Blogs > Nascar: Beyond the Track

Find out what's really going on in NASCAR. Look here to find out why your driver really lost his ride, or the real reason those two drivers can't stand each other. Learn about the hidden motives and reasons for the things that happen in NASCAR, from the drivers to the team owners.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Richard Petty's not going anywhere... and that's a good thing

When you think of NASCAR, you think of the Petty family.

Richard’s father Lee Petty was there when the series started in the late 1940s, and a Petty team has been involved ever since then.

There have been good times – such as Lee’s three titles and Richard’s seven titles, and Kyle’s competitive years in the 1990s – and there have been down times, such as the final years of Petty Enterprises and the recent struggles of the in-name-only Richard Petty Motorsports, but the Petty name has always been there on Sunday in some form.

That’s why I was very happy to hear that Richard Petty and a group of investors have teamed to take over the flailing RPM team, which barely finished out the season amid monetary woes of the real owner, George Gillett.

Now, instead of being a figurehead just being used for his name, he will be one of the key people behind a leaner, meaner team that I hope can make some noise in the 2011 season.

To start with, they have two talented drivers. A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose have shown flashes of greatness in the past few years, and I would hope that with the RPM team pared down to two drivers, they can get the proper sponsorship needed to lead an effort that is somewhat competitive.

That’s all a big question mark, and I don’t expect miracles, but I am very happy to see Petty take on the effort of leading a team once again. With all the financial struggles around the RPM team in 2010, many people would have just folded, let the team crumble and go about retirement.

But this is Richard Petty. He doesn’t know anything else but NASCAR. It’s where he grew up, and it’s where he’ll be as long as he shall live.

And that’s a good thing for NASCAR and all its fans.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

Finally, Nationwide points rules may change; Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s woes a key factor in Hendrick crew swap

I complain about a lot of things in this blog … it’s part of the job. But usually it falls on deaf ears.

Finally, it appears something that I (and a ton of other people) have long complained about is actually going to change … the Nationwide series points system.
What I have said for years is that it doesn’t make sense for established Cup drivers like Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to go down to the lower series and win a title. It simply defies logic, but it’s happened every year since 2006. Since then, the champs have been Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski – all full-time Cup drivers when they won the title. Martin Truex won the title in 2005, prior to moving up to Cup.

Rumor now, according to Rusty Wallace and other team owners in the series, is that Cup guys will be allowed to run as many races as they want, but will get no points in the championship standings … which I believe is the perfect compromise in this situation.

The young guys like Trevor Bayne and Justin Allgaier and other upcoming stars can battle for the title, while the Cup guys get into the Nationwide races solely to try and rack up wins and make some more money. The title won’t even be in their thoughts, as the rumored plan is each driver choosing one series in which he will be able to earn points … and I’m guessing all the Cup guys will choose the bigger series.

The racetracks still win, as the Cup guys will be in the races and can be promoted to help sell tickets. The young, up-and-coming drivers win biggest of all, as they have a legitimate chance at a title finally. The fans win because the Cup guys will be even more entertaining in their driving since they won’t be thinking about points. And I don’t even see the Cup drivers as losers in this, because they were not banned from competing in the lower series and still get to have fun on Saturdays.

When this is officially announced, my interest in the Nationwide Series, which has dropped to near zero, will officially be revitalized and I will look forward to a great battle for the title between drivers that are not already in Cup – the way it used to be and the way it is supposed to be in a developmental series.

I’m glad NASCAR is finally realizing this, it’s just too bad it took so long to happen. Regardless, it’s a win-win-win-win situation for everyone, and between the new cars and the new points system it should be a hell of a year for the Nationwide series in 2011.

It's not all about Jr., but it's a lot about Jr.

It would appear Rick Hendrick is a perfectionist, as he’s not sitting around fat and happy after winning his fifth straight title with Jimmie Johnson.

While his team is on top of the NASCAR world, they are making major changes to help his other three teams get closer to Johnson’s level of success. Crew chief Lance McGrew will move from the #88 car to Mark Martin and the #5. Alan Gustafson will leave the #5 and go to Jeff Gordon’s #24 car, and Steve Letarte will go over to Dale Jr. and the #88. This little game of musical crew chiefs may seem unnecessary to some people, but in reality Hendrick is very smart for switching things up.
The truth is that while Jimmie is delivering for him, the other guys aren’t doing so hot.

Jeff Gordon had a pretty rough year, going winless and stinking it up in the Chase. Dale Jr.’s struggles are widely known, and he’s on his way to becoming a footnote in NASCAR history (the guy who used to win before he came to Hendrick). And
Mark Martin’s magic was gone in 2010 as he missed the Chase.

Hendrick said he did not make this decision just to improve Dale Jr.’s performance, and I believe him. But that has to be a key motivating factor. I’ve never seen a driver go to a team this good and do this bad, especially one who did a lot of winning before he arrived at Hendrick.

While some people might argue otherwise, I believe Dale can still drive a race car pretty well, so they need to get him connected to a crew chief that can communicate well with him and improve a car during the race. If he can’t get that kind of relationship going, he’ll never win again no matter how good a team Hendrick is overall.

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Jimmie freakin’ Johnson wins the title … AGAIN

If there’s one thing I tired of doing, it’s writing for the umpteenth time about how awesome a job Jimmie Johnson did in a race, or in the Chase.

It’s old, kind of a been-there-done-that kind of thing, and I would love to have a new topic … But the facts are the facts.
And while his competitors did everything they could to NOT win the title, Jimmie got toward the front and stayed there all day; The end; case closed … he freakin' did it AGAIN.

There was a lot of hype built around Sunday’s finale at Homestead, with Jimmie trailing Denny Hamlin by just 15 points entering the race , but I can say with complete confidence that the race more than lived up to the hype.

My heart was at a very high beats-per-minute level for several hours Sunday, more than it has been for any race I can remember in recent memory. It wasn’t quite as awesome as the legendary 1992 Hooters 500, when Alan Kulwicki won by just 10 points over Bill Elliott, but it was still a thrill ride – one that will be talked about for a long time.

The three-way battle royale, which also featured a feisty Kevin Harvick, had everything you can imagine. Harvick played cat and mouse with Kyle Busch all day, and ended up booting Busch into the wall eventually, later saying of Busch: “He raced me like a clown all day.”

