Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Martinsville Speedway

credit: NASCAR Media
This week, NASCAR heads to Martinsville Speedway, which is also known as “The Paperclip” – a track that holds a few distinctions in the NASCAR ranks. Learn what those distinctions are and more about the history of this short track in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Martinsville Speedway is older than NASCAR itself: the 0.526-mile track opened in 1947 with seating for 750 spectators – over 6,000 showed up for the first race. NASCAR was formed in 1948, and in Sept. 1949 Martinsville Speedway hosted its first race in the series; it has been on the schedule every year since.
  • In addition to being a charter NASCAR track, the International Speedway Corporation-owned track is also the shortest track on the schedule. The track surface itself is a unique hybrid of asphalt straightaways and concrete corners. Until 1999, Martinsville had two pit roads, similar to Bristol Motor Speedway; the pit area was reconfigured to have pit road begin at the entrance of Turn 3 and end in the exit of Turn 2, allowing for a garage to be built in the infield. In Oct. 2016, Track President Clay Campbell announced a $5 million LED lighting package would be installed at the track; the project was completed in Feb. 2017.
  • Another distinction Martinsville holds is its unique trophy: a longcase grandfather clock, chosen by track architect and owner H. Clay Earles to represent the Martinsville area. The clocks are made by an area company, Ridgeway Clocks, and are valued (circa 2009) at approximately $10,000.
  • Richard Petty holds the records for most wins (15), most starts (67) and most laps completed (27,891) at Martinsville, while Darrell Waltrip holds the record for most poles (eight). Joey Logano currently holds the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying record at the track: 100.201 mph (18.898 seconds) in March 2014. The overall track qualifying record was set by Greg Sacks in 1986 in a Whelen Modified: 101.014 mph (18.746 seconds).
  • Martinsville Speedway president Campbell is Earles’ grandson. He has competed in the ARCA Racing Series and K&N Pro Series East in recent years, earning a career-best third-place finish in the ARCA Series race at Daytona in Feb. 2014, driving for NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader.
  • Learn more about Martinsville Speedway at its website, www.martinsvillespeedway.com.


Monday, March 27, 2017

Travel Tips: Martinsville Speedway – March 31-April 2, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series visit “The Paperclip,” Martinsville Speedway, Friday through Sunday, March 31-April 2 for the STP 500 Cup Series race and the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 Truck Series race. The 0.526-mile track was on the first NASCAR season schedule, the only track currently to have that distinction.

Upgrade your Sunday ticket to include the Green Flag Experience for $60 for adults and $30 for kids 12 and under. The Experience includes photo opportunities, the opportunity to sign the start/finish line and see driver introductions (weather permitting), a continental breakfast and scheduled appearances including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Leonard Wood (subject to change). Find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 31
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 1 and 3 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:35 p.m. ET
Saturday, April 1
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 11:05 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Alpha Energy Solutions 250 – 3 p.m. ET
Sunday, April 2
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 – 2 p.m. ET
Check out the track’s carry-in policy here, and the first time visitor’s guide here.

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

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Auto Club 400 Winning Crew Chief, Chad Johnston

by Stacey Owens

Second place is often considered the "first loser." Even Ricky Bobby in "Talladega Nights" touted his dad's sentiment that "if you aren't first, you're last." Kyle Larson had three consecutive second-place finishes before finally wheeling his No. 42 Target Chevrolet to Victory Lane in California this weekend.

Larson talked about his team's performance after the win.

"Yeah, it was definitely a great run for us. We were able to lead a lot of laps within that first stage. Then I made a mistake on pit road. Slid through -- not through my box, but through my sign. I was too close to the wall on the left side. The jack couldn't get up as fast. Our stop was really slow on that one. I lost some spots.
"Was able to get right to second, though, on the restart. Kind of abused my tires that run, fell back to third or fourth. Then got back to second for the end of that second stage.

"Had a good restart there to start the final stage. Got out to the lead. Tried to run my own pace, take care of my tires. Actually pulled away from Truex quite a bit. Then he had gained a lot us on that green-flag stop. Probably came to pit lane a little slow, because the stop before I came in really hot and almost sped. He closed in on us there.

"He was really good when we left for that run. I had to battle him. He got by me. I was able to get back by him. Then kind of pulled away a little bit.

"That's when all the cautions starting coming out. We had some decent restarts there at the end. But still had more cautions. Had to actually come back down pit road, put four new tires on, get some more good restarts.

Credit: Charlotte Bray  
"The pit calls were great. The pit crew did an amazing job. A fairly clean race for us. Lots of fun to be Kyle Larson right now," the driver explained.

The race-winning move was the call by crew chief Chad Johnston to bring Larson down pit road for four tires when the two drivers behind him stayed out.

Team owner Chip Ganassi didn't think he could have made that call.

"I will tell you, I did not have the nerve to make that call," Ganassi said. "That's why there's [sic] guys that do that way better than me. I used to do that in my younger days, you know, run the cars, but I don't do that anymore for that reason.

"That was the winning call. That was obviously the winning call. So my hat is off to Chad Johnston for making that call."

Johnston made the decision based on track dynamics.

