Friday, December 31, 2010

Jimmie and Chandra Johnson helping to build children's futures

Jimmie Johnson stands with elementary students in front of the new smart board at
Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 16.
(Photo from Jimmie Johnson's official Facebook page)
One of the great things about NASCAR is the generosity of its drivers. Many are involved in community service and have various causes they support. Some give back through their own foundations or join with other organizations to aid a variety of worthwhile endeavors close to their hearts.

The top 3 Sprint Cup title contenders of 2010 are fine examples of the generosity present in NASCAR. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, runner-up Denny Hamlin and regular season points leader Kevin Harvick personified the Christmas spirit by making a difference recently in their hometowns, adopted hometowns and in the lives of their fans. All three are winners on and off the track.

This week, we’ve looked at how each gave back during the holiday season. Today we wrap it up with Johnson and his wife Chandra, who remember their roots by aiding the development and education of hundreds of children.

The Johnsons: Connecting with the kids

Jimmie and Chandra Johnson became parents this year with the birth of their daughter Genevieve Marie. But helping children has been an important cause for the Johnsons and at the core of the Jimmie Johnson Foundation’s mission.

“I have always had a soft spot for kids and I love to connect with them,” says the five-time consecutive Sprint Cup champion.

For two years now, the couple has made an impact on the lives of hundreds of children through their work with the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and Lowes’ Toolbox for Education Champion Grants.

Thanks to the Johnsons, Christmas came early for 13 schools in California, Oklahoma and North Carolina. On Dec. 16, Jimmie Johnson announced more than $650,000 in education grants would be awarded to public schools in his and Chandra’s hometowns as well as Charlotte, N.C., where the couple reside.

Johnson made the announcement among cheering students at Collinswood Language Academy in Charlotte, N.C., one of three Charlotte-area schools to benefit from the program. Grants were also awarded to seven schools near El Cajon, Calif., where Johnson is from, and three in Muskogee, Okla., where Chandra grew up.

This is the second year of the education grant program, made possible through a partnership between the Jimmie Johnson Foundation and Johnson’s sponsor Lowes. The $688,087 in grants will be used to fund a variety of projects, including science and technology updates, athletic facilities, performing arts programs, literacy initiatives and school improvements.

In the two years the program has been in existence, more than $1.5 million has been awarded to 35 schools in the three states. And awareness is growing. In 2010 alone the grant program received more than 100 applications.

“Our grants picked up considerably this year from just people being aware of the situation and us passing out these grants in each area,” Johnson said. “I think we had like $6 million in grants that were sent to us, and there is no way we could fund that but you sit there and with that you could and that’s just in the three areas where we were taking grants. So it shows the need and how strained the educational system is and we are just happy that we can help make a difference.”

The program’s impact can already be seen at Collinswood. In 2009 the school purchased a new smart board with its grant. This year the elementary school was awarded $45,947 to build a new playground and basketball court.

"In this difficult economic time, it is so rewarding to know that our local heroes are taking an active interest in education and providing much needed financial support,” said Nicolette Grant, Collinswood principal. “This gift will have a positive impact on the social and physical development of our students for years to come.”

Johnson, who missed testing on Daytona’s new surface while he attended the grant ceremony, said being at Collinswood was much more fun.

“I am a kid at heart so to see the kids and know the impact that it is going to make on their lives, and to meet these kids, it’s one thing to raise the money, and have award ceremonies and pass stuff out, but to see the kids interact with them, that’s the best part of fundraising.”

Jimmie and Chandra Johnson’s contributions will be repaid through the advancement of education for hundreds in their hometowns and adopted residence. Through their partnership with Lowes, they are not only helping to build playgrounds and other projects, but also helping to build children’s futures.

To find out more about the Jimmie Johnson Foundation, visit the organization’s website at To see more photos from the grant ceremony at Collinswood, visit Jimmie Johnson’s official Facebook page.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Preseason Thunder set to roar with Cup testing at Daytona Jan. 20-22

NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest at Daytona coincides on Jan. 21-22

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Daytona International Speedway’s three-day NASCAR Sprint Cup Series test, known as NASCAR Preseason Thunder, is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 20, through Saturday, Jan. 22. Sunday, Jan. 23 is the rain date.
The 2011 edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder will help teams acclimate to the new pavement, plus speed their preparation for the 53rd Daytona 500 on Feb. 20 – the series’ traditional season-opener.
The repaving project – only the second in track history and first since 1978 – began immediately after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event on July 3.
"This allows everyone an equal opportunity to work on their setups and get everything in order leading up to Speedweeks and the running of the Daytona 500," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "Additionally, it gives the teams the chance to get accustomed to the new pit road and the added run-off areas on the backstretch. We’re excited about the new surface and believe it will only enhance the racing experience at Daytona."
All NASCAR Preseason Thunder sessions begin at 9 a.m. and end at 5 p.m., weather permitting. Each includes a lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.

Doug Randolph named crew chief for Steve Wallace in Nationwide

Steve Wallace (Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)
MOORESVILLE, N.C. – Officials of Rusty Wallace Racing (RWR) announced Tuesday that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran Doug Randolph has been named crew chief for driver Steve Wallace and RWR's No. 66 5-Hour Energy Toyota in their charge for the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.

Randolph joins RWR following stints as crew chief at such organizations as Richard Childress Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and Petty Enterprises.  In his most recent NASACAR Nationwide Series crew chief role, Randolph led Childress's No. 29 team and 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver champion Clint Bowyer to wins at Daytona and Dover in 2009.

Said Randolph, "I'm really looking forward to working with Steve Wallace and the 5-Hour Energy team.  Steve's definitely been one of the most improved drivers over the last couple of years and has really developed into one of the best Nationwide Series guys out there.  This team has a lot of potential too; I'm looking forward to continuing to build this program and hopefully being one of the contenders for the Nationwide Series championship in 2011."

Noted RWR General Manager Larry Carter, "We're very excited to add Doug Randolph to our organization.  I've known Doug for a while and he's a really talented guy.  He brings a lot of valuable experience to our team, including a lot of experience with the (new car).  We're all looking forward to working with him."

Release courtesy of Rusty Wallace Racing

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kevin and DeLana Harvick bring Christmas toys to children in need

Kevin and DeLana Harvick attend a Christmas party for area foster children Dec. 18
at Oak Ridge Military Academy in Oak Ridge, N.C. (Courtesy of Kevin Harvick Foundation Facebook page)
One of the great things about NASCAR is the generosity of its drivers. Many are involved in community service and have various causes they support. Some give back through their own foundations or join with other organizations to aid a variety of worthwhile endeavors close to their hearts.

The top 3 Sprint Cup title contenders of 2010 are fine examples of the generosity present in NASCAR. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, runner-up Denny Hamlin and regular season points leader Kevin Harvick personified the Christmas spirit by making a difference recently in their hometowns, adopted hometowns and in the lives of their fans. All three are winners on and off the track.

Over the next two days, we’ll look at how each gave back during the holiday season. Today we look at how Harvick and his wife DeLana made sure hundreds of children had toys to unwrap this Christmas.

The Harvicks: Santa’s helpers

Santa Claus may get the credit for bringing children toys for Christmas, but he has worthy helpers in Kevin and DeLana Harvick.

The Harvicks created the Kevin Harvick Foundation earlier this year with the goal of helping children in need across the country. According to its mission statement, the organization aims “to not only improve the quality of life, but to help underprivileged youth find and realize their dreams.”

