Showing posts with label Dale Earnhardt Jr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dale Earnhardt Jr. Show all posts

Thursday, October 16, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: The great 8 at Talladega




Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Daytona International Speedway •  Auto Club Speedway (Fontana) •
Indianapolis Motor Speedway • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway
Distance: 2.66 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Brad Keselowski - 4 
Both with 3 - Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr.

By Track
Clint Bowyer - 7
David Ragan - 5
All with 4 -  Martin Truex Jr., Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Rained Out
2012 Kasey Kahne

The Likely Suspects: Talladega racing always equals chaos, but as the closing race in the second round of this new Chase format, we may be seeing some pretty crazy racing. Picture last week's race times three. Interestingly enough, some of the players from last week should play a key role this week.

Look for these Dega stars to run well this week: Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. Oh, and as a restrictor-plate race you better throw in Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week would be last week's bad boy Brad Keselowski. Since I don't have any Brad starts left, I will be going with the "almost always mild-mannered" Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. as my no-brainer twins. My next picks are Brian Vickers, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin. I will complete my team with Danica Patrick and Trevor Bayne.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Fighting Cancer Gets Personal for NASCAR Community

Danica Patrick's No. 10 is one of many racecars sporting breast cancer awareness paint schemes this October.  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

The last thing anyone wants to hear from a doctor is, “You have cancer” or “Your cancer is back.” But every day, people just like us hear those shocking words, including folks from the NASCAR family. As Sherry Pollex and former driver Shawna Robinson undergo chemotherapy, broadcaster Steve Byrnes must re-enter his battle with the disease and begin chemo next week.

Numerous drivers support cancer patients through their own foundations or other charities. Just this week, Kyle and Samantha Busch celebrated helping the “Pretty in Pink” Foundation raise money to pay medical bills, in full, for 16 breast cancer patients. And online, Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s eBay auction of his race-worn teal driving gloves is raising money for an ovarian cancer research charity of Sherry Pollex’s choice.

Michael McDowell's "Pieter's Pals" car at CMS on Oct. 11, 2014
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
It’s especially heartbreaking when cancer affects kids. For Sprint Cup driver Michael McDowell, his family’s personal loss was displayed with the words “Pieter’s Pals” on the hood of the No. 95 K-Love car. Pieter, a classmate of McDowell’s 5-year-old son, lost his battle with childhood cancer last month. Imagine trying to explain cancer to your kindergartener whose friend won’t be coming to school anymore.

Cancer is a hard topic for adults to wrap our heads around, too. The medical aspect is the easy part to grasp: The disease occurs when cells in the body behave in uncontrolled ways contrary to God’s design. But the emotional and spiritual facets of dealing with cancer are unbelievably tough.

Some people cope by trying to find a reason for the disease, something to blame, like chemicals in the environment. As shocking and heartless as it sounds, others suspect it’s the cancer victims’ own fault they have it. Thankfully, Jesus nixed that judgmental line of thinking when He talked with His disciples about a blind man:

The disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
(John 9:1-3)

God allowed the affliction for a reason: so that Jesus could heal the man’s eyes. As a result, everyone in town who knew this guy -- as a blind beggar -- experienced the miracle of his receiving his sight. Through miracles, God draws people to Himself and increases their faith.

Another way people cope with cancer is by blaming God for causing it. But that mindset shows a lack of understanding about God’s character.

Cancer is pure evil, bent on destruction. That kind of stuff can’t originate from God. God is good. He’s our healer and protector.

Those of us who have walked through the dark valley of cancer know one thing. It’s a time when we look to God for strength for our broken bodies and faith to get through the fear -- day-by-day, even minute-by-minute. To a person battling cancer, knowing other people are praying brings enormous comfort.

Our hearts go out to all the folks in NASCAR nation – Shawna, Sherry and Steve, as well as fellow fans and our own family members – who are affected by cancer. If you know someone facing this burden, lift them to God in prayer, then jot them a note to tell them you’ll be praying.

The cancer journey is a marathon, not a sprint. So let’s settle in for the long haul, to continue praying and keep encouraging these precious people, even after the pink paint schemes disappear.

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.    ~ Psalm 143:1
-----------------------------------------------

“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Follow on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's Far From Over For Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dale Earnhardt Jr's. crew works hard during the Kansas race. Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s season started with winning his second Daytona 500, and then back-to-back second-place finishes at Phoenix and Las Vegas. The No. 88 team ended their season last year on a high note, and it appeared they were picking up right where they left off. Earnhardt Jr. even managed to sweep both Pocono races, which only added more fuel to the championship talk.

As of late, Earnhardt Jr. hasn't shown the same racing prowess as earlier in the season. In four Chase races he's only earned one top-10 finish. Has something changed or is the 88 still a contender for the Sprint Cup?

Last weekend at Kansas, Earnhardt Jr. wheeled the same chassis that earned the wins at Pocono and, after weeks of lackluster performances, finally had competitive speed.

When he took the lead on Lap 77, Earnhardt Jr. outran Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick in a dicey three-wide battle. It was the first laps he had led since Michigan in August. Earnhardt Jr. looked to have found the speed he was lacking.

But while still leading on Lap 122, a flat right front caused Earnhardt Jr. to suddenly slam into the wall and retire to the garage. With 80 laps remaining, Earnhardt Jr. returned to the track many laps
Earnhardt Jr. wins at Pocono. Credit: Chris Graythen/NASCAR via Getty Images
down, ending his day 39th.

