Showing posts with label Furniture Row Racing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Furniture Row Racing. Show all posts

Friday, November 1, 2013

Martin Truex Jr. finds a home with Furniture Row Racing for 2014 and beyond

Martin Truex Jr. and Joe Garone at Texas Motor Speedway
Credit: Lisa Janine Cloud/Skirts and Scuffs
"Let's not waste any time. This has been a long time coming," said Joe Garone as he announced Martin Truex Jr. as the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy for 2014 and beyond.

"I know this has been a big secret and everybody's shocked," said Truex Jr.

They inked the contract last night.

Garone was obviously excited about the deal, and sang Truex Jr.'s praises, saying that the driver and his family are just a good fit for Furniture Row.

"He's a Chase-caliber driver and race winner, and he represents our products well," said Garone.

"This is only the second time I've changed teams and it's very difficult." Truex Jr. spoke well of Michael Waltrip Racing, but said, "After everything that went down there, I just felt it was time it to do something different."

Addressing the rumors that the delay in announcing the agreement was because he wanted a one-year deal, Truex Jr. said, "I can tell you that isn't true. It's a multiple-year deal. Did you read that on the internet?"

No word yet on whether NAPA will join him.

Truex Jr. talked to other teams, but nothing concrete was offered. "There were a lot of hypotheticals."

He said, "As unlucky as I got at Richmond a couple of months ago, I got just as lucky here."

The alliance with RCR is particularly attractive to Truex Jr., especially since he's friends with Ryan Newman, who will be at Childress next season.

"Sometimes you just have to have faith," said Garone. "An opportunity that you just couldn't even dream about happening. It was tough to be patient."

When the "dominoes started falling" at MWR, Truex Jr.'s first thought he wouldn't repeat, but he did say, "I was terrified. What am I going to do next  year? It's September. Everybody's got their rides for next year. It was like getting punched in the face.

"That ship has sailed. I don't even like talking about it anymore."

Truex Jr. just wants to talk about the future, and how lucky he is to get a ride of the caliber of the No. 78.

In fact, after the cursing and terror, his said his first thought was,  "Let's get ahold of these guys and see if we can do this. It happened fast, but again it's one of those deals you never seen it coming but all of a sudden it did."

He allowed that the Furniture Row team is very different, especially in comparison to MRW and Dale Earnhardt Inc. and not just because it's based in Colorado. Being a single-car team gives the operation a great deal of agility. Scheduling hasn't allowed Truex Jr. to make it to Denver yet, but he's satisfied that the experience will be positive.

"The biggest thing talking to the team is that they're focused on race cars. Fan experiences and shop tours don't make cars go fast," said Truex Jr. "These guys are 100% focused on making race cars, fast race cars, and I can't wait to drive them."

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

In the Pits: Kenyatta Houston

Photo Credit: Unique Hiram/Skirts&Scuffs
"The biggest adventure that you can take is to live the life of your dreams." - Oprah Winfrey

For the past eight years Kenyatta Houston has been working his way up through several racing series that included ARCA, NASCAR Camping World Trucks and Nationwide, trailblazing his way in the pits to the Cup level. He currently works as the rear tire changer for the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet driven by 2004 Cup (formerly NEXTEL) champion Kurt Busch.

New York to NASCAR

Kenyatta was born in the “Big Apple,” more specifically the Bronx (NY) and raised in Charlotte, NC. He played several different types of sports throughout school including football and basketball. Before becoming heavily involved in the motorsports industry, Kenyatta attended college and then played semi-professional football for a team located in Iredell County.

Speaking about his start in the motorsports industry, he had this to say: “Eventually they (referring to NASCAR) started recruiting minorities and athletes all at the same time. They wanted pit stops to be a little faster so that is when I got the opportunity to be in the sport. Once I got in then it was just working my way up from the ARCA level on to Trucks and Nationwide. Now after eight years of doing this, I am at the Cup level.”

Throughout his career, Kenyatta has pitted for teams such as Eddie Sharp Racing (Chase Miller), Kevin Harvick Incorporated (four-time Camping World Truck champion Ron Hornaday), Front Row Motorsports (David Gilliland) and now Furniture Row Racing (2004 NEXTEL champion Kurt Busch).

Rapper & Entrepreneur

Jay-Z, Eminem, 50 Cent, T.I., Tupac & Biggie – do any of those names sound familiar? If you are a huge fan of hip hop music then I am sure these names are etched in your psyche.

Did you know that there is one unsung, multi-faceted hip-hop artist who works on pit road named “Yatta Da Kaptain?” This happens to be the stage name and alter ego of Kenyatta Houston.

“I’ve been doing music for a while and I was exposed to hip hop at a young age being from the Bronx (NY). Being down in North Carolina, it just became a hobby for me. I’m more interested in the engineering side, the equipment and having my own home studio – that’s what I’m good at. You know most of the rappers who do music, most of that is based off of your life and what things that you grew up with. My music has changed from when what I was doing before NASCAR to now since I’ve been doing this for eight years. You know I can’t help but rap about it.”

Official Music Video: "Life in The Pits" (as broadcast on SPEED)

It was interesting to find out that Kenyatta provided and played CDs of his songs during pit crew workout sessions in the gym and word began to spread like wildflowers about his unsung talent.

Another venture of this multi-tasking pit crew member was that of restaurant owner. Kap-N-Gabes, which is located in Davidson, NC, was a take-out restaurant featuring menu items such as burgers, hot dogs, chicken and fish.

“One of my older cousins already had the restaurant open and the interest came for me to join in with him. Well, I’ve never done it before except for working at Hardee’s when I was 16 (laughs). I thought it would be pretty fun and it was.” Unfortunately, due to his travel demands and his cousin being ill the restaurant closed down in October 2012. You can check their Facebook page here for any future business updates.

