Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fast Facts: NASCAR Next driver James Bickford

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
17-year-old NASCAR Next member James Bickford has shown great talent in his 10-plus seasons of racing on the west coast, but great talent runs in the family – his cousin is four-time Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon. Learn more about the California native in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • James Bickford was born March 16, 1998 in Napa, CA. His father, Tom, made quarter midget parts for Ron Stanley race cars in the late 1970s and early 1980s and later supplied parts to his nephew Jeff, who was competing in quarter midgets at the time. 
  • Bickford began racing quarter midgets in 2004 at age five; in 2007, he won 69 of 75 races entered in one of the three quarter midget divisions he raced in.
  • By 2010, Bickford had won 15 quarter midget championships, including four track championships, two Nor Cal championships and four regional championships, and captured the checkered flag nearly 200 times. 
  • Bickford moved up to Bandoleros in 2010 and Legends in 2011 and 2012; in 2011, Bickford earned the Semi-Pro Legends Championship and won the Rookie of the Year Award for Legends of the Pacific. Part way through the 2012 season, Bickford broke his arm playing football, ending the season on the sidelines.
  • Bickford graduated to stock cars in 2013, running in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model Series and winning the track championship at All American Speedway in Roseville, CA. In 2014, he moved into the K&N Pro Series West; he competed in his first road course race at Sonoma Raceway, where he had some tutoring from cousin Jeff, who has five wins at Sonoma. Bickford was named Rookie of the Year in the series and finished fifth in points in 2014, and continues in the series in 2015.
  • Learn more about Bickford at his website, jbickfordracing.com

Monday, June 29, 2015

Travel Tips: Daytona International Speedway – July 3-5, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series head to Daytona International Speedway for the second time this season to celebrate Independence Day weekend. The Xfinity Series Subway Firecracker 250 runs on Saturday, July 4 and the Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 on Sunday, July 5.

Key on-track times:

Friday, July 3
  • Xfinity Series practice – 2 and 4 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 3 and 5 p.m. ET

Saturday, July 4 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 2:35 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:35 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Subway Firecracker 250 Powered by Coca Cola – 7:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, July 5 –
  • Pre-race concert featuring country star Kip Moore – 6 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca Cola – 7:45 p.m. ET

For a complete schedule of events, including driver appearances and special events in the Sprint FANZONE, click here.

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

Right Sides Only: Sonoma Winning Crew Chief, Adam Stevens

"There's no quit in myself and obviously no quit in this team."

Crew chief Adam Stevens didn't mince words when asked what the win in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma meant to him. 

Credit: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images
Stevens probably anticipated an early win when Joe Gibbs Racing gave him the opportunity to crew chief for Kyle Busch, but he had to wait until midway through the season before making his first trip to Victory Lane. That trip might have come sooner had Busch not missed the first 11 races because of a broken leg and broken foot stemming from an accident in the opening Xfinity Series race the day before the Daytona 500 in February. 

Upon his return to the Cup Series, Busch was granted a waiver that states he will be eligible for the Chase if he wins a race and is in the top 30 in points when the playoff format begins mid-September. He and the No. 18 team are halfway to that goal with their win in Sunday's road race at California's wine country track. Stevens wants to help make that other half a reality, too.

"I'm so focused on getting this team in the Chase, but it's big. Joe and J.D. and everybody gave me a chance and this opportunity to come crew chief a Cup car, and that's not something that anybody can take lightly. I can't say enough about everything that he [Busch] put in to getting back here and getting ready and giving all of us this opportunity," Stevens said after the win.

During those first few races, Stevens worked with several other drivers selected to fill in for the ailing Busch, but working to get "his" driver a shot at the championship is what fuels him.

"This sport is built around competitive drivers, so you know, I come to work every day to do my best to get Kyle in victory lane and to get Kyle a championship," Stevens explained.

He certainly did his best to get his driver to Victory Lane, using a strategic approach as the laps wound down.

"At the end, it just kind of fell into the strategy that we wanted to run anyway, and we knew that we didn't have what we needed to outrun them on old tires, so it was a no-brainer call for me to come down and do everything we could to put him in a position where he could drive to the front," Stevens said. 

Busch started the race in the eleventh position because of an issue in his qualifying run, but was able to rely on Stevens' strategy and a little luck over the course of the race.

"We just tried our best in practice, and we had decent short run speed and were able to show it on some mock runs and not too bad in qualifying until we had a little slip-up there, and it just fell off after maybe 15 laps, 20 laps for sure," Stevens said. "We kind of built our strategy around that and were able to catch some timely cautions and pay good attention there and had some good fortune, too, to be quite honest."

The No. 18 team currently sits 37th in points with 10 more races before the Chase begins. Can the younger Busch perform well enough to secure a spot in the playoffs? One thing is certain. Stevens is going to do everything he can to help his driver get there.  

    Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far. 
    Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Blinded: Five Questions for Sonoma

(Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
I’m a firm believer in giving people a voice. That’s what makes me a writer

I’ve been talking since birth. When I was a baby, I’d lay in my crib and babble to myself. Mom says it was both cute and creepy. Even my preschool teacher knew I’d end up in media, since I’d never shut up in class.

We all go through that shy phase, and it hit me in early high school. Thankfully, I’ve gotten over that. People like me — the loudmouths — have to exist so the quiet people have the confidence to speak. Everyone should feel safe while expressing themselves.

Being blinded by society is another issue.

Many loud people are loud so others don’t question their logic. This is pure ignorance. If you’re going to call attention to yourself, please be accurate in your statements. It makes me cringe when someone drinks someone else’s Kool-Aid and follows without any extra research. Why?

Research. Find out what makes sense to you and draw your opinions from that.

Talk. Express it in a positive, safe way. Don’t let anyone steal your voice.

Live. Put everything together and just roll with it.

NASCAR’s going to “roll with it” all the way to wine country. As the Cup regulars tackle Sonoma, I discuss road course ringers, TV duels and more in this week’s Five Questions.

