Wednesday, March 4, 2015

NASCAR’s West Coast Swing – Good or Bad?

Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images

After two races on the East Coast, NASCAR moves to the West Coast for three weeks of racing in its premier series. The Sprint Cup Series will make stops at Las Vegas, Phoenix and Auto Club Speedway.

When the 2015 schedule change was announced in September 2014, many fans were quick to say that it wasn’t a good idea.

NASCAR felt grouping the tracks closer together on the schedule would be more cost-effective from a transportation and personnel standpoint. The change allows drivers additional time on the West Coast to make media appearances and meet with fans. For teams, it creates a more manageable travel time between tracks.

When you look at it that way, it does make sense - for NASCAR. 

For fans, it's a different story. The "West Coast Swing" creates a dilemma for those hard-core fans who want to attend more than one race. How will they get the time off work to attend the races? And if they are able to get the time off, can they realistically afford two or three race weekends in a row?

Gas prices on the West Coast continue to rise and it's widely known that most hotels don't offer "race weekend" packages for fans to help with the expenses involved with attending a live NASCAR event. The loyal fan seems to get the short end of the stick. Designing the schedule in this manner leaves little wiggle room and is an expense most families can't justify.

Last year’s NASCAR schedule had Las Vegas, Phoenix and Bristol before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returned to the West to race at Auto Club Speedway.

It may not appear that the schedule has changed much from 2014. But for the West Coast and a population that "lives" in their cars and drives everywhere, it has. The additional time off work and the expense of getting to the track makes a tremendous difference for those who only have a limited number of races within driving distance.

How will this new schedule affect attendance at the tracks for the next three weeks? What race/races will the fans choose?

These questions will no doubt have the entire NASCAR world talking. The last six races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway have seen different drivers in Victory Lane, Phoenix International Raceway has had its share of exciting racing too. Last year, at ACS they were able to sell out the Cup race after a thrilling Xfinity Series event. Drivers, media and fans attribute the aging race surface as the primary reason that ACS has become one of the best tracks on the circuit.

Whether you attend the races in person or watch from the comfort of your living room, you can expect some terrific racing in the next three weeks, that’s a guarantee. It remains to be seen just how many fans will be able to enjoy the races at the track.

Are you a race fan who lives on the West Coast? Does the grouping of three races back-to-back-to-back force you to choose just one? Which event did you choose? Share your comments below.



Faith on the Frontstretch: When You Hit the Concrete Wall

Jeff Gordon on track at Atlanta before his crash into the inside wall, Mar. 1, 2015.
Credit Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

The long-standing nickname “Hotlanta” was passé this year as fans endured chilly rain and cool temperatures while drivers bundled up in coats on pit road. Although a few engines ran hot at the 1.5-mile track, perhaps “Hitlanta” might be a better name for the 2015 race weekend.

First, Travis Kvapil’s No. 44 team took a big hit when thieves stole their Sprint Cup car from the hotel parking lot. On Friday morning, Denny Hamlin was jolted from sleep by a thunderous bang when an SUV rolled down a grade, hitting the side of his motorcoach.

Were there more hits? Oh yeah. Fourteen teams took hits when their cars missed qualifying due to tech inspection issues. And the nastiest hit of the weekend was sustained by four-time champ Jeff Gordon, when his car slammed left-nose-first into the infield wall -- a concrete one, not one with a SAFER Barrier -- just like Kyle Busch at Daytona the previous week.

NASCAR drivers don’t have SAFER barriers on every wall, at every track on the circuit...yet.

But if you’re a child of God, you have impact-absorbing protection everywhere you go. Even when the “big hits” come in your life, God has His protective arms under and around you, offering comfort.

Life is full of hits that feel like concrete walls. Some knock the wind out of us with a full force impact, while others just scrape us up a little bit.

But even though God is always there, sometimes we can’t feel His presence or He seems silent.

Sometimes after a big hit, I get in a passive mode, thinking God will rescue me. I just hunker down and wait for Him to take away my problem or fix the situation. I pray for help and ask friends for advice as I wait. Meanwhile, I have a little hissy fit in my head asking, “Where are you, God? I’m ready for my rescue now.”

But that’s now how it works.

God never promised to make our lives easy and remove our pain on command. If I’m not feeling His presence and comfort, it’s usually because I’m not seeking Him. To my embarrassment, my prayers can mimic a gal asking a genie for her promised wishes. But that’s not how I want to approach my Heavenly Father.