His hobbies outside of NASCAR include coaching basketball and mentoring young children in the community. “When I was coming up I had people to do the same (referring to mentorship) for me so I try to take a hold of those things and just give back.”
Photo Credit: Ro Cowan, Skirts&Scuffs
As you know, there are many women and minorities who are taking a chance at making their mark in the motorsports industry, more specifically NASCAR. I asked Kenyatta about what advice he would give to those individuals, he said, “My advice to any women, minorities or African Americans who are trying to get into the sport is not to think of it as a handicap but to your advantage because here in the sport you are going to stand out. Once you get involved and you are on a crew then you are going to stand out. Don’t think of it as negative but as positive because if you perform well then that means everyone on the team is going to be watching. So, if you don’t stay on your game then that can hurt you, too. because everyone will be watching you out there.”

These are some great words of wisdom from an individual who has put in the work and capitalized on the opportunities that were presented to him. Kenyatta Houston is definitely someone to keep an eye on in the NASCAR industry. He is a hard working, self-disciplined athlete and multi-talented individual who is sure to keep trailblazing his way into history.

Official Twitter (Kenyatta Houston), click here.

Official Website (Yatta Da Kaptain), click here.

Official Website (Furniture Row Racing), click here.

I would like to thank Kenyatta Houston for taking out the time in his busy schedule before the race at Kansas Speedway to do this interview with me on behalf of Skirts and Scuffs.

Unique Hiram is an Associate Editor/Contributing Writer/Media Rep for Skirts and Scuffs. Additionally, she is also the author of "Fast Lane Poetry," which was published April 2011. Unique can be contacted via email or through Twitter.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pete Rondeau named competition director at Furniture Row Racing

Pete Rondeau, who has been affiliated with Furniture Row Racing since the 2010 season, has been elevated to the competition director position for the NASCAR Sprint Cup team.

Rondeau initially joined the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing as the team’s car chief. He assumed the crew chief role in May 2010 and served in that capacity until July 2012.

In his new position as competition director, Rondeau will be the point person at the Denver race shop with the building and preparation of the team’s No. 78 Chevrolets which will be driven by former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch.

Rondeau will report to Mark McArdle, Furniture Row Racing’s executive director of competition, who also serves as director of racing operations at Richard Childress Racing (RCR). Furniture Row Racing and RCR are partners with a technical and engineering alliance.

“Since joining Furniture Row Racing Pete has played a significant role with team development,” said team general manager Joe Garone. “His transition to the competition director position is having a positive impact in our continuing effort to strengthen our overall program.”

Rondeau is also upbeat about the direction of Furniture Row Racing.

“With the tremendous gains Furniture Row Racing has made in recent years and the solid foundation that it has built, the opportunity has never been better to reach a higher level of competition,” said Rondeau. “That is why I am enthusiastically looking forward to this new challenge and working with Mark (McArdle) and also with my counterparts at RCR.”

A native of New England, Rondeau grew up in Saco, Maine, approximately 90-miles north from New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

Prior to joining Furniture Row Racing, Rondeau worked at Evernham Motorsports where he served as the team's director of research and development from July 2005 to the end of the 2009 season.

He also worked at Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI) from 2001 to May 2005 and Jasper Motorsports from 1998-2001. During his three-plus years at DEI, Rondeau's positions included the crew chief role for both Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Rondeau has also had experience behind the wheel of a race car. Before he traveled south to North Carolina in 1998 to work in NASCAR, he raced for many years on the New England short tracks, including super late model cars in the American Canadian Tour. He also drove in NASCAR’s Pro Series East and the Whelen Modified Tour Series.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Furniture Row Racing hires Mike Houston as pit crew coach

Furniture Row Racing to
Establish Own Over-The-Wall Crew
DENVER, Colo. (Dec. 4, 2012) – Furniture Row Racing has taken another major step in a continuing effort to strengthen its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.
The Denver-based organization, which showcases the No. 78 Chevrolet driven by 24-time Cup winner Kurt Busch, announced today that it will develop, train and oversee its own over-the-wall pit crew starting with the 2013 season.
Furniture Row Racing has been utilizing over-the-wall crews employed and trained by other NASCAR teams, most recently with crewmen from Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR).
Mike “Tiny” Houston, a veteran over-the-wall crewman, has been hired as the pit crew coach for Furniture Row Racing. He will oversee and direct the specialized pit crew of six members, who will train at the 32,000-square foot Performance Instruction & Training (PIT) facility in Mooresville, N.C.
Houston joins Furniture Row Racing from Hendrick Motorsports where he performed the front-tire carrier duties on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s race car. During his seven-year stint at Hendrick Motorsports, Houston also worked as a front-tire carrier on Jeff Gordon’s and Jimmie Johnson’s cars.
A standout athlete, Houston played football (defensive tackle) for Western Carolina and wrestled professionally in the National Wrestling Alliance. He was known as the Minister of Pain during his wrestling career.
“Re-establishing our own over-the-wall crew has been high on our radar,” said Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone. “But before entering into this vital operation, we wanted to make sure that we had everything in place that would allow us to produce a highly-qualified over-the-wall crew.
“With Mike Houston coming on board to lead us in this new venture, he brings first-hand experience and a thorough understanding of what it takes to develop and maintain a successful pit crew week in and week out. And being able to train at the state-of-the-art PIT facility is a great opportunity that will only enhance our program.”  

