Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rain Dominates Opening Day at Daytona with Shortened Practices for Both Series

Elliott Sadler and Clint Bowyer talk shop before NASCAR Nationwide Series practice
on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. Credit: Geoff Burke/ Getty Images for NASCAR
By Rosalie Thompson

The rain came around noon Thursday to Daytona International Speedway, delaying practice, keeping fans away and causing bartenders in restaurants near the track to wonder where the patrons were.  By evening, however, the track was dry and the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup drivers were on the track for their shortened practice sessions.

The Nationwide drivers hit the track first as they searched for a dancing partner for Friday night’s race, where two-car tandems will be the order of the night in a race where some drivers will be making their first start at there.

The two top Sunoco Rookie of the year contenders will face off this weekend when Timmy Hill and Blake Koch take the green flag for Friday’s race. Hill leads the rookie standings by 16 points over Koch and both drivers will be making their first Daytona Nationwide start. Hill had not reached the minimum age of 18 when the Daytona 500 was run and Koch had planned to run a limited schedule.
Several Sprint Cup drivers will be in the Nationwide field including Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick who will join Elliott Sadler and Clint Bowyer as part of the KHI team.

The Sprint Cup drivers spent the rainy day waiting for practice, making media appearances and signing autographs for fans who caught up with them as they made their way around the track. 

The Coke Zero 400 will be run under the lights on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on TNT.

NFL Star Chad Ochocinco Takes a Ride with Jeff Burton at Atlanta Motor Speedway

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Veteran Jeff Burton and crew were on hand to provide Ochocinco with a high speed tutorial, both on and off the track. After taking a few hot laps in the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, Ochocinco received a lesson on how a pit stop works with the Caterpillar pit crew. He then tried his hand at changing tires and jacking up the car.

“This ranks right up there with the bull riding, man,” said Ochocinco. “It’s not until you actually get in a car with these guys, like today with Jeff Burton, that you realize how dangerous this sport is and the amount of skill it takes to run out there with other drivers.

“The pit crew was difficult. I tried to do some of the things that they’ve been doing, as far as changing tires and jack the car up. Other than that, it’s difficult. Especially because I’m out of my element, but it was fun, it was a great experience.”

Ochocinco told track officials, should he not have any NFL obligations, he would love to attend the AdvoCare 500 on Sept. 4 to see it in person.

NASCAR night racing returns to Atlanta Motor Speedway this Labor Day weekend, Sept. 2-4. Tickets for the AdvoCare 500 start at $39 and $19 for students. Children 12 and under admitted free for the Great Clips 300 and the Atlanta 200 with an adult ticket. For more information, call the Atlanta Motor Speedway Ticket Office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX, (770) 946-4211 or visit

Deuces Wild: Busch addresses speculation

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
For a few weeks fans have been speculating about the demise of Kurt Busch’s marriage. While the media has been respectful of the Infineon winner’s personal life in regards to his marriage, Busch spoke up today at Daytona and admitted that his marriage to his wife of five years is over and that the couple are working toward a divorce.

Busch made waves last weekend at Infineon when he kissed Patricia Driscoll in victory lane after taking the first road course victory of his career. Although Driscoll had appeared alongside Busch at Pocono and before the Infineon race, the kiss was the first time the two had shown any public display of affection in front of the cameras.

Today Busch said, “I also appreciate the fact that until now the media has been extremely professional in respecting the privacy of my personal situation with Eva and I, although those in the NASCAR community have been aware for some time now that we are no longer together and we are legally separated. While we go through this process, it has been tough. The upcoming weeks we’ll work at formally terminating our marriage. We do so with the most respect for one another and we’ll always be friends.’’

The new woman on Busch’s arm is successful in her own right. Patricia Driscoll is the president and executive director of the non-profit Armed Forces Foundation. She is also an author and has appeared on FOX News Network.

TV Schedule June 30-July 3

Trevor Bayne became the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history
in February. Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR returns for its summer appearance at Daytona International Speedway. Get ready for some fireworks as the sport celebrates the 4th of July holiday and prepares to race one of the most unpredictable tracks on the circuit.

As wild as restrictor plate racing can be, one thing we can expect to see at Daytona are the two-by-two tandems. After the recent repave, which gave the 2.5-mile high-banked track more grip, drivers have found the fastest way around the superspeedway is to pair up, allowing the two cars to run away from field and gain as much as 10 mph. The new style of racing has been met with mixed reviews from fans and drivers alike, but it has resulted in some exciting finishes, including Trevor Bayne's Cinderella-style win at the Daytona 500.

The Sprint Cup Series and the Nationwide Series converge on Daytona this weekend. The Camping World Truck Series will return to action next weekend at Kentucky.

The most recent winners at Daytona are:

Spring 2011: Trevor Bayne
Fall 2010: Kevin Harvick

Spring 2011: Tony Stewart
Fall 2010: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The following is a handy guide of track events and television coverage this weekend at Daytona (all times are in Eastern Standard Time):

Thursday, June 30:
2:30 p.m. NNS Practice, SPEED
4 p.m. NSCS Practice, SPEED
5 p.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2
5:30 p.m. NNS Practice, ESPN2
6:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, SPEED
8 p.m. The Day: 1984 Firecracker 400, SPEED
11 p.m. The Day: 1984 Firecracker 400, SPEED

Friday, July 1:
12 a.m. Speedmakers: Daytona Resurfacing, SPEED
1 a.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2
8 a.m. The Day: 1984 Firecracker 400, SPEED
12 p.m.    NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Langley, SPEED
1 p.m. The Day: 1984 Firecracker 400, SPEED
2 p.m. NNS Coors Light Pole Qualifying, ESPN2
4 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, SPEED
5 p.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2
7 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN
7:30 p.m. NNS: SUBWAY Jalapeño 250 Powered By Coca-Cola, ESPN
10 p.m. Trackside at Daytona, SPEED. Guest: Trevor Bayne.
11 p.m. NSCS Coors Light Pole Qualifying, SPEED

Saturday, July 2:
1:30 p.m. Trackside at Daytona, SPEED
3 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Langley Speedway, SPEED
4 a.m. The Day: 1984 Firecracker 400, SPEED
4 a.m. NNS: SUBWAY Jalapeño 250 Powered By Coca-Cola, ESPN2
4 a.m. NNS: SUBWAY Jalapeño 250 Powered By Coca-Cola, ESPN Deportes
10:30 a.m. NASCAR Performance, SPEED
11 a.m. Trackside at Daytona, SPEED
12 p.m. NASCAR Now presented by 5-Hour Energy, ESPN2
3 p.m. NASCAR Performance, SPEED
4 p.m. SPEED Center NASCAR Edition, SPEED
4:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, SPEED
6:30 p.m. NSCS Countdown to Green, TNT
7:30 p.m. NSCS: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola, TNT

Sunday, July 3:
1 p.m. Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge: Road America, SPEED
3 p.m. The Day: 1984 Firecracker 400, SPEED
4 p.m. Speedmakers: Daytona Resurfacing, SPEED
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, SPEED (reruns at 12 a.m. and 9 a.m. Monday)

