Thursday, January 31, 2013

Johnson to run Phoenix race for JR Motorsports

Jimmie Johnson's last Nationwide race was August 2011 at Watkins Glen. He finished second.
Credit: Skirts and Scuffs
Five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson will return to the Nationwide Series for one race in 2013. Johnson will pilot the No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the March 2 event at Phoenix International Raceway.

The last time Johnson competed in the Nationwide Series, he finished second in a JR Motorsports car at Watkins Glen in August 2011. JRM is owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Johnson’s teammate at Hendrick Motorsports.

“I appreciate Junior letting me run one of his cars,” Johnson said in a team press release. “My goal is to make my team owner so proud that, perhaps, he’ll invite me back more often than once every two years.”

The arrangement is mutually beneficial for Johnson and Earnhardt Jr.

Earnhardt Jr.’s Nationwide team will be collaborating more with the highly successful HMS to improve JRM’s performance on the track. With Johnson and another Hendrick teammate, Kasey Kahne, behind the wheel of the No. 5 car this season, the feedback from two Sprint Cup drivers only serves to aid the organization.

As for Johnson, the driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet in Sprint Cup gets more seat time on the Phoenix track’s new surface. The 1-mile oval, where Johnson has four wins on the old surface, was reconfigured and repaved in 2011.

“This a great opportunity for me to get more familiar with the new configuration at PIR,” Johnson said. “Not only do we race there twice in Cup, but both races are in crucial spots on the schedule for Team Lowe’s Racing. I appreciate JR Motorsports and Great Clips giving me this opportunity, and I hope to not disappoint my team owner.”

Kahne and Brad Sweet will share the wheel of the No. 5 JRM car in 2013. Great Clips originally signed on for a 28-race sponsorship at JRM, with Kahne and Sweet to split 27 races. But with Johnson in the seat at Phoenix, Sweet will now pilot the No. 5 at the June 15 event at Michigan International Speedway. This bumps Great Clips’ commitment to 29 races.

Earnhardt Jr. will run the No. 88 JRM Chevrolet sponsored by Great Clips in the May 4 Nationwide race at Talladega.

Beyond the grandstands: Meet race fan Amanda Pernitza

Credit: Amanda Pernitza. 
I’ve chatted with Amanda Pernitza through Twitter and Facebook, a common way a lot of NASCAR fans interact. On Twitter (@RacerGirlAmanda), she shows her passion for five-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. Amanda is a shining example of how NASCAR fans truly are the greatest!

I got the chance to ask Pernitza a few questions on her journey to becoming a NASCAR fan in the latest edition of "Beyond the Grandstands."

Lacy Keyser (LK): Why did you get into NASCAR? Why did it grab your attention?


Amanda Pernitza (AP): I have always had a love for cars and pretty much anything to do with cars. I didn't learn about NASCAR until I was about 9 years old. My mom was dating someone at the time who was into the sport and we started watching the races and became fast fans. Our drivers were Davey Allison and Ernie Irvan in the Texaco Fords. However, in 1993 after I was told about Davey's passing, I was so devastated that I pretty much lost interest. I was 10 at the time and it just wasn't the same, and Ernie Irvan getting hurt didn't help either. (For a long time) I didn’t watch or follow racing, that was until I learned about Jimmie.

LK: What made you become a Jimmie Johnson fan?

AP: It was late 2002; my mom had been hired with a new merchandising company which solely serviced Lowe's stores She was in the Lowe’s stores a lot and saw the Lowe’s Racing posters and that’s where she had learned about him (Johnson). So one race day, she and Steve, my stepdad, who I didn't even know liked racing, were watching and I just so happened to be walking through the room. Seeing the cars made me realized that I missed it. So I watched a little, remembering how awesome it was. Then a blue, silver car with a bright yellow 48 popped up on the screen. I excitedly said, "Hey! Look it’s Lowe's!"

The more I learned about Jimmie, the more I liked him. He just seemed to remind me a lot of Davey Allison, a humble guy who seems down to earth and there isn't anything fancy about him. He knows where he came from and he doesn’t forget that.

Credit: Amanda Pernitza

LK: What sets Johnson apart from other drivers?

AP: If he is having trouble with his car, he finds a way to make it work. The feedback he gives to Chad (Knaus, crew chief) about what his car is doing is VERY technical and so in depth. Sometimes it’s a paragraph and not just a few words.

He is passionate about what he does and has determination. He’s a wheel man, who loves to drive a very loose race car on the edge of spinning out. I mean, he has to be a wheel man if he could spin out at Dover, and NOT hit the wall. I like the fact that if he doesn’t have a good pit stop, he’ll cheerlead his guys.

He always says “we” in his interviews whenever it’s a good or bad day. He thanks his guys and gives them credit, and encourages them. Even after the race is over and not in front of any cameras. I’m not saying that other drivers don’t, I’m just stating that those are the things that stand out to me .

LK: Have you ever been to any racetracks? If so, what tracks?

AP: Yes, I have been to Texas Motor Speedway, once in the fall of 2005 and again in 2006. Jimmie didn't win but he ran great. He finished fifth and second. I had a blast and it really is better in person. I know the last couple of years the racing hasn’t been that great, but when I went it was awesome. I watched the race at home as I had taped it - totally different perspective and I saw way more at the track than on TV. Only difference is, you either had scanner or MRN radio tell you what was going on, or you were left in the dark.

I would love to go back, but life always seems to happen when the TMS races come around. Martinsville is high on my bucket list. I have always loved that track. Something about short tracks and all the history that is there. Most people think it’s because Jimmie has been successful, but I was drawn to it years before he even won there. Actually a dream of mine is to go to all of the tracks on the NASCAR schedule … even the ones I don’t particularly look forward to watching on TV.

LK: Media and some fans call Johnson “Vanilla.” How do you respond to that?

AP: I roll my eyes and say "oh please." Like seriously. It ticks me off, because apparently being polite and a good guy who doesn't mouth off or disrespect the media is considered a bad thing. Um ... no ... That’s a good thing. I respect that because that's how I was raised. You don't say things that you'll regret - you are nice and polite to people who are simply doing their job no matter what mood you're in. And if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all. When is that a crime?

Pernitza's collection of autographs
But now that he’s on social media, people are seeing that he’s not vanilla. Though I’ve always know it and I have tried to tell people. Sometimes it worked, other times not so much. But I told them: Just because someone who doesn't have to have an attitude problem or a hot head and can actually take his frustrations and make him drive harder makes him vanilla, then that’s fine. I have heard him cuss on the radio and the things that I have heard that had come out of his mouth - I do not think that someone who is said to be "Vanilla" would have an R-rated mouth at times.

LK: Your driver has made history, winning five championships in a row. As a fan, how did it make you feel seeing that happen?

AP: It makes me feel proud and a privilege to see it happen. I knew that Jimmie, Chad and that whole 48 team would win a championship and lots of them. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that it would happen in a row. I cried happy tears when they won the first one. Jumped with joy and cheered loudly when they got the second one. The same with the third one and I was even more amazed and thrilled when they won the fourth. The fifth one, as I was sitting there watching the celebration it hit me - they just won five championships in a row. In. A. Row. I had happy tears coming down my face because that was my driver. My team were the ones that accomplished that and I felt so incredibly proud and amazed.

To this day, they never cease to amaze me. When people want to count them out, I know better. I've been a fan long enough to know they will be there at the end, unless something very bad happens.

Seeing him and that team accomplish everything they have, it makes me very happy and proud because as a fan, I experience it too ... just without the champagne, confetti, burnouts and trophies.

LK: Do you have a favorite fan memory you'd care to share with our readers? Maybe something you’ve experienced?

AP: The spring before Davey Allison’s passing, I was lucky enough to have met him. I was in school, there were no races in Houston at that time. One of his crew members walked in and he followed. They came directly into my classroom. The other kids had no clue who he was. I did. I was surprised and couldn’t believe it. Apparently, his crew member knew my teacher; one of his kids had her back in the day. They were in town, for either testing at Houston Raceway or probably something to do with Texaco because they were headquartered in Houston. He knew where she was now teaching and had to stop in and say "hi."

