Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fast Facts: Tyler Young

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/
Todd Warshaw
Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year candidate Tyler Young is planning to run the complete 2014 season in his family-owned No. 02 Chevrolet Silverado. Learn more about the Texas native in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Tyler Young was born July 15, 1990 in Midland, TX, and was brought up a racing fan by his father, Randy, who is now the team owner of Young’s Motorsports. The elder Young started two successful businesses – Randco Industries and Young’s Building Systems – before starting the team in 2009.
  • Young began racing at age eight, starting in go-karts and winning the International Karting Federation championship in 2004. From 2005-2008, he competed in Texas-area Hobby Stock, Sport Modified and Modified classes, before he and his father made the decision to move the team to Mooresville, NC and give NASCAR a try.
  • From 2008 to 2013, Young competed in the X-1R Pro Cup Series, winning his first race in 2012 at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina and finishing second in points. In X-1R Series competition, Young had one win and 40 top 10 finishes in 60 starts. He made his Truck Series debut in 2012 at Rockingham Speedway.
  • Learn more about Tyler Young and Young’s Motorsports at youngsmotorsports.net.

The Intimidator would be 63: Dale Earnhardt Sr. remembered on his birthday

                                                                                Jonathan Ferrey for Getty Images

Just as most people could tell you where they were on September 11, 2001, die-hard NASCAR fans can tell you exactly where they were on February 18, 2001. That’s the day that the sport lost one of its most recognizable drivers, Dale Earnhardt Sr., in a last-lap crash at the Daytona 500.

Today, however, we pause to celebrate the man who would’ve been 63 on this date. Born April 29, 1951, Earnhardt Sr. remains an icon. His personality and on-track style are unmatched on today’s tracks, and he’s still regaled by legions of fans as the greatest ever.

“The Intimidator” earned his moniker early in his career. Who wouldn't be intimidated by a driver who won “Rookie of the Year” honors and the first of seven Cup championships in back-to-back years? Known for bumping others to take the lead on his way to a win, Earnhardt Sr. had the respect of his peers both on-and off-track.

The father of four is a member of multiple halls of fame, including the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame. He was among the inaugural class of drivers inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010.

This writer’s fondest memory of “the man in black” is his triumphant victory in the 1998 Daytona 500. Following 20 career-starts at the famed superspeedway, Earnhardt Sr. finally took the checkered flag and was greeted along pit road by every other driver and crew member in the garage.

What are your favorite memories of “The Intimidator”? Share them with us in the comments section below.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Travel Tips: Talladega Superspeedway – May 2-4, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are joined by the ARCA Racing Series as they travel to Talladega, Alabama, home of Talladega Superspeedway. Aaron’s Dream Weekend includes the ARCA International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 and Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312 on Saturday, May 3 and the Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 on Sunday, May 4.

Off-track activities:
  • Visit the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, located adjacent to the speedway. Extended hours for race week are Monday through Wednesday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. CT, Thursday 7 a.m.-4 p.m. CT, Friday 8 a.m.-7 p.m. CT, Saturday 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 7 a.m.-2 p.m. CT.
  • On Friday, May 2, fans on the infield can take part in the ARCA Fan Walk and autograph session from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. CT in the ARCA garage area. There will also be a Nationwide Series autograph session from 1:45-2:30 p.m. CT in the Concourse area behind the OV Hill South grandstands sections D & E; wristbands for the autograph session can be picked up at Guest Services, located near OV Hill South grandstands section L.
  • Also on Friday, the International Motorsports Hall of Fame will host Race Fever Fan Frenzy beginning at 6 p.m. CT. It’s an all-you-can-eat BBQ, silent auction, live auction and more to benefit the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind. Later that night at 6:45 p.m. CT, “The Big One on the Boulevard” celebrates the wild side of Talladega, featuring a parade, driver Q&As with ESPN’s Marty Smith, a MoonPie® eating contest and BBQ sauce wrestling. Learn more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, May 2 –
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 9 a.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 1 and 2:30 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 3:35 p.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 5:40 p.m. CT

Saturday, May 3 –
  • ARCA Racing Series International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 – 10 a.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 12:10 p.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series Aaron’s 312 – 3 p.m. CT

Sunday, May 4
  • Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499 – noon CT

Check out guest services information, grandstand guidelines and more here, and get the complete event schedule, including more things to do at the track here.

Get more information and purchase tickets for this weekend’s race at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

Friday, April 25, 2014

When life gives you racecars: Five Questions for Richmond

(Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Each of us have a calling. We were placed on Earth to do a specific task; scale Mount Everest, write a novel, and run for Congress are just a few examples. It’s a predetermined destiny that nestles itself in our souls. Once we are on the right track, it begins to rise.

NASCAR drivers who are meant to race know it. It’s in the blood of many, scarce in some. When that blood rushes through their ears as they dip into the corners, they know. Because this is their destiny, we see them as that, veiled by their talents and skills. We forget they have other interests. We forget they are people.

