Friday, August 29, 2014

Leaping into the Unknown: Five Questions for Atlanta

Atlanta. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

There is risk in everything we do. From walking the street alone to ignoring a deadline, consequences can creep up and bite you in the butt. The thrill comes from not knowing if it will work out, and that’s what fuels our desire for jumping out on those limbs. With spread wings, we leap into the unknown.

Racers take risks every single time they climb into their machines. They jump from team to team, not knowing which dynamic will stick. Behind all the money and fame, it’s a difficult life to live, always on the edge of failure.

In this week’s Five Questions, I examine schedule changes, TSM’s situation and what risks have rewarded themselves. There are two races until the Chase begins; this is when the true gamblers make an appearance.

Is the new schedule going to help or hinder the sport? Schedule Reveal Day was hyped up more than Thanksgiving and Christmas. After the news of Darlington Raceway’s date moving back to Labor Day broke, people began to have hope. More major changes? Well, those people were disappointed; no extreme changes were made, aside from moving Atlanta Motor Speedway’s date to follow up the Daytona 500. This shifts the race at Phoenix International Raceway to the fourth race of the year, a stop at Las Vegas Motor Speedway separating the two. With Auto Club Speedway’s race fifth, this sets up a nice West Coast swing. However, there STILL ISN’T A ROAD COURSE IN THE CHASE. I’m bitter. I really am. Overall, it’s a good schedule, yet there are some major things that still need attending.

Does Logano’s Bristol performance make him a true contender? For the record, I chose Joey Logano to win at Bristol Motor Speedway last weekend (tooting my own horn here). Team Penske is always good there, but something told me that Logano would surpass teammate Brad Keselowski. Since joining the Penske Posse, the former Joe Gibbs Racing driver has blossomed and grown into the potential many knew he possessed. It’s his year, but his Chase run will either go very well or plummet. It’s all up to JoLo.

With two races to go, who still has a chance? It’s down to the wire, folks! The Race to the Chase ends next weekend at Richmond International Raceway, the sight of much controversy last season. What crazy antics will the drivers get into this time around? Things will most likely be more mundane, yet don’t count any wild cards out just yet. Some people can still slip into championship contention. Drivers like Kyle Larson, Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne can still knock out two wins. That’s what this format is all about, right? We know what a majority of the Chase field will look like, but a few spots seem to be up in the air. Who will thrive? Who will suffer? This is why we watch, y’all.

Will TSM (or whatever it’s called now) get itself together? Sad news was announced Wednesday afternoon when Turner-Scott Motorsports revealed their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series presence would be downsized. The ‘T’ in TSM is pulling out of the series. At this time, the No. 30 truck of Ron Hornaday Jr. will not be racing this weekend, yet teammates Cameron Hayley and Dylan Kwasniewski will race. The event at the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park won’t be the same without the driver fourth in the standings, and NASCAR Nation feels iffy about this decision. It goes to show that money truly matters and that NASCAR is more of a business than we’d like to believe.

Which driver changes have paid off? A big part of risk is extending outside your comfort zone. Many drivers did that; Logano did it, Kevin Harvick jumped teams, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch … the list is pretty long. The driver of the No. 22 is obviously doing well, but how about the others? It’s plain to see Harvick is always a contender, but there are constant crew issues that hinder his efforts. If it weren’t for loose wheels and other preventable issues, he would have about six wins by now. The eldest Busch brother has won, yet it’s an uphill battle to remain strong. The group has the components of a championship-caliber team. They’re just struggling to put them in their correct stops. If we had to list the biggest disappointment, Newman would be at the top. They haven’t been competitive as often as many thought, and it’s saddening. Risks may or may not live up to their full potential, but that’s their dangerous yet enticing beauty.

TV Schedule: Aug. 29-31

Atlanta Motor Speedway. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

NASCAR is split between Hotlanta and our neighbor to the north, Canada. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series converge on Atlanta for their annual stop, while the Camping World Truck Series goes international at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

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

Friday, Aug. 29:                                  
1:30 p.m. NASCAR Race Hub Special, FS1
2:30 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
4 p.m. NNS Practice, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network
5:30 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
7 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, Aug. 30:
4:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
10:30 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
3 p.m. NSCS Practice, FS2
4 p.m. NNS Qualifying, FS2
6 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS2
7 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN2
7:30 p.m. NNS race at Atlanta, ESPN2

Sunday, Aug. 31:
Noon NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at Bristol, FS1
1 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
1:30 p.m. NCWTS race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, FS1
5 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
7 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
7:30 p.m. NSCS race at Atlanta, ESPN
12 midnight NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta




Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks:  Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway • Darlington Raceway   Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway • Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway • New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.54 miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick
All with 3 - Kyle Busch, Juan Pablo Montoya, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin

By Track 
Both with 4 - Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick
All with 3 - Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2012 Tony Stewart

The Likely Suspects: Gone are the days when Jimmie Johnson and Atlanta Motor Motor Speedway were a foregone conclusion. It's probably a good week to keep Jimmie in your fantasy garage. After all, you'll need him during the Chase. Instead look for these drivers to earn you some decent points this week: Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is Jeff Gordon. Ordinarily, I would say Kyle Busch is your next best bet, but I'm still stinging from last week's hit at Bristol. Instead, I'm going with Matt Kenseth. I will round out my team with Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon and Danica Patrick. Enjoy the race!

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

Life Moves Ahead as Stewart Prepares to Race Again

Tony Stewart signing autographs for fans.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs  
Over the past few weeks, there have been moments when it felt like time was standing still, moments during which it felt like everything happening was all a dream, moments when we wanted to return to the past.

Those moments are over. Time is moving again. Kevin Ward Jr. has been laid to rest, while Tony Stewart remains under investigation. Most believe he will be cleared of any wrongdoing, but he still faces an uphill battle in the court of public opinion. Ward's family continues to grieve, and Stewart prepares to move on with his life, which will never be the same.

