Friday, April 29, 2016

TV Schedule: April 29-May 1

Talladega Superspeedway. Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
NASCAR heads to one of the most volatile tracks on the circuit - Talladega. The Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series converge on the wild unpredictable 2.66-mile superspeedway.

The Camping World Truck Series is on an extended break until May 6 at Kansas.

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

Friday, April 29:
11:30 a.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
1:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1

Saturday, April 30:
8:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
9:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
10:30 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
12:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FOX
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
3 p.m. XFINITY Series: Sparks Energy 300, FOX
Midnight XFINITY Series: Sparks Energy 300 (re-air), FS1

Sunday, May 1:
10:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: GEICO 500, FOX

Thursday, April 28, 2016

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: GEICO 500 at Talladega


Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway • Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)  
Indianapolis Motor Speedway • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway
Distance: 2.66 Miles

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Clint Bowyer, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle
All with 2 -  Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., David Gilliland, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and David Ragan

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 5
All with 4 -  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Martin Truex Jr.Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, 
Ryan Newman and David Ragan
All with 3 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle BuschKevin Harvick and Greg Biffle

Recent Pole Winners:  
2015 Jeff Gordon
2014 Brian Scott

Last Year's Race Winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Likely Suspects: Picking a fantasy team for a restrictor-plate race is an unnerving process. There are restrictor-plate greats and there are dark horses who can just as easily win by not getting caught in a big wreck. Break out the crystal ball and just pick and hope and pray. Look for these drivers to perform well: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman.  

My 2 Cents:  My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick. My next choices are Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. I will complete my team with Ryan Blaney and David Gilliland.

My Final Four: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Blaney.

Points to Ponder:
  • A total of 45 different drivers have won at Talladega Superspeedway, led by Dale Earnhardt with 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers with six.
  • Seven active drivers are tied for the most poles at Talladega with one – Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Brian Vickers, Brian Scott, Michael Waltrip and Bobby Labonte.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the Cup Series in average starting position at Talladega with a 9.750.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in the Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Talladega with 960 laps led in 32 starts.
  • Richard Childress Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are tied for the most wins at Talladega in the Sprint Cup Series with 12 each.  
  • Nine different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Talladega, led by Chevrolet with 40 victories, followed by Ford with 22 and Toyota with three.
  • About 70% (65 of the 93) Sprint Cup races at Talladega have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • The outside pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Talladega. 
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Rookie Stripe: The Rookie’s Guide to Buying NASCAR Tickets

By Logan Stewart

So you’re all set for your first NASCAR race but don’t know how to get tickets. Take a parade lap, rookies… this is your blueprint to making sure you’re dialed in and full-throttle with race-day tickets in hand.

Bristol Motor Speedway
Photo Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
Where to Start
Like almost any professional sport, you can find tickets across the web on different sites at a range of prices simply by searching for “NASCAR tickets” and the name of the track. But if you’re not sure what seats to choose -- and if you want to be sure your tickets are legit -- consider buying through the tracks for your first race. Individual race tracks sell their own tickets for NASCAR-sanctioned races, and NASCAR.com has a comprehensive list of tracks and races with links to purchase tickets. Most tracks will offer single, double, weekend and premium packages with a variety of options, so it may be helpful to call the track directly. Some, like Charlotte Motor Speedway, even offer live online chat with a representative to help answer your questions.

View from the Seats
So where should you sit in the grandstands? Ideally, you’ll want to be able to see the front stretch and pit road as clearly as you can, because that’s where much of the action takes place. At some of the short tracks like Martinsville and Bristol, it can be fun to sit up high so you can see the entire oval.

Sitting in close proximity to the track can block part of the race from your view, depending on the seats. But at the same time, front row seats have other perks. The whirling vortex of wind and grit whipping into the stands through the catchfence is almost ethereal. In fact, my first experience with this phenomenon was at Richmond International Raceway, when I sat with my friend Ali. It was like being in a tornado, where you're pelted by tiny soft chunks of rubber each time the cars fly by.

Richmond International Raceway
Photo Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
As you go to different tracks, you’ll get a better feel for where you like to sit. In this article from USA Today, Jeff Gluck highlights some of the best spots at different tracks to watch a race, including Rattlesnake Hill at Phoenix International Raceway and Dover International Speedway's Monster Bridge. If you still can’t decide, call the track and ask for help.

Stop and Go: Other Options for Tickets
General seating for NASCAR is in the grandstands, which surround the outside of the oval track. But the spectacle of any race takes place on the race track itself, on pit road and the infield. If you’re willing to pony up some extra dollars for a pre-race pit pass, you can check out the infield and all its grandeur. Wander past the haulers, watch the pit crew at work and check out the cars as they go through inspection. You might even spot a few drivers. Passes don’t give you access to the NASCAR garage, but do offer a rare glimpse of the real work behind the scenes of a race that most of the public doesn’t see. You can buy pre-race pit passes through the track’s website, but do it early because they go quickly. In the infield you’ll also see people with “hot” and “cold” passes which are issued by NASCAR for team sponsors and other VIPs, and are only available for public purchase in limited numbers at select tracks.

Charlotte Motor Speedway Infield
Photo Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

If the mere thought of scouting and buying just the right tickets makes your engine idle, you can also consider joining a charter tour through companies like Star Coach Race Tours or There and Back Again Adventures. These pre-planned, all-inclusive options often include food and drinks, luxury accommodation and even infield access. Keep in mind they can also be fairly pricey.