What off-weekend? The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series took a quick vacation last weekend, and it’s been nothing but “on.” First, Dale Earnhardt Jr. got engaged, which is a big deal if you consider the metamorphosis he’s gone through the past few years. The craziness didn’t stop there; Wednesday brought the news that Kasey Kahne is going to be a daddy. He and girlfriend Sam Sheets are due to meet their baby boy in October. This must’ve been the scheduled time for NASCAR to break the entire Internet, and they succeeded. With NASCAR’s heartthrob becoming a father, can his female fans handle the image of a baby strapped to his chest? The world may never know.

Is the age of the road course ringer over? We switch gears to Sonoma Raceway, one of the two road course stops the NSCS makes. Every type of track has its masters, and the twisty layouts are no different. Some teams contact those masters to drive their cars and increase their chances of a better finish. Despite this standby, it’s being used less and less throughout the years. This is because drivers realize they need to adapt in order to survive. The days of having a road course in the Chase are coming closer and closer. It’s an inevitability. In order to have overall success, drivers need to prepare for that day if they want a championship. Road course ringers, you can hang up your driver suits. Your time to shine has passed.

Will we get our ninth different winner? Sonoma is special in many ways, but one sticks out — the last eight races have brought brand new winners. This is because this venue is very technical. Each turn is unique and requires individual attention. That’s a lot to juggle mid-race, and only the best racers can do so. Hence the plethora of victors. It seems like every year, a new guy comes in and maneuvers the track like a pro. This raises the question: will we see a new face in victory lane? I’m big on trends, so I say yes, and I know just the guy. He’s young, talented and in fantastic equipment. If you guessed Kyle Larson, come on down! You’ve won a prize! Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray are both great at Sonoma, but something about the drive of the No. 42 makes me feel like he’s ready to strike. It’s a hunch, but it’s something, right?

As NBC gets set to take over, should Fox be concerned? The end is near for Fox with the race at Sonoma being its last broadcast of the season. Many fans are excited for this, which raises a few eyebrows. Fox is infamous for their lackluster coverage, complete with their discordant announcing … according to those watching on TV. Now, NBC is jumping in to save the day and take the second half of the races. The company seems dedicated to the sport, too. Their show NASCAR America is a hit, complete with an all-star cast and original content. What does this mean for NASCAR on Fox? Bad things. Fox needs to step up their game. If NBC swoops in and charms everyone’s pants off, they’re going to kill in the ratings. So yes, Fox should be concerned. Very concerned.

How blind are we all? There is no doubt that this week’s focus is on the Confederate flag debate. Even NASCAR is speaking out on this topic, saying they refuse to use the flag in “any official capacity,” something they haven’t done since the 1970s. As politicians call for the banner’s removal from state grounds, I would like to remind you of what this is all about. Nine people were shot and killed at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a 21-year-old man. One of the victims was a state senator who is set to be buried Friday. This is where the focus should be, not on a flag that's hundreds of years old. The victims aren’t even buried, and the mainstream media has already switched over to this issue. I’m disgusted by this, and you should be, too. It doesn’t matter what your stance is on the Confederate flag because it shouldn’t be the focus at this time. A crime is a crime, and hate is the only thing that could fuel such heinous actions. I understand this isn’t a NASCAR-related question, but this has been on my mind this whole week. I’m just hoping I’m not the only one who’s heartbroken by this country’s response.

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Road Racing at Sonoma

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

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

By Track
All with 4 - Jeff Gordon, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson  
All with 3 - Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle

Recent Pole Winners:
2014 & 2013 Jamie McMurray

2013 Flashback
This weekend we'll have the opportunity to see just how this new rules package performs on a road course. My guess is the lack of horsepower is going to be dramatic and drive the open-wheel-racers-turned-stock-car racers more than a tad crazy. Get ready for a few new expletives, and please disregard 2014 statistics when making your fantasy picks.

Top 15 Finishers at Sonoma Raceway on June 23, 2013:
  1. Martin Truex Jr.           
  2. Jeff Gordon           
  3. Carl Edwards           
  4. Kurt Busch           
  5. Clint Bowyer           
  6. Kasey Kahne           
  7. Marcos Ambrose           
  8. Greg Biffle           
  9. Jimmie Johnson           
  10. Kevin Harvick           
  11. Joey Logano           
  12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.           
  13. Brian Vickers                                    
  14. Paul Menard           
  15. Ryan Newman 
The Likely Suspects: This 1.99 mile track suits the racing style of these elite drivers who will run well this weekend: Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray. Now, repeat after me: "I will not pick road race ringers, I will not pick road race ringers."

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch. My next picks are Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray. I'm rounding out my team with Danica Patrick and David Gilliland.

My final four: Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Danica Patrick.

Points to ponder:
  • Eighteen different NSCS drivers have won at Sonoma Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with five wins. Tony Stewart has the second most wins (two) among active drivers at Sonoma; eight other active drivers have a single win.   
  • Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Sonoma in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six: Jeff Gordon (five) and Jimmie Johnson (one).
  • Six different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Sonoma, led by Chevrolet with 10 victories, followed by Ford with seven, Toyota (three), Dodge (three), Pontiac (two) and Buick (one).
  • The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more wins (five) than any other starting position at Sonoma Raceway.    
  • Nineteen of the 26 (73%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Sonoma have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Sonoma with four, followed by Tony Stewart with three.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter @purplecatpr.

TV Schedule: June 26-28

Sonoma Raceway. Credit: Jonathan Ferrey / NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR goes left and right this weekend at Sonoma Raceway in beautiful wine country. After being off last weekend, the Sprint Cup Series is the only one of the three top-tier series on track this weekend.

The XFINITY Series is off this week and will return at Daytona. The Camping World Truck Series is on an extended break until July 9 at Kentucky.

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

Friday, June 26:
3 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS2
6:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS2

Saturday, June 27:
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Qualifying, FS1

Sunday, June 28:
2 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay - Sonoma, FS1
3 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Toyota/Save Mart 350, FS1
Midnight (Monday) NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Rookie Stripe: How and Why Sponsorships Drive NASCAR

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
During the genesis of NASCAR in the late 1940s and through its first few decades, most sponsors were a relatively trivial part of racing when it came to the ostentation and heady excitement of the track. Especially in those early years, sponsorships were rooted in the automotive business or came by way of local mom-and-pop auto repair shops or small-town companies.