Denny was on the move, then drove into Greg Biffle and spun, then moved up, then was stuck, then was back to the points lead, then missed a pit stop and got stuck back in the pack. No trash talk after this one, as he came up short. He’ll be back to fight for it again next year, but he missed a golden opportunity to knock out the champ.

The points were always in flux, but for most of the day one name was out front: Jimmie Johnson; And at the end of the day, he was there again.
Harvick’s day was ultimately ruined by a speeding penalty on pit road, which he insists didn’t happen. And as much I’d love for him to be right, NASCAR is not out to get him. The computers aren’t going to lie about him speeding … they have no agenda.

No, what happened Sunday was pretty simple: Jimmie Johnson didn’t screw up, and his competition did. You can call it experience working in his favor, or just bad luck for the other guys. But however you say it, Johnson is the champ.

How does NASCAR Nation feel after this 5th straight Johnson title? I asked that question on Twitter after the race, and the response was varied. Some people were very excited (the Johnson fans), others were unhappy but respected Jimmie’s accomplishment; and others were just turned off. Look around online and you see a lot of people saying they’re going to tune out next year, as they’re sick of Johnson winning.

Whether they actually do tune out is another matter, but NASCAR better hope they don’t. Ratings were down all year, and attendance is down at tracks. If that trend continues, it’s not good for the sport.

The ironic thing is that the racing on track this year was among the best I’ve seen in my 14 years watching the sport. If they decided whether to watch based on race action, there should be more fans watching in this “have at it, boys” era.

But people don’t think like that. They see Johnson winning every year, figure the thing is fixed and don’t even bother to tune in. That’s not accurate, and he’s outrun the competition fair and square, but it’s kind of like when the Yankees win several World Series in a row. People get bored and tune out.

If Hamlin or Harvick had capitalized on this chance and taken the title, it could have been very good for the sport … a shot of new blood.

But they didn’t do that … and you have to give Johnson his due: He’s earned more points than everyone else for the past five years, and there is nothing wrong with that.

They’ll get another shot next year, but until then we’ll continue writing about how Jimmie Johnson has won yet again, and everyone else is just a contender.

No matter how much we may want to write something different, the fact is it’s still Jimmie’s world.

Hendrick domination continues
Once again, it really sucks for everyone who’s not driving for Rick Hendrick.

In the 16 years since 1994 … Hendrick has claimed 10 titles – 5 with Jimmie, 4 with Jeff Gordon and 1 with Terry Labonte. He’s allowed others to win it 6 times … 3 for Joe Gibbs, 2 for Jack Roush and 1 for Robert Yates. That is a ridiculous record, and no matter what the competition throws at them, Hendrick always seems to come out on top.

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Carl Edwards closes out the year as a winner, sets up for a strong 2011

Amid all the championship hype, someone was winning a race, and that was Carl Edwards, who won his second straight race, after breaking a long winless streak last week. Edwards said in Victory Lane that he is going to compete for the title next year, and I believe him.

After a horrible start to the year, the Fords turned it around, and Edwards ended up fourth in points, just ahead of teammates Matt Kenseth. Jack Roush, who faced his own adversity in 2010 and lost sight in one eye after a plane crash, has something else to be happy about besides his health – Edwards’ team should be among the best in 2011, battling for the crown along with Johnson, Hamlin and Harvick.

Montoya, JPM get heated
Forgotten completely by the TV crew was the in-race battle between Juan Pablo Montoya and Joey Logano. First, Montoya got into Logano, sending him back to the garage.

"We're gonna fix it and go back out and wreck the pr---", Logano crew chief Greg Zipadelli was quoted as saying after the initial incident, and he did just that. Afterward, NASCAR officials apparently stopped Montoya, who was on his way to confront Logano, or there could have been a physical confrontation too.

On top of it all, there were reports from Joe Gibbs Racing that Felix Sabates was threatening to have a car wreck out Denny Hamlin if his teammate Logano didn’t apologize for wrecking Montoya. Now that’s some drama.

That never materialized, thankfully, but it just goes to show how much non-Chase people could possibly have influenced things. And how crazy Felix Sabates can still be.

ESPN extra ridiculous with commercials
Earth to ESPN: People are sick of your constant commercials with an occasional break to show a race. Back when I started watching racing, ESPN was pretty awesome with its race coverage. Now, it’s all about the commercials and very little about racing. From the green flag to the checkered, t hey take a commercial break about every 10 laps.

One time, I swear they went to break 7 laps into a race; absolutely ridiculous.
This constant commercial interruption of the race flow, could be avoided if they did a side-by-side broadcast of commercials with the race, but I have been told that ESPN is prohibited from doing the side-by-side setup with commercials by NASCAR. (So while you're complaining to ESPN about the commercials, you might as well let NASCAR know you want side-by-side coverage to be allowed)

Beyond commercials, the network was just plain missing stories on Sunday. They failed to even mention the whole Logano retaliation against JPM, and far too often anything interesting like a lead change happened during breaks.

It’s been a constant issue, but was at an all-time low for this final race. Hopefully if enough people complain, they’ll ease up next year, but don’t get your hopes up.

Richard Petty Motorsports to declare bankruptcy?
There was a report Sunday that Richard Petty Motorsports – which ended the year just barely making it to the races and owing a lot of people a lot of money -- will file bankruptcy this week, and reform with a new name and leaders.

It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds. Whoever’s in charge, don’t expect more than a 2-car team. For A.J. Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose’s sakes, I hope it’s that big.

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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Look for Hamlin to take Cup title in a squeaker

The Gods are smiling on NASCAR this year … Not only do they have the tightest battle for the championship going into Homestead since the Chase began, but the weekend has played out in perfect fashion.

Denny Hamlin is one of the fastest cars in Happy Hour, and will be fast on Sunday, but will start 37th. Meanwhile, Jimmie Johnson is starting up in the top 5, and will be up front early. What this does is essentially take away Hamlin’s points lead before the race even begins. He’ll have to earn back the points lead, and you can bet he’ll be furiously driving up through the field during the first part of the race.

Barring any unforeseen trouble, look for him to get there by mid-race and have a spirited battle with Johnson and Kevin Harvick for the title.
Someone said a while back that the title could come down to one lap, or one pit stop, and at the time I mostly ignored it.

Turns out that might actually happen, and it’s probably going to be a finale that ranks among the best in NASCAR history.

