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.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Trevor Bayne made right choice by choosing to run for Nationwide title

In the immediate aftermath of the Daytona 500, it was easy for Trevor Bayne to think that he should try to run for the Cup title instead of Nationwide, but things aren’t as simple as they seem.

And when he said this week that he’ll stick to Nationwide as his designated series, Bayne and the Wood Brothers made the right decision.

First off, despite Trevor’s immense talent, Daytona was not indicative of how he will run all year in Cup. The top teams will beat the Wood Brothers most weeks on a non-plate track, so him running for the Sprint Cup is a pipe dream.

On the other hand, Nationwide is a title he can win because of the limited number of people running for it – and of course his immense talent.

His Roush Fenway team in Nationwide will be among the best each week in the series in comparison to the others running for a Nationwide title. Even if he gets beat by Cup drivers every week for the win in Nationwide, he is still a great shot to win the title due to the new points system in Nationwide.

And on top of all that, there isn’t even the funding for a full Cup season, and no guarantee it will come.

Trevor Bayne is very young, very talented and win run for the Cup for many years into the future – might even win one or more.

But that time is not now. He would not have competed for the Sprint Cup, so there is no point in him letting the emotion of a great Daytona win cloud his judgment about which series to run in 2011. By choosing Nationwide, he is continuing his development properly, and perhaps he will mature enough that next year he can run competitively every week in the Cup series.

In the meantime, he can spend 2011 chasing down Kyle Busch and the other Cup interlopers in the Nationwide series, a precursor to the future battles they will have in the Cup series in the upcoming years as Bayne’s career develops.

NASCAR’s Tony Stewart, F1’s Lewis Hamilton to try each other’s rides
In a rare joining of Formula 1 and NASCAR, there will be a brief ride swap this summer between NASCAR’s Tony Stewart and Formula 1’s Lewis Hamilton … who share a sponsor in Mobil 1. Hamilton will drive the #14 NASCAR machine in an exhibition at Watkins Glen, while Stewart will drive a 2010 F1 McLaren machine. Should be fun for Stewart, one of the few NASCAR drivers who probably could have been somewhat successful in the Formula One series had he decided to give it a go as a young man. (He’s an old man now by F1 standards).

I’m pretty confident he’ll do well in the McLaren, as he has open wheel experience, but I’m curious to see Hamilton in a NASCAR ride. It’s a whole different animal and I’m wondering if he’ll be an instant learner or take a little while to figure it out.

Talking to other teams
In a curious discussion, some drivers were not happy that in this year’s Daytona 500, drivers were able to talk on radio with drivers not on their own team. This was done to aid the safety of the new two-car tandems at the newly repaved Daytona, and I’m glad to see they did it because many wrecks were probably prevented by this policy.

But some drivers were not happy with the decision.\"I think NASCAR should step in on drivers getting on other teams' radios," #22-Kurt Busch said. "... We shouldn't be able to communicate with radios."

I saw why not? Communication already takes place via spotters, so why not cut short the process and go directly driver-to-driver. It can only make restrictor plate racing safer, and that’s a good thing by anyone’s standard..
Carl Edwards is in that camp, calling it necessary for safety. I don’t see this policy changing at future restrictor plate races, so Busch and others who don’t like it are probably just going to have to accept it.

Brian Keselowski fails to qualify
After being the Cinderella story at Daytona, well at least until Trevor Bayne won the 500, Brian Keselowski’s fairy tale hit its first speed bump. After scrambling to get a car to Phoenix, Brian failed to qualify and is headed home.
Here’s hoping Brian can get things turned around and compete in more races this year, as it was nice to see the K Automotive team get its first taste of success. Hopefully this is just a minor bump in the road, and that Daytona money can be used to get the team to the next level.

Indycar offers $5 million
Let’s be honest; very few people, even hardcore racing fans, watch Indycar races or follow the series regularly. So this year, the series is trying to spice things up by offering a $5 million bonus to any non-series regular who can show up at the series finale in Vegas and win.

Few from NASCAR would be able to compete, but Sam Hornish Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger are the most likely possibilities, but it’s logistically difficult due to the NASCAR race that weekend being in Charlotte.

I’ll be curious to see if anyone accepts the challenge from the NASCAR ranks, and will root them on if they do. $5 million is a big incentive, and it’s good to see Indycar thinking outside the box. But regardless, I still don’t see the ratings going through the roof, even if they get some takers, but it would bring an improvement for sure.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Two-car pack racing gets mixed reviews; records broken at Daytona

The word this year out of Daytona was two-by-two. That’s how the cars drove fastest, and it created a whole new style of racing … much different than the pack racing in past years … which some fans liked and others didn’t.

I felt sort of mixed, as it was sometimes exciting and sometimes dreadful, but that’s what works best for speed so it’s how they’re going to run at the plate tracks now and there’s not too much NASCAR can do about it.
Driver opinion was mixed on the style of racing that emerged at Daytona this year, as it helped contribute to a healthy dose of cautions, including several where teammates wrecked each other unintentionally.

Robert Richardson Jr., who drive he No. 37 at Daytona this year, wasn’t too happy with the two-by-two style after it played a part in getting him wrecked during Speedweeks.

“Everyone is still trying to figure it out. I was running with my teammate Travis Kvapil and I was getting pretty tight off the corners and he was locked onto my bumper. I was trying to keep it out of the wall and he was still attached to me. The rest is history. I hate it. I hate it for Front Row Motorsports and everyone else that gave me an opportunity to run this race. It is definitely not Daytona racing. This two car draft stuff is pretty tough to deal with and try to get a handle on and trust the guy behind you. I am okay though,” he said. “Hopefully by Talladega they will have something figured out so that all the cars can get back to big pack racing again.”

