Monday, March 27, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Auto Club 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chad Johnston

by Stacey Owens

Second place is often considered the "first loser." Even Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights" touted his dad's sentiment that "if you aren't first, you're last." Kyle Larson had three consecutive second-place finishes before finally wheeling his No. 42 Target Chevrolet to Victory Lane in California this weekend.

Larson talked about his team's performance after the win.

"Yeah, it was definitely a great run for us. We were able to lead a lot of laps within that first stage. Then I made a mistake on pit road. Slid through -- not through my box, but through my sign. I was too close to the wall on the left side. The jack couldn't get up as fast. Our stop was really slow on that one. I lost some spots.
"Was able to get right to second, though, on the restart. Kind of abused my tires that run, fell back to third or fourth. Then got back to second for the end of that second stage.

"Had a good restart there to start the final stage. Got out to the lead. Tried to run my own pace, take care of my tires. Actually pulled away from Truex quite a bit. Then he had gained a lot us on that green-flag stop. Probably came to pit lane a little slow, because the stop before I came in really hot and almost sped. He closed in on us there.

"He was really good when we left for that run. I had to battle him. He got by me. I was able to get back by him. Then kind of pulled away a little bit.

"That's when all the cautions starting coming out. We had some decent restarts there at the end. But still had more cautions. Had to actually come back down pit road, put four new tires on, get some more good restarts.

Credit: Charlotte Bray  
"The pit calls were great. The pit crew did an amazing job. A fairly clean race for us. Lots of fun to be Kyle Larson right now," the driver explained.

The race-winning move was the call by crew chief Chad Johnston to bring Larson down pit road for four tires when the two drivers behind him stayed out.

Team owner Chip Ganassi didn't think he could have made that call.

"I will tell you, I did not have the nerve to make that call," Ganassi said. "That's why there's [sic] guys that do that way better than me. I used to do that in my younger days, you know, run the cars, but I don't do that anymore for that reason.

"That was the winning call. That was obviously the winning call. So my hat is off to Chad Johnston for making that call."

Johnston made the decision based on track dynamics.

"In general at a place like this where you have a lot of tire falloff, it makes that decision [to pit] a little bit easier," Johnston said. "You get two or three laps on your tires, you're kind of at a disadvantage. I try to always put him in the position to be the aggressor. I don't feel like there's going to be anybody better on a restart than what he will be, especially if I give him tires.

"We had a fast enough car. I didn't figure that many cars would stay out. Only three stayed out, which gave us the top and fourth, which I figured would work out pretty well for us. As usual, we get a lot of late cautions here. It went green for the most part. I think at one point we had 18 cars on the lead lap.

"The segments definitely brought something different to it, brought some more interest and more cars back on the lead lap. But at the end of the day, you know, we just had a fast enough car to do what we needed to do."

The car was definitely fast, and Larson's comfort with the track was a bonus.

"Fontana is a track that really suits me," Larson said. "Hopefully, we can learn a lot throughout the rest of the season at all these other racetracks and get some more wins."

As Larson gains a similar comfort level with other tracks, he'll definitely be one to watch throughout the season. A virtual lock for the playoffs, folks on the No. 42 Target team may find themselves with targets on their backs because the entire field is likely to be chasing them all year.
-------------------------------------



 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; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Caption This: Kyle Larson at Pocono

Welcome to Caption This!

Each Saturday, we’ll post a comical NASCAR photo taken by a Skirts and Scuffs photographer. You have until Monday night to leave us a funny caption in the comments. Your goal is to make us laugh out loud.

We’ll publish the winning caption on Wednesday.

All of the weekly winners’ names will be tossed into a hat for a drawing, and one will win a prize package of racing swag at the end of the season. It could be you!

Enjoy this week’s photo of Kyle Larson, winner of today's NASCAR Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway. This picture was snapped at Pocono a couple years ago.

 
Kyle Larson at Pocono presser, Aug. 2014
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs    
Here are the rules:
* Leave your photo caption in the comment section below by Monday at midnight.
* Include your name and twitter handle.
* Only one entry per person for each photo.
* If you win multiple times during the season, you get an entry in the prize drawing for each win.
* Anonymous posts & entries without a twitter handle are not eligible to win.