Rumor has gotten out that next year, NASCAR may make changes to the Chase that ensures this scenario repeats itself … resetting the points with three races to go, so the likelihood of several people being in the hunt at Homestead is very high.

Some would say that is just more manipulation of the points system by NASCAR, but after this year fans will not want to see any more runaway champions. Call it fake if you want, but every other sport sets up a battle at the end between the best teams, and NASCAR is just now getting on board with that strategy.

But next year is next year, and now is now. As we enjoy the last race of the year, kick back and watch the drama unfold on Sunday. No matter who you’re backing, it’s going to be a lot of fun. (For the record, I say Hamlin wins by a hair).

Busch on a roll at Homestead
Kyle Busch has won two races already this weekend, and helped clinch owners points titles for his Kyle Busch Motorsports in Trucks and Joe Gibbs Racing in Nationwide.

Not too shabby. These stats are great, and it’s amazing to watch him put together the amount of wins he has in such a short period of time. He’ll go for another win Sunday in an attempt to do the triple sweep for the second time this year.

Eventually though, he’s going to have to cut back on all this lower series action, and focus on his Cup efforts. In the long-term, people will remember Cup winners and Cup champions, not Cup drivers who dip down to the lower series to rack up wins.

Evernham back to Hendrick?
Ray Evernham made his name at Hendrick Motorsports and it’s possible he might end up helping the organization out again. Finally, after much legal wrangling, he is free from Richard Petty Motorsports, which evolved out of his Evernham Motorsports.

This means Evernham could go work with another team, and the theory is that he’ll go back as a consultant with the team he led to several titles with Jeff Gordon.
He said he will entertain offers of being a consultant, saying he does not want to return full-time.

"Ray Evernham, for the first time coming into the final race of a NASCAR season, does not have a complete direction for next year,'' Evernham said Saturday, doing his best Bob Dole impression and speaking of himself in the third person. “I am free and clear according to my people now. Basically, every contract I've had has been breached in every shape or form.''

The interesting rumor is he’ll go to Hendrick as a consultant and try to help turn around the fortunes of Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose results in Hendrick equipment have been lackluster, to be kind. That would be a wise move by Hendrick, as Evernham knows how to get the best out of his driver, and might have a shot of getting Jr. back in form. (I just remembered this week that in 2004, he was mathematically alive for the title at Homestead … how times have changed).

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harvick needs to worry about racing, not the media

If the Chase did not exist, Kevin Harvick would be the runaway champion right now, leading by more than 200 points.

But it does exist, and Harvick faces long odds for the title. While he is only 46 points out of the lead, he will need both Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson to have bad days at Homestead, and that’s very unlikely.

Because of this unlikely scenario, most media is focusing on the battle between Hamlin and Johnson, and Harvick is not pleased with what he termed “disrespect”.

Posting on Twitter, Harvick wrote: “disrespect is what has been given for 10 weeks to our team from all the media so the heck with them all!”
In his mind, he probably was thinking something stronger words.

The question is: Does he have a point, or is he just whining?
My vote goes for whining.

I’ve never understood why athletes care so much about how they are viewed by the press.

And in this case, he doesn’t even have a strong case for disrespect. Nobody in the press has denied that Harvick is a top contender, as that would be pretty to say about someone who led the points so much this season.

The fact is that both Johnson and Hamlin’s teams have stepped up more in the Chase and had better cars and better finishes, led more laps and just run better overall.

Harvick even admitted after Sunday’s race that if it wasn’t for a major stroke of luck at Phoenix, he would be pretty much out of this Chase.

So why all the whining?

Instead of worrying about what the media is saying about him, Harvick should be worrying about how his team is preparing for Homestead, and get mentally prepared for the most important race of his career.

Many fans would be truly happy if he won, giving Richard Childress his first Cup title since his sixth and final title with Dale Earnhardt Sr.
But the numbers just don’t say it’s going to happen, which is why the media is not focusing on him.

It’s not a vendetta against him, it’s not disrespect, it’s not a shot at his ego. It’s just an honest assessment of the Chase situation.

And Harvick needs to get his mind of silly things like how the media portrays him, and focus on winning a title, if he hopes to have any shot on Sunday.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Cheer up Denny Hamlin: The Cup title is still yours to lose

A letter to Denny Hamlin:

There’s no need to throw things, Denny, all is still well.

I know your points lead has dwindled to 15 points, and four-time champ Jimmie Johnson is right on your heels, but guess what … you’re still in charge.

I know you were the dominant car all day at Phoenix and should have won and left there leading the points by more than 60 points, and fuel mileage is a tough reason to lose so many spots, but you really did make the right move.

You were the points leader, and if you had run out of gas and finished in 25th, your title hopes would have been damn near over. You had to protect that points lead, and that meant you had to pit.

In hindsight, it appears you may have been able to make it, but guess what: it’s over, it happened. Forget about it.

The facts are simple, Mr. Hamlin: You have had the best car for the second half of the Chase, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case at Homestead. If you go out and do the same thing you did at Phoenix, minus the fuel issue, you’re going to be champion.

But if you dwell on past disappointments, and don’t focus fully on doing what you’ve done all year on the way to 8 victories, you are much more likely to make a mistake and give the title away to Jimmie or Kevin.

So cheer up Denny … the sky is not falling. Let Jimmie talk all the smack he wants, you just have to go out and finish ahead of him at Homestead and you will be the next Cup champion.

Clinch scenarios
While some people whine about the Chase and how "fake" it is, this year’s scenario going into Homestead couldn't have worked out better.

This is the closest gap from 1st to 2nd in Chase history … just 15 points between Hamlin and Johnson, with Harvick lurking nearby, just 46 points behind Hamlin. One of these three will be your champ. In 2004, Johnson trailed Kurt Busch by 18 points heading into Homestead, and Busch held on in exciting fashion to retain his points lead and become champ.

The clinching scenario for Denny is pretty simple: The only way he can guarantee a clinch of his first Cup title is by either finishing second while leading the most laps or winning next Sunday’s season finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Of course, if Johnson doesn’t finish up front, he can finish lower and still take the title, and of course Kevin Harvick can capitalize if both of them screw up.

Jimmie tries to get in Denny’s head
Not usually one to egg on the competition, Jimmie Johnson most certainly did that after the race Sunday.

