Friday, August 31, 2012

Why Dale Junior thinks NASCAR fans love raw emotion

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked on Friday why he thought raw emotion resonates as much as it does with the NASCAR fan base.

   NASCAR fans typically get very excited and riled up when drivers express emotion in races, such as following the incident that took place between Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth last week at Bristol, Tenn., when both wrecked and Stewart tossed his helmet at Kenseth's car.

   Earnhardt's answer:

   "I’m sure everybody watching the race has somebody’s neck they would like to ring. Maybe they live vicariously through that emotion in some way. There is probably a co-worker or two they wouldn’t mind running their fist into his face. It’s probably more likely than you imagine. I assume they live vicariously through it. I do when I watch football. I see what the players do on the field (and) I kind of get into the emotional side of it when somebody is upset or a player gets real physical and plays really hard," he said.

   "That is what you like to see and I think the fans really like seeing that out of the drivers. Especially, we are inside the cars and we are limited to our physical emotions and physical body language driving the car. But when we get out and do things such as Tony (Stewart) did the fans really connect to that. They really connect to that emotion and driving down the road somebody cuts you off on the highway you would love to shoot them a bird or something. Maybe you do.”

   Who doesn't?

Bank of America 500 going to new heights

   World famous tightrope walker Nik Wallenda, who made headlines earlier this year when he traversed a 1,500-foot span across Niagara Falls on live television, will bring his high-wire thrill show to the Oct. 13 Bank of America 500 pre-race show at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

   “We always strive to give fans an unforgettable race day experience,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “This year, Nik wowed us all at Niagara Falls, and now fans can see him in action at the greatest place to see the race. Whether it’s on the track or in the air, the Bank of America 500 will be a combination of entertainment and thrills that only Charlotte Motor Speedway can deliver.”

   No previous show has risen to the heights that will be achieved during this year’s Bank of America 500, when Wallenda, a six-time Guinness World Record holder for various acrobatic achievements, takes to the high wire.

   Wallenda will descend from above the frontstretch grandstands over a span of more than 750 feet to a crane set up behind Victory Circle, all while balancing on a tiny 5/8-inch cord. At times the cord will hang more than 100 feet – 10 stories – above the ground, and his total walk will equal the length of two-and-a-half football fields.

   This year’s performance marks the 26th anniversary of The Flying Wallendas’ high-wire act at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1986, when Nik’s predecessors walked from the grandstands down to pit road as part of a circus-themed prerace show.

   “I’m honored to continue the great Wallenda family tradition performing at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” Wallenda said. “The speedway has always set the bar for pre-race entertainment and excitement, and I’m looking forward to raising that bar to new heights this year.

   “NASCAR drivers are used to driving on the edge, and in my job, it’s really no different. It takes an extreme level of focus and commitment to your craft to be successful, and there’s really nothing quite like the thrill of being out there and performing.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Pocono & Iowa set 2013 NASCAR dates

   Pocono Raceway announced on Wednesday its 2013 NASCAR events will be held on their traditional weekends - the Pocono 400 Sprint Cup race will take place on June 9, 2013, and the Pennsylvania 400 will take place on Aug. 4, 2013.

   The Pocono 400 weekend, June 7-9, will also feature an ARCA race. The Aug. 2-4 Pennsylvania 400 weekend will also include ARCA and a NASCAR Trucks race.

   Iowa Speedway also announced its NASCAR race dates for the 2013 season.

   The track will host Nationwide Series races on Jun 8 and Aug. 3, 2013. Iowa Speedway will also host NASCAR Truck races on July 13 and Sept. 8, 2013.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kansas Speedway repave gets good early reviews

   Several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams took to the newly reconfigured Kansas Speedway on Tuesday and several offered positive reviews as teams navigated the variable banking for the first time.

   “I think they did a really nice job repaving,” said Matt Kenseth. “Drivers aren’t huge fans of repaves, especially being the first ones on the track, by this afternoon the cars were more comfortable on the track. I think the repave is awesome.”

   Regan Smith agreed.

