Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Fast Facts: 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Jack Ingram

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jack Ingram, unlike many other drivers who have been inducted into the Hall, made his name in NASCAR’s Busch Grand National division – what is today known as the Nationwide Series. Learn more about the driver known as the “Iron Man,” who joins the Hall of Fame along with Tim Flock, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts, in this Hall of Fame edition of Fast Facts.
  • Jack Ingram was born Dec. 28, 1936 in Asheville, North Carolina. In his early days in NASCAR, he competed in 10 races in what is now the Sprint Cup Series from 1965-1968, before making the move to NASCAR’s Late Model Sportsman division; Ingram won three consecutive Sportsman titles (1972-1974).
  • What set Ingram apart from many of his competitors was his age and longevity – after his Sportsman titles, he returned to the Cup Series for nine more starts in 1979 (four) and 1981 (five) – at the time, in his early 40s. In 1982, at age 45, Ingram captured the inaugural Busch Series title, winning seven races and finishing in the top 10 24 times in 29 races. He repeated as champion in 1985, with five wins and 22 top 10 finishes in 27 races.
  • From 1982-1987, Ingram tallied 31 wins – upon his retirement in 1991 at age 54, he held the record for most Busch Series wins; he is currently fifth on the all-time wins list for the series. He placed in the top 10 in points in all eight of his full-time seasons in the Busch Series.
  • Ingram was named the Most Popular Driver in the Busch Series in 1982.
  • In 2007, Ingram was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inductees at www.nascarhall.com

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Fast Facts: 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Tim Flock

credit: NASCAR Media
2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Tim Flock was just one member of a family full of drivers, including his brothers Bob and Fonty and his sister, Ethel Mobley, who was the second female driver in NASCAR history. Learn more about this NASCAR pioneer, who joins the Hall of Fame along with Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts, in this Hall of Fame edition of Fast Facts.
  • Julius Timothy Flock was born May 11, 1924 in Fort Payne, Alabama. The Flock family made a strong impression early on in NASCAR’s history, with all three brothers finishing in the top 10 in points in NASCAR’s inaugural season in 1949 – Bob in third, Fonty in fifth and Tim in eighth. Tim Flock sat out part of the 1950 season after a wreck at Charlotte, but returned in 1951 to win seven races and finish third in points.
  • Flock earned his first NASCAR title in 1952, winning eight of the 33 races he ran that year and earning 25 top 10 finishes. He followed that up with a second title in 1955, winning 18 of the 39 races he ran in, along with 33 top 10 finishes and 18 poles.
  • Flock’s career was relatively short – just 13 seasons (1949-1961) – and the closest he came to running a complete season was in 1952, when he raced in 33 of the 34 scheduled races; in seven of his 13 seasons, he raced in seven or fewer races. He was, however, dominant in the races he competed in: 39 wins (20.9-percent – second-highest winning percentage in NASCAR history) and 129 top 10 finishes (69-percent) in 187 races.
  • Flock had an unusual co-driver for a couple of races – his Rhesus monkey “Jocko Flocko.”  “Jocko” was co-driver for Flock’s win at Hickory Motor Speedway on May 16, 1953, but retired two weeks later at Raleigh when he was hit by a pebble.
  • Flock died on March 31, 1998 of liver and throat cancer. One month prior to his death, he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. He has also been inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1991), the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1999) and the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame (1972) among others.
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inductees at www.nascarhall.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Checkered Past: Ken Schrader Starts the “Triple” List

Ken Schrader won the pole for the inaugural
Mudsummer Classic at Eldora in July 2013
credit: Getty Images/Tom Pennington
Veteran driver Ken Schrader may have left NASCAR competition behind after the 2013 season, but he's accomplished a great deal. While his win total is not as prolific as many – four wins in the Cup Series, two in Nationwide and one in the Camping World Truck Series – it's the fact he won in all three series, and was the first driver to do so, that makes those numbers special.

Schrader won his four Cup Series races in a four-year span from 1988 to 1991 while driving the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports. His first win came in 1988 at Talladega, which he followed up in 1989 with a victory at Charlotte. In 1991 he won at Atlanta and Dover. Another impressive statistic from that era of Schrader’s career: three straight Daytona 500 poles from 1988 to 1990. Schrader’s Nationwide Series victories came five seasons apart: at Dover in 1989 and Talladega in 1994.

Because of his wins in the top two tiers of NASCAR, when the Truck Series made its debut in 1995, he become a “triple threat” – a winner in all three top NASCAR series. Early in 1995, on April 15, Schrader raced at Saugus Speedway in California in the track’s only Truck Series race and took the checkered flag, becoming the first triple winner on a list that now includes 23 drivers, the most recent of which is Denny Hamlin.

The Truck Series also helped Schrader earn one more record before he left NASCAR for more dirt track racing and ARCA opportunities. At the inaugural Mudsummer Classic at Eldora Speedway in July 2013, Schrader won the pole with a track record speed of 91.329 mph and became the oldest pole winner in NASCAR history at age 58.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Faith on the Frontstretch: The Greatest Gift

Skirts and Scuffs photographer Charlotte Bray with her favorite gift, Smokie.
Credit: Tim Bray
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”    ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Think about the best gift you’ve ever received. Was it a Christmas present? Race tickets for your birthday? A hat autographed by your favorite driver? Oftentimes, a gift feels special because it’s something so perfect for you that you feel known and loved by the giver.

The ladies of Skirts and Scuffs shared some meaningful gifts they’ve received in the past.

As a teenager, Lacy Keyser wanted a pair of faux fur boots but never dreamed she would get them. On Christmas morning, she opened a box from her grandmother, and the boots were tucked inside. “My grandma still talks about the expression on my face,” she said.

Photographer Charlotte Bray said her best-ever gift was her beloved dog, a stray given to her right after she lost her former job. A friend brought her the pup just when she needed a lift. “It was such a difficult time,” she said, “... and that little guy saved me.”

When writer Lisa Janine Cloud was a little girl, her daddy gave her an AM radio kit for her birthday then added the priceless gift of his time when he helped her assemble it. “I loved that radio and listened to it for years,” she said.

Sometimes gifts are special people in our lives. Writer Stephanie Stuart said knowing her friend’s five-year-old twins is a precious gift. “From milestones to small moments like whispers of ‘I love you,’ and giggles in the corner, they have taught me what unconditional love is all about and what the gift of life truly means,” she said.

Whether it’s a material thing, a pet or a person, the perfect gift can be a blessing that changes our lives for the better.

My greatest gift? When I was nine years old, I asked Jesus into my heart. Through Him, I receive unconditional love, forgiveness and the promise of heaven. Amazing, life-altering gifts, aren't they? The best part is they’re available to you, too.

The racing off-season brings the Christmas in-season, which is all about gifts. God sent Jesus to earth as a gift to us. The wise men traveled to see baby Jesus and brought Him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Now, we exchange gifts with family and friends.

The care we put into choosing gifts is a beautiful expression of our love for one another. Giving helps us focus on the real reason for the season: Peace. Joy. Celebrating the birth of Christ.

Christmas is a beautiful reminder that God is the Source of everything good in our lives. As you give gifts to others and delight in those you receive, may you be blessed by both.

Merry Christmas!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.     ~ James 1:17 (NIV)

“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke. See you on the Frontstretch!

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for female racing fans.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Bobby Labonte to drive in 2014 Daytona 500 for Phoenix Racing

Bobby Labonte Returns to Phoenix Racing for Daytona 500 
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion to race for team at select races 

(December 17, 2013) - Phoenix Racing formally announced today that Bobby Labonte will drive a second car for the team in the Daytona 500 on February 23, 2014 at Daytona International Speedway. The move reunites Phoenix Racing chairman emeritus, James Finch, with the 2000 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Bobby Labonte. Labonte drove for Phoenix Racing for 13 races in the No. 09 in 2010 and for one race at Michigan International Speedway in 2013 in the No. 51.

