Friday, June 28, 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick defend Danica Patrick

   A day after Speed and TNT announcer Kyle Petty raised eyebrows with his comments about Danica Patrick being more of a "marketing machine" than race car driver - a claim he has made on many occasions to be honest - some of Patrick's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors came to her defense.

   Said Dale Earnhardt Jr.:
    “I have to disagree with Kyle (Petty). I think she is a tough competitor and she works really hard at what she does. She has run some really good races. On every occasion she is out running several guys out on the circuit. If she was not able to compete and not able to run minimum speed or finish in last place every week I think you might be able to say Kyle has an argument.  But she’s out there running competitively and running strong on several accounts.  I think that she has got a good opportunity and a rightful position in the sport to keep competing and she just might surprise even Kyle Petty.”

   And from Kevin Harvick:
   “That is a loaded gun right there. I think this is hard to do. You see there is really no good training ground for it anymore in the Nationwide and Truck Series because of the lack of horsepower. It is really hard to understand what you need to drive these cars, and to be able to drive them fast. It is just not something that is going to happen overnight. I don’t know that I would go as far as calling her not a racer because she has raced her whole life, and I think on a continuous learning curve. She’s obviously dedicated at what she does to try and get better, and knows she has a lot of hurdles to overcome in a short amount of time.  

   "She’s fortunate to have a sponsor that is willing to back her, and take those learning experiences with her. Hopefully as the weeks progress, she gets better and better. In that aspect, I think you look at that, and you try to put all that in perspective. I couldn’t imagine just coming in here and having two-and-a-half years of stock car experience, and expect to come here and be competitive knowing what all this entails. It’s hard. And it’s not going to get easier. I think that is why over the years you’ve seen less and less new drivers come into the sport because the cars have become harder to drive. There’s just nowhere to figure out how to drive them other than being on the race track on a Cup Sunday or Saturday that we race. Because they are just hard to drive.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Kyle Petty on Danica Patrick: 'She's not a race car driver'

Part III of Matt Clark's sit-down with NASCAR on Fox/Speed analyst Kyle Petty was a candid one. Petty, a regular analyst for NASCAR RaceDay, was quite open with his thoughts on NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Danica Patrick.

Matt Clark: What's your take on Danica Patrick?

Kyle Petty: I've said it from the very beginning; she's just a marketing machine. That's a fact, Jack.

Clark: She's hot...

Petty: Yeah, she's hot. She's a hot commodity and rightfully so. In a market where everybody that crawls into a race car on a Sunday afternoon in Cup racing is male; she's the female. I don't have a problem with her being a marketing machine - more power to her.

Clark: Where's she at as a driver?

Petty: That's where I have a problem. Where fans have bought into the hype of the marketing, to think she's a race car driver. She can go fast, and I've seen her go fast. She drives the wheels off it when she goes fast.

Clark: ...but has she learned to race?

Petty: She's not a race car driver. There's a difference. 'The King' (Richard Petty) always had that stupid saying, but it's true, 'Lots of drivers can drive fast, but very few drivers can race.' Danica has been the perfect example of somebody who can qualify better than what she runs. She can go fast, but she can't race. I think she's come a long way, but she's still not a race car driver. And I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver.

Clark: Why?

Petty: Because I think it's too late to learn.

Clark: Then what makes a difference between a good driver, and a great driver?

Petty: If I knew, I'd be a great driver. I was not a great driver, and I'll be the first to admit it. I was a journeyman driver. Just like in the NFL or any sport, there are journeyman players. ...

Danica Patrick is seen before a practice session on June 14 for the Quicken Loans 400 auto race at Michigan International Speedway. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Only one NASCAR driver made Forbes' Celebrity 100 list

   Danica Patrick was the only NASCAR driver to make this year's Celebrity 100 list put out by Forbes in its annual measurement of money and fame.
   The Sprint Cup Series rookie and former IndyCar series fan favorite was ranked 91st. She was 95th in 2007, 96th in 2010 and 2011.

   Here's how Forbes describes it's list: "Our annual Celebrity 100 takes a stab at measuring that most ephemeral of riches: fame. Yes, we factor in celebrity earnings over the last 12 months, but we also tally how often each celebrity is mentioned in print and on TV, and gauge the strength of their Internet presence and how they’re viewed by a critical constituency: American consumers."

