Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fast Facts Redux: Brian Scott

Brian Scott at Charlotte Motor Speedway, October 2016
credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts & Scuffs
Racing at Talladega Superspeedway often leads to memorable finishes, and this past weekend’s event was especially memorable for Brian Scott, driver of the No. 44 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series. Learn more about this weekend’s runner-up in this week’s Fast Facts, originally published in May 2013.
  • Brian Joseph Scott was born Jan. 12, 1988 in Boise, Idaho. His father, Joe, is owner of Shore Lodge and Whitetail Club in Idaho, while his great-grandparents were the founders of Albertsons grocery stores; both companies have sponsored Scott throughout his career.
  • Scott has been racing since age 12, beginning on dirt tracks then moving to asphalt ovals in 2006, where he raced Late Models and in the USAR Pro Cup Series. In 2007 he made his NASCAR debut in the Camping World Truck Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, racing for his family-owned team. Scott competed full-time in the Truck Series in 2008, finishing second in Rookie of the Year standings, and won his first Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway in 2009.
  • In 2010, Scott moved up to the Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series and once again finished runner-up in the series’ Rookie of the Year battle. He spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing before moving to RCR in 2013. In 2012, Scott added a second Truck Series win to his resume with his victory in Phoenix for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
  • Scott moved to Richard Childress Racing in 2013, earning two runner-up finishes (to Kyle Busch at Indy and Brad Keselowski at Richmond after leading 239 of 250 laps). That year, he made his Cup Series debut for RCR at Charlotte in October. In three full-time seasons at RCR, Scott finished a career-best fourth in points in 2014.
  • After also running part-time in the Cup Series for RCR in 2015, Scott moved to RPM full-time for the 2016 season, picking up his career-best runner-up finish in the series at Talladega in October.
  • Scott married Whitney Kay during the 2014-15 off-season. The couple has a son; she also has a daughter, Brielle, from a previous relationship.
  • Learn more about Scott on his Facebook page, and about RPM at richardpettymotorsports.com

Monday, October 24, 2016

Travel Tips: Martinsville Speedway – Oct. 28-30, 2016

credit: NASCAR Media
There are just four races left in the 2016 Chase for the Sprint Cup, and up next is the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway, which goes green on Sunday, Oct. 30. Also on the schedule for the weekend is the Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 on Saturday, Oct. 29.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Oct. 28 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET
Saturday, Oct. 29
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9 a.m. and noon ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 10:15 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Texas Roadhouse 200 presented by Alpha Energy Solutions– 1:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, Oct. 30
  • Sprint Cup Series Goody’s Fast Relief 500 – 1 p.m. ET
Find the Martinsville Speedway fan guide here and information on the track’s carry-in policy here.

Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at http://www.martinsvillespeedway.com/

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Hellman's 500 Winning Crew Chief, Todd Gordon

by Stacey Owens

Few things in life are actually frightening. Some people are afraid of thunderstorms. Others fear heights or falling from great heights. There are even some people who are afraid of clowns. (OK, I understand that one.) For Chase drivers who want to advance to the Round of 8, however, the idea of having to win at Talladega Superspeedway is terrifying.

Fortunately, the No. 22 team doesn't scare easily. The team came together at crunch time and worked all afternoon to make improvements to a car that wasn't exactly the best one on the track.

Crew chief Todd Gordon spoke about the day after the team's impressive win at the storied Alabama track.

"Just super proud of everybody on the Shell-Pennzoil team," Gordon said. "Didn't exactly have the racecar that had enough speed to start the race. We kept working on it. Had a little mishap with the jack there that first pit stop. Fortunately got a chance to get back and get it cleared up. Wasn't any damage to the racecar.
"Guys did a great job to cycle us out. Got us to lead there later on a pit stop cycle. Joey did a great job driving forward.
"Proud of everybody at Team Penske and the racecars they put forward. Obviously, Brad had a lot of speed today. We had it there at the end when we needed it. Just proud of everything there."