Earnhardt Jr. also encountered calamity early in the 2013 Chase. He had an engine failure in the Chase kickoff race at Chicagoland Speedway. This dropped him to 12th in the Chase. But Earnhardt Jr. bounced back over the next few races. From being last in the points standings, he managed to finish a career-high fifth.

With that in mind, could it be that maybe Earnhardt Jr. works better under pressure? Comparing last year with this year, maybe the No. 88 performs better when all the cards are on the line. With only two races left before the next elimination, it's go or go home time.

The next race for Earnhardt Jr. is Charlotte, where he has five top fives and 11 top 10s. This is Earnhardt Jr’s. home track; a win here could really get that No. 88 back on track to contending for the championship.

On the other hand, Talladega is the dreaded wild card race. Earnhardt Jr. has five wins here and finished second last fall. This is one of Earnhardt Jr’s. best tracks, but it can also be his worst. Depending on where you run during the race, you better hope you avoid “the big one.”

I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that Earnhardt Jr. will make the Chase cut and survive another round. Based on what I see from both driver and crew chief Steve Letarte, they know it’s not over. In addition to finding speed, the team is hitting upon the right changes during pit stops to improve the car. But they need to build on their progress and stave off the bad luck.

With two races left in this round, anything can happen. Don’t count out the No. 88 yet.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Coke Zero 400 at Daytona



Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway  • Michigan International Speedway 
Pocono Raceway • Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3 - Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards
All with 2 - Jeff Burton, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano and Juan Pablo Montoya

By Track
Dale Earnhardt Jr.- 6
All with 5 - Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards 
Greg Biffle - 4

Recent Pole Winners:  
2013 Kyle Busch
2012 Matt Kenseth

Likely Suspects: Restrictor-plate racing produces as many interesting scenarios as short-track racing. There are traditional masters in this style of racing, and then there are some relative newcomers like Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who together make for some surprising and exciting finishes. Look for these drivers to perform well this weekend: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin and Jamie McMurray.

My 2 Cents: When picking this weekend, keep in mind that the "Big One" does not discriminate. The Daytona elite can and will be taken out just as easily as anyone else. Pick a balance of drivers: "elite"; "on a hot streak"; and "running well this year," and you should rack up the fantasy points.

My no-brainer pick this week is an obvious one. Earnhardt and Daytona go together in much the same way that old '70s commercial boasted about baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet! My next picks are Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. I will complete my team with Michael Waltrip and Danica Patrick.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Earnhardt Jr. says NASCAR is bigger than just one guy, but is it?

Photo credit: Matt Sullivan NASCAR via Getty Images
Popularity is something Dale Earnhardt Jr. knows all about. Voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver an astounding 11 consecutive times, Earnhardt has legions of fans who follow his every move. From poor performances to wins, these fans are among the most hard core in all of sports. Make them angry and you’ll never live it down. Say nice things about their driver, and you’ll be forever in their good graces.

Even those who don’t count themselves among “The Nation” keep up with his performance. Ask a non-fan to name a driver and nine out of 10 times, they’ll mention Earnhardt Jr. … the 10th time, they will mention his dad. Despite never having won a Sprint Cup Series title, Earnhardt is more the face of NASCAR than his teammate, six-time champion Jimmie Johnson.

When Earnhardt Jr. is having a good day, all is right with the world. NASCAR gets a gold star. Fans who have become disillusioned with the ever-changing rules return to the track and their televisions because it might just be his turn to hoist the trophy at Homestead.

Following his Daytona 500 victory and two second-place finishes, Earnhardt Jr.'s ducks seem to be in a row. There’s a smile on his face and a swagger in his step. People are talking about NASCAR striking up conversations at the water cooler Monday morning.

But Earnhardt Jr. says he isn't concerned with how much his performances impact viewership and NASCAR’s following as a whole. “I can’t concern myself with how much I move the needle. I think that goes outside of my comfort zone and what I feel is and what I think you need to concern yourself with if you’re as an individual,” he said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, site of the fourth race of the 2014 season.

According to Earnhardt Jr., it’s bigger than one guy. The differing personalities and rivalries, new faces and new opportunities play a role in the ebb and flow of the sport’s popularity among both new and seasoned fans.

“It definitely doesn’t live and breathe on everything that I’ve got going on. It would be perfectly fine without me, but I’m glad to be a part of it.”

That begs the question. Would NASCAR actually be OK without its Most Popular Driver? What if Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion from two years ago had caused long-term problems forcing him to retire? Who would fill the void? Who would people love and loathe? Where would all the Jr. fans go?

We don't know the answers to those questions, and neither does Earnhardt Jr. Though he says he's glad to be a "part" of the sport, he may not realize just how much sway and impact he actually has. What he does realize is that what he says and how he acts affects the perception of the sport.

"I want the sport to be healthy. And I want to do things that help the sport and make an impact on the sport. I try to do those things always taking opinions and advice on what I can do better and what I’m not doing that I could be doing to help the sport. You want to leave a mark of some kind. We all do."

The Food City 500 is currently under a delay for rain blanketing the area. Earnhardt Jr. is slated to start from the 14th position.

Follow @SkirtsandScuffs for updates from the track.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Faith on the Frontstretch: Daytona 500 Victory is Pure Joy for Dale Jr.

Joyful smiles in victory lane at the 2014 Daytona 500
Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images  
“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1b

If you watched the end of the 2014 Daytona 500, you were treated to a spectacle in Victory Lane: pure joy. These days it’s rare to witness an adult displaying unabashed, genuine delight, but race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. allowed NASCAR Nation to share in his exuberance.

