Sunday, April 30, 2017

Joey Logano races from last to first at Richmond International Raceway




Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
By Carol D’Agostino

The Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway started in the shadows of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s retirement announcement. However, when the white flag waved nearly 3 ½ hours later, it was Joey Logano who stole the headlines and took his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford car to Victory Lane.

Logano literally raced from the back to the front due to a transmission change prior to the race. For Logano it was his 18th Monster Energy Series win in 300 starts. This is his first victory and eighth top-10 finish in 2017, and his second victory and ninth top-10 finish in 17 races at Richmond.

Logano becomes the fifth driver in series history to win in his 300th start joining Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Kasey Kahne and Rusty Wallace.

Although they didn’t have the fastest car all day, crew chief Todd Gordon credited pit strategy and good execution by both the crew and the driver for the win.

“It was a hot slick day and no one’s car was good,” he said. “We got better as the race went on. It was a matter of good execution. We put ourselves in position where we could take advantage over our short run speed. We focused forward."

For Logano, starting from the back wasn’t as monumental as being told by his crew chief that he needed to be patient and run at 80 percent.

“I am not wired to go 80 percent, but there is a time to go and a time to whoa. We were able to play those cards at the right time today,” Logano said. “We have such a strong team. We are resilient. You can push us back, but you can’t put us down."

It was a one-two finish for Team Penske in both NASCAR and Verizon IndyCar Series this weekend. Today Brad Keselowski came in second. Rounding out the top five were Denny Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Pole sitter Matt Kenseth, who led the most laps with 164, finished 23rd, never recovering after cutting a tire.

As the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolls into Talladega Superspeedway for race number 10 Kyle Larson is holding his lead in the driver standings. Martin Truex Jr. sits second with Chase Elliott in third. Race winner Joey Logano is fourth and teammate Brad Keselowski is fifth.

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Kyle Larson earns surprise win in the ToyotaCare 250

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
 By Carol D’Agostino

When the green flagged dropped for the ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond, all eyes were on the front row, where Daniel Hemric headed the field after earning his first NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light pole. Starting beside Hemric was Kyle Benjamin, Joe Gibbs Racing’s NASCAR Next graduate, who was making his series debut.

After the race went into overtime, it was Kyle Larson who ended up in Victory Lane, spoiling the win for Series regular Justin Allgaier, who had the dominant car all day, leading 157 laps. Allgaier finished second and earned his second $100,000 Dash for Cash bonus this season.

Hemric finished third and was the highest-finishing rookie. Benjamin wasn’t as lucky, and wrecked on Lap 247 in an incident involving five other cars. 

Larson was happily surprised with the win, using pit strategy during the last caution to gain track position.

“I felt like if we could gain a spot on pit road, we'd have a shot at winning, and that’s what happened," Larson said. "We lined up third. Ty was on two tires, and he took off a little before the box. They called him for a jump-start, and we were able to be the leader on that final one (restart). Justin got a really good start on that top lane. He was able to hang on my right side through one and we cleared him off two. They started crashing behind us. I was happy to see them all wreck because I didn’t want to have to race a whole other lap with Justin behind me because he had the dominant car by far."

Allgaier’s Dash for Cash win was overshadowed by his disappointment over losing the race.

“Ultimately we come here to win the race," he said. "We had a great opportunity to do that, and unfortunately at the end the wheels fell off of the race and went haywire. We ultimately paid the biggest price, and didn’t get to go to Victory Lane. Even though it is disappointing, we still did a great job. We’ve won two out of three so far (Dash for Cash). All in all it was still a good day."

As the series goes to Talladega Superspeedway next Saturday for the ninth race of the season, Elliott Sadler holds his lead in the driver standings, with Allgaier in second. William Byron, Hemric and Bubba Wallace Jr. round out the top five.

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs

Kasey Kahne anticipates a solid race in the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs
By Carol D’Agostino

Wins are the ultimate goal for most athletes. For NASCAR drivers, coming in second after a long day is disappointing. It’s all about the wins and the trophies. However, when you haven’t won for a while, you wonder when -- or if -- your next win will happen.

For 37-year-old Kasey Kahne, driver of the AARP Drive for Hunger Chevrolet, it’s been a three-year drought since his last win. Today the No. 5 car had the sixth best 10 consecutive lap average in final practice under conditions which will be similar to tomorrow’s race.

Kahne is optimistic about a good run for Sunday’s race at a track where he earned his first Cup Series win in spring 2005.

