Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fast Facts: 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott

Cindy, Bill and Chase Elliott at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
following the 2015 HoF announcement
credit: Getty Images/Rainier Ehrhardt
2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott was the 1988 Cup Series champion, earning 44 wins and 55 poles during his career. Elliott and fellow 2015 inductees Wendell Scott, Joe Weatherly, Rex White and Fred Lorenzen will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Jan. 30, 2015. Here are the updated Fast Facts on one of NASCAR’s most popular drivers, originally published in Feb. 2011.
  • William Clyde Elliott was born Oct. 8, 1955 in Dawsonville, Georgia. His brothers Ernie and Dan were active in his early career, as was his father George. Elliott made his Cup Series debut in 1976 in a family-owned car; he received his first major sponsor in 1980 from Harry Melling, who later bought the team from George Elliott.
  • Elliott won his first race in 1983 at Riverside International Raceway. In 1985, he won 11 races and 11 poles, as well as the first Winston Million for winning the Daytona 500, the Winston 500 (Talladega), and the Southern 500 (Darlington). This is when he earned his nicknames “Million Dollar Bill” and “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville.” In 1986, Elliott set the all-time NASCAR qualifying speed record at Talladega, running a lap of 212.809 mph.
  • After winning the Cup Series championship in 1988, Elliott was again a major player in the 1992 championship, finishing runner-up to the late Alan Kulwicki by 10 points; it was Elliott’s first year driving for Junior Johnson. In 1995, Elliott started his own team, sponsored by McDonald’s, which he owned until 2000.
  • In 2000, he sold his team to Ray Evernham, who was working on a Dodge return to NASCAR. Elliott drove the #9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid until 2003. In 2004, he began his part-time driving career, driving for a number of teams including Evernham’s and the Wood Brothers. Most recently, Elliott raced in the July 2012 Cup Series race at Daytona for Turner Motorsports, and tested a Nationwide Series car at Daytona for JR Motorsports in Feb. 2014.
  • Elliott was voted the Cup Series’ Most Popular Driver a record 16 times: 1984-1988, 1991-2000, and 2002. He took himself out of the running in 2001 and urged all fans to vote for the late Dale Earnhardt, who won the award posthumously.
  • Elliott and his wife Cindy are the parents of 2014 Nationwide Series champion Chase Elliott (born Nov. 28, 1995); the younger Elliott drives for JR Motorsports. Elliott also has two daughters, Starr and Brittany.
  • Find out more about Elliott at his website, www.billelliott.com

Monday, December 29, 2014

NASCAR: Week in Review (12/29/2014)

Photo Courtesy of: Carlos Herrera NASCARMedia.com  

Skirts and Scuffs' new weekly feature continues, recapping all the hot topics from NASCAR in the past week. We'll keep you informed about what's happening, so if you missed anything, don’t worry – we have you covered. As always, your comments are welcome on our Facebook page.

So, ladies and gentlemen, start your opinions!

Carl Edwards makes a bold prediction

The new Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver, in an interview with Fox Sports on Sunday, announced that he plans on winning 10 races and the championship in 2015. 

Do you think he’s crazy? Remember back in 2012, Matt Kenseth, a former Roush Fenway Racing teammate to Edwards, won seven races and finished second in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. 

Still think he’s lost his mind? 

Perhaps ... but perhaps not. Maybe he is just raising the bar at JGR. With Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin in the same stable, this could be exactly what the team needs – a little friendly (or not) competition.

Jeremy Bullins comes full circle

After three years at Team Penske, Bullins will return to Wood Brother’s Racing (WBR) in 2015 as crew chief for Ryan Blaney. Starting his career in 1999 at WBR, he worked on Pro Cup and Late Model cars driven by Jon Wood. He quickly moved up to race engineer for the famous No. 21 at a time when this particular position was an up-and-coming important part of a race team.

While working at Team Penske, his most notable success was as crew chief for the No. 22 Nationwide Series car, leading four different drivers to a total of 12 wins and the organization's first owners’ championship.

Will returning home and teaming with Blaney bring success for Bullins? We'll just have to wait and see.

Kyle Larson welcomes new addition

On Monday, the NASCAR Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Kyle Larson, and his longtime girlfriend, Katelyn Sweet, announced the arrival of their son, Owen Miyata Larson. The baby’s middle name is a tribute to Larson's mother. It's her maiden name, which will continue in the Larson family.

What a great way to end the year for this young driver. It's likely 2015 will be just as exciting for him and his new family.  

