Monday, January 30, 2017

Travel Tips: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

credit: NASCAR Media
If you’re making plans to visit “Indy” in July, put a side trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum on your list of things to do. There, you can explore more than 100 years’ worth of motorsports and automobile history all in one place.
 
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is located on the grounds of Indianapolis Motor Speedway at 4790 W. 16th St. in Speedway, IN. The Museum was established in 1956 by Tony Hulman Jr. and Karl Kizer, the Museum’s first director, as a place to display memorabilia and race cars. Its current location was built in 1975, and measures approximately 36,000 square feet. In addition to the Museum, it is home to two gift shops, the track’s retail photography store and other offices.
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum houses race cars from many series including IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One, plus sprint car racing, midget racing, motorcycle racing and drag racing. There are also some passenger vehicles in the Museum. It is also home to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame, which was organized in 1952 and revived by Hulman in 1962.
  • The Museum offers a number of tours to the public, including the “the Qualifying Lap” – one narrated lap around the oval in an IMS bus – and the “VIP Grounds Tour” – a 90-minute guided tour of the grounds, the racing surface and the infield area. Find out more about these tours in the “Plan Your Visit” section of the website.
  • The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is open daily except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET from March through October and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET from November through February. Admission at this time is $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages 6-15 and free for kids 5 and under. Learn more about the Museum at http://www.indyracingmuseum.org/.
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Monday, January 23, 2017

NASCAR Unveils New Points System Geared Toward Enhancing On-Track Product


Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski take part in a press conference outlining enhanced points system.
Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
by Katy Lindamood 

Just when you think you understand the NASCAR points system and The Chase format, NASCAR turns everything on its top. In front of a packed house, NASCAR unveiled its new enhanced points system Monday evening. To say it's confusing might be the understatement of the year, so let's break it down.

Races will now consist of three stages

Each of the first two segments will consist of a set number of laps. The final segment length will be variable based on the overall race length. No news yet on how many laps segments one and two will be. 

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice
President and Chief Racing Development Officer
Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
According to Steve O'Donnell, "Pit road will be closed approximately five laps prior to the stage ending ... The cars will remain on the track under yellow flag conditions. We'll open pit road, and pit stops will be covered live. After the cars have cycled through their pit stops, the stage winner and crew chief will be interviewed, either in car, over the PA or TV, and then we'll start Stage 2 exactly the way the cars came off pit road."

The top-10 finishers of the first two segments will be awarded additional championship points.

This means that any driver finishing in spots 1-10 (in stages 1 and 2) will get more points towards their total accumulated points. The first-place driver will receive 10 points, second place will receive 9 points, third place will receive 8 points and so on down the line. 

The final stage of the race will determine the overall race winner.

Points will be awarded as in the past with the first-place driver receiving 40 points, second place 35, third place 34 and so on throughout the final running order. 

The winners of the first two stages will receive 1 point toward their playoff totals and the overall race winner will receive an additional five points towards his or her playoff points total.

"The playoffs, how does this affect our playoff system? We talked about the races, let's talk about the playoffs," Said O'Donnell. "Here's what won't be changing: Eligibility remains the same. It's based on race wins and points. The number of drivers and teams, the elimination structure all remain, 16 drivers, down to 12, down to 8, down to 4. You win, and you advance to the next round."

Instead of using the term Chase to describe the final races of the season, NASCAR will use "Playoffs." Playoff points awarded during the "regular" season will be added to a driver's point totals following the seeding after the cutoff race. So in the Monster Energy Cup Series, drivers who earned points for winning races or stages during the first 26 events will see these points added to their tally. It's like the "bonus" points awarded during the Chase years, but with the addition of stage winner points. These playoff points will carry through until the final four are determined for Homestead.

Bonus points for leading laps will no longer be awarded.

The new structure will not allow drivers to earn an additional point for leading one lap or an additional point for leading the most laps.

Regular season champion will receive an additional advantage in playoffs.

In the past, drivers who were in the points lead following the regular season were not awarded for their efforts. Under the new structure, a driver who leads the standings following the cutoff race will be awarded an additional 15 playoff points to be added to his or her total following the reset. Those within the top 10 for the regular season will also receive additional points with second earning 10 points, third earning 8, fourth earning 7, etc.

O'Donnell illustrated how the bonus points would work. "Using this example of a driver who had one stage win, one race win and led the regular season in points, they'd have 21 points at the start of the playoffs heading into Chicago. The bottom line for this is that it's about listening and rewarding the drivers, listening to the fans, having more moments and more importantly carrying this out through the entire season."