I need to keep praying, but pair it with reading my Bible. Reading with an open heart is a way to seek God’s guidance, because He often speaks through scripture verses. Guidance sometimes comes as a deep-down peace as I read.

As I keep praying and reading, there’s one more thing I need to remember, and maybe you do, too. When a nasty hit flings us into a concrete wall, instead of dwelling on the negatives, we can choose to look for the blessings surrounding the situation. Even when that hit hurt us physically or emotionally, and we have a long, difficult road ahead of us, there will be positives along the way.

As Kyle Busch recovers from the vicious accident at Daytona, his wife Samantha shares her wisdom on handling life’s big hits, and she says it beautifully:


Trouble and distress have come upon me, but your commands give me delight. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. ~ Psalm 119: 143, 147

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

“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of 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, March 3, 2015

Fast Facts: Justin Boston

credit: NASCAR Media
Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Boston is part of a Toyota Tundra team that knows how to win: the No. 54 for Kyle Busch Motorsports, which visited victory lane four times in the last two seasons (and once as the No. 34) with Darrell Wallace Jr. behind the wheel. Learn more about the Joe Gibbs Racing development driver in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Justin Boston was born Sept. 12, 1989 in Baltimore, MD. Boston began his racing career in motocross; by age 13, he had won more than 300 times across the country. His motocross career ended after an accident sidelined him at age 13.
  • Boston made the switch to four wheels at age 16, racing Legends cars and Late Models in the Charlotte area while still in high school. Following graduation, Boston moved to Charlotte to pursue racing full-time. He spent 2010 and 2011 on the sidelines while seeking sponsorship before signing with Venturini Motorsports in the ARCA Racing Series and sponsor ZLOOP Computer and Electronics Recycling in late 2012.
  • Boston made his ARCA debut at Daytona in February 2013, running the full season for Venturini Motorsports. He scored two poles, both at Salem Speedway, 16 top 10 finishes and finished third in points; he was also named Scott Brand Rookie of the Year. In 2014, Boston won twice (Toledo and Madison), took three poles, earned 13 top 10 finishes and finished fifth in ARCA points.
  • Boston also made his Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series debut in 2014. He raced at Bristol in the Truck Series in August for Venturini, starting 27th and finishing 30th. In September, he competed in two Nationwide Series races for JGR, starting 12th and finishing ninth at Kentucky and starting 11th and finishing 12th at Dover.
  • Learn more about Justin Boston at jbossracing.com


Monday, March 2, 2015

Right Sides Only: Notes From Atlanta Winning Crew Chief, Chad Knaus


Who said qualifying was necessary? It certainly wasn't Chad Knaus, crew chief for the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. When the team wasn't able to qualify because of technical issues in the inspection area, Jimmie Johnson was forced to start in P37 for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He didn't stay there long. Johnson was second only to Kevin Harvick in the number of laps led having been up front for 92 laps.
Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
That inability to qualify might have unnerved a less seasoned crew chief, but Knaus rolled with the punches.

"NASCAR right now, they've got a group of officials. Once the inspection process begins, they kind of separate. We have some in the Nationwide garage, some in the Cup garage. Maybe they're a pinch understaffed in getting their rhythm figured out. I think our wheel offset was off a little bit. Maybe our skew was off a little bit with the alignment of the rear-end housing.

"When we rolled out of the garage for qualifying inspection, there was really only an hour left before qualifying was to begin. The whole day was kind of slow. I think once everybody gets familiar with what their jobs are, I think that will start to get faster, go faster, where we won't have this much of a backlog.

"It's difficult to do that. NASCAR is trying to provide a level playing field for everybody, but it's something that needs to be addressed."

The worst part of not being able to qualify was being left with a less than favorable pit stall.

"We had to shoehorn in where we could. The 19 ahead of us, they qualified well, ran well, we always had to come in behind them. The 34 car for the first half the race was doing a good job of maintaining on the lead lap. We were shoehorned in the middle of two cars. We couldn't get in," Knaus said.

"After we were done with our pit stop, we couldn't get out. We lost six to eight spots every pit stop for the first half of the race until we were able to get ahead of the 19, then we could get into our pit box cleanly.