In 1971, the federal government’s ban on cigarette ads presented a big problem for tobacco powerhouse R.J. Reynolds. He found himself suddenly in need of not only innovative ways to advertise, but an advertising venue that would enable him to reach the same masses of people that TV had offered.

They say there’s no smoke without fire, right?
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

That’s when Reynolds’ eyes, and cash, turned to NASCAR. He bought the rights to name the top tier series in 1972 and the Grand National Series became the Winston Cup Series. In the years to follow, the investment lit up sponsorships, opening the doors for top-dollar sponsors for other NASCAR series, teams and drivers. It wasn’t too long after the Reynolds sponsorship that the No. 43 of Richard Petty picked up oil additive company STP as a big-name sponsor.

In case you're wondering, the Winston Cup Series became the NEXTEL Cup Series in 2003, and then the Sprint Cup Series in 2008 when NEXTEL merged with Sprint.

With races at 23 tracks in 20 states each season, NASCAR retains a fan base of millions, and has one of the most loyal followings in sports, with fierce devotion and driver allegiance. All of those eyeballs are a rich opportunity for marketers, and companies are eager to get their names in front of fans. According to AdWeek, a 2013 Sprint Cup series primary sponsorship cost $5 million to $35 million and associate sponsorships cost anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million.

There’s no denying that’s some fast cash.

Any corporate sponsorship deal is usually negotiable and can include anything from appearances at corporate events to product placement to drivers starring in television commercials for the company and more. Deals may be for just one race, part of a season or an entire season. Budweiser® and Jimmy Johns® are the primary sponsors of Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet, so it’s highly doubtful you’d ever see him in public drinking a Miller Genuine Draft® or eating a Subway® sandwich. If you stroll the garage area before a race you’ll see haulers lined up in formation with exquisite precision, each bright and shiny with sponsor logos. You may see displays of M&Ms® candies outside Kyle Busch’s No. 18 hauler, or guests of Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 hauler sipping 5-hour ENERGY® drinks. Drivers and even crew chiefs seem to mention their sponsor names on cue almost every time they’re in front of the camera to the point that the brands just seem like a ubiquitous part of a race.

Sponsorships are that important. Without sponsor money, NASCAR couldn’t race.

Since being in front of fans is crucial, sponsorship deals ultimately drive what a stock car will look like from race to race. NASCAR.com says that a primary sponsorship includes logo placement on the hood of the car, the rear-quarter panel, the deck lid, the TV panel and the roof panel, and the sponsor may also get to select the car’s paint scheme and colors. The lower rear-quarter panel may alternate sponsors if a driver has multiple primary sponsors; for example Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Bass Pro Shops® and 
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
Mobil 1® sponsorships. Associate sponsors have stickers along the windows and fenders which vary in size and cost, usually from $200,000 on up. For more on primary and associate sponsorship logo placement, see How Stuff Works.

All sponsors get their names in front of fans, if they can read them as they zoom past. Talk about mobile messaging.

And what does all of that sponsorship money pay for? Racing is an expensive sport, so I think that would make a great future Rookie Stripe topic. Stay tuned.

After the 2016 NASCAR season, the Sprint Cup series will change names when Sprint ends its longstanding sponsorship deal of the top series. With an asking price of a $1 billion, 10-year title sponsor, NASCAR will need a new series sponsor with some seriously deep pockets.

Dolla dolla bill y’all.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fast Facts Redux: AJ Allmendinger

AJ Allmendinger at Charlotte - May 2015
credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts & Scuffs
AJ Allmendinger is one of NASCAR’s most talented road racers, and finally visited victory lane in 2014 at Watkins Glen International in New York. Learn more about the driver of the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG Daughterty Racing in an updated Fast Facts, originally published in June 2011.
  • Anthony James Allmendinger was born Dec. 16, 1981 in Los Gatos, California. His earliest success in racing came in karts, where he won two International Kart Federation (IKF) Grand National Championships.
  • Allmendinger raced in the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship in 2002 as well as the Barber Dodge Pro Series, where he won the championship. He moved to the Toyota Atlantic Series in 2003 with RuSport, earning the championship and Rookie of the Year titles on the strength of nine poles and seven wins in 12 races.
  • RuSport moved up to Champ Car in 2004, and Allmendinger continued to impress: he earned another Rookie of the Year award on the strength of 11 top 10 starts and nine top 10 finishes; he was also the first American driver to earn the AUTOSPORT International Rookie of the year award. Allmendinger competed in the series until 2006, collecting five wins, 14 podium finishes and two poles in 40 races.
  • Allmendinger moved on to NASCAR late in the 2006 season, running a handful of Camping World Truck Series races for Bill Davis Racing. He was named a full-time driver for Team Red Bull in 2007, remaining with the team until his release late in the 2008 season.
  • After his release from Team Red Bull, Allmendinger signed a one-race deal with Michael Waltrip Racing, then finished the 2008 season with Gillett Evernham Motorsports. He transitioned to Richard Petty Motorsports when Petty Enterprises merged with GEM, where he stayed until the end of the 2011 season.
  • After winning in the Daytona Prototype division at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Allmendinger joined Team Penske for the 2012 season. In July of that year, Allmendinger failed a random NASCAR drug test, leading to his suspension from the series and release by Team Penske. Allmendinger successfully completed NASCAR’s Road to Recovery program and was reinstated in September.
  • After competing in a handful of races for Phoenix Racing at the end of the 2012 season, Allmendinger signed on with the team as a part-time driver in 2013. He also resigned with Team Penske and competed in both the Nationwide (now Xfinity ) Series and the IndyCar Series; he finished seventh in his Indy 500 debut in 2013, and won both road races in the Nationwide Series, at Road America and Mid-Ohio.
  • Allmendinger also raced twice for JTG Daugherty Racing in 2013, leading to his signing with the team for 2014.
  • Learn more about Allmendinger at the JTG Daugherty Racing website, www.jtgdaughertyracing.com

Monday, June 22, 2015

Travel Tips: Sonoma Raceway – June 26-28, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The Sprint Cup Series and K&N Pro Series West are joined by the Pirelli GT3 Cup Trophy USA series when they visit Sonoma, California for the Toyota SaveMart 350 weekend at Sonoma Raceway this Friday through Sunday, June 26-28. This marks the first of two road course races on the Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2015.

