Saturday, December 31, 2016

The return of Dale Earnhardt Jr in 2017 marks the return of one fan

credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
By Lacy Keyser 

When Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced he was out for the rest of the 2016 season, it shaped my season of NASCAR. Since there was no Junior, that meant I was done for the rest of 2016.

I didn’t have the drive or the passion to watch my favorite sport any more. I didn’t even want updates. That sounds bad. It makes me sound like a bandwagon fan, but that’s really not true. Not having Earnhardt Jr. in races didn’t feel right. In a way, his absence reminded me of how I felt the first race after Dale Earnhardt died. 

No.88, no me.

Also, just like Junior was seeing what steps he needed to take to ensure his health was safe and that he was fit to race, I was going through my own new adventure. There was college, moving out of my childhood home, and doing this thing called being an adult.

Without NASCAR races, like Earnhardt Jr., my Sundays were different now. It was hard to not watch races, it really was, but I still stayed away.

There were times I felt out the of loop with my Skirts and Scuffs family, as well as my friends who watch NASCAR. When everyone talked about racing and what happened that week, I’d be sitting there in Lacy World.

But after I had took my last final on December 8th, I got messages from my close friend, Amanda. My Facebook timeline was blowing up with news. Junior was back! He was medically cleared to race. After long months, I was finally excited again for NASCAR.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has always had a huge fan following. His fans have always been called “Earnhardt Nation.” That fact stands tall.  Despite not racing the last half of the 2016 season Junior was able to win Most Popular Driver for the 14th season in a row.

So when Daytona rolls around, Junior will have a huge welcome back to the track. His fans have missed him, and I believe even non-fans missed him. Dale Earnhardt Jr. is, and always has been the heart and soul of this sport. He speaks to the fans and he gives a lot of us hope when we need it most.

I for one can’t wait to see Junior back in action in 2017, taking Daytona by storm.

Plus, he and I are both facing a new life event at almost the same time. 

Marriage.

Junior is getting married tonight, New Year's Eve, and I’ll be getting married in July. Talk about an adventure! I wish him and fiancée Amy Reimann all the best as they start their lives together as husband and wife. 

Welcome back, Dale, Jr.  It's going to be good to have you back on the track.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rick Hendrick

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/Jerry Markland
Rick Hendrick has become one of the most prolific team owners in NASCAR when it comes to winning championships, and on Jan. 20, 2017, he will be one of five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Learn more about Hendrick in this week’s Fast Facts, and look for profiles on fellow Hall of Famers Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons in coming weeks.
  • Joseph Riddick Hendrick III was born July 12, 1949 in Palmer Springs, VA. He began drag racing at age 14, and competed in four NASCAR races across the top three series (Cup, Xfinity and Trucks), but found the most success as a team owner.
  • In the late 1970s, Hendrick owned a drag boat racing team that won three championships before moving on to NASCAR in the early 1980s. In 1984, he founded All-Star Racing – which later became Hendrick Motorsports – and with driver Geoff Bodine won three races and finished ninth in points in its inaugural season.
  • For the upcoming 2017 season, Hendrick Motorsports will field four teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for drivers Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne.
  • Through the 2016 season, Hendrick Motorsports has won 15 NASCAR driver’s championships: 11 Cup Series (seven with Johnson, four with Jeff Gordon), one Xfinity Series with Brian Vickers, and three Camping World Truck Series, all with Jack Sprague.
  • Hendrick suffered a tragic loss on Oct. 24, 2004, as son Ricky, brother John, twin nieces Kimberly and Jennifer and six others were killed in a plane crash in Virginia. Hendrick and his wife Linda were themselves involved in a minor plane crash in Key West, FL on Oct. 31, 2011, with Linda suffering minor injuries and Hendrick suffering three broken ribs and a fractured clavicle.
  • Away from the track, Hendrick is the chairman and founder of Hendrick Automotive Group, which operates 98 franchises in 13 states. The group is headquartered in Charlotte, NC.
  • In 1997, Hendrick founded the Hendrick Marrow Program, an organization that works with the Be The Match Foundation and supports the National Marrow Donor Program. Hendrick was diagnosed in Nov. 1996 with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). Hendrick also continued the Hendrick Foundation for Children, which was established in 2004 by his late brother John.
  • Learn more about Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports at www.hendrickmotorsports.com.
Also check out:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Richard Childress