   You can see the whole list here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kyle Petty: Jimmie Johnson is 'arguably the greatest driver ever'

NASCAR Race Hub's Matt Clark sat down with fellow NASCAR on Fox/Speed analyst Kyle Petty to talk about the many topics currently shaping the sport's landscape.

Among the topics, five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Considering his father, 'The King' Richard Petty, and what he accomplished, Kyle might be one of the more unique voices to talk about Johnson's eventual place in history.

Clark: Why do people consider him, or don't consider him, a powerhouse?

Petty: He may be the most underrated driver, ever. Now, on the other side of that coin when you flip it over, he's arguably the greatest driver ever, when you look at it. I don't know why, I think when you go back in the history of the sport, and when you look at those early years, it was all about the driver. When you talk Richard Petty, you just talk Richard Petty. When you talk Dale Earnhardt, Sr., you just talk Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Nobody mentions Jimmie, without mentioning (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) or (car owner) (Rick) Hendrick.

Clark: I think thats', I don't want to say Jimmie's fault, but it's a good characteristic. He's a blue-collar guy that bought into the team concept and said, 'Hey, my team, my crew chief, the owner, it's all of us.'

Petty: He's preached the team concept so much, and people bought it from him so much, that now he can't escape that. We'll always think about Jimmie as, 'Jimmie and Chad and oh yeah, Hendrick, was a powerhouse during that time.' That's why he's won so many races. No. He drives the wheels off that thing. That's why he wins the races.

Clark: It will be 20 or 30 years before people sit back and see what he did was amazing.

Petty: Yeah. I can't believe that Jimmie Johnson's five championships in a row was not a bigger deal in the sports world than what it was

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kevin and DeLana Harvick are looking for someone special. Can you help?

   NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick and his wife, DeLana, met a special person on a recent visit to Fort Bragg in North Carolina. But they never caught his name.

    They posted the following note Tuesday on Facebook:

    "Okay Fort Bragg followers, we need your help. A few weeks ago when DeLana and I were in Ft. Bragg, we came in contact with a solider as we were leaving the Soldier & Family Assistance Center.

    He told us that he and his friend were huge Kevin Harvick fans. Soon after watching the Daytona 500, he and his friend were out on patrol, in Afghanistan I believe, and his friend was killed. He gave me a pin from his friend’s uniform. Before we could process what had just happened, between the tears, soldier was gone.

    We never got his name…

   We've been working with the folks from Ft. Bragg since that day with no luck. It would mean so much to us if anyone has any information about this particular solider we met in Ft. Bragg and how we might be able to contact him.

    We’ve got something we want to get to the soldier and are hoping we can get the word out via social media. There are no pictures, video, etc of our meeting… so we are asking for any help in this matter!"

   Go here to see Harvick's Facebook page.

Will Nationwide always be on NASCAR's side?

   Nationwide Insurance has extended its exclusive negotiating window with NASCAR, giving the company through the end of the summer to determine whether it wishes to renew its title sponsorship of NASCAR's second-tier series, according to a report in the Sports Business Journal.

   The original agreement gave Nationwide until the end of June to negotiate exclusively with NASCAR but the company requested more time so it could take into consideration what TV network would be broadcasting the series' races.

   Sources told the Observer on Tuesday that Fox Sports, perhaps in conjunction with its new Fox Sports 1 brand which debuts later this summer, may be making a play for the series' TV rights. The series is currently broadcast by ESPN/ABC.

   ESPN/ABC has not yet started negotiations with NASCAR on extending its TV deal covering the series but is expected to by next month.

   Asked if the network wanted to retain the rights, ESPN spokesman Andy Hall said, "We have a good relationship with NASCAR, it's good programming for us and we'd like to continue."

   According to the SBJ, media has been one of Nationwide’s primary vehicles for getting a return on its $10 million to $12 million deal to title sponsor NASCAR’s secondary series. The company, which became the series’ sponsor in 2008, spends more than $5 million on media with ESPN, and it has used NASCAR-themed ads over the last five years to connect with fans and raise brand awareness, so the series’ future television deal is something sources said Nationwide officials wanted to evaluate before committing to a renewal. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Jeff Gordon would like to see change in Gen 6 Cup car on road courses

   Four-time NASCAR Cup series champion Jeff Gordon, one of the most successful road course racers in NASCAR history, finished second Sunday in Sonoma, Calif. After the race, he said there was something with the new Gen 6 car he wanted to discuss with NASCAR in regards to its performance on road courses. 

