and it shouldn't be that way."

   "No, not at all. I don't think any of the wrecks were an overheating issue. That is why I say I think we ought to just tape them off solid and run them until they blow up anyway. I think it would make it a lot more exciting for the fans."

   "I don't think it really matters. I think if you made it 20 laps we would all still crash with five to go or eight to go. If we did that we would be able to fill the time that the fans deserve. I mean they deserve to see us run 500 miles. Like I said if we don't crash half of the field by the end of the race they really need to extend it because that is what the fans want they want to see that excitement. I feel bad that as drivers we couldn't do a better job of crashing enough cars for them today."

   "I'm upset that we didn't crash more cars. I feel like that is what we are here for. I feel bad if I don't spend at least a 150,000 dollars in torn up race cars going back to the shop. We definitely have to do a better job with that."

   "Well, I don't know that is what they are looking for, but I feel like that is the show we deserve to give them. That is what has made Talladega, Talladega."

   "Absolutely. I had a blast. It would have been a lot more fun if I could have gotten caught up in one more wreck. If I could have done that it would have been perfect."

   "I didn't wreck because I ran out of fuel, but I ran out of fuel twice."

   "I mean we have only ran two restrictor plate races so it is hard to say. There were definitely guys that were running out of fuel today ahead of where they thought they would."

   "I think we ought to make it a figure eight. I mean if we could make it a figure eight it would be perfect. It would absolutely be perfect here. It would be better than what we have. That is going to be my vote next week is that we make it a figure eight and/or we can stop at the half way make a break and turn around and go backwards the rest of the way. Then with 10 to go we split the field in half and half go the regular direction and half of them go backwards."

   To listen to Stewart's whole interview, click here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

New car means no C-Post issues for No. 48 team

   The main reason Jimmie Johnson's No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team had no issues with inspection on Friday at Talladega Superspeedway, and more specifically the C-Post areas of the car, is because the team brought a completely new car to the track this week.

   The car which raised the ire of NASCAR inspectors at Daytona had been run by Johnson in five consecutive superspeedway races, including the 500. The team received stiff penalties by NASCAR for unapproved changes to the C-Post areas, the area of the car from the roof to the top of the rear quarter-panel.

   On appeal, most of the penalties were rescinded except for a $100,000 fine to crew chief Chad Knaus and probation for Knaus and car chief Ron Malec.

   Johnson's team maintained they did nothing wrong. NASCAR President Mike Helton said he expected his inspectors would confiscate the C-Posts again if the same thing showed up at Talladega.

   Instead, the No. 48 team decided to bring a whole new car. 

   The Daytona 500 car wasn't worth saving as a backup, either. This week's backup  chassis for the No. 48 team is No. 482. The car which Johnson used in the previous five plate races was chassis No. 628.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Humpy Wheeler: I will not see history be rewritten

   The following statement was released by former Charlotte Motor Speedway president H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler:

   The release sent out by Charlotte Motor Speedway suggesting that the lights at the track were Bruton Smith's  idea is not true.

   I will not stand by and see history be rewritten.

   These are the facts: I went with then sales manager Jim Duncan to Winston Salem in 1991 to visit RJ Reynolds Sports Marketing Dept. The meeting was with RJR director of sports T. Wayne Robertson to make a presentation for the 1992 Winston All Star Race. Our contract was always for one year. We yearly made a presentation to them to get the event back.

   I was really worried that year because Richmond and my friend and its promoter Paul Sawyer really wanted the event. So, we made our presentation and presented them with five promotional ideas. Wayne and his group didn't like any of them and I thought we were going to lose the race.

   Right before the meeting ended I said: "Ok, I have another idea...let's run it on Saturday night." Wayne looked at me like I was crazy and so did my associate Jim Duncan.

    No one had ever run a superspeedway race at night. Wayne thought it was a great idea and said "if you can do it and NASCAR approves then let's do it."

   When I got out into the parking garage Jim Duncan said "are you crazy? When did that idea come up?"

   I told him it just came out of my head. We got back to Charlotte and at some point I told Bruton Smith that was what I wanted to do. He said OK.

   After I contacted several lighting companies and got nowhere we went ahead with the announcement. It shocked everybody. Bill France Jr., called and ask me if I had lost my mind. He and I liked each other but often differed on the direction the sport was going. I told him it was going to happen and knew NASCAR would cooperate.

   I will admit that things got edgy because a lot of people in the sport were against it citing danger as their reason. What made this tough was I didn't want high poles in the infield. Finally I invited MUSCO, a lighting company from Iowa, down to meet with us. Musco president Joe Crookham and chairman Myron Gordon came. Bruton was not even in the meeting. Gordon said if he could take the Petty Driving School he could figure it out.

   He did and then they went to work on this and came up with the most ingenious lighting system in sports history. To light from the infield they had short poles that reflected lights into a series of mirrors that shot the light back to the track on a diagonal. The rest is history. The test with NASCAR was passed in April and we had the race in May which was a great success and won by Davey Allison.

   I am proud of my idea. Bruton and I did a lot of great things together. I think we helped to change NASCAR in some way. A lot of the things we did at Charlotte were mutual ideas. The lights were not one of them.

   Click here to read the news release to which Wheeler refers.