Sunday, August 31, 2014

Humpy Wheeler statement on the death of former motorcycle racer Don Tilley

   H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, former longtime president of Charlotte Motor Speedway and now a racing consultant, issued the following statement Sunday regarding the death of former motorcycle racer Don Tilley:

   "Don was one of the best motorcycle dirt track racers back in the fifties along with the legendary national champion Buck Brigance. Don raced for me on my dirt tracks back in the sixties when the Hayes Brothers out of Tennessee were so strong," Wheeler said.

   "Don turned his racing prowess into one for business and built one of the biggest Harley Davidson dealerships in the Southeast. He was always around the NASCAR garage area because most of the 
racing folk bought their cycles from him."
   To read more on the death of Tilley, go here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Statement from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris regarding Tony Stewart

   Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, whose store chain sponsors Tony Stewart's No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, released the following statement on Saturday regarding Stewart's return to the race track:

   "Today our thoughts are with our friend and fishing buddy Tony Stewart as he prepares to return to racing after what has been a difficult time in his life. Our hearts go out to him and to the family and friends of Kevin Ward Jr., who died in the tragic sprint car event accident on Aug. 9.

   "I was able to spend time with Tony last week and it made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this accident.

   "Like many other race fans, I love Tony's passion and skill on the track and to watch this fierce competitor compete. But the off-track Tony Stewart is the man that I have come to respect. Time and time again, I've witnessed Tony's quiet generosity and compassion as he gives to others. By personally supporting numerous programs like Catch-A-Dream Foundation and Victory Junction, Tony has given many ailing children a chance to experience outdoor sports and have fun opportunities they might not otherwise have.

   "His love of racing goes far beyond his work behind the wheel. It is common for Tony to sign autographs for each and every race fan for hours on end. Behind the scenes, Tony continually steps in to help junior drivers get started in racing because he cares about the sport and its fans.

   "What started as a sponsorship discussion between Tony and I 15 years ago has turned into a long and special friendship. It's a friendship that has given me the opportunity to get to know one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met. 

   "On behalf of the Bass Pro Family, and as Tony's friend, we are proud to stand by him as he returns this weekend to the sport he loves so much."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Roger Penske: 'Right decision' made on Chase waiver for Tony Stewart

   Although he was far removed from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, NASCAR and IndyCar team owner Roger Penske was asked during a media availability at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., of his reaction to NASCAR's decision to give Tony Stewart a waiver to qualify for the Chase should he win one of the last two races of the Sprint Cup Series regular season.

    Here was Penske's answer: 

    “Tony is so rock solid in the sport, he's meant so much to NASCAR for so many years, and to me Mike Helton and (Brian) France (Jr.) and the sanctioning body have made the right decision. Obviously they've left open the opportunity if there was a situation that's come up that's not normal, they can make that decision.  But I'm not part of that decision making, but I felt for Tony and certainly for the Ward family for the last number of weeks," Penske said.

    “I'm glad to see him come out. I think his words and thoughts today that he said personally and wrote personally were from the heart and means a lot to me and means a lot to the people in the garage area and certainly means a lot to his fans."

Traveling to cover NASCAR is hard. So is losing one of your 'road family'

   Traveling the country covering NASCAR races for The Charlotte Observer sounds like a glamorous job and admittedly when I first started it in 1998, it was for me. My family and I never did a lot of extensive traveling as I was growing up, so getting to explore other parts of the country was fun. Over the next 16 years, however, those same trips start to get a little monotonous and more of a grind. 

   Along the way, most sportswriters in similar situations will tell you that you find the opportunity to meet wonderful new people and develop new friendships - sort of a 'road family.' You may only see them once or twice a year, depending on races, but when you meet again it's like you were just down the street for a while and require a quick 'catching up' session.

   My time in New Hampshire over the years has been much like that. Since 1998 when I first started covering NASCAR races for The Observer, I have stayed at the Bayside Inn in Alton Bay, N.H., for New Hampshire race weekends. It's north of the track - away from the traffic woes - and on beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee. My colleagues David Poole and Tom Higgins, before me, stayed there as well. 

