Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Fast Facts: Christopher Bell

Bell receives his Truck Series trophy from Eldora Speedway
owner Tony Stewart
credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Sean Gardner
The Camping World Truck Series’ 1-800 CarCash MudSummer Classic was once again one of the best races of the season so far, and it produced a new winner in the series – 20-year-old Christopher Bell, driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Learn more about the dirt track star in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Christopher Bell was born Dec. 16, 1994 in Norman, OK. He started racing micro-sprint cars in 2011, winning the 66 Mike Phillips Memorial. In 2012, he finished second in the Short Track Nationals at I-30 Speedway before joining Keith Kunz Racing in 2013, replacing another talented young sprint car driver, Kyle Larson, as well as CH Motorsports in sprint cars; Bell won the 2013 USAC National Midget Championship.
  • In 2014, Bell moved into asphalt Super Late Models with KBM, also racing in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series and Quarter Midgets; he also picked up a win in the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Perris Auto Speedway in California.
  • Bell made his NASCAR debut in 2015, racing the K&N Pro Series West. In June, he made his Camping World Truck Series debut at Iowa with KBM, finishing fifth. In his third Truck Series race with the team, he picked up the checkered flag at Eldora, a track he raced sprint cars at the previous weekend.
  • Keep up with Bell at his website, www.christopherbellracing.com

Monday, July 27, 2015

Travel Tips: Pocono Raceway – July 31-Aug. 2, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series is joined by the Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series during its second trip to the “The Tricky Triangle,” Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania, Friday through Sunday, July 31-Aug. 2, for the Windows 10 400 weekend.

The fourth annual Pocono Poker Tournament is Thursday night, July 30 beginning at 6 p.m. ET at Mohegan Sun Pocono in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The event benefits The NASCAR Foundation and the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation and will feature appearances from Jeff Gordon and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Rusty Wallace. Find out more about the Poker Showdown here.

Pocono Raceway marks the debut of the new Fanatics Tent concept of race track shopping – a ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place Friday morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 31 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11 a.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 2 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 6 p.m. ET

Saturday, August 1
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9 and 11:35 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 10:10 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 – 1 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series ModSpace 125 – 3:15 p.m. ET

Sunday, August 2
  • Sprint Cup Series Windows 10 400 – 1:30 p.m. ET

Find out more about the event and purchase tickets at http://www.poconoraceway.com/.

Skirts & Scuffs is heading to Pocono Raceway! Make sure to follow us this weekend for news from the track.

Travel Tips: Iowa Speedway – July 31-Aug. 1, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and K&N Pro Series East and West head back to Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, for the U.S. Cellular 250 weekend, taking place Friday and Saturday, July 31-Aug. 1.

Fans who are in town early can check out the Xfinity Series Hauler Parade in downtown Newton at 6 p.m. CT.

The NAPA Auto Parts Concert Series will feature Rock Godz on Friday night after the K&N Pro Series race, while the post-race on-track party on Saturday will feature Tim Dugger.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 31 –
  • K&N Pro Series practice – 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 3:30 and 6 p.m. CT
  • K&N Pro Series qualifying – 5 p.m. CT
  • K&N Pro Series 150 – 8 p.m. CT

Saturday, Aug. 1 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 3:45 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland – 7 p.m. CT

Visit http://www.iowaspeedway.com/ for more information on the weekend and to purchase tickets.

Right Sides Only: Brickyard 400 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

They have won four of the last five races. It's a remarkable feat for any team. It's even more dramatic since they're led by a driver who sustained what could have been career-ending injuries. Kyle Busch's recovery and return to not just the track, but also to Victory Lane, have been nothing short of phenomenal.

Adam Stevens is always quick to credit every person who had a hand in making the car and the team the best they could be.

"Well, I think it has a lot less to do with myself or my individual race team as much as it has to do with the entirety of Joe Gibbs Racing. These cars don't go fast because of one person. I've said it before; you take one person out of the 550 that work at Gibbs, and the whole thing comes crashing down. Everybody has to execute and do their job. And when everybody does that, you can adjust quick. Having trust in the people that work with you is a big deal, and everybody puts their ideas in of what's going to make these cars go, and everybody gets to work on it.

"You can't underestimate the hard work and the dedication of the folks back at the shop that make these cars go fast," Stevens explained.