   Let him explain:

   "We don't have the body in the right position for the road courses to turn right. When we go to Watkins Glen, as fast as those right handers are, we're going to have some issues. There's nothing to lean on. You have plenty of grip on the lefts because the body still has a little bit of rake on the rights, it has nice sideforce for the right side of the car for those left turns, but on the right turns the cars are just so out of control," he said.  

   "I would like to see if there is something they can think about for that. But other than that, I love the Gen‑6 car everywhere we go. It's got good grip and drives well and looks great, and I think other than those fast right handers, I think it was the same here today."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Who has the longest winless streak among current Sprint Cup drivers?

   Now that Martin Truex Jr. has ended his 218-race winless streak in the Sprint Cup Series, here's a look at the fulltime drivers who currently hold the longest such streaks.
   Top 5 longest winless streaks by current fulltime drivers in the Sprint Cup Series (through Sunday):
   Bobby Labonte, 340 races
   Casey Mears, 205 races
   Jeff Burton, 165 races
   Juan Pablo Montoya, 102 races
   David Reutimann, 94 races

Friday, June 21, 2013

A vision of NASCAR in 2025?

    This editorial cartoon by Henry Payne of The Detroit News depicts what NASCAR racing may be in the year 2025.

   A 25-year newspaper veteran, the Pulitzer Prize-nominated satirist produces 12 cartoons a week for The News and United Feature Syndicate. Payne is also a contributor to National Review, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and other national publications.

Text of New Jersey State Police early findings of Jason Leffler accident

   Troopers Release Early Findings in Fatal Race Crash Involving Jason Leffler

   West Trenton, N.J. – Because of the media attention and high volume of calls regarding the results of the investigation into the crash that claimed the life of racecar driver Jason Leffler, we are supplying an early summary of the findings.  These facts have been substantially vetted even though the full investigative report remains open for some minor additions.  The facts we have established to this point are outlined below.

   Bridgeport Speedway, Jason Leffler Crash:  June 12, 2013, 2025 hours

   On June 12,  2013, Jason Leffler was operating a 2013 Maxim chassis,  410 Spring Car in a heat race at Bridgeport Speedway.  Leffler was in the second position completing his fifth lap when his vehicle sustained a mechanical failure in turn four.  Race vehicles were averaging 135 mph and reaching speeds of up to 150 mph in the straight-aways at this event.

   Evidence discovered on the track in turn 4 indicated a tortion stop located on the left side of the vehicle came off and allowed the tortion bar and arm to slide out of its housing.  As the tortion bar slid out, the tortion arm became lodged between the inboard flange of the right front wheel and the right steering arm.  As a result of this mechanical failure, Leffler’s front suspension failed and his steering became locked.  Leffler lost directional control of his vehicle as he exited turn 4.  His vehicle rotated clockwise approximately 180 degrees and struck the outside concrete hub rail with the left side of the vehicle.  Leffler’s vehicle sustained a lateral impact with the wall then overturned and continued in a south east direction before coming to final uncontrolled rest upright facing north.  Leffler remained in his vehicle and sustained fatal blunt force injuries as a result of the crash.  Post Mortem examination confirmed that Jason Leffler died as a result of blunt force neck injuries.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Danica Patrick vs. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

NASCAR's rookie of the year award is based upon a points system separate from overall NASCAR Sprint Cup standings with candidates effectively racing against each other. Only their best 17 finishes are counted with bonuses added on a sliding scale for top 10 overall finishes; end of season series points ranking and the judgment of a special panel on overall on- and off-track performance.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the current leader having scored 160 points. Danica Patrick is four points behind with Timmy Hill, who has competed in eight races, third.
On paper, there is little to differentiate Stenhouse, driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Patrick, who competes in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Patrick has the edge in best finish – eighth at Daytona after becoming the first female pole winner in Daytona 500 history – while Stenhouse scores on consistency.
Stenhouse is still in pursuit of his first top-10 finish but edges Patrick in top 15s by a five to three count. The two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion has 10 lead lap finishes – including the most recent three races – to Patrick’s four. Stenhouse, whose best qualifying position is third at Kansas, has led three races for a total of 29 laps to Patrick’s one for five laps.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Global RallyCross to return to Charlotte Motor Speedway this fall

   Global RallyCross, one of the fastest-growing forms of motorsports and features aspects of circuit racing, off-road racing and rally competition, will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 22. 