And for the perennial last-lappers who tend to procrastinate, or perhaps just enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you can always go to the track and try to score a last minute bargain on tickets. At every race you’ll find people for miles around the track selling tickets, sometimes at face value, sometimes more, sometimes less. Oftentimes they’re fans who’ve purchased seats and decided not to go, but just want to recoup some money, so try your hand at haggling.

Whatever tickets you end up buying, hang on for a wild ride on raceday.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Fast Facts Redux: Talladega Superspeedway

credit: Getty Images/Brian Lawdermilk
Talladega Superspeedway, located in Alabama, is not only the fastest track in NASCAR, with a NASCAR-sanctioned track record of 212.809 mph set by Bill Elliott in the pre-restrictor plate days of 1987, but a track that has a lot of stories to tell. Here are the Fast Facts on this fast track, originally published in Oct. 2013.
  • Talladega Superspeedway, originally known as Alabama International Motor Speedway from 1968 to 1988, is located on what was once the Anniston Air Force Base just outside of Lincoln, Alabama. The 2.66-mile tri-oval is NASCAR’s longest oval track and has a seating capacity of 80,000; at its peak, seating capacity was 175,000.
  • The groundbreaking for the track took place on May 23, 1968, a project spearheaded by Bill France, founder of NASCAR and Daytona International Speedway. France wanted a track faster than Daytona, and gave his new speedway 32- and 33-degree banking in its turns. The original drivers on the entry list for the first race in September 1969 abandoned the track due to tire problems; France went and hired substitute drivers for the event, which was won by Richard Brickhouse.
  • Claims over the years have been made the speedway is cursed, jinxed or haunted. Legends bout the track include: it was built on Indian burial grounds; that the area was used by Indians for horse racing; and that their chief was killed there when he was thrown from his horse. There are eerie stories from drivers as well: NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Isaac heard voices while racing there in 1973 telling him to park his car and get out – he did just that, because earlier in the race, driver Larry Smith was killed in what seemed to be a minor accident.
  • In the race for which Bill Elliott set that track record at Talladega, Bobby Allison’s airborne car took down a large portion of the frontstretch catchfence after cutting a tire on debris. The result: restrictor plate racing began in 1988. The close-quarters racing that came along with restrictor plates brought out another demon at Talladega, the multi-car accident most commonly known as “the big one.”
  • In July 1993, Talladega Superspeedway was the site of the helicopter crash that eventually took the life of driver Davey Allison, Bobby’s son. Red Farmer, a veteran NASCAR driver and family friend of the Allisons, was injured in the crash but survived.
  • The fastest speed ever recorded for a lap at Talladega was 216.309 mph in June 2004, set by Rusty Wallace; it does not replace Elliott’s record in that it was not for a NASCAR sanctioned event. Talladega is also the site of the first-ever testing lap over 200 mph (Buddy Baker – 200.447 mph in 1970) and the first-ever qualifying lap over 200 mph (Benny Parsons – 200.176 mph in 1982).
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads active drivers with six wins at Talladega, the most recent coming in May 2015. Earnhardt Jr.’s first four wins came in a span of four races from Oct. 2001-April 2003. The most recent first-time race winners at the track were Brian Vickers (Oct. 2006) and Brad Keselowski (April 2009).
  • Learn more about Talladega Superspeedway at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com


Monday, April 25, 2016

Travel Tips: Talladega Superspeedway – April 29-May 1, 2016

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series are joined this weekend by the ARCA Racing Series in Talladega, Alabama, the home of Talladega Superspeedway. The weekend schedule includes the ARCA General Tire 200 on Friday, April 29, the Xfinity Series Sparks Energy 300 on Saturday, April 30 and the Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 on Sunday, May 1.

Visit the International Motor Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, located adjacent to the speedway, for a glance back at the history of motorsports. Extended hours will be available during race week, so check the website for details.

On Friday, all infield guests and renewal guests with a “Golden Ticket” can check out “The Big One on the Blvd,” billed as NASCAR’s biggest party. There will also be an Xfinity Series autograph session from 2:30-3:15 p.m. CT in the Hospitality Village behind the Birmingham Tower. Wristbands for the autograph session can be picked up at Guest Services, located near OV Hill South grandstands section L.

On Saturday night, country stars Big & Rich featuring Cowboy Troy will hit the stage at approximately 9 p.m. CT, preceded by Eric Lee Beddingfield at approximately 7 p.m. CT. The concert is open to all infield guests and anyone with a Sunday race ticket.

Key on-track times:

Friday, April 29 –
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 8:30 a.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series practice – 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series General Tire 200 – 5 p.m. CT
Saturday, April 30 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:30 a.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 11:30 a.m. CT
  • Xfinity Series Sparks Energy 300 – 2 p.m. CT
Sunday, May 1
  • Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 – noon CT
Check out gate policies here, frequently asked questions here and get the complete event schedule, including more things to do at the track, here.

Get more information and purchase tickets for this weekend’s race at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from Toyota Owners 400 Winning Crew Chief, Dave Rogers

by Stacey Owens

Dave Rogers, crew chief of the No. 19 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, is a firm believer that NASCAR fans "deserve good, hard racing." He was able to help deliver that to the fans at Richmond International Raceway when his driver, Carl Edwards, took the checkered flag.

"Everyone at NASCAR, Goodyear and the tracks are working really hard to make sure we're putting on the best show we can for our fans. Made some great rule changes this winter with the low downforce package. Goodyear is doing a great job of adapting and bringing new tires," Rogers said.  
            