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/Geoff Burke
The name Richard Childress has become synonymous with NASCAR, and on Jan. 20, 2017, he will become a permanent part of NASCAR history as one of five inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Learn more about Childress in this week’s Fast Facts, and look for profiles on fellow Hall of Famers Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons in coming weeks.
  • Richard Childress was born Sept. 21, 1945 in Winston-Salem, NC. His NASCAR career began as a “replacement driver” at Talladega Superspeedway in 1969 during a drivers’ strike; over 12 years, Childress made 285 starts in NASCAR’s premier series with a career-best finish of third. Childress’ number was originally 96, but he changed to 3 in 1976.
  • Childress retired as a driver in 1981, putting Dale Earnhardt in the car for the season before Ricky Rudd took over for two years (1982-83), giving Childress his first win as an owner in June 1983 at Riverside International Raceway. Earnhardt returned to the car in 1984 – the rest is NASCAR history.
  • Richard Childress Racing fielded seven teams during the 2016 NASCAR campaign: Austin Dillon, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman in the Cup Series, and Ty Dillon, Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan in the Xfinity Series; a fourth Xfinity Series car was fielded for multiple drivers, including Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr. and Michael McDowell.
  • RCR has won 12 NASCAR championships: six in the Cup Series, all with Earnhardt; four in the Xfinity Series – 2001 and 2006 with Kevin Harvick, 2008 with Clint Bowyer and 2013 with Austin Dillon; and two in the Camping World Truck Series – 1995 with Mike Skinner and 2011 with Austin Dillon. RCR also won the 2011 ARCA Racing Series championship with Ty Dillon.
  • Childress owns Childress Vineyards in Lexington, NC, as well as the Richard Childress Racing Museum in Welcome, NC. In 2008, he and his wife Judy established the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
  • Learn more about Childress and RCR at www.rcrracing.com, and more about Childress Vineyards at www.childressvineyards.com. Find out more about the NASCAR Hall of Fame at www.nascarhall.com


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Fast Facts: 2016 NASCAR Home Tracks champions

Some of them are veterans, some of them are stars of tomorrow – all of them can claim to be NASCAR champions. NASCAR handed out its six touring series titles this past weekend at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame – learn more about these champions in this week’s Fast Facts.

Doug Coby - credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Sarah Crabill
  • NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour – Doug Coby earned his fourth championship in NASCAR’s oldest division (2012, 2014-2016), winning three times and picking up nine top 10 finishes in 12 starts.
  • NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour – Burt Myers picked up his second title in the series (2010, 2016), the final one before the Southern Tour unites with the Whelen Tour for 2017. Myers earned three checkered flags and finished in the top 10 in all nine races in 2016.

Justin Haley - credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Sean Gardner
  • K&N Pro Series East – 17-year-old Justin Haley, the fourth consecutive driver to win the series’ title for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks, won twice and finished in the top 10 in all 14 races in 2016.
  • K&N Pro Series West – 16-year-old Todd Gilliland became one of the youngest champions in NASCAR history (touring or national series). Gilliland, son of NASCAR veteran David and grandson of former West Series champ Butch, won six of 14 races in 2016, finishing in the top 10 in 13 of them.
  • NASCAR Pinty’s Series – 16-year-old Cayden Lapcevich joined Gilliland as one of the youngest-ever NASCAR champs. The Grimsby, Ontario native earned three wins and finished in the top 10 in all 11 races in 2016.
  • NASCAR Euro Series – Hasselt, Belgium’s Anthony Kumpen won his second Euro title in three seasons, winning five times and finishing in the top 10 in 10 of the series’ 12 races in 2016. In the States, Kumpen has made starts in the K&N Pro Series East and the Xfinity Series.
Follow the NASCAR Home Tracks program at hometracks.nascar.com.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Fast Facts: 2016 Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey
A few weeks ago, Johnny Sauter became the first driver to punch his ticket for the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Championship Four – on November 18, 2016, he became the first Truck Series Chase-era champion. Learn more about his career and championship season in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Jonathan Joseph Sauter was born May 1, 1978 in Necedah, WI. He is the son of former NASCAR driver Jim Sauter, and his brothers Tim and Jay also competed in all three top NASCAR Series.
  • Sauter began racing in numerous series in Wisconsin and the Midwest following his graduation from high school in 1996, eventually joining the American Speed Association (ASA) in 1998; in 2001, Sauter was crowned ASA National Tour champ and Rookie of the Year.
  • Sauter’s ASA title earned him a five-race Busch (now Xfinity) Series deal with Richard Childress Racing at the end of 2001; he earned three top 15 finishes in those five starts and a full-time ride with RCR in the series for 2002, when he won his first race at Chicagoland Speedway. In 2003 he split seat time with RCR and the Curb-Agajanian Performance Group; Sauter combined with Kevin Harvick in the RCR No. 21 to win the Busch Series’ owners’ championship. He also made his Cup Series and his Craftsman (now Camping World) Truck Series debuts in 2003.
  • Through the three series, Sauter has driven for numerous teams, including Morgan-McClure Motorsports, Phoenix Racing, Brewco Motorsports, Haas CNC Racing, Tommy Baldwin Racing, Prism Motorsports and ThorSport Racing.
  • Sauter has raced full-time in the Camping World Truck Series since 2009, earning his first career Truck Series win at Las Vegas in 2009 and also winning the series’ Rookie of the Year Award that year. Sauter joined GMS Racing for the 2016 season, winning in his debut with the team at Daytona. He added wins at Martinsville and Texas before the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and brought home his first Truck Series title with a third-place finish. Sauter earned 19 top 10 finishes – including 12 top fives – in 23 races.
  • Sauter and his wife Cortney have three children, son Penn Joseph and daughters Paige and Anne.
  • Find out more about Sauter at his website, www.johnny-sauter.com


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Fast Facts: 2016 Xfinity Series champion Daniel Suarez

