Friday, October 9, 2015

Cat and Mouse Game: Previewing the Bank of America 500

Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Three races down, seven to go.

Championship-eligible drivers who survived the first cutoff of the Chase are relieved. Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway brought drama, tempers and surprises that made everyone anxious.

As the start of a new round, the Bank of America 500 is up in the air. Who’s going to perform the best? Who will find hardships and fall behind? That’s what everyone is wondering going into Saturday night.

Charlotte Motor Speedway is a staple in the NASCAR world. Since 1960, the 1.5-mile oval has held 302 races, with 113 of them as NASCAR events. Its layout is the most common among the different types on the schedule, and there are four other 1.5-mile tracks in the Chase. CMS has been a stop on the Chase schedule since the format’s inception in 2004.

It’s also smack dab in the middle of racing country, as most teams are based around the Charlotte area. Fans tend to visit race shops before or after the Saturday night race. Whenever it’s race day in that town, the local economy spikes. Other businesses—such as Emma Blaney and Sherry Pollex’s respective boutiques—draw attention as noteworthy stops during the weekend. There’s no shortage of adventure in Charlotte, especially during race week.

As previously mentioned, the Challenger round brought excitement for many. Unfortunately, the first round didn’t go as planned for Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray.

Yes, you read that right: Jimmie Johnson.

With the six-time champion out of the picture, this fight for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy just got even more interesting. Heavy-hitters like Kevin Harvick and the Joe Gibbs Racing bunch are making themselves known every weekend. Harvick, despite miscues in the first two races, won last weekend to advance. It’s unknown if he and crew chief Rodney Childers have regrouped, but they need to if they want to win another championship.

On the flip side, JGR is thriving—which is bad news for everyone else. The dominance for this weekend has already started; Matt Kenseth won the pole for the event, and teammate Kyle Busch will also be on the front row. All four drivers have experienced success at Charlotte and will be contenders come Saturday night.

There are seven other drivers still eligible, and they shouldn’t be counted out. Joey Logano has been a consistent force since winning the Daytona 500. Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. are silently staying in the game. Anyone can start knocking out wins and make themselves a threat to the title. That’s the purpose of this format, and it’s shaping up to be a thrilling seven weeks.

The Chase has become a cat and mouse game. The constant unpredictability and tension are running down the 12 drivers, who scurry away and try to find shelter. The slowest fall into the cat’s claws. Who escapes and gets the cheese? Nobody knows, and nobody will know until we finish at Homestead-Miami.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

TV Schedule: Oct. 8-11

Charlotte Motor Speedway. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
NASCAR comes home to Charlotte, North Carolina, the heart of the sport. The Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series will race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Chase drivers kick off the Contender round. Who'll win Saturday night and secure their spot going into the next round?

The Camping World Truck Series is on an extended break and will return Oct. 24 at Talladega.

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

Thursday, Oct. 8:
1:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN
3 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, NBCSN
4 p.m. K&N Series East: Dover International Speedway (tape), NBCSN
5:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN

Friday, Oct. 9:
2:30 p.m. Whelen Modified Tour: Stafford Motor Speedway (tape), NBCSN
3:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN
4:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
7:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
8 p.m. XFINITY Series Drive for the Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross, NBCSN

Saturday, Oct. 10:
3:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), NBCSN
4 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS2
5 p.m. NASCAR America Saturday, NBCSN
6 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500, NBC
11 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Post-Race, NBCSN
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
12:30 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Sunday, Oct. 11:
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap (tape), NBCSN

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Contender Round Opener at Charlotte

Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta 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: 1.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 5 - Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin
All with 4 -  Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne
All with 3 - Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman

By Track
Both with 8 - Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin
Carl Edwards - 7
Both with 6 - Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch 
Both with 5 - Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman 

Recent Pole Winners:  
2014 Kyle Busch
2013 Jeff Gordon

Likely Suspects: This Contender Round opener should be a good one. Although we tend to pencil in masters of the 1.5 mile tracks like Joey Logano, there are drivers like Jamie McMurray who is out of the Chase, but have his eyes on finishing fifth. Look for these drivers to run well on Saturday night: Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenneth, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and Greg Biffle.