Harry Scott, Jr., who purchased the team from Finch in 2013, said, "James continues to be a valuable part of our team and when he came up with the idea of running Bobby in a second car, I jumped at the opportunity to bring him back into the fold. Bobby is a veteran driver that can also provide valuable insight and leadership for Phoenix Racing."

"I'm thrilled to be headed back to Daytona with Bobby Labonte," said Finch. "I thank Harry Scott for this opportunity. He knew I would have to be weaned off racing, I can't quit cold turkey."

"I am grateful and excited to return to Daytona with Phoenix Racing," said Labonte. "The Daytona 500 is obviously a special event for everyone involved in the sport. I can't wait to get back in the car for my 22nd Daytona 500."

Labonte, who will run a number of races for Phoenix Racing has won 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in his career that started in 1991. During that time Labonte scored 115 Top 5s and 203 Top 10s. In 1990 Labonte was named the NASCAR Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver. He captured the NASCAR Nationwide Series championship a year later in 1991.

The team will provide additional information in the coming weeks about which car number will be entered, the crew chief for the team and sponsors supporting the car.

About Phoenix Racing
Phoenix Racing, which was established in 1989, is owned and operated by Harry Scott, Jr. and competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Scott purchased the team from long-time owner James Finch in September 2013. His vision is to build a championship contender in due time by developing talented young drivers, partnering with dedicated sponsors and competing hard every week.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Checkered Past: Dec. 14, 1947 – Foundation Blocks Laid for NASCAR

Bill France Sr. in his office
Credit: France Family archives/NASCAR Media
In January 1947, after having competed and promoted a few auto races in the Daytona Beach, Florida area, William France Sr. decided it was time to develop a series for racers, which he named the “National Championship Stock Car Series.” France approached the American Automobile Association in hopes of gaining financial backing for the venture, but the group declined.

France was not deterred, however, and announced that the winner of the 1947 season – beginning in Daytona in January and ending in December at Jacksonville – would receive a check for $1,000 and a trophy. Almost 40 events were run that season, with Fonty Flock declared the champion after winning seven events. France was true to his word, and delivered a check and a trophy to Flock, as well as $3,000 in prize money for other drivers who competed.

France also announced a series of meetings following the 1947 season that would directly lead to the formation of NASCAR. The first of four meetings was held Dec. 14, 1947 at 1 p.m. in the Streamline Hotel in Florida, with France hosting 35 representatives of the National Championship Stock Car Circuit (NCSCC) and outlining his idea for an organized group of drivers. The original name chosen was the National Stock Car Racing Association, but someone pointed out that the name was already being used by another organization. Mechanic Red Vogt proposed the name National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, which became NASCAR.
On Feb. 21, 1948, NASCAR was officially founded by France, with its original divisions being Modifieds, Roadsters and Strictly Stock. Roadsters were quickly abandoned as a division and Strictly Stock was put on hold until 1949. The Modified division ran 52 races in 1948, with Red Byron being named the first NASCAR champ.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Sprint Cup Banquet: Best and Worst

Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra hold another trophy - daughter Lydia Norriss -
before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Banquet at Wynn Las Vegas on Friday in Las Vegas, Nev.
What happens in Las Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas. Nor should it!

Sin City has hosted the NASCAR Sprint Cup banquet the last few years. The sport’s best and brightest came together Friday to honor six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson at the awards ceremony at the Wynn in Las Vegas. The annual event is a favorite among fans.

Four of our editors at Skirts and Scuffs - site creator Katy Lindamood, me (Lead Editor Rebecca Kivak) and Associate Editors L.J. Cloud and Beth Reinke - watched the banquet at our respective homes so we could critique the best and worst moments from this year’s ceremony.

We’re glad we did. For an event that’s known to be uneven, this year’s banquet was the strongest yet. The well-paced event featured good speeches, good comedy and good entertainment.

“All in all I felt like this banquet was the best we've seen,” Katy said.

Without further adieu, here’s our Best and Worst of the night’s speeches, performances, skits, jokes and of course, the fashion.

Best speech: Jimmie Johnson

The six-time champion paid tribute to Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Jr., the only other two Sprint Cup drivers to claim six titles, and ended with a quote from the recently deceased Nelson Mandela. The emotion that's evident when Johnson talks about “his girls” - his wife Chandra and their two daughters, Evie and Lydia - touched the Skirts and Scuffs editors.

“When I see the expressions of true love between Jimmie and Chandra or Kyle and Samantha (Busch), it makes me choke up,” Beth said. “They are blessed in many ways.”

Worst speech: Greg Biffle

The Biff not only looked uncomfortable onstage, but his comments toward Johnson about their on-track run-in came off as awkward and disrespectful.

“Maybe the teleprompter was moving too much, but it looked like he was shuffling back and fourth on his feet and wanted to run from the stage,” Katy said.

Runners-up: A very uncomfortable looking Robin Pemberton, and the awkward Brian France.

Host Jay Mohr tries to start a new fashion
trend. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Most heartfelt speech: Kurt Busch

After the most embattled years of his career, Kurt Busch brought Furniture Row Racing their first Chase berth. Busch seemed very genuine in his remarks when he thanked company and race team owner Barney Visser for giving him a chance, and his girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, for helping him become a better man.

“Kurt was humble and articulate. Kurt seemed to be the most comfortable in front of the microphone,” Katy said.

Most entertaining speech: Kyle Busch

The younger Busch brother was in a great mood at Friday’s banquet, joking how he "made it past dinner" to give his speech due to his fourth-place finish in the Chase standings, a career best. Busch also thanked the woman many believe is responsible for his personal growth and maturity: his wife, Samantha.

“I loved Kyle Busch's ‘She's always there to pick me up. I love you, baby!’ in thanking Samantha,” Beth said. “Aw!”

Classiest moments: Military tribute; Betty Jane France award recipient Don Post; Jeff Gordon mentioning those in the NASCAR industry who passed away this year, including Jason Leffler, Dick Trickle and Marcy Scott; Johnson's Nelson Mandela quote.

Best skit: Drivers' tryouts for banquet hosting duties

Kurt Busch and bubbles - need we say more? Kasey Kahne’s line of "Just looking good, man. Just looking good" played on his popularity with the female fan base.

Best Jay Mohr moment: Adding Jeff Gordon to everything jokes

After a seven-year hosting absence, Jay Mohr came back much improved. Though some of his jokes bombed, Mohr returned overall funnier than the last time, as well as more knowledgeable and respectable about the sport. His "adding Jeff Gordon to everything jokes" - the BCS title game, the Oscars' "Best Picture" category and a 13th month, "Jeff Gordonary" - had us in stitches.

Worst Jay Mohr moment: Calling Matt Kenseth "Mark Martin," mispronouncing Brad Keselowski’s last name as “Kowzlowski.”

The miscues didn’t go over well with NASCAR fans on Twitter. But LJ said that Mohr has terrible stage fright, which could explain the lapses.

Mohr’s Danica jokes: In good or bad taste?

Ricky Stenhouse and Danica Patrick smile -
but not at Jay Mohr's jokes.
Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Mohr incurred the wrath of Danica Patrick’s fan base on Twitter for his jokes about her sub-par performance on the track during her first full season in Sprint Cup. But Patrick also received flak for not laughing or smiling during Mohr’s pointed jokes. Patrick’s boyfriend, Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year Ricky Stenhouse, was clearly not amused during the ribbing.

The editors of Skirts and Scuffs were divided over the issue.

Though Mohr has the right as a comedian to pick on drivers’ vulnerabilities - and yes, Danica’s on-track performance was lacking this season - I thought his jokes toward Danica came off as mean-spirited. I cringed during Mohr’s jokes, and I wasn’t surprised by Danica or Stenhouse’s icy stares.

LJ pointed out that all the other drivers Mohr picked on took the ribbing in stride. She rehashed the following jokes Mohr made about the sport’s top drivers: Mohr said Gordon “quit” after winning four titles; called Clint Bowyer a “bad actor” after asking him about his poison oak; said Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s GPS couldn’t find victory lane; mentioned the Phoenix pit stop that cost Kenseth the championship; and said Michael Waltrip's nickname was "Darrell Waltrip's brother."