Veteran Tony Stewart, on the other hand, was adapting better to the style, and said the only way to put things more in the driver’s hands is to something that’s not very likely.

“If you want to be the master of your own destiny, take the restrictor plates off. Figure out how to let us drive race cars again,” Stewart said.

We’ll see when Talladega rolls around if this is a unique thing at Daytona or if it carries over. And if it does continue, what will NASCAR do about it, if anything?

Records broken at Daytona
Fresh off a track resurfacing at Daytona, in the wake of last year’s pothole debacle, this year’s race featured a track-record 74 lead changes and 22 leaders.
Other records fell too, including number of cautions with 16. Early in Speedweeks, the Budweiser Shootout featured a record-breaking 28 lead changes, and both Gatorade Duel races featured record numbers of lead changes (20 and 22)
Bayne also became the seventh driver to earn his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Daytona 500.

Android App Provides NASCAR info
SpeedWeekly Magazine, "Your Racing News Source," is living up its billing by providing auto racing fans with a free Android App for the most popular auto racing television schedules.

The App includes the start time and network of every nationally-televised race in eight different race series. A similar App for the iPhone will soon be available.

The free App, available for download from the Android Market on your phone or by visiting, provides the schedules for NASCAR’s Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, along with the complete schedules for ARCA, IndyCar, Formula One, Grand Am and American LeMans. The App premiered during NASCAR's SpeedWeeks.

"This new SpeedWeekly App is a major advancement for race fans on the go," said Rick Bradham, Publisher of SpeedWeekly Magazine. "Other Apps may offer TV information about a specific network or racing series, but ours is the first to cover all nationally-televised races for eight of the world's most popular auto racing series."

The user-friendly App allows fans to select a series and date and find the name of the race, the track, the start time, and the network televising the race. After each race, the name of the winning driver will replace the start time and network on the App.

"Whether fans are on the road, in a different time zone, or just away from their computers, they can easily find the start time and network for all their favorite races. This exclusive new App puts the power of a complete program guide in the palm of your hand," said Bradham.

In addition to the new App, SpeedWeekly offers two website widgets that provide an auto racing TV schedule. To grab a widget for your site, go to and select "TV Schedules" from the toolbar.

Become a fan of the Facebook page NASCARBeyond

RCR, Hendrick stumble out of the gate in 2011; Gilliland, Labonte surprise

One thing about Daytona is that with all its uncertainty, things get shaken up right off the bat in the points. Teams that usually contend struggle, and vice versa.
On the rough side, we have the Childress and Hendrick teams.

RCR was up front all through Speedweeks, but in the 500 two of their cars blew engines, something unheard of for RCR cars. Kevin Harvick blew up early and was home before the race even ended. He earned a whopping 2 points for his efforts. The same fate came to Jeff Burton later in the race. Meanwhile, “the Big One” came early in the race this year, and collected three Hendrick drivers, who are all mired deep in the standings now (and to make matters worse, the fouth Hendrick driver – Dale Jr. – crashed late in the race, too.)

On the flipside, some teams that did not expect to run up front did great.
David Gilliland came home 3rd, created a Ford podium sweep behind Carl Edwards and Trevor Bayne.

Meanwhile, Bobby Labonte, in his first ride for JTG Daugherty Racing, came home fourth, showing glimpses of the former champion that he is. I doubt these two will continue in this fashion, but it’s nice to see some new blood up front now and again, and Daytona is always good for that.

Labonte said it’s a big deal to get a good finish to start the year.
"It means a lot. People are going to criticize me for not laughing or smiling enough or whatever, but I was still disappointed we didn't win this Daytona 500. That's going to bother me probably for a little bit, but I think by tomorrow morning. These guys did a great job today. We battled back from a near spin over there and we got a top-five out of it. Today was such a wild day. It was just a little bit too wild at times so to survive -- I think, was a big thing."

Kyle keeps it together
I have to give a call to Kyle Busch, whose car was so squirelly all day, I thought he was going to wreck a hundred times. Something was off, perhaps too much tape on the back as Kyle suggested, but in typical Rowdy fashion he managed to keep it in one piece and finish 8th.

"I think TV will sum it up -- pretty crazy day, overall. Everything was just all over the place and pretty nuts. Glad we were able to come out of this with a pretty good finish for our M&M's Toyota. It felt good that we had a really fast race car. There ain't a car out here that doesn't have damage on it, so I don't know that damage was a real factor. Even the 21 (Trevor Bayne) car has got damage and he won the race. It was nuts. It was wild, just as wild as we all expected it."
Emotional Truck series win for Michael Waltrip

The biggest wreckfest of Speedweeks was the Truck series race, but after all the wrecking we saw a great ending and an emotional win by Michael Waltrip.
Amazingly, he won it on Feb. 18, 2011 … exactly 10 years after winning his first Cup race on Feb. 18, 2001 – the day his friend and mentor Dale Earnhardt died.

The race also featured impressive runs by Clay Rogers, Jennifer Jo Cobb and young Jeffrey Earnhardt (grandson of Dale), who survived the carnage to all finish in the top-7. Cobb’s 6th place finish is the best finish ever by a female in the Truck series.

Waltrip had Earnhardt on his mind in Victory Lane.

“God bless Dale (Earnhardt) and his family and his fans. I came here to celebrate his life with my black truck and my No. 15 car, I didn't come to celebrate a win. This feels really good. I'm thankful for this.
"Ten years ago I stood here and I thought it was the greatest day ever and it turned out to be the worst day ever. I just wanted to come back here this year and honor Dale. This is an amazing run.”

Danica leads a lap
It may have been brief, but the TV cameras constantly focused on Danica during Nationwide races were actually there for a reason on Saturday … she was running up front at Daytona and led a lap. (Shocking, I know).