My 2 Cents: Charlotte Motor Speedway and Jimmie Johnson used to be uttered in one breath, and maybe this weekend they will be again. After a surprising cut from Chase contention last weekend in Dover, Johnson may have something to prove this week. My no-brainer pick this week is Kyle Busch. My next picks are: Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon, Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray. If you have Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. starts left, I'd pull Dillon and Greg Biffle. I will complete my team with Justin Allgaier and Danica Patrick.

My final four: Kyle Busch, Kahne, McMurray and Allgaier.

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

Faith on the Frontstretch: Harvick’s Love for Son a Driving Force in Dover Win

Harvick shares a laugh with son, Keelan, before the Atlanta race, March 1, 2015.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”   ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Kevin Harvick had a colossal, career-sculpting day at the Monster Mile on Sunday. Not only did he take the checkers, leading a career-high 355 laps in one race, but it was an historic 750th win for the manufacturer, Chevrolet. Most importantly, he catapulted himself into the top 12 by conquering the concrete and moved on to the Contender round of the Chase.

After the race, Harvick claimed to be unaware of who had fallen below the Chase cutoff line, not even realizing the guy with 10 monster trophies, Jimmie Johnson, had succumbed to mechanical failure.

“You know, I don't even know who's been eliminated, so we're so narrow-minded in the approach that we take to things, it's really -- you try to stay in your garage stall,” Harvick said after his win-or-you’re-out victory. “You know, we're just happy to be able to make it to the next round and be able to keep racing for a championship.”

The driver of the No. 4 keeps his focus close to home and said he doesn’t read media stories about NASCAR and doesn’t pay attention to “chirping” on Twitter either. All the hype and attention is apparently not what drives the 2014 Sprint Cup champ. He said he and his team focus inward, into their own garage stall, not obsessing about competitors' times or the larger Chase scenario.

Despite his apparent nonchalance about other drivers, there was someone Harvick had on his mind. His biggest concern was for a tow-headed little guy with a sweet face and an inherited love of racing. While answering a routine question after the race, the real source of Harvick’s focus surfaced. What was the driving force behind his desire to master Miles the Monster? “Daddy love” for his three-year-old son, Keelan.

“I'm just happy we won because Keelan keeps asking for Miles the trophy. It'll probably be the only one we don't put in storage with the rest of them. It'll go in his playroom. That's what he asked to do with it. So I'm just glad that I didn't let him down.”

Daddy love is powerful. You and I have a doting Father who loves us, too. Our God loves each of us as if we were His only child. Our Father God will move mountains for us. Nothing can separate us from His love, not even the scary monsters of life (Romans 8:38-39).

Love for his little boy drove Kevin Harvick to put the moves on a monster track and bring home the prize. It’s a heart-warming story, for sure. The not-so-scary Frankentrophy watches over Keelan’s playroom now, a physical reminder of his daddy’s love.

God offers us a tangible reminder of His love, too, and it’s a monumental one. God gave us His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins. Asking Jesus into our hearts saves us from being punished for our sins – all of them. And like a trophy, the cross is a reminder of our Daddy’s love.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.    ~ John 3:16

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Fast Facts Redux: Clint Bowyer