   The Charlotte event is one of a nine-race scheduled confirmed for the 2013 season.

    The series is made up of four Global X Games events and five GRC events to total nine rounds that will culminate in the crowning of both a driver's champion and manufacturer's champion.

   The 2013 championship features live broadcasts on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2 available in over 198 countries. With more than 15 hours of primetime live content on major networks, the telecast package comprises the most expansive television coverage that the sport of rallycross has ever seen.
   The series' star drivers include Ken Block, Brian Deegan, Travis Pastrana, Scott Speed and 2011 and 2012 GRC Champion Tanner Foust.

The 2013 Global Rallycross schedule:
April 21                    
GRC at X Games: Foz do IguaƧu, Brazil
May 19                     
GRC at X Games: Barcelona, Spain
June 29 & 30          
GRC at X Games: Munich, Germany*
July 11                             
New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon NH
July 20               
Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol TN
Aug 04                    
GRC at X Games: Irwindale Speedway, CA
Aug 10                 
Atlanta Motor Speedway, Atlanta, GA
Sept 22                 
Charlotte Motor Speedway, Charlotte, NC
Nov 07                  
Las Vegas, NV
*Barcelona rainout makeup race on June 29

ISC approves renovations to Daytona International Speedway

   International Speedway Corporation has approved funding to redevelop the frontstretch of Daytona International Speedway to enhance the overall experience for its fans, marketing partners and the motorsports industry. The multi-year project will break ground on July 5 and is targeted for completion in January 2016, in time for the 54th Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 58th Daytona 500.

   “We are truly creating history with this unprecedented endeavor,” said ISC’s Chief Executive Officer Lesa France Kennedy. “I commend the board’s decision to move forward on our plan to redevelop the Company’s signature motorsports facility, thereby shaping the vision of Daytona for the next 50 years. 

   "This significant private investment is a strategic use of our capital that will ensure the long-term viability of the iconic speedway, and when completed, will contribute favorably to the Company's revenues, as well as to our community and the sport as a whole.”

   The redevelopment is expected to cost between $375 million to $400 million, excluding capitalized interest. Total expenditures incurred for the redevelopment through May 31, 2013 were approximately $15 million. The Company expects to fund the redevelopment from cash on hand, cash from its operations and may use borrowings on its credit facility for a limited period of time to even out cash flow. 

   The vision for the redevelopment of the Daytona International Speedway frontstretch places an emphasis on enhancing the complete fan experience, beginning with five expanded and redesigned fan entrances, or injectors, along International Speedway Boulevard. Each injector would lead directly to a series of escalators and elevators that would transport fans to any of three different concourse levels, each featuring spacious and strategically-placed social "neighborhoods" along the nearly mile-long frontstretch.

   A total of 11 neighborhoods, each measuring the size of a football field, will enable fans to meet and socialize during events without ever missing any on-track action, thanks to an open-sightline design throughout each concourse and dozens of added video screens in every neighborhood.

   Every seat in the Speedway frontstretch will be replaced with wider and more comfortable seating, with more restrooms and concession stands throughout the facility. At the conclusion of the redevelopment, DIS will be comprised of approximately 101,000 permanent seats with the potential to increase permanent seating to 125,000.  

   Following an unsuccessful bid for a public/private partnership with the State of Florida during the most recent legislative session, the company was forced to reduce the scale of its redevelopment plan. In 2014, the company intends to pursue incentives including those currently available to all other major sports venues in Florida. ISC will reevaluate additional potential amenities based on the outcome of those efforts. Construction for the redevelopment project will begin after the 2013 Coke Zero 400 NASCAR weekend. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

David Ragan is truckin' this week

  Before David Ragan climbs into his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car for Sunday's race at Sonoma Raceway, he's going to climb into the driver's seat of the 18-wheeler that will carry that race car 2,700 miles from North Carolina to California.

