Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Art of Wrapping Your Car

On occasion Skirts and Scuffs allows guests to write posts that will be published to the site. Today we share a post from Kristina Zelisko about car wraps.

NASCAR drivers are among the biggest and the best when it comes to the world of advertising. Take top driver Kyle Busch as a perfect example. There is absolutely no mistaking who the sponsors behind number 18 car are. That advertising is key in letting the drivers support and recognize their backers as well as giving the sponsors the ability to have their name and their brand right out front and center in the public eye.

Not too far back in the past those cars were actually painted with sponsor advertising and given the nature of the sport of racing, they had to be re-painted and touched up on a pretty regular basis. Needless to say, it was a labor intensive practice. The advent of new technology and a high quality vinyl product by 3M changed that practice in a relatively short time. Motorsports Designs had one driver signed up for the new car decal program in 1982, and, by 1984, they had all but one of the cup drivers signed on as clients. It’s been a booming business ever since. In just one racing season a team can require several hundred RaceWraps.

The advertising in the race world will always be extremely prominent and the invention of the RaceWraps means that the down time required to change a car’s color scheme or sponsorship has been slashed. A good application team can have a car wrapped and ready to roll in just a few hours in comparison to the days needed to cut out and paint the cars by hand.

Essentially, the car wraps are like the “skins” bought to decorate cell phones or laptops. They can be changed, applied or removed all together with little effort which makes them very user friendly. In fact, they’re so easy and accessible that they’ve expanded from the race world and moved on to the vehicles of everyday drivers. Decals have always been very popular with car owners- professional or otherwise- and the creation of products like decal packages ensure that this popularity will continue far into the future.

Check out some of Kyle Busch’s different RaceWraps:

TV Schedule April 1-3

The green flag waves at last fall's Sprint Cup race at
Martinsville Speedway. (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
NASCAR leaves the Hollywood Hills for the heart of Virginia. The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series head to Martinsville Speedway, known as the "pretty paperclip." The 0.526-mile speedway is the shortest and oldest track on the NASCAR schedule.

Martinsville Speedway opened in 1947 and besides being paved in 1955, its configuration has not changed. There is 12-degree banking in the turns and none on the straightaways. With its tight turns and long straightaways, the demanding nature of the track takes its toll on brakes and tires, and provides a challenge for drivers and teams. Martin Truex and Carl Edwards have said they are still trying to figure out the short track, while Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin have mastered Martinsville - the two have combined to win the last nine Sprint Cup events here. Kevin Harvick Inc. has been dominant here in the Camping World Truck Series.

The Truck Series gets back on track after a two-week break. The Nationwide Series takes a breather and will return next week at Texas.

Last year's winners at Martinsville were:

Spring: Denny Hamlin
Fall: Denny Hamlin

Spring: Kevin Harvick
Fall: Ron Hornaday

The Kroger 250 truck race is Saturday and the Goody's Fast Relief Sprint Cup is Sunday.

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage at Martinsville. (All times are in Eastern Standard Time. Events without a channel listed will not be televised):

Friday, April 1:
11 a.m. NCWTS Pratice
12:30 p.m. NSCS Practice, SPEED
2 p.m. NCWTS Final Practice, SPEED
3:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, SPEED
5 p.m. NASCAR Live, SPEED
7 p.m. Trackside at Martinsville, SPEED. Guest: Denny Hamlin.
8:30 p.m. NSCS Practice, SPEED
10 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, SPEED
11:30 p.m. Trackside at Martinsville, SPEED

Saturday, April 2:
12:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, SPEED
2 a.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2
2 a.m. NSCS Final Practice, SPEED
10:30 a.m. NCWTS Pole Qualifying, SPEED
11:30 a.m. NASCAR Live, SPEED
12 noon NSCS Pole Qualifying, SPEED
1:30 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, SPEED
2 p.m. NCWTS: Kroger 250, SPEED
8 p.m. NSCS Pole Qualifying, SPEED
9:30 p.m. NASCAR Performance, SPEED

Sunday, April 3:
12 a.m. NCWTS SetUp, SPEED
12:30 a.m. NCWTS: Kroger 250, SPEED
9 a.m. NASCAR Performance, SPEED
9 a.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2
10:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, SPEED
12:30 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
1 p.m. NSCS: Goody's Fast Relief 500, FOX. Green flag: 1:15 p.m.
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, SPEED (reruns at 12 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday)

Under the Spotlight: Vickers Finds Luck at Fontana with Second Top 10

(Photo by Jared C. Tilton
/Getty Images Sport)

Auto Club Speedway was the site of Red Bull Racing’s first-ever top 10 finish, achieved by Brian Vickers in February 2007, and this season it is the place where Vickers earned his second top 10 since returning to racing.
Since his start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series in 2003 at the age of 19, Vickers has achieved two career wins and 11 poles.
The 2009 season was his best to date, earning himself and Red Bull Racing a spot in the Chase with one win, four top 5s, 13 top 10s and six poles.
These days, perhaps Vickers has even more of a reason to succeed.
Last year in May, Vickers was diagnosed with multiple blood clots in his leg, lungs and finger.
It was later discovered that Vickers also had a hole in his heart, as well as May-Thurner Syndrome, a rare condition involving the formation of blood clots in the left leg.
In July, just two months after his initial diagnosis, Vickers underwent heart surgery and had a stent placed in his left leg.
Vickers missed the final 25 races of the season and there was much speculation as to when he would return to racing, if ever.
Rumors were put to rest after Vickers and Red Bull Racing announced he would return to the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota for the 2011 season.
In January, Vickers found himself back in the car for a two-day test session with teammate Kasey Kahne (driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota) at Disney Speedway in Orlando.
The first five races of the season have been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for Vickers, finishing 30th or worst for three out of the five.
Vickers and the No. 83 team attribute the inconsistency to getting caught up in wrecks and an overall lack of luck.
At Sunday’s race in Fontana, things seemed to turn around when Vickers attained his second top 10 of the season.
His 8th place finish in Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway has moved him up seven spots in the points to 24th.
In a pre-season interview during the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, Vickers spoke of what it was like to be out of the car, watching from the sidelines and his expectations for the upcoming season.
“ I love racing, I love what I do," Vickers said.
“I’ve been very fortunate to do it for a long time. No matter how much you love something, it’s human nature to lose sight of that sometimes and to get tired of things and grow old of things. Being able to step back and lose what you love most really makes you appreciate it. I think that’s going to show up on the race track, in my driving, my determination and my focus in a lot of things.”
So far, so good.
This weekend the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Martinsville, where Vickers finished sixth last spring.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tony Stewart's 11,000 Pound Friend

Tony’s new friend Osh kicked off the countdown by passing Stewart the official green flag.