 “We’ve seen quite a few of these this year already. They did a pretty good job with this one.”
   For Dale Earnhardt Jr., the day was about getting some time on the track.

    “It’s nice to get out on the track. It’s nice to see the track. I like this place,” said Earnhardt, Jr. “The banking will add speed to the race track and one and two definitely have more banking. This should be a fast little race track.”

   Kenseth, who holds the track record of 180.856 mph set back in 2005, expects a new track record this fall.

    “We’re already running, the last lap was 30.30 or something,” said Kenseth. “You know it’s going to be faster when everybody runs in qualifying runs. I expect it to be the high 28s in a qualifying run.”

Hillenburg named NMPA Spirit Award winner

   Members of the National Motorsports Press Association have selected Rockingham Speedway President Andy Hillenburg as the second quarter winner of the NMPA Speedway Motorsports Spirit Award.

   The award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, quarterly winners are selected, and an overall winner is determined by a vote of the National Motorsports Press Association membership.

    Hillenburg was selected for his efforts to return Rockingham Speedway to prominence. He bought the track at auction in October 2007 and in April of 2012 NASCAR returned to the track for the first time since 2004.

   Also receiving votes were: Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Benton Racing, Ellen Siska and Tony Stewart.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Matt Kenseth's take on Tony Stewart's helmet toss

   Upset that he and Matt Kenseth wrecked while racing for the lead in Saturday night's Irwin Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart provided a moment that will likely make its way to commercials everywhere the remainder of the NASCAR season.

   Stewart waited for Kenseth's car to come back around the track and launched a two-handed toss of his helmet that landed on the nose of Kenseth's car. Stewart vowed he would wreck Kenseth every chance he got the remainder of the year.

   Kenseth was asked about the racing at Bristol and the helmet throw after the race. His responses:

   Q: What happened with Stewart?
   Kenseth: I’m a little confused. I was running the top leading and he got a run and he went into turn one like I wasn’t there and just went straight to the fence. If I wouldn’t have lifted, like he chose not to do the next corner, we would have wrecked, so I let him have it and I got a run back, drove all the way alongside of him and we just kept going. I mean, I lifted down there or else we would have wrecked and he chose not to lift and wrecked us both, so I don’t know. He’s already had two in this series he’s pretty much taken us out of and I told him after Indy I was gonna race him the way he raced me and I did the exact same thing down there that he did down there – the exact same thing, except he didn’t give it to me. I guess he just wanted to do all the taking, so that’s where we ended up.

   Q: He said he's going to run through you every chance he gets.
   Kenseth: Yeah, that’s fine. Look, Tony is probably the greatest race car driver in the garage. I don’t really have anything bad to say about Tony. On the race track for years and years and years we’ve had tons of respect for each other and, for whatever reason this year, he ran me off the track at Sears Point and said he was sorry. It cost me seven spots in the finishing order and at Indy he was mad because he said I blocked him and I asked for five minutes of his time to clear the air and he wouldn’t give it to me and pretty much just got cussed out and knocked my whole side off and put us in position to get wrecked, so I just said, ‘OK, that’s fine. I’m just gonna race you the same way you race me,’ and he showed me how he was gonna race me down there, so I just did the same thing on the other end. So I don’t know. If you look at it we did the exact same thing, it’s just that he didn’t lift so I don’t really see where that’s 100 percent my fault or problem.

   Q: What did you think when you saw the helmet coming at you?
   Kenseth: I was expecting it. I’ve seen that for awhile. I was expecting it and it didn’t really bother me. It wasn’t gonna hurt it any worse.