This Christmas, the Harvicks participated in a very special event that would give back two-fold, aiding children not only in North Carolina, but in nearby Martinsville, Va.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Denny Hamlin delivers Christmas gift of a lifetime

Jason Smith / Getty Images for NASCAR
One of the great things about NASCAR is the generosity of its drivers. Many are involved in community service and have various causes they support. Some give back through their own foundations or join with other organizations to aid a variety of worthwhile endeavors close to their hearts.

The drivers’ good will also extends to the sport's fans. Some show their appreciation to the fans by giving away free race tickets or other prizes through Twitter and other social media websites. In some cases, fans are given an opportunity they may not otherwise have, such as seeing a race during tough economic times or a vacation they never dreamed of.

The top 3 Sprint Cup title contenders of 2010 are fine examples of the generosity present in NASCAR. Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, runner-up Denny Hamlin and regular season points leader Kevin Harvick personified the Christmas spirit by making a difference recently in their hometowns, adopted hometowns and in the lives of their fans. All three are winners on and off the track.

Over the next three days, we’ll look at how each gave back during the holiday season. Today we’ll start with Hamlin and a Christmas one family of NASCAR fans will never forget.

Denny Hamlin - or Santa Claus?

Instead of a helmet, perhaps Denny Hamlin should be wearing a Santa hat.

This Christmas, Hamlin gave one family the ultimate gift: an all-expenses paid vacation anywhere in the continental United States. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota will provide airfare, hotel and $2,000 in spending money to the destination of their choice.

The runner-up to this year’s championship, Hamlin has shown his appreciation for the sport’s fans by giving away free race tickets since 2009. Hamlin started “Denny’s Seats” on his website and in 2010 moved the program to Twitter, giving away tickets to fans who correctly answered a trivia question the night before every race.

But on Christmas, Hamlin outdid himself. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, Hamlin told his followers he would give away the vacation through his Twitter page on Christmas Day. When the day arrived, Hamlin asked fans to answer a Christmas-related trivia question. The 11th person to answer correctly would be determined the winner. Participants were asked to tag their answers with #11in11.

Hamlin's question was: If you received every gift in the song “12 days of Christmas,” how many presents would you have?

After Hamlin tweeted the trivia, Twitter lit up with a variety of responses. (It’s not as easy a question as it might seem!).

But Jennifer Meyering was sure of the answer. The NASCAR fan from Pennsylvania, who goes by the Twitter name @Dizneydreamer, was the 11th person to tweet the correct answer – 364 – winning the family vacation.

After Hamlin announced her as the winner, congratulations flooded Meyering from NASCAR fans throughout Twitter. But everyone wanted to know: where would she be going on the trip?

After discussing it with her husband, Meyerling announced on Twitter that they and their 6-year-old son would attend one of NASCAR’s premier events - the Brickyard.

“My husband and I talked about the various places we wanted to go and quickly decided that we wanted to go see another NASCAR race. We went to the June race at Pocono last year and had a great experience. We then started talking about which race we wanted to attend - and this was a hard decision,” Meyering said in an e-mail. 

“We were slightly constrained by time - we wanted to make sure we could take our son, but we didn’t want to take him out of school. We thought about the Coke 600, but talked about that that’s a race we would maybe drive to on our own some time. I then thought about the Brickyard 400 - to be able to see racing at the Brickyard would just be amazing. I immediately knew that was the race we wanted to go (to).”

Meyering’s son is a big fan of Hamlin. And now because of Santa - er, Hamlin, that is - Meyering and her family are looking forward to the trip of a lifetime.

If she could speak to Hamlin directly – which hopefully she’ll have a chance to at the Brickyard - what would she say?

“I would first thank him for his generosity. And then I would thank him for his interaction with his fans - that’s not something you see in many other sports, and it really makes NASCAR special. It shows that they truly value their fans,” Meyering said.

“It’s nice to see an athlete taking the time to listen and be with the fans - and I would really like him to know that us fans really appreciate it.”

Hamlin’s contest drew such a high response on Twitter that the #11in11 hashtag shot up to the No. 3 trending topic in the United States on Christmas Day. A search for the hashtag revealed some Twitter users (obviously not NASCAR fans) wondering what the tag stood for!

Off the track, Hamlin works with the Denny Hamlin Foundation to raise awareness for individuals affected with cystic fibrosis, as well as chronically ill children with other diseases. To learn more about the Denny Hamlin Foundation, visit the charity’s site at

Monday, December 27, 2010

Todd Gordon named crew chief of No. 22 team in Nationwide

Brad Keselowski waves the American flag after winning
the Nationwide race at Richmond in April. (Al Bello/Getty Images)
Championship-winning crew chief
Paul Wolfe promoted to Cup Series

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (December 27, 2010) - Penske Racing announced Monday that experienced crew chief Todd Gordon has been named as the crew chief for the defending NASCAR Nationwide Series championship-winning No. 22 Discount Tire/Ruby Tuesday Dodge team for 2011.

Gordon, who most recently served as race engineer for Diamond-Waltrip Racing in the Nationwide Series, will take over the team that earned Penske Racing's first NASCAR championship last season with driver Brad Keselowski, claiming six wins, five poles and a series single-season record 26 top-five finishes. Gordon will be paired with Keselowski as the No. 22 team will once again pursue the Nationwide Series title in 2011.

"The chance to join Penske Racing and lead the championship-winning team with Brad next season is the opportunity of a lifetime," said Gordon. "The No. 22 Dodge team had a special year in 2010 and I'm looking forward to coming on board and hopefully building on that level of success as we move forward."

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wendy Venturini, husband welcome baby boy

It was a very special Christmas for Wendy Venturini. The SPEED journalist and husband Jarrad Egert welcomed a son, Caleb James, on Wednesday, Dec. 22. The birth was announced on Venturini's Twitter and Facebook pages on Christmas Eve:

@WendyVenturini: Wendy & Jarrad joyfully welcomed their son Caleb James on Dec. 22 at 10:58pm. Mom & baby doing great. Wendy says best Christmas gift ever!

Venturini announced her pregnancy in June, and has been updating fans on Twitter and Facebook on her progress. "I think it's important to document & not try to hide it on TV!" she wrote in August. "I'm proud to rock the bump, it's my son!!"

As the birth grew closer, Venturini wrote on Dec. 4, "I'm doing great! He should be here soon! I'm just enjoying these final days resting @ home. ... Just need our little... man to arrive to enjoy the rest of our off-season!" On Dec. 13, she said, "I am really CLOSE and VERY READY!!"

Venturini will be back on the job once the season starts up again in February. "I'll b back at Daytona! Thanks 4 a wonderful year!" she tweeted after the season finale at Homestead.

Venturini and Egert were married on Dec. 5, 2007. Egert is director of track operations at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Skirts and Scuffs congratulates Wendy and Jarrad on their new addition! To learn more about Venturini, read her three-part interview with columnist Lindi Bess for the Women in NASCAR Series: Part 1Part 2Part 3.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cheerios and other healthy NASCAR sponsors

Clint Bowyer fans may want to check out the Cheerios website if they want a chance to meet him and attend a Charlotte race next year.

I bought a box this week and was led to the site, where "you could win an ultimate experience," and one of the experiences is a chance to attend the October race, visit the infield and watch the race from the pit box or the Richard Childress lounge. If Bowyer wins, you could also join him in victory lane!

All you have to do is make a pledge to take care of your heart so that you can have the chance to do the things you love to do.