On Thursday, June 25, the fifth annual Sprint Cup Series Parade rumbles into Sacramento, making its way over the Tower Bridge and around the State Capital beginning at noon PT. Find the parade route and more information about the event here.

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

Key on-track event times:

Friday, June 26 –
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy USA practice – 9:30 a.m. and 3:05 p.m. PT
  • K&N Pro Series West practice – 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. PT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – noon and 3:30 p.m. PT
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy USA qualifying – 5:10 p.m. PT

Saturday, June 27
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy USA practice – 8:15 a.m. PT
  • K&N Pro Series West qualifying – 9:45 a.m. PT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 11:15 a.m. PT
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy USA Race No. 1 – 12:30 p.m. PT
  • Carneros 200 K&N Pro Series West race – 2 p.m. PT

Sunday, June 28 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Toyota/SaveMart 350 – noon p.m. PT
  • Porsche GT3 Cup Trophy USA Race No. 2 – following Sprint Cup Series race

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

TV Schedule: June 19-20

Iowa Speedway. Credit: Todd Warshaw / NASCAR via Getty Images
The Sprint Cup Series is off this week, putting the spotlight on NASCAR's two other top-tier series.

The XFINITY Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway, and Camping World Truck Series gets on track at Iowa Speedway.

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

Friday, June 19:
11 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS2
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS2
5:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series qualifying, FS2
7 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS2
8:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: American Ethanol 200, FS1

Saturday, June 20:
5 p.m. XFINITY Series qualifying, FS2
9:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Owens Corning AttiCat, FS1

Times are Changing: Five Questions for the Off-Weekend

Chicagoland Speedway. Credit: Jeff Zelevansky / NASCAR via Getty Images

Are more standalone events in the future? Let me clarify: this weekend is an off-weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series are still going hard in two different locations. With the second-tier at Chicagoland Speedway and the third level at Iowa Speedway, racing action is spread out — which is a great thing. Although some series regulars enjoy racing against the Cup guys, they won’t be there to cloud up the view. I agree that it’s important to race against Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick to learn and strengthen your talents. I also agree that they can hog the wins and spotlight. These standalone events are the middle ground, and they provide the attention each series needs and deserves. If NASCAR ever makes drastic changes to the schedules (something that I highly doubt will ever happen), I hope they opt for more solo stops. They’re precious stones in NASCAR’s bejeweled crown.

Does Twitter craze over Earnhardt/Reimann engagement signify a problem? Congratulations are in order for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Amy Reimann, who announced their engagement via Twitter on Wednesday morning. The two, along with other Earnhardt family members, are exploring the history of the famous surname. It’s been a long time coming for the lovely couple, and fans on Twitter are ecstatic. However, various articles appeared on Sporting News, Fox Sports and other outlets about the engagement, which somewhat irks me. Is this actually news? I wrote a paper on the biggest blunders in modern-day media for my Principles of Journalism class last semester; on the list (I did the top five mistakes — how fitting), I discussed that the entire complex of media is messed up. Everything is considered news these days, and that devalues everything. Sure, this is a joyous event, and I’m thrilled to see how the wedding works out. This just doesn’t fuel various articles about the engagement, yet it’s a sign of the times.

Can fallen tracks rise again? The sad truth about racetracks is many fall into disarray after they’ve run their course. This was the case for my local track, Mansfield Motorsports Park. The half-mile oval hasn’t seen action since 2010 — but that’s about to change. Sunday marks racing’s return to Mansfield, Ohio with super-modifieds highlighting the Father’s Day event. The former Truck Series track is just one of the many venues that have fallen off the radar. One of the high-profile examples is North Wilkesboro Speedway, which I’ve discussed before. MMP — now known as Spitzer Motor Speedway — can give those forgotten tracks hope for a second chance. If you think I’m acting crazy, look up the history of this Ohio track. It’s been a wild ride for that beauty. If MMP can do it, others can, too.

Is Michael Waltrip Racing the next Roush Fenway Racing? I tend to be a positive person, but I know a train wreck when I see one. RFR is having an identity crisis since Carl Edwards left — and it's showing. They’ve become the standard for disappointing seasons. Now, it looks like another team is following their footsteps. Ever since the “itchy arm incident,” MWR has become a dismal place. They’ve recently swapped crew chiefs to salvage their work. To me, the team’s downfall is inevitable unless major changes are made. Maybe they need to align themselves with a new team, switch manufacturers, something to kickstart the magic. They have very capable drivers in Clint Bowyer and David Ragan, and I’d hate to see this team fall apart. Let’s hope they do what they need to do.

Will this new rules package solve anything? The biggest news of the week happened Tuesday, where news of a new rules package was confirmed. The changes will only be for the Kentucky Speedway weekend (for now), but they truly look promising. Shorter spoiler, less splitter overhang, and tires with more grip highlight the changes. This will overall decrease the downforce on the cars, which is music to the fans’ ears. Surprisingly, many drivers agree that it’s a good start. Usually, whatever the fans like, the drivers dislike. Spectators want things that make the cars more difficult to drive. Those behind the wheel? Not so much. It’s a constant tug of war game, but this could be the common ground. It’s a fantastic move and a huge step in the right direction. So yes, this will solve anything, something, maybe everything, and I am pumped to see it at Kentucky Speedway.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Faith on the Frontstretch: Martin Truex Jr. Counts His Blessings After Pocono Win

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

Martin Truex Jr.’s victory at Pocono, which ended his 69-race dry spell and came just a few days after his grandmother passed away, was reportedly the most popular win in the garage area in a long time. It made history, too, making Truex Jr. the first driver to earn 14 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races of a season since Richard Petty did it in 1969.