"Richmond moved this to a day race so parents have a chance to bring kids to the racetrack. It added up to a fantastic race. There's a lot of racing. It's been a while since we've seen people on the very bottom and very top, and passing. 
            
"I know the fans in the stands had to really enjoy the show today. Hats off to XFINITY. I know they're really excited to come onboard this season and capture a win. Great day for this Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 team." 

Credit: Matt Hazlett/Getty Images
To the casual fan, it may appear that only Joe Gibbs and his teams are allowed in Victory Circle. The coach has actually been the only Sprint Cup owner with wins since April 3. Three of the four Gibbs' drivers have wins this season, starting at Daytona when Denny Hamlin won the 500. Since the beginning of April, however, Kyle Busch had back-to-back wins, and Carl Edwards has now followed that with impressive consecutive wins of his own.

Had Edwards not moved Busch out of the way on the final lap of the race, he might not have earned that second win, but they follow the same philosophy other multi-car teams have: no team orders.


"If we look at the big picture, today was a great day for NASCAR. Our fans don't want to see teammate orders. They don't deserve teammates to fall in line. They deserve good, hard racing.
            
"So I think today was a great day for the sport. It stinks that we had to move a teammate. I'm sure Adam and I will talk about it, and Carl and Kyle will talk about it. But I think it would be very disappointing to our fans if Joe imposed a team order and told us, 'Hey, have a parade instead of a race.'
            
"There's going to be plenty of days that the 18 is faster than us and they'll probably get to our back bumper and move us. We'll go down to Victory Lane, shake their hands, tell them, 'Good job. ' That's just a testament to Joe Gibbs Racing, allowing us to put ourselves in that position," Rogers said.

Rogers apparently gave the command for Edwards to push Busch aside.

"I don't remember what I said. But what prompted me is we wanted to win," Rogers said. "I think today, we can talk about the relations with the 18. Adam and I are great friends. Kyle and I are great friends. So I'm not worried about any relations. 

"As far as what I said, I don't know. I just wanted to win. I wanted to be here and talk to you guys today. I told him whatever I had to say."

The No. 19 team is on a roll, and Joe Gibbs Racing as a whole looks to be on a non-stop freight train. The rest of the field can't just keep chugging along if they expect to make any trips of their own to Victory Lane.
--------------------------

   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.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

TV Schedule: April 22-24

Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
NASCAR goes short track racing for back-to-back weekends. After Bristol, the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series head to Richmond for more beating and banging - but this time during the day, not under the lights.

The Camping World Truck Series is on an extended break until May 6 at Kansas.

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

Friday, April 22:
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
4 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, April 23:
3 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
5:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
7 a.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1
8:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
Noon NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: ToyotaCare 250, FS1

Sunday, April 24:
10:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Toyota Owners 400, FOX
Midnight (Monday) NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Short-Track Racing Richmond Style



Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Motor Speedway • Dover International Speedway 
Martinsville Speedway •  Phoenix International Raceway 
Distance: .75 Mile 

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer 
All with 3 - Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenneth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson

By Track
Both with 6 - Matt Kenseth and Clint Bowyer
Both with 5 - Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski
All with 4 - Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch and Jimmie Johnson

Recent Pole Winners:
2015 Joey Logano
2014 Rained out
2013 Matt Kenseth

Last Year's Race Winner: Kurt Busch

The Likely Suspects: Here we are at yet another short track. Richmond is a tad more predictable than Bristol, so stick to the proven elite drivers this week and you should do well. Look for these drivers to score you some solid points this weekend: Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman and Jamie McMurray.

My 2 Cents: Starting position is very important at Richmond. If you get stuck on your picks, think open wheel experience. Drivers who have open wheel experience tend to do better on short tracks. My no-brainer pick this week is Joey Logano, followed by Kyle Busch. My next picks are: Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray. I will round out my team with Chase Elliott and Brian Vickers.

My Final Four: Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards and Chase Elliott.

Points to ponder:
  • Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing with 10 each and Richard Childress Racing with nine.
  • Although eight Sprint Cup drivers have posted consecutive wins at Richmond International Raceway, Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep) is the only active driver in this category.
  • Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in theSprint Cup Series in average finishing position at RIR with a 7.095.
  • Brad Keselowski leads all active Cup drivers in average starting position at RIR with an 8.769.
  • More than three-quarters (93 of 119) of the Sprint Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Faith on the Frontstretch: Matt DiBenedetto and Erik Jones Shed Tears at Bristol

Erik Jones fist pumps in celebration after winning the Xfinity race at Bristol on April 16, 2016.
Credit: Robert Laberge / Getty Images  
by Beth Reinke

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

The Bristol race was full of costume changes for driver Matt DiBenedetto, as he wore a rock star get-up, spray streamers and tears of joy -- all in one day.

For driver introductions, DiBenedetto sported a long gray-blonde beard and an electric guitar as he rocked the catwalk to “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top. When he arrived home that night after the race, neighbors were waiting outside to celebrate and sprayed him with Silly String® amidst cheers and whistles.

But the best part of his day came in between, when he finished sixth in the Food City 500. DiBenedetto drives the No. 83 for BK Racing, one of the smaller teams in the Sprint Cup garage. To finish just outside the top five for the first time in his Cup career was a huge deal for the 24-year-old driver.

“That’s unbelievable for a team like to us to be growing this much and for us to get a sixth-place run,” he said. “I’m sorry I’m so emotional. It’s just this is like a win for us. I am so excited!” he stated as he blinked back tears during his post-race interview on FOX.