   Q: Did the changes to the top of the track play into what happened or would you guys have raced like that regardless?
   Kenseth: I don’t know. I didn’t want to race him like that and I never like to really race people like that. If he would have just stayed around the bottom for two laps and passed me clean, I would have just probably lifted and let him up in line, but, like I said, the first shot he had he just went straight like I wasn’t even there and went straight to the top groove, and it was either lift or wreck him and I lifted, so he just chose to do the opposite at the other end. The top really came in for whatever reason. It’s so smooth up there that it built a lot of rubber and that was the only groove. It was pretty much a one-groove track because the top actually got really good at the end.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Earnhardt Jr. takes offense at Keselowski's comments

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. expressed his displeasure on Friday morning over comments Brad Keselowski made last weekend, which many in the media claimed were allegations of cheating at Hendrick Motorsports.
   Here is what Earnhardt was asked:
   Earnhardt: “No not really. I do know Brad (Keselowski) pretty well. Brad is a really good guy. He has a pretty good heart. He is a really great race car driver and I wish he would concentrate on that. I think he likes to talk a lot, but I think his true skills shine on the race track not really behind the microphone.”

   Earnhardt: “I mean I don’t disagree with Rusty (Wallace). I just…me and Brad are friends I don’t want any drama with Brad. I don’t particularly like the things he says lately about the company I drive for. I take offense to the claims and accusations. It’s just natural for me to do that, but we’re friends and I don’t want any drama between him. So, that is where I stand with that. I mean certain individuals and personalities, when they clash it’s great. It makes great TV and there have been a lot of great rivalries in this sport that have moved it along and taken it to certain levels. I don’t dislike that or disagree with it."

   To read what Keselowski said last week, go here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How Earnhardt's death contributed to Rusty Wallace's retirement

   On Thursday night, many NASCAR media had the chance to talk quite a while with NASCAR veteran Rusty Wallace and the driver who now wheels the No. 2 Dodge at Penske Racing, Brad Keselowski.

   I have always been curious on how Wallace came to the decision to walk away and retire as a driver - while he was still on top of his career - and how unlike many others, he has never returned to NASCAR competition in any form. So, I asked Wallace about it Thursday night and his answer I found quite interesting. I'm not sure he had shared such details before.

   Here was his response:

   "There are many reasons why I quit driving the car. Really, I had accomplished all I could. I have just kept running and kept winning, but I had won at just about every track. That particular year I made the Chase. I remember going to Richmond - had a great race that day - and remember moving into second in points behind Jimmie Johnson. But there was one thing that was lingering in the back of my head while this whole thing was going on. And it was when Dale (Earnhardt) got killed. Mr. (Bill) France came up to me before Dale passed away and said, 'Rusty, how much longer you going to keep doing this?' He actually took his hand and did something - he told me in his office about a month before Dale died, he said he was watching my career. He said I was still getting it done, still winning. He said, 'I watched you go up, and you got to the very top and now you're teetering back and forth.' He said he thought I needed to hang this up and work for NASCAR or work with TV. He said, 'You can't prove any more. I don't want to see you get hurt.'

   "So, we were at the hospital the night Dale passed away and I looked across the room and there was Bill France and he looked me right in the eye and held his hands up like this (Rusty made a T with his hands and had the top hand teetering back and forth). It made me think. I ran the rest of the year. We put together a proper go-away - Rusty's Last Call. I thought about the next chapter of my career. Then I got a phone call from ESPN asking me to be an analyst for them and I said I need to do that. It was a great offer and it was a good time to do it.

   "When I go to certain tracks, like Richmond or Bristol, I wish I was out there. When Talladega happens, I go, 'Oh my God you can have it.' I think about it at different tracks."


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Is Bristol in a no-win situation?

   Nobody many know what the racing will look like on the altered surface at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway this weekend but that won’t keep snap judgments from being made after the race as to whether it was a success.

   The problem is Bristol may be in a no-win situation.

   Already it looks very unlikely Bristol will have anything close to a sell-out on Saturday night and in the past, even when the March race under-performed, the summer night race still sold out or came close to it.

   So with the very public way track owner Bruton Smith went about ordering the changes to the track, if the crowd Saturday night is down from last year, does that mean the move was a failure?

   It will be very difficult to tell.

   Whether some want to believe it or not, the economy still drives many of the ticket-buying decisions in NASCAR right now. People have more disposable income these days, but it’s still a big decision on how to use it.

   Lower ticket sales could easily be attributed to economics, but that same argument was made for the lower attendance at the past two spring races and nobody wanted to hear that. The answer was only “fix the track.”