Brad Keselowski began writing a blog for his website this year. This intrigued me; what did the crass, former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion have to say?

I was stunned to read his topic matter. It ranged from the death of a friend to run-ins with other drivers to changes he would make to the sport. Everyone knows Keselowski isn’t afraid of speaking his mind, but what caused him to write? How did he learn to write so well?

Keselowski is smart. Many times he runs his mouth, yet the genius is there. In his latest post, he discussed his dream schedule. He put much thought into his words, and his ideas were refreshing. I would love to raid his brain for one day. In a good way, of course.

I say that everyone has a specific calling, and I believe this to be true. This isn’t grounds for limiting one’s endeavors. When life gives you lemons, you try to squeeze out all the juice. When life gives you racecars, you use that social status to your advantage. Keselowski has managed to follow his calling and expand himself, and that is admirable.

This week’s stop is Richmond International Raceway, one of the schedule’s treasured stops. The Saturday show is bound to be insane, and I have a few questions to provoke the chaos. Let’s head to Virginia and take a look at this week’s Five Questions.

What is going on with Swan Racing? The struggling team announced a “restructuring” within the organization. Ownership of the No. 26 is now a merger between Swan investor Andrew Marlowe and BK Racing. Cole Whitt will wheel the machine this weekend. However, the No. 30 is another story; Xxxtreme Motorsports bought the car and is putting J.J Yeley in the seat. Parker Kligerman is out. Brandon Davis, the owner of the team, made headlines when he decided to go with two young guns to build his fresh-faced team. Did that cause him to dig his own grave? Much of this was due to lack of sponsorship, and drivers with no background fail to draw in consumers. Despite this, I believe that things will work out for the group.

Can Denny Hamlin thrive at home? The driver of the No. 11 has had a difficult year so far. From rough results to getting metal stuck in his eye, Hamlin needs to get in gear. Richmond is a great place to do it; not only does it fit his style, but it’s his home track. A “home court advantage” means a lot in other sports, and NASCAR is no exception. Drivers put much stock into a win at their home track, and that equals pressure. If Hamlin can pull it off, it would not only be an honor but a huge turnaround.

Is it time for a change at Hendrick Motorsports? HMS has been looking strong this year. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has consistency and a win, Jeff Gordon is competitive, Jimmie Johnson is there as well, and . . . well, that’s about it. The fourth car in the stable, Kasey Kahne, hasn’t been in the same zip code as his teammates. His highest finish so far has been two 11th-place results, and the others have been horrible. What has caused this slide downward? The No. 5 team lost Keith Rodden, who went to crew chief fellow Chevrolet driver Jamie McMurray. Guess who’s fast this year? Yeah, Rodden was a huge piece to Kahne’s puzzle. If this performance keeps up, the only logical solution is to find a new crew chief. Kahne has been with Kenny Francis for years, and their success together is notable. I respect Francis, who is a very intelligent man, but his relationship with Kahne maybe ending sooner than expected. Let’s hope they can fix things.

How has the NASCAR season gone so far? Over the first two months of competition, a lot has happened. It’s been a whirlwind, from problems with Mother Nature to 2015 changes being announced to seven different winners. This begs the question: how everything going so far? Not much is going on with the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series due to being off AGAIN, but the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a whole different story. The racing has been great, and strong talent has risen to the top. Chase Elliott’s presence in the racing world has rightfully exploded; the kid is crazy good. Now, to the Cup Series: progress has been up and down. There have been so many storylines. There have been even more disappointments. It all leads back to the idea that nothing is ever perfect. No series in NASCAR is perfect, and each one has its own flaw. Overall, things are going pretty well. Do you agree?

Does the schedule need to be changed? Keselowski’s article made me think about the schedule. What about it makes it impossible to change? It needs a revival, like a dull hairstyle. Can we get a few highlights up in here? If you look at Keselowski’s suggestions, they’re almost perfect. The double-headers shorten the season and keep fans engaged. That leads to not competing with other major sports. I say, listen to Keselowski and copy his dream schedule. It’s a great plan, and nothing can be more complicated than what we have now.

TV Schedule: April 25-26

Richmond International Raceway. Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
After taking the Easter weekend off, NASCAR gets back on track. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide series gear up for short-track racing at Richmond International Raceway.

The following is a handy guide to track events and TV coverage at Richmond. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, April 25:
10 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
12 noon NASCAR Live, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
3 p.m. NNS Qualifying, ESPN2
5 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
6:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPNews
7 p.m. NNS: ToyotaCare 250, ESPNews

Saturday, April 26:
3 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
4 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
5:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS2
6:30 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
7 p.m. NSCS: Toyota Owners 400, FOX
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, April 24, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Night racing at Richmond

Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway • Dover International Speedway 
Martinsville Speedway •  Phoenix International Raceway 
Distance: .75 Mile 

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Kyle Busch  and Carl Edwards
All with 3 - Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton and Jimmie Johnson

By Track
Carl Edwards - 7
All with 5 - Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer
All with 4 - Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson 

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Matt Kenseth
2012 Mark Martin

The Likely Suspects: The good news this week is there are lots of worthy drivers to pick. Richmond is a track that suits these drivers well: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick.

