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, January 18, 2014

NASCAR Hall of Fame offering free admission to fans Feb. 1 for Fan Appreciation Day

For the first time since its 2010 opening, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will offer fans unlimited access to the attraction free of charge.
On Saturday, Feb. 1, fans will be admitted into the Hall for free as part of NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day – a full day of special activities that includes autograph and Q&A sessions with current drivers and NASCAR Hall of Famers. 

“Our sport is unique in many ways, starting with our fans – the most loyal fans in all of sports,” said NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. “Any successes we have start with our fans, which is why we always look for opportunities to ‘give back.’

“NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day is one of those opportunities, with the added benefit of building excitement for the upcoming Daytona 500 thanks to the combination of current and past NASCAR stars coming together.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle headline a group of more than 20 NASCAR national series drivers scheduled to interact with fans during this first-of-its-kind event in Uptown Charlotte, N.C. Several NASCAR Hall of Famers, including Class of 2014 inductees Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett and Maurice Petty, will also be on hand. 

Fans will have free access to the Hall on a first-come, first-served basis in lieu of needing a ticket. However, fans need to secure free tickets for the driver autograph sessions in advance at, where they can also find schedules and details about NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day.

Several new exhibits will be on display, including a revamped Glory Road; newly rewrapped Gen-6 racing simulators; a Champions exhibit honoring Jimmie Johnson, Austin Dillon and Matt Crafton; and a Memorable Moments exhibit highlighting recent significant NASCAR milestones. In addition, fans will be among the first to see the new Hall of Honor exhibit featuring artifacts from the Class of 2014, which will open Thursday, Jan. 30.

Immediately following NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day, the NASCAR Hall of Fame will close for a special Junior Johnson Midnight Moon Sign & Shine. The event will feature a private Q&A and autograph session with Junior Johnson and other NASCAR Hall of Famers, and a free tasting at the Midnight Moon moonshine bar. Fans purchasing NASCAR Hall of Fame memberships at NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day will have access to the event.

IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Charlie Kimball will visit Detroit's auto show for 'Farmily Day' on Jan. 24

DETROIT, Mich. -- Some of the top race car drivers in the world will visit the Motor City next week to participate in “Family Day” activities at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) with the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
IndyCar Series and Pirelli World Challenge Series star drivers will be in Detroit on Friday, Jan. 24 to promote this summer’s Grand Prix, which will take place May 30-June 1, and to meet with fans at the NAIAS.
Chevrolet IndyCar drivers Juan Pablo Montoya from Team Penske and Charlie Kimball from Chip Ganassi Racing will appear in Detroit along with Cadillac Racing World Challenge Series drivers Johnny O’Connell and Andy Pilgrim. In addition, Michigan driver Todd Napieralski, who also competes in the World Challenge Series, will also participate in the day’s activities.
Making his return to open-wheel racing this season after a winning career in Formula One and NASCAR, Montoya will make his first public appearance for Team Penske when he visits Detroit next Friday. The return of the former CART Series champion and Indianapolis 500 winner to IndyCar is expected to be one of the most interesting storylines in racing in 2014. Kimball is coming off a strong 2013 season that saw him win his first IndyCar Series race (Mid-Ohio) and finish ninth in the series championship. Reaching the highest level of American open-wheel racing while competing with Diabetes, Kimball has also been an inspiration to many in his young career.
Two of the most accomplished road course racers competing today, both O’Connell and Pilgrim have won dozens of races and numerous championships in their distinguished careers. The two Cadillac Racing teammates have been very successful in Pirelli World Challenge Series action on Belle Isle over the past few seasons and they will once again be among the favorites when they return to the Grand Prix this summer to race in their CTS-Vs. A native of Chelsea, Mich., Napieralski is owner and driver for Total Performance Racing and he will also compete again on Belle Isle this year driving a Chevy Camaro at his “home” track.
On the morning of Jan. 24, the drivers will get a chance to tour the headquarters and watch factory of Grand Prix partner, Shinola, to witness how American watches and other goods are manufactured in Midtown Detroit
Then the drivers will visit the NAIAS where they will meet with the media at the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix display, located in Cobo Center’s Michigan Hall. The display features the Grand Prix DW12 IndyCar, along with two new vehicles that will compete on track at this year’s Grand Prix – a SPEED Energy Stadium SUPER Truck and a unique Delta Wing car that will race in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in 2014. Visitors to the display will also have a chance to take a picture on a Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix “podium,” posing with an actual race trophy and a bottle of champagne. Fans can download their podium image for free from the Grand Prix Facebook page.
All of the drivers will then participate in a panel discussion on the Grand Prix, hosted on the main stage in the new Cobo Center Atrium as part of the WXYZ-TV Family Day celebration at the NAIAS. The discussion will be followed by an autograph session and Q&A on the stage for fans with all of the drivers. Fans do not need a ticket to the show to access the Cobo Center Atrium area.
The 2014 North American International Auto Show continues through Sunday, Jan. 26 and fans are encouraged to visit the Grand Prix display to experience the sights and sounds of race weekend.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Austin Dillon brings #3 car back to the track in style; tops Cup practice at Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Austin Dillon knows there will be pressure racing the No. 3 car made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt. He just raised the stakes with his first test in that car at Daytona International Speedway.

