Monday, June 26, 2017

Travel Tips: Daytona International Speedway – June 29-July 1, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series head to Daytona International Speedway for the second time this season as a prelude to Independence Day, with the Xfinity Series Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 on Friday, June 30 and the Cup Series Coke Zero 400 on Saturday, July 1.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, June 29
  • Xfinity Series practice – 2 and 4 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 3 and 5 p.m. ET
Friday, June 30 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 2:10 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Coca-Cola Firecracker 250 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, July 1 –
  • Pre-race concert featuring country singer Tyler Farr – 5:25 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca Cola – 7:30 p.m. ET
For a complete schedule of events, including driver appearances and special events in the UNOH Fanzone, click here.

Find more information on this weekend and the “World’s First Motorsports Stadium” at the event homepage and the “Visitor Center.”

Get more information and purchase tickets for this weekend’s action at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens

Crew chiefs are often the picture of calm, cool and collected as they call the shots from the pit box and speak to their drivers in measured tones while giving specific instructions. It's rare to note even a hint of nervousness from any of them. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Just ask Rodney Childers.

"Well, you're always nervous, but the biggest thing is just tires and knowing what we had," Childers said.

Fuel mileage strategy is always important at Sonoma Raceway. Childers knew, however, as the long laps of the season's first of two road course races began to wind down that Kevin Harvick had enough fuel to go the distance. He was more concerned about tires.

"We had one set of stickers laying there and a lot of guys had two laying there. If you would have got a couple cautions there in that last stage, we would have been in trouble. Kevin did a great job. We got our track position there and did a great job saving fuel and everything just happened to work out.  These races out here, sometimes it takes a lot of luck to be in the right spot at the right time, but we had a good car all weekend and was fast, and everybody did everything right," Childers explained.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Though Harvick has performed well in multiple stages throughout the first half of the regular season, the Toyota/Save Mart 350 is his first race win of 2017. Has preparing for stage racing affected the way Stewart-Haas Racing has prepared for road course racing?

"I would say the most impressive thing about all of this, and I was thinking about this a few minutes ago, is we got ready to build road course cars. We built chassis over the winter and it wasn't the crew chiefs that all of a sudden decided, 'Hey, we've really got to get on this road course thing, we think that we can win out there.' It was the other people at the shop, the aero group and all the other guys that started pushing this thing forward, and it almost took a few weeks to realize, man, these guys are on it. They want to go out there and they want to run good.
           
"So it really comes down to how much hard work went into it at the shop. Those guys worked and worked and worked to build the best cars that we could bring out here, and I think it showed all weekend.
           
"As far as the stage racing part, man, it's tough. You look at it every which way you can look at it, every night this week it's been trying to figure out what's the right thing to do, how many tires do we have laying in the pits, when should we pit, when should we not, do we go after the playoff points in the first stage or do we not, or do we pit early. It's hard, and like I said, sometimes it's luck, too.
           
"But when you have a fast car, it fixes a lot of problems, and that really comes down to everybody at the shop," Childers explained.

Fans have seen what happens when everybody at the Stewart-Haas shop does their jobs well. They produce champions... champions like Kevin Harvick.

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 Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trackin’ Trucks: Two in a Row for John Hunter Nemechek

John Hunter Nemechek crosses the start/finish line at Iowa Speedway.
Credit: Jeff Curry

by Courtney Horn

John Hunter Nemechek earned his second victory in two weeks after taking advantage of a late-race caution at Iowa Speedway Friday night. The NEMCO Motorsports crew took four tires during a pit stop and it paid off tremendously.

Nemechek was the first driver on all fresh tires and when the opportunity came for him to take it three-wide, he didn’t hesitate. Nemechek soared passed Johnny Sauter, who elected not to pit on the last stop, and Chase Briscoe.

“This is unbelievable for sure.” Nemechek said, “We knew that we were gonna have a good truck this weekend running here last year. We led laps last year, qualified on the pole, just didn’t finish it out like we needed to. So we were coming back here looking for some redemption.”

"Somehow it all worked out," Nemechek said. "The last strategy call, taking four tires instead of two, there at the end, we kind of had that strategy if a caution came out towards the end we were going to come no matter what, and no matter who came, just because tires were such a big factor."

Kyle Busch Motorsports dominated Stage 1 of the M&M’s 200 presented by Casey’s General Store. Pole sitter Noah Gragson lead his teammate for the first 16 laps before Christopher Bell passed him and stayed out front, holding a 3.2-second lead to take the stage win.

Bell gambled during the second stage of the night after a one-truck incident involving Mike Senica allowed the leaders to pit with eight laps to go in the stage. Johnny Sauter passed Bell shortly after the restart for his fifth stage win this season.