"It is frustrating," he said. "But again, it's a direct result of what happens on Friday. That's why I've said time and time again, your race starts on Friday. How you qualify sets you up for the event, for your pit selection, sets you up mentally. Whoever's fault it was, ours, theirs, culmination of both, it didn't happen for us on Friday."

Teams are using a new rules package this season, and Knaus was asked about adjusting the car using the new rules.

"It wasn't a ton different than last year leading up to the event," he said. "Atlanta is a bit of an anomaly with the tire wear, the way the strategy plays out. Most of the racetracks we go to, you don't have that much of a tire fall-off."

He went on to say that these new rules may actually play to Johnson's on-track strengths.

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs

"I do think this type of package will help Jimmie. I think it will be better for him with the lack of grip. When we go to some of these other racetracks, it's going to be a different format."

The No. 48 team, by its own standards, didn't have a banner year in 2014. Having finished 11th, the team's lowest finish since Knaus and Johnson were paired by Rick Hendrick, they did what they do best in anticipation of this season.

"I just know we're going to continue to work and do the best we possibly can," Knaus said. "That's the vintage 48 methodology. If you win, you just put your head down, keep digging, try to get the next one. That's kind of how we're going to approach the season."

 If they continue to use the approach that rocketed the No. 48 team to Victory Lane for the 71st time, then the Knaus-Johnson pair could easily set new records this season.

Travel Tips: Las Vegas Motor Speedway – March 6-8, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of 2015 finds the teams heading out west to Las Vegas, Nevada for the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Friday through Sunday, March 6-8. The Xfinity Series will also compete in the Boyd Gaming 300 this weekend at LVMS.

Looking for some extra action this week? If you’re in town Wednesday and Thursday, March 4 and 5, check out The Dirt Track at LVMS, where the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series continues its 2015 schedule. See top-ranked teams owned by Cup Series stars Tony Stewart and Kasey Kahne and all-star drivers like Donny Schatz and Daryn Pittman. Grandstands open both nights at 5 p.m. PT with racing getting underway at 7 p.m. PT. Get more information on the Dirt Track here.

The popular NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hauler Parade will begin Thursday night at 6 p.m. PT at the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. From there, the parade travels down Las Vegas Blvd. for approximately five miles before ending at Sahara Ave., where the haulers get on Interstate 15 and head to the Speedway. The parade is free of charge and fans can view it from both sides of the Strip.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 6
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon PT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1:30 and 3 p.m. PT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. PT

Saturday, March 7
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:45 a.m. PT
  • Nationwide Series Boyd Gaming 300 – 1 p.m. PT

Sunday, March 8
  • Sprint Cup Series Kobalt Tools 400 – 12:30 p.m. PT

First-time fan information can be found here, and the track’s rules and policies can be found here.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at http://www.lvms.com/.

Want to know what's going on at Las Vegas this weekend? Follow Skirts & Scuffs on Facebook and Twitter for updates!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jimmie Johnson hits on all cylinders in win at Atlanta

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs 
In a season that has, thus far, been filled with one bizarre event after another, the familiar sight of the No. 48 in Victory Lane at Atlanta brought a sense of order in the midst of the chaos. Though NASCAR Nation may not admit it, they're conditioned to believe that Jimmie Johnson should win races early and often, Johnson obliged by scoring his 71st victory in 473 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in the 56th Annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 

Despite cold, wet weather, Johnson notched career win number four at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and in the process, the six-time champion scored an early berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
“It's nice to know we're locked into the Chase,” said Johnson. “There's a lot of good things that come with it. We're pumped, excited, and looking forward to going racing next week.”

Johnson started in the rear of the field after having not gotten through tech inspection in time to make a qualifying lap. That didn’t seem to bother him, as he led six times for 92 laps. Johnson took the lead for the final time on Lap 305. A six-car wreck brought out a caution and then a nine-minute red flag on Lap 306, but Johnson outran the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick and the No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the checkered flag.

"We felt like we were okay in the test session, the practice sessions through Friday and Saturday," explained Johnson. "We didn't think we had a dominant car or really kind of a car to race for the win. Seemed that other guys showed some speed. But through our process and through getting to know the new folks on our team, the engineers, they understood what I was asking for, found a way to give it to me."

Harvick’s second-place finish is his second in 2015, and his fifth top-two finish in the last five points-paying races. Although he earned the outside pole, Harvick brought the freaky-fast Jimmy John’s Chevy from the rear of the field after the No. 4 blew an engine in final practice.