I guess Davey wanted to come with him and make our day. It made my day for sure. I’d seen him race. I’d cheered for him. I’d gotten disappointed when something bad happened. They stayed for a little bit and Davey talked to us and handed out freshly signed autographs. I was just beaming - nothing was going to wipe the smile off my face and I couldn’t wait to take that home and put it on my wall and show my mom and tell her all about it. It was a very cool experience and something I’ll always remember.

Another experience happened at TMS. At the 2005 TMS race we went to the taping of SPEED's "NASCAR Performance" because they filmed it at the track, so the friend that I went with went to the tapings and we got to meet Chad Knaus. I was completely and totally speechless, not a word or a peep came out of my mouth. He politely signed my hat, which was actually my very first Lowe's 48 hat.


Pernitza also told me about her experience meeting Bootie Barker.

“In 2006, with the group of girls I was with, that time we got to meet Chad again but this time also got to meet Bootie Barker. He’s funny and really nice. I love his Virginia accent.”

I’d like to say a special thanks to Amanda for her time. If you're interested in being profiled in an upcoming edition of Beyond the Grandstands, send me an email at lkeyser@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Timmy Hill to run for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year with FAS Lane Racing

John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
(January 30, 2013) 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year Timmy Hill has announced today he will make a run at the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors driving the FAS Lane Racing No. 32 U.S Chrome Ford Fusion.  Hill joined FAS Lane Racing in 2012, racing three events late in the year, including at Kansas Speedway where he finished a career-high 22nd while racing on the lead lap.

“I am very excited to compete in the Sprint Cup Series again this year,” said Hill.  Frank and Heidi Stoddard, along with Bob Reath with U.S. Chrome are truly amazing people, and I want to thank them for giving me the opportunity to compete in NASCAR on the Sprint Cup level.”

Hill will race 18 to 20 races for FAS Lane Racing with veteran NASCAR drivers Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader also taking turns at the wheel as the team will race the entire 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule.  The total of races Hill will enter will allow him to compete against Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. for the Rookie of the Year title.

“FAS Lane has built themselves a great team and the guys in the shop have been working hard getting the cars ready for this season,” said Hill.  “Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader bring a wealth of knowledge to the program and will be great mentors to me while I attempt to earn Rookie of the Year.  Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. are great race car drivers, and I am looking forward to battling with them on the track for that title.”

Hill’s first race of 2013 will be the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series “Auto Club 400” on Sunday, March 24th, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.  A full schedule of events will be posted in the near future on www.TimmyHill.com.  Fans can also follow Hill on Facebook atwww.Facebook.com/TimmyHill15 and on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/TimmyHillRacer.

Kevin Swindell to race for Biagi-DenBeste Racing in 2013

Four-time Chili Bowl Champ to compete in 15 NASCAR Nationwide Series races for team

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Mooresville, N.C. (January 30, 2013) – After competing for NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) team Biagi-DenBeste Racing last year at Texas Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kevin Swindell will return to the team for select NNS races in 2013. The team plans to compete in 15 NNS events this season and will first race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 9.

Swindell, a sprint car standout, has been building his stock car experience, competing in the NNS, NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the ARCA Racing Series, earning his first NASCAR pole in 2010 and taking home his first stock car win last year at Chicagoland Speedway. The recently crowned four-time consecutive Chili Bowl Champion competed in two of the final three NNS races for Biagi-DenBeste Racing in 2012, earning a best finish of ninth at Texas Motor Speedway.

After competing in the NNS in 2002-2006, Biagi-DenBeste Racing returned to the series for select races in 2012. In total, the team has amassed 168 starts, one win, three top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. In addition to bringing back Swindell as the driver, Steve Plattenberger will continue to serve as the Team Manager and Competition Director with Jon Hanson as the crew chief.

"We are really proud to have an outstanding young talent like Kevin driving for our team," said Biagi-DenBeste Racing co-owner Fred Biagi. "After coming off of his fourth consecutive Chili Bowl win, Kevin enters the 2013 season with a lot of momentum. We plan to run 15 races in 2013 and are actively working with sponsors and already building for 2014. We want to run every race we compete in at the highest possible level, and we know that we will be able to do that in the 15 events we'll participate in."

"I am really thankful to Fred Biagi and Bill DenBeste for the great opportunity that I have to race for them this season," commented Swindell. "I have been waiting for a chance to gain experience and race for a top-notch team for a long time. I really enjoyed the two races I competed in for Biagi-DenBeste Racing at the end of last season, and I look forward to seeing what the team and I can achieve together this year."
Swindell and the No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Racing team have selected the Sam's Town 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as their first race for 2013. A full schedule announcement is forthcoming.

About Biagi-DenBeste Racing
Biagi-DenBeste Racing is owned by Fred Biagi and Bill DenBeste. Though racing is their passion, their careers have been driven by 18 wheels instead of four. Fred Biagi owns Biagi Bros Tranportation with his brother Greg in Napa, CA. They started in 1978 as a transportation company but have evolved over the years into a full service transportation, warehousing and logistics company offering expert 3PL services to clients across North America. You can find out more about Biagi Bros at www.BiagiBros.com.

About DenBeste Transportation
Bill and Lori DenBeste founded DenBeste Transportation in 1989. A leader in hazardous waste management, DenBeste has worked on many high profile jobs including playing a major role in the clean-up of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010. DenBeste is also heavily involved in the automotive industry owning the Carroll Shelby Engine Company and the World's largest Shelby Cobra dealership, DenBeste Motorsports. You can find out more about DenBeste's businesses at www.DenBeste.com or www.DenBesteMotorsports.com.

From Race Suit to Race Team, Saldana Partners with Motter Motorsports


BARBERVILLE, Fla. - Jan. 30, 2013 - It was in the pits at the scenic Deer Creek Speedway last September when Joey Saldana began a conversation with opportunity.

It was a chance discussion between a former World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series car owner, Dan Motter, and one of the series' stars. What started with Motter - the president of Motter Equipment Inc. who owned, drove and crewed on various racing teams in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s - agreeing to get Saldana a racing suit for his offseason trip to compete in Australia turned into something much more significant.

Flash forward several weeks as Saldana began to wrap up 2012 by garnering his sixth top-four finish in the last seven seasons on the circuit. Saldana was informed of his release from Kasey Kahne Racing effective at the end of the season.

"You have to be at the right place at the right time," Saldana said. "Luckily I had that conversation with Dan about helping me out in Australia. When he heard I got released he was right there to step up and build a team to run for an Outlaws championship."

It's quite the jump from race suit to race team, but Motter went in head first. With a new truck, a trailer, five engines and six cars, Motter Motorsports was built in Minnesota, but will soon be based out of Saldana's hometown of Brownsburg, Ind.

Saldana recently returned stateside after three top fives in seven Australian races and as the team prepares to relocate to Indiana, Saldana is eying the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series week-long, season-opening event - the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment at Volusia Speedway Park beginning on Feb. 12 with a practice session.

"I definitely have a lot that I want to accomplish in sprint car racing," Saldana said. "I didn't want my last job to be my last job. I was very fortunate to have Dan Motter step up and provide me a team that can compete at a high level. I just want to prove to him and everybody else that I deserve to be out there racing with the World of Outlaws and hopefully we can succeed."

And what better place to start the new partnership than the fast half mile where Saldana has seven top-five finishes and 11 top 10s in 14 races during World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series competition since 2008. He also claimed the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit title in 2010 and 2011.

"You want to start the season out well and that can definitely lay the ground work for the season to come," he said. "If you start off strong it can flow over into the rest of the season. It seems like if you start off good at Volusia you seem like you can kinda carry it on throughout the season."

Pete Rondeau named competition director at Furniture Row Racing


Pete Rondeau, who has been affiliated with Furniture Row Racing since the 2010 season, has been elevated to the competition director position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup team.

Rondeau initially joined the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing as the team’s car chief. He assumed the crew chief role in May 2010 and served in that capacity until July 2012.

In his new position as competition director, Rondeau will be the point person at the Denver race shop with the building and preparation of the team’s No. 78 Chevrolets which will be driven by former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch.

Rondeau will report to Mark McArdle, Furniture Row Racing’s executive director of competition, who also serves as director of racing operations at Richard Childress Racing (RCR). Furniture Row Racing and RCR are partners with a technical and engineering alliance.

