Sunday, May 31, 2015

Johnson Masters the Concrete for His 10th Monster Mile Win

Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
What does one person do with 10 Miles the Monster trophies? Ask Jimmie Johnson. The driver wheeled his No. 48 Chevy to Victory Lane in Sunday’s FedEx 400 for his 20th top-10 finish in 27 career Sprint Cup races at Dover.

Johnson said things came together for them very late in the race, but once they had the opportunity, they capitalized on it. 

“What a long, hard-fought day to get to the front. It seemed like four or five of us could run the same speed and just couldn’t really pass. We did a great job of hanging in there. My pit stops were awesome. We kind of took a chance on pit sequence to pick off a couple of spots to get us from fifth to third, third to a shot for the win. Then that last set of tires, I was running Harvick down and we ended up staying on them and his car didn’t look as strong as it was early in the day and we were able to take advantage of it.”

The victory puts Johnson in an elite group of drivers with 10 or more wins at a single track, along with Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip and David Pearson.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity I’ve had at Hendrick Motorsports, the amazing people I’ve had to work with, the support from our sponsor Lowe’s, Chad, Rick," Johnson said. “All of those things and the fact that I sit in that 48 car has allowed me to win the 10 races here and have this great opportunity in history.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs

“I’m almost in shock that we’re there. I mean, 74 race wins, 10 here – you can’t dream that big. So I’m just blown away and honored by…what we’ve done with our opportunity and honored to have a shot at history with Dale, and then the 10 wins here.”

The drivers who started at the front – polesitter Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. on the outside – dominated the early part of the race, leading a combined 249 of the first 258 laps between them. But both drivers ran into snags toward the end.

The first multi-car accident involved Trevor Bayne, Michael Annett and Justin Allgaier. Bayne was invited to the NASCAR hauler after the race for exiting his car before safety worked arrived.

Later, Clint Bowyer got into Denny Hamlin, sending him toward the inside wall. The No. 11 car’s rear end narrowly missed the wall, but careened back up across the track and hit the outside wall; he finished 21st. On the green-and-white checkered, Truex restarted in the third spot, but slid back, still finishing a respectable sixth.

With about 140 to go, there was an oddball caution for runaway tire from Michael Annett’s pit, which came to rest against on the wrong side of pit road. Then, in another strange occurrence, the concrete seam between the pits of Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray crumbled and formed a gutter, causing a brief delay while crews cleaned up the loose chunks.

Kyle Busch and Brian Scott had a late-race tussle when they got together and slid down the track into the inside wall before coming to a stop; they finished 36th and 38th, respectively. The final caution was for an incident involving Casey Mears, Greg Biffle and AJ Allmendinger, and led to the G-W-C finish.

Points leader Kevin Harvick finished second, with Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola rounding out the top five.

The full unofficial results:

POS.CAR #DRIVER
148Jimmie Johnson
24Kevin Harvick
342Kyle Larson
45Kasey Kahne
543Aric Almirola
678Martin Truex Jr
71Jamie McMurray
827Paul Menard
915Clint Bowyer
1024Jeff Gordon
1122Joey Logano
122Brad Keselowski
1355David Ragan
1488Dale Earnhardt Jr
1510Danica Patrick
1614Tony Stewart
1716Greg Biffle
1831Ryan Newman
1919Carl Edwards
207Alex Bowman
2111Denny Hamlin
229Sam Hornish Jr
2340Landon Cassill
2447AJ Allmendinger
2538David Gilliland
2635Cole Whitt
2713Casey Mears
2834Brett Moffitt
2923J.J. Yeley
3026Jeb Burton
3141Kurt Busch
3283Matt DiBenedetto
333Austin Dillon
3462Brendan Gaughan
3532Mike Bliss
3618Kyle Busch
3717Ricky Stenhouse Jr
3833Brian Scott
3920Matt Kenseth
4098Josh Wise
4146Michael Annett
4251Justin Allgaier
436Trevor Bayne

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Chris Buescher Saves Fuel to Win Xfinity Race at Dover


Chris Buescher takes home Miles the Monster, May 30, 2015.
Crecit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
Chris Buescher retains his NASCAR Xfinity Series points lead after today’s victory at Dover. In his second win in the last three races, Buescher and crew chief Scott Graves used fuel strategy to bring the No. 60 Ford to the checkered flag first.

Buescher knew he was a couple laps short on fuel, but he didn’t really know how much he needed to save.

“We saved quite a bit there at the end and that whole run really we were just trying to be easy on the throttle. Toward the end of the run, we started to have to clutch it and let it coast at least half of the straightaway which is really tough to do. I felt like we were going so slow and it is hard to convince yourself to do it. We had just enough left to do the burnout and we got ourselves another win.”

Polesitter Bubba Wallace led 52 laps, including the first 40, but had “teammate trouble” late in the race. As Wallace and Buescher battled for the lead, they made contact, resulting in a flat tire on Wallace’s No. 6 car, which finished a disappointing 17th.

Wallace was clearly perturbed with the race winner, and team owner Jack Roush said he will sort things out with his drivers this week.

Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
“I know that nobody meant to have contact,” Roush said. “We will have to work on the feelings and get everybody feeling good about being teammates going forward.