Bowyer and son Cash at Darlington
credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts & Scuffs
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer’s career path is set for the near future, as the driver of the No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing moves to HScott Motorsports in 2016 before taking over the No. 14 from Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing. Learn more about Bowyer in this week’s Fast Facts, originally published in Feb. 2012.
  • Clint Bowyer was born May 30, 1979 in Emporia, Kansas. He began motocross racing at age five, winning more than 200 races and a number of championships before turning to street stocks in 1996. Bowyer went on to win championships in the Modified and Late Model divisions at tracks in Kansas and Missouri.
  • In 2003, Bowyer made his debut in the ARCA Racing Series, finishing second in his debut at Nashville Superspeedway driving for Bobby Gerhart. Richard Childress saw the race and was impressed with Bowyer, going as far as calling Bowyer to offer him a job; Bowyer thought the person on the other end was joking and hung up. Luckily for Bowyer, Childress called back.
  • Bowyer made his Busch Series (now Xfinity) debut in 2004, driving for both Childress and his then-Richard Childress Racing teammate Kevin Harvick. In 2005, his first full-time season in the series, Bowyer finished second in points with two wins and two poles.
  • Bowyer made the jump to the Cup Series in 2006, finishing second to Denny Hamlin in the Rookie of the Year standings; he also raced full-time in the Busch Series again, with a third-place finish in points. In 2007, Bowyer won his first Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, followed in 2008 by the Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series title. From 2005-2011, Bowyer earned five wins with RCR and had a top finish of third in points in 2007.
  • In 2012, Bowyer made the move from RCR to MWR and had his best season to date, winning three times and finishing runner-up to Brad Keselowski in points.
  • Bowyer is also the owner of Clint Bowyer Racing, which fields Dirt Late Models; the team has fielded cars for Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson in Tony Stewart’s Prelude to the Dream charity race.
  • Away from the track, Bowyer married his wife Lorra in April 2014; son Cash Aaron Bowyer was born Oct. 1 of that year.
  • Find out more about Clint Bowyer at

Monday, October 5, 2015

Travel Tips: Charlotte Motor Speedway – Oct. 8-10, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup heads home this weekend to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500 weekend, Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 8-10. Joining the stars of the Cup Series this weekend are the Xfinity Series and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

On Wednesday night, Oct. 7, CMS’ sister track zMAX Dragway will host the NASCAR Hauler Parade beginning at 6 p.m. ET (gates open at 5 p.m. ET). Following the parade will be street drags featuring members of the NASCAR community. Admission is free with any donation to Speedway Children’s Charities at the gate.

Fans in town early will have plenty of things to keep them busy, including these tours brought to you by Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Joe Gibbs Racing Fan Fest on Friday, Oct. 9, with driver appearances, a classic car show and more. Check your favorite team’s website during the week to see if they have anything scheduled for race week. For more ideas, check out CMS’ list of the Top 10 Things to Do and See during the weekend, including Hunter Hayes’ pre-race concert and an aerial show by Erendira Wallenda on race day.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, Oct. 8 –
  • Whelen Southern Modified Tour practice – 11:15 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 3 and 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Southern Modified Tour qualifying – 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Better-Half Dash – 4:30 p.m. ET (time approximate)
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 7:15 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Southern Modified Tour Southern Slam 150 – 8:40 p.m. ET

Friday, Oct. 9 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina – 8 p.m. ET

Saturday, Oct. 10
  • Sprint Cup Series Bank of America 500 – 7 p.m. ET

Find the complete three-day schedule for the Bank of America 500 weekend here.

Find out about different ticket packages and single-day tickets at

Right Sides Only: Notes from AAA 400 Winning Crew, Rodney Childers

Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 4 team led by driver Kevin Harvick, might as well have been sitting on pins and needles, as nervous as he was in the final few laps of the AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway.

"I don't even remember what was going through my mind. It seems like when you get in a situation like that where you're leading there at the end, there's just so many things that -- every lap I would turn around to 3 and 4 where I could see us out of the corner and make sure the car was there again.  There's just so many things that can go wrong. It seems like we've had a lot of them this year.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"It was just nice to have a fast car and to have things go smoothly today and just -- honestly, we've made mistakes, and that's something that you can't do as a race team to win a championship, and it was nice not to have those today," Childers explained.
Following their less-than-stellar finishes in Chicago and New Hampshire, Childers and Harvick were in a "have-to-win" situation if they wanted to qualify for the second round of the Chase.