It didn’t last, and she ended up a lap down in the teens in the finishing order, but I have to say that was a respectable run by the media darling. But before we get too excited, this is Daytona, not the best indicator for the future. Let’s see how she does on nonplate tracks before I declare her stock car endeavors a success (Pretty soon, the “I don’t know what I’m doing” excuse will start to get old if she keeps trying to use it).

Speaking of Patrick, she has yet to confirm her 2012 plans, and some people, including former open-wheel driver Juan Pablo Montoya, believe she has to make a choice between the two types of racing.

“I admire what she is doing. But seriously it is way harder than just doing one. The cars are so different. I did the Rolex 24 Hours and I got back in these cars the first time and it was whew, what the heck happened? I think she wants to do it. She just wants to make sure that she is good enough to do it. I think she has the talent to do it. But Dario (Franchitti) struggled when he came here and he has the talent to do it and he struggled. It is not as easy as people think,” JPM said. “I went all in. I said, what the heck.”

Twists in the points
So in case you’re keeping score, the points are all kinds of hard to figure out now.
See, you don’t get points in series you didn’t declare at the start of the season. So that means Landon Cassill is leading the Nationwide points, even though Tony Stewart won the race. Clay Rogers is leading Truck points, though Waltrip and Sadler beat him in that race. And Carl Edwards is leading Cup points, even though he came home second.

Make sense yet? If not, give it time. It’s for a good cause … having actual up-and-comers win the title in the lower series. Ironically, Bayne, who declared for Nationwide, didn’t get any points for his Daytona 500 victory … strange but true.

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Keeping up with the Keselowskis ... Michigan brothers show love in qualifying Duel

In addition to Trevor Bayne, one other NASCAR name got national attention for the first time this week – Brian Keselowski.

Being from Michigan, I am quite familiar with the Rochester Hills-based Keselowski family and their body of work, and have spoken to both Brad and Brian and know their unique story – which was finally aired on a national stage this week after remaining pretty unknown until now.

As I watched Brad push Brian to the front in the Duel race, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was team that showed up at Daytona on pure hope, didn’t even have the car ready until after they arrived at the track and did some more work, and was painfully slow all week during practice.

Point blank: Brian had no shot at making the race – and with a shoestring budget and little options for this year, that could have been curtains for the team. (which, basically, consists of Brian and his father at this point). So when Brad got behind him and pushed his big brother, who had never gotten the breaks Brad did, it was even bigger than the national media even realized.

Both brothers came up racing, but were often vying for the same ride, and Brad ended up on a bright career path while his older brother struggled to make races and recently has been doing a lot of starting and parking. Brian admitted this week, amid all the media scrutiny following his making the race, that he had some feelings of resentment and jealousy toward Brad in the past when he was passed over for rides.

But I’m hoping that is all in the past. Now, even though he crashed out early in Daytona and finished 41st, Brian has a new lease on his racing life. He took home about a quarter million dollars for his Daytona efforts, which will help the team get some life in it, and he plans to run for Rookie of the Year in the Cup series. Whether he’s able to make all the races and run decent at all is another matter, but at least Brian’s got a fighting chance – and it’s all due to a little brotherly love on the track in the Duel races. Watching him smiling from ear to ear after the race, you would think he just won the lottery – because in a way he did.

The Keselowski feel-good story even got the attention of some established drivers, including Kevin Harvick, who had kind words for the entire Keselowski clan.

“I think you look at that scenario and you look at the Keselowski family and everything that they’ve put into this sport, they’ll make more money off of this one race than they probably have made in years. To see that and hopefully that leads to them being able to get better cars and being able to be more competitive,” Harvick said. “It’s just really neat to see a family that’s that close and to have his brother be the one kind of pushing him up there because nobody else probably would have got behind him and said alright I’m going to stick with you and we’re going to the front, but I think Brad had the confidence in his brother to know that he can drive the race car and get behind him and push him. Usually one thing leads to another so hopefully this leads to good things. Really the Keselowski family, you couldn’t ask for better people. They’ve been around this sport for a long time and are just good people. It couldn’t have happened to better people.”

I echo that sentiment, and congratulate the entire Keselowski family for this weekend’s accomplishments, and I’m sure Bob was beaming with pride after seeing both his boys work together like that in the Duel … (though their 500 finishes won’t be remembered fondly, unfortunately).

We all know Brad has a bright future at Penske, as his past results have shown. But in addition to that, hopefully the Cinderella story that started at Daytona can continue and Brian can at least do what he’s always wanted to do – race every week and make a living at it, even if he’s never a superstar.

Here are some other stories I've written on the Keselowski brothers:
Brian Keselowski: 'That's all I do -- racing'
Native Son: Keselowski doing his best to raise Michigan's profile in NASCAR
Making his mark: Brad Keselowski thriving with new NASCAR team

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Bayne’s Daytona 500 win sets him on path to stardom, makes Wood Brothers relevant again

Michael Waltrip really screwed up in 2010.

Last year, he had an incredible young talent named Trevor Bayne in his Nationwide stable, and the team was running well and the future was bright. Then, sponsorship issues arose (meaning the team couldn’t guarantee sponsorship for the whole year in 2011) and Bayne was able to get out of his contract and defect to the Roush stable and the Ford camp.

Sorry Mikey, but you should’ve fought harder to keep young Trevor, because you lost a great one, and the whole world saw that Sunday after Bayne shocked the world and won the Daytona 500 – a race longtime veterans with major talent like Tony Stewart and Mark Martin have yet to win -- in only his second career Cup start.

As that guy in “The Princess Bride” once said ….. “Inconceivable”

When asked about the possibility of winning the 500 on Feb. 16, four days before the 500, Bayne said the idea was hard to even imagine.