“I know what my mindset is and I hope the pressure of us being on his heels really works on his mind throughout the course of the week – he and his crew. Those guys better be on their toes. Not only do they have the 48 to worry about, but they have the 29 (Kevin Harvick) and one race winner take all – it’s going to be one hell of a show.”

Edwards completes sweep
To say Carl Edwards had a good weekend would be the understatement of the year. On the Cup side, he led all the practices, won the pole and won the race. On the Nationwide side, he qualified outside pole and won the race.

It was the first time Roush was in Victory Lane since Homestead in 2008.

Car owner Jack Roush said he was very excited to be back, and credited various factors – including the FR9 engine and improved simulations.

"It had been far too long since we'd been in Victory Circle with Carl. Everybody expects Carl to win as Carl expects to win, so Bob and I had been working behind the scenes to try to figure out how to get that to happen. The Ford support that we've got for our simulations has really come into play. It's been good. The new FR9 engine that Ford helped us with certainly was a factor today, at least early on before we started saving gas, and then the fact that we were able to save the gas and he still had enough speed to maintain his position on the race track was all very good. I'm thrilled to be here. I'm just proud to be here and share the moment."

Edwards said the win is a weight off his shoulders, and a big confidence booster for a team that’s had a rough couple years.

"A win is very important to us. It's a big accomplishment for us. It's something that we needed for our confidence and we needed it as a payoff for all the hard work that the guys put in at the shop and the engine department. It would be nice to get another one at Homestead, but to go into the off-season knowing that we're getting better and it looks like we have a really legitimate shot to finish fourth in the points, to be in the All-Star Race next season, to have that energy going forward -- all of those things are good."

Logano coming up big lately
Forgotten in the championship discussion was a third-straight top-5 run and fifth-straight top-10 run by Joey Logano.

The young Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who was praised as a phenom upon arriving in NASCAR, is already starting to live up to those expectations, and the good news for Joe Gibbs is he has a couple decades of driving left in him.

Logano said he is excited by his recent run, and it’s a good sign headed into 2011.

"Zippy and the guys did an awesome job. It's fun to be up here,” Logano said. “It's huge, huge. We're trying to get 15th in points. The 39 (Ryan Newman) beat us today, they finished second. But, we're close. We lost as little as possible there. If we finish off the year like this, I'm excited about next year, that's for sure."

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Sunday, November 14, 2010

A.J.'s 2nd-place start a rare bright spot for embattled RPM; Danica fights back

The biggest surprise on qualifying day at Phoenix was A.J. Allmendinger, who drives for a Richard Petty Motorsports team that everyone says will be out of business soon.

He said the team stuck together through all the drama this week about whether they would make it to Phoenix amid money woes.

“No matter what happens I’m just proud of everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports. There’s no secret of what we’re going through right now and it’s a tough time. All the crew guys here and all the guys at the shop listening and watching, they’re amazing people because it could easily tear this team apart. Everybody could be fighting with each other and not want to be here, but everybody is sticking together and fighting hard to go out there and perform. We’ve shown that, no matter what, it’s not gonna get us off our game. We’re just gonna keep getting better as a race team,” A.J. said.

He said the team’s employees are hopeful things will be worked out, and they’ll just focus on what they do best: “We know The King and Robbie Loomis, all the guys, they’re doing what they can to resolve these problems and we’re just gonna put our heads down and do our jobs.”

In his situation, that’s really all you can do. If RPM folds, he and Ambrose don’t have too many options for 2011, so they have to hope it works out.

Great debut for Whitt

Cole Whitt, who is just 19 years old but looks even younger, had a brilliant debut in the Nationwide series Saturday, finishing 15th at Phoenix.

He said he is happy with how things turned out.

"I think it work out pretty good. We come here to run top-15, and we ended up 15th. It was good. It's what we wanted. We obviously didn't get the qualifying run we wanted and that made it tough for us to come forward. The pit crew was on all day. We really made up some spots here on pit road. We made some up on the track, too. We raced with some big names and I think we learned a lot. And, if I just get some more chances I think I can really run good in the series. I think everything went pretty good."

Many are comparing his instant success to Danica’s struggles, but it’s apples and oranges. Whitt is a stock car racer by trade, he’s not making a switch over to stock cars.

Danica fights back
Speaking of Danica, she wasn’t getting much respect during the Nationwide race at Phoenix, and to her credit she decided to fight back. When one competitor, Alex Kennedy, was being particularly uncourteous, she caught up to him and punched him toward the wall.

Her on-track battles ended up relegating her to another bad finish laps down, but by standing up to someone she was sending a message that just because she’s new to the stock car side, that doesn’t mean she can be mistreated. And beating and banging aside, Danica has shown some improvement in her time in NASCAR, she just needs to do it full-time to completely master it. If her current schedule holds true, look for a full-time Danica run in 2012, or no run at all. This half and half stuff doesn’t work for long.

Oddly enough, it’s the guys who are far from frontrunners who seem to be giving her the most trouble on track (Tony Raines, Kennedy, etc.). I have a feeling they’re a little annoyed she is getting a shot in a good ride based on her name alone, while they have to struggle to maintain funding for their teams.

The way they treat her on the track, while they let the frontrunners go without such incidents, is an indication of this anger, and perhaps a little jealousy. Her response to Kennedy, though, will probably keep them more in check in her future NASCAR endeavors, as it shows she won't just accept the mistreatment.

Congrats to Bodine
Todd Bodine claimed his second career Truck series title Friday night. After a long career wandering between rides in various series , the 46-year-old driver has found his niche in the trucks, and he deserves credit for beating out some great competition in NASCAR’s most competitive door-to-door series. En route to his title, Bodine won at Darlington, Kentuck, Nashville and Texas.

"We've had some ups and downs since our 2006 championship, but this one is extra special to share with the Germain family, the Hillman family (crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. and general manager Mike Hillman) and all the sponsors who have supported us throughout the year," Bodine said.

Don’t mess with Newman

Ryan Newman had a couple good lines this week. First, he offered his thoughts on his wife’s pregnancy, and the cravings that come with it … which don’t include deer jerky. “She is craving ice, which I guess is typical but there are certain smells that are driving her nuts. I had a house full of deer jerky this week and that is not on the list of good things.”