“Those were all sore points, but that's the kind of humor Mohr does,” LJ said. “In my opinion, if Danica can't take what everyone else was taking with equanimity, then she's in the wrong business.”

Beth wasn’t amused by Mohr’s comments, and saw the situation differently.

“When her Sprint Cup performance has been sub-par (and other than Daytona, it has) to me it seems almost like bullying to make jokes about it,” Beth said. “I think she's really trying on the track and it's probably hurtful to have jokes made about her lack of success. If she had a couple of decent years first, then they made jokes about a bad year, that would be OK. Pretty much everybody else who was ‘roasted’ already is an on-track success, so it's probably easier for them to take the ribbing.”

Katy noted, “Ricky looked more annoyed than Danica anytime she was mentioned.”

Best sport: Jeff Gordon on being added as the 13th driver in the Chase.

Katy had an interesting observation: “Gordon laughed at Mohr's jokes but Logano was the funniest to watch because he seemed to get a ‘belly laugh’ everytime Gordon was roasted.”

Runners-up: Dale Earnhardt Jr. about lack of wins, Kevin Harvick about asking Gene Haas if he has any grandsons.

Lines of the night

It was too difficult to pick just one line from Friday’s banquet, so our editors compiled the lines we liked the most:

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. The power to unite people in a way little else does.” - Jimmie Johnson

"I have amazing fans ... and I think it's pretty safe to say Jay Mohr's not one of them." - Danica Patrick during her Sprint Fan Voice acceptance speech

"I have no idea what the hell you were thinking when you said yes, but we bought the ticket so we might as well take the ride." - Clint Bowyer to his fiancee Lorra Podsiadlo

"Just looking good, man. Just looking good." - Kasey Kahne in drivers' host tryouts bit

“It felt like an episode of 'Law and Order: NASCAR.'" - Kasey Kahne during the Erin Andrews bit

"We'll all chip in!" - Matt Kenseth suggesting Johnson should retire

Jimmie Johnson wonders how his Sprint Cup trophy
managed to grow overnight. Tom Pennington/Getty Images
“I knew we were gonna be great friends after he said I was ‘number one’ out the window at Dover at my first Nationwide start, my first practice. I mean I didn’t even get out of third gear and here comes the finger.” - Joey Logano referring to his teammate Brad Keselowski

“What does his pillow look like? Does he just go to Mattress Warehouse and say I'll take that?" - Jay Mohr on the size of Ryan Newman’s head

"I come home with hardware. Really?" - Danica Patrick on the Sprint Fan Voice award

“The 2013 season was good, solid and consistent for us, right up until that little spin for the worse  - and let me tell you something, it was bad, really bad!” - Clint Bowyer referencing the Richmond spin

“By the way, you saw Jay Mohr’s Twitter handle, @JayMohr37? That was his dad's car number, on his dad’s racecar. So he’s invested.” – Mike Joy

Best performance: Pia Toscano singing “Threaten Me with Heaven”

All of the banquet’s acts appealed to the NASCAR fan base. John Mellencamp and Dierks Bentley did a terrific job. Sara Bareilles' performance of "Brave" ended the night on a high note. But Toscano’s performance captured our hearts.

“Toscano's song during the tribute to NASCAR folks we've lost this year was touching and beautiful,” Beth said. The former “American Idol” contestant’s vocals were a perfect match for the song.

Worst performance: None. Thank goodness NASCAR learned after last year not to bring back Cirque du Soleil.

Best presenter: Michael Rooker, who played Rowdy Burns in "Days of Thunder," introducing "Rowdy" Kyle Busch.

Best date: Little Evie Johnson, who accompanied her father's crew chief Chad Knaus. Sheer cuteness!


We’ve covered the ceremony, so let’s get down to the fashion.

Best dressed female, non-broadcast: Danica Patrick. Her classic black dress was simple and understated. Beth liked her “cool, strappy-up-the-ankles shoes.” Katy said, “She went the simple route and it worked well.”

Best dressed female, broadcast: Danielle Trotta, who looked glamorous in a black gown with cutouts.

Kurt Busch: "You're not the only one looking
good, Kasey." Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Worst dressed female: There was no clear-cut choice here as a few gowns had us raising our eyebrows:
  • Chandra Johnson: We love Chandra’s classic beauty, but the editors were split on her black and white print dress. While LJ liked it, I thought it was too busy. Katy admitted, “I just didn't know where to look.”
  •  Patricia Driscoll: I was mixed on Patricia’s blue dress with a big, bold gold design. Katy liked the color, but when Patricia stood next to Kurt Busch’s striped suitcoat, she thought the dress was “too much.”
  • Linda Hendrick: “Her dress looked like drapes from a funeral home,” LJ said.
  • Kaitlyn Vincie: We love Kaitlyn, but her rhinestone-studded dress “looked like the drivers' daughters got loose with a Bedazzler,” as LJ put it.
  • Ingrid Vandebosch: The model’s black dress covered in silver studs “made her look like she was wearing a costume from Tron: Victoria's Secret,” LJ said.
  • Alyssa Milano: Katy thought the presenter’s red, ruffly dress was the night’s biggest offender. “The red was just too bright for my taste and the ruffles were too much for her small frame,” Katy commented.
Best dressed male: Kurt Busch, hands down. All four Skirts and Scuffs editors liked Busch’s blue-and-black striped suitcoat. “Kurt's suit was quirky so he gets my vote,” Katy said.

Runner-up: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. “Stenhouse Jr.'s black-on-black looked really sharp,” LJ said.

Worst dressed male: Matt Kenseth looked, as LJ put it, “rumpled.” “You'd think he could afford a suit that fits,” LJ said.

What was your best and worst from the 2013 banquet? Let us know in the comments below.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Checkered Past: Dec. 1, 1963 – Wendell Scott Breaks the Barrier

Mural of Wendell Scott
Photo credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Rainier Ehrhardt
In October at Martinsville Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. became just the second African-American driver to win in NASCAR’s top-tier series and the first in nearly 50 years. Wallace Jr.’s historic Camping World Truck Series victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports put him in the spotlight as the second Drive for Diversity graduate to win in 2013, following in the footsteps of fellow D4D grad Kyle Larson. Before Wallace Jr., Larson and other minority drivers visited the fast tracks of NASCAR, however, Wendell Scott blazed a trail of his own, helping them make their dreams a reality.

Wendell Oliver Scott was born Aug. 29, 1921. Due to the segregation of the era, Scott would not get a chance to race until he was in his 30s, spending his early years in the blacks-only section of the bleachers in his hometown of Danville, Virginia, watching “the good ol’ boys” compete. He competed for the first time in 1952, driving on the Dixie Circuit, then a regional NASCAR competitor.

After competing in his first Dixie Circuit race, he took his car to a NASCAR-sanctioned race at Winston-Salem, but NASCAR officials refused to let him race – black drivers weren’t allowed. After this happened a second time, Scott decided to avoid NASCAR and stick with the Dixie Circuit for the time being, where he was rewarded with his first victory – an amateur class heat race – just 12 days into his career.

In 1953, Scott still had NASCAR aspirations, and packed up his car to visit the 0.25-mile dirt oval at Richmond Speedway for a NASCAR-sanctioned race. He was granted a NASCAR license by track steward Mike Poston, who later took heat for granting the license to Scott.

Scott spent nine years in NASCAR’s regional levels, winning races, fans and two championships in spite of the prejudice he still faced. In 1961, he moved into the Grand National Division (now Sprint Cup Series), and on Dec. 1, 1963, Scott took home the checkered flag from Speedway Park in Florida, becoming the first, and thus far only, African-American driver to win in NASCAR’s highest series.

In 13 years (1961 to 1973) in the Cup Series, Scott amassed 147 top-10 finishes. He passed on Dec. 23, 1990 from spinal cancer.