The in-car camera captured Junior’s grin and fist pumps during his burnout and frontstretch celebration. In Victory Lane — where drivers normally sit in the car until the commercial break is over, climb out with a celebratory whoop and beverage drenching, then go straight to the TV interview — Dale Jr. broke protocol. He jumped down from the car door and hugged each of his crew members, one by one, before returning to Matt Yocum for his post-race interview. Dale Jr. shared his joy with his race team family first. How cool was that?

It wasn’t only the No. 88 team who shared in the celebration. Driver after driver congratulated Dale Jr. and verbalized their heartfelt good wishes. You could almost hear the collective happy roar of race fans across the nation, too, even fans of other drivers. There’s just something special and poignant about an Earnhardt winning at Daytona. It’s a lump-in-your-throat-while-you’re-cheering kind of victory.

If you watched any of the interviews, you may have noticed something else about Dale Jr.’s demeanor. There’s a sense of peace about him you can almost reach out and touch. It’s as if the anxiety and uncertainty he’s been carrying around for the past few years has evaporated. There’s an extra lilt in his posture and a relaxed set to his jaw.

You know why he has that unruffled sense of tranquility about him, right? It’s because he’s in. More than likely, he’s in the Chase.

For a Cup driver in 2014, there’s a peace that comes with the assurance of “You’re in.” The pressure is off. He knows he doesn’t have to be perfect anymore. A DNF still stinks, but it’s not the end of his season.

But a driver who's in doesn’t feel lazy. He feels energized to get out there and do his best because he’s looking forward to what’s ahead. And no matter what happens in the short-term, the long-term joy is always there.

Even better than being in the Chase is being in the Lamb’s book of life. Have you heard of it? It’s the place in heaven where the names of the faithful are recorded. As a child of God, you’re in. You have the ultimate peace of knowing you’re going to heaven when you die.

Talk about pure joy! I’m in. Are you?

“ ... rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” ~ Luke 10:20b
---------------------------------------

“Faith on the Frontstretch” appears every 1st & 3rd Wednesday and explores the role of faith in motorsports. Comments or twitter follows welcome: @bbreinke. See you on the Frontstretch!

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. To check out her other books for women & children, visit http://www.bethbencereinke.com/

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dale Earnhardt Jr's. fire burns bright as he wins 2014 Daytona 500

Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
All the writers at Skirts and Scuffs were NASCAR fans before we joined the site. The love of the sport motivates us. Most of the time we keep our driver loyalties under wraps to tell the stories, but sometimes, when the story is that your driver, the most popular driver in the sport, wins the sport's biggest race for the second time, then it's hard not to shout it to the world. In this piece, Lacy Keyser does just that. Tomorrow we'll go back to the unbiased stories, but today, celebrate with Lacy for a few minutes. 

The Daytona 500 is the race every driver wants to win. Even if you're a champion driver, you still want to win that 500. It took Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Darrell Waltrip 20 years to win it. That just goes to show how much winning that race means.

In 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first Daytona 500, and that celebration ranked high on the all-time list. Ten years from that date, Earnhardt Jr. did it again, winning his second 500, which happened to be a prime-time event due to a rain delay.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
For his fans, it was a beautiful sight to see that No. 88 taking the victory lap, waving to the crowds as he drove by. Nothing gets the NASCAR community going like a win from Earnhardt Jr. The fans love him, and honestly, it’s hard not to like such a genuine guy. Seeing his smile last night and his hugging everyone on his team ... how can you not celebrate?  

Watching the white flag come out and the No. 88 crossing the start/finish line first made everything worthwhile. I can’t explain why, but seeing Earnhardt Jr. win brings a smile to my face. Maybe it has to do with how last year went, a season in which it seemed Earnhardt Jr. was always the bridesmaid but never the bride. He’d finished second in three of the last four of Daytona races, but last night, he was finally the bride.

It feels like Earnhardt Jr. and Steve Letarte are finishing what they started last season. With Letarte leaving for the broadcast booth, getting a 500 win for his final season is poetic; every crew chief wants a 500 win, and Letarte can finally say he has one.

No matter what the season has in store for the 88 crew, I feel their winning the season opener and being Daytona Champions will impact their entire season. Whether or not Earnhardt Jr. and Letarte win the Sprint Cup Championship, at least they can end their era on a high note with a win in The Great American Race!

The season has just begun, but Earnhardt Jr’s. fire is already burning bright.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: 2014 Daytona 500



Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway  • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway
Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
All with 3: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick  
All with 2: Clint Bowyer, Paul Menard and Kurt Busch

By Track
All with 5: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick
With 4: Matt Kenseth
All with 3: Greg Biffle, Jeff Burton, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne

The Likely Suspects: The Daytona 500 is known for its unpredictable finishes, where virtual unknowns can win and where anything can happen, and usually does. Given these facts it is important not to over-think your fantasy picks this week, and don't worry about where drivers start. Although passing will be a challenge, it is not impossible for Daytona's elite which include Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano.

My 2 Cents:  Keep it simple this week by going with the best of the best when it comes to restrictor plate racing. Remember Joe Gibbs Racing is one team that seems to have this track dialed in, so picking as many from the Coach's team is a good strategy. 