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Of the eight teams that advance to the Round of 8, Logano drives the lone Ford of the bunch. Does Gordon view that as detrimental to his driver?

"I don't think so. I think the great part about Team Penske is we really operate as one team with multiple cars. The effort is no less because it's one and not two," Gordon said.
"I think if you looked at last year, once Brad got bumped out last year, they came back and were on a tear.
"There's no letdown in Paul, Brad, the whole Miller Lite team. They'll focus forward on making speed, which will challenge us and help us build a better notebook. Actually, in ways it's not a negative, and may be a positive. We're that much more open to each other."
The race was a must-win for Team Penske.

"It was a tough weekend to come here because we were both [Logano and Keselowski] out of the top eight. We both needed something to be successful. We kind of knew what it was. We worked together.
"But going forward, it's all about just wins and success. The whole team will continue the path that they've been on," Gordon explained.

Four teams are no longer on that path and will conclude their seasons out of championship contention, as eight teams soldier forward to Martinsville next weekend in hopes of advancing to the final round.


     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.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Caution Clock Chaos: Grant Enfinger Earns First Career CWTS Victory at Talladega

Grant Enfinger celebrates at Talladega, Oct. 22, 2016.
Credit: Jerry Markland  
by Courtney Horn

Alabama native Grant Enfinger claimed his first Camping World Truck Series win, leading 45 of 94 laps in the fred’s 250.

“This is pretty unbelievable,” Enfinger said. “I came here as a fan, and that’s how this whole deal started. We all came up here sitting in the stands watching. It’s pretty unbelievable this moment right here.”

Enfinger won in his 13th start, and although things haven't always been easy for the GMS Racing driver, he has persevered.

“I’d say it’s probably more a testament of stubbornness. It’s definitely been a long, hard road to get here for me,” Enfinger said. “There’s probably been times when I should have already given up, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.”

Enfinger's GMS teammates Ben Kennedy and Johnny Sauter avoided being caught up in the Big One to clinch their positions into the next round of the Chase.

Daniel Hemric, who came into Talladega already below the cutoff, wasn’t so lucky. Hemric was involved in three separate incidents, including the multi-car wreck that left his Brad Keselowski Racing teammate, Tyler Reddick and 13 other drivers with damage.

The most haunting moment was on Lap 51 when Dylan Lupton spun and collected Brandon Hightower and Cody Ware. Hightower hit the outside wall before spinning across the track into the inside wall, which had a SAFER barrier.

How the Chase is Shaping Up

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Martinsville next week to start the Round of 6, and William Byron remains the championship leader by 14 points.

Timothy Peters scored a third-place finish to advance to the Round of 6. Also advancing are Kyle Busch Motorsports' Christopher Bell, as well as Kennedy, Sauter and Matt Crafton.

Crafton is seeded sixth in the standings after blowing an engine on Lap 88 at Talladega. Crafton held enough points to advance him to the next round, while Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek (blown engine on Lap 13) saw their championship hopes come to an end.

Catch the Truck Series stars at Martinsville as they try to punch their tickets to Homestead on Oct. 29th at 1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Quiet Ones: Five Questions for Talladega

Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images  
This is probably the most terrifying weekend of the entire season.

Both the Camping World Truck Series and Sprint Cup Series are racing at Talladega Superspeedway, and there's even more stress involved than usual. This is a Chase cutoff race, and it is going to be full of chaos.

Although drivers may want to curl up in a ball and close their eyes, it's crucial to be aware of their on-track surroundings. This is going to be the most anxious race of their careers, and they just have to accept it.

As teams prepare for inevitable carnage, I’m wondering about fairness, who’s getting cut, and why we haven’t heard more from some drivers. I tackle all of that in this week’s Five Questions
Is it fair to have a restrictor plate track as the cutoff race? This is a question that comes up every year, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one worth discussing. Talladega Superspeedway will serve as the cutoff race for both series. The quintessential wild card will determine the Chase fate for six unlucky drivers. The track’s unpredictable nature adds another level of tension – and maybe it’s unnecessary in some people’s eyes. The Chase is hard enough, so why make it a million times harder than it needs to be? Talladega’s role in the playoffs is to eliminate those who already put themselves in a hole. As ironic as it seems, for those who fail to win their way in, the Chase is about consistency, which is the exact thing NASCAR wanted to eliminate. I know, it’s confusing. If you fail to advance after Talladega, it could have been prevented by your own efforts.