My 2 Cents: Think 2Ps this week: track position and Phoenix. Nearly 80 percent of the races at Richmond have been won from the top 10 spots. Phoenix is similar to Richmond, so check out their stats before picking your final four drivers.  

Jimmie Johnson is my no-brainer pick this week followed closely by Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman. My next picks are Joey Logano, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. I will finish up my team with Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon.

Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Fast Facts: Ross Chastain

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/
Todd Warshaw
Ross Chastain, driving the No. 92 BTS/National Watermelon Association Ford F-150 for Ricky Benton Racing in the Camping World Truck Series on a part-time basis in 2014, is a third-generation race car driver, but his family has been doing something else even longer. Find out what the Chastains are known for in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Ross Chastain was born Dec. 4, 1992 in Alva, Florida. He is an eighth-generation watermelon farmer who graduated from Riverdale High School in Fort Myers. His grandfather, Jim Prevatt, his father Ralph and his younger brother Chad have also been race car drivers.
  • Chastain’s racing career began at age 12 on the local Florida short tracks, racing late models and in the Fastruck Series. In his Florida-based career, he has over 50 feature wins, Fastruck championships in 2007 (Fastkids) and 2008 (Fastruck and Fastruck 6 Pack), the 2008 Late Model championship from Punta Gorda Speedway, the 2010 Orlando Speedworld Late Model championship and the 2011 World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Auto Racing Late Model championship from New Smyrna Speedway.
  • Chastain made his NASCAR touring series debut in 2011 in the Truck Series, racing to a 10th-place finish at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. In 2012, he competed full-time in the series for SS-Green Light Racing, earning a top finish of third at Bristol and finishing 17th in points. He competed in 15 races for Brad Keselowski Racing in 2013, earning runner-up finishes in Iowa and Phoenix on his way to an 18th-place finish in points.
  • Learn more about Chastain at his website, www.rosschastain.com

Drivers Focused on Winning - But is the New Points System?

                                                  Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs  

Earlier this year, NASCAR announced a simpler points structure that was supposed to reward drivers for winning. A win in the first 26 races virtually guaranteed teams a spot in the season ending Chase for the Championship. Points would be awarded based on finishing order, which should mean that the winners so far this season should be atop the leaderboard.

But after eight races, Jeff Gordon sits alone as the points leader, one point ahead of second place Matt Kenseth. Neither driver has a win in 2014. The first driver with a win is third place Carl Edwards, who has one win, and is 19 points behind Gordon.

Meanwhile, Kevin Harvick, who has two wins this season, sits in 22nd place, 111 points out of the lead.

So what is the great equalizer here? How are two drivers with no wins leading the points and a driver with two wins sitting in 22nd?

The answer lies in the driver's finishes along the way. Both Gordon and Kenseth have no DNFs, while Harvick has two. Gordon and Kenseth also have more top-10 finishes so far than the rest of the field, and both have two top fives.

Compare that to Harvick, with his two wins, two top fives and three top 10s (half of what Gordon and Kenseth have), along with two DNFs.

So with the consistent finishers being up front, and the car with the most wins somewhere in the middle, what exactly is the difference in the points system this season? Is winning only an advantage when it comes to making the Chase?

NASCAR wants fans to think that winning is what matters, but what is blatantly clear after the first eight races is that not much has changed. The teams that stay consistent and finish races are rewarded more than those who don't.

As the season continues, it will be interesting to see how the points system unfolds, until it gets to the Chase, and everything is turned upside down. The new Chase format is slightly confusing and works on an elimination style format, much like football or basketball playoffs.

So, after all the rule changes, one thing remains the same. Consistency is rewarded in our sport. It always has been and will continue to be. The Chase was supposedly created after Matt Kenseth consistently raced his way to a Sprint Cup (then Winston Cup) Championship. It was thought that it would provide more entertainment and suspense for the fans. But what's so different? The elimination-style Chase and "winning gets you in" are new, but after 26 races, if a driver is the points leader and still has not won a race, he is provisioned into the Chase.

After 10 years of chasing the championship, I think it's time to return to the format that worked so well for years. Let all 36 races determine the season's champion. Winning and consistency should be rewarded, and a team that performs consistently for 36 races should be rewarded. Also, let's be honest, once the Chase starts, the racing is not as good, since everyone tries to avoid the Chasers as they circle the track.

Let's level the playing field again and give everyone a shot. No more Chases and playoff formats. Show the fans that you can withstand a 36-race season that spans time zones and race track types and be rewarded for it. NASCAR is not basketball, and it won't ever be. We've always been a sport where consistent teams shine, and even with the changes to the points system this year, consistency still reigns supreme.