The Richard Childress Racing driver planted the historic No. 3 atop the speed charts on the first and only day of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing at the World Center of Racing. His 195.109 mph led all drivers in single-car runs during this tune-up for the 56th running of the Daytona 500 (Feb. 23, 1p.m. on FOX).

“I'm honored to be in the 3,” said Dillon, who is driving a number that Dale Earnhardt drove to victory 24 times at Daytona. The defending NASCAR Nationwide Series will be a top contender for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2014. “This is special and walking into this [NASCAR Sprint] Cup garage this weekend is pretty cool. There are so many heroes in this garage for me, and just being in this garage is going to be pressure.”
A rainout Thursday raised the pressure on all drivers Friday, as teams made the most of a testing session that was reduced to a single 8-hour window. Two of the sport’s biggest stars turned their first Daytona laps with new teams, including past Daytona 500 winners Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman. Harvick now drives the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, while Newman is behind the wheel of the No. 31 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Forty-one drivers turned laps in Gen-6 Chevrolets, Fords and Toyotas, which are entering their second year of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Those cars featured a new 4.5-inch spoiler, designed to add more rear downforce for stability. Results were positive. Thirty-three cars topped 190 mph and the new aero package performed well in traffic, which was tested in the draft during the final hour of testing.
“It's a comfortable zone for the teams to be into, so really this test is all about the teams and those guys working on their set-ups and their engine packages and things of that nature,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development.  “So far speeds look to be what we expected.”

Pemberton was pleased with what he saw from all of Friday’s drivers, including retired NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace. The man who drove Team Penske to NASCAR prominence donned a throwback Miller Lite fire suit and turned laps in Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford.

NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona continues for four more days, as the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ top drivers take to the track Saturday and Sunday. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers will test Monday and Tuesday.  Testing sessions for all four remaining days are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.

The top five speeds from Friday were posted by Dillon, Brian Scott in the No. 33 Chevrolet (194.582 mph), Matt Crafton in the No. 27 Chevrolet (194.342 mph), Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Ford (193.828 mph) and Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet (193.411 mph). Six-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was 11th on the charts, with a fast lap of 193.021 mph.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Jeff Gordon says 'It's fantastic to be back' at Daytona preseason testing

JEFF GORDON met with members of the media at Daytona International Speedway and discussed his thoughts heading into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season and many other topics.

