Thursday, April 27, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano
All with 3 - Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer

By Track
Joey Logano - 7
Both with 6 - Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth
Both with 5 - Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
All with 4 - Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer

Recent Pole Winners:
2016 Rained out
2015 Joey Logano

Last Year's Race Winner: Carl Edwards

The Likely Suspects: Richmond hosts great short-track racing and tends to favor drivers with open wheel experience. These drivers traditionally run well here: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

My 2 Cents: Hopefully rain will not be a factor this weekend. Track position is super important for this race, so do your final picks based on starting position. My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. My next picks are: Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. I will round out my team with Erik Jones and Landon Cassill.

My Final Four: Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones

Points to ponder:
  • Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 15, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing with 12, Hendrick Motorsports with 10 and Richard Childress Racing with nine.
  • Nine different manufacturers have won at Richmond. Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Richmond with 37 victories, followed by Ford with 31 and Toyota with 10.
  • The pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners than any other starting position at Richmond (24). 
  • About three quarters (95 of 121) of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position. 
  • Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the Cup Series wins at Richmond International Raceway with four, all of which were spring races. But he doesn’t stop there. Busch also tops the charts with most runner-up finishes with eight, most top-5 finishes with 15 and best average finishing position with a 6.957.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman trail Busch in runner-up finishes at Richmond with two each.    
  • Kevin Harvick (11) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10) trail Busch in top-five finishes at Richmond.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in the series in top-10 finishes at Richmond with 20, followed by Kyle Busch (17) and Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman (16 each).
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in RIR poles with three. 
Remember, if you're playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, April 28 at 5 a.m. EDT.

I'll be covering the race weekend at Richmond for Skirts and Scuffs, so be sure to check back at here for your racing news. Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Caption This Winner: Pam Rossman

Congratulations to Pam Rossmanwho contributed the winning caption for this photo of
Clint Bowyer and Michael Annett. 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.

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

An end and a beginning: A fan's reaction to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s retirement

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
by Lacy Keyser, Fan Representative

When one door closes, another one opens. With the news Tuesday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring from driving, it sure felt that way. For 18 seasons, Earnhardt Jr. has played a valued role in the NASCAR. He’s a huge fan favorite and is the sport's Most Popular Driver.

Fans have to wonder: Now what? Where do we go from here? For some, he isn’t just a driver -- he’s their role model, their hero. Earnhardt Jr. has had such a huge impact on this sport as a whole; he’s carried the weight of the family name all these years.

For me, he wasn’t just my favorite driver. He made the sport for me. Now at first, I didn’t want to like him. After the death of his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., I didn’t want to be a fan of another driver, especially one with the same name. It took me a few years, but I finally warmed up to the idea of being a fan.

Being an Earnhardt Jr. fan isn’t easy. You're always dealing with naysayers, who are always saying he’s just famous because of his dad. Comments like that always upset me. Why did it matter if we liked him? That was the whole point of the sport -- to cheer your favorite driver on, to watch him win.

Being a fan of Earnhardt Jr. meant you had to be strong. You had to deal with hateful comments, and you had to deal with disappointments. But all this didn’t matter because at the end of the day, we still had a great driver. We had a humble, respectable driver. Even when his team went winless or had bad finishes, it didn’t matter because Earnhardt Jr. never gave up, and we fans never gave up, either.

I feel my life got better once I became an Earnhardt Jr. fan. I went through a tough time losing my dad at 14, and at around that time, Earnhardt Jr. was going through a change. He was leaving the company his father built to go to Hendrick Motorsports. NASCAR and Earnhardt Jr. became the escape I needed, and for that, I’m beyond thankful.

I owe a lot to Earnhardt Jr. He’s the reason I chose my career and education path, that maybe someday I’d be a sports writer or sports broadcaster. I’m currently working on my bachelor's degree in mass communications. So who knows -- maybe someday, I just might reach that goal.