Part of doing his job is taking care of his driver. Stevens watched Saturday's Xfinity race, which Busch also won, from his motorcoach and then spoke to his crew chief and to Busch about how to keep him cool in the car.

"[I] made sure that we did everything we could, even to the detriment of the performance of the car, to make sure that he was comfortable today ... These cars are sealed up so tight, that's the way they run the fastest, and it makes the interior of the cars really hot. And with the tail extension of this new package and the big spoiler, there's just not the air moving inside or under the car, and that's adding to the heat. We just dumped some air into the cabin to keep the air circulating. It's not rocket science. But we run better when Kyle is healthy. Certainly run better when he's in the car. We've got to keep him in there," Stevens said.

Credit:Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Every crew chief must admit that one of the most crucial elements of his work is relaying information to his driver. Stevens knows exactly what to share and when to share it.

"Kyle is the type of person that when you need to relay some information to him, you can't be afraid to tell him in a way that he's confident in it. We just have a tremendous amount of respect for each other, and we approach racing and race cars in general the same way ... all he needs is information.

"Every caution we had was completely legitimate, well-founded, needed to throw the caution. If you don't tell him that and then they get the mess cleaned up before he gets to that part of the track, he doesn't know why the caution is out. It's not rocket science sometimes, but I'd get frustrated, too, if I had a lead late in the race and the caution comes out and you don't see the debris or you don't know why the caution comes out. A lot of times a little bit of information goes a long way," Stevens explained.

Speaking of information, for those of you doing the math, the No. 18 team is currently a mere 23 points shy of that all-important 30th place that will make them Chase eligible. Whoever said you'd never need math wasn't a NASCAR fan.
   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.
    Her other interests include 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.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Have No Fear, NASCAR's Here: Five Questions for Indianapolis

Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images
The Brickyard 400 is a crown jewel race that locks you into the history books — but does that mean anything?

Whenever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Indiana, moaning and groaning can be heard from every corner of America. Is that warranted?

I discuss this and more in this week’s Five Questions for Indianapolis.

Will Busch make the Chase — and be competitive? Just call him “butter” because Kyle Busch is on a roll. The driver had no trouble finding victory lane last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, winning his third race in four weeks. That’s quite impressive. The focus is now on him making the 16-car championship field. Can he make it? If he keeps this up, yes. Busch has to make it into the top 30 in points to qualify for the Chase, and he’s accelerating toward that goal at warp speed. Talk of NASCAR allowing him into the playoffs should be hushed. The next topic of discussion is his competitiveness once he makes it. Remember when Busch said he isn’t running at 100 percent yet? Well, that should worry everyone. The driver of the No. 18 won’t stop until that car is competing for a championship title. His struggle this season may propel him to working harder than ever. Either way, it’s going to be exciting to watch.

Is this as good as it gets for Gordon? When you think of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, your mind immediately brings up Jeff Gordon. He won the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994 and his name has been synonymous with the 2.5-mile oval ever since. This will be the last time the four-time champion runs in this historic race, and he isn’t heading there on the best note. His final season is plagued with bad finishes and terrible communication. What gives? Gordon’s not the same mustached kid who battled with Dale Earnhardt. He simply isn’t. Getting older is never fun, but it’s especially tormenting for racers. He wants nothing more than to knock out some wins, compete for another championship, and leave on a high note. Can he do it? Anything is possible with that Hendrick Motorsports power.

Does the sport need more dirt racing? Ah, dirt racing. It’s where many drivers plant their roots and start their journeys. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series indulged in this pastime on Wednesday in the MudSummer Classic. It took place at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, and it was phenomenal. It was so great that people immediately claimed NASCAR needed more dirt races. Well then. This is a bad idea for two reasons. First, the best way to make something not special is to do it excessively. That’s the problem with the numerous night races on the schedule. Yes, they’re still magical and entertaining, but it’s commonplace. “Oh, I can catch a night race in two weeks, no problem!” It doesn’t create a demand. Let the Trucks have their thing. The other reason is the attention it takes away from the dirt races on a local level. The MudSummer Classic should spur discussion of hometown tracks and push people to attend them. It’s vital because those drivers are cutting their teeth every Friday night. They want a shot at the highest level. NASCAR is that level, and how terrible would it be for the sport to take that thunder away for the little guys? There are hundreds of dirt tracks across the country that have action almost every Friday night. Go watch and support young talent. You could be watching the next Tony Stewart.