A multi-truck incident involving Norm Benning, Kaz Grala, and Austin Wayne Self also caused about a 15-minute red flag after Self’s B&D Industries Toyota put down oil on the track.

Sauter held on to finish second, followed by Brandon Jones, Grant Enfinger, and Bell. Enfinger was involved in the Lap 187 incident with Matt Crafton. Crafton spun and hit the wall into Turn 3 after contact with Enfinger sent the ThorSport Racing driver spinning. Crafton finished 19th following the crash.

A Look Ahead 

The Camping World Truck Series take another break in their schedule but return Thursday, July 6th at Kentucky Speedway. Ben Rhodes is still in search of his first series victory. Rhodes finished 13th at the mile-and-a-half a year ago. He sits fifth in the points standings after nine races.

Matt Crafton sits fourth in the standings, 28 points ahead of Rhodes and 95 behind leader Johnny Sauter. Crafton looks to rebound at Kentucky after a late race incident at Iowa.

Nemechek sits eight in the standings despite having back-to-back wins. He finished in the runner-up spot at Kentucky a year ago. Will he have what it takes to capitalize and win three in a row?

Find out on July 6th at 7:30 p.m ET.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Negative Noise: Five Questions for Sonoma and Iowa

(Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
Hold on, let me dust off my soap box.

This week, a lot of people had a lot of conversations, centering around the sport itself. We'll keep talking about it as the race weekend gets underway. The NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR Xfinity Series converge on Iowa Speedway, while the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads to Sonoma Raceway.

I discuss the Truck Series’ most recent winner, an old phrase that needs to be hurled out the window, and two headlines that made a lot of noise this week. Strap in, grab a glass of wine and check out this week’s Five Questions.

Can we put Nemechek’s success into words? John Hunter Nemechek pulled off a fantastic Father’s Day gift, winning at Gateway Motorsports Park with his father, Joe, on the pit box. He’s now in the playoffs for NEMCO Motorsports, a small operation that has achieved so much with a young driver at the wheel. When Nemechek won his first race, it was a shock due to those circumstances—but now, it feels almost commonplace. Nemechek has made himself a recurring contender, despite the odds against him (lack of top-tier affiliation, limited sponsorship). He will be a force for years to come, but we can’t let his consistency blind us from the fact his accomplishments are amazing. Keep on keeping on.

Will Iowa impress like in years past for Xfinity? Trucks and Xfinity invade Iowa this weekend, the site of impressive finishes for both series. With Xfinity the butt of criticism for lack of diversity when it comes to the winner’s circle (and I’ll touch on the most recent winner’s problem later on), so Iowa provides an escape from the critiques. NXS regulars flooded last year’s top-10, with Sam Hornish, Jr. coming in and grabbing his first Xfinity win since 2014. That’s exciting and all, but can it get better? Oh yes, it can; there are no Cup drivers in the field. Some of the Truck series standouts (like CWTS Iowa winner William Byron) are now Xfinity drivers. This weekend has the potential to create some great storylines and cut through the negative noise. Let’s hope it works out.

When will people understand the irony of road course ringers? With Cup spending time in wine country, the influx of “road course ringer” talk has begun. This would be a great time to reiterate that the era of the road course ringer is dead; it’s nothing more than a moniker that’s run out of fuel. There are drivers who excel at road courses but also do well on other configurations, with A.J. Allmendinger being an example; his sole MENCS win came at Watkins Glen International in 2014, but he’s backed it up with solid seasons since then. Then, there are drivers who just race road courses and do well. We’ll see a few of them this weekend. This isn’t to discredit their abilities; however, it is proof that the term "road course ringer" makes no sense. In this age of NASCAR, road course specialists aren’t strong picks for wins—making them not ringers. It’s time to put that term to bed.

Is it time to live up to the ‘encumbered’ label? Did you hear the buzz around the sport this week? Two pieces of news broke this week—and I’m here to basically tear them apart. First, let’s discuss Denny Hamlin’s “win” last weekend—and why I put quotes around that word. Because the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing NXS machine’s splitter wasn’t flat enough (a vague penalization, but that’s for another time), the victory was considered encumbered. The term “encumbered” means “to impede or hinder,” which roughly translates to a victory that has restrictions. Not in NASCAR Land; the crew chief was suspended for two races and faced a $25,000 fine. The No. 20 car can’t use the win’s points in the playoffs. Since Hamlin doesn’t compete for NXS points, he receives no blow back—and the win/money/trophy is still his. Imagine how Byron feels, knowing his legal car only lost due to someone’s splitter. None of these penalties means much if the win stands. NASCAR’s rebuttal is that fans should know who won the race when they leave the track, which is understandable—and completely archaic. If fans love the sport enough to go to the track, they’re interested enough to keep up with the mid-week happenings. Technology at our fingertips makes it easy to get the breaking news that Hamlin’s win is invalid and Byron is the new Michigan International Speedway victor. NASCAR needs to go all in on stripping wins if they truly want to deter people from cheating; it’s time to embrace the true meaning of encumbered.