During the first round of Truck eliminations, who’s up a creek? Two Truck drivers need a paddle this weekend. Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek are tied for the last spot, and they're in the worst position. What are the stats? Well, there really aren’t any; both only have one start at Dega, and they finished 28th and 11th, respectively. If you want to take that into account, Nemechek has the advantage. Winning here is easier said than done, and both will have to risk it all to contend for the victory. Unfortunately, risk doesn’t always come with reward at Talladega.

Will Peters add to Talladega success? On the other end of the spectrum is Peters, who is only two points out of fourth. The veteran driver has this track figured out, with two victories, three top fives, and five top 10s. Those are the stats drivers dream about at night. Although the stress isn’t ideal, Peters is more than capable of pulling off a win this weekend. He doesn’t have anything to worry about if he races the way he’s always raced. With his consistent season so far – five top fives and 12 top 10s – it’s safe to say Saturday will be a breeze for the Red Horse Racing driver.

Can Brad Keselowski pull off another Chase miracle? The Chase can be a real witch, and Keselowski knows this all too well. He is currently 11th in points, sitting seven points behind the eighth-place driver. This is similar to his Chase position a few years ago when he needed to win to advance – and he did it. We shouldn’t expect anything less from the 2012 Sprint Cup champ. With four wins in 2016, it’s confusing that he’s in this bind at all – but there’s nothing he can do but win or put together a complete race while avoiding the Big One. That should be easy enough, yet there are three other drivers doing the exact same thing. Those three are probably some of the sport’s toughest, so Keselowski might have to watch his rearview mirror near the end of the race.

Is Martin Truex Jr. falling flat? This may sound stupid since the No. 78 crew has four wins this season, but Truex, Jr. hasn’t dazzled us recently. He brought his Toyota home 13th and 11th in the past two races after knocking out three victories. The spotlight is on the drivers below the cut line as well as Kevin Harvick, who locked himself in after a rough outing at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Truex is under the radar – but why? My guess is that he and his team are conserving their equipment for the next round. He wants to knock out a win and guarantee a spot in that final four. They're most likely aiming for a win at Martinsville Speedway, which is the wild card event in the third round. His silence is somewhat puzzling – but the quiet ones tend to be the most powerful.

TV Schedule: Oct. 21-23

Talladega Superspeedway. Credit: Sean Gardner / Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

Unpredictable and volatile. That's Talladega in a nutshell.

The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series stop at the biggest track on the circuit. Talladega
hosts an elimination race in both series.

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

Friday, Oct. 21:
1 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN
3 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
10:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), NBCSN
11:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), NBCSN

Saturday, Oct. 22:
4 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice (re-air), FS1
5 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice (re-air), FS1
10:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
12:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FOX
1 p.m. Camping World Truck Series fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola, FOX
4 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN
6 p.m. Whelen Modified Series: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (taped), NBCSN
9:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), NBCSN
10:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola (re-air), FS1

Sunday, Oct. 23:
7:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR America Sunday, NBCSN
1:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Hellmann's 500, NBCSN
5:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN
6 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
12:30 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Timothy Peters Looks To Make History at Talladega

Timothy Peters celebrates in Victory Lane at Talladega, Oct. 24, 2015.
Credit: Todd Warshaw
by Courtney Horn
Timothy Peters gives credit to everyone at Red Horse Racing for his success with restrictor plate racing, especially at Talladega Superspeedway. Peters is the two-time defending winner of the fred's 250.