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Jonathan Ferrey
A couple of years ago, Daniel Suarez was competing full-time in the K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR Mexico Series – today, he’s a top-tier NASCAR race winner and champ. Learn more about the 2016 Xfinity Series champion in this week’s championship edition of Fast Facts.
  • Daniel Alejandro Suarez Garza was born Jan. 7, 1992 in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. He began his racing career in karting at age 10, winning the class championship in 2007.
  • In 2008, Suarez moved into Mini-Stocks, a precursor to the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, and became the youngest winner in the series’ history. He moved up to the Mexico Series in 2010, winning the Rookie of the Year Award in spite of only running a partial season. In 2011, he finished ninth in the Mexico Series standings, with three poles on the season; he also competed in seven K&N Pro Series East races.
  • In 2012, Suarez competed in both series again, finishing third in the Mexico Series with two wins and 16th in K&N East competition. In 2013, as part of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program with Rev Racing, he competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East, finishing third in points with one win and nine top 10 finishes; he also finished second in points in the Mexico Series, with three wins.
  • Suarez kicked off the 2014 season on a high note, winning the first two K&N Pro Series East race and three of the first four Mexico Series races. At Richmond International Raceway in April, he finished 19th in his Nationwide (now Xfinity) Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing. Later that year, JGR announced that Suarez would compete full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2015, as well as part-time in the Camping World Truck Series with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
  • Suarez finished fifth in Xfinity Series points in 2015 and won Rookie of the Year in the series thanks to 18 top 10 finishes and three pole positions. He also picked up 10 top 10 finishes in 13 starts in the Truck Series. He earned his first career Xfinity Series win in 2016 at Michigan, later adding two more wins at Dover and Homestead-Miami on his way to the Xfinity Series title. He also won his first career Truck Series race at Phoenix in 2016, one of six top 10 finishes in 13 starts in the series.
  • Learn more about Suarez at his website, www.danielsuarezracing.com







Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Fast Facts: 2016 Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson

credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/
Jonathan Ferrey
Earnhardt. Petty. Johnson. With his win on Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson joined an elite group of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champions. Catch up with Johnson in this special Sprint Cup Series championship edition of Fast Facts.
  • Jimmie Kenneth Johnson was born Sept. 17, 1975 in El Cajon, California (near San Diego), and attended Granite Hills High School. In addition to racing motorcycles, Johnson was also a varsity water polo player, diver and swimmer.
  • He began his racing career at age five on 50cc motorcycles, moving to 60cc bikes at age eight. He went on to compete in off-road racing on four wheels, and took numerous wins and championships in the SODA, SCORE, and Mickey Thompson Entertainment Group series.
  • He switched to stock cars in 1998, racing in the American Speed Association (ASA) and winning the ASA Rookie of the Year award that same year. He moved on to the Busch (now Xfinity) Series, but when his team lost their sponsor, Johnson looked to Cup Series veteran Jeff Gordon for advice; they kept in touch afterward, and Hendrick Motorsports later signed Johnson to a development deal on Gordon’s recommendation. He began his full-time Cup career in 2002 in the familiar No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, a team and a sponsor he drives for to this day.
  • Through the 2016 season, Johnson has 80 wins and 330 top-10 finishes in the Sprint Cup Series, along with seven titles (2006-2010, 2013 and 2016). He is the first NASCAR Sprint Cup champion to win five consecutive titles. Johnson was also named the 2009 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year and is a five-time (to date) Driver of the Year (2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2013).
  • The Jimmie Johnson Foundation, founded in 2006, assists children, families, and communities in need around the country. The Foundation currently focuses on K-12 public education funding.
  • Johnson is married to the former Chandra Janway (Dec. 11, 2004), and is the father of two daughters – Genevieve and Lydia. He is a football and baseball fan, following the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Panthers, and his hometown teams, the San Diego Chargers and San Diego Padres.
  • Find out more about Johnson at www.jimmiejohnson.com, www.lowesracing.com, www.hendrickmotorsports.com, and jimmiejohnsonfoundation.org


Monday, November 21, 2016

Right Sides Only: Notes from the 2016 Champion Crew Chief, Chad Knaus

by Stacey Owens

The word milestone doesn't seem to describe it well. Even achievement misses the mark. What word aptly describes the milestone achievement that Jimmie Johnson reached this weekend as only the third driver in NASCAR history to win seven championships? There may not be one, but that's OK because even the driver of the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet had no words. Neither did his championship crew chief, also a seven-time winner, Chad Knaus.

"Holy smokes, I don't know if I can even begin," Knaus said when asked if he could break down the win from his perspective.
            
"It was obviously a challenge from the onset, but it's not that -- it's definitely not the race that we anticipated having. We thought we had a little bit more speed in our car yesterday. We didn't qualify well on Friday, so we didn't have the best track position throughout the course of the race, so we didn't really show the strength of our car until I think the very end. 
            
"But to be able to get up there, get clean air at the end of the end, Jimmie was actually able to do a fantastic job. I haven't had a chance to talk to him, if it was just him or if he thought the car was pretty good in clean air. So we'll have to find out what that was about. 
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"We ran well, but we just couldn't broach into that top five the way we needed to throughout the course of the day, and the guys worked hard, and it was awesome. It's an honor and a privilege to be able to be here today doing this," Knaus said.