For the first time since Ward's death, Stewart will get behind the wheel of a racecar this weekend in Atlanta. Sunday will mark 22 days since the young man was killed in an on-track incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York — 22 days since we've seen or heard from Stewart and 22 days since Ward's family last spoke to him. Across multiple media outlets, both men have faced 22 days of persecution. Everyone has an opinion, even those who know nothing about racing. The video of the accident has been shown numerous times, and every Monday morning crew chief has had something to say about it.

Stewart's return is a surprise to some, and a welcome sight for many. He missed the last three Sprint Cup races, privately grieving the accident with only his closest circle around him. Many thought he would miss the rest of the season as he struggled to come to grips with the tragedy. Some argue that he shouldn't drive again this year, and others say he's been away too long.

But here's the thing, there's no rulebook on how to deal with tragedy. There's no outline for anger and grief. No one can tell another how to overcome guilt that may be eating away at them. We're human.

Yes, even Tony Stewart, one of the most polarizing figures in NASCAR, is human. He has the temper of a bear, but the heart of a saint. Unfortunately, it's his temper that has gotten most of the attention over the past three weeks. He drives the car with reckless abandon, giving his all every lap. He's angered when something cuts his race short. Racing is his job; he does what he can to be his best.

But isn't that how we all are?

In our jobs and lives we all must deal with grief and disappointment. Think about it. That person who was just passed over for a huge promotion probably won't have a smile on her face for the next few days. The family that just lost someone unexpectedly will undoubtedly grieve. But since most of us live our lives on a much smaller scale than Stewart, our grief and disappointment goes unnoticed to many. We deal with it, and we move on.

As I wrote in the hours that followed the accident and continue to believe, there are only two people who know what really happened on the racetrack on that Saturday night. Two people. Two souls, both forever changed. Two belief systems, shaken to the core.

As Stewart prepares to return to the track this weekend, it's time to let opinions and emotions go. They serve no good as a man forever changed prepares to make his way back to the sport he calls family. Whatever your opinion on the subject is, it doesn't matter. What matters now is getting back to normal.

The racing community will embrace Stewart as he returns to the track this weekend. The family he has created and that stands behind him will welcome him back into their circle. It's for the best. Racing is who he is; it defines him. Staying away too long will only make his heart hurt worse. He's suffered enough, and so has the Ward family. It's time to let both move forward.

We will never forget what happened to Kevin Ward Jr., and we shouldn't. A young man died doing what he loved. He had a long life ahead of him, and we will never get to see the promise that was. Stewart will have to live with his death forever, and if that isn't punishment enough, I don't know what is. It's time to embrace Stewart again as a racer and a human being. His human heart can't take too much more grief. We can only hope he finds peace amongst 42 other drivers, who all understand the emotional roller coaster that he rides every day — 42 other drivers who are his closest family.

Time is moving ahead, and it appears Stewart is ready to move with it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Fast Facts: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Atlanta Motor Speedway - 2013 AdvoCare 500
credit: Getty Images/Mike Ehrmann
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series spend Labor Day weekend under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA. The 1.54-mile quad-oval track has seen expansion, plenty of racing and even a few movies over its 50-plus years on the circuit – here’s a look at this fast track’s history.
  • 1.5-mile Atlanta International Raceway, as the track was known from 1960-1990, broke ground in 1958, the dream of Walker Jackson, Lloyd Smith, Garland Bagley, Ralph Sceiano and Ike Supporter. All but Bagley would jump ship on the project before completion due to insufficient funds, but four more men – Dr. Warren Gremmel, Bill Boyd, Jack Black and Art Lester – joined Bagley and spent $1.8 million to ready the oval track for its debut on July 31, 1960. The inaugural Dixie 200 at Atlanta was won by pole sitter Fireball Roberts.
  • Atlanta’s debut was less than perfect, as much of the track’s facilities still needed attention. The suffering continued for the track into the 1970s, when it was reorganized under Chapter 10 bankruptcy proceedings. The track would struggle through the 1980s as well, until October 23, 1990, when Bruton Smith – founder of Charlotte Motor Speedway and later Speedway Motorsports Inc. – purchased the track and renamed it Atlanta Motor Speedway.
  • In 1991, Smith expanded the East Turn Grandstand and added 30 top-of-the-line suites to the top of the grandstands. In 1994, Tara Place – featuring luxury condos, the Tara Ballroom for events, the speedway’s office and more – opened, and in 1995, the Earnhardt Grandstand was opened. In 1997, the biggest overhaul took place, as the Champions Grandstand was built, the start/finish line was moved from the east side to the west side of the track, and doglegs were added to the new frontstretch, forming the 1.54-mile quad-oval raced on today. The Winners Grandstand opened in 2006.
  • In addition to the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, other series that have raced at Atlanta include the Camping World Truck Series and the IndyCar Series. The track previously hosted two Cup Series races, but the second date went to Kentucky Speedway, another Speedway Motorsports, Inc. facility, in 2011.
  • The late Dale Earnhardt leads all drivers with nine wins and 26 top five finishes at Atlanta. Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman are tied for the most poles with seven poles each. The Cup Series qualifying record was set by Geoffrey Bodine on Nov. 15, 1997 (197.478 mph/28.074 seconds).
  • Three early 1980s car-driven movies were filmed in part at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), Six Pack (1982) and Stroker Ace (1983).
  • Get all the up-to-date racing information for Atlanta Motor Speedway at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tough Times in Tennessee: Clashes and crashes as Logano brings home first Bristol win

Kyle Busch's pit crew works to repair the No. 18 car after a crash on Lap 125.
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs  
It was Bristol Baby!

Bristol’s half-mile event is a perennial fan favorite, and it didn’t disappoint during Saturday’s Irwin Tools Night Race. A wild sequence of dust-ups and frustration highlighted the evening, and from banging metal to thrown equipment to heated words, the World’s Fastest Half Mile stayed at top speed throughout the race.

When the green flag dropped the night was off to a hot but relatively normal start, with polesitter Kevin Harvick taking an early lead until Jeff Gordon passed him on Lap 38. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson picked up speeding penalties (Johnson later got a second one) and Kenseth eased into the lead spot. Cautions began when Josh Wise spun out, followed by a tangle on Lap 125 between Aric Almirola and Brian Vickers that damaged the cars of Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and Clint Bowyer.