“Yeah, we had a solid day,” said Harvick. “Everybody on our team did a great job. Jimmie really got rolling there halfway through the race. We had a heck of a race, had a lot of fun out there racing with him, trading the lead back and forth several times.”

Harvick also led six times, and led the most overall laps with 116.

“All in all it was a good, solid day,” Harvick stated. “ I know everybody wants to win. We just have to keep doing what we're doing. You put yourself in that position, you'll be able to win races.”

With the final restart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. tried to get around Harvick but picked up some debris that he said punched a hole in the grille of the No. 88.

“We ran over something on the racetrack, knocked the grille out of it. It hurt the aerodynamics,” said Earnhardt. “Think we might have been able to race Kevin a little bit. It was pretty much over with when that happened. Real fortunate we didn't have another caution because I don't think we would have done well with the restart with that grille knocked out.”

Earnhardt finished third for the second time in infant 2015 season, but the best news for his fans is the rapport developing between Earnhardt and new crew chief Greg Ives.

“Happy with the car. Happy with Greg. Greg is great at communicating. Our communication is natural, feels good. He's a pretty decent cheerleader, too, for myself, the team. Man, he's going to be something else for a while around that garage. I'm glad to be able to work with him there.”

Daytona 500 winner and polesitter Joey Logano led five times for 84 laps but couldn’t keep up with track changes, and a slow pit stop put him out of reach of the leaders, so he settled for fourth.

Matt Kenseth managed to get up front for ten laps total, but couldn't manage to hold the lead.

Brett Moffitt
Credit Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
“It's good to finish fifth with the day we had,” said Kenseth. “It was a massive struggle, so my whole Dollar General team did a great job on our Camry – some bad adjustments, some good adjustments. Nobody gave up and they kept working on it, did all kinds of stuff to it and then at the end there we just had to gamble and try to get some track position and hold on to what we could."

In his final race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon got swept up in a crash on Lap 257. Not only did he finish in 40th place, he also once again hit a place on the track not covered by SAFER Barrier.

Martin Truex, Jr. scored a sixth-place finish, with AJ Allmendinger, Brett Moffitt, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Newman rounding out the top ten.

Allmendinger showed speed all weekend, starting from 11th, and Moffitt demonstrated why Michael Waltrip Racing entrusted him with the No. 55 seat to which Brian Vickers will return next week at Las Vegas.

Logano retains the points lead by a single point. Behind him are Johnson, who is one point ahead of Harvick, four points in front of Earnhardt, and 13 in front of  Truex.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway hosts the next Sprint Cup event on March 8.

Complete unofficial finishing order:

Fin St #    Driver          Led      Points
1 37 48    Jimmie Johnson 92 47
2 2 4    Kevin Harvick 116 44
3 9 88    Dale Earnhardt, Jr. 1 42
4 1 22    Joey Logano 84 41
5 36 20    Matt Kenseth 10 40
6 14 78    Martin Truex, Jr. 0 38
7 11 47    A.J. Allmendinger 0 37
8 22 55    Brett Moffitt 1 37
9 12 2    Brad Keselowski 2 36
10 7 31    Ryan Newman 0 34
11 23 43    Aric Almirola 0 33
12 5 19    Carl Edwards 0 32
13 13 27    Paul Menard 0 31
14 10 5    Kasey Kahne 0 30
15 21 13    Casey Mears 0 29
16 18 10    Danica Patrick 0 28
17 38 41    Regan Smith 0 0
18 17 18    David Ragan 0 26
19 29 6    Trevor Bayne 0 25
20 16 51    Justin Allgaier 0 24
21 8 9    Sam Hornish, Jr. 0 23
22 26 38    David Gilliland 1 23
23 42 7    Alex Bowman 0 21
24 25 15    Clint Bowyer 1 21
25 19 16    Greg Biffle 0 19
26 6 42    Kyle Larson 0 18
27 24 95    Michael McDowell 0 17
28 31 62    Brendan Gaughan 0 0
29 32 33    Michael Annett 0 15
30 39 14    Tony Stewart 0 14
31 27 32    Mike Bliss 2 0
32 33 98    Josh Wise 0 12
33 28 34    Joe Nemechek 1 0
34 30 23    J.J. Yeley 0 0
35 40 26    Jeb Burton 0 9
36 20 17    Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. 0 8
37 41 35    Cole Whitt 0 7
38 4 11    Denny Hamlin 14 7
39 15 3    Austin Dillon 0 5
40 3 1    Jamie McMurray 0 4
41 35 24    Jeff Gordon 0 3
42 34 30    Ron Hornaday, Jr. 0 2
43 43 40    Landon Cassill 0 0




