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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, August 29, 2014

Tony Stewart addresses media for first time since fatal sprint car wreck that killed Kevin Ward Jr. -- FULL TRANSCRIPT

THE MODERATOR:  Good morning.  I'm director of communication for Stewart‑Haas Racing.  Up here is Tony Stewart, driver/owner of Stewart‑Haas Racing, and Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart‑Haas Racing.
Tony has prepared some remarks.  We'll let him read those.

 This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally.  This is something that will definitely affect my life forever.  This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.
With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine.
I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, and his sisters Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them.
The racing community is a large family, as you guys know.  Everyone's saddened with this tragedy.
I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it's been overwhelming.
 I've taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way.  It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.
 I miss my team, my teammates.  I miss being back in the racecar.  I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.
 I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers, however I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time.  Emotionally I'm not sure if I could answer them anyway.
 We're here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect.  There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions.  Thank you.
 THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Tony.
 Again, Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart‑Haas Racing, will be available to take a handful of questions.
Q.  Brett, NASCAR issued a statement yesterday that Tony had received all necessary clearances to race.  What was the process of going through clearances?  What approvals did he need?
BRETT FROOD:  Well, as you all know, when a driver's out of the car, there is that process.  I'm not going to get into the medical side of it, but I will say we've been in close contact with them throughout the process, have gotten from them what he needed to get back in the car right now.
Q.  The investigation as we understand is still open.  Was there any thought to not having Tony race until it was closed?  Why now?
:  Well, I think for Tony, it's all about this healing process.  That's part of why he's in the car.
 Besides his mom, his dad, his sister, his niece and nephew, his family is here, it's at this racetrack.  It's part of the healing process of being with his family that he's been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this.  I think that's one side of it.
The other side of it is he's a racer.  We have 270 employees.  I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation.
Q.  Brett, respecting the process, the investigation, knowing there's things you can't comment on, are you able to say whether you know whether Tony has a clear picture in his own mind of what happened that second or two that night?
BRETT FROOD:  I am not going to comment on the incident itself.  It was a tragic accident.  Right now the focus is to be on Tony and the car this weekend and how he's going to get through this.
Q.  The fact that Tony is racing this weekend, should we read anything into that about what you know about the investigation and where it's at in the process?
BRETT FROOD:  No.  I mean, we've really been respecting the process, as Tony said, and the investigation.  Him being in the racecar right now is about him getting through what has been a very emotional two weeks, what his next step is in coping with this.
 There's been a great deal of empathy and sympathy for that family and what they're going through.  For Tony, it's just been extremely emotional.  This is what is going to help him.
Q.  Can you talk about where Tony is at emotionally right now to step into the car?  Was it 100% his choice not to race the last couple of weeks, without the involvement of the sanctioning body that we will hear from next?
BRETT FROOD:  I'll address the latter first. Yes, the decision to be in the car is 100% Tony's.
Q.  Please define his emotional stage at this point.  A very fragile Tony Stewart at this point.
BRETT FROOD:  You just saw Tony.  It's been a difficult two weeks.  But Tony is ready to be in the racecar.  He wouldn't be here if he wasn't.
Q.  Brett, you've worked for Tony for a long time.  You've seen him in ways we have not.  How would you characterize his preparation for this and what you think he'll experience as he gets back in the car?
BRETT FROOD:  I think it's going to be very overwhelming being in that garage today.  He's going to feel an awful lot of support.  As I just mentioned, this is his family.  It's the crew members, it's the officials, it's the drivers.  It's his family that he's been with since 1999.  This is going to be part of that process for him.  I believe it's going to be an overwhelming process, this weekend.
 That being said, Tony Stewart is a racecar driver.  He's been a racecar driver for the past 35 years.  When he puts that helmet on in practice, I'm quite convinced he'll be ready to race the car, he'll be able to separate the two.
Q.  Brett, this obviously is a tremendous tragedy.  Obviously in the sport of racing, these guys learn to deal with that part of the sport.  Why do you think this has hit Tony so hard?
BRETT FROOD:  Because he was involved in an accident and a young man died.  I can't imagine what he's going through.  I can't imagine what the kid's parents are going through.
 It's something, as Tony said, that he hopes no one in this room or certainly anywhere will ever have to go through.  He was involved in a tragic accident.
Q.  I noticed Tony mentioned Kevin Ward's family members by name.  Has he reached out to them personally at all?
BRETT FROOD:  Tony has sent the family flowers and a card around the services.  Besides that he's been very respectful of them and their time to grieve.
 I do know that it will be very important, it's important for Tony, to spend time with the family.  I do believe that will happen in the appropriate time.
Q.  Obviously it's an emotional time.  Internally how do you deal with it as an organization, the prep work?  Let's face it, it's not an ordinary weekend that all of you are dealing with.
BRETT FROOD:  We've got 270 employees back in Kannapolis working hard.  Tony has three other team members.  These are folks that are at Stewart‑Haas because they believe in the leadership, they believe in the ownership, believe in the folks that we have surrounding them, and we believe in them. 
So for them, I think their focus has been undeterred over the last several weeks.  They're obviously really excited to have Tony back in the car, that leader, the guy they believe in.  So I think the focus will be there this weekend from those guys.  We should be good.
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you very much for your time.  We certainly appreciate it.                       

