Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kevin Harvick wins the Kroger 250 adding to his clock collection

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images for NASCAR
The NASCAR Camping World Truck series was back on the track for the first time since Daytona, and today’s Kroger 250 was off to a rainy start. Qualifying was pushed back after the drivers meeting and pre-race was rushed after Cup qualifying completed. But after all that, finally the Trucks were back racing. 

Kevin Harvick set numerous records today in his No. 2 Tide Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing; he won the pole, led 248 laps, and to top it off, he won the race. It’s the highest all time lap led in the CWTS; Mike Skinner held the previous record of 246 laps at Martinsville from March 31, 2007.

Of note, this was the fourth race Harvick won from the pole and it marks his 14th victory in 118 career races in the truck series. It’s also his first truck win with his boss Richard Childress.

Harvick's teammate, Ty Dillon, started in second and finished second in his No. 3 Bass Pro Chevrolet. This is his first top-10 finish at Martinsville, and second of 2012. Dillon also was the highest finishing rookie.

Teamwork played a role in the two sweeping the top row for starts and finishes. Harvick asked his spotter to relay a message to Dillon’s spotter, passing on the message that he was running at about 80 percent of his truck's potential. "Tell him not to burn his stuff up [trying to catch us]," Harvick said.

"I knew we had a little bit better truck than what they had but I didn’t want him to get hung on the outside," Harvick said after the race. "They’re racing for a championship, and it’s our job as the No. 2 team to go out there and help them and try to make sure they win the championship and we win races."

James Buescher finished third; his second top-10 finish in six races at Martinsville Speedway. Justin Lofton, Timothy Peters, Nelson Piquet Jr., Ross Chastain, Jason Leffler, John King, and Jason White followed suit. 


With his ninth-place finish, rookie John King maintains his points lead heading into Rockingham in two weeks.


Race results:
  1. Kevin Harvick
  2. Ty Dillon
  3. James Buescher
  4. Justin Lofton
  5. Timothy Peters
  6. Nelson Piquet Jr.
  7. Ross Chastain
  8. Jason Leffler
  9. John King
  10. Jason White
  11. Parker Kligerman
  12. JR Fitzpatrick
  13. Jeb Burton
  14. David Starr
  15. Cale Gale
  16. Ron Hornaday Jr.
  17. Miguel Paludo
  18. Jake Crum
  19. Max Gresham
  20. David Reutimann
  21. Dakoda Armstrong
  22. Paulie Harraka
  23. John Wes Townley
  24. Matt Crafton
  25. Todd Bodine
  26. Bryan Silas
  27. Chris Cockrum
  28. Brennan Newberry
  29. Johnny Sauter
  30. Joey Coulter
  31. Clay Greenfield
  32. Ryan Sieg
  33. Dusty Davis
  34. Jennifer Jo Cobb
  35. Jeff Agnew
  36. Rick Crawford

Kahne "won't wreck" teammates for a win

 Photo by Tom Whitmore/
Getty Images North America
Kasey Kahne will be racing in the Camping World Truck Series on April 15 at The Rock in Rockingham, N.C., and he’s not going to get a chance to drive the truck "one single time" at the track before the race. He’ll have to start in the back of the field no matter where the No. 4 Rockwell Tools truck qualifies.

“Brad Sweet is going to practice and qualify the truck and then I’m going to race it at Rockingham,” he said Friday. “Turner Motorsports has three really good solid truck teams that can all work together. I feel like it will have a really good solid setup in it on Sunday when I get there.”

When asked why he would want to run at Rockingham 13 hours after racing in the Sprint Cup race at Texas, Kahne said, “I have always liked racing at Rockingham.”

He added, “I like the track, I’ve always enjoyed sliding around the track. I’m pretty excited to be able to go back there and race.”

Kahne's season has been off to a slow start, as have all drivers in the Hendrick Motorsports garage. The organization has yet to claim a win in the first five races of the season, though Dale Earnhardt Jr. does hold third place in the points standings.

Kahne in particular has suffered from a combination of bad luck and mistakes in his first year driving for Hendrick Motorsports. As a result, he sits 27th in the points.

“With Kasey,” Jimmie Johnson said, “we all feel bad for him and (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) coming in and having the troubles they’ve had.”

“I spoke to Kasey a couple times after races where his luck just clearly went the other direction on him, and just pointed out that you sat on the pole. You’ve won every practice session. You’re in the top three to five in most practice sessions,” Johnson said.

Johnson acknowledged that Kahne has a lot of speed. Kahne and Francis both brought in some ideas that Johnson believes has helped the company, “so there’s a lot of credit that needs to go to Kasey and Kenny.”

Is Kahne as hard on himself in person as he is on Twitter? After the Fontana race he tweeted, “Pissed I ran bad. Happy my car is in one piece.”

“I think his reaction on Twitter and the things he has said is true,” Johnson responded to my question, “and he’s critical of himself and I’m happy he is.” Johnson continued, “You should never be happy with your performance even when you’re winning. You can do a better job, so I appreciate and respect that in him.”

Rick Hendrick said at the beginning of the season that he wants all four cars in the Chase, yet not all his boys are running well. Five weeks into the season, and two of the organization's four drivers are in the top 10 in points: Dale Earnhardt Jr. (3rd) and Johnson (9th). Along with Kahne, Jeff Gordon is outside the top 10, currently in the 25th position.

With wrecks and unfinished races for the 5, 24 and 48 teams, it seems the organization may not reach that goal.

However, all four drivers have a positive attitude; there’s a lot of energy in their step, and as disappointed as they may be, they want to win. They want to turn this around - they believe they can be in the top 10 come season's end. A wrecked car will not wreck their spirits.

They won’t wreck each other to win a race, but they each want to get that 200th win for their boss, Mr. Hendrick.

“I don’t race my teammates that hard,” Kahne said. “I don’t think Jeff would wreck me to win this race, and I wouldn’t wreck him.”

“I can’t wait to win for Hendrick Motorsports,” Kahne said. “If it was the 200th that would be awesome to be a part of the 200th win.”

Martinsville is a great track for the team. Jeff Gordon has seven wins, Johnson has six, and Earnhardt and Kahne have finished as high as second.

“I’ve never won here,” Kahne said when asked what it would mean to him to win here. "I just want to win.”

Kahne won the pole for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500, it's his second pole of the season. Gordon is starting 9th, Earnhardt 14th and Johnson 22nd. Don’t let those numbers fool you - the boys may just end up in the front by the final lap of the race.

Genevieve is a freelance writer living on Lake Norman in North Carolina. When not writing about racing, she's exercising,running,  reading, cooking healthy foods, and/or hanging out with her niece. 

