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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dash 4 Cash bonus program returning to Nationwide series

For the fourth consecutive year, NASCAR and Nationwide Insurance have combined to bring the “Dash 4 Cash” bonus program back for NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers and fans alike.
Introduced in 2009, “Dash 4 Cash” rewards the highest-finishing eligible driver in four designated races with a $100,000 bonus above and beyond the race purse. Fans also can participate via a sweepstakes that culminates with one lucky fan also winning $100,000.
Its basic format hasn’t changed: In four select races during the 2012 season, four drivers who have earned the designation to compete for the $100,000 per-race bonus will “have at it.” As a refresher, the “Dash 4 Cash” winner in the designated races does not have to win the race. He or she simply must be the highest-finishing eligible NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship contender in those designated races.
There are two key revisions. First, the July 6 race at Daytona International Speedway will serve as the “qualifier” where the top four drivers to receive NASCAR Nationwide Series driver championship points in that race will carry the “Dash 4 Cash” designation in the first race of the bonus program, July 14 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Additionally, for the first time, the four “Dash 4 Cash” races will be successive: The July race at New Hampshire followed by the July 22 race at Chicagoland Speedway, the series’ inaugural event on July 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and culminating at the Aug. 4 race at Iowa Speedway.
Driver eligibility is as follows:
-- New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 14) – Top four drivers to receive NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) championship driver points at Daytona qualify for New Hampshire.
-- Chicagoland Speedway (July 22) – New Hampshire “Dash 4 Cash” winner plus top three finishing drivers to receive NNS championship driver points.
-- Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 28) – Chicagoland “Dash 4 Cash” winner plus top three finishing drivers to receive NNS championship driver points.
-- Iowa Speedway (Aug. 4) -- Indianapolis “Dash 4 Cash” winner plus top three finishing drivers to receive NNS championship driver points.
Another returning perk: Should one driver collect the “Dash 4 Cash” bonus from the three previous designated races and win the Iowa Speedway race outright, Nationwide Insurance will pay an additional $600,000 to that driver in Victory Lane, making $1 million in total bonus money up for grabs at the onset of the program.
“We’re looking forward to partnering with Nationwide Insurance for another round of the ‘Dash 4 Cash’ program,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “Since its inception, ‘Dash 4 Cash’ has brought increased notoriety to the drivers, teams and participating tracks in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
“We believe the $100,000 guaranteed winner for the select ‘Dash 4 Cash’ races will continue to elevate the series. Additionally, the condensed schedule will help our fans follow the exciting storylines and finishes we anticipate with the 2012 program.”
"Offering a $1 million bonus opportunity for NASCAR Nationwide Series teams brings another level of intensity to the race track and more attention to our series," said Jim McCoy, director of strategic partnerships for Nationwide Insurance. "There's a very good chance a driver could get hot and take home the million dollar bonus at the dramatic conclusion of our ‘Dash 4 Cash’ series at Iowa Speedway, where Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won both races in 2011."
The program isn’t just for the drivers. Since the fans drive the sport, they’re encouraged to participate as well by visiting www.NASCAR.COM/dash4cash to register for a chance to win $100,000.
As part of the NASCAR Nationwide Series $100,000 Sweepstakes, four lucky fans and a guest of each will win an all-expense paid trip to the final “Dash 4 Cash” race at Iowa. In addition to a VIP experience, those fans will be randomly paired with the four eligible “Dash 4 Cash” drivers for the final bonus program race at Iowa. The fan whose driver wins that “Dash 4 Cash” award also will receive a check for $100,000.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Richmond International Raceway: By the numbers

— Originally known as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, Richmond International Raceway held its first race in 1946 as a half-mile dirt track.
— The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was April 19, 1953.
— The spring 1964 race was run on a Tuesday night under temporary lighting.
— The track name changed to Virginia State Fairgrounds in 1967.
— The track surface was changed from dirt to asphalt between races in 1968.
— The track name changed to Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway in 1969.
— The track was re-measured to .542-mile for 1970.
— The track was rebuilt as a three-quarters-mile D-shaped oval following the Feb. 21, 1988 race.
— The first race under permanent lights was Sept. 7, 1991.
— The first season with both races as night races was 1999.