Learn more about Scott at his induction page for the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (inducted 1999).

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Faith on the Frontstretch: Resting and Refueling in the Off-Season

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the track, not an engine was stirring, nor a lugnut or jack.
The fire suits were hung in the haulers with care, as pit crews went home, time with family to share.

Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs   

“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

Two Sundays have come and gone without a stock car engine stirring in NASCAR’s highest series. Tracks like Texas Motor Speedway, pictured above, are mostly quiet this time of year. Some eager fans are already counting down the days until the 2014 Daytona 500. Others commiserate on Twitter, lamenting the race-free weekends ahead.

But nine months is a long time for the travelling NASCAR personnel to live on the road. It’s a lengthy list of Sundays for fans to watch from their living rooms, too. The truth is, taking a break from our favorite sport is a healthy thing - physically, mentally and even spiritually.

Before anyone throws rubber marbles in protest or declares that all true fans should hate the off-season, consider this. The off-season provides a war wagon full of tools racing folks and fans can use to power down. We can use the next few months to:

Rest. After months of intense physical and mental strain, racing people desperately need a respite. The familiarity of home brings comfort and relief from everyday work-related burdens. They can sleep in their own beds for weeks without having to pack, unpack or use a port-a-potty.

Rekindle. Time at home allows the rekindling of family relationships in a more normal setting. Other than drivers whose families live in the motorhomes with them, many racing folks are away from loved ones for about half of the week. The off-season allows them to renew and revitalize day-to-day connections with relatives, friends and neighbors. Is there anyone you need to reconnect with?

Refuel. Time off from the race circuit provides time for other hobbies and activities. Engaging in favorite pastimes is a way for the weary to refuel their spirits. Spending time with God and doing things we love is a great way for us to renew our souls, too.

Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
Regroup. For race teams and media folks, the off-season can be a time of reflection and reorganization. Sometimes taking a step back helps put things in perspective and we see where changes are needed.

Rekindle. Refuel. Regroup. The prefix “re-” means to do something again or even “again and again.” Just as our bodies need sleep every 24 hours, we need bigger chunks of rest periodically as well – maybe one day or a week’s vacation or the whole off-season.

A traditional day of rest, called the Sabbath, is an idea God programmed into the universe. In the beginning, after working on creation for six days, He rested on the seventh day. God doesn’t need to rest, but He knew we humans require it, so He set an example for us. It’s almost like He was saying, “Take a day off each week to refuel your tank, and don’t feel guilty about it.”

Taking a Sabbath rest is a gift from God that many of us never unwrap. Instead we push, push, push ourselves past the fuel window and end up sputtering along on fumes.

There’s a way to remedy the exhaustion and refuel our souls - spending quiet time with God. Talking with Him leaves us refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to face whatever lies ahead in the race of life.

During the off-season, each of us has a chunk of time on weekends that we’d normally spend watching a race or two. Each of those Sundays is a Sabbath day full of promise. How will you spend that extra time?

Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. ~ Genesis 2:3

“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke. See you on the Frontstretch!

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for female racing fans.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Fast Facts: 2013 Camping World Truck Series Champ Matt Crafton

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Chris Graythen
Camping World Truck Series veteran Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra for ThorSport Racing, was recently crowned the 2013 Truck Series champion, his first title in 13 full-time seasons on the circuit. Revisit the career of this California-born driver in this special Truck Series champion edition of Fast Facts.
  • Matthew Crafton was born June 11, 1976 in Tulare, California. He began racing go-karts at age 7, progressing to midgets by age 15 after winning regional and national championships. In 1996, he moved up to the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series for the season’s final three races, subbing for his father, Danny, who was injured; the younger Crafton won the series’ title in 2000.
  • In 2000, Crafton also made his Truck Series debut in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana with ThorSport, qualifying 17th and finishing ninth. After three full-time seasons with ThorSport, he joined Kevin Harvick Incorporated in 2004, but was released at the end of the season in spite of a fifth-place finish in points and 17 top 10s. He rejoined ThorSport in 2005.
  • Crafton earned his first Truck Series pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2005, followed by his first victory in 2008 at Charlotte. He earned his second career win in 2011 at Iowa Speedway, and his third at Kansas in 2013 on his way to the title.
  • In 2013, Crafton scored one win and 19 top 10 finishes in 22 Truck Series races on his way to the championship. He also made his Nationwide Series debut, racing three times for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet Camaro; he finished with three top 10 finishes, including two third-place finishes at the two races at Kentucky Speedway.
  • Find out more about Crafton at his website, www.mattcrafton.com

Friday, November 29, 2013

Change of Pace: Five Questions for NASCAR

November, Texas Motor Speedway
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Life is too short.

It’s a song that needed one more bar of music to be complete. It’s that guy you dated in middle school that only came up to your ribcage (trust me, slow dancing was so awkward). It’s every late-night conversation you’ve had that was more stimulating than good coffee.

There’s been a moment in everyone’s lives where everything is put into perspective. For some, it’s a family emergency. For others, it’s a book or movie. A lot of people wait until Thanksgiving day to determine what they are grateful for at that moment.

Here’s some advice: don’t be one of those people. There is nothing more unnerving than realizing how selfish you’ve become. You’re going through every day, laughing and working and not thinking of tomorrow, and it’s easy and carefree until something stops you in your tracks.

And then you realize you’ve been kicking around the fragile package of life like a soccer ball.

I couldn’t imagine where I would be without the amazing family, opportunities, and readers that I’ve been blessed with this year. I’m thankful for the police officers, firefighters, soldiers who risk their lives every day. I’m thankful for scientists who are trying to cure cancer, and for the doctors who are helping people fight it.

Most of all, I’m thankful for those who are attempting to make a difference in the world. They are the greatest gift of them all.

So don’t wait until Thanksgiving to express your gratitude. Don’t wait until Christmas to spread cheer. Don’t wait until New Year's to make a resolution. Don’t wait until any predetermined day to change your ways. There is no excuse; the time will pass anyway, so why not start now?

Speaking of making a change, it’s time for a change of pace in NASCAR. The season is over, yet there are so many questions still hanging in the air. I chose five of them to ask the sanctioning body in this special edition of Five Questions.

Was the Gen-6 really a success? After so much hype, the latest car model debuted in the Sprint Cup Series. Its true talent didn’t shine at the Daytona 500; in fact, it was very disappointing. The sport’s representatives came out and said they were happy with how the Gen-6 raced the entire year. However, it was also revealed that drastic changes will be made to the aerodynamics. I guess they weren’t that confident in their new design.

Is there consistency in the future? The 2013 season will be known as The Year of Confusion due to various inconsistencies, from restart rules to penalties to conduct off the track. Nothing bums the mood out more than indecisiveness. It’s time for a major sit-down to clarify the rulebook, the intentions, and the logistics of the entire corporation.

Why did you purchase Iowa Speedway? When it was announced earlier this week that NASCAR -the actual sanctioning body- bought the 7/8-mile track east of Des Moines, eyebrows were raised as to what it meant. People have been saying that the track should be added to the Sprint Cup schedule: it produces great racing and crowds. The response? “This isn’t the first of many. This is a unique situation.” A special event will be held at the speedway on December 12th to discuss the future plans, so we will know then.

When are you shaking up the Cup schedule? If they decided to add Iowa to the schedule, it would obviously have to wait until 2015; the schedules for all three series were released weeks ago, and not much changed - to fans’ dismay. “We’re happy with the tracks we have now,” NASCAR executives said at the schedule reveal, “And the fans are, too.” Uh, what? No. The consensus has been that there needs to be a road course in The Chase, along with other changes that didn’t go through. Major moves need to happen next time.