NSCS Pole Report: Kasey Kahne wins 2nd pole of the season


Kasey Kahne won his second pole of the season for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief at Martinsville today. He had a lap of 19.50 seconds at 97.128 mph. Kevin Harvick, polesitter for the Camping World Truck Series race this afternoon is on the outside pole. Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, and Ryan Newman round out the top-5.

Here is the starting lineup:
1. Kasey Kahne
2. Kevin Harvick
3. Denny Hamlin
4. Clint Bowyer
5. Ryan Newman
6. Brian Vickers
7. Brad Keselowski
8. Kyle Busch
9. Jeff Gordon
10. Joey Logano
11. Paul Menard
12. Marcos Ambrose
13. Martin Truex Jr.
14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
15. Tony Stewart
16. Bobby Labonte
17. Regan Smith
18. Jeff Burton
19. Aric Almirola
20. Jamie McMurray
21. Matt Kenseth
22. Jimmie Johnson
23. Michael McDowell
24. David Ragan
25. Casey Mears
26. Greg Biffle
27. AJ Allmendinger
28. Carl Edwards
29. David Reutimann
30. Josh Wise
31. Landon Cassill
32. Juan Pablo Montoya
33. Scott Riggs
34. Travis Kvapil
35. Reed Sorenson
36. Ken Schrader
37. Joe Nemechek
38. David Gilliland
39. David Stremme
40. Kurt Busch
41. Hermie Sadler
42. Dave Blaney
43. JJ Yeley- will race, Tony Raines did not pass inspection.

Who did not make it:
Mike Bliss
Scott Speed
Tony Raines- qualified, but car did not pass inspection. Will not race Sunday.

Television schedule:
Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville- 12:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FOX

NCWTS Pole Report: Kevin Harvick wins pole for Kroger 250


Rain-delayed qualifying at Martinsville ended in Kevin Harvick taking the pole for today’s Kroger 250 with a lap of 19.794 seconds at 95.665 mph. This is Harvick’s third Camping World Truck Series pole. Ty Dillon was the fastest qualifying rookie at second, Timothy Peters rounds out the top-3.

Here is today’s lineup:
1. Kevin Harvick
2. Ty Dillon
3. Timothy Peters
4. Cale Gale
5. Ron Hornaday Jr.
6. Justin Lofton
7. Jeb Burton
8. Johnny Sauter
9. James Buescher
10. Jeff Agnew
11. Matt Crafton
12. Jason Leffler
13. Todd Bodine
14. Miguel Paludo
15. Parker Kligerman
16. Nelson Piquet Jr.
17. Ross Chastain
18. Paulie Harraka
19. Brennan Newberry
20. JR Fitzpatrick
21. Joey Coulter
22. Jason White
23. Rick Crawford
24. Dusty Davis
25. David Reutimann
26. Max Gresham
27. David Starr
28. Ryan Sieg
29. Clay Greenfield
30. John Wes Townley
31. Jake Crum
32. John King
33. Bryan Silas
34. Jennifer Jo Cobb
35. Chris Cockrum
36. Dakoda Armstrong

Who did not make it:
BJ McCleod
Tyler Tanner
Norm Benning
Caleb Holman
Natalie Sather
Chris Fontaine
Chris Lafferty

Television schedule:
Kroger 250 at Martinsville- 2 p.m. ET Saturday on SPEED

Back Seat Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Texas Motor Speedway

Photo: LAT Photographic  via NASCAR.com
I want Dale Earnhardt Jr. to break his winless streak under the lights at Texas Motor Speedway on April 14 in the Samsung 500.

I know that as a member of the media I'm supposed to remain impartial, but I'm a race fan, too, or I wouldn't be writing for this website. And I don't make this statement as a Junior fan, but as a NASCAR fan. Pretty much everyone in the sport agrees that a win for Junior is a win for NASCAR in general. Whether that's a fair burden to place on the shoulders of one man is beside the point and not something on which I want to focus right now. 

Keep in mind, I'm not a part of Junior Nation. I like Junior, but my interest at this juncture comes as much from being a fan of the sport, as well as from wanting him to move on from all the pain and the drama in his life over the last 11 years. 

So just as parts of the Lone Star State are ending a long rough drought, I’d rather Earnhardt Jr. end his win drought at my home track. It is, I admit, partly because I’ll be there to see it, to experience the frenzy that's sure to occur if NASCAR’s most popular driver wins at The Great American Speedway, whether he wins this weekend or not. Track president Eddie Gossage puts on a heck of a show and an Earnhardt victory would give Gossage something to promote just as energetically as he did the "Smoke" vs. "Cousin Carl" battle last November.        

If the No. 88  AMP Energy/National Guard car rolls into victory lane this Sunday, I’ll be happy for him as well as for Rick Hendrick with that 200th Cup win. But the Texan in me wants that to happen on the high banks of TMS, where the cars take your breath away when they thunder past you into the turns at 200mph, not on the small stage of the Paperclip.   

It’s the place about which Jade Gurss said in his book In The Red, "In his [Earnhardt’s] short career, it was the only track where he had achieved far more than his father, who had never won a race at the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval."

If you go by just the numbers, Earnhardt Jr. has consistent results in his 24 starts at Martinsville:

Top-5: 9
Top-10: 13
Average start: 13.4
Average finish: 13
Laps lead: 865 (454.99 miles total on the 0526-mile track)

His overall Texas results are good, but slightly less impressive in 19 starts:

Top-5: 3
Top-10: 10
Average start: 11.2
Average finish: 14.1
Laps led: 448 laps led (672 miles on the 1.5 mile oval)

Except that Earnhardt Jr. has something at Texas he doesn’t have at Martinsville: wins. 

He won his first Busch race at Texas Motor Speedway — his first career NASCAR race, actually. He won his first Winston Cup race at TMS, leaving Earnhardt fans, of both Big E and Little E,  with a precious memory.

 

I’m not a driver (obviously) but I think I’d be more confident running at a track where I had a win or two than ones where I didn’t. Besides, according to Gurss, Earnhardt said, “I like Texas and Texas likes me.” 

Sure, I'll cheer for him if he wins Sunday at Martinsville. I'll cheer when he wins after that. And of course, I'll celebrate whoever wins the April 14th race. But I'm just putting it out there to the racing gods ... if you want to see a good show, let Dale Earnhardt Jr. win at Texas Motor Speedway. Then just sit back and watch. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

“Could you imagine a world with no beer? What would you do?” asks Kevin Harvick

Credit: Richard Childress Racing
Kevin Harvick will start his 400th race this weekend and along with that, he and sponsor Budweiser will also commemorate the 79th anniversary of the end of prohibition. A little history lesson, prohibition ended back on April 7, 1933. 