— There have been 111 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Richmond since the track opened in 1953.
— The current 400-lap race length was established on the .542-mile measurement in March 1976.
— Buck Baker won the pole in 1953.
— Lee Petty won the first race in April 1953.
— There have been 50 different pole winners, led by Bobby Allison and Richard Petty (eight).
— Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five poles.
— 47 different drivers have posted victories at Richmond, led by Richard Petty (13).
— Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Terry Labonte and Jimmie Johnson (three) lead active race winners.
— Petty Enterprises has won 15 races at Richmond, more than any other team.
— 63 of 111 races have been won from the top five starting positions, including 22 from the pole.
— The last driver to win from the pole was Kyle Busch in 2010.
— The furthest back in the field a race winner has started was 31st, by Clint Bowyer in the 2008 spring race.
— Kyle Busch (5.0) and Denny Hamlin (7.5) are the only active drivers with an average finish in the top 10.
— Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richmond International Raceway winner: Richard Petty (04/23/1961 – 23 years, 9 months, 21 days).
— Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richmond International Raceway winner: Harry Gant (09/07/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 28 days).
— Kyle Petty became the first third-generation NASCAR race winner when he won his first race at Richmond, on Feb. 23, 1986. Richard Petty posted his first Richmond victory in 1961 and Lee Petty won the very first Richmond race in 1953.
— Three of the last four races have had a margin of victory less than one second.

Richmond International Raceway Data
Race #: 9 of 36 (04-28-12)
Track Size: .75 miles
Race Length: 300 miles
— Banking/corners: 14 degrees
— Banking/straights: 8 degrees
— Frontstretch: 1,290 feet
— Backstretch: 860 feet

Top 12 Driver Rating at Richmond
Denny Hamlin............................ 117.6
Kyle Busch............................... 114.8
Kevin Harvick............................ 112.6
Jeff Gordon................................ 98.5
Clint Bowyer............................... 96.3
Tony Stewart............................... 95.4
Ryan Newman............................. 93.0
Kurt Busch.................................. 92.7
Mark Martin................................. 91.5
Jimmie Johnson.......................... 88.6
Carl Edwards.............................. 86.4
Jeff Burton................................. 85.6
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (14 total) at Richmond.

Qualifying/Race Data
2011 pole winner: Juan Pablo Montoya
(128.639 mph, 20.989 seconds)
2011 race winner: Kyle Busch
(95.280 mph, 04-30-11)
Track qualifying record: Brian Vickers
(129.983, 20.772 seconds, 5-14-04)
Track race record: Dale Jarrett
(109.047 mph, 9-6-97)

NASCAR in Virginia
— There have been 275 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Virginia.
Martinsville Speedway; 127
Richmond International Raceway; 111
Langley Field Speedway; 9
Norfolk Speedway; 2
Old Dominion Speedway; 7
Princess Anne Speedway; 1
South Boston Speedway; 10
Southside Speedway; 4
Starkey Speedway; 4

— 163 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Virginia.

— There have been 18 race winners from Virginia in NASCAR’s three national series:
Joe Weatherly
Ricky Rudd
Jeff Burton
Denny Hamlin
Curtis Turner
Ward Burton
Glen Wood
Elliott Sadler
Emanuel Zervakis
Lennie Pond
Wendell Scott
Tommy Ellis
Jimmy Hensley
Rick Mast
Hermie Sadler
Elton Sawyer
Stacy Compton
Jon Wood

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't cry for Rick Hendrick over his little losing streak; No. 200 and a lot more wins are coming soon

I’m surprised that I am writing this, but Hendrick Motorsports has not won a race in the past 13 Cup events. Some might argue they support Tony Stewart’s team enough that Stewart-Haas wins should almost count as Hendrick wins, but the actual Hendrick cars have not been to victory lane since last fall at Kansas (That being the 48, 24, 88 and 5 cars).

So here we are at Kansas, back at the scene of that last win, and this little slump goes to remind us just how dominant Hendrick has been in the past. For most teams, saying they having won for the past 13 races wouldn’t mean much. It would probably be normal actually, for all but the top few teams, since there is so much competition and so many people can win each week.

But for Hendrick, this kind of streak just doesn’t happen -- they win races early and often. The last team losing streak of this length was a decade ago. So that means that for the past decade, basically every single month of racing has featured a Hendrick win.

Now do you see why Jimmie Johnson won so many titles and Hendrick remains the gold standard among Cup teams? The irony of it all is this slump comes at a time when Rick Hendrick is trying to get his 200th win in the Cup series ... an astonishing number. And he had it in his hands a few weeks back with 3 drivers up front; until all hell broke loose and his drivers leading the race got wrecked on a restart.

Don’t cry for Rick, though. He will get No. 200, possibly even this weekend, and a lot more after that. And while other teams may have been stealing the Victory Lane spotlight this year, there is no doubt based on their on-track performance each week that Hendrick has one of the most impressive teams this year, possibly even the best despite the lack of wins, and will be around to battle for the Cup at year end. (only dark spot is Kasey Kahne, who has had buzzard’s luck so far in 2012, but even he should turn things around at some point this season.)