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Roush teams struggle, Keselowski recovers, and other notes from Michigan Speedway

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Much was made in the run-up to Sunday's race at MIS that Roush Racing's test at the track in July would lead to great things for them in the next race here.

But when the checkered flag came down Sunday, the results (though better than June for sure) were nothing to write home about. In a race dominated by Jeff Gordon's Chevy and Joey Logano's Ford, the Fords of Jack Roush could only manage to come in 10th (Biffle), 15th (Stenhouse) and 23rd (Edwards). Hardly thrilling.

A new year will bring new cars (and 2015 packages will be tested on Monday (i.e. tomorrow) at MIS), so next year brings new hope for Roush at the track it used to dominate at.

But looking back at 2014, the Cat in the Hat is no doubt pretty upset with his team's performance.

Restarts are critical
What ultimately decided the race at MIS was restarts. There were several of them late, and while Joey Logano beat Gordon in most of them, the final one (and the race) went to Gordon.

Here are Logano's thoughts after the race;

"I had a bunch of good ones. The last one wasn’t the greatest. I got through the gear box good and had the 24 cleared and I should have pulled down in front of him and got that draft but he got up next to me and pulled me back so hard that I couldn’t get away from him. He was able to get position on me into one and once he got that clean air I knew I had one more shot. I knew I was really good into one and that was his weak point. I drove it off there and got him wiggled a little bit getting underneath him and cleared him again but he was able to pull me back again off the corner and then I got loose under him trying to maintain what I had and came in third."

Some drivers were apparently unhappy with Joey's tactics on restarts. We'll see if that displeasure carries forward to later races.

Toyota notes
The top Toyota drivers were Clint Bowyer (sixth) and Denny Hamlin (seventh).
Brian Vickers (19th) also recorded a top-20 result at the 1.5-mile track.

Not a great race for Toyota, who saw big names Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth have woes early and finish at the back of the pack.

Good news for Toyota is that Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin clinched Chase positions (along with Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger). Matt Kenseth is still in good shape in the points and should clinch in the next few weeks on points even if he doesn't pull off a win.

Also good news for Toyota is that Clint Bowyer solidified his point standings and currently holds one of the four spots in Chase for non race winners. A few more solid runs and he should make it, though a win would be much more comforting I'm sure.

Keselowski recovers
One of cautions in Sunday's race was brought out by hometown hero Brad Keselowski, but he recovered well from his encounter with the wall and came home 8th.

"That was a good finish to come home eighth after hitting the wall. We had some pretty good adversity there with the blown tire. I am not sure why that happened. We didn’t have any indication of it and there was no real reason to. I was about the least aggressive you could be and did a run before that where I was more aggressive and didn’t even come close to showing signs of an issue. I don’t know. I think we just got a bad tire. It is hard to say but the team did a hell of a job to overcome that and get an eighth place finish out of what should have been probably a 25th or 30th place finish," he said after the race.

Looking ahead
My dark horse pick to win next week at Bristol: Marcos Ambrose -- he missed out at the Glen, but has a good track record at Bristol and is trying to make the Chase still. There's motivation, and the talent to win in what is likely his last NASCAR season. With some luck, he could be in Victory Lane.

Burton reflects on his week in Stewart's car
Jeff Burton finished 37th as he filled in for Tony Stewart under difficult circumstances. He reflected on the week Sunday at MIS.

"This was a hard week. This was honestly one of the hardest weeks I’ve ever spent, coming here on Friday not knowing what to expect. I thought everybody did a really good job. Put a great effort out there. I did a terrible job on the restarts. Once we got in clean traffic we were maybe a tenth off the leader. We had really good pace the car drove well. I was really encouraged by the one change we made. The car was fast. We were running 16’s or 17’s or something, but we had a much faster car than that. Just my inexperience in traffic hurt us some."

He expanded on the most difficult part of the whole situation:
"I think just … these are people that we are talking about. You have a lot of conversations about the ‘what if’s’ and all this, but at the end of the day these are real people, that are human beings and have feelings and I think a lot of times we forget that. We talk about people like they are robots and they are not they are human beings. Just listening to some of the misinformation and people speculating about stuff, I just thought it was a travesty in a lot of ways. Ultimately all that really weighed on me, knowing that we had two families, at least two families just in agonizing pain and really not being able to do anything about it."