“Since joining Furniture Row Racing Pete has played a significant role with team development,” said team general manager Joe Garone. “His transition to the competition director position is having a positive impact in our continuing effort to strengthen our overall program.”

Rondeau is also upbeat about the direction of Furniture Row Racing.

“With the tremendous gains Furniture Row Racing has made in recent years and the solid foundation that it has built, the opportunity has never been better to reach a higher level of competition,” said Rondeau. “That is why I am enthusiastically looking forward to this new challenge and working with Mark (McArdle) and also with my counterparts at RCR.”

A native of New England, Rondeau grew up in Saco, Maine, approximately 90-miles north from New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

Prior to joining Furniture Row Racing, Rondeau worked at Evernham Motorsports where he served as the team's director of research and development from July 2005 to the end of the 2009 season.

He also worked at Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) from 2001 to May 2005 and Jasper Motorsports from 1998-2001. During his three-plus years at DEI, Rondeau's positions included the crew chief role for both Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Rondeau has also had experience behind the wheel of a race car. Before he traveled south to North Carolina in 1998 to work in NASCAR, he raced for many years on the New England short tracks, including super late model cars in the American Canadian Tour. He also drove in NASCAR’s Pro Series East and the Whelen Modified Tour Series.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fast Facts: Leonard Wood, 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee

Leonard Wood (l) joins brother Glen in the
NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/John Harrelson

Leonard Wood joins his brother Glen Wood as a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on February 8, 2013. Part of the legendary Wood Brothers Racing team, Wood was responsible for one of the great innovations in NASCAR in the 1960s. Learn more about Leonard Wood, who joins the Hall of Fame along with Cotton Owens, Buck Baker, Herb Thomas and Rusty Wallace, in this week’s Fast Facts.

  • Leonard Wood was born September 22, 1934 near Stuart, Virginia, one of six children (with four brothers and one sister) born to Walter and Ada Wood. Leonard, along with brothers Glen, Delano, Clay and Ray Lee, formed Wood Brothers Racing in 1950.
  • Wood Brothers Racing eventually became a full-time job for Leonard and Glen, who was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012. Leonard was responsible for building the team’s engines, and on race day served as crew chief for the team. In 1960, he used power wrenches during a pit stop, which shaved approximately 20 seconds off the time for two tires and fuel; he was also the first to use a light-weight jack during a pit stop. His innovations were so successful that the team was asked to serve as pit crew for Jim Clark in the 1965 Indianapolis 500; Clark went on to win the race.
  • Wood Brothers Racing is the oldest NASCAR team still in operation. The team last visited victory lane in 2011, when Trevor Bayne won a popular victory at the Daytona 500 in February. Bayne returns to the Wood Brothers in 2013, running a part-time schedule in the famed No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion.
  • Find out more about Leonard Wood and the Wood Brothers at www.woodbrothersracing.com.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Doc Mattioli's son leaving Pocono Raceway


After a career spanning 40 years, Joseph R. Mattioli III will leave Pocono Raceway, the racetrack founded by his father, Dr. Joseph Mattioli.

Mattioli announced today that he is stepping down from the Long Pond, Pa., raceway's Board of Directors and Executive Committee. Since joining Pocono Raceway in 1974, Mattioli has served as president and chief operating officer during his tenure.

Mattioli plans to spend more time working with nonprofit and veterans associations he supports. He also plans to develop Group 341, a consulting business he began in 2011.

Mattioli said the time was right for him to leave the family business "with the track now in the very capable hands of our next generation."

“My nephews, nieces and sons are the future of Pocono Raceway, and I have no doubt they will continue to provide leadership, meet the challenges and guide Pocono Raceway into the future as my Dad’s legacy had always intended,” Mattioli said.

Brandon Igdalsky, Mattioli's nephew and grandson of founder "Doc" Mattioli, is president and chief executive officer of Pocono Raceway. Igdalsky's brother, Nicholas Igdalsky, is chief operating officer and executive vice president, and their sister, Ashley Igdalsky, is secretary/treasurer.

"Doc" Mattioli died Jan. 26, 2012, at the age of 86. In the 1960s, Mattioli used the millions he made from his successful dentistry practice in Philadelphia to transform a spinach farm at Long Pond into Pocono Raceway.

The racetrack hosts two annual Sprint Cup dates a year. The track will host its first IndyCar race this summer after a hiatus of more than 20 years.

Marty Smith on Writing, Vulnerability, and The Human Element

Marty Smith (l) with Elliott Sadler, Texas Motor Speedway Nov. 2012
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

How exactly do you introduce yourself to a whole new collective? 

That’s what I’m attempting to wrap my head around right now. Trust me, it isn’t easy. 

Becoming a contributor at Skirts and Scuffs is something I never expected, and I want to do the best I can to highlight the fans’ voices. Mix that with my own opinions, and you get my objective. 

As a sixteen-year-old, I’m all over the place as it is, so my writing style changes weekly. I can go from sardonic to comical to heartfelt in under three posts. The common theme is that it is me: unique, straightforward, and sometimes prettied-up. 

The following is one of my favorite articles I have written, and it was posted on my personal blog, UpTopThePitBox.com, on December 18th, 2012. Marty Smith has been one of my idols since I began writing about NASCAR, and interviewing him was the most surreal experience I've ever encountered. 

I've chosen this piece to be an introduction into my approach to racing and the characters who make it even better. I hope you all enjoy.

~

People just fascinate me.

Some live a life without much fervor; the flow shows them where their resistless bodies go, not expressing much feeling throughout. Then you have the individuals made of pure fearlessness. A spark rests in their powder keg of a heart. One huge chunk of us -including me- is a perplexing mix of both. A gambler with caution, a rambler with a GPS.

Though people as a whole catch my eye, few have truly captivated my attention.

Marty Smith is one of those scarce entities, his magic with a keyboard the reason why.

Since 2006, Marty has worked for ESPN, covering the sport from behind the computer screen and in front of a television crew. As the years have passed, his works keep getting stronger, and his following has grown.

As a NASCAR fan, his insight and realism is refreshing. As a young writer, every word leaves me speechless. His pieces helped me realize what I wanted to do in this beautiful sport. It gave me my fire.

Dropping all caution and the GPS, I asked if I could speak with him. He responded with an encouraging, “I’d be honored.”

Though I knew how tall his tales grew on a page, I wasn't prepared to hear those sorts of stories, especially from a man who is enchanted by his own masterpieces. “It’s something I thoroughly enjoy. It’s the best way of expression of the soul. It’s something that’s been cultivated through time,” Marty told me.

The knack for this was inherited from his mother, Joy, a “tremendous writer” who believed in then-teenage Marty and his gift. She pushed him, and because of that, he “owes a lot of [his] success to her.”

Marty’s fire was never fully in NASCAR. That seems crazy to read now, but it’s the truth. He watched it as a kid, but it wasn't what he aimed to pursue. The course changed when, as a college sophomore, he switched to Radford University in Virginia. He lost his athletics, his favorite pastime, in the shakeup. A friend pushed him to go into Sports Information, similar to Public Relations, and it involved a small amount of writing.

A high school sports writer soon sought him out for the Roanoke Times. He gave Marty the summer job of going to a local track and watching the races.

“Two laps in, I was hooked,” Marty said. “Blue collar people getting together made me feel at home.”

After graduating and moving to another paper, he was sent to Richmond in May of 1998. There was a moment where, as Marty sat on the pit wall, two iconic cars blurred by. One was the No. 24, the other was the No. 3. The fresh-faced writer realized what he was doing, where he was.

“I remember sitting there and thinking, ‘Oh my God . . . That’s Dale Earnhardt.’” At this point, he was well on his way towards something much more grand than himself.

One day a woman called with an interesting request. Marty explained, “She says, ‘I want you to do a story about my son.’ I responded, ‘Well, who’s your son?’ She goes, ‘Paul Brooks. He’s just been promoted to Vice President of NASCAR.’” Marty did the interview with the “very gracious, humble, talented” Brooks, and that led to becoming a columnist at NASCAR.com. The young site allowed him to write about what he wanted, a stimulating endeavor that let him grow.