Perhaps the win represents renewed hope and triumph over adversity for Truex and girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, as she continues once-a-month chemo for ovarian cancer. For Truex personally, it might even bring a little redemption, because after being kicked out of the 2013 Chase after a scandal with his former team, he’s now a shoe-in for this year’s playoff races.

Even the guys who raced him up front for the win, Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson, were thrilled for Truex.

“I think when you look at everything personally that Martin and Sherry have dealt with, I'm just super, super happy for them personally,” said Harvick, who finished second. “To see them have that bright spot of today is something that I think the whole garage is going to support and be happy with.”

Third-place finisher Johnson summed up how Truex handled the daunting situations in his life with grace.

“He's had more to overcome personally and professionally than probably anybody sitting in a seat right now, and for him to still walk in the garage every week with a smile on his face, climb in the car, put in the effort, be the great guy he is, I think speaks volumes.”

Even after a miserable 2014 with only one top-five finish and one lap led, Truex said he wouldn’t change anything that happened last year with his team. Why? Because he feels it shaped him into the guy he is today.

“… if I could change it so none of that stuff ever happened, I'm not sure I would,” Truex said. “I think it's kind of changed me. It's made me a better person. It's made me understand life a lot more, made me appreciate the things I do have more, and you know, honestly, as long as Sherry stays healthy from here on out, I think it's kind of weird to say, but it's almost a blessing in disguise.”

Bad times can be a blessing in disguise. It might sound weird, but it’s true.

Have you ever experienced a valley in life that seemed horrible at the time, but ended up benefiting you in deep ways you can’t even explain?

Strange as it seems, sometimes those hard times bring about blessings. The difficulties and pain end up being the very things that refine our faith and show us God’s trustworthiness. As we start to climb out of the valley, the fog lifts, and we notice and appreciate the good things in life – even the smallest blessings – so much more.

If you’re in the midst of a trial right now, it probably doesn’t seem like a blessing. Hang in there, dear one. God has you! Allow Him to strengthen you for the journey. Then someday, like Truex, you’ll be able to look back at this rough patch through eyes of faith and see God’s blessings in your life.

These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. ~ 1 Peter 1:7(NLT)

“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the NASCAR season. Follow Beth 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, June 16, 2015

Fast Facts: NASCAR Next driver Kyle Benjamin

Kyle Benjamin in victory lane in Bristol
credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
Up until May 2015, NASCAR Next driver Kyle Benjamin held the record as the youngest winner in ARCA Racing Series history, winning in Aug. 2013 at just shy of 16 years of age. Learn more about the young Roush Fenway Racing development driver in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Kyle Benjamin was born Nov. 3, 1997 in Easley, SC. He began racing at age 6 in go-karts and quarter midgets; in his second season of competitive racing, he earned 19 wins and 47 top five finished in numerous series and classes.
  • From 2006 to 2008, Benjamin competed in Bandoleros, winning the South Carolina State Championship all three seasons, the Bandolero Nationals in 2007 and the Bandolero Winternationals in 2008. In 2008 and 2009, he also competed in 3/4-scale race cars in the Pro Challenge Series, winning 15 features in 23 starts in 2009 and taking home the Southern Division Championship.
  • In 2010, Benjamin jumped into Pro and Super Late Model competition around the southeast. He continued in full-sized cars in 2011, and in 2012 won the Super Late Model Championship at the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida in February.
  • Benjamin stepped up again in 2013, competing in the ARCA Racing Series and K&N Pro Series East. He finished second in his ARCA Racing Series debut at Mobile, and earned a top five finish in his K&N Pro Series East debut in Sept. at Dover. In 2014, Benjamin signed a development deal with RFR.
  • For 2015, Benjamin will compete full-time in the K&N Pro Series East for his family-owned Benjamin Motorsports. In April, he led 81 of 125 laps to earn his first K&N Pro Series East victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
  • Learn more about Benjamin at www.kylebenjamin.com

Travel Tips: Chicagoland Speedway – June 19-20, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Xfinity Series is joined by the ARCA Racing Series this weekend, Friday and Saturday, June 19-20, for the Owens Corning AttiCat 300 and Scott 150, respectively, at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL.

Friday on-track activity is only open to campers in the Skyline Terrace. The day will include practice sessions for both series.

While you’re at the track on Saturday, check out the Drive ‘n Dad Car Show beginning at 11 a.m. CT and Guy – A Men’s Expo presented by 22nd Century Media from noon to 6 p.m. CT. There will also be an Xfinity Series autograph session at 2:30 p.m. CT for those who are lucky enough to get wrist bands – visit the CLS booth in the Infield Fan Zone at noon CT for wrist bands (limit 200).

Key on-track times:

Friday, June 19 –
  • Xfinity Series practice – 2:30 and 6 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 4 p.m. CT

Saturday, June 20 –
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 2:30 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 4:15 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series Scott 150 – 6 p.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series Owens Corning Atticat 300 – 8:30 p.m. CT

Check out the complete weekend schedule here.

For additional information on Chicagoland Speedway, and to purchase tickets and Fan Zone pit passes, visit www.chicagolandspeedway.com.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

Travel Tips: Iowa Speedway – June 19-20, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series is joined by the USAC Silver Crown Series in Newton, Iowa, home of Iowa Speedway, for this weekend’s American Ethanol 200 and Casey’s General Stores 100, respectively. The Truck Series race will be run on Friday, June 19, with the Silver Crown cars running Saturday, June 20.

There will be a Truck Series autograph session at the North Grandstand on Friday at 3:15 p.m. CT. Also on Friday, the NAPA Auto Parts post-race concert will feature Finger Eleven.

Key on-track times:

Friday, June 19 –
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 10 a.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 200 – 7:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, June 20 –
  • USAC Silver Crown Series practice – 10 and 11 a.m. CT
  • USAC Silver Crown Series qualifying – 12:30 p.m. CT
  • USAC Silver Crown Series Casey’s General Stores 100 – 2 p.m. CT

Visit www.iowaspeedway.com for more information on the weekend and to purchase tickets.

Right Sides Only: Michigan Winning Crew Chief, Tony Gibson

Crew chiefs often say that the race starts on Friday. Tony Gibson is no exception. 