"Well, you know, we felt like we had done a good job of preparing ourselves for the Chase. We got to Chicago, and we had a fast car, and qualifying got rained out, which put us on the pole, and felt like we had the best car in practice, and then we started the race, and really wasn't as good as what we thought we were. It seemed like the racetrack started coming back around, and we started getting better, and then that's when everything kind of broke loose.
"But going to Loudon, we felt like we had been really strong there the two races previous. We felt like we were taking really one of our best cars there, and really, Loudon, I thought we could go up there and we could win, and I thought that we would be fast all weekend, and it turned out that way until three laps to go," Childers said.
"This week was a different story. I wasn't 100 percent positive on everything. I didn't have the warm, fuzzy feeling. This was a car that hadn't been very good before. We had wrecked it at Bristol at the beginning of the year last year, and when we put a front clip on it, it didn't turn out right, and it always took different slugs than every other car, and just nothing seemed to be right with it. We ran it at Kentucky earlier this year, and it didn't run good again, and finally I was done with it. We cut the clips off, cut the body off, and said we're going to get it ready for the Chase, and that's what everybody did, and they worked really hard on it, and it turned out good in the wind tunnel and even when they turn out good in the wind tunnel if they've never run good before, you kind of wonder if you want to take them somewhere. But it did a good job for us all weekend. It had good speed and came through for us."

The win allows Harvick to continue his quest for a second championship, but Childers is the first to admit that their team may be at a disadvantage to the Joe Gibbs Racing teams, after having watched them dominate in recent weeks.

"I think we're a little bit of a disadvantage. I'm not really sure what those guys have. You know, that's their deal. But yeah, we've had to pull out stuff, cars that we really didn't want to.  
"So we've got a good race team. We've been through situations like this before. We've got good cars sitting at the shop. The car we raced at Loudon last week is already back on the floor ready to go. If we wanted to race it, we could. We've got a car going to the wind tunnel tomorrow morning that should be good, and then we've got our Charlotte car that we're planning on racing sitting there.  We've got a good race team, and we've got good cars sitting there, but definitely have had to show more the past two weeks than what we really wanted to," Childers admitted.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

As they did last year in Phoenix, Childers and Harvick won when it truly counted.

"Well, in all honesty, winning fixes everything. You know, if we would have lost today, it would have been a downhill spiral, I believe, and probably struggled the next few weeks. It is all about people.  It's all about attitude. It's all about confidence. Our group is good at that. They never waver. They do a great job each and every day. They come into the shop with a smile on their face, and they just make it happen.
"And I said this a lot last year: I got lucky. I've never been a guy that was good at looking over résumés and interviewing people and figuring out who the best guy was. I go off of my gut instinct, and I don't know how I did it, but I got lucky. These guys have shown it over and over again that they can make stuff happen, and they do a great job at it," Childers said.

As the No. 4 team continues its search for another Sprint Cup championship, the entire team will need to continue to "make stuff happen" because it won't get any easier from here.

   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, October 2, 2015

TV Schedule: Oct. 2-4

Dover International Speedway. Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images

The excitement kicks up in the Chase as we come to the first elimination race at Dover International Speedway. Twelve out of 16 drivers will advance to the Contender round.

The Sprint Cup Series is joined the XFINITY Series at Dover. The Camping World Truck Series runs a standalone event at Las Vegas.

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

Friday, Oct. 2:
*Note: Track activity at Dover canceled due to rain. 
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN
12:30 p.m. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour: New Hampshire Motor Speedway (re-air), NBCSN
1:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN

Saturday, Oct. 3:
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, CNBC
Noon Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS2
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, NBCSN
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
3 p.m. XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Hisense 200, NBCSN
7 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS2
10 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: Rhino Linings 350, FS1

Sunday, Oct. 4:
11:30 a.m. NASCAR Race Day, FS1
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Countdown to Green, NBCSN
2:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: AAA 400, NBCSN
6 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
12:30 a.m. (Monday) NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Producing Passion: Five Questions for Dover

 (Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images)
I don’t usually get mad, but I am this week.