Fast Facts: AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger made his NASCAR debut in 2006 following a promising career in the now-defunct Champ Car World Series. Here’s a look at the young driver of the #43 Best Buy Ford Fusion for Richard Petty Motorsports.
  • Anthony James Allmendinger was born December 16th, 1981 in Los Gatos, California. He began racing BMX bikes at age five, moving to quarter midgets at age eight and later to karting, where he won two IKF Grand National Championships as a teenager.
  • In 2001, Allmendinger made the leap to open-wheel racing in Formula Dodge, moving on to the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 2002. He moved to the Toyota Atlantic Series in 2003 with RuSport, earning the championship and Rookie of the Year titles on the strength of nine poles and seven wins in 12 races.
  • RuSport moved to Champ Car in 2004, and Allmendinger continued to impress: he earned another Rookie of the Year award on the strength of 11 top-10 starts and nine top-10 finishes; he was also the first American driver to earn the AUTOSPORT International Rookie of the year award.
  • Allmendinger moved on to NASCAR late in the 2006 season, running a handful of Camping World Truck Series races for Bill Davis Racing. He was named a full-time driver for Team Red Bull in 2007, remaining with the team until his release late in the 2008 season.
  • Allmendinger came to his current position with RPM late in 2008 as a part-time driver, staying with the team through the 2009 merger of RPM with Gillett Evernham Motorsports and into 2010. In 2011, he was named the driver of the famed #43 for the revitalized Richard Petty Motorsports.
Image: Getty Images for NASCAR/John Harrelson

Beyond the Byline: Getting to know Candice Smith aka Chief187

You might not recognize the name Candice Smith, but if you are an avid reader of Skirts and Scuffs the name Chief 187 probably sounds familiar. This mother of three from New Jersey has a background in education, but now spends her days being called mom and sharing her love of NASCAR and life through words. Today I bring you another Beyond the Byline as we get to know more about the woman who calls herself the crew chief for her family, Candice Smith, aka Chief 187.


Katy Lindamood (KL): Tell us about your background. Where you grew up, any formal education. What you do for a living.

Candice Smith (CS): I grew up in Montville, New Jersey with happily married parents and two older brothers who are nine and five years older than me respectively. I lived there until I was fourteen. As a freshmen in high school my parents informed me they had found their dream home, a circa 1720s stone house in historic Mendham, New Jersey. My folks were primitive antique collectors so the house was the perfect
place to showcase their collection. It was wonderful for them, but at the time I was devastated. The only thing that saved me was the knowledge that my high school boyfriend was leaving for college so I’d be without him anyway. I made the move a bit begrudgingly, but eventually I made the decision to fit in. Still, I decided to graduate a year early by doing a summer school stint and earned my high school diploma at sixteen. Days after my seventeenth birthday I started my freshmen year of college in the intimate liberal arts school Roanoke College in Salem, Virginia. Four years later, while still twenty, I graduated from college. I studied to be a secondary history teacher and was able to work in that field for a decade before I had my first child. Once I became a mother my husband and I knew I could best serve our family by staying home.
Chief and Racer 187 visited the NASCAR Hall of Fame
and salute the legend Dale Earnhardt.
KL: Your legal name is Candice but online you go by Chief 187. What's the story behind the name and what is the significance of the 187 portion?

CS: Although a writer since I could put pen to paper, I’d never published anything as “Candice Smith”. My first experience writing online was as a blogger on, a NASCAR social networking site, in May 2007. My husband signed me up and suggested my username “Chief 187” as a counterpart to his
username of”Racer187”. As a vintage racer in the Vintage Sports Car Club of America (VSCCA) my husband was assigned number 187. When he signed up on Rowdy it seemed logical for him to use “Racer187”. When me, his actual crew chief, signed up he had already chosen “Chief187” for me. The rest, as they say, is history! Once I began to make a name as a NASCAR blogger on Rowdy as “Chief 187” I couldn’t imagine writing under my name. In September 2010 I branched out and began an account on blogger to explore other topics besides NASCAR. I quickly gained a loyal following as well as a broad national and international readership. Other writing gigs followed and the pseudonym stuck professionally.

Chief 187 with husband, Racer 187 and children ML187 and GS187
KL: In addition to writing for several sites and hosting a radio show you are the mother of three young children. How do you juggle the day to day routines of being mom and still have time to write?

CS: My children, family and home are the highest priority for me. Once I started writing my inner joy and personal happiness grew exponentially! Writing was the one thing in my life I had been ignoring but desperately missed. My husband, an early riser, taught me that early morning is the best time to get the most done. He and I get up between 4-4:30am to start our day. We both try to work out, he does financial work, emails, etc. and I write and self-promote my work. Once 6am comes around I shift gears, hit the shower, and rouse my children to start our day together. Two of my children are still home with me, which I adore, but it does make it tricky to work; conducting interviews, writing articles, Tweeting and Facebooking my work takes a lot of time and I have to find a balance between my career and my family. My Internet radio work, fortunately, all occurs when my children are sleeping. It makes for late nights for me, and the mornings even earlier, but I so love the work that I cannot imagine giving it up! I’ll sleep another year!

KL: In reading your weekly Why I Love NASCAR columns our readers have learned a lot about you in terms of how you came to follow the sport and your travels to the track. What's the one thing that makes NASCAR stand out from all the other sports out there?

CS: Growing up I was never a sports fan although my father was an avid race enthusiast and amateur racecar driver on the vintage circuit. I was open to trying NASCAR when my husband and I moved to Virginia. We were immediately hooked and never looked back. I enjoyed the forty-three plus personalities that were showcased weekly, the family-oriented presentation, and the drama the rivalries provided. It was also a fantastic way for my husband and I to bond and share a common interest. For us, NASCAR is one of many interests we share, but it is definitely at the top of the list!

KL: You host a radio show. Tell us about the show, what topics you cover and when and where we can hear you.

CS: I was hired to write for a fledgling website called WhooBazooNASCAR as the
season was gearing up for a one off. My first week on the program, “Around the Cooler”, was coming into the Daytona 500. I’ve done every Tuesday night since!

“Around the Cooler” can be heard every Tuesday night on from 8-10pm EST. That show led to a sports show on our sister station called “The Final Round Show” which airs from 9-11pm EST on Thursday nights. That show is a looser, more casual format that concentrates one hour of two on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and the rest of the show on all other sports including NASCAR. I enjoy doing the show and meeting amazing MMA fighters as well as other fascinating guests like Massachusetts State Senator Brian Joyce. Recently I started doing the Wednesday night program called “The Main Event Show” (8-10pm EST) which highlights Indie Artists from musicians to tattoo artists, magicians to politicos. I enjoy the radio work completely and feel so lucky to be able to work with incredibly talented, funny, intelligent, and entertaining people on both stations.

KL: There are hundreds of NASCAR themed sites why did you choose Skirts and Scuffs?

CS: A dear friend who is a NASCAR cartoonist and writes his own strip called Racetoons ( took an interest in my career back in my Rowdy days. He found me back in January and made it his mission to ignite my fledgling career. He introduced me to the editors of Skirts and Scuffs on Twitter and encouraged me to look at the website. I was intrigued but didn’t think I’d have a chance to write for such a professional site. I was prolific, having written nearly 500 NASCAR blogs on Rowdy and another 100 more on my own personal site. I wanted to be associated with smart, intelligent, knowledgeable, and important women writing about NASCAR. I loved the idea that the creator, editors, and writers were all women and were putting out a quality product consumable for all NASCAR fans, male and female. I wanted to be a part of that world. I simply sent Katy (Lindamood, the creator) a letter requesting a writing position. The Skirts and Scuffs team did their research on me and took a chance. I pitched my idea to write my column “Why I Love NASCAR” by Chief 187. The ladies loved the idea and agreed! I’ve published one each Monday since being hired. I also occasionally write comedic pieces, interviews like Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage, and human-interest NASCAR stories about Apolo Anton Ohno, Richard Marx, and Davey Allison.