Monday, April 21, 2014

NASCAR Drive for Diversity moves forward

Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images

Once ruled by drivers from the Southeast U.S., NASCAR has branched out in recent years to include Asian-American drivers, African-American drivers and even, wait for it, female drivers. Moreover, those drivers are talented and skillful behind the wheel and have been impressing veteran drivers with their tenacity and their victories. Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kyle Larson, winners in the Camping World Truck Series and Nationwide Series, respectively, are also both graduates of NASCAR's Drive for Diversity (D4D) program. 

Founded in 2004 and celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the D4D program has supported more than 30 drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Its sole purpose is to provide minority and female drivers the opportunity to compete with a NASCAR team. They're succeeding admirably.

This past November, NASCAR received the 2013 Diversity and Inclusion Award for "its efforts in fostering diversity throughout the sport." In the days that followed the award ceremony, Larson became the first Asian-American driver to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award in any of the NASCAR national series. At the seventh annual Diversity Luncheon at Daytona International Speedway, Larson was honored in February 2014 with the Ignition Award, which recognized his push to join the Cup Series following his Nationwide debut in 2012. Larson and seven other recipients were honored at the luncheon. 

Marcus Jadotte, who has recently resigned his position as NASCAR vice president of public affairs and multicultural development, said, "Award recipients acknowledged [at the luncheon] help us embrace the unprecedented opportunities women and diverse individuals are presented with across all disciplines in our industry. We are grateful for the contributions that these individuals and partners are making to our sport." 

Jadotte will continue to serve as a consultant to NASCAR as the organization continues to expand its diversity and multicultural initiatives. Of the work accomplished under his direction, Jadotte asserts, "I am proud of the progress we made and know the stage has been set for much more." The program will continue under the direction of Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president of racing operations.

The current D4D class includes drivers from 14 different states and Mexico. The program seeks "marketable minority and female drivers with racing experience at the grassroots level." For more information or to apply to the D4D, visit www.nascardiversity.com

Travel Tips: Richmond International Raceway – April 25-26, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
Richmond International Raceway hosts NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, plus the K&N Pro Series East, this weekend, Friday and Saturday, April 25-26, for the Toyota Owners 400, the ToyotaCare 250 and the BLUE OX 100, respectively.

Denny Hamlin’s Short Track Showdown takes place this year at nearby South Boston Speedway on Thursday, April 24. The charity race features some of today’s top NASCAR drivers against some of the best Late Model drivers in the region, with proceeds benefitting the Denny Hamlin Foundation. Among the drivers scheduled to participate: Hamlin and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth, Jeb Burton, Timothy Peters, Hermie Sadler, Ryan Preece and David Ragan. Find out more about the race here and get the schedule for the day’s events here.

New this year: the Track Takeover from 2-4:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 26. All ticket holders get exclusive access to the track itself just hours before the green flag, with the opportunity to sign the start/finish line, take a lap around the track, enjoy live music and take part in NASCAR driver Q&As. Learn more about the Track Takeover here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, April 25 –
  • K&N Pro Series East practice – 9 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East qualifying – 2:05 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 3:10 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 5:10 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series ToyotaCare 250 – 7 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series BLUE OX 100 – approximately 9:40 p.m. ET (following Nationwide Series race)

Saturday, April 26 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 – 7 p.m. ET

A complete schedule of events at the track is available here, and race-day activities off the track can be found here.

Check out the driver appearance schedule here and the Fan Guide for RIR online here.

Find even more information at the website’s “Fan Corner” tab.

For updated information for race weekend and to purchase tickets visit www.rir.com

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Checkered Past: 1964 – Dark Days for NASCAR

The 1964 NASCAR Grand National (now Sprint Cup Series) season was one of the longest in NASCAR's history, beginning in Dec. 1963 and running through Nov. 1964. Though there were some high points, including Richard Petty’s first of seven championships and Wendell Scott’s historic first win, it was also a season of tragedy, as three drivers in the series lost their lives in separate incidents.

Joe Weatherly
credit: NASCAR Media
Joe Weatherly, the two-time defending Grand National champion, never got a chance to go for title No. 3. He died of head injuries sustained in a racing accident at Riverside International Raceway on Jan. 19. Weatherly was killed instantly when his head went outside the car and struck the retaining wall; at the time, window nets were not mandated in competition, and Weatherly was not wearing his shoulder harness.

Glenn "Fireball" Roberts
credit: ISC Archives
Glenn “Fireball” Roberts became the second NASCAR fatality in 1964, and though his death was not a direct result of a racing accident, his involvement in an accident early in the May 24 running of the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway played a part in his passing. Ned Jarrett and Junior Johnson wrecked on Lap 7 of the race. Roberts, attempting to avoid them, crashed and burst into flames. Jarrett rushed to Roberts’ car and pulled him out, but much of the damage was already done: Roberts suffered second- and third-degree burns to more than 80 percent of his body. Roberts spent the next weeks in the hospital recovering but contracted pneumonia and sepsis (a whole-body inflammation caused by infection) and slipped into a coma on July 1; Roberts died on July 2, more than five weeks after the wreck.