 "So if you incentivize these guys and they race their guts
out, but if you incentivize them to go earn something
during the race, it makes it so they want to race that
 much harder, and race fans deserve to see races that
 matter, and this is an enhancement that will help
make that happen, and when races matter, the fans win."
Jeff Burton

Photo credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Whether or not this new system will generate more excitement for fans is yet to be determined. 

How do drivers feel about the new system? Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhard Jr. and Brad Keselowski believe the new system will generate more excitement and and less laying back after a win.

"Now with each accomplishment that you have during each given race, whether you're collecting points for the overall regular season or you're trying to collect points through a stage win or a race win, each accomplishment gives your road to Homestead a little bit easier, gives you a little bit of cushion there to be able to get through the playoffs and make it to Homestead, and that's what it's all about for us is making it to Homestead and trying to race for a championship, and I think this format does it for it," said Hamlin.

Earnhardt Jr. added, "...the stages are going to bring a lot of excitement for the drivers and the fans. I was in a unique position this past season to be a driver and a fan, and definitely I think this creates a lot of interest in a part of the event, in every event, every single week where it was needed. There will be a lot on the line."

One thing's for certain, it's going to be an interesting season! The fun begins in just a few weeks when the Duels at Daytona run. Yes, you heard right. NASCAR will be awarding points for the Duels.

Joie Chitwood, Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer of International Speedway Corporation, said, "There's an opportunity at Daytona that is unique as well that is part of this announcement. The Duels at Daytona will now actually pay points, so the top-10 finishers for each of the Duels will receive the same points as a stage winner: the ten, the nine, the eight, all the way down to one. It does not qualify as a stage win, but it does pay out regular-season points."

What are your thoughts on the new system? Do you find it confusing? How do you think the person flipping the channels and coming across the race will react? Leave your comments below. 

Travel Tips: The International Motorsports Hall of Fame

NASCAR Hall of Famer Jerry Cook was inducted into the
International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2009.
credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/Tim Roberts
If you’re planning a trip to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama for the NASCAR races in May or October, make sure you stop by the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, which takes you through a history of many different types of motorsports, not just NASCAR.
  • The International Motorsports Hall of Fame, located on the grounds of Talladega Superspeedway, was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1982. It held its first induction ceremony in 1990, with a class that featured 20 motorsports personalities from the world’s various series of racing. The Hall of Fame complex features a museum spanning three buildings, with memorabilia dating back to 1902.
  • Inductions were held nearly every year, but none have been held since 2013. The number of inductees in each class varied, with as many as 20 in the inaugural class and just three inductees in 2012.
  • Among the honorees in the Hall who are also members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame: Bill France Sr. and Bill France Jr., Junior Johnson, Richard and Lee Petty, Ned Jarrett, Richie Evans, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt and Jerry Cook. Four of the most recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees are also members: Raymond Parks, Benny Parsons, Richard Childress and Rick Hendrick.
  • The International Motorsports Hall of Fame offers a track tour of Talladega Superspeedway, lasting approximately 20 minutes and available every 30 minutes during normal Hall hours unless there is on-track testing. Call 256-362-5002 to check out availability.
  • Hall of Fame hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. CT daily except New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. There are also extended hours during race weeks. Track tours are available through Thursday of race weeks, but there are no tours Friday through Sunday. Admission to the Hall as of this writing is $12 for adults, $5 for students ages 6-12 and free for children 5 and under with adult admission. The track tour is $8 for adults, $5 for students and free for children 5 and under with an adult. A combination admission to the Hall and the track tour is $16 for adults and $8 for students.
  • Find out more about the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at http://www.motorsportshalloffame.com/.
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Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Benny Parsons

