Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fast Facts: 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Cook

credit: NASCAR Media
2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Cook has been both a competitor and a competition administrator in NASCAR – a dual career that has spanned six decades. Cook and fellow 2016 inductees Bobby Isaac, O. Bruton Smith, Terry Labonte and Curtis Turner will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Here are the Fast Facts on one of the greatest drivers in NASCAR’s oldest division.
  • Jerry Cook was born June 20, 1943 in Lockport, NY, but his family moved to Rome, NY early on in his life. He built his first Modified and became a car owner at age 13, eventually settling in behind the wheel himself in 1963.
  • Cook raced Modifieds and later Late Models on both asphalt and dirt, often racing nearly 100 races at more than a dozen tracks during a normal season. He went on to become a six-time NASCAR Modified champion (1971-1972 and 1974-1977). Cook also raced three times in the Syracuse 200 Big-Block Modified event at the New York State Fairgrounds, earning a career-best finish of second in 1972 to Buzzie Reutimann.
  • Cook’s chief rival during his racing career was another resident of Rome, Richie Evans, who broke up Cook’s championship reign in 1973 and went on to win eight straight Modified titles from 1978-1985.
  • Cook retired as a driver in 1982 after winning the track championship at Spencer (NY) Speedway and began working for NASCAR, where he was instrumental in developing what is today the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Cook took home 342 checkered flags in his career.
  • In addition to being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998 and a NASCAR Hall of Famer for 2016, Cook is a member of three other Halls of Fame: the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 1989, the New York State Stock Car Association Hall of Fame in 1993 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009. He was named also the No. 3 driver on the NASCAR Modified All-time Top 10 list.
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame at www.nascarhall.com

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fast Facts: 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Terry Labonte

credit: NASCAR Media
2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee “Texas” Terry Labonte holds a rather dubious distinction as a two-time champion: his 12 years between titles is the longest by any Cup Series titlist. Labonte and fellow 2016 inductees Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 22, 2016. Here are the Fast Facts on one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
  • Terrance Lee Labonte was born Nov. 16, 1956 in Corpus Christi, Texas. Introduced to motorsports by his father, Labonte began racing quarter-midgets at age 7 and won a national championship at age 9. As a teen, he moved into stock cars on both dirt and asphalt, winning multiple track championships from 1975-77.
  • Labonte made his first NASCAR Cup Series start in 1978 at Darlington, qualifying 19th and finishing fourth. In 1979, he competed for Rookie of the Year honors against Dale Earnhardt, Harry Gant and Joe Millikan; while he didn’t take the honors – those went to Earnhardt – he ended the season with 13 top 10 finishes and finished in the top 10 in points.
  • Labonte won his first Cup Series race in 1980 with Hagan Racing, taking the checkered flag in the historic Southern 500 at Darlington. In 1984, with a new sponsor in Piedmont Airlines, Labonte took wins at Riverside and Bristol on his way to his first Winston (now Sprint) Cup Series championship.
  • Over the next two seasons, Labonte dropped in points to seventh and 12th, respectively, parting ways with Hagan at the end of the 1986 season and joining Junior Johnson and Associates in the famed No. 11 Budweiser Chevrolet beginning in 1987. In spite of winning the All-Star Race in 1988 and finishing in the top 10 in points all three seasons, Labonte moved on to Precision Products Racing in 1990 and back to Billy Hagan’s Hagan Racing team in 1991.
  • In 1994, Labonte joined Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 Chevrolet, winning his second championship in 1996. Labonte was able to join his younger brother Bobby in a victory lap at the season finale at Atlanta, as Bobby won the race the same day Terry won the title. Labonte stayed with Hendrick Motorsports through 2006, racing his final two seasons on a part-time basis. He continued racing part-time through 2014, competing for Joe Gibbs Racing, Hall of Fame Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Petty Enterprises and others; his final race was the GEICO 500 at Talladega on Oct. 17, 2014.
  • In his career, Labonte won 22 races and 27 poles in the Cup Series, 11 races and four poles in the Xfinity Series and one race and one pole in the Camping World Truck Series. He was the 1989 International Race of Champions (IROC) champ and drove the final IROC race in 1993 in place of the late Davey Allison, giving him an assist on Allison’s title. Labonte won the Southern 500 in 1980 and 2003, the 1985 Busch Clash (now Sprint Unlimited) and was a two-time All-Star Race winner (1988 and 1999).
  • In addition to being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998, Labonte is also a member of the National Quarter Midget Hall of Fame, inducted in 1989, and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 2001.
  • Learn more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame at www.nascarhall.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Rookie Stripe: What Happens During the NASCAR Offseason