KL: You seem like the kind of person who loves a challenge and who is always thinking ahead. What's in the future for Chief 187?

CS: I am keeping all of my options open. I do know I love to write and want to pursue this career to its fullest potential. The radio work is absolute fun and I cannot imagine ever wanting to stop doing that either. Whatever I do, my family will have to continue to be my priority and get the quality time they richly deserve from me. I do feel my career is just beginning so I simply look to the future with wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm. I hope you all stay with me on my journey!

Candice’s column Why I Love NASCAR appears each Monday on Skirts and Scuffs. You can find her daily blogs on Chief 187 Chatter and follow her on Twitter @Chief187s.

black polo2 A fan of NASCAR since the age of 12, Katy Lindamood is the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of Skirts and Scuffs. In addition to Beyond the Byline, which profiles the women of Skirts and Scuffs, Katy also writes Deuces Wild, a weekly recap of Penske Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. Katy can be contacted via email or through Twitter.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paige Duke Leaves Miss Sprint Cup Position

Acting as ambassadors for the sport of NASCAR, the three ladies who hold the position of Miss Sprint Cup can be seen each weekend in victory lane getting doused by drivers and teams as they celebrate the win. Not trophy girls in the traditional manner, the job of Miss Sprint Cup includes meeting with fans, hosting the Sprint Experience at the track, and gigs on and Speed’s NASCAR Race Hub.

Duke (right) poses with Miss Sprint Cup Kimberly Coon

Tonight we learned that Paige Duke has left her position as Miss Sprint Cup. Although no details were released regarding the reason for leaving, the official Miss Sprint Cup Facebook page posted this message:
Hey fans, Paige Duke is no longer with the Miss Sprint Cup team. We wish her nothing but the best in her future endeavors. Thank you for your continued support of the Miss Sprint Cup program as we continue to bring you closer to the NASCAR action each and every week.
Duke, joined the Miss Sprint Cup team in 2010 and in 2011 worked alongside long-time Miss Sprint Cup Monica Palumbo and newcomer Kimberly Coon.

*For Paige's response, read Paige Duke speaks out

This Season’s ‘Race To The Chase’ Especially Wild

Begins At Daytona International Speedway, 
Ends At Richmond International Raceway
10-Race Stretch Pivotal In Setting Field For ‘Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup’

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 29, 2011) – Over the next 10 races – aptly coined the Race to the Chase – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are scheduled to run 2,603 laps totaling over 3,706 miles in the hopes of becoming part of one much smaller number: 12.

Though this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver field remains at 12, the makeup has changed a bit. After race No. 26, the top 10 drivers in the series standings will qualify for the 12-driver 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Spots 11 and 12 – the Wild Cards – go to those drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins, provided they are in the top 20. Ties go to the driver with the highest points position.

Expect intensity boosts – and more than a few ‘wow’ moments – during this stretch, as the two Wild Card spots make for a drama-filled subplot during the playoff push.

But don’t forget the potential Chase bonus points. After race No. 26, all 12 Chase drivers will have their points reset to 2,000, but only the top 10 drivers earn three bonus points for each win tallied over the course of the regular season.

Ten unique tracks make up this vital portion of the upcoming schedule, and the roster befits the importance. No two tracks are alike, be it in distance or in layout.

A rundown of the upcoming 10 tracks, a list that includes some of the most historic and interesting venues in motorsports:

Daytona International Speedway (2.5-mile restrictor-plate race): “The World Center of Racing” hosts the first summer event on the newly-repaved surface. Last February’s Daytona 500 set track records for leaders (74) and lead changes (22). Wild Card Implication: In only his second career start, youngster Trevor Bayne won the Daytona 500 in February. This one’s truly anybody’s win.

Kentucky Speedway (1.5-mile tri-oval): Long awaited, and much anticipated, this is the debut of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at the popular Midwestern track. Wild Card Implication: This race, by definition, is a wild card in itself. No history equals anybody’s guess.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway (one-mile oval): A preview of the second Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup event. Wild Card Implication: There have been six different winners in the last six races.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway (2.5-mile oval): Ever since the series’ inaugural race at the legendary track in 1994, the Brickyard 400 was immediately slotted as one of the sport’s “Crown Jewels.” Wild Card Implication: Defending champion Jamie McMurray likely needs a Wild Card-spot to land a Chase berth. Same goes for his Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate, Juan Pablo Montoya, who has run well there – and boasts an Indianapolis 500 victory.

Pocono Raceway (2.5-mile triangle): Simply put, there’s no track like it in NASCAR racing. Three unique turns give way to three straightaways of varying length. Wild Card Implication: Denny Hamlin, currently in 11th, has four Pocono victories. Another would likely lock him into the Chase.

Watkins Glen International (2.45-mile road course): One of two road courses on the series schedule (and the only one during the Race to the Chase), new faces often appear in The Glen’s Victory Lane. Wild Card Implication: Montoya won last year’s event. Also, road-course savvy Marcos Ambrose could immediately become a Chase contender with a victory.

Michigan International Speedway (2-mile tri-oval): Wide open and multi-grooved, the visit to the Irish Hills of Michigan often results in big passing numbers. Wild Card Implication: Four of the last five races have been won by drivers currently outside the top 10 (Denny Hamlin, two; Brian Vickers and Mark Martin, one apiece).

Bristol Motor Speedway (.533 oval): The first of two short tracks during the Race to the Chase, the “Bristol Night Race” is considered one of the must-see-live events for any sports fan. Wild Card Implication: Tight Bristol confines could wreck – literally – any contender’s chances.

Atlanta Motor Speedway (1.54-mile tri-oval): Considered one of the fastest tracks in the series, this race has become an anticipated Labor Day tradition. Wild Card Implication: The last two winners of the Labor Day Weekend event – Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart – both currently sit outside the top 10.

Richmond International Raceway (.75-mile tri-oval): It all comes down to this, the Chase cut-off race. Once the checkered flies, the 12-driver Chase field will be set. Wild Card Implication: This one occasionally comes down to an all-or-nothing strategy. That blueprint should be the case again – even more so – with the Wild Card in play.

Fast Facts

What: The 10 races prior to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The Events:
July 2 – Daytona International Speedway
July 9 – Kentucky Speedway
July 17 – New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 31 – Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Aug. 7 – Pocono Raceway
Aug. 14 – Watkins Glen International
Aug. 21 – Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 27 – Bristol Motor Speedway
Sept. 4 – Atlanta Motor Speedway
Sept. 10 – Richmond International Raceway

Red Bull Racing chooses NoH8 policy

NASCAR is a red-blooded American sport enjoyed by all … young, old, black, white, and yes ... gay or straight.

Following this weekend’s race at Infineon, a tweet appeared from Red Bull Racing team member Jeremy Fuller with a photo of a van carrying a sign in support of San Francisco's Gay Pride parade and included the comment, “This is way I don't live here." Fuller received a tweet in response that said, “if we could get rid of them, it’d be a lot better.” To which it appeared he replied, “lol.. Don’t we all wish!”

According to a report from Michael Myers of, Fuller was leaving the track and headed to the airport when he passed this vehicle displaying the sign. Fuller, who was a contract team member for Red Bull and also Turner Motorsports, was tweeting from his personal account but the problem is that he is a representative of the sport and declared so on his account. His Twitter bio at the time stated: “#NASCAR Tire changer @redbullnascar NASCAR Nationwide Series Turner Motorsports NASCAR Truck Series."

NASCAR has a no hate policy and its rulebook declares, “A NASCAR Member shall not make or cause to be made a public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.”