That’s where he remained, until six years ago. He was taken from the computer desk and thrown before the world, lacking TV experience. As a bird pushed from its comforting nest would, he quickly adapted to the change and soared.

Ever since that second lap at that small track, Marty hasn't stopped loving racing. I could tell; his voice was alive and rich, tumbling like a ball of yarn descending down a staircase. On and on, he described the 2012 season. “It was a good season, fantastic for Brad [Keselowski]. I appreciate his willingness to not play the corporate game. [I’m] glad he’s willing to speak.”

That lust for speed and burnouts doesn't cloud his judgment, however. “You can’t sugarcoat it . . . There were worse and bad races, but there were some fantastic races!” He singled out the finish at the Texas Chase race as an example. “[Jimmie Johnson and Brad] were running their cars to the ragged edge.” He went on to talk about Martinsville, about its authenticity and how technical and physical it can be. Other thrilling stops are road courses.

When it comes to favorites and his pieces, the recent story he posted about Shane Hmiel tops the list. Including 30 hours of reporting, 15 days of watching the struggle, it resides in a special section of his heart. Another singular encounter was with Dakota Meyers. The man braved a downpour of bullets and ignored orders so he could carry 36 of his men to safety in Afghanistan. The act earned him The Metal of Congressional Honor.

Yet, the tale he told me about Dale Earnhardt Jr. just caught me in its grip.

“Back in 2008, I did a cover story for ESPN Magazine on Dale Jr. breaking away from the family business to Hendrick Motorsports, and what it really meant in the depths of who he is.” Dale Jr. went on to remember a time with him and his late father. “‘I was eight or nine, [he and his father] would be in the shop, and there would be a five-gallon bucket on the floor. Dad said, ‘Go pick that bucket up, boy.’ I never did because I knew I couldn't do it . . . All he wanted me to do was try.’” Marty summarized that Dale Jr.'s jump to Hendrick Motorsports was his way of moving that five-gallon bucket.

I could see why Marty deemed him a “rockstar.” He explained how methodical Dale Jr. is with answering media questions, even if they aren't the most developed inquiries. Marty admires how the driver also deals with the “mammoth pressure” that’s attached to him.

When questioned about his favorite moment of racing, there was a pause, then the exclamation, “Man, I’m getting old!”

He rattled off Jimmie Johnson’s win at Atlanta in 2004 after the devastating plane crash that took those very close to Mr. Hendrick and the organization. Then there was Johnson and Matt Kenseth dueling at Texas in 2007. The 2004 Daytona 500 where Dale Jr. went to Victory Lane. When Marty spoke of Kevin Harvick's first Cup win coming three races after Dale Earnhardt passed, the common theme came through.

“I’m obsessed with the human element. I love that, where sports can be a vehicle for human emotions at the time. It’s cathartic . . . I appreciate when the human element resonates.”

That is obvious in his writing. He meshes racing with the murkiness of the soul. From time to time, he adds in another factor: family. Why? “It matters. When you become a parent and a husband, perception changes. The world becomes far less self-absorbed.”

This was also noticeable. While we talked, tiny interruptions from his kids cut in, making me smile wide. It only highlighted his humility and his relatable nature.

“I enjoy [talking about] those things. I want it to matter to [the readers]. I appreciate that it matters to people and to you.” The ability to open up and let people into that tender part is what makes writing even more fulfilling. “When you allow yourself to become vulnerable, it takes it to a whole other level.”

Sometimes being vulnerable is a part of life. Or it can be forced upon you. When Marty’s father died, it was that time to let his guard down. He found strength and a voice in the music of Eric Church, who is now a very close friend. “When my old man died, it [Church's music] was the perfect vehicle for my emotions at the time.”

Sort of like that human element he mentioned before.

Sort of like those people that charm my own curiosity.

The passion that Marty has in his heart came through during our entire conversation. He does everything he can to give respect to every opportunity he’s come across. What he feels for writing, the sport, and life itself is something incredible. I can’t do that justice at all.

But he can. That’s why his skill is astounding.

It fascinates me.

Why I Love NASCAR: It's Like the Soaps by Chief 187™

Days of Our Lives is a production of NBC
in association with Sony Pictures Televison.

It occurred to me the other day while I was making lunch and turned on the television to my soap opera that NASCAR was a lot like the mainstay of daytime television, the soaps.

Bear with me, I've got “proof”.

In my world I've known about racing as long as I have about soap operas. My father watched the former and my mother the latter. I was exposed to both. I never equated the two until this off season.  

While in grade school I watched the soap opera my mother followed – Days of Our Lives on NBC – and stuck with it throughout college. Once I got a full-time job teaching I had to stop watching my “stories” regularly. Occasionally I would have opportunity to catch up and, strangely enough, it wasn't so terribly difficult to figure out what happened.

On the flip-side  I came to NASCAR later in life, as an 18-year-old woman new to Southern life,  living in southwest Virginia. I was ready to embrace the “Southern” sport. I watched for nearly 11 years, until my favorite driver Dale Earnhardt died.

I returned to the sport in 2007 with renewed vigor.

Here’s where I realized NASCAR is like the soaps.

Even after a long absence I was still able to pick up where I left off in NASCAR. Many of the characters in NASCAR were the same – Earnhardts, Pettys, Waltrips, Labontes, etc. – but there were new names, too. The Busch brothers, Kasey Kahne, and Denny Hamlin were young and flashy and resurrecting the sport.

Like a soap where storylines usually revolve around a hospital, NASCAR, of course, is set at the racetrack. Other venues find the drivers having meet-and-greets, sponsor obligations, and vacations just like the soaps veer away from the hospital to show other locales.

Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR
Brian Z. France and Mike Helton
Soap operas usually have a “family of origin”. For Days of Our Lives it’s Horton and for NASCAR it is France. All characters in the soap have some connection to the original family. This is most certainly true in NASCAR. The France family is patriarchal, dynastic, and rock solid in their import in the sport.

And because NASCAR is a family there are deaths, births, and other “storylines” – who is dating whom – that continue to keep the fans coming back week after week and season after season.

NASCAR is a sport but it is also entertainment. Whether you buy into the premise that NASCAR and soap operas are similar, they certainly do claim the most loyal fans in their respective realms.

For my entertainment dollar, NASCAR has given me far more in the decades I have been watching it than my "stories" did. Of course, I still keep up with both! And these are yet more reasons why I love NASCAR.


Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.









Saturday, January 26, 2013

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing partners with Cessna, looks forward to 2013 season


Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images for NASCAR
(L-R) Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya are introduced as Scott Dixon looks on during the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Media Tour
 on Jan. 23, 2013 in Concord, N.C.
The Sprint Media Tour provides the perfect platform for teams to announce major sponsorship agreements and this season Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing Teams had perhaps the most dramatic reveal. On Wednesday, inside a hangar at Concord Regional Airport, Ganassi's seven drivers from three series posed with a Cessna X, a Bell Helicopter and a Bad Boy Buggy, which is part of the E-Z-GO personal transportation family. Sprint Cup drivers Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya lined up beside Dario Franchitti, Scott Dixon and Charlie Kimball of the IZOD IndyCar Series as well as 2012 Rolex Sports Car Series champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.

Among that group: six IndyCar championships (two for Dixon, four for Franchitti), five GRAND-AM championships (Pruett has five, Rojas partnered with him for four of them), four Indianapolis 500s, four Rolex 24 At Daytona races (Pruett-Rojas), a Daytona 500 (McMurray), a Brickyard 400 (McMurray), a CART championship (Montoya) and 150 other race wins.

Ganassi said, "There’s obviously something missing from that list, and that’s a NASCAR championship. We want to add that to our list of  accomplishments."

The sponsorship, which gives EGR a boost after the departure of Bass Pro Shops, extends across all three series, and McMurray's No. 1 Chevy SS will sport the Cessna logo on its hood through multiple races.