Friday, December 26, 2014

New motorsports-focused app satisfies your need for speed

“Why are you a NASCAR fan?” You wouldn't believe how many times I’m asked that question. And it’s usually a man who's asking me. Let me set the record straight. It’s not because I like seeing big wrecks, and it’s not because some of the drivers are handsome. It’s because I like to drive fast. Furthermore, I like to watch professionals drive fast in a field of 43 cars. It’s something I’d like to think I could do if I ever got the chance.

When I’m in my car (OK, my minivan) on the open road, I like to go as fast as I can, within the confines of the law, of course. There’s nothing quite as exhilarating as putting the windows down and feeling the wind in my hair … unless a certain child has left a sippy cup of milk in the backseat for more than a day; that’s a completely different sensation. I can get away from the burdens of life at 80 miles per hour, even if it’s just for a moment.

Sometimes, I long to be on the German autobahn where there are no speed limits. Other times, I just want to hit the track and pretend I’m out there with 42 other cars racing for that coveted checkered flag.

Have you ever been at the track and wondered how fast those cars are actually going? Sure, you can rent or buy a headset and listen to your favorite driver talk with his crew, and yes, you can listen to the track broadcast for sporadic information as announcers run down speeds for the field during a race.

Imagine, however, that you’re at Daytona or Talladega, and you’re sitting high up in the stands along the frontstretch. The field is preparing to restart. By the time they drop the green flag on the 2015 season, there will be an app available that can tell you exactly how fast those cars are going as they fly past you on that restart.

Using technology that isolates moving objects from their background, Speed Racer, which will be available for iOS and Android devices, will show you instantly how fast cars are going. With your smartphone or tablet, simply take video of the cars as they pass by you, and the app will show with pinpoint accuracy the speed of every car in the video you've recorded. You’ll no longer need to rely on telemetry from cars or radar or laser instrumentation to satisfy your need for speed.

For more information, read more at their website: indiegogo.com/projects/speed-measurement-app-for-iosorandroid-devices.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A NASCAR Christmas

My usual Christmas tree. 
'Tis the season for shopping, spending time with family, Christmas dinners, and my favorite, presents. It's always fun to find a gift marked with your name under the tree and shake it with the hope of figuring out what it is. One of my favorite parts of Christmas is shopping for family members and seeing the look on their faces when they open the gifts I handpicked just for them.

For NASCAR fans, nothing beats getting a Christmas gift that you've wanted all season or receiving a gift that commemorates your driver's championship. I had the privilege to ask some NASCAR fans what memorable Christmas gifts they have received, or what NASCAR gift they hope to get this Christmas.

Whitney Richards shared a memorable Christmas gift:

“On Christmas Eve in 2009, my family gathered at my grandparents' house to open presents. When
Whitney Richards shares her Christmas gift. 
my Mamaw handed me my last present, she told me 'Don't turn it upside down! It might leak!' So I was immediately intrigued as to what was under the wrapping paper of the small square package she had handed to me.

I pulled off the wrapping paper to reveal an unexpected surprise! It was a collector's item -- A mini drum of race-used oil from the No. 17 DeWALT Ford that Matt Kenseth drove to victory in the 2009 Daytona 500. Kenseth was my favorite driver at the time, so the gift really meant a lot to me. As I got
excited over such a unique and thoughtful gift from my Mamaw, I heard my relatives laugh as she told everyone, 'I don't think I've ever seen a girl get so excited about getting motor oil for Christmas.'"

Jenny Lynn’s best gift was a race weekend with her dad. "'Things are great, but spending quality time and making memories with family is irreplaceable. Life is too short.”

PonyTails Pitstops would like a Dale Call or race tickets with friends and family. 

Many other fans would love race tickets and meeting their favorite drivers. But, let’s be honest, what fan doesn’t want all these things?

On a personal level, my favorite NASCAR gifts have always been from my Uncle Billy. Every year he would get me a calendar. Not just any calendar, a Dale Earnhardt Jr. one! The anticipation of receiving the calendar is something I look forward to. Getting that simple gift means the world to me, because it was my uncle who got me into racing. He got me my first diecast and, how could I forget, my very first sports jacket.

Christmas is the time of year we celebrate joy and being with our families. Christmas will forever be
One of the many gifts my Uncle Billy got me
my most cherished time of the year. I have so many memories, and reading from other fans, they do as well.