The Chase is heating up and bringing out the sass in everyone—including myself. This is just one thing to love about the final 10 races. It produces passion, something NASCAR embraces and uses to their advantage.

As we gear up for Dover, I have five questions. Five pertinent questions that I discuss with sass and honesty. That’s your warning before you dive into this week’s column. Enjoy!

Will NCWTS impress during the standalone race at Vegas? Viva Las Vegas Motor Speedway! The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will invade the high-rollin’ town on Friday, which is ironic considering half the Truck drivers aren’t old enough to gamble. Haha. Anyway, they’re near the West Coast while the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race near the other ocean. These singled-out events are the best because we’re guaranteed to see a NCWTS regular win; although the Cup guys put on a good show, their victories aren’t as thrilling when compared to a (possible) first-time winner hoisting the trophy. Also, this will be the perfect chance to spotlight the tight championship battle. Young Erik Jones is leading, but two-time champ Matt Crafton is only 10 points behind. Things could get interesting under the lights at Las Vegas, and I’m expecting it to be a fantastic show.

Does a NXS race at Pocono really appeal to anyone? Pocono Raceway announced that the Xfinity Series will join Sprint Cup and Trucks next June to create a NASCAR tripleheader weekend. It will replace NXS’s standalone event at Chicagoland Speedway, and I can’t find words to express my confusion. WHY would you do this? Not only is it moving Xfinity into Cup’s shadow but it’s also going in the wrong direction. The sport should be adding more standalone events—at new, unique tracks, I might add—so the NASCAR Xfinity Series can develop its own identity. Instead, we’re sending it to Pocono to join the other two series. However, the track has a very devoted fan base, so there will be money coming in. It’s not the move I would’ve made, but that’s probably why I don’t run NASCAR.

With eliminations looming, what should we expect at Dover? Dover International Speedway is the final race of the first round—which means drama is afoot. At this point, it’s a crapshoot; both Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are below the cutoff, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one point away from being in hot water. I’ve been surprised and impressed from the Chase so far, with Chicagoland and New Hampshire Motor Speedway both delivering shock and awe. Dover will no doubt follow suit. Harvick, Busch and Earnhardt are all in trouble, and there will be some wrecking going on as well. Although you can’t predict tempers flaring, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw some angry drivers after the race. All in all, Dover’s going to live up to the expectations—and possibly shatter them.

Can his retirement announcement restart Stewart’s season? Another legend is hanging up his helmet. Tony Stewart will retire after the 2016 NASCAR season, he told the media Wednesday afternoon. He assured everyone that next year wouldn’t be a “ride around year” with mediocre finishes. Will he be able to say the same thing about the final eight races? There’s no doubt that this announcement took a heavy weight off his shoulders. He needs every ounce of mental focus to resurrect this year, and getting the news out could help. However, with Harvick’s struggles and Kurt Busch also vying for a championship, the emphasis in the shop will be on the No. 4 and No. 41. I don’t expect Stewart to immediately knock out wins. There might be some better results ahead.

