Friday, January 31, 2014

Speak Your Mind: For better or worse, NASCAR overhauls the Chase

NASCAR CEO and Chairman Brian France announces the new Chase Grid format Thursday during the NASCAR
Media Tour at the Charlotte Convention Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Image
The Chase as we knew it is no more. NASCAR made waves Thursday with its announcement of a radically retooled Chase.

The new elimination playoffs system would allow for 16 drivers to battle it out in four rounds of competition. The first nine races in the Chase would be split up into three segments - the Challenger Round, the Contender Round and the Eliminator Round, with four drivers eliminated in each round. The last four drivers would then compete in the season's final race, the winner-take-all Championship Round, in which the champion would be determined by which driver reaches the finish line first.

The drastic changes have created an uproar in the NASCAR community. While some are open to the new format and ready to embrace the change, others are diametrically opposed.

Some of our writers at Skirts and Scuffs decided to weigh in on the new system in the latest "Speak Your Mind" column. Here's what we had to say:

L.J. Cloud: "At the end of the day, although consistency is important in our sport, and it remains important, it's just less important, so they like that. They (NASCAR fans) understand winner‑take‑all formats, and they understand being the best down the stretch. You can note any of the other examples of that where Tony Stewart one year made that incredible run. They love those moments. This is going to elevate the opportunity for more drivers to have those moments." ~ Brian France

"I think one of the best championships we've had recently has been Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards. That was a dog fight. It's what you live for. It's what you want to see. I think this will just allow us to see more of that action when we get to Homestead." ~ Robin Pemberton

"I think it goes back to when we first started the Chase. Candidly in an ideal world we would have wanted ten drivers going into Miami separated by ten points. Obviously, that can't always happen. When we looked at it, we looked at the Tony Stewart run and how exciting that was. But over those same years, '10, '11, and '12, we heard more and more talking about points racing and the racetrack saying, look, my fans come for my one race. They want to see their driver win, as do we. So we wanted to emphasize that as much as possible. Put drivers in situations where finishing second was okay, but they want to go for that win. They always do now, but we wanted to emphasize that even more." ~ Steve O'Donnell

I'll never forget the first Sprint Cup race I saw at the racetrack instead of on TV. It was November 2011, at Texas Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart won his fourth race of the Chase, beating Carl Edwards. Smoke cut Cousin Carl's lead to three points.

It was also my first weekend to be in the media center. You could almost touch the excitement. Everyone knew that what we were witnessing was special, that it would be talked about for years to come. The chemistry between Smoke and Carl sizzled. The racing thrilled.

The five-year reign of Jimmie Johnson came to an end when Stewart got up on the wheel, pulled his team up on his back and won the race at Homestead by passing every car in the field at least three times.

The next season when Carl Edwards visited the media center, I asked him if he'd had a chance to reflect on the previous year, if he'd been able to appreciate being a part of history and he said (I'm paraphrasing, of course) that yes, he'd looked back somewhat in awe of how the season had gone and that he realized how fortunate he was to have been part of such an epic battle. That even though he lost by a tie-breaker, he appreciated how rare it was to have a championship battle of that caliber.

With NASCAR's announcement of the Chase changes, I found it interesting how people first jumped to the conclusion that the sanctioning body intended to thwart Jimmie Johnson's quest to tie Petty and Earnhardt by winning a seventh championship by placing more value on winning. A driver who has won 60 races and six championships in the 10 years of the Chase. If anyone has an edge in the new system, it's Jimmie Johnson.

No, I blame Smoke. Not really "blame," of course. I just think that these changes are the result of Brian France wanting to create more "Game 7 moments." More Smoke vs. Cousin Carl kind of conflicts.

Good luck with that, Mr. France. The 2011 Sprint Cup Championship was special precisely because it hadn't happened before. We - and they - remember it because it was so rare.

So, in my opinion, trying to artificially create those races, those contests that hold a special place in the NASCAR legends book, completely disregards what made them so special from the start.

I'm not saying that the new Chase format won't be exciting. Of course it will. I'm not saying that it can't produce those "Game 7 moments," just that I don't think they can be forced even by creating the winner-take-all final race.

In addition to upping the bar for Chase finales the Stewart-Edwards tie made drivers even more conscious of the value of a single point, and I think they dialed back because of it. The thought that Carl Edwards only needed one more point during the season made drivers start points racing from the first lap of the Daytona 500.

In practice, I don't think that the majority of the Chase will be all that different, except that instead of the broadcast crew "putting a fork in" the competitors they thought were eliminated from the championship hunt, drivers will be officially eliminated.

The main difference is that final race. The four-driver winner-take-all extravaganza. The four drivers who survived the regular season, who made it through the Challenger Round, avoided the forks and advanced to the Contender Round have one race to add to their racing legacy.

Possibilities abound. A dark-horse driver scoring an unexpected win locks him or herself into the Chase, bringing much-needed funds to the team. A six-time champion going on a win streak and showing why he's Six-Time.

Bottom line - I'm ambivalent about the changes. They could be the best thing for NASCAR since R.J. Reynolds. Or, since the shakeup smacks of desperation, it could backfire horribly by alienating the very people that NASCAR hopes to draw to the track.

Either way, I'm still going to watch. How about you?

Beth Reinke: In his State of the Sport address, NASCAR Chairman Brian France said the new system is designed to do three things. First, it puts greater emphasis on wins. I give that part a thumbs up.

Second, he said the changes “make competing and running for a championship much simpler and much simpler to understand.” I believe NASCAR athletes and diehard fans are some of the most savvy, intelligent folks around, so making things “simpler to understand” isn’t relevant to us or our sport. Besides, the new system doesn't strike me as simple. We had “The Chase.” Now we have: the 16-driver Chase Grid, the Challenger Round, the Contender Round and the Eliminator Round, with points reset after each round. Not. Simpler.

Third, France said the new format will “expand opportunities for more drivers to compete for the championship while ultimately rewarding the most worthy, battle-tested champion.”

The first part of that statement is true, because 16 drivers competing is more than 12. But will we actually end up with the “most worthy, battle-tested champion?” Maybe. Maybe not. Admittedly, the last four contenders will probably be the cream of NASCAR’s crop. But in my opinion, the “Eliminator Round,” is a foolish plan that is unfair to those four teams. I believe it cheapens the championship and allows happenstance to play too great a role in the outcome.

One event, one track to determine a champion doesn’t make sense in a 36-race season. A championship caliber team could have their title chances crushed by a skittish non-contender. Or a guy could lead the whole race, then blow a tire and hit the wall on the last lap. One bum engine, one dropped lug nut, one pit road speeding penalty - could end it all. What happens if all four finalists get caught up in one wreck and end up in the garage? The champion is the driver whose car is the fewest laps down when it limps across the finish line?

I think a better plan would a 3-3-4 set-up that eliminates one of the "rounds." Start with 16 drivers in the Chase Grid. Run three races, then eliminate the bottom six drivers. The remaining 10 drivers run the next three races, then eliminate the bottom six again. You’re left with the final four contenders with the points reset, but they have four races to duke it out. If we need a fancy name, dub the final four races “The Final Four.” Catchy, isn’t it?