Following an internal investigation by Red Bull, they issued the following statement:

”Red Bull Racing Team was made aware of comments posted to a contractor’s Twitter account following this weekend’s race. After investigating the matter, Red Bull Racing Team terminated the contractor’s employment effective immediately. The race team regularly conducts diversity training and strictly enforces our team policies against any form of discrimination. We have zero tolerance for such violations and in no way support any of the comments posted by this individual.”

Fuller spoke with Bob Pockrass of Scene Daily in the interview Red Bull crewman fired for homophobic tweets, in which he said, “It was a joke between two friends and it cost me both of my jobs. I’m not racist and I do not hate gay people. It wasn’t intended to be what [it appeared]. … I didn’t write anything about getting rid of them or 'ha ha,' or 'laughing out loud.”

NASCAR is an open door sport; fans come in all shapes, size and colors. We don’t hate one another as people. We do rival with each other competitively but that is where it ends. Hate is not tolerated in any way, intentional or not, in the NASCAR community.

Motor Mouth: Kurt Busch's rants spur change for the better at Penske

Kurt Busch was dominant at Infineon on Sunday on the way to his first
road course win. Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR
After a double dose of road course racing in NASCAR, drivers’ tempers were flaring and emotions were on high after the Sprint Cup Series converged on Infineon and the Nationwide Series visited Road America. In the past few years, the beatin’ and bangin’ at the road courses has produced the drama between drivers that was once a staple of NASCAR’s short tracks.

In this week’s Motor Mouth, we’ll look at how one team who seemingly broke down at one of those short tracks overcame their struggles to find victory at Infineon, as well as my thoughts on the place of road courses in NASCAR’s schedule.


At Richmond, where we saw more drivers lash out at their own teams than each other, it was one of these driver/team combinations who turned it around to become the cream of the crop at Infineon.

In less than two months since that fateful day at Richmond, Penske Racing implemented some much needed change to its struggling Sprint Cup program after Kurt Busch launched a profanity-filled scanner tirade directed at his team. Busch had been running three laps down, doomed to finish 22nd. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back, the buildup of frustration after the season had started out so promising for the No. 22.

Busch began the year in victory lane, with non-points wins at the Budweiser Shootout and first Gatorade Duel, and soared to four top-10 finishes in the first four races, even holding the series points lead early on. But that success would give way to five straight finishes outside the top 10, which Busch would later tell his team was far from where they needed to be to compete for the title.

“It honestly was, hey, do we want to make this Chase? We’ve got to make some changes. Let’s look at how we can evaluate what we were doing because heading in the direction we were, we were scraping those top 10s or may be running 15th. That’s not going to get it done when you want to win the championship,” Busch said at Pocono.

In the six races following his infamous rant, Busch went on to win three straight poles, at Kansas, Pocono and Michigan, and finished four of those races in the top 11. Busch led a race-high 152 laps at Kansas before fuel strategy worked against him, opening the door for his teammate Brad Keselowski to score Penske Racing’s first Cup win of the season. Then Busch followed up Kansas with another strong performance at Pocono, finishing second.

Within a relatively short time, Penske had picked up its game, big time. Though Busch was criticized for his rants against his team, it was clear Penske was acting on the former Sprint Cup champion’s concerns, and it was paying dividends. The No. 22 and No. 2 teams were working together more closely, and judging from the pickup in performance, it would be only a matter of time before Busch followed his teammate into victory lane. That it would be at a road course, though, was perhaps the only surprise.

Justin Edmonds/Getty Images for NASCAR
Through the years, Busch has shown promise at road course racing. Early in his career, Busch won a NASCAR Southwest Tour race at Infineon, and he finished second at Watkins Glen last season. In between were strong runs at both tracks where the finishes failed to indicate just how well Busch was learning to master the tricky twists and turns. Busch even looked outside of NASCAR to gain road course experience, competing twice in the Grand American Rolex Series 24-Hour race at Daytona and boasting a third-place effort in 2008. But still, a road course win at NASCAR’s highest level eluded him. It would take the combination of driver, fast racecar and a two-stop pit strategy to finally seal the deal at Infineon.

Busch started 11th in Sunday’s Toyota Save Mart350, bringing his streak of poles to an end. But for Busch, it was the beginning of what would be an outright domination. He ascended to the lead within 13 laps – a feat rarely seen at road courses, where passing is limited to a few areas and track position is usually key. Busch put the field to shame, leading 76 of the 110-lap event and making it look easy. But not only was Busch fast – he was smart. He stayed ahead of the chaos behind him, nailed his restarts and shut off his engine when appropriate to save fuel. The latter played into Penske’s strategy for their two teams to make only two stops during the race while the majority of race teams made three.

After the final caution, no one could catch Busch in the last 23 laps. While his teammate Keselowski fended off Juan Pablo Montoya and while Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards battled for second place, the No. 22 ran away from the field. With a margin of victory of 2.685 seconds, Busch crossed the finish line for his first win of 2011, ending a 38-race winless streak stretching back to May 2010. And finally, he had found that elusive road course victory.

“To get a good road course win, it's a big check mark on my list, something I've been working very hard at over the years, just like the restrictor plates, I've struggled to win and close out one of those,” Busch said.

“All the hard work from the guys back at the race shop where it starts. The times that we've tested. The execution here at the racetrack this weekend. You see it all come together. You know when you have a shot at victory you have to block those moments out and get that car to the victory line. To get the checkered flag, do some doughnuts, to drive in reverse around this road course, I got choked up. It was a great feeling to know that I've won on a road course,” Busch said.

Busch elaborated, “My thought was inside the car, ‘Well, I need to continue to push this car hard and run a lap time that won't allow those guys with fresh tires to chop off and be able to catch us.’ It was just one of those feelings where the crew was helping me, I was helping them, and the race played out perfectly for us.”

Penske’s turnaround since Richmond is remarkable in such a short time. If Busch didn’t voice his concerns to Penske officials, even as harshly as he did on the scanner, it’s possible we’d be talking about the organization’s ongoing downward spiral instead of its rapid recovery. Now Busch, a solid 4th in the points standings, is reaping the benefits.


When I first started watching NASCAR six years ago, I figured out right away I liked ovals. But those windy road courses where the laps were so long, it took forever to complete a single one … eh, not so much. I thought the road course races were boring and that they didn’t add much to NASCAR’s schedule.

Fast forward a few years though, and now I look forward to the road courses on the Sprint Cup and Nationwide schedules. Why the change of heart? That’s easy – the racing has improved as the drivers have become more aggressive in order to pass each other on these kinds of tracks. As a result, we’ve seen more conflicts emerge between drivers. And because of all this, we the viewers benefit by witnessing some of the most exciting races of the season.

After a controversial finish, Reed Sorenson
was declared the winner at Road America.
Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
This weekend with Road America and Infineon only proved the point. The Nationwide race at Road America, just the series’ second outing at the track, had everything: the heartbreak of Justin Allgaier, who had his first road course win in his grasp until an empty gas tank left him high and dry; happiness and then the sting of frustration as Ron Fellows, who thought he had the win, had it taken away; and Reed Sorenson, his first time at the track, emerging victorious for his first series win since 2007. Yes, I think NASCAR made the right call to give Sorenson the win. Fellows passed Sorenson after the yellow came out, which is an illegal move. But I still felt for all those who had been in the position to win … and nearly did. And we haven’t even gotten to Ricky Stenhouse’s recovery from an early collision to finish 8th, the shock of Trevor Bayne’s day ending early after spinning out and overheating, and Jacques Villenueve’s bold moves that left several competitors seething.

