Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Faith on the Frontstretch: Lessons from Kurt Busch’s Daytona 500 Win


Credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images  
 “ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”     ~ Hebrews 12:1b

When Kurt Busch led the final lap of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, he didn’t look back. That’s because with 30 laps to go, his rearview mirror fell off, so he focused straight ahead and pressed on for the win.

The mirror malfunction later became an inspiration for the driver because of his wife’s perspective on the matter. In fact, insightful remarks by both Busch and his wife worked together to illuminate lessons from Scripture.

Daytona Lesson #1 from Ashley Busch: Look forward, not back.

During the Victory Lane celebration, it wasn’t the trophy or confetti or comradery that made the biggest impression on Busch. He said his favorite moment was when his wife, Ashley, shared her thoughts about the rearview mirror failure. He discussed it at the Daytona 500 Champion’s Breakfast on Monday.

“You can talk about the ups-and-downs of one’s career or personal life, and my wife said something in Victory Lane last night,” Busch said. “She goes, ‘You know, it’s an omen that your mirror came apart, because you’re not supposed to be looking in the rearview mirror; you’re supposed to be looking out front and what the future holds.’

Daytona Lesson #2 from Kurt Busch: Give it your all.

The No. 41 team did something phenomenal. They joined an elite group of teams who won NASCAR’s “Super Bowl.”

But you won’t hear the driver say, “Well, there’s no need to try real hard anymore. I’m both a Cup Champion and a Daytona 500 Champion, so I’ve ‘arrived.’ I’ll just coast through from here on out without working too hard.”

Kurt Busch, nor any other NASCAR driver, talks like that. There is no such thing as having “arrived.” There’s always room to improve for the next race. Racers keep racing, and they race to win.

Busch explained it like this:

“I do my best every week to come to the race track and to find the speed in the car and to deliver the information that I can to the crew chief and to the lead engineer and make a lap time – go out there for a qualifying session, go out there for practices and find the speed in the race ...”

“... I’m a survivor just giving it my all,” he said.

Look forward, not back.
And give it your all.


Well, cue the Twilight Zone music, because Philippians 3:13-14 contains not one, but both of the “Daytona lessons.” The verses even use the analogy that life is a race. Pretty cool, huh?

So, what can you and I do with these lessons? Both of them relate to our spiritual journeys and how we live our lives.

Look forward, not back. Forget your mistakes and any bad stuff from the past. Grab hold of this moment and do what you can to glorify God in it. See each new day as a chance to grow closer to Him.

Give it your all. Give God everything – your heart, your thought life, your outward actions, your time. Ask God to help you give this life everything you've got while growing closer to Him.

You and I are running a race of life that’s infinitely more significant than the Daytona 500. Run your race well, my friend.

No, dear brothers, I am still not all I should be, but I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I strain to reach the end of the race and receive the prize for which God is calling us up to heaven because of what Christ Jesus did for us. ~ Philippians 3:13-14 (TLB)
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“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month during the NASCAR season.

Beth Reinke has been writing Faith on the Frontstretch since 2011. She’s a registered dietitian, author and editor who loves chocolate and Sundays. Follow her on twitter at @bbreinke.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Atlanta Motor Speedway