   I learned this week that owner Stephen Rogers passed away unexpectedly from a stroke. Steve was a laugh hardy, always pat you on your back kind of guy. He and his family - wife, Raquel and daughter Ashley - treated us 'NASCAR folks' like an extended part of their family. We had cookouts, shared dinners, went boating and watched their small family-owned inn develop into one of the most beautiful marvels on the lake. I've watched Ashley grow up in front of my eyes to the smart, beautiful college student she is today. I was there for the introduction to their new puppy Tequila and there years later when he passed away.

   My heart is heavy this week - it seems it's been that way for a while, between a tragedy at a race track in my native upstate New York to family issues back in Charlotte. Living on the road is rough and losing one of the few parts of it that make it special even tougher. 

   My prayers are with Stephen's wife and daughter. They were the BEST hosts - and are the best 'road family' a weary traveler could have. They all made us feel special, not just someone renting a room. And for Steve - who was sort of a local icon in the community (sometimes for good reasons and sometimes bad lol) - Lake Winnipesaukee won't be the same without you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Investigation of Tony Stewart sprint car racing incident 'still on-going'

   The investigation into the Aug. 9 racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. is "still on-going," a spokeswoman with the Ontario County (N.Y) Sheriff's office told the Observer on Wednesday.

   The spokeswoman said there was no timetable on when the investigation would be completed.

   It was just over two weeks ago Sheriff Philip Povero held its last news conference in which he said it would be "two weeks or more" before the investigation would be concluded. The resolution of the investigation will be released by the sheriff's office, or jointly with the district attorney's office, the spokeswoman said.

   During a sprint car race on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, a sprint car driven by Stewart struck and killed Ward, a 20-year-old driver from Port Leyden, N.Y., who was standing on the track while the race was under caution.

   Stewart has not raced in any NASCAR events - or in any other series - since. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A sneak peek at some 2015 Sprint Cup Series dates

   NASCAR will officially unveil its 2015 schedules for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide (although the name will change next season) and Camping World Trucks series on Tuesday evening on Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network.

   Here is a sneak peek at several of the Cup series dates based on information already announced, ticket renewal information received from fans and other track sources. Again, the official schedules will be released Tuesday evening.

   Some 2015 Sprint Cup Series race dates:

   Feb. 22  Daytona 500

   March 1  Atlanta 

   March 8  Las Vegas

   March 15  Phoenix

   March 22  Fontana

   March 29  Martinsville

   April 11  Texas

   April 19  Bristol

   April 26  Richmond

   May 16  All-Star Race, Charlotte

   May 24  Coke 600, Charlotte

   May 31  Dover

   June 7  Pocono

   June 14  Michigan

   June 28  Sonoma

   July 5  Daytona

   July 11  Kentucky

   July 26  Indianapolis

   Aug. 9  Watkins Glen

   Sept. 12  Richmond

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kyle Busch walks away from a frustrating night at Bristol

   After taking the lead early in Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch picked up a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 63 of 500 and his night went downhill after that.

   He got caught up in a wreck on Lap 125 and repeatedly claimed there was so much damage to the car, he couldn’t drive it. 

   Late in the race, Busch again complained over his team radio, “I need a whole new right-front suspension” and said he was about to hit the wall. 

   His crew chief, Dave Rogers, replied over the radio: “Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus.” 

   Busch ended up parking his No. 18 Toyota on pit road near Turn 2 and left the infield while his crew arrived shortly thereafter and pushed the car to the hauler. Before leaving the track, Busch and Rogers met at the team's hauler.

   Team owner Joe Gibbs called the situation a “series of bad circumstances.” “Something like that happens (and) you can get frustrated,” he said.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Former NASCAR team owner Ed Whitaker dies

   Former NASCAR team owner Ed Whitaker, who won 20 races in what is now the Nationwide Series with Harry Gant, died Friday in Bristol, Va. He was 76.

   Despite never fielding a team for a full-season schedule, Whitaker-built cars won 28 times in 246 career Nationwide Series races, a ratio of more than one in every 10 races they entered.