“First, that means we would be winning the race, which is great. And then to get Ford’s 600th win, I would kind of feel bad coming in after all these guys have been working on it for 599, and I come in and it’s like ‘Here’s 600.’ But that would be incredible and to do it with the Wood Brothers and how everything has happened, that would be insane. I don’t even know how to fathom that.”

Well, now is the time to fathom it, because the kid pulled it off. You could see it coming all race. You could tell he was fast, and worked great with the other guys on track so well you would think he had been doing this for years. In Yogi Bear fashion, this kid is smarter than the average driver … including some many years his senior.

After the race, 20-year-old (plus one day) Bayne said he couldn’t believe what he had just done.

“I keep thinking I am dreaming, I really do. We said a prayer before the race and we prayed a lot and this shows you how powerful God is. I am so thankful for the job that these guys did on this car. It is unbelievable. Our first 500, are you kidding me? To win our first one? Our second ever Cup race? This is unbelievable.”

Bayne, who has been racing since age 5, got a little advice this week from an expert at Daytona – David Pearson.

“The first thing he said was to be careful. That was the mindset that I had to have at the beginning. I didn’t forget that or take it lightly. We had to survive that whole race. All the crashes, we had to be there at the end to have a chance at that. The next thing he said was that he hoped we could do what he did in the 21. We did that too, so hopefully he will give us more advice and we can keep following it up. David Pearson is the man and it is so cool to be following in his footsteps in this car.”

Don’t let the age fool you. Some guys are just good out of the gate. You could tell it when Trevor starting battling veterans like Ron Hornaday and Kyle Busch neck-and-neck in the Nationwide series in 2009 and 2010, when he was still a teenager.

You could even tell during his first Cup start last fall for the Wood Brothers, when he came home a respectable 17th and did all the right things on track despite his inexperience.

Now that he’s won Daytona, the whole world changes for this kid. He’s already declared the title he’s running for (Nationwide), so that’s probably not going to change, but even if he can’t earn points I bet the Wood Brothers – whose founder Glen Wood raced in the first Daytona 500 in 1959 and raced on the beach before that -- will pull together the sponsorship they need to run Bayne all year in the Cup series. He’s fast, and can still rack up wins and top-5s even if they don’t earn him driver points.

And perhaps most importantly, Bayne’s win is huge for the Wood Brothers team, which many people had forgotten about after years of bad runs in the past decade. People forgot that this team is a part of the sport’s foundation and had won races going back to the 1950s. They forgot about the glory years with David Pearson (whose 1976 retro paint scheme was recreated on Bayne’s winning car this year). To most modern fans, the Wood Brothers were nothing more than a backmarker team, with its history long forgotten.

That is no longer, thanks to one Trevor Bayne. And the ironic thing is it almost couldn’t have happened. Bayne said prior to the 500 that before he ran his first Cup race at Texas last fall, he hadn’t even been approved by NASCAR to run at Daytona in the Cup series.

“The reason I went there to run Texas was to get approved for Daytona and this race we’re gonna run now. At the time, I thought it might be a fifth Roush car or something, but it ended up going really well at
Texas and the Wood Brothers were like, ‘Hey, we’ll keep moving forward

And the good news for the Wood Brothers is that Bayne likes where he’s at and hopes to stick around a while.

“It’s a really awesome opportunity and I love the Wood Brothers team. If I could just drive there forever I would be happy because they’re just racers. Eddie and Len Wood, they like to hang out at the shop and be a part of it. Leonard is always there working on projects. I always tell Leonard, ‘It’s no wonder you guys won so many races.’ This guy is smart. He’s in there building carbon fiber R/C cars and all kinds of stuff, so it’s just a racer’s dream to drive for the Wood Brothers. It’s a famous car and to make my debut here at Daytona with them, I couldn’t ask for a better situation.”

After that win, Trevor, I’m sure they love you too, as do millions of new fans who didn’t know who you were on Saturday.

Ford Racing facts
-- Bayne’s win in the Daytona 500 was the 600th NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series win for Ford Racing and its 12th overall in “The Great American
-- Trevor Bayne became the 10th different Ford driver to win the Daytona 500.
-- Trevor Bayne registered the first win of his NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series career with today’s win in only his second series start.
-- He becomes the seventh driver in NASCAR history to make the Daytona
500 his first NSCS victory.
-- Bayne is the 75th different driver to win a Cup race with Ford
Racing, and the first since Jamie McMurray won for the first time with
the manufacturer in 2007.
-- The win by Wood Brothers Racing is the first by a Ford team other
than Roush Fenway Racing since Dale Jarrett won for Robert Yates
Racing at Talladega in October 2005.
-- It also marks the first win for a non-RFR team in the Ford Fusion
since it became the manufacturer’s flagship model in the NASCAR Sprint
Cup Series in 2006.
-- The last NSCS win for the Wood Brothers was with Elliott Sadler at
Bristol on March 25, 2001 – which happened to be all-time win No. 512
for Ford Racing.

Ford Daytona 500 Race Winners (Owner):
1963 – Tiny Lund (Wood Brothers)
1965 – Fred Lorenzen (Holman-Moody)
1967 – Mario Andretti (Holman-Moody)
1969 – LeeRoy Yarbrough (Junior Johnson)
1978 – Bobby Allison (Bud Moore)
1985 – Bill Elliott (Harry Melling)
1987 – Bill Elliott (Harry Melling)
1992 – Davey Allison (Robert Yates)
1996 – Dale Jarrett (Robert Yates)
2000 – Dale Jarrett (Robert Yates)
2009 – Matt Kenseth (Jack Roush)
2011 – Trevor Bayne (Wood Brothers)

Wood Brothers notes
-- This was the fifth Daytona 500 win for the Wood Brothers.
1963 – Tiny Lund (This was the first Daytona 500 win for Ford Racing)
1968 – Cale Yarborough
1972 – A.J. Foyt
1976 – David Pearson
2011 – Trevor Bayne

-- Founder Glen Wood competed in the Inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22,
1959 and finished 34th in a field of 59 competitors.