Throughout the years, it's always seemed that NASCAR was only sponsored by unhealthy food and beverage choices. As of late, it seems those sponsors are changing. I'm not going to give a health food lecture, but I'm just saying, it's possible that you can live healthy and be a NASCAR fan.

Carl Edwards' primary sponsor is Aflac, but he's also sponsored by Subway, Kellogg's and Vitamin Water.

Jeff Gordon will now have AARP Drive to End Hunger as a sponsor next season. He also gets some sponsorship from Pepsi Max, a low-calorie and sugar-free Pepsi.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was also sponsored for a race this year by Diet Mountain Dew, which also has low calories and is sugar-free.

The effort is there. I'm not expecting all health food products to sponsor a driver. I mean, can you just picture: Dasani water, organic vegetables, orange juice or Silk Soy becoming the primary sponsors for racing? That would be funny (to me anyway).

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

Jennifer Jo Cobb to discuss extreme living on 'Anderson Cooper 360'

NASCAR driver and owner Jennifer Jo Cobb was interviewed this week for CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" in a segment slated to air next week on the news network.

In an appearance recorded Dec. 21, Cobb is one of a group of athletes to discuss extreme living with chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanya Gupta. Also interviewed were ultramarathon champion Scott Jurek and 13-year-old Jordan Romero, the youngest person to climb Mount Everest.

The segment with Cobb will air Tuesday, Dec. 28, at 10 p.m. ET.

"It was exciting to talk with Dr. Sanjay Gupta about extreme living," Cobb said. "This was a great opportunity to discuss the lifestyle associated with a NASCAR driver. Most race fans only see what takes place at the race track. They don't get to see what we're like when we aren't at a speedway. I get lots of questions about what I do in my spare time and what I enjoy doing when I'm not racing. Hopefully this will give the folks at home some insight into the sport, and what drivers are all about." 

Coming off her rookie year in the Camping World Truck Series, Cobb finished 17th in the final points standings, becoming the highest-finishing female driver in history of one of NASCAR's three top-tier series. Though 2010 marked her first full season in the Truck Series, the Kansas City, Kan., native has nearly 20 years of racing under her belt.

Recently, Cobb had the honor of being nominated for the NMPA Speedway Motorsports Spirit Award for the fourth quarter of 2010. The award recognizes character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Billy Ballew Motorsports merges with Vision Aviation Racing

Team to field No. 15 and No. 51 Truck Series entries under VAR banner; Ballew to maintain ownership stake

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (December 22, 2010) – Billy Ballew Motorsports (BBM) announced today that the team has merged with Vision Aviation Racing (VAR) to continue to field the No. 15 and No. 51 entries in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The announcement was made today by Ballew and Vision Aviation Racing General Manager Tom Davis.

The team will compete under the Vision Aviation Racing banner and race with the same winning equipment and resources Billy Ballew Motorsports is known for. Ballew will keep an ownership stake in the team.  Up-and-coming drivers Justin Johnson and Dusty Davis, who both competed in the Super Late Model and K&N Pro Series West divisions in 2010 for VAR, will make their Truck Series debut in 2011. The team will remain supported by Toyota.

“Partnering with a winning and committed team like Vision Aviation Racing was a great way to keep the Billy Ballew Motorsports brand alive in the series,” said Ballew. “We’ve worked diligently since the season ended with Tom Davis and his organization to make this happen. Vision Aviation Racing is well positioned to be a top contender and continue the winning tradition of Billy Ballew Motorsports.”

Vision Aviation Racing, already a winning team on the West Coast, will carry on the tradition of Billy Ballew Motorsports, which just completed a history-best season with two wins and a second-place finish in the drivers’ championship by Aric Almirola. The team is also known for teaming with Kyle Busch to collect 16 wins before Busch started his own operation.

Kenny Wallace lands Nationwide ride with RAB Racing

CONCORD, N.C. (December 21, 2010) – RAB Racing with Brack Maggard and veteran driver Kenny Wallace are teaming up to compete full-time in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011. Wallace, who has over 20 years of experience in stock car racing, will make his debut for RAB Racing driving the No.09 Toyota Camry beginning on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2011, in the DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway.

Wallace, a native of St. Louis, Mo., has competed in more than 800 events in NASCAR’s top-three divisions, including 488 Nationwide Series starts with nine wins, 10 poles, 63 top-five and 159 top-10 finishes. In addition to his on-track accomplishments, Wallace is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers and has been awarded the Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver award three times in 1991, 1994 and 2006.

“I’ve been nervous since the final 2010 Nationwide Series race at Homestead trying to find the right fit for next year and now I can finally sleep at night,” Wallace said. “My goal was to find a team with whom I could be competitive and I believe I have found that with RAB Racing, I’m ready to go for 2011. I have known Robby [Benton] and watched him grow his team for the past few years. The relationship with Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is huge and will allow me to be able to work with at least three other Toyota teams, including my brother Rusty [Wallace] and gain valuable information that will help us with the Nationwide program at RAB Racing next year.”

Roush Fenway Racing names Steve Newmark president

Concord, N.C. (Dec. 20, 2010) – Roush Fenway Racing announced Monday that Steve Newmark has been named president of its multi-car racing organization. Newmark will succeed Geoff Smith in the position; Smith is retiring at the end of December after serving in the role for the previous 13 years.

Newmark, who previously was a shareholder at the law firm of Robinson, Bradshaw and Hinson, joined the organization as senior vice president of business operations in April. He brings an innovative skill set and fresh approach, highlighted by extensive NASCAR and outside sports and entertainment experience, to the position.

“It is truly a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to lead one of the most successful organizations in professional sports,” said Newmark, who spent the last six months getting acclimated to the organization’s overall operating procedure.

“At the same time, the position carries a great deal of responsibility to the drivers, employees and fans to continue the tradition of excellence established by Jack Roush and Geoff Smith. Fortunately, I believe we have one of the deepest organizations in professional sports, and are well prepared to remain a leader in NASCAR. Despite the recent challenges in the motorsports industry, I really like the tools that we have to work with and believe strongly in our assets, both on a competition and sales and marketing level. Particularly with how we finished the 2010 season, I know everyone in this organization, including myself, is excited to get started on 2011.”

A graduate of the College of William and Mary, and University of Virginia School of Law, Newmark had worked as outside counsel to Roush Fenway since the early 2000s and was involved in the creation of the joint venture between Roush Racing and Fenway Sports Group in 2007 and the sale of its merchandising division in 2006. During his time at Robinson, Bradshaw and Hinson, Newmark represented Ray Evernham and related companies in the sale of Evernham Motorsports to the Gillett Family.

His background includes vast experience in sports and entertainment, mergers and acquisitions, technology and e-commerce and venture capital transactions.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Victory Junction's Holiday Gala

The Burtons
Made possible through a grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, the Victory Junction Gang Camp hosted the red carpet “Wish Upon a Star Holiday Gala" on Friday night at the Fillmore in Charlotte, N.C. The inaugural event raised money for the camp and taught children how to give back during the Christmas season. The party was for the kids, hosted by the kids.

NASCAR’s youth, Karsyn Elledge (Kelley Earnhardt’s daughter), Macy Waltrip (Michael Waltrip's daughter), the Gibbs children, the Burton children and a few campers from Victory Junction had the opportunity to walk down the red carpet and have their pictures taken like their celebrity parents, aunts/uncles or grandparent do. Some kids were shy, others were excited saying, “That was so cool,” and some teens posed for pictures more than once.