In Sept. 1964, Jimmy Pardue was running fourth in points when he headed to Charlotte Motor Speedway for a Goodyear tire test. In Turns 3 and 4, a tire blew on his car, sending him through the guardrail to the outside of the track. Just one month shy of his 34th birthday, Pardue perished in the wreck; he still went on to finish fifth in points posthumously.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: New beginnings lead to double wins for Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott

Chase Elliott dripping with red beverage after winning
the NNS race at Darlington April 11, 2014
Credit: NASCAR via Getty images  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

The 2014 season brought a mind-boggling number of changes to NASCAR’s highest series. Some aspects of the sport were merely tweaked, while other areas were totally transformed.

Fans watch the newfangled “knockout” qualifying, akin to mini-races with occasional banged-up racecars. Teams and drivers work to adjust to a different aero package. For those who run afoul of the rules, a new penalty system is in place. And the “W” has become the coveted A+ in the revised Chase format.

The countless changes make everything seem fresh. It’s almost like a new beginning.

On top of the sport-wide modifications are the shufflings amongst teams. Newman to RCR. Larson to Ganassi. Allmendinger to JTG-Daugherty. Rookies Bowman and Truex to BK Racing. Kurt Busch in a fourth car at SHR. And the historic and most debated change: the return of the No. 3 car to the Cup garage.

Though too numerous to list, a couple of stand-outs are Kevin Harvick moving to the No. 4 car with Stewart-Haas Racing and Chase Elliott piloting the No. 9 for JR Motorsports. For these two fortunate NASCAR drivers, new beginnings led to double dividends at Darlington.

This past Friday night, Chase Elliott won the Nationwide race with his new crew chief Greg Ives. Since he took the checkers at Texas the previous week, the victory gave him two in a row and made Elliott the youngest winner in Darlington history. In the Saturday night Cup race, Kevin Harvick and new crew chief, Rodney Childers, won the Southern 500, their second victory of the season, making Harvick the first shoe-in for the 2014 Chase.

Two fresh driver-crew chief pairings, two more Ws. A new beginning for each team.

You know what else is like a new beginning? Easter. We celebrate it each year to remind us how Jesus made all things new.

Of course, Easter weekend didn’t start with the anticipation of launching something new. When Jesus died on Good Friday, it seemed like an ending for those who were there.

But that cold, dark tomb was the venue for a bright, new beginning.

On Easter morning, He rose from the dead. Now Jesus lives! We’re doubly blessed, because not only is Jesus in heaven interceding for us, but He’s also alive in the hearts of believers through His spirit. How cool is that?

The best thing about Easter is the promise it gives us. Each person who accepts the free gift of salvation Jesus offers will go to heaven someday. Without the surety of heaven, death can be a terrifying unknown. But knowing you’ll get a new, perfect body and see loved ones in heaven replaces fear with peace.

Celebrating double wins with a new team – like Harvick and Elliott – is exciting. Plus, there’s the possibility of more success to come.

Reveling in the double victories of Easter – Jesus is alive, and He’s with you in spirit – is pure joy. Plus, there’s the guarantee of heaven to come.

May you and your family have a doubly blessed, meaningful Easter. He is risen!

... anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT)

“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 NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fast Facts: Tyler Reddick

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/
Todd Warshaw
Tyler Reddick, driver of the No. 19 Ford F-150 for Brad Keselowski Racing, is just 18 years old, but has seen a number of racing firsts in his career already. Learn more about this Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year contender in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Tyler Reddick was born Jan. 11, 1996 in Corning, CA. He began racing at age 4 in Outlaw Midget cars, competing in sprint cars shortly thereafter. 
  • As a young dirt driver, Reddick accomplished a number of firsts in his career: the youngest driver to qualify for and sit on the pole for the World 100 dirt late model race at Eldora Speedway, the youngest driver to win the East Bay Winter Nationals, the youngest winner in the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series and the youngest driver to start a World of Outlaws sprint car feature race at age 13.
  • Early in 2012, Reddick made his ARCA Racing Series debut; later that year in October, he made his NASCAR debut in the K&N Pro Series East at Rockingham Speedway, winning the race. In April 2013, he made his Truck Series debut, racing for NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader; later that year, he was named driver for BKR in 2014. Reddick will compete in at least 15 races for BKR in 2014 before going full-time in the series in 2015.
  • Learn more about Tyler Reddick at his website, and learn more about Brad Keselowski Racing at teambkr.com

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Era of Historic Opportunity: Five Questions for Darlington

(Credit: ISC Archives)
To some, history is pointless. The past isn’t important anymore. Who cares about things that happened decades ago?

Those people are wrong, and I’m going to tell you why.

Friday night, Chase Elliott won at Texas Motor Speedway, his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory. The confetti flew after a performance that told observers one thing: this kid is the real deal. Being the son of former champion Bill Elliott, how could he not?

He isn’t the only one, either; there are many young drivers who are worth watching. Darrell Wallace Jr., Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Dylan Kwasniewski and many more. Most are in the NASCAR Next program, which was created to heighten their stance in the sport. Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson are graduates of the setup, making noise on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level.