NASCAR’s Tony Stewart visits Northern California Zoo

Thursday March 24, 2011 was a cool day in the City by the Bay but hearts were warmed with a visit from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver, Tony Stewart. It was a day not just for the media but for the fans as well, to get a glimpse of the two time Cup Series winner completely out of his element. A day they will not soon forget. 

Stewart entered the zoo a racecar driver, once inside, became a zoo-keeper, ready for his work behind the scenes at the Northern California zoo. Tony’s first opportunity came in the form of an 11,000 lb male elephant. The two were introduced by the zoo’s Elephant Manager Jeff Kinzley.

Tony the Tiger worked side by side with Jeff as they performed the normal everyday care that goes into keeping Osh the elephant happy and healthy. Tasks included a pedicure, mouth check and finally, feeding him lunch.
2011 Infineon March Winners Circle TonyStewart Feeding Osh Mike Doran

That’s a pretty incredible animal, and this is like nothing I’ve ever done,” said the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet Impala for Stewart-Haas Racing. “It didn’t take long to realize how much respect you have to have for that animal.”

Jeff Kinzley, Elephant Manager, says of Stewart, “Tony was a true star with Osh, just like he is on the track.”

During Stewart's time at the Zoo, he was able to acquaint himself with a few other creatures such as seen below.                                                                        
2011 IR Mar Tony Stewart Skink

2011 IR Mar Tony Stewart Boa
Credit: Mike Doran

After spending time with the animals, (and learning their language), Tony the zookeeper, finished with his assigned media duties, and was able to sit down and spend some time with the younger fans who asked some great questions of their hero. Against the original plans for the event, Tony being the fan friendly driver he is, Tony took time out to sign autographs as well.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

One of the first youngsters asked, “How many races have you won altogether?” Tony responded,”I have no idea”. Then next he was asked, "What is it like on a racetrack?” Stewart replied, “It depends on who you’re around! Sometimes its like being with that elephant. You have no idea what they’re going to do or where they’re going to go. With other drivers you’re very comfortable when they’re around. You know what they’re going to do. You can’t do that unless you have a lot of respect for each other.”

Perhaps most relevant to the times, a young voice asked “Has anyone ever teased you on the track?” Tony replied, thoughtfully, with a grin, “They’ve tried! It normally doesn’t work out too well for them.”
Then one of the final questions asked was,”What kind of animal are you like on the track?” With that recognizable Stewart smile, he replied, "Probably a combination. Sometimes I’m really aggressive, like a tiger. Then other times I’m like that tortoise and I’d like to hide. But then there are other times when I’m like that snake and I’d like to choke someone!”

With around 100 fans in attendance, Tony also released information on the new 2011 ticket package that Infineon Raceway has in place for NASCAR’s upcoming Toyota/Save Mart 350 in June. For just $114 the purchaser will receive tickets for both Saturday and Sunday’s races. Also included are passes to attend the special Q & A session in hospitality area, Club 7 with Stewart himself. With portions of the ticket proceeds to benefit the Tony Stewart Foundation.

Tony said the following of the Infineon track: “I always enjoy going to Sonoma. It’s not only a beautiful area, but I always enjoy the road courses. The competition is getting better and better on the road courses, and I can honestly say there are 12-15 guys who can go home with a win.”


Stewart, who has two wins in Sonoma (2002, ’05), will return in June. NASCAR will make its last visit of the season to California’s Infineon Raceway for the Toyota/Save Mart 350. Tickets, including the Trackside with Tony package, are available by calling 800-870-RACE or at

Stremme Plans Sprint Cup Series Return

Photo Credit: David Allio
Will Make Inception Motorsports Debut at Richmond International Raceway

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (March 30, 2011) – David Stremme announced today that he will return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) this season and join forces with the newly-formed Inception Motorsports. The NASCAR veteran will drive the No. 30 Inception Chevrolet in select NSCS events in 2011, beginning with the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on April 30, 2011.

The new race team combines the financial strength of the Inception investment group with the experience of Stremme. Together, they will execute a strategic program launch that includes competing in select NSCS events throughout 2011 with a goal of running the full 2012 NSCS season.

“The plan is solid,” Stremme explains. “We’re going to pick our shots this season, earn respect and establish ourselves as a competitive race team. Then, we’ll make a points run in 2012.”

Stremme has raced in the upper echelons of NASCAR since 2003, scoring a combined 20 top-five and 52 top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series. He has driven for several top NASCAR teams, including Chip Ganassi Racing, Penske Racing, Rusty Wallace Racing and Braun Racing.

NASCAR veterans Steve Lane and Gus Larkin will also add to the rookie team’s experience. Lane, who will serve as the Crew Chief for the No. 30, brings experience from Petty Enterprises and Robby Gordon Motorsports. Larkin, who most recently served as the Team Manager for JR Motorsports, will manage the day-to-day business for the team.

“The exciting thing about Inception is that everyone involved is experienced in the sport,” said Stremme. “I think this will be a good deal. We all share a common belief system about how to build and operate a successful race team.”

The Inception Motorsports team will debut at RIR. Stremme looks to drive the No. 30 Inception Chevrolet to a solid finish in the Crown Royal presents the Matthew and Daniel Hansen 400 on Saturday, April 30th.

About Inception Motorsports
Inception Motorsports, based in Mooresville, N.C., is a privately funded motorsports entity that creates new possibilities for its corporate partners through innovative, affordable marketing programs, which are coupled with aggressive, competitive on-track entries in NASCAR’s premier series. To learn more about Inception Motorsports, please visit

About David Stremme
David Stremme made his NASCAR debut in 2003, earning Rookie of the Year honors while racing for Chip Ganassi Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He moved to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2005. When he is not busy competing in NASCAR events, Stremme can be found barn-storming local race tracks throughout the United States with the Stremme Racing Super Late Model and the UMP Dirt Late Model. For more information on David Stremme, please

Fontana Penalties Announced

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 30, 2011) – Peter Rondeau, crew chief for the No. 78 team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been penalized for a rule violation committed last week at Auto Club Speedway.

Rondeau has been fined $25,000 for violating sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 20-2.3A (improperly attached weight) of the 2011 NASCAR rule book.

The violation occurred during practice on March 25.