Keep in mind that we offer Caption This in the spirit of fun. Any nasty, vulgar or otherwise offensive entries will be disqualified and removed at the discretion of Skirts and Scuffs.

So bring on your funnies! Then pop in again on Wednesday to read the winning caption.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Clarity: Five Questions for Auto Club


By Kristen Schneider

NASCAR invades SoCal this weekend, and it’s hard to believe we’re nearly one-sixth of the way through the season. This sliver of the schedule provided a lot of talking points thus far – and it didn’t slow down this week. However, with all these storylines, it’s difficult to look at everything with a clear head.

That’s what I’ll try to do with this week’s column. In this edition of Five Questions, I talk about Indianapolis (again), the state of the Xfinity Series (again), and more happenings as we look ahead to Auto Club Speedway.

Will Indianapolis’ other crazy idea work? Let’s talk about Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s latest attempt to ramping up action. The NXS race will feature restrictor plates, which doesn’t make much sense. IMS is flat, and the lack of flatness at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway make the plate necessary. Also, I’m about 85 percent certain the physics of this doesn’t hold up. But don’t count on me – I cringe every time I think about high school physics class. However, this idea isn’t completely bad; it shows the sport recognizes how lackluster the NXS racing is at the historic track. I’m all for trying something new, but whenever someone complains about the Xfinity race’s performance at IMS, all I think about is the perfectly good track that’s just a hop and a skip away. That a whole other article, so I’ll leave that thought at that. All in all, it’s a bizarre idea that we’ll have to wait to judge.

Has Xfinity achieved the ultimate Dash 4 Cash structure? In case you forgot, Justin Allgaier won the Dash 4 Cash race at Phoenix International Raceway. That’s right, a series regular won! It was an insane finish, and many people focused on Dillon/Custer more than Allgaier – as well as team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s tweet about Jeff Gluck’s hat after the race. So, if we look at the race overall, what is the impression? It’s a great start – but Cup drivers are still present. Any driver that’s raced in Cup five years or fewer is eligible to compete in D4C races, and they were out in full force last week – even influencing race outcomes and such. I’m not completely sold on the format, but I’ll wait until the next D4C event and see who wins that one.

With his 600th start this weekend, is Earnhardt Jr. set to turn it around? Where the heck did the time go? Dale Jr. makes his 600th Cup start this weekend, and we all feel old and nostalgic. Sigh. This season – all four races of it – isn’t going well for the No. 88 team. They’re qualifying well, but the mid-race progression slides the wrong way. Despite this, Junior is confident in his team – and that’s a big part of making the dynamics work. The old Dale Jr. would’ve given up on his crew already. The change in his demeanor is still awe-inspiring. With that attitude and the fact teammates Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott are doing well, it’s only a matter of time before Dale Jr. and the No. 88 group get it together.

The Notorious YRB is finally getting recognition – will he seal the deal? young Ryan Blaney came into his own quickly, and the entire sport can’t handle it. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford keeps breaking up the regular top-10 group, inserting the single-car operation into the conversation every weekend. Blaney’s talent impressed people before, but now the equipment caught up. Young Ryan Blaney doesn’t drive like a youngster; the 23-year-old wheels it like a veteran and inches closer to a win every time he hits the track. Like Kyle Larson last year, Blaney will grab that first win soon enough and justify all the attention.

A lack of penalties – a sign of confusion or restraint? So, after the Kyle Busch/Joey Logano fight, NASCAR clarified a few boundaries the two drivers didn’t cross. The sentiment was simple – because they didn’t use their cars as weapons, they weren't punished. Well, we got a taste of what that's like: After a wreck late in the Xfinity event, Cole Custer and Austin Dillon shared a moment under caution. Dillon waited for Custer as the field slowed, and he pushed Custer’s car into the wall. However, this warranted no penalties as previously suggested. Is this a good move? To be honest, I see the logic behind it. The big concern is using the racecar as a weapon, and Dillon used his in the loosest sense of the word. It was a nudge that pushed Custer into the wall under caution. That doesn’t strike me as warranting a large penalty. Despite this, NASCAR should have handed down something because they made a big deal about clarifying that line.

TV Schedule: March 24-26

Auto Club Speedway. Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

It's NASCAR, California-style. The sport wraps up its West Coast Swing with its annual stop at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The Monster Energy Cup and XFINITY series descend on the 2-mile track.