Should NASCAR be helping Patrick find a new sponsor? This has been in the news for a few weeks now, and I’ve decided to break my silence on it. In case you didn’t know, GoDaddy.com is leaving at the end of the season and won’t appear on Danica Patrick’s car anymore. Don’t worry, she’ll still be a spokesperson, but this immediately sounded bad for her and Stewart-Haas Racing. NASCAR jumped in to remedy this issue; they’re actively helping the No. 10 team find a new sponsor. This caused outrage among fans, and rightfully so. This is blatant favoritism. Finding companies to promote is a job for the teams, not the sanctioning body. There is another glaring issue with this. It’s no secret that NASCAR has put a lot on Patrick. They hoped her presence in the sport would bring in new, young eyes. Long story short, this sport business looks at her as a failing investment. As they try to pick up the pieces and find someone to sponsor her, their thought process isn’t lost on anyone. Treat her like any other driver — instead of an asset — and let her team figure it out. Have no fear, NASCAR’s here — even when they shouldn’t be.

Can the Brickyard 400 regain its luster? Speaking of age, this crown jewel race is 21 years old. Unfortunately, time hasn’t been kind to this track. Attendance has repeatedly fallen over the years, due to the lack of on-track action. If this were any other race, it would’ve been off the schedule years ago. However, its legacy keeps NASCAR hopeful for a revival. They’re attempting to aid the resurgence with this new rules package. The changes include adding a nine-inch spoiler and one-inch wicker bill which will create higher drag and tighter racing — in theory. Truth be told, nobody knows if this will “fix” the Brickyard 400. Is it too far gone? Everyone has their opinions on Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Let me share mine: I love this race and everything it encompasses: the history, the bricks, the glory. It all means something to me. If this new package does what it’s supposed to do, then it’s moving in the right direction. There’s still hope, but Sunday is the true tell if there’s enough to cling onto. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Who Will Kiss the Bricks at Indy?

Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway •  Auto Club Speedway (Fontana) 
Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway • Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2.5 Miles

The Sprint Cup race at Indy this week will feature a little more car tweaking from NASCAR similar to what happened at Kentucky. For fantasy players that means there is a bit of the unknown. I will be looking for traditional strength and performance at this track and hope that the tweaking doesn't negatively influence my picks. Interestingly enough, the drivers seem just as much in the dark about how the car will drive. Watch practices carefully, and we'll all learn together. Good luck!

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Kyle Busch - 5
Both with 4 -  Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart
All with 3 - Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano

By Track
Both with 4 - Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch
All with 3 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Matt Kenneth

Recent Pole Winners:
2014 Kevin Harvick
2013 Ryan Newman

The Likely Suspects: This iconic track is Tony Stewart's home track. It would be great to see him emerge out of his season slump, but I don't think the car tweaks are going to make that much of a difference. This low-powered car has not suited Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson either, so although these three drivers would normally be soldiered picks here I won't have them on my team. My focus will be on these drivers to run well this week: the ever-exciting Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. My next picks are Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard. I will complete my team with Landon Cassill and Danica Patrick.

My final four: Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick.

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

TV Schedule: July 22-26

Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
NASCAR has an exciting weekend ahead.

On Wednesday, the Camping World Truck Series gets down and dirty at Eldora Speedway for the Mudsummer Classic, the only dirt race in the sport's top 3 series.

Then the Sprint Cup Series and the XFINITY Series head to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the mecca of motorsports. Who will kiss the bricks at the Brickyard?

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

Wednesday, July 22:
11:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
5 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS2
7 p.m. Camping World Truck Series qualifying races, FS2
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Last Chance Race, FS1
8:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Setup, FS1
9 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic, FS1
3:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series: 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic (re-air), FS1

Thursday, July 23:
4:30 p.m. NASCAR Whelen Modified All-Star Shootout: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (tape), NBCSN
6 p.m. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (re-air), NBCSN
7 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (tape), NBCSN

Friday, July 24:
Noon XFINITY Series practice, NBCSN
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN
4 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
11 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series East: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (re-air), NBCSN

Saturday, July 25:
11:30 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, NBCSN
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN
3 p.m. NASCAR XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBC
3:30 p.m. NASCAR XFINITY Series: Lilly Diabetes 250, NBC

Sunday, July 26:
Noon, NASCAR RaceDay: Indianapolis, FS1
3 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Countdown to Green, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard, NBCSN
7 p.m. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN
11 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1 (re-airs at 3 a.m.)