Harvick couldn’t imagine going back to the days when you couldn’t drink beer, “The enthusiasm, and the Clydesdales, and everything that 1933 brought back to the beer industry was something that was pretty cool. It’s fun to do programs like this, and to drive a little bit of awareness to it and be a part of it.”

In honor of this special paint scheme Harvick is driving a white "Budweiser is Back" Chevrolet, and wearing a matching white firesuit. "Happy" even was sporting a 1930s era newsboy hat with Budweiser written on the back during Friday's press conference.

When asked if he could imagine being a part of the celebration, and being a part of that (the announcement that prohibition has ended) he responded, “Just think about it. Could you imagine the world with no beer? What would you do? What would you do at night? What would you do period? It’s a good hydrator for you,” he joked.

Harvick says he would find something to do if he couldn’t drink beer, but it wouldn’t be as much fun.

"Is that this week?" Harvick asked jokingly when he was asked how he was reflecting on the last 13 years and 400 races. "Yeah, you know it's kind of piled up pretty fast." 

It has been a long path to those 400 races for Harvick after originally replacing Dale Earnhardt at Richard Childress Racing following Earnhardt's untimely death in the 2001 Daytona 500. 

His first race was February 25, 2001 at Rockingham, N.C. and throughout his career he has won 18 times, scored 88 top-fives, 177 top-10s and five pole awards.

"There's been a lot of changes, and I feel like its taken seven or eight years to get through the Earnhardt transition," he said candidly. "There's a lot of things you look back on now and that effect it took a lot of time. Then as the grandkids, Austin and Ty (Dillon) came, you really saw that enthusiasm level come back that I first saw in Richard in 1999 and 2000 as we led into the start of my career at RCR."

To date, Harvick has one win in Martinsville, it was last year when he passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. within the last four laps. He's also posted three top-fives and 10 top-10s in 21 starts.

When asked who his biggest competition is, him self or someone else, he responded by explaining that because the competition is deep, “you never know who or when or you are going to be in those positions to race for wins, and  race door-to-door with somebody on a weekly basis. But everyone on the Cup side is good and they've all won races."

In the final practice session today, Harvick  finished 14th, and will go out to qualify 35th tomorrow at 11:30 am. You can watch the qualifying live on SPEED.

MWR adds to Vickers schedule; run at Bristol validates efforts

Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip speak to the media at Martinsville Speedway.
Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR
Brian Vickers admits that in his career he has made some mistakes but moving on, the focus is in the present.

Vickers and Michael Waltrip Racing originally started the season with six signed races including both events at Bristol, Martinsville and New Hampshire. After Vickers’ debut at Bristol netted a fifth place finish, team owner Michael Waltrip announced today:

“(Brian Vickers) was going to run six races for us and we’re here to announce today that he’s going to run eight now. He is going to run both the road course races in the No. 55 car as well. Brian came to MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and made a statement, showed not only our organization what he’s capable of, but the whole world. We felt like that was deserving to let him run some more races. Eight races, if I do the math properly, we’re up to a quarter of the season. Keep chipping away, keep going young man and who knows, you might have them all one day.”

Waltrip’s faith in Vickers highlights the renewed confidence in Vickers himself. After his Bristol finish he was asked in today’s media q&a if that gave him a sense of validation.

“…it meant a lot to have that validation for me, personally, to get back in the car and do well,” Vickers said.

Since Martin had declined to participate in the road course events, Vickers was the obvious choice. 

Waltrip explained, “It was pretty much a no-brainer to say run those other two as well. Perfect match because Mark deserves a lot of credit for that team and then Brian said, ‘Ok, I see what Mark’s doing, I can do that.’"

Looking to get past last year’s Martinsville accident with Matt Kenseth, Vickers said, “Matt (Kenseth) wrecks me, or Matt wrecked me, and I’m sure he regrets it and I wrecked him back and I wish it hadn’t happened, but that’s the end of it.”

"My goal this year is for that to go away -- for that to becoming a non-issue and that’s what Bristol was for me and I can’t thank Michael enough for that opportunity. My goal this weekend is to make it disappear again, so that when we’re back here in the next race we’re talking a great run at Martinsville and everybody completely forgets about the other one."

The full schedule for the No. 55 car is:
Apr. 14 - Texas - Martin
Apr. 22 - Kansas - Martin
May 6 - Talladega - Waltrip
May 12 - Darlington - Martin
May 19 - All Star Race- Martin
May 27 - Charlotte - Martin
June 3 - Dover - Martin
June 10 - Pocono - Martin
June 17- Michigan - Martin
June 24 - Infineon - Vickers
June 30 - Kentucky - Waltrip
July 7- Daytona - Waltrip
July 15 - New Hampshire - Vickers
July 29 - Indianapolis - Martin
Aug. 5 - Pocono - Martin
Aug. 12 - Watkins Glen - Vickers
Aug. 19 - Michigan - Martin
Aug. 25 - Bristol - Vickers
Sept. 2 - Atlanta - Martin
Sept. 8 - Richmond - Martin
Sept. 16 - Chicago - Martin
Sept. 23 - New Hampshire - Vickers
Sept. 30 - Dover - Martin
Oct. 7 - Talladega - Waltrip
Oct. 13 - Charlotte - Martin
Oct. 21 - Kansas - Martin
Oct. 28 - Martinsville- Vickers
Nov. 4  - Texas - Martin
Nov. 11 - Phoenix - Martin
Nov. 18 - Homestead - Martin

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Blake Koch stands up for his beliefs as ESPN bans ad

Rise Up and Register's ad has been banned by ESPN and is creating a buzz.
Credit: Rick Ware Racing 
Faith is deeply rooted in NASCAR as teams bow their head in prayer before every race. No one has ever protested that or called afoul that practice. Yet today the story came to light that ESPN banned a commercial featuring NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Blake Koch and his new sponsor Rise Up and Register, a campaign trying to get fans to register to vote during the crucial election year.


ESPN rejected the sponsor's ad air time due to "political and religious overtones." In a voicemail left for Koch, ESPN cited that they looked at his personal website www.BlakeKoch.com, which is where they found the religious overtones.

Koch appeared on "FOX and Friends" on Thursday morning to discuss the matter.

“I didn't think that my faith in Christ would have an impact on whether or not a sponsor could air a commercial or not,” he said. To view the segment, where Koch plays the voicemail from ESPN, click here.

But a statement from ESPN defended their stance, stating that their decision to deny the ad had nothing to do with Koch’s beliefs. “The spot did not meet our guidelines in regard to advocacy messaging. Blake Koch’s personal religious beliefs played no role in our evaluation.”

I spoke with Koch for his comments on the whole situation. First and foremost he said, "The reason for any of this is nothing negative on ESPN. That is something the fans have done on their own to write and call in, I am not encouraging that whatsoever."

