Monday, October 23, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Hollywood Casino 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

by Stacey Owens

There are a number of drivers who work week in and week out to improve in their quest for their first win. Those drivers want nothing more than to chalk up a single win for themselves, their team, and their sponsors. Winning seven races? Those would be career numbers for those drivers. Not for Martin Truex Jr. who won his seventh race this season at the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The No. 78 team has performed at a higher level than most of the field since the 2017 season kicked off at Daytona International Speedway in February. Crew chief Cole Pearn talked about how they have been able to maintain their consistency throughout the season.

"I think it's just a testament to our group. We push every week like it's the most important race of the season to that point. I think if you have that mindset, that's what's going to keep you near the front of the pack. We've been fortunate enough to have strong cars. We continue to work to get them stronger.
"I don't know, I mean, we have a really set program that we run every week, how we approach the weekend. I think it's just a testament to our refinement of that over the time, the hard work of everybody at Toyota, JGR, Furniture Row," Pearn said.
Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

During the red flag, Truex came over the radio and told Pearn he thought there was a chance that they could win. Given the team's recent successes on 1.5-mile tracks, was Pearn already thinking the same thing?

"Yeah, I mean, I think after everything that happened, we were starting the final stage in a decent spot somehow. So I think then he knocked off a really good restart, we missed that wreck, all of a sudden, boom, we're fourth, sitting with better tires than anybody in front of us. You think, Holy cow, we're in a pretty favorable position at this point," Pearn explained.

The win was, no doubt, bittersweet for the No. 78 team. On Saturday night, the team suffered a great loss. Jim Watson, the team's fabricator, died from a heart attack while in town for Sunday's race. The 55-year-old was with a group from the team who went out go-kart racing. 

According to Pearn, Watson was excited to go. As others raced, Watson had a heart attack and "kind of keeled over when they were done." Pearn said that Watson had texted his wife shortly before the cardiac event and relayed how much fun he was having. Pearn asked his team to, "Take a little bit of solace in that, that he was happy in his last moments."

With a pit road violation and the team's personal loss, Pearn still somehow managed to focus on the task at hand. 

"It's not easy at times. I think especially early on getting knocked out of the lead, it was tough. Then a loose wheel. Saving fuel in the middle of the race. It's just crazy.
"I don't know. We kept seeing how the situation was changing, trying to make the best call we could at the time. I think that's the only way we really know how to do it," Pearn said.
Lately, all the team really knows how to do is to win. It's something the remaining drivers in the playoffs know all too well. Pearn, of course, knows that each win is special but that they can't relax until that last lap at Homestead is complete.
"With this format, you can win 34 out of 36 races and lead everything but the last lap, [and] boom, you're not the champion.        
"You got to grasp every win and enjoy it, take all those highs just in case something happens in the last race," Pearn explained.
Just in case something happens. Anyone who has watched the No. 78 team this year knows that the "something" could very well be the team's first championship.
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.

Friday, October 20, 2017

TV Schedule: Oct. 20-22

Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
It's elimination time. The second segment of the NASCAR playoffs comes to a close at Kansas Speedway. Which drivers will advance to the Round of 8?

The Monster Energy and the XFINITY Series descend on the 1.5-mile speedway. The Camping World Truck Series is on a break this week and will return next week at Martinsville.

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

Friday, Oct. 20:
12:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, NBC Sports App
5 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN
6 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN

Saturday, Oct. 21:
11 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, NBC Sports App
12 p.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, NBCSN
1:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Countdown to Green: Kansas, NBCSN
3 p.m. XFINITY Series: Kansas Lottery 300, NBC

Sunday, Oct. 22:
12 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: Kansas, FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR America, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Series Countdown to Green: Kansas, NBCSN
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Hollywood Casino 400, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series post-race, NBCSN
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
10 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane: Kansas, FS1

Thursday, October 19, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Kansas Cutoff Race

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson
All with 3 - Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and Kyle Busch 

By Track
All with 6 - Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano
All with 5 - Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski
All with 4 - Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch 

Recent Pole Winners:  
2016 Matt Kenseth
2015 Brad Keselowski

Last Year's Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

The Likely Suspects: Being back at a cookie cutter track will hopefully allow us all to regain some points after the Talladega crash fest. Look for these drivers to run well this weekend: Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. 

My 2 Cents: With Talladega in the rearview mirror, we should all be taking a collective sigh of relief. Not so fast. Kansas is a cutoff race this year. My no-brainer pick this week is Mr. Cookie Cutter himself Martin Truex Jr. My next choices are Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Blaney, Paul Menard and Kurt Busch. I will complete my team with Ty Dillon and Daniel Suarez.

My Final Four: Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Ty Dillon.

