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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Drivers weigh in on Kentucky racetrack -- some more nicely than others

A (sort of) new track, at least new to some Cup series drivers, brings new challenges, and of course everyone wants to be the one who goes down in history as the inaugural winner of a race … since new facilities rarely are introduced and it’s such a rare opportunity.

Clint Bowyer said it doesn’t matter where the track is; the fact is that it’s new and highly coveted as a result

“Anytime you can win an inaugural race, it doesn’t matter where it’s at, it will be huge,” Bowyer said. “I’m telling you, this is a huge fan base, it’s a great market to be in and to be able to win the first race here is going to be a big thing for us.”

Other drivers were a bit more critical of the new Cup track. Tony Stewart said that while it is technically new to Cup, he wishes it were more different.

“It’s another mile-and-a-half so it’s not like we’re seeing something totally new. We need less mile-and-a-halves and more tracks that have their own characteristics that are not copied off of something else,” Stewart said. “It’s still fun to be here though.”

Stewart was also critical of the safety setup at Kentucky.

“They don’t have enough SAFER barriers yet. Not near enough SAFER barriers for what we’re doing here and how close the wall is to the race track,” Stewart griped. “Hopefully, none of us will have to test that out and see anything.”

Back to the positive side, Kevin Harvick had kind words for the facility.

“This is what our sport needs, new events, not necessarily new facilities, but a new facility for us to race on. Kentucky Speedway has been a great facility over the years. I was fortunate enough to come here in 2001 and win the inaugural Nationwide race here,” Harvick said. “It is a place we have all been to and made a bunch of laps testing. A lot of us have run the Nationwide races here. It is a fun race track. The enthusiasm from the fans and the people and the sponsors is great. I’m excited about it.”

Roush at Kentucky—the numbers
A few facts about the Roush Fenway team and its history at the Kentucky track
-- Roush Fenway racing has started 41 NASCAR races at Kentucky Speedway, turning 16 top-10 finishes,10 top fives, three wins and two poles. Roush Fenway has led 519 laps of NASCAR action at Kentucky, while averaging a 15.5 finish in both the truck and NNS.

-- Roush Fenway’s Greg Biffle won the first ever NASCAR race at Kentucky in 2000, taking the checkered flag in the truck race. He finished second in the inaugural Nationwide Series race there in 2001.

-- Roush Fenway has started 16 Nationwide races at Kentucky, posting one win, four top fives and seven top 10s. Roush Fenway finished second in the first three races at Kentucky, before breaking into the win column in 2005.

Reaction to Nationwide race leaving IRP, going to Brickyard
It became official this week that the Nationwide race at Indianapolis next year and beyond will move from IRP to the Brickyard … From a short track to the biggest track of them all (prestige-wise at least).

Drivers, such as Tony Stewart, had mixed emotions.
“I think it’s cool for IMS, I’m kind of sad for ORP though because I know from my history at ORP that was a big event that we all looked forward to as USAC drivers getting to watch the Nationwide guys come,” Stewart said. “I think it’s cool, but it’s kind of mixed emotions on both sides.”

Kevin Harvick, who has won at IRP, said it’s a sign of changing times and also looked at it from an owner’s perspective also.
“I think things change. Obviously this is a huge opportunity for the Nationwide Series to go to the Brickyard. From an owner’s perspective it’s going to be a lot easier to sell than it was at the other facility. IRP has been a great part of this series and hopefully as we move forward there are some opportunities to keep the Truck Series there or maybe even the Nationwide Series on a different date,” Harvick said. “As far as that particular weekend goes, I think it’s going to be good for the Cup cars. I think the fans are going to have something else to watch on Friday and Saturday with the Rolex Series and the Nationwide Series. It just creates more of an active weekend at the big track. But from an owners perspective it’s going to be a much easier race to sell, that’s been a tough race to sell for us in the past.”

As someone who has watched races at IRP and the Brickyard, I have to say I hate this move. IRP is an awesome track, and the racing there is great and competitive every time. Short track action can't be beat, and to remove this race from the schedule is a crime, and I hope it can be rescheduled for another weekend.

