Monday, June 30, 2014

The Race: Living Life on Track with Darrell Waltrip - Book Review

                                                                  Photo courtesy: B&H Publishing


Race fans know Darrell Waltrip. He's the colorful lead analyst for NASCAR on FOX. He's a three-time Cup champion boasting an impressive 84 wins, which ranks him in the top five on the All-Time Wins list. He was among the first to be nominated and elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. And, he's a Christian.

In his latest book, The Race, Waltrip shares his thoughts on the parallels between life and racing. Each has a mission: to finish well. Written with Motor Racing Outreach (MRO) leaders, Billy Mauldin and Kyle Froman, The Race regales readers with rich stories from life on the NASCAR circuit while simultaneously taking them on a journey to a deeper understanding of a life spent "on mission" serving others.

Froman writes, "Mission isn't merely a suggestion if you love Jesus. Mission is the very essence of what we are commanded to do as followers of Christ ... We, too, are racers. We are in the middle of the greatest race known to mankind: life. Deep down, we are all driven to win. We want to live life in a way that, when we reach our finish line, we can be proud of what we've accomplished. We want to leave a legacy for our family and friends. We want to be remembered for the things we completed. And if we are a follower of Christ, we want to hear the words, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant.'"

Readers will learn that it doesn't matter whether you have millions of sponsorship dollars behind you or are a parent just trying to raise up a child in the way he should go, each of us has a track on which to run our mission before we can claim our ultimate prize. For the racer, that prize is the coveted spot in Victory Circle. For the Christian, that prize is eternity with our Father in heaven. But you must first complete your mission; you must first run your race. 

Learn more about Motor Racing Outreach at www.go2mro.com . Order your copy of The Race from Amazon, other online retailers or brick-and-mortar bookstores.

Travel Tips: Daytona International Speedway – July 3-5, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series visit Daytona International Speedway for the second time this season, celebrating Independence Day with the Nationwide Series Subway Firecracker 250 on Friday, July 4 and the Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 on Saturday, July 5.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, July 3
  • Nationwide Series practice – noon ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 4 and 6:35 p.m. ET

Friday, July 4 –
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 3:10 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 5:10 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca Cola race – 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, July 5 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 race – 7:30 p.m. ET

Following the Coke Zero 400, Daytona will host its huge fireworks show, a 15-minute display shot from 15 locations around the track, with more than 11,000 individual explosions. Find out more about it here.

For a complete schedule of events, including driver appearances and special events, click here.

Get more information and purchase tickets for this weekend’s action at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cosmic Shifting: Five Questions for Kentucky

Sean Gardner / NASCAR via Getty Images
There is a cosmic shift coming to the sport we love.

This week brought interesting happenings involving sponsors and TV shows. With those happenings in mind, it’s easy to see that something is changing in NASCAR. Unfortunately, there’s a harsh truth to it all: it’s been boiling for a long time, and the bubbles are finally coming to the surface.

I’ll keep this short so we can get to the questions, but keep this in mind: everything happens for a reason, and there’s definitely a reason for all of this.

With that said, the entire sport claims Kentucky Speedway as their stomping grounds this weekend. We’re talking tempers, bumps, Sweeps, and even more in Five Questions. Let’s roll.

Will the heat from Sonoma transfer to Kentucky? One of the many benefits of road course racing is the anger. The spins, the yelling, the revenge. It’s so delicious and refreshing; there’s not enough fire on-track anymore. There was a lot at Sonoma Raceway, so much that it could run over. If people are still mad, I hope they act upon it at Kentucky. Let’s get saucy under the lights in The Bluegrass State.

Who will call for a repave first? Though Kentucky is another 1.5-miler, it has one quality that singles it out. NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Ryan Blaney said it’s so bumpy that it caused his nose to bleed after practice. Though it is bumpier than a teenage boy’s face, that’s what makes the track so exciting. The racers probably disagree, since whatever the fans enjoy seems to suck for them. I don’t know who’s going to call for a repave first, but whoever does is going on my list. And you don’t want to be on my list.

Is the pressure getting to Chase hopefuls? There are only 10 races until The Chase begins, and it’s coming down to the wire. Big names like Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Tony Stewart are winless and need to get going. This new Chase format emphasizes winning, so that’s what they have to do. With the mounting pressure, it’s hard to keep focus. It’s definitely getting to them; Kahne’s getting uncharacteristically angry, Kenseth keeps stumbling, and Bowyer and Stewart are kinda lost. It’s not looking good for them, but they still have time to turn it around.

Does someone complete The Sweep? With all three series parking it in Kentucky this weekend, the door to The Triple opens up. There are two drivers attempting this feat: Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch. Both have the confidence to do it, but Keselowski’s failed to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in his own truck. Busch has already done this, but that puts a target on his back. Which one will sweep the weekend? Neither. I think the competition level is too high in all three series for this to happen. Racers aren’t going to pull aside for these guys, and that’s a good thing.

Changes, are they a-coming? Monday brought two hard-hitting headlines that shook the NASCAR world. Home Depot is reportedly leaving at the end of the season. Their name has been on a Joe Gibbs Racing machine since 1999, so their departure was a shock. Later that afternoon, ESPN released a statement, explaining that "NASCAR Now" has been officially cancelled. The show was on hiatus due to the recent World Cup coverage. Two well-known pillars of the sport, gone. What does this mean? A huge shift in the sport is coming. With the new TV contract, the tables have turned; ESPN’s NASCAR coverage is no more, so there is nothing keeping them around. With Home Depot, they’re probably realizing that the cost of sponsoring a racecar isn’t worth it. It’s ridiculous what teams are charging, and it needs to stop. Teams have to bring down the prices so it doesn’t bust a company’s wallet. A full-time slot on the car costs $25 million? And for what, advertisement to decreasing TV ratings? It’s not worth it, and I don’t blame people for walking away. It’s just really sad and disappointing that NASCAR’s business side has become so greedy that it’s putting money about logic. These two events mean more than what people believe, and everything will come to light soon enough.

TV Schedule: June 27-29

Credit: Sean Gardner/NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR heads south to Kentucky for some night racing.