   The list of drivers who drove for Whitaker includes Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Harry Gant, Jimmy Hensley, Alan Kulwicki, Butch Lindley, Mark Martin, Tim Richmond, Hermie Sadler, Morgan Shepherd, Mike Wallace and two drivers in Friday night's Food City 300, Brendan Gaughan and Regan Smith.

   “Ed Whitaker proved you can have big success with a small operation,” said Jerry Caldwell, Bristol Motor Speedway General Manager. “The term ‘throwback' gets used a lot but Ed was a true definition of it. We are proud of the achievements he had in a sport we all love. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
   Whitaker's greatest success came with Gant behind the wheel for 20 of the team's 28 wins. Shepherd collected the remaining eight. Three of those victories, Shepherd in 1983 and 1986 and Gant in 1992 came at Bristol Motor Speedway.

   Funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Roush Fenway adds new sponsor for driver Greg Biffle

   Roush Fenway Racing announced Friday that Ortho and its line of home, lawn and garden pest control products will serve as the anchor partner on the No. 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series entry driven by Greg Biffle in a multi-year deal.

   Ortho will make its debut on Biffle's car next weekend at Atlanta and will appear on the car for two more races this season before debuting next season as an anchor partner, where it will appear on the car for approximately half the season.

   3M has been Biffle's primary sponsor but they are leaving Roush to move to Jeff Gordon's  No. 24 car at Hendrick Motorsports next season.

    “In this sport, I think everybody is familiar with this, but you’re always looking for more partners and to try to build that program," said team president Steve Newmark. "We had engaged in discussions with Scotts because of that history even before some of those things unfolded, so this, like a lot of other things, was in process and it stood alone based on the marketing potential I think both partners see.”

   Ortho’s parent company, Scotts Miracle-Gro teamed with Roush Fenway from 2005 until 2011, teaming for 12 wins and 14 poles across all three of NASCAR’s major series.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Bristol NASCAR race gets bumped from ABC in Charlotte for Redskins game

   Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway is scheduled to be shown on ABC but WSOC-TV in Charlotte will instead air a preseason Washington Redskins NFL game.

   The Bristol race will instead air on TV-64 and will be viewable to cable subscribers as follows: Time Warner channel 1230, Charter channel 703, Compas channel 16 and Comporium channel 110.

   Fans in Charlotte area who are satellite TV subscribers will be able to watch the race on ESPN alternate channels (DirecTV – channel 209-1; DISH – channel 145). 

   WSOC-TV will join the race in progress after football game ends and the telecast will air simultaneously on both.  ABC affiliates are independently operated and can make their own programming decisions.

Tony Stewart to sit out third consecutive Cup series race

   Three-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart will sit out Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway - the third consecutive race he has missed since being involved in an incident Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park that left another racer dead.

    As he did last weekend at Michigan, veteran Jeff Burton will drive Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet in Saturday night's race. Burton, a 21-time winner in the Cup series, has 40 career starts at Bristol, including a victory in 2008 in the Food City 500.
   Team officials said the driver change pertains only to Bristol. Stewart’s plans for upcoming Cup races have yet to be determined.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Carl Edwards and new sponsor to join Joe Gibbs Racing

   Carl Edwards will be introduced on Tuesday as Joe Gibbs Racing newest driver in the Sprint Cup Series beginning in the 2015 season, multiple sources confirmed Monday night.

   That much isn't a big surprise.

   However, JGR will also be welcoming a new sponsor to NASCAR - Arris - which will adorn Edwards' No. 19 Toyota for roughly half the season. Arris is a communications technology company specializing in the design and engineering of broadband networks. 

   Arris' involvement in NASCAR will go far beyond just sponsorship of Edwards. Details will be announced during Tuesday morning's news conference at JGR headquarters in Huntersville, N.C.  

Forbes: Danica Patrick fifth-highest paid female athlete in world

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Danica Patrick ranks as the fifth highest paid female athlete in the world in 2014 according to an analysis by

Tennis star Maria Sharapova ranks No. 1 for the 10th consecutive year, with earnings of $24.4 million between June 2013 and June 2014.