To put it plainly, if you’re able to complain just because you haven’t won in a couple months, while many other teams complain because they haven’t won for much longer spans, you’re not doing so bad after all.

And once this little losing streak is broken, don’t expect a repeat of it anytime soon. Between Johnson, Gordon, Kahne (and maybe even Dale Earnhardt Jr. if he keeps up his hot streak), the number of Victory Lane celebrations Hendrick teams will be plentiful well into the future.

I am someone who would definitely like to see another team step up to the Hendrick team's level and take them down a peg, as I think it would be good for the sport.

But the reality is no one hs done it (like I said, Tony Stewart’s surge last year could probably be attributed to Hendrick equipment). Greg Biffle is leading a Roush brigade that is trying its best to do it this year, but unless they can keep up that momentum all year, Hendrick and Hendrick-supported teams like SHR will still be the ones to beat come championship time.

And this little 13-race skid will be just a faded memory.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get ready world: NASCAR will be featured on BBC's popular Top Gear program

Credit: BBC Worldwide/Oisin Tymon
Top Gear, the world’s biggest car show, sent host, Richard Hammond, to Texas, fully immersing the native-Brit in the world of NASCAR.

British people love auto racing, but it's normally of the Formula 1 variety.

Well, this month, they'll get a look at what's on this side of the pond when
Top Gear, the world’s biggest car show, sends British host Richard Hammond to Texas and shows him the the world of NASCAR.
The show will take show his visit to Texas Motor Speedway and explore the history of NASCAR and how it became the big show it is today. We all know the history, but I'm guessing most Brits don't, so it should be interesting for them, and heck we might even learn a thing or two.

“I’m not alone in believing in the supremacy of NASCAR,” said Richard Hammond. “It’s currently the most popular spectator sport in America and there are many reasons why it hits the spot with the fans."

While most Brits will likely still view NASCAR as an inferior product compared to Formula 1 racing, maybe this show might open a few eyes and gain a few new fans. While I have met my share of those who look down on NASCAR, I'd like to think many Europeans are more open minded when it comes to motorsports.

Kansas Speedway, by the numbers

Cup series points leader Greg Biffle has two wins, six top fives, eight top 10s; and one pole at the track. Between that and his current strong run in the series, he appears to be the man to beat this weekend, at least on paper. Jimmie Johnson also is strong here and should contend

Groundbreaking was held on May 25, 1999.

The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first events being an ARCA race and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race on the same day – June 2

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was Sept. 30, 2001.


There have been 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas since the track opened in 2001.

All of the races have been scheduled for 267 laps.

10 drivers have competed in all 12 races at Kansas.

Jeff Gordon won the first two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

Jason Leffler
won the first pole in September 2001.

Nine different drivers have won poles, led by Jimmie Johnson with three.

Eight different drivers have posted victories, led by Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart (each with two).

Seven of the 12 races have been won from a top-10 starting position.

Two drivers have won from the pole:
Joe Nemechek in 2004 and Jimmie Johnson in 2008.

The furthest back in the field that race winner started was 25th, by Brad Keselowski last season.

Two active drivers with more than one start have averaged a top-10 finish:
Greg Biffle (8.2) and Jimmie Johnson (8.3).

Jeff Gordon
leads all drivers in top fives (eight) and top 10s (nine). Gordon’s three non-top 10s were a 39th in 2006, a 13th in 2004 and 34th in last season’s fall event.

Eight of the 12 races that ended under green had a margin of victory under one second. The 2007 race ended under caution.

Youngest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kansas Speedway winner:
Ryan Newman (10/05/2003 – 25 years, 9 months, 27 days).

Oldest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kansas Speedway winner:
Mark Martin (10/09/2005 – 46 years, 9 months, 0 days)
Kansas Speedway Data
Race #: 8 of 36 (04-22-12)
Track Size: 1.5 miles
Race Length: 400.5 miles
Banking/corners: 15 degrees
Banking/straights: 10.4 degrees
Frontstretch: 2,685 feet
Backstretch: 2,207 feet
Top 12 Driver Rating at Kansas
Jimmie Johnson........................ 120.6
Greg Biffle................................ 118.0
Tony Stewart............................. 105.9
Jeff Gordon.............................. 105.4
Matt Kenseth............................. 101.5
Carl Edwards.............................. 97.3
Mark Martin................................. 92.9
Kurt Busch.................................. 90.9
Brad Keselowski......................... 90.8
Kevin Harvick.............................. 90.0
Clint Bowyer............................... 88.7
Denny Hamlin............................. 85.1
Note: Driver Rating compiled from 2005-2011 races (eight total) at Kansas.
Qualifying/Race Data
2011 pole winner: Kurt Busch, 174.752 mph, 30.901 seconds
2011 race winner: Brad Keselowski, (137.184 mph, 06-05-11)
Track qualifying record: Matt Kenseth, (180.856 mph, 29.858 seconds, 10-08-05)
Track race record: Greg Biffle, (138.077 mph, 11-03-10)
NASCAR in Kansas