And best of all, the burly Newman, who could probably squash Jeff Gordon like a grape if he wanted to, offered his comments on what he would do if Jeff Gordon was walking at him the way Gordon walked toward Jeff Burton.

“I’m pretty sure Jeff wouldn’t walk at me. I’m just throwing that out there. I don’t think we would go down that path, no matter what happened. If he did, it probably wouldn’t be his best choice of the day,” he joked.

Stewart: No time to worry about Indy
So Chevy is back in Indycar, and Tony Stewart – who came to NASCAR from the Indycar world – was asked if that would increase the odds that he might drive in the Indy 500 someday.

The answer was clear … and it was a big fat no.
“No. No, no, no and no. I don’t have any extra time to do any of that right now,” Stewart said, ending the speculation before it could even start.

Busch extending his season
The racing season won’t end at Homestead for Kurt Busch, as the former Cup champion plans to race in the Polar Bear 150 at Rockingham Speedway on Saturday, November 27. The race is part of the Frank Kimmel Street Stock Nationals series, created by ARCA driver Frank Kimmel. To learn more about the series, check out

"What a tremendous honor it is to have NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Kurt Busch come and compete with our racers at Rockingham Speedway," said Kimmel, a nine-time ARCA series champion. "I think it is a tremendous opportunity for our series with the amount of exposure that Kurt will bring to our race, but also for our drivers. He is coming to run well and win the race, I think that says something about him, but I also think that it says that our series is starting to build credibility. Hopefully this will improve the series, bring out more fans and add to the excitement of the race at Rockingham."

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Tight Chase battle bringing out the trash talk, mind games

Kevin Harvick has never been shy about giving his opinion. And that was definitely the case again at Phoenix when he was asked about the extremely confident (some would say cocky) comments from Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, Mike Ford, after last week’s win. In true Harvick fashion, he said what a lot of fans were thinking all week.

“I think Mike should take his own advice to his driver and not insert your foot into your mouth when you don’t do something that winds up being something that you say it should be. I think the comments that he made after the race about being better than the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) team and all that stuff, I think he’s just trying to stir stuff up.”

Harvick continued by saying that type of cocky talk can only lead to disappointment, and that Ford was being a hypocrite because he had told Hamlin not to talk that way in the past.

“The only good thing that comes from being cocky like that is you better win because if you don’t, you’re going to have to answer a lot of questions about your comments when you get done. You create a lot more work than what you see initially when you say those things, if it all doesn’t go your way. I think when you’re trying to intimidate the guy who’s won four championships in a row, I think you might need to go rethink your strategy and just go out and worry about racing because it’s not really something that was probably necessary. He got all over Denny (Hamlin) at Dover for saying the things that he did about RCR and the organization and how disruptive their team, in my opinion all the things that he said seem to be a disruption to his team and now Denny is going to have to come in here and answer all those questions.”

Harvick is referring to Hamlin’s comments in the wake of Clint Bowyer’s penalties after the first Chase race, where he basically accused RCR of cheating, which apparently has been forgotten by Harvick, who probably doesn’t have a very high opinion of Mr. Hamlin and the Gibbs organization. In a sport where most people tend to like or at least tolerate each other and kiss and make up after any initial squabbles, I think Hamlin and Ford might be racking up a few legitimate enemies with their tough talk.

And Harvick is right about one thing: You have to back up that kind of tough talk with wins. Unfortunately, with 8 wins so far, that’s what Hamlin has been doing all year, and appear very likely to keep on doing today and next week at Homestead.

What does Jimmie think?

For his part, the guy being dissed in Ford’s Victory Lane comments next week, Jimmie Johnson was much more reserved when asked about Ford comments, focusing instead on what he needs to do and not what others are saying.

He did say that Ford has definitely provided some bulletin board material to motivate the #48 team, which finds itself in a position it hasn’t been in since 2005 – out of the points lead with 2 to go.

“The reason that I’m looking at the 11 is that he’s the one that’s ahead of us. When we were leading, I was looking back at both of them closely. I know Kevin’s (Harvick) right there I guess. With the 11 taking the points lead and all and all that’s been made of it, it’s been very easy just to talk about the 11 car, but the 29 is there and serious. Again, I expected comments to be made after the 11 won in Texas. Believe me; we have used those comments as motivation inside Hendrick Motorsports.There’s been plenty of references to the comments made. Guys are thinking about it during their sets in the gym, when they’re changing tires on pit stops, there have been emails internally – it’s been a great motivational tool. We certainly hope to show it this weekend.”

Johnson said his team is still worth of a championship, and that being in 2nd “sucks”, but that Ford’s comment about the #48 team being in panic mode don’t hold true.

“It sucks. I don’t want to be there,” he said. “Every year feels different and it does feel different being here this late in the game. We all know how special a run we’ve been on and how rare it is in sports period. In my mind as the years have gone by, I have really tried not to get used to it. I’ve always tried to be fearful of not being there and I don’t know if it’s just getting myself prepared for the day there’s a really big challenge or what, but I’m not as panicked as people may think. I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that I know how good my race team is. I know how good we’re going to do here and in Homestead and I’m just trying not to over think it and just go out there and do my job.”

Asked whether he is now an underdog, the overall theme of Ford’s comments, Johnson was not concerned with labels, saying bluntly: “Hell, I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m not sure where I see myself. I know I’m down and I need to get back on top.”

At this point, it’s anyone’s guess who will win the Chase and whether the streak of Jimmie Johnson will come to a close, but one thing is certain based on all the comments that have been flying this week: All three of them have the attitude and the ability needed to win races and the title.

I’m looking forward to see it all unfold at Phoenix, which races quite a bit like a short track and could provide a good opportunity to back those words up with a message on the race track.

I’m curious what NASCAR would do if, for example, Harvick put Hamlin into the wall with 20 to go at Phoenix. I doubt it will be that dramatic, but if it did happen, would they let “have at it boys” potentially determine the champion?

Whatever happens, I’m truly enjoying this Chase, which is turning out to be the best one since the original year in 2004. Good runs by all 3 guys today will setup a battle reminiscent of the 1992 Hooters 500, which is one of NASCAR’s most exciting races in its history due to the tight points battle it presented.

Watch out for Edwards today

It’s been two years since Carl Edwards won his 9th race of the 2008 season … and that’s the last time he won in the Cup series.