   The progressive banking added to the track in 2007 produced side-by-side competition in which passes could be executed without re-arranging a competitor’s doors and fenders and lately had reduced caution periods. Although, the results were different depending on which NASCAR series was competing.

   If the racing is deemed “great” on Saturday night, perhaps fans will overlook empty seats. Those who didn’t want a change, to be sure, will look to those seats as proof the changes didn’t increase attendance – which, in public comments at least, was what was said to prompt the change.

   Last week’s Sprint Cup race winner, Greg Biffle, called the reconfiguration “a shot in the dark.”

   He’s right. On Saturday night, we’ll see what – if anything – it hit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Kyle Busch's crew chief fined by NASCAR

   On Tuesday, NASCAR announced it had penalized the crew chief of Kyle Busch's No. 18 Sprint Cup Series team, Dave Rogers, as a result of rule infractions at Michigan International Speedway last weekend.

   Busch's No. 18 Toyota was found to have improperly attached weight and race equipment that does not conform to NASCAR rules during a practice session on Aug. 18.

   Rogers has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Oct. 3. In addition, car chief Wesley Sherrill has been placed on NASCAR probation until Oct. 3.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Harvick gets new (old) crew chief

Gil Martin, right, will handle crew chief duties for Kevin Harvick on an interim basis, multiple sources confirmed Monday. Above, Martin speaks with Elliott Sadler, left, during practice for the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway in February. (Todd Warshaw - Getty Images for NASCAR)

   Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick will have a new crew chief this weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway - his old one.
   Multiple sources confirmed on Monday Harvick's current crew chief, Shane Wilson, has been replaced on an interim basis by Gil Martin, who was replaced by Wilson. Martin is not expected to remain in the position on a long-term basis, sources said.

   Harvick is winless this season but remains in solid shape to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He is eighth in points - the Top 10 make the Chase after 26 races - and has three top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 23 starts.

   Wilson's role within the Richard Childress Racing organization remains unclear.



Sunday, August 19, 2012

The state of NASCAR racing as Keselowski sees it

   Brad Keselowski has been vocal about the perceived advantage Hendrick Motorsports cars have this season, but on Sunday he took it a step further offering a big-picture look at how the quality of the racing has been affected this season.

   Keselowski's answers to some questions following Sunday's race were quite interesting.

   Is this a new era here at Michigan? All of kind of things happened in today's race.
   Keselowski: Well, I just think there’s big discrepancies in the cars right now. I think there are certain parts and pieces that are on the cars that are making them quite a bit different to where we’re seeing different paces throughout the field. I think there’s probably a half-dozen to a dozen cars that are drastically faster than the rest of the field and that’s disruptive the parity and created a lot of side-by-side action that, you know, is maybe good, maybe bad; depends on who you are. But I think right now in the sport the cars are perhaps the most separated than what we’ve ever seen. 
   I think if you look at qualifying, the difference between the pole and 20th was over a second. We haven’t seen that in over 10 years in this sport. I think there’s a major pace discrepancy now. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing but that’s just an observation to note and that creates more side-by-side racing which opens up the possibilities and potential for issues like you described.
   What were you saying about the cars having an advantage? What is the trick?
   Keselowski: There are parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive. Some guys have it, some don't. There's a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don't want to be the guys that get the big penalty.
   Obviously, there's a question to the interpretation; that as of right now, it's legal. But I'm sure that Roger doesn't want to be the one caught red handed. As a group at Penske Racing, we have not felt comfortable enough to risk that name and reputation that Roger has over those parts and pieces. Others have, which is their prerogative. I'm not going to slam them for it.
   But it's living in a gray area. Roger doesn't do that. There's certainly some performance there that we've lost. I shouldn't say lost, but haven't gained, because we choose not to do that. That's something that we have to continue to evaluate every week that goes by, that those components are permitted to be run. We have to make a re-evaluation of that internally to decide if that's the right way to go.
   But as it stands now, certainly that's part of the speed discrepancy through the field. Some of the teams haven't figured out how to make it work, some of them just don't feel comfortable risking the piggybank on it. It's part of how this sport works behind closed doors. We're still working our way through it. I'm not saying I have all the answers to it, but it's certainly part of that discrepancy that we were speaking to earlier.