"In general at a place like this where you have a lot of tire falloff, it makes that decision [to pit] a little bit easier," Johnston said. "You get two or three laps on your tires, you're kind of at a disadvantage. I try to always put him in the position to be the aggressor. I don't feel like there's going to be anybody better on a restart than what he will be, especially if I give him tires.

"We had a fast enough car. I didn't figure that many cars would stay out. Only three stayed out, which gave us the top and fourth, which I figured would work out pretty well for us. As usual, we get a lot of late cautions here. It went green for the most part. I think at one point we had 18 cars on the lead lap.

"The segments definitely brought something different to it, brought some more interest and more cars back on the lead lap. But at the end of the day, you know, we just had a fast enough car to do what we needed to do."

The car was definitely fast, and Larson's comfort with the track was a bonus.

"Fontana is a track that really suits me," Larson said. "Hopefully, we can learn a lot throughout the rest of the season at all these other racetracks and get some more wins."

As Larson gains a similar comfort level with other tracks, he'll definitely be one to watch throughout the season. A virtual lock for the playoffs, folks on the No. 42 Target team may find themselves with targets on their backs because the entire field is likely to be chasing them all year.
-------------------------------------



 Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Caption This: Kyle Larson at Pocono

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 Kyle Larson, winner of today's NASCAR Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway. This picture was snapped at Pocono a couple years ago.

 
Kyle Larson at Pocono presser, Aug. 2014
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs    
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.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Clarity: Five Questions for Auto Club


By Kristen Schneider

NASCAR invades SoCal this weekend, and it’s hard to believe we’re nearly one-sixth of the way through the season. This sliver of the schedule provided a lot of talking points thus far – and it didn’t slow down this week. However, with all these storylines, it’s difficult to look at everything with a clear head.

That’s what I’ll try to do with this week’s column. In this edition of Five Questions, I talk about Indianapolis (again), the state of the Xfinity Series (again), and more happenings as we look ahead to Auto Club Speedway.

Will Indianapolis’ other crazy idea work? Let’s talk about Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s latest attempt to ramping up action. The NXS race will feature restrictor plates, which doesn’t make much sense. IMS is flat, and the lack of flatness at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway make the plate necessary. Also, I’m about 85 percent certain the physics of this doesn’t hold up. But don’t count on me – I cringe every time I think about high school physics class. However, this idea isn’t completely bad; it shows the sport recognizes how lackluster the NXS racing is at the historic track. I’m all for trying something new, but whenever someone complains about the Xfinity race’s performance at IMS, all I think about is the perfectly good track that’s just a hop and a skip away. That a whole other article, so I’ll leave that thought at that. All in all, it’s a bizarre idea that we’ll have to wait to judge.

Has Xfinity achieved the ultimate Dash 4 Cash structure? In case you forgot, Justin Allgaier won the Dash 4 Cash race at Phoenix International Raceway. That’s right, a series regular won! It was an insane finish, and many people focused on Dillon/Custer more than Allgaier – as well as team owner Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s tweet about Jeff Gluck’s hat after the race. So, if we look at the race overall, what is the impression? It’s a great start – but Cup drivers are still present. Any driver that’s raced in Cup five years or fewer is eligible to compete in D4C races, and they were out in full force last week – even influencing race outcomes and such. I’m not completely sold on the format, but I’ll wait until the next D4C event and see who wins that one.

With his 600th start this weekend, is Earnhardt Jr. set to turn it around? Where the heck did the time go? Dale Jr. makes his 600th Cup start this weekend, and we all feel old and nostalgic. Sigh. This season – all four races of it – isn’t going well for the No. 88 team. They’re qualifying well, but the mid-race progression slides the wrong way. Despite this, Junior is confident in his team – and that’s a big part of making the dynamics work. The old Dale Jr. would’ve given up on his crew already. The change in his demeanor is still awe-inspiring. With that attitude and the fact teammates Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott are doing well, it’s only a matter of time before Dale Jr. and the No. 88 group get it together.

The Notorious YRB is finally getting recognition – will he seal the deal? young Ryan Blaney came into his own quickly, and the entire sport can’t handle it. The No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford keeps breaking up the regular top-10 group, inserting the single-car operation into the conversation every weekend. Blaney’s talent impressed people before, but now the equipment caught up. Young Ryan Blaney doesn’t drive like a youngster; the 23-year-old wheels it like a veteran and inches closer to a win every time he hits the track. Like Kyle Larson last year, Blaney will grab that first win soon enough and justify all the attention.

A lack of penalties – a sign of confusion or restraint? So, after the Kyle Busch/Joey Logano fight, NASCAR clarified a few boundaries the two drivers didn’t cross. The sentiment was simple – because they didn’t use their cars as weapons, they weren't punished. Well, we got a taste of what that's like: After a wreck late in the Xfinity event, Cole Custer and Austin Dillon shared a moment under caution. Dillon waited for Custer as the field slowed, and he pushed Custer’s car into the wall. However, this warranted no penalties as previously suggested. Is this a good move? To be honest, I see the logic behind it. The big concern is using the racecar as a weapon, and Dillon used his in the loosest sense of the word. It was a nudge that pushed Custer into the wall under caution. That doesn’t strike me as warranting a large penalty. Despite this, NASCAR should have handed down something because they made a big deal about clarifying that line.

TV Schedule: March 24-26

Auto Club Speedway. Credit: Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

It's NASCAR, California-style. The sport wraps up its West Coast Swing with its annual stop at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. The Monster Energy Cup and XFINITY series descend on the 2-mile track.