"Racing is a community. I don’t know the Ward family at all, but I know that they raced and that means that I share something in common with them. The racing community cares about each other even if they don’t know you they still care about you. I think that is what we saw this week. Of course everybody in this garage knows Tony (Stewart). Tony doesn’t beat his chest and talk about the things he does for people. We know it, we see it, but nobody else does. (Dale) Earnhardt (Sr.) was like that, Earnhardt didn’t want anybody to know they things he did for people. That is how Tony is and that is something a lot of people they only know Tony because he threw a helmet. They only know Tony because he got mad. Well hell I get mad too. I just hate people jump to conclusions."


Jeff Gordon positions himself as a favorite to win Sprint Cup title with dominant Michigan Speedway win

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- There are few things everyone agrees on, but there are also things that almost everyone with common sense will admit are true.
Right now, one of those things is that Jeff Gordon is the favorite, or at least a favorite, to win this year's Sprint Cup crown.

At age 43, he is reclaiming some of the dominance he had on this sport back in his 20s, when he took home four championships (the last coming in 2001). He's running up front pretty much every week, and more importantly running better than his teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (as well as everyone else).

If you're not sold on Gordon -- here are the numbers on him:
-- He has now won 91 Cup races in his career, and this is his third win of the year (last time he won 3 races was in 2011).
-- Gordon now leads the point standings by 3 points, over Dale Jr.
-- He has won the last two pole positions (Watkins Glen, Michigan)

I could go on, but you get the point. Numbers show Jeff is back, officially.

It's a team effort of course, with Hendrick equipment, leadership from crew chief Alan Gustafson and of course Jeff behind the wheel. And he's the first to admit that any time you ask him what's behind the resurgence.

"It's everything. It's Hendrick Motorsports and the job that they do collectively.... Everyone who is buildng the chassis and the bodies and the cars back at the shop. The engines are amazing. And then I've got to give so much credit to Alan Gustafson and his crew. This guy is a great leader," Gordon said Sunday after his win at MIS.

And a more mature Gordon knows better how to handle his equipment, and it's paying off for him. Those early years where he ran so well were just raw talent coming out, but this era of Jeff Gordon success is a lot more about decisions he is making behind the wheel.

Either way, the competition better watch out come Chase time.
Because I don't see anybody else running as well right now as Jeff Gordon.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at or on Twitter @MattMyftiu

Allmendinger riding wave of confidence after last week at Watkins Glen -- FULL TRANSCRIPT