So, what's the best racing-related gift you've ever received? Share your stories in the comments below.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2014

NASCAR: Week in Review (12/22/2014)

 Credit: Patrick Smith/NASCAR via Getty Images     
Welcome to the second installation of Skirts and Scuffs' new feature, recapping the week's hot topics. If you missed anything going on in NASCAR, don’t worry – we have you covered. As always, your comments are welcome on our Facebook page. So, ladies and gentlemen, start your opinions!

Is 2015 crunch time for Danica Patrick?
The off-season is the perfect time to review drivers' performances and Danica Patrick's name keeps coming up. Patrick begins her third full NSCS season and still has people questioning her ability to continue racing in NASCAR’s premiere series. Her contract runs through 2015, and a renewal is in the “speculation” bubble. Will she be offered an extension or will her career go in a new direction?

Patrick ran 82 NSCS races with an average finish of 25.3 and 61 Nationwide Series races with an average finish of 21.1. She steadily improved both years she ran in Cup, but how long will it take her to be a top-20 driver?

To her credit, Patrick brings a lot of money into the sport, and her fan base continues to grow by leaps and bounds every year. If she can’t make it to that next level, will Stewart-Haas Racing let her go or keep her -- perhaps for business reasons? Only time will tell.

Expanded field announced for the 2015 Sprint Unlimited
NASCAR announced they will open the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona to a minimum of 25 drivers. It will now include all 2014 Chase contenders, 2014 Coors Light Pole Award winners and former Sprint Unlimited winners. The most notable change is former Daytona 500 pole winners will compete. 

This announcement opened the flood gates on social media focusing on Danica Patrick. The first female to capture the prestigious pole in 2013, this new opportunity reignited the question of whether NASCAR changed the rules for her. But other competitors benefited from the changes, too. Drivers who would have been sidelined, but are now eligible to race based on a Daytona 500 pole, include Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. The biggest surprise may be Brian Scott, who won a pole in 2014 at Talladega. Perhaps the expanded field will make for better racing in the Sprint Unlimited.

Brian Vickers suffers another setback
On Monday, Michael Waltrip Racing announced Brian Vickers, who has been fighting health issues for some time, will miss the first part of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season due to heart-related matters. Vickers had surgery because his body rejected an artificial heart patch placed in 2010. This development puts MWR in a precarious position, scrambling for a replacement driver with less than two months until the Daytona 500.

Who will be Vickers' replacement driver? Veteran Mark Martin would be a great choice. However, Martin is aligned with Roush Fenway Racing for 2015, which could create a conflict of interest.

Sprint says goodbye
Sprint announced 2016 will be its last year as NASCAR's primary sponsor, ending a successful partnership with the sport that began when Sprint merged with Nextel in 2004. Sprint's tenure in NASCAR was a time of many changes in the sport, including revamping qualifying and the Chase format. On the technology side of racing, fans saw the introduction of the FanVision® scanner. On the fan interaction front, Miss Sprint Cup reached many followers on social media in her role as an ambassador.

Who will be the next series sponsor? Many are speculating car manufacturers may collaborate to share sponsorship. Some say a major credit card company or another wireless service provider -- perhaps Verizon -- may step in. Verizon has the largest wireless network and could bring new technology to the tracks. A major credit card company would be relevant because fans utilize credit when making purchases of race tickets, merchandise or overnight accommodations.

If a global hotel chain became the major sponsor of NASCAR, it could create a relationship with fans and maybe provide an avenue for discounted hotel rates on race weekends. This could be a win-win situation, creating fan loyalty to the chain, even outside of race events. 

Darrell Wallace Jr. has a new home
As of Thursday, Darrell Wallace Jr. has a new ride with Roush Fenway Racing in the XFINITY Series. He joins Elliott Sadler, Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed. Wallace Jr. will pilot the No. 6 Ford with a primary sponsor to be announced at a later date.  He'll have veteran teammate Sadler and retired driver Mark Martin to mentor him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

NASCAR: Week in Review (12/15/2014)

 Credit: Christian Petersen/NASCAR via Getty Images  
Welcome to Skirts and Scuffs' new feature, recapping all the hot topics from our sport in the past week. We'll keep you informed about what's going on in NASCAR, so if you missed anything, don’t worry – we have you covered. As always, your comments are welcome on our Facebook page. So, ladies and gentlemen, start your opinions!