   The driver of the No. 34 Ford will be at the wheel of the team's 80-foot, 80,000-pound transporter early Tuesday morning when it pulls out of the Front Row Motorsports race shop for the cross-country trip. Team truck driver Mike Smith, the rig's primary operator throughout the season, will accompany Ragan and split the seat time during the 42-hour journey.

   "I've always had a fascination with big trucks," Ragan said. "I wanted to get my CDL (commercial driver's license), so I got that a little while ago. And I thought it would be fun to take a trip across the country on the open roads and see everything, and at the same time get to spend some time with my truck driver."
   Smith had his doubts when Ragan first told him he wanted to drive the hauler to one of the race venues, much less the farthest one on the Sprint Cup Series map.

   "At first, he didn't really believe me," Ragan said. "But I showed him my license and told him I'd been driving the transporter for my late model team a little. Now, I think he's excited.  It's going to be something different and something fun. Although he's probably going to sleep with one eye open just to make sure I'm not driving too crazy."

   The 27-year-old Ragan, who has been racing within NASCAR's top three series since he was 18, received his commercial learner's permit last year and earned his full provisional CDL several months ago.

   "I was surprised when he said he wanted to do it, but it should be neat," truck driver Smith said. "I think he's the first driver to ever do this. But we're going to have a good time and he's going to be just fine behind the wheel."

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Jason Leffler funeral services, charity fund announced

   Charlie Dean Leffler Charity Fund Established
   Funeral Services for Jason Leffler Announced

   CORNELIUS, N.C. (June 15, 2013) - In honor of NASCAR driver Jason Leffler, who lost his life in a racing accident this week, a trust fund has been established for his five-year-old son, Charlie Dean. This trust will serve as the official Leffler Family fund, with all monies going directly to Charlie's needs. Turner Scott Motorsports co-owner Harry Scott Jr., former Braun Racing owner Todd Braun and Steve Overholser, CFO of Great Clips, will serve as trustees.

   Donations can be made to The Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust at:  
   The Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust
   c/o SunTrust Bank
   232 Williamson Road
   Mooresville, NC 28117

   A celebration of Jason Leffler's life will be held on Wednesday, June 19. The service will be at Grace Covenant Church, located at 17301 Statesville Road in Cornelius, N.C. at 1:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The Charlie Dean Leffler Discretionary Trust.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Tony Stewart talks about his relationship with Jason Leffler

   Three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart has known and raced with Jason Leffler for years, from dirt tracks to NASCAR. Stewart on Friday talked about his relationship with Leffler, who died in a racing accident on Wednesday night.

   "Yeah, I have known Jason for a long time obviously. We grew up racing together and followed the same paths racing-wise. So I mean he was a friend, he was a roommate, he was a teammate and I got to be around him a lot. He loved nothing more than being behind the wheel of a race car," Stewart said.

   "I was just shocked to hear what had happened and obviously it’s just a reminder of how dangerous our sport is, but we have had a lot of safety innovations over the last 15 years since I have been in Cup. It’s just proof that we will never get to the stage where everybody is immune to getting hurt in a race car. That is just the scenario that we are in and there isn’t anybody that gets behind the wheel that doesn’t understand that going into it, and Jason was that way as well. He just loved doing what he was doing and it was just a rough week there and obviously Charlie (Leffler's son) is the one that we are all thinking about the most right now."

   Asked what stood out most about Leffler, Stewart said:
   “We got to hang out a lot away from the race track as well as at the track. When he moved from California to Indiana to start racing USAC fulltime, he moved in with me and lived with us for a little under a year and I got to see a lot of things and he was just a lot of fun," he said. 

   "He was a racer and didn’t care what he raced, where he raced, when he raced, it was all he wanted to do was to drive a race car. It was fun to have a roommate like that who had the same passion and desire that I had."

