Saturday, April 22, 2017

Caption This: Clint Bowyer & Michael Annett

Welcome to Caption This!

Each Saturday, we’ll post a comical NASCAR photo taken by a Skirts and Scuffs photographer. You have until Monday night to leave us a funny caption in the comments. Your goal is to make us laugh out loud.

We’ll publish the winning caption on Wednesday.

All of the weekly winners’ names will be tossed into a hat for a drawing, and one will win a prize package of racing swag at the end of the season. It could be you!

Enjoy this week’s photo of Clint Bowyer and Michael Annett, which was captured by our Lisa Janine Cloud last season.


Here are the rules:
* Leave your photo caption in the comment section below by Monday at midnight.
* Include your name and twitter handle.
* Only one entry per person for each photo.
* If you win multiple times during the season, you get an entry in the prize drawing for each win.
* Anonymous posts & entries without a twitter handle are not eligible to win.

Keep in mind that we offer Caption This in the spirit of fun. Any nasty, vulgar or otherwise offensive entries will be disqualified and removed at the discretion of Skirts and Scuffs.

So bring on your funnies! Then pop in again on Wednesday to read the winning caption.
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Weathering It All: Five Questions for Bristol

Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images
By Kristen Schneider

It seems like we don’t talk about Bristol Motor Speedway anymore.

That's mostly due to the horrible Tennessee weather that throws the weekend schedule for a loop – but there are some interesting storylines headed into Thunder Valley, like the repave and how the series will wring out the obstacles and put on two races.

Maybe it’s just my thought process. If you’re like me (a young woman who’s finishing up her third year of college and taming a quarter-life crisis), you might be too busy to keep up with everything going on. NASCAR chatter falls to the wayside with finals on the horizon.

Are you in the same boat? That’s why Five Questions is here to talk about the CMS date move, Justin Allgaier, and some more tidbits to keep in mind as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series fight off the rain at Bristol.

Why can’t fans get behind the Charlotte move? The world almost collapsed this week when NASCAR announced some start time changes to some fall races. Once of them was more noteworthy than the others; the October Charlotte Motor Speedway race will now be on Sunday. The "lone night race of the playoffs" is no more. Weather pushed the race to Sunday the past two years, and now it’s a permanent change. The response was mixed in the usual fashion – drivers and industry members love the move, and many fans dislike it. Daytime racing at Charlotte is better when compared to its nighttime equivalent, and the past two years support that claim. It’s hard to say this isn’t a good idea – so why are fans screaming that it isn’t? The change goes into effect this fall, which causes an issue for current ticket holders. People base vacations around these dates at least a year in advance. That seems to be the biggest grievance so far, and it’s a legitimate one. However, that doesn’t make the overall concept a bad move. Once October rolls around, fans will probably see the light.

Are back-to-back Dash 4 Cash wins in Allgaier’s future? After two 30th-place finishes to kick off the season, JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier redeemed himself with a victory at Phoenix International Raceway. That win also earned him the first of four Dash 4 Cash payouts. A cool $100,000 is nice – but having two big checks is even better. His chances of doubling his bonus are high since the series is at Bristol; one win, five top-fives, and seven top-10s at BMS make him one to watch this weekend. He doesn’t have to win to get the bonus, but that would sweeten the pot. It’s hard to guess what he and his team brought to Thunder Valley (due to limited practice time). However, Allgaier’s record at Bristol signals a shot at another bonus.

With Blaney’s growth and competitiveness, are the times a-changing? One of the bigger stories of 2017 is Ryan Blaney’s surge to the front. He and the Wood Brothers Racing group put together strong runs but can’t clinch the finishes that reflect their progress. We all knew Blaney was talented before this year; his clean racing style and relationship with Team Penske prove he’s mature and capable. His presence at the front not only tells me he’s close to a win, but it also says that WBR is getting a lot better. Their program is stronger than ever. Throughout this season, we’ll see Blaney emerge as one of the ones to watch for years to come – especially with his talent and youth.