The drama carried over to Infineon, where a number of feuds popped up between drivers: Tony Stewart and Brian Vickers, Joey Logano and Robby Gordon, Denny Hamlin and AJ Allmendinger, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kasey Kahne, Juan Pablo Montoya and Brad Keselowski. Did I forget anyone? And as with any on-track“boys have at it” moments, you’ll have innocent victims like Dale Earnhardt Jr., crashed out for the second weekend in a row, and Martin Truex and Kyle Busch, both of whom were able to recover after being spun out. This after last year’s race, where an unusually aggressive Jeff Gordon angered how many drivers, one of whom – this year’s winner Kurt Busch – paid him back later that season.

Both Road America and Infineon will have people talking fora while, which in NASCAR’s case is a very good thing. What’s also good is that Sunday’s race at Infineon garnered a 17 percent increase in ratings from last year.

After the excitement we saw this weekend and the promising spike in ratings, I think there’s more reason than ever to see a road course added to the Chase. It’s a concept that some of the sport’s top drivers, including Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, are already on board with.

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. To read past columns and other posts by Rebecca, click here.

In the Rearview Mirror: The history behind the Coke Zero 400

1959 Daytona July Fireball Roberts
The first Firecracker 250 won by Fireball Roberts.
Credit: RacingOne/Getty Images
This weekend teams return to the historic track of Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero 400, a race rich in NASCAR history. Racing on the 4th of July weekend – that is as American as ice cream and apple pie!

Originally the Firecracker 250, the race in Daytona, was intended to be an Indy Car event. After a crash ridden race in April prompted the race to be cancelled, Bill France seized the opportunity to fill the void, running a NASCAR race instead.

The Firecracker was a second major race for Daytona, but would not deter from its spotlight as the home of the legendary Daytona 500, so the Firecracker was originally set up as a 250 mile race (100 laps). The very first Firecracker 250 was run on July 1, 1959 and Glenn “Fireball” Roberts claimed the pole award. Roberts went on to lead 84 of the 100 laps and won the inaugural Firecracker 250.

In 1963 the Firecracker expanded, adding an extra 60 laps becoming the Firecracker 400. The winners of the Firecracker 400 read like a who's who of NASCAR history: Roberts, Petty, Allison, Yarborough and Pearson to name a few.

History was made at the 400 on July 4, 1984, when current President Ronald Reagan became the first sitting U.S. President to attend a NASCAR race. President Reagan gave the command to start the race by phone while still aboard Air Force One. Upon landing at Daytona, the President proceeded to the track, and viewed the race with Bill France Jr. The 1984 Firecracker 400 also is significant is terms of NASCAR history since it was the race at which Richard Petty achieved his unparalleled 200th career win. “The King” and President Reagan were interviewed together following the race, and the President joined Richard Petty and his family in Victory Lane.

PepsiCo became the title sponsor for the Firecracker 400, changing the name of the race simply to the Pepsi 400.

The 1987 race season brought about some changes to the way racing was held – restrictor plates! This was done after a massive wreck at Talladega where Bobby Allison was nearly killed after cutting how a tire and going airborne. At the time, his speed was in excess of 200 mph and the damage that was done to the catch fence that collected him was remarkable, over 100 yard had been torn down from the impact. As a result, NASCAR then mandated restrictor plates at the superspeedways – Talladega and Daytona. The change would slow the cars down several miles per hour.

After running the race on the 4th for years, times changed and beginning in 1988 and the race was moved to the Saturday closest to the 4th of July. Now we enjoy the 400 as a night race, a change brought about in 1997 due to the sweltering summer heat. The first night race was to be held in July 1998 but did not go as planned due to wildfires in the area, forcing the race to be postponed to October.

Memories from the 400:
  • 1974 – A tie in NASCAR? Let me explain – A fierce battle erupted between Bobby Allison, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Cale Yarborough and Richard Petty. Allison suffered a broken intake valve in the closing laps leaving Pearson, Petty, Baker, and Yarborough alone to battle for the win. It appeared to be a battle between Pearson and Petty with Baker and Yarborough behind. Petty was in the draft of Pearson, waiting for the last moment to storm past with no chance of Pearson gaining. Wise to this plan, Pearson took the white flag, jammed onto his brakes, forcing a surprised Petty to swerve right and take the lead.  Petty got a seven car-length lead but Pearson managed to catch the draft. Pearson took the win and an angry Petty confronted Pearson after the race. In the meantime – Baker and Yarborough raced hard for third place, ending in a tie, the first in NASCAR history.
  • 1990 – The legend Dale Earnhardt won his first Cup race at Daytona after winning there in IROC, Busch and the 125s prior to the Daytona 500. A 20+ car crash eliminated a large portion of the field early and Earnhardt sailed to the win after dominating the race.
  • 2001 – Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first race since the passing of his father. He and DEI teammate Michael Waltrip finished 1,2 reverse of their Daytona 500 positions.
  • 2001 Daytona July Dale Earnhardt Jr
    Dale Jr. and Waltrip in 2001
    Credit: Racing One/Getty Images
  • 2009 – Furor amongst teammates..the last lap is always hard racing, everyone wants to better their position, if only by one spot. Headed into the tri-oval, Kyle Busch was hooked head-on sending him into the wall by none other than teammate Tony Stewart. Busch's car was then hit by Kasey Kahne , sending the rear of the car into the air. After crossing the start/finish line, Busch suffered a third hit from another teammate, Joey Logano. Thankfully, Busch walked away from the car uninjured but to this day says that Stewart intentionally wrecked him.
In 2008, Coke Zero took over naming rights to the race and this is the modern day race we now enjoy every 4th of July weekend. Race fans everywhere plan their picnics around the race. Be honest, you know you do!

NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also strives to provide exclusive interviews for the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews click here. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crown Royal to end Roush, NASCAR sponsorships while Affliction expands 2011 sponsorship

Matt Kenseth and team owner Jack Roush in victory lane following Kenseth's win
at Dover in May. Credit: Jason Smith/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway

Concord, N.C. (June 28, 2011) -- Roush Fenway Racing has been informed that Crown Royal will not return as the primary sponsor of Matt Kenseth and the No. 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup team for the 2012 season.

“We are obviously disappointed with the news, but first we would like to thank Diageo and Crown Royal for a terrific partnership that has spanned almost a decade,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “They have been a first-class partner all the way around. We look forward to finishing out the season with them on the No. 17 as Matt and the Crown Royal team continue to contend for another championship.

“It’s unfortunate that they will not be able to continue to be a part of our organization. Fortunately, our race programs are operating at a higher level than ever. The No. 17 is an attractive, championship-winning program with a storied history and Matt Kenseth an elite driver. We have already opened the door for discussions and are currently in the process of speaking with companies interested in taking over the program for next season and beyond.”

Meanwhile, Affliction Clothing, who debuted as a primary sponsor for Kenseth and the No. 17 team earlier this season, added two more races of primary sponsorship to the 2011 Sprint Cup Series schedule. Affliction will serve as the sponsor for the No. 17 for the Sprint Cup Series race weekends in July at Daytona International Speedway as well as the July 17th race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“It’s always great to bring a new sponsor to our team, but it’s even more thrilling to have them add more races to their sponsorship,” said Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Affliction Clothing Live Fast Ford.  “We’re proud to have Affliction Clothing as part of our Roush Fenway organization and are looking forward to another pair of great races representing their brand.”