The Camping World Truck Series returns to action next weekend at Martinsville.

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

Friday, March 24:
1:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
3 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
5 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
7 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, FS1
8:30 p.m. K&N Pro West Series: Tucson (taped), NBCSN

Saturday, March 25:
8:30 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
9:30 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
10:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1
11:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS1
3:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay XFINITY, FS1
4 p.m. XFINITY Series NXS 300, FS1
6:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Post-Race Show, FS1

Sunday, March 26:
1 a.m. NASCAR XFINITY Series NXS 300 (re-air), FS1
3:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
8 a.m. XFINITY Series NXS 300 (re-air), FS1
12:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Pre-Race, FOX
3:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Camping World 500, FOX
8 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
10:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Auto Club 400 (re-air), FS1

Thursday, March 23, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Auto Club 400


By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s :
By Race
Kurt Busch - 4
All with 3- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano  

By Track
Both with 3 - Kurt Busch and Joey Logano
All with 2 - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth and A.J. Allmendinger

Recent Pole Winners: 
2016 Austin Dillon
2015 Kurt Busch

Last Year's Race Winner: Jimmie Johnson

The Likely Suspects: Auto Club Speedway favors skillful drivers who know how to wrestle a car to Victory Lane. I'm looking at these drivers to run well this weekend: Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray.

My 2 Cents:  The track is a bit worn at Auto Club Speedway so think sleepers when picking. My no-brainer pick this week is a tie between the Busch brothers. My next choices are Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray. I will complete my team with Landon Cassill and David Ragan.

My Final Four: Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman and Landon Cassill

Points to Ponder:
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with 10, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven. Stewart Haas Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske each have two.
  • Seventeen drivers have won the Coors Light pole at Auto Club Speedway, led by Kurt Busch with four (2015, 2007 and 2006 sweep).
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway with five, followed by Kevin Harvick with three. Johnson has finished second or better in half (11) of his 22 ACS starts.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in top-five finishes at Auto Club Speedway with 13, followed by Matt Kenseth (nine) and Kyle Busch (eight).
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in top-10 finishes with 16, followed by Matt Kenseth with 15.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads the series in average finishing position at ACS with a 6.500, and is the only active driver with more than one start with an average finish inside the top 10 at Auto Club Speedway.  
  • Denny Hamlin (2012, 2013), Kurt Busch (2006 sweep) and Jamie McMurray (2010 sweep) are the only three drivers to win consecutive poles at Auto Club Speedway.
  • Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014) are the only two drivers to win consecutive MENCS races at Auto Club Speedway.
Remember if you are playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, March 24 at 5 a.m. EDT.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Caption This Winner for 3-18-17: Peggy Long



Congratulations to Peggy Long, who contributed the winning caption for this photo of No. 78 crew chief, Cole Pearn. 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. 

Credit: ©2016 Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs     

Thanks to everyone who played Caption This. Check back on Saturday for a new photo and your next chance to enter the contest. 


Rookie Stripe -- Checkers & Comrades: How Drivers are Assigned to NASCAR Teams



Photo Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs   
NASCAR is an individual sport. From one race to the next, challengers go wheel-to-wheel, lap by lap, trying to claim the victory. But to be competitive, a driver unquestionably has to have the support and financial backing of a team. Every driver belongs to a team, because teams provide the security and collateral he or she needs to race, including cars, uniforms and gear, pit crews and more. Teams recruit high-dollar sponsors that provide cash flow they need to operate. They're also in charge of marketing their drivers to the public and fans.

Headhunting at High Speed

Some teams have four cars in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, meaning four drivers. Some have three, two, or even just one car. How many “rides” a team has can fluctuate between seasons, depending on the team’s financial and sponsor situations, as well as a number of other factors. As you might expect, teams with more capital generally have additional resources and better cars. And because ordinarily they can pay better salaries, they also tend to hire the most talented pit crews.

So how do drivers sign with any one particular team? Like a race, it’s never simple, and it’s often fraught with tension. Think of it this way. Most of us work, and we always want the job with the best opportunity that will offer premium benefits, ancillary perks, and a good salary. Many of us also look for longevity and an atmosphere that feels comfortable to us. For a driver, it’s no different. Each one wants to belong to team that offers support and promotion, as well as opportunities to get better, sustain success and be a winner.

At the end of 2016, Greg Biffle’s contract with Roush Fenway Racing ended, and even though he claimed to have several offers for a ride in 2017, he did not return to the driver's seat in 2017.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
Lesser-known drivers trying to make their way in the Cup Series frequently struggle to find permanent rides, as demonstrated by driver Alex Bowman -- who filled in for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year -- but could not find a team for 2017 either.

It’s helpful to point out that the word “team” gets tricky from time to time, especially when it comes to the throes of an intense race. Drivers from the same team are always pitted against one another, as well as the rest of their competitors. While strategy may dictate helping one another out on the race track at times, the singular, fierce nature of NASCAR racing means that it can also get merciless even between teammates.