Even before the race began, the No. 48 team seemed to be plagued with issues. NASCAR sent the team through pre-race inspection three times before clearing them to head to the grid with their fellow competitors. However, officials still saw something they didn't like with the car's A-post and forced the car through inspection yet again. For what NASCAR deemed an unapproved body modification, they sent Johnson to the rear of the field, forcing him to do what he does best: compete under pressure.

Johnson wasted no time soldiering to the front of the field. In a mere 15 laps, he'd moved to 15th place. Though he continued to move forward a few positions, he simply wasn't the class of the field. That's where Knaus enters the picture.

"I think we made the car better for sure. We were able to keep pace with those guys [Edwards, Logano and Kyle Busch] a little bit better. Jimmie was definitely able to run the bottom of the racetrack better. We just -- in traffic we just couldn't get from that fifth to eighth -- you know, in that area. Like it's just kind of like a black hole. It's very difficult to progress through that area, and we just couldn't get through there, so we needed to make some significant adjustments. We pulled some packer from the front. That helped the body attitude. He was able to get some good restarts, which put us in that position," Knaus explained.

That position worked to Johnson's favor when Edwards and Logano swapped paint and metal with 10 laps to go. Johnson and Busch were able to make their way through the melee and restart on Row 2, but another wreck involving Stenhouse Jr. shuffled the field again. Knaus addressed the turn of events.

"Was there some luck involved or bad luck? I don't even know," he said. "I don't know what the conversations were about Joey and Carl and all that stuff, so ... did that open up the door for us? Absolutely. But the fact of the matter is we lined up out there, and Jimmie drove that thing past those guys and won the race ... This team is solid from the standpoint that -- just we might get wavered, we might get shaken, we might get knocked back on our heels. But then we bounce back and we start jabbing right back, and that's the way that we've rolled, and we're going to continue to work that way until we're done," Knaus explained.
 
Credit Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Johnson and Knaus have been paired together since the driver signed with Hendrick Motorsports, beginning with the 2002 season. It's rare in NASCAR for one driver to remain with a crew chief for more than a decade, but the twosome works.

"Jimmie has taught me more about life than life itself has taught me. He's taught me about family.  He's taught me about relationships. He's taught me about being a champion. You know, when we started this thing, all I was was just a racer guy, and he was a cool California kid, and we kind of grew up together. To be in this situation to where we know he's got a handful of years left, whatever they may be, and for Jimmie and Mr. Hendrick to want me to stick with the 48 car and be at the helm of this ship, man, it's flattering. It really is flattering, because let's be honest, I'm getting older just like everybody else is. None of us is as young as we once were, and I look forward to the future with these guys," Knaus said.

With the history these two have made, the future looks exceedingly bright. 
--------------------------------------

    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.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves 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.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Daniel Suárez wins Ford Ecoboost 300, earns inaugural Xfinity Series Chase Championship

Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
by Lisa Janine Cloud 

Daniel Suárez of Monterrey, Mexico took the checkered flag in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday evening, and with it the Xfinity Series Championship. In doing so, he became the first foreign-born driver to win a NASCAR national series title.

All four of the Xfinity Series drivers contending for the title in the first Chase Championship race had compelling stories.

Elliott Sadler, a 20-year veteran of NASCAR who is with his fifth team in six seasons of Xfinity competition, found a home with his friend Dale Earnhardt Jr’s organization. Erik Jones, the 20-year-old 2015 Camping World Truck Series champion,who managed to cope with the death of his father and still have a successful season. Justin Allgaier, 30, who returned to the Xfinity Series after a two-year foray into Cup. Suárez, the 24-year-old Drive For Diversity alumnus, who learned to speak English by watching cartoons.

“To win here in Homestead and to have a lot of fans and people from Latin America, Mexicans, all over Latin America, it's something great for me.” Suárez stated. “And on the side of that, I have my mom, my dad, my family from Houston, my friends from Mexico, my friend Coco over there that I used to race cars with him when I was 13 years old. A lot of friends were here. More than 30 people were here just to have fun with me, to enjoy this weekend, and what a better way to finish this way.”

He added, “I'm just very proud of my team, very proud of everyone that has been helping me to be in this position, and it's still hard to believe this. It's still hard to believe this. But we worked hard, and this team really deserves these results.”

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/NASCAR via Getty Images


After the green flag flew, each driver demonstrated why he belonged in the Championship Four. Suárez and Sadler started on the front row. Suárez ran in the top five all night, while Sadler fell back as far as 16th after scraping the wall trying to run the high line. Allgaier ran up front almost the whole race, and Jones, who rolled off third, rallied back to the top five in the final laps.

Suárez started on the pole and led seven times for a race-high 133 laps. Had the race gone green to the end, he’d likely have won with ease. However, Ray Black Jr. spun on Lap 191, bunching up the field and setting up a shoot-out which would, under other circumstances, have given the other three contenders a chance at the win.

But while the leaders pitted, Cole Whitt stayed out. The driver of the No. 14 told NBC’s Dustin Long that the team was out of tires, so he was told not to pit. A two-tire call on the Lap 192 stop put Sadler and the No. 1 back on the front row, with Suárez behind him. Jones, Ty Dillon and Allgaier followed.

When the green flag flew, Whitt couldn’t get out of the way quickly enough. Sadler, on the inside, surged ahead with Suárez on his bumper.

As soon as they cleared the slow-moving lower line, Suárez streaked past Sadler to the lead and never looked back.