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kurt Busch gets new ride for 2013

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts & Scuffs  
Furniture Row Racing Hires
Kurt Busch to Drive No. 78 Chevy in 2013
DENVER, Colo. (Sept. 24, 2012) – Furniture Row Racing announced today that Kurt Busch has been hired to drive the team’s No. 78 Chevrolet during the 2013 Sprint Cup season.
Busch, a former NASCAR Cup champion, will replace Regan Smith, who joined Furniture Row Racing at the beginning of the 2009 season.
“Though we have made strides as a resourceful single-car Sprint Cup team, we are not where we want to be, which led us to the difficult decision of making a driver change as we move forward,” said Furniture Row Racing's general manager Joe Garone.“Kurt’s exceptional driving talent has the capacity to take a team to another level. We look forward to having Kurt join our Denver-based organization and feel his racing experience will play an important role as we plan ahead to 2013.”
Garone added, “As our team driver the past four years, Regan has represented Furniture Row Racing with both class and competitiveness. His win at Darlington in 2011 – the first for Furniture Row Racing – will be a memory forever etched in our organization’s history. He is a friend, and will always be a friend of Furniture Row Racing. We wish him all the best.”
Busch, a 34 year-old native of Las Vegas, has been a full time driver in the Sprint Cup Series since 2001. He has 427 Cup starts and has scored 24 wins, 89 top-fives, 171 top-10s and 15 poles. He has qualified for the Chase six times in the past nine years and won the 2004 inaugural Chase season championship in only his third full season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
“Furniture Row Racing has the commitment, talent and resources to compete at a high level in the Sprint Cup Series,” said Busch. "I have watched with admiration on how this team has grown over the years and that is why I am excited about the opportunity as I eagerly look forward to a new chapter in my racing career."
Since the beginning of the 2012 season, Busch has driven the No. 51 Chevrolet for Phoenix Racing. His previous two teams in the Sprint Cup Series were at Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Todd Berrier Named Crew Chief For The No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet

DENVER, Colo. (July 24, 2012) -  Furniture Row Racing announced today that Todd Berrier has been named crew chief for the team's No. 78 Chevrolet driven by Regan Smith.

Berrier, who replaces Pete Rondeau, will take over the crew chief duties immediately. His first race on the pit box will be Sunday's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In making the announcement team general manager Joe Garone said, "Todd will be a great fit with our operation. The skill sets he has acquired during a successful crew chief career will be valuable assets as we move forward with a high level of energy and anticipation.”

Berrier worked as a Sprint Cup crew chief for 11 years at Richard Childress Racing (RCR) before joining JTG Daugherty Racing and driver Bobby Labonte at the start of the 2012 season.

During his tenure at RCR, Berrier was crew chief for eight victories, including two of NASCAR's biggest events, the Daytona 500 (2007 with Kevin Harvick) and the Brickyard 400 (2003 also with Harvick).

Berrier directed Harvick's Chase playoff appearances in 2006, 2007 and 2008. Along with serving as Harvick's crew chief, Berrier also worked in the same capacity with RCR drivers Jeff Burton, Casey Mears and Jeff Green.

"Furniture Row Racing has a reputation in the Sprint Cup garage for its commitment and potential," said the 42-year-old Berrier. "I welcome this opportunity and can't wait to begin my new position at Indianapolis this weekend."

- Courtesy of Furniture Row Racing Press Release

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Furniture Row Racing Announces 2012 Associate Sponsorships

CSX Transportation Joins Denver-based NASCAR Team; Chevrolet, Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers Renew Associate Roles

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Jan. 25, 2012) – Coming off its most competitive season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Furniture Row Racing is enjoying similar success on the sponsorship side with the addition of CSX Transportation and its railroad crossing and pedestrian safety campaign for the 2012 season.

CSX Transportation, the largest railroad in the East and third largest in the United States, joins Chevrolet and Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers in the associate sponsorship role with all three companies complementing the team’s primary sponsors – Furniture Row and Denver Mattress.

“Having a new associate sponsorship arrangement with CSX Transportation along with a renewed agreement with Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers and an ongoing relationship with Chevrolet brings a new level of enthusiasm to our race team,” said Joe Garone, general manager of Furniture Row Racing.

“The three corporations are leaders in their industry and we are both humbled and proud that they have chosen Furniture Row Racing as a means to enhance their company’s branding and educational initiatives.”
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., CSX Transportation maintains a more than 21,000-mile freight rail network serving 23 states and portions of Canada.

Building upon several years of its innovative safety communications campaign, CSX will utilize the Furniture Row Racing sponsorship as part of the “Play it Safe” campaign to urge pedestrians and motorists to exercise caution around railroad tracks.

“We are pleased to join with Furniture Row Racing and driver Regan Smith to deliver our important safety message that railroad crossings and tracks can be dangerous if you don’t obey the law,” said Cliff Stayton, Director-Community Affairs and Safety for CSX Transportation. “We are working together to make sure that everyone knows how to play it safe around railroad tracks.”

Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers manufactures and markets in-house formulated and branded liquid fertilizer products. Incorporated in 1983, the St. Johns, Mich.-based agricultural company has worked years ahead of the industry response to the demand for environmentally-friendly products. The company owns the largest fertilizer research farm in the United States dedicated to plant nutrition.

Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers has partnered with Furniture Row Racing’s Farm American program, an initiative to bring awareness to the importance of keeping America’s food supply produced in the United States.

“After telling the Farm American story for a year with Furniture Row Racing we are pleased that the message is getting stronger with more people and companies joining the team,” said Albert Bancroft, marketing and communications manager for Agro-Culture Liquid Fertilizers. “We are a strong supporter and look forward to being involved another year as we all continue to positively promote American agriculture.”

Founded in 1911 in Detroit, Chevrolet is one of the world’s largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries and selling more than 4 million cars and trucks a year. From a competition standpoint in NASCAR, Chevrolet and its iconic bowtie logo have been dominant with nine consecutive manufacturer championships and 35 overall.

The Denver-based Furniture Row Racing single-car team and its driver Regan Smith enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2011. Smith and Furniture Row Racing captured their first career NASCAR victory in May, winning the famed Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway.

Smith drove his No. 78 Chevrolet to one victory, two top-fives and five top-10s last season. He scored top-10s in NASCAR’s four biggest races – Daytona 500 (seventh), Southern 500 (first), Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (eighth) and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (third).