A subsequent Denny Hamlin lead was dashed when Kevin Harvick took him out on lap 162 by clipping his car, sending him into the inside pit wall. Visibly upset, Hamlin threw his HANS (head and neck support) device at Harvick’s car. The incident also involved Dale Earnhardt Jr., eliminating him from contention.

Leaders over the course of 500 miles included Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keslowski and Kenseth until Joey Logano claimed the top spot with 44 laps remaining, and held on for the win.

Kyle Busch's Doublemint paint scheme didn’t lead to a sweet outcome with his car or crew chief. Running at the back after a speeding penalty led to significant damage to his No. 18 car when he got caught up in the Almirola-Vickers crash. As he subsequently fell further back in the field, Busch and crew chief Dave Rogers had heated words on the radio. The exchange led to Busch parking the car, leaving the race early and a reported meeting with team owner Joe Gibbs.

In the end, Joey Logano held off Penske teammate Brad Keselowski to earn a spot in Victory Lane under the lights. Penske’s third win of the weekend, it came on the heels of Keselowski’s win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck series race on Thursday and Ryan Blaney’s Nationwide Series win Friday. Logano, Keslowski, Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr. each have three Sprint Cup wins this season, adding Logano to the list of drivers who could potentially enter the Chase seeded No. 1.

"We can win the championship. We've showed it at every kind of race track. We've just got to keep doing it," said Logano.

Brett Jewkes, Vice President, Chief Communications Officer for NASCAR, announced Saturday that the 2015 spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway will be April 17-19.

Final running order:
1. Joey Logano
2. Brad Keselowski
3. Matt Kenseth
4. Jimmie Johnson
5. Kurt Busch
6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
7. Carl Edwards
8. Jamie McMurray
9. Paul Menard
10. Greg Biffle
11. Kevin Harvick
12. Kyle Larson
13. Ryan Newman
14. AJ Allmendinger
15. Jeff Burton
16. Jeff Gordon
17. Clint Bowyer
18. Michael McDowell
19. Justin Allgaier
20. Martin Truex Jr.
21. Brian Vickers
22. Landon Cassill
23. David Ragan
24. Reed Sorenson
25. David Gilliland
26. Casey Mears
27. Danica Patrick
28. Austin Dillon
29. Josh Wise
30. Cole Whitt
31. David Stremme
32. Alex Bowman
33. J.J. Yeley
34. Marcos Ambrose
35. Kasey Kahne
36. Kyle Busch
37. Ryan Truex
38. Michael Annett
39. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
40. Denny Hamlin
41. Aric Almirola
42. Brett Moffitt
43. Dave Blaney

Sprint Cup series action heads south next Sunday evening over Labor Day weekend for the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Travel Tips: Atlanta Motor Speedway – Aug. 29-31, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
Celebrate Labor Day weekend NASCAR-style at Atlanta Motor Speedway, home of this weekend’s Oral-B USA 500 for the Sprint Cup Series and the Great Clips 300 to benefit Feed the Children for the Nationwide Series. The two series visit the 1.54-mile oval Friday through Sunday, Aug. 29-31.

On Thursday, Aug. 28, “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville,” Bill Elliott, will be inducted into “Speed Lane” in downtown Hampton, Georgia at 6 p.m. ET. Following the induction, the Sprint Cup Series Hauler Parade runs through downtown Hampton on the way to Atlanta Motor Speedway beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

On Friday, fans get a chance to ask Sprint Cup stars Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Larson questions on the frontstretch at 8:15 p.m. ET as part of Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka Qualifying Night. After the Q&A session, the USCS Sprint Car will race on the quarter-mile track at Atlanta.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Aug. 29:
  • USCS Sprint Car practice – 11 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup practice – 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series practice – 4 and 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup qualifying – 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka Sprint Car Shootout – 9:15 p.m. ET

Saturday, Aug. 30:
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 3 and 6 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 to benefit Feed the Children – 7:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, Aug. 31:
  • Sprint Cup Series Oral-B USA 500 – 7:30 p.m. ET

Find the complete weekend schedule here.

First-time fans can check this out for tips on enjoying the race.

Find out more about this weekend’s races and purchase tickets at www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.

Travel Tips: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park – Aug. 29-31, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series heads north of the border this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 29-31, for the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmansville, Ontario, Canada. The Truck Series will be joined by the Canadian Touring Car Championship, the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Aug. 29:
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada test session – noon ET
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada practice – 3 and 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Canadian Touring Car Championship practice – 3:45 p.m. ET

Saturday, Aug. 30:
  • Canadian Touring Car Championship qualifying – 8 a.m. ET
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada qualifying – 8:45 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9:30 and 11:35 a.m.ET
  • Canadian Tire Series practice – 10:40 a.m. and 1:10 p.m. ET
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Race No. 1 – 3 p.m. ET
  • Canadian Touring Car Championship Race No. 1 – 4 p.m. ET
  • Canadian Tire Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 5:40 p.m. ET

Sunday, Aug. 31:
  • Canadian Touring Car Championship qualifying – 9 a.m. ET
  • Canadian Tire Series Pinty’s presents the Clarington 200 – 10 a.m. ET
  • Chevrolet Silverado 250 for the Camping World Truck Series – 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Race No. 2 – 4:15 p.m. ET
  • Canadian Touring Car Championship Race No. 2 – 5:15 p.m. ET

Click here for track policies and FAQs.

Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at www.canadiantiremotorsportpark.com

Friday, August 22, 2014

TV Schedule: Aug. 22-24

Bristol Motor Speedway. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
NASCAR takes on the concrete bullring: Bristol Motor Speedway. The Sprint Cup and Nationwide series race under the lights at the temperamental short track, where small quarters mean short tempers.