credit: NASCAR Media
All three of NASCAR’s top series – Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series – will be in action this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA. The 1.54-mile quad-oval track has seen expansion, plenty of racing and even a few movies being filmed over its 50-plus years on the circuit, and following this weekend’s events, it’ll be getting a “facelift.” Here’s a quick history of this fast and historic track.
  • 1.5-mile Atlanta International Raceway, as the track was known from 1960-1990, broke ground in 1958, the dream of Walker Jackson, Lloyd Smith, Garland Bagley, Ralph Sceiano and Ike Supporter. All but Bagley would jump ship on the project before completion due to insufficient funds, but four more men – Dr. Warren Gremmel, Bill Boyd, Jack Black and Art Lester – joined Bagley and spent $1.8 million to ready the oval track for its debut on July 31, 1960. The inaugural Dixie 200 at Atlanta was won by pole sitter Fireball Roberts.
  • Atlanta’s debut was less than perfect, as much of the track’s facilities still needed attention. The suffering continued for the track into the 1970s, when it was reorganized under Chapter 10 bankruptcy proceedings. The track would struggle through the 1980s as well, until Oct. 23, 1990, when Bruton Smith – founder of Charlotte Motor Speedway and later Speedway Motorsports Inc. – purchased the track and renamed it Atlanta Motor Speedway.
  • In 1991, Smith expanded the East Turn Grandstand and added 30 top-of-the-line suites to the top of the grandstands. In 1994, Tara Place – featuring luxury condos, the Tara Ballroom for events, the speedway’s office and more – opened, and in 1995, the Earnhardt Grandstand was opened. In 1997, the biggest overhaul took place, as the Champions Grandstand was built, the start/finish line was moved from the east side to the west side of the track, and doglegs were added to the new frontstretch, forming the 1.54-mile quad-oval raced on today. The Winners Grandstand opened in 2006.
  • From 2009-2014, Atlanta hosted the Cup Series on Labor Day weekend; the Labor Day event was moved back to Darlington Raceway beginning in 2015. In 2015, the track announced they would install the SAFER Barrier around all of the outside track walls and most of the inside track walls. In 2017, following this weekend’s events, the track will undergo its first repave in 20 years.
  • Atlanta is currently the only track to have two NASCAR top-tier races scheduled on the same day, as the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series both race on Saturday of the weekend, and the track previously hosted the IndyCar Series. The track previously hosted two Cup Series races, but the second date went to Kentucky Speedway, another Speedway Motorsports, Inc. facility, in 2011.
  • The late Dale Earnhardt leads all drivers with nine wins and 26 top five finishes at Atlanta. Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman are tied for the most poles with seven poles each. The Cup Series qualifying record was set by Geoffrey Bodine on Nov. 15, 1997 (197.478 mph/28.074 seconds).
  • Three early 1980s car-driven movies were filmed in part at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), Six Pack (1982) and Stroker Ace (1983). Atlanta was also the backdrop for the Garth Brooks/Huey Lewis music video Workin’ for a Livin’.
  • Get all the up-to-date racing information for Atlanta Motor Speedway at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com


Monday, February 27, 2017

Travel Tips: Atlanta Motor Speedway – March 3-5, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will all race this weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 3-5, at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Georgia. The Cup Series’ Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 goes green on Sunday, while the Trucks and Xfinity Series both race on Saturday.

Country star Josh Turner will take the stage for the pre-race concert on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET. Get to the front of the stage with a pre-race pit pass upgrade, available here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 3:
  • Xfinity Series practice – 10 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 11 a.m., 2:30 and 4 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice –noon ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 5:45 p.m. ET
Saturday, March 4:
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:15 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 10:40 a.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice –noon ET
  • Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 – 2 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 – 4:30 p.m. ET
Sunday, March 5:
  • Josh Turner pre-race concert – 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Find a complete weekend schedule here, and find tips for first-time fans here.

Find out more about this weekend’s races and purchase tickets at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Daytona 500 Winning Crew Chief, Tony Gibson

by Stacey Owens

New season. New points system. New rules package. Is everything new this year? Nope. The winning crew chief is an old man. Well, that's not exactly true, but Tony "Old Man" Gibson is thrilled about his win as crew chief in the Daytona 500.

He wasn't just excited about winning the series' most storied race, but it was an honor for him to win at his home track.

"It's insane. I grew up five miles from here. My mom retired from here. My dad raced here all of his life," Gibson said. "To come here -- and I've won it in the 500 before, but not as a crew chief. To come here and do this is amazing. I'm getting old, towards the end of my deal.
           