Benny Parsons circa 1973
credit: ISC Archives via Getty Images
It’s hard to believe that “BP,” “The Professor” Benny Parsons, left us 10 years ago this week, but this weekend there will be a celebration of his life as a NASCAR champion and broadcaster as one of five 2017 inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Jan. 20. Learn more about this popular NASCAR personality in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Benjamin Stewart Parsons was born July 12, 1941 in Wilkes County, NC. He is the older brother of former NASCAR driver, team owner and broadcaster Phil Parsons.
  • Parsons played football in high school, moving to Detroit, MI after high school, where he drove taxi and worked at a gas station. It was at the gas station that he had his first exposure to auto racing: some customers hauling a race car out to the local track invited him along – the driver of the car never showed up, and Parsons jumped in.
  • Parsons made his premier series debut in 1964, but didn’t race in NASCAR’s top tier again until 1969. In the meantime, he won the 1968 and 1969 ARCA Racing Series championships, as well as the ARCA race at Daytona in February 1969.
  • Parsons raced full-time in NASCAR’s premier series beginning in 1970, and won his first race in 1971 at South Boston (VA) Speedway. In 1973, he won the Winston Cup (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup) Series championship with one win and 21 top 10 finishes in 28 events.
  • During his 21-year driving career, Parsons earned 21 wins, 283 top 10 finishes and 20 poles in 526 starts. Among his wins: the 1975 Daytona 500 and the 1980 World (now Coca Cola) 600 at Charlotte. Parsons was the first driver to qualify a stock car at more than 200 mph in 1982 at Talladega Superspeedway (200.176 mph).
  • Following his driving career, Parsons became a full-time broadcaster, first with ESPN, then with NBC and TNT. Over the years, he also made appearances in the movies Stroker Ace (1983), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) and Talladega Nights (2006).
  • Parsons was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1994, and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. In 2005, he was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
  • Parsons, who had quit smoking in 1978, was diagnosed with lung cancer in the summer of 2006. Treatments were successful, and he was given a clean bill of health later on that year, but was admitted to the hospital with complications relating to lung cancer in December of the same year; he passed away from those complications on Jan. 16, 2007.
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Monday, January 16, 2017

Travel Tips: NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Fan Appreciation Day – Jan. 20-21, 2017


credit: NASCAR Media
This weekend, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located at 400 East Martin Luther King Blvd. in Charlotte, NC, will bring the sport's legends, heroes and up-and-coming stars together with fans as part of its 2017 Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Fan Appreciation Day. Hall of Fame activities begin on Friday, Jan. 20 with the Induction Ceremony, followed by additional Class of 2017 activities and NASCAR Fan Appreciation Day at the Hall on Saturday, Jan. 21.

Schedule for the weekend (all times ET):

Friday, Jan.20:
  • Members-Only Hall of Famer Autograph Session – 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Great Hall.There will be two groups of Hall of Famers signing. Find the listing here.
  • NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Red Carpet Arrivals – 4 p.m. in the Great Hall.
  • NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Dinner and Jacket Ceremony and the Presentation of the Squire-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence – 6 p.m. – Richardson Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center, which is attached to the Hall.
  • NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony – 8 p.m. – Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center. Doors open at 7 p.m., must be seated by 7:30 p.m.
Select tickets are still available for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Click here for more information.

Saturday, Jan. 21:
 
Visit the Hall of Fame for free from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and celebrate Fan Appreciation Day with your favorite NASCAR drivers.

High Octane Theater question-and-answer sessions (tickets not required)
  • 9:00 a.m. – Richard Childress, Austin and Ty Dillon
  • 10:00 a.m. – Aric Almirola, Ryan Reed, Timothy Peters
  • 11:00 a.m. – Kasey Kahne, Daniel Suarez, John Hunter Nemechek
  • 12:00 p.m. – Martin Truex Jr., Brandon Jones, Noah Gragson
  • 1:30 p.m. – Chase Elliott, Blake Koch, Kaz Grala
  • 2:30 p.m. – David Ragan, Brennan Poole, Christopher Bell
  • 3 p.m. – Mark Martin, Rick Hendrick
  • 3:30 p.m. – Paul Menard, Brendan Gaughan, Johnny Sauter
Great Hall NASCAR Next driver appearances (tickets not required)
  • 10:20 and 11:20 a.m. (drivers for both sessions to be announced)
Vouchers are still available for a few of the driver autograph sessions in the Crown Ballroom Lobby. Click here to see the driver autograph session schedule and which sessions are available.

Find out more about the Hall of Fame and the Induction Ceremony at http://www.nascarhall.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Gone Too Soon: Why Edwards' Departure Leaves a Gaping Hole in the Sport

The loss of Carl Edwards will leave a hole in the sport that may be too large to fill.
Photo Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

By Stephanie Landrey

On Wednesday, a calm, cool, collected Carl Edwards walked up to the podium at Joe Gibbs Racing and picked up a microphone. The first thing he said was that he didn't want the podium; he wanted to have a more open dialogue. But in the end, he reverted back to the podium, most likely at the request of some PR person wildly hand gesturing for him to get back there.