There have been 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Kansas, all at Kansas Speedway. The only other Kansas track to hold a NASCAR national series race was Heartland Park in Topeka, which hosted five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races from 1995-99.

16 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Kansas, including Jim Roper who won the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup race – Charlotte in 1949.

There have been two race winners in the top three NASCAR national series from Kansas: Clint Bowyer, with 5 Cup wins, 8 Nationwide wins and 3 Truck wins; plus Jim Roper ... with one Cup win

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President Obama honors 2011 Cup champ Tony Stewart at the White House

4:50 P.M. EDT, April 17
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much, everybody. Please, please have a seat. Welcome to the White House. And congratulations to Tony Stewart on his third Sprint Cup Championship. You can give him a round of applause for that. (Applause.) It is great to have NASCAR back in Washington.
I want to thank Brian France and Mike Helton for their leadership. We’ve got some members of Congress who are big racing fans who are here. We’ve got some of my staff who are big racing fans who are here. I also want to welcome the rest of the drivers who are with us -- the best of the best right here. Thank you all for coming. We really appreciate it. (Applause.)
Now, full disclosure: I invited Tony here today because of what he did on the track. But I was also hoping he would give me some tips on the media, because he's got that quiet, reserved personality -- (laughter) -- and I was figuring I'd stay out of trouble if Tony gave me some advice on that.
It’s good to see Number 14 on the South Lawn. Every year I try to take a lap; nobody lets me do it. (Laughter.) But I am still holding out hope that, at some point, I'm going to be able to get behind the wheel.
A few years ago, Jimmie Johnson showed up and showed me how to start one of these cars up, explained how everything worked. It was impressive. But what was even more impressive is he got in and got out dressed like he is now, and he did not rip his suit -- (laughter) -- which took some skill.
And I do want to acknowledge Jimmie because, even though his five-year streak is over, I think we can all acknowledge he is one of the all-time greats. And I know he is itching to take the title back. So congratulations, Jimmie, on everything that you've done. (Applause.)
But this was Tony’s year. And "Smoke" gave us one of the most dramatic finishes that we have ever seen. After barely making the Chase, Tony took off, winning an amazing four races in the post-season. And then came the final race in Miami -- a must-win. Tony went all out. Twice he came from back of the pack, passing 118 cars -- sometimes three wide. Tony said it felt like he passed half the state of Florida. But in the end, he hung on to take the checkered flag and win the championship with a tie-breaker.
And Tony himself acknowledged he didn't see it coming; nobody saw it coming. We’ve all heard about athletes who say they’re going to do what it takes to win it all. But back in August, with the season winding down, Tony predicted he wouldn't be able to pull it off. In fact, he said that if he did end up winning the championship -- this is a quote -- "I’ll declare I’m a total bumbling idiot." (Laughter.) Here’s your chance, Tony. (Laughter.)
But I think Tony’s hero, the great A.J. Foyt, put it best when he said the reason Tony won was because he drove the best race of his life. Period. And he did it with the rest of these drivers on his tail.
I want to make special mention out of this outstanding group of Carl Edwards; he’s also a member of my Fitness Council. Carl battled Tony down to the wire and came about as close as you can get without actually winning. And congratulations on all your unbelievable success as well. And I think everybody who saw Carl after the race -- it was a great lesson in how you handle disappointment with grace and with class, and he’s a outstanding representative for all of NASCAR.
And that’s typical. Underneath the helmets, behind all the trash talking -- and I notice it seems to be picking up quite a bit lately -- these are some outstanding men. And it’s true about the whole NASCAR organization. One thing especially I want to thank NASCAR for is the support that you guys have provided to our men and women in uniform. You give active duty soldiers, wounded warriors, veterans all a VIP experience at races. And Michelle had a chance to see that firsthand at the Homestead race last year. You look out for military families. You look out for Gold Star families. You make regular visits to Walter Reed to raise spirits there. And for you guys to give that much back to folks who have given so much to us as a country and help protect us and keep us safe is remarkable. So I want to thank -- (applause) -- I want to thank all of you for what you do on behalf of our troops. (Applause.)
So congratulations again to Tony and his entire team. Thanks to everybody at NASCAR for what you do for our country. Thank you for not tearing up my grass -- (laughter) -- and best of luck in the season to come.
Thank you very much, everybody. Give them a big round of applause. (Applause.)