"These races (Richmond) were two of my best races last year," Kahne said. "I’ve enjoyed racing here and felt good in practice. I feel like we could have a good result on Sunday. Our car and our set-ups are very similar to where we were last year. We will just fine tune on that and hopefully get things right. This should be a good show for us."

After reviewing other competitors’ lines in practice, Kahne expects multiple groove racing on Sunday.

“I watched Ricky Stenhouse run seven laps in a row, and each lap he moved up another foot, and another foot, and another foot, and you could see the track turning blacker where he was going," Kahne said. "It is going to move way up. He was getting quicker as he went or running the same speed, so it will be good. I think it’s going to be a really good show on Sunday myself."

In his last two starts at Richmond, Kahne finished fourth and sixth. He posted five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 16.31. He's led a total of 281 laps in five separate races at Richmond International Raceway, and will start 19th on Sunday's grid.

In the 2017 season Kahne has one top-five finish, two top 10s and has led seven laps.

The Toyota Owners 400 will begin at 2 p.m. ET and will broadcast on FOX.

Credit: Carol D'Agostino for Skirts and Scuffs

Caption This: Kevin Harvick


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 Kevin Harvick, which was captured by our Lisa Janine Cloud this month at Texas Motor Speedway.



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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Friday, April 28, 2017

All Good Things: Five Questions for Richmond

(Credit: Drew Hallowell/NASCAR via Getty Images)
By Kristen Schneider

The week we’ve anticipated finally came – and it’s produced more questions than answers.

After a thrilling weekend in Tennessee, NASCAR went from riding high to tumbling into the dreaded gray area again. This isn’t a negative thing (as I’ll discuss later), but it came at a shocking moment.

The timing – rather than the actual news – was the shocking part.

As we work to process Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s announcement, we also visit another racetrack this weekend. I talk about two drivers with potential, the state of the sport, and a son’s legacy in this week’s Five Questions.

Can Hemric build on his strong showing? If you thought Daniel Hemric’s rookie season would underwhelm, well, it sucks to be you. The newest Richard Childress Racing driver clinched a Dash 4 Cash prize at Bristol Motor Speedway this past weekend, and he finished fifth after battling up front all afternoon. This makes for one top-five and three top-10s through seven races, a decent start to an Xfinity career. It’s always hard to anticipate how a driver will do in a new series, but Hemric has taken to NXS very well. I want to see if he’ll ride the momentum into Richmond – a track he’s never encountered. However, the No. 2 team has a solid foundation to build upon. There’s a lot to look forward to for that group.

Is Bowyer close to a breakthrough? It’s been a rough few years for Clint Bowyer, so it's nice to see him do so well. The newest driver of the No. 14 for Stewart-Haas Racing is making steady progress in 2017; he’s already collected two top-fives and four top-10s, eclipsing last year’s stats. It’s no secret he’s waited for this season to come – and he won’t let it go to waste. With that momentum, Bowyer could capture his first victory since 2012 this weekend. At Richmond, he has two victories, four top-fives, and 12 top-10s in his 22 starts. He is adjusting to the equipment well, and he’s found a rhythm with the No. 14 crew. Don’t let Bowyer’s subpar performance in recent years overshadow his impressive stats.

Is NASCAR falling into a dark hole? After the news broke, the cries of “the sport is doomed!” almost drowned out the sobs of Junior fans. All I could do is roll my eyes and sigh. That’s the same response I gave when people instantly tweeted about Alex Bowman taking over the No. 88 next season. Some people won’t wait for the dust to settle to start jumping to new conclusions. I refuse to view these recent developments as a bad sign – not because it’s great news, but because of all the new possibilities. We all know I can rip into NASCAR and cut the crap, but this isn’t one of those times. I truly believe this is good for the sport. It pushes NASCAR off the ledge and forces them to fly or fall. We can’t cling to Earnhardt Jr. anymore and hope his star power will keep the series afloat. There are so many young, talented drivers in our sport today that deserve fanfare. Earnhardt even emphasized that in his press conference. This is nowhere near the end if the sport invests time and marketing into these young drivers; it can lead to a huge payoff.