Rick Hendrick responds to Brad Keselowski's accusations of employee poaching

   Reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski told a group of reporters Thursday night in Dearborn, Mich., that the reason Penske Racing and Roush Fenway racing have been slow to share information on their Ford cars is due to the fact Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing have made a habit of hiring employees away from their organization to "steal information."
   The charge didn't sit well with Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick.
   "Roger Penske and I are great friends and have raced together for years. We’ve always competed with the utmost respect, and I have immense admiration for his organization. You won’t find anyone at Hendrick Motorsports who feels differently," he said.
   "The comments Brad reportedly made were misinformed. The truth is that we hired one tire changer, who was a backup for Penske and whose contract was up. We also brought over one mechanic from their Nationwide program and, when the Penske engine shop was closing, added a few of those people. What Brad left out was that his organization also hired one of our tire changers.
   “All of this was aboveboard and is part of doing business in a competitive environment. I take no issue with any of it, and I expect Roger would say the same.
   "Brad misrepresents the facts and spends a lot of time making insinuations and accusations about other teams when he should be focused on his own program and competing at a high level. I hope he figures that out and begins representing himself and the sport with more class.”

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Leffler died of blunt neck force injury

Race car driver Jason Leffler's death was came from a blunt neck force injury, a spokesperson for the Delaware (Pa.) County Medical Examiner's office said Thursday night.

Leffler was killed Wednesday when his 410 sprint car crashed coming out of Turn 4 at a dirt track race heat at the Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey. -- David Scott

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

NASCAR driver Jason Leffler killed in sprint car race

    NASCAR veteran Jason Leffler, who made his first start in the Sprint Cup Series last weekend at Pocono Raceway, was killed after a crash in a winged sprint car race in New Jersey on Wednesday night, New Jersey State Police officials confirmed.  

   Leffler was racing at Bridgeport Speedway in Swedesboro, N.J., a 5/8-mile, high-banked dirt oval.

   The NJSP have launched an investigation into the accident, which is required by state law. The only information available on the accident itself was that it involved “a malfunction of the car,” police said.

   Leffler was extracted from his winged sprint car and airlifted to Crozer Chester Hospital in Chester, Pa., where he was pronounced dead at 9:02 p.m. ET.

   Leffler, 37, ran eight laps in last Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa. It was his first start of the season in any of NASCAR three national series.

   “NASCAR extends its thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the family of Jason Leffler who passed away earlier this evening,” said a statement from NASCAR released Wednesday night.

   “For more than a decade, Jason was a fierce competitor in our sport and he will be missed.”

   From 1990 to 2010 at least 382 drivers have died while racing, according to an Observer analysis of track deaths. Those include 196 deaths on small ovals and 95 deaths on drag strips.

   At least seven drivers have died on New Jersey tracks since 1999, including two on small ovals, data show.

   According to the Observer’s records, the most recent small oval death in New Jersey took place in 2002 at Wall Township Speedway in Wall Township, N.J.

   Leffler spent most of his decade-plus career in the Nationwide Series, running full schedules from 2006 to 2011. He had two wins, 42 top-five and 107 top-10 finishes.

   His biggest break in NASCAR came in 2005, when Joe Gibbs Racing hired him to drive fulltime in the Cup series with a newly-created team. Leffler, however, struggled from the start and was released after 19 starts.

   Leffler began his career racing midget cars and was just the third driver to win three consecutive midget car championships.

   Leffler made his first, and only, start in the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 with Treadway Racing with backing from Roger Penske’s United Auto group. Leffler qualified  and finished 17th.


NASCAR battles expectations of what's possible with what's expected

   Less than 24 hours after the third-largest blowout in NBA Finals history and there is nary a peep from any fan demanding changes to the way professional basketball is played.

   There shouldn’t be, of course.

   But I promise you this, if Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race had ended with Jimmie Johnson winning by the third largest margin in series history, a large contingent of the motorsports media, as well as the fans, would be clamoring for rules changes.

   Why is that? Everyone is at least a little bit to blame.

   The biggest problem appears to be that what is possible each week in a NASCAR event – a down-to-the-wire finish complete with lots of side-by-side racing in the process – has become expected rather than appreciated when it just happens to occur.

   Fewer people will not tune in to watch the next game in the NBA Finals because they fear another blowout. In fact, some may tune in just in hopes of seeing one (San Antonio fans for instance).

   A down-to-the-wire, last-second game-winning shot outcome is possible in each NBA Finals game but fans don’t come to expect it.