Mark Martin To Make 800th Start In The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray Set For 300th Start
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 30, 2011) – Mark Martin will join an exclusive club this Sunday in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, becoming the eighth driver to start 800 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
During a career that has spanned parts of four decades, Martin has tallied 40 victories, 264 top fives and 429 top 10s. His 40 wins rank 16th all-time. Coincidentally, Martinsville Speedway was the site of Martin’s first top-five finish, a third-place run on Sept. 27, 1981.
             "I hate to say this isn't a big deal, because it is. But, to me, the bigger deal is what you accomplished in those starts, not just the starts themselves," Martin said.
"I've had a really good 799 starts. We've had a lot of wins, a lot of success and a lot of fun. I've made friends out here that will be friends forever, and I can't imagine anything else I would have rather been doing than racing all of those days. Beyond the stat itself or the records or whatever, it's the experiences of it all that are the most important to me."
The others who have eclipsed the 800-start barrier: Richard Petty (1,185), Ricky Rudd (906), Dave Marcis (883), Terry Labonte (870), Kyle Petty (829), Bill Elliott (825), and Darrell Waltrip (809).
Martin finished second in the final championship point standings five times, most recently in 2009 – his first season with current team Hendrick Motorsports.
Below is a timeline of Martin’s career highlights on his way to 800 starts:
1 – On April 5, 1981, Martin made his first series start at North Wilkesboro Speedway, finishing 27th. Martin made five starts in 1981, scoring two top 10s and two poles.
6 – In his first Daytona 500, on Feb. 14, 1982, he finished 30th.
58 – On Feb. 14, 1988 in the Daytona 500, Martin made his first start with owner Jack Roush. Together, they started 617 races, winning 35 of them.
100 – On June 25, 1989, at Michigan International Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 100. He finished 12th.
113 – On Oct. 22, 1989, at North Carolina Speedway (Rockingham), Martin led 101 laps en route to his first career win.
200 – On Oct. 25, 1992, at Rockingham, Martin made milestone start No. 200. He finished 30th.
223 – Martin reached double digits in wins with a victory at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1993. The win was the third of four consecutive victories for Martin, the longest win streak of his career.
300 – On March 31, 1996, at Bristol, Martin made milestone start No. 300. He finished third.
326 – Finished seventh in the Daytona 500 on Feb. 16, 1997, his 16th-consecutive top-10 finish, dating back to the previous season. That is tied for the 16th-longest streak in series history.
            383 – In a victory at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 20, 1998, Martin led 379 laps, the most of his career.
400 – On May 2, 1999, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 400. He finished 38th.
500 – Reached career milestone start No. 500 on March 24, 2002 at Bristol. He finished 11th.
506 – Won NASCAR’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 (then named the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600) at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2002.
600 – On Nov. 7, 2004, at Phoenix International Raceway, Martin made milestone start No. 600. He finished 15th.
700 – On Feb. 25, 2008, at Auto Club Speedway, Martin made milestone start No. 700. He finished 16th.
723 – On Feb. 15, 2009 at the Daytona 500, made his first start for Hendrick Motorsports, finishing 16th.
730 – At the age of 50 years, three months and nine days, Martin won at Phoenix on April 18, 2009, to join Harry Gant, Morgan Shepherd and Bobby Allison as the fourth over-50 driver to win a NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
733 – Won one of NASCAR’s crown jewels: the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on May 9, 2009.
Milestones For Biffle, McMurray: Greg Biffle and Jamie McMurray will also celebrate milestone starts this weekend. Both drivers will make start No. 300 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunday at Martinsville.
Over his first 299 starts, Biffle has 16 wins, 66 top fives and 114 top 10s. McMurray has six wins, 39 top fives and 92 top 10s.

In the Rearview Mirror: Remembering Alan Kulwicki

It was 18 years ago, on April 1, 1993 that Alan Kulwicki died in a plane crash just prior to Bristol. In his memory, I salute him in this installment of In the Rearview Mirror.

Credit: RacingOne/Getty Images

Alan Kulwicki was born Dec. 14, 1954 in Greenfield, Wisconsin. Greenfield, a suburb on Milwaukee, was rich in Polish American history. During his childhood, Kulwicki's mother and brother died, the later due to complications from hemophilia.

After graduating high school, Kulwicki went to college at the University of  Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering.

Alan began his racing career at the age of 13, racing karts. Kulwicki’s father Gerry built engines for USAC cars and was often too busy to help young Alan when he asked for advice. Undeterred, Alan moved onto racing stock cars, starting on local dirt tracks in Wisconsin. In 1973, he won the Rookie of the Year award at Hales Corners Speedway in Franklin. The following year he moved on to racing late models, claiming his first win at Leo's Speedway in Oshkosh.

In 1979, Kulwicki began competing in the American Speed Association (ASA) where he raced until 1980. Through his racing with ASA, he met fellow NASCAR up-and-comer Rusty Wallace. The two developed a friendship that would last into their days in NASCAR.

Alan made a few starts in the Busch (now Nationwide) Series in 1984 and 1985. After starting from the pole at the Milwaukee Mile, he was able to catch the eye of race team owner Bill Terry. Terry offered Alan a ride in a few Winston Cup races (Winston is now Sprint Cup).

Alan Kulwicki made the big move to NASCAR in 1985, selling his personal belongings to move south to Charlotte, the hot spot for all things NASCAR-related. With little more than his pickup and trailer filled with furniture and tools, Alan made the move.

Upon his arrival, other drivers were somewhat amused: never before was a driver seen walking the garage with a briefcase while wearing his fire suit. But Kulwicki became known for his strong work ethic and unwavering focus. 

Kulwicki started his rookie season in 1986 with the team of Bill Terry. In the middle of the season, Terry decided to end his team due to financial support, but Alan did not give up. Kulwicki decided to field his own team, like he had done as a child. Kulwicki wore many hats - driver, owner, mechanic and crew chief, all rolled up into one. 

Alan was very much a perfectionist and that plagued him when it came to finding crew members for his team. He needed to be able to see the high level of excellence in their work and also be able to trust them to do so. Kulwicki worked with such notable crew members as Tony Gibson (now crew chief for Ryan Newman at Stewart-Haas Racing), mechanic then crew chief Paul Andrews, Brian Whitesell (Hendrick Motorsports) and most notably Ray Evernham. Ray, who worked with the Jeff Gordon during his most memorable seasons, only lasted six weeks with Kulwicki. 

Kulwicki's rookie season was a success in the fact that he won the Rookie-of-the-Year title, had four top-10 finishes and all this with just one car, two engines and two full-time crew members.

For the 1987 season, things were looking up. Kulwicki changed his car number to the #7 and secured a sponsorship with Zerex Antifreeze. In the third race of the season at Richmond, Alan claimed the pole, the first of his Winston Cup career. Alan finished 6th in that race. He would later claim additional poles at Richmond and Dover. His best finish this season came at Pocono; Alan started in the second position and that is exactly where he finished as well. This was his highest finish in the 1987 season. He finished the year with nine top-10 finishes and was ranked 15th in the Winston Cup points standings.