Speaking of restarts, can we get rid of that stupid box? I don’t get angry at NASCAR a lot, and that’s because they do a lot of things right—and because I’m a very calm person. On the other hand, when the sport does something confusing or idiotic, that’s when I get mad. This is one of those times. Brad Keselowski was penalized during last Sunday’s race for accelerating within the restart box before leader Greg Biffle took off. He was black flagged and required to pass-through pit road. This derailed his chances at winning and set him back a bit in the points. This is exactly why this concept is dumb; it’s another factor that could necessarily mess up the Chase. Some may think it will add excitement when it will actually add backlash. There are two problems with this. One, NASCAR is already being inconsistent with their calls. Jeff Gordon’s controversial restart at Chicagoland was quite similar to Keselowski’s, yet the No. 24 didn’t get penalized. NASCAR used the Team Penske driver to set the standard, I get that. But this is the Chase, the championship-deciding stretch of races. You’re going to use this as the opportunity to mess with the standard? That makes no sense to me. The other half of this is that the restart box is plain dumb. It just is. On any given weekend, smaller series across the country have restarts that go on the green flag. You’re telling me drivers in the top-tier of NASCAR can’t handle that responsibility? Dover announced Thursday they track expanded the restart box, and the other Chase tracks will most likely follow suit. That’s great, but that won’t really solve anything. Either start with the flag, or go back to single-file restarts. Those are the only options that fixes this problem.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: The Dover Contender Round Closer

Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Raceway • Martinsville Speedway
Phoenix International Raceway •  Richmond International Raceway
Distance: 1 mile

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 5 - Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch  
Both with 4 - Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer
All with 3 - Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth 

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 9
Jimmie Johnson - 8
All with 6 - Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch  

Recent Pole Winners:
2014 Kevin Harvick
2013 Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Likely Suspects:  Racing at the Monster Mile is always exciting, but add in the Chase format and you'll have 12 really happy drivers, four disappointed drivers and perhaps even a non-Chase spoiler. Look for these drivers to run well this week: Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Gordon, "Concrete" Carl Edwards, Matt Kenneth, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

My 2 Cents: This closing race of the first round of the Chase will be dramatic in many ways, not the least of which is an unsure weather predicament: Hurricane Joaquin. About the only sure thing we know is rain is a likely outcome all weekend. We may be looking at an unusual race day scenario since Dover has a spotless record when it comes to running full races. In fact, not one of the 91 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Dover International Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions. Hmm, this may be the first. Could we be racing on a Tuesday?

My no-brainer pick for whenever we race is a tie between Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick. Ordinarily I would pick Matt Kenseth, but Harvick needs the win to remain a Chase contender unless he wants to depend on lots of bad luck happening to at least four of his Chase competitors.

My next picks are: Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray. If I had a Carl Edwards start left I would pull McMurray and start Edwards. I will round out my team with Danica Patrick and Justin Allgaier.  

My final four: Harvick, Truex Jr., Bowyer and Patrick.

Points to ponder:
  • The second-place starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Dover International Speedway.  
  • About three-quarters -- 71 of the 91 (78%) -- of the Sprint Cup races at Dover have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Dover in the Cup Series with 18: Jimmie Johnson (10), Jeff Gordon (five), Geoff Bodine (one), Ken Schrader (one) and Ricky Rudd (one).
  • Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in the Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Dover with a 9.926.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Dover with a 7.889.
  •  Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Dover with 2,999 laps led in 27 starts. If he leads one lap or more this weekend Johnson will surpass the 3,000 laps led mark at Dover International Speedway, becoming the seventh driver in series history to lead 3,000 or more laps at a single track. Jeff Gordon is the only other active driver to accomplish the feat, at Martinsville with 3,744 laps led.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Smoke will retire after 2016; Bowyer will step into the No. 14 in 2017 "smelling like roses"

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs  
Today Tony Stewart announced he will retire from racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series following the 2016 season.

Since 1999, Stewart has been a towering fixture of the Cup Series. His numbers are legendary: 17 years, 582 races, 48 wins, nearly 13,000 laps led, an average finish of 13.7 over his entire Sprint Cup career, and of course, three championships. Stewart is the only driver who won a Winston Cup championship, a Nextel Cup championship and a Sprint Cup championship, and the only driver to win under both the old points system and the Chase system. He's also the only driver to hoist the series championship trophy in both NASCAR and IndyCar.

His aggressive racing style and brash personality won him millions of fans -- and plenty of haters. But no one can argue that Tony Stewart isn't one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time.