“A team owner has no worse horror than to have two competitive programs in position to win a race and have them have contact with one another and one of them not be able to finish in the position he was otherwise entitled.”

Matt Kenseth went a lap down after an unexpected pit stop for a loose wheel on Lap 71, but rallied to finish second, his third top-10 showing of the season.

Regan Smith finished third and was the Dash 4 Cash winner. He’ll be eligible for the $100,000 bonus in next week’s contest, too, along with Buescher, Chase Elliott and Brendan Gaughn.

Of note, the No. 33 of Austin Dillon was too low in the rear on both sides after tech inspection, so penalties may be assessed early next week.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Can Momentum Carry Truex Jr. to a Dover Win?

Truex speaks to the media, May 29, 2015
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
The racing stars seem to be aligning for Martin Truex, Jr. as he prepares for the FedEx 400 at Dover. After struggling last season, the team is posting noteworthy performances, including securing the outside pole for Sunday’s FedEx 400. Truex said one reason is that he and crew chief Cole Pearn are on the same page.

“I honestly think everything is working. We kind of approach things the same way and thinking about things the same way,” Truex said. “I’ve learned a lot from him already and feel like I’ve helped him some as well. It’s just been a good relationship that has provided a lot of success for both of us.”

In just the first one-third of 2015, Truex’s finishes and laps led are better than last year’s numbers for the whole season. He’s earned three top-five finishes and 11 top 10s – that’s 11 out of 12 races -- compared to last year’s stats of only one top five and five top 10s. After leading only a single lap last year, he’s racked up 258 laps since February and sits second in the Sprint Cup points standings.

The astronomically improved numbers speak for themselves, but the team’s missed opportunities to win after dominant performances at the last two points races – Kansas and Charlotte – could lead to frustration. Truex acknowledged the temptation to look at the downside, because those opportunities slipped away, but chose a positive outlook instead.

“You never know when your next opportunity is going to come. But at the same time, for us, to come from where we did last year to be in those positions to just to be running the way we are,” he said. “I think for us it’s important to not lose focus of what we have been able to accomplish so far, that this team is capable of, and to just try to keep learning and getting better.”


Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
Leading 131 laps at Charlotte and finishing fifth isn’t bad for a track the driver considers one of his weakest venues. If he can do well there, the sky is the limit.

“Charlotte is one of my worst tracks. Last week, to lead the most laps and really again be the car to beat, it was an amazing feeling for me.”

On the other hand, Truex loves the Monster Mile, which the New Jersey native considers his home track.

“I like tracks where you have to drive the car hard. I don’t like to run 95 or 98 percent: I like to go all out. That kind of suits my style. That is part of the reason why I have always liked this place.”

His only win at Dover came in 2007, when he led 216 laps. He has seven career top 10s at the track but recent history is a good sign: top-10 finishes in both of last years’ races.

In light of his brilliant performances in the past few weeks, a front row starting position and a little home-track mojo, maybe this is the week Truex Jr. finds Victory Lane.

It Gets Better: Five Questions for Dover

(Credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Life isn’t—and never will be—fair. Throughout time, various instances supported this fact. The nice guy doesn’t get the girl. Superheroes can’t save the city. Bad news overpowers the good. This is life.

Happy endings happen in fiction because, sometimes, that’s the only time they happen.

Everyone experiences periods of despair, in which they feel like everything is crumbling around them. Bad things keep happening, and there’s nothing they can do to prevent the next obstacle.

First, I want everyone to know that it gets better. I don’t care what you’re going through; it gets better. There is always a silver lining, light at the end of the tunnel, shore to swim toward. The only thing that hinders one from seeing the positives is themselves. An open mind opens doors. Throw away your preconceived notions and try. It gets better.

Now that I got that out of the way, I can talk about the phrase “life isn’t fair.”

If life was meant to be a walk in the park, then it would be the most boring thing in the world. This is your allotted time on earth. You should cherish wherever this journey takes you—through the peaks of mountains and the darkest valleys. Making the most of your situation is the difference between living and simply existing.

Life will continue to be unfair no matter what, so you might as well try to enjoy it while you can.

NASCAR gets happy endings every now and then, but it’s time for a new one—one that will make everyone happy. Let’s discuss that and more in this week’s Five Questions.

Is the downfall of night racing upon us? Okay, this is a bit dramatic, but it’s still a valid question. Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600 and the previous week's All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway disappointed in their own ways. The racing and the sun died at the same time, and the ratings weren’t good with regard to the 600. The All-Star Race’s format killed the whole event. There is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed—the downfall of night racing. It used to be a rare treat, like the Klondike bar Grandma sneaked you when she babysat. Now, every track wants to or does hold a night race. Here’s the kicker: Not every track is meant to have one. It isn’t a basic track right. Some venues don’t produce good racing, and having the less-than-thrilling ones in the mix ruins the magic. Night racing is meant to be sacred. Sadly, it isn’t that way anymore. That needs to change.