Carol D’Agostino: I have many concerns about the changes in the Chase rules, but they all revolve around the issue of credibility and whether continuously tweaking or in this case making wholesale changes in the sport tarnish racing’s reputation.

Brian France says they are making this change to simplify the rules and make it more entertaining. However, I feel like NASCAR is trying to reach out to the casual fan by trying to replicate other sports’ championship formats. Stock car racing is not like other sports, so we should not try to become more similar to other sports.

I am opposed to “dummying down” racing to appease fans who only watch to see who wrecks. These casual fans are also not the folks who will pay to see a race in person, so NASCAR is clearly pandering for television ratings, i.e. advertising dollars.

Rebecca Kivak: NASCAR’s taking a huge swing at the Chase, but I’m not so sure it’s a swing in the right direction. Instead of letting the championship drama naturally occur, NASCAR is manufacturing it with a contrived system.

I do like the increased emphasis on winning races. I’ve long advocated for giving wins more points, but it looks like NASCAR preferred a more radical change. As for the elimination rounds, they basically serve to make official the natural eliminations we’ve observed during the last 10 years of the Chase.

But the problem I have with the new system is that the last two rounds, the Eliminator and Championship, open themselves up to voiding the very thing NASCAR is trying to emphasize.

If the retooled Chase was in place last season, then Matt Kenseth – who captured a season-high seven wins – would not make the final championship race because his poor performance at Phoenix would have knocked him out at the end of the Eliminator round. This is ridiculous.

And under the new system, it would still be possible to have a winless champion. According to the calculations, if the new system was used last year, then Dale Earnhardt Jr. - who did not win any races - would have hoisted the 2013 championship trophy.

The very possibility that the driver with the season’s most wins could be eliminated from the title before the final race contradicts the fiber of what NASCAR is hoping to accomplish with the overhaul. Moreover, a winless champ is the very thing NASCAR has been trying to prevent since implementing the Chase in the first place.

The Championship round itself brings its own set of issues. Letting one race determine the champion may sound good in theory, but a champion should be determined by the culmination of the season, not during a final race where happenstance plays way too much of a factor. With the final four drivers striving to be “first to the finish,” what if one driver gets an engine failure – your points leader, for instance? In the old system, there was still a possibility that he or she could still claim the title dependent on their points lead and how their challenger ran. In the new system, as soon as the racecar leaves a trail of smoke, he or she is out. What if one - or a few of the drivers, or even all – get taken out in a wreck? What if a title contender becomes a target for a rival who’d love to ruin his or her championship chances? Once that driver is out, so are all the wins and the consistent performance they’ve put together for the season. That doesn’t seem fair.

In terms of legacy, one has to question how the new champion’s title will compare to past championships, as the formats of achieving them are so drastically different. This would especially be problematic if the champion is remembered not for a stellar performance, but instead for not being wrecked or having no mechanical failures when their competition did. Again, not what NASCAR is going for.

With great change comes great risk. While the new Chase format will surely add excitement, it could very well backfire in NASCAR’s face.

One thing we know for sure is the new playoffs system will change the sport forever. Whether it’s for the best or worst remains to be seen.

What do you think of the winner-take-all Chase? Let us know in your comments below. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Roush Fenway announces "Race Around America" fan interaction promotion


Over the past couple of years, developing creative social media marketing strategies has become increasingly important to NASCAR and its racing teams as they seek to engage and cultivate relationships with their fan base. Roush Fenway Racing (RFR) and Walgreens have announced the newest online promotion called the 2014 “Race Around America.”

Think road trip, NASCAR drivers and a custom Mustang for one lucky fan.

“Race Around America” allows fans to interact during a road trip featuring RFR drivers Greg Biffle, Trevor Bayne, Chris Buescher and Ryan Reed. The drivers will be behind the wheel of a ROUSH Mustang driving across the nation throughout the 2014 racing season, beginning in Daytona and ending in Homestead.

Fans will use a website to shape the outcome of the "race." The site will officially launch on Monday, Feb. 3.

Participants will have the opportunity to play a role in choosing the paint scheme for the Mustang, pick from possible upgrades that will aid in the car's transformation and choose the course the drivers will take from one track to the next.

Decisions made by fans will play out through a series of eight webisodes detailing the six road trips. These online episodes will show the Mustang's metamorphosis into a ROUSH Stage III.

At season's end, one lucky fan will walk away with the actual ROUSH Stage III Mustang featured in the webisodes.

To learn more visit www.racearoundamerica.com beginning Feb. 3 for more details and follow hashtag #RaceAroundAmerica.


Daily Debris - Day 4 in Charlotte

Richard Petty (right) speaks to the media as Marcos Ambrose (center), driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford, and Aric Almirola (left), driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford, look on during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour at Charlotte Convention Center on January 29, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images

As part of a 200 + media corps I have learned volumes of significant information this week about NASCAR and the individual race teams. Here is a glimpse into today's epiphanies.

1. The word "excited" is severely over used during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. After the second day I started to develop a facial tick every time a driver, team owner or crew member uttered yet another "I'm excited ...." But finally I figured it out. It doesn't actually mean "very enthusiastic and eager." Excited is code for "please, not another interview. Please, please help me find an escape route from these manic people!"

2.  The "care and feeding of the news media" is actually a literal term. In fact, there is so much feeding of the news media that I'm thinking most of us reporters should be paid by the pound of food we ingest, not by the story. Seriously. Wait, hold on, did they just put out more cookies ... Sorry, I was distracted momentarily. My apologies.

I would also like to congratulate NASCAR for not putting out bowls of hard candy with those annoying crinkly wrappers. I know it's a bit obsessive, but I really hate loud food noises and I truly want to wrestle down folks who continue to unwrap those candies and worse yet crunch the hard candy. I almost took down someone today who was crunching their ice. I restrained myself, but it wasn't easy. So thank you NASCAR!

3.  And my final observation for the day is that QVC needs to hire "The King" Richard Petty and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. when they hawk boots. When it comes to cowboy boots The King and Ricky are all that and a bag of chips. Awesome boots.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

NASCAR Hall of Fame Top 10 Trivia


As this year's NASCAR HAll of Fame Induction Ceremony gets underway, check out some fun facts and trivia.
  1. Inductee Tim Flock won two NASCAR series championships in four years (1952 and 1955), and was the second driver to win multiple titles. (Herb Thomas was the first.)
  2. Inductee Jack Ingram earned the nickname "Iron Man" after running 1,750 miles in six races in five days in five states over Labor Day weekend in 1973.
  3. Inductee Dale Jarrett and father, Ned, and Lee and Richard Petty are the only father-son combinations to win premier series championships.
  4. Inductee Maurice Petty is the first engine builder elected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame (NHOF).
  5. Many consider inductee Fireball Roberts to be the first superstar of NASCAR.
  6. The "Dean of American Motorsports," the late journalist and broadcaster Chris Economaki, will be honored tonight as the third recipient of the Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.
  7. There are four father-son combinations in the NASCAR Hall of Fame: Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr.; Ned and Dale Jarrett; Lee and Richard Petty; Lee and Maurice Petty.
  8. Five inductees are enshrined into the NHOF annually.
  9. Twenty-five nominees are eligible for the NHOF each year.
  10. Under the new eligibility criteria, the following contemporary drivers are eligible for nomination to the NHOF: Norm Benning, Geoff Bodine, Derrike Cope, Rick Crawford, Bill Elliott, Bobby Gerhart, David Green, Mike Harmon, Ron Hornaday Jr., James Hylton, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin, Butch Miller, Ken Schrader, Mike Skinner, Morgan Shepherd and Brad Teague.