The driver of the No. 17 Toyota Tundra sits fifth in the Camping World Truck Series inaugural Chase standings, 16 points ahead of the cutoff position. Peters finished ninth at Las Vegas two weeks ago, and is looking to become the first person in CWTS history to win three consecutive races at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I wish our finish would reflect how we qualified at Las Vegas, but it could have been better it could have been worse for sure,” Peters told Skirts and Scuffs. “Going into Talladega, where we’ve had a lot of success before, at the end of the elimination race of the Chase, it gives us a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum.”

That momentum has earned him three top-10 finishes in the last four races and an average finish of 9.67 in 2016. Although this statistic might not have won the title in past seasons, it may help Peters advance into the Round of 6.

Peters doesn't look at Talladega any differently now that the series has the knockout-style format. He embraces the position that he's in heading into the weekend as well as the format, where two drivers will be eliminated in the first cutoff race of the Chase.

"It makes everybody elevate their game and really concentrate a lot on winning,” Peters said. “You go back and look at our finishes that we’ve had over this year, you don’t have an average finish that in years past would win you a championship. It just goes to show you the Chase, how it elevates every team, and I feel like I have a great team with Red Horse Racing.

"We’ve been attacking it one race at a time, and hopefully that win will come this weekend.”

A win would do a lot for Peters and the No. 17 team, whose last win came at Phoenix in 2015.

“It would be a really cool accomplishment to know that we would be the only one that has ever done it. Not putting the cart in front of the horse by any means,” Peters said. “It just makes my job a lot easier and gives me that confidence knowing that we have a legitimate shot to go three in a row.”

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Round of 12 Closer at Talladega

Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway •  Auto Club Speedway (Fontana) •
Indianapolis Motor Speedway • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway
Distance: 2.66 Miles

by Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski
Both with 3 - Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 6
Brad Keselowski -5
All with 4 - Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenneth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard and Ryan Newman

Recent Pole Winners:  
2015 Jeff Gordon
2014 Brian Vickers

Last Year's Race Winner: Joey Logano

The Likely Suspects: Talladega fantasy picks are totally literal and figurative. You make your choices, like you do every week, but let's face it, they can be more "fantasy" than almost any other week. Even the best drivers can be victim of the bump-and-run for the win or the ultimate big one. I focus on blending past performance with mastery of  restrictor-plate racing. And the truth is, not having Dale Earnhardt Jr. as an option this week is going to be difficult.

I will be looking at these drivers to perform well: Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. I will round out my team with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard. I'll complete finish it up with Alex Bowman and Brian Scott.

My Final Four: Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Paul Menard and Alex Bowman

Points to Ponder:
  • Four active drivers are tied for the most poles at Talladega with one each – Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Brian Scott.
  • Although 45 different drivers have won at Talladega Superspeedway over the years, Dale Earnhardt leads them all with 10 victories. Brad Keselowski leads all active drivers with four wins.
  • Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are tied for the most wins at Talladega in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 12 each. 
  • Second place is the most proficient starting spot in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Talladega. 
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leads all active drivers in the Cup Series in average finishing position at Talladega with a 12.200.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Faith on the Frontstretch: Making a Connection in the Post-Race Interview

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs  
 by Beth Reinke

“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”    ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Fans love to hear from NASCAR drivers right after their race ends. Whether it’s a dominant contender lamenting a blown engine or an underdog excited about a career-best finish, we relish the spontaneous reactions. Their emotions draw us in and make us empathize, because we have up-and-down days, too.

Many of the most colorful post-race interviews take place on pit road while the winner is in Victory Lane. As the non-winning drivers pull onto pit road after the final lap, they shed their in-car gear and don sponsor caps and sunglasses.

A few years ago, though, there was a fleeting debate about whether or not drivers should wear sunglasses during on-camera interviews. Some of today’s drivers -- including Carl Edwards and Brad Keselowski -- purposely remove their eyewear when they speak with reporters.

After this week’s runner-up finish at his home track, Edwards flipped his glasses up to chat with NBC’s Mike Massaro, as seen in this video. With the glasses gone, Massaro could see Edwards making eye contact with him throughout their chat. Just as importantly, those watching the broadcast got to see his facial expressions. When drivers do interviews without their shades, fans can see the drivers’ eyes – and the emotions reflected in them.