LJ Cloud, aka Lisa or Janine, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track. A fifth-generation Texan, she began watching NASCAR in 1997, followed by almost every other form of motorsports from F1 to lawnmower racing. 
She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, beginning as a contributor, then became a media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series. 
LJ's other interests include photography, writing, reading, natural health, history, and genealogy. She works for Family Tree DNA, a company that performs DNA testing for genealogical purposes

Friday, February 27, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: The Squirrelly-Car Debut at Atlanta


Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks:  Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway • Darlington Raceway   Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway • Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.54 miles

2015 Fantasy NASCAR Year: AKA the Year of the Squirrelly Car-Abled Drivers
Hmm. I need to work on a shorter term for this. Here's the gist. The rules package for this year's Sprint Cup car -- particularly the reduction in horsepower from 900 to 725, shortening the rear spoiler from 8 to 6 inches and making the car slightly lighter in weight, bringing the specs a lot closer to the XFinity Series cars than ever before.

Furthermore, this new rules package is going to change the drivability of the car. It is going to be a bit squirrelly, favoring drivers who never adjusted well to last year's car, and who are known to love driving squirrelly cars such as Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenneth, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr.  For this reason NASCAR Fantasy Fusion will factor in 2013 track statistics this year.

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3 - Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin
All with 2 -  Martin Truex Jr., Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski

By Track 
All with 3 - Jeff Gordon,  Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin
All with 2 -  Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski 

Recent Pole Winners:
2014 Kevin Harvick
2013 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2013 Top-15 Finishers at Atlanta (September 1, 2013)
1       Kyle Busch                       
2       Joey Logano                       
3       Martin Truex Jr.           
4       Kurt Busch                       
5       Ryan Newman           
6       Jeff Gordon                       
7       Juan Pablo Montoya                       
8       Dale Earnhardt Jr.                       
9       Kevin Harvick           
10     Brian Vickers           
11     Jamie McMurray           
12     Matt Kenseth           
13     Marcos Ambrose                       
14     A.J. Allmendinger                       
15    Greg Biffle

The Likely Suspects: This weekend will be the first true test of the 2015 rules package. Jimmie Johnson may gain some of his old luster, but I don't think he will rule Atlanta like he once did. Look for these drivers to perform well this week: Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano.

My 2 Cents: The quintessential no-brainer at Atlanta is Jeff Gordon, followed by Kevin Harvick. I will round out my team with Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., David Ragan and Regan Smith.

My final four: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Regan Smith. Enjoy the race!

Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com

The Real Season Opener: Five Questions for Atlanta


(Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Daytona is nice and all, but it isn’t the real beginning.

Well, it’s technically the start, yes. It’s the first race of the season, and it’s where points are accumulated. This doesn’t mean the season starts here.

Restrictor plate tracks are full of tricks and luck. They feel more like exhibition events than anything. It’s not fair to count the results, yet that’s what makes it thrilling.

No, the real season opener is now lovely Atlanta Motor Speedway, the gorgeous gem of Georgia. This is where we see who’s here to fight and who’s here to fake it out.

Let the real games begin. Here are this week’s Five Questions.

Does the inclement weather prove the Atlanta move was a bad idea? “Hotlanta” is no more. A heavy snowstorm paralyzed parts of the southeast, just in time for NASCAR’s visit. Many drivers, media members, and fans are pointing to this as proof that the schedule change wasn’t the best move. One little mishap doesn’t bruise the event’s entire complexion. We live in a world full of overreaction and hollow privilege. Driving to Georgia instead of flying isn’t the end of the world. Stop acting like it is.

Can Hendrick dominance return at a meaningful venue? This track marked Jeff Gordon’s entrance into the NASCAR world, and this weekend is his final visit as a full-time competitor. The living legend is only one facet of Hendrick Motorsports’ success at the 1.5-mile track. Kasey Kahne won the final Labor Day race there, locking him into The Chase in the nick of time. Then again, he’s always been good there. Teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are also decent. The six-time champion has three wins, 12 top-fives, and 14 top-10s. The 2014 Daytona 500 winner has one win, 8 top-fives, and 12 top-10s. With that in mind, does it seem like the organization will thrive at the “real” season opener? It’s very likely. HMS was powerful at Daytona International Speedway, and that nothing new. Counting this four-car stable out isn’t the smartest idea. The only issue may be how they (and the entire field) adjust to the new competition rules. Other than that, watch out.