AJ ALLMENDINGER, NO. 47 KINGSFORD CHARCOAL CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at Michigan International Speedway and discussed the week following his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory, his outlook for the Chase and many other topics. Full Transcript:
TALK ABOUT YOUR WEEK AS WELL AS COMING INTO MICHIGAN THIS WEEK: “It’s been really good.  Luckily I have the best PR person in the world with Jennifer Chapple.  It’s been really good.  Just to be able to amongst everything throughout the interviews and everything and all the exposure that we have it’s been important to me to see the faces of Tad and Jodi Geschickter and Brad Daugherty.  To me they are the ones that deserve all the credit and they have worked so hard.  Especially with Tad and Jodi starting 20 years ago with their race team in a barn to get to this point and be able to share that all together – Sprint Cup victory and to have it be our first. And all the guys at the shop they work so hard just with our little race team to keep building great race cars and putting the effort in.  Throughout the course of the year through the up’s and down’s that we have had that to me is what has been great to be able to share that with everybody on our race team.  We truly are just a family that works hard together.  Everything that has come with that has just been fantastic.”
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MAKING THE CHASE THIS SEASON AND WHAT THAT MEANS TO YOU: “It’s just big in general for all of our sponsors that support this great race team.  To be able to have Tad and Jodi and Brad really be able to say that they have a race team that is in the Chase.  Everything that comes along with that is just so big for our race team.  It can only help us to keep getting better.  We know when it comes to the Chase as a championship contender obviously our names aren’t going to be the first ones that are brought up.  We know that.  Especially places like here and the 1.5-mile race tracks where we have struggled a little bit so we know we have a lot of work to do as well. These next few weeks hopefully gives us a chance just to keep working hard, maybe trying some things and just see if we can get our race team just a little bit better around these places. So when we get to the Chase hopefully we can make just a little bit of noise in it as well.”
DO YOU THINK YOU ARE AT A DISADVANTAGE BEING A ONE CAR TEAM? “When it comes to disadvantage to just adding an extra car not really because with the RCR alliance that we have technically I have five or six teammates.  We get all the data and all the engineering all the notes from them.  I don’t look at it as a disadvantage to just having a one car team.  But with that said where we are as a team we’ve got 35 people that work on our race team and that is counting the front office, people that answer the phones and the marketing side of it.  It’s just getting those resources in and continually trying to build our race team.  All the data that we get from Richard Childress and the ECR motors have been so great.  The alliance that we have with them and the help from Chevy it’s only helped us. We are far ahead of where we would be without them.   “But at the same point we are always trying to keep up with all the resources that they have and to try to make us better.  I don’t look at it as needing an extra car.  This is part of it making the Chase is going to help us hopefully get a few more resources going into the Chase.  That is kind of where we are at right now where our struggled are is just continually trying to build and keep up with the big race teams when it comes to resources and just man power.”
YOUR WIN ON SUNDAY SORT OF SHOWS THAT SOMEONE CAN GO FROM THE ROAD TO RECOVERY PROGRAM AND WIN.  TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY FROM THERE TO THIS VICTORY AND WHAT IT’S BEEN LIKE: “I mean I knew the mistake I made and I learned from it.  NASCAR laid out a plan to get back and I wasn’t going to fight it.  More importantly what it did for me is it gave me time away from racing which I’ve never had to just figure out if I even wanted to race anymore and then realize that at that point racing wasn’t making me happy anyway so what was it.  What did I have to do to just be happier out of the race car? Because in the end at some point we are not going to have a race car whether it’s next week, a year, 10 years, hopefully it is 10-15 years, but at some point there will be no more race car.  For the first time I had to look at that and that is really where I was.  The whole time really wasn’t trying to get back to NASCAR I was going to do whatever it took at that point, but everything else was just trying to get myself better.  I wouldn’t change anything about it.  I’m way better off now than I’ve ever been.  Honestly without that probably wouldn’t of had to make those changes or at least dealt with it.  It’s a lot better.”
THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK AFTER THE WIN THAT THERE MIGHT BE NEW STUFF COMING FROM CHILDRESS, NEW GENERATION CHASSIS AND STUFF LIKE THAT.  DO YOU HAVE A BRAND NEW CAR HERE THIS WEEKEND? DOES THE PERFORMANCE THIS WEEKEND GIVE YOU ANY MOMENTUM HEADING INTO THE CHASE SINCE IT’S MADE UP PRIMARILY OF 1.5-MILE TRACKS?“RCR has been so open to allowing us to have all the resources that they need.  I think right now when it comes to their chassis they are running something that is their newest, newest end all. They have had it the last couple of weeks. We are kind of one step behind that.  Although this chassis that we have was one I ran at the All-Star race that was really good then got wrecked so we just got that thing re-clipped and all done up.  So the guys at the shop have done a great job to really massage on this race car and try to make it as best as possible.  RC (Richard Childress) has been so good to say ‘we will do whatever it takes when you are in the Chase to go out there and help you do the best that is possible.’  I have said it since day one my goal has been to not just keep taking, taking, taking we want to be able to give something back to them.  We want to have them look at our notes and get better from it.  Hopefully we are doing that a little bit. 