Rookie Stripe: What is The Chase for the Sprint Cup and how does it work?

There’s something gut-hooking about a sports championship. Even if you’re not all that loyal to the sport, the hot burning rubber, hoopla and rabid fandom are enough to diffuse the exhilaration and excite anyone.

Just like the NFL has the Super Bowl or professional basketball has the NBA Finals, NASCAR too has a championship. It’s called the Chase for the Sprint Cup, named of course, after the top-tier series’ title sponsor. When Sprint goes away as NASCAR’s primary sponsor after 2016, that part of the name will be replaced, but “The Chase” continues to unite race fans in a blaze of excitement year after year.

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
Only one driver can win the Chase. And it’s a crusade to the end. NASCAR’s championship has more layers to it than those of other sports, so here’s my best attempt at an explanation.

Breaking it down:
  • NASCAR drivers earn points at every race depending on how they place, and they can earn bonus points. Their cumulative score can determine if they make the Chase, so points are very important. 
  • As of 2015, 16 drivers* qualify for the Chase, or are “on the Chase Grid.” These drivers are made up of:
    A) 15 drivers who had the most race wins during the 26 races of the regular season, no matter how many points they have by the time the Chase rolls around. Those 15 drivers must also attempt to qualify for every race**, and be in the top 30 in points overall.
    B) The 16th spot is reserved for the driver leading the series in points, in case he or she does not have a win by the start of the Chase. If there is no such driver, that 16th slot will go to the next highest points winner.
*It is unusual in any given season for there to be even 15 or 16 individual race winners, as stronger drivers tend to win multiple races in a season. If, for example, 12 drivers were to qualify for the Chase based on wins, the final four slots would go to the drivers highest in points.
**NASCAR has the option to grant a waiver to any driver who is unable to attempt to qualify for all races. In 2015 both Kurt and Kyle Busch were granted waivers.

In 2014, legendary college basketball announcer Dick Vitale compared the Chase for the Sprint Cup to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen saying, "You got to have the right combination, baby. You got to have the momentum and a smart strategy for each track, and you need the team leader in the right crew chief to call the NASCAR pick and rolls and get in and out of those pit boxes like a quick basketball timeout, making your adjustments to win it at the end.”
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

The Rounds
It begins to get merciless during rounds. The Chase for the Sprint Cup includes four elimination rounds that essentially dispense with the drivers who don’t perform well. There’s a palpable bloodthirstiness and the fans love it. The rounds were first introduced in 2014 and are as follows:

Challenger Round – Chicagoland, New Hampshire, Dover
The 16 qualifying drivers on the Chase Grid are fighting for just 12 spots available in the Contender Round. If a driver wins a race, he or she will advance, and the rest of the field that advances is set by points.

Contender Round – Kansas, Charlotte, Talladega
The 12 drivers competing in this round will be narrowed to 8 who will move on to the Eliminator Round. If a driver wins a race, he or she will advance, and again the remaining field is determined by points.

Eliminator Round – Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix
Eight drivers compete in these three races to slice the field to just the final four who will vie for the championship in the final race of the season. If a driver wins, he or she will advance and the final slots are determined by points.

Homestead-Miami Speedway - The final race and the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. Regardless of who wins the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the driver with the most points after the final 10 races is declared the champion.

Other facts to know about the Chase for the Sprint Cup:
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

  • The Chase began in 2004 when Nextel took over naming rights from Winston. It was called the Chase for the Nextel Cup from 2004 to 2007. 
  • The format for the Chase has changed four times since NASCAR instituted the championship in 2004, including big changes in 2007, 2011 and 2014. 
  • Because of a split NASCAR broadcast in 2015 between Fox Sports and NASCAR on NBC, NBC will carry the rights to the final 20 NASCAR races including the Chase for the Sprint Cup. (The Chase was formerly carried by ESPN)
  • Jimmie Johnson (with six titles) and Tony Stewart (with two titles) are the only drivers to hold multiple titles under the Chase format.