Patrick, a former IndyCar Series driver who now competes fulltime in NASCAR, was ranked fifth with total earnings of $15 million, including $8 million in endorsement and licensing deals.

To see Forbes' entire list, go here.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

R. Truex injured in practice wreck

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Ryan Truex was taken to the hospital after he crashed during a practice session Saturday morning for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Truex reportedly complained of shoulder pain and a headache.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gordon wins Michigan pole in track-record time

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Jeff Gordon swept to the pole Friday for Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 and he did so in record-breaking style.

Gordon’s lap of 206.558 mph at Michigan International Speedway broke a track record set in June by Kevin Harvick, and he wasn’t alone.

The top six qualifiers all finished faster than Harvick’s lap in June: Gordon, Joey Logano (206.391), Carl Edwards (206.115), Brian Vickers (205.685), Brad Keselowski (205.644) and Harvick (205.438)

It is Gordon’s second consecutive pole. He was first last week at Watkins Glen, which came two weeks after winning the race at Indianapolis.

“The reason we’re so fast has nothing to do with the race track,” said Logano of the speeds at Michigan. “It’s the new rules packages for the cars and what we’re doing to improve it with our stuff.” -- David Scott

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

M&M's extends sponsorship with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch

   Mars, parent company of M&M's, has signed new multi-year deals with Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR, further expanding its presence in the sport. The new agreement with JGR will extend the sponsorship partnership with JGR's No. 18 Toyota team and driver Kyle Busch in the Sprint Cup Series.

   The renewed contract with the sanctioning body will designate Mars as the Official Chocolate of NASCAR. 

   “Mars and its iconic brands have been part of NASCAR for decades, and we’re excited to keep that winning tradition going,” said Roy Benin, Chief Consumer Officer at Mars Chocolate North America. “As the sport has grown throughout the years, so has our involvement in it and we’re incredibly proud of the strong partnership we’ve forged with Joe Gibbs Racing and the league.”

   Said Busch: "This is great news for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and our fans, but also shows how dedicated Mars is to our sport. With this news, any trip to Victory Lane will be even sweeter.”

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hendrick Motorsports picks up a sponsor from Roush Fenway Racing

   Press release

   CONCORD, N.C. (Aug 12, 2014) – 3M will join 11-time Sprint Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports beginning with the 2015 NASCAR season when it will become a primary sponsor of driver Jeff Gordon and his No. 24 Chevrolet SS team.

   The new relationship will feature 3M as a primary sponsor in 11 Sprint Cup races annually and as an associate-level partner in all other events. The agreement covers the 2015, 2016 and 2017 NASCAR seasons.

   All five of 3M's business units, which comprise more than $31 billion in annual sales, will use the sponsorship in consumer promotions, product launches and business-to-business opportunities.

   “At 3M, we play to win, and we push hard every day to do just that,” said Jesse Singh, senior vice president, 3M Global Sales and Marketing. “With this deal, we align with champion driver Jeff Gordon and an organization at the top of its game in Hendrick Motorsports. What they do in the garage and on the track exemplifies what we’re all about in our labs, plants and business teams around the world.”

   With more than 65 of its products used in the construction and maintenance of Sprint Cup Series race cars, 3M for decades has played a key role in the success of NASCAR teams. The company manufactures more than 80,000 different products and has been an official NASCAR partner across several categories since 1995.

   “The range of 3M’s business is just incredible,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “It’s an amazingly diverse company that spends billions in research and development to continue rolling out new and innovative products. We’re already using many of them throughout the organization, and when you consider the potential for both consumer and business-to-business programs connected to our sport, the possibilities are endless.”

   One of the most accomplished drivers in NASCAR history, Gordon is a four-time Cup Series champion, and his 90 victories rank third on the all-time wins list. Currently second in points, he has two victories, one pole position, seven top-five finishes and 15 top-10s in 22 Sprint Cup races this season.

   “Innovation is what 3M is known for,” said Gordon, 43, who has a lifetime contract with Hendrick Motorsports. “We’ve seen that approach throughout their involvement in NASCAR, and it’s a terrific fit for what we do at Hendrick Motorsports and with the No. 24 team. I’m personally excited about the opportunities and thrilled to represent a company that’s so passionately supported auto racing for such a long time.”