2013 is widely regarded as a make-or-break season for the team. McMurray won in just his second Cup start while filling in for an injured Sterling Marlin. But since that 2002 surprise victory, the Missouri native has only scored five wins. Montoya scored seven wins and 30 podium finishes in F1. In two seasons of CART he won 11 times, including a crossover win in the 2000 Indy 500 and four wins on ovals. Yet in NASCAR (Cup and Nationwide) he's only won three times and all on road courses. McMurray had only three top-10 finishes in 2013, ending up 21st in points. Montoya came in right behind him in 22nd, with just two top 10s. 

Still, Montoya and McMurray are ready for the upcoming season. "I’m really excited to get this season started," said McMurray. "There’s a lot of positive energy on this team right now, and having Cessna onboard has really been a shot in the arm for this entire organization."

"I’m not going to come out and say that I’m confident we’re going to have a great season, but the way testing has gone, it’s hard not to be excited," said Montoya. "We’re bringing back our whole team. That’s very rare. I think that is going to be an advantage for us."

All seven drivers are participating in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, along with Joey Hand, who was part of the 2011 winning team. Thursday Pruett scored his fifth pole in the iconic race and Dixon made it an all-Ganassi front row. The 24-hour race ends Sunday at about 3:30p.m. Eastern, televised live on SPEED.


Stewart-Haas Racing Gears Up for 2013 Season

Credit: Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR
Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick of Stewart-Haas Racing
on Jan. 21, 2013 in Concord, N.C.
When the NASCAR Media Tour stopped off at Stewart-Haas Racing, there was plenty to talk about. Heading into his fifth season as a team owner, Tony Stewart fielded questions about the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway and about either he or Danica Patrick running the Indy 500. Patrick faced questions about a potential showdown with her former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for Most Popular Driver and of course, about Indy.

Stewart indicated he hasn't ruled out accepting Roger Penske's offer to field an entry in the prestigious race, just not this season. "I feel like that's the perfect team to go and do enough with the month of May with," Stewart explained. "But I still feel like for me as a driver, I would need to start the year with that team and run through the month of May to really feel like the first day of practice that I was competitive and where I needed to be." As for Patrick running at Indy, he said, "I'm supportive of it if she wants to do it. The biggest thing, though, is the primary job at hand, and that's the Cup Series and making sure that we're where we need to be here."

Patrick agreed, saying perhaps in the future both she and Stewart could run the prestigious race. "I mean, it's something that obviously it just didn't work out for this year," she said. "I think it's most important to focus on the Cup effort. It's going to be two handfuls of work this year. It's going to be very challenging."

Regarding Most Popular Driver, Patrick said, "I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to show some personality and some character this year, so we'll just have to see if that's enough to make it interesting. Dale obviously has a huge following, and he does a great job, and he deserves it. We'll just play it by day."

Stewart was asked if he planned to switch points with Patrick to ensure she makes the first few races now that the qualifying rules have changed. “No. I worked hard for my points," he quipped. While the media corps laughed, Stewart said, "That's the confidence I have in her, though. I really feel like Tony and that team has done a great job with building her a great car for Daytona, and I feel like she's definitely got the talent and capability of racing her way in and hopefully just qualifying in where we don't have to worry about the qualifying races. But I think she'll do a great job on her own."

The Truck race at Eldora comes up in almost every conversation about the 2013 season, even for fans who don't follow the Camping World Truck Series. Stewart said the race had less than a thousand reserved seats available. "We've sold over 16,000 seats to the event already. Things are going well and progressing, and it's ‑‑ pretty excited about it. It's moving along very well." He didn't say that he would be entering the race himself, but he didn't rule it out either.

Jamey Price/Getty Images for NASCAR
(L-R) Greg Zipadelli, Ryan Newman, Matt Borland, Tony Stewart,
 Steve Addington, Danica Patrick, Tony Gibson 
Also on hand to answer questions were Director of Competition Greg Zipadelli and crew chiefs Steve Addington, Matt Borland and Tony Gibson. Addington is beginning his second season with the No. 14 team and Borland is atop the pit box full time for the first time since 2006. Zipadelli relinquished his seat atop the No. 10 to Gibson for the last two races of 2012 and can now focus fully on his position as Director of Competition.

When asked to rate the SHR cars against the others on the track at the Daytona and Charlotte tests,
Zipadelli replied, "Daytona all the cars showed decent speed. They made some gains. And the same thing at Charlotte, if you just look at the speeds. I think you've got to wait until you see when you're in competition. There's 43 cars on there, how your cars drive, and just how they react and things of that nature. I think so far I don't think we're in any panic, but there's certainly a lot more work to do."

Addington looks forward to the new car and season. “I'm excited about it. It's wiping the slate clean to go out and try to figure this new car out," he said. "Made a few changes on the team with a couple of guys that moved in to give us support back at the shop off the 14 car and got new engineer and shock guy and a couple of mechanics and just getting a team to work together. But moving guys that were really, really good and smart guys into seven‑post room to give us support at the shop to go to the racetrack and be competitive." He concluded, "But looking forward to getting on top of this thing before other teams and excited about it, to represent Bass Pro and Mobil 1 and go out and win races."

In preparation for Patrick's transition to full-time Cup racing, Gibson was moved over to the No. 10 team and Borland, whom Stewart promoted from Technical Director to Vice-President of Competition in 2011, came out of R&D to reunite with Ryan Newman. Newman and Borland earned 12 wins and 37 poles in 187 races between 2000 and 2006 while at Penske Racing, and did well in the Texas and Phoenix races at the end of 2012 when Gibson was working with Patrick.

Borland said about Newman that he's "really looking forward to working with him again, just kind of we got a little taste of that end of last year, and looking forward to getting that rolling again. We've got a whole new group of guys on that team, and looking forward to starting gelling and getting better and better, and then when we get to the racetrack, get back to winning poles, leading laps, winning races, representing everybody well, and that's what our goals are."

Newman agreed. "Matt and I, as you alluded to, have a great past. We have also failed at times, so we've learned from those experiences, and that's why we're back together. It's not just us; we have a big part of the team from a crew standpoint behind us that have a very big impact on how successful we are."
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

Veteran crew chief Tony Gibson, moving over from the No. 39 team, seems to get along well with Patrick. Gibson climbed on the No. 10 pit box in Texas and Phoenix for Patrick last season, which were her two best Cup finishes of the year, 24th at Texas and 17th at Phoenix.

“We want to run good, we want to gel as a team," Gibson explained. "And like I said, it's so exciting to have a driver that is so pumped up each day to get in the car, and the feedback that she's been giving us is tremendous, and it's been a lot of fun to experience that again."


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Unique Gator Trophy Serves More Than One Purpose


BARBERVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 24, 2013) - If it wasn't bronzed, the gator, which stands three feet long and weighs a little more than eight pounds, would appear lifelike.

To say that the UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit Racing Equipment has a unique trophy is an understatement. It certainly catches attention, including that of last season's winner - Sammy Swindell.

"I've had a bunch of different things, but that was my first gator," he said of his trophy collection. "It's sitting on the floor in my shop so it scares a few people and about every dog that walks in."

Swindell claimed the 41st edition of the prestigious speedweek at Volusia Speedway Park, which kicks off this season on Feb. 13 with two days of UNOH All Star Circuit of Champions competition followed by the season-opening, three-day event for the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Feb. 15-17.

To receive the coveted trophy, drivers earn points through qualifying, heat races and feature events on all five days of racing on the world's fastest half-mile track. Last year, Swindell didn't win any of the races at Volusia Speedway Park, but his three top fives, four top 10s and an average feature finish of 6.6 garnered the title.

Swindell said the team improved upon everything last season, including the addition of a championship crew chief. Brian Bloomfield, who won World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series championships with Jason Meyers in 2010-11, will fill a key role for Swindell.

"It's going to make my life a lot easier," Swindell said. "He's been in here for a few weeks now and I can see my role changing quite a bit over what it was last year. It's going to give me some more time to focus on more of the things I need to do."

Swindell isn't the only former UNOH DIRTcar Nationals Presented by Summit champion with new changes. Joey Saldana, who claimed the crowns in 2010 and 2011, is now driving for Dan Motter in the familiar yellow No. 71m.

Since 2008, Saldana has seven top-five finishes and 11 top 10s in 14 races during World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series competition at Volusia Speedway Park.