I’m thankful for all the memories, for all the wins, all the tears I’ve shed and believe me, I’ve cried a lot. Dale Jr., I’m so grateful and thankful that I was your fan. I’m glad I wore 88 gear (and always will). I’m glad I went to races and saw you race. I’m so happy for all the memories. Even though I’m sad, I’m glad you were my driver.

Next season will not be easy. I don’t know who to cheer for now, or how to even watch a season without Earnhardt Jr. I don’t even know if I can watch. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I can even picture another driver in that 88.

The season isn’t over yet. So let’s go out with bang. Let’s win races, and maybe even a championship? Let’s not focus on the future; let's focus on the now. Once the season is over, then we can worry about the 88. But for now, let’s enjoy our favorite driver. Let’s cheer him on to victory. Let’s keep Junior Nation loud and proud.

This isn’t the end -- it’s only the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter in being a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

When one door closes, another opens. Let’s see where that door is leading.

Rookie Stripe: Why are there only 40 cars in a race?

Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
I’m rarely one to crush a pipe dream, but not everyone can be a NASCAR driver. To make it to the upper tiers of racing, especially the premier Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, drivers must not only be masters of the sport, but they need the financial backing of a team. There’s a reason we tune in so fervently week after week to watch races -- to see a select slice of competition that dials up the intensity because they've earned the right to be in the field.

Which brings me to the word field. In NASCAR it’s an important word that delineates the main show -- the drivers. The challengers who line up to run any given race make up the field.

Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
In the early days of NASCAR, anyone could compete, as long as they could afford to. Higher numbers of participants were more common at superspeedways and popular tracks, such as Darlington and Daytona. To make the race more exclusive and standardized, NASCAR eventually moved to a cap of 43 cars in the field based on 36 drivers that qualified during the aptly named “qualifying” rounds. Also allotted were six provisional slots that could be used by other drivers who didn’t necessarily run every race. The 43rd position was for a former NASCAR champion who wanted to race but may not have qualified.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Then 2016 rolled around and NASCAR rolled out the team owner Charter System which shook things up once again. Under the system, 36 Charter teams were chosen from 19 organizations based on NASCAR’s determination of which teams had attempted to qualify in every race for the last three years -- which demonstrated commitment to the sport. Those 36 teams received charters, which they can sell on an open market, and also guaranteed spots in points races. Four non-Charter teams can compete for the remainder of the field, now capped at 40.

I can’t pretend to totally understand NASCAR's entire Charter system (waving my Rookie flag) but this article by ESPN’s Ryan McGee explains some of the more minute details.

But just like those of us who still like to party at 40 years old and beyond, it’s just a number right? Let’s get back to racing.

Who has charters for 2017
Fast facts for NASCAR’s team owner charter system

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Richmond International Raceway

credit: NASCAR Media
Richmond International Raceway in Virginia is one of NASCAR’s most important tracks – it has the enviable task of hosting the final “regular season” race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season each year. Learn more about “America’s Premier Short Track” in this week’s Fast Track Facts.
  • Richmond International Raceway opened in 1946 as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, home to a 0.5-mile dirt track. It hosted the first NASCAR Grand National Division race in April 1953, won by Lee Petty. The track became an asphalt oval for the Sept. 1968 race, which was won by Richard Petty.
  • During the span from 1955-1968, the track also went by the names Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds (1955-1963) and Virginia State Fairgrounds (1964-1968). From 1969-1988, the track was known as Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. In addition to operating under different names, the track went through many different lengths – from a 0.5-mile dirt track, it became a 0.625-mile asphalt track for the second race of 1968; for the next race in spring 1969, it was a 0.5-mile asphalt oval, then expanded to a 0.542-mile asphalt oval, which it remained until 1988.
  • Between the spring and fall races in 1988, the track was reconfigured to its current layout: a 0.75-mile D-shaped oval. The last Cup Series race as a 0.542-mile oval was won by Neil Bonnett; the first race as a 0.75-mile oval was won by another member of the “Alabama Gang,” Davey Allison. Lights were added to the track, known as RIR since 1989, for the fall race in 1991.
  • Richard Petty holds the RIR marks for the most wins (13), most top five finishes (34), most top 10 finishes (41) and most starts (63), and is tied with Bobby Allison for most poles (eight). Jeff Gordon holds the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying record (20.674 seconds/130.599 mph), set back in Sept. 2013.
  • RIR currently hosts two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and two Xfinity Series races each year, plus one K&N Pro Series East race. It has previously hosted the Camping World Truck Series, the Whelen Modified Tour, the International Race of Champions (IROC), the IndyCar Series and USAC sprint cars.
  • RIR is part of the Richmond Raceway Complex, a 1,000-acre multipurpose facility which features numerous additional buildings. Facilities include five large show buildings, the Midway area, the Horticulture Garden, a 6,000-seat amphitheater and a 1,000-seat covered dirt-floor arena.
  • Find out more about Richmond International Raceway at