"It's nice to be able to get this done. It still hasn't really sunk in. Other than Stewart beating on me in '71 at Daytona 500, I didn't really realize we did. I just think everybody, especially Gene, Tony, Ford Motor Company, Doug Yates, Monster Energy, Haas Automation, everybody just back at the shop.  I'm just a small part of what goes on here.
           
"
I just happen to be the fortunate one that gets to sit up here. All my guys, most of them have been with me for over 13 years as a crew. We were fortunate enough to be with Dale Jr. for one of these things. To see those guys stick with me for so long and finally win it, it's truly amazing."
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Gibson was obviously emotional as the race ended.

"Like I said, this is where I grew up. I was born in Halifax Hospital across the street. Like I said, my mom retired from here. My dad raced all his life. He's had some great drivers drive his stuff.
           
"To come here and win the Daytona 500, anything I do, my dad, he worked two jobs. I had two other brothers that raced. Dad had to work night and day and everything he had to make sure we could race and have fun. So my mom and dad are the ones I thought about very first thing.
           
"Growing up, where I'm at today, my wife Beth, she's been my biggest supporter for the last 26 years, sticking with me when things are bad, I'm laid up in the hospital, whatever.
           
"All those emotions just clamp on you at one time. It takes a few minutes for it to sink in. It's pretty incredible," Gibson explained.

Unlike Kurt Busch, this win wasn't Gibson's first win at the track.

"It doesn't get any better than this. I've been fortunate enough to win it before," Gibson said. "To win it with this guy beside me right here, Gene and Tony Stewart, Smoke, those guys support us. It's just a different feel.
           
"In today's times to win, it's so competitive, so hard to win. Each time you win, it means more because it's harder and harder to win each time.
           
"You're only as good as your last win.  So this means more to me than anything I've done. I won the championship in 1992 with Alan Kulwicki, but this here is huge."

Yes, a win in the Daytona 500 is definitely huge and sets a tone for the rest of the season. Welcome to 2017. It's going to be a great year!

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



 Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Trackin' Trucks: Kaz Grala wins at Daytona in wild finish

Grala joins the few drivers that have won at Daytona from the pole position. 
Credit: Getty Images
 
by Courtney Horn

Kaz Grala claimed the season opening Camping World Truck Series victory Friday night at Daytona International Speedway, becoming the youngest winner in series history at Daytona.

The 18-year-old avoided The Big One on the last lap that collected several trucks and sent Matt Crafton airborne. The wreck began after Ben Rhodes made contact with his teammate and was sent spinning, collecting Crafton, Timothy Peters and defending NCWTS champion, Johnny Sauter.

"That was freaking awesome! I can't believe we won Daytona," Grala said in Victory Lane. "I couldn't see a lot there. I knew it was a little bit risky. It was the last lap, and we had to do what we had to do.”

Chase Briscoe, driver of the No. 29 Ford, finished third after being involved in the first accident of the night on Lap 2. Briscoe tapped Noah Gragson in Turn 2 and collected 17 trucks, eight of which couldn’t return because of significant damage.

“Felt like the 29 hit me in the wrong part of the bumper going through the tri-oval,” Gragson said, “It just got me loose, and it got pointed into the outside wall.”

Christopher Bell salvaged an eighth-place finish after being involved in three wrecks, one of which also sent the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver flying.

Sauter claimed Stages 1 and 2, but on Lap 95 John Hunter Nemecheck brought out the caution that created a two-lap finish. Nemechek finished fourth, one position ahead of his father Joe Nemechek. Sauter was credited with a 15th-place finish.

A Look Ahead

The Truck Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend on March 4th, where one year ago John Hunter Nemechek was victorious. Can Nemechek defend his win or will a rookie will claim a victory early?

Find out on Fox Sports 1 at 4:30 p.m. ET.

Caption This: Denny Hamlin


Welcome to our Caption This column for 2017.

Each Saturday, we’ll post a comical NASCAR photo taken by a Skirts and Scuffs photographer. You have until Monday night to leave us a funny caption in the comments. Your goal is to make us laugh out loud.

We’ll publish the winning caption on Wednesday.