Do we have a personality problem or a closed-minded problem? A post-Michigan column from the Detroit Free Press was shared via USA Today earlier this week. Author Shawn Windsor is completely entitled to his opinion, which is what a column is meant to showcase. However, there is a lack of research that hangs over this piece. Now, there are points with which I agree, like the fact that other sports are struggling with attendance numbers. We also agree that drivers’ personalities aren’t even close to those of their predecessors. This doesn’t strike me as a bad thing at all; although we look back on those beer-slingin’, punch-throwin’ badasses with fondness, some drivers just don’t fit that mold. Larson said after his MIS victory that he was excited to drink wine in Sonoma, and he later said on Twitter he wasn’t a fan of beer. Does that make him any less exciting to watch? Not to me. Windsor goes on to describe how the sport will suffer without Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (a solid opinion that’s accurate to a degree), claiming that no other driver’s celebrity status goes beyond racing. Jimmie Johnson posing for GAP, Landon Cassill profiled by GQ, and Kasey Kahne highlighted in Runner’s World beg to differ. There are more examples as well, but those three link current drivers with large, mainstream publications. The fact of the matter is, the rise of the young guns also brings brand-new personalities that rival the norm and what we would use to describe the ultimate NASCAR driver. Just because drivers prefer wine to beer, metal to country, golfing to hunting doesn’t make them less interesting. Traditional fans should welcome the change with open arms instead of balking at the idea of young millennials “tainting” the driver image. Nevertheless, I respect Windsor’s opinion and appreciate his coverage of the sport; it forced a conversation that needed to happen. 

TV Schedule: June 23-25

Sonoma Raceway. Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR splits its time on the West Coast and the Midwest. For the first time this season, the Monster Energy Cup Series races on a road course - Sonoma Raceway. Meanwhile, the Camping World and XFINITY Series converge on fan-favorite short track Iowa Speedway.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage at Sonoma and Iowa. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, June 23:
10 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
12 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
2 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1 (Canada: TSN GO)
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1 (Canada: TSN 2)
5 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1 (Canada: TSN GO)
6:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1 (Canada: TSN GO)
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Setup, FS1
8:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series at Iowa: M&M’s 200, FS1

Saturday, June 24:
3 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
5 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
6 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
7:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series: M&M’s 200 (re-air), FS1
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series qualifying, FS1 (Canada; TSN 5)
7 p.m. XFINITY Series qualifying, FS1 (on tape delayed) (Canada: TSN GO)
8 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
8:30 p.m. XFINITY Series at Iowa: American Ethanol E15 250, FS1 (Canada: TSN 2)

Sunday, June 25:
3:30 a.m. XFINITY Series: American Ethanol E15 250 (re-air), FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series at Sonoma: Toyota/Save Mart 350, FS1 (Canada: TSN 2)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Caption This Winner for 6-17-17: Aaron Rosser


Congratulations to Aaron Rosserwho contributed the winning caption for this photo of
Ryan Blaney and Bubba Wallace. All winners who include their twitter handles with their entries will be entered in a drawing for the end-of-season prize package of racing swag.

Jedi-in-Training Ryan Blaney Kenobi: "You really should have looked at our records before you agreed to roar like a wookie every time I outqualified you."
Bubba: "You tricked me."
Ryan: *waves hand* "No I didn't."
Bubba: "No you didn't ..."

Thanks to everyone who played Caption This. Check back on Saturday for a new photo and your next chance to submit a caption.
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NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 4 - Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer
Both with 3 - Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick 

By Track
Kasey Kahne - 4  
All with 3 - Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer

Recent Pole Winners:
2016 Carl Edwards
2015 A.J. Allmendinger

2016 Race Winner: Tony Stewart

The Likely Suspects: Road racing is always a nice change of pace, but don't over think your picks this week. I will be focusing on these reliable drivers who have perfected their road racing skills: Kasey Kahne, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.

My 2 Cents: Remember Carol's rule #1: resist the temptation of picking road course ringers. Inexperience racing with Cup drivers negates their road racing prowess. Stick with Cup drivers that are experienced road racers and you'll thank me on Monday. My no-brainer pick this week is a three way tie between Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne. My next picks are Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray. I'm rounding out my team with Cole Whitt and Michael McDowell.