“I see my family back here – my wife, Taylor, my brother is in town from the military and I’m so glad he got to experience this. This is just, this is incredible. I’m so blessed to be here.”

Race winner Carl Edwards was impressed with DiBenedetto’s finish, too.

“They finished sixth? Man, that's unbelievable,” Edwards said. “That's probably tougher than what we did. That's a real testament to them.”

DiBenedetto’s emotional interview marked the second time tears were shed by a driver at Bristol in as many days. Erik Jones won the Xfinity series race on Saturday, as well as the Dash4Cash bonus of $100,000. The TV broadcast showed him wiping his eyes in Victory Lane as he spoke to his mom and dad on the phone.

Though he was thrilled about the win, the tears were bittersweet because of the reason his parents weren’t trackside for the win.

“My Dad, I figure we need to announce it at some time, but he got diagnosed with cancer about a month ago,” Jones said in his post-race press conference. “He’s going through treatment now, and he’s missed the last few weeks. Just pretty emotional. It was the first race I’ve won that they haven’t been here for and hard to hold the emotions back for that one.”

DiBenedetto shed tears of joy. Jones cried happy tears mingled with sad ones, as emotions sometimes blend into one another in complicated situations.

A grown man unashamedly shedding victory tears is a beautiful thing, because our emotions are a gift from God. Whether you’re a man or woman, grown-up or child, there’s no need to hide your joyful emotions. God designed us to express ourselves, and He knows our feelings can sometimes overwhelm us.

Like a NASCAR driver celebrates by doing a burnout, waving the checkered flag and shouting “Wooooooo!” over the radio, we can celebrate our joyful times, too. And one of the best ways to use our God-given emotions is to direct them heavenward -- in praise, prayer and singing.

If you believe in Jesus as your Savior, you have reason to celebrate a victory that transcends anything this earthly life has to offer. Go ahead – shout your joy, sing God’s praises and cry happy tears. Wooooooo!

May we shout for joy when we hear of your victory and raise a victory banner in the name of our God.             ~ Psalm 20:5a (NLT)
-----------------------------------------

“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? 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, April 19, 2016

Teardown Tuesday: Breaking Down the NASCAR Race Weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway


Miss any of the on and off-track action at Bristol? Every Tuesday our Amy Branch breaks down the big storylines from the weekend.

Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images

By Amy Branch

Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Colossus lives up to its name

Bristol Motor Speedway unveiled Colossus before the race weekend, the world's largest outdoor, center-hung, four-sided video screen. It lives up to its name; it weighs nearly 700 tons, and each video screen is 68 ft wide by 30 ft high. The letters above the screens that spell "Bristol" are six feet high. The enormous screen is hung by four cables, which are secured to towers outside the track. Bristol's Colossus may give even Big Hoss at Texas Motor Speedway a run for its money.



Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

Pure domination

Joe Gibbs Racing has something special. Perhaps they've found the secret to returning downforce to their cars (It is likely that all the large teams have been able to return at least some of the downforce removed by this year's rule package.). Perhaps their drivers are at the peak of their careers. Perhaps Coach Gibbs' legendary team-building skills have created a magic moment. Perhaps it's a combination of all three.

Whatever the reason, Joe Gibbs Racing is crushing the competition, even with three of four cars having major tire trouble on Sunday. In Sprint Cup, JGR has won half of the eight races so far in 2016. In the XFINITY series, JGR has been to victory lane after five of the seven races we've seen. Of the 15 races in the two series this year, Joe Gibbs Racing has won nine. It appears we may be heading into a Hendrick-esque period of domination for JGR.

Speaking of JGR...



Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Carl Edwards emerges as gladiator victorious

Carl Edwards loves this year's rules package. He loved it last year when it was tested (and he won) at Darlington, and he loves it now. Just ask him; he'll happily tell you so. Edwards dominated the Food City 500 at Bristol, winning from the pole in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota. His win puts three JGR drivers in the Sprint Cup Chase: Denny Hamlin, Daytona 500 Champion, and Kyle Busch, reigning Sprint Cup champion, and now Edwards. That leaves only Matt Kenseth without a win in the Joe Gibbs stable of drivers.

Throughout the grueling 500-lap race, Edwards remained calm and collected on the radio. The most intensity entered his voice on the last restart, when he asked his spotter to tell him exactly what the No. 41, driven by Kurt Busch, was doing. Only the eldest Busch had successfully passed Edwards on any of the restarts, and Edwards wanted to ensure he could block any moves Busch made. This proved unnecessary, however, when Edwards shot off like a rocket at the restart and sailed into Victory Lane.



Credit: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Erik Jones' last-minute Dash to the checkered flag and $100,000

We saw a different format for the NASCAR XFINITY series race this weekend; two qualifying heat races followed by the main race. The main race, though, was essentially two races in one. The Bristol race weekend marked the first of four Dash 4 Cash races for the XFINITY Series regulars, with the first series regular crossing the finish line winning $100,000, the chance for a ticket into the Chase, and a chance to win an extra $600,000. Then there was the race for the checkered flag. Throughout the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 Saturday, it appeared that either Kyle Busch or Kyle Larson would take their race car to victory lane; they were clearly the class of the field. But rookie Erik Jones took advantage of a late-race restart to sneak by the Sprint Cup regulars, taking the checkered flag.