All of the weekly winners’ names will be tossed into a hat for a drawing, and one will win a prize package of racing swag at the end of the season. It could be you!

Enjoy this week’s photo of Denny Hamlin, the 2016 Dayton 500 Champion, which was snapped during the Charlotte Media Tour by our Debbie Ross.
Denny Hamlin at the 2017 Charlotte Media Tour
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs   
Here are the rules:
* Leave your photo caption in the comment section below by Monday at midnight.
* Include your name and twitter handle.
* Only one entry per person for each photo.
* If you win multiple times during the season, you get one entry in the prize drawing for each win.
* Anonymous posts are not eligible to win.

Keep in mind that we offer Caption This in the spirit of fun. Any mean-spirited, vulgar or otherwise offensive entries will be disqualified and removed at the discretion of Skirts and Scuffs.

So bring on your funnies! Then pop in again on Wednesday to read the winning caption.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Flourish or Flounder: Five Questions for the 2017 Daytona 500

(Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
by Kristen Schneider

The offseason wasn’t so offseason-y this time around, and that’s OK – until you realize that almost everything about the sport changed.

Don’t worry, it’s still NASCAR, and they still turn left. The sanctioning body altered other elements, though. For example, the highest level is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS), which I will misspell approximately 19,424 times throughout the season. Also, there is no Chase anymore – it’s now referred to as the playoffs. A lot of other things changed, too, but you’ll hear about those over the course of the entire weekend.

I haven’t changed whatsoever (that’s either good or bad, depending on who you ask). I have my Five Questions ready to go, so let’s get the 2017 NASCAR season underway.

Why do we complain about the rain every freakin’ year? This is a throwaway question, yes, but it’s also legitimate. Fans, media and drivers are always peeved at the weather when the Daytona 500 rolls around – but it’s Florida, and Florida isn't exactly the driest place in the world during the early Spring. Some track action always gets rained out. SO WHY DO PEOPLE GET MAD? Just accept it and have NASCAR bring another AirTitan. Sheesh.

Showing too much skin? NASCAR hit the mainstream media – with a misleading headline. With Monster Energy sponsoring the Cup Series, their promotional models will be mainstays at the tracks all season long. Their uniforms follow the Monster brand, but some fans took offense to the leather tops that accentuate their assets. The handful of questioning tweets prompted an article from USA Today about "outraged" fans. A tad overexaggerated, right? I don’t see an issue with their outfits; I know what breasts look like (duh), and I’d show off my midriff if I had their abs, too. I do see a conflict between the promotional models’ appearance and NASCAR’s diversity efforts. However, as I discuss later on, the sport has bigger issues to handle. All in all, if the models are OK with their uniforms, I am, too. Let’s hope this doesn’t distract from actual racing.
Shop for 2017 Daytona 500 Fan Gear at Store.NASCAR.com
Who is this Earnhardt Jr.? Hot dang, NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver is back in the saddle again. Dale Earnhardt Jr. returns to Daytona after undergoing long-term treatment for a concussion. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for – and not just because he draws attention. This sport is a family, and one of our members healed. This is a fantastic weekend no matter what kind of racing we see on Sunday. You can tell Earnhardt is feeling better, too. He’s smiling more, chatting it up with the media, enjoying the spotlight. This is a side of him we haven’t seen in a while, a side that is without burden. When I started watching NASCAR, he was secluded and stoic. His wife, Amy, brought him out of that dark place when they began dating. The biggest fear among the NASCAR community wasn’t that Earnhardt wouldn’t return – it was that he wouldn’t be the same guy from the past few years. If the Duels were any indication, we don’t have to worry about that. Welcome back, Junebug.