But being behind a podium just isn't his thing. He wants to speak to his fans, his friends, the people who have helped him along the way, freely, not tied up behind some podium. That's just part of what makes Carl Edwards one of the nicest, most respected drivers in the garage, and why his sudden departure is going to leave a gaping hole in the sport that's going to be almost impossible to fill.

It's hard to disagree with his reasoning. How can you not be satisfied with a career that has spanned 20 years, has brought you 28 wins at the sport's most elite level, worldwide fame and fortune beyond your wildest dreams, allowed you to see the world and has also allowed you to give back to those who needed it the most? Some will argue that Edwards is young (37 is relatively young in racing years), and he's been so close to grabbing his first championship, so why stop now? Edwards disagrees with those people. He's content with his successes.

He wants to spend time with those that mean the most to him. It's no secret that racing professionally demands a brutal schedule. Fly out Thursday, get home late Sunday (if there's not a weather delay that causes the race to run the next day). Monday is a team debriefing meeting, and there can be various sponsor commitments throughout the week, leaving a driver little time to spend with their family. If a driver is like Edwards, and doesn't want his family involved in the media circus that is NASCAR, that means leaving your family at home most of the time (Edward's wife, Dr. Kate Downey, is rarely seen at the track, as are his children Michael and Annie, and he does not allow photos of them to be taken), so weekends can get pretty lonely.

He also values his health. A lot of drivers got a wake-up call when Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to climb out of the race car for the last 18 races in 2016 because of a concussion and its lingering symptoms. While NASCAR has made strides in safety innovations, medicine still hasn't found a way to prevent a brain from bouncing around inside the skull; no one has. Edwards wants to remain the sharp, witty, intelligent person he is today 30 years from now, and to that end, he believes stepping away will offer him that opportunity.

But here's why he will be sorely missed in the garage and on the track.

He's just a good person. If he gets into a wreck with someone, he either accepts the blame, or accepts the apology. He doesn't let it linger. He practices good sportsmanship, grace and humility, which, quite frankly, is something a lot of athletes on any playing field today could learn from. A prime example is the incident during the Homestead-Miami Championship Race last season when he tangled with the No. 22 team of Joey Logano. After the accident, Edwards went on a tear down pit road, straight toward the pit box of the No. 22. The crew stood up, on edge, when Edwards got there, he climbed atop the box, and spoke a few words to Logano's crew chief, Todd Gordon, apologizing for the incident and told him to go out there and "win this thing." He then shook Gordon's hand. He's a class act. Lots of other drivers, especially those in the hunt for the title, would have thrown a temper tantrum, refused to speak to the media, and locked themselves inside the team hauler.

He's not afraid to take the blame for something if he did it. Accident at Talladega that wrecked half the field? He'll apologize profusely after watching the replay and seeing it was his fault. Someone spins out in Michigan and hits the wall pretty hard ending their day? He'll apologize for that too, after he hears the spotter communication advising him of the bad contact. He's also not afraid to stick up for himself. He knows when he's right, and he'll defend himself until the end of time.

Aside from a lengthy rivalry with Brad Keselowski that had them in the NASCAR hauler many times, and a problem that admittedly cleared up on its own (see @keselowski's blog for more on that, it's a great read), Edwards raced everyone mostly clean, and expected the same in return. Don't expect a ton of retaliation from him unless you really make him mad. Expect him to be a great teammate until it's down to the final laps, then he's going to fight for the win like it's just Edwards and one other car on the race track.

He respected everybody. Maybe it was because he was brought up in the Midwest, maybe it was just a part of who he was, but he just had a different level of respect for everyone in the garage area than most people did. He treated the employees on garbage detail the same way he did Mike Helton. He was also the only driver who ever took his sunglasses off when he was being interviewed by the media; class act move, didn't matter how hot or how bright, he always took them off, so he could look the reporter and the camera directly in the eyes. He respected the fans, signed many autographs, and was genuinely happy to see fans. He gave back to his community. NASCAR may never see a driver like Carl Edwards again. That's the impact that he had on the sport. The quintessential package; good looks, talent, media darling, business savvy, true competitor, bad ass -- all rolled into one.

We're missing your backflips already.

Carl Edwards' reasons for calling it quits

Carl Edwards celebrates in Victory Lane after winning at Darlington Raceway on Sept. 6, 2015.

By Courtney Horn

Carl Edwards addressed the media at Joe Gibbs Racing headquarters Wednesday morning to state why he has chosen to vacate the seat of his No. 19 Toyota, despite being in the prime of his career.