Jones went home $100,000 richer, with a trophy and a virtually guaranteed spot in the XFINITY series Chase. He is also the first XFINITY Series regular to win a race this season. Not bad for a day's work.



Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Matt DiBenedetto and BK Racing bring home best-ever finish

You wouldn't normally see BK Racing near the top of the pylon. They aren't one of the big powerhouse teams. If they run in the front half of the field, it's a good race for them. So when the driver of the No. 83 Cosmo Motors Camry, Matt DiBenedetto, took home sixth on Sunday's race, it felt as good as a win. DiBenedetto was nearly speechless with emotion after the race, and his teammates, family and friends stood around in various stages of disbelief and joy. He was greeted as a hero upon his arrival home after the race.

Last week, during an AMA ("Ask Me Anything") on the social media site reddit.com/r/NASCAR, Landon Cassill was asked, "Which young driver, in your opinion, should be more often recognized?" Cassill's response? "Matt D."  He clearly knew what he was talking about, and the NASCAR subreddit community has embraced Dibenedetto (or DiBurrito, as he is affectionately known), and is making plans to try to vote the underdog into the All-Star Race, much as they did Josh Wise in 2014.



Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
...and so does rookie phenom Chase Elliott

You could almost see him learning, lap-by-lap. At the beginning of the race, Chase Elliott, driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevy, followed the car in front of him, searching out grooves and figuring out how to set up a pass, a task even some Sprint Cup Series veterans find difficult. Each lap, Elliott got better and better at setting up those passes and finding the best groove for his car. After a loose wheel left him two laps down, Elliott kept practicing his passing as he drove through the field, getting his laps back and ultimately finishing fourth, his career-best Sprint Cup finish and second top-five in as many weeks.

Victory Lane can't be far away for this young talent.

Fast Facts Redux: Jamie McMurray

credit: NASCAR Media
Jamie McMurray, driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet SS in the Sprint Cup Series for Chip Ganassi Racing, burst onto the Sprint Cup scene in 2002, winning his first Cup race in just his second start. Here are a few updated Fast Facts about McMurray, first published in April 2012.
  • James Christopher McMurray was born June 3, 1976 in Joplin, Missouri. He began racing go-karts at age 8, winning the World Karting Association Championship in 1991. He worked his way through the ranks of stock cars racing, beginning in 1992 with a stint in NASCAR Late Models, then moved into the ARCA Racing Series in 1998.
  • In 1999, McMurray entered five Craftsman Truck Series (now Camping World Truck Series) races, followed the next year with 16 starts; he earned two poles in 2000, along with three top 10 finishes. After making two starts in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) for Brewco Motorsports in 2000, McMurray competed full-time for the team in the series in 2001 and 2002; in 2002, McMurray won twice and finished sixth in points. He caught the eye of Chip Ganassi, who announced late in 2002 that McMurray would be driving the Texaco-Havoline Dodge in 2003.
  • McMurray got the first starts of his Cup Series career subbing for injured Sterling Marlin late in 2002. In his second race as a substitute, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October, McMurray scored his first win in the UAW-GM Quality 500, setting the modern-era record for fewest starts before a win (since matched by Trevor Bayne in 2011).
  • McMurray won the Rookie of the Year title in the Cup Series in 2003 over Greg Biffle, finishing 13th in points. In 2006, McMurray joined Roush Racing, where he stayed until 2009, when he fell victim to the four-team limit being imposed by NASCAR. He wasn’t out of a ride for long, as he rejoined Ganassi at what was now Earnhardt Ganassi Racing for 2010. In his first race with his “new” team, the Daytona 500, McMurray led just two laps on his way to winning the “Great American Race.” In July of that year, McMurray won the Brickyard 400, making Ganassi the first owner to win the Daytona 500, Brickyard 400 and Indianapolis 500 in the same year (Dario Franchitti won the Indy 500 for Target-Chip Ganassi Racing in May).
  • In 2013, McMurray won the Sprint Showdown non-points race and finished eighth in the Sprint All-Star Race, then came back to win at Talladega in October, his fourth win at a restrictor plate track. He won the All-Star Race in 2014, and in 2015, won the 24 Hours of Daytona as part of Chip Ganassi Racing, making McMurray one of three drivers to win the Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Daytona – the others being A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti.
  • McMurray and his wife, the former Christy Futrell, were married in July 2009; their son Carter was born Nov. 25, 2010, and daughter Hazel was born Feb. 11, 2013.
  • The Jamie McMurray Foundation promotes awareness of and raises funds for the research, education and support for those afflicted with autism. More information on the Foundation can be found here.
  • Find out more about Jamie McMurray at www.jamiemcmurray.com.



Monday, April 18, 2016

Travel Tips: Richmond International Raceway – April 22-24, 2016

credit: NASCAR Media
Richmond International Raceway in Virginia hosts NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series this weekend, Friday through Sunday, April 22-24, for the Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 and the Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250.

On Saturday, stick around after the Xfinity Series race for “After the Burnout” in the Midway area. A free event open to all ticketholders, the celebrity Q-and-A will feature Kenny Wallace, Larry McReynolds, David Ragan and the winner of the Xfinity Series race. Find out more about the event here.

The Track Takeover returns to RIR on Sunday, April 24 from 9-11:15 a.m. ET for the third straight year. All ticket holders get exclusive access to the track just hours before the green flag. Find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, April 22
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 12:30 and 3 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:15 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 23 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 8:30 and 11 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:35 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 Heat No. 1 (35 laps) – 12:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 Heat No. 2 (35 laps) – 1:10 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 Feature Race (140 laps) – 1:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, April 24 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 – 1 p.m. ET
A complete schedule of events at the track is available here.