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Including Anne France, and excluding Smokey Yunick, means list of new NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees is a joke

Every year, NASCAR announces five new nominees for the Hall of Fame to replace the five spots emptied by the previous year’s chosen five.

This year, they make themselves look quite foolish, and obviously biased, with one of their choices, and the move makes me question the entire process of getting into this Hall of Fame.

First, let’s get out of the way the nominees they announced who may actually be worth putting in. Engine builder and owner Ray Fox, Wendell Scott, promoter and sponsor executive Ralph Seagraves and 1989 champion Rusty Wallace. Rusty’s accomplishments speak for themselves, and he will get in eventually (though it should probably wait a few years). Fox is one of the old-timers who deserves to make it at some point. Wendell Scott battled so hard just to compete because of his race, that he deserves in the Hall, though he only has the one win so it’s probably a little early to put him in. And Seagraves helped Winston partner with the sport, which is a key element for the sport’s survival and growth – so after some of the competitors make it in he should definitely be considered.

Then we have the final nomination: Anne Bledsoe France: Yes, Big Bill’s wife and NASCAR’s first treasurer and secretary. The selling point is she “helped build the sport”

Seriously? This has to be a joke.

It’s my opinion that there are already enough Frances in the Hall of Fame. The fact that Bill Sr. and Bill Jr. got in the first class, while David Pearson (in my view the sport’s best driver of all time) had to wait until the second year to make it, was ridiculous. The inclusion of Anne France (aka Annie B.) on the list of nominees is ridiculous, and shows a bias within the voting ranks to hype the sport’s first family instead of all the other great people involved in the sport. Nothing against Annie personally, but she really does not belong on this list, and should never be voted into the Hall.

And what annoys me most is that while Anne France is nominated, Smokey Yunick is not. If you don’t know who Smokey Yunick is, well that’s too bad for you, and you should read up on him. He is the most innovative mechanic in the sport’s history, and it appears he is being blackballed. He used to be so creative, that he would often find his way around NASCAR’s rules – and the France family didn’t like him very much as a result.

So now one of their own is nominated, while a genius like Smokey is dissed once again. Further proof to me that it’s all about who you know, not what you did, when it comes to getting into this Hall of Fame.

If you want to participate in the Hall of Fame voting, the fans do get a small input. You can vote for your five choices of the 25 between now and May 16 at

Here are the 25 nominees, listed alphabetically:
Buck Baker, first driver to win consecutive NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series titles (1956-57)
Red Byron, first NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion, in 1949
Richard Childress, 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR's three national series
Jerry Cook, six-time NASCAR Modified champion
H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway
Tim Flock, two-time NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion
Ray Fox, legendary engine builder and owner of cars driven by Buck Baker, Junior Johnson and others
Anne Bledsoe France, helped build the sport with husband Bill France Sr. Affectionately known as "Annie B.," she is the first woman to be nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Rick Hendrick, 13-time car owner champion in NASCAR's three national series
Jack Ingram, two-time NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series champion and three-time Late Model Sportsman champion
Bobby Isaac, 1970 NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion
Fred Lorenzen, 26 wins and winner of the Daytona 500 and World 600
Cotton Owens, driver-owner, won 1966 owner championship with David Pearson
Raymond Parks, NASCAR's first champion car owner
Benny Parsons, 1973 NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion
Les Richter, former NASCAR executive; former president of Riverside International Raceway
Fireball Roberts, 33 NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series wins, including the 1962 Daytona 500
T. Wayne Robertson, helped raise NASCAR popularity as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company senior VP
Wendell Scott, NASCAR trailblazer was the first African-American NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series race winner, and first to be nominated for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Ralph Seagraves, formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company
Herb Thomas, first two-time NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion, 1951, '53
Curtis Turner, early personality, called the "Babe Ruth of stock car racing"
Rusty Wallace, 1989 NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion
Joe Weatherly, two-time NASCAR premier (now Sprint Cup) series champion
Leonard Wood, part-owner and former crew chief for Wood Brothers, revolutionized pit stops

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Atwood’s story a cautionary tale for young phenoms