Who’s the next big name to test the NASCAR waters? Big things are happening in the IndyCar world, with F1 driver Fernando Alonso signing to run the Indianapolis 500 next month. This has the NASCAR world buzzing. The NASCAR family is left to wonder if bigger names would participate in the Daytona 500, and if so – who? The obvious choice is Lewis Hamilton, who has expressed interest in NASCAR’s biggest event. Also, the draw would be incredible. I wanted to include others who would jump in a stockcar, but Hamilton seems like the perfect fit. Let’s make it happen.

Do you have a few dollars to spare? It’s somewhat cliché to call the NASCAR community a "family," but we only say it so much because it’s accurate. The first time I ever met Sam Bass was at Darlington Raceway last fall, and he pulled me into the biggest hug as if we were life-long friends. Everyone in the NASCAR realm has a similar story. That’s just the person he is – friendly, kind, and always happy. Sam’s going through a rough battle with various health issues right now, and he needs a kidney transplant. However, you probably wouldn't know it if the tweets of support weren't abundant; Sam's a selfless man who weathers adversity well. It's admirable. If you can donate a few dollars, use this link to help Sam out. He also needs prayers and positive thoughts. Please give whatever you can – because people like Sam Bass are rare.

Friday, April 21, 2017

TV Schedule: April 21-23

Bristol Motor Speedway. Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR heads to the Last Great Coliseum - Bristol Motor Speedway. Get ready for some beatin' and bangin' as the Monster Energy Cup and XFINITY Series converge on the concrete bullring.

The following is a handy guide to TV coverage and events at Bristol. Friday morning's rain has affected the day's schedule, with Cup qualifying being canceled.

All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, April 21:
2 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Practice, FS1

Saturday, April 22:
8:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Qualifying, FS1
11 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY Bristol, FS1
1 p.m. XFINITY Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300, FS1

Sunday, April 23:
12:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Pre-Race Show, FOX
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Food City 500, FOX
9 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, April 20, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Food City 500 at Bristol

By Carol D'Agostino

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

By Track
Joey Logano - 5
All with 4: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
All with 3: Clint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard, Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth

Recent Pole Winners: 
2016 Carl Edwards
2015 Matt Kenseth

Last Year's Race Winner: Carl Edwards

The Likely Suspects: Think wild and the powerfully patient this week when doing your picks. These drivers are on my radar: Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is a two-way tie between the oh-so-patient Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. My next picks are Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott. I will complete my team with Ty Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto

My Final Four: Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon

Points to Ponder:
  • Roger Penske leads the series among active car owners with the most wins at Bristol with 12.
  • Eight different manufacturers have won in the MENCS at Bristol; led by Chevrolet with 43 victories; followed by Ford (36), Toyota (9), Dodge (8), Pontiac (8), Buick (4), Plymouth (3) and Oldsmobile (1).
  • The race winner has started from the pole 24 times (21.6%) - the most productive starting position.
  • 89 of the 112 (79.4%) MENCS races have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Joey Logano leads all active MENCS drivers in average starting position at Bristol with a 7.760.
  • Joey Logano (7.760) and Chase Elliott (9.500) are the only two active drivers with an average starting position inside the top 10.
  • Paul Menard (19 starts) leads the series in starts with the fewest DNFs (0) at Bristol.
  • Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers with three poles each at Bristol.
  • Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch each have five wins, the most among active drivers at Bristol.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in runner-up finishes at Bristol with five; followed by Kyle Busch with three.
  • Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers in top-three finishes at Bristol with 8 each.   
  • Matt Kenseth leads all active drivers in top-five finishes at Bristol with 13; followed by Kevin Harvick with 11.
  • Matt Kenseth leads the series among active drivers in top-10 finishes with 20; followed by Jimmie Johnson (17).
Remember if you're playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, April 21 at 5 a.m. EDT.

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

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Faith on the Frontstretch: Drained and Dehydrated, “Superman” Still Wins the Race

Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images    
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Watching Jimmie Johnson in Victory Lane at Texas was a little scary, considering how hot and dehydrated he was after his in-car drink system failed. As he leaned back against the car to talk on camera, I prayed someone would give him another bottle of Gatorade or get him to the infield care center.