The Camping World Truck Series returns to action next weekend at Martinsville.

The following is a handy guide to track activity and television coverage at Auto Club. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, March 24:
1:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
5 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
7 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, FS1
8:30 p.m. K&N Pro West Series: Tucson (taped), NBCSN

Saturday, March 25:
8:30 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
10:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
3:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay XFINITY, FS1
4 p.m. XFINITY Series NXS 300, FS1
6:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Post-Race Show, FS1

Sunday, March 26:
1 a.m. NASCAR XFINITY Series NXS 300 (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
8 a.m. XFINITY Series NXS 300 (re-air), FS1
12:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Pre-Race, FOX
3:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Camping World 500, FOX
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
10:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Auto Club 400 (re-air), FS1

Thursday, March 23, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Auto Club 400


By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s :
By Race
Kurt Busch - 4
All with 3- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano  

By Track
Both with 3 - Kurt Busch and Joey Logano
All with 2 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and A.J. Allmendinger

Recent Pole Winners: 
2016 Austin Dillon
2015 Kurt Busch

Last Year's Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson

The Likely Suspects: Auto Club Speedway favors skillful drivers who know how to wrestle a car to Victory Lane. I'm looking at these drivers to run well this weekend: Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.

My 2 Cents:  The track is a bit worn at Auto Club Speedway so think sleepers when picking. My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between the Busch brothers. My next choices are Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray. I will complete my team with Landon Cassill and David Ragan.

My Final Four: Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Landon Cassill

Points to Ponder:
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with 10, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven. Stewart Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske each have two.
  • Seventeen drivers have won the Coors Light pole at Auto Club Speedway, led by Kurt Busch with four (2015, 2007 and 2006 sweep).
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway with five, followed by Kevin Harvick with three. Johnson has finished second or better in half (11) of his 22 ACS starts.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in top-five finishes at Auto Club Speedway with 13, followed by Matt Kenseth (nine) and Kyle Busch (eight).
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in top-10 finishes with 16, followed by Matt Kenseth with 15.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finishing position at ACS with a 6.500, and is the only active driver with more than one start with an average finish inside the top 10 at Auto Club Speedway.  
  • Denny Hamlin (2012, 2013), Kurt Busch (2006 sweep) and Jamie McMurray (2010 sweep) are the only three drivers to win consecutive poles at Auto Club Speedway.
  • Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014) are the only two drivers to win consecutive MENCS races at Auto Club Speedway.
Remember if you are playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, March 24 at 5 a.m. EDT.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Caption This Winner for 3-18-17: Peggy Long



Congratulations to Peggy Long, who contributed the winning caption for this photo of No. 78 crew chief, Cole Pearn. 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. 

Credit: ©2016 Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs     

Thanks to everyone who played Caption This. Check back on Saturday for a new photo and your next chance to enter the contest. 


Rookie Stripe -- Checkers & Comrades: How Drivers are Assigned to NASCAR Teams



Photo Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs   
NASCAR is an individual sport. From one race to the next, challengers go wheel-to-wheel, lap by lap, trying to claim the victory. But to be competitive, a driver unquestionably has to have the support and financial backing of a team. Every driver belongs to a team, because teams provide the security and collateral he or she needs to race, including cars, uniforms and gear, pit crews and more. Teams recruit high-dollar sponsors that provide cash flow they need to operate. They're also in charge of marketing their drivers to the public and fans.

Headhunting at High Speed

Some teams have four cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, meaning four drivers. Some have three, two, or even just one car. How many “rides” a team has can fluctuate between seasons, depending on the team’s financial and sponsor situations, as well as a number of other factors. As you might expect, teams with more capital generally have additional resources and better cars. And because ordinarily they can pay better salaries, they also tend to hire the most talented pit crews.

So how do drivers sign with any one particular team? Like a race, it’s never simple, and it’s often fraught with tension. Think of it this way. Most of us work, and we always want the job with the best opportunity that will offer premium benefits, ancillary perks, and a good salary. Many of us also look for longevity and an atmosphere that feels comfortable to us. For a driver, it’s no different. Each one wants to belong to team that offers support and promotion, as well as opportunities to get better, sustain success and be a winner.