"For me, I love Volusia," he said. "I think we've won that three times. It's a track I like racing. I think everything I do as a driver and I think our car and everything, that's a good place for us to go to and start the season. We're going to a track I've had success at, I like racing. It's good for all of your sponsors. I think it's great. I'm very much looking forward to it."

Oh, and then there's going to be approximately 40 other top-notch drivers who want a piece of the unique trophy, which can also serve as a "guard gator."

Tickets can be ordered online by clicking WorldofOutlaws.com/tickets or by calling 877-395-8606. Every night is a doubleheader and there are FREE Fan Pit Passes with every ticket.

-Press Release courtesy of The World of Outlaws

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

David Reutimann to pilot BK Racing No. 83 in 2013

 Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
STATESVILLE, N.C. (January 22, 2013) – BK Racing begins its second season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing with some changes in different levels of their operation.

Harry McMullen will remain in his role as the team’s General Manager, which he’s held since the team started January 2012. Just added to the team is Rick Carpenter, who will be the Assistant General Manager helping McMullen with the day-to-day operations. Carpenter comes from Tri Star Motorsports, most recently, and Rusty Wallace Racing, where he held the position of General Manager at both teams. He also worked at Penske Racing.

As previously announced, Mike Ford is now the team’s Director of Competition. The veteran crew chief, with 21 wins and 17 poles in 453 NSCS starts, is overseeing shop and race-prep activities of BK Racing’s two NSCS entries.

Doug Richert has been promoted from his role as crew chief on the No. 83 Burger King/Dr. Pepper Toyota Camry. The championship leader with 13 wins to his credit will now serve as a supervisor to the crew chiefs overseeing their efforts at the shop and during race days.

David Reutimann, a two-time race winner will drive the No. 83 Toyota this season full time. The native of Zephyrhills, Fla. drove in two races for the team last year. Pat Tryson, who has eight trips to Victory Lane, is now the team’s crew chief. He came on board towards the end of 2012 to assist on both teams.

Travis Kvapil will remain in the No. 93 Burger King Toyota Camry with Todd Anderson returning as his crew chief. The 2012 season was Anderson’s first in that capacity with Kvapil, the 2003 NASCAR Camping WorldTruck Series champion, who has made 210 NCSC starts.

“I feel good about the additions we’ve made to this team in the off-season,” said Ron Devine, owner of BKRacing. “We’ve brought winning and experienced management on board to guide us in the right direction. We’ve added David (Reutimann) to our driver line-up and Pay (Tryson) to our crew chiefs.

“Doug (Richert) will be even more valuable to us now helping out Pat and Todd with their teams. The hiring of Mike Ford as our Director of Competition to work with a veteran like Harry McMullen really strengthens what BKRacing needs to move forward in this sport.

“We still have a few other things to announce in the near future. But the good part is we are building a team to go racing and be successful in all aspects of our team.”

Texas Motor Speedway makes sweeping changes to further enrich fan experience while making it more economical heading into 2013 season

Texas Motor Speedway logoFORT WORTH, Texas (Jan. 21, 2013) - Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage announced today a dozen impactful changes to further enhance the motorsports fan experience in 2013, ranging from a new, wide-ranging children's ticket pricing program and restructured individual adult ticket pricing to unique race-related perks for season ticketholders.

The sweeping changes - known as the Fan-Fueled Evolution - come as a result of recommendations from the Texas Motor Speedway Fan Council and extensive fan surveys of former season and individual ticketholders. The speedway executive team, led by Gossage, examined and evaluated all of the recommendations and survey results to construct an all-encompassing package to further enrich the fan experience while making it even more economical to visit the largest sports facility in Texas during its three major race weeks.

"These fan-fueled changes are 12 things we're doing to change the sport," Gossage said. "Sports teams, both locally and nationally, have been announcing ticket price increases, but we have come up with a dozen dynamic changes for our fans. From price cuts to children's ticket pricing to a new rainout policy to race friendly hotel listings on our website and more will make attending our races easier and more fun. We are committed to over delivering to our fans once again."

Gossage was joined by Texas Motor Speedway Fan Council members Brenda Baxter and Robert Rich for the announcement. The two council members are part of a 22-member group that meets with speedway officials during race weekends and the offseason to address a variety of aspects related to the speedway and its racing activities.

"I've been regularly going to races at TMS for three years, and not once have I ever felt like they were resting on their laurels and not thinking about how to improve," Rich said. "The Fan Council is an extension of that mindset. This isn't a marketing ploy or a half-cocked plan, they're serious. Eddie Gossage was at every in-person meeting and on the phone, asking pointed questions, begging for criticism, and giving honest insight into the thought process behind everything he does. Nothing was off-limits for discussion. I truly felt like I could say anything and it would be not only heard, but acted upon.

"I think these changes could put us back in the days of complete sellouts at the track, and that's great for motorsports. TMS is the premier race facility in the South, and the Fan Council allowed me and the rest of the group to truly have our voices heard and ensure that the facility doesn't just look great, but functions great as well in every aspect."

The majority of the changes will go into effect immediately while others will be in place when Texas Motor Speedway opens its 2013 season with the Texas 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend on April 11-13. The changes and enhancements that will go into effect consist of:
  • New Children's Ticket Program That Will Be Among The Most Comprehensive In Motorsports And Other Major Sports. While many sports entities limit reduced pricing on children's tickets to specific, lesser expensive sections, Texas Motor Speedway will have the pricing available in all sections and available to both individual and season ticket holders. Children's pricing (12 and under) will begin as low as $10 on the backstretch and $25 on the frontstretch in designated sections for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but a reduced pricing structure also will be in effect for all sections and all series competing at the speedway. Children's pricing in designated sections also will start as low as $10 on the frontstretch for the IZOD IndyCar Series, NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series races. Those who already have purchased tickets at full price for children will have the option on a refund for the difference or credit for future purchases. To take advantage of this new program, please contact the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500. (Click here for a seating diagram for child ticket pricing).
  • Adult Individual Ticket Restructuring. The ticket pricing model for the frontstretch has been restructured to provide more price points for fans, including sections that will be lower than previous years. An individual ticket for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in April (Texas 500) and November (AAA Texas 500) will start as low as $49 on the frontstretch. This will be the lowest-priced individual frontstretch ticket (outside of special promotions) ever offered for a Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway since 1998. Individual tickets will start as low as $35 for the IZOD IndyCar Series and $25 for the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series races. Those who already have purchased tickets at a previous, higher price will have the option of a refund for the difference or credit for future purchases by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office. (Click here for a seating diagram for individual ticket pricing).
  • Unique Race-Related Perks For Season Ticketholders. Beginning in February, Texas Motor Speedway will roll out a 38-week program in which current season ticketholders will be randomly chosen to receive a unique enhancement to their race week experience. The perks include riding in the aircraft that will perform the pre-race flyover for the Sprint Cup Series race in April; riding with NASCAR and INDYCAR drivers during pre-race parade laps; free use of a Lone Star Tower condominium for the Firestone 550 IZOD IndyCar Series weekend; special passes to the Sprint Cup Series drivers' meeting; and many more.
  • Revamped Rainout Policy. If a season or individual ticketholder is unable to attend a rained-out race (all series) on its rescheduled date, they will have the ability to redeem that ticket for a future event at equal or lesser value for up to one calendar year. Tickets under the previous policy were only valid for the rescheduled date.
  • Non-Smoking Grandstands. Texas Motor Speedway will no longer permit smoking in the grandstands resulting from the overriding sentiment in the surveys and Fan Council meetings. This move follows in step with all the local major sports venues and the majority throughout the country. While this move will serve as a benefit to many, Texas Motor Speedway also will be responsive to its fans that smoke and set up designated smoking areas throughout the lower concourse area.
  • Upgraded Fan Tram Service, Golf Cart Assistance And Parking Experience. Texas Motor Speedway is compiling a detailed plan for its fan tram service and golf cart assistance program, including designated pick-up and drop-off areas, to ensure optimum service throughout race days. Regarding parking, the speedway will offer fans additional free paved parking near the gates and better educate its parking attendants in the interest of the fans.
  • Upgraded Backstretch Seating Experience. Ticketholders will now have the benefit of a 17x27-foot Jumbotron screen in the center of the backstretch as well as an upgraded sound system to enjoy the NASCAR race weekends (Note: The backstretch is closed for the INDYCAR race weekend).
  • Flexible Season, Individual Ticket Payment Plans. Texas Motor Speedway's ticket office will work with both season and individual ticket purchasers on a layaway plan that works best for their budget.
  • Premium Seat Options Available Through Texas Motor Speedway And Ticketmaster. Fans will no longer have to deal with inflated ticket prices of online ticket brokers to secure premium seating for major races at Texas Motor Speedway. For the first time in Texas Motor Speedway's history, the speedway ticket office will make individual chair back seats available to accommodate fans seeking premium seating while supplies last.
  • "Code Of Conduct" Text Response System. Texas Motor Speedway will incorporate a texting system where fans can alert speedway officials of conduct unbecoming during a race week and allow them to address the issue immediately.
  • Fan Friendly Hotel Listing. In addition to its preferred hotels, Texas Motor Speedway will produce a list of hotels on its website that does not require a minimum stay and a maximum price hike of 10 percent or less during race weeks. The list will have pertinent hotel information and links to their websites.
  • New Reactive Website, Mobile Lite Site. Texas Motor Speedway will unveil a new, dynamic and more fan friendly website on Feb. 18 as well as new mobile lite site. The reactive design will allow the site to read what platform one is using to access the web and adjusts content delivery accordingly. The mobile lite site possesses a different wireframe and requires very low bandwidth, which is extremely beneficial during race weeks.
The 2013 racing season begins April 11-13 with the Texas 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend. The opener is followed by the Firestone 550 INDYCAR/NASCAR Camping World Series doubleheader June 6-8 and AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader weekend on Oct. 31-Nov. 3.