As for Koch, he has been left out of the details since Daytona when this story developed. 

"The first time I heard of this was at Daytona, that they would not air my commercial and then we were trying to figure out what to do because that was the activation part of the sponsorship. They would not air it, upfront they (Rise Up and Register) sponsored three races and after Bristol we could not get around this commercial thing so they did not sign on for any other races. I was left without a sponsor for California and that is when FOX News heard about the whole story."

"The main and weird thing is, the ad has nothing to do with religion or particular politics," said Koch.

Now without a sponsor, Koch and Rick Ware Racing intend on racing the entire season but face an uphill challenge.

"Rick Ware Racing is going to do their best to race me all year long, regardless but it's tough," Koch said. "Like in California, we had one set of new tires, that was it. It was a struggle and we do not want to race all year long like that. We had a good start to the year, while we were sponsored we were 10th in points."

Koch has never been quiet about his faith, nor should he have to be. Many NASCAR drivers are very outspoken about their beliefs including Trevor Bayne, Justin Allgaier, Michael McDowell and even team owner Joe Gibbs, who has penned books on the subject. Should they not talk on the subject? Furthermore, if they do speak of this in their personal time, should they be penalized?

The message in the advertisement has no religious overtones, as ESPN and Koch stated. As for the political nature of it, sure voting is political, but it is not an ad that is pro-Republican or pro-Democrat, so I personally do not see the problem. Go vote - you have the power to choose and have your voice heard, it is that simple.

Fans are taking to Koch's Facebook page with messages of support and outrage at the same time.

If anything good can come out of Koch's story, the exposure could draw potential sponsors to Rick Ware Racing.

This story has fans (and media) on fire. Share your thoughts and opinions below. 

Talkin' Trucks: Natalie "Speed" Sather set to make her NASCAR debut

Natalie "Speed" Sather is the next
female racecar driver set to make her
NASCAR debut this week.

Natalie “Speed” Sather is coming to NASCAR this week and if you do not know her name now, you soon will. 27-year old Sather just signed on with MAKE Motorsports as their new development driver. She is set to make her NASCAR debut this weekend at Martinsville, but Sather is not a racing rookie by any stretch.

Racing go-karts since the age of nine, Sather has worked her way up through the divisions of auto racing racking up championships including the International Karting Federation (IKF). In 2007 she became the first woman to win an American Sprint Car Series trophy. Sather was the 2008 Rookie of the Year at Knoxville Raceway before heading to stockcars in 2009.

Natalie was a 2008 graduate of the Lyn St. James Women in Racing Academy and a 2009 member of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity class through which she competed in the Whelen All-American Series.

As of late, Sather has been tearing up the track at South Boston Speedway. Crediting the valuable time and experience she has gained on the track, Natalie said, “running South Boston Speedway is really going to help me in making the transition to a bigger series. I don’t think moving up any sooner would have been beneficial to me; I needed a good year at South Boston.”

Preparing for her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut this week, Sather and her team were packing up and heading to Caraway Speedway for their first test session.

“We’ll only unfortunately be able to test this one time,” Sather said of this crucial time on track. “It’s going to be an adventure on Saturday. I am really excited for this weekend and excited to get in the truck tomorrow (Wednesday) and shake things down, see how I feel. It’s going to be a fun weekend that is for sure.”

Plans for the season – albeit tentative
Sather’s schedule normally consists of over 20 races a season when she is running the asphalt tracks, but as of right now she's scheduled for two NCWTS races (Martinsville and Rockingham) and her debut in the Nationwide Series at Richmond. The hope is that more races will be added once sponsors come on board.

“We are still looking for more sponsorship and that is the thing that is holding me back from being able to run anything full time right now,” explained Sather. “I basically have anywhere between three to four races this year when I am used to running 20+ races on asphalt and when I raced Sprint cars it was 100+ a year. Unfortunately the funding isn’t there and I believe as a driver, the more seat time you have the better you are so I have just been trying to work harder to find additional funding for us.”
Photos used with permission of Natalie Sather

Overcoming the odds
Injuries are a part of racing; drivers get tossed around in often violent crashes, but usually and thankfully walk away unscathed. Sather has not been as fortunate.

“I broke my leg in just my fifth sprint car race ever. That was kind of like, wow, is this a sign – should I be doing this? Of course I love it so much that I got back in the car that same summer, I broke my leg in May and I was back in the car completely against doctor’s orders, in September.”

The bad luck continued for Sather.

“In my third race ever in Virginia I was involved in an accident and broke my wrist. I actually did not miss a race, I flew home and had surgery and flew back, racing with a cast on the rest of the summer. The doctors were great making me a brace and a cast that would mold with the steering wheel. I had to re-learn all my driving skills, having this big bulky cast thing on but my the end of the year we were running top-five finishes. I was used to it, then I started to worry what am I going to do when I don’t have it because I was used to it,” Sather said with laughter. “I had to re-learn it all again so there is always one thing after another but I keep trying hard and doing what I can.”

A matter of chance
Getting a deal in NASCAR is never easy…unless you are Natalie Sather. Her story of how she got her deal with MAKE Motorsports in not like any other I have ever heard.

“It’s kind of funny how it all came about. There is a gentleman whose name is Jesse Dickerson (manager/agent.) He saw me race last year at South Boston because he was there with some of his clients who were in other races there. I was in an earlier incident and had to start in 25th and drove my way up to 4th and he was like ‘Who is this driver? I need to know who this is?’ Then he saw me, I was a girl and he was like holy cow! Through Lyn St. James, he got my phone number and kept calling asking if I would want to work with him. He put the whole deal together with MAKE and I am very fortunate that they have taken the chance on me because I have never driven anything like this.”

Natalie’s story of relentless racing and being discovered out of the blue should give hope to all those drivers racing for the love of the sport – you too could be found at your local track.

As for her debut this weekend Sather says, “I am hoping this weekend at Martinsville I can just be smart, make good decisions and make the race on Saturday.”

Tune into SPEED on Saturday to see if Sather makes the race – qualifying is at 10am and the race gets underway at 1:30pm Eastern. 

*Update - Sather was a DNQ for Saturday's race.

TV Schedule: March 30-April 1

Last year's Martinsville winners, Tony Stewart, left, and Kevin Harvick, race each other
at the Virginia short track in the fall. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
NASCAR heads to the shortest and oldest track on the circuit: Martinsville Speedway. The 0.526-mile short track opened in 1947 and hosted its first NASCAR race in 1948.

Known as the paperclip, Martinsville features long, flat straightaways and tight, narrow turns, forcing drivers to rely on their brakes. A short track means short tempers, and Martinsville offers the perfect setting. Prepare to see lots of beating and banging as drivers' tempers are put to the test.