What can you say about TV ratings? As I mentioned before, the ratings for the Coca-Cola 600 weren't stellar. The numbers definitely pale in comparison to what the Indianapolis 500 captured—just like the racing. There are two parts to this problem. On one hand, the entire sport of racing is slipping. That’s the cycle it goes through every once in a while. I personally feel like it weeds out the flippant fans. Anyway, the popularity rises and falls. That’s normal. However, the other half is the quality of racing. When choosing between the two, many people would go with the Indy 500 because of the constant action. The 600 was nowhere near that level of competitiveness, and it showed in the viewership. One of the greatest days in motorsports ended on a bad note. It happens sometimes. That’s all there is to it.

Which series will impress the most at the Monster Mile? Once again, NASCAR teams visit a short track. Dover International Speedway is known as the Monster Mile for its intimidating presence. It’s a difficult track to conquer, that’s for sure. All three series are looking to defeat the menace, but which one will produce the best show? My bet is on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series because of its consistency in the action. Those youngsters know how to put on a show, and it’ll be a wild ride if it’s anything like their race at Charlotte. However, I’ll give a shoutout to the NASCAR XFINITY Series; the Dash4Cash program is in play, and that will ramp everything up. If you can only watch one race this weekend, though, tune into the Trucks race on Friday night.

What does Dover truly offer? This track is a monster—literally. Its nickname reveals its toughness and unpredictability, but the true unpredictable quality is in the race itself. Every stop in Delaware brings a different race; various amounts of cautions and lead changes. Some races are boring (just being blunt here) and others are phenomenal. The element of not knowing what we’ll get is common on the circuit yet elevated at Dover. It offers the unknown, and NASCAR needs a hefty dose of that right now.

Is it finally Truex’s time? Martin Truex Jr. is the beloved underdog of the moment, and I’m using the term underdog loosely. He’s in contention every weekend, but circumstance is a mean mistress. Sunday night was a prime example. It’s unfair to see him come close numerous times. This weekend is a chance for things to finally go his way. Dover is a great track for the driver of the No. 78—he has a win here—and is also close to home. After a trying year full of watching Sherry Pollex, his girlfriend, battle cancer, Truex didn’t give up. He kept pressing on, and this impressive year wouldn’t be possible without that perseverance. Anyone who can keep the faith after the trials he's faced deserves some good in his life. It will happen to Truex, and I hope it’s in front of his “hometown” audience. It got better for him and Sherry, and it will (hopefully) get better all over again in Delaware. 

TV Schedule: May 29-31

Dover International Speedway. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

NASCAR heads to the Monster Mile for a triple-header weekend. The Sprint, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series get on track at Dover International Speedway, one of the toughest tracks on the circuit.

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

Friday, May 29:
10 a.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
2 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
3:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS1
5 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Setup, FS1
5:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: Lucas Oil 200, FS1

Saturday, May 30:
4 a.m. Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 200 (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
11 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket, FOX

Sunday, May 31:
10:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay: Dover, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks, FS1
3 a.m. (Monday) NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, May 28, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: FedEx 400 at the Monster Mile



Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Raceway •  Martinsville Speedway 
Phoenix International Raceway •  Richmond International Raceway
Distance: 1 mile

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

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 8
Jimmie Johnson - 7 
All with 6 -Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch
Both with 5 - Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Recent Pole Winner:  
2014 Brad Keselowski
2013 Denny Hamlin

2013 Flashback
Trash the 2014 statistics and on focus on 2013 and you'll average better scores since this year's rules package makes last year's numbers insignificant. Of course, Mr. Freaky Fast Kevin Harvick was good last year and he is still good.

Top 15 Finishers at Dover International Speedway on June 2, 2013:
  1. Tony Stewart
  2. Juan Pablo Montoya  
  3. Jeff Gordon 
  4. Kyle Busch  
  5. Brad Keselowski  
  6. Clint Bowyer  
  7. Joey Logano  
  8. Kevin Harvick 
  9. Mark Martin  
  10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.  
  11. Jeff Burton  
  12. Kurt Busch  
  13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.  
  14. Carl Edwards  
  15. Greg Biffle

The Likely Suspects: Dover International Speedway is my home track and a favorite for many drivers who love the challenge and exciting short-track racing at the "Monster Mile." Look for these drivers to run well this weekend: Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards. Ordinarily I would include Jimmie Johnson in this list. However, Jimmie Johnson and the No. 48 team have been plagued by car control issues lately and will have a lousy pit stall position due to penalties resulting from Charlotte infractions.

My 2 Cents:  My no-brainer pick this week is the steady, calm, cool and collected Matt Kenseth. My next picks are Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer and last week's winner Carl Edwards. I will complete my team with Brett Moffitt and Danica Patrick.

My final four: Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Martin Truex Jr. and Danica Patrick.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter @purplecatpr.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Rookie Stripe: Driving with Digits -- Why Do Race Cars Have Numbers?

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs  

Can I have your number? Not so fast.

Numbers are a big deal in NASCAR, and at a race one of the predominant places you’ll see them is on the race cars. Paint schemes, sponsors and colors may change week to week, but each driver still has the same number visible on both sides of the vehicle.

So how do numbers figure into the grand scheme of a race? Let’s count the ways.