The following is a handy guide to this weekend's events at Bristol. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Aug. 22:                              
10 a.m. K&N Pro Series Race at Evergreen, FS1
11 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
1:30 p.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3:30 p.m. NNS Qualifying, FS1
5:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, ESPN2
7 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN
7:30 p.m. NNS: Food City 300, ESPN

Saturday, Aug. 23:
3 a.m. NSCS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
4 a.m. NNS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS1
5 p.m. K&N Pro Series Race at Evergreen (re-air), FS2
6 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS2
7 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ABC
7:30 p.m. NSCS: Irwin Tools Night Race, ABC

Sunday, Aug. 24:
3 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
3 a.m. NSCS: Irwin Tools Night Race (re-air), ESPN2
10:30 a.m. NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. NCWTS: UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP (re-air), FS1

Thursday, August 21, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Short trackin' fun at Bristol




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

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Marcos Ambrose and Matt Kenseth
All with 3 - Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin,  Ryan Newman and  
Jimmie Johnson

By Track
Both with 6 - Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne
All with 5 - Kyle Busch, Brian Vickers, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson 

Recent Pole Winners: 
2013 Denny Hamlin
2012 Qualifying rained out
2011 Ryan Newman

The Likely Suspects: With only three races until the Chase begins and some key drivers still without wins, racing on a Saturday night in Bristol will be even more nail-biting and electrifying than usual.
Remember, short-track greats are either wildly wicked or incredibly patient. Look for these drivers to run well on Saturday: Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Brian Vickers and Marcos Ambrose.  Please note that Jeff Burton will be in the No. 14 car car again for Tony Stewart.

My 2 Cents: My perennial no-brainer pick at Bristol is the king of cool and collected: Matt Kenseth; followed closely by his polar opposite, the wild one Kyle Busch. I will round out my team with Marcos Ambrose, Brian Vickers, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon and Jeff Burton. When making your final picks, keep in mind that nearly 64 percent of the Bristol races have been won from the top 10 starting positions. Of those, 33 percent have been won from the front row. Pick carefully, and enjoy the race!

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Navigating the Storms in NASCAR and Life

Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”   ~ Hebrews 12:1b

It’s been a rough couple of weeks in NASCAR. As we approach the Chase, it should be a time of excitement and anticipation. Instead, like a leaky hose gushing oil, tragedy has drained much of the joy from the racing community.

It’s difficult for many fans to gear up for race day knowing the family of Kevin Ward Jr. is grieving after the dirt track accident that claimed his life. At the same time, many fans are also concerned about Tony Stewart, who is grief-stricken because his car struck and killed the 20-year-old.

In the same week, Sherry Pollex, longtime girlfriend of Martin Truex Jr., shared the news that she has ovarian cancer. Then, unbelievably, 21-year-old Amanda Gambacorto lost her life after she crashed her three-quarter midget car during a driving clinic at Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey.

So much sadness. If we haven’t been through a similar situation, we can’t know exactly what the families who lost children in those racing accidents are feeling. We can only vaguely imagine what Stewart is going through or what Pollex is facing.

But some people can empathize. Maybe you do know the feeling of being swallowed up by grief, as it pulls you under again and again. Perhaps you’ve felt the grip of throat-closing fear as test results are revealed. When those things happen, and we’re buffeted by out-of-control circumstances and tilting emotions, we’re desperate for someone to make it better. We need someone to calm the storm.

You know who whips storms into submission? Jesus. Maybe you know the stories.

The disciples were caught in a storm at sea, according to Mark 4:35-41. As waves crashed over the boat, it was filling with water and the men were terrified. They woke Jesus, who was sleeping in the stern, and He calmed the storm with three words: “Quiet! Be still!”

Another time, the disciples were at out at night, without Jesus, when wind and waves began to rock their boat. Amidst the gales, Jesus walked across the rolling whitecaps to join them. When Peter asked to walk on water, too, Jesus made it possible. Then Peter noticed the wind, got scared and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” Peter cried, and Jesus grabbed his hand and pulled him up. (Matthew 14:22-33)

Perhaps you can relate to the disciples’ fear and Peter’s panic. When powerful forces, like the ocean, injustice, disease or death come against us, we can’t stand alone.

But if we cry out to Him, Jesus comes into our storm to stand with us.

The chorus of a song titled “Oceans” (Hillsong United) speaks of keeping our eyes on Jesus, even when the waves keep rising. He is the only path to peace in our personal storms.

Let’s join hands, as NASCAR Nation, and pray for the racing folks — the Ward, Stewart, Gambacorto and Pollex/Truex families — as they navigate through rough seas. Lord, please hold them close as they grapple with everything that’s happened. Calm their hearts and heal their pain, as only You can. Amen.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” ~ Matthew 14:27
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“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Follow on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Fast Facts: Ryan Preece

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Ryan Preece made history in 2013 when he became the youngest champion in tour history. Learn more about this NASCAR Next member, who has been moonlighting in the Nationwide Series, in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Ryan Preece was born Oct. 25, 1990 in Berlin, Connecticut. He began racing quarter midgets at age 7, compiling more than 150 wins and numerous championships by the time he reached age 11. He moved up to midgets at age 12, and began racing tour-type modifieds at age 14.
  • Preece moved into the Whelen Modified and Southern Modified Tours in 2007, finishing 19th in his rookie season in the Whelen Modified Tour. In his first career start in NASCAR Modifieds, Preece finished fifth in a family-owned machine at Caraway on the Southern Tour.
  • In 2008, Preece became the youngest driver in Whelen Modified Tour history to win a pole, coming in the prestigious Stafford Spring Sizzler. He went on to win at Martinsville Speedway from the pole later that year. In 2009, he was runner-up for the championship with 10 top five finishes.
  • 2010 found Preece competing full-time on the Whelen Modified circuit as well as at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut. He finished sixth in points in the Whelen Modified Tour and was runner-up in the SK Modified Division at Stafford. In 2011, Preece raced part-time on the Whelen circuit while competing full-time at both Stafford and Thompson Speedways; Preece won the SK Modified championship at Stafford with 17 top 10 finishes in 18 races, including eight wins.
  • 2012 was a busy year for Preece, as he returned to the Whelen Tour full-time while also competing at Stafford, Thompson and Riverhead on a regular basis. Preece earned two wins and a fourth-place points finish at Stafford, two wins at Riverhead and the Thompson Speedway Modified Division championship on the strength of 10 wins.
  • 2013 was just as busy, as he earned his first Whelen Modified Tour title at an age of 22 years, 11 months and 25 days. Preece also finished second in points at Stafford, third at Thompson and earned three wins and 15 top 10 finishes in 16 starts at Riverhead. He also made his Nationwide Series debut for Tommy Baldwin Racing, finishing 24th.
  • Preece continues to race on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2014 as well as racing at Stafford and Riverhead. Preece also made another Nationwide Series start for TBR, finishing 14th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.
  • Learn more about Preece at his website, www.ryanpreeceracing.com

Monday, August 18, 2014

New On-Track Incident Policy: Boys Don't Have at It?