Does it matter what the fans think? It’s weird that NASCAR thinks the fans are happy with the track lineup, because that’s definitely not the impression watchers have been giving off for the past two years. Every time a questionable move is made, it is heightened by the array of opinions that light up comment sections and Twitter feeds. When someone within the sport reads a fan’s thought, do they store it in their mind to dwell on later? Or do they just scroll on by and shrug it off? That’s an answer I’d love to hear.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving to our readers

Tracks sit silent and empty during the off-season.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs    
If you’re celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today, you know it’s a time for family, friends and thankful hearts. We enjoy yummy traditional foods such as turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. We share hugs and laughter and reflect on the blessings in our lives.

Although we don’t gather around the same dinner table, the staff of Skirts and Scuffs is thankful for you – our readers. You’re part of the Skirts and Scuffs extended family and we give thanks for your faithful readership and support.

As much as we prefer the rumble of engines over the stillness of an empty track, the off-season helps us appreciate the family-oriented sport we hold dear. While we share more weekends with our loved ones, the drivers and crews devote time to their families, too.

Over the next few months, as our preparation for 2014 begins, we hope you’ll pop in to read our columns. We wish you a happy, healthy holiday and an enjoyable off-season.

In case you missed them, enjoy these Thanksgiving tweets from NASCAR notables:

Monica Palumbo ‏@MonicaPalumbo : I want to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!! Spend it with the ppl you love. Or that can at least cook well, ha! Thankful for you all.

Pete Pistone ‏@PPistone : Thanks for listening - Happy Thanksgiving weekend everyone! @SiriusXMNASCAR

Kenny Wallace ‏@Kenny_Wallace : I am THANKFUL our friends @KevinHarvick and @DeLanaHarvick and Family are SAFE after a scare with a fire in their house

Steve Post ‏@ThePostman68 : Headed to PA for Thanksgiving in just a bit, going to be a bit of a wintery adventure along the way. Elbows Up!!!

Mike Kelley ‏@CrewChiefNSCS17 : Getting up at 4am to load the bird in the smoker. Love cooking for the Holiday. @danagvazquez lets me be the boss for the day!!!

A Checkered Flag ‏@acheckeredflag : Happy Thanksgiving to you all...and thanks for following me!

Elliott Sadler ‏@Elliott_Sadler1m : Happy thanksgiving from the Sadler Family... pic.twitter.com/FLn25fXywH

Dave Moody ‏@DGodfatherMoody : Happy Thanksgiving to all, and many thanks for all your support in 2013. It's been an adventure!

Darrell Waltrip ‏@AllWaltrip : Good Morning America, twitterville, race fans, it's the day before Thanksgiving but I'm starting to make a list of things I'm thankful for!

Hendrick Motorsports ‏@TeamHendrick : The No. 48 @LowesRacing #ChevySS is getting some final touches before the #Thanksgiving holiday as well! #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/gEtux2l64I

tom jensen ‏@tomjensen100 : I love family holidays. Have a great Thanksgiving, friends!

TheNASCARFoundation ‏@NASCAR_FDN : Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at The NASCAR Foundation! #NASCAR #Thanksgiving

Steve O'Donnell ‏@odsteve : Happy Thanksgiving everyone-Thankful 2 have time w/family-Thank u 2 all our troops home & abroad-ur service lets us have this day #NASCAR

Krissie Newman @NewmanKrissie : Happy Thanksgiving! Hope your day is filled with love, laughter and blessings (good food too)

Checkered Past: The 2006 Chase and Johnson's First Title

Another difference from 2006 to 2013:
In 2006, the NASCAR Awards Banquet was
held in New York City, not Las Vegas.
Champion Jimmie Johnson at 48th and 1st -
Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/
Chris Trotman
Things were different when Jimmie Johnson won his first championship in 2006. One, it was the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup – the Sprint Cup came into existence in 2008. Two, there were only 10 participants – not the 12 we’ve become accustomed to (or the lucky 13 we had in 2013). Three, it was contested under the old points system. Four, some of the names were even different.

Conspicuously absent in the 2006 Chase: 2005 champ Tony Stewart, who was the only defending champ until Brad Keselowski in 2013 to be unable to defend his title. Also missing: 2005’s second- and third-place finishers, Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards, respectively.

Five of the 10 Chase races were won by non-Chasers, led by Stewart with three (Kansas, Atlanta and Texas). Brian Vickers took his first career win at Talladega and Biffle won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Denny Hamlin became the first rookie to make the Chase, finishing third on his way to the Rookie of the Year Award. Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton also qualified for their first Chase.
In addition to Stewart, Biffle and Edwards, other drivers not in the Chase who had made previous Chase appearances included Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Jeremy Mayfield.

The top 10 in points for the 2006 Chase for the NEXTEL Cup – 1) Johnson (2013 – first), 2) Matt Kenseth (2013 – second), 3) Hamlin (2013 – not in Chase), 4) Harvick (2013 – third), 5)Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2013 – fifth), 6) Jeff Gordon (2013 – sixth), 7) Burton (2013 – not in Chase), 8) Kahne (2013 – 12th), 9) Mark Martin (2013 – not in Chase) and 10) Kyle Busch (2013 – fourth).

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

NASCAR purchases Iowa Speedway

 Sean Gardner/Getty Images
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 27, 2013) – In a strategic move designed to expand its commitment to enhancing event experiences and fan engagement, as well as solidify the future of one of the premier racing and entertainment facilities in the Midwest, NASCAR announced today that it has purchased Iowa Speedway. The agreement, finalized today under a wholly-owned subsidiary, Iowa Speedway, LLC, is effective immediately.

“Iowa Speedway is a great entertainment facility with a very bright future,” said Eric Nyquist, NASCAR vice president, strategic development. “The facility has the support of the region, it’s positioned well in the heart of the Midwest, and year in and year out it provides great short-track racing action for motorsports fans.

“NASCAR ownership will allow us to draw on the entire resources of our company. It also provides us with the opportunity to execute first-hand a number of entertainment ideas and engagement opportunities with fans – much of which we have outlined repeatedly as the core of our Industry Action Plan.”

The facility, located 30 miles east of Des Moines in Newton, features a fast, .875-mile asphalt paved tri-oval designed by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace. The Speedway released its 2014 schedule earlier this month, encompassing three weekends, one each in May, July and August. The schedule will include two NASCAR Nationwide Series races, a combination NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and IndyCar Series weekend, plus two additional NASCAR K&N Pro Series support races. NASCAR has no plans for Iowa Speedway to host a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race next year or in the immediate future.

NASCAR will host a special event in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 12, to outline additional details on the purchase and plans for the future. Information on this event will be announced soon.

The 2014 Iowa Speedway season opens May 17-18, with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East versus West Challenge on Saturday night. The stars and cars of the NASCAR Nationwide Series then will battle on Sunday in a 250-lap, high-speed contest. The race marks the only Sunday afternoon event of the season at Iowa Speedway.

The new NASCAR Camping World Truck Series / IndyCar Series race weekend at Iowa Speedway is slated for July 11-12. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will race Friday night and feature short-track racing action that has become synonymous with the series in the American Ethanol 200. The first-ever Iowa Corn Indy 300 will follow on Saturday night.

On Friday, Aug. 1, a second NASCAR K&N Pro Series East versus West challenge race will be held followed by a second NASCAR Nationwide Series 250-lap event on Saturday under the lights.

Season ticket holders may renew their tickets for the 2014 season, and will have an exclusive right to secure their current seats until Dec. 14. All other seats are available for purchase immediately, with season ticket prices starting at $95. All season tickets will include a guaranteed seat location, complimentary Casey’s Fan Walk pass and an opportunity to participate in pre-race ceremonies. Season tickets, parking passes and onsite camping options are available online atwww.iowaspeedway.com, or by calling the toll-free ticketing hotline, 866-RUSTY-GO (787-8946). 

Iowa Speedway’s ticketing office, located at 3333 Rusty Wallace Drive in Newton, also will be open to assist customers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, holidays excepted.