- Courtesy of Furniture Row Racing

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Under the Spotlight: Regan Smith Looks to Step It Up a Notch

Regan Smith started from the 11th position and ran around the top 10
for much of the day before running out of gas Sunday at New Hampshire.
Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
Regan Smith and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team came close to earning their fourth top 10 of the season before running out of fuel in the final laps of Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Smith started from the 11th position and ran around the top 10 for much of the day before fuel mileage relegated him to a 33rd-place finish.

Before Smith ran out of fuel, Kasey Kahne’s No. 4 Red Bull Racing Toyota made several attempts at passing Smith for 5th position, but Smith was able to stand his ground until the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson came along and propelled himself and Kahne forward and past Smith.

In his eight starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Smith’s best finish was 19th last season and he has an average finish of 28.8.

Smith, who sits 27th in the drivers standings, has seen far more success this year than in the years past. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team has seen many firsts this season.

At the Daytona 500, the season’s opener, Smith led the race with five laps remaining and finished seventh. After hitting a rough patch in the season, his tough luck finally ended in May at the Southern 500 at Darlington, where he collected his first win of his career and for his team. Smith also has one top-5 and three top-10 finishes.

“When I look back at the first half of the season it’s been pretty special – getting our first win (Darlington), first top-10, qualifying for the All-Star race, running strong in the Daytona 500 and consistently being at the top or near the top in qualifying average,” said Smith prior to Sunday’s race in New Hampshire.

“We came into this season knowing that we could do this. Right now, I feel that we can step it up another notch or two during the second half of the season. I would like to start the second half the same way we started the first half, which was a seventh-place finish in the Daytona 500,” said Smith.

Kristina LaFountain's columns for Skirts and Scuffs include Red Bull Rundown, Under the Spotlight and Racing Toward a Cause. She is also a contributor for Speedway Media. You can follow Kristina on Twitter @klafounta.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Motor Mouth: Long road to victory for Smith, Furniture Row Racing

Credit: John Harrelson/Getty Images for NASCAR
The Southern 500 at Darlington provided us with our second opportunity to see a driver clinch their first Sprint Cup win when Regan Smith held off Carl Edwards at the checkered flag. Though it’s always fun to see a new face in victory lane, the win capped off a long journey for Smith and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team in the Sprint Cup Series.

In NASCAR's top series, Furniture Row Racing has been the small fish in a big pond. The one-car team, owned by Barney Visser and sponsored by the retail chain Furniture Row, has been competing against multi-car powerhouses like Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway since its inception in 2005. As if that didn’t seem daunting enough, Furniture Row is based in Denver, Colo., an oddity among race teams as most operate in or near Charlotte, NC, the heart of NASCAR. According to the team’s website, “Some said we were crazy to be based ‘out west,’ but we built our business and our team with the same pioneering spirit that helped tame the Rocky Mountains.”

It’s this spirit that kept the team going despite cutting back to part-time status as recently as 2009, due to financial constraints. The No. 78 had featured a variety of drivers, including Kenny Wallace and Joe Nemechek. But in 2009 came Regan Smith. The 2008 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year piloted the ride for 18 races.

Had things been different, Smith would have already been known as a Sprint Cup race winner by this point in time. At the fall Talladega race in 2008, Smith crossed the finish line first, beating Tony Stewart for the win. But NASCAR rescinded the victory because Smith had advanced his position by going below the yellow line. Stewart was credited with the win and Smith was left with the heartache of having won his first Cup race, then not having won at all.

When Furniture Row Racing was able to run full-time again in 2010, the team signed Smith for the 2010 season. The team also formed a chassis alliance with one of NASCAR’s top teams, Richard Childress Racing. The year offered a fresh start for both Furniture Row and Smith.

That year Smith’s best finishes were a pair of 12th-places in the fall races at Fontana and Talladega; he finished 28th in the points standings. It wasn’t where he and the team wanted to be, Smith even worried about being fired. But in the last three races of 2010, Smith had qualified in the top-10, his best starting spots all year. This would be a precursor of things to come.

For the 2011 season, Furniture Row further boosted its race program by forming alliances with Earnhardt-Childress Racing for its engines and Stewart-Haas Racing, who provides the pit crew for the No. 78. By the time the season got under way, it became obvious that Smith and Furniture Row had found something. In the first 10 races of the season, Smith qualified in the top-10 seven times. He nearly scored his first pole at Richmond before having to settle for the outside pole position.

In the season opener at Daytona, Smith claimed his first top-10 finish in Cup with a seventh-place effort. Unfortunately after Daytona, Smith experienced several good runs only to have bad luck or mechanical engine failures spoil his day. Outside of Daytona, his best finishes were 15th at Talladega and 17th at Richmond - the last two races leading up to Darlington.

The weekend didn't start out very promising at the "Track Too Tough to Tame," however. Qualifying was the No. 78's strong suit, but Smith’s starting position of 23rd was his worst of the season. Once the green flag drops, though, it’s not where you start – it’s where you finish. After so many good runs had been quashed, Smith was looking to seal the deal at Darlington. With 11 laps left, crew chief Pete Rondeau's call to stay out on old tires put Smith in front of the field. On the last restart, Smith was racing series points leader Carl Edwards and got loose - hitting Darlington's famous wall. It was a mistake that could have killed Smith's momentum. Instead Smith saved it, picked up steam and stayed ahead of Edwards. When the checkered flag flew, this time there was no doubt who had won.

Smith had claimed his first Cup win, following Trevor Bayne as the second driver to do so this season. And the demons that had haunted him since that near-victory at Talladega were finally put to rest.

"I'll be honest with you, I didn't know if I was ever going to get it back. To get it back at Darlington, absolutely it's vindication. Winning here to me means more to me than that win could have ever meant," Smith said after the race.

Even Edwards was excited for Cup's newest winner, calling Smith a "heck of a guy."

For Furniture Row Racing, the little team that could, did. The first win for the only race team west of the Misissippi "means everything," said team General Manager Joe Garone.