Although some of NASCAR's drivers, crew chiefs and other members in the NASCAR community did attend, Friday night was not about them - it was about the kids. Most parents did get their pictures taken with their kids, after the kids had their moment alone in the spotlight, but they deliberately dodged journalists; this was not a night for interviews or work, but a night to sit back, relax, celebrate, eat, drink and enjoy the company.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Johnson wins fourth Driver of the Year Award

Just a few weeks after celebrating his unprecedented five titles during Champion’s Week in Las Vegas, Jimmie Johnson has received another distinguished honor: Driver of the Year.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver edged out NHRA Funny Car champion John Force to collect his fourth DOTY Award, voted on by a panel of motorsports journalists and broadcasters from across the country.

"It’s an honor to win the award again,” Johnson said after Wednesday’s announcement. “Among such tough competition, with the voting panel, who it is and how well versed they are in motorsports. It’s a huge, huge honor.”

Johnson received 10 votes to Force’s seven. In their respective series, Johnson and Force came from behind in the standings to claim the championship in the season’s final race. Johnson, with six Sprint Cup victories in 2010, made NASCAR history by winning his fifth consecutive title, while Force, the 1996 DOTY winner, won a record-setting 15th NHRA championship.

Kyle Busch was the only other driver under consideration for the award, receiving one vote. Busch won 24 races across NASCAR’s top three series and became the first driver to sweep in all three during a single race weekend, which he did at Bristol in the fall.

Facing the enormity of the accomplishments before them, the panel had a difficult decision on their hands.

“This year’s pre-vote teleconference was one of the most spirited debates that I can recall,” said Barry Schmoyer, president of the Driver of the Year Foundation.

“As many people have said already, it will be a long time before anyone will set the bar as high as Jimmie Johnson,” Schmoyer said.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'The Evolution of NASCAR' provides hands-on experience through sport's history

Photographs, memorabilia offer time capsule

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (December 15, 2010) – The 62 years of NASCAR have produced memories and keepsakes for fans to cherish for a lifetime. In the new book, The Evolution of NASCAR: A Historical Collection, from Whitman Publishing and the NASCAR Library Collection, fans can walk through a museum in pages containing photographs, artwork and memorabilia along with colorful narrative remembering each decade of the sport.

The Evolution of NASCAR: A Historical Collection chronicles the long hard drive from Daytona’s beach to the massive superspeedways of today. Veteran NASCAR writer Deb Williams reintroduces the stars through the years — Red Byron, Lee and Richard Petty, David Pearson, Dale Earnhardt, Bill Elliott, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and many others — while recounting the great moments of stock car racing, beginning with the first NASCAR-sanctioned race in 1948. Along the way, the author also recalls the hard charging heroes and colorful characters who lifted the sport to prominence.

What sets this history of the sport apart from other accounts of the rise of NASCAR is the unique “scrapbook” format. The Evolution of NASCAR: A Historical Collection includes replicas of items of historical relevance tucked into dozens of pockets throughout the book, such as a 1948 advertisement for the first NASCAR beach and road race, a program from the first Daytona 500, a 1964 questionnaire completed by NASCAR Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett, a 1974 NASCAR driver’s license and a 1994 Brickyard 400 press credential. No racing fan should be without this “home archive” of NASCAR’s illustrious history.

BRANDT to sponsor Allgaier at Turner Mototsports in 2011

Allgaier to drive the No. 31 Chevrolet Impala full-time in Nationwide Series

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 13, 2010) – Turner Motorsports is pleased to announce that BRANDT will serve as primary sponsor of the No. 31 Chevrolet Impala, driven by NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) championship contender Justin Allgaier during the 2011 racing season. Allgaier, who finished the 2010 season fourth in the NNS championship points standings, joins Turner Motorsports in 2011 for his third full season of Nationwide Series competition. 

BRANDT, located near Allgaier’s hometown in Illinois, was founded in 1953 to help Illinois farmers adopt new technologies for their operations. Today, the Springfield, Ill.-based company is a global enterprise consisting of three operating divisions: Specialty Formulations, Retail Agronomy and Dealer Support. This will mark BRANDT’s first endeavor as a primary sponsor with a NASCAR team.

BRANDT President and CEO, Rick C. Brandt, is very enthusiastic about the company’s jump into NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.

“We are extremely excited to team up with Justin and Turner Motorsports for the 2011 racing season,” said Brandt. “BRANDT is an exciting, aggressive and family values-based company. We feel we are teaming up with a driver who embodies these same qualities, and we are looking forward to seeing him exemplify that on the track. Coming from the small town of Pleasant Plains, Illinois, and having the opportunity to team with such a great driver from nearby Riverton, Illinois, adds to the excitement of the collaboration! Also, NASCAR’s upcoming transition to ethanol fuel embodies BRANDT’s leadership as a premier producer of environmentally sustainable products for agriculture. We look forward to representing American farmers on the track!”

Brian Scott to drive No. 11 JGR Toyota with crew chief Kevin Kidd in Nationwide

Brian Scott. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Adam Stevens will serve as crew chief for JGR No. 20 Nationwide Series Toyota
HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 9, 2010) - Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) announces that its newest entry into the Nationwide Series which will be driven by Brian Scott, will carry the familiar number 11 and have Kevin Kidd as its crew chief.

In addition, Adam Stevens, who had previously served as the engineer for JGR's Sprint Cup Series No. 20 Home Depot Toyota, will assume the crew chief duties on the team's Nationwide Series No. 20 Toyota entry.

"We're excited to finally have all this come together and we think the end result will be three strong entries for us each week in the Nationwide Series," said JGR President J.D. Gibbs. "We think Kevin Kidd will work great with Brian and it's always exciting to be able to provide an opportunity to someone internally like Adam Stevens who has done such a good job for us over on the Cup side."

Joe Gibbs Racing announced in November that it would field a third Nationwide Series team to be driven by Brian Scott, but was still in the process of finalizing the details to obtain the No. 11 for the Camry. Kidd, who joined JGR as crew chief on the No. 20 Nationwide Series team will move over along with his crew to work with Brian and compete for the 2011 Championship.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kasey Kahne to drive the 4 for Red Bull Racing

It's official: Kasey Kahne will be driving the 4 car for Red Bull Racing in 2011.

@RedBullNASCAR tweeted earlier today that they had finally brought new 2011 Kasey Kahne merchandise onto their website. This is where fans found out that he will be in the 4 car.

After splitting from Richard Petty Motorsports back in October after an off-track incident, Kahne went directly to Red Bull Racing for the remainder of his season. All in all, it was a success: two top 15s and a sixth-place finish at Homestead- Miami, where he also got the pole.

Kasey Kahne and Red Bull Racing hope that this early start will give them momentum into the 2011 season. Hopefully, we will be seeing that new 4 car up in the front!

P.S. Here is a sneak peak of the car:

Nelson Piquet Jr. to race full-time for Kevin Harvick Inc. in Truck Series in 2011

Nelson Piquet Jr. (Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
Kernersville, N.C. (Dec. 13, 2010) – Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) announced today the addition of Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to the organization’s 2011 line-up. The 25-year-old native of Brazil will compete full-time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and for the series’ Rookie of the Year honors next season. Further details regarding the program will be released at a later date.

“This is a very unique opportunity to have a driver like Nelson be a part of KHI,” said KHI co-owner Kevin Harvick. “In five starts in the Truck Series this season he not only gained valuable seat time but proved himself by getting some solid finishes. We are excited to have Nelson as a part of our Truck Series program as he takes another step forward in his career.”

“I am very excited to join KHI and to drive in the Truck Series,” Piquet said. “I look forward to combining what I have learned this year from running five races in the series with the professionalism and experience of the KHI organization. I want to thank Kevin, DeLana and everyone at KHI for this opportunity. I am looking forward to our partnership and I can’t wait to get out on the track in a KHI Chevrolet Silverado and start winning races.”

The young driver made his NASCAR debut in the Truck Series season opener at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February 2010. Piquet finished sixth in the event and competed in four additional races in the series. He also made his Nationwide Series debut at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International in August 2010, where he qualified 10th and finished seventh.

Release courtesy of Kevin Harvick Inc.

NASCAR rallies together for Stocks for Tots

NASCAR happens to be a very generous company, and anyone involved in the sport knows all too well of the importance of giving back to others. There are a lot of charities that NASCAR and the drivers participate in.

STOCKS for TOTS is one of many. It’s an organization created to bring drivers and their fans together while raising awareness for SCAN: Stop Child Abuse Now, a nonprofit organization that brings awareness to child abuse in North Carolina.

On Dec. 7, I attended the event. So here it is, Confessions of a rookie fan!

After a long day at work, I came home and decided I wanted to take a break from reading, writing and working out to get some rest. After changing into my pajamas, I sat down and perused Facebook. I came across a status update by Kelley Earnhardt; she said she would be at the NASCAR Technical Institute for Stocks for Tots with her daughter from 7 to 9 p.m. I looked at the clock, it was 6:30 p.m. I had time to get there, but at first I didn’t think I should go. I didn’t have a gift for a kid. "But I live next to so many stores," I heard myself say to, well, myself.

I paced around the room and before I knew it, I was changing out of my pajamas and heading out the door. I made a quick stop at the store, bought an inexpensive unisex toy and was in Moorseville, N.C., within minutes. It was another one of those unanticipated events I found myself attending. It seems as though, whenever I do not plan to attend an event, it turns out in my favor.

Harvick leads 'Loopie' winners

The fourth annual best-of loop data awards

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 10, 2010) – There’s a hush-hush reason why every driver attending the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas was smiling, even when faced with the truth that Jimmie Johnson owns yet another championship.

The reason: They may not have won the championship, but there was still hope for a Loopie.

For the fourth consecutive season, NASCAR public relations combed through the statistics to hand out a number of awards celebrating the best – and worst – Loop Data performances of 2010.
The envelopes please…
The “Most Awesome Sport Ever, Especially This Year” Award: This one goes to NASCAR racing. Congrats, us. The world’s best racing got even better in 2010, and the proof is in the numbers. According to the Loop Data, there were 1,299 green flag passes for the lead and 116,327 green flag passes this season, the most since NASCAR started recording the stat in 2005. Though not Loop Data, there were also an average 25.4 lead changes and 11.4 leaders per race, both highs in the 62-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
The “‘Happy’ To Be Back” Award: Better known as the “Comeback Driver of the Year” Award, this one goes to the driver who had the biggest gain in Driver Rating from 2009. Congrats to Kevin Harvick, who shrugged off a subpar 2009 to have a big bounce-back season in 2010. Harvick rocketed from a rating of 75.7 in 2009 to a 98.0 this season, a difference of 22.3. Honorable mention in this category: Paul Menard, who will be Harvick’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing next season. Menard posted a Driver Rating of 70.9 this season, up 20.3 points from a rating of 50.6 in 2009.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

NASCAR youth to host red carpet holiday gala

Inaugural event sponsored by Victory Junction and Newman's Own Foundation

CORNELIUS, N.C. (Dec. 7, 2010) NASCAR’s youth will serve as ambassadors to motivate and teach their peers what it means to contribute and give back to their community at the “Wish Upon a Star Holiday Gala” on Friday, Dec. 17, 2010, at the Fillmore in Charlotte, N.C. The evening will feature a performance by American Country Music artist Heidi Newfield.

The inaugural event is created by Victory Junction, a camp for chronically ill children in Randleman, N.C., through a grant from Newman’s Own Foundation, a charitable arm of the food products company started by Paul Newman.

“Victory Junction has been searching for an annual event for this region and we feel that a youth-centered Gala is a great way to embrace the holiday season,” explained Director of Development Brooke Hondros. “Victory Junction has been blessed by money raised and gifted by the NASCAR industry and Charlotte, N.C., individuals and businesses. Receiving the grant from Newman’s Own Foundation for this event creates an avenue for us to acknowledge this continued support and to reciprocate the benevolence.Victory Junction’s goal is that the families attending will leave the event thrilled by the music and camaraderie, pumped up by the spirit of giving and challenged to seek charitable opportunities.”
The NASCAR-affiliated hosts have seen their parents, aunts, uncles and grandparents embrace philanthropy of all kinds and want to continue in this heart felt tradition by educating and challenging their peers to give back. On this special Friday evening, every child will feel like a star as kids from all around the Charlotte region walk the red carpet and enjoy an evening of entertainment and friendship.

Denny Hamlin's Christmas spirit

Denny Hamlin signs autographs for fans in Las Vegas during
Champion's Week. (Todd Warshaw / Getty Images for NASCAR)

Denny Hamlin has a special present to give this Christmas. The runner-up to the Sprint Cup championship announced on his Twitter page that he will be giving away an all-expenses paid vacation to one lucky family through the social networking site on Christmas.

In his tweets Friday, Hamlin said on his account, @dennyhamlin:

"Tune into my twitter on christmas day.. I'm going to give away a vacation for a family up to 4 to any destination in the US!

"I'm going to provide airfare, hotel, and spending money."

By Sunday morning, Hamlin's initial tweet announcing the giveaway had been retweeted by more than 100 Twitter followers looking to spread the word.

The act of generosity is Hamlin's latest to show his appreciation to NASCAR fans. In 2009, Hamlin started the "Denny's Seats" program through his website, which gave away four tickets to each race. It was Hamlin's way of helping fans during the tough economic times. In 2010, Hamlin moved the program to Twitter, giving away tickets the night before every race by asking his followers to answer a trivia question.

Follow Hamlin on Twitter for more information leading up to the giveaway. His gesture will give one family a Christmas gift they'll never forget.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

18 Cup teams to participate in Goodyear tire test next week

Tony Stewart helps Daytona International Speedway
President Joie Chitwood III paint the start-finish line
on the newly paved section of the track in October.
Next week, 18 Sprint Cup drivers will descend on Daytona International Speedway for the first of two testing sessions on the storied racetrack's new surface.

Goodyear will hold a tire test Wednesday, Dec. 15, and Thursday, Dec. 16, to determine the best tire compound for the season-opening Daytona 500 in February. The test marks the first time the racecars will grace the new blacktop.

The repaving process at Daytona started in July following the Coke Zero 400, just the second time in its history the track has been resurfaced. 

The two-day Goodyear test presents teams with their first opportunity to collect information about Daytona's new asphalt. NASCAR has scheduled an open test for Jan. 20-22 for all Cup teams.

The 53rd annual Daytona 500 will be held Feb. 20, 2011.

The following teams and drivers are scheduled to participate in next week's tire test (list is subject to change):
  • Earnhardt Ganassi Racing: Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya
  • Penske Racing: Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski
  • Hendrick Motorsports: Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  • Roush Fenway Racing: David Ragan and Matt Kenseth
  • Germain Racing: Casey Mears
  • Wood Brothers Racing: Trevor Bayne
  • Richard Childress Racing: Jeff Burton and Paul Menard
  • JTG Daugherty Racing: Bobby Labonte
  • Gunselman Motorsports: Todd Bodine
  • Furniture Row Racing: Regan Smith
  • Red Bull Racing: Reed Sorenson
  • K-Automotive Motorsports: Brian Keselowski

Testing will be conducted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. The two-day session is open to the public, with free access to the Oldfield Grandstands through the ticket office lobby.

Watkins Glen adding four new grandstands

$3M capital improvements project also includes new Crown Royal Club, permanent infield showers

WATKINS GLEN - (Dec. 7, 2010) - Fans will notice a wide range of changes at historic Watkins Glen International when they return in 2011 and all of them will further enhance their experience while at the legendary road course. The International Speedway Corporation (NASDAQ: ISCA) Board of Directors (BOD) has approved the funding for a sweeping capital improvements project that is highlighted by four new grandstands, a new Crown Royal Club, and permanent showers in the infield. The estimated cost of the project will be approximately $3 million and will be the largest fan investment into The Soul of American Road Racing.

“We are absolutely thrilled to be able to respond to the requests of our fans and improve their experiences in so many areas with these new capital improvements,” said Michael Printup, president of Watkins Glen International. “We receive regular feedback from our fans and their comments have helped shape our Fan Plan to ensure we address the areas most important to them. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure WGI continues to be recognized as the premier road racing facility in North America and that starts by taking care of the best fans in motorsports. ”

The most noticeable enhancement will be the addition of four new permanent grandstands in Turn 10, Turn 11, outside the track next to the pedestrian bridge, and the outside of Turn 1 next to the Ninety Grandstand. These new stands will replace the four temporary structures called the Turn 10, Turn 11, Green, and Silver Grandstands that are annually built for the NASCAR weekend; the new permanent grandstands will retain the same names. Over the last several years, fans have identified these four grandstands as needing the most significant and immediate upgrades due to tight conditions and less than desirable comfort. The wooden bleachers will be replaced by ones made of plastic and metal, much like the current FrontStretch Grandstand, and provide more space and comfort. The addition of the permanent grandstands also increases the grandstand capacity at the historic road course by approximately 1,400 seats.

NASCAR relaxes dress code in garage, pits

The days of wearing jeans on a 90-degree day at the track are over. NASCAR is relaxing the dress code worn in the garage and on pit road during race weekends, according to Managing Director of Corporate Communications Ramsey Poston.

On Tuesday, Poston tweeted, "NASCAR dress code in garage & cold pits now includes: shorts, short sleeve/sleeve-less shirts & open-toed shoes."

Cold pits refers to
being in the garage or pit area before the race starts (before the track gets hot). The former dress guidelines required individuals in the garage and pits to wear long pants, shirts with sleeves and close-toed shoes in the interest of safety. The stricter dress code remains in effect for when the track gets hot. 

Under the new guidelines, team members and industry employees would still be "expected to dress professionally," Poston said.

Why the change? Poston called it a "fan-friendly move." The reasoning behind it is simple: if fans are allowed to dress more comfortably in the pit area, they will be more likely to purchase pit passes. The weather can be unbearably hot at various races throughout the season, especially during the summer months, which makes the prospect of wearing jeans or other long pants, for instance, undesirable. When fans are paying anywhere from $50 to $100 for the passes alone, knowing they would have to ride it out in uncomfortable clothes all day may not have seemed worth it.

From speaking with other fans on Twitter, I'm not alone in being caught off guard in the pits when it came to the dress code. This summer at Pocono, I forgot about the guidelines
and wore a sleeveless shirt simply because I knew temperatures were going to reach into the high 70s or 80s. After being stopped by security, I had to buy a T-shirt at a souvenir stand in order to gain admittance into the pits. Other fans have had to do the same or, if they arrived wearing shorts, had to purchase pants at the track or nearby.

The change in dress code is a step in the right direction to cater to fans at the track. But while it grants fans more comfort, the issue of safety remains. It's been my experience in the pits and garage that fans are usually a reasonable distance away from the racecars, meaning the dress requirements could be eased while maintaining a safe atmosphere. But I would still encourage fans to keep safety in mind when deciding what to wear.

NASCAR's dress code has been a hot topic in the past.
Ashley Judd, the movie star wife of driver Dario Franchitti, created a stir when she wore a black dress and high heels on pit road during Daytona 500 qualifying in 2008. Her heels were close-toed and therefore within NASCAR's guidelines. But Judd's dress, which was low-cut and came to her knees, presented a safety issue. NASCAR let Franchitti's team know their concerns, which meant no more dresses for Judd at the track.

Note: Availability of purchasing pit passes varies by track. Garage passes, both hot and cold, are not available for sale to the general public.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A season ends and a new journey begins for Jeff Gordon

The paint scheme for Jeff Gordon's No. 24 Drive to End Hunger
Chevrolet for the 2011 season was unveiled Monday morning.

Jeff Gordon finished ninth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup this past 2010 season, a great accomplishment considering he didn’t win a race. He was consistent, however, with 11 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes. He won one pole for the Bank of America 500 in Charlotte in October.

He started the Chase eighth in points and maintained position in the top 10. He said in his acceptance speech at the NASCAR banquet last Friday night that it was a disappointing finish.

Changes needed to be made for three of the Hendrick Motorsports teams.

Gordon found out two days after the final race at Homestead that his crew chief, Steve Letarte, will be leaving him to work with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and he will now be under the guidance of Alan Gustafson, a crew chief with a positive reputation.

Gordon said he was involved in the discussions of the changes and that he is really optimistic for everyone. He said, “I think it’s an exciting move. I think Steve and Junior are going to mesh together very well. One of Steve’s strong points is his personality and his ability to build confidence in the people around him.

“Alan and I – I’ve always felt a good chemistry there between us. Listening to him over the years in our [track] debriefs, you discuss what’s happening. He’s just a guy that I’ve always admired. I do feel like we’ve got some chemistry there and I’m looking forward to getting that out of the racetrack.”

Earlier this year, it was announced that Gordon's 18-season relationship with DuPont as his primary sponsor would end and a new sponsor was announced: AARP and Drive to End Hunger. They are the first nonprofit organization to become a major NASCAR sponsor; they will sponsor 22 races next season. His relationship with DuPont will change from a full-time to part-time partnership.

His new car was unveiled Monday morning in Manhattan, N.Y., where Gordon resides from time to time. To see a video of the new car's debut, click here.

There is a hunger crisis in America - about 50 million people are hungry and 6 million of them are over 60 years old. Gordon hopes to bring awareness to his fans and other Americans, and the goal with AARP is to solve the problem for good.

He concluded his interview on CNBC by joking, "We're going to be out there representing all of those with AARP cards who would like to get into the fast lane."

KHI names new crew chief for Hornaday and No. 33 Truck Series team

Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR
Kernersville, N.C. (December 6, 2010) - As further preparation for the 2011 season, Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) has named Jeff Hensley crew chief for the No. 33 team and four-time Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday. Hensley joins KHI from his position at Red Horse Racing.

“We are proud to welcome Jeff to KHI and to be able to pair him with Ron Hornaday,” said KHI co-owner Kevin Harvick. “Jeff brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge which we think will be beneficial to not only the No. 33 team and Ron but the organization as a whole.”

“I am thrilled to be a part of KHI and really excited to get to work,” said Hensley. “Ron is a tough competitor and we have a record fifth career championship that we are focused on for 2011.”

Hensley, 48, brings with him over 30 years of racing experience. A native of Ridgeway, Va., he began his racing career at the age of 18 competing on various short tracks throughout Virginia and North Carolina. In 1985 Hensley became crew chief for his family-owned team Hensley Motorsports. With driver Chuck Bown, Hensley captured the 1990 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Media members vote Jimmie Johnson's fifth consecutive title as top story of 2010

Rusty Jarrett / Getty Images for NASCAR
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 6, 2010) – Jimmie Johnson winning an unprecedented fifth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in come-from-behind fashion was voted the sport’s top competition story for 2010 by members of the media.

Members of the media ranked the top competition stories of the 2010 NASCAR season on The media poll was active from Tuesday, Nov. 30, until Monday, Dec. 6, at noon. There were 21 top competition storylines listed in the poll. First-place votes received 21 points, with second-place votes receiving 20 points, third-place votes 19 points and so forth down to one point for a 21st-place vote.  
Johnson’s historic accomplishment of winning five straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles while overcoming a 15-point deficit in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway garnered 49 first-place votes and finished with 1,449 points. NASCAR’s“Boys, have at it” philosophy – communicated last January, setting the tone for exciting and hard-fought racing – finished with 17 first-place votes and 1,294 points.
Denny Hamlin battling back from early-season knee surgery, challenging for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, winning a series-high eight races and finishing a career-best second in the point standings ranked third in the poll.

NASCAR to induct Hall of Fame's second class May 23, 2011

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Dec. 6, 2010) – The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) announced today that the 2011 Induction Ceremony for the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s second class will be held Monday, May 23.

Joining the inaugural class of Dale Earnhardt, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson and Richard Petty will be Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Bud Moore, David Pearson and Lee Petty. The Induction Ceremony is open to the public and will be held the evening of May 23, 2011, at the Charlotte Convention Center’s Crown Ballroom, which is connected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Tickets will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis and interested fans should visit for more details on next year’s class, upcoming appearances, ceremony details and the Induction Dinner on May 18.

“The 2011 class contains some of the most iconic names in our sport’s rich history,” NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said. “The 2011 Induction will be a very special ceremony and we look forward to honoring these five NASCAR legends in front of their friends, family and fans.”

Sunday, December 5, 2010

WIN Series Update: Johanna Long

Congratulations Johanna!

Photo taken in Victory Lane at Sunday's Race
Property of Johanna Long


Johanna Long won the 43rd Annual Snowball Derby held Sunday, Dec. 5, at the Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Fla. Long becomes the first female to claim victory since 1994, when the race was won by Tammy Jo Kirk. Long qualified in Sunday's race in a very strong fourth position.

In 2009, Johanna was the pole winner at the 42nd Annual Snowball Derby. Kyle Busch won the 300-lap race from a third-place start.

Johanna was the first to take the checkered flag Sunday as she held off Charlotte's Landon Cassill.

At 18, Johanna Long has just finished her rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Congratulations, Johanna!

Click here to hear the audio interview I did with her a few weeks back: WIN Series Pre-Qualifying Interview with NCWTS driver Johanna Long, as well as the accompanying background information on Johanna:

Friday, December 3, 2010

NASCAR's brightest shine at banquet

Jimmie and Chandra Johnson on the yellow
carpet at the 2008 banquet. (Brad Barket/
Getty Images for NASCAR)
After a season full of blood, sweat and tears, it's time for NASCAR's best to trade in their firesuits for a more formal kind of suit for the end-of-the-year awards ceremony in Las Vegas.

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the remaining top 10 drivers in the Chase for the Sprint Cup will be in the spotlight at tonight's banquet for the second consecutive year at the Wynn Las Vegas. Before 2009, the awards ceremony had been held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

The banquet is one of my favorite events of the season, and watching it has become an annual tradition. It gives us a chance to see the drivers we root for week in and week out in a more relaxed setting, without the pressure of winning or points on their shoulders. But it's also more elegant: it's a rare chance for the fans to see their drivers, their dates and their crews dressed to the nines. It's a night where the sport pays honor to its own, recognizing the best of the season before the focus turns strictly to 2011. Now's the time to celebrate!

With the banquet giving me one of the only opportunities to see the drivers' wives all dressed up, I have no problem admitting I check out their fashion. I remember in 2006, there was a pre-show hosted by Michael Waltrip and fashion maven Melissa Rivers. The two interviewed the drivers and their dates as they arrived on the red (in this case, yellow) carpet. They actually did ask, "Who are you wearing?" The show was likely an attempt to draw in the female demographic, and it worked on this female (though liking NASCAR as much as I do, it wouldn't have been difficult to get me to watch any kind of pre-awards show!). I enjoyed seeing the appearances on the yellow carpet, but NASCAR hasn't done a show like this since. Any way we could bring it back?

Four Seasons and Counting: The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a David Ragan Fan

David Ragan and I after a Q & A session at Bristol in August.
“He’s one of the worst drivers in NASCAR.”…“I don’t see how he’s managed to keep his ride.”…“He couldn’t win a race even if he was the only driver on the track.”…“All he does is wreck.”

How would you feel if those kinds of comments were made about your favorite driver on a weekly—sometimes daily—basis? I don’t know about you, but sometimes those kinds of things make me angry. Sometimes, when the negative remarks are relentless, all I want to do is find a corner to sit and cry. As NASCAR fans, we all deal with that kind of taunting no matter who our favorite driver is. It comes with the territory. However, there comes a time when you’ve just had enough. After three years, I’m making a stand. I may be just one fan, but I’m here to say I proudly support David Ragan and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team.

In 2007, Ragan became a full-time driver in the Cup Series when he took over the No. 6 Ford when Mark Martin left Roush Fenway Racing. Being a Roush Fenway Racing fan, I was excited about a new driver for the team. He won me over from the finish of his first race of his rookie season. He finished 5th in his first Daytona 500. However, what looked like a promising career for the young driver has turned into up and down seasons that have left the team looking for consistency.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: 8-time Most Popular Driver

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won zero races since June 2008 and on Thursday he won his eighth consecutive Most Popular Driver Award, which was presented in Las Vegas, Nev. The award was decided by Internet fan votes and was sponsored by Hamburger Helper. Fans had the option to log on the site and vote for their favorite driver every day from February through Nov. 22, 2010.

Earnhardt Jr.'s streak ties him with Bill Elliott, who was the only other driver to win eight or more straight years. Elliott holds the record with 16 wins; at that point, he removed himself from the voting.

"It was pretty cool to hear that I was eight in a row just like Bill (Elliott)," Earnhardt said to the press after he received his award. "I've enjoyed winning it – my fan base has stayed strong. It's become an important honor each year for me. I'm glad that fans still feel their support for me. I appreciate their dedication and loyalty."

To see a video of Earnhardt Jr.'s acceptance speech, click here

More than 1.5 million votes were cast this year; that includes repetitive votes from fans on a daily basis.

Junior Nation is filled with some of the most loyal fans in sports, next to Red Sox Nation. In Earnhardt Jr.'s case, it's on par with how he feels about the Washington Redskins. He mentioned to reporters Thursday that he can relate to his fans because he knows that no matter what happens to his favorite sports teams, he's there for them every year.

Champion's Week - Day 3

From left, Jimmie Johnson,  Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are introduced to start the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Ceremony on Thursday at the Bellagio Las Vegas. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 2, 2010) – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week culminates with Friday’s awards ceremony that regales five-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the entire No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team.