“This weekend, yeah, we would love to go out there and win the race.  I mean that is the ultimate goal, but realistically I feel like just this first practice session from the last time we were here we are way better than we were.  We will find out in qualifying and then tomorrow in practice and obviously on Sunday in the race where we truly are, but it’s not about the ultimate goal of winning the race. That is what we would love to do, but it’s about just trying to get better.  That is the next four weeks and that is the next 10 weeks after that.  I have said since day one if we can get to Homestead and run the last lap and say we are far better than when we started the year whether that is a championship, 16th, 10th in points whatever it is that is a successful year.  We are not changing anything we are just trying to get better.  The only thing I would say is we hadn’t planned on using our last test.  We used three of them and now maybe with the win and the more money and everything that comes with that being in the Chase we might use that fourth test before the Chase starts.  Probably at a 1.5-mile somewhere, something we’ve got to have a meeting about this week.” 
“We don’t want to go to Chicago and suck.  We want to use it before the Chase starts.”
“Yeah, but that was just something we had planned to not even use just to save money, but now we might have the opportunity to go test, but that is a meeting we’ve got to have this week.  Last week was all about enjoying it and just taking everything and just really trying to take whether it was an interview or just celebrating back at the shop with the guys, just take it all in and truly enjoy it.  Now this weekend we are back to business, Monday we will have those meetings.”
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST THING ABOUT THE WHOLE WEEK POST WIN LEADING UP TO MICHIGAN? “I think it just goes back to being at the shop with the guys.  Just enjoying it. Having my parents there was so special to be able to share that with them in Victory Lane.  I’ve put so much pressure on myself whether it’s this year or the last few years to go out there and try to be at my best and I felt like at times if I didn’t win it was a negative on me because that is what my life has been all about was winning and doing that.  To be able to this year kind of look at it differently, have a different perspective, but to be able to say as a whole as a race team that we are winners in the Sprint Cup Series which is hard to do.  That has probably been the most enjoyment thing.  Waking up each day knowing that I don’t have to have you guys ask me when I’m going to win again.  Or ‘are you going to be the next first time winner.’ I don’t have to do that anymore.  I’m good with that now.” 
YOUR COMMENTS EARLIER I THINK WERE GOOD FOR ANYBODY ABOUT HAPPINESS.  WHAT DID YOU REPLACE IT WITH?  HOW MUCH SWEETER IS THE VICTORY?  HOW MUCH LESS PAINFUL IS LOSING OR CRASHING OR WHATEVER HAPPENS NEGATIVE?  “When it comes to the racing side of it, if we have a bad day I’m still mad about it and frustrated and there have been many of times this year leaving the race track just upset about it and it carrying over for the next day or so.  I used to let it just take over my life.  It wasn’t okay I’m mad about it at night and in the morning.  It would carry over to the next week.  The way the sport is you just let it keep carrying over the next week is bad, the week after and so on.  It can steam roll to where you are just miserable.  I used to do that a lot.  I think for me it’s more about I’m still as passionate as ever about racing and wanting to win.  Probably more than ever with this race team because I feel like it’s my own race team and I want to strap it to my back and take it to new levels that we haven’t been at.  Which that is what we are doing we will be in the Chase.  But at the same point getting over it and enjoying what is around you and surrounding yourself with friends and family that make you happy that truly love you whether you are a race car driver or not they don’t care. Things like that, just the daily life of just trying to make things a lot more simply in life and a lot less stressful.  Just trying to enjoy when you are out with friends and not whether you finished 43rd or you won it doesn’t matter when you are just having family and friends hanging out.  That is basically what I have tried to do.”
HOW LONG DID THE HAT DANCE TAKE WITH ALL YOUR DIFFERENT SPONSORS? “I watched my ESPN interview after.  I didn’t mention anything I think I just kept screaming at Jerry Punch that we finally won a Sprint Cup race, I kind of laugh about that. I think I’ve got pretty good at mentioning all of them Scott Products, Kingsford, Clorox, Bush’s Beans, Charter, House Autry, Shore Lunch, Hungry Jack then there are the side sponsors that come with that Viva, Hidden Valley stuff like that.  I have gotten pretty good at memorizing them, but yeah the hat dance took forever and I loved it.  I wanted to sleep in Victory Lane, but they told me I had to get back to the plane so everybody could fly out.  I was willing to sleep right there.  I wanted to wake up with confetti stuck to my face.  They said that wasn’t allowed.”

Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards and more offer thoughts ahead of today's race at Michigan Speedway

AUSTIN DILLON (starting 8th):
IS IT EYE POPPING JUST TO SEE 206 GO UP ON THE BOARD LIKE THAT?  CAN YOU REALLY TELL THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HOW MUCH FASTER THIS PLACE IS NOW THAN IT WAS SEVERAL WEEKS AGO? “Yeah it’s just cooler.  The grip level is there.  As soon as I hit the track this morning unlocking the locker was not really an issue.  You could run pretty close to wide open for a Cup car which is crazy because we have so much horsepower.  It doesn’t seem to lose speed and the craziest thing was that a lot of people complained about vibrations.  I just think it was such a high speed that the only way you could really make them go away is to life a little bit on entry to make the car kind of give it some help there. I started doing that in qualifying it seemed to help.”
Yes for sure.  It’s nice to be able to come back to these places and improve each time.  It seems like the second time around everywhere we have gone we have improved.  Some of those places that we had good finishes this year it will be tough to improve on, but we can.  I really feel like it’s just like Nationwide and Truck when we have come around the second time we have been able to really improve.  For me just to this point in the season it’s like an eye opener to know what it really takes to go through a full Cup season.  I’m already realizing that and wish you could start over tomorrow and just start from the beginning and be more prepared.  I think you would put our team at a different level at this point. We are going to finish these last four races strong and see what it gives us, but I know going forward these places the next few times are going to be good for us.”  
BRIAN VICKERS, No. 55, Michael Waltrip Racing
Starting Position:  4th