Visibly disappointed in the loss, Sadler explained. “This is by far the hardest because I feel like this is the best team I've probably ever worked with. Before when I've come to Homestead, I've been a few points back, and like if certain situations happened, you know, you might could win, but it's a long shot, but here with four guys even, we all wanted to win. We all felt like we all had a chance of winning.”

“With the team I have now, love them to death, and we've had such good race cars all year.”  I wanted to be able to look my guys in the eye and give them a championship, and I told Kelley that after the race, and she was very supportive, and she's got my back. I really wanted to hand her a trophy, and not doing that just ‑‑ it hurts and stings a little bit and makes you wonder what you could have done different.” Sadler finished third, obviously two spots short of his goal.

Allgaier also expressed disappointment at the way the race ended.

“Just to run as good as we did tonight, our Brandt Fresh Agriculture team has done a great job all year, but tonight I felt like we did what we had to do and put ourselves in great position and unfortunately just didn't materialize, didn't get to race for it at the end, and that's probably the hardest pill to swallow over tonight.” he said. The No. 7 Brandt car finished in sixth.

Frustration mixed with disappointment for Jones, who was stuck behind Whitt and had no chance to get past him for the win. Instead, he got shuffled back and came home ninth.

“Right there at the end the sun went down and the track cooled down and the car came around a little bit and we were able to run the 19 (Daniel Suárez) down and if the caution didn’t come out, I think we had a pretty good shot at getting around him there.” said Jones.

 “We didn’t have any sticker tires left at the end. I don’t know if it would have worked out or not, the 14 (Cole Whitt) didn’t even attempt to go and sacked the whole top line – wasn’t spinning his tires or nothing,” Jones explained. “I don’t know what was going on there. Either way, it’s unfortunate. We did a really nice job making our stuff better, getting to where it needed to be to have a shot. It just didn’t work out.”

Ty Dillon took advantage of Whitt’s blocking traffic and he wound up second. "What an exciting race that came down to the final laps. I thought we may have been able to grab the win there at the end. We showed so much speed all weekend and the entire race, but probably needed two or three more laps to run down the 19 car.”

Fourth place went to Ryan Blaney, and the elder Dillon brother, Austin, finished fifth.

The Championship team owner, Joe Gibbs, described the newest NASCAR champion:
“The thing I'd say about Daniel for all young people out there, he probably ‑‑ he mentioned being part of a family.  He actually obeys me more than my two boys do, J.D. and Coy.  If you tell Daniel to be in the weight room, and Jimmy is tough on him sometimes and tells him what he needs to do and the sponsors, even if it's another sponsor that's not even on his car, he will show up at the events we have, whether it's bowling or anything else.” Gibbs stated.

“So I just say to young people out there, if you have that kind of work ethic and that kind of a person and that kind of character ‑‑ and he just mentioned he taught himself English; how do you do that, and how do you go to a country and not really have support there, don't speak the language?  It tells you what kind of guts he's got.”

 Complete unofficial results:


FinStCar #Driver
1119Daniel Suarez
2113Ty Dillon
321Elliott Sadler
4422Ryan Blaney
552Austin Dillon
667Justin Allgaier
7742Kyle Larson
81462Brendan Gaughan
9320Erik Jones
101598Aric Almirola
1196Darrell Wallace, Jr.
122339Ryan Sieg
131944J.J. Yeley
14888Alex Bowman
151033Brandon Jones
161316Ryan Reed
17185Cole Custer
181614Cole Whitt
192528Dakoda Armstrong
201211Blake Koch
21261Ryan Preece
22204Ross Chastain
233186Brandon Brown
242751Jeremy Clements
253918Matt Tifft
263515Travis Kvapil
271748Brennan Poole
28307Ray Black, Jr.
29280Garrett Smithley
303413Brandon Hightower
312978B.J. McLeod
324099Jeff Green
333825Josh Reaume
343797Josh Bilicki
352124Corey LaJoie
362246Jordan Anderson
373352Joey Gase
383690Mario Gosselin
393240Timmy Hill
402410Matt DiBenedetto






Saturday, November 19, 2016

Caution Clock Chaos: Johnny Sauter Clinches 2016 NASCAR CWTS championship as Byron Takes Checkers

Johnny Sauter celebrates in Victory Lane at Homestead-Miami
Credit: Sean Gardner
by Courtney Horn

Johnny Sauter won his first NASCAR title Friday night after finishing third in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Sauter passed former teammate and Championship 4 contender Matt Crafton on Lap 119 to take the driver standings lead, which he kept for the rest of the evening.

Sauter came from the back after qualifying 19th in his No. 21 Chevrolet, but with hard work and adjustments, the 38-year-old found his way to the front quickly.

"It’s not just me," Sauter said, "It’s the whole team — everybody at GMS Racing. We qualified bad today, and really, I was kind of worried about it. But it felt pretty good in race trim.

"To be a champion ... five years ago my old man was down here when I won the race. This is for him and for Joe Shear’s dad — great Midwest racers. My family’s here, my kids are here, my wife’s here. It’s just an awesome night. Proud to be champion, and we’ll do everything within our power to represent NASCAR and Camping World as best we can."