Kyle Busch and Doug Herbert to kick off Summer Shootout finale

    The annual Summer Shootout Series will go out with a bang Tuesday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway with fireworks and appearances by NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver and former Legend Car racer Kyle Busch, as well as NHRA driver and B.R.A.K.E.S. founder Doug Herbert.

   As part of Champion’s Night, Busch will serve as Grand Marshal and Herbert will be the Honorary Starter. Both racers will participate in an autograph session on the concourse beginning at 6 p.m. for the first 150 kids to get wristbands from the main ticket office in Smith Tower. Children can pick up their wristband starting at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

   The autograph session will take place at the special B.R.A.K.E.S. display featuring a Top Fuel dragster. B.R.A.K.E.S., which stands for Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe, is a nonprofit organization that teaches teens and their parents about the importance of safe driving. Herbert founded the organization after he tragically lost his two sons in a car accident in 2008.
   On Tuesday night, champions will be crowned in six Legend Car and Bandolero divisions during Round 10. At the end of the night, there will be a fireworks display saluting the new Summer Shootout champions. In addition to Legend Car and Bandolero racing, four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive Stadium Stocks, which run weekly at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., will take to the frontstretch 1/4-mile oval for a special race.

   Gates open at 5 p.m. with opening ceremonies at 7 p.m. Tickets for the Summer Shootout Series are $7 for adults and are available in advance at the speedway ticket office or at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Kids 13 and under get in free. For tickets to the Summer Shootout Series, call the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at (800) 455-FANS (3267); or visit

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fuel or no fuel: Jacques Villeneuve talks about Saturday's race

   Jacques Villeneuve, driving the No. 22 Dodge for Penske Racing in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide race at Montreal, appeared to run out of fuel on the final lap while leading, but continued on to finish third.

   Villeneuve talked about the finish and his run-in with race winner Justin Allgaier.

   Can you talk about your race?
   JV: Dodge and Penske gave me an amazing car today. We had the car of the field today. We were untouchable. It makes the end result a little frustrating. We were a little bit low on fuel so I was being careful and as often happens (here) it goes a little bit crazy on the last lap.

   Did the car sputter on the last restart? Did you run out of fuel?

   JV: No, I got run in to. It (fuel) was no problem. Into Turn 6 I think it was (Justin) Allgaier (who) just hit me really hard and that was it, which is very frustrating because our car was untouchable. My Dodge was amazing.

   What ghappened when you made contact with Tagliani?

   JV: Well, we got together. He was really slow, just blocking on the inside, and the guys behind me were catching me so coming out of Turn 2 I was a little bit on the inside and we tangled a little bit. I thought it would be alright so I didn’t get off the gas, I didn’t want the cars behind me to get to me. I ended up turning him around. That’s a shame. That wasn’t my intention. At that point I couldn’t stay behind him.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

What do NASCAR fans want to see Tony Stewart drive?

   Last year, Tony Stewart's sponsor, Mobil 1, helped Stewart helped arrange an opportunity for Stewart to drive a Formula One car. This year, Mobil 1 to give Stewart the chance to drive something else, but it would like race fans' help.

   Until Aug. 27, fans have the chance to vote in three separate rounds to choose Stewart's ride. The winning vehicle, as decided by fans, will be announced during the “Mobil 1 Choose Tony’s Ride” exhibition at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Aug. 28 where Stewart will unveil the winning vehicle by driving it at the track.

   In the Round One, fans are voting between a Chevrolet Astro Van and a M36 GMC Jackson Tank!

   To vote, visit the Mobil 1 Facebook page here.

Jeff Gordon clearly wanted a caution

   Jeff Gordon wasn't about to mince words when it came to his opinion on how the final laps of Sunday's Finger Lakes 355 at Watkins Glen International went down.