Edwards listed three reasons as to why he is leaving NASCAR. He is personally satisfied with his career, he wants to spend more time with his family, and he wishes to remain healthy.

Edwards, 37, insisted that he is healthy and wants to minimize the risks that a lengthy NASCAR schedule calls for. Still, he would not call it a retirement.

"If I am going to get back in a race car, I'm calling Coach [Joe] Gibbs first," he said. "There is no better race team. ... I don't have any intention going back to full-time racing. I don't have a plan to drive a race car right now. But I know how things work - if it comes up and the right opportunity is there and it is the right thing, for sure I would entertain it."

When asked about his reputation and if he was aware of his role model status, Edwards briefly showed quite possibly the most emotion he has ever displayed. “I just want to be a good person,” he said after regathering his composure before jokingly blaming it on the camera shutters.

Edwards' decision to step down stunned most of the NASCAR community, including team owner Joe Gibbs.

"Honestly, it was a total shock," Gibbs said. "I could tell in his face that it was something he had really thought about. He was kind of emotional and it was something he felt like he needed to do. I sat there and looked at him and said: 'Look, let's take some time here because if we start down this path, there's not a turning back on this.' ... Out of anybody in our NASCAR world, he's his own man."

Edwards took four days to think about his decision, like Gibbs requested, but remained persistent about his choice.

“I don’t have a life raft I’m jumping onto; I’m just jumping,” he said. “And in a way, that makes it easier. This is a pure, simple, personal decision.”

Edwards’ NASCAR Series career spanned 13 years, in which he won 28 times in 445 starts.

2016 XFINITY Series champion Daniel Suarez is set to replace Edwards in 2017.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Parks

(l-r) Owner Raymond Parks, crew chief Red Vogt and driver Red
Byron circa 1949
credit: ISC Archives via Getty Images
When you mention “Dawsonville, GA” to a NASCAR fan, most thoughts will first venture to “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville,” 1988 Cup Series champ Bill Elliott or his son, 2016 Cup Series Rookie of the Year Chase – but that little Georgia town had its first champion back in 1948. Learn more about 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Raymond Parks in this week’s Fast Facts, and look for the final 2017 Hall of Fame piece on Benny Parsons next week.
  • Raymond Dawson Parks was born June 5, 1914 in Dawsonville, GA. Parks was the oldest of his father’s 16 children (six born to his mother Leila and 10 to Leila’s sister, Ila).
  • Parks left home at age 14 and worked at a distillery in Atlanta; he later went into business for himself, overseeing a fleet of cars that ran liquor to dry parts of the south after Prohibition ended. He began sponsoring race cars in the late 1930s before serving his country. In World War II, Parks served in the 99th Infantry Division and fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium.
  • Park returned to his racing roots following the war, and in December 1947 was among the people assembled at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach to mark the creation of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing – NASCAR.
  • Team owner Parks, driver Red Byron and crew chief Red Vogt teamed up to win the first-ever NASCAR title in Modifieds in 1948 and won the first Strictly Stock – now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – title in 1949.
  • Parks passed away on June 20, 2010, the last surviving member of the group who created NASCAR.
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Travel Tips: The NASCAR Hall of Fame

The race car simulator area at the NASCAR Hall of Fame
credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Streeter Lecka
The NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductions are coming up on Jan. 20, 2017, but the Hall of Fame itself is open year-round – if you’re planning a trip to the Charlotte/Concord area of North Carolina, make sure it’s on your “must-see” list.
  • The ground-breaking for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, located at 400 East Martin Luther King Blvd. in Charlotte, took place on Jan. 26, 2007, with its official opening on May 11, 2010. There is approximately 40,000 square feet of exhibit space, with the overall Hall of Fame encompassing 150,000 square feet of space.
  • There are four floors to the Hall: the High Octane Theater takes up the first floor, with the Ceremonial Plaza, Glory Road and the Great Hall on the second floor. The third floor features the Hall of Honor – featuring the most-recently inducted class – along with the transporter and race car simulators and the “Race Week Experience” exhibit, and the fourth floor exhibit is “Heritage Speedway,” covering the six-decade history of NASCAR.
  • Other amenities at the NASCAR Hall of Fame include the Pit Stop CafĂ© in case you need to “refuel” and the Gear Shop for your shopping enjoyment. Also part of the Hall of Fame Complex are a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant, the Crown Ballroom – part of the Charlotte Convention Center – and the NASCAR Plaza Office Tower.
  • The NASCAR Hall of Fame is open weekdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ET (check website for dates when it may be closed). Admission as of this writing is $19.95 for adults, $17.95 for seniors (60+) and Military (with ID), and $12.95 for children 5-12 – members receive free admission (memberships start at $90 per year).
  • Stay connected with the NASCAR Hall of Fame at www.nascarhall.com.
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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Travel Tips: The Dale Trail