The Camping World Truck Series returns from a long hiatus. The last time the series ran, Rookie of the Year contender John King pulled off a surprise victory at Daytona.

Who'll take home the grandfather clock this weekend? Tune in to find out.

The Nationwide Series is on a break until April 13 at Texas. All three series will on hiatus next week because of the Easter holiday.

Track facts
Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, Va.
Length: 0.526-mile oval
Type: Short track
Banking: 12 degrees in the turns, 0 degrees on the straightaways

SPRINT CUP
Goody's Fast Relief 500 format:
263 miles, 500 laps

2011 winners:
Spring: Kevin Harvick
Fall: Tony Stewart

TRUCK SERIES
Kroger 250 format:
131.5 miles, 250 laps

2011 winners:
Spring: Johnny Sauter
Fall: Denny Hamlin

The following is a schedule of track events and TV coverage this weekend. All times are in Eastern Time. Events without a channel listed will not be televised.

Friday, March 30:
11 a.m. NCWTS Practice
12 noon NASCAR Live, SPEED
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. Trackside, SPEED. Guests: Regan Smith and Ty Dillon.
6 p.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), SPEED
7:30 p.m. NASCAR Performance, SPEED
8:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), SPEED
11 p.m. Trackside (re-air), SPEED

Saturday, March 31:
10 a.m. NCWTS Qualifying, SPEED
11 a.m. NASCAR Live, SPEED
11:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying, SPEED
1 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, SPEED
1:30 p.m. NCWTS: Kroger 250, SPEED. Green flag: 1:46 p.m.
8 p.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), SPEED
9:30 p.m. NCWTS SetUp (re-air), SPEED
10 p.m. NCWTS: Kroger 250 (re-air), SPEED

Sunday, April 1:
9 a.m. NASCAR Now presented by 5-HOUR Energy, ESPN2
9:30 a.m. NASCAR Performance, SPEED
10 a.m. SPEED Center NASCAR Edition, SPEED
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.
5 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, SPEED
8 p.m. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, SPEED
9 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, SPEED (re-airs midnight and 9 a.m. Monday)

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Martinsville Short Track Mania



Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Raceway * Dover International Speedway  
Phoenix International Raceway * Richmond International Raceway
Distance: .526 Mile

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race 
Jeff Gordon - 5
All with 4: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Jamie McMurray

By Track
All with 7: Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Jeff Gordon
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 6
All with 5: Kevin Harvick; Clint Bowyer; and Carl Edwards 


Recent Pole Winners: 
2011 Jamie McMurray
2010 Qualifying not held 

The Likely Suspects: Some drivers have racing styles that are well suited for short track racing. These drivers should really shine at Martinsville: Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, and Carl Edwards.

My 2 Cents: My top shelf guys these week will be selected from this intimate grouping: Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, and Kevin Harvick. I'm learning toward Denny Hamlin and Jeff Gordon though. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman, and Jamie McMurray are due for some serious consideration. But don't count out Joey Logano who races well at Martinsville. Brian Vickers and David Reutimann should have decent runs this week. 

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Greg Biffle talks points lead, Martinsville, Dale Jr., conspiracy theories, and more

No. 16 3M Ford Fusion Driver, Greg Biffle
(Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion for Roush Fenway Racing, joined the media Wednesday afternoon to talk about his season so far. Biffle is the current points leader for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, having one pole qualifying position, three top-five finishes, and four top-10 finishes.

Biffle started the Q&A session by stating what a relief it was for him and his entire team to have gotten off to a great start this season like they have.  He reported Bristol and California as being the tracks where they knew they needed to be a little better and weren’t as competitive as they had hoped to be. Despite being a top-10 car, Biffle and his team are not satisfied with that. He said he and the team have a little ways to go before being the best and being on top.

When asked by a member of the media about his thoughts on Tony Stewart’s start this season and whether or not this start concerns him, Biffle admitted that it obviously concerned him and his team.  Saying that he was still trying to figure out what exactly happened in the previous year, he called Stewart’s championship a "storybook thing." He then went on to say he played a small part in it because he,  Clint Bowyer, and Stewart were all battling for the 12th position in points to get into the Chase. He chalks it up to Stewart’s team finding “something that’s working for them and is making their cars better than everyone else” and went on to say "that’s what this game’s about." Biffle then mentioned Ryan Newman and his team, stating that this combination has trickled down to the No. 39 team, in reference to Newman running much better this year than last.

Biffle talked about his points lead and responded to a comment about how the past has shown a lot of guys lead points early in the year, then lose the momentum as the season progresses. He says that he knows, and he believes the team knows, they won’t lead the points the entire season. He’s happy that they are working hard and continuing to maintain the points lead, but he faces reality and knows that if and when he loses the points lead, he will not let that "take the wind out of his sails." He says it all boils down to attitude and the team has a positive attitude and will continue to have one, whether in the lead or not.

When asked about his relationship with crew chief Matt Puccia, and whether he believed Puccia could lead him to a championship, Biffle had nothing but praise for his crew chief.  He thinks that if anyone can take him to winning a championship, it’s Matt. “He’s the hungriest guy I've ever seen in my whole life and is the most focused to win a race. I cannot wait. I can’t wait till we win a race because he deserves it.”

Biffle also gave a lot of credit to Puccia for how well he is doing this season. He also gave credit to the shop, the engine program, and the new fuel injection. He called the changes a "seamless transition."  He claims that he’s not doing much of anything different behind the wheel of a racecar. He says he is staying focused and giving it a hundred percent all the time.  He says he is just doing all the things he has been doing all along, but with different results this time.

Looking ahead to Martinsville, Biffle admits that it isn’t his favorite track. However, he says he already has a spot picked out for a grandfather clock and he wants one “so bad.” Despite running well at Martinsville in the Trucks and Nationwide, he states that Martinsville just hasn’t been one of the best tracks, as a company.  He isn’t sure the team has a chance of winning there this weekend, but he thinks there is a solid chance of bringing home another top-five finish. That being said, Biffle confidently stated that he “likes challenges and Martinsville is going to be a challenge… I’m ready to go there today.”

Biffle also credited Martinsville at being the track where he is most concerned about qualifying. Having qualified in the top-10 in every race so far, he says that Martinsville will be his biggest challenge, qualifying-wise.  He credited close qualifying times and tiny errors placing you far back in the pack as the reasons behind this, calling it a very “technical” track.  

The subject of Dale Earnhardt Jr. also came up in conversation. Biffle agreed that it would be great for the series to see Dale Jr. in Victory Lane. He believes it would take pressure off the sport because Dale Jr. is such an "iconic figure." He’s also glad it’s Dale Jr. and not himself having to deal with that pressure and go so long without winning a race.  He says that there are often jokes about “getting him a win” in order to "let everybody think about something else for a while."