How was qualifying?
"The guys on this Aaron's Dream Machine brought a great race car here.  Man, it's hairy out there running -- so close to wide-open. We have a good Camry for Sunday.  We have a great starting spot.  I'd love to be on the pole, but it wasn't meant to be.  I couldn't be more proud of these guys.  The car is just so fast.  I'm almost wide-open."
Why did you describe qualifying as 'hairy'?
"You're just on the edge -- so close to wide-open.  You have less inputs -- if that makes sense -- when you're almost wide-open.  When you're lifting and braking and steering you have three inputs.  When you're holding it wide-open, there's just one input -- the steering wheel.  There are less options to manage a tight or loose car.  If you have less inputs -- you have less control.  I find that any time you're almost wide-open you have less inputs, which makes it more difficult." 
TALK ABOUT YOUR STARTING POSITION FOR SUNDAY. “Close but didn’t quite make it. Once again. That is our seventh front row start this year, which we are very proud of don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of effort to do that but we only have one pole. That is frustrating. That means that is a lot of second place starting positions. We were close again and just weren’t able to do it. I have a really fast Shell Pennzoil Ford this weekend and we have been able to keep showing Penske is very strong in qualifying. We are making all the sessions besides the superspeedways and we are proud to have done that this deep in the season. I have a good car in race trim too. I feel like I have something similar to what I had in this race last year that we won the pole and race with. We are going to come up a little short on the pole but hopefully we can do it in the race.” 
WHAT IS THE SPEED SENSATION LIKE? “You get used to it. When things go bad that is when you feel like you are going really fast because you don’t slow down very quick when you are going however fast we were going. It is fast I know that much. You actually get used to it. It is such a smooth racetrack and if your car drives as good as mine did here today you get used to that. In the race when you get dirty air and restarts and you are fighting for any kind of air you can get, any gap you can see you are shooting for that in the corner to get something on your car because you are going that fast and relying on air that much. The faster you go the more you rely on air. When you have a car in front of you the bigger affect there is. It is challenging but a lot of fun having that much speed out there and setting these track records and all that is pretty cool.”
TALK ABOUT QUALIFYING HERE AND THE SPEEDS AND YOUR STARTING POSITION FOR SUNDAY. “It is fast. That is the simplest way to describe it. It is fast. I wish you guys could ride in that car with me. That is screamin’. If I had to do over again I think I could do better but I am sure everyone could say that. There is so much speed out there you have to do everything perfectly. We almost did. I thought we had a shot at the pole there – we did have a shot at the pole. It is like Jimmy Fennig said, ‘It is nice to be disappointed with third.’ I think we were 23rd the last time we were here. It was definitely a fun day and just what we needed, something positive like that.”
HOW NICE IS IT TO HAVE THE TEST HERE IN JULY COME TO FRUITION? “I believe that at this point it looks like we did the right thing. I feel like we have a very fast car here. It shows us that we are doing the right things. We are working on things and it is paying off. The race is another story but we will enjoy this today. It has been a lot of work for a lot of people. Hopefully we just keep moving forward. We have been making progress and this is a good step.”

Michigan Speedway's reputation for speed continues to grow with record pole run by Jeff Gordon

BROOKLYN, Mich. – 206.558 miles per hour. And that's an average.
That's the number Jeff Gordon put up to take the pole for the Cup race scheduled for today at Michigan Speedway (I saw scheduled because the skies are a bit weepy today, but we should still get the race in). 
Since the repave here at MIS a few years back, it's been the fastest track in NASCAR ... and what's interesting is that the drivers say it doesn't even feel like a record-breaking speed.
"It doesn't feel that fast, to be honest.” Gordon said. “It feels fast in the corners because I know I've got a tremendous amount of throttle in it and I'm carrying a lot of speed, at the same time when you're carrying that much speed in the corners you don't feel like you're going that fast on the straightaways. It's not a big acceleration or change. The only thing that gets my attention is when I look up there (at the scoring tower) and I see the speeds. You don't realize you're going that fast. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and the guys did a perfect job. This is exciting. To be running this good and have cars that are this great: back-to-back poles from Watkins Glen (Last Sunday) to Michigan, we're having a lot of fun right now.”

To put things in perspective, the first pole Gordon put up at MIS was in 1995 -- at 186.611.Seven total drivers broke the previous track record -- and conditions for speed were perfect on Friday -- but the question now is: How fast can they go here at MIS going forward?

 Toyota notes after Truck Series win at Michigan International Speedway
-- Johnny Sauter picked up the victory in Saturday afternoon's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Michigan International Speedway.
-- Sauter crossed the finish line .43 seconds ahead of second-place Matt Crafton -- Sauter's teammate at ThorSport Racing.
-- Tundra drivers Kyle Busch (fifth), German Quiroga (sixth), Timothy Peters (seventh), Jeb Burton (eighth) and Joe Nemechek (10th) all recorded top-10 finishes.
-- Darrell Wallace Jr. finished 11th, but led the field three times for a race-high 48 laps (of 100).
-- Other Tundra drivers to lead laps at the 1.5-mile Michigan oval included Sauter (21 laps), Busch (14 laps) and Crafton (seven laps).
-- Tundra drivers have won 11 of 12 NCWTS races this season.
-- Tundra race-winners in 2014 include Busch (five wins), Wallace Jr. (two wins), Crafton (two wins), Jones (one win) and Sauter (one win).
-- Since 2004, Tundra drivers have recorded 123 NCWTS wins.
-- Sauter now sits first in the unofficial NCWTS point standings after 12 races this year.  He is nine points ahead of second-place Crafton.  Wallace (fifth), Quiroga (sixth), Timothy Peters (seventh) and Jeb Burton (10th) are also in the top-10 in the standings.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Wood Brothers have bright future with Ryan Blaney as their Cup driver, Penske alliance