Who’s the next driver to retire? This is a week where the thought process kicks into overdrive and you begin to question everything – like if your driver is the next one to call it quits. I’ll go out on a limb here and say no, your driver won’t call a surprise press conference a la Carl Edwards and step down tomorrow afternoon. However, it is time to start thinking about who is next – not because we want them to retire, but because we are genuinely curious and pensive. That said, remember when the rumor was that Matt Kenseth would announce his retirement? And then he announced a new sponsor? Well, people thought it was a “I’m out, bye!” moment because he’s been in the sport for a long time. One of the older drivers left, Kenseth is most likely the next one to go – but I don’t think it’s anytime soon. He’s still competitive, and that’s a huge factor in these drivers staying around. Also, the sport needs his dry humor during these turbulent times.


How will Earnhardt be remembered? This is the biggest news since a concussion sidelined Earnhardt last year. It’s a surreal feeling; we all knew this day would come – sooner rather than later, after the 2016 season’s happenings – but the fact that it’s now a reality is difficult to grasp. The sport’s biggest star (and that’s a title that can’t be negotiated) will leave at the end of the season, and it’s a tough pill to swallow. As crazy as it is, Earnhardt made the right decision. He thinks it’s time to leave the sport, and he’s giving fans forewarning so they can cherish his final season. That is respectable in every way. Despite not winning a Cup championship, Earnhardt secured his place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame long ago. His biggest victory came in the form of a change, one life forced him to undertake. Ever since February 2001, we’ve watched Earnhardt grow and find himself – with an entire sport resting on his shoulders. There were dark times that nearly consumed him – until he met Amy. Over the course of a few years, the driver of the No. 88 transformed into a man content with life and who he is and what he has accomplished. That is how I will remember Earnhardt – and that is why I thank him for giving so much to a sport that expected so much during the darkest days of his life. All good things must come to an end, and having Earnhardt was better than good; it was a fantastic honor. 

TV Schedule: April 28-30

Richmond International Raceway. Credit: Chris Graythen / NASCAR via Getty Images

By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR races back-to-back short tracks as the series goes from Bristol to Richmond. The Monster Energy Cup and XFINITY Series take to the popular Virginia track.

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

Friday, April 28:
11:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
1 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
4:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, FS1
8 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS2
9:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Qualifying (re-air), FS2

Saturday, April 29:
4:30 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
5:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
9 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
10 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
11:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
12:30 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, FS1
1 p.m. XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250, FS1
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Post-Race: Richmond, FS1

Sunday, April 30:
1 a.m. XFINITY Series ToyotaCare 250 (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
4:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR on FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Toyota Owners 400, FOX
8:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Thursday, April 27, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond


By Carol D'Agostino

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

By Track
Joey Logano - 7
Both with 6 - Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth
Both with 5 - Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.
All with 4 - Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer

Recent Pole Winners:
2016 Rained out
2015 Joey Logano

Last Year's Race Winner: Carl Edwards

The Likely Suspects: Richmond hosts great short-track racing and tends to favor drivers with open wheel experience. These drivers traditionally run well here: Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer.

My 2 Cents: Hopefully rain will not be a factor this weekend. Track position is super important for this race, so do your final picks based on starting position. My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick. My next picks are: Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Kasey Kahne. I will round out my team with Erik Jones and Landon Cassill.

My Final Four: Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones

Points to ponder:
  • Petty Enterprises has the most wins at Richmond in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 15, followed by Joe Gibbs Racing with 12, Hendrick Motorsports with 10 and Richard Childress Racing with nine.
  • Nine different manufacturers have won at Richmond. Chevrolet leads the series in wins at Richmond with 37 victories, followed by Ford with 31 and Toyota with 10.
  • The pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners than any other starting position at Richmond (24). 
  • About three quarters (95 of 121) of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup races at Richmond International Raceway have been won from a top-10 starting position. 
  • Kyle Busch leads all active drivers in the Cup Series wins at Richmond International Raceway with four, all of which were spring races. But he doesn’t stop there. Busch also tops the charts with most runner-up finishes with eight, most top-5 finishes with 15 and best average finishing position with a 6.957.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman trail Busch in runner-up finishes at Richmond with two each.    
  • Kevin Harvick (11) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10) trail Busch in top-five finishes at Richmond.
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in the series in top-10 finishes at Richmond with 20, followed by Kyle Busch (17) and Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman (16 each).
  • Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in RIR poles with three. 
Remember, if you're playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, April 28 at 5 a.m. EDT.