As far as Nationwide racing at the Brickyard, I am afraid it will be a snoozefest, as the Cup races never excited me at the Brickyard. I hope I'm wrong, but I'm afraid I'll be right.

Congrats to David Ragan
Belated congratulations go out to David Ragan, who earned his first-ever Cup win in the Daytona race last week. He is the third first-time winner this year, after Trevor Bayne and Regan Smith.

A couple years ago, I picked Ragan to make the Chase, but that didn’t exactly pan out. Jack Roush stayed committed to Ragan though, and despite all who doubted him, he now looks like the smart one (that usually happens with Jack … he doesn’t pick too many bad ones).

Now, several years into his stint with Roush, Ragan is finally starting to show his abilities as a driver, and he picked a good time too. UPS will soon choose whether it stays with Ragan and Roush or moves to another team and driver, and this win will be a good selling point for the Ragan camp. We’ll have to stay tuned to see what happens.

Voting Opens For 2011 Most Popular Driver in Nationwide, Trucks

Fans can vote online for the 2011 Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (Twitter hashtags: #NNSMPD, #NCWTSMPD). Voting has begun and runs through Nov. 17.

This year, fans have dedicated sites on to vote. For the NASCAR Nationwide Series, fans can go to and to for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Fans may vote once per day leading up to the Nov. 17 deadline.

To be eligible to receive votes, drivers must have selected either the NASCAR Nationwide Series or NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to receive 2011 driver championship points. Additionally, drivers must have attempted at least half of each series’ races this season.
The winners will be announced at the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Awards Banquet. The combined post-season gala will again take place in South Florida at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel on Monday, Nov. 21.

With eligibility tied to their selected series for points, a new Most Popular Driver will be crowned in both series this year. Brad Keselowski, the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, earned a record-setting third consecutive series Most Popular Driver award via fan vote following last season. Kenny Wallace also has three Most Popular Driver awards in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, though not consecutively. Narain Karthikeyan captured the most votes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to earn that series’ Most Popular Driver honor in 2010.

NASCAR Reinstates Two Members; Suspends Two Members

NASCAR has reinstated Jack Smith, a driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and Gary Frost, a crew member in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Smith’s reinstatement comes following his Sept. 7, 2010 suspension for actions detrimental to stock car racing. Smith remains under NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Frost has successfully completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery Program following his May 24, 2011 suspension for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy.

Smith’s story is interesting, in that he says he became hooked on prescription drugs after a racing accident; and got busted with a phony prescription … and, furthermore, that getting busted was the best thing that could have happened to him. He went through the program, and now is off the drugs. I say way to go, Jack. The road to getting off a dependency like that isn’t easy, but now he’s back and able to compete in the sport he loves.

Perhaps if Jeremy Mayfield had followed the same path, he might still be racing instead of in an endless court battle with NASCAR.

On the opposite end of things on the substance abuse front, two crew members in Nationwide, Troy Hartman and Denise Harmon-Mixon, have been indefinitely suspended from NASCAR for violating the substance abuse policy.

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Mark Martin's 50-pole accomplishment further proof he's a Hall of Famer

Mark Martin moved into elite company last week, capturing his 50th career pole.
This is no easy accomplishment, and Mark deserves a hearty round of applause for this rare accomplishment.

How rare is it? Here’s the list of all the people who have done it.

Richard Petty (123), David Pearson (113), Jeff Gordon (70), Cale Yarborough (69), Darrell Waltrip (59), Bobby Allison (58), Bill Elliott (55), Mark Martin (50).

Numbers like this are why Mark will be a guaranteed Hall of Famer, even though he’s never won a Cup title. He’s truly one of the best the sport has ever seen.

Congrats Mark.

Congrats to the Biffles
Greg Biffle and his wife Nicole are the proud parents of their first child, Emma Elizabeth, who weighed in at seven pounds and six ounces when she was born Wednesday afternoon. Congrats to the parents.

France seeks to seal divorce papers
In less pleasant family news, NASCAR chairman Brian France once again is asking a federal court to keep secret new details about his messy divorce. He has accused his former wife of tape recording telephone conversations to extort money from him, and France has asked a federal judge to seal documents surrounding those telephone conversations.

Allegedly, "sensitive personal and financial matters" are discussed. This goes against the general rule of law, as almost all divorce filings and related documents are public record under North Carolina law, but France is saying that if the information gets out that it could harm him both personally and professionally.

"If this Court were to allow the record to remain unsealed, large portions of those illegally recorded conversations and information would be filed on the record for the entire world to see," France's attorneys wrote "This case is a private matter, involving private conversations about private issues. The only interest in allowing the public access to the judicial records and documents in this action is the promotion of a divorce scandal involving a highly regarded public figure."

Attorneys for the Charlotte Observer and its news partner WCNC-TV have filed motions pposing the sealing of the documents, calling France’s claim unconstitutional.

"Mr. France is entitled to no better treatment and deserves no worse than any other litigant," the attorneys said. "If any legitimately sensitive information arises over the course of this litigation, this Court has the power to place a particular document containing such information under seal or redact it."

I have to side with the paper here. If there is sensitive information, black it out. But to seal it all is a ridiculous idea.

I just have one question: What is Mr. France trying to hide?

Auburn Hills business marks anniversary with MIS ticket giveaway

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Quality Lube Oil Change and Auto Repair in Auburn Hills first opened for business in 1981. This July, the family-owned-and-operated business celebrates 30 years of successful operation, having served thousands of satisfied customers through the years.

In celebration, visitors to Quality Lube throughout the month of July can enter to win tickets to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway on August 21. No purchase is necessary to enter.

Quality Lube is also collecting donations for the non-profit Meadow Brook Theatre, Michigan’s largest producing professional theatre, located on the campus of Oakland University. Donations will help fund new theatre seating. Customers who donate will receive a free gift certificate or vehicle fuel system treatment compliments of Quality Lube.

Quality Lube Oil Change and Auto Repair is located at 3450 East Walton Blvd. at Squirrel Road in Auburn Hills. Call 248-373-0086 or visit for more information.

AFLAC No. 99 showcar coming to Southeast Michigan

Wyandotte, Mich. -- The No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion show car is coming to the Wyandotte Street Art Fair in Downtown Wyandotte, Michigan. Fans will get an up close look at a real stock car on Friday, July 15 from 2pm-8pm and on Saturday, July 16 from 10am-4pm.

The Daly Merritt Inc. & Aflac Racing exhibit will include the following:
-- No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion show car
-- raffle prizes; including a 2 foot quacking Aflac duck, lounger chairs, golf umbrellas, & more
-- Q & A session with Roush Fenway Racing staff
-- FREE memorable photo opportunities
-- FREE collectable NASCAR Hero Cards for fans of all ages
-- FREE Balloons for kids

“Because the Downriver community has been so loyal to us for over 80 years, we wanted to give something back in an exciting way, and what better way to do so than with a NASCAR race car at the 50th Anniversary of the Wyandotte Street Art Fair,” said Marty Daly, President and CEO, Daly Merritt Inc.

The No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion show car is jet black, with bright green and blue accents, and is a retired version of the vehicle Carl Edwards drives throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. This show car is also equipped with a replica motor like those used on the track by Roush Fenway Racing teams.

Jimmie Johnson Earns Two ESPY Nominations

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has earned two nominations in The 2011 ESPYs. Voting has begun, and the complete list of The 2011 ESPYs nominees is available at

Johnson, who won his fifth consecutive NASCAR championship in 2010, has again been nominated in the “Best Male Athlete” category and in the “Best Driver” category. He could become the first auto racer to win “Best Male Athlete” – also nominated are tennis star Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzski of the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks and Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Joining Johnson in the “Best Driver” category are 15-time NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion John Force, NHRA Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson and three-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti.

Voting will run through 11:59 p.m. ET on July 9 for most categories. The winners will be announced during The 2011 ESPYs, televised live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 13, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN. Fans will determine the winners by voting online at

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