That streak may end today at Phoenix. Edwards has been dominant straight out he gate at Phoenix, leading all practice and taking the pole. This all comes on the heels of a very impressive win in the Nationwide series, and in both instances he has had a very strong car. He clearly has a car to win today, and hopes to be doing a backflip as the sun sets in Phoenix.

"This is the fastest car we've had for a long time and it's nice. I like it a lot,” Edward said. “The race is the race, but we still have the best pit stall and we've got the fastest race car in all the practices. If you could have that every race, you'd be really happy, so I think we'll do well and I think we're gonna be good.”

Edwards also discussed his hectic schedule the week after Homestead, when he’ll be going back to Europe to compete once again (along with new NAScAR convert Travis Pastrana) in the Race of Champions, an event where he beat 7-time Formula 1 champ Michael Schumacher a few years back in a one-on-one race.

“We’ll be traveling on Thanksgiving, so I’ll get to spend the morning with my family so that will be nice, and then we’ll travel over to Germany. I’m going with Travis Pastrana, so I’ll be curious to talk to him a little bit about that (coming to NASCAR). He’s a wild man. I think that will be good for him to come here. Hopefully, he does well. I think it would be good if he could do well, but that’s gonna be a blast. We go over there and I get to see a country I’ve never seen. I get to race against guys like Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Loeb, he’s amazing. That’ll be fun. It’ll be a rushed weekend. We leave on Thursday and I think we’ll be back on Monday or Tuesday for the banquet, but that’s a good way to relax, I think.”

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The replaceables: Mid-race crew swap demoralizing for #48 team, shows rare weakness in Hendrick camp

Imagine you’re sitting at your desk at work, and the boss taps you on the shoulder, saying: “You need to go to that other desk; I’ve got a guy who can do your job better than you, so he’s taking your place. Now go clean his desk.”

How would you feel? I’m guessing not so hot. And I watched with my jaw on the floor as I saw this happen live on television during the Texas race, when Jimmie Johnson’s fumbling crew got the heave-ho in favor of the wrecked #24 car’s crew.

It’s been done mid-week before, even recently with the #29 and #33 teams, but mid-race is something I can’t recall. And it was just one element of a crazy day at Texas that may have thrown the NASCAR world as we know it on a new course.

Johnson was blunt, saying the crew needed a wake-up call.

"We've been lacking and we need to get it straightened out and it was a good wake-up call for the guys, if anything, to bring the No. 24 crew in and let them do their job and let them watch. I really do care for these guys with the bottom of my heart. They're my guys. But, man, we have to perform. We can't come down pit road and lose 10 spots every stop. That's just killing us."

"I knew the possibility existed and at this point in the game, you can't have feelings. You have to go out and try to win the championship. And if somebody's feelings got hurt, that's too bad. We're here to win a championship and we've got to do everything we can."

Looking back at the race, the crew swap kind of presented itself due to another situation (the wreck and fight between the Jeffs), which led to the #24 crew being available. I’m going to venture a guess that if the #24 hadn’t been wrecked, this swap would’ve happened mid-week, which would have been a little less controversial.

But to get that tap on the shoulder with half a race to go has to be the worst feeling in the world. And to top it all off, they had to go pack up the equipment for the #24 team that was now doing their job. This team has led Jimmie Johnson to four straight titles, and now they’re basically mopping the floor.

If that’s not embarrassing, I don’t know what is … and no one in the Hendrick organization can say they’re happy with how Sunday turned out, despite solid performance from the #24 crew in its fill-in duty (which, by the way, will continue for the final two races; makes sense, I don’t see how you could go back after a switch this dramatic. Too many hurt feelings might screw up Jimmie’s chances.)

The Hendrick team, or course, has to put on their spin and promote the “one team” mantra and talk about how everyone at Hendrick works to help everyone else win the title, and how other sports see player.

"We have to do our jobs. We've been having some issues and today wasn't going any better and with the No. 24 (Jeff Gordon) out of the race it was a good opportunity for us to try it,” Johnson said. “Man, you watch pro sports and if people aren't getting the job done you've got to pull them out and put someone else in."

But while that may be a logical defense of the move, you know a lot of those crew guys wanted to wring Chad Knaus’ neck when they heard the decision, even though they recognize they were making mistakes during the early pit stops.

What’s most important is that all this chaos happened on a day when Denny Hamlin put on a masterful run from the back to the front, putting on an awesome pass on Matt Kenseth late to win the race and take the points lead with gusto. If that’s not sending a statement to the four-time defending champ, I don’t know what is.

Hamlin and his crew chief are cocky and brash, saying things others might not dare.
Ford said in an interview after the race that the #48 team’s crew swap showed it was in “desperation mode” and that the #11 team is the team to beat for the title.

Meanwhile, Johnson has to hope this move, which some may call risky, pays off and doesn’t ruin his team’s chemistry.

"We'll find out. I have no clue. That's unchartered territory for us," he said.

And for the first time I can ever recall, Jimmie spoke like he recognized that the title might not go his way after all.

"Yeah, it's not where we want to be, but there's a lot of racing left. There are no guarantees what's going to happen. At some point the championship run will come to an end and I'm going to try my hardest to make sure it's not this year, but we'll come back next week and try again."

Between Denny’s strong run and the Hendrick turmoil, the momentum is clearly in the #11 team’s favor. Now all he has to do is withstand the pressure and deliver that title.

Watching him try, I predict, will provide the best Chase finish since the first go-around in 2004 … and it’s in part because the perfection at Hendrick Motorsports is now starting to look a little more human and not invincible.

Kyle flips out
While Jimmie was flopping crews, Kyle Busch was flipping out.
I’d like to know what was going through his head when he decided to give the middle finger to the NASCAR official in front of him, and I can only guess that it included a lot of four-letter words. When he extended that finger, he turned a speeding penalty into an extra two laps in the pits due to unsportsmanslike conduct, and he ended up down in the 30s as a result.

I’m surprised they even let him finish the race, to be honest. If a basketball player walked up to the ref and stuck out his middle finger, he wouldn’t play the whole 48 minutes, so Kyle is lucky his punishment wasn’t worse.

No one likes to be penalized, but this kind of outburst shows why Kyle is not usually a favorite to win the Cup title. He lacks the maturity of his competitors, and the results show that. He may be the best driving talent in the series, depending who you ask, but until his head’s in the right place don’t expect him to compete for any titles in the Cup series. Maybe his teammate can share a word with him about the focus needed to compete with the Jimmie Johnsons of the world.