My no-brainer pick for this first race of the season is a tie among Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin. Kurt and Kyle Busch are also great picks here, but I think the ever-patient Matt Kenseth will serve me better. My next picks are Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. I will round out my fantasy team with Danica Patrick and Michael Waltrip.

My final roster is Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and Danica Patrick.

Enjoy the race. Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Lacy Keyser chooses the 2014 NASCAR champs

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs  
The old saying, "Out with the old and in with new," is what the 2014 NASCAR season feels like. A new Chase format has rocked NASCAR Nation. Many fans are on the fence about it, and who can blame them? This is a big change.

With that being said, it’s that time of the year again where I pick my champions for the Nationwide and Cup series.

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
Nationwide

I’m once again picking Regan Smith for the Nationwide champion. To me, Smith had a breakout season with Junior Motorsports in 2013. He had two wins and was the points leader for most of the season, but due to a few bad races he finished third in the standings.

I’m also picking a dark horse: Chase Elliott. We know he can race, we know he’s a winner, so I feel he is one to watch out for. He may just be the one to have a break-out year in Nationwide.  

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
Sprint Cup

I picked Dale Earnhardt Jr. last year and I’m picking him again.

Earnhardt Jr. was on fire in 2013. He finished in the top five in half of the Chase races and three of those were second-place finishes. He may have had an engine blow in the first Chase race, but that didn't stop Earnhardt Jr. from having his best season finish since 2006.

With crew chief Steve Letarte leaving after this season, he has even more on the line, which means getting that championship! 

Under the new Chase format, Earnhardt Jr. would have been the 2013 champion, so I feel he can once again have a fiery Chase like last year. Let’s make Letarte’s final season go out with a bang!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Goodbye Steve Letarte, thanks for everything

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images 
When your favorite driver has a crappy season, it’s a horrible feeling. But when your driver has a horrible season year after year, your nerves tend to get shot. Many Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans, myself included, were all at that breaking point. 

But luckily for us, we'd receive some great news the end of the 2010 season, news that has changed Earnhardt Jr. for the better, I feel.

Steve Letarte. 

Hearing that Steve Letarte was going to be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s crew chief was something unexpected. 

After the seasons we had I was hoping this change could be a good one, that having Letarte on the pit box would be something that Earnhardt Jr. needed.

For the first time in what felt like forever, seeing the No.88 contending and actually being competitive was a great feeling; it’s what everyone fan wants to see- their driver actually contending for wins.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
Letarte brought back a fire inside Earnhardt Jr. - a fire that hadn't been seen in a while. Last season, the duo had a bad race the very first Chase race. But even with that one bad race, the duo overcame it and ended the season fifth in the points.

For many Earnhardt Jr. fans it seemed their driver had finally found that crew chief, the one that truly was the best for him. But unfortunately sometimes all good things must come to an end.

I won't lie. Hearing the news that after the 2014 season, Letarte is stepping down from the pit box and moving to the NBC booth in 2015 was a little sad to hear. The era of Letarte and Earnhardt Jr. is coming to an end. An end for which I’m not sure I’m ready.

Even though this will be the last season with Letarte I have a feeling that if the No.88 is anything like it was the last final races, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with. I have no doubt the No.88 is going to be a huge contender this season.

Though there's still a season to go, I'll say it now. Goodbye and thank you, Steve. Thank you for putting that fire back in Junior. Thanks for everything you've done these past years. Going to miss you on that pit box, but wishing you the best at NBC.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Championship fire burns strong in No. 88 crew

Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
With 10 laps to go at Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen, Dale Earnhardt Jr. looked to have a solid top-15 finish when suddenly contact between the No. 20 of Matt Kenseth and the No. 9 of Marcos Ambrose triggered a huge wreck. The No. 5 of Kasey Kahne plowed into the front of Earnhardt Jr., who had nowhere to go.

The No. 88 was destroyed and the driver was angry at Kenseth. The good points day and finish looked to be over. However, with a great leader like crew chief Steve Letarte and a Chase spot on the line, giving up wasn't an option.

Letarte wasn't about to give up on getting Earnhardt Jr. back on track.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
"Let's go, could be green-white-checkered, we don't know. They're not done wrecking yet," said Letarte on the team scanner.

Letarte was busy getting to work. The No. 88 car didn’t even go inside the garage – the team worked behind the wall non-stop and replaced the radiator within five laps. With four laps to go, Earnhardt Jr. was back on track.

The team may have finished their day 30th, but instead of taking the DNF and losing more points, they ended up gaining at least three points.

"That's three points, boys. That's three points. That's great practice for the final 10,” Letarte told Earnhardt Jr. as they came to the finish.

With just 10 laps left when the crash happened, the No. 88 team could have called it a day and taken a DNF. They didn't have to take the time to fix the car and get it back running on track. But for Letarte to get the ball rolling and for the crew to get that car back on track as quickly as they did shows just how serious they are to win the title.

This is how champions are made - by not giving up and throwing in the towel. It’s easy to admit defeat and say, “Oh well, we’ll get them next time.” But to actually get back on the track with less than four laps to go and gain at least three points is important. Every point counts.

With a great leader in Letarte, I have hope that we could finally see Earnhardt Jr. as a champion. If not this season, then maybe next year. Great leadership and great determination are what it takes to be a champion.

The top-15 finish the No. 88 may have had at Watkins Glen was cut short, but the team’s never-give-up attitude shows they’re ready for that championship.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

"Caption this" winner: Jenn

Just make fishy lips like this and the girls will go crazy.
Of course this works best on the "under 5" crowd.