Robin Pemberton discusses NASCAR's change to its on-track incident policy, Aug. 15, 2014.
Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images   
The Allison brothers and Cale Yarborough slugging it out in the infield at Daytona.

Tony Stewart tossing his helmet at Matt Kenseth's No. 17 car.

These infamous scenarios occurred in the heat of the moment, but after the tragic accident that claimed the life of sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr., we may not see any more -- at least not on the track.

NASCAR recently announced a new policy aimed at keeping drivers in their cars after crashes -- barring a fire, smoke or other safety concerns that force them out of the cockpit -- until safety personnel arrive at the scene. The rule specifies that drivers cannot even loosen their safety belts until directed to do so by a member of the safety crew.

While parts of the rule seems excessive, it's a necessary change.

The accident didn't happen at a NASCAR-sanctioned event, but officials still took action. Perhaps they felt the Ward incident could have an impact on their fiscal future, since one of their biggest stars was involved. Perhaps they felt it was time to put driver safety before ratings.

But maybe it was just time.

While I admit I love a good tangle between two drivers, there have been too many close calls. I don't agree with NASCAR dictating when a driver can loosen the belts and other safety equipment, since these are, in fact, adults. Telling them when to remove their safety belts is micromanagement at its finest. I do agree with the driver having to remain in the vehicle until safety crews arrive. There is just too much going on in those moments after an accident or a parts failure, with cars still on the track, possible fires and safety crews rushing to the scene.

Drivers are still going to be mad at one another, that's a fact. They will find other ways to express their anger. Remember Harvick leaping over Biffle's car in Victory Lane?

Tempers flare and emotions run high. Accidents happen. But hopefully a driver being hit by a fellow driver's car will never occur again. If it means fans don't see another fistfight, then so be it. We'll just have to settle for some great racing.

Travel Tips: Bristol Motor Speedway – Aug. 20-23, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
“Thunder Valley,” aka Bristol Motor Speedway, is the quintessential Saturday night short track.  NASCAR’s top three series along with the Whelen Modified Tour return there this week, Wednesday through Saturday, Aug. 20-23, for four days of racing action.

On Wednesday, head to Knoxville, TN for Food City Race Night at the Expo Center from 4-8:30 p.m. ET. Find out more about the event here. On Thursday, Food City Race Night takes place on State St. from 1-9 p.m. ET. State St. runs from Bristol, Tenn. to Bristol, Va. There will be plenty of music, show cars, vendors, driver appearances, food sampling and more – get all the details here. Tickets for both events are $5 in advance, $6 at the gate.

Thursday’s event is followed by the Ford Transporter Parade, beginning at 9 p.m. ET at Bristol Mall and ending at the speedway. Find out more about the parade here.

Key on-track times:

Wednesday, Aug. 20
  • Whelen Modified Tour practice – 8:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 10 a.m. and noon ET
  • Modified qualifying – 2:45 p.m. ET
  • Truck Series qualifying – 4:40 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour Bush Beans 150 – 6:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 – 8:30 p.m. ET

Thursday, Aug. 21
  • Nationwide Series practice – 1:30 and 3 p.m. ET

Friday, Aug. 22
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 3:40 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 5:40 p.m. ET
  • Nationwide Series Food City 300 – 7:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, Aug. 23 –
  • Pre-race concert with Wynonna Judd – 5:45 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series IRWIN Tools Night Race – 7:30 p.m. ET

Find a full weekend schedule, including driver appearances and special events, here.

Get tickets and more information about this week’s races at http://www.bristolmotorspeedway.com/

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Chase isn’t important as it pertains to Tony Stewart, says Stewart-Haas executive VP


Credit: LJ Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
                                                 
In a brief press conference at Michigan International Speedway this morning, Stewart-Haas Racing staff clearly communicated their priorities and concerns as the next few weeks unfold after the tragic on-track incident that resulted in the death of Ken Ward Jr. At the bottom of that list was the Sprint Cup Chase as it relates to NASCAR three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

“I’ll be honest with you, the Chase is of the lowest priority as it relates to Tony,” said Brett Frood, executive vice president for Stewart-Haas Racing. “As far as the Chase goes the only care I have this weekend is to get Danica in the Chase. Right now it is about getting Tony at a better place than he is right now, and when he is he’ll get back in the car. I don’t care about the Chase,” he added.

When asked about Stewart’s current emotional state and specifics about where he is, Frood simply stated, “Tony is grieving. He is surrounded by his closest friends and family and his location is of a private nature right now.”

The team’s stability was also addressed by comments regarding corporate sponsors.

“From a sponsor standpoint we have the greatest sponsors in the world,” Frood said “They are very caring. They understand that this is very emotional. There is much sympathy for the family of the young man, and they care for Tony. We have a great deal of support from our partners,” he added.

NASCAR veteran driver Jeff Burton, who will be racing the No. 14 car this weekend, also addressed the issue of stability during the press conference.

“My role here is to hopefully provide a little stability to give that team the most chance they can have in a very difficult situation,” Burton said. “Hopefully me being here some way can help – I don’t know how, but hopefully I can find a way to help a healing process to start. That would be my ultimate goal,” he added.

As race weekend continues, Stewart-Haas Racing goes through the familiar steps of preparing, but this time with heavy hearts.

“As far as getting ready for this weekend, the task at hand of Greg (Zipadelli, SHR competition director) and the rest of our crew is to prepare four cars for our drivers and figure out how to win this week in Michigan,” said Frood.

For Burton, it is about giving his all in an awkward, emotion-filled situation.