“We enjoyed Matt and the Roush Fenway team’s performance at both of our sponsored races and are looking forward to watching Matt race the No.17 Affliction Ford at Daytona” said Tom Atencio, Vice President of Entertainment and Sports Marketing for Affliction Clothing.

Kenseth has achieved two wins, five top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series within the first 16 races of the year, and is currently sixth in the driver point standings.

- Courtesy of Roush Fenway press releases

Stewart-Haas Racing Review - "Lessons" at Infineon

Brian Vickers displays the aftermath of Stewart's "lesson" at Infineon.
Credit: Todd Pennington/Getty Images 

Tony Stewart was not thinking as an owner at the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway when he attempted to send a message to fellow Sprint Cup drivers that he will not tolerate being blocked on the race track. That message may have cost him more than a banged-up race car.

The action by Stewart, the driver, may have cost both Stewart and teammate Ryan Newman a spot in the Chase, made a few sponsors unhappy and left a bad impression on any driver that might be interested in helping the young Stewart-Haas Racing team expand in the future.

Stewart decided on lap 39 to give Brian Vickers a nudge when he felt he was being blocked. This caused Vickers to spin and the resulting melee resulted in damage to several cars, including Newman’s. It also meant that Vickers would eventually seek payback and cause Stewart to finish in the 39th spot.

"I probably had it coming because I dumped him earlier,” Stewart said, “but I dumped him because he was blocking. If anybody wants to block all year that's what I'm going to keep doing so they can handle it however they want. It was payback, but I dumped him first and I dumped him because he was blocking. I've been complaining about the way guys have been racing all year. I like Brian, I'm not holding it against him at all. I don't care if it was Ryan Newman I would have dumped him too. If they want to block that's what is going to happen to them every time for the rest of my career."

Newman was never able to fully recover from the early accident and was left with a car that never was the same although the No. 39 team worked hard all day to repair the damage. Stewart was able to continue running near the front before Vickers retaliated.

Stewart finished 39th and dropped one position to 12th in the points while Newman lost two spots in the championship standings after finishing 25th in Sunday’s road course race.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lexie’s Book Drive – Helping the Children of Joplin

The NASCAR community is known for coming to the aid in times of need. Tonight we allow a young fan with a heart of gold the opportunity to share her latest project and how you can help her and the children of Joplin, Missouri. We give a warm Skirts and Scuffs welcome to Lexie.

My name is Lexie Ziolkowski and I am 13 years old. The past few years I have collected over 10,000 books for needy children which I donated through the Kyle Busch Foundation. This year I had already started another book drive when the tornados hit Joplin, MO. They lost three grade schools, a middle school, and a high school. In all, they lost 260 classrooms. Not only were the teachers’ classroom libraries hit, but people lost all of their personal books. Reading and books are very important to me, and if I lost my books, I would be devastated. I also know that I look forward to going to the library at school and discovering new books. I decided that this year, I would dedicate my book drive to helping the kids and teachers of Joplin, MO. I would like to help replace classroom libraries lost in the tornado, and also get books directly to children who lost everything in the storm.

The NASCAR world has already started taking action. Jamie McMurray is from Joplin. McMurray visited his hometown and raised the spirits of many people. Joey Logano and the Home Depot Foundation crew rebuilt the homes of families in Joplin. I am working directly with the Joplin School District and would like to deliver as many books as possible before the start of the school year for the teacher’s classroom libraries. Their goal is to have things as back to normal as possible for the students when they return to school on August 17. I am hoping that all of the generous members of the NASCAR community, from the owners, to the drivers, the crew, and the fans can get involved with this effort. If anyone has new or gently used books suitable for children in grades K-12 that they would like to donate, they can send them to me at:

Lexie’s Book Drive
P.O. Box 446
Huntley, IL 60142

I will be making a delivery to Missouri at the very end of July so that they can get the books to the teachers in time to set them up for the school year, so I would like to collect as many books as possible by then. I will make at least one additional delivery sometime after that to make sure that all of the books donated, even after the school year begins, get into the hands of teachers and students who
need them. All of the information about my book drive can be found at More information on how to help the people of Joplin can be found at

Kurt Busch: I know that we can be better - Thoughts from Infineon


In a pre-race press conference, Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge, stated that rating his team strength-wise, “I would give us a B-plus. We’ve run really well, consistent. We just haven’t had those breakthrough performances with a win.”

In describing himself to that of the ability of his brother Kyle, Kurt said, “Kyle does a great job everywhere he goes. Whether it's Truck, Nationwide, Cup series, he’s found that success, in the Truck Series as a driver and owner. It's great to watch him put it all together. He’s competitive every week. I like to joke around and say that I taught him too much, he’s absorbed it all and done very well with it.”

This is the same way he feels about his teammate, Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger. In the media center on Friday, this is what Kurt had to say about Brad and his willingness to take in what Kurt was trying to teach him. “Knowing that Brad has definitely matured, seeing him bust off a top 10 at a road course was great! He went around the race track, and I pointed out some of the apex points, exit points, shifting points and he absorbed it like a sponge. And that’s what it takes as a veteran of the team, to help the kid that’s coming up through and to have his information help us. That’s exactly what’s helped both teams get stronger.”

I asked Kurt on Friday how important it was to qualify up front at Infineon, and he told me, “I think it's very important. When you start up front and you’re right in that lead group, you're out of the trouble, out of those double-file restarts where it seems like cheap shots happen. You’re out there just trying to hang on. If you’re up front and can separate yourself from the rest of the group, then life is easier.”

So what does it take to win at Infineon Raceway, one might ask? This is Kurt’s view on that question. “It’s a tough battle. You can’t expect to win. You have to go there and give it your best all through practice. Stick with the race strategy and knowing when to pit. When you’re out there racing, there are certain guys you know to race early in the run. Then there are guys late in the run that you know to race. To win here, it’s a culmination of putting together so many elements because we only do road racing twice a year. You have to be able to adapt. Most importantly the car has to run its lap times lap after lap after lap. Not missing a gear and staying on track and executing the basics are what it takes to win here.”

In regards to how it felt crossing over finish line ahead of the hometown boy, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch relived that moment saying, “It was a definite boost at the end of the day to see him (Jeff Gordon) come home second and to come out on top. To win a road course race, and to beat him, he’s one of the best. He always will be. To get a road course win is a big check mark on my list. It's something I’ve been working very hard at over the years. Just like the restrictor plates. I’ve struggled to win and close out one of those. So it's just really neat to bring home that W, and most of all have that insurance package now. We have that win heading towards the Chase!”

Kurt Busch, won Sunday’s race bumping his wins up to 23 victories in 380 Sprint Cup starts tying with Ricky Rudd on the all time victory list. This was Kurt’s first victory and ninth top-11 in 2011. Kurt’s last win came in May of  2010 at Charlotte, which breaks a 38 race winless streak. Sunday's victory was his first at Infineon where he’s competed 11 times.

It sounds to me that Kurt Busch is one of the few that seems to have figured out the secret to winning at Infineon and I have no doubt we’ll see him in Victory Lane at the Sonoma track again in future!

Congrats to Kurt Busch and the #22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Team. - To celebrate the win Shell will be giving Shell Card holders 22 cents off each gallon of gas on Wednesday June 29th.

Hendrick Replay: Infineon

Hendrick Replay is a substitute for Lacy's Hendrick Garage, she'll be back with posts in the future.

Sunday’s race proved to be especially tough on team Hendrick, even with a solid start, the race turned out to be challenging a lot drivers patience and some of Rick Hendrick's boys were among them.