Biffle also debunked conspiracy theories in which people say that certain events are “fixed” in NASCAR. He referred to the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 when Dale Jr. was leading coming to the white flag. Biffle said he himself was leading with half a straightaway. He says that he "had that thing sewed up until Jimmie Johnson’s engine blew up." He said, had a caution every come out, Dale Jr. would have won that race, and at home. In his eyes, he thinks that is proof alone that NASCAR isn't "fixing" anything. He claims it is "pretty cut and dry."
  
In regards to his pit crew this year, Biffle says that he now has the entire over-the-wall team of David Ragan’s former No. 6 Cup team.  He says there was some downsizing with team members and he has a few guys from Ricky Stenhouse Jr’s Nationwide team, as well as a few guys from his old 16 team and so on.  Despite the changes, he claims it to be a "good mix of people."  He again gives credit to his crew chief and company for assembling a great group of people.

Biffle also talked about maintaining a sense of humbleness while on top in the sport. He says that it really boils down to the fact that NASCAR is about winning and “you’re never happy unless you win or are winning”. He then asked himself if he and his team are happy finishing in third (or whatever)?  His response was "Yeah, we’re happy because we went there, we gave it a hundred percent, and that’s the result we ended up with. But we’re going to continue till we reach that Victory Circle."

Biffle finished the session by discussing how being a driver does require leadership skills, to a certain degree. He claimed the driver has to be "part of the solution, too." He broke this down by talking about how there were two kinds of drivers. He said, “There’s some drivers that don’t want to be involved or are kind of disconnected, get in the car and just drive, try to say what it’s doing, and the crew chief just works on it. Then there’s another driver that has more of a sensory system, can detect a problem and try to be part of the solution or figuring out what’s wrong with it.”

It definitely seems as though Greg Biffle falls into the latter category of drivers he described. With his season so far, there is no doubt in this media member’s mind that Biffle is a problem-solver. And, it looks like the problem of how to win a championship could very well be solved this year. Only time and more races will tell and I look forward to watching it play out. 

Max Papis streams live chat on Twitter

After racing with Germain Racing, now Max Papis finds himself with
Richard Childress Racing. Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
It all started with a tweet from Max Papis, "Twitter tribe I want to try something new I want to broadcast live in few minutes so if u have question get ready."

Being the inquisitive writer I am, I joined in the first ever "Mad Max" Twitcam chat Tuesday. Twitcam, by Livesteam, allows Twitter users to stream live video on their own channels.

It was a lot of fun to see Papis broadcast live from his home, meet his bird Senna, hear (not see) wife Tati and learn his plans for the upcoming season.

Papis discussed why he is currently not racing.

"I'm about to go to RCR, I am working with them this year. I am a coach for Austin Dillon and Ty Dillon," he explained of his current work and what is keeping him busy. "I'm kind of like their big brother."

As for Papis' plans to get back on track, he will be driving the No. 33 RCR Nationwide Series entry at Road America in June. A few other races are maybes according to Papis.

"We are working with RCR to get a full-time deal next year," Papis said before taking questions from about 120 fans in the Livestream chat.

Asked why he is not racing this year, Papis said "I had a lot of opportunities, I had some opportunities to drive for teams that I thought would not be the right fit for me. I much rather work for a company like RCR and help Ty and Austin achieve their goals and wait for my time to get into a winning car."

The chat was fun and more will follow. Tati (Max's wife) was heard off-screen and promised to join next time.

I got lost a bit with the different languages Max spoke, so one thing I learned is that I need to learn more languages!

Stay tuned to @MaxPapis on Twitter because this came out of the blue, so follow Max for the next Livestream chat. If you missed this chat, which I guarantee you did, you may view it in archive.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Fast Facts: Greg Biffle

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion for Roush-Fenway Racing, is one of the hottest drivers on the Sprint Cup Series circuit early in 2012. Find out more about this animal-lover in this edition of Fast Facts.
  • Gregory Jack Biffle was born December 23, 1969 in Vancouver, Washington. He began his racing career on the short tracks of the Pacific Northwest, taking a turn in the open-wheel Barber Pro Series in the early 1990s, even moving to Europe in 1994 to race in the Formula Opel Euroseries and British Formula Three.

  • Biffle returned to the United States in 1995, gaining attention in the ESPN Winter Heat Series’ 1995-96 season. He raced in the Winston West Series and Busch Series (now Nationwide Series) in 1996, and in the NASCAR Northwest Series in 1997.

  • Biffle, as part of Roush Racing, raced full-time in the Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World Truck Series) in 1998, winning four poles and the Rookie of the Year title, following that up with nine wins and a second-place finish in points in 1999. In 2000, Biffle was crowned Truck Series champ after winning five times.

  • Biffle moved up to the Busch Series full-time in 2001, winning the Rookie of the Year title, then the championship in 2002. He moved up to the Cup Series in 2003, winning at Daytona in July and finishing second to Jamie McMurray for the Rookie of the Year title. In 2005, Biffle won five races and finished second in points to Tony Stewart; Biffle tied in points with teammate Carl Edwards , but took the second spot based on a tie-breaker: race wins.

  • Biffle married the former Nicole Lunders on October 17, 2007; they have one daughter, Emma Elizabeth, born July 6, 2011. The couple manages the Greg Biffle Foundation, which serves to improve the well-being of animals; the foundation donates to local humane societies, no-kill shelters, spay and neuter clinics and the Animal Adoption League.

  • Find out more about Biffle at http://www.gregbiffle.com/ and the Greg Biffle Foundation at http://www.gregbifflefoundation.com/.

What if ... An analogy comparing American Idol and NASCAR

This season, Elliott Sadler has two wins but faces the presence
of "Bruce Springsteen" each week. Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR
What if Bruce Springsteen were a competitor on American Idol? This analogy was presented during Nationwide series practice over the weekend and I thought about it a bit. A well-accomplished singer competing against the up-and-comers would not be fair, correct?

Welcome to the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series dilemma we face.
This is an age-old topic and is talked about endlessly, but change needs to come in my opinion. Take a look at the 2012 Nationwide Series thus far: with five races complete, the first four races were won by a non-Cup series driver. That is how it should be - that should not be such a headline!

Elliott Sadler has won two of the first five races and is joined in the winner’s circle by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and James Buescher. Buescher is a NASCAR CWTS driver running a partial schedule for Turner Motorsports and is being lumped into the Nationwide regulars category for some reason, but I think it is just an “Anyone but Cup drivers” category instead.

Take for example Elliott Sadler’s win at Bristol Motor Speedway. He did not dominate that race nor lead that many laps. In fact, Sadler only led the final 36 laps of the race. Who dominated the race? Cup star Joey Logano, double-dipping into the Nationwide race.