"We've been six years building this team and literally started from scratch. I can tell you a lot of people, and I can't say I wasn't with them when Barney Visser wanted it run out of Colorado, that we might just be crazy. It's been a long road," Garone said.

Smith added, "Everybody said for how long, you can't race outside of Charlotte, the 20-mile radius where all the teams are, you can't do it. We've been doing it every week."

The win not only means that Smith will compete in the upcoming All Star Race, but it could be pivotal in terms of making the Chase. Smith, currently 27th in the standings, is eligible for one of two wildcard positions in NASCAR's 10-race playoffs for drivers who have the most wins sitting in the 11th to 20th positions in points.

After making their mark in Sprint Cup, the goal for Smith and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team remains in focus: "We need to take chances like we did tonight and try to sneak some wins out," Smith said. "Our main focus (before Darlington) was, let's try and sneak as many wins as we can and get back in the 20 points."


Credit: Geoff Burke/
Getty Images for NASCAR
This week Forbes released its list of America’s Most Influential Athletes and NASCAR had a significant presence. Not only did three NASCAR drivers make the top 10, but one captured the top spot.

After his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson was named the most influential athlete of the year. Johnson beat out the likes of New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (No. 2), basketball great Shaquille O’Neal (No. 4) and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (No. 7). The list was based on a poll of more than 1,000 adults conducted by E-Poll Market Research and Nielsen Media Research.

The article cited Johnson’s guy-next-door appeal paired with his incredible success in NASCAR among the reasons for his high standing. The article also noted that “Johnson has seen a spike in popularity as other athletes flatten out or decline amid labor strife.”

Joining Johnson on the list are his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 3) and four-time champion Jeff Gordon (No. 8). Gordon’s win at Phoenix earlier this season is credited as part of a NASCAR resurgence that has helped make the public more aware of the sport’s drivers.

To see the full list of Most Influential Athletes, click here.


In recent weeks a violent torrent of tornadoes and floods has left a path of devastation throughout the South. The twisters killed more than 300 people across five states, with 249 deaths alone in Alabama and 41 of those after a massive tornado struck Tuscaloosa. NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Eric McClure was affected when a tornado severely damaged his home in Abingdon, Va. Fortunately McClure and his family were uninjured in the disaster.

While some of these stories are on the backburner as other news stories take their place, the victims of these disasters still need our help as they try to put their lives back together.

Here are some ways you can help:
  • American Red Cross: Text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation or visit the organization's online donation page.
  • Salvation Army: Text GIVE to 80888 to make a $10 donation to the organization’s disaster relief services or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY. To donate online, visit the organization’s website at; designate your donation for “April 2011 Tornado Outbreak” or “May Floods.”
  • NASCAR Unites: The recently launched initiative aims to unite the NASCAR community to help aid victims of the tornadoes and floods through its disaster relief fund. To make a donation, visit NASCAR Unites' online donation page or write to NASCAR Unites Disaster Relief Fund, c/o The NASCAR Foundation, 550 S. Caldwell St., Suite 2000, Charlotte, NC 28202.
Motor Mouth is a weekly column in which Skirts and Scuffs lead editor Rebecca Kivak spouts off about the latest NASCAR happenings. Continue the conversation by leaving a comment below. To read past columns, click here.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Under the Spotlight: Regan Smith, Furniture Row Racing No Longer Underestimated

Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR
Regan Smith and his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team were considered underdogs in every sense of the word. Following their victory in the Showtime Southern 500 at Darlington, they have now earned the respect they deserve as a team that can compete against the big dogs week in and week out.

Smith’s victory was one that was long overdue and a definite redemption after he was deprived of an apparent victory at Talladega in 2008. Smith was black-flagged after driving below the yellow out-of-bounds line while fending off Tony Stewart for the win.

“This is no knock against Talladega at all, but I would trade in a lot of Talladega wins for one win in the Southern 500,” said Smith. “This race is so special and so meaningful. We were standing there looking at the names and the faces on the trophy, and you just look at it, and you think, ‘My face is going to be there right next to these guys, and it’ll be there forever.’ ”

After Saturday night’s race, many were worried that the chaos between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch would overshadow Smith’s first visit to victory lane, but the truth is - Smith himself was unaware of the feud between his fellow drivers.

"I have no clue what happened in the race other than us winning,” said Smith. “You know what, if that’s what’s talked about next week, so be it. I don’t care.”

“It’s not going to take away from the feeling I’ve got right now."

In the final laps of the Southern 500, Smith and his crew chief Pete Rondeau made the decision to stay on the track as the leaders pitted for tires under the 10th caution of the night.

Smith (who started the race in 23rd), Brad Keselowski and Stewart all elected to stay out resulting in Smith becoming the race leader for the restart on Lap 362.

Once again, Smith found himself fighting against Stewart in the final laps of the race but this time it would be Carl Edwards who he would eventually hold off for the win.

Although strategy played a big roll in how Smith’s night would end, holding off a charging Edwards would be no easy feat. As the pair raced through Turn 2, Smith made contact with the wall but was able to remain in control and crossed the finish line 0.196 seconds ahead of Edwards in a green-white-checkered finish.

The fireworks exploded both on and off the track as Smith celebrated in victory lane while Harvick and Busch continued their battle on pit road. Although much of the media attention seemed to be centered around the fighting between the No. 29 and No. 18 teams of Harvick and Busch respectively, this did not seem to deter from the excitement of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team.

After all, Smith’s victory also meant a win for the sport’s smaller scale teams. Smith’s team, Furniture Row Racing is a single-car organization operating out of Denver, Colo., and the only Sprint Cup team to operate out in the midwest.

The team uses chassis from Richard Childress Racing, engines from Earnhardt-Childress Racing Engines and a loaned pit crew from Stewart Haas Racing.