“Obviously it is an awkward situation for everybody, but there are a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing that work really hard and deserve 100 percent effort from me and that’s what they are going to get,” Burton said.

A timetable for Stewart's return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has not been determined. However, on Monday, Stewart-Haas Racing spokesman Mike Arning said that all "extra-curricular racing plans" for the weekend had been canceled, and "won't resume until further notice."

NASCAR Formalizes On-Track Incident Procedure for Competitors

In the aftermath of the Kevin Ward Jr./Tony Stewart tragic accident, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton announced Friday a new procedure for on-track incidents requiring competitors to stay in their racecars until directed by safety crews to climb out. The new policy will take effect immediately, starting with this weekend's events at Michigan International Speedway.

Last Saturday at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York, the sprint car Stewart was driving hit and killed Ward, 20. Ward had exited his sprint car and walked onto the track when he was struck.

The following are the new rules outlined by NASCAR.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 15, 2014) — In its continued efforts to evolve the safety of its sport, NASCAR announced Friday that it will add a rule that addresses on-track incidents as part of its race procedures. The rule, listed as Section 9-16, will be an addendum to the NASCAR rule book and will apply to all of its racing series, effective immediately.

Section 9-16 On-Track Incident Procedure:

During an Event, if a racecar is involved in an on-track incident and/or is stopped on or near the racing surface and unable to continue to make forward progress, unless extenuating emergency conditions exist with the racecar (i.e. fire, smoke in cockpit, etc.) the driver should take the following steps:

  • Shut off electrical power and, if driver is uninjured, lower window net
  • Do not loosen, disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official
  • After being directed to exit the racecar, the driver should proceed to either the ambulance, other vehicle, or as otherwise directed by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official
  • At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron
  • At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle
All vehicles not involved in the incident or that are able to continue afterwards should slow down to a cautious speed as outlined in Section 10-4 (Yellow Flag), use extreme care as they approach an incident scene, and follow any directions given by safety personnel or NASCAR/Track Officials. Cars in line behind the safety car should not weave or otherwise stray from the line in the vicinity of the incident.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development, says the rule is “part of the evolution of NASCAR’s rules and regulations.”

“Throughout the history of our sport, NASCAR has reviewed and analyzed situations and occurrences that take place not just in NASCAR racing but also throughout all motorsports and other sports,” said Pemberton.  “When we believe we can do something to make our sport safer and better for the competitors and others involved in the competition environment, we react quickly. Safety always has been priority number one at NASCAR.”

As with other behavioral infractions, NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.

- NASCAR press release

TV Schedule: Aug. 15-17

Michigan International Speedway. Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images
In NASCAR, we're not just a community - we're a family. After a trying week following the Kevin Ward Jr./Tony Stewart tragedy, the sport will carry on and race.

The Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series descend on Michigan International Raceway, while the Nationwide Series goes road course racing at Mid-Ohio.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage at Michigan and Mid-Ohio. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Aug. 15:                                    
12 noon NSCS Practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. NCWTS Practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. NASCAR Live, FS1
3 p.m. NCWTS Final Practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. NSCS Practice (re-air), FS1
8:30 p.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1

Saturday, Aug. 16:
3 a.m. NSCS Qualifying (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. NCWTS Final Practice (re-air), FS1
8:30 a.m. NSCS Practice, ESPN2
9:30 a.m. NNS Qualifying, ESPN2
9:30 a.m. NCWTS Qualifying, FS1
11 a.m. NSCS Final Practice, ESPN2
12 noon NCWTS SetUp, FS1
12:30 p.m. NCWTS at Michigan: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by the Cooper Standard Foundation and Brad Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation, FS1
2:30 p.m. NNS Countdown, ESPN
2:45 p.m. NNS at Mid-Ohio: Nationwide Children's Hospital 200, ESPN

Sunday, Aug. 17:
3 a.m. NCWTS at Michigan: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by the Cooper Standard Foundation and Brad Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation, (re-air), FS1
5 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Iowa (re-air), FS1
9 a.m. NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Watkins Glen, FS1
10 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12 noon NSCS Countdown, ESPN
1 p.m. NSCS at Michigan: Pure Michigan 400, ESPN. Re-airs at 1 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Raise Your Voice: Five Questions for Michigan/Mid-Ohio

Michigan International Speedway. Credit: Sean Gardner / NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR is one of the most fan-friendly sports around, and who are we to suppress their voices? This week’s Five Questions includes four fan questions via Twitter, and I tacked one of my own on at the end.

The past seven days have been a whirlwind with the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident fresh in everyone’s minds. Though we don’t know what the long-term repercussions are yet, it’s obvious that Stewart is hurting. If you are a believer in prayer, I strongly urge you to pray for not only the Ward family, but for Stewart as well.

With that said, let’s answer some inquires ahead of the races at Michigan International Speedway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (my home track!).

Has the Race for the Chase been what you thought it would be like when it was announced last winter? Is it better or worse? - @Briancullather My first reaction to the new Chase format was pretty blunt: “This can’t end well.” However, I quickly came around once I thought about it for a bit and realized the endless possibilities. Underdogs screaming from the top of mountains, while alpha males whimper longingly from the unimpressive ground. It’s been even better that what I imagined; two unexpected players –Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger — are in the thick of it. Though the front-runner is still someone associated with a big team (hint: his name rhymes with ‘Kale Jr.’), it’s exciting to think a huge upset could occur. By bounds, it’s better than I expected it to be.

Do “mainstream” journalists know anything about racing? - @ccrms99 The events of this week have shown the ugly side of media, as the likes of CNN and Fox News have exploited the Tony Stewart/Kevin Ward Jr. incident to the third degree. I praise the news stations that tapped into the heart of it all, contacting knowledgeable people and NASCAR journalists. However, the ones who threw Stewart under the bus are the lowest of the low. Not only did they destroy his name, they also got the facts wrong. It’s a crucial line that’s been in place for the media; it separates those who want to wrongfully gain views and those who want to report the truth. That line has been obliterated over the past few days, and I highly doubt it will stop soon.