“I guess we had a caution Lap 3 or something, and I pointed out to my guys that my drink system wasn't working, so I just didn't have any fluids,” Johnson said. “ Stage 1 and 2, they handed me a small bottle of Gatorade, which I drank, but the 160 laps at the end or whatever it was, I just didn't have any fluids at all in the car.”

During the final laps of the race, Johnson’s heart rate was skyrocketing and his left-side muscles started cramping. And although he seemed OK during his TV interview, during a radio interview shortly after the race, Johnson’s condition deteriorated.

“I felt my back lock up and then my chest and my arms, and I was starting to cramp everywhere,” he said. “That was an immediate trip to the infield care center to get some IVs. I had three bags of IV and feeling a ton better now.”

Three liters is more liquid than most non-athletes drink in a day, so Johnson was in need of serious rehydration.

Yet despite being drained and dehydrated, “Superman” soldiered on through the long Stage 3 and won the race. Then he climbed out of the car, stood upright and talked into a microphone. Quite a feat.

When Jesus hung on the cross on the first Good Friday, He was drained and dehydrated, too. He had nothing to drink for six hours, except when some not-so-brilliant soul held up a sponge soaked with vinegar, which probably stung His cracked lips.

Imagine the excruciating pain He was feeling. There were giant nails through His hands and feet, His arm muscles pulled taut or torn. Imagine the effort it took just to breathe while His torso sagged forward. It was a horrifyingly brutal form of torture and execution.

Yet Jesus soldiered on, did His divine duty and won His race. Exhausted and bleeding, He delivered salvation for you and me. With nails separating muscle from tendon, ripping His tissues with every shift of His body, He still spoke to the thief hanging beside Him. Through the pain, He remembered His mother, Mary, and asked His disciple to care for her.

Then, with a parched tongue and throat, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). And then He willingly gave up His spirit, collapsed and died.

Jesus was the real superhero. Not only was He drained, dehydrated and deprived of dignity, He was stripped of His Father’s comforting presence.

God had to turn His back on Jesus for a brief time so that the punishment for our sins could be fully paid. But even in His loneliness and suffering, Jesus knew that joy would come in a few short days — on that first Easter morning.

Jesus didn’t go to the infield care center to be pumped full of IV fluids. He received the holy power of heaven and rose from the dead, wholly hydrated.

On Good Friday and Easter, Jesus won the race for you, me and all of humankind. Will you dedicate your race of life to Him?

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.    ~ Matthew 27:50 (NIV)
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"Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs the 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of the month during the NASCAR season.

Beth Reinke has been writing Faith on the Frontstretch since 2011. She’s a registered dietitian, author and editor who loves chocolate and Sundays. Follow her on twitter at
@bbreinke.