-- The Wood Brothers have 98 all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins
with 16 different drivers. David Pearson ranks first on the team list
with 43 wins followed by Cale Yarborough, 13; Neil Bonnett, 9; Marvin
Panch, 8; A.J. Foyt, 5; Glen Wood and Dan Gurney, 4; Speedy Thompson
and Kyle Petty, 2; Donnie Allison, Curtis Turner, Tiny Lund, Buddy
Baker, Dale Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd, Elliott Sadler and Trevor Bayne,

Here are some other blog posts I've written about Trevor Bayne:
Whoever picks up Trevor Bayne will get a future star -- 9/27/10
Bayne should compete for Nationwide title -- 1/2/11

Become a fan of the Facebook page NASCARBeyond

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Check on my Daytona 500 live chat today

During today's Daytona 500, I will be holding a live chat. Head to the link below and chat with me during the race.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Children now allowed in garage on raceday; Daytona 500 by the numbers

This year is all about change, and another change was announced this week by NASCAR – one that will make a lot of children happy.

A revision in NASCAR’s garage access policy allows an adult with approved access, either via annual credential (hard card) or a single event license, to bring their children in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garages on race days. The policy is in effect only during the “cold” pre-race period. Each child will be issued a special credential. There is no minimum age requirement.

”NASCAR offers the best behind-the-scenes access in all of sports and this gives young people the opportunity to experience this excitement up close and personal,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of track operations. “The thrill of being in the NASCAR garage on race day cannot be duplicated and we’re looking forward to having our young fans participate in this race-day experience.”

In addition, the dress code for the garage area has been relaxed, and now allows shorts, open-toed shoes, sleeveless blouses and skirts/dresses.

This is a very cool change, and makes NASCAR even more accessible to fans than it already is. I know a lot of young fans will be looking forward to this season even more now.

Daytona 500 by the numbers
-- The 2011 edition will be the 53rd running of the Daytona 500.
-- Although the first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, it has been the season-opener only since 1982.
-- 514 drivers have competed in at least one Daytona 500; 304 in more than one.
-- 34 drivers have won a Daytona 500.
-- Eight drivers have won more than one Daytona 500, led by Richard Petty, with seven victories.
-- The eight drivers who have won the Daytona 500 more than once: Richard Petty (seven), Cale Yarborough (four), Bobby Allison (three), Dale Jarrett (three), Jeff Gordon (three), Bill Elliott (two), Sterling Marlin (two) and Michael Waltrip (two).
-- Fred Lorenzen posted a top-10 finish in eight of his nine Daytona 500s, the best percentage of drivers who have competed in more than two Daytona 500s.
-- Dale Earnhardt finished in the top 10 in 16 of his 23 Daytona 500s.
-- Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each had 16 top 10s in the Daytona 500, more than any other driver.
-- Dale Earnhardt had 12 top fives in the Daytona 500, more than any other driver.
-- Only 12 drivers have an average finish of 10th or better in the Daytona 500, five of those competed in the Daytona 500 only once.
-- Clint Bowyer has an 11.2 average finish in five appearances, the best of the active drivers who have competed in more than one Daytona 500.
-- Other than Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500, no driver has ever won in his first appearance.
-- 28 of the 34 drivers who have won, participated in at least two Daytona 500s before visiting Victory Lane.
-- Dale Earnhardt competed 19 times before winning his only Daytona 500 (1998), the longest span of any of the 34 race winners.
-- Six drivers made 10 or more attempts before their first Daytona 500 victory: Dale Earnhardt (19), Buddy Baker (18), Darrell Waltrip (16), Bobby Allison (14), Michael Waltrip (14) and Sterling Marlin 12).
-- The most Daytona 500s all-time without a victory was Dave Marcis (33 races).
-- Mark Martin (26) leads active drivers without a victory.
-- Six drivers posted their career-first victory with a win in the Daytona 500: Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994) and Michael Waltrip (2001).
-- Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (point-paying) qualifying races: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966).
-- A driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s three times. Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95).
-- Kevin Harvick’s 0.020-second margin of victory over Mark Martin in the 2007 Daytona 500 is the 10th-closest overall since the advent of electronic timing in 1993, and the closest in a Daytona 500.
-- 26 of the 52 Daytona 500s have been won from a top-five starting position.
-- Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a race winner has started.
-- Nine have been won from the pole. The last to do so was Dale Jarrett, in 2000.
-- 16 Daytona 500s have been won from the front row.

-- Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd.
-- The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona was a 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 1959.
-- Richard Petty won his 200th career race on July 4, 1984 at Daytona.
-- Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under lights ever since.

-- There have been 127 NASCAR Sprint Cup races since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 52 have been 500 miles, 48 were 400 miles and four 250 miles. There were also 23 qualifier races that were point races.
-- Fireball Roberts won the inaugural pole at Daytona.
-- Bob Welborn won the first race at Daytona, the 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500.
-- Lee Petty won the inaugural Daytona 500 on Feb. 22, 1959.
-- Fireball Roberts won the first 400-mile race at Daytona, the 1963 Firecracker 400.
-- 52 drivers have posted poles at Daytona.
-- Cale Yarborough leads all drivers with 12 poles at Daytona.
-- Bill Elliott leads all active drivers with five poles at Daytona.
-- 54 drivers have won at Daytona.
-- Richard Petty leads all drivers in victories at Daytona with 10.
-- Jeff Gordon has six victories at Daytona, more than any other active driver.
-- The Wood Brothers have won 14 races at Daytona, more than any other car owner.
-- 17 full-length races at Daytona have been won from the pole, the last to do it was Kevin Harvick in last year’s Coke Zero 400.