Points to Ponder:
  • Fifteen drivers have Coors Light poles at Kansas, led by Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne with three each. 
  • Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the only two drivers to win consecutive Coors Light poles at Kansas Speedway (Johnson: 2007-2008 and Harvick: fall of 2013-spring 2014 sweep).
  • Eight drivers have won the pole for the Playoff races at Kansas. The five active drivers are: Kasey Kahne (three), Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth (two each) and Brad Keselowski.
  • There have been14 different winners at Kansas Speedway, led by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson with three each. Nine of the 14 Kansas winners are currently active. 
  • Eight different drivers have won the Kansas Playoff races. Active drivers are led by Jimmie Johnson (2008 and 2011), Kevin Harvick (2013 and 2016) and Joey Logano. 
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Kansas with six: Jeff Gordon (three: 2001, 2002 and 2014) and Jimmie Johnson (three: 2008, 2011 and 2015).
  • Matt Kenseth is the only active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver that has posted consecutive wins at Kansas Speedway (fall 2012, spring 2013).  
  • Kevin Harvick has the series most runner-up finishes at Kansas with three, followed by Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Martin Truex Jr and Ryan Newman with two each.   
  • Jeff Gordon leads the series in top-five finishes at Kansas Speedway with 11, followed by Jimmie Johnson with nine, while Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle each have seven. 
  • Jimmie Johnson leads the series in top-10 finishes at Kansas with 17, followed by Jeff Gordon (14), Carl Edwards (13) and Matt Kenseth (13). 
  • The top five active Kansas Playoff race lap leaders (2004-2016) are: Matt Kenseth (590 laps led, 18%), Jimmie Johnson (536 laps led, 16%), Kevin Harvick (329 laps led, 10%), Joey Logano (199 laps led, 8%) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (114 laps led, 4%).   
  • Jimmie Johnson (22 starts) leads all active drivers in the MENCS at Kansas Speedway with an average finishing position of 9.591.
Remember, if you're playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, October 20, at 5 a.m. EDT.

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

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Fast Facts Redux: Gray Gaulding

Gray Gaulding at Charlotte in Oct. 2017
credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts & Scuffs
Gray Gaulding earned the first top 10 finish of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career on Sunday, surviving the wreck-filled race at Talladega Superspeedway to come home ninth. Get some updated information on this young driver in this week’s Fast Facts, originally published in June 2014.
  • Gray Gaulding was born Feb. 10, 1998 in Colonial Heights, VA. He began racing motorbikes at age 4 and moved into four-wheel vehicles at age 9. He raced Bandoleros at age 10, winning in his first race.
  • Gaulding became the youngest driver in the NASCAR Legends Division at age 12, winning a Legends car national championship that season. He also beat Cup Series champ Kevin Harvick in a karting event at Harvick’s track, earning himself a driver development program spot with Kevin Harvick Inc. At age 13, Gaulding raced Super Late Models and was named Rookie of the Year in the Pro All Stars Series (PASS), the youngest driver to ever win the award.
  • In 2013 at age 15, Gaulding raced in the K&N Pro Series East and West, winning the pole at Richmond International Raceway and becoming the youngest pole winner in K&N Series history (15 years, two months, 15 days). Later in the year, he became the youngest race winner in K&N West history at Phoenix International Raceway (15 years, eight months, 30 days).
  • In 2014, while Gaulding competed in both K&N Pro Series and the Camping World Truck Series for NTS Motorsports, he was named a member of the NASCAR Next program. Gaulding finished third in K&N Pro Series East competition that season with nine top 10 finishes in 16 races.
  • After competing on a limited schedule in the Truck Series in 2015, Gaulding joined the Roush Fenway Racing driver development program in 2016, then signed on with BK Racing for the 2017 season in the Cup Series.
  • Learn more about Gaulding at his website,

Monday, October 16, 2017

Travel Tips: Kansas Speedway – Oct. 20-22, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas will mark Race No. 6 in the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, with action taking place Friday through Sunday, October 20-22. Also on the weekend schedule: the Xfinity Series and the ARCA Racing Series.

Add to your racing experience at Kansas Speedway with a FanWalk ticket for Friday or Saturday – just a $15 add-on to your grandstand ticket – or get a Pre-Race Pass for Sunday’s Cup Series race for $75 more. Find out about these and other add-ons here, and see a FanWalk schedule here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Oct. 20 –
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 9:30 a.m. CT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – noon CT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1:30 and 4 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 2:30 p.m. CT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 5:15 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series race – 7:30 p.m. CT
Saturday, Oct. 21 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:05 a.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series Kansas Lottery 300 – 2 p.m. CT
Sunday, Oct. 22 –
  • Pre-race concert with Smash Mouth – 12:15 p.m. CT (time approximate)
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 – 2 p.m. CT
Click here for the Kansas Speedway Guest Guide.