 
 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Bristol Motor Speedway

credit: NASCAR Media
One of the most popular tracks on the NASCAR circuit is Bristol Motor Speedway, which was constructed in 1960 and opened in 1961. The 0.533-mile short track in Bristol, Tennessee seats more than 160,000 spectators in its stadium-like setting, giving everyone a great view of the action. Learn more about the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • With its seating capacity, Bristol Motor Speedway is the fourth largest sports venue in the United States and eighth largest in the world.
  • Tiny Lund was the first driver to set wheels on the track for practice on July 27, 1961; Fred Lorenzen won the first pole position for the Volunteer 500. Only 19 of 42 cars that started actually finished the race, which was “won” by Jack Smith, who wasn’t in the car at the end of the race – Johnny Allen took over around lap 290 of 500 after Smith developed heat blisters on his feet. Completing the top five were some of the sport’s soon-to-be heroes: Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Richard Petty and Buddy Baker.
  • The high banks we know today came about in 1969 when the track was dug up and expanded from a half-mile to a 0.533-mile track. The higher banks, advertised at 36-degrees, were also added, and immediately added to speeds: whereas the track record to that point was Bobby Isaac’s 88.669 mph (set in March 1969), the new track record set by Cale Yarborough after the reconfiguration was almost 15 mph faster – 103.432 mph in July 1969. As a result of the resurfacing project in 2007, Bristol now lists its banking at 24- to 30-degrees
  • Five drivers thus far have earned their first career Cup Series win at Bristol: Dale Earnhardt (1979), Rusty Wallace (1986), Ernie Irvan (1990), Elliott Sadler (2001) and Kurt Busch (2002). In 1988, superspeedway superstar Bill Elliott won his first-ever Cup Series short-track race at Bristol, while in 2010 Kyle Busch became the first driver in NASCAR to win three top national division events – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series – in one weekend.
  • Bristol Motor Speedway hosts a number of NASCAR events each season: two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, two Xfinity Series races, one Camping World Truck Series race, one K&N Pro Series East race and one Whelen Modified Tour race. Bristol is also the home to Bristol Dragway, better known as “Thunder Valley;” it hosts the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Thunder Valley Nationals each year. In May 2017, Bristol will host the Short Track U.S. Nationals, featuring Street Stocks, Modifieds, Compacts, Late Model Stocks, Pro Late Models and Super Late Models.
  • On Sept. 10, 2016, Bristol Motor Speedway hosted the “Battle at Bristol,” a non-conference NCAA football game between the University of Tennessee Volunteers and Virginia Tech Hokies. The game drew nearly 157,000 spectators, surpassing the previous attendance record of 115,109 at Michigan. Bristol is located approximately 125 miles from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, VA and 110 from the UT campus in Knoxville, TN.
  • Find out more about Bristol Motor Speedway at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com


Monday, April 17, 2017

Travel Tips: Bristol Motor Speedway – April 21-23, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
by Paula Thompson

The K&N Pro Series East and the Xfinity Series join the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, Friday through Sunday, April 21-23. The Food City 500 on Sunday, April 23 will highlight the weekend.

Key on-track times:

Friday, April 21
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1 and 3:30 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East practice – 2 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East qualifying – 6 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 22
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 8:30 and 11 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 – 1 p.m. ET
  • K&N Pro Series East Zombie Motors 125 – 4 p.m. ET
Sunday, April 23
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500 – 2 p.m. ET
The complete schedule for this weekend can be found here.

First-time fan information can be found here, and fan FAQs can be checked out here. The track’s rules and regulations can be found here.

Get more information on the schedule and purchase tickets at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Caption This Winner: Austin Robinson


Congratulations to Austin Robinsonwho contributed the winning caption for this photo of
Brad Keselowski. All winners who include their twitter handles with their entries will be entered in a drawing for the end-of-season prize package of racing swag.

 

Thanks to everyone who played Caption This. Check back on Saturday for a new photo and your next chance to submit a caption.
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Rookie Stripe: Tracks – What’s Your Favorite?

Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
By Logan Stewart

NASCAR tracks have flavor. There is an idiosyncratic life force at each track, an energy that accelerates as the race draws near. The 23 diverse tracks of NASCAR differ in size, speed, entertainment options, history, atmosphere, and of course, location. If you missed our Inside Track on NASCAR tracks, it’s a must-read if you’re newer to NASCAR.

My first NASCAR race, and the first track I ever saw, was Darlington Raceway. It overwhelmed me with its size, a colossal display of cars and humans and competition. "The Lady in Black" and "The Track Too Tough to Tame" is one that drivers often claim has them racing the track more than it does their competitors. (Side note: a farmer named Sherman Ramsey once had a minnow pond not too far from one side of the track’s oval. Ramsey was okay with the racetrack being built as long as his minnows would be undisturbed, and as a result, one corner of the track is steeply banked).

I am a fan of history and anything with a quirky story, so I love Darlington and its rural roots. But I’m also partial to the small, zippy track of Bristol, and to Charlotte because it’s my home track.