NASCAR “owns” all numbers in its Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, meaning that teams must request car numbers, which are then assigned to drivers. As the governing body of the sport, NASCAR has the right to license numbers to teams on a yearly basis and can transfer numbers at any time.1  While a team or driver is never guaranteed a certain number, they may request it, and teams typically keep the same numbers from year to year. If a team has to let go of a number if they drop from a four-car to a three-car team, then the number goes back to NASCAR.

It’s important to point out that people -- fans and media -- discuss driver names and car numbers interchangeably at a race. Because of the constantly-changing positions during a race, it’s often easier for announcers to simply refer to drivers by their number, saying something like, “The No. 4 car has taken the lead.” On the scoring pylon, current track position is indicated by car number rather than driver name.

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs 
Even though it may seem odd, numbers get a lot of love in NASCAR and there is a certain affinity among most fans for their favorite driver number(s.) The synonymic nature of repeatedly identifying drivers by number almost metamorphoses into an affection for the numerals themselves. 

Car digits are all over the place at races and you’ll see that passion evidenced by the abundance of numbered t-shirts, flags and other paraphernalia.

Sometimes there's a reason for a car number, such as Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 car, which is rooted in family history. His grandfather Ralph Earnhardt drove the "Oldsmobile 88" for Petty Enterprises in the 1957 Virginia 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Joe Gibbs Racing chose the No. 18 in 1992 because Dale Jarrett used it during his 1987 first full Cup season.3

As NASCAR itself says, numbers help define NASCAR. Most stock car numbers have a similarly rich history, and much of that can be found in detail online.

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
Back in the early days of racing, there were actually some three-digit numbers. According to the Pocono Record two-time Sprint Cup winner Tim Flock won 21 races, Dick Rathmann won 10 races, Buck Baker won 11 races and Speedy Thompson won eight races – all in triple-digit cars. In modern day racing however NASCAR requires two-digit numbers that allow for easier viewing by the spotters, as well as posting updates to the scoring tower.3

Find a full list of driver numbers for the 2015 Sprint Cup season at NASCAR.com.

 (“NASCAR by the Numbers.” www.nascar.com 5 Jan. 2015. Web. 26 May 2015)
 (History of the No. 88 in NASCAR.”www.mrn.com. 19 Sept. 2007. Web. 26 May 2015)
3 (Miegoc, Joe. "NASCAR: The Story behind the Car Numbers." www.poconorecord.com. 5 June 2009. Web. 26 May 2015.)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Fast Facts Redux: Juan Pablo Montoya

2015 Indy 500 champ Juan Pablo Montoya
credit: IndyCar Media/Dana Garrett
He may not be a NASCAR star anymore, but many NASCAR fans were watching the 2015 Indianapolis 500 when Juan Pablo Montoya took the checkered flag for the second time in his career. Here are the updated Fast Facts on this multi-faceted international driver.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya Roldan (Montoya is his paternal family name, Roldan is his maternal family name) was born Sept. 20, 1975 in Bogota, Columbia. He got started in racing thanks to his father Pablo, who was an architect and a racing fan.
  • From karting Montoya moved on to Columbian Formula Renault in 1992, the Swift GTI Championship in 1993, and spent 1994 in three series – Sudam 125 Karting (won the championship), USA Barber Saab (finished third in points) and Mexico’s Formula N (won the championship). From 1995 to 1998 he ran in various series around the globe, including Formula 3000, and became a test driver for the Williams Formula 1 team.
  • As part of a driver swap with Chip Ganassi Racing, Montoya moved to CART in 1999, in place of Alex Zanardi, who won two championships with Ganassi before returning to F1. Montoya won the CART title and Rookie of the Year award in 1999; the following year, the Ganassi team “crossed the line” over to the Indy Racing League’s Indianapolis 500, where Montoya dominated, leading 167 of 200 laps and winning the race and the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year award.
  • Montoya moved on to F1 in 2001, racing there until 2006 and claiming seven wins and 13 poles for both Williams and McLaren. In July 2006, he announced his intentions to move to NASCAR; that year, he made his stock car debut in the ARCA Racing Series race at Talladega in October, qualifying second, leading nine laps and finishing third. He also raced in the Busch (now Xfinity) Series and NEXTEL (now Sprint) Cup Series at the end of the season.
  • 2007 began with Montoya in victory lane in his first Rolex 24 at Daytona; later in the year, Montoya earned his first Nationwide (now Xfinity) and Cup Series wins, both on road courses (Nationwide – Mexico City and Cup – Sonoma); for his efforts, he was named the Rookie of the Year in the Cup Series. He has a top finish of eighth in Sprint Cup points (2009) and also won the 2010 Cup Series race at Watkins Glen.
  • In Sept. 2013, it was announced that Montoya would return to the IndyCar Series with Team Penske in 2014. Montoya did return to NASCAR competition for two races – Indianapolis and Michigan – with Team Penske, but was victorious in the IndyCar Series, winning at Pocono in July – his first win in the series since the 2000 Indy 500. He began the 2015 season with a win at St. Petersburg before drinking the milk in victory lane at Indianapolis.
  • Montoya and his wife Connie have three children: son Sebastian and daughters Paulina and Manuela.
  • Find out more about Juan Pablo Montoya at www.jpmontoya.com.