For updated information for race weekend and to purchase tickets visit www.rir.com

Right Sides Only: Notes from Food City 500 Winning Crew Chief, Dave Rogers

by Stacey Owens

Like other crew chiefs, Dave Rogers is quick to thank the mechanics at the shop for helping to put together a winning weekend. From earning the pole to leading the most laps to winning the race, the No. 19 Comcast Business team was all business all weekend.

"Yeah, it was a great race there. Carl just did a great job of managing the race car, keeping it out of trouble. 
            
"But the biggest thing I take away from this weekend is the team effort. It started back at the shop, Lee Hallman and Kenny Oates putting together a great setup for us to come up here with and the mechanics putting that setup in, and of course all the guys at JGR that built the car and our partners at TRD that put the motor in it. Just a great race car, a great weekend for this Comcast Business Toyota Camry," Rogers said.

In fact, Rogers is having more fun this year than he's had in a long time, which is something he attributes to the people with whom he gets to work. Having worked at Joe Gibbs Racing for almost two decades, Rogers has had an opportunity to work alongside many great people, and he considers Carl Edwards chief among them.

"Coach [Gibbs] taught me long ago that it's all about people, and that's why I'm having so much fun. This 19 team is full of good people. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing. I've been there 18 years or so, and I mean, it's just — there's good people everywhere.
            
"But this team, this 19 team, the pit crew, the road crew, everyone gets along so good, and Carl treats us with a lot of respect. He keeps a level head when we have down days like Martinsville. He doesn't get too excited when we have good days like today. So that even keel just lets you perform at your best, and you're always having fun when you're performing at your best," Rogers explained.

Though numerous teams in the 40-car field were plagued with tire issues throughout the afternoon, Edwards had no issues. Rogers addressed the ease with which his driver handled the race.

"I just think Carl drove a brilliant race. There was plenty of times that he was running, and the 4 car, someone would be tracking us down, I'd read lap times and let him know that, hey, we're a tenth off, we're a tenth off, we're a tenth off, and then all of a sudden he would run a tenth-and-a-half quicker to show me that the car had it and then back it down. So I think Carl did a great job of managing the tires. It was just our day today, I guess," Rogers explained.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Despite Rogers' years of service to the Gibbs Racing family, this is his first season atop the pit box for Edwards. Fans may recall that Rogers was a crew chief for Kyle Busch during the 2014 season. After eight races, how is Rogers feeling about working with his "new" driver?

"I think at some point you don't know what you don't know. I think my main focus right now is to keep bringing good race cars to the racetrack, consistently, each week. We ran really well at Texas, and we ran really well here, but two races doesn't make a season. We need to do it all year long.
             
"I think the biggest thing is chemistry, just the way we communicate about the car and the way we communicate about life. That's a big thing.
            
"I feel you're always trying to get the most out of your driver. You're always trying to tell him what you need to tell him to allow him to perform, and the driver is doing the same for the crew chief.

            
"But the relationship that Carl and I were able to build this winter, I just feel really comfortable being me calling the races. I call them the way I want them. I don't have to take on an adaptive personality of any sort, and it works for Carl, and likewise, I hope he feels very comfortable being Carl and communicating the way he wants to, and that's a big deal. That's a real big deal," Rogers said.

Want to know what else is a big deal? With Rogers' leading, the No. 19 team has claimed its place on the Chase grid. Edwards is looking forward to making a run for the championship with Rogers at his side.

"I truly have never worked with someone that I think is more like me and communicates the same way as I do. If we don't win the championship, it will not be because of any problem between Dave and I. It's unreal. And I'm not just saying this because he won this race, but he's already like a brother. It's unreal. I'm really, really happy with being with Dave. We don't get along with everybody, but we get along with each other really well, so it's great," Edwards explained.

Sounds like a match made in Sprint Cup heaven. 


--------------------------
   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, April 17, 2016

To Matt DiBenedetto, Finishing Sixth is Winning


By Lisa Janine Cloud

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
Carl Edwards back-flipped over his win at Bristol Motor Speedway Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took a 10th-place car to his second straight runner-up finish. Kurt Busch fought past Chase Elliott for third, his second top-five finish of the season. Elliott topped his career-best finish from last week by coming home fourth after chasing the leader for enough laps to cause speculation that he could be the first rookie to win at Bristol since Dale Earnhardt Sr. in 1979.

Just behind them, in sixth place, Matt DiBenedetto earned the first top-10 finish of his brief career in the No. 83 BK Racing Camry. The 24-year-old from Grass Valley, CA has only made 41 Sprint Cup starts, all for BK Racing, a team that debuted in the 2012 Daytona 500.

DiBenedetto started 30th and took his time working his way up through the field. When a caution came out with 40 laps to go, he moved into the top 15 and eventually up to sixth.

On pit road after the race, DiBenedetto was understandably emotional when being interviewed by FOX.

“I’m sorry, I’m so speechless,” he said, tears filling his eyes. “Just I’m so thankful to everybody on this team, everybody at BK Racing, Cosmo Motors in Hickory, North Carolina – they’re local to me, he’s my best friend, sells some awesome cars, please check them out – everyone at BK Racing, Dustless Blasting.”

Cosmo Motors is, indeed, a car dealership. It's not a Fortune 500 company, but a local business who invested in a friend’s dream.