Full Transcript:
THE MODERATOR:  We are now joined by Jeff Gordon, driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.  Welcome here to Daytona International Speedway.  Can you tell us what's it like to be here at the World Center of Racing as we get ready for the 56th running of the Daytona 500? 
JEFF GORDON:  It's fantastic to be back.  Unfortunately we didn't get to do much today, so that was disappointing to watch it rain all day.  But no, the excitement has definitely been building.  I was saying earlier that I really love, for me, coming off of my vacation and getting to the shop and spending time with Alan and the engineers every year this time of year.  It's exciting to hear all the things that they've been thinking about and creating ways to make you better as a team, make your cars go faster with some of the new rules that NASCAR implemented, with the cars, with the ride heights, just trying to figure out how we can maximize all those things to our potential.
So yeah, this is exciting to get down here to Daytona, especially with all the hard work that goes into Daytona of what we have to do to be fast here, be a threat for the pole, which is very important here.  When we get on the track, I look forward to seeing those results.
Q.  It was just announced that Steve Letarte is going to go to NBC in 2015.  I wonder how you think he'll do and what effect it'll have on Hendrick Motorsports and the progress that Dale Jr. will make in 2014 knowing that in 2015 his crew chief will move to the television booth.
JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I think he's going to do fantastic.  We all know Steve is a good talker, and he's very knowledgeable about the sport, very passionate about it, and so I think they've made an excellent choice there.
You know, I think only time will tell how it's going to affect them, but I think Steve is very, very good at compartmentalizing the commitment and what it takes to do his job as a crew chief and be the best crew chief that he can be, and he and Jr. have a great relationship, and I'm sure when the news first broke to Jr., it probably was a bit of an adjustment, but I feel like they've worked through all the details on how to maintain that level of competition, the momentum that they had from last year, and keep that going through this year.
Q.  Were you surprised that Steve opted to move from Hendrick where he's been for 20 years to the broadcast booth?
JEFF GORDON:  Not necessarily.  I mean, I've seen him do some work with TV and radio over the last year or two, so I can't say I was totally surprised.  He's a young man that has a lot of talents and is always eager to take that next step in life.  He has a family.  It takes a lot to be a crew chief.  It's quite a commitment, and I think this is a great opportunity for him.
Q.  I'm doing a story on turning points, twists of fate, that kind of thing, where drivers' careers have turned and moved to the next level.  The thing that comes to mind for me was 1990 when Rick Hendrick and Humpy Wheeler were watching you drive a Busch Car in Atlanta from the stands.
Q.  What would you say in your opinion would that be that twist of fate that got you to where you are as far as today?
JEFF GORDON:  I mean, there's so many.  You don't make it to this level without having some moments that kind of maybe separated you from others in the field and got you that opportunity, and I look at the successes and the failures.  Prior to me being hired by Raleigh Helming to drive on ESPN's Thursday Night Thunder the night before the 500 where we set a new track record and won that race in fairly spectacular fashion, prior to that I was racing for McBride and Shoff in a sprint car in the All‑Star Series and got fired because I was tearing up too much of their equipment and wasn't winning enough.
To me that moment where I did not succeed in that sprint car gave me a new opportunity to go and be very successful in a midget in a sprint car on pavement in front of a big audience that took my name from being an up and coming sprint car driver to being a talent in the open‑wheel field as well as a couple years later being a driver that even an owner in NASCAR would consider.
I don't know if it was a specific moment, but I guess winning that race the night before the 500 would be the specific moment.
Q.  Given everything that happened last season, especially with the Chase, have you stopped to reflect and have any takeaway, what's your takeaway from last season and then do you bring any of that into the following year, or is it a new slate?
JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, don't be 11th or 12th in points going into Richmond, or 13th, or whatever we were. 
For me it's about getting off to a better start, and really the last two seasons we have not gotten off to a great start.  Some of it in our control, some of it out of our control.  I think definitely Vegas is on our radar.  We have not run well at Vegas the last couple years.  That has had an impact.  Even though it's one race, it still has had an impact on the momentum and our confidence level.  Qualifying the last two years starting the season weren't great, either.  We certainly seemed to get that turned around halfway through this past season, and hopefully we can continue that.
But I think just getting off to a better start.  That doesn't mean you've got to go and win the first five races.  It just means try and eliminate the 20ths and the 25ths and try and put yourself in position to get those top 10s and hopefully turn those into top 5s or wins.  Get the points, get the momentum and then run with it. 