Congratulations to Jenn who contributed the winning caption for this photo of Matt Kenseth & Dale Earnhardt Jr. Can't you just see Matt making fishy lips for his little daughters? :o)

Please send your full name and mailing address to bbreinke@skirtsandscuffs.com to receive your prize, a copy of the devotional book Race Fans' Devotions to Go.

Thanks to everyone who played "Caption this!" Check back next Monday for a new photo and your next chance to submit a caption.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Jeffrey Earnhardt gets the chance of a lifetime at Richmond

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs.

When you think of the name Earnhardt, you either think Dale Earnhardt Sr. or Dale Jr.

On Friday, Jeffrey Earnhardt will make his first start with JR Motorsports. Earnhardt will be driving the No. 5 at Richmond for his uncle Earnhardt Jr. I feel this opportunity is a big break for the young Earnhardt, who’s starting to make his name in the racing business.

But it’s not always easy racing in NASCAR; money and sponsorship can be hard to find. For Earnhardt, getting this big break from his uncle could hopefully open doors. JRM is powered by Hendrick Motorsports engines, one of the top teams in this sport. With great equipment like that, I’m anxious to see how well the young Earnhardt will run.

When I look at Jeffrey's opportunity, I in ways picture how Earnhardt Jr. got his start in this sport: by racing for his dad’s company. Then he went on to race in Cup, and is now racing for Hendrick Motorsports.

I look at the opportunity the younger Earnhardt has, and I see it as a new generation of Earnhardt beginning to take flight. After getting this chance to race for JRM, a known race team, I feel Jeffrey is going to get the recognition needed to make it in this sport.

There’s also another aspect to look at: the value of family. NASCAR has and always will be a family sport, and family always sticks together.

JRM hasn’t had the best of luck the last two seasons: when former driver Brad Keselowski left, the success seemed to leave with Keselowski. Last season also saw the fallout of the Eurys' departure from the team, which caused big changes at JRM for 2013 with the arrival of Regan Smith. So far this season, JRM is second in the point standings.

As for the younger Earnhardt, he hasn’t had the chance to run with a team like JRM. He is running for Rookie of the Year in Nationwide and was set to drive for Go Green Racing. However, due to sponsoring conflicts, his races have been limited.

Racing for JRM gives Jeffrey the chance to show his true potential, whether he gets a ride full-time with them, or the chance of him catching the eyes of another team looking for a young driver. The whole reason Earnhardt Jr. started his team is to give upcoming drivers a chance.

For his nephew Jeffrey, I see this as the chance of a lifetime for the younger Earnhardt. A chance to show his true racing skills. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Emotional victories in Texas

Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas Motor Speedway (November 2011)
Photo Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs

To me, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Texas Motor Speedway go together like springtime and bluebonnets. Despite having only won twice at the "Great American Speedway" - those were such special wins that for me, Junior and Texas are inextricably intertwined.

My late husband, who introduced me to NASCAR, was an Earnhardt fan. A rebel at heart, he was also a Gordon fan but that's another story. He kept an eye on Junior's performance with the hope that the younger Earnhardt would live up to the family name.

Fifteen years ago this month, Junior scored the first victory of his NASCAR career at Texas Motor Speedway. Just seven races into his first full season in the Busch Series, he demonstrated that he just might have inherited some of his daddy's talent. Texans are notoriously territorial, and for the crown prince of NASCAR to win here first bound him irrevocably to the track and the state.

In his first-person account of his rookie season, driver of the No. 8, Junior said of TMS, "...the reaction when I'm introduced is enthusiastic and vocal. This makes me feel really good, because I think they are cheering for what I've done here in the past. I'm sure some fans are probably cheering for me just because I'm an Earnhardt. I feel like that's the case at most all of the tracks we go to, especially when I get a big fan response even though I've never raced there before. But here, it's different. I really feel like they are cheering for me. I like Texas, and Texas seems to like me."

He won the race that day, two years and two Busch championships after his 12th initial victory. It was his first in Winston Cup and just his 12th Cup start, a record at the time. What often goes overlooked was that it was the team's 12th start as well. Dale Earnhardt Incorporated first put a car on the track in 1996 but didn't run a full season until 1999 with Steve Park in the No. 1. The No. 8 team ran five races in 1999, the most a rookie could run and still compete for Rookie of the Year.

I went back to watch the end of the 2000 DirecTV 500. Almost everyone has seen the replays of the victory lane celebration but this clip has those last few laps with Ned Jarrett and Buddy Baker calling the action. Two men keenly aware of the emotions involved on either side of the father-son relationship, both that of the Earnhardts and their own.



In the book "Driver #8" Junior revealed that during his celebratory donuts, he tore the clutch out of the Budweiser Chevy so his crew pushed the car to victory lane - which at TMS is just behind pit road on the center of the frontstretch. His daddy got there first and jumped out of his car after a seventh-place finish of his own. He swept into the fenced area with his larger-than-life energy easily overshadowing the throngs of people gathered to greet the race winner.

As poignant as the interaction between Dale Sr. and Dale Jr. was, the part where Dale Sr. awaited his son's arrival also touches my heart. In those moments "Ironhead, the Man in Black, the Intimidator," Winston Cup champion, and team owner was more than anything else - a proud father.

Earnhardt Jr. also shared what his father said while leaning in the car window. "I love you. I want to make sure you take the time to enjoy this and enjoy what you accomplished today. You can get so swept up in what's going on around you that you really don't enjoy it yourself, so I want you to take a minute and celebrate how you want to celebrate."