"Everybody said, 'For how long? You can't race outside of Charlotte, the 20-mile radius where all the teams are. You can't do it,'" Smith said. "We've been doing it every week."

Prior to his victory, Smith went 105 races without any wins and had only one career top-10 (seventh in this year’s Daytona 500).

In Saturday’s race at Darlington, not only was Smith able to hold his own (running on old tires) against current Sprint Cup points leader Carl Edwards but he has also earned himself a spot in some of the most coveted events in the sport.

Following his win, Smith is now eligible to compete in the Sprint All-Star race and if he can make the top-20 in points, will become a contender for the Sprint Cup title (he is currently 27th in points).

Smith has also earned the respect of his fellow drivers and those who may have doubted his abilities along with the capabilities of his single-car team.

“Regan is as good as any driver out there,” said Edwards, runner-up in Saturday’s Southern 500. “Those guys have earned what they have. They've been out qualifying everyone. It's just a matter of time before they put a whole race together. Myself included, all of us underestimated them a little bit. But that will occur no longer."

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Stewart-Haas Racing Darlington Review—Two Top 10’s and a Winning Pit Crew

Ryan Newman in the garage at Darlington.
Credit: Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR

Both Stewart-Haas drivers got top-10 finishes at the May 7 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway  and a Stewart-Haas over-the-wall crew pitted the winning car for Furniture Row Racing’s Regan Smith. The “Lady in Black” failed to provide SHR a much-needed win, but did yield solid finishes and a good points day for both SHR teams.
After a week filled with the Montoya vs. Newman saga, created after some high-speed bumper tag at Richmond the previous week, taking on 42 other cars on a warm southern night was a much-needed distraction for Ryan Newman.

Newman was fastest during the rain-shortened first practice and qualified on the front row beside pole winner Kasey Kahne. After the green flag waved, Newman moved into the lead on lap 10 and held that lead until pit stops on lap 37. When he pitted, however, he rolled the car in the pit box and returned to the track in the seventh spot.

Newman kept losing positions and the car did not respond to the changes the team was making. “We have got to change something big when we get a caution,” Newman told his crew at lap 180 and they were eventually able to do that. Although he went a lap down at one point in the race, Newman was able to grab a fifth-place Darlington finish and move to sixth in the Sprint Cup points.

“It was a big rebound for us during the race to finish fifth,” Newman said, “but it was an even bigger rebound from the past few races and from everything that has gone on this past week and, now, going into this long stretch of races. It was a good night for us, and a nice job by (crew chief) Tony Gibson and the guys by not giving up.”

Tony Stewart, who has never won at Darlington Raceway, started the race in the ninth spot and finished the race seventh. He climbed to second and fell in behind teammate Newman when the No. 39 driver paced the field early in the race.

On lap 278, however, Stewart made a scheduled pit stop for four tires and fuel but the caution flag waved two laps later, putting him a lap down. Crew chief Darian Grubb decided to keep Stewart out on the track where he took the “wave around,” and restarted on lap 285 in 20th, the last car on the lead lap with 85 laps remaining.

“The caution that caught us out on the track – there was nothing we could do about it,” Stewart said. “But Darian and this team gave me a good car and we did the best we could with the hand we were dealt. The guys that got around us had fresher tires than us, and it showed on that last restart. This is a tough track. Seventh isn’t anything to celebrate, but we’ll take it.”

Stewart climbed three spots to seventh in the points standing, 65 behind leader Carl Edwards.

Furniture Row driver Regan Smith was the winner of the Southern 500 to claim his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win. Smith, through an alliance with Stewart-Haas Racing, uses an over-the-wall crew hired and trained by the SHR team. Team General Manager Joe Garone talked about the need for a single car team to form alliances with other teams and talked about how partners are necessary to a small team.

“Well, I think it does classify that (the little guy can win),” Team General Manager Joe Garone said. “It is part of the structure for how the little guy does business in Cup. You need partners. You need to have those relationships not just in place, but they have to be good relationships. I can't even express how good our relationship is with RCR, how well they work with us, the information flow between us. It's second to none."

Rosalie Thompson is a contributor who writes about Stewart-Haas Racing for Skirts and Scuffs and

Tony Stewart pits during Darlington Southern 500
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Thursday, January 27, 2011

NASCAR Sprint Media Tour Notes and Quotes - Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2011

NASCAR Restructures Point System and Method for Setting Chase Field

NASCAR announced Wednesday it would restructure the way it awards points and how it sets the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2011.

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer, made the announcements at the NASCAR Hall of Fame during the annual NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The new points system – which applies to all NASCAR national series – will award points in one-point increments. As an example, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, race winners will earn 43 points, plus three bonus points for the win. Winners also can earn an extra point for leading a lap and leading the most laps, bringing their total to a possible maximum of 48 points.

All other drivers in a finishing order will be separated by one-point increments. A second-place finisher will earn 42 points, a third-place driver 41 points, and so on. A last-place finisher – 43rd place – earns one point. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the last-place finisher receives eight points, to account for that series’ 36-driver race field.

When addressing the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, France indicated the 12-driver Chase field will remain intact, however the final two spots will be determined by the number of wins during the first 26 races. The top 10 in points following Race No. 26 – the “cutoff” race – continue to earn Chase berths. Positions 11 and 12 are “wild card” qualifiers and will go to non-top-10-ranked drivers with the most wins, as long as they’re ranked in the top 20 in points. The top-10 Chase drivers will continue to be seeded based on wins during the first 26 races, with each win worth three bonus points. The wild card drivers will not receive bonus points for wins and will be seeded 11th and 12th, respectively. It’s a move aimed towards rewarding winning and consistency during the regular season.

“The fans tell us that winning matters the most with them, so we’re combining the tradition of consistency in our sport with the excitement that comes along with winning,” said France. “This makes every race count leading into the 26th race of the season at Richmond, when we set the field for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.”

Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, weighed-in on the changes.