Saturday, May 17 – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East vs. West Challenge

Sunday, May 18 – NASCAR Nationwide Series

Friday, July 11 – American Ethanol 200, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Saturday, July 12 – Iowa Corn Indy 300, IndyCar Series

Friday, August 1 – NASCAR K&N Pro Series East vs. West Challenge

Saturday, August 2 – NASCAR Nationwide Series

About Iowa Speedway

Iowa Speedway, a state-of-the-art motorsports and entertainment facility, is located 30 miles east of Des Moines at I-80 Exit 168 in Newton, Iowa. The track was designed by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, now an anchor and analyst for ESPN. Call 1-866-RUSTY-GO, or visit www.iowaspeedway.com to learn more.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fast Facts: 2013 Nationwide Series Champ Austin Dillon

Richard Childress (l) celebrates at Homestead
with his grandson, Nationwide Series champ
Austin Dillon
credit: NASCAR via Getty Images
Austin Dillon, who drove the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro in the Nationwide Series in 2013, picked up his second NASCAR top-tier championship with his recent Nationwide Series title. Learn more about this third-generation driver and newest Nationwide Series champ in this special champion’s edition of Fast Facts.
  • Austin Dillon was born April 27, 1990 in Lewisville, North Carolina. He is the grandson of Richard Childress, son of Mike Dillon (former Busch Series driver and current general manager for RCR), and brother of NASCAR driver Ty Dillon.
  • From 2005 to 2007, Dillon raced Bandoleros, Legends and Dirt Late Models. In 2008, he moved up to the NASCAR Camping World East Series, finishing second in points and winning Rookie of the Year.
  • Late in 2008, Dillon made his Nationwide Series debut at Richmond International Speedway and finished fourth at Memphis (TN) Motorsports Park in October. As an RCR development driver in 2009, Dillon raced in four series: Camping World Trucks, Nationwide, Camping World East, and ARCA.
  • Dillon moved to the Truck Series full-time in 2010, earning seven poles and winning twice. He became the second rookie in nine seasons to finish the season in the top five in points.
  • In 2011, Dillon competed full-time in the Truck Series again and raced in four events for Kevin Harvick Inc. in the Nationwide Series. He took the Truck Series title with two wins, 16 top 10 finishes and five poles, and earned three top 10 finishes in his four Nationwide Series starts. Dillon also made his Sprint Cup Series debut, finishing 26th at Kansas.
  • In 2012, Dillon moved up to the Nationwide Series with RCR, picking up the Rookie of the Year title and two wins on his way to a third-place finish in points. He also made his second Cup Series start, finishing 24th at Michigan.
  • 2013 saw Dillon win his second championship in three seasons, this one in the Nationwide Series. Dillon was held winless on the season in the Nationwide Series, ending the season with 22 top 10 finishes and seven poles. He also made 11 Cup Series starts, picking up a career-best finish of 11th at Michigan in June, and returned to the Truck Series for three races for the first time since 2011; he picked up the win in the inaugural event at Eldora Speedway.
  • An announcement is expected soon on Dillon’s 2014 plans, including whether he will bring the iconic No. 3 back to the Cup Series for the first time since Dale Earnhardt’s death in February 2001.
  • Find out more about Austin Dillon at www.rcrracing.com and www.teamdillonracing.com.  

Mr. Six-Pack

Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images
The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was one for the history books. In an eventful season one event still lingers: watching Jimmie Johnson become a six-time Sprint Cup Champion. Now, instead of Ol' Five-Time, he’s Mr. Six-Pack.

NASCAR via Getty Images 
When it comes to Johnson’s success, everyone seems divided. Sometimes I can’t understand why. When I look at Johnson and his whole 48 crew, when I look at his crew chief Chad Knaus, I see fire. I see passion. I see all the elements that make him a winner and a champion. I see a driver and a crew chief who won’t back down, who defeated the odds by winning five Sprint Cup championships in a row.

I see a crew chief who sometimes crosses the line. I see a crew chief who takes just as much pressure as his driver. I believe the chemistry between Knaus and Johnson is the reason they are so good. They trust each other, and at the end of the day, trust is what matters between driver and crew chief.

But there’s more to Johnson than just being a driver. I think the one element I like most about him is his love for his family - “his girls” - as he calls them. Seeing his daughter Evie and wife Chani in Victory Lane is always fun, especially watching the curiosity of a little girl wondering why all these people are cheering for daddy - it’s such a cute sight. He has a new addition to his family, daughter Lydia. I’m sure before we know it we'll be seeing her curiosity like her big sister's.

Johnson is one in a million. His success and talent are beyond words. He does things with that car that I don’t think we’ll see in a long time - maybe never. He’s truly a great champion, one I’m proud to call Six-Pack.

I’m eager to see what 2014 brings. Johnson looks to be king of the Cup but I am curious to see if the driver who finished second in 2013 will be able to dethrone him.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Checkered Past: 2013 in the Rearview Mirror

The Camping World Truck Series saw a major influx of youth, the Nationwide Series saw its share of Cup veterans and the Sprint Cup Series saw one of its champs return to the top after a two-year hiatus. In between, there were injuries, moments of name-calling and other announcements that were shocking and not-so-shocking. Here’s a look back at some of the highlights – and lowlights – of NASCAR’s 2013 season.

“DanicaHouse” – shortly after Danica Patrick announced her divorce from her husband of seven years, Paul Hospenthal, she made another announcement: she was dating fellow Cup Series Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Patrick went on to bring home the pole award from the Daytona 500, but Stenhouse Jr. took home the Rookie title.

Injuries and maladies galore – first it was Denny Hamlin with a compression fracture in his back following an on-track incident with Joey Logano in March. Then Tony Stewart broke his leg in a sprint car accident in August. Later that month, Martin Truex Jr. broke his wrist at Bristol. But the problems weren’t all on the track. Brian Vickers missed the final few races of the season in both the Cup and Nationwide Series after doctors revealed a blood clot in his right calf, similar to the issue he had in 2010. And just days before the season ended, 2011 Daytona 500 champ Trevor Bayne revealed he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Also of note: at the season finale of the IZOD IndyCar Series in October, former NASCAR driver and four-time IndyCar champ Dario Franchitti suffered extensive injuries in a last-lap crash at the Houston Grand Prix. He announced his retirement five weeks later due to the injuries.

Jason Leffler
Credit: Getty Images/Jason Smith
Losing “LefTurn” – as fans of the sport, we know there are dangers, but it’s still a difficult thing to process when a talented driver is taken from us too soon. On June 12, NASCAR driver and open-wheel champ Jason Leffler died from injuries suffered in a sprint car crash. Leffler was 37 years old and left behind a five-year-old son, Charlie Dean.

The kids are alright – before the 2013 season got underway, NASCAR lowered the age limit for drivers to participate in the Truck Series to 16, with 16- and 17-year-olds allowed to race on tracks of one mile or less and on road courses. This led to the youngest winner record being broken twice: first by Chase Elliott in September and later by Erik Jones in November. In addition to these two youngsters, there were wins by Kyle Larson, Jeb Burton, Ty Dillon, Ryan Blaney and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Bristol in March:
Kyle Busch celebrates one of 12 NNS wins
Credit: Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton
“Busch-wacked” – in 2010, Kyle Busch won 24 races across NASCAR’s top-three divisions. In 2013, he came oh-so-close to that number again, with 21 wins across the three series: four in Sprint cup, 12 in Nationwide and five in the Truck Series.

Busch wasn’t the only “invader” to find the winner’s circle in the Nationwide Series this season – in 33 races, only one race was won by a driver with no Cup Series experience – Ryan Blaney at Kentucky. Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, A.J. Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Trevor Bayne were among the Cup Series regulars or part-timers to win this season, while former Cup Series drivers Sam Hornish Jr. and Regan Smith also found victory lane.

“Rich kids” and rough words – Kevin Harvick didn’t appreciate “being dumped,” as he termed it, by Ty Dillon in the Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville in October, and had some choice words about the two grandsons (Ty and Austin) of his team owner, Richard Childress:

“(Dillon) just dumped me. Exactly the reason why I’m leaving RCR because you’ve got those kids coming up, and they’ve got no respect for what they do in this sport and they’ve had everything fed to them with a spoon…It’s a shame you’ve got to get taken out by some rich kid like that.”