Not all NASCAR phenoms turn out to be all they are hyped to be. And the ultimate example of that is Casey Atwood. Atwood debuted in Nashville as a teenager back in the late 1990s and was hyped as a future Jeff Gordon type superstar. Um, that didn’t quite happen, despite Atwood’s quick ascent into a quality Cup ride with Evernham Motorsports, and he faded into obscurity fast. The young driver found himself out of the Cup series completely after 2003, and 2004 was the last season he was remotely competitive in the Nationwide series. (Fun fact: The driver who replaced him in Evernham’s #19 car, effectively ending his Cup career, was – Jeremy Mayfield)

Now he’s 31 years old, and had stepped away from racing completely for three years after being relegated to start-and-park rides. This weekend, he got back in the saddle again, and drove a late model this past weekend at the season opener at Nashville’s Fairgrounds Speedway, in a car prepared by NASCAR legend Sterling Marlin.

Atwood, who now is married and has two young kids, said that he will always have the urge to race, but it’s pretty obvious at this point that he’s not coming back to Cup anytime soon.

His crash and burn at such a young age is a lesson for all young phenoms in the sport today: And that lesson is ‘Don’t rush it’. Atwood himself has said that his path to Cup should have been slower, and that he should have stuck in the Nationwide series for a couple more years to truly develop as a driver and better prepare himself for what awaited in the high-pressure level of Cup racing.

Other young phenoms like Joey Logano are now seeing how hard it is to have great results in Cup at such a young age, when you’re racing against the very best. Logano’s story is not as dramatic as Atwood’s, as he has the full support of Joe Gibbs and has already been to Victory Lane in Cup, but he must be feeling pressure on some level to live up to his phenom status and achieve more definitive success at the Cup level – and if he doesn’t do that, will he be called a failure?

Probably, and while it might not be fair, it’s the reality of the sport for these young superstars who every expects to win early and often in their Cup careers. The reality is: Most of the time, it doesn’t work out.

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Welcome back Rockingham; Carl Edwards won't fuel ex-girlfriend drama

Welcome back Rock
I love Truck series racing, and I love NASCAR history. So the return of Rockinham this past Sunday was an awesome site to see. I recognize that a Cup date is pretty not going to happen anytime soon for many reasons (it’s way too political to get a Cup race nowadays, and this would be a small fish battling in a big pond), but I’m glad to see some sort of racing return to this track, which provided tons of entertainment until it stopped hosting Cup races and was later sold to Andy Hillenburg, who did a great job getting the track up to date and ready to host racing again. The Truck race had decent attendance, and I’m hoping a Nationwide race can make its way onto the Rockingham schedule in the next couple years. Even if Cup doesn’t’ come back, this could be a fun track to host a Trucks-Nationwide double-header.

Carl Edwards won’t fuel the ex-girlfriend drama
It’s not often that National Enquirer drama about a driver’s personal life comes to the sport. But that was the case this week when Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, an ex-girlfriend of now-married Carl Edwards, dissed him hard in her new autobiographical book, “In The Water, They Can’t See You Cry”. In addition to laying out her whole array of personal issues – from drug use to bulimia – she spends quite a few pages of the book trashing Cousin Carl, accusing him of being jealous, controlling and self-centered.

To be fair to Carl, while I can see him being this way at the time, people do grow and getting married and having kids will help that process along. And despite the fact that he is quite protective of his image, Edwards didn’t take the bait and bash his ex when asked about the comments in the book.

"I'm not going to bash her or say bad things about her," Edwards said this weekend at Texas. "She's a mother, she's a wife and someone I cared about."

In fact, Carl said he was very surprised by the ill-will expressed toward him in the book, and that he doesn’t consider the bridges burned between them despite the name-calling.

"I considered us friends and I didn't realize she had all those problems," Edwards said. "I would have done anything in the world to help her with those. Regardless of what she writes in a book, if she ever needs something from me, I'd be there to help her out.

Regarding the comments directed at him, Carl said he didn’t know how to even react.

“Whether it's the psychology of feelings about a relationship that doesn't work out or the strategy to sell book, to be honest it's just weird. I don't know how to address things that I don't remember happening."

He’s doing the right thing by not lashing out, as you don’t want to say anything too harsh and help confirm some of the things being said about you. But deep down, he probably wanted to. Regardless of the reality, he wouldn’t have been able to come out as the good guy here if he bashed Beard. If he really was a jerk back then, he’d have to lie. And if he wasn’t, well, there’s no way to really prove it so what’s the point in fighting that fight.

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Greg Biffle takes the lead at Roush; outshines former team leader Carl Edwards

In recent years, it has been assumed by many that Carl Edwards was the best driver in the Roush stable. He got more headlines that Matt Kenseth or Greg Biffle, won more races, etc.