Find out more about the race and purchase tickets at

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Brad Keselowski Gets Fifth Talladega Victory

Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane in Talladega, Alabama on October 15, 2017
Credit: Jared C. Tilton

by Courtney Horn

Brad Keselowski survived a wild and chaotic day in Alabama to earn his fifth victory at Talladega SuperSpeedway, leading seven laps and advancing into the next round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

Keselowski, who earned the 24th victory of his MENCS career, battled with communication issues most of the day during the Alabama 500.

“It’s a special day any day you can win, but to win at Talladega for the fifth time is something I was never sure I’d have the opportunity to do.” Keselowski said,” Just winning here once felt pretty incredible, and it’s hard to believe that was eightsome years ago.”

“To win here again, it still feels pretty darned good. It doesn’t feel much different. I’m a little older now, but yeah, you never know when your first win or last win could be, and I want to of course soak this one up and be thankful for it.”

Ryan Newman scored his 12th top-10 finish of the season with second, followed by Trevor Bayne, Joey Logano, and Aric Almirola.

There were multiple playoff contenders involved in wrecks during the Alabama 500, with Jamie McMurray taking the biggest hit to his championship hopes early in the race.

On Lap 27 Erik Jones got into the back of the Chip Ganassi Racing driver while the leaders began to pit. The incident also ended the days of Jeffrey Earnhardt, Justin Marks, and Mark Thompson.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh after avoiding multiple wrecks throughout the day, including the “Big One” on Lap 171.

“I thought the car had enough to win before we bent the splitter down, and it was a great car all weekend.” Earnhardt explained, “I’m glad to be able to finish and finish well. That means a lot to me. I know a lot of folks came and traveled here to see us run, so I know their disappointed we didn’t win, but I’m glad they got to see us run the whole event, and hopefully they enjoyed it.”

Martin Truex Jr. took the blame for a 16-car pile-up that resulted in the Furniture Row Racing driver finishing in the 23rd position. Truex made contact with the No. 38 of David Ragan and collected Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., among three other playoff contenders.

There were 11 cautions during the Alabama 500, three resulting in red flags.

Ryan Blaney and Kevin Harvick suffered significant damage that resulted in the drivers not being able to continue. The accident occurred when Joey Logano got loose while going three wide with Blaney and the No. 6 of Trevor Bayne.

Bayne and Logano were able to continue, earning third and fourth place finishes, respectively.

Rookie Daniel Suarez finished 15th despite being involved in a multi-car accident that resulted in the longest red flag of the evening, at 17 minutes and 14 seconds. Suarez was leading when Chase Elliott turned him from behind. Elliott finished 16th.

Keselowski’s victory came in his 300th start. He sits second in points, 19 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Kansas Speedway on Sunday, October 22, 2017. Coverage starts at 3 p.m ET on the NBC Sports Network.

Furniture Row Racing Announces Unique Partnership

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

Furniture Row Racing has announced a deal with Bass Pro Shops and 5-hour ENERGY® to co-sponsor Martin Truex Jr. for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

In the 30-race deal, Bass Pro Shops will be the primary sponsor on the hood for 16 races and 5-hour ENERGY for 14 races.

“It’s not often, I think, that you can get two sponsors to work together as well as what we have 5-hour and Bass Pro doing here,” Furniture Row Racing team owner Barney Visser said. “These two companies have been really strong supporters of ours. They had an opportunity with the artwork that was done, and I think you’ll see a little bit of that later. To increase their exposure overall with the same spin that they had, I think it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

A part of the unique deal includes 5-hour ENERGY being sold inside all Bass Pro Shop and Cabela stores. And 5-hour ENERGY will also have 15- and 30-second video commercials on display.

“I think for me, just proud today to be a part of this team, to see the excitement of Johnny (Morris) and Rise’(Meguiar) and represent to great visible, successful companies.”

The No. 78 Toyota will be called the No. 78 5-hour ENERGY/Bass Pro Shops Toyota or the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/5-hour ENERGY Toyota.

The Furniture Row Racing No. 78 team will be fully funded for the 2018 season, pending an announcement for the remaining two events of the MENCS schedule.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Trackin’ Trucks: Parker Kligerman Wins Fred’s 250 at Talladega

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

Parker Kligerman made some noise Saturday afternoon in Talladega, Alabama capturing the second victory of his career in the Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola.

Kligerman, who drives the No. 75 Toyota, led just three laps before pulling into Victory Lane in an overtime finish.

“It’s an honor to race for this team because they’re one of the oldest racing teams in NASCAR,” Kligerman said, “But to win with them is unbelievable.”

Christopher Bell, who clinched his way into Round 2 of the Camping World Truck Series Playoffs at New Hampshire, finished second. Myatt Snider earned the first top-5 finish of his career with third, followed by Grant Enfinger and Austin Cindric.