I'll be covering the race weekend at Richmond for Skirts and Scuffs, so be sure to check back at here for your racing news. Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Caption This Winner for 4-22-17: Pam Rossman

Congratulations to Pam Rossmanwho contributed the winning caption for this photo of
Clint Bowyer and Michael Annett. 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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An end and a beginning: A fan's reaction to Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s retirement


Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
by Lacy Keyser, Fan Representative

When one door closes, another one opens. With the news Tuesday that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is retiring from driving, it sure felt that way. For 18 seasons, Earnhardt Jr. has played a valued role in the NASCAR. He’s a huge fan favorite and is the sport's Most Popular Driver.

Fans have to wonder: Now what? Where do we go from here? For some, he isn’t just a driver -- he’s their role model, their hero. Earnhardt Jr. has had such a huge impact on this sport as a whole; he’s carried the weight of the family name all these years.

For me, he wasn’t just my favorite driver. He made the sport for me. Now at first, I didn’t want to like him. After the death of his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., I didn’t want to be a fan of another driver, especially one with the same name. It took me a few years, but I finally warmed up to the idea of being a fan.

Being an Earnhardt Jr. fan isn’t easy. You're always dealing with naysayers, who are always saying he’s just famous because of his dad. Comments like that always upset me. Why did it matter if we liked him? That was the whole point of the sport -- to cheer your favorite driver on, to watch him win.

Being a fan of Earnhardt Jr. meant you had to be strong. You had to deal with hateful comments, and you had to deal with disappointments. But all this didn’t matter because at the end of the day, we still had a great driver. We had a humble, respectable driver. Even when his team went winless or had bad finishes, it didn’t matter because Earnhardt Jr. never gave up, and we fans never gave up, either.

I feel my life got better once I became an Earnhardt Jr. fan. I went through a tough time losing my dad at 14, and at around that time, Earnhardt Jr. was going through a change. He was leaving the company his father built to go to Hendrick Motorsports. NASCAR and Earnhardt Jr. became the escape I needed, and for that, I’m beyond thankful.

I owe a lot to Earnhardt Jr. He’s the reason I chose my career and education path, that maybe someday I’d be a sports writer or sports broadcaster. I’m currently working on my bachelor's degree in mass communications. So who knows -- maybe someday, I just might reach that goal.

I’m thankful for all the memories, for all the wins, all the tears I’ve shed and believe me, I’ve cried a lot. Dale Jr., I’m so grateful and thankful that I was your fan. I’m glad I wore 88 gear (and always will). I’m glad I went to races and saw you race. I’m so happy for all the memories. Even though I’m sad, I’m glad you were my driver.

Next season will not be easy. I don’t know who to cheer for now, or how to even watch a season without Earnhardt Jr. I don’t even know if I can watch. If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I can even picture another driver in that 88.

The season isn’t over yet. So let’s go out with bang. Let’s win races, and maybe even a championship? Let’s not focus on the future; let's focus on the now. Once the season is over, then we can worry about the 88. But for now, let’s enjoy our favorite driver. Let’s cheer him on to victory. Let’s keep Junior Nation loud and proud.

This isn’t the end -- it’s only the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter in being a fan of Dale Earnhardt Jr.

When one door closes, another opens. Let’s see where that door is leading.

Rookie Stripe: Why are there only 40 cars in a race?


Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
I’m rarely one to crush a pipe dream, but not everyone can be a NASCAR driver. To make it to the upper tiers of racing, especially the premier Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, drivers must not only be masters of the sport, but they need the financial backing of a team. There’s a reason we tune in so fervently week after week to watch races -- to see a select slice of competition that dials up the intensity because they've earned the right to be in the field.

Which brings me to the word field. In NASCAR it’s an important word that delineates the main show -- the drivers. The challengers who line up to run any given race make up the field.

Photo credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
In the early days of NASCAR, anyone could compete, as long as they could afford to. Higher numbers of participants were more common at superspeedways and popular tracks, such as Darlington and Daytona. To make the race more exclusive and standardized, NASCAR eventually moved to a cap of 43 cars in the field based on 36 drivers that qualified during the aptly named “qualifying” rounds. Also allotted were six provisional slots that could be used by other drivers who didn’t necessarily run every race. The 43rd position was for a former NASCAR champion who wanted to race but may not have qualified.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Then 2016 rolled around and NASCAR rolled out the team owner Charter System which shook things up once again. Under the system, 36 Charter teams were chosen from 19 organizations based on NASCAR’s determination of which teams had attempted to qualify in every race for the last three years -- which demonstrated commitment to the sport. Those 36 teams received charters, which they can sell on an open market, and also guaranteed spots in points races. Four non-Charter teams can compete for the remainder of the field, now capped at 40.