"I think it's a scenario where everybody in their career at some point makes the decision that it's time for a change," he said. "It's nothing that you plan. I think deep down you know when it's time to make a change like this."

He will not be retiring from racing entirely, however; he left the option open to continue to race other series, and will turn his focus to being a team owner in NASCAR. He unequivocally stated he will not be racing in the Indianapolis 500, but he didn't rule out running in any other type of racing.

Relaxed and excited, Stewart talked about his future plans -- working with Stewart-Haas Racing, traveling to see an F1 race with team co-owner Gene Haas and racing whenever he wants. Stewart also didn't miss a chance to poke at NASCAR in his usual sarcastic fashion.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"I'm not stepping away from the sport I love," Stewart said. "I'm still going to be at the track harassing everyone. NASCAR is probably going to be the most disappointed because they aren't getting rid of me. They have to deal with me as an owner."

Stewart said he had considered retiring at the end of 2015, but after seeing how much it has meant to Jeff Gordon's fans to see him race one more year, he decided to offer the same to his own fans.

"The reason we decided to run through the end of next  year is 100 percent because of the fans that have supported us through the years," he said. "It's important to me to be able to do this for our fans who have stuck with us through thick and thin and supported us. It's as important for me to do this for them as it is for me to do what I'm doing for my future."

Don't expect him to just ride around the track next year, however. They're going to do everything they can to win races and a championship. For all his wins, Stewart has never won the Daytona 500 or the Southern 500, and he wants to add those to his resume before he leaves the driver's seat.

Gene Haas, Stewart's co-owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, credited Stewart with the surge in success the team has seen since its inception in 2011.

"Without Tony, we would never have turned out into the super team that we are now, winning two championships," Haas said. "He brings the talent, he brings the sponsors. I had the foundation, and you put those two together, and you had a NASCAR superstar team."

Stewart will be an owner-driver for one more year, after which he will hang up his helmet and turn the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet over to current Michael Waltrip Racing driver Clint Bowyer.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images

"What an unbelievable opportunity," Bowyer said, "just to think how my year started. You thought you were set, then all of a sudden you're not, then all of a sudden that led to a door opening in one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport.

"Do you ever hear that term 'when you fall in a pile of cow manure and come out smelling like roses?' That's exactly what this is for me," he said, laughing.

Bowyer, who has driven the No. 15 MWR Toyota since 2012, has worked with several of the drivers and crew chiefs at SHR. He was teammates at Richard Childress Racing with Kevin Harvick from 2004 to 2012, and worked with Rodney Childers, Harvick's current crew chief, at MWR from 2008 to 2012. He believes the fit with Stewart-Haas Racing couldn't be any better.

"There's so many good people here, and that's why they have the success that they do," he said.

Stewart is going out on his own terms. The decision, he said, was 100 percent his, and nothing was ever part of a master plan.

"There was not one factor that led to this other than just I felt like it was the right time," he said. "Everything in racing is timing, and the opportunity to get someone like Clint Bowyer, I mean, that's when you seize the opportunity. We've put the right guy behind the steering wheel moving forward."

Many wondered if the injuries and tragedy of the last several years had any bearing on Stewart's decision. Not one percent, he said.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
"This is strictly what I want to do, and my leg feels fine. The tragedy, nothing is going to change that," he said. "It happened, but it's not going to direct the rest of my life. I'm still going to race when I want to race, but as far as the [Sprint] Cup Series, it had no bearing on that."

Jeff Gordon has been lauded and honored at nearly every track during this, his "swan song" year of racing. Stewart does not want any part of that. He wants to race and be with his racing family and fans.

"I'm not really that kind of guy. I think it's been very fitting for Jeff," he said. "I don't think I'm worthy of that admiration because I think that Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again. I think that kind of celebration is reserved for somebody like Jeff."