Is this sport in a zombie state? Everyone and their grandmother has read that story by now. You know, the Wall Street Journal one that rips the faintly beating heart out of NASCAR’s chest? At first, I admired the effort and detail put into the story; a lot of stories talk about the sport dying, but this one explored the "why" and "how" of it all. Once that passed, I wondered if its writers are on to something. Is this sport a sinking ship, and we’re all just drinking tea on its upper deck? It’s not that dramatic, yet parts of the piece ring true. Rising costs are impacting the attendance count, and that’s an issue many drivers highlighted over the last few seasons. Other factors contribute to the decline, like mistakes in officiating and ignoring key demographics. These won’t kill the sport – but it pushes it closer to its death bed. This sport isn’t flourishing, but "floundering" is not the right description, either. It’s hanging somewhere in this weird middle zone where NASCAR can go either way. Monster Energy could be the answer to its prayers; who knows? It has to work to stay afloat right now. There is always room for growth in whatever you do. At this point in time, however, the sport must work on surviving rather than thriving.


Does NASCAR need new leadership? That scathing WSJ piece not only dragged NASCAR through the mud, it also threw Brian France under the bus... backed over him and hit him again. It detailed the disconnect between him and sister, Lesa, with whom he once shared 50-percent of the sport. That’s in past tense because France sold his chunk. He’s the Chairman of NASCAR, and he doesn’t even have a stake in it. That’s puzzling to me, and not just because of his divestment of power – he’s also divested his interest. France said he went to half the races last season. These facts led Jeff Gluck to wonder if a leadership change is needed, and I think these actions speak for themselves. If he can’t muster the energy to attend each event but can carve out time for a political rally, there is a bigger problem on the horizon. Maybe NASCAR could get out of its middle zone if someone who cared called the shots. The sanctioning body altered everything else – why not try the switching out the man in charge?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

TV Schedule: Feb. 23-26

Dale Earnhardt Jr., left, and pole-sitter Chase Elliott make up the front row
for Sunday's Daytona 500. Credit: NASCAR Via Getty Images
It's the Great American Race. It's NASCAR's Super Bowl. It's the Daytona 500.

One of the greatest races in motorsports steps off the pedal Sunday. Who will take home the coveted trophy and ring?

All three of NASCAR's top series hold their season-opening races this weekend at Daytona International Speedway. Let the racing begin!

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

Thursday, Feb. 23:
Noon Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
2 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub Weekend Edition, FS1
4 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
7 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Can-Am Duel at Daytona, FS1

Friday, Feb. 24:
Midnight Monster Energy Cup Series Can-Am Duel at Daytona (re-air), FS2
4 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice (re-air), FS1
5 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice (re-air), FS1
6 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Can-Am Duel at Daytona (re-air), FS1
Noon XFINITY Series practice, FS1
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
2 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
4 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub Weekend Edition, FS1
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FS1
7:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250, FS1

Saturday, Feb. 25:
5 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
6 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
7 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
8 a.m. Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 (re-air), FS1
10:30 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
Noon NASCAR Race Hub Weekend Edition, FS1
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
2 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub Weekend Edition, FS1
3 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Power Shares QQQ 300, FS1
6 p.m. XFINITY Series Post-Race Show, FS1

Sunday, Feb. 26:
1 a.m. XFINITY Series Power Shares QQQ 300 (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay (re-air), FS1
1 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Daytona 500, FOX
9 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FS1

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: 2017 Daytona 500


by Carol D'Agostino

The Daytona 500 and the beginning of the 2017 racing season is upon us. I don't know about you, but I'm going to need some extra cheat sheets to remember all of this year's changes. The official name of the series and who is in which car are the least of my concerns. I'm still trying to figure out the stages of the race and the new point system. It's either going to evolve seamlessly or continue to hurt my brain. Fortunately, my focus is fantasy stats, so let's get this party started!