This probably won't surprise you, but just like with drivers, fans play favorites when it comes to tracks. Here’s what some have to say about which tracks are their favorites.
Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Andy C. – Rockingham (also known as “The Rock”, not currently for NASCAR events) - Drivers had to race the place. Tires were good for about five laps. Then you had to find a line that worked. Coming out of Turn 2 onto the backstretch was one of the most amazing experiences ever. That outside wall came up quick. Track has such a cool history: 1969 redesign was the first track in the U.S. designed by an engineer. Was originally a flat one-mile oval.

Seth H. – Why Darlington of course, it's the first track I saw the Southern 500, while in high school.

Kim O. – For me it's Daytona. The family atmosphere, great employees; it feels like "home" - the entire place just screams racing to me. Love it there.

Aaron R. – Atlanta Motor Speedway. It's home, for one, but I love the racing there. There's always a battle going on, usually several, every single lap.

Michael R.
– Talladega!

So as a new fan, how do you choose your favorite track? This one’s a little more complicated than choosing your favorite driver. From personal experience, you just have to go. I’m three and a half years into being a NASCAR fan and I’ve still only been to six of 23 tracks. Just six. But a girl can dream, right?
Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Monday, April 10, 2017

Right Sides Only: Notes from the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 Winning Crew Chief, Chad Knaus

by Stacey Owens

Seven. People consider it a lucky number. Jimmie Johnson, the seven-time champion, however, hasn't had much luck lately. With no race wins and no stage wins going into the seventh race of the season, many people didn't expect him to do well. Despite his dominance in the final practice, many counted him out after his spin in qualifying, which sent him to the end of the field. Remember, though, that seven is considered a lucky number. So in the seventh race of the season, Jimmie Johnson claimed his seventh victory at Texas Motor Speedway.

One person who never counts out Johnson is his crew chief, Chad Knaus, who wasn't at all concerned about the team's lack of wins going into the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500.

"Jimmie is obviously amazing. There's no doubt about that. I would never, ever downplay the ability of Jimmie," Knaus said.

"I think that we have been a bit behind, but not a lot. It's amazing how much a small adjustment can change what it is that you need to do. You know, I can't speak too much on behalf of the 88 completely. I know that we've worked really hard this week, Greg and I did, to get our race cars closer together, better prepared to come to the racetrack, but honestly, if you go back and you look at Atlanta, man, we're one pit road speeding penalty away from running in the top five. If you go to California, you don't wreck on your third lap, you've got a much better race car than racing in your backup car. Las Vegas, same thing; little bit of bad pit stop, pit road speeding penalty takes you out of the top five. So I don't think that we're necessarily as far off as what people might say or might have thought, but we did need to improve, and we did.
           
"The other thing you have to realize is once we check out, and we go out to that West Coast swing, it's very difficult to make improvements on your race car because just, quite frankly, you're not there. We don't get to see them. We don't get to work on them, and we don't get our hands on them. So it's a challenge. So getting back to Charlotte, leading up to Martinsville, and then after Martinsville, gave us an opportunity to work on our race cars and make them better," Knaus explained.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs

Even after making their cars better, the team still had a bit of the unknown heading into Texas. The track was recently repaved and re-profiled, so it wasn't the same old track on which Johnson had won six previous races. What did Knaus think about all the changes?

"It was a challenge for sure, obviously coming here with a tire that was unknown to us, and I think Goodyear did an absolutely amazing job picking and determining what tire we needed to bring here," Knaus said. "The track surface obviously an unknown, and then just the topography of the track completely new and unique to, honestly, any racetrack we've got in the series right now.
 
"Coming here we knew that it was going to be a challenge. We didn't have any data from the racetrack. We didn't know how to set up our simulation, so we had to do a lot of it kind of old school. It really worked out well.
           
"Was very impressed with the way the racetrack began to take rubber, very impressed with the way NASCAR and everybody here at Texas Motor Speedway worked throughout the course of the night to get the groove widened out, and the track really got pretty racy there at the end. I think we saw some guys on the outside be able to maintain their position or even take the lead on restarts there towards the middle portion of the race and then to the end. It was a good weekend. It was a lot of fun to be able to come out here and race with this new racetrack."
 