2015 Sprint Cup Champion, Kyle Busch
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs  
NASCAR has one of the longest seasons in professional sports, with competitive races held about 75 percent of weekends each year. The season begins in mid-February at Daytona and runs until mid-November at Homestead-Miami. The drivers are used to it, but that sure is a lot of left turns.

Such a long season means that NASCAR’s offseason is relatively short, about three months. The time during the bleak months of winter when the rest of us are hibernating, chattering our teeth in the cold and typically grumbling about no NASCAR on TV, is when the teams go into overdrive behind the scenes. They’re traveling less, but working just as hard.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Drag and shuffle
If staffing changes are going to happen on a team, it’s usually during the offseason. Just like any other sport, the composition of teams can be a constantly-moving puzzle from season to season. From pit crew to crew chiefs and more, teams always seek the perfect balance of players that will steer them toward a championship. The offseason is also the time when a driver will make an announced move between teams, such as Carl Edwards did when he went from Roush Fenway to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015. Clint Bowyer has already made public that he'll take the wheel of the No. 14 Chevrolet at Stewart Haas Racing in 2017, as 2016 will be Tony Stewart's last year in the Sprint Cup Series.

Medical tune-ups
The frenetic pace of the racing season means that scheduling extensive medical care and necessary surgeries are a challenge for many teams, who often opt to do them during the offseason. Denny Hamlin has already had surgery on his right knee since the season ended and 2015 Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch will need another surgery, which is scheduled for December 17. Busch took home the coveted series title at Homestead Miami this year even after a crash in Daytona that broke both his leg and foot.

Bill Heisel examines a patient.
Credit: OrthoCarolina  
According to Bill Heisel, director of the OrthoCarolina Motorsports program which oversees care for a number of NASCAR teams, having surgery during the offseason also allows the most time for recovery before the next season begins. More than 50 surgeries for the teams with which Heisel works with have been scheduled or already performed on pit crew, officials, and other team support personnel since the checkered flag flew at Homestead in November.

Fun and Games
For an offseason, that’s pretty busy. Surely our beloved drivers must get to have a little fun right? Here are some other things they might be up to:

· Doing normal things like drinking coffee. Landon Cassill has apparently already spilled his.
· Taking selfies. You’re a pretty good photographer, Kyle Larson.
· Playing chauffeur. To other drivers. That was very nice of you, Jamie McMurray.
· Trying out extreme sports. Don’t you need a hat in that cold, Austin Dillon?
· Being a fan and checking out other sporting events, like Ryan Newman.
· Indulging… or overindulging. Hey now, Jimmie.
· Getting married. Dale Jr.'s fans are holding their breath.
· Just taking some time with the family, ala Casey Mears.
As for the rest of us? We’re all susceptible to NASCAR Offseason Disorder (NOD), so just grin and bear it, and watch where you steer that shopping cart. No worries, though, they’ll be back on track in no time.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Fast Facts: 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones

Jones visited victory lane in Texas on his way to the title
credit: Debbie Ross/Skirts & Scuffs
2015 Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones became the youngest champ in the series’ history after a close battle with runner-up Tyler Reddick. Learn more about his quick rise to fame in this week’s championship edition of Fast Facts.
  • Erik Jones was born May 30, 1996 in Byron, Michigan. He began racing quarter-midgets at age 7, and moved into stock cars at age 13. In 2010, he raced in the ASA Late Model Series, becoming the youngest winner of its Oktoberfest race at Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway. In 2011, Jones took home the series championship from the Champion Racing Association’s All-Star Tour as a rookie and won the Governor’s Cup 200 late model race at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida, leading every lap of the race.
  • Jones became the first 15-year-old to race in the ARCA Racing Series in 2012; he raced in 10 of the series’ 19 races that season, finishing a season-best third at both Winchester Speedway and Berlin Raceway. He also won the prestigious Snowball Derby at Florida’s Five Flags Speedway in 2012, holding off Sprint Cup Series star Kyle Busch for the win; Jones won the Snowball Derby again in 2013.
  • Busch was so impressed by Jones that he signed him to run five Truck Series races for Kyle Busch Motorsports in 2013. On Nov. 8, 2013, Jones became the youngest winner in NASCAR history when he won the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Speedway at 17 years, five months and eight days (that record has since been broken).
    Jones and his Truck Series boss, 2015 Cup Series champ
    Kyle Busch
    credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Jared C. Tilton
  • Jones continued driving on a part-time basis in the KBM Toyota Tundra in 2014, winning three more races (Iowa, Las Vegas and Phoenix), and received his high school diploma at Texas Motor Speedway in June; Texas also marked his first race on a 1.5-mile track, as he had just turned 18. Jones also made his Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Chicagoland Speedway in July, registering three top 10 finishes in three races that season.
  • In 2015, Jones competed in all three top NASCAR series, winning the Truck Series championship on the strength of three wins and 20 top 10s in 23 starts. He also picked up his first Xfinity Series win at Texas, also winning later in the season at Chicagoland. Jones made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Bristol in April as a relief driver for Denny Hamlin, and made his first start at Kansas in May subbing for Kyle Busch; later in the season he subbed for Matt Kenseth at Texas and Phoenix.
  • Find out more about Jones at his website, www.erikjonesracing.com, and at the KBM website, www.kylebuschmotorsports.com

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Fast Facts: 2015 Xfinity Series champion Chris Buescher

Credit: Jared C. Tilton / NASCAR via Getty Images
2015 Xfinity Series champion Chris Buescher, driver of the No. 60 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing, is the cousin of 2012 Camping World Truck Series champ James Buescher. Learn more about this up-and-coming young driver in this championship edition of Fast Facts.
  • Christopher Buescher was born Oct. 29, 1992 in Prosper, Texas. Buescher raced motorcycles in Texas from ages 6 to 9, then switched over to Bandoleros around the state for three years.
  • In 2005, Buescher decided to give Legends cars a try, racing in the Summer Shootout at Charlotte Motor Speedway and other tracks along the east coast, and winning at 22 tracks he visited that summer. Buescher continued to race in the Summer Shootout in 2006 and 2007, and also purchased a Late Model from David Ragan in 2007. He raced it four times and earned three top-five finishes.
  • Buescher spent 2008 racing in the ASA Speed Truck and ASA Late Model series, and signed as a development driver for Roush Fenway Racing in 2009. He made seven ARCA Racing Series starts with Roulo Brothers Racing in 2009 and eight in 2010, winning twice.
  • In 2011, Buescher was named ARCA Rookie of the Year, claiming three more victories for Roulo Brothers Racing. He also made two Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series starts, finishing 17th in both outings. In 2012, he won the ARCA Racing Series championship on the strength of four wins, 16 top 10 finishes and two poles.
  • Buescher raced part-time in the Nationwide Series for RFR in 2013 and full-time in 2014, earning his first win in the series at Mid-Ohio in Aug. 2014. Buescher kicked off the 2015 Xfinity Series season with a runner-up finish to teammate Ryan Reed at Daytona – a race Buescher failed to qualify for in 2014. He also made his Sprint Cup Series debut in 2015 in the No. 34 for Front Row Motorsports, racing six times with a top finish of 20th at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA in his first career start.
Chris Buescher at Texas Motor Speedway
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
  • Buescher won twice and picked up 20 total top-10 finishes on his way to the 2015 championship, the fifth Xfinity Series title for RFR and third in the last five seasons.
  • Learn more about Buescher in his bio at Roush Fenway Racing’s website, http://www.roushfenway.com/.