“I think it makes for a simpler system,” he said.” I like a lot of other fans had to break out the book to figure it out, to see how the points worked. Even with years and years of being involved in the sport it was difficult to know exactly how the points would shake out to be in a given race. Now we know it’s very simple. The margin of points has not changed a tremendous amount, but they have put more emphasis on winning which as a fan I love and I think all of the fans out there will really like it as well.”

Other announcements made by NASCAR Wednesday include:

Pick a Series – Drivers in all three national series now must select the series where they’ll compete for a driver championship. Drivers still may compete in multiple series and help their teams win owner titles in series where they’re not competing for a driver title. The move helps spotlight young talent in the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

New Qualifying Procedure – The qualifying order will be set based upon slowest to fastest practice speeds.
Inclement Weather Qualifying – If bad weather cancels qualifying, the final starting lineup will be determined by practice speeds. The same rule book procedures will be used to determine eligibility to start a race. If weather cancels practice sessions, then the starting lineup will be set by points, per the rule book.

Tire Rules Revision – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams now are allowed five sets of tires for practice and qualifying instead of six. They must return four of those sets to Goodyear in order to receive their race allotment, and may keep one set of practice/qualifying tires. Tire allotments for race weekends will vary according to historical performance data.

Closed Loop Fueling System – Introduced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, this goes into effect for all three national series in 2011. It combines a more efficient fueling system with the elimination of the catch-can man, considered the most “vulnerable” pit-crew member. Teams now will use six, rather than seven, over-the-wall pit-crew members.

Evolution Of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Car – NASCAR continues to work with the manufacturers and teams to enhance the look of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car. The cars have new fronts this season and the body makeover will continue to help appeal to fans and aid manufacturer identity.

Furniture Row Racing Details Season Plans At New Retail Store

The third day of the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway began with a breakfast visit to the Charlotte, N.C., area’s new Furniture Row retail store and its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race team. This marked the first time in the 29-year history of the tour that participants visited a retail store for a presentation.

Regan Smith, 2008 Sprint Cup rookie of the year, will drive Furniture Row Racing’s (FRR) No. 78 Chevrolet Impala. Smith was the first rookie in Cup history to finish every race he started.

FRR is based in Denver, Colo., far removed from most of the other NASCAR Sprint Cup teams. General Manager Joe Garone noted the reason the team is located there.

“Barney Visser, the company owner, lives in Denver, and the company headquarters is located there,” said Garone. “It just made sense to start racing right there. The first couple of years were just about trying to get it all done. We worked out all the bugs so we could make that happen. The biggest thing is in preparation. We have to be prepared. The other big challenge is moving all the pieces around. We have to get chassis and engines and all the parts. At the end of the day it’s about trucking.”

Garone spoke of the team’s 2011 season plans.

“We wanted to get one team working very well. We feel that with the addition of the guys we have, we are getting there. And, we would really like to get a second team going. One of the biggest advantages for us is that we are a fully funded race team, but we are actively seeking sponsorship to get a second team going.”
Mark McArdle is FRR’s managing director of competition and related how the team has progressed.

“I think we have the perspective of what a race team can accomplish,” said McArdle. “We are going forward, and we have everything in place to take the team to the next level of competition.”

Pete Rondeau will resume his role as crew chief for 2011.

“I’m relating better to Regan,” said Rondeau. “We have a good relationship and are working to get better. We just need to keep on with the way we ended last year, and that is with consistency. We are working harder at getting the most from the race car.”

Twenty-seven-year-old driver Smith has come a long way with the team and thinks the new year has promise.

“From my standpoint and the team’s standpoint, if we can continue to build on the way we finished last year, that is what our goals are,” said Smith. “We want to make the same level of progression this year and step up. I think the team can run in the top 10 consistently. That’s exciting for us. I have been here three years now and saw where we came from to where it is today. It’s been a lot of hard work, I know. It’s been kind of neat to see this whole program grow.”

Richard Petty Motorsports Addresses Financial Issues, Optimistic About 2011

During a press conference in Charlotte Motor Speedway’s NASCAR Nationwide Series garage, representatives from Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) and Ford Racing made 2011 season sponsor announcements and gave 100 lucky race fans track rides in Ford Mustangs.

Richard Petty opened by thanking the fans in attendance and his sponsors, briefly referring to the financial problems that beset RPM throughout 2010 and led many to speculate Petty had seen his final season as a car owner. The seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion joined with two investment companies toward the end of 2010 to buy RPM’s assets; he now serves as chairman of the reorganized group.

“We had a pretty rough time last year,” Petty said, “but everybody stayed with us. The sponsors stayed with us through the winter and came back on board for the new season. I have to give our crew a lot of credit. For the last five or six races, they didn’t know if they were going to have a job the next week, but they stepped it up, the drivers stepped it up, and we ended up with a pretty good season.

“As everybody knows, we had four cars last year; we’re going to have two cars this year.”

Stanley Tools, which has been involved with RPM since 2005, is returning as a sponsor of the No. 9 Ford Fusion driven by Marcos Ambrose. The tool-maker and DeWalt, which returns to NASCAR action for 2011, will serve as primary sponsors.

A.J. Allmendinger will pilot the No. 43 Ford Fusion, which will have Best Buy sponsorship for 24 races, with Valvoline, U.S. Air Force, WIX Filters, Reynolds, and Paralyzed Veterans of America filling out the package.

Andrew Murstein, president of Medallion Financial, spoke about his company’s investment in RPM.

“My father got his start in 1937 as a taxi driver in New York City,” Murstein said. “He began buying taxi medallions [city-issued licenses] and eventually acquired hundreds of them that now trade for $800,000 each. That’s the way we view all investments. Like with those medallions, I hope that 70 years from now my children are involved just like Richard’s family is involved in his business.”

Since going public with its stock in 1996 (Nasdaq symbol: TAXI), Medallion has invested more than $3.5 billion in companies such as RPM.