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- As long as NASCAR has been around, the Wood brothers have been a part of it. They are part of its DNA.
But while they have a long history, they also have an eye to the future and know how to make the right moves to still be competitive.
Proof of that is the news that Ryan Blaney will pilot the team's iconic #21 Cup series entry starting in 2015 on a part-time basis, replacing the departing Trevor Bayne -- another talented driver who is finally getting his shot at a full-time Cup ride with Roush Fenway Racing in the #6 car.
Having watched Ryan Blaney, son of NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, come up in the sport in the past few years (he's only 20 years old), it's very clear this is a great choice by the Woods -- who have seen the best of the best in NASCAR drive for them over the years.
(Side note: Since Trevor is in Mid-Ohio for Nationwide race today and Saturday, Blaney will get his first shot in the car this weekend at MIS those days for practice and qualifying)

I believe the 21 car will be a temporary stop in Cup for Blaney, unless he can do well enough to get the Woods to want to compete full-time again, but the time he is there could be impressive.
The team will have a technical alliance with Penske Racing, arguably the second best team in the garage right now behind Hendrick Motorsports, so that can only help Blaney and the Woods.

Add in a talented driver who has impressed in every series he has raced in so far (Blaney is a contender for the Truck series crown right now in a truck he drives for Brad Keselowski's team), and you have a recipe for success. The Woods can pick and choose the tracks they will be strong at due to their part-time schedule, so look for Blaney to be running up front regularly with the big names even at this young age.
Matt Myftiu can be reached at or on Twitter @MattMyftiu.
Below is the full press conference of the Wood Brothers' and Ryan Blaney's announcement today at Michigan Speedway.
RYAN BLANEY, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – YOU ARE GOING SPRINT CUP RACING NEXT YEAR AND YOU HAVE DOUBLE DUTY THIS WEEKEND WITH THE TRUCKS. YOUR THOUGHTS? “I am very excited to be able to race for the Wood Brothers next year. They have been so great to me with the week and a half that I have been over there. The history of this team is very special and being able to drive for this team is special and a dream come true. Thank you Eddie and Len for giving me a chance and Motorcraft and Quick Lane for being behind it. I am really excited for next year. I am excited to get the day started. I will be practicing and qualifying the car for Trevor and I am excited to see what we can do.”
WHAT DID BRAD (KESELOWSKI) SAY WHEN YOU TOLD HIM? “He is very happy. That is what he invested in back in 2012 when I started driving for his truck team. That is what the truck team is for, to build you up to eventually go Nationwide and Cup racing. He was happy and I want to do as much as I can for him next year and drive in the truck also and keep helping that program out. I owe a lot to Brad and he gave me a big opportunity to get started in NASCAR so I owe him a lot and I want to keep racing for him and try to keep winning races for that team.”
EDDIE WOOD, WOOD BROTHERS RACING – CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE NEWS YESTERDAY AND HAVING RYAN IN THE CAR THIS WEEKEND? “We are very excited about it. Ryan was our choice from really day one when Trevor announced he was moving over to the 6 car full time. That was the plan all along when he got in our car. Actually it is kind of the same scenario that will play out with Ryan. We will have a new alliance with Team Penske next year and that lines up with Ryan. We are really happy and excited about it and kind of like Ryan, we are anxioius to get started next year.” 
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – WHAT WILL BE THE MOST DIFFICULT PART FOR YOU THIS WEEKEND? “Just that I have never been to Michigan before in a Cup car. I have run an ARCA and Truck race here but they are so different. Trying to get adjusted to this car as quickly as possible will be the most challenging part. I think we have – we are very fortunate nowadays to have a lot of data to look at throttle traces and everything like that. We are kind of spoiled and I can look at that from Brad and Joey’s car in the first race here and kind of apply that over. Working with all the guys on a new team and being able to communicate well with them might take a little bit but I think we will sort it out here by the first practice and be ready to qualify and practice tomorrow.”
HOW DO YOU MAKE SURE THAT YOU FOCUS ON YOUR GOAL OF WINNING THE TRUCK TITLE THIS YEAR WHILE ALSO MAKING SURE YOU ARE READY FOR NEXT YEAR? “I think you have to separate each series from each other and having a different mindset in each series. I am really focused on trying to get this car good for Trevor for Sunday and hopefully help the Wood Brothers have a great run. That is my goal but at the same time we have a really big race on the Truck side. I don’t want to talk about that much because this is about the Wood Brothers right now but it is awesome to have Cooper Standard and everyone sponsoring the Truck race and most of my focus is on that truck and trying to win a championship there. At the same time, I can get ready and focus for next year with the Cup car and still run the Nationwide cars also.”
IN A COUPLE WEEKS YOU GO ROAD RACING IN THE TRUCK SERIES, HAVE YOU DONE ANY ROAD TESTING IN THE TRUCK YET? “No, not yet. I think we are going to go to Kershaw here in the next week or so and just shake down a truck but we have a good idea of what we need to be better this year from last year. The first year it was kind of tough not really knowing what you need but I think we have a great plan going back and I am really excited to get back on a road course. I really like road course racing and hopefully we can have a great run in the truck.”
EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – HOW DO YOU LIKE THE PART TIME SCHEDULE AND DO YOU HAVE PLANS TO CHANGE THAT? WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE BACK FULL TIME IN CUP? “Obviously you would like to race every week like everybody else does but just the way things worked out we are really happy to still be a part of it. We have a lot of really great people looking for extra sponsorship for next year as well as this year but really for next year. Hopefully we will have – I don’t see us going back full time next year at all but we could add some races for sure.”
RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO KNOW THAT THE DEVELOPMENT SERIES OF NASCAR COMING THROUGH WITH YOU AND KYLE LARSON AND CHASE ELLIOT IS COMING THROUGH AND YOU GUYS ARE THE FUTURE OF THE SPORT? “It means a lot to be a part of that young group that is coming up. Being able to race with all those guys, and I raced with a bunch of them when I was a kid. I raced with Chase and Jeb (Burton) and Daryl (Wallace Jr.) when I was a kid. It is cool to see us all moving up through the ranks and I hope we all have full time rides on Sunday one day. I am very fortunate to be a part of it and it is a very good thing.” 
EDDIE WOOD CONTINUED – IN TERMS OF THE TECHNICAL ALLIANCE WITH PENSKE, IS IT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU GUYS HAD WITH ROUSH? “Right now we have an alliance with Roush Fenway and that includes engineering, cars and everything about it. It will be a similar situation with Team Penske. The difference will be that Team Penske has never done this before. This is new to them. That will be a work in progress to figure out how to do everything. It is going to be a similar situation.”
THEY SUPPLY THE ENGINES BUT HAVE NEVER DONE CARS AND CHASIS? “All the engines are from Roush Yates, all of that will be the same. That won’t change. But the alliance is similar.”
 YOU’VE HAD VETERAN DRIVERS IN THE CAR AND LATELY WITH TREVOR AND NOW RYAN YOU HAVE YOUNG UP AND COMING DRIVERS. WHAT IS THE BEST THING ABOUT AND THE POSSIBILITIES WHEN YOU PUT A YOUNG DRIVER LIKE THAT IN THE CAR? “You know, youth seems to be what it is all about. We’ve been fortunate to have had Trevor starting at age 20 and Ryan is 20, so maybe that is the number for us. We had really good results and relationship with Trevor and I can see the same thing with Ryan. I have known Ryan’s dad since he came into the sport and it is a really grounded family. It is a racing family, as are we. We grew up racing, not on the driving part but the other side of it. Ryan has grown up as a driver racing everything so it is a lot of fun. Kids are fun. I have grandkids now and kids are the coolest thing.”
WHAT IS THE ADVANTAGE TO FORMING AN ALLIANCE WITH PENSKE AS OPPOSED TO DOING IT ON YOUR OWN? “It is really hard with as technical as Cup racing has gotten over the last few years with fuel injection and everything like simulation and all that is involved – you just can’t do it by yourself as a single team, a small team or however you want to say it. We have tried to do that. We were doing stuff on our own when we formed the alliance with Roush Fenway when Trevor came on board. We could do fairly well. We could qualify okay but you just couldn’t finish it off. So you have to be a part of something bigger and it has worked really well with what we have with Roush Fenway and of course Trevor was a development driver for them and now that we have Ryan and he is a development driver for Team Penske, it just makes sense to be a part of their alliance.”
WILL YOU GUYS DO ANY TESTING WITH RYAN BEFORE DAYTONA NEXT YEAR? “We haven’t gotten that far yet and I don’t really know what the rules and testing policies will be. I don’t think they have announced them for next year yet. We will be thinking about all that but we haven’t gotten that far yet.”