All eyes may have been on Sauter, but he wasn’t the only one celebrating. The 2016 Rookie of the Year, William Byron, won the race — his seventh Camping World Truck Series victory, a rookie record.

"It feels awesome," Byron said. "It’s just — it’s incredible. I mean this team has worked so hard all year. We just had an unfortunate situation last week that we couldn’t control, but, man, they brought a good truck. Qualified on the pole."

Byron also earned the owner championship for Kyle Busch Motorsports. The title is the organization’s fourth straight and fifth overall win in the series.

Byron took the lead on Lap 125, after battling Brad Keselowski Racing’s Tyler Reddick.

"These guys just are awesome," Byron said. "God, I hate leaving this. I just hate this team not being together next year. It’s just insane how good they are, and so many talented people on this race team. Can’t thank KBM enough, Toyota, Kyle and Samantha (Kyle Busch’s wife), everyone at KBM, (sponsor) Liberty University — it’s just amazing."

Reddick, who failed to make the Chase, heads to NASCAR’s XFINITY Series in 2017 along with Byron.

Byron’s teammate Christopher Bell finished eighth after struggling throughout the evening. Bell never gained ground to battle for the race win, but finished third in the championship standings after a strong season.

Crafton finished the race in seventh after holding onto the championship lead for most of the race, but failed to deliver after the handling of his Toyota went south. Peters, who finished ninth, closed out the Championship 4.

The final 2016 NCWTS standings:
Champion: Johnny Sauter
Second: Matt Crafton
Third: Christopher Bell
Fourth: Timothy Peters

Friday, November 18, 2016

TV Schedule: Nov. 18-20


It all comes down to this. The checkered flag is ready to wave on the 2016 NASCAR season.

The Chase ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A new champion in each of NASCAR's top three series will emerge Sunday. Who will be left standing to hoist the championship trophy?

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

Friday, Nov. 18:
8:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
10:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN
2 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
5 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN
6 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, NBCSN
7:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FS1
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200, FS1
10 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Post-Race Show, FS1
Midnight Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), NBCSN

Saturday, Nov. 19:
6 a.m. Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 (re-air), FS1
10 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, CNBC
11 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, CNBC
12:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN
3 p.m. XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Ford EcoBoost 300, NBCSN
6:30 p.m. NASCAR XFINITY Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN
9 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 (re-air), FS2
12:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), NBCSN
2 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), NBCSN

Sunday, Nov. 20:
1:30 p.m. NASCAR America Sunday, NBC
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Countdown to Green, NBC
2:30 p.m. NBCSN NASCAR Hot Pass, NBCSN
3 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400, NBC
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
9 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, November 17, 2016

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Championship Race at Homestead



Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Charlotte Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway  Darlington Raceway • 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 - 5
All with 4 - Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer
All with 3 - Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson

By Track
Kevin Harvick - 4
All with 3 - Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson

Recent Pole Winners:  
2015 Denny Hamlin
2014 Jeff Gordon

Last Year's Race Winner: Kyle Busch

The Likely Suspects: The drama will run high this weekend as the Sprint Cup Champion emerges from our four contenders: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards. Keep an eye on these Homestead elite drivers when building your roster this week: Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick at Homestead is a tie between Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson. I'm out of Carl Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. starts, but if you still have them, put them on your team. I'm going with Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon and Paul Menard. I will complete my team with Ty Dillon and Alex Bowman. 

My Final Four: Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Jamie McMurray and Alex Bowman

Points to Ponder:
  • Chase Contenders won nine of the 12 (75%) previous Chase races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Two non-Chase contenders won the Homestead-Miami Chase races: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013). 
  • Roush Fenway Racing leads the series in wins at Homestead with seven, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing with six.
  • There have been 13 different Coors Light pole winners at Homestead, led by Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne with two each.
  • Twelve of the 17 (70.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Homestead were won from a starting position inside the top 10, most recently by Kyle Busch who started third last season.
  • Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart lead the Cup Series with three wins each, followed by Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin with two each.
  • Among active drivers, Kevin Harvick leads the series in runner-up finishes at Homestead with three, in top-five finishes with seven, and in top-10 finishes with 13. He also leads the series in average finish at Homestead with a 7.3.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Faith on the Frontstretch: Things That Go Bump on the Track

The No. 20 car of Matt Kenseth at Phoenix Nov. 2016
Matt Kenseth on pit road after wrecking in the final laps at Phoenix, Nov. 13, 2016.
Credit: Robert Laberge / Getty Images  
by Beth Reinke

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

When my son was a preschooler, he loved the speed bumps in our grocery store parking lot. He’d grin and shout, “Big bump!” each time a speed bump jostled him in his car seat as the front and rear tires kaploomped over it.

On the other hand, things that go bump on the race track rarely end in anyone grinning or enjoying the ride. At Phoenix last weekend, one particular bump ended in disaster for championship contender Matt Kenseth.

As Kenseth led the race during an overtime restart, spotter Chris Osborne told him he was clear of Alex Bowman, who was on the inside going into the corner. But things change in a split second in NASCAR, and may look different depending what angle your view gives you. So Kenseth really hadn’t cleared Bowman’s car, and ended up getting bumped and turned into the outside wall.

That single on-track bump ended Kenseth’s Chase hopes. He went from leading in the final laps to an out-of-the-Chase 21st-place finish. Understandably, he was bummed.