Tickets, including season ticket packages beginning as low as $270, are available by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at (817) 215-8500 or by visiting www.texasmotorspeedway.com.

Fast Facts: Herb Thomas, 2013 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee


credit: NASCAR Media

Herb Thomas was one of NASCAR’s pioneers, the first two-time champion in the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) Series and winner of 48 races in his short 10-year career. Thomas, along with Buck Baker, Cotton Owens, Leonard Wood and Rusty Wallace, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on February 8, 2013.
  • Herbert Watson Thomas was born April 6, 1923 in Olivia, North Carolina. He made his NASCAR debut in the Strictly Stock division (the forerunner to the Grand National and Cup Series) in 1949 and won his first race in 1950.
  • In 1951, Thomas won six races late in the season to take his first title with legendary crew chief Smokey Yunick. His second title came two seasons later in 1953, winning 12 of the season’s 37 races. From 1951 to 1956, Thomas never finished worst than fifth in points, including those two championships and tree runner-up finishes. He also earned all 48 of his wins during that time period.
  • At the end of the 1956 season, Thomas was seriously injured in a race in Shelby, North Carolina, ending his career; he made three more starts, but saw little success. Thomas’ 48 victories included three wins in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway; he was also the first owner/driver to win the championship. Thomas ran the “Fabulous Hudson Hornet” with much success from 1951 to 1954. Thomas died on August 9, 2000 at age 77 after suffering a heart attack.
  • Thomas was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994 and named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998.
  • Find out more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and its inductees at www.nascarhall.com.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Hamlin welcomes daughter, Taylor

Fish on pit road at Texas Motor Speedway
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud
The newest baby in the NASCAR garage belongs to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and girlfriend Jordan Fish. The couple, who have been dating since 2007, welcomed daughter Taylor James Hamlin Sunday night.  The proud father tweeted the first photo of their bundle of joy on Monday along with the birth announcement. The baby weighed 6 pounds, 5 ounces.

Skirts and Scuffs would like to extend congratulations to the new parents. 

To learn more about the couple, check out Beth Bence Reinke’s interview with Jordan Fish.

Outlaws Improve Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Format



CONCORD, N.C. (Jan. 21, 2013) - The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series is excited to announce a change to the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by ButlerBuilt.

Drivers will not have to compete in every event for eligibility, which will be based on several factors. A rookie will be categorized as a driver who has never completed a full season with the series and who has not won five or more feature races during his or her career.

At the start of each season, drivers must declare their intent - with a maximum of three attempts - which will be endorsed by a seven-person panel by either the 15th race of the season or April 15.
"We are adapting the selection process, recognizing the challenges participants face on the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series," World Racing Group CEO Brian Carter said. "While it doesn't require a full commitment, the driver has to compete in a substantial number of events."

The Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Presented by ButlerBuilt standings will require participation in at least 50 percent of the races scheduled and will be based on average feature finish.
"I think this will encourage younger drivers to hit the road with the series, which benefits the drivers, teams, series and the fans of the sport," World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series Director Carlton Reimers said.

Former recipients of the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award Presented by ButlerBuilt include: Cody Darrah (2011), Ben Gregg (2010), Brian Ellenberger (2009), Lucas Wolfe (2008), Kerry Madsen (2007), Chad Kemenah (2006), Shane Stewart (2005), Kraig Kinser (2004), Jason Sides (2003), Jeff Shepard (2001), Danny Wood (2000), Tim Shaffer (1999), Dale Blaney (1998), Donny Schatz (1997), Joey Saldana (1996), Randy Hannagan (1995), Sid Blandford (1994), Greg Hodnett (1993), Aaron Berryhill (1992), Jim Carr (1991), Stevie Smith (1990), Joe Gaerte (1989), Andy Hillenburg (1988), Cris Eash (1987), Johnny Herrera (1986), Mark Kinser and Greg Wooley (1984), Brad Doty (1982), Jeff Swindell (1981), Bobby Davis Jr. (1980) and Tim Green (1979).

Here is a point-by-point breakdown of the new rookie program:
  • Drivers must declare their intent and submit for approval
  • Seven-person eligibility panel will endorse eligibility by the 15th race (or April 15)
  • Rookie of the Year standings will be maintained based on average feature finish
  • Minimum number of races - 50 percent of scheduled races as of the season opener to be eligible
  • Drivers not reaching 50 percent will remain in standings
Basic parameters of driver eligibility:
  • Never have completed a full season
  • Have not won more than five World of Outlaws races in their career
  • Maximum three declarations of intent 

-Press Release courtesy of The World of Outlaws

NASCAR, Sprint Invite Fans To Design The Sprint Unlimited

For First Time, Fans To Vote On Competition Aspects Of The Sprint Unlimited At Daytona


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 21, 2013) – NASCAR and Sprint confirmed today that fans will have a direct impact on several competition elements of the newly titled The Sprint Unlimited At Daytona, the 75-lap non-points race that opens the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. 

Fans will play an integral part in how the fan-favorite race unfolds on Saturday, February 16 (8 p.m. ET, FOX, FOX Deportes, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio) at Daytona International Speedway. By casting their vote, fans are invited to design several competition aspects of the preseason event, including…

- The number of laps in each segment

- The type of pit stop a team makes after the first segment

- How many cars will be eliminated after the second segment  

Votes can be cast on NASCAR’s new official mobile app – NASCAR Mobile ’13 – or at NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited. All votes made through the NASCAR Mobile ’13 app will count twice.

“We are excited to provide our fan base this first-of-its-kind opportunity to directly be involved in determining the race’s format and in-race decisions,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “By allowing our fans this type of interaction, it is our hope that more fans will be tuned in to the event than ever before.”   

The voting window for the race format will close on Wednesday, February 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET. The voting windows for the pit stop and elimination will close at various times throughout the race broadcast. Vote results will be relayed to teams during each segment and announced live on the FOX race broadcast.

“Giving fans such a strong voice in the design of the race is a fitting way to launch our 10th season in the sport,” said Steve Gaffney, Sprint vice president of corporate marketing. “We are giving them the ultimate access to the sport, the decision-making power to sculpt the type of race they want to see. With today’s technology, they can make these decisions in real time as the race is happening.”

“Sprint has been a great partner for the sport and I applaud them for developing new and innovative ways to give the race fans an unprecedented role in The Sprint Unlimited,” said Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway president. “We have some of the most passionate and knowledgeable fans in sports and I’m looking forward to seeing the choices they make and how it will impact this exciting star-studded event.”