Well, this year, Greg Biffle, and Kenseth for that matter, are trying to change that perception. Biffle won at Texas by passing Mr. 5-time Jimmie Johnson, not exactly a small accomplishment. He cemented his lead atop the points standings with this win -- his first since late 2010, and he definitely seems to be over his 2011 struggles in this new season. The win was his 17th in his Cup career, and his second win at Texas.

Edwards has yet to win a race this year, and both his teammates have won. They are much higher in the points than him (1st and 2nd, actually), and he is no longer Mr. Roush. In fact, he has some catching up to do. Carl is hanging right on the border of Chase contention and is due to break out, but one thing is clear: There is a new leader at Roush right now: And his name is Greg.

Stenhouse driving himself into Cup ride

Ricky Stenhouse put on a great show Friday night at Texas, winning a competitive Nationwide race and establishing himself as a championship contender once again. It appears he and Elliott Sadler will be the main guys to battle for the Nationwide crown, though there is time for others to step into the fray if they boost their game a little.

And if Stenhouse continues to race this way, he’s bound to garner some sponsor interest – and that could land him in a Cup ride. The #6 car hasn’t been used by Roush since Daytona, and if the funding is there Jack says the ride belongs to Rick next year, and possible for some races in 2012.

"We've got the decal for the top of the roof on that 6 car all organized for Ricky," Roush said Friday night after the win. "As soon as I can find sponsorship for it, he's good to go. The highest priority we have for this year in the meantime is to defend (Stenhouse's) championship in the Nationwide series but hopefully we can find sponsorship and run the 6 car with him next year -- and we will run some races with him in the 6 Cup car before this year is over."

Not too bad for a guy who just a couple years ago was on the verge of losing his ride with Roush and had a highly uncertain future. Stenhouse stepped up when he needed to, and his career trajectory took flight. And his future, well it could be even higher in the sky. I like Stenhouse, and wish him luck into the future; he has the potential to compete on the level of fellow Roush drivers Biffle, Kenseth and Edwards, and Jack made a wise decision to stick with him.

Sprint Pit Crew Challenge returns in May: The eighth annual NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge returns to Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, May 17, 2012. Tickets to the pit-crew skills competition are on sale at or by calling Time Warner Cable Arena box office at (800) 745-3000. The NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge features the top-24 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pit crews and settles who the best on pit road is with individual and team trials. The #11 FedEx Toyota team is the defending back-to-back team champion. As one of several events during NASCAR Sprint All-Star Week, the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge will take place at 7:00pm/et and will air on SPEED at 8:00pm/et that evening. Tickets prices start at $15 while children ages two through 12 are half price ($7.50 each).

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Jeremy Mayfield back in a race car? Now that would be interesting ... WITH VIDEO

It's been a busy few weeks for Jeremy Mayfield.
Court cases threaten his future freedom.
Foreclosure proceedings threaten his ability to stay in his home.

But all is not negative for Mayfield. While his NASCAR driving days are obviously over due to his court battles with the series of his suspension for a failed drug test, it appears that if he can avoid jail time, and pass a couple drug tests, he may have a ride soon in the ARCA series.

Reports surfaced this week that ARCA team owner Roger Carter wants Mayfield to race for his team this June at Pocono. Carter reportedly said that ARCA officials want to see how Mayfield's legal issues turn out before making a decision.

Of course, Carter did say that if this pans out, Mayfield would have to submit to an ARCA drug test and be willing to take a drug test administered by the team.

Considering that NASCAR races the same weekend as ARCA at Pocono, a Mayfield return would be quite interesting to say the least. It might make for some good entertainment, just to see what he says and what NASCAR says about him. And the media circus would be out of control.

In case you're wondering why this came about, Carter helped get Mayfield started in NASCAR almost 20 years ago, and is likely trying to just help an old friend.
“I feel very confident that he’s in a position where he could do it,” Carter said. “Jeremy is one heck of a good racecar driver and I think he would do well for us.”

But if I were Carter I wouldn't hold his breath. There's more drama hanging around Mayfield right now than there is on an episode of Jersey Shore. The likelihood that this plan works out and Mayfield races at Pocono (where he made what's likely the biggest move of his career; knocking Dale Earnhardt out of the way to win in 2000) isn't all that great, as ARCA hasn't yet said it would be OK with them.

But in a way, I'm hoping it does work out -- as I'd love to see the racing world would react to a Mayfield return to driving.

And I know one thing for sure: The France family is certainly hoping it doesn't work out, and will do whatever it can to make sure it doesn't happen anywhere near a track associated with NASCAR.