The Camping World Truck Series ran Thursday, the Nationwide Series runs Friday and the Sprint Cup Series takes to the track Saturday.

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

Friday, June 27:
9 a.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
10:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
12 noon  NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Langley, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3:30 p.m NNS Qualifying, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR America, NBCSN
5:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN
7:30 p.m. NNS: John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over ESPN. Green flag: 7:45 p.m.

Saturday, June 28:
3 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
3 a.m. NNS: John R. Elliott HERO Campaign 300 presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over (re-air), ESPN2
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NCWTS: UNOH 225 (re-air), FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
4 p.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS2
6:30 p.m. NSCS Countdown to Green, TNT
7:30 p.m. NSCS: Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, TNT. Green flag: 7:45 p.m.

Sunday, June 29:
3 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, June 26, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion at Kentucky




Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Darlington Raceway • Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.5 Miles

Kentucky is relatively new to the Sprint Cup circuit. With three races under its belt, here are the driver performances we've seen as well as comparable statistics on intermediate tracks as a whole.

Drivers with Most Top 10s:
By Race & Track
All with 3 - Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon
All with 2 - Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Brad Keselowski
 
Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2012 Jimmie Johnson

Performance at Intermediate Tracks:
1. Matt Kenseth, 60 starts, 9 Wins, 39 Top 10s, 8.7 Avg Fin  
2. Jimmie Johnson, 60 starts, 7 Wins, 42 Top 10s, 10.5 Avg Fin
3. Kevin Harvick, 60 starts, 4 Wins, 37 Top 10s, 10.5 Avg Fin
4. Carl Edwards, 60 starts, 2 Wins, 32 Top 10s, 11.4 Avg Fin 
5. Tony Stewart, 53 starts, 6 Wins, 25 Top 10s, 12.3 Avg Fin
6. Denny Hamlin, 58 starts, 7 Wins, 27 Top 10s, 12.7 Avg Fin
7. Kasey Kahne, 60 starts. 2 Wins, 28 Top 10s, 13.1 Avg Fin
8. Kyle Busch, 59 starts, 3 Wins, 30 Top 10s, 13.2 Avg Fin
9. Jeff Gordon, 60 starts, 3 Wins, 33 Top 10s, 13.6 Avg Fin
10. Greg Biffle, 60 starts, 2 Wins, 25 Top 10s, 14.4 Avg Fin
SOURCE: Fantasyracingcheatsheet.com

The Likely Suspects: This elite group of drivers are quickly becoming favorites at Kentucky: Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick. 

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Jimmie Johnson and Mat Kenseth. I will round out my team with Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Loss of Big-Name Sponsors a Glimpse into NASCAR's future?

Remember the days when you could identify a car just by looking at the sponsor on the hood, those iconic cars that carried the Tide, GM Goodwrench and Kellogg's logos?  Remember supporting a particular product because your driver wore their firesuit? Remember the special races where the iconic cars would sport a special paint scheme, and it sort of felt like Christmas?

Those were good days.

These days, sponsors are on and off the car faster than a revolving door on a busy New York City building. Companies opt for partial sponsorship of a season, or sign "just a few races" deals. This week, another longtime sponsor, The Home Depot, announced its plans to pull out of its current full-time sponsorship of the Joe Gibb's Racing No. 20 car, driven by Matt Kenseth, at the end of this season. The 20 car has been co-sponsored by Dollar General and The Home Depot for the last few seasons, culminating in full-season sponsorship and much needed funds for a top-performing team.

As another seasoned backer of our sport gets ready to walk away, I have to wonder, are we seeing the future of NASCAR laid out before our eyes? Why are big-name players and 36-race sponsors suddenly so hard to find?

Is it lack of money? Not in the case of The Home Depot, who reported annual sales of over $78 billion for fiscal year 2013. In comparison, Lowes, which sponsors the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson full time, reported $53.4 billion in sales in 2013. With The Home Depot outperforming Lowe's by some $20 billion, I would venture to say money is not the issue.

What is troubling about this whole situation is the fact that this is the second major sponsor to walk away from Kenseth in the past five years. Longtime sponsor DeWalt left Kenseth's No. 17 car at the end of 2009. The result was an underfunded race team that struggled for the remainder of Kenseth's career at Roush Fenway, only managing to pull together a handful of wins. In the three seasons after DeWalt's exit from, the team won only three times. At the end of the 2012 season, Kenseth announced he would leave Roush Fenway Racing to pursue a full-time ride with Gibbs. A fully sponsored and energized team did wonders for him, and they went on to win an astonishing seven races, something almost unheard of for a first year driver/crew-chief combination.

Why are companies leaving our sport? What has changed over the course of the past 20 years that has led companies to believe they no longer benefit from television time and sponsor plugs from drivers, as well as loyalty purchases from fans?

The empty stands at the racetracks may be one indication. Most likely, companies are hard-pressed to shell out the kind of cash (anywhere from $5-$35 million annually) it takes to fund a Cup team, when some races are only at half capacity (empty seats at Bristol?). CEOs and CFOs may see that as a waste of resources, and allot the money to other marketing sources.

The consistency of NASCAR as of late may be another factor. In the past eight years, NASCAR has seen only three series champions. Jimmie Johnson won a record five championships in a row before Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski each took home the hardware. Johnson won again in 2013. Fans have become complacent about the Johnson camp, tired of seeing the same car win all the time, and many are jumping ship.

Many are tired of the politics and constant rule changes in NASCAR. The seemingly exciting Chase for the Cup has done little to bring in new fans, and the older fan base doesn't agree with the ever-changing format, and many are losing interest.

So now, our sport is in limbo. New fans are not coming in as fast as old fans are exiting. Ratings have dropped, and for companies, that means it's time to take a hard look at the bottom line, where resources are being spent. Those hard looks have dealt some even harder blows to teams. It has to weigh on a driver's mind as well, as he or she wonders how the next race will be funded, or if the team will have enough money to run next season.

When asked his thoughts about The Home Depot leaving the No. 20 car, Kenseth sais it was not something he was concerned about, and he really didn't know too much about it. He did express his gratitude to the retailer for their loyalty to Joe Gibbs Racing over the years, and reiterated that his team's main focus was to get their cars into the Chase.