   3M currently sponsors driver Greg Biffle and the No. 16 Ford team with Roush Fenway Racing.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Tony Stewart cancels plans to race at Indiana dirt track

   In a statement Monday morning, Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway officials confirmed NASCAR driver Tony Stewart had pulled out of a scheduled race at the .375-mile dirt track planned for this coming Saturday night.

   Stewart sat out Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International following his involvement in the death Saturday night of fellow racer Kevin Ward Jr. at an upstate New York dirt track.

   A sprint car driven by Stewart Saturday night struck and killed Ward, 20, as he was walking on the track expressing  his displeasure with Stewart over a prior incident on the track that evening at Canandaigua (NY) Motorsports Park.

   Here is the statement released by Plymouth Speedway:

   "We at Plymouth Speedway express our deepest condolences and prayers to the family of Kevin Ward Jr. and thoughts and prayers to Tony Stewart and his family. Tony Stewart will not be racing at Plymouth Speedway this Saturday. More information on the weekend's race will be announced later this week."
   To read the latest on the incident between Stewart and Ward, go here.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tony Stewart will sit out Sunday's NASCAR race following incident at N.Y. dirt track

   The Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff's Department confirmed early Sunday morning that a sprint car driven by NASCAR driver Tony Stewart struck and killed another driver who was standing on the track while a race at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park was under caution.

   Sheriff Philip Povero confirmed during an early-morning news conference that the driver struck on the track was pronounced dead on arrival at F.F. Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua. The driver was identified by track officials as 20-year old Kevin Ward Jr. of Port Leyden, N.Y.

   Povero said authorities questioned Stewart at the scene and said he was cooperative and "very upset" about the incident. The Ontario County district attorney's office has been notified of the incident and will continue the investigation, Povero said. 

   The are no charges currently pending against Stewart, who returned after the incident to his motorhome at Watkins Glen (N.Y.)  International, site of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen. 

   At approximately 10:15 a.m. ET Sunday, Stewart-Haas Racing's vice president of competition, Greg Zipadelli, said Stewart had decided not to compete in Sunday's race.

   "He feels strongly this is the right thing to do," Zipadelli said of Stewart, with whom he has worked for 18 years. "It's an unbelievable tragedy. Very tough, very emotional."

   Stewart was expected to return to the Charlotte area.

    “There aren’t words to describe the sadness I feel about the accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. It’s a very emotional time for all involved, and it is the reason I’ve decided not to participate in today’s race at Watkins Glen," Stewart said in a statement released shortly after the start of Sunday's race. 

   Shortly after Stewart's decision was announced, NASCAR released the following statement: "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends, and fellow competitors of Kevin Ward Jr. We support Tony Stewart’s decision to miss today’s race and we will continue to respect the process and timeline of the local authorities and will continue to monitor this situation moving forward.”

   Zipadelli said Nationwide Series driver Regan Smith was on his way to the track and would drive Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet in the race. Because of the driver change, Smith will start from the rear of the field.

   A spokesman for Stewart provided the following statement to The Observer early Sunday morning:

   "A tragic accident took place last night during a sprint car race in which Tony Stewart was participating. Tony was unhurt but a fellow competitor lost his life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. We're still attempting to sort through all the details and we appreciate your understanding during this difficult time."

   Video of the incident shows Stewart's car striking Ward's while racing in a turn. Ward's car then spun and bounced off the wall, placing the race under caution. Ward quickly exited his car and is shown walking down the track while pointing toward Stewart as he comes back around the track. The right side of Stewart's car strikes Ward, dragging him briefly under the car and then leaves him lying prone on the track.

   According to the track, all racing activities were halted for the night following the incident and fans were asked to return home. 