I can’t pretend to totally understand NASCAR's entire Charter system (waving my Rookie flag) but this article by ESPN’s Ryan McGee explains some of the more minute details.

But just like those of us who still like to party at 40 years old and beyond, it’s just a number right? Let’s get back to racing.


Who has charters for 2017
Fast facts for NASCAR’s team owner charter system


Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Richmond International Raceway

credit: NASCAR Media
Richmond International Raceway in Virginia is one of NASCAR’s most important tracks – it has the enviable task of hosting the final “regular season” race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season each year. Learn more about “America’s Premier Short Track” in this week’s Fast Track Facts.
  • Richmond International Raceway opened in 1946 as the Atlantic Rural Exposition Fairgrounds, home to a 0.5-mile dirt track. It hosted the first NASCAR Grand National Division race in April 1953, won by Lee Petty. The track became an asphalt oval for the Sept. 1968 race, which was won by Richard Petty.
  • During the span from 1955-1968, the track also went by the names Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds (1955-1963) and Virginia State Fairgrounds (1964-1968). From 1969-1988, the track was known as Richmond Fairgrounds Raceway. In addition to operating under different names, the track went through many different lengths – from a 0.5-mile dirt track, it became a 0.625-mile asphalt track for the second race of 1968; for the next race in spring 1969, it was a 0.5-mile asphalt oval, then expanded to a 0.542-mile asphalt oval, which it remained until 1988.
  • Between the spring and fall races in 1988, the track was reconfigured to its current layout: a 0.75-mile D-shaped oval. The last Cup Series race as a 0.542-mile oval was won by Neil Bonnett; the first race as a 0.75-mile oval was won by another member of the “Alabama Gang,” Davey Allison. Lights were added to the track, known as RIR since 1989, for the fall race in 1991.
  • Richard Petty holds the RIR marks for the most wins (13), most top five finishes (34), most top 10 finishes (41) and most starts (63), and is tied with Bobby Allison for most poles (eight). Jeff Gordon holds the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying record (20.674 seconds/130.599 mph), set back in Sept. 2013.
  • RIR currently hosts two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and two Xfinity Series races each year, plus one K&N Pro Series East race. It has previously hosted the Camping World Truck Series, the Whelen Modified Tour, the International Race of Champions (IROC), the IndyCar Series and USAC sprint cars.
  • RIR is part of the Richmond Raceway Complex, a 1,000-acre multipurpose facility which features numerous additional buildings. Facilities include five large show buildings, the Midway area, the Horticulture Garden, a 6,000-seat amphitheater and a 1,000-seat covered dirt-floor arena.
  • Find out more about Richmond International Raceway at www.rir.com.



Right Sides Only: Notes from the Food City 500 Winning Crew Chief, Chad Knaus

by Stacey Owens

What do you get when you cross an off-weekend with a rain delay and a new track surface? In this case, you get the 82nd win from Jimmie Johnson.

Crew chief Chad Knaus talked about the team's win in Texas followed by the week of rest and how those elements combined to make this weekend fun.

"It was a fantastic weekend. It was great. We had a lot of fun. After securing a win last week, it obviously takes a huge load off of your shoulders, and being able to come in here this week confident, relaxed, we had a weekend off, we really came in showing that the track was going to be significantly different with the way they applied the traction compound on the bottom of the racetrack, and we knew we were going to be chasing it, so coming in here with a preconceived idea of what it was that we were going to need to have on the race car was really not what we needed to do, and we didn't," Knaus said.

The weather wreaked havoc on every team and made it difficult to make decisions as teams unloaded on Friday afternoon. The weather wasn't the only culprit in throwing a wrench into crew chiefs' plans, though. The track surface at Bristol Motor Speedway is new. Not new as in just repaved, like Texas, but new as in having had a sticky substance called VHT applied to the racing groove.

So, how did Knaus and Johnson approach the weekend?
           
"We had a very open approach. Jimmie had an open approach. He had to adjust and change some things that he was doing. We had to change the way that we were setting up the race car, and man, Saturday afternoon it was really nice to see what we had going on, so it was a lot of fun. We had a great time. It was a great weekend. I think, again, hats off to the -- it doesn't always work, but man, this place, they do everything they can to try to put on a fantastic show for the fans, and they did it today. That was a fun race to watch and a fun race to take part in," Knaus explained.