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If no one's really racing, don't even give out Rookie of the Year honor in Cup

In case you're keeping track of the latest lame battle for Rookie of the Year, one of the contenders is bowing out.
Timmy Hill and the Rick Ware Racing team are giving up on Cup, and going back to Nationwide.

"Rick Ware Racing has been awesome to me throughout my entire racing career," said Hill. "We as a team took a chance to compete in the Sprint Cup Series and move this team to the next level. We learned a lot from this experience, but it's time to take a step back and regroup on what we learned to apply that for the future. So we are temporarily putting the Cup program on hold. We are not out of racing and you will see myself and Rick Ware Racing at Texas ready to go in the Nationwide Series race."

Timmy who?, you say.
That's right, a guy who nobody knows (though he was 2011's Nationwide ROTY) was competing for ROTY in Cup, though you wouldn't know it because he had trouble making races. His only competition was Josh Wise, who starts and parks each week and will likely win ROTY for driving about 500 total laps all year.

I wish Hill luck in Nationwide, as that is where he belongs and needs to work on his skills before moving up to the big time. And while I know Wise is just doing his job and have nothing against him personally, it's my opinion that in an instance like this, the award shouldn't even be given. I don't see how you can reward a guy for ROTY when he isn't even racing.

It's really a shame, as there used to be good battles between competitive drivers for ROTY. Now, for whatever reason, no one really contends for it. And we're left with this nonsense.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Newman may be under the radar, but his Martinsville win is a statement he can compete with the big boys

Ryan Newman has never been a dominant driver in NASCAR’s Cup series.

While he does have an amazing collection of pole wins (49 - tying him for 10th all time and 3rd best among active drivers), he’s never put together a season that has been head and shoulders above the competition.

He has off weeks, he often slips under the radar.

But, as he proved Sunday at Martinsville, Newman knows how to come through in the clutch when we’re least expecting it.
All day Sunday, we watched three Hendrick dominate and assumed they would win.
Not far behind lurked Newman, waiting to pounce if the situation allowed it. And when chaos ensued on the first g-w-c restart, he pounced.

Newman addressed media Tuesday and talked about that restart.
“Well, I knew that the front two didn't have tires, and there was a better chance of them spinning their tires than us, at least with two tires. My intention was to get a run on Clint, which I did, then having the entirety of him blocking me and getting down and getting a run on 24, because I couldn't see that. Once he did, I just kind of backed off, and I gave him, I guess, enough courage to try to stick his nose up in there. It didn't work for him, and it worked for us. So that was just the sum of it,” Newman said, referring to the fact that Bowyer got caught up in the wreck.

He said he didn’t have any intentions to instigate a crash.
“I didn't have a specific plan other than just going forward. Obviously, I wanted to win. That was a goal. But I figured I had a shot of maybe getting two of them and getting underneath Clint and getting into one. When that didn't work out, Clint took himself and a couple others. And I'm not blaming Clint for the product of three-wide at Martinsville. I could say it was just as much as Jimmy and those guys down as it was Clint and the pack getting in there. But that's racing. It happens at Martinsville. It happens at every short track across America. There is a time when somebody will go three-wide and it doesn't work.”

It’s clear that Stewart Haas is on the rise. Starting with Tony Stewart’s amazing championship run after an anemic season, moving into this year’s great start for Stewart, and now with Newman’s win -- it’s safe to say they are a threat to win another title. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they have Hendrick equipment, as they team has set the bar for the past two decades in the Cup series.

Newman said that despite his team owner/teammmate’s success, he doesn’t compare himself to Tony.
“I don't look at it in that respect. I can't compare myself to the 14 or Tony Stewart or anybody else. All I know is I can go out there and do the best job that I physically, emotionally, and mentally can,” Newman said. “If that gets us to victory lane, then it does. If it doesn't, we need to sit back and figure out how to be better. Comparing yourself doesn't get you anywhere in my opinion.”

A guy like Newman, who has won on so many different types of racetracks, is always a wild card. You can never really count on him for sure (I know I get a little nervous if I pick him in fantasy racing, as he is hit or miss a lot of the time), but you can never really count him out. And if the team is improved, the hits will be more common than the misses.

And in the end, if that holds true and he can rack up some wins and make the Chase strongly, Stewart Haas could be celebrating a title this year with a different driver.

It’s not the safest bet by far, but to say it won’t happen would be foolish. Newman may be under the radar, but often those are the guys you need to watch out for, and you can bet the traditional front runners for the title have Newman on their radar after this weekend’s win.

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