Others in the sport reacted to Stewart's announcement. His teammate and close friend Kevin Harvick wrote on Instagram. "As the world learns about Tony retiring today I have to admit I've known about this for awhile and really struggled to put my arms around what I think about it. I've seen Tony as my driver, my boss, and my friend but in the end I want to see him smile and be happy in his life. Tony has done a great deal for not only my family, but the sport we all love! Proud to call you my friend!"

Jeff Gordon tweeted, "Incredible contribution @TonyStewart has made on & off the track. Thanks Tony! Looking forward to calling your final Daytona 500 next year!"

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Tony Stewart isn't going to be driving the No. 14 Chevrolet after next year, but he'll still be around the track. He has too much fun not to keep racing, and he's too good at it and too driven by the competition of it all to stop.

"I made my father a promise when we first started racing when I was eight years old, and he made me promise him that the day I didn't have fun doing it I wouldn't do it anymore, and I never forgot that."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Fast Facts Redux: Stewart-Haas Racing

Photo credits: Patrick - Atlanta 2015, Charlotte Bray;
Harvick - Dover 2014, Beth Reinke; Busch - Texas 2015,
Debbie Ross; Stewart - Darlington 2015, Charlotte Bray 
(all for Skirts & Scuffs)

Stewart-Haas Racing is currently the home of team co-owner and three-time Cup Series champ Tony Stewart, 2014 Sprint Cup Series champ Kevin Harvick, 2004 Cup Series champ Kurt Busch and former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Danica Patrick. With a big announcement concerning the team on the way this week, let’s take a look at the history of the team in this week’s Fast facts, originally published in Nov. 2011.
  • Stewart-Haas was originally Haas CNC Racing, which debuted in 2003. The original team was the No. 0 NetZero Pontiac with driver Jack Sprague, who was followed by John Andretti, Jason Leffler and Ward Burton. The No. 0 became the No. 66 in 2006 with Jeff Green behind the wheel and Best Buy as a sponsor. The No. 66 became Ryan Newman’s No. 39 from 2009-2013 (No. 39 was Newman’s midget car number), then became Harvick’s No. 4 in 2014.
  • In 2006 the No. 70 for Haas CNC Racing debuted at the Coca Cola 600 with Johnny Sauter behind the wheel. Jeremy Mayfield signed on as the driver in 2008, but was replaced along the way by Sauter, Leffler, Tony Raines and others. The No. 70 became Stewart’s No. 14 for the 2009 season (Stewart’s number is homage to his racing hero, A.J. Foyt).
  • Patrick’s No. 10 (Patrick’s number in her karting days) was originally the No. 35 at Tommy Baldwin Racing. In 2012, Patrick moved to NASCAR full-time after splitting time between IndyCar and the Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series, competing in 10 Cup Series events for TBR in a partnership with SHR. She retained the No. 10 when she moved full-time to SHR in 2013, but Baldwin’s team retained the owner’s points for the 2013 season. While Patrick has been sponsored by GoDaddy for much of her career, Nature’s Bakery comes on as Patrick’s sponsor beginning in 2016.
  • Busch was signed by team owner Gene Haas for a fourth SHR car in 2014 after it was announced that Newman would not return to the team because they could not find sponsorship for a fourth team. Busch’s No. 41 is sponsored by Haas’s company, Haas Automation.
  • Stewart won the team’s first race at the 2009 Sprint All-Star Race (non-points race), then followed it up with the team’s first points victory at Pocono in June 2009, becoming the first owner-driver to win a race in the Cup Series since Ricky Rudd in 1998. 
  • On November 20, 2011, Stewart won the Chase for the Sprint Cup by winning a tie-breaker (most wins in the season) over Carl Edwards. Stewart won five races during the 10-race Chase, including the title-clinching finale over Edwards. He became the first owner-driver to win the championship since Alan Kulwicki in 1992.
  • Find out more about Stewart-Haas Racing at