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Food City 500 Winning Crew Chief, Chad Knaus

by Stacey Owens

What do you get when you cross an off-weekend with a rain delay and a new track surface? In this case, you get the 82nd win from Jimmie Johnson.

Crew chief Chad Knaus talked about the team's win in Texas followed by the week of rest and how those elements combined to make this weekend fun.

"It was a fantastic weekend. It was great. We had a lot of fun. After securing a win last week, it obviously takes a huge load off of your shoulders, and being able to come in here this week confident, relaxed, we had a weekend off, we really came in showing that the track was going to be significantly different with the way they applied the traction compound on the bottom of the racetrack, and we knew we were going to be chasing it, so coming in here with a preconceived idea of what it was that we were going to need to have on the race car was really not what we needed to do, and we didn't," Knaus said.

The weather wreaked havoc on every team and made it difficult to make decisions as teams unloaded on Friday afternoon. The weather wasn't the only culprit in throwing a wrench into crew chiefs' plans, though. The track surface at Bristol Motor Speedway is new. Not new as in just repaved, like Texas, but new as in having had a sticky substance called VHT applied to the racing groove.

So, how did Knaus and Johnson approach the weekend?
"We had a very open approach. Jimmie had an open approach. He had to adjust and change some things that he was doing. We had to change the way that we were setting up the race car, and man, Saturday afternoon it was really nice to see what we had going on, so it was a lot of fun. We had a great time. It was a great weekend. I think, again, hats off to the -- it doesn't always work, but man, this place, they do everything they can to try to put on a fantastic show for the fans, and they did it today. That was a fun race to watch and a fun race to take part in," Knaus explained.

Knaus said that the key to making adjustments relative to the track surface was that every other crew chief was in the same situation.

"I think what helped us the most this weekend is that everybody else was lost. I don't know if that makes sense or not. But you didn't have a standout at our company that was maybe the car that you needed to pay attention to that was really fast, so you kind of look at their notes and look at what it is that they do. We just stepped back, there was a lot of frustration from Jimmie, honestly, after midway through the first practice session... And we were able to just be like, look, let's just do what conceptually we think is correct, and we threw a lot of the convention away from it that we had done in the past and we had seen in the past work, and just made some things happen.
"Now, the thing that's difficult is he [Johnson] drives a race car way different than other people do, and what he likes to feel in the race car is significantly different than what a lot of other drivers like to have. The track surface being the way that it was I think is exactly what we needed because everybody was searching, people were sliding all over the racetrack, they were complaining and nobody was really in a comfortable state of mind, and that's when I think the 48 team excels is when there's chaos. I think between Jimmie's experience, his driving ability and what we can do with the race car, that's what we excel," Knaus explained.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Does Knaus alter his strategy based on what his driver can do behind the wheel? Yes. He talked about the impact that Johnson's ability and his communication about the car's performance have on his decision-making.