This is a dangerous crossroads for our sport. Teams need the money to function, and companies want the face time a top tier team gives them. If we can't find a way to grow our fanbase and fill the seats, we may be subject to the revolving door of sponsors for some time.

And that is a future we just can't afford.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fast Facts: Brandon McReynolds

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR Next driver Brandon McReynolds is no stranger to the world of top-tier racing thanks to his father, former crew chief and current broadcaster Larry McReynolds. The young driver, who is working his way through the NASCAR ranks, is the subject of this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Brandon McReynolds was born May 21, 1991 in Mooresville, NC. He began racing at age 8 in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Bandolero Series, then moved into the Allison Legacy Series and the Winter Heat Series by age 14; McReynolds was the Allison Legacy Series Rookie of the Year, and had multiple wins in the series. He also raced in Legends and Late Models.
  • In 2010, McReynolds competed in four ARCA Racing Series races, finishing 10th at Pocono in July; he also made his top-tier NASCAR debut with a 19th-place finish at Gateway that season. In 2011, he competed in ARCA (one race) and the K&N Pro Series East (seven races – three top 10 finishes). In 2012, McReynolds raced in the Camping World Truck Series (one race), K&N Pro Series East (one race – top five finish) and ARCA (two races – won at Talladega).
  • In 2013, McReynolds focused on the K&N Pro Series on both coasts, racing in two West races and four East races; he picked up five top 10 finishes in six races. For the 2014 season, McReynolds is driving for Bill McAnally Racing in the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Camry, racing full-time in the K&N Pro Series West and two races in the East.
  • Learn more about McReynolds the BMRwebsite

Monday, June 23, 2014

Travel Tips: Kentucky Speedway – June 26-28, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s top three series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and the Camping World Trucks – roll into Kentucky Speedway this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, June 26- 28, for the Quaker State 400 weekend under the lights.

On Saturday at 5:15 p.m. ET, there will be a pre-race concert from country star Thomas Rhett. Fans can access the infield stage for the show and driver introductions with the purchase of the Kroger Fan Zone Pass, which is available for one day or the entire weekend. Find out more here .

Key on-track times:

Thursday, June 26
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series practice – 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series UNOH 225 – 8 p.m. ET

Friday, June 27 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 3:40 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 5:40 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series John R. Elliott HERO Campaign presented by Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over 300 – 7:30 p.m. ET.

Saturday, June 28 –
  • Thomas Rhett pre-race concert – 5:15 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 – 7:30 p.m. ET

Check out the Kentucky Speedway online Fan Guide here for all kinds of information you’ll need for a fun weekend at the track.

For additional information on Kentucky Speedway, and to purchase tickets and Fan Zone passes, visit http://www.kentuckyspeedway.com/

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Perfect Storm: Five Questions for Sonoma/Road America

(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Road courses are gems that are only unearthed twice a year. They shine brilliantly, only to be thrown back in the ground and covered up again. This weekend brings a double dose of left and right turns; the Cup crew claims Sonoma Raceway, while NNS dominates Road America. Fans will love the change.

Another aspect fans like about these layouts? The drivers get frustrated. Radio chatter is full of swear words and promises of paybacks. That drives us wild.

Emotions play a huge role in sports, life and self-health. It’s something we experience each day from the moment we wake up. Does the bird singing outside your window make you roll over and smile, or do you wish for noise-cancelling headphones? This decision can affect your whole day. Sometimes, one incident sets you off, and the entire day is ruined.

Is that why drivers get angry at road courses? No. I’ll talk about that later, after I answer four other questions in this week's twisted column (See what I did there? Ha.).

Is Hendrick Motorsports peaking too early? To some, this might be a stupid question, but let me explain. Three-fourths of that team is competitive each weekend, and they’re currently on a five-race winning streak. If there’s any team that can withstand the pressure of being consistent, it’s HMS. However, I believe it’s too much too soon. Things will change once it comes down to the wire, down to the championship. The reality of Steve Letarte’s departure will set in and make or break the No. 88 team. Trends also show that organizations who get on hot streaks don’t ride them for long. It’s hard to say how things will shake out, but I’m not holding my breath on the Hendrick dominance.

What going on with Dillon? The year began with the return of the No. 3, Austin Dillon wheeling the iconic number to the Daytona 500 pole. People chose Dillon to rise above fellow rookie Kyle Larson. Stats prove otherwise; Larson is eighth in the standings and remains competitive every week, while Dillon has fallen into the shadows. What’s his issue? It might be the organization he runs for, Richard Childress Racing. There hasn’t been one peep out of RCR before this weekend, where Paul Menard claimed a top five at Michigan International Speedway. It seems like a page is finally turning, and we might see more out of Dillon before the end of the year.

Should Gateway’s fantastic Truck performance equal a Cup date? If you didn’t see the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ event at Gateway Motorsports Park, you thoroughly missed out on some racing action. Not only did Darrell Wallace Jr. grab his second win of his career, but the night was full of action and controversy. As soon as it ended, fans wondered, “How would Cup cars fare there?” Well, we all know the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule needs a revamp. A wild 1.25-miles, the track has the age and wear needed to spice up the top-tier series. Does that mean it will work? Maybe. Part of what made the NCWTS event so magical was the ease with the youngsters got frustrated. If that can translate, hey, it’s worth a shot.

The State of  NNS: hopeful or hopeless? With the Trucks putting on a show, and the Cup guys always doing well, left in the gray area is the NASCAR Nationwide Series. With a new title sponsor in the works, you’d think there would be a lot to say, but its fallen in between the cracks. The cause? There aren’t any storylines. You can tell me that all the young guns coming up are newsworthy, or that the debate about Cup drivers’ involvement is hot, but you’d be wrong. Both of those highlights have dimmed, leaving us with nothing. I’m not saying it’s a boring series, however, something new needs to happen. Something jazzy.

Why do road courses bring out rage? NASCAR drivers know that they’re good at their job; if they weren’t good, they wouldn’t have made it here. Their living is made by driving … but they can’t figure out road courses. Every racer has a layout or a track that bites them in the butt every time they arrive, and some don’t know why. Sonoma and Watkins Glen are those annoyances for many. While some pick up the left and right turns on their first try, others struggle. Wouldn’t that make YOU mad? That, along with the tight twists and almost-guaranteed bumping, creates a perfect storm for a driver to just snap.