   NASCAR fans – at least the vocal ones – have come to expect such nonstop action and believe something needs to be “fixed” when it doesn’t happen on a regular basis. There is a contingent of media who follow the same path.

   It is, of course, an unreasonable expectation and most fans probably understand that not every race can be a barn-burner.

   Whether fans today want to hear it or not, NASCAR racing is far more competitive than 10 years ago and enormously more competitive than back “in the good old days” (whenever they were).

   NASCAR, the tracks and even the TV networks – and probably the media, too – share in the blame of some fans’ unreasonable expectations.

   If all of your advertising – whether it’s from NASCAR, networks or tracks – focus on big wrecks, photo finishes and pit road fights, you can’t be surprised when fans leave disappointed when they see none of the above.

   The fight in the 1979 Daytona 500 may be a defining moment in the sport’s history but it cannot define the sport and how it’s portrayed in perpetuity.

   If it does, everyone will leave disappointed.
   A little more appreciation of good racing, rather than just "good drama" by all involved would help balance expectations.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Man killed in in Caldwell County shootout once was NASCAR driver


   John Settlemyre, 67, who died in the shootout with Caldwell County (N.C.) sheriff's deputies, was a former race car driver with some notable achievements to his name.

    Settlemyre was a five-time winner of Late Model Sportsman races at Hickory Motor Speedway, from 1977-81. In 1982, that race series became NASCAR's Nationwide Series, and Settlemyre won the Winston 200 at Hickory; he ran just six Nationwide races that year (five at Hickory) but had four top-10 finishes.

   Read the rest of the story from the Lenoir (N.C.) News-Topic here.

Austin Dillon can set a NASCAR record at Michigan

   What do Sam Ard, Trevor Bayne, Austin Dillon, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip have in common?

All six drivers have won three consecutive poles in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, a record in the series. 

Only one of them, however, has an opportunity to break the six-way tie with a fourth consecutive pole this Saturday for the Alliance Truck Parts 250 at Michigan International Speedway. 

Dillon, who is fourth in the standings behind leader Regan Smith, arrives in Michigan with a streak of three consecutive poles (Charlotte, Dover, Iowa). Unfortunately, the strong starts have not resulted in trips to Victory Lane. He did although turn his pole at Iowa last Sunday into a runner-up finish. 

His three poles in 2013 already match Dillon’s career high from a year ago. His first pole in the series came last year at Michigan. He went on to finish the race fifth. Dillon was able to capitalize on his other two poles last season by posting a win in both races at Kentucky.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hendrick 'very close' on sponsorship deal for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

   NASCAR’s most popular driver should have his car fully adorned with sponsorship decals the rest of the year.

   In January, Hendrick Motorsports said there remained 13 unsold races on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Chevrolet for the 2013 season. The races lacking sponsorship were pushed to the second half of the season.

   Team owner Rick Hendrick on Monday said HMS was “very close” to a new multi-year sponsorship deal for Earnhardt’s ride in the Sprint Cup Series.

   “I’ve not been worried about it because we could sell it if we wanted to piecemeal it. We’ve been looking for the future,” Hendrick told the Charlotte Observer.

   “We don’t want to get into (sponsor relationships) where you see somebody one time and you don’t seem them anymore after that.

   “I am very confident that in the next couple of weeks we should have not only this year (covered) but we should have a lot done for next year, too.”

   Hendrick said in January he has had companies interested in sponsoring Earnhardt for the entire season but that would conflict with the organization’s current sponsor contracts.

   The majority of the No. 88's season is currently sponsored by the National Guard, Diet Mountain Dew and AMP Energy.

You can buy cheap gas Tuesday from this NASCAR driver

   Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will make a special pit stop at the Shell station at 223 Medical Park Rd in Mooresville on Tuesday, June 11 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. to celebrate the Shell WINsdays promotion leading up to the Michigan race on Sunday.
   With WINsdays, Shell Saver Cardholders can save 22 cents per gallon every time Logano wins a points race this season when they purchase high quality Shell Nitrogen Enriched Gasoline or Shell Diesel.
   During Logano’s appearance, Shell is extending the WINsday savings of 22 cents per gallon to all Mooresville area fans who attend the event, as well as providing an opportunity for attendees to take pictures with Logano and receive an autograph.