The last time Johnson won a race, he came from the last starting position to win at Homestead, ultimately winning his historic seventh championship. After spinning in qualifying at Texas, he was again relegated to the last place on the grid to start. And again, he fought his way through traffic to claim a victory. Knaus talked about his driver's day.

"Yeah, we honestly felt we had a good race car all weekend long. [The] Lowe's Chevrolet came off the truck really pretty good. He was very comfortable with the race car, which was very encouraging throughout the whole weekend. It's unfortunate that we spun out qualifying for sure. I think we would have qualified in the top 12, no problem.
           
"But to come from the back, we knew it was going to be a challenge, but we did have the opportunity yesterday to get into some traffic and then pass some cars or at least follow right behind them, and he was very complimentary of the race car yesterday, so at that point I felt -- I was like, okay, we'll be able to get up there and navigate through the first 15 cars, let's say, and try to get into the top 15. And then it happened in pretty short order. So I was pretty pleased with that.
           
"The thing that changes that people don't understand is once you get yourself up into that top-10, top-five range, the handling characteristics of a race car significantly change, and to be able to tune your car to stay up there, you have to stay up there. And if you fall back in traffic after you've made an adjustment to your race car so it can go faster up front, it can really be a problem, and you never get back up front. So we had to kind of tiptoe our way through until we felt like the car was where Jimmie wanted it, and the track was really starting to widen out.
           
"But man, I guess we had that pit stop about 180-something-ish, I don't remember exactly the number right now, and Jimmie was very, very complimentary of the race car. From that point on, it was gangbusters," Knaus explained.
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs

With the changes made to the track, it was almost like visiting a brand new track.

"It's pretty cool, right? I enjoyed it for sure," Knaus said. "Some of my engineers didn't enjoy it a heck of a lot because they're numbers guys. They want to know exactly what's going on and how to tune the car.  It's challenging for everybody, but honestly, it was a lot of fun for us this weekend.
           
"I love going to new racetracks. I think it's fun. I think it's a challenge for everybody, especially when you throw in things like a different tire and different race strategies and different race cars, because these cars are completely different than last year, so there's a lot of unknowns coming in here. I enjoyed it. I had a great time, obviously."

Knaus is having a great time. Johnson is winning. Sounds a lot like last year, doesn't it? And we all know how last year ended.

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 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; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession and tunes in with her every week... even if it's just to watch the flyover.


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Jimmie Johnson still has the keys to Victory Lane at Texas

Credit: Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
They said he wouldn’t win at Texas Motor Speedway because he hasn’t been running that well, that he only had one top-10 finish this season.

They said he had to start in the back because he couldn’t start the race on the tires with which he finished practice.

They said it didn’t matter that he’s won here six times before, the repaved and re-profiled track surface made it like a new track. A level playing field, they said, so he wouldn’t be able to win.

They forgot to tell Jimmie Johnson all that. 

They ignored the fact that he was fastest in Happy Hour.

They forgot that he’s Superman.

He stalked Joey Logano for a few laps, patiently waiting for the No. 22 to slip. With 18 laps to go in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, Logano slipped slightly up the track and Johnson pounced, taking the lead and never looking back. Logano wound up third.

The win should probably come with the deed to Victory Lane since Johnson has visited it seven times in 28 starts at the Great American Speedway, with 15 top fives and 21 top tens.

“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it! I’m just real proud of this team,” said Johnson in Victory Lane. “What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse, and we were just able to execute all day. Thanks to everybody at Lowe’s and Chevy and the fans and a ton of sponsors. Oh, it was hot in there. I got cooked in the car today. I didn’t have any fluids, so I’m not feeling the best, but we got into Victory Lane. I’m so proud of the fight in this race team. I can’t wait to celebrate during this off-weekend with my family and friends and really enjoy this.”