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A little bit of street fighting won't hurt NASCAR

Call me uncivilized if you wish, but I have to say that I loved seeing Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon, two guys who normally hold their cool pretty well, throw down and fight Sunday during the Cup race at Texas.

If you had asked me before the race for the two guys least likely to fight, this would’ve been the matchup. The Mayor did not use diplomacy when he bashed Gordon’s car hard into the wall, ruining his own car in the process … all under caution!

We all saw the outcome, with an unpleased Gordon getting out of the car to address Mr. Burton with a push, which led to a little tussle that was unfortunately broken up by the officials. (Unless they’re getting out of control, let them settle it like the Cale vs. the Allisons days.)

That was not the nice Jeff Gordon of he 1990s, crying like a baby in Victory Lane. He’s grown up, he’s pissed off and he is tired of being pushed around. Sure, his push was pretty weak, but this isn’t about his form. It’s about standing up for yourself, and he definitely did that.

"Of all the people out there, I never thought that would happen to Jeff Burton and me. I've always has a tremendous amount of respect for him. But I certainly lost a lot of respect today,” Gordon said after the fight.

This is a sport that is fueled by passion and hard work, and when cars get torn up, you’re gonna be mad. There are exceptions of course (I don’t want anyone to punch out Danica, for example, unless it’s Jennifer Jo Cobb or one of the Cope girls). But I do not see a problem with guys settling their difference outside of the racecar, and in a day full of highlights this fight might be on top of the list.

To the purists who say such activity hurts the sport, I say go watch a polo match. NASCAR’s roots aren’t “Masterpiece Theater,” and the drivers showing emotions will only increase its fan following. I say that was some great TV, watching Gordon walk down the track and wondering what was going to happen, and I think most fans would agree with that. NASCAR probably won’t penalize either driver, and that’s good … you can’t say “Have at it, boys” and then penalize them for having at it.

I just wonder who would have won the fight if they had let it go on. Maybe we’ll find out this week at Phoenix.

My favorite line in the whole thing came from Burton, who in his usual matter-of-fact way, said: “I don't blame him for being for mad. I'd have been mad too."

Surprise guest up front
So that exciting battle up front at the end involved ... Matt Kenseth?

After a season where he barely made the Chase and hasn't done much since it started, Kenseth was on the way to a win until Denny made a great crossover move in the final couple laps. Amazingly, Kenseth is now 5th in points, which was pretty unimaginable for most of this disappointing season.

After the race, he said he was disappointed that he couldn't get back to Victory Lane at Texas, but glad that the potential for victory was finally there.

“That was disappointing that I didn’t finish it off there. We have lost a lot of close one’s here at Texas. I got on the gas and cleared him down there and I thought everything was good and as soon as I got in front of him my car just took off. I had to get back out of the gas. I am disappointed we finished second but happy we performed that well."

Also doing surprisingly well was Kenseth's teammate David Ragan, who came home with his third top-10 of the year.

Great debut for Bayne
Amid all the other excitement, Trevor Bayne made his debut in a Cup race, driving in the legendary No. 21 car for the Wood Brothers, and ran well all day. He ended up 17th, not too shabby for his first go-around.

After the race, Bayne was excited about his debut in the big leagues.
“That was awesome man. These things are so much fun. I wish I could do it every weekend. It was a blast to drive and to be that fast for a first run is incredible," Bayne said. "Donnie Wingo, everybody at Wood Brothers Racing and Roush Fenway and Ford I want to thank for giving me this opportunity. I don’t really know what to say. That was as good or better than we expected so I am really pumped about it.”

If he keeps racing like this, he'll probably be able to drive these things every week real soon, either for the Woods or for Roush (David Ragan better step it up, he's got competition for that fourth Roush seat.)

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Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske -- Michigan duo make championship dreams a reality

Take a young man from Rochester Hills, combine him with a Michigan icon, and what do you get? … a champion.

Such is the story of Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske, who are on top of the world after clinching the first NASCAR title for both of them this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Yes, you read that right, after almost 4 decades in the sport, Roger Penske had never won a title until the brash young driver who came from a truly dedicated racing family in Oakland County delivered it to him.

And the most amazing thing is that it almost never happened, and Penske can thank Mark Martin for his title, at least in part. The only reason that this union was even allowed to happen is because there was simply no room for Brad at Hendrick Motorsports. They had groomed him, via Jr. Motorsports, to join the fold at the sport’s top team, and he was eager to join that team.

But when Mark Martin decided that he wasn’t giving up the seat in the #5 car anytime soon, Brad was out of options at Hendrick due to NASCAR’s four-car limit (Jeff, Jimmie and Jr. sure weren't going anywhere).

In comes Penske, the Michigan icon, swooping up a talent grown right in his own back yard. He lured Keselowski with the promise of running for titles, and winning them. And on that he has delivered right off the bat.

This is, of course, in large part due to the amazing driving ability of Keselowski. If you’re watched him race this year or in the past, you know that Brad doesn’t back down and has made some great late-race moves to win races.

Sometimes that gets him in trouble (as evidenced by his battles both on track and verbally with Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch), but more often it lands him in Victory Lane. Brad knows one speed: Fast. He’ll make moves other drivers might not, and that dedication and focus is what has taken him from Midwest short tracks to the edge of NASCAR superstardom.

The irony is that Brad probably should have won the title the past two years, but Cup interlopers kept it from him. Now he did the same thing, competing full-time in both series and taking the crown in the Nationwide Series.

My prediction is that he did it just in time, as NASCAR will probably crack down on the double-dippers, and not allow them to run for the Nationwide title in 2011 and beyond. It’s necessary if the secondary series is to create an identity of its own.

Penske said the focus on winning a title was there from the very beginning of the year.

“At the beginning of the season, we had a vision on how to win this championship. We had the reliability and our guys put it together,” he said after the title was clinched.

Penske went on to praise Keselowski’s talents, and said this title, amazingly his first ever in NASCAR, means as much as some of his other big accomplishments in motorsports on the Indycar side.

“Well, I saw (Brad) as a great driver. He had a little edge on him which you want. He’s not afraid to go. He’s his own man. To me, we had the horse that he could ride. It all worked and we’ve got a champion,” Penske beamed.