Drivers with Most Top 10s in the Last 5 Years:
By Race
Both with 4: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin
All with 3: Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson
All with 2: Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski

By Track
All with 5: Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer
Both with 4: Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick
All with 3: Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Michael McDowell

Last Year's Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

The Likely Suspects: The unpredictability of a restrictor plate race makes it fun for the fans to watch, but nightmarish for fantasy players. The Daytona 500 is particularly challenging for number- crunchers since a fast car and some knowledge of drafting can catapult a car driven by a rookie from the back of the pack to the front in less than a lap. I'll be focusing on these drivers as we begin our new season: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Kevin Harvick.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick is a tie between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Austin Dillon. My next choices are Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray. I'll round out my fantasy team with Michael McDowell and Landon Cassill. David Ragan is also a nice dark horse pick. 

My Final Four: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott and Michael McDowell

Points to Ponder:
  • The pole position is the most proficient starting position in the Daytona 500 field, producing more winners (nine) than any other position, followed by the outside pole (seven wins) and starting in fourth place (seven wins).
  • Eighteen full-length races at Daytona have been won from the pole. The last to do it was Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the July 2015 race.
  • Nine different manufacturers have won the Daytona 500, led by Chevrolet with 23 victories, followed by Ford (14), Dodge (four), Plymouth (four), Buick (three), Mercury (three), Oldsmobile (three), Pontiac (three) and Toyota (one).
  • The Wood Brothers have won 15 races at Daytona, more than any other organization.
  • Among active drivers, Denny Hamlin has led the most laps in a single Daytona 500, when he led 95 laps on his way to victory last season. 
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-five finishes with eight. Earnhardt Jr. is tied with Benny Parsons, Bobby Allison and Buddy Baker for fifth-most all-time. Dale Jr. also leads all active drivers in average finishing position in the Daytona 500 with a 13.5 in 17 appearances.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

ROOKIE STRIPE: 8 Things to Know about the 2017 NASCAR Season



Photo credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
by Logan Stewart

It’s February. That means it’s NASCAR time.

Some may still be languishing in football season’s end zone, but those who love the sport of NASCAR have their eyes on the road ahead. Like every year before it, the 2017 NASCAR season brings new changes and new faces to the sport, but the thunderous energy and smell of rubber on the road remain the same.

It’s going to be a wild ride, and here are eight things to know about the 2017 NASCAR season.

1. There’s a new brute in town. Monster Energy takes over as NASCAR’s title sponsor, beginning with the Daytona 500. According to Monster Energy, it has built its brand on racing and motorsports, so we’ll all be hoping for a serious jolt of exhilaration.

2. There’s a new points system. Races will now consist of three stages. Stages 1, 2 and the Final Stage will vary depending on the track and the length of the race. Read more about the new points system.

3. Dale Jr. returns. After missing half the 2016 season due to a concussion sustained at Michigan last June, the perennial fan favorite has finally received medical clearance to race again. Here is a fascinating read from ESPN about his recovery and private life.

Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
4. Concussions will be a bigger deal. Speaking of concussions, NASCAR is enforcing a consistent screening rule for concussions in 2017. If a driver is involved in a wreck that sends his or her car to the garage, he or she must report to the infield care center for a medical evaluation, where medical providers must use the SCAT-3 diagnostic tool to check for head injuries. This is different than the prior rule where a driver only had to go to the infield care center if the car was towed to the garage. Cue the serious headache for some drivers who are anxious to stay on the track in competition.

5. Carl Edwards is out. As in, stepping out of the racecar entirely. He walked away from a career that spans 20 years, with a year left on his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing, citing personal reasons. His replacement, former Joe Gibbs Racing Xfinity driver Daniel Suarez, dominated that series last year and will be one to watch in 2017.

Photo credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
6. Clint Bowyer is in. Bowyer officially takes the reins of the No. 14 Ford for Stewart Haas Racing, replacing now-retired Tony Stewart.

7. Stewart Haas Racing gets new wheels. They’re now racing Ford vehicles and building their own chassis. This change is a big one for the SHR empire which has long been aligned with Chevrolet. Why Ford? The team says it was a business decision, but this will be a year to see if Ford can rule the track.

8. Three rookies are in the running. Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon are all rookies planning to run the full Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

Hats off to all of you "fan rookies" out there. Enjoy the season!