How will the competition changes influence the racing? Those previously mentioned competition changes go into effect this weekend. The various adjustments include reduced horsepower, a shorter spoiler, and deregulation of lug nuts on pit stops. These changes are bound to affect the racing, but will it be for the better? Right now, it’s unclear; the lug nut rule will lead to teams risking in and having loose wheels. In response, there’s now a penalty associated with a wheel falling off during the race. The most exciting thing, however, is the reduction of horsepower. This will lead to closer racing, which should pump up everyone. We’ll see how it goes, but it will take multiple races to see the full effect.

Logano: True winner or luckiest guy alive? Last Sunday produced a fresh result; Joey Logano won his first Daytona 500, taking the checkered flag under caution. Yeah, the last part is accurate. A crash occurred on the backstretch, and NASCAR threw the yellow flag. Fans were instantly outraged, saying the end killed the action. So, did the race play into his favor? The win was most certainly earned. Logano was good all week, and Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick wouldn’t have caught him regardless. Besides, his win is the most just out of those three. The caution didn’t change anything.

What do you think will be the big story this season? This year has the makings of a fantastic season, and that’s evident this early on. I want to know what you think will be the story of the season. Will it be Gordon’s retirement? Logano riding momentum? Let me know!

TV Schedule: Feb. 27-March 1

Atlanta Motor Speedway. Credit: Todd Warshaw / NASCAR via Getty Images

After the whirlwind of Speedweeks, the NASCAR season is off and running. All three series head to Atlanta Motor Speedway as the track's date moves up to the second race of the season from its Labor Day weekend spot.

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

Friday, Feb. 27:
10 a.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
11:30 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, Feb. 28:
3:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1
9 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
10:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
Noon Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Race Day: XFINITY, FS1
2 p.m. XFINITY Series: Hisense 250, FS1
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Set Up, FS1
5:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: Hyundai Construction Equipment 200, FS1
10 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: Hyundai Construction Equipment 200 (re-air), FS1

Sunday, March 1:
Midnight XFINITY Series: Hisense 250 (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NASCAR Race Day: Atlanta, FS1
12:30 p.m. NASCAR Race Day: Atlanta, FOX
1 p.m. Sprint Cup: Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, FOX. Re-airs at 2:30 a.m. Monday on FS1.
6 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1. Re-airs at 5:30 a.m. Monday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Tony Stewart's First Daytona 500 Win on Hold (Again)

Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
Tony Stewart entered Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona happy and back to his old self.  After two seasons where injury and tragedy marred his chances of making The Chase for the Sprint Cup, this is the year where a rebound is critical.

Stewart's Daytona racing resume is impressive. The three-time Sprint Cup Series Champion holds the record for most victories among active drivers, 19 overall. Between the Sprint Unlimited race and July Sprint Cup races at Daytona he has a combined ten wins, seven wins in the Xfinity Series and two wins in the former IROC Series.

It was no surprise that he was among the favorites to win Sunday's Daytona 500 in his 17th attempt. The driver/owner has won just about everything else when it comes to Daytona, but the 500 win remains elusive.

Stewart started the race fourth in his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and seemed satisfied with the way the car was running, when he reported the car was “tight.” A split second later he hit the outside wall hard, collecting two-time Daytona 500 winner Matt Kenseth and rookie Ryan Truex. On Lap 41 his dreams of winning “The Great American Race” were put on hold for another year.

After repairs Stewart returned to the race 64 laps down, finishing 42nd.

“It’s the biggest race of the year. The last thing you want to do is stay out there and have something else happen to get in the middle of something. Let’s just let those guys have their day,” he said in a post-race interview.