Photo credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
The Bottom Line

Many drivers earn their berth in the Monster Energy Cup Series of NASCAR by competing for years at lower levels of racing, and may already be affiliated with a team. They can stay with those teams or opt to look for a better deal. No matter where they come from, drivers are typically signed to a team under a contract for a set number of years, just like many other professional sports. By signing that contract, a driver agrees to abide by the team’s rules, personally promote it and its sponsors and remain loyal to the team as long as the contract is in effect. But just like other pro athletes, as the contract nears its finality, the driver can re-sign or choose to become a free agent. Then it’s anyone’s ball game … or race.

Full List of NASCAR Teams (from 2016)

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Drivers & Teams – 2017 Season

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Auto Club Speedway

credit: NASCAR Media
NASCAR’s stars continue their Western road trip this weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Learn a little more about the track in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Auto Club Speedway, a two-mile D-shaped oval, opened in 1997 as California Speedway. The track, located near former sites of Ontario Motor Speedway and Riverside International Raceway, is owned by International Speedway Corporation.
  • Construction at ACS began in 1995 and completed late in 1996. It has a capacity of 122,000 spectators, with 68,000 in the grandstands and 28 skyboxes. Roger Penske was one of the original owners of the track, and was present at the construction announcement in April 1994.
  • Team Penske open-wheel driver Paul Tracy was the first driver to test at the track in Jan. 1997. The first Cup Series race at the track was won by Jeff Gordon in June 1997.
  • There are five racing surfaces at ACS: the two-mile D-shaped oval; a 1.45-mile, 13-turn interior test circuit; a 21-turn, 2.8-mile sports car course; a 21-turn, 2.36-mile motorcycle course and a 1/4-mile drag strip.
  • A number of TV shows, movies and commercials have been filmed at the speedway, including Charlie’s Angels (2000), Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) and The Bucket List (2007).
  • The one-lap Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying record at ACS is 38.194 seconds (188.511 mph), set by Denny Hamlin in March 2016. The fastest lap ever at the track was 30.255 seconds (241.428 mph), set in qualifying for a CART race by Gil de Ferran in April 2000. Jimmie Johnson has the most wins at the track (six), while Kurt Busch has the most poles (four).
  • Find out more about the track and its events at www.autoclubspeedway.com


Monday, March 20, 2017

Travel Tips: Auto Club Speedway – March 24-26, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series visit Fontana, California’s Auto Club Speedway for the Auto Club 400 weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 24-26.

On Thursday, March 23, Auto Club Speedway hosts its annual free FanFest from 5-9 p.m. PT. Activities for the evening include live music, the Monster Energy Stunt Show, Q&A with NASCAR drivers Brennan Poole, Ryan Reed, Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto, and viewing of the Hauler Parade. Find out more here.

A number of live musical performances will be taking place on the Fan Zone Main Stage this weekend, including national acts Los Lobos (Saturday – 4 p.m. PT), the Spin Doctors (Sunday – 10 a.m. PT) and Smash Mouth (Sunday – 11 a.m. PT). Find a complete weekend schedule here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 24
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series practice – noon and 2 p.m. PT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:05 p.m. PT
Saturday, March 25
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 8:30 and 11:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 9:30 a.m. PT
  • Xfinity Series 300-mile race – 1 p.m. PT
Sunday, March 26
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 – 12:30 p.m. PT
Find a list of frequently asked questions here.

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

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Camping World 500 Winning Crew Chief, Luke Lambert


by Stacey Owens

Ryan Newman's 127-race winless drought came to a screeching halt in the heat of the Arizona desert.

Crew chief Luke Lambert talked about how much winning the Camping World 500 meant to the No. 31 race team.

"Yeah, it's really, really hard to assess the magnitude right now. I can't say enough about what it means. I couldn't be prouder of everybody within the company, everybody on my race team.
           
"Ryan, you know, everybody has really worked very, very hard to get us here where we are today. I said earlier, I think Ryan really left it all on the racetrack today. He was exhausted.
           
"The track temps were really elevated. He had to work really hard. I think that was somewhat of a metaphor for what it's taken our company to get here today," Lambert explained.

In what would be the most important pit stop of the day, Lambert left his driver on the track with older tires. His crew had done their job on their previous stop, and Lambert didn't want the pressure of a restart on colder tires.

"Ultimately we put him in a position to guard off a bunch of wolves with fresh tires behind him. He rose to the occasion, made it happen.
           
"To me, that couldn't be a more fitting symbol of what this means to our company, what it means for our company to get here today," Lambert said.

The final call on the last pit stop was Lambert's. Newman wanted to pit for two tires, but his crew chief felt that pitting wasn't necessary... and Newman trusted the call.

"I felt in my gut it was the right decision," Lambert explained. "We have a lot of people working during the race at our company that provide a lot of really good, valuable information for me to see real-time. I had a lot of good information in front of me that I was able to draw to right quick, make a snap decision.
           
"I felt confident it was the best call for us. I'm not going to say when I made the decision I was confident we were going to win the race.  It was the only opportunity we had to win the race. I felt like doing it was going to yield a better result than the other option.
           
"Ultimately that was the decision. I told him. He said he could make the car wide. He did. I couldn't be prouder of him for rising to the occasion. The relationship that him [sic] and I have been able to build with our race team to where we all have a lot of confidence in each other.
           
"He didn't question it, or at least didn't voice any questioning of it at all, and made it happen."

Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Lambert has been a full-time crew chief for six years, but this was his first win. With this win under his belt and a shot at a Chase berth, Lambert plans to be a bit more aggressive as the season continues.

"We haven't been in this position as a race team the last couple years. I felt like we've had really, really strong cars and a team at given points in the season, and just haven't been able to play as aggressively, play as loose as some of the other teams can, as far as trying new components, trying aggressive setups, doing things we haven't done in the past to see if they'll live and survive the test of a race.
           
"It's given us the opportunity now to have that type of confidence will allow us to try some new things, go into Fontana next week with the opportunity to be a little more aggressive and, you know, race with that level of confidence.
           
"It means a lot.  Ultimately I don't know that it will change everything that we do, but I'm sure it will give us an opportunity to do some things we couldn't do in the past," Lambert said.

Lambert, of course, wanted a win in much less time than six years.

"I certainly had hoped that we would be to Victory Lane before now. I feel like our race team has surpassed a lot of expectations, but we have also not delivered as rapidly as far as getting to the winner's circle as I would like for us to.
           
"I just want to say how hard everybody has worked at our company for a number of years to get us here, and how proud that makes me.
           
"I can't say enough about Richard and his confidence, his drive. One of our slogans this year at RCR has been: It takes drive. I think us getting here today is an example of that drive and that steadfast, stubborn passion for racing and building better racecars that has taken years to get us back here," Lambert explained.

RCR is thrilled to have its first win since 2013. Lambert discussed what the victory means for the organization, "One of the things that is really challenging about this sport is there's only one winner every week. Friends and people I grew up with that have recently started following racing, kind of want to learn more about it, I always describe it as a championship every single Sunday. You are racing against the entire series, the entire group of competitors. It's not like any other standard sport where you face one competitor, and you have a 50/50 set of odds of winning or losing. You have a one-in-40 chance of winning it on any given Sunday against all of the best.
           
"I think because of the way the racing is, because of that, it's really hard to build momentum. The years it takes to take a company from not being where it needs to be, to getting where it needs to be, requires a tremendous amount of change, a tremendous amount of trial and error, a tremendous amount of hard work, working above and beyond, asking more out of people when they just don't see the results.
           
"You can take a company and take it from a company able to build a 15th-place car to a seventh-place car, and it still doesn't feel like a victory. Recognizing those incremental gains is one of the names of the game in this sport. Helping everybody inside the organization to see, we are tracking in the right direction.
           
"We can't expect to hit a home run out of nowhere, but we need to expect to see results, pay attention to those results, accurately measure them, keep everybody's motivation level where it needs to be."
           
Don't forget, this is the team that raced its way into the final 10 races of the 2014 season with no wins, yet almost won the championship. Motivated with a win, just imagine what they could accomplish this year.

--------------------------------------



 Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Caption This: Cole Pearn


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 Cole Pearn, winning crew chief from last week's race at Las Vegas. This pic was snapped last fall in Dover's Victory Lane by our Beth Reinke.

Credit: ©2016 Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  


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.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Backtrack: Five Questions for Phoenix

(Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
We finally have something exciting to talk about, don’t we?

No matter who you are and what opinions you hold, you were shocked Sunday when two former teammates caused a brouhaha on pit road. Martin Truex, Jr.’s win was cool and all, but it didn’t draw blood and get featured on Good Morning America. Sorry, Truex.

Will there be an encore at Phoenix International Raceway, and is NASCAR’s lack of response a good thing? There are still some unanswered questions hanging around from last weekend – like if NASCAR needs to make boxing gloves part of the uniform. I address those, along with some new inquiries, in this week’s Five Questions for Phoenix.

Swerving at Indy? Every week, a new rumor leaks out and causes a bit of chaos in the NASCAR world. This week’s news was that Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considering changing up the Brickyard 400 in a big way. IMS execs want to run future Brickyards on the track’s road course. This is up in the air and wouldn’t be for this season, but fans have a lot of feelings – and for the first time in a long time, a majority of them are positive. The NASCAR industry agrees that the Brickyard isn’t as thrilling as it used to be way, way back in the day. Maybe this is something that could shake it up. Obviously, this isn’t set in stone, but fan reaction could push the IMS group to one side or the other.

With no Cup veterans in the field, are NXS regulars set to flourish? Narrowing in on Phoenix brings a rush of joy. No Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series veterans will participate in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday! This is fantastic news – and we all know why – but there’s a catch. Cup drivers who aren’t considered veterans are still racing. That means Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, and Ryan Blaney are running the event. Sigh. Although the chance of an NXS regular winning is higher than normal, what are the odds of them outrunning Jones and Suarez in Joe Gibbs Racing equipment? All these drivers did their time in the second-highest series and earned their stripes. It’s time for them to get out of the way and let young drivers earn theirs. Yeah, yeah, it’s about what the sponsor wants and what the owners need, but it’s not exciting to sit down and know who’s going to win. It’s not exciting to watch two Cup guys (veterans or otherwise) duke it out for the victory. This stuff numbs fans’ emotions, making NXS not appealing. *shrugs* Oh well.