“It’s really disappointing that we don’t get to go to Homestead and race for a championship, but the guys did everything perfect today,” Kenseth said. “It’s the best car I’ve had at Phoenix — probably ever. They had good pit stops today, and we were competitive. We all as a group did the job that we needed to do to be in position to win that thing. It’s unfortunate the way it worked out.”

Things happen to all of us that are “really disappointing” and “unfortunate” — to use Kenseth’s words.

What do we do when we’ve experienced life’s bumps and have trouble recovering? It seems counterintuitive, but it helps to be grateful. Gratitude — a purposeful thankfulness for our blessings, however small they may seem — revives our faith and builds our trust in God.

Prayer and thankfulness bring peace and trust. The Living Bible describes it simply in Philippians 4:6-7:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.

When worry churns in your heart, take in a slow, deep breath and then blow out the fretful feelings. Focus your thoughts on the Lord and pray instead. Thank God for the good stuff. If anxious thoughts try to creep back in, keep praying and expressing your gratitude. Soon you’ll feel God’s peace infusing your heart and quieting your mind.

You don’t have to grin or shout, “Big bump!” when life knocks you around. But the supernatural peace that comes from trusting God — even during life’s bumpy rides — just might make you smile.

May we pray together? Dear God, we’re so grateful that you’re bigger than any “bumps” we come up against in the race of life. Thank you that we can pray at any moment of the day or night, and you’ll always be there to listen. Help us remember to thank you for our blessings, not just at Thanksgiving, but every day. Please send us your peace, which we so desperately need. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
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Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month during the NASCAR season. Follow Beth on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? Check out Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. You can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Fast Facts: D.J. Kennington

Kennington's 2012 championship shot
credit: Getty Images/Streeter Lecka
Did you look at the starting order or results for last weekend’s Can-Am 500 at Phoenix and wonder, “Who is D.J. Kennington?” You’re about to find out, because he’s the focus of this week’s Fast Facts.
 
  • Daniel Joseph Kennington was born July 15, 1977 in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. He grew up around motorsports, learning to build engines from his father, Canadian Motorsports Hall of Famer Doug Kennington.
  • Kennington began racing competitively at age 16 in Canada, and from 2004-2005 ran a partial schedule in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series in the United States as an owner/driver. In 2007, he made the move to the NASCAR Canadian Tire (now Pinty’s) Series and finished second in points, a standing he duplicated in 2009, 2011 and 2013; he bettered that finish by one in both 2010 and 2012, ending each of those seasons as champion. Through 2016, Kennington is second on the Pinty’s Series all-time win list with 19, three behind Andrew Ranger’s 22 wins.
  • Kennington made his Busch (now Xfinity) Series debut at Memphis in 2006 for MacDonald Motorsports. He has also raced for Specialty Racing, Team Rensi Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, MBM Motorsports and BJ McLeod Motorsports in the series. He made his Camping World Truck Series debut in 2010 for Rick Ware Racing, finishing 17th at Martinsville. He’s also teamed with Glenden Enterprises and Premium Motorsports in the series. The Can-Am 500 at Phoenix on Nov. 13 marked his Sprint Cup Series debut, also with Premium Motorsports.
  • Learn more about Kennington at his website, www.djkracing.ca.






Monday, November 14, 2016

Travel Tips: Homestead-Miami Speedway – Nov. 18-20, 2016


credit: NASCAR Media
The 2016 NASCAR Chases for the Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series championships will be decided this weekend during Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, taking place Friday through Sunday, Nov. 18-20.

On Friday, Nov. 18 from 7 to 11:30 a.m. ET, the Hot Rods and Reels Charity Fishing Tournament takes place on the infield lake at HMS. The event, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Quality of Life Chapter of the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, allows fans to spend quality one-on-one time with top NASCAR personalities. Past participants have included Carl Edwards, Tony Stewart, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Newman and Clint Bowyer. Find out more about the tournament here.

Fans will be “Smokin’ at the Track” this weekend with barbecue classes, campground challenges and more. Classes are scheduled for Friday at 2 p.m. ET and Saturday at 8 a.m. and noon ET (registration is required.) Find more information on the complete Championship Weekend schedule.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Nov. 18
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 8:30 and 10:30 a.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 2 and 5 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 3:45 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 6:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Ford EcoBoost 200 – 8 p.m. ET
Saturday, Nov. 19
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:15 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Ford EcoBoost 300 – 3:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, Nov. 20
  • Pre-race concert featuring The Band Perry – 1 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Find out more about the weekend and purchase tickets at www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Caution Clock Chaos: Daniel Suarez Wins at Phoenix, Championship 4 Set

Daniel Suarez celebrates in Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway.
Credit: Blaine Ohigashi

by Courtney Horn

Daniel Suarez earned his first Camping World Truck Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway after leading 34 laps at the one-mile tri-oval on Friday night.

“It’s been hard to, for some reason, to get a first victory. Sometimes we’re super strong and things happen,” Suarez said. “But very, very happy that we were able to finally get it done.”

Suarez took the race lead after teammate William Byron blew an engine with just nine laps to go. If he'd hung onto the lead, Byron would have scored his seventh win of the season and clinched his place into the final four. He led the most laps before bringing out the ninth caution of the night.