As the No. 41 Haas Automation team led by Gibson and driver Kurt Busch discussed their rain-soaked win at the Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Gibson was the first to say it.

"Well, it started on Friday. It was kind of crazy. We wrecked our primary fairly early there in practice, so the guys did a great job getting the backup car out. We had tested that car in Vegas so we felt comfortable it would run pretty good.

"So we didn't qualify all that great. I know the first round was good for us, but second round we just got too tight. But Saturday went fairly well, made some adjustments that helped the car. It was probably a fifth- to eighth-place car and then overnight we kind of worked on it a little bit more."  

Gibson also took to Twitter on Friday where he posted a quote from none other than Dale Earnhardt Sr., "The winner ain't the one with the fastest car; it's the one who refuses to lose." Knowing what they were facing with their backup car, Gibson obviously wanted to stress his belief in Earnhardt's sentiment, and he continued to believe it throughout the race.

The race took longer than anticipated because of the numerous red flags for rain, and ultimately was called by track officials after 138 of the scheduled 200 laps. Officials even called for those in the stands to take precautions during an impressive display of lightning in the area.

Crew chiefs can generally make adjustments during a race as day gives way to night or temperatures fluctuate, but rain causes its own set of problems. 

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
"We were just guessing on the weather. Looking at the weather, we knew it was going to be rain off and on, but when the sun pops out, it just makes this place really slick, so we kind of gambled on the track getting slick and loose, so we may have overachieved a little bit to start with, but I think our car was tight enough at the start to where we could pass cars and other guys were a little bit too free," Gibson said.

"It worked out that we drove our way up to 12th I think it was, and then from there my plan was to do right sides. Last night [Saturday] my plan was to do right sides at the competition yellow no matter what anybody did, because I was planning on having to get a lot of track position, but once we got to 12th, I'm like what do I do now because I'm passing cars pretty good.
"I stuck with it. I knew if I could get to Lap 77 I would be fine, so I ran it light of fuel. We didn't run all the fuel when we stopped that time. We just put enough in it to get us to Lap 77, and that got us up to sixth or seventh, I think, at that point, so that little bit of gamble worked out for us.
"And then from there the car was really strong. He drove himself up into the top five, and we knew from there it was just going to be pit the least amount of times that we needed to pit because of the weather. We could see the storms were starting to build and back build and come. It's stressful when it rains like that, when it's off and on and off and on. You're looking at a radar screen but you don't know exactly when it's going to hit," he explained.

"It was pretty stressful for everybody but everybody stayed calm and cool. Rick Carelli did a great job in the spotting stand keeping Kurt informed. I would keep him informed on the weather and he would tell Kurt. Everyone just worked good as a team today, and it kind of paid off.
"We just made the right adjustments overnight to pick the track where it was going to be, and that's why we were able to drive up through there."

Gibson took time on Saturday evening to discuss the potential weather troubles with his driver as well as two of the team engineers.

"We're working on how to get better going from Saturday to Sunday predicting races and pace and all that kind of stuff. We're nowhere near where we need to be, but we talked to Kurt, and then when he left the truck yesterday, we had a pretty close game plan to what we were going to stick to going into today as far as changes and we stuck to that. I was a little nervous that we would be a little bit on the too-free side, but we're learning. We're learning as a team, and you know, sitting down and communicating with one another and our engineers on going forward to try to keep the balance of the car a little bit closer. We haven't been so good at that here lately," he said.
"I thought we hit it pretty close today. I know we had a decent car. I think there was a couple cars that may have been a little bit better than us, but I think the adjustments we did today were based off of stuff we did at Pocono, which helped us, but I thought our balance stayed pretty good and our speed was really good all day.
"It comes down to this Chase deal, it's like we want to win every week. People ask you, are you going to go lax, are you going to take it easy, and you can't. It's like everything we do is -- whether it's an adjustment or whether it's the right way or the wrong way or predicting weather, what the car is going to do, all that's going to help us in the Chase when it comes time.

"We're still working hard on it, and like I said, we're nowhere near where we need to be, but we're working hard, but we're working together as a team."

Teamwork seems to be paying off. This win is their second of the season, putting them in elite company with Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson as the only three drivers with multiple wins, a feat the elder Busch hasn't achieved since 2011.

Rain-shortened or not, a win is a win, and the No. 41 team has solidified its place in the Chase. Elite company indeed.


    Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far. 
    Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

Friday, June 12, 2015

TV Schedule: June 12-14

Michigan International Speedway. Credit: Will Schneekloth / NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR  heads to the Midwest. The Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series converge on Michigan, while the Camping World Truck Series returns to Gateway Motorsports Park.

The following is a handy guide to this weekend's events at Michigan and Gateway Motorsports Park. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, June 12:
11:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
1 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
4 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS2

Saturday, June 13:
9 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
10 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
Noon Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
1 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
1:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Great Clips 250 Benefiting Paralyzed Veterans of America, FS1
5:30 p.m. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS2
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Setup, FS1
8:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: American Ethanol Presentes Drivin' for Linemen, FS1

Sunday, June 14:
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay: Michigan, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Quicken Loans 400, FS1
6 p.m. Being: Stewart-Haas Racing, FS1

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan

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

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer 
All with  3 -  Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Joey Logano 

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 8
All with 5 - Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle and Paul Menard
All with 4 -  Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson

Recent Pole Winners:
2014 Kevin Harvick
2013 Carl Edwards

2013 Flashback
This season may come down to the Jimmie and Kevin show, but it sure has been interesting to see how long is has taken some drivers to get adjusted to this new rules package with less horsepower and downforce. And then there are the drivers who haven't gotten a handle on it yet. If you have been following this column, you know that I am not placing much emphasis on last year's statistics. In fact, when doing final picks I weigh 2013 much more heavily.