At the end of 2016, Greg Biffle’s contract with Roush Fenway Racing ended, and even though he claimed to have several offers for a ride in 2017, he did not return to the driver's seat in 2017.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Lesser-known drivers trying to make their way in the Cup Series frequently struggle to find permanent rides, as demonstrated by driver Alex Bowman -- who filled in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year -- but could not find a team for 2017 either.

It’s helpful to point out that the word “team” gets tricky from time to time, especially when it comes to the throes of an intense race. Drivers from the same team are always pitted against one another, as well as the rest of their competitors. While strategy may dictate helping one another out on the race track at times, the singular, fierce nature of NASCAR racing means that it can also get merciless even between teammates.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
The Bottom Line

Many drivers earn their berth in the Monster Energy Cup Series of NASCAR by competing for years at lower levels of racing, and may already be affiliated with a team. They can stay with those teams or opt to look for a better deal. No matter where they come from, drivers are typically signed to a team under a contract for a set number of years, just like many other professional sports. By signing that contract, a driver agrees to abide by the team’s rules, personally promote it and its sponsors and remain loyal to the team as long as the contract is in effect. But just like other pro athletes, as the contract nears its finality, the driver can re-sign or choose to become a free agent. Then it’s anyone’s ball game … or race.

Full List of NASCAR Teams (from 2016)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Drivers & Teams – 2017 Season

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Auto Club Speedway

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s stars continue their Western road trip this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Learn a little more about the track in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile D-shaped oval, opened in 1997 as California Speedway. The track, located near former sites of Ontario Motor Speedway and Riverside International Raceway, is owned by International Speedway Corporation.
  • Construction at ACS began in 1995 and completed late in 1996. It has a capacity of 122,000 spectators, with 68,000 in the grandstands and 28 skyboxes. Roger Penske was one of the original owners of the track, and was present at the construction announcement in April 1994.
  • Team Penske open-wheel driver Paul Tracy was the first driver to test at the track in Jan. 1997. The first Cup Series race at the track was won by Jeff Gordon in June 1997.
  • There are five racing surfaces at ACS: the two-mile D-shaped oval; a 1.45-mile, 13-turn interior test circuit; a 21-turn, 2.8-mile sports car course; a 21-turn, 2.36-mile motorcycle course and a 1/4-mile drag strip.
  • A number of TV shows, movies and commercials have been filmed at the speedway, including Charlie’s Angels (2000), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) and The Bucket List (2007).
  • The one-lap Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying record at ACS is 38.194 seconds (188.511 mph), set by Denny Hamlin in March 2016. The fastest lap ever at the track was 30.255 seconds (241.428 mph), set in qualifying for a CART race by Gil de Ferran in April 2000. Jimmie Johnson has the most wins at the track (six), while Kurt Busch has the most poles (four).
  • Find out more about the track and its events at www.autoclubspeedway.com


Monday, March 20, 2017

Travel Tips: Auto Club Speedway – March 24-26, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series visit Fontana, California’s Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400 weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 24-26.

On Thursday, March 23, Auto Club Speedway hosts its annual free FanFest from 5-9 p.m. PT. Activities for the evening include live music, the Monster Energy Stunt Show, Q&A with NASCAR drivers Brennan Poole, Ryan Reed, Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto, and viewing of the Hauler Parade. Find out more here.

A number of live musical performances will be taking place on the Fan Zone Main Stage this weekend, including national acts Los Lobos (Saturday – 4 p.m. PT), the Spin Doctors (Sunday – 10 a.m. PT) and Smash Mouth (Sunday – 11 a.m. PT). Find a complete weekend schedule here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 24
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series practice – noon and 2 p.m. PT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:05 p.m. PT
Saturday, March 25
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series 300-mile race – 1 p.m. PT
Sunday, March 26
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 – 12:30 p.m. PT
Find a list of frequently asked questions here.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at www.autoclubspeedway.com

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Camping World 500 Winning Crew Chief, Luke Lambert


by Stacey Owens

Ryan Newman's 127-race winless drought came to a screeching halt in the heat of the Arizona desert.

Crew chief Luke Lambert talked about how much winning the Camping World 500 meant to the No. 31 race team.

"Yeah, it's really, really hard to assess the magnitude right now. I can't say enough about what it means. I couldn't be prouder of everybody within the company, everybody on my race team.
           
"Ryan, you know, everybody has really worked very, very hard to get us here where we are today. I said earlier, I think Ryan really left it all on the racetrack today. He was exhausted.
           