What used to take ages to achieve now happens in a matter of a year. This is the era of historic opportunity. Why don’t we embrace it?

NASCAR is different than it was 10, 20, 30 years ago. Some see that as a miscue, others find it to be a relief. Either way, where the sport once was needs to be recognized. To see the steps made, you have to know where you’ve been.

A win is sweeter when you understand which drivers drove to the checkered flag years before you did. Without history, that taste would be nonexistent.

Knowing about the past is important, and Darlington Raceway’s past is louder than the track itself. With multiple personas, the venue is bound to mess with some drivers’ heads. In this edition, I’m discussing Matt Kenseth, predicting winners and ranting about SAFER barriers. It’s all here in these Five Questions for Darlington.

Will we see an eighth different winner? Seven drivers have visited Victory Lane this season, and you can color me shocked; since The Chase’s inception 2004, that hasn’t happened. The year before that, there were nine different winners in the first nine races. I believe we’ll meet that mark, and I can even tell you who will be hoisting the trophies this weekend (see the next question) and at Richmond (Hint: it rhymes with "Benny Tamlin"). The new and improved Chase structure has heightened competition, which is its purpose, and has drivers scrambling for a win. Chaos will happen at Darlington, but an eighth face will emerge as the victor.

Is it time for Jeff Gordon to tame the Lady in Black? This fickle mistress has tangoed well with Gordon; seven wins, 19 top fives  and 22 top 10s make for a deep understanding for this track. Will he land a win this coming weekend? It seems highly likely if you take his recent performances into consideration. He has the mannerisms of a starving animal, and each race brings him one step closer to satisfying that hunger. The stars are set to align and help Gordon close the deal.

Where are you, Matt Kenseth? Numbers don’t lie: 61.3 percent of Kenseth’s 31 wins in Cup have come from tracks between one and two miles in length. They’re his bread and butter, and that fact was reiterated last season. However, the No. 20 has faded into the background so far, barely making any noise. What’s going on? Kenseth won this race last year, and he knows how to get around it, but that means nothing if he’s not up to par this season. Besides, 2014 Kenseth isn’t as fun as 2013 Kenseth. Bring the other one back.

Are we STILL talking about SAFER barriers? Once again, there was a nasty, unprotected hit, and it happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. early on in the Duck Commander 500. The impact ruined Earnhardt Jr.’s day and left an impression in the wall. Enough is enough. I’m sick and tired of seeing heart-stopping collision after heart-stopping collision, wondering if the driver will make it out of the car. There isn’t one reasonable explanation as to why every wall at every track doesn’t have SAFER barrier technology. Drivers like Gordon and Kevin Harvick have both attested that money is one of the main factor, and that is appalling. NASCAR is a business, but this is about protecting drivers from serious injury and death. There can’t be bare walls when the cars are going 217 mph. It’s always been time for them to do something about this issue, but now it’s time to actually act on it. If something isn’t done, there are going to be severe consequences, which can range from lawsuits to fatalities. Let’s try to prevent that while we still can, shall we?

Can this be the most promising crop of young drivers in history? Elliott’s win emphasizes a well-known fact: there’s a lot of talent brewing under the age of 21. Wallace, Blaney, Dillon and Kwasniewski are just some of the names blasting onto the NASCAR scene. Up higher on the ladder, the older Dillon brother is battling with Larson and a slew of other youngsters to win the Rookie of the Year honor. This is only the beginning of a beautiful youth movement within the sport. They have resurrected the “no names” and forced themselves to be heard. New chapters of the record books are written every day, and we are first-hand witnesses. Isn’t that phenomenal?

TV Schedule: April 11-12

Darlington Raceway. Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
She's the Lady in Black, and you always want to be on her good side. NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway for its new date on the sport's schedule. Instead of Mother's Day weekend, the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series events have been moved up to April.

The following is a handy guide to television coverage and track events this weekend at Darlington. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, April 11:
11:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
2 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
4 p.m. NNS Qualifying, FS2
6 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
7:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN2
8 p.m. NNS: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200, ESPN2. Green flag: 8:16 p.m.

Saturday, April 12:
3 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. NNS: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 (re-air), ESPN2
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS2
6 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
6:30 p.m. NSCS: Bojangles' Southern 500, FOX. Green flag: 6:45 p.m.
8 p.m. How It’s Made: NASCAR Engines, Science Channel
11 p.m. How It’s Made: NASCAR Engines, Science Channel
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS2

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Earning your Darlington Stripes

Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway •  Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.366 miles

Career Top 5s Among Active Drivers: 
Jeff Gordon- 19
Jimmie Johnson - 8
Ryan Newman - 7
Both with 4 - Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart  
All with 3 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray  
All with 2 - Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth  
All with 1 - Dave Blaney, Brad Keselowski, David Ragan and Martin Truex Jr.