Our eyes reveal our true feelings, even when we’d prefer to hide them. Maybe that’s why it’s easier for drivers who finished poorly to shield their eyes with sunglasses. It’s hard enough to climb out of the car and answer questions about a bad race day, let alone having to look people in the eye at the same time. They may not want to display that disappointment for everyone to see.

The thing is, intentionally removing dark eyewear is a classy type of “interview etiquette.” It shows respect for the media person who is doing the interview because it’s a little disconcerting to ask someone questions when you can’t see his eyes. In any conversation, being able to make eye contact puts people on more equitable footing.

Taking off the sunglasses may be a sign of humility, too. It’s like saying, “OK, I’m bummed about how the race went, but I’m only human, so I don’t mind talking about my bad day with y’all.” Race fans love to see their drivers get real and be transparent about how they feel. And making eye contact helps drivers connect with both the interviewer and the fans.

Looking each other in the eye and sharing what went right or wrong about our day – that’s the stuff of friendships and relationships, right? There’s a degree of vulnerability in expressing emotions while looking at someone, but it’s also a basic human experience.

Connecting with God means we need to look at Him, too. Of course, we can’t actually see Him or look into His eyes on this side of heaven. But “keeping our eyes on God” is another way of saying we keep our hearts turned toward Him. Then on good days, we can thank Him, and when the race isn’t going in our favor, we can look to Him for help.

When you talk to God, there’s no microphone or camera recording anything. No one else sees. It’s just you and your Heavenly Father. You don’t need to hide your emotions behind sunglasses or anything else.

God sees you. He loves you and can help with whatever you’re going through. Go ahead, just talk. Be real with Him. He’s listening right now.

Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him. With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises. My eyes are ever looking to the Lord for help, for he alone can rescue me.    ~Psalm 25:14-15 (LB)

“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month during the NASCAR season. Follow Beth on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fast Facts: Blake Koch

credit: NASCAR Media
Xfinity Series driver Blake Koch got off to a late start in his racing career, but that hasn’t stopped him from climbing the NASCAR ladder all the way to a spot in the first-ever Xfinity Series Chase for the Championship. Learn more about Koch, who has advanced to the Round of 8, in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Blake Koch was born Aug. 7, 1985 in West Palm Beach, FL. His four-wheel racing career began after he graduated from Northwood University at 22, but prior to that he was considered by many to be one of the top 20 motorcross drivers in Florida.
  • Koch made a smooth transition to race cars – so smooth that, after just 20 races, he landed a spot in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with Richard Childress’ driver development team in 2009. Koch finished eighth in points and was runner-up for Rookie of the Year that season. He also made his Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series debut that year at Memphis Motorsports Park for MacDonald Motorsports, finishing 17th.
  • After competing part-time in the West Series in 2010, Koch raced full-time in the Nationwide Series in 2011 with MacDonald Motorsports, finishing 18th in points and once again earning runner-up honors in the Rookie of the Year battle. Over the next few years, Koch raced for a number of teams, including Rick Ware Racing, The Motorsports Group, SR Motorsports, RAB Racing and TriStar Motorsports.
  • 2014 found Koch racing close to a full-time schedule in the Nationwide Series with numerous teams before he settled in at TriStar Motorsports with sponsorship from LeafFilter Gutter Protection in 2015, finishing 17th in Xfinity Series points. In 2016, Koch joined Kaulig Racing – formed by the owner of LeafFilter – and earned his first career top 10 finish at Daytona in February; Kaulig Racing has an alliance with Richard Childress Racing.
  • Koch has also competed in the Sprint Cup Series (six races in 2013 and 2014) and the Camping World Truck Series (10 races from 2012-2014).
  • Koch and his wife Shannon are parents of two children, son Carter and daughter Bailey.
  • Learn more about Blake Koch and follow the rest of his season at www.blakekoch.com