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Michael Annett apologizes for DUI incident, vows to turn a new leaf

Rusty Wallace Racing driver Michael Annett, who recently rear-ended a car stopped at a red light in Mooresville, N.C. while he had a staggering blood alcohol content of .32, is getting the close watch of NASCAR in wake of the incident. He is on probation until Dec. 31, and will be evaluated by a certified substance abuse professional at NASCAR’s discretion and will be subject to random alcohol and drug testing.
Annett issued an apology this week.

"I think let down and embarrassment is kind of the key words for everybody. Last, is the NASCAR community. These people come here each weekend to watch us race and there's a lot of kids out there that look up to us as role models. If I had kids I think I would be the last real person that I would point to for them to look up to right now. I'm definitely owning up to the mistake I made and this is definitely the worst week of my life -- the lowest I've ever felt as a person.

Annett said it’s up to him to take this chance to turn his life around and put the bad behind him.
“This can go two ways,” he said. “It can either be the end of me or it can be the start of a new life and a better person, better driver and the word I
used earlier -- role model. This is definitely something that I think is going to end up to be a success story in the end and definitely have the people behind me and the support from Rusty Wallace, my family and everybody I listed earlier. I have everybody I need behind me to do this in turning this around and being a better person."

Of course, getting a DUI is especially bad when you consider these guys’ day jobs – driving a racecar. Annett said he is fully aware of this, in blunt fashion.

"We're professional athletes and we need to maintain a certain lifestyle so we have to drive. Driving while intoxicated -- besides shooting somebody, it's the worst thing you could possibly do. It was just a huge mistake on my part. It's something that no one should ever do. You can make a lot of mistakes in your life and that's one that you should just never
make. It was just a horrible judgment call on my part and it's something that is never going to happen again. We're definitely taking steps to make sure that it never happens again."

As stupid as what he did was, I’ll give the kid credit. He recognizes that he’s young, made a stupid decision and the future is his to decide. Considering he hasn’t even driven a race for Rusty’s team yet, he doesn’t want to blow this chance to make a career for himself, and I’m pretty sure he won’t repeat this level of stupidity in the future. Because if he does, he’ll get a healthy suspension and be on NASCAR’s naughty list possibly forever.

Annett went on to say the incident scared him, because of the terrible things that could have happened.

"It scared me that I could have killed somebody or even injured somebody. I could have injured myself. Not only just the people that were involved in the accident and I drove a ways until we got to that point. There's so many lives that I risked and then also it was a wake-up call, the fact that I made that bad of a decision to get behind the wheel that night. I need to sit back and think what kind of person am I, and I need to better my life and better my decisions and definitely need to start making a lot better judgment calls."

Bayne strong in qualifying
Among the biggest surprises in Daytona qualifying was the third place run for young Trevor Bayne, who will start behind Hendrick teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon.

Bayne said he’s honored to be starting the biggest race of his career so close to the front.

“To be sitting third behind two of the most well-known drivers in NASCAR – Jeff Gordon my childhood hero – I mean, this is incredible. I can’t thank this Wood Brothers team enough and everybody at Ford Racing and Roush Yates for giving us a car like this to bring here.”

Bayne said he knows that to finish well in the 500, he will need to find other drivers to work with.
“Now, more than ever, you have to build those relationships and rely on them to help you as much as helping them. I would be fine with pushing somebody all day as long as we can finish second. I would be good with that, but I think we’ve got a really stout race car and they’ve done an awesome job all week with it.”

Skinner has truck series ride
Truck series mainstay Mike Skinner will continue his presence in that series in 2011, driving in the No. 45 Tundra for Eddie Sharp Racing.

"I'm thrilled for the opportunity to have Mike Skinner drive for us at Daytona," said team owner Eddie Sharp. "To have someone of his caliber drive for our young truck program is exciting. I have known Mike for many years, and I am thankful for his trust in our program and his relationship with Toyota. I'm really looking forward to working with him."

Skinner, a former champion in the truck series, said he’s ready to help Sharp make the move up from ARCA in the truck series.

"Eddie Sharp and I have been friends for a long time, and I have watched him win big in the ARCA Racing Series over the past few years," said Skinner. "He came to me a few years ago and told me about his goal to move into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I think it is exciting to be able to work together and help him accomplish this dream in his first full season in NASCAR."

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Speedweeks, once again, is heavily Earnhardt themed

Earnhardt and Daytona are two words that go hand I hand. For the past three decades, a trip to Daytona has meant that an Earnhardt would do something impressive on the track.

This year, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is wasting no time continuing that tradition, as he claimed the pole for the 500 by edging out his Hendrick teammate Jeff Gordon.

Amazingly, it is his first restrictor plate pole position in his decade-plus long career. (this is his 400th overall race start.).
Earnhardt also ran decent in the Bud Shootout, but did not have a car to compete with the RCR machines of Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick, or the eventual winner Kurt Busch.

If Dale Jr. can win the race and kick of 2011 in Victory Lane (no easy task at Daytona, where everyone has a legitimate shot to win), it would no doubt be the most popular victory in a long time, and possibly could be the springboard for Jr. returning to truly competing in the sport.