Will Harvick rebound at his strongest track? Despite having good runs, Kevin Harvick hasn’t had a good year thus far. He wrecked at Daytona International Speedway, then sped and finished ninth after dominating at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and his day at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ended with carnage. He can’t finish what he starts, it seems. If there was one place to springboard his 2017, this is the place to do it. In case you forgot how good Harvick is at Phoenix, here are his stats. In 28 starts, he holds eight wins, 13 top fives, and 17 top 10s. Six of those victories came in the last five years. The only thing holding me back is the engine. Yeah, last week I talked about Ford making a comeback – then Danica Patrick blew an engine, the first one of Stewart-Haas Racing’s inaugural Ford season. Those things are impossible to predict, you know. Either Harvick keeps the bad luck going and struggles at his easiest track, or he runs away with it.

Is payback imminent? It’s been a while since NASCAR had a real fight (sorry, Townley and Gallagher – your extreme hugging match doesn’t count), so the industry lit up with hot takes when former teammates Kyle Busch and Joey Logano got into it on pit road. In case you’re out of the loop, the two raced each other hard on the last lap, and Logano made a move the 2015 Cup Champion didn’t like. He went to his car after the race and swung at Sliced Bread. A NASCAR official held a scrappy Logano back as his crew took Busch down. The incident left Rowdy with a bloody forehead. Jeff Gluck caught the whole thing on video, and the fight went viral. Should we expect a part two? My gut says yes; Logano and Busch are aggressive and hold onto incidents. Tensions existed when they both raced at JGR, and it’s coming to a head. Will payback come this weekend? That’s when the doubt creeps in. I don’t think the driver of the No. 22 is eager for retaliation. He said the two talked it through (haha, OK), but it’s still early in the season for these two winless drivers. He’ll bide his time and strike back later. Heck, it might be next season before we see an on-track response. I don’t think this continues at Phoenix – but I don’t think it’s over, either.


Are no penalties a good thing? Off the track, the response from the NASCAR sanctioning body was … non-existent. They decided against handing down penalties to Busch and Logano. Of course, the response was split down the middle. Some people are thrilled because the sport and its tracks will ultimately use the fight for promotional opportunities. Others are mad missing lug nuts result in larger fines and punishments than physical altercations. They also worry about their children seeing the fights. I understand both sides, and I’m not sure where I fall on that spectrum. However, I can say with certainty this is setting a strong precedent early into the season. Very early. So early, in fact, that NASCAR might encounter a few issues down the road and will have to backtrack. Obviously, I wasn’t in the room when the big wigs discussed possible punishments, but I have to wonder if they thought about what this means in the long run. Not just later in the season – later in the decade. We always talk about the ‘Boys Have At It’ era and then the Chase era and then all these different spans of time. In actuality, those “eras” we reference with fondness never lasted long. NASCAR is constantly changing, making adjustments whenever they see fit. Some are small (like lug nuts), yet others are large (revamping the Chase format and subsequently axing the ‘Chase’ name). Not remaining stagnant is great; however, the frequency makes the sport and those in-charge look wishy-washy. When you’re trying to sell yourself in a job interview setting, for example, people ask, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” NASCAR needs to think about that question and ask if their decisions are pushing them in the direction of that vision. Solidify the goal, shift the focus.

TV Schedule: March 17-19

Phoenix International Raceway. Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR heads to the desert. The Monster Energy Cup and XFINITY series descend on Phoenix International Raceway this weekend.

The flat, one-mile oval is a departure from the 1.5-mile tracks that make up most of the NASCAR schedule.

The Camping World Truck Series is on a break until April at Martinsville.

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

Friday, March 17:
1 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
2 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, FS1
4 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
6 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
7:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying, FS1

Saturday, March 18:
4:30 a.m. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
6 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
7 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
8 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1
Noon Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS2
1 p.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS2
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, FS2
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Prerace, FOX
4 p.m. XFINITY Series DC Solar 200, FOX
6:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Post-Race Show, FOX

Sunday, March 19:
1 a.m. XFINITY Series DC Solar 200 (re-air), FS1
7 a.m. XFINITY Series DC Solar 200 (re-air), FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS2
3 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Pre-Race, FOX
3:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Camping World 500, FOX
9:30 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
10 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series Camping World 500 (re-air), FS1

Thursday, March 16, 2017

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Camping World 500 at Phoenix

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski
All with 3 - Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

By Track
Kevin Harvick - 7
All with 6 - Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Kurt Busch
All with 5 - Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Denny Hamlin

Recent Pole Winners: 
2016 Kyle Busch
2015 Kevin Harvick

Last Year's Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

The Likely Suspects: After last week's literal battle in the desert, a trip to this one-mile flat track should be interesting. Can Martin Truex Jr. make it two weeks's in a row or will Kyle Busch and Joey Logano steal the headlines once again? All three drivers run well in Phoenix so keep an eye on them as well as these elite Phoenix drivers: Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski,, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth.

My 2 Cents: Things are going to heat up at Phoenix. In fact, at race time on Sunday, a hot 91 degrees is forecasted. In fantasy terms, that means pick drivers who excel on a slick track. My no-brainer pick is a tie between Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson. My next picks are Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon. I will round out my team with Ty Dillon and Erik Jones.