"The track temps were really elevated. He had to work really hard. I think that was somewhat of a metaphor for what it's taken our company to get here today," Lambert explained.

In what would be the most important pit stop of the day, Lambert left his driver on the track with older tires. His crew had done their job on their previous stop, and Lambert didn't want the pressure of a restart on colder tires.

"Ultimately we put him in a position to guard off a bunch of wolves with fresh tires behind him. He rose to the occasion, made it happen.
           
"To me, that couldn't be a more fitting symbol of what this means to our company, what it means for our company to get here today," Lambert said.

The final call on the last pit stop was Lambert's. Newman wanted to pit for two tires, but his crew chief felt that pitting wasn't necessary... and Newman trusted the call.

"I felt in my gut it was the right decision," Lambert explained. "We have a lot of people working during the race at our company that provide a lot of really good, valuable information for me to see real-time. I had a lot of good information in front of me that I was able to draw to right quick, make a snap decision.
           
"I felt confident it was the best call for us. I'm not going to say when I made the decision I was confident we were going to win the race.  It was the only opportunity we had to win the race. I felt like doing it was going to yield a better result than the other option.
           
"Ultimately that was the decision. I told him. He said he could make the car wide. He did. I couldn't be prouder of him for rising to the occasion. The relationship that him [sic] and I have been able to build with our race team to where we all have a lot of confidence in each other.
           
"He didn't question it, or at least didn't voice any questioning of it at all, and made it happen."

Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Lambert has been a full-time crew chief for six years, but this was his first win. With this win under his belt and a shot at a Chase berth, Lambert plans to be a bit more aggressive as the season continues.

"We haven't been in this position as a race team the last couple years. I felt like we've had really, really strong cars and a team at given points in the season, and just haven't been able to play as aggressively, play as loose as some of the other teams can, as far as trying new components, trying aggressive setups, doing things we haven't done in the past to see if they'll live and survive the test of a race.
           
"It's given us the opportunity now to have that type of confidence will allow us to try some new things, go into Fontana next week with the opportunity to be a little more aggressive and, you know, race with that level of confidence.
           
"It means a lot.  Ultimately I don't know that it will change everything that we do, but I'm sure it will give us an opportunity to do some things we couldn't do in the past," Lambert said.

Lambert, of course, wanted a win in much less time than six years.

"I certainly had hoped that we would be to Victory Lane before now. I feel like our race team has surpassed a lot of expectations, but we have also not delivered as rapidly as far as getting to the winner's circle as I would like for us to.
           
"I just want to say how hard everybody has worked at our company for a number of years to get us here, and how proud that makes me.
           
"I can't say enough about Richard and his confidence, his drive. One of our slogans this year at RCR has been: It takes drive. I think us getting here today is an example of that drive and that steadfast, stubborn passion for racing and building better racecars that has taken years to get us back here," Lambert explained.

RCR is thrilled to have its first win since 2013. Lambert discussed what the victory means for the organization, "One of the things that is really challenging about this sport is there's only one winner every week. Friends and people I grew up with that have recently started following racing, kind of want to learn more about it, I always describe it as a championship every single Sunday. You are racing against the entire series, the entire group of competitors. It's not like any other standard sport where you face one competitor, and you have a 50/50 set of odds of winning or losing. You have a one-in-40 chance of winning it on any given Sunday against all of the best.
           
"I think because of the way the racing is, because of that, it's really hard to build momentum. The years it takes to take a company from not being where it needs to be, to getting where it needs to be, requires a tremendous amount of change, a tremendous amount of trial and error, a tremendous amount of hard work, working above and beyond, asking more out of people when they just don't see the results.
           
"You can take a company and take it from a company able to build a 15th-place car to a seventh-place car, and it still doesn't feel like a victory. Recognizing those incremental gains is one of the names of the game in this sport. Helping everybody inside the organization to see, we are tracking in the right direction.
           
"We can't expect to hit a home run out of nowhere, but we need to expect to see results, pay attention to those results, accurately measure them, keep everybody's motivation level where it needs to be."
           
Don't forget, this is the team that raced its way into the final 10 races of the 2014 season with no wins, yet almost won the championship. Motivated with a win, just imagine what they could accomplish this year.

--------------------------------------



 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; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.