Back to the singing analogy. Say Bruce Springsteen doesn’t compete the whole season on American Idol but appears every few shows and gets others eliminated because of his awesomeness … is that fair? True fans of the show would say no.

Watching the races each week, I want to see the names of Justin Allgaier battling against Cole Whitt and Danica Patrick. (These are just examples of the many talented drivers in the Nationwide Series.) But add in the names of Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, etc., and the aspect of the racing changes because more than likely the experience wins out.

NASCAR has made drivers ineligible for points in multiple series, but what about limiting starts in those secondary series? My vote is no more than five a year. Keep the fans coming to see their favorite Cup drivers but also keep it a Nationwide and Truck Series event - that is what the racing is about, after all.

The best example of someone who just pops up in the NNS series is Tony Stewart, who races Daytona at most and his presence is felt but does not outshine the series regulars. Dale Earnhardt Jr. also runs some races in the Nationwide Series in his JR Motorsports-owned car, but his presence does outshine the regulars – because he is Dale Jr., a plain and simple fact and not his fault. It is a great buzz for the series for those few races to have fans tune in just to see Junior, but stick around and learn about the other drivers.

It just shocks me a bit that some people only watch and cheer on their drivers in these few races, but they don't care about the drivers who make these series their one and only career.

When you watch American Idol, what intrigues you about the people you cheer for beyond their obvious vocal ability? More than likely, it is their back story. The struggle to reach the top tugs at your heartstrings, hearing how Sally or Bobby struggled to work a 9-to-5 job while still pursuing the dream of music at the same time.

In NASCAR it's no different.

Each driver has struggled to reach the top; racing is not a cheap sport. Sacrifices are the name of the game. Learn the stories of the drivers and appreciate their passion for the sport. From drivers racing at the age of 5 to parents lying to get their kid into a race, NASCAR is full of great stories.

When comparing the story of an accomplished Bruce Springsteen to the talent of a rising star like season five’s young gun Kellie Pickler, that is apples and oranges. Sure, Pickler is a household name now, but that would not be the case if she competed against the Boss. Pickler’s compelling story would be overshadowed by Springsteen’s flashy awards and legions of fans.

Again … NASCAR is the same.

For me, following NASCAR is more than the wins; it is about the drivers and their stories. I enjoy telling you the stories of the drivers who you may not hear about as much - to me, those are the best stories. It is not about the Bruce Springsteens of NASCAR, but instead the opening act of the concert tour for Springsteen because one day that opening act will get their day and be just as big of a star. And on that day, I can proudly say that I remember when I interviewed _____ before they won _______. 

Truex Finishes Eighth in Rain-Shortened Auto Club 400


Martin Truex Jr. driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for
Michael Waltrip Racing earned his third top 10 of 2012 in Sunday's race at Auto Club Speedway.
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images for NASCAR 

Michael Waltrip Racing driver Martin Truex Jr. finished eighth in Sunday’s rain-shortened, but caution-free NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway. 

Truex, driver of the No. 56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota started the Auto Club 400 in 13th and raced his way up to 10th position around lap 100. When rain put a stop to the race on lap 129, Truex remained on the track during the caution and found himself sitting in eighth when the race never resumed. 

“We were a bit off at the start of the race. We made some changes during ‘Happy Hour’ and kind of missed it a little bit, but the guys worked hard on the NAPA Toyota. At one point we were as fast as the leader for the whole run. You run 130 laps with no caution and it can get strung out, but we were able to maintain and obviously stay on the lead lap. We started making some positions up after about lap 80 or so. The very last run there we got too loose and we gave about two of the spots back. Overall, it’s been a decent day. This place was really tough on us last year. It’s nice to come in here and have a decent run -- something we can build on,” said Truex following Sunday’s race.
The finish earned Truex his third top-10 finish of the 2012 season and put him fifth in the championship standings. The driver’s highest finish so far this season was third in the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway. 

In comparison to the 2011 season, Truex has more top-10 finishes (three) thus far – at this point last year, Truex had only one top-10 finish. Last season, the driver finished 18th in the standings three top fives, 12 top 10s and one pole. 

Now in his seventh full season driving in the Sprint Cup Series, nearly a fourth of the driver’s 230 career starts have resulted in a top-10 finish. 

Truex’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammates also had a successful race on Sunday. Mark Martin, driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota finished 12th after starting third and running in the top 10 for much of the race. Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota finished the race in 13th,a successful finish after struggling with handling issues throughout the day. 

Next week the team will head to Martinsville Speedway for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500. In the 2011 race, Truex’s day ended early when the driver lost his brakes, sending him flying into the wall, while taking Kasey Kahne (then the driver of the No. 4 Red Bull Toyota) along for the ride. 

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Chevy for Phoenix
Racing is interviewed during 2012 NASCAR Media Day. 
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR 
Another notable “underdog” of Sunday's race is Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevy for Phoenix Racing who finished ninth after starting 23rd. At the halfway point of the race, Busch was one of only 15 drivers still on the lead lap as the team was able to turn laps nearly as fast as the leaders in order to maintain position.  

“This just goes to show what results when you are smart all day,” said Busch following the Auto Club 400 on Sunday. “The car’s going back onto the trailer without a scratch on it, with a top-10 finish. That’s a first for us this year, and good adjustments were the key.” 

Heading into next week’s race at Martinsville, Busch said, “It was a nice solid day and everyone is pumped about this finish.”


Busch's team also took home two awards - the USG Improving the Finish award and the MOOG Problem Solver of the Race award.

There are several “underdogs” to watch in Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500. Martin, Jeff Burton, David Ragan, Joey Logano and Marcos Ambrose all have average finishes of 18th or better over the last five years.

Ragan finished eighth in last season’s race, followed by Bowyer and then Martin in 10th. Several other drivers also had solid finishes – Logano finished 13th, followed by AJ Allmendinger in 14th, David Reutimann in 15th and Kurt Busch in 16th.

NASCAR In Heels: The Race to Cure Progeria

Meet Carly, or Carly-Q as she is affectionately called, the inspiration
behind RealityTotes.com.  Photo courtesy of Ellen Pasko 
A few months ago while I was roaming around on Twitter I noticed I had a new follower with the name @RealityTotes. I checked it out and found an amazing cause that I instantly fell in love with, and I want to share it with all of you!

Reality Totes, “The Race to Cure Progeria,” was founded by Ellen Pasko. Progeria is a rare fatal disease that ages children 7-8 times faster than normal. Children are born looking healthy, but begin to show signs of Progeria, by about 18-24 months of age. Progeria signs include growth failure, loss of body fat and hair, aged-looking skin, stiffness of joints, hip dislocation, generalized atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke. Sadly, the average lifespan for these children is only 13 years.