Dillon retorted that Harvick was “kind of hogging the bottom, and I just kept diving to the inside…he kept chopping down, chopping down.” Dillon also added, “I’m sure he's tweeting something now about it.”
Richard Childress celebrates with grandson
Austin Dillon, the 2013 Nationwide Series champ
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images

Whether all was truly forgiven or not, Harvick did apologize for the outburst. While Ty Dillon will move up to the Nationwide Series in 2014 for RCR and brother Austin will run in the Cup Series for his grandfather’s team, Harvick will shift gears and move to Stewart-Haas Racing.

The champs – Truck Series veteran Matt Crafton took home his first title, while Austin Dillon picked up his second top-tier NASCAR title with his Nationwide Series championship. Jimmie Johnson returned to the top of the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the sixth time in the last eight years, putting him one behind the record of seven titles held by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Faith on the Frontstretch: Being vanilla is the best thing about Jimmie Johnson

Jimmie Johnson celebrates his sixth Sprint Cup championship.
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images     

“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

Another NASCAR season has raced by us, culminating in Jimmie Johnson hoisting the 2013 Sprint Cup championship trophy. Whether you’re a Johnson fan or not, it’s hard to deny he's an amazingly talented racecar driver who is making history with his No. 48 team.

Johnson’s nickname of “Five-Time” has officially retired as the “#6pack” hashtag has become a reality. Oddly enough, despite the respect he has earned with his on-track dominance - winning six championships in the last eight years - a segment of fans still insist on using the term vanilla to describe Johnson.

And they don't use the word in a positive way. It's used to mean Johnson has a bland personality or lacks the exciting persona of a celebrity. Jimmie Johnson as plain and boring? That just doesn’t ring true. The vanilla-sayers are mistaken on multiple levels.

Vanilla isn’t the absence of flavor, it is a flavor. Did you know vanilla is the most popular flavor of ice cream in America? There’s a reason for that. Vanilla is soothing and mellow. It’s calm, smooth and goes well with other desserts.

Is Jimmie Johnson vanilla? If vanilla describes a humble guy with a positive outlook, then yes, he’s vanilla.

During the post-race press conference at Homestead-Miami, both crew chief Chad Knaus and team owner Rick Hendrick had lots to say about Johnson. Knaus complimented Johnson on his low-key personality and his optimistic attitude:

“The thing I think that's the best about Jimmie is he always has the positive outlook,” Knaus said. “When we get into situations where they aren't the most comfortable, things are a little bit stressed, it's really a good spot because I can look at him and he has been a mentor for me in understanding there's more to life than just racing.”

Hendrick commented on Johnson’s calm demeanor. “If you monitor every driver out here all through the race all year long, you see how many times they get excited, go off on the radio, lose their composure - you won't ever hear Jimmie do that,” Hendrick said.

Is Jimmie Johnson vanilla? If vanilla describes a person who cares about people and quietly takes care of them, you bet he’s vanilla.

According to Rick Hendrick, Johnson does good deeds without bragging about it. In fact, his foundation’s charity work and relief efforts after tornadoes ravaged his wife’s home state of Oklahoma led to Johnson being named NASCAR Illustrated 2013 Person of the Year.

“He does so many things for charity, Make a Wish,” Hendrick said. “They raise money, build houses, do things. He doesn't try to do things to gain attention or say, ‘Look at me.’ He's more about letting his actions speak for himself.”

Is Jimmie Johnson vanilla? If vanilla describes a guy who chooses the high-line when insulted, then he’s vanilla for sure.

You probably heard former quarterback Donovan McNabb’s assertion that Jimmie Johnson is not an athlete, which rallied NASCAR Nation to Johnson’s defense on Twitter. Johnson’s comeback tweet was courteous, yet clear:

“The debate continues... Everyone is entitled to an opinion. #DriversAreAthletes

When a fan replied to Johnson, “don’t be vanilla now” and urged him to counter McNabb’s claim, Johnson’s answer displayed the wisdom of Proverbs 15:1, A gentle answer turns away wrath.

He tweeted: “I choose to be respectful. There is way too much venom spewed these days.”

If being “vanilla” means being humble and optimistic, helping others and responding calmly when people speak foolishly, bring it on. The world could use a little more vanilla.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. ~ Proverbs 15:1
Still not convinced that Johnson’s brand of vanilla is a good thing? ESPN’s Marty Smith describes in vivid detail why Johnson’s greatness as a human being is even bigger than his talent behind the wheel.

“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke. See you on the Frontstretch!

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for female racing fans.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fast Facts: 2013 Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images
We can’t call Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson “Five-Time” anymore – that’s because he just wrapped up his sixth Cup Series championship in eight seasons. Catch up with Johnson in this special Sprint Cup Series championship edition of Fast Facts.
  • Jimmie Kenneth Johnson was born Sept. 17, 1975 in El Cajon, California (near San Diego), and attended Granite Hills High School. 
  • He began his racing career at age 5 on 50cc motorcycles, moving to 60cc bikes at age 8. He went on to compete in off-road racing on four wheels, and took numerous wins and championships in the SODA, SCORE, and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group series.
  • He switched to stock cars in 1998, racing in the American Speed Association (ASA) and later in the Nationwide Series, winning the ASA Rookie of the Year award in 1998. When his Busch (now Nationwide) Series team lost their sponsor, Johnson looked to Cup Series veteran Jeff Gordon for advice; they kept in touch afterward, and Hendrick Motorsports later signed Johnson to a development deal on Gordon’s recommendation. He began his full-time Cup career in 2002 in the familiar No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, a team and a sponsor he drives for to this day.
  • Through the 2013 season, Johnson has 66 wins and 272 top 10 finishes in the Sprint Cup Series, along with six titles (2006 through 2010 and 2013). He is the first NASCAR Sprint Cup champion to win five consecutive titles. Johnson was also named the 2009 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and is a four-time Driver of the Year (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2010).
  • The Jimmie Johnson Foundation, founded in 2006, assists children, families, and communities in need around the country, working with Make-A-Wish, the American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and the Victory Junction Gang Camp among others.
  • Johnson is married to the former Chandra Janway (December 11, 2004), and is the father  of two daughters – Genevieve and Lydia. He is a football and baseball fan, following the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Panthers, and his hometown teams, the San Diego Chargers and San Diego Padres.
  • Find out more about Johnson at www.jimmiejohnson.com, www.lowesracing.com, www.hendrickmotorsports.com, and jimmiejohnsonfoundation.org

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chasing the Championship: Recapping the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

NASCAR via Getty Images
The checkered flag has been displayed for the final time signaling the end of the 2013 NASCAR season. After a two-year absence Jimmie Johnson is back on top becoming a six-time Sprint Cup Series champion, a feat he’s accomplished over the span of just eight years.

Johnson beat out Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick Sunday en route to the title. Our Stacey Owens, Stephanie Stuart and Rebecca Kivak recap the three drivers at the top of the standings heading into Homestead.

Jimmie Johnson – 2013 Sprint Cup Series Champion
by: Stacey Owens

He didn’t win the Ford EcoBoost 400, but then again, he didn’t have to. He never even led a lap, but then again, he didn’t have to. With a 28-point lead heading into the final race of the 2013 season, Jimmie Johnson merely needed to finish inside the top 23 to claim his sixth championship.

Mission accomplished.

Teams rolled into Homestead-Miami Speedway earlier in the week for press conferences before getting down to the business of racing on Friday. Knowing he’d need to run up front, Johnson qualified in the seventh position — and then watched Matt Kenseth, his closest competitor, secure the pole.

Johnson ran in the 11th and 15th positions in the first two practices but improved to a second place run in the final practice — right behind Kenseth. And for much of the opening laps of the race, that’s exactly how they ran on the track: Kenseth leading, and Johnson following close behind.