My Final Four: Kevin Harvick, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Ty Dillon

Points to Ponder:
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Phoenix with 10, followed by Roush Fenway Racing with seven.
  • This weekend at Phoenix Raceway Kevin Harvick can become the ninth driver to have nine or more wins at a single track.
  • There have been 24 different Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race winners at Phoenix, eight have won more than once, led by Kevin Harvick, with eight – (’06 spring race and playoff race, ’12 playoff race, ‘13 playoff race, ’14 spring race and playoff race, ’15 spring race and ’16 spring race).
  • Among active drivers, Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with eight followed by Jimmie Johnson (four), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two).
  • Jimmie Johnson leads active drivers in the series in runner-up finishes at Phoenix with three, in top five finishes with 15, and in top 10 finishes with 19. Kevin Harvick comes in at a close second to Johnson in top five finishes with 13.
  • Jimmie Johnson (8.963), Chase Elliott (8.500) and Ryan Blaney (9.000) are the only three active drivers with average finishes inside the top 10. 
  • Ryan Newman is the only active driver to win consecutive poles. Newman won three straight (2002-04).
Remember if you are playing Yahoo! Fantasy Auto Racing, your pick deadline is Friday, March 17 at 5 a.m. EDT.

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

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Caption This Winner for 3-11-17: Rusty Briggs


Congratulations to Rusty Briggs, who contributed the winning caption for this photo of
Kevin & Keelan Harvick. 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. 


Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs    

Thanks to everyone who played Caption This. Check back on Saturday for a new photo and your next chance to submit a caption.

Faith on the Frontstretch: Fisticuffs and Forgiveness on Pit Road

Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, March 11, 2017.
Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images  
by Beth Bence Reinke

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

Everyone’s talking about the pit road fight after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Las Vegas. In fact, it’s easier to find an online video of the Kyle Busch vs. Joey Logano brawl than the actual last-lap racing and crash that produced it.

The problem with “hard racing” between two drivers is that oftentimes one makes out fine, and one gets dumped. Whoever gets the raw end of the deal feels victimized and blames the other driver for it.

Then fans pick sides, deciding who’s guilty of dirty driving and who was wronged. Our views don’t always line up with the facts of how the incident transpired though. Being opinionated human beings, we tend to have a bit of bias based on which drivers and teams we like or don’t like.

It’s hard to be objective when personal conflicts happen in real life, too. We might wear rose-colored glasses when remembering our own conduct, and think the other guy was a total jerk. Reality is usually somewhere in between, and forgiveness helps to restore the relationship.

Forgiveness.

Such a seemingly innocent word, but oh-so-difficult to pin down. What exactly is forgiveness? What does it mean to forgive someone? And how do we do it?

To define forgiveness, we can look at how God does it. He “removes our sins as far away from us as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12, The Living Bible) God blots out the wrong we did, as if it never happened.

Say someone borrowed $50 from you and never paid it back. One day you think, “I’m tired of asking for that money back.” So you mentally cancel the $50 debt, and let it go. Now you’re free from ruminating about it. You have "forgiven" the debt.

Forgiving a financial debt is one thing. But forgiving someone who hurts us is harder. We want them to own up to the pain they caused. If they don’t, we may wish they’d hurt as much as we do, or we want justice where they’re punished for harming us.

But in many cases the person who hurt us may not even know it. Or they may know and not care one whit. In such cases, the benefits of forgiveness are only for you, the forgiver.

Forgiveness is a decision. When you forgive, you release yourself from the prison cell of negative emotions you feel when you think about the perpetrator. You swing open that barred door and leave all the crap behind. In your heart, you let it go.

Whether they know you’ve forgiven the debt or not doesn’t matter. You know, and now you’re free from worrying about it.

I wish there was a recipe with steps that would create “perfect forgiveness” every time. But each of us has to work through it in our own way. A good place to start is to remember how flawed we are and how often God forgives us.

So, should Logano apologize for wrecking Busch? Will Busch ask forgiveness for swinging first instead of speaking? Should the No. 22 crew apologize for roughing up Busch?

Forgiveness may or may not be requested or granted for Sunday’s hullabaloo. That’s up to the guys involved, and we may never know.

But each of us does know about his or her own life. Is there someone who has hurt you? Forget the fisticuffs. Go with forgiveness instead.

Stop being mean, bad-tempered, and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.     ~Ephesians 4:31-32 (The Living Bible)
------------------------------------------

“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 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, March 14, 2017