The Dale Earnhardt statue in Dale Earnhardt Plaza
credit: Paula Thompson
If you’re planning a trip to the Charlotte/Concord area of North Carolina for the upcoming NASCAR Hall of Fame inductions, either NASCAR race weekend or just for a vacation, make sure you take a trip down the “Dale Trail.”

A nearly all-inclusive history lesson on the life of “The Intimidator,” the Dale Trail is a self-guided tour of 20 sites in the Cabarrus County area of North Carolina – a collectible brochure and map of the Trail are available at the Cabarrus County Visitor Center (10099 Weddington Rd. Ext., Suite 102 in Concord). Among the sites:
  • Dale Earnhardt Blvd., which begins at I-85 exit 60 and weaves through Kannapolis.
  • The grave of Dale’s father Ralph Earnhardt at Centergrove Lutheran Cemetery.
  • “Idiot Circle,” one of Earnhardt’s hang-outs as a teen.
  • Dale Earnhardt Plaza, featuring  a nine-foot bronze statue of Earnhardt and many other features drawing on Earnhardt’s number, “3.”
  • Curb Museum for Music and Motorsports (600 Dale Earnhardt Blvd. in Kannapolis), featuring the car Earnhardt drove to his first Cup Series championship in 1980.
  • Intimidators Stadium (2888 Moose Rd. in Kannapolis), home of the Kannapolis Intimidators, a minor-league baseball team Earnhardt was part owner of.
  • Richard Childress Racing (425 Industrial Dr. in Welcome), the home of the No. 3 for many years.
  • Dale Earnhardt Inc. (1675 Coddle Creek Highway in Mooresville), once the home of Earnhardt’s race team, now a showroom and store open to the public.
  • The Sam Bass Gallery (4030 Concord Parkway S. in Concord), with many works of art featuring Earnhardt.
Find out more about the Dale Trail at the Cabarrus County website, www.visitcabarrus.com.  

Fast Facts: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Mark Martin

Martin had many successful seasons with "the Cat in the Hat,"
Jack Roush - credit: Getty Images/Rusty Jarrett
He was once described by ESPN as the “best driver to never win a championship,” but that didn’t stop voters from inducting Mark Martin into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Learn more about Martin, who will be one of five inductees on Jan. 20, 2017, in this week’s Fast Facts, and look for profiles on fellow Hall of Famers Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons in coming weeks.
  • Mark Anthony Martin was born Jan. 9, 1959 in Batesville, AR and started his racing career on his hometown dirt tracks. He moved to asphalt in the late 1970s, winning the ASA Rookie of the Year title in 1977 while racing against the likes of Dick Trickle, Jim Sauter and Bobby Allison. Martin won 22 ASA races in his career and four titles (1978, 1979, 1980 and 1986).
  • Martin made his NASCAR debut in 1981, driving for six different teams by 1987. His troubles led him back to the ASA for three years; following his championship in 1986, Martin landed a full-time Busch Series (now Xfinity Series) ride with Bruce Lawmaster and caught the eye of Jack Roush, who brought Martin to the Winston Cup (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup) Series in 1988.
  • Martin raced for Roush Racing from 1988-2006 with a variety of sponsors, including Stroh’s Light, Folgers, Valvoline and Viagra. In 2005, Martin announced he would be cutting back on racing and embarked on the “Salute to You” tour in 2006. Martin moved to Ginn Racing in 2007, splitting seat time with Regan Smith for the season; the team was sold to Dale Earnhardt Inc. mid-season, and for 2008 Martin split seat time with Aric Almirola.
  • Martin left DEI following the 2008 season and returned to full-time competition with Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 5 from 2009-2011. Martin returned to part-time competition in 2012 with Michael Waltrip Racing, and in 2013 competed in races for MWR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • Through the end of the 2013 Cup Series season, Martin earned 40 wins, 453 top 10 finishes and 56 poles. In his career he also won 49 Xfinity Series races, seven Truck Series races and five IROC championships (1994, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2005). In 2015, Martin was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.
  • Fans can keep up with Martin at the Facebook page for the Martin Mark Museum & Gift Shop.
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