   Gordon wasn't in contention for the win, but he was set for a Top-10 finish when he spun in oil on the last lap of the race. Several drivers complained of oil on the track, but it was not readily visible. NASCAR said its officials did not report seeing any oil on the track, only black smoke trailing from Bobby Labonte's No. 47 Toyota.

   Gordon was asked about his incident immediately after the race.

   "Oil all over the race track, it’s pretty ridiculous they don’t want to end a race under caution and put that many cars in jeopardy. I had no idea that there was oil out there. I knew there was all kinds of havoc happening all around, but it was a great effort by our Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet. I’m pretty bummed out right now because we didn’t have the day that I thought we were going to have," Gordon said. "I thought our car was a lot better than that. We started pretty good, but I knew something wasn’t right. Then we tried to make an adjustment it didn’t go the right way, went backwards. Yet Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys made some adjustments there on that last stop and we weren’t good on the restart, but man did it come on. 

   "We were just passing cars left and right. I was having a blast. To work that hard all day long, come all the way from way back all the way up into the top 10 and have it taken away because they don’t want to throw a caution it’s pretty disappointing. I jumped out there to the outside of (Matt) Kenseth and I think he could see the oil because he just gave it to me. I went out there and there was just no grip just completely came around. I went to the outside and hit it (oil on the track) and just spun right out. I’m just really disappointed because we fought hard today to come back to get what was going to be a pretty nice finish.

   "The thing is, I’m just disappointed at how hard we had to fight for the position. The points are going to be what the points are going to be. We can’t control what other people do. We can only control what we do. And today, we took back control when we got off, and we were coming. It’s just unfortunate that that gets taken away from you because NASCAR doesn’t want to end the race under yellow (caution). I understand. You want to keep it entertaining and give the winner a shot at it but there are a lot of other things going on our there too. I think they completely disregarded that and hey, it’s over now. We’ll move on."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All remaining Pocono lightning strike victims released

   All of the remaining race fans injured from lightning strikes following Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway have been released from area hospitals.

   A total of 10 race fans were struck by lightning in the Pocono Raceway parking lots after the conclusion of Sunday’s race. One was killed and nine were transported to local hospitals with various degrees of injuries.

   The tenth victim, Brian Zimmerman, was fatally injured during the storm. Private funeral services will be held on Saturday. Relatives and friends may pay their respects on Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Thomas P. Kearney Funeral Home, Inc., 517 North Main Street, Old Forge, Pa.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Kyle Petty on Allmendinger situation

   NASCAR veteran and Speed TV analyst Kyle Petty was asked about the newest revelations surrounding A.J. Allmendinger's indefinite suspension from NASCAR for failing a random drug test.
   Allmendinger on Tuesday told several media outlets he took a pill from a friend of a friend that turned out to be Adderall, for which he did not have a prescription.

   Q: Allmendinger has said Adderall was the substance found in his drug test. Are you surprised a driver would risk a top ride by taking a substance from a friend without knowing what it is or what ingredients it contained?
   Petty: “If you had asked me this question two months ago, I’d have said ‘Yes, I can understand how anyone could make that mistake.’ How many times have any of us been to dinner with someone and said, ‘I’ve got a headache,’ and they say, ‘I’ve got something for that,’ and they reach into their purse and hand you a pill and you assume it’s a Tylenol or Advil and take it without asking questions. So, two months ago, the answer to that question would have been ‘yes.’ Now after talking to Mike Helton and Robin Pemberton and all the NASCAR executives and understanding their policy and the extent to which Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and those top guys go before they take any supplement period, almost before they even eat dinner, just to check in and make sure what they ingest is okay, then I probably don’t understand how A.J. would take something without knowing what it is first. I’m baffled anyone would put themselves in that position nowadays.”