In some ways Alan and I have had conversations about maybe we've been too aggressive at the beginning of the year trying to get off to a great start and things didn't go well and we got a little bit behind on saying, okay, let's get back to the basics.
I think we're going to try to blend the basics and some of the new things that we think are going to be successful for us.
Q.  When you look at the all‑time numbers in the Cup Series, like you and a bunch of old guys are up at the top.
JEFF GORDON:  Thank you.  I appreciate that.  I shaved this morning because I had a beard that I had grown for about three weeks, and I looked in the mirror, and I was like, wow, man, I am really gray.  I felt pretty old this morning.  I was actually feeling a lot younger after I shaved until now.
Q.  That was kind of my question.  When you start a new season, do you feel like a veteran, experienced driver, or do you feel like a young guy with still a lot to prove?
JEFF GORDON:  Well, this time of year I always feel rejuvenated because I've had a break.  I feel excited because I see the things my team is working on, all the hard work they've done.  It's a fresh start to the season.  I feel young at this moment.
But when I roll out of the bed in the morning, I realize that I'm 42 because I have aches and pains that I didn't have 20 years ago.  I'm reminded of my age.  But when I get to the track, I'm still as passionate and as excited, if not more so, than I've ever been.
Q.  Jeff, you've got star power, shaven or unshaven.
JEFF GORDON:  Thank you.
Q.  What do you believe motorsports champions and celebrities, rock and country stars, what do you believe sets them apart and helps them rise to the top?  There are plenty of musicians and actors and drivers who never do.
JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I mean, it's a great question, and I do think there are common denominators among different fields that seem to separate those that become successful and those that don't.  I mean, sometimes it is just a lucky break, but I feel like most of the time it's ‑‑ first you have to recognize the talent and then you have to really work hard at taking that talent to the next level, and then you've got to be at the right place at the right time.
I'd say that a lot of people would probably say the same thing, and that's how it was for me.  I mean, I raced against plenty of kids growing up that I thought were very, very talented, but they didn't get the breaks or they weren't at the right place, or maybe they did lack a little bit of that extra effort that it takes to do whatever it takes to make it.
There's some people that are just super passionate about it that maybe don't quite have the talent but they find a way to work harder to make it work, and then there's others that have all the talent in the world and don't put enough effort into it and never make it.  I think it's a combination, but you certainly have to have that lucky break, and I say lucky break, to me you make your own luck by how much effort you put into it.
Q.  You mentioned earlier about the struggles at the beginning of the season the last couple years.  You talked about being way too aggressive at times.  What do you mean by that?  Is that setups ‑‑
JEFF GORDON:  Setups, mainly setups.  You know, just on paper seeing things that are in the sim, in the wind tunnel, that you think are going to be something that separates you.  You go, aww, man, that setup just looks amazing on paper, we're going to go super fast with this, and then you get to the track and there's a sequence of bumps that are upsetting the car such that you're not able to take advantage of that aerodynamic package that you guys came up with. 
I don't think that it's been overaggressive on the track or in pit calls.  It's mainly just been saying, okay, we've got this that is not something that's proven, not something that we've raced before, but we think it's going to be really fast, and you try to race it and then you go, okay, didn't work this weekend, maybe we try it next week, and then you find yourself saying, oh, maybe it's not as good as we thought it was, and let's start rethinking it.  And all of a sudden you're 10, 12 races into the season and you're behind.
I mean, that's just one small example.  There's many things that we can do to be better, even at our best.  There's some things as a group we can all do.  I've got to improve my restarts.  There's no doubt about that.  That's an area I can be more aggressive with and have a little more of that I‑don't‑care‑what‑happens‑through‑Turns‑1‑and‑2 attitude.  And then there's areas where maybe we could be more aggressive on our pit calls, as well, on the track position.  But then there's other areas where we were too aggressive.
You know, it's certainly a combination, but that with the setups is one thing that stood out in our minds when we talked during the off‑season.
Q.  To go back to Steve for a minute, you had a year where you almost won the championship with him in '07, Jr. has come alive with him the last couple years.  What is Hendrick going to lose from a crew chief's perspective when he steps away?
JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I think we certainly had high hopes for a long future with Steve.  He's been there for a long time, and he's brought a lot to Hendrick Motorsports.  He started as a kid there and has really grown into being one of the top crew chiefs.
You want to be able to have that experience as well as knowledge.  He's a smart guy, and you want to have that on your side in any shape or form, whether as a crew chief or in another role at Hendrick.
So yeah, to me the biggest thing that stands out is just how well he and Jr. connect and what the future will be for that position for Jr. beyond '14.