Kulwicki was advised by his friend, Rusty Wallace, to hire Paul Andrews as his crew chief for the 1988 season. This was the season that Alan Kulwicki would get his first win, in the second-to-last race of the year at Phoenix International Raceway. Ricky Rudd was leading but later encountered engine problems. Alan led 41 laps that day, finishing the race with an 18.5-second margin of victory. After collecting the checkered flag, Alan drove around the track clockwise (backwards) and called this the Polish Victory Lap:
"It's been a long road and it's taken a lot of hard work to get here, but this has made it all worthwhile. When you work for something so hard for so long, you wonder if it's going to be worth all of the anticipation. Believe me, it certainly was. And what do you think of my Polish victory lap? There will never be another first win and you know, everybody sprays champagne or stands up on the car. I wanted to do something different for the fans."
                         —Kulwicki, as quoted in Grand National Scene magazine
Alan finished the 1988 season with one win, seven top-5s and nine top-10 finishes. He finished 14th in points.

For the 1989 season Kulwicki decided to build his own engines. He had four second-place finishes and was leading the points after the fifth race of the season. But the team suffered nine engine failures and dropped in the points. He ended the season with six pole positions, nine top-10 finishes and finished 14th in season points.

Prior to the 1990 season, Kulwicki was approached by team owner Junior Johnson to drive one of his cars. Alan declined, as his interest was in running his own team. That season, he got his second Winston Cup win, at Rockingham. Kulwicki finished the season eighth in points after 13 top-10 finishes and one pole position. 

Before the 1991 season, Kulwicki was left without a sponsor after Zerex cut ties, and Junior Johnson again came to Alan looking to sign him as a driver. Johnson offered Kulwicki $1 million, but he turned it down, thinking had secured sponsorship with Maxwell House. Instead, Maxwell House signed with Johnson's team, leaving Kulwicki to start the 1991 season sponsorless. After the third race of the season Kulwicki was approached with a one-race deal with Hooters to sponsor him for the Atlanta race. Hooters was a sponsor for another driver, Mark Stahl, who failed to qualify for the race. Kulwicki finished 8th with the Hooters-sponsored car, leading to a long-term deal with the sponsor. Later that season, Kulwicki got his 3rd win, this time at Bristol's night race. Alan finished the 1991 season with 11 top-10 finishes, four poles and 13th in the points.


Hooters returned for the 1992 season and Alan Kulwicki was off to a strong start. In the first fives races, Alan had three top-10 finishes. The sixth race of the season was Bristol, where Alan started from the pole and won the race. From that point forward Kulwicki was consistently in the top-5 in the Winston Cup points standings. Alan only had one other victory that season, the first race at Pocono. Many had not included Kulwicki in the talk of championship contenders earlier in the year; he was expected to fade in his contention chances.

After a crash at Dover, Kulwicki was 278 points behind leader Bill Elliott. Elliott had some bad luck two races in a row, tightening up the points battle. Davey Allison assumed the points lead, with Kulwicki in second and Elliott fell to third.

The season all came down to the final race of the year, the 1992 Hooters 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. This was the final race for Richard Petty and the first for newcomer Jeff Gordon. Kulwicki knew going into this race he was the underdog, so much so he asked NASCAR and Ford to rename his car the "Underbird" instead of Thunderbird.


During the first pit stop of the race, the "Underbird" encountered problems. The first gear broke in Alan's transmission. Crew chief Paul Andrews said, "We had to leave pit road in fourth gear, because we had broken metal parts in there, and only by leaving it in fourth are you not going to move metal around as much. We could only hope that the loose piece of metal didn't get in there and break the gears in half. We had three or four pit stops after it broke. I held my breath all day long." 

Davey Allison was racing aside Ernie Irvan when Irvan's tire blew, sending Allison into the side of Irvan's spinning car. The wreck left Allison's car with significant damage and ended his shot at the title. 

The championship bout came down to Kulwicki and Elliott, who would battle it out for every point possible. Alan was leading the race and crew chief Andrews made the call for him to pit only after knowing he had claimed the bonus points for leading the most laps. The final pit stop was a fuel-only stop to save time, and this allowed them to be able to push the car since they had to keep it running in a high gear. The gas man hurried during the stop and did not get enough fuel in; as a result, Alan had to conserve fuel to still be running on the final laps of the race. Elliott won the race, Kulwicki finished second but clenched the 1992 Winston Cup Championship by a mere 10 points. Kulwicki celebrated this milestone by performing the Polish Victory Lap for the second time ever.

Kulwicki was the last owner/driver to win a championship, making his 1992 win notable for many reasons. This was the closest title win in NASCAR history (prior to the Chase format we have today). Alan was also the first NASCAR champion with a college degree and to hail from a Northern state. When the year-ending NASCAR banquet showed a video salute of Kulwicki, the accompanying song was Frank Sinatra's "My Way."

Alan returned to race for the 1993 season, but just prior to the Bristol race he was tragically killed in a plane crash. 

Kulwicki was posthumously inducted into the Lowe's Motor Speedway Court of Legends in 1993, Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993, Talladega-Texaco Hall of Fame in 1996, Bristol Motor Speedway Heroes of Bristol Hall of Fame in 1997, the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame in 2001, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2002 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2010. 

Kulwicki will forever be remembered as one of the great owner/drivers in NASCAR history. Many of today's drivers have recognized Kulwicki as an influence. Robby Gordon currently drives the #7 and has mentioned Alan as his inspiration as an owner/driver. Kulwicki's impact is still seen today, ranging from owner/drivers such as Tony Stewart to Kurt Busch's post-race celebration of the "unwind," a take on the Polish Victory Lap. It may be 18 years ago that Kulwicki passed away, but clearly he had a lasting impact on NASCAR.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fast Facts: Dave Blaney

Image: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR

Dave Blaney drives the #36 Chevrolet Impala for Tommy Baldwin Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He is a two-time sprint car champion, and raced in the Cup Series for the first time in 1992.

  • Blaney was born October 24th, 1962 in Hartford Township, Ohio. His brother Dale is also a sprint car driver.

  • Blaney was the 1983 Rookie of the Year in the All-Star Sprint Circuit, and in 1984 won the USAC Silver Crown Series championship. In 1985, he moved to the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series, and won their championship in 1995.

  • In 1997, Blaney won the Knoxville Nationals, one of sprint car racing’s premier events, and the following year moved to NASCAR’s Busch Series (now Nationwide), driving for Bill Davis Racing.

  • In 2000, Blaney and Davis moved to the Cup Series. Blaney has driven for a number of owners since, including Jasper Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Prism Motorsports, and Front Row Motorsports.

  • In 2010, Blaney returned to his sprint car roots for a few races, including the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon Speedway. The Blaney family owns Sharon Speedway, a dirt track in Hartford, Ohio.

  • Blaney’s personal website is under construction; it can be found at

  • Find out more about Tommy Baldwin Racing at

Stewart-Haas Racing Review—Newman Outshines Boss at California

Tony Stewart and Kyle Busch in the Lead at Fontana
Credit: Victor Decolongon/Getty Images for NASCAR

Tony Stewart may be the Stewart-Haas Racing boss but Ryan Newman was the team star at the March 27 Auto Club 400 Sprint Cup race at Fontana. The Stewart-Haas Racing teammates were tied for third in NASCAR points heading into California where Newman finished 5th and moved to second in the standings. Stewart finished 13th, after faltering on a late-race restart, and fell to sixth in points.

Newman’s finish was aided by a couple of key decisions made by Crew Chief Tony Gibson that worked out well for the U.S. Army team. At lap 76, Gibson opted for two tires instead of four. The result vaulted Newman to second place in track position. "That was a key decision that really paid off," noted Newman. "We pretty much stayed up there the rest of the race."

Another good move was the decision not to pit for fresh tires on lap 187 of the 200-lap race. This was a joint decision between Gibson and Newman. "At that time we were running in sixth place and felt we could hold off the cars behind us that took fresh tires," explained Newman. "I guess we did one better by finishing fifth."

Newman has turned in steady performances in the last four races: top-5 finishes (Phoenix, Las Vegas, Fontana) and a top-10 at Bristol. The No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet team suffered their usual bad luck at restrictor-plate tracks and left the season-opening Daytona 500 with a 22nd place finish before the series of good runs.

“I keep saying it,” Newman said, “but I’m really just so proud of everything that Stewart-Haas Racing has accomplished in these first five races.”

Tony Stewart ran up front during most of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 but the final nine laps around the two-mile track saw the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet fade. After the final restart on lap 192 of the race, Stewart restarted third behind leaders Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson. By the time the checkered flag waved, Stewart had dropped to 13th place.

“We’re not really sure what happened,” Crew Chief Darian Grubb said. “Obviously, we’re pleased with the way the car ran for the majority of the race, but it’s pretty disappointing that we ended up where we did. For whatever reason, we couldn’t get going in the laps after the final restart and it cost us a ton of positions.”

Dropping positions during the final laps is nothing new to Stewart this season. He restarted the Daytona 500 in second with only two laps to go - finished 13th and a late-race caution at Phoenix let the field catch the race leading Stewart-Haas driver - finished 7th. 

The next race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers is the April 3 Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville (VA) Speedway where Newman finished fourth in the 2010 spring race and Stewart finished in the 26th spot.

Motor Mouth: Can lessons learned at Auto Club help Harvick win the championship?

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
They say you need to lose a championship to win one; the same also applies to races.

When Kevin Harvick found himself against Jimmie Johnson for the win at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday, the Bakersfield, Calif., native was determined it wouldn’t end the same way it did a year ago at his home track - with Harvick hitting the wall and Johnson running off with the victory.

On the final lap, Harvick made his move: he got up on the bumper of the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet just enough to make Johnson loose and give him more speed than he wanted. It wasn’t a dirty move, it was gutsy – and Johnson admitted afterward that he would have done the same thing if in Harvick’s position.

And so Harvick claimed his first win at Auto Club Speedway. The implications are many. Harvick redeemed himself for last year’s loss and beat fellow California driver Johnson to do it. The win helped Harvick finally climb out of the points hole he's been in since the engine failure at Daytona, and he now sits 9th in the standings. Harvick also made the statement that his run for a title didn’t end last year – the Richard Childress Racing driver and his No. 29 team have their sights set on the championship again and are in it to win it.

Sunday’s Auto Club 400 also marked a personal milestone for Harvick: it was the first time he was up against Johnson for the win and came out on top. After the race, Harvick explained how he used lessons learned from last year’s race to defeat Johnson this year. I couldn’t help but think that if losing a race helped Harvick win one, perhaps the same lessons can be used to win a championship.

Here’s a look at what Harvick said and how they could apply to wrestling the title away from Johnson:

1.) Learn from your mistakes.
“Last year I made a mistake and gave the race away with two laps to go,” Harvick said. “I knew if I was going to hit the wall today, it wasn't going to be till turn four coming to the checkered. It was tight, but it was the right time to go.”

Harvick made his move and timed it right; if anyone’s car would get out of whack it was going to be Johnson’s this time around, not his.

The lesson is one that is vital to winning the championship as well. It’s hard to think of the mistakes Harvick made in the Chase last year because he really didn’t make that many – except for the speeding penalty he got at Homestead. Even though Harvick recovered to finish third, it deprived Harvick of the lead spot for the ensuing restart. With Johnson and Harvick running as close as they were that day, it was a devastating blow to the 29 team and you can’t help but wonder “what if?”

If Harvick learns from Homestead the way he did from Auto Club and can apply it throughout the season, expect to see him in the thick of the title battle again.

2.) Don't make mistakes.
“I was able to not make any mistakes. They didn't make any mistakes on the car all weekend long,” Harvick said. “Last year taught me a lot about what patience and the things I needed to do to beat a guy that doesn't make mistakes. In order to do that, you can't make mistakes yourself.”

When you’re running against Jimmie Johnson, whether in a race or for the championship, you need to be perfect to beat the man nicknamed “Superman.” That’s what Harvick was on Sunday when it counted most in those final laps. He said it best: he didn’t make any mistakes.

With the field as competitive as it is, any mistake can cost you, especially in the championship hunt. Fellow 2010 title contender Denny Hamlin may have been the prime example of this. In hindsight, the call to not come in for fuel earlier at the fall Phoenix race is where the No. 11 team lost the title. Things went downhill for the team at Homestead, where a poor qualifying effort put Hamlin in the back of the field. While charging to the front in the opening laps Hamlin spun out and never recovered.

To be the best you have to beat the best. And the only way to do that is by not making mistakes.

Victor Decolongon/Getty Images for NASCAR
3.) Patience.
This race one year ago is what helped us win today, by being patient, not taking yourself out of the race, having something there at the end until it was time to go,” Harvick said.

A year ago, Harvick was eager to go for the win but made his move too early, with two laps to go. On a 2-mile superspeedway like Auto Club Speedway, a lot can happen in those two laps, as Harvick found out when he brushed the wall and took himself out of contention.

This year was different. Harvick’s not one to be satisfied with a good points day, so him accepting second was out of the question. But he is one to push the boundaries and go for the win; it was just a matter of pacing it and timing the move right.

Harvick’s come-from-behind moves aren’t that different from Johnson, who became a factor in the later part of Sunday’s race and often shows up when it matters most. Patience can win you races and doing it on a consistent basis can win you a championship.

4.) Chip away at it.
“Those guys are five-time champions, won a ton of races. We feel as a team we can race right with 'em, but so does everybody else. There's a lot of other guys that think the same thing, but nobody's beat them in five years. We've just got to keep chipping away at it,” Harvick said.

It all goes back to that in order to win a championship, you have to lose a championship. Learning from your mistakes, not making mistakes and having patience are all ways to chip away at bringing home the championship. After all, it worked out for Johnson: he had to lose at least two titles before winning his first in a historic streak.

Defeating Johnson for the first time since the two have gone head-to-head is a definite boost of confidence for Harvick and the No. 29 team and one more thing they have chipped away at. It also must make Harvick smile to know he bagged a win this season before the five-time champion did. Last year the No. 29 team showed incredible consistency, and apart from the engine failure this year, the team is still showing they have it as well as the ability to recover, which they did after on-track incidents at Phoenix and Bristol. Harvick has already said this year he feels his team has what it takes to win the title.

So besides the speeding penalty at Homestead and maintaining that consistency, the only other thing I think Harvick needs to work on is race wins, especially during the Chase. Harvick had three wins last year, but none of them came in the Chase, whereas Hamlin and Johnson had three wins between the two in the pivotal playoffs. Harvick came close at Talladega last year, coming in second in a photo finish to teammate Clint Bowyer. If Harvick can chip away at this, then the other contenders will need to watch out not just for Johnson, but for the man in the black No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, who could be looking at his first championship.

Motor Mouth is a weekly column in which Skirts and Scuffs lead editor Rebecca Kivak spouts off about the latest NASCAR happenings. Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below.

Roush Fenway Racing & John Force - NASCAR meets NHRA

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR
CONCORD, N.C. (March 29, 2011) - Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle scored an upset victory in a four-wide battle of NASCAR stars versus an NHRA legend today at zMAX Dragway during a race held to promote the second annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, April 14-17.

Defending NHRA Four-Wide Nationals Funny Car champion John Force welcomed Biffle and fellow Roush Fenway Racing drivers Matt Kenseth and David Ragan to his turf today for a four-wide elimination battle in 2011 supercharged Ford Mustang GTs. Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, was the driver with the slowest time on the first pass and the first driver to be eliminated. In an outcome that surprised everyone in attendance, including media and visiting soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., Force was eliminated with the slowest time on the second pass.

"They went out there and they did their job and they beat me," Force said. "I beat them on the tree but I tried to power shift the car and I screwed up. It was pretty cool being out here with these NASCAR kids, even though I lost big today."

The final elimination pass left Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, battling fellow Roush Fenway Racing driver Kenseth, the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and
driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford. The race was close, but Biffle emerged victorious, winning the final round with an elapsed time of 13.284 on the world's only four-lane, all concrete drag strip. "I got lucky because I've drag raced in a Mustang before," Biffle said after his winning pass. "It was pretty neat to get a chance to race against a 15-time champion like John Force. It feels good beating him too. I had a lot of fun out there today."

Fifteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion driver and 17-time champion car owner Force was in Charlotte, N.C., today for the race and a media tour promoting the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. "I'm excited to come back to zMAX Dragway," said Force. "There's only one place in the whole world to come see this four-wide racing and that's here. This is a family sport, with families out here racing, so bring the family out and see the stars of the NHRA. I want to see a packed house. Fans should get out of the house and come have some fun at zMAX Dragway."

Tickets are on sale now for the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway, April 14-17. Nitro fans can buy two tickets to any day for only $60 and receive a choice of a free upgrade:
two event hats, two event shirts, two beer vouchers or two Coca-Cola soft drinks and two hot dogs. To purchase tickets by phone, call the zMAX Dragway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).

Connect with zMAX Dragway and stay up to speed with all the happenings at the Bellagio of drag strips on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Tickets for NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge on Sale

Family-Friendly, Pit Crew Skills Competition Showcases Best on Pit Road

HARRISBURG, N.C. - Tickets for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew ChallengeTM presented by Craftsman, featuring a family-friendly, pit-crew competition between the top-24 NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesTM pit crews, are on sale as of March 23. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling Time Warner Cable Arena box office at (800) 745-3000 with prices starting at $15. Tickets for children two to 12 cost $7.50 each.

The NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman will take place Thursday, May 19, at 7 p.m. EDT at Time Warner Cable Arena and will air on SPEED at 8 p.m. EDT that evening.

“Each year we see the competition increase for the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman, both in the individual skills and team competition,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president of competition for NASCAR. “The pit crews look forward to this event and put forth their best effort to prove who the best on pit road really is. The added value for the teams also is having first pit selection for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.”

Kicking off NASCAR Sprint All-Star WeekTM will be the third annual NASCAR Rev’d Up, a free concert and festival featuring top musical talent and interactive displays held in downtown Charlotte, N.C., on May 18.

The NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman, now in its seventh year of competition and produced by JHE Production Group Inc., is the signature lead-in event to the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Saturday, May 21 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

To qualify for the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge presented by Craftsman, teams must be eligible for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race or be the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge Champion. NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race eligibility includes all NASCAR Sprint Cup race winners from 2010 and 2011, NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winners from the past 10 years and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champions from the past 10 years who are active drivers and have competed in at least one series event during the 2010 or 2011 season. Remaining unfilled positions will become available to the car owners ranked highest in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series owner point standings as of May 17.

The following teams are currently eligible: No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota, No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, No. 4 Red Bull Racing Toyota, No. 5 Chevrolet, No. 11 FedEx Toyota, No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet, No. 16 3M Ford, No. 17 Crown Royal Ford, No. 18 M&M’s Toyota, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford, No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet,  No. 33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevrolet, No. 39 US Army Chevrolet, No. 42 Target Chevrolet, No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet, and No. 99 Aflac Ford.

For more information, visit

Red Bull Rundown: Vickers, Kahne Pull Off History-Making Combined Finish at Auto Club Speedway

Brian Vickers in the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota.
Credit: Tom Pennington, Getty Images Sport

Red Bull Racing teammates Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne achieved one of the best combined finishes in Red Bull Racing history, driving their way to 8th and 9th place finishes respectively, in Sunday’s 400-mile race at Auto Club Speedway.

The best-ever combined finish for the team came in April 2009 at Talladega with the No. 83 in eighth place and the No. 82 in fifth.
This Sunday’s result ties the team’s finish in March 2010 at Atlanta for third-best.
Vickers, who started in 19th and Kahne in 22nd, both managed to crack the top 10, but while Vickers remained toward the front of the pack most of the day, Kahne struggled with track position for a majority of the race.
The start of the season has been pretty consistent for Kahne, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, who placed in the top 10 in three out of the past five races, two of those being consecutive (one in Sunday’s race at Fontana and the other at last week’s race at Bristol).
Kahne’s Red Bull Racing teammate, Vickers, driver of the No. 83 Toyota, has not had the same luck, but this Sunday’s race brought confidence for the No. 83 team.
Vickers had the third-highest average running position (6.375) and passed more top-15 cars while under green than any other driver.
Kasey Kahne on the grid at Auto Club Speedway.
Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR
Kahne on the other hand, struggled all day with an ill-handling car, but was saved by a series of good pit stops, using a similar strategy to that of the No. 83 team.
Kahne appeared a bit discouraged during his pre-race press conference at Fontana and seemed to have the same attitude following Sunday’s race despite his top-10 finish, a definite improvement over last year’s finish of 34th.
“We were really bad and kept working on it. The team did a good job with pit stops. We came back to right there, to a top 10, but it was a tough race,” said Kahne.
“The car wouldn’t turn, we were really loose, but it wouldn’t turn for the first 150 laps and then we made some air pressure adjustments that our teammate, the 83 (Brian Vickers) worked pretty good with that. We kind of followed them and had good pit stops. We had good pit calls, made the car a lot better, but it was way off, we weren’t close when it started.”
Vickers seemed pleased with the No. 83 team’s performance in the Auto Club 400.
“We wanted to win, but I think everyone is pretty happy,” said Vickers.
“The way our luck has been, to be honest with you, we had a good car all day, we were competitive all day, we just couldn’t quite get that last little tight out. There at the end on the restart, that 09 (Landon Cassill) hurt us a lot when he spun his tires. The guys did a great job, this is just what the Red Bull pit crew needed — a good solid day.”
After his performance in the Auto Club 400, Kahne has entered the top 10 in the point standings and is now tied for 9th (alongside Paul Menard).
Vickers has gained seven spots in the points and is now 24th (14 points out of 20th position), following Sunday’s top-10 finish.
In post-race remarks in Fontana, Vickers spoke of his new spot in the standings, as well as both Red Bull Racing drivers’ top-10 finishes at Auto Club Speedway.
“After these five races, we weren’t out of the top-35, but we were close, we were like 20-something in the high twenties. So, to move up a little bit it definitely gives us a little more comfort going into Martinsville,” said Vickers.
“Kasey (Kahne) and I have been working great together, the teams have been working well together. We’ve had two good cars week in and week out. We just haven’t had the luck to go with it. We had a good run and he’s had a problem or vice-a-versa. It’s good for both of us be up front racing competitively.”
At next week’s race at Martinsville, the Red Bull Racing team will make an attempt at another best-combined finish and Kahne will go for his fourth top 10.
In this race last year, Kahne started 23rd and finished 17th, while teammate Vickers started 14th and finished 6th.

Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR Hall of Fame Provide Added Benefits to Members

CONCORD, N.C. (March 28, 2011) - Season ticket holders and Speedway Club members at Charlotte Motor Speedway and NASCAR Hall of Fame members will reap the benefits of an ongoing partnership between the two motorsports entities with the creation of new, exclusive benefits for these select groups.

"Charlotte Motor Speedway is all about putting our fans first and this is another way to give our most loyal customers added value and show our appreciation for their continued support," said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "The NASCAR Hall of Fame is a great partner and shares our goal of giving fans an excellent experience when they come to 'The Greatest Place to See the

All Victory Lane Season Ticket holders and Speedway Club members will receive a 10 percent discount on admission at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, as well as a 10 percent discount in the Hall of Fame Gear Shop
when they show their Victory Lane Hard Card or Speedway Club membership card and photo ID. Members can also take advantage of racing simulator rides for just $3, a savings of 40 percent.

When NASCAR Hall of Fame members visit Charlotte Motor Speedway, they'll receive a 10 percent discount on event tickets, as well as a 10 percent discount on merchandise and souvenirs in the Charlotte Motor Speedway gift shop. To receive the discount, Hall of Fame members need only to show their membership hard card at the ticket office or gift shop.

"Our alliance with Charlotte Motor Speedway continues to grow, further showcasing Charlotte as the ultimate destination for race fans," said Winston Kelley, executive director, NASCAR Hall of Fame. "In addition to all of the NASCAR Hall of Fame benefits, our members now enjoy added value from Charlotte Motor Speedway. Likewise, it is our pleasure to reciprocate the offer to the racetrack's most loyal customers."

The partnership not only includes special benefits for members, but mutual advertising and event opportunities to provide added benefits to fans and attendees at both venues.

In addition to the added NASCAR Hall of Fame benefits, the Victory Lane Season Ticket currently includes reserved seats to all three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in May and October at the speedway, as well as $1,500 in free added value, including a 15 percent discount on tickets, VIP parking, trial membership to The Speedway Club, free tickets to other select speedway events and invitations to members-only
functions. Victory Lane Season Tickets for 2011 are available now by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS (3267).

The Speedway Club offers corporate and personal memberships that include the best seats, best food, VIP access, use of event and meeting spaces and countless motorsports, sports and social events, in addition
to the NASCAR Hall of Fame benefits. More information can be found by visiting or calling (704) 455-3216.

Whether a die-hard NASCAR fan or newcomer just learning the sport, with six memberships available, NASCAR Hall of Fame guests are sure to find the one that suits them. Souvenirs, free merchandise, exclusive access to special events and member-only discounts are just a few of the things members receive with a NASCAR Hall of Fame Membership in addition to benefits at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Memberships start at $25 for kids, $50 for adults and can be purchased online at, by phone at (704) 654-4427 or at the box office.

About Charlotte Motor Speedway
For 52 years, Charlotte Motor Speedway has set the standard for motorsports entertainment and evolved into "The Greatest Place to See the Race." Nestled in the heart of NASCAR country, Charlotte Motor Speedway is the only race vacation destination where fans can immerse themselves in the sport by visiting area race team shops and touring the NASCAR Hall of Fame before attending a race at the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway. Generating a regional economic impact of approximately $400 million annually, the speedway hosts three premiere NASCAR events each year - the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the Coca-Cola 600 and the Bank of America 500 - as well as more than three dozen other events for automotive and motorsports enthusiasts of all ages. Charlotte Motor Speedway's philosophy is to always put "Fans First" and create memories that last a lifetime for all that pass through the gates.