Junior won another race during his rookie season, finishing a respectable 16th in points. He also had seven DNFs and lost the Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors to his friend and perennial rival, Matt Kenseth.

We'll never know whether Junior's second and subsequent seasons would have been more successful than they were had his father not been killed in the first race of his sophomore year. Living in the shadow of a legend can't be easy, whether that legend is alive or not.

We'll never know whether Junior would have improved on his third-place finish in 2003, career high six wins in 2004 or 16 top-five season had his entire team not been pulled out from under him in 2005. The team had been switched with that of teammate Michael Waltrip whose 2004 season ended with a 20th-place finish in points.

We'll never know whether Junior's career would have been more successful had he and Teresa Earnhardt been able to come to terms with his contract negotiations in 2007.

But we do know that while it took a while for him to settle in at Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick's pairing of the gregarious yet intense crew chief Steve Letarte with the detached and under-performing Earnhardt was nothing short of alchemy.

As I prepare for my fifth trip to Ft. Worth and my fourth live Sprint Cup race, Dale Jr. sits quietly atop the championship standings. For the first time in his career, he's held the points lead in back-to-back seasons. Maybe he won't be leading when the green flag flies Saturday night, but for him to have done so in consecutive seasons at this point in his career speaks volumes about his commitment to his craft.

Now 38 years old, Dale Jr. seems to be comfortable in his own skin and I believe Letarte gets a great deal of the credit for that. By requiring the same level of commitment and involvement expected from any other driver, not giving Junior a pass just because he's Dale Earnhardt Jr., Letarte gave Junior - in my opinion at least - the structure he'd been missing since those early days at DEI.

Where Junior used to get frustrated with an ill-handling car, berate his team on the radio and often gave up before the end of the race. He now gives excellent feedback to Letarte and the two communicate well most of the time. Junior credits Steve with much of their performance so far this year.

"Two races really come to mind, and that's Bristol and California, with just a handful of laps to go, we're not in the top 10 in either one of those races, and Steve made some pit calls in the last 25 percent of those races that set us up to be able to make up a lot of ground at the end if everything went according to plan.  I don't really know if that was his plan, but he surely makes it look good," said Earnhardt.

It's a little too early to make 2013 championship or even Chase predictions, but Junior certainly appears to be a contender and a win at Texas would help. He's had five top tens in his last six starts at TMS. Add to that the fact that his last two victories have been at a mile-and-a-half track and he's the only driver this season to have five top-tens, it's not much of a stretch to think that Junior could make another visit to victory lane at the "Great American Speedway" - this time in the No. 88 for Hendrick Motorsports.



Janine, aka Lisa or LJ, Cloud, a fifth-generation Texan, lives in Houston and considers Texas Motor Speedway her home track.

She's been a part of the Skirts and Scuffs team since May 2011, going from contributor to media rep, photographer, and associate editor covering both NASCAR and IZOD IndyCar. Janine considers it a privilege to represent the site at the track and to share with readers the excitement of the world of motorsports.

Friday, April 5, 2013

(Paper) Clipping A Season Together: Five Questions before Martinsville

Credit: 253806Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

“A length of wire bent into flat loops that is used to hold papers together.”

Yes, I just defined a paperclip. These fasteners found in cubicles all across the United States are highly important in the office world, yet what significance does it have in the NASCAR world?

With Martinsville Speedway shining bright at the end of the Off Weekend Tunnel, I can see the similarities between the track and its nickname, The Paperclip. For one, the shape is, well, paperclip-y. Two, it’s flat. Three, it can either hold together a strong start or let the good results scatter like dozens of unsecured papers caught by the wind.

Looping around the idea that this is a crucial race to survive, I’m asking five questions before Sunday, when the big question is answered: When it gets down to the wire, who can clip off the competition on Sunday?

Does Joey Logano make it through the entire race? After what happened at Fontana, Logano made a new enemy in Tony Stewart. The possibility of the No. 22 not making the whole race is very likely. However, will Stewart sacrifice a potentially season-changing run for some good ole’ revenge? If he’s smart enough, he won’t. He doesn’t need to jeopardize good results just to spin out Logano. With the way his season is going, Stewart can thrive at Martinsville, and thriving doesn’t involve wrecking. Logano should be safe.

Will Clint Bowyer ruin Hendrick’s day again? The last spring race we saw at this track was going great for Hendrick Motorsports until a restart with Clint Bowyer took out Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. This place is great for HMS, and it’s understandable that they should look out for the No. 15. Why? Because Bowyer is a serious threat to contend for the win. The former dirt track racer is good at short tracks, and this weekend is his time to shine. He’ll ruin the Chevy party all right. In a good way, of course.

Can Mark Martin win and miraculously cure the 11 team’s broken heart? With Denny Hamlin out for six weeks because of his back injury, Mark Martin is behind the wheel of his machine this weekend. Martin, a very, uh, experienced driver, has a great record at The Paperclip, including two wins. So, can he snatch a win and create a feel-good storyline? Martin is a class act, one that can shock, surprise and stun. Don’t count that win out, because you might end up eating some crow.

Is there really any contest in who will be Rookie of the Year? Remember when everyone talked about the competition that involved Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and that Rookie of the Year title? Well, it looks like there’s not much competition at all; Stenhouse is currently 12th in points, and Patrick ... well, isn’t. Given, Stewart-Haas Racing has had a rough start to the season, but everyone thought it would be closer than that. Maybe Martinsville is where Patrick can close in on her man and give him a run for his money? Or should the trophy be handed out now?