Career Top 10s Among Active Drivers: 
Jeff Gordon - 22
Both with 11 -  Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart   
Ryan Newman 10
Matt Kenseth - 9
Dale Earnhardt Jr. -  8
Both with 7 - Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin  
Kevin Harvick - 6
All with 5 - Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch 
Kasey Kahne - 4
Martin Truex Jr. - 3
All with 2 - Dave Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Joe Nemechek 
All with 1 - Marcos Ambrose, Clint Bowyer, Travis Kvapil, David Ragan and Brian Vickers 

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Kurt Busch
2012 Greg Biffle

The Likely Suspects: Darlington is traditionally a fun race to watch with lots of beatin' and bangin', and more importantly, competitive racing. The performance package of this new car has made the car faster and harder to handle for some drivers. This all adds up as a big plus for the fans watching the race on Saturday night. Darlington's elite drivers include: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth.

My 2 Cents: If you want to take a break from mindfully picking your fantasy team this team, go for it. Just load up with as many Hendrick Motorsports drivers as possible, and relax. The Hendrick organization has won 14 races at Darlington, more than any other team.

My no-brainer pick this week is a tie: Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. Jimmie Johnson is also an obviously fine choice. My next picks are Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart. I will complete my team with Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon. When doing final picks this week, focus on teams with the whole package. At Darlington, the most important thing is keeping up with the track, so consider strong crew chiefs.

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fast Facts: Mason Mingus

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/
Todd Warshaw
Mason Mingus is one of a number of new faces in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series, but he’s no stranger to the race track – he’s been racing for the last 12 years. Learn more about this Rookie of the Year candidate in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Mason Mingus was born Nov. 28, 1994 in Louisville, Kentucky, growing up in Brentwood, Tennessee. As a high school student at Franklin Road Academy, he competed in wrestling, track and football – and, of course, auto racing.
  • Mingus began racing quarter midgets in 2002, moving up to the MMRA Mini Cup Series in 2005 and the MMRA Baby Grand Series in 2008, winning the series championship. In 2009 and 2010, he competed in the Ken-Ten Pro Late Model Series, winning the title in 2010.
  • 2011 and 2012 found Mingus in the Champion Racing Association (CRA) Super Series, as well as racing in the ARCA Racing Series. In 2013, he competed full-time in the ARCA Racing Series, finishing second to veteran Frank Kimmel in the championship battle. Mingus also made his Truck Series debut at Talladega Superspeedway in 2013.
  • In 34 ARCA Racing Series races over three seasons (2011-2013), Mingus collected 25 top 10 finishes.
  • Learn more about Mingus at his website, www.masonmingusracing.com

Joey Logano got his guns with win in rain-postponed Duck Commander 500 at Texas

Credit: Boyd Adams, courtesy of  Rubbingsracing.com
Sprint Cup Victory Lane at Texas Motor Speedway has everything a kid who grew up dreaming of being a race car driver could imagine a win in the Lone Star state would have. The winner's name in lights, flames, confetti (Texas-shaped, of course), a cool trophy, a cowboy hat, a ring and the iconic pair of pistols that the driver gets to shoot as photographers snap photos. 

This year, the Duck Dynasty added a duck call to the swag.   

When Joey Logano won the Duck Commander 500 on Monday — the race postponed because of rain and track-drying issues Sunday — one of the first things he asked was, "Where are the guns?" 

In earning his fourth Cup win and becoming the seventh different winner in seven races this 2014 season, Logano also became the youngest winner of a Cup event in the history of Texas Motor Speedway. He currently holds the record for youngest driver to win a Cup race, but that was way back in 2009. 

With five full seasons of Cup racing behind him, for him to be the youngest to win at any track now just seems odd, and is a reminder of how young he was when he inherited the team two-time Cup champion and larger-than-life personality Tony Stewart vacated. 

Finally, Logano appears to be emerging as the skilled driver he was touted to be when he earned the nickname "Sliced Bread." With the exception of Daytona, he's been a threat for the pole every week, and he's now got four top fives in seven races, including this win. 

Logano led three times for a race-high 108 laps. He seemed to have the race well in hand when he took the lead on Lap 302, keeping Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson behind him with ease. 

In post-race, Logano recapped the end of the race. 

"When you got like 40-something laps after the last pit stop, you got a pretty sizable lead, really all you're thinking is, 'Where is the white flag? Where is the white flag?'" said Logano. "Brad was able to catch us a little bit. Then you go into Turn One, you see the 41 up against the wall. You're like, 'Please, no caution; please, no caution.' Boom, it comes out. You got to be kidding me.

"You get so mad you barely can control yourself — at least for me. I had to make sure I stayed calm and tried to give Todd the information I needed to, then he had to make the right call. Really, I was so mad, I didn't really tell him what the car did until I was coming down pit road. He made a last‑minute decision to put fuel in it because I heard, 'No fuel, no fuel.' I was like, 'No, no, no, I was tight.' He made the right decision at the last minute to put fuel in the car, give me a better balance for what I needed, the guys made the money stop, put us out as the first car with four tires on, restarted third.