Dale Jr. looks on preparing the car in practice.
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
The 48/88 shop 

Dale Earnhardt Jr’s third place points standing’s moved to seventh after the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Infineon road coarse in Sonoma, California. A crash during lap 38 on turn 11, where several cars got into a jam and the 88 car suffered severe damage, resulted in vehicle fatality. Earnhardt Jr. had to 'park and go.' He finished 41st and had to unfortunately accept his first ‘DNF’ (did not finish) of the season. For more details on the incident, please check out Dale Jr. Beatin' and Bangin'.

Jimmie Johnson started in 12th position. At the beginning, hopes were that this defending Infineon winner from 2010 would be able to win here again, Johnson however was unable to stay in the top five and finished in seventh, a tough and fun run but certainly a good day in points. He’s moved up to third in points.

Gordon raced hard with Carl Edwards and claimed a 2nd
place finish.
Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images for NASCAR
The 5/24 shop  

Mark Martin is bringing home a non-damaged car and he may be the only car that didn’t get caught up in wrecks or checks. This season hasn’t been perfect for Martin, could his relationship with his crew chief Lance McGrew be a reason? Martin is currently 14th in points.

Jeff Gordon is known to being the best NASCAR driver in road racing with five wins. Yesterday’s race, he started 13th and finished in 2nd, he was happy for his team and was excited with the second place finish. He’s moved up in points and surprisingly, he’s still in chase jeopardy and hoping to have the wild card spot. He’s had a consistent season with finishing first two times but there are no promises in racing and we’ve learned this year that it’s not over til it’s over and we shall sit back and see what could be next for Gordon.

In a Man’s World with Ashley Parlett

Ashley Parlett can tune brakes with the best of them ... so what if she has a ponytail?
Women are an essential part of modern day NASCAR and women like Ashley Parlett make the transition smooth for all striving to make the job possible.

In a Man’s World is my focus on the women in NASCAR who are in the sport for the love of racing, no glitz or glamour necessary. One of these great examples is Ashley, her experience in NASCAR is lengthy. Working as a brake specialist, then working her way up to a car chief for RAB Racing and now working with Performance Friction Brakes - Parlett has done it all.

Ashley is not in NASCAR for the notoriety, just simply for the love of the sport. She has raced herself, climbing into go-karts at the age of 13.  As a result, the love of the racing was instilled in her at a young age.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Ashley and learning the details of a brake specialist as well as the details of her current job.

Amanda Ebersole (AE):  Can you explain the job of a brake specialist?

Ashley Parlett (AP):  A brake specialist on the team is the person who looks at the race track where they are going and decides on the brake package that is sufficient enough but keeping in mind is also the lightest. They don’t want to put too much brakes on the car because that is additional rotating weight on the car to actually push. You have to make a decision about the fine line between enough brakes and too much as well as adding the extra weight. That person is in charge of making sure that the brakes get on the car.  Additionally, at the race track they make sure there is good communication between the product supplier and the crew chief. Monitoring the brakes and checking the pad wear are essential to making sure that the brakes can maintain throughout the entire race.

What I am doing right now is actually working for one of the manufacturers. My job is to not only sell the brakes but also maintain them for the teams I work with in the circuit.  This includes where they are racing next and what packages the company would suggest to be used for that particular racetrack.  I also have to keep in mind that we have a car out there which is running our brake package.  For example, if the temps are fairly cool then we can afford to take some weight off the disc and make it a smaller disc. We go back into development of a disc, a pad or even a caliper to make it better for the race team and keeping those guys up to date with what we have developed.

We do a lot of engineering on our end for the brakes on the cars. None of the teams make the brakes themselves so we provide them which results in high supply and demand for our products. Every time the car changes, the brakes changes - it either needs less brake, more rear brake, more front brake or more brake all together. During the week I am visiting with my teams who run our packages, visiting new teams to try and sell our packages and making suggestions for what we would like to see put on the cars as well as listening to their feedback for what they would like to see out there as well. When I go to the race track I work with their brake specialist on temps, pad wear, or any kinds of problems and just basically help them maintain as well as monitor their brakes throughout the weekend.

AE: So you travel every weekend to keep up with the situation?

AP: Yes, everywhere excect the fast intermediates like Texas, California and Kansas. At those places the only time that you use brakes is to get on pit road. Sprint Cup cars are really not calling on their brakes much at those specific tracks for it to be an issue. However, they do at the superspeedways (wow) and most people don’t realize that. At superspeedways, short tracks, road courses and the heavy intermediates, they use brakes in the corners.

AE: So from your perspective, heading to the road courses are a challenge?

AP: Yes, brakes play a huge part obviously. We have one of the premier road course packages and have won several Cup and Nationwide races with our packages over the last couple of years. (e.g. Road America - some of the teams with Performance Friction brakes included Roush Fenway Racing and Kenny Wallace just to name a few) We have done some development and made some changes; therefore, for me it will be monitoring the new product and making sure everyone is happy.

Ashley prepares for a race.
AE: For your current job and your previous job as a car chief, what kind of training was required? Is it a hands-on learning experience versus textbook learning?

AP: Basically for the car chief job, when I moved here (Charlotte, NC) the only thing I knew was working with open wheel cars. I knew very little but I knew mechanically how things worked because I had always built my own race cars. I never went to college for an engineering degree.  Throughout the years of building my own cars and working on World of Outlaw cars, I knew how to build a Sprint car end-to-end with my eyes closed.  When I moved here, clearly stock cars are insanely different and more complicated. I started working with a team and somehow ended up in the brake department.  This was due only to the fact that I did a lot of brake pad development and feedback for a company when I was working with Sprint cars. I got a job with RAB, started there sweeping floors which put me all the way back down on the totem pole. I had to prove myself again, which is standard and normal for anybody. I went from sweeping floors, to building suspensions, then suspensions and setting up the template; after four years, the opportunity came about for a car chief which they chose me specifically for the position.

The only thing that made me educated about being able to do that was years of building stock cars and knowing how we do everything from end-to-end on the race car. Years of doing this makes it become second nature. Luckily with RAB we had a few seasons where we wrecked a lot (John Wes Townley drove the Zaxby’s car for RAB) and we rebuilt a lot of race cars. When you are with a small team, you don’t come in as the brake specialist and only work doing that specific job.  One day I would be setting up the car, next day I would restock the toolbox and then the following day I would be onto something else. When everything started to fall apart at RAB – we didn’t have a sponsor, a crew chief,  and people were quitting; I started to look around for other opportunities. I talked to the guys at PFB (Performance Friction Brakes ( and they thought I fit the mold of what they were looking for. I left RAB, took the job and started working for the brake manufacturer.  I feel like I have had to learn the products but I always had the hands-on experience.  Now, I have learned the products, codes and business side of brake manufacturing. 

AE: Being a woman in the industry, what has been your biggest challenge? Is it a challenge to be a woman in the garage of NASCAR?

AP: No, I don’t think so. The way I feel about it, I work on race cars because that is what I chose to do as a kid. It has never been hard for me to be a woman in the sport. The way I see it, I always have to work harder than everyone else around me. If I want to do my job and tighten the bolts just as tight as the guys, I had to work twice as hard. I had to lift weights, have thick skin and the only way to get respect is to just walk in the door then go to work. For every guy I have worked with in my entire life (in the racing industry), the only thing I ever had to do to earn their respect was to work just as hard as they did  - side by side with them.