Monday, May 25, 2015

Right Sides Only: Charlotte Winning Crew Chief, Darian Grubb

 


Things got a little sticky for several drivers at the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including race winner Carl Edwards. While others were spinning out and making contact with SAFER barriers, Edwards was literally sticky. His crew chief, Darian Grubb, explained more during the post-race press conference.

"Yeah, the sticky feet, that's just a property of exactly what we were setting on pit road prior to the race. The way the pre-race ceremonies are set up here, to have all the military out there, which was an awesome show - it's awesome to have all those soldiers out there with the big American flag - but you're actually backing the cars into the pit stalls, and that's been an age-old secret that everybody in the garage does is they spray their pit box down. The only thing that's legal now is Coke syrup, so it's fitting for the Coke 600 that the teams spray Coke syrup on the pit box. Carl had stepped in a nice big puddle of it evidently, and got in the car and didn't realize it. So he got it all over his shoe and the pedals and everything else, too. So we handed him a rag later on to clean it off and some baby powder to tone it down, and it seemed to help a little bit, but it was still sticky."

If the stickiness had been the only problem for the No. 19 team for Joe Gibbs Racing, then the night might have been a bit more textbook, but that wasn't the case.

"It was honestly a struggle of a day for us. We qualified pretty well, started up front, and just started falling back. We lost two or three positions on every run, just kind of going backwards, didn't have quite the speed we wanted to have. We got way too tight, especially when the sun went down, but we started making our way back up through. We did make a couple of adjustments that finally seemed to start helping," Grubb explained.

Those adjustments worked.

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
"Two runs from the end we realized that this was going to have the potential for a fuel-mileage race because we hit right on our fuel windows, then that last caution came out 12 laps before the fuel window that we wanted to pit on, and everybody pitted there because we had to. It was basically the end of the fuel run. And then when the actual last caution came out, it was right on the lap we were going to pit under green flag to make it to the end, and I was really surprised that a lot of people didn't come down and pit when we did. We were actually planning to do two tires just to make sure we could get enough fuel to finish, and since hardly anybody came, we took four, fueled up and good to go to the end."

Was Grubb concerned about the race ending on a fuel mileage strategy?

"I actually wasn't that concerned about it. That was really our only play at that point. We knew we had to have tires to be able to try to compete with those guys, so we were going to come pit anyway. We had tried to stay out before and it just didn't work with three laps on tires, and that was four. Coming in to pit really was a no-brainer for us. And then like I said before, I was really surprised that more people did not pit at that point, but I guess our fuel mileage was better than most to where we could make it from that point on, and everything just worked out in our favor."

As the post-race media event continued, Grubb let the crew chief in him out as he discussed everything from tires to Toyota teams catching up with the Chevy teams.

"This used to be one of the tracks we'd come to and we'd be really nervous, especially if the rain came or something, the track got green. There's no way you can make a fuel run on the first set [of tires] or two. You'd end up with cords on the outside and the inside of the tire. Now that they've gone to the dual zone the inside shoulder is not an issue, and now I think it's just some of the XFINITY cars showed a little issue on the outside of the right front, but with the Cup cars we haven't had any issues with that. Didn't see any blistering or any cords or anything through the entire weekend so I think they've got the combination right for durability. It does give up a little bit of grip versus what the old tire did, but we'll pay that price to have some consistency and durability.

Credit: Charlotte Bray/Skirts and Scuffs
"We did not have the best setup tonight, that's for sure. We've been building more speed in the cars every week. It's a testament to what everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and TRD have done. We've dug in really hard for the last year and a half and gotten a lot better, and the speed is starting to show, obviously, with us qualifying first, third, fifth and 11th, I think. We were struggling to do that before, so I think we're much more competitive now. We want to go out and be dominant, though, so that's what we're going to keep working towards."

Though this is the first season that Grubb and Edwards have worked together, it isn't the first time that they've gone to the finish line together... sort of. In 2011, Grubb, then crew chief for Tony Stewart, beat Edwards for the championship on fuel mileage. Did Grubb find it ironic that having gone the distance with Edwards in 2011 for the championship that he would find victory with him years later? Not so much.

"It might be a fuel-mileage win but it's also whoever gets from the start-finish line to the start-finish line after 600 miles the fastest. It doesn't really matter how you get there. We came out in front. In Homestead, beating him for the championship, we played our cards right there. It was weather, fuel mileage and speed. All around it was whoever came out of the pits the last time with the lead, and that ended up being us. Now we've got a win together, so I guess we can wipe the slate clean and go on and win championships together," Grubb said.

Edwards feels the same way.

"I didn't think of it as ironic, but yeah, I'm grateful that Darian - as a competitor, he beat me a number of times, I guess, he beat a lot of people just with the ability to look at the race from a bunch of different angles and not always win just because the car is the fastest, and that's really tough to do, I think. I know it would be tough for me as a crew chief to do, so to see that Darian, he truly has that ability. He's put me in some positions that I don't think a lot of folks have noticed, but during the year so far we've been in a bad spot or I've had a bad restart and we've fallen back, and he's done some things strategy-wise that will always put us up front. He's very good at that."

Will this pairing continue to use strategy to win races this season and perhaps put themselves in a place to find a championship together this November? It's certainly a possibility.
----------------------------------

    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.