About NASCAR Hall of Fame
Conveniently located in uptown Charlotte, N.C., the 150,000-square-foot NASCAR Hall of Fame is an interactive, entertainment attraction honoring the history and heritage of NASCAR. The high-tech venue, designed to educate and entertain race fans and non-fans alike, opened May 11, 2010 and includes artifacts, interactive exhibits, 278-person state-of-the-art theater, Hall of Honor, Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, NASCAR Hall of Fame Gear Shop and NASCAR Media Group-operated broadcast studio. The venue is open 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. seven days a week and has an attached parking garage on Brevard Street. The five-acre site also includes a privately developed 19-story office tower and 102,000-square-foot expansion to the Charlotte Convention Center, highlighted by a 40,000 square-foot ballroom. The NASCAR Hall of Fame is owned by the City of Charlotte, licensed by NASCAR and operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

5 Questions After ... Auto Club 400

Victory for Kevin Harvick and our 5th different winner this year.
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR

Sunday’s race came down to the final corner of the last lap, and Kevin Harvick became the fifth different winner in as many races in 2011, the first time we’ve had such variety in winners since the beginning of the 2005 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

Sure, Sunday’s Auto Club 400 was mostly a snooze-fest, but it ended with a bang and an unexpected winner. Be honest, did you really think anyone was going to beat Kyle Busch?

I didn’t think so. And if you said yes, you’re lying.

Here are some questions on my mind after Fontana …  

When will Kyle Busch snap? … I keep waiting and waiting and waiting for Busch to wind up ticked off after a race, punching the air, and storming away from reporters after the race. At the very least, I’ve expected some rude and crude remarks after a frustrating day.

It hasn’t happened yet.

Of all the circumstances Busch has been in this year, this was the one time I not only expected him to show some emotion, but I also wouldn’t have faulted him for it. Busch set a blazing fast pace at Fontana, leading 151 of the 200 laps in the race. His Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin led the second-highest number of laps at 15.

Fifteen laps. No driver other than Busch led more than 15 laps. That’s how good he was.

Yet he didn’t win. A late race restart proved to be Busch’s demise, which is surprising because Busch himself has claimed to be the “king of the restarts.” Five-time and defending champion Jimmie Johnson and Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick both managed to get around Busch with just a few laps remaining. Harvick wound up shoving Johnson down the backstretch and pulled a dazzling move in turns 3 and 4 to pull ahead of Johnson and win the race. Harvick’s only lap led was when he crossed the start/finish line first.

Surely, I thought, Busch would be rather PO’ed. He’s not always been a very gracious loser, and this was a particularly tough loss. Do I smell smoke because I think he’s gonna blow!

“It’s just we give it up, you know. We gave the race away today, unfortunately. We seem to be losing the handle a little bit two runs from the end and especially that last set of tires. We just didn’t quite have what it took in order to keep the front end under the car and then the back end under the car on the exits of the corner. I just couldn’t get the right speed that I needed. The guys did a great job this weekend. The Interstate Batteries Camry was good from when we unloaded the second one Friday. I can’t say enough about the guys on pit road and the guys back at the shop. They did a great job for us and got us in position and just unfortunately I couldn’t get the job done today. I didn’t have what it took there at the end.”

Did he actually sound … apologetic? Heck, he even apologized to his crew on the cool down lap after the race!

Someone file a missing person report! Kyle Busch is officially MIA.
Kyle Busch led almost the entire race: 151 of 200 laps
Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR

What has happened to Mark Martin? … Speaking of MIA, where is Mark Martin? All three of his Hendrick Motorsports teammates have had some success in some form or another this season, yet Martin has very quietly seemingly ceased to exist.

The fact Martin has yet to lead a lap this season probably has something to do with it, the only of the four HMS drivers to not have spent at least some time up front.

Here are Martin’s finishes in the first five races of the season: 10th, 13th, 18th, 12th, and 20th. That’s right, Martin has only finished in the top 10 once this season.

To be fair, Martin’s teammate Jeff Gordon only has one top-10 finish this year too, but at least his was a win!

Martin is in his final contract with HMS, and the organization will be making room for Kasey Kahne once the 2011 season is out. Martin’s last win came in the 2009 Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a season in which he earned five victories and a second-place finish in points to teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Lance McGrew replaced Alan Gustafson on top of the pit box over the off-season, but so far the changes don’t seem to be working as well for Martin as they have for his teammates. However, we’re only five races in and maybe Martin will wind up being a late bloomer.

What’s up with Joe Gibbs Racing? … Denny Hamlin was just another in a long line of engine failures for JGR this season, retiring from Sunday’s race just past halfway due to some engine issues.

While Hamlin’s No. 11 FedEx Toyota sat lonely in the garage area, Hamlin spoke with reporters and said the issues look to be a problem with the valve train. Now, I don’t know much about the technical aspects of the racing world, but I know that this is a problem they need to address quickly. All three JGR cars have had at least one engine problem since the start of the season, and Joey Logano wound up having to start at the rear of the field in Sunday’s race because of an engine change.

Hamlin came into this season as the title favorite after finishing a heartbreaking second in what was a career year for the Virginia native in 2010. Kyle Busch has already had a strong start to the year in both series, and both drivers need reliable engines if they are going to be solid championship contenders once the Chase starts in September.

Does Fontana deserve its bad reputation? … I definitely don’t think the track is as drastically bad as people make it out to be. After all, both races had some good racing and exciting finishes that kept fans talking well after the checkered flag had fallen.

While Saturday’s Nationwide Series race was competitive throughout, thanks to several strong cars that put on a show for most of the race, Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race remained a snoozer for a majority of the race. There were only four cautions of the day, two of which were for debris. The first caution involving an actual spin/crash was on lap 172 when Andy Lally spun off of turn 4. The rest of the race was rather competitive, with tire strategy playing a part and some competitive cars getting a chance to show their stuff for the first time all day.

Auto Club Speedway made the right move when they cut 100 laps off of the race distance, making it a 400 (instead of 500) mile race. Saturday’s race, though, felt like the perfect distance and kept the drivers racing all the way through. Maybe to cut down on some of the parade racing that was seen in Sunday’s race, cutting off another 100 miles might generate some added excitement. Make the Nationwide Series race 200 miles instead of 300 and maybe race fans will start getting more enjoyment out of the Fontana race weekend.

Who is the favorite to win the title? … Five races in, we really haven’t seen one dominant driver. Some big names have struggled, while others have continued success from last season. Even then, there has been such a variety in winners and competitors it’s hard to tell who is a contender and who is a pretender.

So far, Carl Edwards is leading the standings, the driver with arguably the most momentum right now. Edwards hasn’t slowed down since winning Phoenix and Homestead last season, not even letting a crash at Phoenix International Raceway earlier this season slow him down.

Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch have also been strong this year, and Kevin Harvick’s name is now being tossed around for the championship. Sure, it’s early in the season to start speculation on the title race, but with a new points system you never really know what to expect.  

Bonus questions: Does Kevin Harvick now have a golden horseshoe? … Is Kasey Kahne beginning to fit in at Red Bull Racing? … Is Juan Pablo Montoya getting closer to winning on an oval?