It would also be significant for other reasons -- namely the fact that the Earnhardt family is marking 10 years since the late, great Dale Earnhardt Sr. tragically died on the last turn of the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

Also, SPEED put together an intense and heartbreaking documentary about that event called “The Day”, and I recommend that all fans of the sport check it out if they can. You can still see the heartbreak in the eyes of key players in that day’s events -- including Ken Schrader, both Michael and Darrell Waltrip and Richard Childress, as they recall the terrible events of the day Earnhardt died. (most eerie moment: Childress recalls Big E telling him on the radio in mid-race, after a big Tony Stewart wreck that day which got him airborne, that the restrictor plate racing is going to get someone killed).

As someone who was at the track that day working, and had to stop writing a happy race story about Michael Waltrip winning his first race and start writing an obituary, the show brought back some very bad memories, but I am glad I watched it.

It was so powerful because it showed just how many people were affected by Earnhardt’s death, especially those closest to him. (I feel the worst for Schrader, who was the first to the scene and saw the gruesome scene up close; I hope he can wipe that image from his head, but I doubt it.).

In honor of the driver many claim is the greatest ever, the track is asking fans to observe a moment of silence on the third lap of this year’s Daytona 500 as a tribute, and you can bet they will oblige, and a few tears will be shed amid all that horsepower on Sunday.

Mustang to Cup in 2013
In a move I like, Ford wants to race the Mustang in Cup starting in 2013. This is a great move, which started with the Nationwide series, and means the car may actually look unique from the other cars. Imagine that.

“We have declared our interest to NASCAR that we would like to see the Mustang in Cup," Jamie Allison, director of Ford's North American Motorsports program said.

The approval process will be lengthy, but Ford wisely wants to get a car on the track that resembles one that can be purchased off a showroom floor.

"We are driving to make sure that the car we race is more consistent and more in context with the cars we sell," Allison said. "They have to look like the cars we sell."

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NASCAR tweaks rules after unique Bud Shootout

After Saturday night’s Bud Shootout … which I can only call interesting … I had an image in my head of a very strange Daytona 500. Would the biggest race of the season feature an endless stream of sustained 2-car drafts, as opposed to a big pack – thus producing the strangest looking 500 ever?

Well, it’s still possible, but much less likely after NASCAR has tweaked its rules to limit those sustained 2-car drafts. On Sunday, NASCAR officials issued a bulletin to race teams with the following specifications:
"The maximum size for the air inlet for the cooling system will be 2½ inches tall by 20 inches wide.
" The pressure release valve on the water system will be set at 33 pounds per square inch.”

What that means to the non-mechanic is that the cars can’t push each other for long periods of time without overheating. This change will also calm those concerned with another issue – speed. With less pushing ability, it’s highly unlikely the 206 mph speeds we saw in the Shootout will be repeated in the 500. This is mainly an issue because once you get to 200 mph, the cars are much more likely to flip in the case of an accident. So by lowering the speed a little, it’s less likely the fans will get an upclose view of a car in the catchfence or worse.

As I said, the Shootout was a very unique race, and as someone who’s watched restrictor plate racing for over 15 years, I can honestly say I never saw a race like that before. They were even more glued to each other than usual, for longer periods of time (so much so, in fact, that a couple of wrecks happened unexpectedly from people who were “helping” each other).

I couldn’t decide if it was boring or interesting, and the truth is that it went back and forth between the two depending how the cars were lined up. (my favorite part was the Kyle Busch pass of the entire field at the start finish line; only to be shuffled immediately back when he didn’t find a partner up front).

I think NASCAR is wise to tweak things a little, as the 2-car group setup would be very strange to run for a full 500-mile race, and I don’t think it’s what they want to put out there. Whether these changes actually get rid of that setup, though, is something we’ll have to wait and see. Either way, it’s already been a very interesting Speedweeks.

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Keselowski pays visit to his home state of Michigan, is honored by state Senate

Brad Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide series champion, was presented Tuesday with an honor from State Senator Jim Marleau of Oakland County's Lake Orion.


Tuesday was a busy day for Rochester Hills, Michigan, native Brad Keselowski, who returned to his home state to promote the upcoming NASCAR season and collect a unique honor from the state Senate.

Keselowski, the 2010 Nationwide series champion, made a stop Tuesday at a lansing restaurant to help promote Michigan International Speedway's Season Kick Off event, and later was presented with an honor from State Senator Jim Marleau of Oakland County's Lake Orion.

Marleau presented Brad with a copy of state Senate Resolution 12, which recognizes Keselowski's on-track excellence, and his contributions to his home community and the state of Michigan.

At the MIS kickoff event, Keselowski said he's looking forward to returning to his home state's track in summer 2011.

“MIS is an unbelievable place,” Keselowski said. “I am fortunate to have won back-to-back Nationwide Series races at MIS and will look to defend that race win in June this year. However, we would also really like to win at MIS in the Sprint Cup Series. I love coming back to Michigan and helping out with these events any way I can.”

MIS president Roger Curtis provided an update to the physical improvements taking place at the Brooklyn track. He said nost of the three grandstands between turns 3 and 4 have been taken down, and that the pedestrian tunnel under the frontstretch of the track is being widened. Curtis mentioned other changes too, such as the moving of qualifying to Saturday in June, and the addition of the Great Lakes Wine Fest -- which is scheduled for May 21 at the track.

On a more personal note, Keselowski talked Tuesday about his new Checkered Flag Foundation, a group that supports military personnel, veterans, first-responders and others wounded in combat or in the line of duty.

Curtis said that the legislative honor given to Keselowski was well deserved.
“Brad is very deserving of this honor,” Curtis said. “He has become a very successful driver in NASCAR and has done a lot for his home state and given back in so many ways. It was nice to see our state government honor him today for those efforts and achievements.”

MIS schedule
The full lineup for MIS is as follows.Value pricing for the tickets ends on February 28.