Travel Tips: Dover International Speedway – May 28-31, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
The first race weekend of the 2015 season at Dover International Speedway is the FedEx 400 weekend, Thursday through Sunday, May 28-31. All three of NASCAR’s top-tier series – Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series – will be in action at “the Monster Mile” in Delaware.

On Friday, there will be a free Camping World Truck Series autograph session in the FanZone at 2:15 p.m. ET – only the first 150 fans will have the chance for autographs. On Saturday, the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash drivers will be part of an autograph session at 9:30 a.m. ET – wristband distribution (150 fans) begins at 8 a.m. ET at the Xfinity display in the FanZone.

Ticket holders for Saturday’s Xfinity Series race will be able to enter the track early at Gates 19-20 for the Open Track Session. Fans can walk the frontstretch beginning at 8:30 a.m. ET, then participate in a question and answer session with drivers Jeremy Clements and Blake Koch at 9 a.m. ET.

Following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 FedEx team will participate in a Track Walk benefitting the NASCAR Foundation and Autism Speaks. Advanced registration is $20 for adults and $25 during race weekend, and $10 for children 14 and younger. Find out more here.

Find a complete schedule of fan activities at and away from the track here.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, May 28 –
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 2 p.m. ET

Friday, May 29 –
  • Xfinity Series practice – 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11 a.m.  ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 12:45 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 3:45 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 200 – 5:30 p.m. ET

Saturday, May 30 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:15 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Buckle Up 200 presented by Click It or Ticket – 2:30 p.m. ET

Sunday, May 31 –
  • Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 benefitting Autism Speaks – 1 p.m. ET

Find the complete on-track schedule here.

Find out more about the race and purchase tickets at www.doverspeedway.com.

Be sure to follow Skirts and Scuffs on Facebook and Twitter for live updates.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tearing It Down: Five Questions for Charlotte

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
Tradition is a wonderful thing—sometimes.

On one hand, it keeps roots to the past intact. You should never forget where you came from, and what has happened shows what can happen in the future. I’m a firm believer in preserving tradition.

The flip side is the revolution that comes with breaking away. It’s a chance to create a new legacy, one that’s both rebellious and comforting.

This is the week NASCAR honors tradition by running the Coca-Cola 600, one of the crown jewel races of our sport. The deviation of routine is the criticism that comes with this race weekend.

I dive into that and more in this week’s edition of Five Questions. I also discuss Roush Fenway Racing, babies and the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Get ready, it’s homecoming week.

Is Buescher Roush’s last hope? Last weekend at Iowa Speedway, Chris Buescher won his second NASCAR XFINITY Series race, bringing Roush Fenway Racing home a desperately needed trophy. His success and consistency is holding the organization together. I’m deeply saddened by RFR crumbling; they were one of the top teams when I began watching this sport, and they’re currently mediocre. How can Jack Roush salvage his team? There needs to be an overhaul. I’m talking about demolishing the foundation and starting from scratch. Add new people into the rotation of crew chiefs, create a new "playbook," anything. Buescher’s a top-tier talent, and something needs to be done before a more stable team snatches him up. They also have another capable driver in Darrell Wallace Jr., who is Buescher’s teammate on the XFINITY side. Wallace has impressed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but the success hasn’t transferred over to RFR. Something is missing, and Roush knows it. I hope they catch up and become competitive once again.

Does anyone else think the racing class of 2035 is looking quite nice? NASCAR is experiencing another baby boom. Earlier this week, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski become first-time dads. Busch and his wife Samantha welcomed a baby boy after countless fertility treatments and difficulties, all of which Samantha detailed in her blog. Knowing the pregnancy was a miracle and challenging accomplishment makes this occasion even more special. Keselowski and his girlfriend Paige White are now the parents of a girl. The two have chosen to keep a level of privacy to this milestone. In a world where everything seems to be on social media—something Keselowski is no stranger to, of course—and public, it’s nice to see some keep their personal achievements private. With all of that said, I truly hope we see baby Busch and baby Keselowski racing with Keelan Harvick as Chase Elliott paces the field. Wishful thinking?

Who are the winners and losers of the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame selection? Coca-Cola 600 week is a huge deal for Charlotte in many ways, including the announcement of new Hall of Fame inductees. Wednesday afternoon brought the news that Bruton Smith, Terry Labonte, Curtis Turner, Jerry Cook, and Bobby Isaac will be honored in January. By reading fan reaction, this isn’t a popular class selection. Many believe Smith’s addition is coming too soon. Others think those who are still alive need to be added before it’s too late. I agree with the latter; it’s truly a shame that many inductees aren’t here to witness this occasion, and it’s important to give those still here the glory. Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, Mark Martin, and Ray Evernham will be in one day. I feel like ‘one day’ is too far away. However, I still hold onto the belief that five people to a class is way too many. We’re going through people quickly, and it needs to be slowed down. It’s like eating an expensive steak. We need to savor it.