"We had been running hot a little bit the last run – kind of all night," Byron said. "It stayed within 10 (degree) range, but it started to vibrate, maybe the lap before … but it didn’t seem like a big deal, then it sputtered and flames came out from underneath the truck."

While Byron’s hopes of contending for the championship were put to an end, Timothy Peters and ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton battled throughout the night for valuable positions.

"There wasn’t a lap that wasn’t tense," Crafton said. "We just raced hard from the beginning to the end."

Christopher Bell capitalized on his teammate’s troubles and finished seventh, clinching the final position in the last round of the Chase.

Ahead of the Finale

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead next week to determine the 2016 champion from among the Championship 4 drivers: Sauter, Crafton, Bell and Peters.

Sauter and Peters join Bell in looking for a first NASCAR title, while two-time champion Crafton pursues his third in four years.

You can catch all the CWTS season finale action on Nov. 18th at 8 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Reflections: Five Questions for Phoenix

(Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
What an uneventful week in the neighborhood, right?

There are a lot of storylines surrounding this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway – because it’s the cutoff. Yes, the Camping World Truck, Xfinity, and Sprint Cup Series will determine their championship 4. This season has led up to fierce battles in all three tiers.

Although many use sports as an escape from, say, very stressful times, we have to remember it is a microcosm of society; sports tend to reflect what’s going on in the world. But not NASCAR, right?

This week’s edition of Five Question touches on youth piling in, expectations, and feeling torn. Let’s see what I can get into this time.

Can you keep up with the CWTS debuts? There is a plethora of new talent riding into the CWTS, and many drivers are making their series debut this coming weekend. Here are just some of the names attempting the race: Myatt Snider, Domonique Van Wieringen, and Noah Gragson. That’s a lot of young talent right there. So, why is there a sudden influx of debuts? It’s mostly about experience and publicity; Gragson, for example, will race for Kyle Busch Motorsports next season, and racing at Phoenix will get his feet wet and introduce people to this fresh face. On the other hand, drivers like Van Wieringen need offers for 2017. The K&N Pro Series East driver wants to advance her career, and her Phoenix start is an attempt to catch some eyes. This happens every year around this time and allows us to see who is trying to break through.

Which Xfinity driver prevails, Allgaier or Koch? Chase cutoffs are here once again, and the tension surrounding this weekend’s Xfinity race is palpable. Justin Allgaier is one point out of the championship 4, while Blake Koch holds that final spot. When you think about who has the advantage here, many will give it to the JR Motorsports driver. Allgaier’s 2016 performance is impressive yet lacks wins. Whenever he and the No. 7 team would get close, something would come up. That could very well happen this weekend, during a crucial race Allgaier circled on his calendar at the start of the season. As amazing as he’s been, Koch holding up throughout the Chase is a miracle. Kaulig Racing didn’t even exist before this January; this was a stab in the dark that ended up striking gold. No matter what happens, Koch is a winner with his 2016 performance, and Allgaier should be proud as well.

How will Biffle fare after 500th start? Who’s ready to feel old? Greg Biffle will make his 500th Sprint Cup start this weekend, a milestone worth celebrating. When a driver has been around this long, you subconsciously think about their career and where it’s going – if it’s going anywhere at all. Biffle’s season is less than ideal, and Roush Fenway Racing is struggling. This weekend will be no different. The rumor mill has spun his name around, placing him in a second car at JTG-Daugherty Racing – and that could be the best move for Biffle. Since his first start with RFR 14 years ago, he hasn’t competed full-time for another organization. A change of scenery could help.

Will Harvick do what is expected of him? Everyone will act optimistic, but many of us think we know Sunday’s eventual winner. The Prince of Phoenix, Kevin Harvick, is the one to beat this weekend, and for good reason; the Stewart-Haas Racing driver has eight victories at the track, with six wins coming since the track’s November 2012 event. His win percentage at PIR is almost 30-percent, giving him the upper hand. However, he heads there with an asterisk next to his name. The 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion is seventh on the Chase Grid, three spots out of the championship 4. It’s a precarious scenario he hasn’t experienced before, so how will he handle it? I’m pretty sure no one thinks Harvick will choke. He’s ‘The Closer,’ after all. Since it is the cutoff, however, anything can really happen. I think Harvick give a strong performance, but I’m not sold on giving him the trophy just yet.

When will they get it right? The state of NASCAR has me torn at the moment, and I’ve given a lot of thought about how it can be repaired or if it actually needs repairing. There have been many instances of mistake this season, but one recently stood out. During the race at Martinsville Speedway, there was a 29-lap caution to clean up oil. Fans were displeased with the wasted laps, and NASCAR said they would handle the situation better in the future. I’m not sure why this sticks in my mind, but it does. It’s still relevant because NASCAR is still struggling to find a title sponsor for 2017; instances like at Martinsville make it difficult to sell the sport. It worries me a bit, and I’ve noticed others getting nervous. At this point, it’s out of our control, and all the NASCAR industry can do is come together in times of uncertainty. This issue – must like the other issues encountered in the past – will be addressed and remedied in time. It might take a while, but things will get better. If only this situation had a modern, possibly politics-related equivalent.


It’s going to be okay, folks.