Anytime you say, "I can’t get this loose, can you get this for me?" - it’s a burden on them and makes their job harder. Yes, there is a ponytail hanging out the back of my hat at the end of the day, but I love building race cars and they love building race cars. I think the only thing that is difficult is going to new teams and them understanding that I am not there to make drama amongst the guys.  If someone drops some inappropriate names, I don’t get bent out of shape about it. There is a little bit of hesitation on new hires because there is a chemistry that has to happen on a team and anything that could upset that balance is nerve wracking for management. If there is anything that is difficult, it is the stereotypes - the women that are like “I am a girl in the sport" and all that stuff doesn’t help me out at all. Stop pulling out the fact that you are a girl, drive your race car or turn the wrench on your race car just don’t make it hard on everyone else. I am not doing this for the glory, I am doing this because I love it. I want to be a crew chief someday and I don’t care if I am the first woman crew chief. If I am the 50th woman crew chief, I don’t give a crap. Your career and your talent will take you much further then any title of being the first women to do whatever in NASCAR.

AE: You mentioned that there is a struggle as a new hire (as a female), is there an issue with acceptance that women can and do the same jobs as men?

AP: I don’t know that it’s accepted, it’s just an unknown territory. The problem is that I am cut out of a different cloth than the other girls and they are all cut out of their own cloth as well. Everybody is different, you hire a man and he doesn’t do his job - you cuss him out. You do that to a woman and the next thing you know is that your job is in trouble, there are all these things they are afraid of. On top of it all, we are still on the cusp of a NASCAR official suing NASCAR because of things being said about her. I don’t blame them for being scared, nervous to stick a woman in the middle of it all.

AE: With that all in mind, if there is a woman who has the drive and passion to work on cars, would you tell her to go for it?

AP: Yes, absolutely, you learn a lot along the way. The first day I arrived in Charlotte I cried, not knowing how I was doing to learn everything. You have to understand going in that it is a long battle, a long road.

AE: From what I read, you are also a stunt car driver? Is that something you do often and is it for movies/TV?

AP: Yes and I love it. I did it about five years ago because a company I worked for did promotions.  Every once in a while they needed a girl to come in and drive. Once I worked for RAB, I was too busy, which was a hard pill to swallow at times. You make outstanding money on commercials and I had to pass it up, leaving that part of my life behind because racing and the team came first. Now being with PFB, if and when I can move my schedule around to make it happen, I can still do it. Actually I have a shoot Sunday where I get to wreck something. It’s going to be great, I am ready to wreck something! My schedule with Performance Friction is a little more lenient, not entirely, but if I can schedule something I usually try to work it out. (commercials or movies?) The last couple have just been commercials.  It’s the only thing outside of work that I really enjoy doing besides racing and I haven’t raced a car in a few years.

AE: Besides everything else you also write a blog "Is that grease or mascara...", is writing a passion for you?

AP: I actually have been working on a project that I can’t talk much about right now, in order to make money from writing which I never thought I could do. I haven’t been able to blog as much because all of my energy has been going into my project but I do enjoy it, somehow it just happened. Someone said to me, “Ash you got an interesting story, you should keep a blog” - initially when I did it was just for my mom, dad and the people who grew up knowing me. I guess people like it and it's entertaining so I definitely enjoy it. Honestly, there is a lot of blog entries I don’t post because they are very exposing of who I am as a person which includes sensitive matters that I am not sure I am ready to share with everyone. There is still a little of me that is holding back on it, but I enjoy writing ... I am the world's worst speller though.

(Thank God for spell check

AE: Between your blog and Twitter @Just_AP you seem to have a great connection with fans. One particular tweet you sent the other day made me laugh.. you said, “I just rebuilt the carburetor on my lawnmower for the 2nd time…”

AP: Honestly I was thinking about that, I was finishing and putting it all back together and thought - I don’t know what people do who don’t know how to do these things. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to know how to because if not I would have bought three lawn mowers by now. If I didn’t know where to find the problem, I would have went and bought another one. It has been a blessing.
Ashley and mom JoAnne at Dover
I love my mother but she knows nothing about mechanics. I remember one time when I was a kid our minivan broke down and I remember my dad showing up to help. My mom said “I don’t know, the key won’t work.” As a little girl I remember thinking, it's not the key! The key is what makes it know that the right owner is starting it, the key isn’t broken. My mom, like I am sure a lot of people do, gets in their vehicles and they turn the magical key that makes it go. I like the idea of turning the magical key, knowing that there is fuel and oxygen mixing and causing combustion, which is causing pistons to go up and down which creates power. I like knowing those things; whereas, folks like my mom are content with the magic key which is great for her. I don’t think I could stand not knowing what goes on behind the magical key.

Thank you to Ashley for your time and insightful conversation and for sharing your
photos with us. 

NASCAR By the Numbers and In the Rearview Mirror (looking back at NASCAR's history) are Amanda's two weekly columns with Skirts and Scuffs, but as an Associate Editor her duties are limitless. Amanda also strives to provide exclusive interviews for the readers of Skirts and Scuffs. To read her past columns and interviews click here. Feel free to contact Amanda via Twitter.

NASCAR By the Numbers: Road racing wrap-up

Road racing highlighted the weekend after the Nationwide Series traveled to Road America and Sprint Cup teams went west to Infineon.  The weekend provided plenty of highlights and shakeups in the points, nothing out of the ordinary for road races.

Nationwide Series Bycyrus 200 at Road America:

Nationwide only drivers finally had the spotlight while the Cup drivers opted to stay out in Sonoma and they took the chance to show they can shine on their own. Opportunities were given to new drivers such as Billy Johnson to jump into the seat of Carl Edwards and the road ringers were there as well: Jacques Villeneuve, Max Papis and Ron Fellows to name a few. After Justin Allgaier ran out of gas past the final white flag, teammate Reed Sorenson seized the win and this helps him in the points battle. Read more in the post race recap here: Reed Sorenson wins Bucyrus 200

Credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

  1. Reed Sorenson
  2. Elliott Sadler  -5
  3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  -7
  4. Justin Allgaier  -34
  5. Jason Leffler  -73
  6. Aric Almirola  -75
  7. Kenny Wallace  -111
  8. Steven Wallace  -134
  9. Brian Scott  -146
  10. Michael Annett  -160
  11. Josh Wise  -175
  12. Mike Bliss  -203
  13. Mike Wallace  -204
  14. Trevor Bayne  -214
  15. Joe Nemechek  -228
Biggest Movers: Reed Sorenson, Mike Bliss, Mike Wallace +2
Biggest Losses: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Trevor Bayne and Joe Nemechek -2
Up next: July 1 - Subway Jalapeno 250 powered by Coca-Cola at Daytona International Speedway
7:30 pm on ESPN

Sprint Cup Toyota/SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway:

Kurt Busch had the car to beat all race but points leader Carl Edwards made a wise move, withdrawing himself from the NNS race to stay in Infineon to focus on setting up the car. Proving to be a wise move, Edwards pulled off a third place finish and again maintains his points lead going into Daytona.
Carl Edwards maintains the lead for another week.
Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs

  1. Carl Edwards
  2. Kevin Harvick  -25
  3. Jimmie Johnson  -33
  4. Kurt Busch  -34
  5. Kyle Busch  -37
  6. Matt Kenseth  -52
  7. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  -65 
  8. Clint Bowyer  -77
  9. Jeff Gordon  -93
  10. Ryan Newman  -98
  11. Denny Hamlin  -110
  12. Tony Stewart  -113
  13. Greg Biffle  -127
  14. Mark Martin  -130
  15. AJ Allmendinger  -140
Biggest Movers: Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon +3
Biggest Losses: Dale Earnhardt Jr. –4, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin –2

Up next: July 2 – Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway on TNT at 7:30 pm est..