“We’ve been in NASCAR a long, long time. To me, it’s like winning the Indy 500 for the first time. What can you say; it’s a team sport and a team effort. To me, that’s what we came here for. Paul Wolfe, the whole group, they worked their heart out and we got the results.”

Likewise, Brad was glad to deliver this early Christmas present to the man known as the Captain.

“It’s pretty awesome. I’m not sure how many (overall) wins that he has, I can’t think of anybody that has more. This one was awesome and it’s incredible that we were able to get him a championship.”

He also gave Dodge its first Nationwide Series title, which is special since his family has heavily supported Dodge over its long history in motorsports.

“It’s pretty awesome. My family has a lot of history with Dodge in the Truck Series and it’s like I grew up with the brand. Dodge made a huge commitment to the Nationwide Series this year with the Charger and Challenger and to be able to give Ralph (Gilles, President and CEO of Dodge) and all the employees back in Auburn Hills (Michigan) the championship is really cool. All their support has made a huge difference this season. I got to drive really fast and cool Dodge Chargers and Challengers this year and to give them a championship is really special.”

Gilles was thrilled at the news, saying: “Winning the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship is a remarkable achievement for Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing and Dodge. Brad not only won the championship, but drove the Dodge Challenger to victory in two of the four new car races. The countless hours spent maximizing the performance of the Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger for competition has produced the ultimate reward – the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship. We’re extremely proud of our partnership with the entire team at Penske Racing. The competition this year has been intense, making this championship even more satisfying. This is the perfect end to an amazing season.”

The future is still a question mark for Keselowski, as his Cup effort with Penske isn’t going as well as he’d hoped (he only recently got his first top-10 of the season), but one thing’s for sure: The kid’s got talent, is young and has a bright future, and given the right car he can win a title in any series.

I think back to Denny Hamlin and others who, during Brad’s tangles with a variety of drivers, said that Keselowski was going to be a flash in the pan, and not achieve much in the sport.

I wonder what those drivers thought when they saw Keselowski hoisting the championship trophy this weekend.

Toyota top manufacturer in Truck series … again

When it comes to Trucks, there is clearly a king, and it is Toyota, which claimed its fifth straight manufacturers’ title this weekend in that series.
In that five-year span, they will have claimed three titles once Todd Bodine clinches his title for this season.

While still lagging behind Chevy in the Cup series, the automaker can claim a double success, as they also took the title in Nationwide, based mostly on strong performances by the Joe Gibbs Racing operation.

In the Truck series, teams contributing to the title include Billy Ballew Motorsports, Germain Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Randy Moss Motorsports and Red Horse Racing.

Toyota drivers have 14 wins and 10 poles, with two races still on the schedule. Overall, since entering the series in 2004, Toyota has 79 wins – led by 21 from Todd Bodine and 17 from Kyle Busch ... and apparently one by Brandon Whitt of which I have absolutely no recollection.

Bid on a Champion’s Week experience

Fans can bid on a chance to experience NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas through several VIP experiences, which are being offered by The NASCAR Foundation in an online charity auction at NASCAR.COM. The auction, which runs through Nov. 10, features all-access packages and chances to attend events with the 2010 Cup champion, other drivers, and TV personalities.
Details of the packages are:

-- NASCAR Evening Series VIP Experience: Auction winners will kick off the week by attending the NASCAR Evening Series Sponsored by Bank of America on Wednesday, Dec. 1 from 6-8 p.m. at Lupo by Wolfgang Puck. At this exclusive invitation-only event fans will enjoy food and beverage and a meet-and-greet with the world famous chef Wolfgang Puck. This package also includes one hotel room for three nights at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, two tickets to The Lion King at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, dinner for two at Strip Steak at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Wolfgang Puck 25-piece cookware set and gift certificate for two (2) to Spago. Bank of America, the Official Bank of NASCAR, has generously offered to match the winning bidders’ donation up to $5,000 as part of their participation with the NASCAR Evening Series event.
-- Ultimate NASCAR Champion’s Week VIP Experience: This experience package includes seats for two people in the Victory Lap procession on the double-decker bus riding through Las Vegas as well as tickets to the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, NASCAR After the Lap and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony.
-- NASCAR Champion’s Week VIP Experience (Five packages: Two seats at the 2010 NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon at the Bellagio on Thursday, Dec. 2, two guaranteed seats to NASCAR After the Lap at the Hard Rock on Thursday, Dec. 2, two passes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pre-Reception at the Wynn on Friday, Dec. 3, two passes to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Red Carpet Walk at the Wynn on Friday, Dec. 3 and two seats at the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Wynn on Friday, Dec. 3.
-- Ride in the Victory Lap Experience: Seats for two people in the double-decker bus that will ride in the Victory Lap procession through Las Vegas following the top 12 drivers.
-- The Coca-Cola Chase for Charity: The Coca-Cola Chase for Charity is an online auction that allows fans to bid on collectible, autographed items. Bidding is live now and new items are added weekly. Bids close on Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 p.m. ET.

All auction proceeds will benefit The NASCAR Foundation, which supports a wide range of charitable initiatives. For more information, visit WWW.NASCAR.COM/foundation.

Jail & Bail Event raises $150K for Scholarship Fund
In other charity news, NASCAR drivers, celebrities and some fans recently helped collect $150,000 in donations and pledges at the Third Official Jail and Bail charity event, benefitting the Brienne Davis Scholarship Fund Oct. 12, at Brickhouse Tavern in Davidson, N.C. Over the three years of the event, more than $300,000 has been raised to provide scholarships for qualified female students to attend one of Universal Technical Institute’s campuses across the U.S., including the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, N.C.

The evening included NASCAR drivers and other celebrities being “sentenced” and put behind bars with all of the “bail money” going to support the scholarship fund. Inmates included NASCAR drivers Landon Cassill; Kevin Conway; Denny Hamlin; Brad Keselowski; Travis Kvapil; Joey Logano; Casey Mears; Michael McDowell; Joe Nemechek; Max Papis; Tony Raines; Brian Scott; Reed Sorenson; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Tony Stewart. Others locked up were the No. 11 FedEx Pit Crew, NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Jerry Cook and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Allison, Donnie Allison and Red Farmer of “The Alabama Gang.”

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