The Chase for the Sprint Cup and its changes over the years isn't the most easily digestible topic for a new race fan, so get a hang of the basics first. If you feel like you’ve dug your knuckles in pretty well, do some reading on the relatively short history of this prestigious championship and why it’s so important to racing. For starters, here’s more information from NASCAR.com on facts and FAQs on the format, and more from Fox Sports on how qualifying changed after 2014.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Fast Facts: NASCAR Next driver Dalton Sargeant

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR Next member Dalton Sargeant has raced in numerous series, and in multiple countries, in a short period of time. Learn more about Sargeant, who drives for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Dalton Sargeant was born March 25, 1998 in Boca Raton, FL. He began racing in 2006 at age 8 in 80cc-class karts; in 2007, he moved into the Rotax Mini-Max Class, finishing second in the South Florida Summer Championship. In 2008, he continued in Rotax Mini-Max, winning numerous events and placing second in both the South Florida Rotax Championship and the Rotax Summer Shootout Championship.
  • In 2009, Sargeant continued to race in Rotax karting events and added Bandoleros at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he won the Red and Blue Summer Shootout Championship. He continued in karts in 2010 and 2011, and represented the United States at the World Championships in the United Arab Emirates. In 2012, Sargeant moved to Switzerland and began competing in karts internationally; he also tested for several European Formula open-wheel teams.
  • Another change in career path came in 2014, when Sargeant came back to the States to compete in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series Late Models. He ended his rookie season with two wins and 23 top 10 finishes at 10 different southeastern tracks.
  • Sargeant made his K&N Pro Series debut in February 2015 at New Smryna Speedway, finishing second.
  • Learn more about Sargeant at his website, daltonsargeant.com

Travel Tips: Indianapolis Motor Speedway – July 24-26, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The 22nd annual Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard highlights the annual NASCAR weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Friday through Sunday, July 24-26. The Xfinity Series joins the Sprint Cup Series for the weekend, competing in the Lilly Diabetes 250 on Saturday, July 25.

On Thursday, July 23 at 5 p.m. ET, the annual Hauler Parade heads down Main St. in Speedway, IN. The free event will feature a number of Sprint Cup Series haulers arriving at 6 p.m. ET; there will also be performances during the festivities by Jai Baker and Jessie Brown.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 24 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9 a.m., 1 and 4 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, July 25
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:35 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 1:10 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Lilly Diabetes 250 – 3:50 p.m. ET

Sunday, July 26
  • Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard – 3:50 p.m. ET

Find a complete schedule of events for the weekend here, and a list of attractions at the Fan Midway here.

Purchase tickets and learn more about the historic track at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com

Monday, July 20, 2015

Right Sides Only: 5-Hour ENERGY 301 Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

Road course. Check.
Mile-and-a-half track. Check.
Short track. Check.

The next item Kyle Busch's crew chief, Adam Stevens, wants to check off his list is making the Chase. Having won three of the last four races, including the 5-Hour ENERGY 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the No. 18 team of Joe Gibbs Racing is now only three positions and 58 points out of the top 30, and you can bet Stevens has his pencil primed for that check mark.

Stevens discussed the speed the team has had in the past few weeks.

"We've been putting good cars on the track. I think last week we arguably had the best car, certainly good enough to run with them. This week we definitely had a top two or three car. We had some misfortune turn into some good fortune with the way the cautions fell when there was oil on the track. He thought he had a flat right front.           

"You know, part of the game is about preparing a good car, executing all day, and putting yourself in positions to take advantage of things like this. Plenty of times you put yourself in a position like this, it goes against you. Today it definitely went for us," Stevens said.

Given the wins that Busch has racked up at such varied tracks, what does Stevens think about his driver's ability to adapt?

"One of Kyle's strongest suits behind the wheel is being able to adjust, being able to adjust at changing track conditions, to different cars, to different rules packages.
"We're certainly behind the eight ball still with the number of laps we have versus the number of laps everybody else has with these packages.
"So, you know, a lot of stuff changed. The spoilers changed, the splitters changed, a lot of the body panels changed. He got a carbon seat this year to meet the rules. All that changes the feel he gets from the car.
Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
"Then there's the problem with getting adjusted to his feet, and those things, still continuing to get better.
"It's pretty amazing that he's been able to adapt as well as he has and still get everything out of the car with as much stuff that has changed and the leg up that the competition has just as far as number of laps with all this new stuff.
"So, you know, I think he can do that because he's dedicated. He can do that because he has a very diverse background of cars. He's not used to everything feeling one way. If it doesn't feel just like he thinks it should, that's okay, it's just different," Stevens explained.