"At that point I got Kyle Busch on the outside of me. I know he's very aggressive on restarts, very good on restarts. My number one goal at that point was try to figure out how he doesn't get clean air and get out to the front. I had to make sure he didn't stick it three‑wide, get in the middle, do something like that."

"The 24 was lucky enough to have a good enough restart with his older tires.  I was able to follow him through, get a second, get a run off of four, cross him over, get the lead. Then we get the win."

"Just awesome. We've been in contention every race this year to win these things. To get the Shell‑Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane, it means a lot. It's such a tough racetrack. We have had plenty of time to think about this the last couple days.  Pretty cool place to win.  I got a ring, guns, a trophy, a hat, a duck call. That's pretty cool," said Logano. 

Credit: Boyd Adams, courtesy of  Rubbingsracing.com
Jeff Gordon, whose No. 24 carried the maroon and white of Texas A&M, wound up second after a two-tire stop. "I feel very fortunate to finish second. Joey was the class of the field there the second half of the race. I knew it was going to be hard to hold those guys off."  

Coming home in third, Kyle Busch said, "The Penske cars, I went by one of them in one run like he was standing still, then he went by me in the next run like I was standing still. Kind of crazy the way that happened. They come out of nowhere and took off the last 70 laps, 80 laps, whatever it was. They were going to be tough to beat." 

Brian Vickers also gambled on two tires. "It’s great to get a top-five here.  Just really proud of the effort. We probably didn’t have a car to win, but we made the most of it. We’ll learn from this and we’ll move on to the next race and we gave it our best there at the end.”

The highest-finishing rookie, Kyle Larson, continues to impress, filling out the top five. "There down the backstretch with Kyle and Biffle, the 55, we all had a good run there. I helped Kyle (Busch) kind of get past the 16 a little bit. I had to drag race 55 back to the line. He edged me out there," explained Larson. 

"It was exciting, I thought. Like I said, not quite as crazy as California, but still green‑white‑checkereds are still pretty wild." 

Pre-race favorites Dale Earnhardt Jr, Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick all had issues that took them out of race contention. 

 Earnhardt Jr. clipped the soaked sod of the infield with the splitter, tearing up the front end of the No. 88, sending him into the outside wall, then careening into the inside wall, car in flames. Johnson was behind him and caught a windshield full of debris and never quite overcame the damage. Harvick's No. 4 blew an engine, taking him out of the race on Lap 28.

For the complete finishing order, click here

Earnhardt Jr.'s 43rd-place finish dropped him from first to sixth in points. Gordon took over the points lead for the first time since 2009. For the full points report, click here

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tune in to FOX at 11 am CT for the Duck Commander 500, take two

Cars under cover waiting for tech on Sunday, April 6
Credit Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

Air Titans are already busily working on the track at Texas Motor Speedway this morning in preparation for the day's racing.

The forecast for the Duck Commander 500 today looks to be cloudy and cool, but local  meteorologists are optimistic that the race can be completed before another round of showers begins.

According to Kristi King of NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications, gates and the Sprint Cup garage open at 9:00 am Central Time, with the command to start engines coming at 11:01 am CT and the green flag flying at 11:08 am. CT. There will be no pre-race activities, including driver introductions, just Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski leading the field to green.

The race will broadcast live on FOX and PRN Radio starting at 11:00 am CT.

Those fans able to return to the track will use the same tickets and sit in the same seats as on Sunday. Additional tickets can be bought at the gate.

Fans who can't make it back have a full year to use the ticket at any of the other races at TMS>

The race was called Sunday evening after weepers kept the armada of Air Titans (both versions) and jet dryers from getting the track dry enough for racing. North Texas, like much of the country, experienced a winter with more than the usual number of ice storms and snow that likely affected the racing surface.

In addition, the sky just would not stop crying. Intermittent showers kept the roads slick and made the egress from the track soggy.

Unfortunately, Skirts and Scuffs reps will be unable to bring you updates from the track today but we hope you enjoyed the coverage we were able to provide.

Travel Tips: Darlington Raceway – April 10-12, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media

The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series visits the “Track Too Tough to Tame,” Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, Thursday through Saturday, April 10-12 for the annual Bojangles Southern 500 for the Cup Series and the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 for the Nationwide Series.

Festivities kick off on Wednesday, April 9 with RaceFest, featuring the 10th annual Darlington Car Hauler Parade. RaceFest begins at 4 p.m. ET at the Florence Civic Center, with the Hauler Parade leaving the Civic Center at 7 p.m. ET; it makes its way through Darlington Square before ending at the “Track Too Tough to Tame.” 

Key on-track times:

Thursday, April 10 –
  • Nationwide Series practice – 1 and 2:30 p.m. ET

Friday, April 11
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 4:05 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 6:05 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 300 – 8 p.m. ET

Saturday, April 12
  • Sprint Cup Series Bojangles Southern 500 – 6:30 p.m. ET

Fans attending the race weekend can check out FAQs here and the Darlington 2014 Event Guide here.

Find out more about the event and purchase tickets at http://www.darlingtonraceway.com/