Top 15 Finishers at Michigan International Speedway on June 16, 2013:
  1. Greg Biffle           
  2. Kevin Harvick
  3. Martin Truex Jr.           
  4. Kyle Busch           
  5. Tony Stewart           
  6. Matt Kenseth           
  7. Clint Bowyer           
  8. Carl Edwards           
  9. Joey Logano           
  10. Jeff Burton           
  11. Austin Dillon           
  12. Brad Keselowski           
  13. Danica Patrick
  14. Paul Menard           
  15. Trevor Bayne            
The Likely Suspects: This two-miler has been a very good track for these drivers: Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Paul Menard. 

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is Kevin Harvick. My next picks are Matt Kenneth, Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle and Paul Menard. I will complete my team with (gulp) Ryan Blaney and Danica Patrick. Starting position is crucial this week, so pay careful attention to the starting lineup when doing your final picks. Think top 10!

My final four: Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard and Danica Patrick.

Points to ponder:
  • The Coors Light pole position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (18) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway.    
  • Of the 91 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan, 26 (28.5%) have been won from the front row: 18 from the pole and eight from second place.
  • Three-quarters of the Sprint Cup races at Michigan (69 of 91) have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Carl Edwards leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Michigan with a 9.714.
  • Jeff Gordon leads the series in runner-up finishes at Michigan with eight, followed by Darrell Waltrip with seven and Kevin Harvick with five.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter @purplecatpr.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rookie Stripe: The Inside Track on NASCAR Tracks

36 races. 23 tracks. 20 states. 

On my rookie journey, one conclusion I’ve come to is: numbers are pretty important in NASCAR – and that goes beyond just the numbers on the sides of stock cars.

There are 36 points races in the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Races run at different tracks, and some tracks host two Cup events during the year. Teams are always on the move across the country all season long; 23 tracks in 20 states to be precise.
CREDIT: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

Every track is different, varying in size, composition of the surface material, layout and other elements depending on its geographic location. For example, the oval track at Bristol is .5333 miles in circumference while the Superspeedway at Talladega is a whopping 2.66 miles around. Banking, or the incline of the outside lanes that helps drivers turn, is calculated in degrees at each site and can vary widely. These factors and more are pivotal in racing strategy for each driver and his or her team as they move from track to track.

In some ways, traveling between tracks reminds me of frogs hopping among the lily pads in a pond. They hang out on one lily pad for a while, do their important work like catching bugs and surviving, and then move on to the next lily pad. Every lily pad has its unique characteristics, just like no two tracks are the same. The frogs might even go back to a lily pad previously visited that same season and see if their luck gets better. In the big pond, all the lily pads have an important role; it just comes down to game plan and taking chances to get ahead.

Just don’t ask the frogs to count their bugs please. We have enough numbers to contend with already.

One of the most helpful ways to classify NASCAR tracks to understand them is by size. Tracks that are less than one mile are called short tracks, greater than one mile but less than two miles are intermediate tracks, and longer than two miles are superspeedways. There are also road courses, which includes left and right hand turns, instead of the typical oval that allows for only left-hand turns. Although all races are quantified by both laps and distance, many fans think of short tracks by laps and speedways more in mileage.

Here’s a list of the tracks in each category that are currently part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series:

Short Tracks: Bristol, Dover, Martinsville, Phoenix, Richmond
Intermediate Tracks: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicagoland, Darlington, Homestead, Kansas, Kentucky, Las Vegas, New Hampshire, Texas
Superspeedways: Daytona, Fontana, Indianapolis, Michigan, Pocono, Talladega
Road Courses: Auto Club Speedway, Watkins Glen

One of the first terms I learned when I started following NASCAR was ‘circuit’, as it relates to racing or track-hopping. The Sprint Cup NASCAR circuit begins at Daytona in February and concludes at Homestead Miami in November. On its website NASCAR has a current list of tracks that are on the Sprint Cup Series race circuit, and the length of each:

Atlanta Motor Speedway (Hampton, Georgia) Length: 1.54 miles
Auto Club Speedway (Fontana, California) 2 miles
Bristol Motor Speedway (Bristol, Tennessee) 0.533 mile
Charlotte Motor Speedway (Concord, North Carolina) 1.5 miles
Chicagoland Speedway (Joliet, Illinois) 1.5 miles
Darlington Raceway (Darlington, South Carolina) 1.37 miles
Daytona International Speedway (Daytona Beach, Florida) 2.5 miles
Dover International Speedway (Dover, Delaware) 1 mile
Homestead-Miami Speedway (Homestead, Florida) 1.5 miles
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Indianapolis, Indiana) 2.5 miles
Kansas Speedway (Kansas City, Kansas) 1.5 miles
Kentucky Speedway (Sparta, Kentucky) 1.5 miles
Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Las Vegas, Nevada) 1.5 miles
Martinsville Speedway (Martinsville, Virginia) 0.526 mile
Michigan International Speedway (Brooklyn, Michigan) 2 miles
New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon, New Hampshire) 1.058 miles
Phoenix International Raceway (Avondale, Arizona) 1 mile
Pocono Raceway (Long Pond, Pennsylvania) 2.5 miles
Richmond International Raceway (Richmond, Virginia) 0.75 mile
Sonoma Raceway (Sonoma, California) 1.99 miles
Talladega Superspeedway (Talladega, Alabama) 2.66 miles
Texas Motor Speedway (Fort Worth, Texas) 1.5 miles
Watkins Glen International (Watkins Glen, New York) 2.45 miles