Knaus said that the key to making adjustments relative to the track surface was that every other crew chief was in the same situation.

"I think what helped us the most this weekend is that everybody else was lost. I don't know if that makes sense or not. But you didn't have a standout at our company that was maybe the car that you needed to pay attention to that was really fast, so you kind of look at their notes and look at what it is that they do. We just stepped back, there was a lot of frustration from Jimmie, honestly, after midway through the first practice session... And we were able to just be like, look, let's just do what conceptually we think is correct, and we threw a lot of the convention away from it that we had done in the past and we had seen in the past work, and just made some things happen.
           
"Now, the thing that's difficult is he [Johnson] drives a race car way different than other people do, and what he likes to feel in the race car is significantly different than what a lot of other drivers like to have. The track surface being the way that it was I think is exactly what we needed because everybody was searching, people were sliding all over the racetrack, they were complaining and nobody was really in a comfortable state of mind, and that's when I think the 48 team excels is when there's chaos. I think between Jimmie's experience, his driving ability and what we can do with the race car, that's what we excel," Knaus explained.

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Does Knaus alter his strategy based on what his driver can do behind the wheel? Yes. He talked about the impact that Johnson's ability and his communication about the car's performance have on his decision-making.

"It's huge. The driver inputs in these race cars are -- the box that we operate in now is so tight and narrow that the inputs that the drivers use are what change the pitch, the heave, the roll, the longitudinal, lateral movement of the race car. What they do is really key. Jimmie uses all of his tools very, very well. He drives with feel. He's not a guy that says, 'Okay, this is the fastest line, and that's the way I'm going to get around the racetrack.' I've tried for years to get him to drive like that, and he won't do it. He's a driver that wants to adjust, manipulate the car with his inputs, and that's great. That's what makes him such a fantastic driver. So paying attention to what he says is a very, very important part of getting the most out of your race car.

           
"Again, that's why coming in here this weekend with an open mind, even though frustration did come in a little bit, that's what allowed us to get the car as what it was today, and I think our car was great.  I saw him be able to do some things with the race car that we haven't been able to do with our cars here in the past. Not just that it was fast but the way he was able to drive it, and all that was a direct result of what he was giving us for input," Knaus said.

When it comes down to it, the crew chief can only do so much. When asked about why the No. 48 was ultimately able to win, Knaus pointed to a number of reasons.

"You know, there were so many contributing factors. We had a fast race car. The car was solid.  Jimmie did a great job. Our pit crew, I think, today really helped us a lot. We were able to gain positions, maintain positions on pit road, get us into spots where we were able to actually restart up towards the front, and I think we saw the comers and goers really happen on restarts the most. So not that we always had the preferred line on a restart, but at least we were close enough to the front that when something bad happened, we didn't fall back. So the pit crew kept us in the game and allowed Jimmie to do what it was that he needed to do on the track. So I think that was one of the big, big factors where we were today," Knaus explained.

Knaus may not have taken much credit for the win, but Johnson was quick to extol the virtues of his crew chief.

"Chad did a great job of coaching me up and seeing through some of my animated descriptions and my frustration and really controlled the group. It didn't let my emotions affect his thought process, and he did a great job of calming me down and saying, look, this is changing, this is the situation, let's just keep working on it, we'll get it, we'll get it, and he really -- from an emotional standpoint and kind of mindset standpoint kept the wheels on the train, or I guess the train on the tracks," Johnson said.

With consecutive wins this season, it looks like the train isn't just staying on the tracks; it's left the station. Can anyone else catch them?

Find out as our coverage continues next weekend at Richmond International Raceway, starting with Travel Tips for all the information you'll need to plan a trip to the Virginia track.


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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.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Travel Tips: Richmond International Raceway – April 28-30, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
Richmond International Raceway in Virginia hosts the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series this weekend, Friday through Sunday, April 28-30, for the Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 and the Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250.

The Track Takeover returns to RIR on Sunday, April 30 from 10 a.m.-noon ET. All ticket holders get exclusive access to the track just hours before the green flag, where they’ll get to sign their names to the start/finish line and share an experience with driver Austin Dillon. Find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, April 28
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1 and 3 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 29 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 9 and 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 10:05 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series ToyotaCare 250 – 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, April 30 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 – 2 p.m. ET
A complete schedule of events at the track is available here.
 
Check out the “Worry Less” Fan Guide here, and get the track’s grandstand guidelines here.

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

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 for 4-8-17: 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.