"It's huge. The driver inputs in these race cars are -- the box that we operate in now is so tight and narrow that the inputs that the drivers use are what change the pitch, the heave, the roll, the longitudinal, lateral movement of the race car. What they do is really key. Jimmie uses all of his tools very, very well. He drives with feel. He's not a guy that says, 'Okay, this is the fastest line, and that's the way I'm going to get around the racetrack.' I've tried for years to get him to drive like that, and he won't do it. He's a driver that wants to adjust, manipulate the car with his inputs, and that's great. That's what makes him such a fantastic driver. So paying attention to what he says is a very, very important part of getting the most out of your race car.

"Again, that's why coming in here this weekend with an open mind, even though frustration did come in a little bit, that's what allowed us to get the car as what it was today, and I think our car was great.  I saw him be able to do some things with the race car that we haven't been able to do with our cars here in the past. Not just that it was fast but the way he was able to drive it, and all that was a direct result of what he was giving us for input," Knaus said.

When it comes down to it, the crew chief can only do so much. When asked about why the No. 48 was ultimately able to win, Knaus pointed to a number of reasons.

"You know, there were so many contributing factors. We had a fast race car. The car was solid.  Jimmie did a great job. Our pit crew, I think, today really helped us a lot. We were able to gain positions, maintain positions on pit road, get us into spots where we were able to actually restart up towards the front, and I think we saw the comers and goers really happen on restarts the most. So not that we always had the preferred line on a restart, but at least we were close enough to the front that when something bad happened, we didn't fall back. So the pit crew kept us in the game and allowed Jimmie to do what it was that he needed to do on the track. So I think that was one of the big, big factors where we were today," Knaus explained.

Knaus may not have taken much credit for the win, but Johnson was quick to extol the virtues of his crew chief.

"Chad did a great job of coaching me up and seeing through some of my animated descriptions and my frustration and really controlled the group. It didn't let my emotions affect his thought process, and he did a great job of calming me down and saying, look, this is changing, this is the situation, let's just keep working on it, we'll get it, we'll get it, and he really -- from an emotional standpoint and kind of mindset standpoint kept the wheels on the train, or I guess the train on the tracks," Johnson said.

With consecutive wins this season, it looks like the train isn't just staying on the tracks; it's left the station. Can anyone else catch them?

Find out as our coverage continues next weekend at Richmond International Raceway, starting with Travel Tips for all the information you'll need to plan a trip to the Virginia track.


 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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Travel Tips: Richmond International Raceway – April 28-30, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
Richmond International Raceway in Virginia hosts the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series this weekend, Friday through Sunday, April 28-30, for the Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 and the Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250.

The Track Takeover returns to RIR on Sunday, April 30 from 10 a.m.-noon ET. All ticket holders get exclusive access to the track just hours before the green flag, where they’ll get to sign their names to the start/finish line and share an experience with driver Austin Dillon. Find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, April 28
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1 and 3 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 29 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 9 and 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 10:05 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 – 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, April 30 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 – 2 p.m. ET
A complete schedule of events at the track is available here.
Check out the “Worry Less” Fan Guide here, and get the track’s grandstand guidelines here.

For updated information for race weekend and to purchase tickets visit

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Caption This: Clint Bowyer & Michael Annett

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 Clint Bowyer and Michael Annett, which was captured by our Lisa Janine Cloud last season.

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.

Weathering It All: Five Questions for Bristol

Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images
By Kristen Schneider

It seems like we don’t talk about Bristol Motor Speedway anymore.

That's mostly due to the horrible Tennessee weather that throws the weekend schedule for a loop – but there are some interesting storylines headed into Thunder Valley, like the repave and how the series will wring out the obstacles and put on two races.

Maybe it’s just my thought process. If you’re like me (a young woman who’s finishing up her third year of college and taming a quarter-life crisis), you might be too busy to keep up with everything going on. NASCAR chatter falls to the wayside with finals on the horizon.

Are you in the same boat? That’s why Five Questions is here to talk about the CMS date move, Justin Allgaier, and some more tidbits to keep in mind as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series fight off the rain at Bristol.