Wendy Venturini to become first female to co-anchor a NSCS broadcast; takes on expanded role at Performance Racing Network



Reporter and broadcaster Wendy Venturini is no stranger to setting records. In 2007 she became the first woman to call an entire race from the broadcast booth. On September 21, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Venturini will make history once again when she becomes the first female to co-anchor a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series broadcast. The announcement was made yesterday as part of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

It won’t be the only ground Venturini breaks this season. Performance Racing Network (PRN) also announced the launch of “Racing Home,” a new web series that will debut January 30th on GoPRN.com and iTunes. The series focuses on drivers' families and friends, featuring behind-the- scenes interviews with those who know NASCAR’s stars the best.

Following her father's racing career from a very young age, Venturini grew up in the racing business and is a familiar face in the NASCAR garage. She has provided coverage for names such as DirecTV, SPEED, Performance Racing Network, and the new FoxSports 1.

"Wendy has a unique perspective on NASCAR and the racing community and "Racing Home" will give her a chance to share that perspective with the PRN audience," says Doug Rice, president of PRN.

"Growing up in the garage, I understand what it takes to live on the road traveling, track to track my entire life," says Venturini. "Now as a working mom traveling the circuit with my family, I'm able to relate to so many roles in our industry. It takes a village to run these events in each city. It's my passion to tell these stories and PRN recognizes the value in it," she adds.

Beyond the new web series and historic broadcast at New Hampshire, Venturini will also co-anchor the NASCAR Nationwide Series broadcasts for PRN from Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.


Daily Debris - Day 3 in Charlotte

Credit: Grant Halverson/Getty Images
(L-R) Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, Felix Sabates, and Steve Lauletta (president of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)
The day started a tad early with an 8:30 a.m. press conference with Chip Ganassi Racing w/Felix Sabates. Felix was a tad snarky, but it was more than a tad early, which got me to thinking (never a good sign). Although it is customary to request interviews through a rep like a driver's public relations person, if you really want to grab a few moments with someone, a real simple method is to hang outside the men's room. Unless, of course, you need an interview with Danica Patrick...

No really, follow me with this. Jamie McMurray goes into the men's room. Jamie comes out of the men's room. The same with Rick Hendrick. It doesn't matter if you work for a small racing team or a monstrous one. You go in and you come out. This way there is no middle man. Easy, right? I'm telling you, I'm on to something here.

Something else I noticed today is no one knows how to up-sell better than NASCAR. Seriously. I was listening intently at the presentation about this year's All Star Race and I was waiting for the major announcement - really any announcement - and nothing. Oh no, sorry. After you buy a ticket for the race you can buy another ticket for the Jake Owen pre-race concert. Oh yea, and for just $10 down you can reserve a seat AND interest-free payment plans are available.

Let's just drop this polite facade and hire the new OxiClean guy to shout out a commercial for us or better yet do an infomercial and we can keep adding a "but wait!" Really guys; we aren't that stupid.

My big "Aha!" moment today, though, was the realization that NASCAR chairman Brian France must be the most persuasive man in the world. Close down the Dale Carnegie training schools folks, because whatever Brian does is much more effective. This guy is once again making wholesale changes in the qualifying format AND the Chase and everybody is nodding passively and happily. Seriously, does this man have dirt on everybody, know where all the bodies are buried? What's the deal? The drivers, the owners, the crew chiefs - they are all okay with this and going along and following blindly.

What kind of Kool-aid are they serving in NASCAR? And more importantly, can they bottle it and give it to our legislators? No seriously. Follow me on this. Let's say that we send Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) to a special boot camp with Brian France to train them on how to make folks blindly follow and enjoy it at the same time. We could then neatly handle the whole "can't agree/work with others" issue by creating the Ministry of Unpopular Decisions and making Brian France the chair. He obviously could handle both NASCAR and this new position easily since no one disagrees with him. Easy-peasy. See? All problems solved!

Whew. What a day!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fast Facts: The First Four NASCAR Hall of Fame Classes

2014 press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Rainier Ehrhardt
2014 marks the fifth year of inductions into the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located in Charlotte, NC. On January 29, Fireball Roberts, Maurice Petty, Tim Flock, Dale Jarrett and Jack Ingram join the four previous classes as members of NASCAR’s shrine – here’s a look at the classes before them.
  • Class of 2010 – the inaugural class into the Hall of Fame consisted of NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. and his son, promoter Bill France Jr., seven-time NASCAR champs Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, and driver/owner Junior Johnson.
  • Class of 2011 – “Alabama Gang” member Bobby Allison joined the Hall along with two-time champ Ned Jarrett, three-time champions David Pearson and Lee Petty, and championship owner Bud Moore.
  • Class of 2012 – Modified legend Richie Evans became the first Hall of Fame member without a link to NASCAR’s top-tier series; he was joined by crew chief Dale Inman, team owner Glen Wood, and three-time champs Cale Yarborough and Darrell Waltrip.
  • Class of 2013 – Leonard Wood joined his brother in the Hall in 2013, along with 1989 Cup champ Rusty Wallace, two-time champs Buck Baker and Herb Thomas, and driver/owner Cotton Owens.
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inductees at www.nascarhall.com.



Tony Stewart says alpha team concerns are much ado about nothing

Credit: Jared Tipton/Getty Images
 (L-R) Gene Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Danica Patrick, driver of the #10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John's Chevrolet, and Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Racing Chevrolet, speak with the media during NASCAR Sprint Media Tour at Charlotte Convention Center on January 27, 2014 in Charlotte, N.C.

Stewart-Haas Racing operating as a four-car team in 2014 is significant news just from an operational standpoint. Add to that fact that joining Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, now the second senior driver on the team, are fellow alpha personalities Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch and you have the potential for a highly combustible race team, right? No, says driver/owner Stewart during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday.

"What everybody is overlooking is we have four alpha drivers. But we provide a great support system for each other because we understand each other. That’s what teams are about. It equals a huge positive for us and a great match that makes us a stronger team," Stewart says.

"It’s really a dynamic that I haven’t seen and I think it’s a good fit. It’s hard to put four personalities that are that similar together, but it is working," Stewart continues.

Patrick was asked a similar question during one-on-one interviews and told a story about how Kevin Harvick helped her find a faster, high line at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last season.

"I feel like he'll (Harvick) be able to help me. I see this combination of drivers being a good thing. We all know and respect each other," she says.

Busch and Harvick also are enthusiastic about the race team.

“It’s been a lot of fun for me,” Harvick says. “You know, I think hearing Gene talk about the enthusiasm in the shop, it’s really contagious at this point, to tell you the truth. You can walk through the shop and everybody is so excited with all the change and new drivers and things that are going on. I think we’ve had three really good tests and everything has gone really smooth. I’m excited to get to the racetrack and start racing.”

Busch agreed. “It’s just a matter of pacing ourselves and building on the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevy to the point to where we are Chase caliber and ready to attack those final 10 races as a championship team,” he said. “But we have to build this team up and get all of our foundation set. I can’t thank Gene and Tony enough for this opportunity to be part of a championship caliber team and to build on that foundation.”

Sounds good now, but we'll see what happens in 18 days when the season starts.


Daily Debris - Day 2 in Charlotte


Aah, the first official day of the Sprint Media Tour. Oh, I mean the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. Hey, it says so on this piece of paper I now have, and I want to be a rule follower after all.

So my day started out with a wrestling match between me and the in-room coffee amenities. Why infusing my body with caffeine has to be so difficult is beyond me. I am proud to say I won after attacking the package with my pen, and proving once again that -- wait for it -- the pen is mightier than well, maybe not a sword, but a coffee packet.

I learned some very valuable things today, like the governor of North Carolina Pat McCrory once sneaked into a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway without paying. Seriously, dude. Did you think that was going to impress a bunch of hard-nosed media folks? There's a guy by the name of Anthony Weiner who can help you with creating a bad boy image, if you are so inclined.

Another thing I learned was that the media corps is not drinking the NASCAR Kool-Aid when it comes to changing the Chase rules. It should be interesting to see how this storyline evolves as the week progresses. NASCAR is taking the weeny way out by making the official announcement of changes on the last day of the tour. This is the equivalent of the president making an announcement of an unpopular law on a Friday. Nice.

Another thing I was thinking a lot about today was shoes. Yes, the alpha personality talk about Stewart-Haas Racing was interesting, but how does their footwear stack up? Well, Danica Patrick is the top scorer here with her adorable spiked black stilettos. I seriously almost asked her what size shoe she wore. Second place goes to Kevin Harvick for a very stylish ankle-high boot. And please, someone tell Tony Stewart to stop wearing those "priest" black oxfords. Somewhere there is a priest who really needs those shoes, Tony, so please, please surrender them now! Or do five Hail Marys. Your choice. Oh, and by the way Tony, stop using the word "exciting." You used it 22 times today during your interview. Yikes!

Finally, the biggest walkaway today was that NASCAR is wasting its time on trying to come up with a revamped Chase format. What will really make a difference in the sport and gain international interest and respect is getting a top designer, say Kenneth Cole, Louis Vuitton, Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren, to redesign the firesuit. No, really - I think this could work.

This brilliant nugget came to me today as I passed Kurt Busch as he was making his way to a broadcast interview. I had to take a second look as the firesuit looked like it belonged to a bad Elvis impersonator or a Vegas lounge act -- not in a good way. Though I was embarrassed for him, Kurt did his best to pull it off. The smile he gave me didn't hurt either. However, now I can't shake the lyrics of Elvis' "Burning Love." Great. Just what I needed.




Sunday, January 26, 2014

Daily Debris - Day 1 in Charlotte


                           Rendering of NASCAR Hall of Fame, Courtesy of the City of Charlotte

Usually mild mannered public relations woman/NASCAR blogger/Fantasy NASCAR columnist extraordinaire has hit the streets of Charlotte, N.C. No, not that way. Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m here covering the NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour, which starts tomorrow.

Throughout this week I will be filing news stories on racing teams and NASCAR industry news, but I also invite you to follow this column, which we have dubbed Daily Debris. Here I’ll provide you with the meanderings of a “very young” middle-aged woman who spent a majority of her off time in her 20s and 30s following the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Yes, and Arlo Guthrie, etc. Now I crave the smell of a race track, the vibrance of a competitive race and the sheer joy of everything stockcar or truck racing.

One thing hasn't changed over the years – my viewpoint. At best it’s a tad snarky. At worse, it’s about a half a bubble off, as one ex-boyfriend once said. Anyway, as Larry McReynolds says “reach up there and pull those belts tight.” You’re in for an interesting ride.   

Day 1 – Arrival in Charlotte, NC
I could tell it was going to be a great trip from the moment I got to BWI (Baltimore/Washington International) Airport. I must have answered some question correctly at security as they put me in the TSA Pre-check line. I didn't have to remove any articles of clothing or even my laptop. I must admit that I did miss that x-ray machine thing where I get to put my arms up like I’m in the midst of a bank robbery. I always like to put my feet in the exact position of the foot print outlines like it is some obscure game of Twister. Interestingly, the TSA folks are never as amused about my being amused by it though. Oh well.

My flawless one hour, five minute flight ended as the plane taxied on the runway to provide one of my first “Ooh moments” – one of the Roush-Fenway jets sitting on the tarmac. My taxi ride downtown was uneventful until we reached the NASCAR Plaza building. It was a pretty awesome sight, kinda spine tingling, and then I saw it – the Chiquita banana logo – right on the other side of the NASCAR logo. I tried to compose myself, but it was seriously funny.

This whole discussion about changing the Chase rules, and making major changes in the sport this year suddenly all makes sense – they are bananas, crazy – why didn't I see this before?

Actually Chiquita Brands leases six floors of the building as their headquarters, which can’t be easy. You know, major brand, NASCAR is always hawking for sponsors. I picture the Chiquita folks dashing for cover every time they see NASCAR staff. “Quick I saw them coming this way, hide.”

I think I should lay off the whole banana angle here because my mind is going to Chiquita on the fender, bringing back Viagra on the hood. It could be a great tongue-twister (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) for Carl Edwards, the king of mentioning sponsors, “My Viagra Chiquita Ford Fusion was really fast today, but the track was real slick and ..."

My fixation on the NASCAR Plaza continued well into the evening. After a delightful dinner at La Tagliatella in the Epicenter, I walked around downtown to get my bearings, scope out the Convention Center and get a closer view of the Hall of Fame. I’ve never been to Charlotte, and though I have seen photos of the Hall of Fame, I didn’t realize that it’s visually one big complex. Plaza. Convention Center. Hall of Fame. It oddly reminded me of Graceland somehow – masterful marketing or something. Not sure.

I will say that while I was walking by NASCAR Plaza this evening the cleaning crew was hard at work, but not the least bit NASCAR-like. Hey, I bet we could soup up those custodial carts, slap a NASCAR logo, get some decent speed and perhaps some side drafting out of them. Well, maybe it’s just me.

So I’m off to review the agenda for tomorrow -- the first official day of the Sprint Cup Media Tour. And remember, if anyone makes any snide remarks to you about NASCAR, it’s okay you can agree with them because they ARE bananas!

Follow @SkirtsandScuffs this week as Carol shares stories from the world of NASCAR and her thoughts on the events. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NASCAR unveils new qualifying procedures

NASCAR 4C(PRT)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 22, 2014) –
In a move aimed toward enhancing the fan experience watching at the track and at home, NASCAR has announced a new group qualifying format for its three national series that is more compelling, more closely emulates actual on-track competition and underlines the sport’s on-going commitment to innovation.

At tracks measuring 1.25 miles in length or larger, qualifying for the Coors Light Pole Award will consist of three rounds:
  • The first qualifying elimination round will be 25 minutes in duration and includes all cars / trucks. The 24 cars / trucks that post the fastest single lap from the first qualifying round will advance to the second round.
  • The remaining cars / trucks will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.
  • The second qualifying elimination round will be 10 minutes in duration and the 12 cars / trucks that post the fastest single lap time will advance to the third and final round. The fastest remaining cars / trucks earn positions 13th through 24th based on their times posted in qualifying in descending order.
  • The third and final qualifying round will be five minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order.
  • There will be a five-minute break between each qualifying round.
At tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles, qualifying for the Coors Light Pole Award will consist of two rounds:
  • The first qualifying elimination round will be 30 minutes in duration and includes all cars / trucks. The 12 cars / trucks that post the fastest single lap time from the first qualifying round will advance to the second and final round.
  • The remaining cars / trucks will be sorted based on their times posted in the first round of qualifying in descending order.
  • There will be a 10-minute break between the two qualifying rounds.
  • The second and final qualifying round will be 10 minutes in duration and the fastest single lap time posted will determine positions 1st through 12th in descending order.
The new qualifying format does not apply to the Daytona 500, which will preserve its historic and unique qualifying format. Additionally, it does not apply to non-points NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Eldora Speedway.

NASCAR previewed the concept of group qualifying with its national series teams late last fall and expects the new format will be a well-received improvement by its fans, competitors, tracks, sponsors and media partners.

“We believe the timing is right for a new qualifying format across our three national series,” said Robin Pemberton, vice president for competition and racing development. “This style of group qualifying has all the makings of being highly competitive and more engaging to our fans in the stands and those watching on television and online. For the drivers and teams, we believe this new qualifying will fuel even greater competition leading into the events. Additionally, it provides our tracks, broadcasters and other key partners with a greater opportunity to develop more entertaining content for our race weekends.”

About NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™, NASCAR Nationwide Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series, one local grassroots series and three international series. The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) governs the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information, visit www.nascar.com and follow NASCAR at www.facebook.com/NASCAR and Twitter: @NASCAR.

- NASCAR Press Release

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

It's Official: Justin Allgaier to Drive No. 51 for Phoenix Racing

Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs

Allgaier to compete for NASCAR Rookie of the Year honors

Phoenix Racing announced today that Justin Allgaier will be the driver of the No. 51 BRANDT Chevrolet SS during the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Allgaier, who finished fifth in the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship points, will be a candidate for the NASCAR Rookie of the Year award.

"This is an opportunity of a lifetime and I intend to make the most of it," said Allgaier. "I am very grateful to Harry Scott and BRANDT for having faith in me to compete against the best drivers in the world."

"Justin has worked extremely hard to get to this level and he is ready to take the next step," said team owner Harry Scott Jr. "Working with competition director and crew chief Steve Addington, I think the No. 51 can turn some heads this year."

BRANDT will be the primary sponsor for the No. 51 for 21 races during the 2014 season. The agriculture retailer and manufacturer of agricultural specialty products has been active in NASCAR since 2011 and sponsored the No. 51 for four races in 2013.

"The entire BRANDT team is excited about moving to the next level," explained Rick Brandt, company president and CEO. "We looked long and hard at this opportunity and ultimately we decided that we needed the broader footprint that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series affords us to drive our business forward. This is about taking our brand to the millions of fans who watch the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."

Joining BRANDT on the car are The National FFA, TradeMark Nitrogen, Nutrients for Life Foundation, Precision Tank and Grigg Brothers. Together, these partners are supporting the only true ag-focused car in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

"We are proud to help field the 'Ag' car," said Brandt. "This is an effort to raise awareness and build a positive reputation for agriculture of all kinds. We believe passionately that agriculture is the essential industry and we're doing our part to get that message out."

"I could not be more proud to represent BRANDT, a leading company that's headquartered about 13 miles from where I grew up, as we make the leap to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series," said Allgaier.

Allgaier, 27, joins Bobby Labonte as teammates at Phoenix Racing. Labonte will drive the No. 52 for several races in 2014, including the season-opening Daytona 500. Labonte has won 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in his 22-year career and won the series championship in 2000.

About Phoenix Racing

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

Fast Facts: 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee “Fireball” Roberts

credit: ISC Archives/Getty Images
“Fireball” Roberts, joining the NASCAR Hall of Fame with fellow inductees Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett and Maurice Petty, is considered by many racing historians to be NASCAR’s first superstar driver. His unique nickname, however, may not have had anything to do with his driving days – find out about this and more in this Hall of Fame edition of Fast Facts.
  • Edward Glenn Roberts Jr. was born Jan. 20, 1929 in Tavares, Florida. In his youth, Roberts was mostly interested in auto racing, but did spend time playing pick-up baseball – there are conflicting stories about whether Roberts earned his nickname from these sandlot baseball games or from his driving style.
  • Roberts raced on weekends while attending the University of Florida. He competed on the Daytona Beach Road Course for the first time in 1947, and one year later won a 150-mile event on the beach.
  • Roberts and fellow drivers Flock and Curtis Turner tried to organize the Federation of Professional Athletes, which led to a dispute with “Big Bill” France. Turner, who had approached the Teamsters Union for a loan in efforts to regain control of Charlotte Motor Speedway, and Roberts met with union representatives about forming a drivers union spanning NASCAR, USAC and other series. France found out about the meeting, barred union members from racing in NASCAR, and suspended Turner, Roberts and Flock for their roles in organizing the union. Roberts was reinstated shortly thereafter when he denounced the organization.
  • In 15 seasons of competition in NASCAR’s top series (today, the Sprint Cup Series), Roberts competed in 206 races, earning 33 wins, 122 top 10s and 32 poles. He won the Daytona 500 in 1962 and the Southern 500 at Darlington twice: 1958 and 1963.
  • In May 1964 at the World 600 at Charlotte, Roberts was involved in an early-race wreck with Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett, which sent Roberts’ car into the wall before flipping and bursting into flames. Roberts suffered second- and third-degrees burns over 80-percent of his body. He survived for several weeks following the wreck, but took a turn for the worse about five weeks later when he contracted pneumonia and sepsis and slipped into a coma. Roberts passed away on July 2, 1964.
  • Roberts’ accident and death led NASCAR to mandate flame retardant coveralls for all drivers while on track, as well as the development of a safer fuel cell.
  • Roberts, in spite of never having won a NASCAR championship, was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1990) and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1995).
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inductees at www.nascarhall.com

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Go Fast!

RCR's Austin Dillon showed fans how to go fast at Daytona Preseason Thunder.
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

“Go fast!” is the motto of NASCAR drivers and other racers everywhere. Sometimes it’s even used as the hashtag #gofast. But the meaning of this little sentence changes if we add a comma: “Go, fast.”

Fast is one of those funny words, called homographs, which have the same spelling but two different meanings.

As an adjective, fast means speedy, like the No. 3 car atop the charts during Daytona Preseason Thunder last week. Go fast!

But as a verb or noun, fast means to intentionally go without eating for a time. Go, fast.

Fasting is usually a bad idea for NASCAR athletes, especially on race day. In fact, it would probably take something monumental to make pit crew guys skip lunch on any given day. Self-induced food deprivation has no place in NASCAR, or it didn’t ... until last week.

Last week, driver Ty Dillon and about 30 guys from Richard Childress Racing teams gave up food for an entire day and night. They raised a tent village and camped outside in the cold and drizzle to raise money for hungry kids. For a full 24 hours, the men hung out together - playing corn hole, racing remote control cars and bonding around burn barrels - without eating a morsel of food.

RCR crew members gathered around this burn
 barrel during the Pit Stops for Poverty 24-hour fast.
Credit: Ray Wright
Rear tire carrier Ray Wright, founder of Pit Stops for Poverty, the RCR-based charity coordinating the event, led the charge in raising money to fight hunger since June of 2013. After learning one in four kids in North Carolina is food insecure, he rallied the pit crews and drivers to help fill those hungry bellies.

As a result of the 24-hour fast, crew members can empathize with the burning hollowness a hungry child feels. Participant @_JasonHunt_ tweeted this:

“The @stops4poverty 24hr food fast was quite humbling. Cannot imagine a child enduring what we did. Support @stops4poverty.#24hrfoodfast #RCR

Fasting isn’t a popular practice in our modern culture. When necessary, people fast overnight before having blood tests or surgery, but purposely enduring the discomfort of hunger isn’t a widespread trend. But maybe it should be.

In biblical times, fasting was used as a spiritual discipline, as way to get closer to God. Sometimes people fasted while asking Him for guidance about a big decision. No matter why they fasted, it was a way for people to acknowledge their total dependence on God. Even Jesus himself fasted.

Apparently Jesus witnessed some people acting hoity-toity when they fasted so other people would view them as pious. As a result, he taught His followers a better way to do it. Jesus said when we fast, we should put on a happy face and go about our business, looking and acting normal (see Matthew 6:16-18 below.) Notice in those verses He said when we fast, not if. That’s convicting, isn’t it?

If you feel led to fast as part of your devotion to God, it doesn’t have to be a 24-hour thing. You can fast for just one meal or from a particular food, such as sweets. Or maybe you want to abstain from watching TV for a day or two and use the extra time to pray quietly and listen for God’s direction.

However you do it, the purpose of fasting is to remove an earthly distraction and humble yourself before the Creator. Through fasting, you can honor God, seek His will and welcome His power into your life.

Go, fast.

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.           ~ Matthew 6: 16-18
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As a NASCAR fan, you can help Pit Stops for Poverty feed hungry kids. To find out more, visit their website and follow them on twitter at @stops4poverty.

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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 female racing fans.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Fast Facts: 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Maurice Petty

"The King" Richard Petty with his brother,
"Chief" Maurice Petty
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Streeter Lecka
The name Petty is synonymous with NASCAR, and it is also becoming commonplace in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. A Petty family member has been inducted into the Hall in four of its first five seasons, starting with Richard Petty in 2010, family patriarch Lee Petty in 2011, and long-time Petty crew chief and cousin Dale Inman in 2012. In 2014, Maurice Petty, Richard’s brother as well as Petty Enterprises’ co-owner, driver, engineer and crew chief, joins his family and fellow inductees Tim Flock, Jack Ingram, Dale Jarrett and Fireball Roberts in the Great Hall – here are a few Fast Facts on this multi-faceted inductee.
  • Maurice Petty was born March 27, 1939 in Randleman, NC, part of the second generation of racing Pettys. He overcame polio as a child to go on to work on his father’s pit crew as a teenager.
  • While Petty did drive for Petty Enterprises in 26 races between 1960 and 1964 – earning a top finish of third in the team’s No. 41 – he found his calling as the organization’s engine builder and sometimes-crew chief (with Pete Hamilton in 1970).
  • As an engine builder, the man known as “Chief” built the engines with which his older brother won seven Daytona 500s and seven titles, as well as any of his 200 race wins; he also built winning engines for his father, Hamilton, Buddy Baker and Jim Paschal.
  • Petty was a consultant for Dodge when the manufacturer came back to the Cup Series in 2001.
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inductees at www.nascarhall.com

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Goodbye Steve Letarte, thanks for everything

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images 
When your favorite driver has a crappy season, it’s a horrible feeling. But when your driver has a horrible season year after year, your nerves tend to get shot. Many Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, myself included, were all at that breaking point. 

But luckily for us, we'd receive some great news the end of the 2010 season, news that has changed Earnhardt Jr. for the better, I feel.

Steve Letarte. 

Hearing that Steve Letarte was going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief was something unexpected. 

After the seasons we had I was hoping this change could be a good one, that having Letarte on the pit box would be something that Earnhardt Jr. needed.

For the first time in what felt like forever, seeing the No.88 contending and actually being competitive was a great feeling; it’s what everyone fan wants to see- their driver actually contending for wins.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Letarte brought back a fire inside Earnhardt Jr. - a fire that hadn't been seen in a while. Last season, the duo had a bad race the very first Chase race. But even with that one bad race, the duo overcame it and ended the season fifth in the points.

For many Earnhardt Jr. fans it seemed their driver had finally found that crew chief, the one that truly was the best for him. But unfortunately sometimes all good things must come to an end.

I won't lie. Hearing the news that after the 2014 season, Letarte is stepping down from the pit box and moving to the NBC booth in 2015 was a little sad to hear. The era of Letarte and Earnhardt Jr. is coming to an end. An end for which I’m not sure I’m ready.

Even though this will be the last season with Letarte I have a feeling that if the No.88 is anything like it was the last final races, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with. I have no doubt the No.88 is going to be a huge contender this season.

Though there's still a season to go, I'll say it now. Goodbye and thank you, Steve. Thank you for putting that fire back in Junior. Thanks for everything you've done these past years. Going to miss you on that pit box, but wishing you the best at NBC.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nostalgia at Daytona: Wallace back in the driver’s seat, No. 3 back in Cup

nascar_preseason_thunder_dis_1914_brad_keselowski_rusty_wallace
Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
In 2005 Rusty Wallace had his last call. In the years since his final stint behind the wheel, Wallace moved to the broadcast booth, providing commentary and analysis for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series.

On Friday afternoon Wallace climbed behind the wheel of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford during Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway. For a moment, those of us who grew up in the Wallace/Earnhardt era felt joy and even a little bit of sadness for the rivalries of yesterday.

The conversation began at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November during a walk through the garage before the final race of the season.

“I came by to see other cars, and the 48 and the 2 were parked side by side. I talked to the 2 car guys, and they said, I wish you'd get back in the car every now and then and do some testing with us. I said, well, we'll see about it,” Wallace told reporters during a press conference Thursday.

He didn’t initially give the chance much thought, but after receiving a text from Brad Keselowski, current driver of the Blue Deuce, and talking it over with both NASCAR and Roger Penske, Wallace decided to give it a shot. Daytona seemed like an obvious choice.

Daytona is one of a few tracks on the schedule Wallace was unable to master during his tenure. In 45 starts, the 1989 Winston Cup Champion failed to finish nine events including the 1993 Daytona 500. It was on that day Wallace went for a wild ride through the infield in one of the most violent crashes in NASCAR’s history.

Despite his troubles, Wallace felt Daytona was one track where he’d need the least refreshing to get up to speed with the Gen-6 car.

“... if this was Charlotte or this was Michigan or something like that, I'd have probably declined because I would have much rather do it here because I think I can be more useful here and affect a team in a positive way and not in a negative way,” Wallace said.

Brad Keselowski knows his job at Penske is owed in part to Wallace, who helped build the organization.

“Like Rusty said, he's the reason that Penske Racing is probably still in NASCAR and even made it in NASCAR. So I look at him in a lot of ways and think it's part of why I'm here and I've had the opportunity I've had to drive the 2 car for Miller Lite and for Roger. You can't help but look around and wonder what would have happened if he didn't make it happen himself."

It took Wallace all of three laps to get up to speed and show he still had a lead foot. His third lap, which charted at 190.537 mph, was the fastest turned by the No. 2 team up to that point in testing.

Nostalgia at Daytona doesn’t stop with Wallace. The return of the No. 3 in the Sprint Cup Series began as Austin Dillon made the jump to the top tier of NASCAR competition. For the first time since the death of Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 2001, the black No. 3 turned laps. Although many fans have voiced their displeasure in the number’s return, there are a lot who feel it’s time.

Back in the day, the No. 2 of Rusty Wallace and the No. 3 of Dale Earnhardt had a fierce rivalry. With Keselowski and Dillon behind the wheels and fighting for wins, who’s to say we won’t see these two iconic numbers going head to head once again? Both drivers are die-hard competitors. Keselowski is coming off a poor season on the heels of this 2012 Sprint Cup Series title and is ready to get things back on track. Dillon is coming off a title run in the Nationwide Series. A good rivalry is what we need. Maybe these two can get the party started next month at Daytona.

Until then, let’s remember those who paved the way for today’s drivers.
_____

Katy Lindamood credits Rusty Wallace for making her a NASCAR fan in 1993. In addition to her job in retail, Katy is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Skirts and Scuffs. Katy resides in Ashland, KY with her husband Ryan and their two dogs.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Fans to vote on race format for The 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona

NASCAR 4C(PRT)


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 9, 2014) – For the second year in a row, fans will decide upon a number of competition elements for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona, the 75-lap, non-points race that kicks off the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing season on Saturday, February 15 (8 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Starting today, fans can cast their votes to set the overall format and determine key racing elements. Fans will again set the number of laps in each of the three segments, while also voting on how drivers will line up at the start of the race and how they will line up for the restart of the final segment.

“We are excited to build off of the success of last year’s event and give our fans another opportunity to help make key decisions that will enhance the excitement around this highly anticipated race,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. “This interactive element is unique to NASCAR – and all of sports.”

Fans can submit their votes within the official NASCAR app, NASCAR MOBILE, or at NASCAR.com/SprintUnlimited. Voting is unlimited and all votes cast through NASCAR MOBILE will count twice. The voting window for the race format will close on Saturday, February 15 at 6 p.m. ET, while voting for the starting order and final segment restart order will close at various times during the race broadcast. Voting results will be announced live during the FOX Sports 1 race broadcast.

Voting Categories:
  • Race Format: Number of laps in each race segment (Voting ends at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 15)
    • Option A: 30 laps/35 laps/10 laps
    • Option B: 30 laps/30 laps/15 laps
    • Option C: 30 laps/25 laps/20 laps
  • Starting Order: How drivers will line up to start the race (Voting ends at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, February 15)
    • Option A: Most Career Poles (most to least)
    • Option B: 2013 Driver Points Standings
    • Option C: Final Practice Speeds (fastest to slowest times)
  • Restart Order for Final Segment: How drivers will line up for the final segment (Voting ends at the conclusion of the second segment)
    • Option A: Fastest lap in the race (first and second segments both count)
    • Option B: Most laps led (first and second segments both count)
    • Option C: Mandatory pit stop (drivers lineup how they come off pit road)
“Our ultimate goal is to use Sprint’s wireless technology to bring NASCAR Sprint Cup fans closer to our sport, and this is the latest example,” said Steve Gaffney, vice president of corporate marketing for Sprint. “This effort, the Sprint Unlimited, gives fans the opportunity to sit in NASCAR race control and make calls on key elements of the race. We encourage fans to grab their wireless device and seize this unique opportunity.”

“We look forward to partnering with NASCAR and Sprint to host the second Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway,” said Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway president. “Our passionate race fans helped create an exciting event last year from start to finish. With two new voting categories and real-time results, this year’s fan-driven event will be as exciting as ever.”

Twenty NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are eligible to participate in the 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona. Each driver raced his or her way into the starting lineup by winning pole positions in 2013 or by winning past Sprint Unlimited events.

2014 eligible participants include:

· Denny Hamlin (4 poles)
· Kyle Busch (3 poles)
· Joey Logano (2 poles)
· Jimmie Johnson (2 poles)
· Matt Kenseth (2 poles)
· Ryan Newman (2 poles)
· Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2 poles)
· Jeff Gordon (2 poles)
· Carl Edwards (2 poles)
· Marcos Ambrose (1 pole)
· Kurt Busch (1 pole)
· Kevin Harvick (1 pole)
· Brad Keselowski (1 pole)
· Mark Martin (1 pole)
· Jamie McMurray (1 pole)
· Danica Patrick (1 pole)
· Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (1 pole)
· Terry Labonte (past winner: 1985)
· Ken Schrader (past winner: 1989 and 1990)
· Tony Stewart (past winner: 2001, 2002 and 2007)

Tickets for the Sprint Unlimited are available online at DaytonaInternationalSpeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP. Fans can follow @NASCAR and @MissSprintCup on Twitter to engage in the #SprintUnlimited conversation.NASCAR MOBILE is available to download for free from the App Store on Apple devices and Google Play on Android devices. Fans can also download the newest version by logging on to NASCAR.com/mobile.

About NASCAR
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States. NASCAR consists of three national series (the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™, NASCAR Nationwide Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series, one local grassroots series and three international series. The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) governs the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. Based in Daytona Beach, Fla., with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information, visit www.nascar.com and follow NASCAR at www.facebook.com/NASCARand Twitter: @NASCAR.

About Sprint
Sprint (NYSE:S)offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint served more than 54 million customers at the end of the third quarter of 2013 and is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including the first wireless 4G service from a national carrier in the United States; offering industry-leading mobile data services, leading prepaid brands including Virgin Mobile USA, Boost Mobile, and Assurance Wireless; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. The American Customer Satisfaction Index rated Sprint as the most improved company in customer satisfaction, across all 47 industries, during the last five years. You can learn more and visit Sprint at www.sprint.com or www.facebook.com/sprint and www.twitter.com/sprint.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Fast Facts: 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Dale Jarrett

Like father, like son: Ned Jarrett (l) joined the Hall
of Fame in 2011; Dale joins in 2014.
Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/Chris Graythen
NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Dale Jarrett followed his father, 2011 Hall of Fame inductee Ned Jarrett, into the world of NASCAR stock car racing – this year, he follows his father into the Great Hall in Charlotte, N.C. Learn more about this popular driver and broadcaster, who joins the Hall of Fame along with Tim Flock, Jack ingram, Maurice Petty and Fireball Roberts, in this Hall of Fame edition of Fast Facts.
  • Dale Arnold Jarrett was born Nov. 26, 1956 in Conover, N.C. In addition to his famous father, his family also includes brother Glenn, who was also a racer and broadcaster, son Jason, once also a racer, and cousin Todd, who is a champion handgun shooter. His brother-in-law is Jimmy Makar, who was his crew chief at JGR.
  • When Jarrett graduated from high school in 1975, he had a full scholarship offer from the University of South Carolina to play golf; he turned the offer down. Two years later, he kicked off his racing career at Hickory Motor Speedway, which his father owned and operated.
  • After five years on the local circuit, Jarrett made the move to the Busch (now Nationwide) Series in 1982, finishing sixth in points with 14 top 10 finishes. In 1984, he improved to fourth in the final points standings, and also made his Cup Series debut at Martinsville, finishing 14th.
  • In 1987, Jarrett moved up to the Cup Series early in the season, finishing 26th in points and second to Davey Allison for the Rookie of the Year award. In 1988, he ran the full season, splitting his time between numerous teams before settling into one of the rides, the No. 29 of Cale Yarborough, for 1989. 1990 found Jarrett without a ride, but five races into the season Neil Bonnett was hurt, and Jarrett took over the No. 21 Wood Brothers ride for the season, finishing 25th in points in spite of missing five races.
  • After winning his first Cup Series race at Michigan in 1991 in the No. 21, Jarrett left the team following the season for a new team on the Cup Series horizon: Joe Gibbs Racing. In 1993, Jarrett took home the Harley J. Earl Trophy from the Daytona 500 after winning the “Dale and Dale Show,” completing a last-lap pass over Dale Earnhardt as his father Ned called the end of the race from the broadcast booth.
  • Jarrett continued his winning ways with Robert Yates Racing (1995-2006), winning the Cup Series title in 1999, along with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (he also won the race in 1996). He spent his final full-time season, 2007, and part of the following season with Michael Waltrip Racing, retiring from the sport following the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2008. Jarrett then followed in his father’s footsteps again, this time to the broadcast booth.
  • In 686 career Cup Series races (1984-2008), Jarrett collected 32 wins, 260 top 10 finishes and 16 poles, including three for the Daytona 500 (1995, 2000 and 2005). He was a three-time Daytona 500 winner (1993, 1996 and 2000) and a three-time Budweiser Shootout winner at Daytona (1996, 2000 and 2004). In 1998 he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
  • Find out more about Jarrett at his website, www.dalejarrett.com, and learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the inductees at www.nascarhall.com

Monday, January 6, 2014

Travel Tips: Daytona Preseason Thunder – Jan. 9-14, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
It’s tough to survive in the off-season with no NASCAR racing, so if you’re looking to get away from the cold weather and see some racing action, Daytona International Speedway has just what you’re looking for: Daytona Preseason Thunder, running Thursday, Jan. 9 through Tuesday, Jan. 14. 

NASCAR kicks off the 2014 season with testing at the 2.5-mile superspeedway featuring all three top series – Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks – as well as two Preseason Thunder Fan Fest events following practice on Thursday, Jan. 9, for the Cup Series and Saturday, Jan. 11, for the Nationwide Series.

The schedule for on-track activities for each series is as follows: 
  • Sprint Cup Series – Thursday and Friday, Jan. 9-10 from 9 a.m.-noon ET and from 1-5 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series – Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 11-12 from 9 a.m.-noon ET and from 1-5 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series – Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 13-14 from 9 a.m.-noon ET and from 1-5 p.m. ET

The Preseason Thunder Fan Fests are scheduled for Thursday night, Jan. 9, for the Sprint Cup Series and Saturday night, Jan. 11, for the Nationwide Series. The Fan Fests will feature driver question-and-answer sessions, autograph sessions, show car displays and more. The event schedule for Sprint Cup Preseason Thunder Fan Fest, scheduled to take place from 5:30-9:30 p.m. ET, is available here – the Nationwide Series event schedule, also taking place from 5:30-9:30 p.m. ET, has not yet been posted.

Tickets for Preseason Thunder testing sessions are $15 each day for the Cup Series and $10 each day for the Nationwide Series. Tickets for Preseason Thunder Fan Fests are $25 for the Cup Series and $10 for the Nationwide Series. Cup Series tickets are available now by calling 1-800-PITSHOP or visiting www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com, while Nationwide Series tickets will be available at the gate. Fans can also watch each day’s testing sessions, including the Truck Series, at no cost from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Opening Ceremonies – Refreshment Before the Excitement

Flyover at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 3, 2013
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs  
 “ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

No one stays still for long at a NASCAR race. Hours before the green flag flies, the garage is a hub of activity as cars go through last-minute once-overs before being pushed to the starting grid. Pit boxes magically arise along pit road and crew members dash to and fro carting tires and gas cans. Over-the-wall guys double check their tools and stretch to warm up their muscles.

By race time, fans in the stands are ready to roll, too. Favorite driver cap? Check. Extra sunscreen? Got it. Coolers of cold drinks? You bet. Only one thing remains before the pace car leads the field onto the track.

Opening ceremonies.

As each race begins, the opening ceremonies provide a moment of “refreshment before the excitement” for drivers, crews and fans.

It’s my favorite part of race day. I love the final laps of racing, of course, but there is something special about that beginning segment. I’ve watched it from the sofa. I’ve seen it from high in the grandstands in sweltering heat, with the underbellies of planes overhead seeming close enough to touch. I’ve stood among crew members, as the invocation and anthem echoed down pit road, savoring every second of the experience.

From almost any vantage point, time seems to stop during opening ceremonies. It’s the one moment on race day when everything comes to a halt. A hush falls over the crowd as folks remove their hats. Except for camera crews and photographers zooming in and out, everyone is calm and still. It’s like the expectant pause between taking a deep breath --- and blowing out the birthday candles.

We bow to pray as a single voice speaks for all of us, requesting God’s protection and blessing. We honor our country and military with the National Anthem. We gaze heavenward for the flyover.

Opening ceremonies set the tone for the race. The prayer and song help us focus our minds and hearts. It helps us be ready when the command to start engines rings out.

The principle of “refreshment before the excitement” isn’t just for races. It works in day-to-day life, too.

Having your own little opening ceremony is a great way to begin your day. Perhaps you could read a devotion when you wake up. Or thank God for another day and ask him for protection and blessing. You could say grace over your breakfast and then read scripture alone or with your family.

However you do it, spending time with God sets the tone for your day. It helps you focus your mind and heart and be ready for whatever the day holds.

In this new year, I want to intentionally focus on God and refresh my soul before the day’s excitement begins. My goal is to pray and listen for God’s guidance. How about you? What kind of opening ceremonies would you like to begin?

Be still, and know that I am God. ~ Psalm 46:10a
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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 female racing fans.