But Thursday was about the industry as a whole – the sport’s drivers, owners, teams, fans, media and sponsors.

At today’s annual NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon held in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, the overwhelming theme was the highly competitive nature of the 2010 season.

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France opened the event with his thoughts on why this past season – and this past Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – was so tight. He illustrated his point with a back story of a behind-the-scenes nature.

“I remember in January, having our press conference and talking about some of the things we were going to do,” France said. “[Vice president of competition] Robin Pemberton stood up and said the now very infamous words, 'Boys, have at it.' I said to myself for a moment, ‘Hold on, that's not in our script, that's not in our plan.’ But you know what, in a good way he was right. That's exactly what this sport needed to transition and take another good step forward. The result was from the start of Speedweeks throughout the season, you saw the level of competition go up.”

The proof was in the numbers, as the series saw record-highs in lead changes and leaders per race.

Penske hopes Wolfe, Keselowski pairing translates into Cup success

Nationwide Series champion Brad Keselowski, center, with crew chief Paul Wolfe, left, and team owner Roger Penske.

After his first full season with Penske Racing, Brad Keselowski delivered the organization its first NASCAR title, winning the 2010 Nationwide championship in impressive fashion. But his level of success in that series didn't carry over to Sprint Cup, where Keselowski finished the season 25th in the points standings.

With Keselowski taking over the reins of the legendary Blue Deuce for 2011, the pressure is on for the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to perform on a competitive level, something Keselowski's No. 12 team lacked for much of this year. To aid Keselowski's performance in Cup, Penske is looking to its Nationwide program for the solution.

The organization announced Tuesday that Keselowski's championship-winning Nationwide crew chief, Paul Wolfe, will move up to replace Jay Guy on top of the No. 2 pit box for the 2011 season.

“It’s an honor to get the opportunity to be the crew chief of the Penske Racing No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team,” Wolfe said in a team press release. “It’s been a fantastic 2010 season with Brad and the team and I’m excited about the challenge of moving up to the Cup Series next season and the opportunity to continue building on the legacy of the No. 2 car team with Brad behind the wheel.”

Together, Keselowski and Wolfe won six Nationwide races, five poles and even set a new series record - claiming 26 top-5 finishes, the most in a single season - in the No. 22 Dodge.

“I’m excited for Paul and I look forward to continuing the momentum and success we had this season in the Nationwide Series,” Keselowski said. “We just seemed to click right from the beginning and we look to bring that same magic to the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge team in 2011.”

The Penske organization also hopes the chemistry between Wolfe and Keselowski can transfer over to Sprint Cup, where Keselowski has been struggling. The 26-year-old driver has just two top 10s and one pole to show for his first full year in NASCAR's top level of racing. Where Keselowski completed all but one lap in the Nationwide Series this year, he recorded five DNFs for the 2010 Sprint Cup season.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Champion's Week events to be streamed lived on

Can't make it to Las Vegas to catch the Champion's Week activities? Well, what happens in Vegas doesn't have to stay in Vegas. will be streaming Thursday's and Friday's events live for those of us fans unable to travel to Sin City.

Now we can watch today's NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon, which includes the presentation of the Most Popular Driver Award, determined by fans' votes; the Victory Lap, when the top 12 drivers in points take over the Vegas Strip; and After the Lap, when the drivers sit down for a question-and-answer session. Fans can even watch a live chat with Miss Sprint Cup and five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson prior to Friday's end-of-the-year banquet.

The following is the schedule of live-streamed events with links:

2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT: NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers 2010 Awards Luncheon at The Bellagio:

6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT: NASCAR Victory Lap on the Las Vegas Strip:

7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT: NASCAR After The Lap at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (Same link as NASCAR Victory Lap) (Also listen to NASCAR After The Lap live on SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio Channel 128.)

4:30-4:45 p.m. ET/1:30-1:45 p.m. PT: Miss Sprint Cup Live Video Chat with five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson:

Champion's Week - Day 2

A NASCAR version of popular TV game show, “The Family Feud” held Wednesday
at Las Vegas Motor Speedwayfeatured the top 12-drivers. (
Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Dec. 1, 2010) – Survey says: Kyle Busch.

Kyle Busch says…Kyle Busch.

Day 2 of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week featured a day-long fan-friendly event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway dubbed “Chasers for Charity.” The highlight was a NASCAR version of the popular TV game show “The Family Feud.”

And hometown boy Kyle Busch stole the show early, correctly guessing ‘himself’ as the answer to this question: “What driver would you least like to have racing your driver for the win on the final lap?”

Hosted by comedian Kevin Burke, the top-12 drivers in the final series points standings, split into two teams, battled for survey supremacy. Through the track’s website and social media outlets, fans answered a number of questions, with the top-five answers to each put ‘on the board.’

Totaling a combined 13 series championships, Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick made up one team. The other squad featured Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Jeff Burton.

Go figure – Team Hamlin, the roster with zero NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships, easily bagged the Family Feud title, 400-99.

A sampling of the questions, all of which were NASCAR-themed:
  • “Name a famous finish in NASCAR history.” (No. 1 answer: Darlington, 2003 – closest finish in history, between Kurt Busch and Ricky Craven)
  • “Which driver do most media people enjoy interviewing?” (No. 1 answer: Jeff Burton)
  • “Which NASCAR driver would be most suitable to appear on The Bachelor?” (No. 1 answer: Kasey Kahne)
  • “Name the non-Chase driver who has the best chance of making the Chase next year.” (No. 1 answer: Jamie McMurray) 
  • “Which driver from the past would you most like to drive one of your cars today?” (No. 1 answer: Dale Earnhardt)

Austin Dillon: NASCAR's 2010 Camping World Truck Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year

Austin Dillon, phenomenal athlete and grandson of NASCAR great Richard Childress, captured the 2010 Raybestos Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year honors.

His highly successful season included two wins (Iowa Speedway and Las Vegas), seven top 5s, 16 top 10s and a record-setting seven poles. Additionally, Dillon ended the racing season sitting fifth in the NCTWS points standings.

“We were able to get to fifth in points and had two victories, what can I say?” Dillon said last week when accepting the Raybestos rookie honor for the series, according to Scene Daily. “My team did a great job this year. Crew chief Danny Stockman was also a rookie and we were able to go out and make things happen.”

When Austin was selected to drive the No. 3 Pro Bass Shop Chevrolet Silverado, he knew that he was going to face a variety of reactions from the fan base because that was a number famous made by the late, legendary 2009 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Dale ”The Intimidator” Earnhardt Sr. There were a lot of mixed emotions from the NASCAR fan base because many people were still not ready to see the black #3 back on the racetrack regardless of what racing series it would have participated in this season.

Dillon's first truck win at Iowa Speedway.
(John Sommers/Getty Images)
After his first truck win at Iowa Speedway, Austin had this to say in regards to driving this legendary numbered truck: "It's pretty awesome. Like I've said from the beginning of the year, I wanted to do it for the fans, too. I know they want to see it out front," Dillon said. "I'm glad to sit in the No. 3. It's my favorite number to run, and hopefully I can run it for a long time. You know, I love running it. It's a lot of fun. (But) there is pressure behind it. The fans want it to run well when it's out on the track. It's something you have to take on and take on as a challenge is the way I look at it. It's fun to me running that number. The fans stand in the grandstands when you run well with it.”

It is clear this 20-year-old has the "eye of the tiger" and he will be an avid competitor who will look to compete to win a championship in the near future.

Congratulations on a great honor and continued success in your racing career!