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Fast Facts Redux: Kurt Busch

credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts & Scuffs
2004 Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch began his NASCAR career in 2000 after winning the Roush Racing Driver X competition in 1999. Here are the updated Fast Facts through the end of 2014 on the driver of the No. 41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing, originally published in Feb. 2011.
  • Kurt Thomas Busch was born Aug. 4, 1978 in Las Vegas, NV and attended Durango High School. He is the older brother of NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, and their father, Tom, also competed in NASCAR-sanctioned events while the brothers were growing up.
  • He began racing go-karts at age 6, then competed in Dwarf and Legends cars on the west coast. In 1997, he competed in the Winter Heat Series at Tucson Raceway Park against drivers like Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton, Kevin Harvick, and Greg Biffle.
  • In 1999, Busch was the first winner of the “Roush Racing: Driver X” competition, which was informally known as the “Gong Show.” The win earned him a ride in the Craftsman (now Camping World) Truck Series in 2000; Busch won four races and finished second to Roush teammate Greg Biffle in season-ending points, also winning Rookie of the Year honors. He also began racing in the Cup Series toward the end of 2000.
  • Busch raced for Roush Racing from 2000 to 2005 – winning his only championship – then signed with Penske Racing South for the 2006 season. He drove the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge from 2006-2010, and the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge in 2011. Busch also drove for Phoenix Racing (2012) and Furniture Row Racing (2012-2013) before landing at SHR.
  • Through the 2014 season, Busch had won 25 races, including 201 top 10s and 16 poles in 507 races.
  • Busch made his NHRA drag racing debut in the Super Gas division at the 2010 Gatornationals in Gainesville, FL. In 2011, Busch returned to the Gatornationals after earning his Pro Stock license in the off-season, racing the Shell Dodge Avenger for Allen Johnson and J&J Racing; Busch qualified for the event, but was ousted in the first round by 2014 Pro Stock champ Erica Enders-Stevens.
  • In 2014, Busch qualified for the Indianapolis 500, driving a fifth car for Andretti Autosport, and became the fourth driver to qualify for both the Indy 500 and Coca Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, both races run on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Busch finished sixth at Indianapolis, earning the Rookie of the Year Award for the race, but had problems at Charlotte, exiting the race after 271 laps and finishing 40th.
  • Find out more about Busch at www.kurtbusch.com

Travel Tips: Gateway Motorsports Park – June 13, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR fans in the St. Louis area can head to Gateway Motorsports Park for the one-day Camping World Truck Series event, the Drivin’ for Linemen 200, on Saturday, June 13.

Fans can check out Gateway Kartplex from noon to 9 p.m. CT from their “Arrive & Drive” program, or the Truck Series autograph session from 3:15 to 4 p.m. CT. From 6 to 6:45 p.m. CT, prior to the Truck Series race, there will be a track walk for fans as well.

Key on-track event times:
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9:30 a.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. CT
  • Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 – 7:30 p.m. CT

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Right Sides Only: Pocono Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn

After the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte last month, Cole Pearn was a little frustrated. His driver, Martin Truex Jr., had led a race-high 131 laps but finished fifth. Pearn tweeted his irritation, "Arrrrgggghhhh!!!!! Is what it is, want it bad for . Proud of our effort."

Pearn should have been proud. Truex has finished inside the top 10 for all but one race this season. That performance has kept Truex near the top of the points standings week after week.

Cole Pearn at Pocono, June 7, 2015.
Credit: Rebecca Kivak/Skirts and Scuffs
Frustration has finally given way to excitement. Pearn spoke about the Axalta 400 win in the post-race press conference: "Yeah, I was honestly pretty calm most of the way until we kind of came off Turn 3 and I started cheering and I started getting a little choked up at that point. I was doing pretty good. I was proud of myself to that point. No, it was just pretty awesome and just so proud of him. He did an unbelievable job today. All his restarts he just was 10 out of 10 perfect, and that really made the difference."

Truex and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team have garnered the respect of drivers and fans alike, and the win at Pocono Raceway all but solidified their place in the Chase.

Chase eligibility aside, Truex was happy to win for his team.

"Honestly because this team deserves to win, and I knew that. I've known that all year long, obviously, especially after the last couple weeks. I felt -- I've kind of throughout my career, I've kind of got used to the disappointment, honestly, and I've learned to deal with those days where it didn't go your way, even though you didn't do anything wrong. That can get a lot of people down, but I've learned kind of to deal with those.

"You know, I wanted to win for this team because I knew how good they were, how much they deserved it, the job they've been doing, and I've just honestly been so proud of their outlook on the way this year has gone. It would be easy the last three weeks to get down and to hang your head and to make excuses and honestly just be disappointed, but they weren't. They were excited. They knew we were going to get this win, and they knew we were going to get it soon, and they worked hard. They didn't lose focus of how we got to where we're at, and honestly, that's what pushed us over the edge and was able to make the difference today."

Truex Jr. & Pearn in the garage at Dover, May 2015.
Credit: Beth Reinke/Skirts and Scuffs

How that team does what it has been able to accomplish week in and week out is a bit of a mystery to some fans since Furniture Row Racing isn't based in the Mecca of Motorsports in central North Carolina alongside most other teams. Housed in Denver, Colorado, the logistics alone to get equipment and personnel to each race would be enough to frighten even veteran crew chiefs. Pearn? Not so much.

"It's something that they set up really well in the beginning. We have a truck that runs back and forth to North Carolina every week that brings our engines and transmissions and gears and chassis when they need to, so that side of it just kind of happens and you don't even know it happens. I'm probably the worst guy to ask about the details of all that side of things.

Credit: Beth Reinke/Skirts and Scuffs
"You know, it's awesome. The biggest reason I work there is because it's in Denver, Colorado. Being Canadian, I love it out there. I love the outdoors, love to be able to ski and play hockey and do all those things outside of life, and it makes for a fun group. We've got a really good, tight-knit young group of guys, and it makes it a lot of fun being out there. We've made all similar commitments in our lives to live out there. We all hang out with each other on days off, we do things together, and just makes it a ton of fun when you can succeed with a group like that."

That tight-knit group may be having fun, but they're also turning heads in the garage. It isn't always easy for a single-car team to find success, but the No. 78 team has been performing consistently all season. It does, however, make things difficult for them when things change.

When asked about whether NASCAR should change anything related to the rules package at Pocono, Pearn was quick to respond.

"I don't want to change anything. I'll be straight up with that.

"It's a lot of work when they change the rules. It costs us a lot of money and makes it pretty difficult for us, especially for us as a single-car team. Definitely I don't want them to change it."

His driver agrees.

"There you have it," Truex affirmed.  

The No. 78 team now has a win and a ticket to the Chase. Those drivers who respect him should beware because this team isn't backing down. Truex and Pearn, along with the rest of the Furniture Row team, should be considered a real threat when September rolls around. There you have it.


    Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far. 
    Her other interests include country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.