Sprint Unlimited format will be decided by fan vote online

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 9, 2014)  For the second year in a row, fans will decide upon a number of competition elements for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, the 75-lap, non-points race that kicks off the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing season on Saturday, February 15 (8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Starting today, fans can cast their votes to set the overall format and determine key racing elements. Fans will again set the number of laps in each of the three segments, while also voting on how drivers will line up at the start of the race and how they will line up for the restart of the final segment.
“We are excited to build off of the success of last year’s event and give our fans another opportunity to help make key decisions that will enhance the excitement around this highly anticipated race,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “This interactive element is unique to NASCAR – and all of sports.”
Fans can submit their votes within the official NASCAR app, NASCAR MOBILE, or at Voting is unlimited and all votes cast through NASCAR MOBILE will count twice. The voting window for the race format will close on Saturday, February 15 at 6 p.m. ET, while voting for the starting order and final segment restart order will close at various times during the race broadcast. Voting results will be announced live during the FOX Sports 1 race broadcast.
Voting Categories:
  • Race Format: Number of laps in each race segment (Voting ends at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 15)
    • Option A: 30 laps/35 laps/10 laps
    • Option B: 30 laps/30 laps/15 laps
    • Option C: 30 laps/25 laps/20 laps
  • Starting Order: How drivers will line up to start the race (Voting ends at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 15)
    • Option A: Most Career Poles (most to least)
    • Option B: 2013 Driver Points Standings
    • Option C: Final Practice Speeds (fastest to slowest times)
  • Restart Order for Final Segment: How drivers will line up for the final segment (Voting ends at the conclusion of the second segment)
    • Option A: Fastest lap in the race (first and second segments both count)
    • Option B: Most laps led (first and second segments both count)
    • Option C: Mandatory pit stop (drivers lineup how they come off pit road)
“Our ultimate goal is to use Sprint’s wireless technology to bring NASCAR Sprint Cup fans closer to our sport, and this is the latest example,” said Steve Gaffney, vice president of corporate marketing for Sprint. “This effort, the Sprint Unlimited, gives fans the opportunity to sit in NASCAR race control and make calls on key elements of the race. We encourage fans to grab their wireless device and seize this unique opportunity.”
“We look forward to partnering with NASCAR and Sprint to host the second Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway,” said Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway president. “Our passionate race fans helped create an exciting event last year from start to finish. With two new voting categories and real-time results, this year’s fan-driven event will be as exciting as ever.”
Twenty NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are eligible to participate in the 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona.  Each driver raced his or her way into the starting lineup by winning pole positions in 2013 or by winning past Sprint Unlimited events.
2014 eligible participants include:

·         Denny Hamlin (4 poles)
·         Kyle Busch (3 poles)
·         Joey Logano (2 poles)
·         Jimmie Johnson (2 poles)
·         Matt Kenseth (2 poles)
·         Ryan Newman (2 poles)
·         Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2 poles)
·         Jeff Gordon (2 poles)
·         Carl Edwards (2 poles)
·         Marcos Ambrose (1 pole)
·         Kurt Busch (1 pole)
·         Kevin Harvick (1 pole)
·         Brad Keselowski (1 pole)
·         Mark Martin (1 pole)
·         Jamie McMurray (1 pole)
·         Danica Patrick (1 pole)
·         Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1 pole)
·         Terry Labonte (past winner: 1985)
·         Ken Schrader (past winner: 1989 and 1990)
·         Tony Stewart (past winner: 2001, 2002 and 2007)

Tickets for the Sprint Unlimited are available online or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can follow @NASCAR and @MissSprintCup on Twitter to engage in the #SprintUnlimited conversation. NASCAR MOBILE is available to download for free from the App Store on Apple devices and Google Play on Android devices. Fans can also download the newest version by logging on

Monday, January 6, 2014

Chase Elliott has bright future, could end up in No. 24 Cup ride; Sam Hornish deserves a full-time Nationwide ride, not seven races

Quick hits from Monday's NASCAR news:

1. Chase Elliott will drive for Jr. Motorsports full-time in 2014. Not unexpected, considering his ties to Hendrick Motorsports, and he is a great pickup for this team. The kid is not only a spitting image of his dad, but he's got his dad's racing chops too and will rack up wins and spice up the Nationwide series this year, perhaps even emerging as a title contender. Long-term, don't be surprised if he jumps to Cup in a few years and takes over the #24 ride when Jeff Gordon inevitably retires.

2. Sam Hornish will drive seven races in the #54 car for Joe Gibbs racing, sharing the seat with Kyle Busch. That's great, but it would have been great if he could have just gotten the ride full-time. He deserves it and has shown he can compete for a title. I know sponsors can pretty much dictate who drives the car in these scenarios, but I believe most fans would agree with me that Kyle Busch doesn't need to run all those Nationwide races and it would be much better for the JGR team to have Sam running for a title.

3. NAPA is back. Part of the Chase Elliott announcement was the news that NAPA will be his sponsor -- after announcing their exit last year after the controversy at Richmond with Michael Waltrip Racing. If he catches fire, look for them to be with him for the long haul as he moves up to Cup.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu.