Monday, March 31, 2014

Travel Tips: Texas Motor Speedway – April 3-6, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series are ready for the debut of “Big Hoss” TV – the biggest HD video screen in the world – and for this weekend’s Duck Commander 500 and O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. There will be four days of racing this spring – Thursday through Sunday, April 3-6 – as the Sprint Cup Series race shifted from its usual Saturday night slot in Ft. Worth to accommodate the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which is in town on Saturday, April 5th.

To celebrate the debut of “Big Hoss,” the track will offer the “Hungry Fan TV Dinner” on the main concourse inside Gate 4. The $18 dinner features 1.5 pounds of barbecue cheddar chipotle meatloaf, 12 ounces of mashed Yukon potatoes and 12 ounces of elote-style corn.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, April 3 –
  • Nationwide Series practice – 5 and 6:30 p.m. CT

Friday, April 4
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 3:10 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 5 p.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 – 7:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, April 5
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9:30 a.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 2:10 p.m. CT

Sunday, April 6
  • Pre-race concert with Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy – 12:20 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 – 2 p.m. CT

Fans can find the rules and regulations for TMS here and parking information by clicking here. A link to the 2014 Fan Guide is found here.

Find out more about TMS and purchase your tickets at www.texasmotorspeedway.com 

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Queen: Five Questions for Martinsville


Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
For every great man, there is an even greater woman. Couples like Johnny and June Cash and President John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy are some historic examples, yet the list could go on for pages. Women are pillars of strength, supporting their men for centuries. They stand firm with an undeniable grace.

There was no one as graceful as the wife of seven-time NASCAR champion Richard Petty, Lynda.

The two married on July 22, 1959. She was 17 and in high school. He was 21 and trying to break into the racing world. The marriage was kept secret for months, under wraps until a real wedding ring could be bought. From the very beginning, Lynda was an understanding woman. She would soon become a driver’s wife — and a great one at that. 

While Richard is regarded as The King, there’s no denying that Lynda was The Queen.

Lynda was diagnosed with central nervous system lymphoma in 2010. She also suffered a brain tumor. Though she fought and won against both, it was time for Richard to slow down; after all the years she spent taking care of him and the family, he needed to take care of her. He became her pillar. 

On Tuesday afternoon, Lynda Petty passed away at 72. She was a vital part of not only NASCAR, but of the Petty legacy, and that is worth commemorating. Let her be a constant reminder of the importance and power of racing wives, and let The Queen rest in peace.

Instead of flowers, the Petty family is asking that donations be made to:

Petty Family Foundation
311 Branson Mill Road
Randleman, NC 27317

This weekend, teams head to Martinsville Speedway, a half-mile with tight corners and close racing. As drivers prepare for another thrilling weekend, I prepare to talk about tires, Denny Hamlin, Richard Petty Motorsports, and more with Five Questions for Martinsville.

How will tires fare at The Paperclip? Last Sunday’s race in Fontana, California was full of blown tires and drivers blaming Goodyear. The cause, however, were the aggressive setups ordered by crew chiefs. Swings in camber and air pressure resulted in popped tires every 20 laps or so. Because air pressures at Martinsville are very low, I’m wondering if we’ll see some problems. Hopefully teams learned their lesson.

Does the off-weekend help or hinder Hamlin? Not only was the race at Auto Club Speedway strange, but news about the driver of the No. 11 raised a few eyebrows. During a pre-race checkup, NASCAR pegged the driver as unsuitable to drive. Joe Gibbs Racing’s statement say that he suffered from a “severe sinus infection” that affected his vision. Sam Hornish Jr. stepped in and raced for him. Fast-forwarding to Wednesday, it was announced that Hamlin was cleared to race and that the problem was — wait for it — a piece of metal in his eye. Aside from the fact that this whole situation is utterly bizarre, it’s obvious that this weekend will be a turning point for Hamlin. This is one of his best tracks, and he has something to prove. His mind better be in the right place if he wants to impress.

Can Darrell Wallace Jr. back up last fall’s win with another victory? October 2013 was a great month for Wallace Jr., who won his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Virginia track. Saturday marks the second start of the season for the series, and everyone is anxious. I’m expecting great things out of Wallace Jr., being the returning fall winner and all. Maybe he’ll strut his stuff, get another win, and secure more opportunities for the future.

What would a night race at Martinsville look like? Speaking of Wallace Jr., he recently tweeted about a night race at Martinsville. It got me thinking about if it could ever happen; because the track is so small, permanent lighting would be difficult to install. Also, a night race in either April or October in the Virginia mountains would be pretty chilly. Nevertheless, it’s fun to daydream, and my mind paints a primetime event at the track as action-packed and full of enthusiastic racing. Although the racing seen during the day is exactly like that. 

Will Richard Petty Motorsports continue on strong despite somber emotions? The loss of a family member is difficult to process, and the passing of Lynda Petty is no exception. I can’t fathom what Richard Petty is feeling right now, and it can’t be easy to go right back into work. However, there is a bright spot to all of this; Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose have had glimmers of brilliance this season. With both bringing home top fives at Bristol Motor Speedway, it may be time for the No. 43 and No. 9 to appear in the mix again. Emotions are powerful, no matter if they’re positive or negative. A win would be a beautiful way to celebrate Lynda, would it not?

TV Schedule: March 28-30

Martinsville Speedway. Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
NASCAR returns to its Southern roots at Martinsville Speedway, the oldest track on the circuit. The Sprint Cup Series and the Camping World Truck Series gear up for some short track racing at the Virginia track. Get ready for some bumpin' and bangin' as small quarters breed big tempers.

The Nationwide Series is off this week and returns next week at Texas Motor Speedway.

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

Friday, March 28:
12 noon NSCS Practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub Special, FS1
3 p.m. NCWTS Final Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, March 29:
3 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
11 a.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS2
2 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
2:30 p.m. NCWTS: Kroger 250, FS1. Green flag: 2:46 p.m. - RAINED OUT

Sunday, March 30:
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12:30 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
1 p.m. NSCS: STP 500, FOX. Green flag: 1:13 p.m.
5:30 p.m. NCWTS: Kroger 250, FS1

Thursday, March 27, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Martinsville is about the racing ... and the hot dogs



Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway • Dover International Speedway 
Phoenix International Raceway • Richmond International Raceway
Distance: 0.526 Mile

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Clint Bowyer - 5
Jeff Gordon - 4
All with 3 - Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray

By Track
All with 6 - Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer
All with 5 - Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 
All with 4 - Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle

Recent Pole Winners: 
2013 Jimmie Johnson
2012 Kasey Kahne

The Likely Suspects: Martinsville Speedway is known for great racing, as well as its famous hot dogs. Although 23 drivers have multiple wins at Martinsville, only four active drivers have multiple wins: Jimmie Johnson (eight), Jeff Gordon (eight), Denny Hamlin (four) and Tony Stewart (three). As you may have guessed, Hendrick Motorsports leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in wins at Martinsville Speedway with 21.

Picking these Martinsville greats will enhance your score this week: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch. Also, if Chad Knaus dials in Jimmie's car, and it appears to glide on the track during practice, you better pick him. When Jimmie is good at this track, he is really good!
      
My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is tie between two stellar drivers in the Hendrick Motorsports camp: Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. Keep in mind that Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kyle Busch are also fine picks. My next choices are Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray. I will complete my team with Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick. Enjoy the race!

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

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fast Facts: Chad Boat

credit: Getty Images/NASCAR Media
Chad Boat, competing part-time as a rookie in the Nationwide Series in 2014, is the latest in a string of second-generation drivers to take up the family business of auto racing. Learn more about this young man, driving for his family-owned team, in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Chad Boat was born Jan. 30, 1992 in Phoenix, Arizona, son of former Indy Racing League winner Billy Boat. Boat began racing at age 5 in quarter midgets, winning the Quarter Midget Assocation’s Arizona state championship two years later. At age 8, he won both the Light Modified and Light 160 midget championships; by age 9, he had 70 main event wins on his racing resume.
  • At age 10, Boat moved into the Phoenix Kart Racing Association’s Dirt Karting class, winning 10 of 12 events on his way to the Junior 1 Arizona State Championship; he also won the “Holiday Classic” championship that season and won nine pavement road racing events in the 2003 season.
  • At age 12, Boat became the youngest driver to compete in the 600cc Mini Sprints division in the Arizona Modified Midgets Association at Canyon Raceway. He won 14 features, Rookie of the Year and the 2004 AMMA championship.
  • Boat progressed through the midget and mini-sprint divisions, also spending some time in the ASA Speedtruck Series in 2006. He returned to focus on sprints and midgets in 2007 before making a big move in 2008: moving to Indiana to compete in USAC’s National Sprint Car and Midget Divisions; he finished 11th in midget points and 13th in sprint car points, becoming the youngest driver to win a USAC dirt track sprint car event with his Hagerstown Speedway win in July 2008. Boat took home the Rookie of the Year awards in both the National Sprint and Midget divisions.
  • In 2010, Boat made the move to NASCAR, competing in his first K&N Pro Series event at Iowa Speedway and finishing 12th. He officially moved to North Carolina to pursue a NASCAR career in 2011, competing in 16 races between the K&N Pro Series East and West. In 2012, Boat competed in the ARCA Racing Series, running third in his debut at Iowa; he also ran at Kansas and raced in the K&N Pro Series.
  • Billy Boat Motorsports opened its shop doors in Mooresville, North Carolina in 2013, and Boat earned four top 10 finishes in seven ARCA Racing Series races. The team made its Nationwide Series debut at Daytona this year, qualifying 40th and finishing 24th. The team is aiming to compete in 15 races this season.
  • Learn more about Chad Boat at his website, www.chadboat.com

Monday, March 24, 2014

Travel Tips: Martinsville Speedway – March 28-30, 2014


The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series will visit “The Paperclip,” Martinsville Speedway, Friday through Sunday, March 28-30 for the STP 500 Cup race and the Kroger 250 Truck race. The 0.526-mile track is the only track on this year’s schedule that was also on the first NASCAR season schedule.

The drivers of the Camping World Truck Series have an autograph session on Friday, March 28 at 5 p.m. ET. For more driver appearances on Sunday, March 30, check out the Party Plaza add-on for $30, featuring driver question-and-answer sessions, a pre-race track pass, entertainment, games and more.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 28
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice –3 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET

Saturday, March 29
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 11:10 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 1 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 – 2:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, March 30
  • Sprint Cup Series STP 500 – 1 p.m. ET

Check out the track’s carry-in policy here, and the fan guide here.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at www.martinsvillespeedway.com

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fuel the Fire: Five Questions for Auto Club

 (Credit: Justin Edmonds/NASCAR via Getty Images)
There’s no way around the fact that I was an overweight child. Sure, toddlers and youngsters are usually chubby, and they grow into their bodies. That never happened to me. For years, doctors berated my parents for “feeding me the wrong things.” I still believe they weren’t at fault. They changed my diet, yet the weight stayed.

As the years went by, life became more uncomfortable. Old friends turned into enemies, and my weight was the first thing brought up in a disagreement. I moved from shaking it off to getting upset to contemplating a switch in schools. My self-esteem was shot. Looking in the mirror, let alone at my body, was a struggle. I used humor and sarcasm to battle rough days. In the end, nothing was solved.

I experienced an epiphany near the end of my junior year. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what made everything click, but I’m thankful it did. Ultimately, I realized that I'd been dealing with the horrible comments with the wrong attitude. Things needed to be more proactive than reactive. My attitude needed to abandon its defensive nature.

In May 2013, I started working out and watching my diet. Slowly but surely, I saw changes. A loose shirt, a single “Are you losing weight?” and an inch off my waist. The smallest difference was fuel, and I burned it up.

I think all of us have memories that are hard to remember —not because of a hazy mind, but because of a specific level of pain. If you think about the path you’ve taken to get to the present, is it clear with a lack of obstacles? If yes, then you aren’t thinking hard enough.

Life is all about what we use to push ourselves. For me, it was the insults I heard growing up; those insults spurred me to lose 35 pounds. A change in someone’s thinking can result in crazy things. Sometimes, realizing you need a change is the first step.

This week, I’m talking about the aftermath of Sunday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, last year’s race at Auto Club Speedway, and this season's schedule. What fiery things will I get into this weekend?

What is it about Mother Nature’s presence that encourages dramatic racing? Listen, I like the rain, I really do. But it’s a different story when it interferes with race day (which I’ve been quite vocal about). Despite my feelings, I have to respect the precipitation for creating an electrifying atmosphere. Mash that with a short track, and you have intensity personified. Crew chiefs freak out, drivers feel the pressure, and everything comes down to the wire. If that’s the result of impending weather, then Mother Nature can attend a few races. Well, maybe not attend; how about if she hovers a few miles from the track?

How does someone accidentally lean on a button? The end of last Sunday’s (unexpected) night race was insane for a bizarre reason; the caution lights flicked on, and the flagman waved the yellow, but nobody knew why. It turns out someone bumped the button and triggered the event. Oops. How exactly does someone do that? I’m blaming it on the track, solely because I doubt this would happen anywhere else.

Why is the schedule jumbled? NASCAR’s annual West Coast Swing began three weeks ago, during which time teams head to Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada after the beginning of the season. After those two stops, teams flew to Tennessee. Now they’re headed back to the West Coast ... ? Look, I understand that it’s been this way for a while, and it has to do with transport of equipment. If they switched the race at Bristol with Auto Club’s date, then fans on that side of the country could benefit. The western side has five races a year, while the East Coast has ... a lot. The least NASCAR could do is treat them to three consecutive races. I bet hotels and tracks out there could create special hotel and ticket packages, too. Hmm.

Will Roush-Yates engines capitalize on their strong Bristol showing? Of the 24 races held at Auto Club, 10 resulted in the Blue Oval Gang heading to Victory Lane. That’s about 42 percent (I’m obsessed with race stats, FYI). To me, that means the Fords could be a threat. However, it must be noted that the last Ford won in 2009 — five years ago. It’s been a while, but there can be a comeback. After winning the race and making up four of the top-five spots, Roush-Yates engines have a chance to return to dominance.

Can Joey Logano put the past behind him and flourish? This Sunday is the one-year anniversary of the incident that resulted in Denny Hamlin’s back injury. There’s no doubt that people will bring this up. I don’t see a story there anymore; the two have somewhat come to terms, and nothing has happened since. Because Logano is younger, I always worried that it had an impact on his mindset. The driver has two wins at the track, which should make him feel a bit more comfortable. All of us have pieces of our pasts we’d rather forget. It’s either that or using it to fuel the fire. Maybe Logano has figured out a way to do both.

Texas Motor Speedway unveils Big Hoss TV with some help from NASCAR and IndyCar friends

Big Hoss TV at Texas Motor Speedway is as big as 16 regular billboards
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
By LJ Cloud and Debbie Ross

I generally try to avoid cliches when I'm writing but sometimes nothing else will do. They say that everything's bigger in Texas and at  94' high and 218' wide, with 20,633 square feet of active display area, Big Hoss TV illustrates that axiom quite well.

After months of construction through one of the snowiest, iciest North Texas winters in recent memory, Texas Motor Speedway unveiled the behemoth screen Wednesday night with the help of Kyle Busch, Helio Castroneves, as well as Duck Dynasty stars Willie and Korie Robertson, and John and Paula Godwin. Of course, Bruton and Marcus Smith of SMI joined TMS president Eddie Gossage Jr. for the occasion. Skirts and Scuffs' intrepid photographer Debbie Ross was in the media center to get the scoop.

According to Bruton, Gossage asked him for a big screen for several years, and finally Bruton gave in. Charlotte Motor Speedway president, Bruton's son Marcus Smith, suggested that it be bigger than the one at CMS. Gossage may not have been born in Texas, but he got here as quick as he could, and he certainly caught on to the "bigger in Texas" concept quickly, so of course he agreed. The result: a half-acre screen that's approximately 30 times brighter than a standard HD television screen acting as the world's biggest drive-in theater, with a track full of fans piling in to view a new episode of Duck Dynasty, Big Hoss-style.

Helio Castroneves
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Indy 500 champion and winner of the coveted Dancing With the Stars mirror ball trophy, Helio Castroneves is no stranger to Texas Motor Speedway's media center. He earned a fourth win last June to break the tie with Sam Hornish Jr. for most wins at the speedway.

Castroneves was asked if the big screen would be a distraction while racing.

He said his only experience was with the big screen at Indy. He remembers driving by it and seeing his family holding hands & cheering him on.  "That was a crazy moment," Castroneves said.

Kyle Busch signs a boy's arm.
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
Kyle Busch earned his first Sprint Cup win at the Great American Speedway last April, but he's won six Nationwide and two Truck races at TMS.

Busch answered the usual questions about his season, the new Chase format, etc., then signed autographs for for some young fans.

As popular as Castroneves and Busch are, the real stars of the evening were the Duck Dynasty entourage. With the Duck Commander 500 coming up in just over two weeks, the timing was perfect for the Robertsons  to visit and promote the race.

From Debbie's notes:

Willie & Korie Robertson, John & Paula Godwin, and a host of others, made their way into the the
Willie and Korie Robertson
Credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts and Scuffs
MC through a flurry of smiles, handshakes & howdy-do's. Willie & Korie took center stage and pretty much held court. They were down- to-earth, friendly, and seemingly genuine people.
Marcus Smith presented the couple with two custom-designed helmets (which they loved) and then the questions began...

When asked why they were sponsoring the Duck Commander 500, Willie admitted that instead of just sponsoring one car (Clint Bowyer's car had been considered previously), they would sponsor the whole race, guaranteeing a win. If you had asked them a few years ago, they would never have believed they would be doing this. With their philosophies on family, religion and America, NASCAR was the way to go. Of course, Uncle Si's Iced Teas will be debuted at the races!

All in all, they were thrilled to be there and couldn't wait to see themselves on Big Hoss! Korie noted that their shows are like home movies to them. They are loving every moment of their lives.
 Debbie and I will be at the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 and the Duck Commander 500 to see Big Hoss TV in race trim, so be sure to stay tuned! "Like" our page at www.facebook.com/SkirtsandScuffs, and follow us on Twitter: @SkirtsandScuffs and @ljc777.

TV Schedule: March 21-23

NASCAR is California dreamin' as the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series converge on Auto Club Speedway.

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

Friday, March 21:
3 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NNS Practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
6 p.m. NNS Practice, FS1
7:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, March 22:
11:30 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Bristol, FS1
12:30 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NNS Qualifying, FS1
3 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN
5 p.m. NNS 300, ESPN. Green flag: 5:17 p.m.

Sunday, March 23:
2 a.m. NNS 300, ESPN2
4 a.m. NNS 300, ESPN deportes
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
2:30 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
3 p.m. NSCS: Auto Club 400, FOX. Green flag: 3:16 p.m.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS2

Thursday, March 20, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)



Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway • Indianapolis Motor Speedway 
Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway • Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s :
By Race
All with 4 - Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch
All with 3 -  Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman

By Track
All with 4 - Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman
All with 3 - Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards. Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and Greg Biffle

Recent Pole Winners: 
2013 & 2012 Denny Hamlin

The Likely Suspects: Superspeedway racing may not possess the nail-biting, anxiety-producing brand of racing that short tracks create, but they sure are fast. Don't be surprised if you find these drivers taking the high line and finishing well: Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards.

My 2 Cents: When pondering your picks this week, think Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing and Michigan International Speedway. Hendrick drivers as well as the "Roushateers" reign supreme here and MIS is most similar to this track. 

The no-brainer pick this week is once again a tie between Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. My next choices are Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Denny Hamlin. I will complete my team with Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick. Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth are also decent picks this week. 

When doing your final picks keep in mind that in nearly 60% of the races here the winner has come from the top 10 positions.

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Timing of Rain a Godsend for Edwards at Bristol?

Carl Edwards takes the checkers at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 16, 2014
Credit: Daniel Shirey/Getty Images  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

After his win at the rain-riddled Bristol race on Sunday, Carl Edwards is thrilled to have one foot in the Chase. He is also thankful both feet are solidly planted on the ground, after momentary qualms about landing his celebratory backflip on the slick frontstretch.

Edwards didn’t want to see the caution, accidental or not, come out with two to go. He said there might have been a “higher power” at work when the rain came at the same time the yellow light switched on, ending the race.

Team owner Jack Roush appreciated the one-two finish of Edwards and teammate Stenhouse Jr., attributing it to Ford’s preparedness, avoiding wrecks or parts failures and a little luck.

“You've got to stand in line and just wait for the racing gods to smile on you or to frown on you to see what you've got, but tonight we did have good fortune,” Roush said at the post-race press conference.

With St. Patrick’s Day dawning only a few hours after Edwards celebrated in Victory Lane, some might agree a wee bit of luck figured into his win. Or maybe he made a wish earlier in the day. Fans may remember the funny outtakes video showing Edwards giving high-speed rides to Ford engineers, when he spied the time on the car’s digital clock and said, “It’s 11:11, make a wish!”

Luck. Wishes. Racing gods. Good fortune. Do you believe in any of these?

Most adults don’t believe birthday candles can actually grant wishes or that 11:11 is a magical moment in time. We realize the concepts of racing gods, luck and wishes are as slippery as the frontstretch at Bristol on a rainy night.

But unlike grown-ups, young children are quite literal. They interpret the words they hear in concrete ways.

If Daddy says, “The Rocketman is on fire,” a child may visualize a man in a rocket ship engulfed in flames, when the truth is Ryan Newman’s car has fire under the hood.

A child who hears Biffle got the “Lucky Dog” may envision a fortunate puppy riding shotgun in the No. 16.

When Grandma says, “Blow out the candle, and make a wish,” kids trust her words.

How we talk about wishing and luck can inadvertently influence a child’s understanding of God.

If a child believes objects such as candles and clocks can grant wishes, how does that mesh with saying bedtime prayers? The child may wonder which is better: wishing on birthday candles or praying to God.

To dispel the confusion, we can explain to kids that wishing is like talking to thin air and there’s no such thing as luck or racing gods. But prayer is real because God is real. If we teach our kids to talk to the Creator of the universe, it helps give them a steady footing in their faith.

God, with a capital "G," is in charge of everything, including candles, clocks and even stock car races. Maybe Edwards is right, and God reached down and tickled the clouds, releasing the rain just as the accidental caution light came on in those last laps at Bristol. We’ll probably never know.

What we do know is that only God is all-knowing, all-powerful and able to work in our lives for good. All the luck and wishes in the world can’t hold a candle to His limitless power.

 ... your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.   ~ 1 Corinthians 2:5
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Editor's Note: If you want to help your kids or grandkids learn about God's power and the difference between wishing and praying, check out Beth's book, A Wish and a Prayer.

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“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Want more racing devotions? Donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fast Facts: Chris Buescher

credit: Getty Images/NASCAR Media
Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 60 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing in the Nationwide Series, is the cousin of 2012 Camping World Truck Series champ James Buescher. Learn more about this up-and-coming driver in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Chris Buescher was born Oct. 29, 1992 in Prosper, Texas. Buescher raced motorcycles in Texas from ages 6 to 9, then switched over to Bandoleros around the state for three years.
  • In 2005, Buescher decided to give Legends cars a try during the summer, racing in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway and other tracks along the east coast; he won at 22 of the tracks he visited that summer. Buescher continued to race in the Summer Shootout in 2006 and 2007, and also purchased a Late Model from David Ragan in 2007; he raced it four times and earned three top-five finishes.
  • Buescher spent 2008 racing in the ASA Speed Truck and ASA Late Model series, and signed as a development driver for Roush Fenway Racing in 2009. He made seven ARCA Racing Series starts with Roulo Brothers Racing in 2009 and eight in 2010, winning twice.
  • In 2011, Buescher was named ARCA Rookie of the Year, claiming three more victories for Roulo Brothers Racing. He also made two Nationwide Series starts, finishing 17th in both outings. In 2012, he won the ARCA Racing Series championship on the strength of four wins, 16 top 10 finishes and two poles. He raced part-time in the Nationwide Series for RFR in 2013 and continues to do so in 2014.
  • Learn more about Buescher in his bio at Roush Fenway Racing’s website. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Travel Tips: Auto Club Speedway – March 21-23, 2014


NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series head to Fontana, CA, for the Auto Club 400 and TreatMyClot.com 300 weekend at Auto Club Speedway, Friday through Sunday, March 21-23.

On Thursday, March 20, the NASCAR Hauler Parade gets underway at 6 p.m. PT at Citizens Business Bank Arena, 4000 E. Ontario Center Pkwy. in Ontario, CA. For a look at the parade route, click here. NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Ty Dillon will make a 6 p.m. PT appearance at the NASCAR Hauler Parade Festival at the Bass Pro Shops store located at 7777 Victoria Gardens Ln. in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, which is along the parade route. Several NASCAR merchandise haulers, including Jr. Nation, Tony Stewart, Austin and Ty Dillon and Realtree, will also be on site.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 21
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon PT
  • Nationwide Series practice – 1:40 p.m. and 3 p.m. PT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. PT

Saturday, March 22
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. PT
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 10:35 a.m. PT
  • Nationwide Series treatmyclot.com 300 – 2 p.m. PT

Sunday, March 23
  • Sprint Cup Series Auto Club 400 – noon p.m. PT

The complete schedule for this weekend can be found at the upper left corner of the Auto Club Speedway website listed below – click “Event Schedule.”

If you’re a first-time visitor to Auto Club Speedway, click here to find out what you can bring and here for the First-Time Guests guide.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at www.autoclubspeedway.com

Human error to blame for late caution at Bristol; Edwards wins

Carl Edwards does his famous backflip after winning at Bristol. Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
A thrilling last-lap pass is what fans wish for when they visit Bristol Motor Speedway. On Sunday evening, their hopes were dashed when the race ended under caution.

NASCAR along with teams, fans and media were perplexed when the caution lights came on without warning. The race would have no doubt ended with a victory for the No. 99 as rain also began falling at the same time. The reason for the caution was first revealed to be a malfunctioning light which forced a “full field caution as the operation of those lights became compromised.”

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, later admitted the caution was caused by human error when a flagman accidentally leaned on the manual override in the flag stand.

“We learn a lot of lessons, and when we learn a lesson like this we'll go in and further investigate some things," Pemberton said. "As you know, all the electronics that we've had and have installed in the trailers for freeze the field and all these other things, there's still -- you still have to integrate into the track facilities, so there's probably some things that we needed to do to better secure that area where the manual override is on the lights."

Carl Edwards was OK with how things ended, saying in the media center, “I think it says a lot about the leadership of our sport ....We all do a lot of things where there's a lot of room for mistakes, and so the outcome worked out great for me; but even if it hadn't, I'm glad to be part of something where they just say, 'Hey, we screwed up.'"

Rain was the other big story of the day. Delaying the start by two hours, NASCAR had a plan in place to run the race Monday in the event of a rain-out. Fortunately, Mother Nature decided to play nice for a while and 124 laps were run before rain halted competition for three hours and 18 minutes.

When racing resumed, it appeared Joe Gibbs Racing would continue to dominate. Matt Kenseth, who was leading when the red flag came out for rain, got rear-ended by Rookie of the Year contender Timmy Hill when Hill failed to slow down during a caution. Hill sustained significant damage to his unsponsored ride while Kenseth was able to continue. Teammate Kyle Busch led 73 laps, but finished 29th after bringing out the ninth caution of the night. Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin finished sixth.

It was a good night for Tony Stewart. Having to use a past champion's provisional to get into the race, Stewart finished in the fourth position, calling it a win.

Underdogs Ricky Stenhouse Jr.and Aric Almirola finished second and third to the Edwards.

“It helps our confidence for sure. It’s been nice working with Mike (Kelly – crew chief) and the guys again. We’re having a lot of fun. We’re just slowly working getting better and better,” said Stenhouse Jr. on his highest career finish in the Sprint Cup Series

Final running order: 
  1. Edwards 
  2. Stenhouse Jr. 
  3. Almirola
  4. Stewart
  5. Ambrose
  6. Hamlin
  7. Gordon
  8. Kahne
  9. Vickers
  10. Larson
  11. Dillon
  12. Biffle
  13. Kenseth
  14. Keselowski
  15. Bowyer
  16. Newman
  17. Allgaier
  18. Patrick
  19. Johnson
  20. Logano
  21. Menard
  22. Gilliland
  23. Wise 
  24. Earnhardt Jr.
  25. Allmendinger
  26. Annett
  27. Mears
  28. Sorenson
  29. Kyle Busch
  30. Cassill
  31. Ragan
  32. Bowman
  33. Kvapil
  34. Kligerman
  35. Kurt Busch
  36. Truex Jr.
  37. McDowell
  38. McMurray
  39. Harvick
  40. Whitt
  41. Nemechek
  42. RyanTruex
  43. Hill

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Earnhardt Jr. says NASCAR is bigger than just one guy, but is it?

Photo credit: Matt Sullivan NASCAR via Getty Images
Popularity is something Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows all about. Voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver an astounding 11 consecutive times, Earnhardt has legions of fans who follow his every move. From poor performances to wins, these fans are among the most hard core in all of sports. Make them angry and you’ll never live it down. Say nice things about their driver, and you’ll be forever in their good graces.

Even those who don’t count themselves among “The Nation” keep up with his performance. Ask a non-fan to name a driver and nine out of 10 times, they’ll mention Earnhardt Jr. … the 10th time, they will mention his dad. Despite never having won a Sprint Cup Series title, Earnhardt is more the face of NASCAR than his teammate, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

When Earnhardt Jr. is having a good day, all is right with the world. NASCAR gets a gold star. Fans who have become disillusioned with the ever-changing rules return to the track and their televisions because it might just be his turn to hoist the trophy at Homestead.

Following his Daytona 500 victory and two second-place finishes, Earnhardt Jr.'s ducks seem to be in a row. There’s a smile on his face and a swagger in his step. People are talking about NASCAR striking up conversations at the water cooler Monday morning.

But Earnhardt Jr. says he isn't concerned with how much his performances impact viewership and NASCAR’s following as a whole. “I can’t concern myself with how much I move the needle. I think that goes outside of my comfort zone and what I feel is and what I think you need to concern yourself with if you’re as an individual,” he said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of the fourth race of the 2014 season.

According to Earnhardt Jr., it’s bigger than one guy. The differing personalities and rivalries, new faces and new opportunities play a role in the ebb and flow of the sport’s popularity among both new and seasoned fans.

“It definitely doesn’t live and breathe on everything that I’ve got going on. It would be perfectly fine without me, but I’m glad to be a part of it.”

That begs the question. Would NASCAR actually be OK without its Most Popular Driver? What if Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion from two years ago had caused long-term problems forcing him to retire? Who would fill the void? Who would people love and loathe? Where would all the Jr. fans go?

We don't know the answers to those questions, and neither does Earnhardt Jr. Though he says he's glad to be a "part" of the sport, he may not realize just how much sway and impact he actually has. What he does realize is that what he says and how he acts affects the perception of the sport.

"I want the sport to be healthy. And I want to do things that help the sport and make an impact on the sport. I try to do those things always taking opinions and advice on what I can do better and what I’m not doing that I could be doing to help the sport. You want to leave a mark of some kind. We all do."

The Food City 500 is currently under a delay for rain blanketing the area. Earnhardt Jr. is slated to start from the 14th position.

Follow @SkirtsandScuffs for updates from the track.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cale Conley holds his own in Nationwide Series debut at Bristol

Thunder Valley
Credit: Katy Lindamood
Cale Conley is a name unfamiliar to most race fans. The young man who hails from Vienna, WV has made several starts in the K&N Series, but on Saturday he made waves in another series. 

Strapping into the Nationwide Series car for the first time, Conley, who was given the opportunity to drive the No. 33 at Richard Childress Racing, told his Twitter followers, “Today is the day I've wanted my whole life. My dream is within reach. Need to thank the man above for this opportunity. #NASCAR #Nationwide

Conley became the 37th driver in series history to make his debut at Bristol.

Under NASCAR’s new procedure, the top 12 teams following the first round of qualifying (only two rounds at tracks less than 1.25 miles) enter into a knockout round. Conley had the 11th fastest time during the first round and joined Larson, Busch, Kenseth, Scott, Blaney, Harvick, Smith, J. Buescher, T. Dillon, Bliss and Kwasniewski for a chance at the pole.

Ultimately Conley had the slowest time of the top 12, earning a spot in the sixth row alongside rookie Kwasniewski, who spun out during the knockout round.

Given how fickle Bristol can be, Conley held his own, staying within the top 15 for the entirety of the race. Matt Kenseth’s dominant performance put most of the field, including the No. 33, a lap down early in the race. Under the third caution, crew chief Nick Harrison advised his driver to stay out and take the wave around to get back on the lead lap, where he held the 11th spot through the Lap 200 mark.

Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch put Conley down a lap once again, but a late caution for the spinning Ryan Reed put him back on the lead lap after earning the Lucky Dog. Conley would ultimately go on to finish 11th in his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut.

Kyle Busch earned his third straight victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and his second win of the season in the Nationwide Series. Kyle Larson, who started on the pole, came home second.

Final running order for the 32nd Annual Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 presented by Lilly Diabetes:
  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Larson
  3. Harvick
  4. Blaney
  5. Kenseth
  6. Ty Dillon
  7. Gaughan
  8. Bayne
  9. Elliott
  10. Smith
  11. Conley
  12. Cassill
  13. James Buescher
  14. Scott
  15. Kwasniewski
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Sadler
  18. Clements
  19. Nemechek
  20. Sieg
  21. Hill
  22. Kimmel
  23. Dick
  24. Armstrong
  25. Wallace
  26. Bliss
  27. McClure
  28. Cope
  29. Gase
  30. Wise
  31. Reed
  32. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  33. Garcia Jr.
  34. Lepage
  35. Admiraal
  36. Berryhill
  37. Carter
  38. Long
  39. Dibenedetto
  40. Koch

Friday, March 14, 2014

NSCS Pole Report: Denny Hamlin takes the pole

Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
After two straight weeks of Team Penske dominating qualifying, we have a new face on the pole: Denny Hamlin. With a speed of 129.991 mph, Hamlin broke the old track record. Also starting on the front row is Brad Keselowski. Curious to know where your favorite driver(s) start for Sunday’s Food City 500 in Bristol? Here's the starting lineup:
  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Brad Keselowski  
  3. Matt Kenseth
  4. Joey Logano
  5. Marcos Ambrose
  6. Jeff Gordon
  7. Kyle Busch
  8. Greg Biffle 
  9. Ryan Newman
  10. Kasey Kahne
  11. Jimmie Johnson
  12. Carl Edwards
  13. Kurt Busch
  14. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  15. Clint Bowyer
  16. David Gilliland
  17. Jamie McMurray
  18. Cole Whitt
  19. David Ragan
  20. Kyle Larson
  21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  22. AJ Allmendinger
  23. Aric Almirola
  24. Michael McDowell
  25. Casey Mears
  26. Austin Dillon
  27. Kevin Harvick
  28. Paul Menard
  29. Martin Truex Jr.
  30. Justin Allgaier
  31. Landon Cassill
  32. Josh Wise
  33. Alex Bowman
  34. Michael Annett
  35. Reed Sorenson
  36. Danica Patrick 
  37. Tony Stewart (using a Champion provisional) 
  38. Brian Vickers
  39. Travis Kvapil
  40. Ryan Truex
  41. Parker Kligerman
  42. Joe Nemechek
  43. Timmy Hill

TV Schedule: March 14-16

Bristol Motor Speedway. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Welcome to Bristol Motor Speedway, the concrete bullring. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide series head to the short track where tempers flare in tight quarters.

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

Friday, March 14:
1:30 p.m. NNS Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, March 15:
9 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
10 a.m. NNS Qualifying, ESPN2
12 noon NSCS Final Practice, FS2
1 p.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Phoenix, FS2
1:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN2
2 p.m. NNS: Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 300, ESPN2. Green flag: 2:13 p.m.

Sunday, March 16:
3 a.m. NNS: Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 300 (replay), ESPN2
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12:30 p.m. NSCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
1 p.m. NSCS: Food City 500, FOX. Green flag: 1:13 p.m.
6:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Brian Vickers Keeps His Focus “Out the Front Windshield” After Blood Clots

Brian Vickers at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for qualifying on March 7, 2014
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images via NASCAR  
Brian Vickers doesn’t wear a cape like Batman, but he is a crusader nonetheless. Since his diagnoses of blood clots, in 2010 and 2013, Vickers is on a mission to educate NASCAR fans about the condition.

March is National Blood Clot Awareness Month, which inspired the driver of the No. 55 Aaron’s Toyota to talk about his experience. Vickers said his first go-round was a blood clot in his left leg, called a deep vein thrombosis, which eventually ended up as a pulmonary embolus, a blood clot in his lungs.

“I largely ignored the signs and symptoms of what was happening, and it nearly cost me my life,” he said. “Ultimately, it did land me in the hospital and doctors did diagnose me with blood clots in time.”

That original blood clot developed after Vickers ran two races in one day — including sitting through two black flags —then hopped on a plane for a long flight. Sitting still for a long time in a plane or car without being able to stretch one's legs can increase the risk of blood clots for anyone.

His second deep vein thrombosis was a result of wearing a boot to immobilize his sprained foot, Vickers said, so a lack of movement due to the boot was likely responsible. This time, the 2003 Busch Series champ recognized the symptoms — persistent pain, redness and swelling — and went straight to the doctor. He finished his treatment in time to start the 2014 season at Daytona.

“Being able to get back in a race car has given me a platform to really share my story and raise awareness about blood clotting and the risk and the problems with it ...”

Surprisingly, Vickers said he is thankful for the blood clots, because his personal faith increased and his appreciation for his career grew as a result of his medical difficulties.

“I’ve definitely been looked after through these experiences, and I thank God for that,” he said. “... I’ve also learned just how fragile life really is. Every breath is a blessing for every single one of us, whether we’ve had a major medical incident or not.”

Vickers said he received phenomenal support during his bouts with blood clots — from family, friends, fans and his Michael Waltrip Racing team and sponsors. When folks reached out to him during his treatment, it meant a lot.

Focusing on the positives helped Vickers get through the rough times. He has advice for others going through medical issues.

“Try to make the most of it. Never give up. You focus ‘out the front windshield,’ so to speak, and not on what’s behind you, and focus on what you can do to control it.”

Vickers hopes others will learn from his experience and become educated about the symptoms of blood clots. Meanwhile, he and his team will continue their mission to spread the word.

“We’re really excited about Aaron’s being a partner with TreatMyClot.com to bring awareness to blood clots. It’s something that is very near and dear to me,” Vickers said, regarding the purple car he’ll drive at Fontana this month.

“On TreatMyClot.com, you can find a lot of risk (factors) and warning signs and symptoms of clotting and also a little bit about my story.”
------------------------------
disclaimer: Brian Vickers is a paid spokesperson for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

The Ideal Escape: Five Questions for Bristol

Flyover at Bristol on March 17, 2013
Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images  
Imagine the world without music, that the only thing you could crank in your car was the air conditioning. Nobody could hum or sing. Movies would be almost unwatchable.

There is nothing more comforting than a song.

This weekend’s race is at Bristol Motor Speedway, the fish bowl of the NASCAR circuit. It’s known for fast cars and brutal wrecks. At the same time, it’s unique for another aspect; the track allows drivers to choose their introduction song. If that isn’t cool, then I don’t know what is.

Music has a way of saying the words one can’t form. It’s the profession of love, pain and confusion when we sing off-key because we know how it feels. It’s the ideal escape.

Recently, I bought The Outsiders by Eric Church. As many people know, I’m a huge country music fan; there’s nothing it can’t do for me. Alabama, Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson can influence my mood for the better.

One song on Church's CD stands out, not just for its artistry, but for its subject matter —racing. “Talladega” is a ballad about a young man’s road trip to Talladega Superspeedway with his best friends. They participate in the infield activities and make memories during the race weekend.

As if I needed another reason to love country music.

Melodies and lyrics connect us with moments, people and settings. Songs provide a medium to express the emotions we struggle to handle. Music gives us something to crank when we want to get rowdy. There isn't much that music can’t do.

This weekend is a trip to Bristol, the short track heard around the world. I discuss qualifying, NASCAR’s slacking heartthrob and more in this edition of Five Questions. Put in your earbuds, and read on.

How will NASCAR’s changes affect qualifying sessions? NASCAR announced their new adjustments to the qualifying format. First, no cool down laps will be allowed. Since we’re heading to Bristol this week, it’s a pretty smart move. The other addition? Drivers are allowed to cool off their engines on pit road. Two crew members are allowed to jump the wall and distribute cold air through the roof flaps. These changes will improve the qualifying procedure greatly, and all it took was a bit of patience.

What’s wrong with last year’s winner, Kasey Kahne? The driver of the No. 5 won this race last year after multiple runner-up finishes and consistent runs. So far, this season has not begun that way for Kahne. Of all the Hendrick Motorsports cars, he’s behind. Really behind. Losing car chief, Keith Rodden, to Jamie McMurray’s crew over at Chip Ganassi Racing was difficult for him and the rest of the team. Aside from that, the potential is there and Kahne normally takes a while to warm up. Here’s hoping he can do that and earn some victories along the way.

Kevin Harvick and the SHR Band? By far, Harvick is the strongest of the Stewart-Haas Racing camp. He’s already won, and it’s possible he could’ve gotten another win if it weren’t for left front hub issues. Like Kahne, the rest of the group can’t get going. Owner Tony Stewart is still recuperating from his leg injury. Kurt Busch is trying to mesh with a brand new set of people, and Danica Patrick is really, really lost. With Harvick as the front man, the rest of SHR needs to step it up before they’re backup singers for good.

After the first three races, which rookie is looking the strongest? All drivers were rookies at one time and they did questionable things, right? Well, it’s easy to see which rookie is the fearless one of the group. Austin Dillon put his No. 3 on the pole for the Daytona 500. During the race, he wasn’t afraid to bump and bang his way through the pack. That attitude is what makes him a great fit for carrying on Dale Earnhardt Sr.'s legacy. His early start has people talking, and it’s easy to see the other rookies have a lot of catching up to do. If they don’t, NASCAR could conceivably hand over the Rookie of the Year award now.

Will there be some surprises during intros? Bristol is known for allowing the drivers to select specific songs to walk out to during introductions. Not only is it enjoyable, but it gives a glimpse into the drivers’ personal tastes. Sometimes, the choices are eyebrow-raising. I never knew Matt Kenseth was a Metallica fan. Remember the one year Brian Vickers walked out to “I Feel Like a Woman"? I love music, and it’s going to be fun to see drivers loosen up and reveal a bit about themselves. Who knows, maybe someone will go crazy and use some Justin Bieber. (Oh, goodness. Just don’t.)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Bristol stompin' in 2014




Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Dover International Speedway • Martinsville Speedway
Phoenix International Raceway •  Richmond International Raceway
Distance: .533 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch
All with 3: Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Jamie McMurray and Kasey Kahne

By Track
Matt Kenseth - 6
All with 5: Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson
All with 4: Greg Biffle, Brian Vickers, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Clint Bowyer

Recent Pole Winners: 
2013 Kyle Busch
2012 Greg Biffle

The Likely Suspects: If you follow this column in any regularity you know that short track racing is a favorite of mine. The action is non-stop and frenzied. However, in order to win you have to finish, so my fantasy picks fall in two categories: powerfully patient and downright crazy. Focus on these drivers this week: Jimmie Johnson, the Busch brothers, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski and dark horse Paul Menard.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a two-way tie between Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch with Brad Keselowski nipping at their heels. The powerfully patient Matt Kenseth is also a fine choice. I will round out my team with Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson. If you feel like Ryan Newman has some momentum coming off a strong finish last week you can put him in your lineup and pull Paul Menard. 

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

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Fast Facts: Dylan Kwasniewski

credit: Getty Images
Dylan Kwasniewski is one of the many rookies competing throughout NASCAR’s top three divisions in 2014, and comes to the Nationwide Series with a couple of impressive titles: 2012 K&N Pro Series West champ and 2013 K&N Pro Series East champ. Learn more about Chip Ganassi Racing’s newest development driver in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Dylan Kwasniewski was born May 31, 1995 in Norwalk, Connecticut. He began racing go-karts at age 4 in the area before his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where he competed in the Phoenix Kart Racing Association’s Kid Kart division and became champion in 2002.
  • Kwasniewski made his way through the ranks of Bandeleros and Legends cars over the next few years, winning 88 percent of the Bandeleros races he entered at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2007. In 2009, he moved into the ASA Speed Truck Series, followed by the Lucas Oil/Rockstar Modified Series in 2010.
  • Racing for Gene Price Motorsports, Kwasniewski was named 2011 K&N Pro Series West Rookie of the Year on the strength of two wins and two poles. He returned to the team in 2012, winning three races and six poles, while adding top 10 finishes in each of the season’s 15 races on his way to the championship.
  • Kwasniewski headed back east for the 2013 season, competing in the K&N Pro Series East for Turner Scott Motorsports. He earned six wins, three poles and finished top 10 in 12 of the series’ 14 races on his way to another title; he became the first driver to win both the East and West Series championships.
  • For 2014, Kwasniewski moves up to the Nationwide Series with TSM to compete for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award. On March 9, Kwasniewski was named the newest development driver for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.
  • Find out more about Kwasniewski at dylankwasniewski.com

Monday, March 10, 2014

Travel Tips: Bristol Motor Speedway – March 14-16, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media

The fourth event on the 2014 NASCAR race card is the Food City 500 weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee, Friday through Sunday, March 14-16. The weekend features the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and the K&N Pro Series East and West.