My Final Four: Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne and Michael McDowell.

Points to Ponder:
  • Kyle Busch leads all active MENCS drivers in road course wins with four (Sonoma, two and Watkins Glen, two).
  • Jamie McMurray leads all active drivers in Coors Light poles at Sonoma with three.
  • Six active MENCS drivers have wins at Sonoma; led by Kyle Busch with two victories (2008, 2015). Busch is the only active driver with multiple wins; Kasey Kahne (2009), Jimmie Johnson (2010), Kurt Busch (2011) Clint Bowyer (2012) and Martin Truex Jr. (2013) each have one win.  
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Sonoma with six victories; followed by Joe Gibbs Racing with four wins.
  • 20 of the 28 (71.4%) Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Sonoma have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Five active drivers are tied for the most runner-up finishes at Sonoma: Denny Hamlin, Jamie McMurray, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman each have one MENCS runner-up finish on the famous road course.
  • Kurt Busch leads all active drivers in top-five finishes at Sonoma with seven. 
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in top-10 finishes with nine.
  • Clint Bowyer leads all active drivers in average finishing position with a 11.455.  
Remember, if you're playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Saturday June 24th at 5 a.m. EDT.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter @purplecatpr.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Sonoma Raceway

credit: NASCAR Media
One of just two road courses the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will visit in 2017, Sonoma Raceway is one of the rare tracks that also hosts the Verizon IndyCar Series and the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Learn more about this track in the heart of California wine country in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Ground breaking for the track, originally known as Sears Point Raceway, took place in Aug. 1968; the surface was completed in November of that year, and the first race – an SCCA Enduro – was held on Dec. 1, 1968.
  • The 2.52-mile, 12-turn road course went by the name of Sears Point until 2001, after which its naming rights were sold and it became Infineon Raceway from 2002-2012; once the naming rights expired, it became Sonoma Raceway, or often simply “Sonoma.”
  • The track has a permanent seating capacity of 47,000, and can expand to 102,000 seats during major events, including hillside seating and additional terraces added for the events. Track changes in 2002 saw the drag strip separated from the front the front straightaway.
  • A modified 2.2-mile version of the course is used for many races, including the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma. The NASCAR track is a 1.99-mile, 10-turn course which utilizes Turn 4A, a 70-degree turn that replaced the previously-used “Chute” which bypassed Turns 5 and 6.
  • The NASCAR Cup Series qualifying record is held by Kyle Larson (96.524 mph/1:14.354 minutes in June 2015). Jeff Gordon holds the records for, among other items, most wins (five), most top 10s (18) and most poles (five).
  • Find out more about Sonoma Raceway and all of its events at www.sonomaraceway.com


Travel Tips: Sonoma Raceway – June 23-25, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and K&N Pro Series West visit Sonoma, California, for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 weekend at Sonoma Raceway this Friday through Sunday, June 23-25. Sonoma is the first of two road course races on the Cup Series schedule for 2017.

On Thursday, June 22, the annual NASCAR Hauler Parade races through Sacramento, making its way over the Tower Bridge and around the State Capital beginning at noon PT. Find the parade route and more information about the event here.

Key on-track event times:

Friday, June 23 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – noon and 3:30 p.m. PT
  • K&N Pro Series West practice –2 p.m. PT
Saturday, June 24
  • K&N Pro Series West qualifying – 10:15 a.m. PT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 11:45 a.m. PT
  • Carneros 200 K&N Pro Series West race – 1:30 p.m. PT
Sunday, June 25 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota/Save Mart 350 – noon PT
Get tickets and more information about the race weekend at www.sonomaraceway.com

Monday, June 19, 2017

Travel Tips: Iowa Speedway – June 23-24, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series visit Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, for this weekend’s racing action. The Truck Series M&Ms 200 hits the track on Friday, June 23, while the Xfinity Series American Ethanol E15 250 goes green on Saturday, June 24.

Both series have autograph sessions scheduled during the weekend: the Truck Series on Friday at 3 p.m. CT and the Xfinity Series on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT.

Key on-track times:

Friday, June 23 –
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9 and 11 a.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1 and 4 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 5:05 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series M&Ms 200 presented by Casey’s General Stores – 7:30 p.m. CT
  • Post-race concert – Easton Corbin
Saturday, June 24 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 5:15 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series American Ethanol E15 250 presented by Enogen – 7:30 p.m. CT
Visit www.iowaspeedway.com for more information on the weekend and to purchase tickets.