Why can’t fans get behind the Charlotte move? The world almost collapsed this week when NASCAR announced some start time changes to some fall races. Once of them was more noteworthy than the others; the October Charlotte Motor Speedway race will now be on Sunday. The "lone night race of the playoffs" is no more. Weather pushed the race to Sunday the past two years, and now it’s a permanent change. The response was mixed in the usual fashion – drivers and industry members love the move, and many fans dislike it. Daytime racing at Charlotte is better when compared to its nighttime equivalent, and the past two years support that claim. It’s hard to say this isn’t a good idea – so why are fans screaming that it isn’t? The change goes into effect this fall, which causes an issue for current ticket holders. People base vacations around these dates at least a year in advance. That seems to be the biggest grievance so far, and it’s a legitimate one. However, that doesn’t make the overall concept a bad move. Once October rolls around, fans will probably see the light.

Are back-to-back Dash 4 Cash wins in Allgaier’s future? After two 30th-place finishes to kick off the season, JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier redeemed himself with a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. That win also earned him the first of four Dash 4 Cash payouts. A cool $100,000 is nice – but having two big checks is even better. His chances of doubling his bonus are high since the series is at Bristol; one win, five top-fives, and seven top-10s at BMS make him one to watch this weekend. He doesn’t have to win to get the bonus, but that would sweeten the pot. It’s hard to guess what he and his team brought to Thunder Valley (due to limited practice time). However, Allgaier’s record at Bristol signals a shot at another bonus.

With Blaney’s growth and competitiveness, are the times a-changing? One of the bigger stories of 2017 is Ryan Blaney’s surge to the front. He and the Wood Brothers Racing group put together strong runs but can’t clinch the finishes that reflect their progress. We all knew Blaney was talented before this year; his clean racing style and relationship with Team Penske prove he’s mature and capable. His presence at the front not only tells me he’s close to a win, but it also says that WBR is getting a lot better. Their program is stronger than ever. Throughout this season, we’ll see Blaney emerge as one of the ones to watch for years to come – especially with his talent and youth.

Who’s the next big name to test the NASCAR waters? Big things are happening in the IndyCar world, with F1 driver Fernando Alonso signing to run the Indianapolis 500 next month. This has the NASCAR world buzzing. The NASCAR family is left to wonder if bigger names would participate in the Daytona 500, and if so – who? The obvious choice is Lewis Hamilton, who has expressed interest in NASCAR’s biggest event. Also, the draw would be incredible. I wanted to include others who would jump in a stockcar, but Hamilton seems like the perfect fit. Let’s make it happen.

Do you have a few dollars to spare? It’s somewhat cliché to call the NASCAR community a "family," but we only say it so much because it’s accurate. The first time I ever met Sam Bass was at Darlington Raceway last fall, and he pulled me into the biggest hug as if we were life-long friends. Everyone in the NASCAR realm has a similar story. That’s just the person he is – friendly, kind, and always happy. Sam’s going through a rough battle with various health issues right now, and he needs a kidney transplant. However, you probably wouldn't know it if the tweets of support weren't abundant; Sam's a selfless man who weathers adversity well. It's admirable. If you can donate a few dollars, use this link to help Sam out. He also needs prayers and positive thoughts. Please give whatever you can – because people like Sam Bass are rare.

Friday, April 21, 2017

TV Schedule: April 21-23

Bristol Motor Speedway. Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR heads to the Last Great Coliseum - Bristol Motor Speedway. Get ready for some beatin' and bangin' as the Monster Energy Cup and XFINITY Series converge on the concrete bullring.

The following is a handy guide to TV coverage and events at Bristol. Friday morning's rain has affected the day's schedule, with Cup qualifying being canceled.

All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, April 21:
2 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Practice, FS1

Saturday, April 22:
8:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Qualifying, FS1
11 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY Bristol, FS1
1 p.m. XFINITY Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, FS1

Sunday, April 23:
12:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Pre-Race Show, FOX
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Food City 500, FOX
9 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1