“These guys, man – that’s unbelievable for a team like to us to be growing this much and for us to get a sixth-place run – I’m sorry I’m so emotional, it’s just this is like a win for us. I am so excited. I see my family back here – my wife, Taylor, my brother is in town from the military and I’m so glad he got to experience this. This is just – this is incredible. I’m so blessed to be here.”

Twitter lit up with praise for the successful run. Team owner Ron Devine and crew chief Gene Nead were interviewed by SiriusXM Radio and PRN–unfamiliar territory for the two-car team. They’re more used to the kind of finish teammate David Ragan had, as engine problems led to a trip to the garage and a 39th-place finish.

 DiBenedetto’s previous best finish this season was 20th at Phoenix. After crashing and finishing 40th in the Daytona 500, he’s wound up outside the top 25 everywhere else, making sixth place seem like a victory.

“A sixth-place finish for BK Racing and for all my guys, this is like a win for us,” he said. “ I apologize for being so emotional, but this is an incredible run. I can’t thank my team enough, my crew chief Gene Nead, and everyone on this team for working so hard and busting their tails for me to be able to drive this race car in the Sprint Cup Series. This is such an honor and I’m so thankful to all the sponsors – Dustless Blasting, Cosmo Motors, Dr Pepper, and I know I’m forgetting people. Thank you to the fans most importantly – they are so great and so supportive. I’m just really thankful to be here, this was a great day.”

Friday, April 15, 2016

Greatness: Five Questions for Bristol

(Credit: Sarah Glenn/NASCAR via Getty Images)
We have a crazy one ahead of us, folks.

NASCAR travels to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, the site of carnage and anger. The weather will be gorgeous, the cars will be fast, and the end will be unimaginable until the very end.

As Thunder Valley takes center stage, I’m inquiring about multiple things this week. The caution clock. Heat races. Kyle Busch. Intrigued yet? Dive on in as I pose Five Questions for Bristol.

Will the caution clock expand to the other series in 2017? In a tweet this week, NASCAR on FOX broadcaster Mike Joy addressed the caution clock’s purpose in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – to develop and eventually move into the other series. Many thought this when the concept was originally announced, but will the expansion happen as soon as next season? Most likely not; the idea needs some tweaking before it heads into the NASCAR XFINITY and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The biggest obstacle is that fans dislike it and believe it to be “gimmicky.” However, that’s probably impossible to overcome due to the fact this fan base is particularly stubborn. With Joy’s tweet hinting that the sanctioning body is discussing the caution clock in XFINITY and Sprint Cup, this is the time for fans to keep voicing their opinions – but in a civilized way. That means not tweeting swear words to Steve O’Donnell. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work. However, if we do see this next season, it will most likely thrive in NXS and not have much effect in Sprint Cup.

Will heat races jazz up NXS’s Dash 4 Cash program? Speaking of the XFINITY Series, its Dash 4 Cash program comes back this weekend – with a thrilling revamp. Heat races will set the field for the Dash 4 Cash races. The two 50-lap shootouts are exciting, but there’s another twist to the contest’s rules. If an XFINITY regular wins two Dash 4 Cash bonuses, the driver is automatically locked into the Chase. These elements are a monsoon in the middle of XFINITY’s dry spell. With Kyle Busch sucking up wins (and most likely continuing that streak – I’ll talk about that later) and fans unhappy with the level of competition, the Dash 4 Cash will bring XFINITY regulars to the forefront. The heat races will draw more eyes to qualifying and make it a must-see event. NXS needs new life, and this might do the trick. Besides, heat races at Bristol? With no backup cars allowed? Oh my.

Can Elliott build off his Texas top five? The race at Texas Motor Speedway had some memorable moments, and the finishing order was one of them. Chase Elliott secured his first top-five finish of his NSCS career, crossing the finish line in fifth. This puts his 2016 stats at one top five and four top 10s. Pretty good for a rookie season, right? Not in Elliott’s eyes. After his impressive run, he said it wasn’t enough and that he has his eyes set on a win. Although that’s an ambitious goal, it isn’t out of the question. Hendrick Motorsports is finally finding their footing as an organization this year, and Elliott’s equipment is top-notch. How he handles Bristol will prove if Texas provided the boost he and the No. 24 team needed. He hasn’t raced at Thunder Valley in a Cup car, but his NXS stats are promising; Elliott finished in the top 10 in all four starts, including one top five. With his quick adjustment to HMS, strong Texas finish and XFINTIY Bristol stats, it looks like Elliott will keep the momentum rolling and inch closer to victory lane.

What’s the deal with Team Penske? This time last year, we were focused on Team Penske after Joey Logano won the Daytona 500 and teammate Brad Keselowski found victory at Auto Club Speedway. With Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing grabbing all the glory, other teams have dropped into the background. No team has fallen farther than Penske; Logano hasn’t won yet this season, and Keselowski has grown quiet since his win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The two are still competitive, but there’s no denying they’re somewhat behind. However, it’s nothing to worry about; as previously mentioned, HMS is getting all four cars in top-10 shape. It's still early in the season, and the Penske teams have time to get all their ducks in a row. Last year’s success has increased this year’s expectations, so that’s why they’re under scrutiny. It is only a matter of time until the Ford organization gets back into the spotlight.