The race was not without its tense moments for both contenders when on Lap 194, Johnson was shoved from behind on a restart and moved into the back of Kenseth’s No. 20 car. Neither suffered much damage, but the smoke coming from the left front of Johnson’s No. 48 machine was a concern until the next caution allowed his crew to pull out the fender and change all four tires. During that run, Johnson said he “reminded myself of the big picture” but that trying to catch up with the front of the pack made the “last 50 laps kind of interesting.”

As the laps wound down, Johnson inched his way back into the Top 10, and as Denny Hamlin took the checkered flag, Johnson captured his #6Pack with a ninth-place finish.

Entering elite company alongside Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. as one of three drivers to win at least six titles, Johnson made history as the first of those three drivers to accomplish the feat in only eight years.

How does Johnson feel about comparisons to two of the best ever? He’s “honored” just to be a part of the conversation.

Climbing out of the car after the race, Johnson was quick to give accolades to his team. “I’m at a loss for words, but I’m so proud and so thankful for this opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports. I’m thankful that Jeff Gordon and Rick Hendrick gave me this opportunity back in 2002. This sport is about people, and our people at Hendrick Motorsports — especially on this 48 car — rose up and got the job done. I’m so thankful to be able to drive for this race team and so honored and so excited to have a ‘six-pack.’ Everybody in this garage works really, really hard, so we put in a lot of hours, but there’s something special about this group we have.”

He then turned his attention and his emotions to his family. “My wife [Chandra] is an amazing woman. I’m a very lucky man and owe a lot of my success to her and her support. She makes me who I am, makes me a better man, does a fantastic job raising these kids … so happy to have her as my wife.” Johnson went on to dedicate his win to his grandmother who passed away several weeks ago: “This one’s for her.”

Brian France in his post-race message to Johnson may have been speaking to every other driver in the garage and those yet to sign a contract. “You’re setting a new standard in this era and maybe any other era. Congratulations on your sixth championship.”

Johnson is back where he’s been the most comfortable in recent years — at the top of his game. He’ll return to the head table at the annual NASCAR banquet in Las Vegas. As the 2014 season begins, his No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet team will once again work from the first garage stall. But for right now, Johnson and those closest to him will savor their hard-earned victory. “We’re gonna have a lot of fun and enjoy this moment.”

Matt Kenseth – Second-place finisher (-19 points)
by: Stephanie Stuart

Matt Kenseth knew it was going to take a valiant effort to win the title on Sunday at Homestead.

And he gave it everything he had.

Kenseth was fastest in both practices, won the pole and came up just short of winning the race, finishing second to teammate Denny Hamlin. The only thing that would have needed to happen for him to win the Cup title would have been for Jimmie Johnson to finish 23rd, if he had won the race.

It almost happened. For a moment Team 20 collectively held its breath.

A bad restart with 74 laps to go bottlenecked the field towards the front, where Kenseth and Johnson restarted next to each other. The bottleneck effect sent the No. 48 careening sideways, and almost into the No. 20. Johnson lost his position and went from sixth back to 21st. He would stay towards the middle of the field for some time before making up ground to finish ninth in the race.

Kenseth battled all the way to the end, not even giving up second place to a hard-fighting Dale Earnhardt Jr., a friend he knows he can trust on the track and who at times had a better looking car. Kenseth knew he needed every point possible, just in case Johnson encountered a parts failure or an accident, and he made sure to stay in front of every car that he could.

"It was just an unbelievable year for us, really. I mean obviously we wanted to finish off and win the championship as good as we ran all year, but couldn't be more proud of the whole Dollar General/Home Depot team," said Kenseth after the race Sunday as he patted crew members on the back in his post race interview. "They did a spectacular job all season and all day today again... the night overall was really good for us, really dominant when it was sunny out, when it got dark we were off just a little bit and then we had that mishap on that restart that kind of got us behind but overall I don't think you could as for much more."

As the checkered flag falls on 2013, many wonder if Kenseth will look back and wonder if he let the title get away from him, or if he will have a "we let it slip away" moment. He feels confident that he gave it everything he had. "No, I won't have one of those moments," he said Sunday. "In the past I probably did that a lot, probably a little too much. Not really this time. I really will walk away from this year feeling like we gave it all - everything we had to give."

Oddly enough, the 2003 series champion doesn't consider his championship year to be his best season either. "I think when you look at our season overall, when I talk about it being the best season of my career, we didn't come up with the championship, the championship is the ultimate goal, you always want that, but from a competitive standpoint it's been by far the best season of my career," Kenseth stated. "We lead the most laps, we qualified the best, I think probably best average finish, most wins, all that stuff. From a competitive standpoint, it was our best year."

So I ask you this: if a guy who won seven times in a single year says the team can get better, what can we expect next season? 

Until 2014, friends.

Kevin Harvick – Third-place finisher (-34 points)
by: Rebecca Kivak

Kevin Harvick finished out his last race with Richard Childress Racing not as the Sprint Cup champion, but as the hard-charging, never-give-up racer we’ve come to know during his 14 years with the organization.

Harvick battled an ill-handling racecar through Sunday’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, making an impressive recovery after falling back during the Ford EcoBoost 400. Though his 10th-place finish wasn’t enough to claim the championship, it allowed Harvick to end his relationship with Richard Childress Racing on a high note before moving on to Stewart-Haas Racing next season.

Coming into Sunday’s race, Harvick knew he was a longshot to win the Sprint Cup, trailing points leader Jimmie Johnson by 34 points and second-place Matt Kenseth by eight points. But Harvick and his No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet team were up for the challenge.

Harvick rolled off the grid sixth Sunday and he worked his way into the top five by Lap 4. On Lap 15 Harvick took the lead for the first of three times, leading a total of eight laps in Sunday’s race.

The No. 29 car spent the majority of the first third of the race in the top five. After the second caution of the day on Lap 89, however, Harvick fell back on the restart to 18th as he struggled mightily with a tight racecar. He dropped as far back as 23rd. With Kenseth leading numerous laps and Johnson running steadily in the top five, any chance Harvick had at the championship continued to fade.

Harvick, however, wasn’t going to give up easily, and methodically he powered his way through the field. By Lap 211 he was back in the race lead. But Harvick’s tires were wearing and he dropped outside the top 10. With 20 laps to go, Harvick steered his way back into the top 10. He crossed the finish line in 10th after the final checkered flag of the season flew.

Harvick finished out the 2013 season third in the standings, with four wins to his credit. Though he didn’t finish the night in victory lane as the race winner or series champion, he was proud of the No. 29 team’s effort in their last race together.

“We were able to salvage something out of the night,” Harvick said. “Obviously it’s not what we wanted, but came back and were way better at the end than what we were in the beginning. It’s what we’ve done all year and I’m just proud of everybody and thank them for everything that they have done.”

During 14 years with Richard Childress Racing, Harvick has collected 23 Sprint Cup wins, including a Daytona 500 victory and a Brickyard 400 win, and two Nationwide championships. With a big smile after Sunday’s race, Harvick lived up to his nickname, “Happy” Harvick, as he looked back at his time with RCR.

“I’m happy, yeah,” Harvick said. “I’m happy with everything that we have been able to accomplish as a group. We had a great year knowing what the circumstances were and we have won a lot of races. A lot of the marquee races. We have won Nationwide championships.

“… There is a lot that has happened with everything and everybody at RCR and (I’m) really proud about my past and everybody who has been involved in it and really excited about my future.”

After closing out 2013 as a title contender, Harvick will embark on a new chapter of his career with Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 as he looks to finally capture that elusive Sprint Cup title.

Skirts and Scuffs sends out congratulations to the 2013 Champions.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Driver’s Champion: Jimmie Johnson
Owner’s Champion: Hendrick Motorsports (No. 48)
Rookie of the Year: Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
NASCAR Nationwide Series:
Driver’s Champion: Austin Dillon
Owner’s Champion: Penske Racing (No. 22)
Rookie of the Year: Kyle Larson
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Driver’s Champion: Matt Crafton
Owner’s Champion: Kyle Busch Motorsports (No. 51)
Rookie of the Year: Ryan Blaney