Early in the race it appeared that Ryan Blaney would claim his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup win. Overall the Wood Brothers No. 21 Motorcraft Ford led 148 laps, a career high for Blaney and the most laps led for the team since Neil Bonnett led 128 laps at Rockingham in 1982. Blaney dominated most of the first two segments and won both of them, choosing to stay out during a late-segment caution to win the stage rather than pit before the break.

Blaney described the decision to stay out, “In hindsight...that was kind of a judgment call. You give up a stage win and 10 points and a bonus point for the playoffs to try to set yourself for the end of the race. We thought we had enough time after segment 2 to try to work our way back up through there, and a restart actually after segment 2 really went bad for us. We got jumbled up in 1 and 2 and let a lot of cars get by. That was kind of the deciding factor I feel like. I let a lot of good cars get by like the 48 and 42 and 24, and that hurt us more, I think, than anything was that restart after segment 2 when we had to check up big in 1 and 2.”

Second place went to Kyle Larson, his fourth runner-up finish of the season. He had a pit-road penalty in the first stage that may have cost him the victory. “Our Credit One Bank Chevy was good from the start, was able to pass a lot of cars there in the beginning. Got a pit road penalty. I clipped too many boxes there and then came from the back and passed a lot of cars again.” Larson explained. “Just felt like we passed cars a lot. All-in-all a good day. You never know…I felt like maybe if I didn’t have that pit road penalty early in the race I could have gotten to the lead that run with how good we were and maybe controlled the race from there. Just a little mistake on my part and we’ve got to clean that up a little bit and maybe we will win some more of these.”

Kevin Harvick finished fourth after leading 77 laps, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first top-five finish of the season. “I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it’s nice. I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, we will take top five.”

Track president Eddie Gossage Jr. can breathe easy now; Junior gave his seal of approval. “I like the track,” said Earnhardt. “I like the repave. We saw the second groove come in a little bit.”

Kyle Larson heads into the break with a 17-point lead over Chase Elliott. Third-place Martin Truex Jr. has the most stage wins with four, while fourth-place Brad Keselowski has the most playoff points. 

Pos
Car #
Driver
Mfg.
1
48
Jimmie Johnson
Chevrolet
2
42
Kyle Larson
Chevrolet
3
22
Joey Logano
Ford
4
4
Kevin Harvick
Ford
5
88
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Chevrolet
6
2
Brad Keselowski
Ford
7
1
Jamie McMurray
Chevrolet
8
78
Martin Truex, Jr.
Toyota
9
24
Chase Elliott
Chevrolet
10
41
Kurt Busch
Ford
11
14
Clint Bowyer
Ford
12
21
Ryan Blaney
Ford
13
6
Trevor Bayne
Ford
14
17
Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
Ford
15
18
Kyle Busch
Toyota
16
20
Matt Kenseth
Toyota
17
13
Ty Dillon
Chevrolet
18
43
Aric Almirola
Ford
19
19
Daniel Suarez
Toyota
20
47
A.J. Allmendinger
Chevrolet
21
37
Chris Buescher
Chevrolet
22
77
Erik Jones
Toyota
23
95
Michael McDowell
Chevrolet
24
10
Danica Patrick
Ford
25
11
Denny Hamlin
Toyota
26
31
Ryan Newman
Chevrolet
27
7
J.J. Yeley
Chevrolet
28
38
David Ragan
Ford
29
34
Landon Cassill
Ford
30
72
Cole Whitt
Chevrolet
31
32
Matt DiBenedetto
Ford
32
83
Corey LaJoie
Toyota
33
3
Austin Dillon
Chevrolet
34
23
Gray Gaulding
Toyota
35
15
Reed Sorenson
Chevrolet
36
27
Paul Menard
Chevrolet
37
55
Derrike Cope
Toyota
38
5
Kasey Kahne
Chevrolet
39
51
Timmy Hill
Chevrolet
40
33
Jeffrey Earnhardt
Chevrolet
Top 10 in Stage 1: # 21, 78, 1, 4, 2, 42, 14, 17, 22, 18
Top 10 in Stage 2: # 21, 48, 1, 42, 24, 41, 4, 2, 88, 78