Though this was a set-back for him and his fans, it’s not insurmountable for a comeback and a championship this year in the NSCS. In 2002, Stewart finished last at Daytona only to come back and win his first NSCS Championship.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Fast Facts Redux: Joey Logano

2015 Daytona 500 victory lane
credit: Getty Images/Chris Graythen
A lot has happened to Joey Logano since Skirts & Scuffs first profiled him in March 2012: he made the move from Joe Gibbs Racing to Team Penske, became a contender for the Sprint Cup, got married and won the 2015 Daytona 500 to name a few things. Catch up with the driver who was nicknamed “Sliced Bread” (as in “the best thing since…”) by veteran racer Randy LaJoie early in his career in this Daytona 500 winner’s edition of Fast Facts.
  • Joseph Thomas Logano was born May 24, 1990 in Middletown, Connecticut. He began racing at age 6 in quarter midgets, moving through the ranks of Junior Stock Cars and Late Models in the eastern United States.
  • Logano’s family moved to Georgia where he began racing Bandolero Bandits and later Legends cars. In the Legends Series at age 10, Logano won a record-setting 14 races in a row at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and also won a Lions National Championship. Over the next few years, he raced Late Models, the FASCAR Pro Truck Series and the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series.
  • A 2007 rule change allowed 16-year-old drivers to participate in the Grand National Division, allowing Logano to race in the Camping World East Series (now the K&N Pro Series East) that year. He went on to earn the championship with five wins, 10 top 10s and three poles. In 2008, he made his ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World Truck Series) and Nationwide Series (now Xfinity Series) debuts.
  • In August 2008, Logano was announced as the driver for the vacated Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Home Depot ride for 2009, as Tony Stewart was leaving to field his own team. In 2009, he became the youngest driver to race in the Daytona 500, the youngest driver to win a Cup Series race (New Hampshire in June 2009 – 19 years, 35 days), and the Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year.
  • After earning a second win with JGR (Pocono in June 2012), it was announced that Logano would move to Team Penske for the 2013 season as a teammate to Brad Keselowski. Since moving to Team Penske, Logano has earned seven wins (including the 2015 Daytona 500) and finished in the top 10 in points in 2013 (eighth) and 2014 (fourth – made the championship round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup).
  • Logano also competes regularly in the Xfinity Series, winning 21 times in 135 starts from 2008-2014; in 2012, he won nine times and earned six poles in 22 starts with JGR.
  • Logano and the former Brittany Baca were married on Dec. 13, 2014.
  • Find out more about Joey Logano at joeylogano.com


Monday, February 23, 2015

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Winning Crew Chief


Usually after a race win, the focus is on the winning driver. Everyone wants to know what he felt in the closing laps and who he wants to thank for helping him get to Victory Lane. That was certainly the case after the 2015 season opener, the Daytona 500, which saw Joey Logano wheel his Pennzoil Ford to his first win in the iconic race.

That isn't the case in this column. "Right Sides Only" will tell the tale of the race from the perspective of the man atop the war wagon. As every driver attests, NASCAR is a team sport, and the crew chief is the team captain.

Going into this year's Great American Race, the focus was on Jeff Gordon who led the field to the green flag for his final year of competition. However, as the checkers flew, attention turned to another Gordon --Todd Gordon-- crew chief for the No. 22.

When asked what were the keys to winning the race, Gordon said he felt making the right calls to have stability in the car for Logano to stay up front was instrumental. He further acknowledged Logano's ability to find the right lines to run as well as spotter Tab Boyd's work to help his driver maneuver to the front of the pack. Gordon also credited Clint Bowyer for working well with Logano throughout the afternoon.
Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon in the Daytona garage, Jan. 10, 2013
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

Even team owner, Roger Penske, cited Gordon as being one of the reasons Logano performed so well.

"For me it's a credit to what Todd's done... Joey, he and and Todd have built a bond together, which is important. They trust each other. You could see it. The calls on the racetrack, stay out, two tires, four tires. That's what you have to have. It was a perfect day."

Though there was concern about possible engine issues following problems for teammate, Brad Keselowski, Gordon maintained his composure.

"You worry about the things you can control in this sport. At that point we have no control over it... we had managed where we needed to be with our motor all day. Fortunately everything worked out for us."

When asked what winning the Daytona 500 felt like to him on a personal level, Gordon practically beamed, and focused on his relationship with Logano.

"It's been great," he said. "The relationship is something where we trust each other with everything. Today was a perfect example of 'I'm too tight,' I call for two tires, there's no hesitation in Joey's mind. He understood track position was what we had to maintain... I don't ever question what he does. I've never heard him question me, so..."

Logano agreed with his crew chief, "I don't question you, man. You're smarter than me."

Thanks to Gordon's great calls and his intellect, both of them are forever recognized as Daytona 500 winners.