Fan voting categories, include:

· Length of each of the three race segments:

o Choice A: 40 laps, 20 laps, 15 laps
o Choice B: 35 laps, 30 laps, 10 laps
o Choice C: 30 laps, 25 laps, 20 laps

Race format voting ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, February 13.

· Team pit stop after the first segment: 

 o Choice A: No pit stop
o Choice B: Two (2) tire change
o Choice C: Four (4) tire change

Pit stop voting concludes at the green flag of the first segment.

· How many cars will be eliminated after the second segment:

 o Choice A: None (0)
 o Choice B: Two (2) cars eliminated
o Choice C: Four (4) cars eliminated
o Choice D: Six (6) cars eliminated

Elimination voting concludes at the green flag of the first segment. 

Fans are encouraged to follow @NASCAR and @MissSprintCup on Twitter to engage in the #SprintUnlimited conversation throughout the voting window.


Alex Bowman to Compete for 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year Honors in RAB Racing’s No. 99 Toyota Camry

Kate Gardiner Photography/NASCAR
CONCORD, N.C. (January 21, 2013) – RAB Racing with Brack Maggard announced today that 19-year-old Alex Bowman will compete for the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year honors, driving the team’s No. 99 Toyota Camry.

Bowman, who tallied four wins and six pole awards en route to claiming 2012 ARCA Racing Series Rookie of the Year honors, has four career Nationwide Series starts to his credit. He posted a career-best 15th-place finish behind the wheel of RAB Racing’s No. 99 Toyota Camry in the penultimate race of the 2012 season, at Phoenix International Raceway.

“I am really looking forward to driving the No. 99 Toyota fulltime in 2013,” said Bowman. “In the two races that I drove for RAB Racing last year, I saw the potential that exists and we have the opportunity to make 2013 a really special year. They have a strong group of guys that build great Toyota Camrys. I know that Robby (Benton, team owner) has spent a lot of time and effort over the offseason to make the team even stronger, and I feel that we can compete not only for Rookie of the Year honors, but for solid finishes week in and week out.”

Bowman will be paired with veteran crew chief Chris Rice, who served in the same capacity for RAB Racing’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series operation. Rice, 38, a NASCAR Nationwide Series race-winning crew chief, has been with the company since 2010.

“Alex is a really talented driver, one that we’ve had our eyes on for a few years,” said Robby Benton, owner of RAB Racing with Brack Maggard. “He’s had success at every level; he’s won in everything he’s raced. We’re hopefully going to continue that trend with him in the Nationwide Series, behind the wheel of our No. 99 Toyota Camry. I feel that the experience Chris has working with young drivers will give Alex a competitive edge for 2013.”
Sponsor announcements for RAB Racing’s No. 99 Toyota Camry will be announced at a later date.

About RAB Racing with Brack Maggard

Founded in 1998, RAB Racing with Brack Maggard is a Concord, North Carolina-based auto racing team that fields entries in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. For more information on RAB Racing with Brack Maggard, please call 704-788-7811, or visit www.teamrab.com. Stay up-to-date with the latest happenings by liking the team on Facebook (RAB Racing) and by following the team on Twitter (@RAB_Racing).

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mattioli, Squier, Hunter inducted into NMPA Hall of Fame

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Track owner Dr. Joseph Mattioli, broadcaster Ken Squier and NASCAR official Jim Hunter were inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association’s Hall of Fame during ceremonies Saturday.

Mattioli, the founder of Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, gave NASCAR a formidable presence in the Northeast when he built the unique, three-turn, 2.5-mile speedway. The track hosted its first 500-mile NASCAR event in 1974, and it has been a staple on the series’ schedule ever since.

Mattioli cut an imposing figure, yet he was warm and caring, not only seeking what was best for his facility, but for the surrounding region as well. Those traits made him a beloved and respected figure inside and outside the sport.

Squier, who began his broadcast career at just 14 years of age, continues his work behind the microphone today. One of the original members of the Motor Racing Network, Squier eventually made the transition to television where he became a fixture in the broadcast booth for telecasts of the Daytona 500. To this day, he has maintained his ties to his Northeastern roots through ownership of radio stations and the popular Thunder Road race facility.
   
Hunter began his career in the sport as a journalist, but soon found himself working for the sanctioning body in a number of different capacities, including president of Darlington Raceway. With a keen understanding of the inner workings of the sport, Hunter helped craft decisions that impacted its growth in a variety of areas. In his later years, he became a guidance counselor of sorts for drivers as well as members of the media, often providing advice and friendship in equal doses.

The National Motorsports Stock Car Racing Hall of Fame was founded in 1965 to recognize excellence and leadership in the sport of auto racing. To date, there are 94 members in the Hall. It is located on the grounds of Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Sprint Introduces 2013 Miss Sprint Cup Lineup


Newcomer Brooke Werner Joins Returning Members Kim Coon and Jaclyn Roney

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. – Jan. 19, 2013 – With only 28 days left until the green flag drops for The Sprint Unlimited At Daytona, Sprint (NYSE: S) today unveiled the complete 2013 Miss Sprint Cup lineup to the more than 1 million Miss Sprint Cup followers on Facebook and Twitter. Newcomer Brooke Werner (Granville, Vt.) will join returning members Kim Coon (Orlando, Fla.) and Jaclyn Roney (Ann Arbor, Mich.) this season.

From left, the 2013 Miss Sprint Cup lineup: Kim Coon,
Jaclyn Roney and Brooke Werner. Credit: Sprint
Miss Sprint Cup represents the Sprint brand around the track and in Victory Lane wherever the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competes. The three representatives also serve as the fans’ “friend on the inside,” delivering behind-the-scenes updates, pictures and videos via Facebook and Twitter, while highlighting Sprint products and offers.

Hailing from the “Green Mountain State,” Werner adds a Northern charm to the Miss Sprint Cup lineup. The former Miss Vermont USA stuck to her hometown roots while growing up by hiking the Green Mountains and listening to bluegrass music. When she isn’t at the racetrack, Werner enjoys snow skiing, antiquing and watching old movies. After receiving her degree in public relations from Champlain College, Werner worked at a nationally recognized youth-marketing agency, where she served on the community committee, helping to coordinate donations to regional non-profit organizations.

“It's truly an honor to be selected to wear the Miss Sprint Cup fire suit this year,” said Werner. “Kim, Jaclyn and the rest of the Miss Sprint Cup legacy have done an amazing job of bringing fans closer to the sport, and the opportunity to be a part of that is incredibly exciting. I'm looking forward to meeting all of the race fans at The Sprint Unlimited Experience and, of course, my first Victory Lane!”

Coon returns for her third season as Miss Sprint Cup, which makes the former marketing and public relations professional the veteran member of this year’s lineup.

“Last year was such a great season, filled with lots of fun and exciting experiences,” said Coon. “I went skydiving, hunted for rattlesnakes, drove on an off-road course, helped host NASCAR After The Lap and met tons of amazing fans. I'm looking forward to making many more memories this season.”

Rounding out the 2013 lineup is Roney, who is entering her third season as Miss Sprint Cup. The Eastern Michigan University grad joined the program in July 2011 and is looking forward to another thrilling season of racing.

“Being Miss Sprint Cup for the past two seasons has allowed me to encounter such amazing opportunities,” Roney said. “Each race weekend is so different and I count my blessings each morning when we head to the track. There are only three tracks I haven't been to yet – Kentucky, Watkins Glen and Darlington – and I hope to mark those off my NASCAR bucket list this season.”

The program has gained tremendous recognition among race fans and industry members, with the Miss Sprint Cup representatives greeting thousands of fans every race weekend at The Sprint Unlimited Experience, Sprint’s mobile marketing display.

Thanks to their engaging personalities and knowledge of the sport, the Miss Sprint Cup lineup serves as popular interview subjects among local media looking to get an insider’s view on the activities surrounding race weekends. As the Miss Sprint Cup program’s popularity has grown, they now regularly participate in charity events and appear at other NASCAR sponsors’ events. In all, the Miss Sprint Cup representatives took part in more than 900 media interviews and appearances in 2012.

Follow Miss Sprint Cup on Facebook at Facebook.com/MissSprintCup or Twitter @MissSprintCup.