After being unable to work, Ellen decided to take up charity work, and with 37 years of sewing experience and 20 years of making bags, she knew this would be a perfect way to make money for Progeria research, and one little girl in particular, Carly.

Ellen is friends with Carly’s cousin, Mike Trzcinski, and this is how she initially got involved. When Mike told Ellen about the disease, and his little cousin, Ellen “knew [she] found the cause [she] wanted to help!”

Carly, or Carly-Q as she is known to many, was diagnosed with Progeria in April of 2011, at 10 months of age. There are only 80 children in the world, 18 in the United States, diagnosed with Progeria, and Carly was number 80. The chances of a child being born with Progeria are 1 in 8 million.

By the time Carly is 10 years old, her body will be that of an 80 year old woman, unless they can find a cure that will slow down this aging process, or cure progeria all together. There is hope that an upcoming drug trial will help these children live longer. This trial comes with a price tag of $3.5 million dollars, and that is why Ellen started realitytotes.com.

Realitytotes.com started out with reality TV stars, mostly from the TV show Big Brother, but one night Ellen and Mike came up with the idea of having “racing gals” pose with the bags, making it a 'Race to cure Progeria.' 

“It’s kind of ironic but this disease is a reality, so Reality Totes fits in another way,” says Ellen.

Modeling my new tote bag.
Tammy Kahne, Natalie Sather, Emma Blaney, Shannon Saldana, Kaitlyn Vincie, and Erin Crocker Evernaham are just a few of the ladies involved, but of course they are looking for as many “racing gals” as they can to join the cause.

RealityTotes.com launched in September 2011. Ellen says things moved slowly at first, but are moving very steadily now. I just received my bags last week and I love them! They are super cute, and I have gotten plenty of compliments on them already. I know it will not be my last order, that’s for sure!

I absolutely love children, in fact, I studied Early Childhood for two years in college, and reading about Progeria, and Carly-Q’s story especially, touched my heart.

These bags are cute, and functional, and I strongly encourage you to head over and take a look, and place an order. All of the proceeds are donated to the Progeria Research Foundation in honor of Carly-Q.

Don’t forget to follow @realitytotes on Twitter, and to learn more about Carly and Progeria, visit:




Spread the word everyone, and “Together we WILL find a cure!”

Holly Strain is bringing her spin on the NASCAR world to Skirts and Scuffs, as she says, it is The Great American Sport through the eyes of a single girl. Holly is a Canadian born writer currently studying Publicity and Public Relations through the University of Toronto. Feel free to contact Holly on Twitter.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Smoke Signals: "Rain Man" Tony Stewart wins at Fontana, leads solid day for SHR

Tony Stewart flashes two fingers signaling his two wins this season.
Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR
They say “it never rains in Southern California,” but the inclement weather worked in Stewart-Haas Racing’s favor Sunday at Auto Club Speedway. A dominant Tony Stewart won the rain-shortened Auto Club 400, his second win of the 2012 season, and teammate Ryan Newman finished seventh, his second top-10 finish of the year.

Stewart is on a remarkable tear. The driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet picked up right where he left off in 2011, when he won half the races in the Chase to claim his third Sprint Cup title. To put it in perspective, Stewart has won seven of the last 15 races.

Despite winning the championship, Stewart-Haas Racing made sweeping changes during the off-season, bringing in Steve Addington as the No. 14 crew chief and Stewart’s former crew chief Greg Zipadelli as the organization’s new director of competition. The changes have prevented the team from slipping into complacency after their stunning success last year.

Stewart has never won two races so soon in a Sprint Cup season, and he welcomes the early surge.

“It's been nice to get off to a good start this year the way we have. Like you said, the history shows in the last 13 years we have not had the strongest starts the first third of the year. I'm really, really excited about the start that we've got going,” Stewart said.

“So really, really proud of what Steve and all of our guys at Stewart-Haas Racing have done.”

Stewart was fast from the get-go Sunday. Starting ninth at the 2-mile superspeedway, a hard-charging Stewart drove up to third place before the first 20 laps were complete. Stewart pulled some impressive slide moves to pass off his competitors, much to the chagrin of Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick.

On Lap 85 Stewart passed Kyle Busch to take the lead for the first time that day – and within three laps built a 2.4-second lead over second place. Stewart gave up the lead on Lap 104 to pit, but quickly reclaimed it on Lap 108, leading a total of 42 laps Sunday. Stewart held off an approaching Hamlin before the race was stopped for rain on Lap 125, the event’s only caution.

When pit road was open, Stewart faked out the field by veering toward pit road before pulling back onto the track.

"I don't think that I faked him out," Stewart said, referring to second-place Hamlin, who pitted. "I'm sure he had made his decision already - looked good, though."

About an hour after the red flag came out on Lap 129, the race was called for rain 71 laps short of its scheduled distance and Stewart was declared the winner.

Though the race was shortened, the fastest car still won.

“I mean, you hate to have them end with rain like that. But I’ve lost some that way. The good thing is we didn’t back into the lead because we stayed out and the leaders came in. I mean, we were leading the thing and had earned that spot. I’m proud of that,” Stewart said.

The victory marks Stewart’s 46th Sprint Cup win, tying him with Buck Baker for 14th on NASCAR’s all-time wins list. The win is Stewart’s second at the Fontana track.

Stewart’s teammate Newman cemented a strong day for Stewart-Haas Racing. The driver of the No. 39 U.S. Army ROTC Chevrolet started sixth in Sunday’s race and by Lap 6 had cracked the top 3. However, the No. 39’s handling became tight as the race went on, and Newman fell back as far as ninth.

When the caution came out for rain, Newman and crew chief Tony Gibson decided to stay out. The strategy paid off as Newman gained two spots to finish seventh when the race was called.

“We were a little inconsistent today, going from tight to loose to tight again,” Newman said. “Even though we were capable of more, we’ll take a top-10 out of it.

“We certainly made adjustments each time we pitted, but it seemed we just couldn’t get things the way we needed to. That’s the way it goes sometimes. It was definitely not for a lack of effort,” Newman said.

Newman’s top-10 finish means fans can feast on free Bloomin’ Onions at his sponsor Outback Steakhouse on Monday.

With both teams finishing in the top 10, Stewart-Haas Racing moved up in the Sprint Cup points standings. Stewart jumped three spots to fourth place, just 18 points behind leader Greg Biffe. Newman also rose three spots in the standings, sitting comfortably in 10th, 40 points behind Biffle.

Stewart-Haas Racing switches focus to Martinsville this weekend, where the team looks to repeat its success from last fall. Stewart won at the volatile short track on the way to his third Sprint Cup title, and Newman finished a solid 10th.