    Q: If the substance for which he tested positive indeed was Adderall, how, if at all, does that affect his chances of making a comeback in NASCAR in a middle-to-top-tier ride?
   Petty: “That’s going to be the career question for AJ. It’s more than the million-dollar question – it’s the career question. Owner-wise and sponsor-wise, who will say it was an honest mistake and he deserves another shot, or who will say he should have known better and they can’t risk their company on that type of recklessness? That is the big question and I do think AJ’s explanation of what happened will have an effect. He has put himself in a position to be suspended. Since NASCAR implemented the substance abuse policy, no driver has really, truly made it back. People have gone through the program, but a driver hasn’t really made it back. However, a driver of his caliber hasn’t been put in that situation yet, and I think he probably has as good a chance as anyone and probably a better chance than most to make it back. But I think it’s out of his hands. All he can do is go through the process and hope somebody out there gives him a shot at some point in time. But with each passing year, he gets older and the opportunities and amount of really good cars available lessen. The odds definitely are against him.
     “After everything that has happened over the last couple of months to AJ and the sport, I hope drivers in the future would look at this and learn from it and understand not only do they put themselves in a bad place, they also put their teams, sponsors and the sport in a bad situation – in a place this sport never thought it would be. We are not a stick-and-ball sport that usually has these issues. I hope they’d learn from this. On a more cautionary note, I hope that every PR rep in the country who has anything to do with a major athlete looks at how this situation was handled by AJ’s camp and does exactly the opposite the next time this happens.”

     Q: Do you think statements made by AJ’s camp throughout this process have made it more difficult for him to rebound and return to the driver’s seat in NASCAR down the road?
   Petty: “This is only the perspective of one guy who sits at a desk on SPEED on the weekends and runs his mouth, but from what I’ve been told and from what I know of this situation, the bridges may be mended in the garage area, but media-wise, it could be a while before those bridges are mended. A lot of things were told to the media to the degree the media almost felt used. You cannot put the media in that position. They may not be your friend as a driver, but they’re not your enemy, either. When you start treating them that way and with that disregard, then you end up in situations such as this one.”

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Pocono Raceway starts memorial fund for lightning strike victims

    Pocono Raceway has established the Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund to benefit the victims of the lighting strike tragedy which occurred following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, Aug. 5.

   Donations will be accepted at any PNC Branch or by mailing checks/money orders, addressed to “Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund” to the following address:

   Pocono Raceway
   Attn: Pennsylvania 400 Memorial Fund
   1234 Long Pond Road
   Long Pond, PA 18334

Monday, August 6, 2012

Statement by Pocono Raceway president on lightning strikes

   Statement made Monday by Pocono Raceway president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky:

   As reported yesterday, a long time member of our Pocono Raceway family, a spectator has passed away following a lightning strike. According to Monroe County Coroner Robert Allen the name of the deceased is 41 year old Moosic, Pennsylvania resident Brian Zimmerman. Additionally, nine other individuals were transferred to local hospitals as a result of two separate lightning strikes.
    On behalf of the entire staff here at Pocono Raceway, we are deeply saddened by yesterday’s tragic events. As mentioned, our fans are like family to us and we express our deepest condolences to the individuals and families involved, especially Mr. Zimmerman’s.
    NASCAR regarding safety of fans, teams and other attendees throughout the course of our race weekends. Additionally, we are in constant communication with local and national agencies regarding weather conditions and emergency services.
    At approximately 5:01 p.m. Eastern Time, the first lightning strike occurred on property inside our Grandstand Parking area, located near Gate 5A. A Pocono Raceway Grandstand Fire unit was stationed in the vicinity and witnessed the actual strike. The response was immediate as the unit reported the incident to our control tower and advised spectators were injured. CPR was started immediately to Mr. Zimmerman by a friend on the scene.

   Within a matter of 3 minutes, medical personnel and additional emergency services reported on the scene and took control of treatment to individuals. EMT responders were approached by additional individuals who reported symptoms related to the lightning strike. Those affected were taken to the Raceway Medical Centers, where they were examined and transported to local area hospitals for treatment and further evaluation. A total of nine individuals were treated as a result of the initial lightning strike.
    At approximately 6:35 p.m. Eastern Time, the control tower was notified of a second possible lightning strike in the vicinity near Gate 3. The individual was immediately transported to Pocono Raceway’s Infield Medical Center where they were initially treated for minor injuries before being transported to Pocono Medical Center in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania for further evaluation.
    As stated last night at 7:40 p.m. Eastern Time, Mr. Zimmerman was confirmed as deceased. Additional information regarding the other nine individuals involved was not yet available.