Fans can check out Food City Race Night on Friday, March 14 from 4-9 p.m. ET in the track’s hospitality area. The free event will feature driver autograph sessions, racing simulators, live entertainment and free food while supplies last.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 14
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon ET
  • Nationwide Series practice – 1:40 p.m. and 3 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:35 p.m. ET

Saturday, March 15
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 9 a.m. and noon ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 10:05 a.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series Drive to Stop Diabetes Presented by Lilly Diabetes – 2 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series PittLite 125 – 4:45 p.m. ET

Sunday, March 16
  • Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 – 1 p.m. ET

The complete schedule for this weekend can be found here.

First-time fan information can be found here, and the track’s rules and regulations can be found here.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Glitzy and Glamorous Beginning: Five Questions before Las Vegas

Jeff Burton returns to the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images  
Once something becomes normal, comfort sets in, and people want to stay the same.

But change is inevitable. It's what makes the world intriguing. Without change, there would be no seasons, butterflies or diamonds. Everything would be bleak and boring.

Sometimes, change is needed. An aspect switching sets off a whole new feeling, a different kind of security. Security in a risk. Security in the unknown.

Jeff Burton was in a predicament; his role as the elder statesman at Richard Childress Racing was coming to a close. He, Mark Martin and other racing veterans were feeling the tremors from The Domino Effect. Out with the old, in with the new. Factors like money, empty win columns and a rising band of younger racers played into the hands of team owners.

Burton, Martin and others were stranded.

Risks are what push us to move on and rewrite goals. Achievements grow or shrink according to the times. Sails adjust and catch a breeze.

The former driver of the No. 31 for RCR felt a growing gust coming off the horizon. Sails moved. Directions switched. He landed on the shores of Michael Waltrip Racing. Another teaching role. The possibilities are a bit limited, but he will flourish.

What seemed bleak and boring has now become a glitzy and glamorous beginning. How fitting that Burton's first 2014 start is in the glittering oasis of Las Vegas?

In this week's Five Questions, I discuss Burton, the latest aero package, Powerhouse Harvick, and much more. Oh, and where's Jimmie Johnson hiding?

Is their Phoenix win a sign of future success for the Kevin Harvick/Rodney Childers duo? Move over Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson, there’s a new powerful pairing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. Harvick and Childers have already flexed their muscle two races in. The two have bonded quickly at Stewart Haas Racing and it’s turned into a fantastic match. Many have heard of the crew chief but couldn’t analyze him; Childers is a lurker. However, fans should know this: he is smart, more intelligent than imaginable. Harvick has the talent and the fearlessness to turn his partner’s visions into reality. The only thing that can get in the way of these two is themselves.

Does the “new” Chase really mean anything? After giving it some thought, there is something that irks me about the “new” Chase format. The projected final races are set up with an elimination format which is an obvious ploy to drum up talk. I definitely approve of the expansion to a sixteen-car field; this opens up the opportunity for more shake-ups and surprises. However, what’s with the Sweet Sixteen-esque layout? The eliminations happen every year; over the ten races, drivers become mathematically ineligible.

I also don’t like that NASCAR is trying to mimic the NBA. The sport is going through an identity crisis, but trying on all the different hats won’t work. What works for the NBA or any other sports organization won’t work for us. Racing is a different animal that involves machines, and the other leagues can’t say that. I see The Chase of 2014 being one full of excitement, but the “eliminations” are just too much.

Where is Johnson? Where, oh where, has the six-time champion gone? Where, oh where, can he be? I’ll tell you where Johnson is: he’s creeping, like a lion watching its prey. Nobody has been talking about the driver of the No. 48, but that doesn’t mean he’s not racking up stats. The first two stops on the schedule have resulted in two top-10 finishes. It’s not the opening act we’re use to, but that doesn’t mean we should count him out. If you ever count Jimmie Johnson out, then you’re already losing.

How does the latest aero package affect mile-and-a-half tracks? A restrictor plate and a one-mile track. Those are the two layouts the series has raced on and the results are interesting. Both exhibited exciting racing and dull green flag runs. As we head to a mile-and-a-half track, it’s crucial for teams to get as much information as possible during testing sessions and practices. With the schedule being mostly comprised of tracks this length, what happens in Las Vegas won’t stay in Las Vegas; it will carry over and can possibly burden the rest of the season. What the aerodynamic changes do will affect much more than just Sunday’s event.

What will come of Burton’s first start since last season? When the confetti and 2013 season settled down, Burton was out at RCR and heading towards MWR in a part-time role. Las Vegas Motor Speedway will be his first appearance, and it’s the start of a new endeavor. Will there be rust to knock off? I’m so happy Burton is back; he is The Mayor, after all. Sunday will tell if changing teams will put a spring in his step.  

TV Schedule: March 7-9

Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
NASCAR invades Sin City as the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series converge on Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The following is a handy guide to track activities and television coverage at Las Vegas. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, March 7:
2 p.m. NSCS Practice, FOX Sports 1
3:30 p.m. NNS Practice, FOX Sports 1
4:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1
5 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FOX Sports 1
6:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

Saturday, March 8:
11:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS2
12:30 p.m. NNS Qualifying, FS2
2 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS2
2:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FOX Sports 2
4 p.m. NASCAR Countdown, ESPN2
4:15 p.m. NNS: Boyd Gaming 300, ESPN2

Sunday, March 9:
3:30 a.m. NNS: Boyd Gaming 300 (replay), ESPN2
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, Fox Sports 1
2:30 p.m. NSCS: Kobalt 400, FOX

Thursday, March 6, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas



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

Drivers with Most Top 10s:
By Race
Dale Earnhardt Jr. - 4
All with 3 - Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle 

By Track
All with 3 - Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. 
All with 2 - Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman 

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Rained Out
2012 Kasey Kahne
2011 Matt Kenseth

The Likely Suspects: This week, we get to see how the new aerodynamics rules package will play out on this typical cookie-cutter intermediate track. Will the tweaks to the front and rear spoiler help drivers pass and race side-by-side and create more consistently fun racing?  

What we've seen so far is that some race teams are getting a better handle on this car than others. Although there may be a slight advantage for teams like the No. 48 who are doing some extra testing at Las Vegas or similar tracks, the teams that have enjoyed consistent runs here in the past will continue to do well regardless of how NASCAR tweaks the car. 

Look for these drivers to have Lady Luck on their side come Sunday: Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a three-way tie among Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano. Next, I'm going with Greg Biffle, Paul Menard and Carl Edwards. Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. are also fine picks this week. However, I will complete my team with Jeff Burton (yes, that's right, Jeff will be racing this week) and Austin Dillon.  

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