Fast Track Facts: Phoenix Raceway

credit: NASCAR Media
Phoenix Raceway will host the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series this weekend, the fourth weekend of the 2017 season. Learn more about the track in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Phoenix International Raceway was built and opened in 1964. The track originally included a 2.5-mile road course, which became a 1.51-mile track in 1991, and a one-mile oval.  Sports car driver Davey MacDonald won the first event at PIR on the road course on Feb. 16, 1964; five weeks later on March 22, A.J. Foyt won a 100-mile USAC event at PIR, the first oval-track race at the track.
  • The first “Copper World Classic” was contested in Feb. 1977. The Classic was a special event for USAC Midget and Silver Crown cars, featuring two road course races and two oval-track races.
  • In July 1987, NASCAR announces the first Cup Series race at the track, taking place in Nov. 1988. That race, the Checker 500, was won by Alan Kulwicki, his first career Cup Series win; he celebrated by making the first “Polish victory lap” around the oval.
  • On Feb. 5, 1995, the NASCAR SuperTruck Series (now the Camping World Truck Series) made its national debut at PIR – Mike Skinner won the Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic. The series’ final race of the regular season, the GM Goodwrench/Delco Battery 200 was also held at PIR, with Skinner visiting victory lane again in October.
  • The first NASCAR Busch (now Xfinity) Series race was held at PIR in Nov. 1999, with former Copper World Classic winner Jeff Gordon going to victory lane.
  • In 2004, it was announced that the Cup Series would get a second weekend at PIR beginning in 2005. During the winter of 2004-05, lights were installed at PIR. The first night race was the first spring race in April 2005, won by Kurt Busch.
  • In Jan. 2017, track officials and ownership group International Speedway Corp. announced the Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar, a $178 million renovation set to be completed in Nov. 2018; this also signaled a name change to Phoenix Raceway. Among the updates scheduled: upgraded club seating, 32 renovated suites, 19 new suites, a new souvenir area, multiple new restrooms, a new Fanzone and Midway, and technology upgrades including Wi-Fi in the Midway, infield and seats.
  • Jimmie Johnson holds the Cup Series track qualifying record at Phoenix – 146.308 mph (25.147 seconds). Ryan Newman has the most poles at the track (four), while Kevin Harvick has the most wins (eight).
  • In addition to the all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series, Phoenix also hosts the Verizon IndyCar Series and USAC’s Silver Crown and National Quarter Midget Series annually. In the past, it has hosted the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, NASCAR’s Mexico Series and the Indy Lights Series.
  • Find out more about Phoenix Raceway at www.phoenixraceway.com


Monday, March 13, 2017

Travel Tips: Phoenix International Raceway –March 17-19, 2017

credit: NASCAR Media
The fourth race of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season and the second race of the “Western swing” is this weekend’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway in Arizona. The race weekend, Friday through Sunday, March 17-19, also features the Xfinity Series.

The Budweiser ROLL-BAR, one of PIR’s fan hospitality areas, is located behind the Bobby Allison Grandstands and hosts appearances by NASCAR drivers and personalities, in addition to live entertainment, a game area, catered meals, drink vouchers and more. Currently scheduled to appear at the ROLL-BAR on Sunday (subject to change) are Ruben Garcia (8:45 a.m. MT), Michael McDowell (9 a.m. MT), Daniel Suarez (9:15 a.m. MT), Kevin Harvick (9:30 a.m. MT), Jimmie Johnson (9:45 a.m. MT) and Jeffrey Earnhardt (10 a.m. MT). Find out more about the ROLL-BAR here.

Key on-track times:

Friday, March 17
  • Xfinity Series practice – 10 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m. MT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 11 a.m. MT
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 4:45 p.m. MT
Saturday, March 18
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 9 and 11:30 a.m. MT
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 10:05 a.m. MT
  • Xfinity Series DC Solar 200 – 1 p.m. MT
Sunday, March 19
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500– 12:30 p.m. MT
A list of race day FAQs and their answers can be found here.

Purchase tickets and get more information about the weekend at www.phoenixraceway.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Kobalt 400 Winning Crew Chief, Cole Pearn


by Stacey Owens

Practice makes perfect, right? Well, according to Cole Pearn, the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops Tracker Boats Toyota should have been perfect, because their practice wasn't.

"Didn't really know what to expect today," Pearn said. "Wasn't terribly happy with our car yesterday in practice, even though we cut a lap, and we were fast, and I didn't think our long-run speed was very good. So we changed a lot going into today and didn't really know what to expect. But obviously we felt like we went the right direction. Obviously we did. Pit crew was unbelievable today. They pretty much had a flawless day and really helped us get the lead a couple times, and man, I don't know, it just worked out."

Even with the so-so practice, Truex Jr. started on the outside pole and led a race-high 150 laps. On the way to leading that many laps, Truex became the first driver since the introduction of stages this season to sweep the first two stages and win the race.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

As well as his driver performed during the race, Pearn wasn't confident of a win, especially since Keselowski took over as the laps wound down at Las Motor Speedway.

"Yeah, we were kind of struggling that run. Our track bar motor quit running the stop before, and we kind of had it down a lot. For the run before we had kind of gotten loose, and obviously new tires we were back too much on the tight side for that last run. But we just plugged away, and we've been on the losing side of those kind of finishes a lot, so to be on the winning side is pretty awesome," Pearn said.

Part of a crew chief's job, in addition to leading the team and calling the shots on pit road, is to encourage his driver or rally his pit crew. Still other times, he must simply be realistic about the team's shortcomings.

"... when we lost the lead, Brad was really good on the long run, and it kind of had shaken out, I don't know if we would have had a shot. But we just had to keep trying and keep him honest, and don't give it to him by any means," Pearn said.
 
"We were fortunate to have another pit stop there with the caution. And we almost beat them out of the pits. Our pit crew was pretty much on it all day, so we had a shot out there, but kind of on the track bar, motor was out. I was a little bit pessimistic about our chances. But maybe if we had cleared him and had clean air on the nose, we could have brought it home a lot cleaner."

Turns out, there was no reason for him to worry. Truex drove his Toyota Camry to his first win of the season as cars crashed behind him. Practice may not have gone as Pearn would have liked, but starting from the outside pole, leading the most laps, winning both stages and the race -- as well as earning a perfect 50 points -- isn't a bad way to push one's luck in Las Vegas.

--------------------------------------



 Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.