   At this point in time, the one individual that was in critical condition has now been upgraded to stable. Some have been treated and released. Others involved are pending release as early as today and all are in good spirits.
    The safety of all guests to Pocono Raceway is of the utmost importance to our entire staff. This tragic event is at the forefront of all of our thoughts and prayers. We will learn from the incident and continue to implement strategies to help ensure the safety of fans and all attendees at future events at Pocono Raceway.
   We are in the process of establishing a Memorial Fund for victims of this incident. More information will be released a soon as possible.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Pocono NASCAR race start delayed

   The start of Sunday's Pennsylvania 400 has been delayed by heavy rain.

   The Sprint Cup Series race was scheduled to go green at 1:12 p.m. Eastern at Pocono Raceway but the area is currently receiving heavy rain and strong thunderstorms.
   It takes around two hours to dry the track once it stops raining. Even it stopped shortly the race would likely not begin until around 3 p.m.

   However, weather radar shows additional systems arriving later this afternoon. The track has no lights so the race would likely need to start by 5 p.m. to be held today.
    Juan Pablo Montoya will start the race from the pole.

Recap of Ryan Blaney's debut with Penske Racing

   Ryan Blaney, the 18-year-old son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, made his debut with Penske Racing in Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Iowa Speedway. He finished 10th, his second series top-10. He finished seventh earlier this season at Richmond, Va., driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

   Blaney was asked about how his race went.

   "It was and up and down night for this Discount Tire Dodge tonight. We just really couldn’t get going. After pit stops it took us a while to get going and get with everyone else. Once we did get going our car was fast towards the end of the runs," he said. "Our last run was great. We were running down guys and were really fast. A few tough breaks there at the end kept us from bringing home a top-seven or better.”

   Was it tough to gauge how fast your car was running mid-pack?

   "Yeah, track position is important here and it’s tough to get going. You couldn’t really drive around the outside of guys and you had to be really patient. Track position was tough," he said. "We had decent track position one time, took two tires and we just didn’t run well initially after the pit stop. That was our issue most of the race. We’ll go get them at Richmond.”

   Assessment from crew chief Jeremy Bullins:

   "It was a solid night for the Discount Tire Dodge. It’s just about learning what Ryan needs and likes inside the race car. Coming out of here with a top-10 is a solid night. We had to overcome some things on pit road. It’s so important to get out front and get track position here and when you lose a few spots on pit road it’s tough to get them back," he said. "Ryan battled and got us some of those spots back. Our car was really, really good on long runs. At the end of the run we had a car as fast as a top-five car. We just didn’t have what we needed on the short run.”

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Charlotte Motor Speedway welcomes "Parade of Power"

   The "Parade of Power" returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday. The speedway will kick off the fall season of speed with race cars, pace cars, a top fuel dragster and a giant Monster Truck rolling down Bruton Smith Boulevard from Concord Mills at noon on Wednesday.

   NASCAR’s Joey Logano and NHRA drivers Erica Enders and Doug Herbert will be on hand for a fan forum and autograph session for the first 100 fans to pick up a wristband Wednesday morning.

   In addition, there will be live music, $1 hot dogs and the Powerade Play Zone with a bounce house, face painter and video game fan van for kids. There will also be free Monster Truck rides.

   The ticket office will also be giving away driver diecasts or speedway camp chairs as a special gift with purchase of race tickets on Wednesday.  For more info, go to or call 800-455-FANS.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Shell statement on release of driver A.J. Allmendinger

   The following statement is attributable to Shell Oil Company:

   Shell and Pennzoil fully support NASCAR’s substance abuse policy and Penske Racing’s decision to release A.J. Allmendinger as driver of the No. 22 Dodge Charger following his indefinite suspension by NASCAR.

   We wish A.J. the best as he participates in NASCAR's Road to Recovery program.

   Shell and Pennzoil will continue to work closely with Penske Racing to determine plans for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.