Who is your pick to win at Michigan on Sunday? – @bt2012abt2012 Michigan is a difficult track to read because it’s both simple and complicated at the same time. Due to it being a 1.5-mile track, many teams have notes that’ll aid them. These types of tracks aren’t known for the most competitive racing, either. Despite this, our saving grace will be … FUEL MILEAGE. Whoever has the best fuel plan will take the checkered, and strategy is abundant in the No. 88 camp. Am I crazy for thinking Dale Earnhardt Jr. could win his fourth race of the season? Maybe, but I’m going with it.

Do you think [Parker] Kligerman should have waited for a “better” ride before jumping into Cup with Swan [Racing] given his situation now? - @babbzabbz What happened with Swan Racing was absolutely heartbreaking; watching a team disband is never a good thing, especially with their focus on young drivers. Kligerman is surely talented, which was apparent while he ran the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Though it was a risky choice that ended too quickly, he made a great decision; he learned a lot about what he wanted in a team and how racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is compared to what he’s accustomed. Everything happens for a reason, and this is no exception.

Why has this week sucked so badly? – @KristenGoRawr (AKA me) This has to be one of the worst weeks in history. Not only has the Stewart/Ward accident filled a needed silence, but two beloved actors in Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall passed away. I hope those two rest in peace. It took another wrong turn when Sherry Pollex, Martin Truex Jr.’s longtime girlfriend, revealed that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Because of this, she requires surgery today, and Truex will be by her side. Pollex’s devotion to pediatric cancer makes this news truly saddening, and I wish them the best as they begin this experience. If there’s anything I’ve learned from dealing with my own mother’s battle with cancer, it’s that tough times don’t last. Tough people do. Pollex is a strong woman who can’t be brought down by this. We are thinking of her. Go Sherry!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stewart to miss Michigan race; Burton to drive No. 14

Tony Stewart has decided not to race at Michigan.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Tony Stewart will miss another Sprint Cup race in the wake of Saturday’s tragedy at Canandaigua Motorsports Park.

The three-time Sprint Cup champion decided to sit out Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday.

Jeff Burton will fill in for Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet.

According to the team release, the driver change applies only to Michigan. Stewart’s plans for upcoming Sprint Cup races have yet to be determined.

Earlier this week, Stewart canceled plans to compete in a sprint car race at Plymouth Speedway in Indiana.

Stewart decided not to compete in Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen one day after the sprint car Stewart was driving at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in New York hit and killed racer Kevin Ward Jr., 20. Regan Smith replaced Stewart in the No. 14 at the last minute.

Ward’s funeral was held Thursday near his hometown of Port Leyden in upstate New York.

The Ontario County Office of Sheriff said Tuesday the investigation into Ward’s death is ongoing and is expected to continue for at least two more weeks.

Burton, Stewart-Haas Racing Executive Vice President Brett Frood and Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Friday at Michigan International Speedway.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Pure Michigan 400



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

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Clint Bowyer and Carl Edwards 
All with  3 - Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano

By Track
Clint Bowyer  - 7
Both with 6 - Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart  
All with 5 - Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Kasey Kahne

Recent Pole Winners:
2013 Joey Logano
2012 Mark Martin

The Likely Suspects: With only four races to go until the Chase, drivers without a win will definitely be making some daring moves in the next few weeks. Among the drivers to keep an eye on this weekend are four who are winless and perform well in the Irish Hills: Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth. Other Michigan greats include Joey Logano and Carl Edwards.

My 2 Cents: When making your picks this week, think Roush Fenway, Fords then Chevys. My "no brainer" pick is a four-way tie among Clint Bowyer, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and Joey Logano. 
My next picks are Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman. I will round out my team with Austin Dillon and Trevor Bayne. Tony Stewart will not be racing this weekend.

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NASCAR fines Harvick's crew chief for Watkins Glen violation

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts & Scuffs, 2014
NASCAR has penalized Kevin Harvick's No. 4 team for a rules violation during Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International. The sanctioning body levied the No. 4 team with a P3 level penalty on Wednesday, fining crew chief Rodney Childers $25,000.

On Sunday, two bean bags left in Harvick's racecar got loose, causing the driver to pit in the opening laps of the Cheez-It 355.

NASCAR deemed the bean bags an unapproved weight violation and an action detrimental to stock car racing.

The P3 infraction under NASCAR's new penalty system is outlined in Section 12-4.3 of the 2014 rule book:
A. Violation examples could include but are not limited to:
1(c): Unapproved added weight and/or weight affixed improperly (e.g. Unapproved added weight (size and material); unapproved added weight location, but not of a nature rising to a higher numbered penalty. 
The infraction violates the following sections in the rule book:
12-1: Actions detrimental to stock car racing;
20-2.3: Added car weight
A. Any weight added to the car must be bolted inside the body shell in an approved weight container and in a position acceptable to NASCAR officials.
Added weight must be in block form of not less than five pound blocks (no pellets) and painted white with the car number or team identification permanently legible on it.
Childers said on his Twitter account Wednesday that the team "made a mistake" and accepted the penalty.
Warning issued to No. 98

NASCAR also issued a warning to Josh Wise's No. 98 team for an infraction involving fuel filler cans that occurred Friday at Watkins Glen.

According to Section 12-4.1 of the NASCAR rule book, the team violated the following rule:
When adding or removing fuel to/from the car in the garage area, the car must be outside the garage structure.
NASCAR noted that multiple warnings given to the same vehicle number or member within an allotted time period will result in one or more penalties in accordance to the rule book.

Mars renews sponsorship of Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing


HACKETTSTOWN, N.J. (August 13, 2014) --- Mars announced today that it has signed new multi-year deals with Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) and National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, Inc. (NASCAR), further anchoring its presence in the sport. The new agreement with JGR will extend the winning partnership that has brought the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota to victory lane 20 times since 2008 and continue with the popular M&M’S brand as the primary paint scheme in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

The renewed contract with the sanctioning body will designate Mars as the Official Chocolate of NASCAR.  Mars will continue to leverage its Official status to ensure its various chocolate brands remain a race day staple for millions of racing fans.

