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 fiancĂ©e 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.
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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