Stevens also admitted to a new level of confidence in having helped play a major role in the team's recent victories, but he's also the first to give credit to the rest of those who make up the No. 18 team. But how does he help give Busch some of that confidence?

"I spent plenty of time talking to him last night, as I would before any race. Now the topics of conversation might have been a little different. We had to wade through some of that.
"In all of my experiences with Kyle, he's very reasonable and he's focused. Sometimes it just takes somebody to point a couple things out to him. I feel like we have a good enough relationship that I'm always able to do that.
"But, you know, it was pretty standard, other than a little bit of the conversation covering his frustrations from the XFINITY race.
"But, you know, Kyle, one of his greatest strengths, I've said before, too, is being able to focus forward. The more you put on him, it seems like the better he can perform," Stevens asserted.

Knowing that Busch could perform, what was Stevens' strategy in the closing laps?

 "Well, when we pitted there when we thought we had the flat and came back out, first it was a race to get the Lucky Dog spot. That happened pretty quick. Then it was a race to unlap ourselves. That happened pretty quick, thankfully.
"So once that happened, I was hoping for a caution because everybody couldn't make it on fuel, we could, we knew they had to come down pit road. We got the caution, which was pretty sweet. We only had five laps on our tires. Obviously there was no benefit to us pitting.
"A bunch of guys took two with 50 or 60 laps on their tires. Even if they had a better car, it would have been really hard for them to get around us with that many laps on their lefts.
"From that point on, it was just a matter of not overworking the tires, because we were certainly done pitting at that time. Some took four behind the five or six that took two. You knew they were going to stay out the rest of the day. It was a matter of managing what you had and not pushing them too hard in case we got a caution again," Stevens said.
Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images

Does Stevens attribute any of their recent success to luck?

"Yeah, I guess so. I guess, you know, we had some bad luck on the front side, and certainly some good luck here today.           

"It feels good.  You feel like the scales are starting to balance out for you and for this team and Kyle himself. Certainly I think so," Stevens affirmed.

With such luck on their side in recent weeks, would Stevens dare to ponder not only qualifying for the Chase but actually winning the championship?

"Man, that's a tough one.
"I think so. You know, I think it's all about how we prepare the cars and execute, like I've said. Even while Kyle was gone, I feel like we've shown that we have speed and we have solid cars. Since Kyle's come back, maybe it's put a little bit more speed in them.
"To that point, with the Chase format, with the eliminations, then it all coming down to one race, if we can keep our head on our shoulders and get in first, then continue to prepare good cars and execute, I think we can," Stevens confessed.

Sounds like Stevens may be ready to check the championship off his list, too.

    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. 
    Her other interests include 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, July 19, 2015

Travel Tips: Eldora Speedway – July 22, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The Camping World Truck Series returns to Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH for the third annual 1-800 CarCash MudSummer Classic on Wednesday, July 22. The event is the only dirt track race on any of NASCAR’s three national series schedules. The historic half-mile clay oval is owned by three-time Cup Series champ Tony Stewart.

Among the out-of-series drivers on the entry list for the race: Ken Schrader, who won the pole for the inaugural race, Austin and Ty Dillon, and Brad Keselowski.

The Tuesday Night Tailgate at Eldora on July 21 will feature the Sunoco American Late Model Series beginning with hot laps at 6:15 p.m. ET and the race going green at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Key on-track times for July 22:
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 5:15 p.m. ET
  • Eldora Dirt Late Models – 6 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series heat races – five races, 10 laps each – first race at 7 p.m. ET
  • Eldora Dirt Late Models feature – 7:55 p.m. ET (approximate – timed race)
  • Camping World Truck Series Last Chance race – 15 laps – 8:15 p.m. ET (approximate)
  • Camping World Truck Series 1-800 CarCash MudSummer Classic – three segments (60-50-40 laps) – 9:15 p.m. ET

Find out more about the race and the track, and purchase tickets for the one-day event at www.eldoraspeedway.com