“Mars and its iconic brands have been part of NASCAR for decades, and we’re excited to keep that winning tradition going,” said Roy Benin, chief consumer officer at Mars Chocolate North America. “As the sport has grown throughout the years, so has our involvement in it and we’re incredibly proud of the strong partnership we’ve forged with Joe Gibbs Racing and the league.”

“From connecting with fans to engaging our retail partners and creating passion among our associates, our alliances with Joe Gibbs Racing and NASCAR are tremendously successful,” explained William Clements, Vice President Sponsorships and Sports Marketing at Mars Chocolate North America. “We’re thrilled to extend our partnerships and look forward to celebrating more wins both on and off the track.”

“Mars has been a big part of the Joe Gibbs Racing family and we’re excited to continue what has become a winning relationship,” added Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. “Mars has been such an important partner to us throughout the past six plus seasons, and to have them continue their support inspires us as a team to work even harder every day. Everyone at JGR is committed to ensuring they experience the type of success on and off the track deserving of such a great company.”

“Being the M&M’S driver and representing Mars on and off the track has been one of the proudest accomplishments in my racing career,” said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. M&M’S 18 Toyota for JGR. “This is great news for everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and our fans, but also shows how dedicated Mars is to our sport. With this news, any trip to Victory Lane will be even sweeter.”

“Mars is one of the most recognizable brands in NASCAR and is among the best-in-class marketers in all of sports,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR Chief Operating Officer. “More than two decades after entering NASCAR, Mars continues to help make race day more fun and we couldn’t be more proud to see the company continue to re-invest in our sport.”

To learn more about M&M’S® Racing, visit them on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/MMSRacing.

- Joe Gibbs Racing press release

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Investigation into death of Kevin Ward Jr. expected to last at least two weeks

                                                               Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs  

According to the Ontario County Office of Sheriff, the investigation into the death of Kevin Ward Jr. is ongoing and is expected to continue for at least another two weeks. The information was released in a media statement at 4 p.m. today (August 12). The Sheriff's Department did not take any questions.

The statement also mentioned that details or findings would not be released to the media at this time. However, when the investigation is completed, the Sheriff's Office will meet with members of the Ontario County District Attorney's Office to discuss the investigation into the crash that happened last Saturday at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. More information relating to any determinations would be released at that time.

At press time, there was no word from Stewart-Haas Racing whether Tony Stewart will race Sunday at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. Stewart has cancelled a scheduled start at another sprint car race set for this Saturday at Plymouth Speedway in Indiana.

Last weekend, NASCAR Nationwide driver Regan Smith drove the No. 14 car when Stewart decided not to race in the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen just hours after the incident at Canandaigua.

3M Leaving Greg Biffle to Sponsor Jeff Gordon in 2015


3M is switching teams. The longtime sponsor of Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford will become a primary sponsor of four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet starting in 2015, Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday.

The company signed a three-year deal to serve as Gordon’s primary sponsor for 11 Sprint Cup races each year and an associate sponsor in other events.

Tuesday’s announcement comes after the AARP Drive to End Hunger program last week renewed its sponsorship of Gordon, 43, for the 2015 season. The social campaign will serve as primary sponsor for 13 races next year, down from 22 this season.

All five of 3M’s business units will be involved in the sponsorship deal, according to a team release. The company has been an official NASCAR partner in several categories since 1995.

“At 3M, we play to win, and we push hard every day to do just that,” said Jesse Singh, senior vice president of 3M Global Sales and Marketing, in the release. “With this deal, we align with champion driver Jeff Gordon and an organization at the top of its game in Hendrick Motorsports. What they do in the garage and on the track exemplifies what we’re all about in our labs, plants and business teams around the world.”

Gordon has two wins this season and sits second in the points standings.

“Innovation is what 3M is known for,” Gordon said in the release. “We’ve seen that approach throughout their involvement in NASCAR, and it’s a terrific fit for what we do at Hendrick Motorsports and with the No. 24 team. I’m personally excited about the opportunities and thrilled to represent a company that’s so passionately supported auto racing for such a long time.”

3M’s decision to move to Hendrick Motorsports will end a 10-year partnership with Roush Fenway Racing. The company has been Biffle’s primary sponsor since 2007. The 44-year-old driver recently signed a three-year contract extension with Roush Fenway Racing.

Biffle is winless so far this season and sits 12th in the driver standings.

Biffle took to his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon to thank 3M for their backing.

 "Would like to thank 3M & employees for there 10yr run.. I made a lot of friendships there over the years and that means a great deal to me," he tweeted.

The absence of 3M leaves Roush Fenway Racing searching for sponsorship for the No. 16 Ford for next year. Biffle addressed the sponsor situation on Twitter, saying his team would announce their new sponsor in the coming weeks.

"I am excited to announce our new sponsor in a few weeks!!! Wish we could do it now but you know how contracts are!!!" he said.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Travel Tips: Michigan International Speedway – Aug. 15-17, 2014

credit: NASCAR Media
Michigan International Speedway, in the Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan, hosts the Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 15-17. MIS is set to offer fans plenty of action on and off the track this weekend, including a county music concert and an appearance by Olympic Gold Medalists, Meryl Davis and Charlie White.

Country music fans can check out the Budweiser Acceleration Concert on Saturday, Aug. 16 at the conclusion of the Race Careers for Veterans 200 Camping World Truck Series race. Performing at the show will be Keith Anderson and Tim Dugger. The concert is free to anyone with a Saturday admission ticket, an infield wristband or an APEX wristband.

Davis and White, 2014 Olympic Gold Medalists in Ice Dancing, will give the command to start engines on Sunday, Aug. 17 to kick off the Pure Michigan 400. Both athletes were born and raised in Michigan and are students at the University of Michigan. Learn more about them here.

Nathan’s Famous Hot Dogs will be kicking off the official qualifying tour for the 2015 Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest on Sunday at 10 a.m. ET. Find out more here.

Key on-track event times:

Friday, August 15 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 1:40 and 3 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:35 p.m. ET

Saturday, August 16 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 8:30 and 11 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 9:35 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Race Careers for Veterans 200 – 12:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, August 17 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 – 1 p.m. ET


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