Are Junior Nation’s prayers finally answered? The fans of Dale Earnhardt Jr. have spoken: their driver is going to win this weekend! If that sounds familiar, don’t worry; they say that every weekend. However, is this the weekend where they’re finally right? The allegiance is getting hungry for another win, but that fire isn’t there in Junior right now. This could be the time where he gets up and fights again. With strong stats in his favor, it’s easy to see the checkered falling as Earnhardt Jr. crosses the finish line first. All that is questionable is if the focus is there to do the job, and we might be able to answer that after this weekend.

Friday, February 22, 2013

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Daytona 500



Track Classification: Superspeedway
Similar Tracks: Auto Club Speedway (Fontana)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway  • Michigan International Speedway • Pocono Raceway • Talladega Superspeedway
Distance: 2.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Kevin Harvick - 4
All with 3: Carl Edwards; Mark Martin: Elliott Sadler; Dale Earnhardt Jr.; Greg Biffle; Matt Kenseth; and Kurt Busch

By Track
Both with 7 - Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth
Kurt Busch - 6
All with 5 - Kevin Harvick; Kasey Kahne; and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Likely Suspects: The Daytona 500 is one of those races where a relative unknown can win. Sunday will be the first time that we will see true race conditions and 43 Gen 6 cars on the track. This combinations makes fantasy picks tricky. The drivers who reign supreme at Daytona and those who seem to have a handle on this new car are on my list likely suspects. They include: Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, and Kyle Busch.

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this first race of the season is a three-way tie between Kevin Harvick, Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Kyle Busch. Kevin Harvick has been flawless so far and Kyle Busch has been impressive. Both drivers should score me bonus points for leading laps, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of them wins the race.

Although Matt Kenseth is still searching for the best line and drafting options he is never a bad pick at Daytona. I will round out my fantasy team with Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Michael Waltrip and David Ragan. Kasey Kahne would also be a fine pick. However, I would avoid Carl Edwards who has wrecked four times this weekend.

Enjoy the race. Post your comments here or email me at ssfantasyracing@skirtsandscuffs.com.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why I Love NASCAR: RIGHT NOW by Chief 187™


Being a NASCAR fan for over 22 years has provided me with entertainment, heartache, boredom, and great joy.

As this 2013 season dawns I am rejoicing in my fandom once again with all that is before me.


NASCAR Photography By Darryl Moran via WikiCommons 
First, today marks the 12th anniversary of the passing of Dale Earnhardt, the only driver of whom I claimed to be a fan. Earnhardt was a fan favorite, a hero, and has been elevated to iconic status among his legions of fans who still remember him fondly.

To mark this somber occasion and to celebrate the life of this incredible talent, loving husband and father, and great man, a candlelight vigil is set to take place tonight at Dale Earnhardt, Inc.

I am pleased to get to a point when I can remember Earnhardt with smiles and laughter rather than the sharp pain of loss. He is missed daily, but his presence is still felt greatly.

Secondly, Earnhardt’s son Dale Jr. is hugely popular, finding success once again, and seems more content in his life. Earnhardt Jr. is undeniably a factor this season.

Kevin Harvick, Earnhardt’s successor in the Richard Childress Racing team, kicked off the season in good form by winning the Sprint Unlimited non-points race. Even though he is a “lame duck” at RCR he seems to be putting everything out there. We saw the same from Matt Kenseth in his last months with Roush-Fenway Racing. I like seeing the ultimate sportsmanship exemplified by these drivers.

Tony Stewart is becoming much like Earnhardt when it comes to his record at Daytona. Stewart, like Earnhardt, has won nearly every contest held at the track except the coveted win in the Daytona 500. It took Earnhardt some 20 years to seal the deal, but he did do it in 1998. Could this be Stewart’s year? He has brought fast cars from his Stewart-Haas Racing garages.

Credit: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images for NASCAR
Danica Patrick burned up the day on Sunday by qualifying on the pole for the 2013 Daytona 500. Patrick sets the record for being the first female ever to accomplish such a feat in NASCAR. Patrick, who only competed in 10 races last season in NASCAR’s Cup series, is a rookie this year in that series.

All last year I languished in my own version of Purgatory, wanting Patrick to succeed but grimacing every time something untoward happened to her on the track. No matter how much I tried to strengthen my resolve to not root for her, I always held my breath in anticipation of her breakthrough performance. It was a rough season!

This pole is a glorious sign that perhaps Patrick’s “logged seat time” has helped teach her what she needed to learn about driving a stock car in NASCAR’s top series. It’s a bit soon to tell. All I know is I am drawn in once again. I want Patrick to perform on the track at the level I and the rest of her fans know she can.

There are other stories ready to unfold as we wait breathlessly on the cusp of the 2013 season, waiting for it to commence. Matt Kenseth’s performance with his new No. 20 team with Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano’s rebirth at Penske Racing with the No. 22 team, and whether Kurt or Kyle Busch will explode first – either on the race track with wins or in rage, and the brand new Gen 6 cars – are all factors worthy of our attention.

 I have been a NASCAR fan for over two decades. But “right now” I am most anxious for this season to get started in earnest. Being a fan “right now” is this week’s reason I love NASCAR!



Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Lacy Keyser chooses the champs for 2013

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs

The 2012 season was one that many, myself included, won’t forget anytime soon. 2012 had wild finishes, Dale Earnhardt Jr. returned to victory lane, and unlike the previous seven years, a Chevy driver didn't win the championship. 

I've selected my champs for 2013 based on what last year showed us. Here's hoping the feeling isn't wrong.

Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud for Skirts and Scuffs
Trucks: For the Camping World Truck Series, I choose Ty Dillon. Dillon had a breakout season in his first full year of trucks. He scored top-10 finishes in the first five races and got his first win at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Dillon also won Rookie of the Year on his way to a fourth-place finish in the points.

I have no doubt Dillon will capitalize on the successes of his rookie season and turn his second season into a championship. Dillon proved in 2012 that he's capable of winning and battling for the title. 
 Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR
Nationwide: Regan Smith, my choice for Nationwide Series champion, was an easy pick. Last season Smith joined JR Motorsports for the final race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway and he what did he do? He won the race! Prior to the season-ender, Smith hadn't raced in the series for five years and had never earned a vicory in his 102 previous starts.

After setting the bar, Smith joins JRM full time for 2013 driving the No. 7 Chevrolet. He's one to keep your eyes on this season, and I believe he's going to bring JR Motorsports their first Nationwide Series championship. 

The only driver I see giving Smith the run for the championship is Austin Dillon. Just like his younger brother, Austin also won the Rookie of the Year, as well as finishing high in the point standings. I believe Dillon will be hungry for that championship, so I see it coming down to Smith and Dillon for the win - the new Stenhouse and Sadler for this year.

Cup: My pick will have to be Dale Earnhardt Jr. Last season, the old fire was back in Earnhardt Jr. He was the only driver to finish on the lead lap, a 21-race streak which came to an end at Pocono. His championship chances went up in smoke due to his concussion, which unfortunately made him miss two races. Had he not suffered it, I think Earnhardt Jr. could have made the 2012 championship his. 

The 2012 season only made Earnhardt Jr. hungry for more and by more I mean “NASCAR’s 2013 Sprint Cup champion!” 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Why I Love NASCAR: Anticipation by Chief 187™

The feeling is overwhelming. All senses are on alert. Rational thought is replaced with primal urges. Nothing exists except the object of your desire. Your every waking moment is filled with thoughts of the splendid instant you are united.

Like a first kiss when your faces are close. You both lean in, eyes opened, heart pounding, warm breath forcing your eyes closed. With trembling lips you meet and the passion stirs more ardently. There is nothing that can separate you.

And then you realize you are still waiting. Waiting for the time when all this will start for real.

Since the off-season began the countdown did, too. For many the holidays filled a few weeks, but still we waited.

We watched for signs of action – testing, practice, new uniforms, sponsor news – and posted for all of our racing-loving friends.

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR
The new Generation 6 NASCAR Sprint Cup cars sit on the grid during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Preseason Thunder testing at Daytona International Speedway on January 10, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida.

When news trickled down we hopped on it and discussed it ad nauseam, whether it was about the Gen 6 cars or who was dating whom.

Collectively we camped out for the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector Car Auction. Our blood ran fast when Hendrick was spotted seated next to Jeff Gordon. We consoled ourselves with glimpses of fantastic cars and the money others have.

Recently we tried to trick ourselves into a relationship with “other cars” because we see familiar names and the venue of our first race of the season. Twenty-four hours of racing that captivates but never satisfies the craving felt.

The long weekend merely whets the appetite and ignites the passion even more. Again countdown signs are visible everywhere. Instead of months there are weeks.

The rest of the country goes berserk about a football game. People stock up on beer, pizza, chicken wings, and nachos to watch the end of the season blowout. Many watch simply for the over-priced commercials.

We watch. Some of us are even football fans. But most of us are biding our time. Our biggest debut is around the corner.

We sit with other race fans and discuss. My husband and I engaged in the following discussion verbatim over the weekend:

“Why would Coach Gibbs stick with KyBu?”

“He brings the publicity and the sponsors love it.”

“How do you think Matt Kenseth will do in his new team?”

“He’ll do brilliantly. He’s the kind of driver who can tell what is wrong with the car, how to fix it, and then win. He could very well be the next Cup Champion bringing Toyota their first championship. He should definitely have a positive affect over there at JGR. In fact, if he wins a championship for Gibbs in the same equipment that Denny and Kyle haven’t, there could be big changes on the horizon.”

Whether you agree or disagree, you undoubtedly have had similar discussions with your NASCAR-loving friends.

You may also be thinking about whether Tony Stewart, arguably similar to Dale Earnhardt in the number of races he’s won at Daytona without getting the coveted 500 win, will take the checkered flag on Sunday, February 24th.

A Nation of others is willing their driver – Dale Jr. – to win the Great American Race. If he does – or when – it will be his second win at this crown jewel of races for the Cup Series, his first coming in 2004.

Whoever you root for you know the day the race is here you will be filled with immense passion for the sport. The unrequited love of the offseason will finally be replaced with the consummation –commencement.

But that’s then. Right now all we have is the anticipation. And as much as I cannot wait for the offseason to end and the race season to begin, there is something sweet – and thrilling – about the anticipation.

Like that first kiss, anticipation is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.


Chief 187™ is a writer, columnist, and blogger as well as creator of the widely popular Chief 187™Chatter. Her column “Why I Love NASCAR” and other articles are featured on Skirts and Scuffs. She can be reached via Twitter by following @Chief187s. To find out more please visit http://Chief187.com.