   Around 1 a.m. ET, the track posted the following statement on its Facebook page:

   "Canandaigua Motorsports Park will not have an official statement on the accident that happened in the ESS race until tomorrow. Please pray for the entire racing community of fans, drivers and families."
   Canandaigua Motorsports Park is a half-mile dirt track southeast of Rochester, N.Y., and about 50 miles northwest of Watkins Glen International. In recent weeks, Stewart has returned to dirt track racing after a breaking two bones in his right leg in a wreck at a dirt track in Iowa last summer.

Pocono Raceway, NASCAR sued over fan's death by lightning strike

   The widow of a race fan killed at Pocono Raceway two years ago from a lightning strike filed suit against the track and NASCAR last week just before the two-year statute of limitations was set to expire.

   Brian Zimmerman, 41, was killed on Aug. 5, 2012, in the parking lot behind the main frontstretch grandstands at Pocono Raceway as a severe thunderstorm struck the area around the track in Long Pond, Pa. Ten people were hit in two separate lightning strikes.

   In the wrongful death suit filed Aug. 1 in Pennsylvania, Zimmerman's widow, Marion, alleges the track and NASCAR were aware of the weather more than 40 minutes before the strike that killed her husband and didn't do enough to notify fans.

   NASCAR officials said Saturday they do not comment on pending litigation.

   To read the Pocono Record's coverage of the suit, go here.

   To read coverage from The Observer of the race in question, go here.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dale Junior talks about losing the National Guard as sponsor

   Dale Earnhardt Jr. spoke briefly Friday morning before Sprint Cup Series practice at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International about the news this week that the Army National Guard will not return next season as a sponsor on his No. 88 Chevrolet.

   In a statement, Hendrick Motorsports said it had an agreement in place for the 2015 season which it planned to honor.

   “I really don’t have any details on anything,’’ Earnhardt said. "That’s between the Guard and HMS to sort all that out. Really enjoyed working with them over the last seven years and hope to be able to continue to represent them. It’s a huge honor.’’

   Asked if he had any indication this decision was imminent, Earnhardt said: "There's been the debate in Washington and I've been watching it for several years. Hopefully, we'll be able to continue to represent them. I really have enjoyed it. It's been a great partnership. I think it's been very effective and hopefully we'll continue to do that."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Army National Guard to end sponsorship of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

   The Army National Guard issued a news release Wednesday in which it stated it was discontinuing its sponsorship of NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and driver Graham Rahal in the IndyCar Series.

   "Significantly constrained resources and the likelihood of further reductions in the future call for more innovative and cost-effective ways of doing business," said Maj. Gen. Judd H. Lyons, acting director of the Army National Guard, said in a statement.

   The Guard said it spent $32 million on its NASCAR sponsorship and $12 million on its IndyCar sponsorship for 2014. Future programs will rely on much smaller budgets, the Guard said. 

   "As part of a broad recruitment marketing strategy, motorsports partnerships — including NASCAR — played an important role in helping the National Guard build strong brand awareness and in turn helped us achieve extraordinary recruiting and end-strength objectives over the past decade," said Lt. Col. Christian Johnson, who heads Army Guard marketing.

   "Our NASCAR sponsorship was principally a marketing program, intended primarily to build awareness of the National Guard as a career option" said Johnson. "The NASCAR sponsorship allowed the National Guard to leverage a 77 million fan base and the sport's most popular driver."

   In a statement, Hendrick Motorsports said in had a contract in place with the Guard for the 2015, which it planned to honor.

 “Our team has a contract in place to continue the National Guard program at its current level in 2015. We have not been approached by the Guard about potential changes and plan to honor our current agreement," the statement said.

   To read the entire Army National Guard release, go here.

Kyle Busch wins again ... this time in Canada

   NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch dominated Tuesday night's Pro All-Star Series (PASS) Super Late Model Budweiser 150 at Autodrome Chaudiere in Valle-Junction, Quebec, Canada. 

   Busch, who picked up his second Super Late Model win over the last two weeks, started from the fourth spot, was in second after one lap and then on Lap 22 put his No. 51 Toyota out front where he remained the rest of the way. Busch held serve on a couple of mid-race restarts and crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of second-place finisher Alex Labbe.