   For more information on the Shell Saver Card and the WINsday program, visit

Your chance to Dash for Cash with NASCAR Nationwide drivers

  How the "Dash 4 Cash" program works:

   - The top-four finishers in the Kentucky race who are eligible to receive Nationwide Series championship driver points will qualify for the first Dash 4 Cash race, at Daytona International Speedway on July 5.

   - The highest finisher among those four drivers at Daytona (which does not have to win the race) will collect the first $100,000 award and automatically qualify for the next round in New Hampshire. In addition, the three other top-finishing points-eligible drivers at Daytona will qualify for the program in New Hampshire.

   - Those rules will apply for the remaining vents. If one driver wins the first three Dash 4 Cash awards and also wins the Indianapolis race outright, Nationwide Insurance will award that driver an additional $600,000 bonus, bringing the total payout to $1 million.

   Fans can be a part of the action by entering the NASCAR Nationwide Series $100,000 Sweepstakes at Four lucky individuals and their guests will receive an all-expenses paid trip to the final Dash 4 Cash event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. The four fans will be randomly paired with the four eligible drivers for that race and the fan whose driver wins the award at Indy will also go home with a check for $100,000.

   The Dash 4 Cash races are Daytona International Speedway on July 5; New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 13; Chicagoland Speedway July 21; and Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 27.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Qualifying rained out at Pocono

LONG POND, Pa. -- Persistent rain all day Friday has canceled qualifying for Sunday's Party In The Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.

That means the starting lineup for the race will be by points, with Jimmie Johnson starting on the pole alongside Carl Edwards.

There was also no practice Friday. Practice Saturday is set for 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

There was also no ARCA qualifying Friday. There's an early ARCA practice at 9 a.m., with the race scheduled to start at 1 p.m. -- David Scott

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

NASCAR docks Keselowski 6 points

NASCAR has penalized driver Brad Keselowski six points for having an illegally low front end during Sunday's race at Dover.

Keselowski's Ford failed post-race inspection after his No. 2 Penske Racing team said a spring broke, causing the problem.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe was also fined $25,000 for the infraction. He will remain on probation until Dec. 31 for a violation the team was found guilty of in Texas earlier this season. Team owner Roger Penske will also be docked six car owner points.

Penske Racing said in a statement that the penalties will not be appealed:

"The Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion experienced a part failure during Sunday's Dover Spring Cup Series Race which resulted in the car's front end being too low when presented for post-race inspection. The problem is being addressed internally to ensure it does not occur again and the team is not planning to appeal the penalty."

NASCAR found Keselowski's car to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules) and 20-12.8.1B (car failed to meet minimum front car heights during post-race inspection).

Losing the six points drops Keselowski from eighth to 10th in the Sprint Cup points standings. -- David Scott

The annual "Summer Shootout" is set to begin at Charlotte Motor Speedway


   The Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series will celebrate 20 years when it returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway June 10 through July 30. The 10-night, eight-week racing series features the best Legend Car and Bandolero competition in the country.

   In addition to Legend Cars and Bandoleros, fans can enjoy exhibition races including the principal school bus race, lawn mower racing and stadium stock racing.

   This year’s schedule features back-to-back nights of racing on both the first week of the series and the last week, resulting in 10 nights of racing over eight weeks.

   In addition, returning series sponsor Jack in the Box will provide giveaways each week to the first 1,000 fans to enter the gates. These items include sports bags, lanyards, Frisbees and more.

   For the 20th year, more than 150 Legend Car and Bandolero competitors will travel across the country to battle on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s frontstretch quarter-mile oval for the prestigious Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series championship.

   Racing will be televised on the Fox Sports South network, with a recap show airing each Monday following the event at 6 p.m. and a re-air on the following Saturday. Fans should check their local listings for more information.

   Tickets to the Jack in the Box Summer Shootout Series are just $7 for adults and kids 13 and under get in free and are available in advance at the speedway ticket office and at Gates 4 and 5 the night of the event. Parking is free. Spectator gates open at 5 p.m. with preliminary action starting at 5:10 p.m. Opening ceremonies are at 6:45 p.m. and feature races are scheduled to conclude by approximately 10 p.m.

   For more information, call (800) 455-FANS (3267).