It was a wild and anxious day for the drivers trying to point their way into the Round of 6. Kaz Grala, who was seventh coming into the weekend, was eliminated from contention after being collected in a wreck early in the race.

The final spot came down to an extensive battle between John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe.

Briscoe was black flagged on Lap 8 and forced to go to the garage to repair a mechanical issue. He was able to return after nine laps. The Brad Keselowski Racing driver received a break on Lap 59 when a multi-truck accident left playoff contenders damaged.

John Hunter Nemechek suffered damage to the left and right side of his No. 8 Chevrolet after the No. 27 of Ben Rhodes got loose, but Nemechek survived to finish sixth and advanced into the next round of playoffs on points.

The “Big One” came ten laps later when the No. 51 of Myatt Snider made contact with Cody Coughlin, sending the ThorSport Racing driver airborne and on top of Chris Fontaine.

A Look Ahead Into The Playoffs 

The Camping World Truck Series head to Martinsville Speedway in two weeks to start the second round of the playoffs on October 28, 2017.

Bell remains the points leader after earning a top-5 for the 13th time of 2017.

Johnny Sauter won the race a year ago after leading 33 laps. Can he repeat to clinch his way into the Round of 4 and close the gap on Bell?

Find out on October 28th as the CWTS stars return to the Paper Clip. Coverage begins at 1 p.m ET on Fox Sports 1.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hopes for One Last Dega Victory

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

by Courtney Horn

Six-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. is looking to add to his legacy this weekend at the track where his family has had so much success. Earnhardt Jr., who announced his retirement in April, will be making his 35th and final start at the superspeedway this Sunday.

“We’ve been looking at this race as a great opportunity for us to come in and get an awesome run or finish and maybe a win,” Earnhardt said. “Just been focusing on the car and trying to get the car to be as good as possible. Make sure it’s driving the way we need to drive it so we can be aggressive in the race.”

Earnhardt said he hasn’t thought about the extra emotions in his final start in the Alabama 500, but acknowledged the motivation the fans provide when coming to see him race well.

“I do know this place has been great to me. We got a lot of fans that come to see us run here, because they see it as a great opportunity to see us run well.”

Earnhardt Jr. will be honored state-wide on Sunday, October 15, 2017 as Governor Kay Ivey declared it “Dale Earnhardt Jr Day” in the state of Alabama.

Earnhardt Jr., who has 12 top-5s and 16 top-10s along with his wins at the 2.5-mile track, will miss learning how to make his car better to work in the draft.

“You either love it or you hate it.” Earnhardt said of plate racing, “It seems like there’s no middle ground.”

“I always enjoy coming to the track and trying to figure out what’s working in the draft and what’s changed and as you change the cars, and we’re gonna have a brand new Camaro next year, how will that work in the draft. I always kinda liked to find that out. Just be able to make moves and find your way up toward the front. That’s always fun when you do something that your team gets excited about.”

Earnhadt Jr. had hoped to wear the helmet camera during Sunday’s event to prepare for his transition into broadcasting, but it obstructs his vision too much. He hopes to wear it at another event before season's end.

“I wanted to wear it one time before the end of the year, so if we saw it next year I could talk about it with some experience.” He explained, “I’ve always felt like if it motivated you, bring it on. Add it to the puzzle.”

Sunday’s Alabama 500 at Talladega SuperSpeedway starts at 2 p.m ET on NBC.

Stage points key for Nemechek at Talladega

John Hunter Nemechek at the NCWTS Playoff Media Day
Credit: Bob Leverone

by Courtney Horn

John Hunter Nemechek enters this weekend eighth place in the standings in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 14 points below the cutoff. 

The NEMCO Motorsports driver is looking for his third win of the season to advance into the second round of the CWTS playoffs. 

“We have some points to make up, but the stage points definitely play a factor into this year,” Nemechek said. “If this was last year, it would be a must win situation.”

A blown engine took Nemechek out of contention a year ago, but the 20-year-old looks to turn his luck around this year for the first superspeedway victory of his career. 

“We’re just going to go out and do the best we can," he said. "We stayed a lot at the shop this week, late nights working on our truck making sure that everything that’s in our control. We eliminated all mistakes. We just have to run our race, hopefully run up front, win stages, and win the race would be the best thing for us.”

A win would guarantee Nemechek a spot in the next round, but with some help he could make it on points.

“There’s some great guys that are in the field,” he said, “I know Johnny Sauter is a really good friend. There’s been a few guys that I’ve been able to work with in the past running at Talladega twice and Daytona twice. So just being able to work with them in the draft in years past, I think we all gained respect for each other.”

Nemechek’s best showing at Talladega came two years ago when he finished 11th. 

The fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola runs Saturday at 1 p.m ET on FOX, where two Truck Series drivers will be eliminated. Then the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying begins at 4:15 p.m ET on the NBC Sports Network.