   "It was a great crowd out here tonight the guys at KBM gave me a really fast (car)," Busch said. "These Super Late Models are a lot of fun to drive and I always enjoy being able to travel around to some cool tracks around the United States and Canada to compete against the guys that race these cars on a regular basis."

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

NASCAR on ESPN's Nicole Briscoe is headed to SportsCenter

   Nicole Briscoe, who has hosted NASCAR on ESPN's "NASCAR Countdown" pre-race show since 2011, has agreed to a new contract with the network and will become an anchor on the network's flagship "SportsCenter" show once ESPN's contract airing NASCAR races concludes.

   Briscoe, who is in the process of relocating with her family from the Charlotte area to Bristol, Conn., expects to begin her new role on SportsCenter by the end of January.

   "I consider ESPN my home and I'm confident this is the best option for me because it's a great company and I have a lot of great friends there but then to have the opportunity to do SportsCenter? Show me a sports fan who doesn't know or watch SportsCenter," Briscoe told the Observer.

   "The whole idea of getting to do this is really exciting for me. To me it feels like I'm going back to my roots. As much as I love motorsports and I love NASCAR and I love racing in general, my first love was football. It's getting back to the whole reason I became a sports journalist and the chance to do a little bit of everything again."

   Briscoe said race fans can be reassured the network doesn't plan to ignore the sport simply because it's not airing NASCAR races in the future. 

   "I highly doubt ESPN is going to forget about one of the most popular sports in the country," Briscoe said. "And if I can push it - then, absolutely, I want to see the people I know on SportsCenter."

   In addition to the SportsCenter role, Bricoe will also take part in a variety of other ESPN studio shows.  

   Briscoe joined ESPN in 2009 after stints as a sports reporter in Indianapolis and on the former Speed Channel. She and her husband, IndyCar Series driver Ryan Briscoe, have an eight-month old daughter, Finley.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Carl Edwards: 'We're not competitive enough to win the championship'

   Carl Edwards believes Roush Fenway Racing has made improvement in recent weeks and that optimism was echoed by his teammate Greg Biffle on Friday at Pocono Raceway. 

   But Edwards believes the organization still has work to do if he or any of his teammates are going to be a threat to win the Sprint Cup Series championship this season when the Chase gets underway in September.

   “Other people’s opinions don’t really mean much in this sport as far as performance is concerned. Right now, we’re not competitive enough to win the championship, so talking about whether or not we are doesn’t really matter," Edwards said. 

   "It’s simple to see every weekend from the results, so we have to do better and we know that. The good thing is that we have time and we have good, hard-working people. So, if we can be better and continue to move forward, then we have nowhere to go but up.”

   RFR announced last weekend that Edwards was leaving the organization at the end of the season. 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Why Jeff Gordon says his back may never be the same

   Earlier this season, Jeff Gordon developed severe back spasms on the day before the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and missed much of practice. He did compete in the race and finished seventh. 

   On Friday at Pocono Raceway, Gordon, who has had a history of back problems, was asked whether the issue has flared up again. His answer was somewhat surprising.

   "I don’t think my back is ever going to be the same after what happened at Charlotte. I don’t know what exactly transpired there, but it’s not the same. And I have to be much more careful," Gordon said.

"I’m just having to treat it more with ice and stem and be more careful and do more stretching. Is it going to flare-up again? It could. But I’m just trying to be more cautious with the things that I do that I feel like contribute to that. But, yeah, it’s not great, that’s for sure."

Denny Hamlin statement on his NASCAR penalty

   Denny Hamlin issued the following statement on Friday regarding the penalties NASCAR handed down earlier this week on his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota team:

   "I'm obviously disappointed in the penalties, but I respect NASCAR and the appeal process," Hamlin said. "I’m confident that regardless of the outcome, our No. 11 team will continue to fight each week to try to win races, secure a spot in the Chase and compete for the championship."

   NASCAR docked Hamlin 75 points, suspended crew chief Darian Grubb six races and fined him $125,000 and suspended car chief Wesley Sherrill for six races. Grubb and Sherrill were also placed on probation for the remainder of the season. NASCAR found problems with several rear firewall plates on Hamlin's car following last Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.