Darrell Wallace Jr. wants more in 2015
Darrell Wallace Jr. made a bold move requesting he be released from Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR). Wallace Jr., who won four Camping World Truck Series races in 2014 and finished third in the standings, is an up-and-comer in NASCAR. He appeared to have the world at his feet when it came to 2015. But things began to unravel when Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) announced lack of full-time sponsorship for him.

Wallace Jr. initially said he wasn’t worried about not having a full-time ride in 2015, stating “I’ll take what I can get,” similar to a comment made by Sam Hornish Jr. in 2014 when he was offered a limited schedule at JGR.

Asking for the release may be a smart move for Wallace Jr., but it has yet to be confirmed that Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) will be his new home.

A lot of people have placed RFR out to pasture, assuming their time as a dominant force in NASCAR has come and gone, but in 2015 RFR will have Elliott Sadler, Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed in their stable. It appears RFR is looking to reclaim the dominance it once had. With the possible addition of Wallace Jr., resurgence as a top-tier team is likely.

Is it possible that JGR and KBM will regret letting Wallace Jr. slip through their fingers? Perhaps, and maybe sooner rather than later.

Tracks reduce seats to create a better fan experience
Speedway Motorsports ,Inc. (SMI) announced it will remove 41,000 seats at Charlotte Motor Speedway and 17,000 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) to improve attendance in 2015 by creating more demand. AMS even took it one step further, by offering race fans 17 years of age and younger free admittance to the grandstands on Friday and Saturday during race weekends.

This is a trend NASCAR has seen in recent years with track attendance down significantly. Removing the seats can potentially create a better fan experience, but will it do so in these cases?

At Auto Club Speedway, removing approximately 30,000 seats proved to be a smart decision. ACS sold out last March's NSCS race due to the reduction of seats. With the aging of the racing surface, ACS produced some of the best racing, making ACS one of the most sought-after tickets on the West Coast. 

So the question is, will this tactic work for SMI? Only time will tell.

Dylan Kwasniewski has a great new opportunity in 2015
It was announced Thursday that Dylan Kwasniewski will race for a new Xfinity Series team in 2015. Owner Harry Scott Jr., formerly of Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM), has teamed up with Chip Ganassi to create H. Scott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi.

Kwasniewski will share a ride with 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson -- a combination with the potential to dominate the Xfinity Series.

TSM sponsored Kwasniewski in the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) in 2014, so the transition should be a smooth one for the 19-year-old. Rockstar Energy Drink was his primary sponsor in 2014 but whether they will make the move with him in 2015 has not been confirmed. 

In 2014, Kwasniewski had an average finish of 17.72 and was running at the end of 29 of the 33 races, impressive statistics going into the new season. His schedule for 2015 is unknown for now, but this is a great opportunity for the young driver.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Fast Facts: 2014 Camping World Truck Series Champion Matt Crafton

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/
Robert Laberge
2014 Camping World Truck Series champ Matt Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra for ThorSport Racing, raced for 12 seasons in the series before winning his first championship – now he has two in a row. Learn more about this California-born driver in this updated Truck Series championship edition – originally published in Dec. 2013 – of Fast Facts.
  • Matthew Crafton was born June 11, 1976 in Tulare, California. He began racing go-karts at age 7, progressing to midgets by age 15 after winning regional and national championships. In 1996, he moved up to the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Series for the season’s final three races, subbing for his father, Danny, who was injured; the younger Crafton won the series’ title in 2000. In 1998, Crafton took part in the Winter Heat Series on ESPN, racing against, among others, Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Ron Hornaday Jr. and 2014 Cup Series champ Kevin Harvick.
  • In 2000, Crafton also made his Truck Series debut in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana with ThorSport, qualifying 17th and finishing ninth. After three full-time seasons with the team, he joined Kevin Harvick Incorporated in 2004, but was released at the end of the season in spite of a fifth-place finish in points and 17 top 10s. He rejoined ThorSport in 2005.
  • Crafton earned his first Truck Series pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2005, followed by his first victory in 2008 at Charlotte.
  • In 2013, Crafton scored one win and 19 top 10 finishes in 22 Truck Series races on his way to the championship. In 2014, he earned two wins and 17 top 10 finishes in 22 races to win his second-straight title.
  • Crafton made his Nationwide Series debut in 2013, racing three times for Richard Childress Racing in the No. 33 Rheem/Menards Chevrolet Camaro; he finished with three top 10 finishes, including two third-place finishes at the two races at Kentucky Speedway. He raced once in the series in 2014, finishing 12th at Las Vegas in March.
  • Find out more about Crafton at his website, mattcrafton.com