If the Sprint All-Star Race was bad, why were the ratings so high? One of NASCAR’s homecoming events is the Sprint All-Star Race. The best of the best duke it out for $1 million. Denny Hamlin won the pole and the event, and it sounds like the fans lost. There were many complaints following the race, from the lack of competitiveness to just being plain bored. Despite this, the viewership was at its highest since 2011. What gives? The marketing behind the All-Star Race obviously worked, and it drew people to their television sets. That viewership now feels duped and will most likely not tune in next year. That’s the trade-off. Marketing is a gigantic part of sports. It’s also very necessary. If you’re going to go big with the advertisements, make sure the product delivers. Each segment needs to be shorter, especially the final laps. Five laps would be ideal; the current length of ten gives the leader too much time to drive away. NASCAR also needs to look at the effects of clean air. I still regard the Sprint All-Star Race as a large event, and I hope changes can be made to ensure that feeling for everyone else.

Has the Coca Cola 600 lost its luster? Sunday is one of the most highly regarded days in the sport of racing. The Grand Prix of Monaco in the morning, Indy 500 in the afternoon and the Coca-Cola 600 at night make for a jam-packed day. NASCAR is focused on the 600, of course. The long-running tradition is still a newsworthy event, but is it losing that title? All I’ve heard is that the race is too long and too boring and whatnot. If you’re going to complain about the racing (or anything, for that matter), offer up a solution. It’s called constructive criticism. Secondly, the Coke 600 isn’t the only event losing its glow. The Indy 500 has been seeing a decline in interest over the past few years, and the dangerous wrecks this past week aren’t helping. Racing has always been the outcast of the sports world, but there’s always a chance to rebound. The Coke 600 may drag at times, yes, but what event doesn’t? Instead of tearing down the sport, why don’t we start building it up with suggestions and advice?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

TV Schedule: May 21-24

The Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR
It's going to be a great weekend of racing, motorsports fans! NASCAR remains at home this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, capping off with the sport's longest race.

The XFINITY Series takes to the track Saturday.

On Sunday, the prestigious Indianapolis 500 kicks off 1,100 miles of back-to-back racing. After IndyCar in the afternoon, it's NASCAR's turn to run under the lights with the Coca-Cola 600.

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

Thursday, May 21:
4 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Qualifying, FS1
11:30 p.m. K&N Series West: Iowa Speedway (taped), NBCSN

Friday, May 22:
4:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Qualifying (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Qualifying (re-air), FS1

Saturday, May 23:
10 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
11 a.m. XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup final practice, FS1
2 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FOX
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Hisense 300, FOX

Sunday, May 24:
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
4 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: Charlotte, FS1
5:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: Charlotte, FOX
6 p.m. Sprint Cup: Coca-Cola 600, FOX
Midnight (Monday) NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte



Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta 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: 1.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Kevin Harvick - 4
All with 3 - Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch

By Track
Both with 7 - Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin  
All with 6  - Kasey Kahne, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch
All with 4 -  Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon 

Recent Pole Winners:  
2014 Jimmie Johnson
2013 Denny Hamlin

2013 Flashback
Ironically this year's rules package with less horsepower is proving to be a handful for some of the Sprint Cup Series greats. For that reason I do not weight 2014 statistics heavily, but instead turn to 2013 for guidance.

Top 15 Finishers at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26, 2013
  1. Kevin Harvick           
  2. Kasey Kahne           
  3. Kurt Busch           
  4. Denny Hamlin           
  5. Joey Logano           
  6. Ryan Newman           
  7. Tony Stewart           
  8. Clint Bowyer           
  9. Martin Truex Jr.           
  10. Marcos Ambrose           
  11. Carl Edwards           
  12. Jeff Burton           
  13. Paul Menard           
  14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.           
  15. Matt Kenseth            

Likely Suspects:
 The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the season. A quality performance requires good equipment, strategic driving, flawless pit stops and good decisions from the crew chief. A little luck can't hurt either. These drivers will get your maximum fantasy points this week: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.  

My 2 Cents: This week's no-brainer pick is a three-way tie among Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Jamie McMurray. My next picks are Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards. I will complete my team with Danica Patrick and Chase Elliott.

My final four: Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Danica Patrick.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter @purplecatpr.

Faith on the Frontstretch: Kyle Busch Says Samantha is His “Rock”


Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs  

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

It’s been an eventful week for Kyle Busch. After making his return to the seat of the No. 18 car on Saturday, he and his wife, Samantha, were blessed with a beautiful baby boy, Brexton Locke Busch, two days later.

In a teleconference announcing his comeback for the All-Star Race, Kyle voiced his gratefulness for Samantha’s presence in their daily life and especially for her support during his three-month long rehabilitation from broken bones sustained at Daytona during the Xfinity Series opener.

“Everything she's done through this process for me and being able to help me, she was there at every beck and call. I can't thank her enough,” Kyle said.

“She's my rock. She's been everything I could have asked for and plus some coming back from this injury.”

Do you have anyone in your life who is always there for you, no matter what? Those who have a “rock,” in the form of a spouse, family member or friend are blessed indeed.

But some of us don’t have a person like that in our lives, and it’s disheartening. If seeing endearing posts like Kyle and Samantha’s stirs feelings of longing for someone you can count on, don’t despair. God can be your Rock.