Michigan International Speedway - 2011 Schedule
Saturday, May 21
Great Lakes Wine Fest

Friday, June 17
ARCA Racing Series RainEater Wiper Blades 200

Saturday, June 18
NASCAR Nationwide Series

Sunday, June 19
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400

Friday, Aug. 19
Meijer Pole Day

Saturday, Aug. 20
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series VFW 200

Sunday, Aug. 21
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Brian Keselowski will try Cup
In other Keselowski news, Brad's older brother Brian Keselowski will try to run the full Sprint Cup schedule in 2011 with his family-run K-Automotive team.

"I planned on running a full schedule, but so far, we haven't been able to put it all together. We're planning on doing Daytona, and we're going to wait and see from there. We might wait until after the first part of the season gets over with," said Keselowski. "It's going to depend on our money, and how much sponsorship we might be able to draw."

The move came because Keselowski decided taht he Nationwide rules this season made running in that series too costly to merit staying at that level.

"We decided that & it wasn't much more expensive to run the Sprint Cup Series. If we're going to spend that kind of money, we might as well go Cup racing. It's not going to be easy, but we want to race."

I wish him luck, because while the prize money may be better in Cup, it's also harder to qualify. If he can get into Daytona, that would be a great start to the season and move him toward his goal of racing Cup all year.

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Bud Shootout, Daytona 500 qualifying on tap this weekend

The Daytona 500 may not be until February 20, but this weekend will give NASCAR fans an early look at their favorite drivers and racecars with some on-track action at Daytona.

Saturday night will feature the Bud Shootout, whose entry rules have been revamped once again this year to take the focus away from pole winners and more toward an all-star race feel. This short burst of a race (75 laps in two segments), with no points on the line, is a great way to kick off the season, and gives a glimpse of what the Daytona 500 might bring in terms of who will be competitive.

The Bud Shootout now includes:
-- The 12 drivers that qualified for the 2010 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
-- Past NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions
-- Past Budweiser Shootout champions
-- Past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola champions
-- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie of the year drivers from 2001-2010

Then, on Sunday, fans can watch the Cup drivers make their laps and start the long and convulted process for the Daytona 500 (only the front row is officially set), which will continue on Thursday, Feb. 17, with the Gatorade Duels.
With new cars, a new surface at Daytona, and more new rules than we've seen in a while, I know I'm not alone in saying I can't wait for the season to start.

Bud Shootout by the numbers
-- The number of participants has ranged from a low of seven in 1981 to a high of 28 in 2009 (30 are eligible for this year’s event).
-- The drivers with the most Budweiser Shootout appearances: Bill Elliott (23), Mark Martin (22), Rusty Wallace (19), Ken Schrader (19), Jeff Gordon (17)
-- Mark Martin had appeared in the most consecutive Budweiser Shootout races, competing in 20 consecutive events from 1989-2008. The active leader in consecutive appearances is Jeff Gordon, with 17. This year marks his 18th.
There have been eight multiple winners in the Budweiser Shootout:
-- Tony Stewart has won three of the last 10 (2001, 2002 and 2007).
-- Dale Earnhardt won six events, most all-time (1980, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 1995).
-- Dale Jarrett won in 1996, 2000 and 2004.
-- Other multiple winners: Neil Bonnett (1983-1984), Ken Schrader, (1989-1990), Jeff Gordon (1994 and 1997), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003 and 2008) and Kevin Harvick (2009-2010)
-- Bonnett, Schrader, Stewart and Harvick are the only drivers to win back-to-back races. No driver has ever won three consecutive Budweiser Shootouts.
-- Buddy Baker (1979), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Jeff Gordon (1994), Dale Jarrett (1996) and Denny Hamlin (2006) all won the first Budweiser Shootout in which they competed.
-- Only five times in the 32-year history of the race has the winner gone on to win the Daytona 500: Bobby Allison (1982), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000), Jeff Gordon (1997)
By the Numbers: Budweiser Shootout at Daytona
-- .08 –Margin of victory in seconds by Dale Earnhardt over Sterling Marlin in 1995, the closest margin in Budweiser Shootout history
-- 1 – Laps led by Rusty Wallace (1998), Neil Bonnett (1983-84), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Dale Jarrett (2000 and 2004) and Kevin Harvick (2009) in the Budweiser Shootouts they won
-- 2.75 – Average finish by Dale Earnhardt, best by any driver with multiple starts.
-- 5 – Drivers who have won the event in their first appearance (Buddy Baker, 1979; Dale Earnhardt, 1980; Jeff Gordon, 1994; Dale Jarrett, 1996; Denny Hamlin, 2006)
-- 11 – Number of starts before winning, most since race began in 1979 (Rusty Wallace and Mark Martin)
-- 14 – Number of different leaders in the 2009 event, most since race began in 1979
-- 23 – Number of lead changes in the 2009 event, highest number since race began in 1979
-- 27 – Kevin Harvick’s starting position in 2009, the lowest by a race winner in the event’s history
-- 30 – Number of drivers eligible for this year’s event, which would be the largest field in Budweiser Shootout history. The previous high was 28 in 2009.
-- 44 – Laps led by Greg Biffle in 2005, the most by a driver who did not win the event
-- 47 – Laps led by Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008, the most in a single Budweiser Shootout

Terry Labonte helps out startup team
What do you do if you're a new team trying to get into the Daytona 500? You hire a Cup champion to drive your car, guaranteeing you a spot in the biggest race of the year.

FAS Lane Racing, the new team by Frankie Stoddard, will feature driver Terry Labonte in the 500. Mike Skinner is expected to drive the rest of the year in the #32 Ford.
"We plan to run all the races this year," Stoddard said. "I'm hoping that more funding will come down the pipe and we can ramp up to be competitive."(USA Today), been told the team will not run in the Shootout.

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