Is Busch one of the greatest ever? The sky is blue, water is wet, and Kyle Busch is on fire. The reigning Sprint Cup champion has won the last four NASCAR events, which translates to two NSCS wins and a victory in NXS and NCWTS. That’s impressive. This time last year, he had a broken leg and foot, which makes those wins really impressive. Now, the sport heads to Bristol, where Busch has swept the weekend before. Does he do it again? It’s hard to say, “No,” so I won’t. The truth is this – Kyle Busch is one of the greatest drivers to ever race. Yes, really. He can win in any vehicle he sits in, and not many drivers can do that. He is a guaranteed NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee. We can argue all day about him running XFINITY and trucks and if it means anything. We can argue about comparing him to Richard Petty and hitting the 200 milestone. None of that matters. Here, in this moment, we are witnessing greatness. Busch will go win both races this weekend and not care who whines about it. His momentum is unstoppable right now, and it will take a serious miscue to derail it. Busch’s desire to win burns hotter than fans’ hatred, and that makes him even greater. You can gripe about him dominating the XFINITY Series, or the way he races, or his attitude or any other issues you can find. Those are all moot points once he straps into a racecar and does what he was born to do. This is greatness in motion, and I’ve decided to take it in while I can. I hope you do, too.

TV Schedule: April 15-17

Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR goes short-track racing at the concrete bullring. The Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series converge on Bristol Motor Speedway, where close quarters breeds short tempers.

The Camping World Truck Series is on an extended break until May 6 at Kansas.

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

Friday, April 15:
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
4 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, April 16:
7 a.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1
8:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
Noon NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, FS1

Sunday, April 17:
1 a.m. XFINITY Series: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
5:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Food City 500, FOX
5:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, April 14, 2016

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Food City 500 at Bristol



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

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3: Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Paul Menard, Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne 
All with 2: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray 

By Track
All with 5: Brian Vickers, Jimmie Johnson and Paul Menard
All with 4: Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne 

Recent Pole Winners: 
2015 Matt Kenseth
2014 Denny Hamlin

Last Year's Race Winner: Matt Kenseth

The Likely Suspects: Short-track racing is an art embraced by both the wild and the powerfully patient drivers. These drivers will perform well this weekend: Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Austin Dillon.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a three-way tie between the powerfully-patient Matt Kenneth, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman. My next picks are Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Paul Menard. I will complete my team with Ryan Blaney and Ty Dillon.

My Final Four: Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney.

Points to Ponder:
  • Roger Penske leads the series among active car owners with the most wins at Bristol with 12.
  • Paul Menard (17 starts) leads the series in starts with the fewest DNFs (0) at Bristol.
  • Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch each have five wins at Bristol Motor Speedway, the most among active drivers.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in runner-up finishes at Bristol with five; followed by Kyle Busch with three. 
  • 64 of the 110 (58.8%) races have been won from a top-five starting position. Matt Kenseth leads all active drivers in top-five finishes at Bristol with 13; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick with 10 each.
  • 88 of the 110 (80%) races have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Bristol; led by Chevrolet with 43 victories; followed by Ford (36), Dodge (8), Pontiac (8), Toyota (7), Buick (4), Plymouth (3) and Oldsmobile (1).
  • Four car numbers have produced eight or more Bristol NSCS wins. They are by Car Number – (Number of Wins) – Most Recent Win: No. 11  - (19 wins) – Denny Hamlin, 2012; No. 2 – (12 wins) – Brad Keselowski, 2012; No. 17 – (eight wins) – Matt Kenseth, 2006; and No. 3 – (eight wins) – Dale Earnhardt, 1999.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Rookie Stripe: Over the Wall

Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs
By Logan Stewart

Attune your ears to the raucous din of a NASCAR race and you’ll hear all kinds of noise. It’s the sound of speed, race-style; the squeal of tires on asphalt; the clarion cry of fans; engines so deafening they seem to perforate the atmosphere.

Amid the clamor there’s a silent, motionless part of each race that’s easily overlooked if you don’t know why it’s there. Standing just three feet high and running the length of pit road, the pit wall isn’t all that remarkable. It separates the pit stalls from pit road. Sometimes during pre-race you’ll see people sitting on the wall; maybe using it as a coat hanger for their jackets or a lean-to for pit equipment. Drab and uninspiring compared to the grandeur of the infield, the plain concrete barrier is somewhat obscure. But come race time, this steadfast stanchion will roar to life.

 “Over the wall is always a dangerous place to be.” – RoadandTrack.com
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs 
The green flag drops. The decibels escalate. Fans are on their feet screaming as racecars turn left at over a hundred miles per hour.

When a driver comes off the oval track for a pit stop, parking expeditiously yet precisely in front of the pit stall, the wall holds just as resilient as ever. The six pit crew members are poised atop and just inside the wall, equipment in hand, as their driver rolls in.  Pit stops are a test of milliseconds, and suddenly the wall becomes a springboard for adrenaline. With the dexterity of an artist, and at cyclonic speeds, the over-the-wall crew leaps onto pit road.  Within mere seconds they change tires, gas the car and make other necessary adjustments, and the driver peels off. The crew returns to the pit stall, watches a recap and prepares for the next stop.
Credit: Logan Stewart for Skirts and Scuffs

"You just do your job as best as you can. There's six of us going over the wall to do our job as best and as fast as we can. If one guy screws up, it doesn't matter how fast the rest are—you're only as strong as your weakest link.” – R.J. Barnette

Long after the race ends and the people have left, the wall remains motionless and steadfast. Quiet. It will stay rooted in its spot, until it’s time for the next race.

It’s been said that walls have ears. I believe that one hundred percent.