TV Schedule: June 20-22

Sonoma. Credit: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series get twisted this weekend. The Sprint Cup Series goes to Sonoma Raceway for its first road course of the year, while the Nationwide Series converges on Road America.

The Camping World Truck Series is off this weekend and will return next week at Kentucky.

The following is a handy guide to track events this weekend at Sonoma and Road America. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, June 20:
3 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR America, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
8 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
10 p.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS2

Saturday, June 21:
3 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
11:30 a.m. NNS Qualifying at Road America, ESPN2
1 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
1:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying at Sonoma, FS1
2:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ABC
2:45 p.m. NNS at Road America: Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville, ABC. Green flag: 3:07 p.m.
8 p.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS2
9:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS2

Sunday, June 22:
3 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
4 a.m. NNS at Road America: Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville (re-air), ESPN2
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2 p.m. NSCS Countdown to Green, TNT
3 p.m. NSCS: Toyota/Save Mart 350, TNT. Green flag: 3:19 p.m.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, June 19, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma




Track Classification: Road Course
Similar Track: Watkins Glen International
Distance: 1.99 miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 5 - Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Marcos Ambrose
Clint Bowyer - 4
All with 3 - Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart

By Track
All with 4 - Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Marcos Ambrose
Both with 3 - Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Jamie McMurray
2012 Marcos Ambrose

The Likely Suspects: Said-head and road-racing fans circle this weekend every year. It's time to make some lefts and rights. There is a small group of drivers who excel at this 12 turn, 1.99 mile track. This elite group includes: Jeff Gordon; Marcos Ambrose; Kurt Busch; Tony Stewart; and Clint Bowyer.

Beware of road-race ringers this week when doing your fantasy picks. It sure is fun watching Boris Said, but drivers who enter these races simply because of their acumen at road racing usually don't produce well for fantasy teams. Over the years Sprint Cup drivers, especially those who have experience at open wheel racing, have made major strides at tackling this track. Now the risk you take with going with a ringer is no longer valid when drivers like Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, and Martin Truex Jr. have mastered road racing.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Jeff Gordon and Marcos Ambrose. My next picks are Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, A.J. Allmendinger and Joey Logano. I'm rounding out my team with Kyle Larson and (holding my breath) Michael McDowell. Can't wait to see qualifying and my favorite turn -- Turn 11. I hope you enjoy the racing too.

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Praying on Pit Road

MRO chaplain, Nick Terry, prays with Kurt Busch & Patricia Driscoll before the Dover Sprint Cup race, June 1, 2014.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke / Skirts and Scuffs  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

There’s something powerful about opening ceremonies at a NASCAR race. As all eyes lift to the flag and ears turn to the invocation and anthem, there’s a reverent hush like no other moment in sports. A silent electricity fills the air — an odd pairing of soothing calmness and expectancy. You know the feeling, right?

What fans may not know is what happens in the time between driver intros and opening ceremonies, when a solitary figure strides down pit road, stopping here and there beside a car. At each race, one or two chaplains walk the grid, praying with drivers and their families. Arranging their bodies into a circle, they pray privately amidst the network TV cameras and prying eyes of pit road onlookers.

The idea of daredevil athletes praying for divine protection may seem odd. After all, they consider 180 miles per hour a normal speed and appear to control their own destinies on the track. With lightning-fast reflexes and a fearless demeanor, it’s easy to think of them as almost superhuman.

Drivers don’t show fear because racing for a living isn’t for the timid; it takes courage. But courage and prayer go hand in hand. A quote often attributed to Dorothy Bernard says:

“Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”

Many drivers realize that praying on pit road is the most important thing they’ll do on race day.

Prayer is surrender. When you pray, you separate yourself from the world for a time as you connect with God and submit to His leading. No matter what problems you’re facing, seeking God’s direction is wise.

Prayer brings peace and confidence. Concentrating on God helps eliminates our worries, especially when we focus on His goodness and invite Him to be part of our activities and decisions.

Prayer renews our resolve. Even a 30-second prayer on pit road before a race is powerful. Pastor Charles Stanley explains it this way:

"We can be tired, weary and emotionally distraught, but after spending time alone with God, we find that He injects into our bodies energy, power and strength."

Prayer is a safe place, a restful retreat where your soul touches heaven. At any moment, you can simply think a prayer in your mind and the Creator of the universe hears you. Incredible, isn’t it? It’s a privilege no one can take from you as long as you’re alive and conscious.

A day without prayer is like a lap under caution: You’re going forward but not making any real progress. Drivers pray before climbing into the car. Another good time to pray is in the morning before your feet hit the floor.

Whether you’re strapping in or waking up, talking with God is a privilege and a blessing. Are you praying on pit road in your race of life?

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer. ~ Psalm 6:9
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“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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fast Facts: Ryan Gifford

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR driver Ryan Gifford, currently racing in the K&N Pro Series East, is a member of both the NASCAR Next program and the Drive For Diversity Program. Learn more about the driver of the No. 2 UTI/NASCAR Technical Institute Toyota Camry for Rev Racing in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Ryan Gifford was born March 10, 1989 in Winchester. TN. He began racing karts at age 8 and continued to race them for seven years, winning numerous features and two World Karting Association track championships.
  • In 2005, Gifford moved into dirt Late Model cars, winning three poles and earning 10 top 10 finishes that year. In 2006 and 2007, he raced in the Storm Pay Dirt Late Model National Series, picking up a win and 13 top 10 finishes over the two seasons.
  • Gifford added asphalt Late Models to his repertoire in 2008, collecting three wins and 20 top 10s in 29 starts between the two surfaces. He made the move to the K&N Pro Series East in 2009, where he continues to compete today.
  • In 2010, Gifford became the first African American to win a pole in the K&N Pro Series East at Martinsville Speedway while racing for Rev Racing and the Drive For Diversity Program. In addition to Rev Racing, Gifford has raced for Team Dillon Racing, where he is also employed in the shop.
  • Gifford won his first race in 2013 at Richmond International Raceway.
  • Gifford has also competed in two Nationwide Series races to date, picking up a top 10 finish at Iowa in a Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
  • Learn more about Gifford in his profile on the NASCAR Hometracks website.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Travel Tips: Road America – June 19-21, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
The Nationwide Series has a stand-alone race this weekend, Thursday through Saturday, June 19-21, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI. Joining the Nationwide Series for the Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville weekend are the Pirelli World Challenge and the SCCA Pro Trans Am Series.

The NASCAR Hauler Party and Parade runs from 2:30-5:30 p.m. CT Thursday at Times Printing in Random Lake, WI. The haulers leave Times Printing at 5:30 p.m. CT to make their way to the track. Also on Thursday, fans will have a chance to take part in the inaugural Road America Checkered Flag Cornhole Tournament from 7 p.m. to midnight CT at the Road America Center.

There will also be public karting available throughout the weekend at Blain’s Farm and Fleet Motorplex at Road America.

Key on-track event times (Nationwide Series only):

Friday, June 20
  • Nationwide Series practice – 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, June 21
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 10:40 a.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series Nationwide Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up by Johnsonville – 1:45 p.m. CT

Find the complete schedule with exact times for all series here.

Find out more about the track and purchase tickets for the weekend at www.roadamerica.com

Travel Tips: Sonoma Raceway – June 20-22, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
The Sprint Cup Series and K&N Pro Series West visit Sonoma, California for the Toyota SaveMart 350 weekend at Sonoma Raceway this Friday through Sunday, June 20-22. This marks the first of two road course races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2014.

There are plenty of activities for fans on and off the track – click on the “activities” tab here for a complete list.

Key on-track event times:

Friday, June 20 –
  • Legends practice – 9 a.m. PT
  • K&N Pro Series West practice – 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. PT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon and 3:30 p.m. PT

Saturday, June 21
  • Legends practice – 8:10 a.m. PT
  • K&N Pro Series West qualifying – 9 a.m. PT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 10:40 a.m. PT
  • K&N Pro Series West race – 12:30 p.m. PT
  • Legends race – 3 p.m. PT

Sunday, June 22 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Toyota SaveMart 350 – noon p.m. PT

On Sunday, Speedway Children’s Charities will be hosting a charity auction, kicking off at 9 a.m. PT, and a Track Walk following the race – find out more about both events here.

Looking for an alternative way to get to the track? Sonoma has partnered with Key Holidays to offer an express train to the track for fans in Sacramento, Davis and Suisun City – find out more here.

Get tickets and more information about the race weekend at www.racesonoma.com

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Celebration of NASCAR Dads

by Beth Reinke

Being a dad is a big job for any man. But throw in a crazy travel schedule — being away three or four nights a week, including weekends — and it becomes even harder. Such is the life of fathers on the racing circuit.

Nick Terry, a chaplain with Motor Racing Outreach, said guys in the garage often ask him, “How do I be a good dad when I’m gone all the time?” The answer is different for each dad and his kids, of course. But Terry, a father of three, recommends dads focus on making the time they have with their kids count.

Terry thinks the number one struggle for NASCAR dads is balancing family, faith and career.

“It’s tough to fit all three of those into one box that’s not that big, because it’s a sport that’s not a 9-to-5 job,” he said. “There’s a lot of good men out there (in the garage) — good dads, good husbands. It’s just a tough lifestyle to balance it all.”

The number of daddies in the Spring Cup garage keeps growing. Just this week, driver David Ragan and his wife, Jacquelyn, welcomed their first child, a baby girl. On Friday, rookie Kyle Larson announced he and his girlfriend, Katelyn Sweet, are expecting. 

This Father’s Day, we salute the hard-working, dedicated dads of the NASCAR community. Whether they wield a wrench, a microphone or a steering wheel on race day, their hearts belong to the special little folks who call them “Daddy.”



Click on "view slideshow" to see photos of NASCAR dads captured by our Skirts and Scuffs photographers.

Darrell Wallace Jr. triumphs in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' return to Gateway

Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images
Darrell Wallace Jr. captured his second career victory Saturday night as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returned to Gateway Motorsports Park, formerly known as Gateway International Raceway.

Wallace Jr held off the hard-charging German Quiroga and Timothy Peters to take home the trophy in the Inaugural Drivin' for Linemen 200 in the Trucks first appearance at the 1.25 mile track since 2010.

The action was intense from the drop of the green flag when Wallace Jr. powered past polesitter Cole Custer to lead the first 62 laps. Custer became the youngest driver to earn the pole in series history, but wasn't able to keep pace with the potent Kyle Busch Motorsports duo of Wallace Jr. and Erik Jones. Still, Custer managed to come home sixth in just his third Truck start.

As exciting as Bubba Wallace's second win was, the story of the night was John Hunter Nemechek, who led briefly, got passed by last week's winner Matt Crafton, then went back to the point  after Crafton blew a tire and slammed into the Turn Four wall.

Nemechek found himself under fire from all sides, yet handled his race truck with poise until a brush with Quiroga caused him to have a tire go down and spin. Nemechek recovered to finish 15th while Quiroga went on to make contact with Jones, sending the No. 51 truck into the inside wall hard.

During the closing laps, Quiroga and Timothy Peters attempted to wrest the lead from Wallace Jr. but to no avail. Quiroga finished second, Peters third, and Wallace Jr. celebrated in Victory Lane with his father.

What would likely have otherwise been a frustrating ride home for the son of Front Row Joe Nemechek must have been softened by the discovery that such NASCAR stars such as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, and Tony Stewart were tweeting their support for him and his impressive run.
 The Truck series heads out to Road America with Johnny Sauter leading the points standings by 10 over Matt Crafton.

Unofficial results:
Fin Driver Sponsor 
1    Darrell Wallace, Jr. Toyota   
2    German Quiroga Net 10 Wireless    
3    Timothy Peters Red Horse Racing   
4    Johnny Sauter Smokey Mountain / Curb Records    
5    Ron Hornaday, Jr. Rheem    
6    Cole Custer Haas Automation    
7    Ryan Blaney Cooper Standard Performance Products   
8    John Wes Townley Zaxby's  
9    Chase Pistone NTS Motorsports   
10    Tayler Malsam Outerwall    
11    Joey Coulter Allegiant   
12    Mason Mingus Call 811    
13    Tyler Reddick DrawTite    
14    Ben Kennedy Turner Scott Motorsports  
15    John Hunter Nemechek M.D. Anderson Cancer Ctr. / smokeandsear.com  
16    Bryan Silas Bell Trucks America, Inc. 
17    Tyler Young Randco / Young's Building Systems  
18    Jeb Burton Estes / Carolina Nut   
19    T.J. Bell Drivin' For Linemen   
20    Gray Gaulding Krispy Kreme / Gemini Southern   
21    Korbin Forrister McNair, McLemore, Middlebrooks & Co.   
22    Norm Benning Boedecker Construction   
23    Erik Jones ToyotaCare    
24    Ray Black, Jr. ScubaLife / NASE Worldwide  
25    Ted Minor Blastis.com    
26    Matt Crafton Ideal Door / Menards  
27    Jennifer Jo Cobb TheParkwayHotel.com   
28    Scott Stenzel Mittler Bros. Machine & Tool    
29    Adam Edwards Charlie Henderson
30    Charles Lewandoski Randco / Young's Building Systems  
31    Caleb Roark The Parkway Hotel   
32    Justin Jennings LGSds / Mittler Bros. Machine / Ski Soda   











Saturday, June 14, 2014

Rescued By Love: NASCAR Chaplain Welcomes Home New Daughter

Nick & Amy Terry with their children.
Photos courtesy of the Terry family.  
Father’s Day has greater meaning for one NASCAR dad and his family this year. Nick Terry, a chaplain with Motor Racing Outreach, is adding another child to his family, hopefully in the next few weeks. But instead of a trip to the hospital for a birth, Terry traveled across the globe for his little daughter.

Sitting at a cafĂ© table in the Dover media center, Terry glances at his phone every so often, anticipating its ring at any moment. He’s expecting a call from his wife, Amy, who is overseas wrapping up details for their adoption of Sharon, a 4-year-old orphan from Uganda.

“The Bible talks a lot about adoption and how God has adopted us as His own and made us His children, His heirs,” Terry said. “That’s why we wanted to adopt.”

Praying through the process of adoption was about a 3-year process for them, and they felt like God spoke to them on a special day.

“It was actually the day my biological daughter was born,” Terry said, smiling. “We were sitting in the hospital, and that was the day we decided — of all days — to adopt.”

The couple felt drawn to Uganda after Amy read the book Kisses from Katie, written by Katie Davis, an American girl who ministered to orphans there. They looked into Uganda’s history and the plight of orphans there and felt God moving on their hearts.

So in March of this year, the couple and their kids, Sam, 6, and Arabella, 4, traveled to Uganda to meet Sharon and begin the adoption. They spent a month together, getting to know Sharon, then Terry and the kids came home, while Amy stayed to finish the process of becoming legal guardians and obtaining a passport for the child.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans
and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  (James 1:27)  
Sam and Arabella are excited for Sharon to come home, especially Arabella, who will share a room and bunk beds with her new sister. Terry described Sharon as outgoing and loving, a kid who loves to play and sing and have fun.

“She likes basketball and playing with Sam and she’s also into girly stuff with Arabella, so it’s a nice balance.”

Being from the city, Sharon knows what a car is, but racing and NASCAR aren’t even on her radar. But she’ll learn. Terry takes his family along for five or six races a year, so Sharon will get to experience life in the infield and spend time in the MRO Community Center with children from other NASCAR families.

In scripture, God calls us to care for orphans and widows, so that’s one reason adoption felt right for Terry and his wife. Plus, he feels taking Sharon into his family models the gospel of Jesus better than anything else.

“If you look at her situation — helpless and hopeless, can’t do anything for herself — and she’s gonna be completely rescued by love,” he said. “So that’s the gospel — that we were utterly helpless and Christ came and rescued us.”

In the next few weeks, little Sharon will leave her life in the orphanage, get on an airplane and fly across the ocean to her new home. She’ll be adopted into the Terry family. She’ll be rescued by love.

“She is very happy to have a mom and a dad. She’ll tell you that,” Terry said. “She told us, ‘Thank you for coming to get me and being my daddy.’”

Friday, June 13, 2014

TV Schedule: June 13-15

Michigan International Speedway. Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images
NASCAR heads to the Midwest. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series converge on Michigan International Raceway, the 2-mile superspeedway, and the Camping World Truck Series goes to Gateway Motorsports Park, the 1.25-mile short oval.

The following is a handy guide to track activity this weekend at Michigan and Gateway. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, June 13:
11 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. NNS Practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
2 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
3:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. NCWTS Practice at Gateway, FS1

Saturday, June 14:
3 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
8 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS2
9:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS2
10:30 a.m. NNS Qualifying, ESPN2
12:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS2
1:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN
2 p.m. NNS: Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250, ESPN. Green flag: 2:16 p.m.
5 p.m. NCWTS Qualifying at Gateway, FS2
7 p.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
8 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
8:30 p.m. NCWTS at Gateway: Drivin' for Linemen 200, FS1. Green flag: 8:48 p.m.

Sunday, June 15:
6 a.m. NNS: Ollie's Bargain Outlet 250 (re-air), ESPN2
9:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12 noon NSCS Countdown to Green, TNT
1 p.m. NSCS: Quicken Loans 400, TNT. Green flag: 1:16 p.m.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Father of The Year: Five Questions for Michigan

(Credit: Alan Marier)
It takes a special man to be a dad. They are the sidekicks to moms, who are inarguably the greatest superheroes ever. From dance recitals to fishing trips, he is always there, either cheering on his child or helping Super Mom weather the storm. All fathers are Father of The Year, in my eyes.

The truth is, having a kid is a game-changer. When a man becomes a father, he sees how selfish he was and attempts to right all wrongs by changing. Child is now the center of his universe. Everything from then on is for the sake of his offspring.

There’s a special connection between a dad and his daughter. From the first moment he holds her, there’s an even more important woman in his life than any other woman has been: this screaming, disgusting-looking baby. Even when they know that, one day, a man will waltz away with that little girl’s heart.

I think it’s said best by Steve Martin, who plays the patriarch in Father of The Bride. As the movie begins, he goes into this spiel about watching his daughter get married, and he describes his worrying. He tells the camera, “You fathers will understand. You have a little girl. An adorable little girl who looks up to you and adores you in a way you could never have imagined. I remember how her little hand used to fit inside mine. Then comes the day when she wants to get her ears pierced, and wants you to drop her off a block before the movie theater. From that moment on you're in a constant panic. You worry about her meeting the wrong kind of guy, the kind of guy who only wants one thing, and you know exactly what that one thing is, because it's the same thing you wanted when you were their age. Then, you stop worrying about her meeting the wrong guy, and you worry about her meeting the right guy. That's the greatest fear of all, because, then you lose her.” (Thanks IMDB for the quote).

Whoever wrote that is a genius because they captured fatherhood in a single monologue. It makes you realize why your dad cleans the shotgun before your boyfriend shows up. (Maybe that’s just my dad).

It takes a special man to be a dad. In my completely unbiased opinion, my dad is the best. What girl can say she’s spent half an hour with her father discussing Journey’s awesomeness? That would be me. He gave me my love for racing, and we’ve shared so many memories while watching race cars, fishing, and surrounding a campfire. He’s always been there for me. That’s what I love the most.

On Father’s Day weekend, NASCAR heads to Michigan International Speedway. With dozens of storylines, I pick and chose a few to discuss on this week’s Five Questions. Grab your dad and read them together!

Juan Pablo Montoya and kids before the
Firestone 600 at Texas last weekend.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
How will Montoya fare in his NASCAR return? Juan Pablo Montoya. It’s been awhile since we’ve discussed that name, but he’s back this weekend, running for Team Penske. He’s been running for the team on the IndyCar side, going back to his roots. So, how will his race go? It’s going to take some time to readjust to the bulkiness of a stock car. He can shake the cobwebs during practice. Now, for the actual race. I don’t think it’s going to be a spectacular return, but it’ll be a great opportunity to strengthen the relationship between NASCAR and IndyCar. It was reestablished when Kurt Busch did The Double last month, and this will reaffirm it.

Is RFR being plagued by Silly Season chatter? I honestly feel bad for Roush Fenway Racing. It’s unknown what has caused them become a B-list team, but it’s alarming. They were in shambles before their lead engineer left, and it’s gone downhill from there. Could increased publicity make all this worse? Silly Season is in full-swing, and Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are on top of the list. It seems like Biffle is staying, yet Edwards’ ties to Joe Gibbs Racing strengthen with each passing day. This could be weighing the team down even more. I doubt there will be any official statements this early in the season, so they’ll have to deal with the problems.

Were Keselowski’s final laps at Pocono smart or stupid? For what it’s worth, he was in a very difficult position; blow up an engine and lose, or get debris off and win? He ended up doing a combination of both, and people were confused. You’d have to sit in his firesuit to understand that moment. Keselowski’s heart had to break when he got behind Danica Patrick and realized how slow she was; it killed his momentum, and the No. 88 flew on by. He was trying to conserve a perfectly stout engine for his guys, and that’s admirable. He took the smart way out.

Does Earnhardt Jr. have the makings of a champion? Speaking of the No. 88, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his second race of the season at Pocono Raceway, his first time racking up multiple victories in ten years. Does anyone else see where I’m going with this? This is the Year of The Junior. With Steve Letarte leaving, the motivation within this team and its driver has skyrocketed. It’s remarkable. This is a whole new Earnhardt Jr., and it’s very convincing. If you’re asking me, then it’s time for Junior Nation to get REALLY excited.

What is your favorite aspect about Father’s Day? I know many people don’t have a relationship with their fathers, or their fathers have passed on. With that in mind, I would love to hear some favorite memories involving your dad or the central male figure in your life. Racing-related or not, every moment should be cherished, and it should always bring a smile to your face. Comment below or tweet me your responses!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Racing in the Irish Hills of Michigan



Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway •  Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)  
Indianapolis Motor Speedway • Pocono Raceway • Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Tony Stewart - 5
Both with 4 - Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer 
All with  3 -  Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin  

By Track
All with 6 - Greg Biffle, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer
Both with 5 -  Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards
All with 4 -  Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Carl Edwards
2012 Marcos Ambrose

The Likely Suspects: The Irish Hills are an oasis for these elite drivers: Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano.

My 2 Cents: When picking this week think Ford, Chevy, and Roush. My no-brainer pick this week is a three-way tie between Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. My next picks are Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart. I will complete my team with Juan Pablo Montoya and Austin Dillon. Juan Pablo Montoya will be racing the  No. 12 car for Team Penske this weekend. Montoya has 14 career starts at MIS with three top-10 finishes. 

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

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fast Facts: Jesse Little

credit: NASCAR Media
Jesse Little, the reigning K&N Pro Series East Rookie of the Year, is a third-generation race car driver who’s worked his way up the ranks and now finds himself as part of the new NASCAR Next class. Learn more about this 17-year-old in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Jesse Little was born April 15, 1997 in Sherrils Ford, N.C. His father is Chad Little, former Cup Series driver and current director of the Camping World Truck Series. The younger Little began his racing career at age 7 in quarter midgets, moving to Bandoleros at age 10 and Legends cars at age 12.
  • In 2010, Little won the USAC Eastern Focus Young Guns midget car title before moving to late models in the UARA Stars series in 2011. The following year, he made his NASCAR debut, competing in seven K&N Pro Series East events, picking up a third-place finish at Greenville-Pickens Speedway.
  • In 2013, his first full-time season in the K&N Pro Series East, Little finished ninth in points on his way to the ROTY title. He joined his father as a K&N Pro Series ROTY, as Chad Little won the K&N Pro Series West ROTY title in 1986.
  • Little is competing full-time in the K&N Pro Series East once again in 2014.
  • Learn more about Little at his website, jesselittle.com

Monday, June 9, 2014

Travel Tips: Gateway Motorsports Park – June 14, 2014

NASCAR returns to Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis, Missouri for the Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 on Saturday, June 14. Joining the Truck Series on the racing card is the USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series.

Gateway Motorsports Park map - credit: NASCAR Media
In between races, fans can check out the infield and Gateway’s Kartplex beginning at 1 p.m. CT and get in line for the Truck Series autograph session in the infield from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. CT. From 5:15 to 6:15 p.m. CT, prior to the Truck Series race, there will be a track walk for fans as well.

Key on-track event times:
  • USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series practice – 8:15 a.m. CT
  • USAC Traxxas Silver Crown Series qualifying – 9:20 a.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 10 a.m. CT
  • USAC Traxxas Silver Crown 100 – noon CT
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 – 7:30 p.m. CT

Find out more about the race and the track, and purchase tickets for the one-day event, at www.gatewaymsp.com.


Travel Tips: Michigan International Speedway – June 13-15, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
Michigan International Speedway, set in the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, hosts the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series this weekend, Friday through Sunday, June 13-15; also on the schedule for the weekend is the ARCA Racing Series.

Key on-track event times:

Friday, June 13 –
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11 a.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series practice – 12:40 and 2 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 3:35 p.m. ET
  • ARCA Racing Series Corrigan Oil 200– 5:15 p.m. ET

Saturday, June 14
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 10:35 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series Ollie’s Bargain Outlet 250 – 2 p.m. ET

Sunday, June 15 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Quicken Loans 400 – 1 p.m. ET

Find a full weekend schedule here.

Looking for WiFi hotspots at the track? Here’s a handy map.

Get tickets and more information about the race weekend at www.mispeedway.com

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Drama-Filled Race at Texas Brings Third Career Victory for Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter shoots the guns.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Ed Carpenter scored the third victory of his Verizon IndyCar Series career in the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway. He led 90 laps and survived a late-race caution to make his way to Victory Lane where the Foyt-Rutherford trophy awaited him along with a Charlie 1 Horse cowboy hat and a pair of six-shooters.

"I've always liked this place and ran okay, just haven't had good luck here to be honest, so it was nice to finally break through tonight," said Carpenter. "The team gave me a great car. They've been giving us great cars all year for myself and Mike, so it's nice to be able to deliver."

Billed as the "Second Home of IndyCar racing," TMS rarely fails to deliver exciting racing and drama. Saturday night's event, which marked the 25th race run at Texas, more than any track other than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, certainly brought the drama. And the comedy, too, in the post-race media center interviews.

From Will Power's point of view, he gave Carpenter the victory. Power led 145 laps and was poised to win his third race of the season when he caught a penalty for speeding on pit road.

"That's four drive-throughs in five races," said Power. "Got to stop doing that. It's ruining our chances of winning. But an awesome call at the end by the team to call for new tires and obviously got back to at least where we were, one more lap and we probably would have had it. But yeah, very good day. Great day, really enjoyed it."

According to Juan Pablo Montoya, Carpenter got the win by cheating. Montoya, who led 13 laps, his first since the Indy 500, managed a third-place finish, his best since his return to IndyCar. While he said he had a lot of fun in the race, saying he hadn't had that much fun in a long time, Montoya accused Carpenter of jumping the restart.

"I was recovering from a flat tire at the beginning of the race," said Montoya. "We recovered and we did a good job there, and just a little mad at the end. I don't know, I want to go talk to IndyCar and clarify why the cones are there for the restart if you don't have to use them. I don't know. I understand if you wanted to go a little early or a little late, it's okay, but like 200, 300 yards before we get to the cones and he was already going, I was kind of disappointed with that, that he got away with that. But it is what it is."

Carpenter, when told about Montoya's accusations, dismissed them.

"I figured he'd be miffed. I was sick of him because he was lagging back. If he wants to talk to me about it, I'll be happy to talk to him. He ended up finishing third, right? So it doesn't matter."

The 600 kilometer (372 mile) race began with Marco Andretti on a mission, heading three-wide into Turn Two, heading toward the front from his 17th-place start. Just a few laps later, Andretti's night ended in flames as his Honda engine expired in spectacular fashion. He escaped unharmed, but visibly frustrated.

Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais got tangled up when Bourdais checked up to avoid a car in front of him, and Wilson had too big a run to avoid him. Wilson ended up against the outside Turn Four wall, while Bourdais slid to the inside.

The third caution was on Lap 241, when Takuma Sato's Honda engine blew up. Though it didn't catch fire, it did set the stage for what Montoya compared to a green-white-checkered finish.

Power leads the Verizon IndyCar points standings by 39 over Penske teammate Helio Castroneves.

Complete finishing order:

1    Ed Carpenter Fuzzy's Ultra Premium Vodka   (Ed Carpenter)
2    Will Power Verizon   (Roger Penske)
3    Juan Pablo Montoya Verizon   (Roger Penske)
4    Simon Pagenaud Lucas Oil   (Schmidt Peterson Hamilton)
5    Scott Dixon Target   (Chip Ganassi)
6    Tony Kanaan Suave Professionals For Men / Target   (Chip Ganassi)
7    Mikhail Aleshin SMP Bank   (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports)
8    Helio Castroneves AAA   (Roger Penske)
9    Ryan Briscoe NTT Data   (Chip Ganassi)
10    Charlie Kimball NovoLog FlexPen   (Chip Ganassi)
11    Josef Newgarden Strike USA   (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing)
12    Graham Rahal National Guard   (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing)
13    Carlos Munoz Cinsay / AndrettiTV.com   (Andretti-HVM)
14    James Hinchcliffe United Fiber & Data   (Andretti Autosport)
15    Jack Hawksworth Integrity Energee Drink  (BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian)
16    Carlos Huertas Cafe de Colombia   (Dale Coyne)
17    Sebastian Saavedra Automatic Fire Sprinklers   (KVAFS Racing)
18    Takuma Sato ABC Supply Co.   (A.J. Foyt)
19    Ryan Hunter-Reay DHL   (Andretti Autosport)
20    Sebastien Bourdais Hydroxycut   (KVSH Racing)
21    Justin Wilson Boy Scouts of America   (Dale Coyne)
22    Marco Andretti Snapple   (Andretti Autosport)


Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and the Verizon IndyCar Series. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.