In fact, even if we never find another human being to be a soulmate or helper, God is a tower of strength we can run to for support. Our Abba – another name for God that means Papa – loves us with such compassion and fervor, it can fill every nook and cranny in our souls. If you need someone in your life, God longs to be that safe haven and stability for you.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~ Psalm 18:2 (NIV)

When the Bible refers to God or Jesus as a “rock,” it doesn’t refer to some ordinary pebble lying in a field. God is more like an enormous boulder of a magnitude we can’t even imagine. At least ten Bible verses refer to Jesus as a “cornerstone” – a type of rock that anchors a building – because He’s the foundation of our faith. That means we can count on Him.

A regular rock made of minerals may shift its position in the earth. Or it might gradually erode over time as water trickles over it. But God is an immovable, indestructible Rock. He never changes or loses even one molecule of Himself to any outside force, because nothing and no one can reckon with Him. Isn’t it cool we have a steadfast God like that who cares for us?

The first lines of an old hymn describe Jesus as our Redeemer and our refuge: “Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.” The lyrics mean Jesus was broken for us on the cross to rescue us from our sin. As a result, we can depend on Him because He’s our Rock, our Savior.

Will you allow God to be your Rock? Let His life-giving love seep into your thirsty soul, like water soaks into dry soil. Go ahead, lean back into God’s rock-solid arms today.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. ~ Psalm 62:2 (NIV)
--------------------------------------------


“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, May 19, 2015

Fast Facts: Brennan Poole

credit: Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
NASCAR up-and-comer Brennan Poole, who races part-time in the Xfinity Series in the No. 42 for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi, is already an accomplished racer in a number of other formats. Learn more about Poole in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Brennan Poole was born April 11, 1991 in The Woodlands, TX. In 1999, Poole began racing asphalt quarter midgets, leading to 98 career wins in six seasons (1999-2004); he also won four straight regional championships (1999-2002) and was the 2002 national quarter midget champ. Poole also raced asphalt Legends cars, accumulating 96 wins and the 2006 Texas state championship.
  • Poole spent two seasons in the USMTS Dirt Modified Series (2007-2008), winning seven times in 2008, before moving to the UARA Series from 2009-2011. He was the UARA Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver in 2009, Most Popular again in 2010, and won the 2011 championship; he picked up 10 wins over three seasons.
  • Poole made his ARCA Racing Series debut in 2011, competing in four races and picking up a win in his first-ever series start at Salem (IN) Speedway. In 2012, he competed full-time in the series, earning 15 top-10 finishes, including two wins, and finishing third in points. In four seasons (2011-2014) and 35 starts, Poole has won six times and earned 27 top 10s, along with four poles.
  • Poole made his NASCAR debut in the Xfinity Series in Las Vegas in March 2015; he finished ninth in that race, his career-best finish to date.
  • Learn more about Brennan Poole at www.brennanpoole.com






Monday, May 18, 2015

Travel Tips: Charlotte Motor Speedway – Coca Cola 600 edition - May 21-24, 2015

credit: NASCAR Media
We’re in the midst of “10 days of speed” in the heart of NASCAR country, Charlotte, NC. Charlotte Motor Speedway hosts this weekend’s big races, the Xfinity Series Hisense 300 and the longest race of the Sprint Cup Series season, the Coca Cola 600, on Saturday and Sunday, May 23 and 24, respectively.

If you’re heading down to Charlotte for all of the action, you’ll have a few days and evenings to explore the area. Here are a few things to check out:

Watch the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on Friday night, May 22 at the neighboring Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway – find out more about the NOS Energy Circle K Showdown here.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, May 21 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 4 and 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Legends All-Star race – 8:15 p.m. ET

Friday, May 22 –
  • World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway – opening ceremonies begin at 7:15 p.m. ET

Saturday, May 23
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:15 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Hisense 300 – 3 p.m. ET

Sunday, May 24
  • ZZ Top pre-race concert – 3:55 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series Coca Cola 600 – 6:26 p.m. ET

Find the complete schedule for the Coca Cola 600 weekend here (click “schedule” tab).

Find out about different ticket packages and single-day tickets at http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/

Thursday, May 14, 2015

TV Schedule: May 14-17


NASCAR goes home to Charlotte for two weeks of race festivities. First up, the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race dominate this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, leading up to the sport's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, on May 24.

The Camping World Truck Series takes to the track at Charlotte after the Sprint Showdown on Friday. The XFINITY Series converges on Iowa Speedway on Sunday.

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

Thursday, May 14:
3 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
7 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1

Friday, May 15:
Noon Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown final practice, FS1
1:45 p.m. Sprint All-Star Race final practice, FS1
4 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown Qualifying, FS1
5:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown, FS1
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Setup, FS1
8:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series NC Education Lottery 200, FS1

Saturday, May 16:
3 a.m. Camping World Truck Series NC Education Lottery 200 (re-air), FS1
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown (re-air), FS2
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series NC Education Lottery 200 (re-air), FS2
7 p.m. Sprint All-Star Race Qualifying, FS1
8:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, FS1
9 p.m. Sprint All-Star Race, FS1

Sunday, May 17:
11:30 a.m. Sprint All-Star Race (re-air), FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
2 p.m. XFINITY Series 3M 250, FS1
8:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown (re-air), FS2
9:30 p.m. Sprint All-Star Race (re-air), FS2