“All of our companies fit the same model we have here – a great tradition and great integrity. The board of directors of my company includes Hank Aaron – another ‘King’ of his sport – who reminds me a lot of Richard. Both are very humble men and legends who have transformed their sports.”

Director of Ford North America Motorsports, Jamie Allison, spoke about Ford’s commitment to Petty’s team.

“We at Ford really believe in the new RPM. RPM is very important to us. We have a long and illustrious tradition in the sport. We have a great team between Roush Fenway Racing, RPM, and the Wood Brothers and we stick with our teams. When Richard reached out to us last year, there was not a moment of consideration on our part. Our chairman, Edsel Ford – the chairman of Ford Racing – absolutely felt in his heart that it was the right thing to do, to make sure the legacy of Richard Petty continues.

“It is the steady hand of Robbie Loomis [RPM’s director of competition] that will guide this team. He is very tenured, very accomplished, and we are looking forward to going where he has been – on championship row.

“And let’s not forget the guys who are going to pilot these cars. A.J. Allmendinger is returning for his second year with the team. We are thrilled to have that. Marcos Ambrose, a champion from Australia, is here to make his claim on NASCAR. We are energized and very excited.”

A.J. Allmendinger was very positive about the new organization.

“I think the team has a ton of potential,” he said. “Mike Shiplett, my crew chief, is sitting right here, although I think he should be working right now. I promise you guys that Mike is going to be one of the greatest crew chiefs in this sport, because I see that from him on a daily basis. The work ethic he puts into the job trickles down to the rest of the race team.

“Marcos, I’m excited to have you on this team. I’m looking forward to being your teammate. Maybe you won’t run into me as much now.”

Marcos Ambrose spoke for a few minutes about his place on the NASCAR learning curve, but could not resist a playful jab at Allmendinger.

“If I was running into A.J. on the track, he was probably going too slow. I’m also looking forward to having him as a teammate.”

Bobby Allison with media Wednesday
at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Hall of Fame’s Kelley Recognizes Ford Racing Tie with 2011 Induction Class

Winston Kelley, executive director of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, N.C., welcomed NASCAR Sprint Media Tour participants to a Ford Racing-sponsored lunch at The Speedway Club at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“We are honored at the Hall of Fame,” Kelley said, “to have entertained and educated more than 200,000 guests since opening in May of last year and we are on track to have higher numbers than any other sports Hall of Fame in North America other than the [National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.].

“We have annual members from 44 states and five countries. They travel an average of 300 miles, and 57 percent said they came to Charlotte specifically to visit the Hall of Fame. We’re happy to be here with one of our strongest partners, Charlotte Motor Speedway, which contributes more than $400 million to the economy.

“The 2011 NASCAR Hall of Fame induction class has a definitive Ford tie - four of the five with long and strong ties to the company,” Kelley continued. “If you add in Richard Petty’s current relationship, all five have been tied to Ford. Each has played an integral role in the 110 years of Ford Racing. We hope all of you will join us at the May 23 induction ceremony.”

The 2011 class comprises Ned Jarrett (Ford’s first NASCAR Cup champion and all-time winningest driver in Ford’s NASCAR history), Bobby Allison (third on the all-time NASCAR Cup victories list), Bud Moore (whose cars finished in the top 10 in half of their 959 starts), Lee Petty, and David Pearson.

Hendrick Motorsports Driver/Crew Chief Changes in the Spotlight for 2011

Wednesday afternoon saw the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway make a stop at Hendrick Motorsports where the team’s drivers and crew chiefs discussed their 2011 season plans. The team has new driver/crew chief combinations, making personnel adjustments to three of the four teams. Only driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus remain together as the 2011 season gets underway.

Team owner Rick Hendrick talked about his state-of-the-sport views and their expectations for the year.

“It’s awesome to start the new year,” said Hendrick. “I don’t think as an organization we were as strong as the competition. We were thinking about it during the year and selecting the lineup. We didn’t want to go outside the walls. All of our employees show and do their best. I think we will have a good year and that we will all work together, and I will be happy. I have a lot of confidence in the organization.”

Hendrick also feels that the sport is rebounding from the bad economic conditions.

“I feel like we are coming back now,” said Hendrick. “The automobile business is selling more cars. The economy feels better. I have to say that NASCAR has gone above and beyond to reach out and work with all the teams, the drivers, and the crew chiefs and listen to the fans. I just feel better about our sport in general. I think the competition is there.”

NASCAR veteran Mark Martin, driver of Hendrick’s No. 5 Chevrolet, said, “I will absolutely, without a doubt, be driving race cars next year. I am not going to be in any hurry to worry about that. I’m focused on 2011 and really enjoying being a part of Hendrick Motorsports. We have a really strong team and Lance [McGrew, Martin’s crew chief] is really a smart guy. This is the fun stuff right here in front of us. Hopefully, we can realize our potential.”

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jeff Gordon, driver of Hendrick’s No. 24 Chevrolet, said, “I’m really excited to have Drive to End Hunger as a sponsor as well as continuing with DuPont for 13 races. We have a great lineup. I think our team at Hendrick Motorsports is capable of having a strong season.”

Driver of the No. 88 AMP Energy Chevrolet Dale Earnhardt Jr. said, “I’m thankful to have the opportunity in this sport that I have. This is the best of my career. I’m looking forward to just getting started. We had a good Daytona test in January. We have seen all the teams practice well. A lot of the work goes on in the shop, and you don’t see it, so I think we have a good opportunity. I think the more we are around the race car, the better we can be for the season. We have to understand what makes each of us tick a little better.”

Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 88 Lowe’s Chevrolet, said, “We have some great fun and have a great relationship with Lowe’s. We are all proud of Hendrick Motorsports and all we have accomplished. It’s been amazing. It’s all work. Yes, there is change in the organization, but we all work together. We are trying to do a better job with this. There are just a lot of hungry people walking around here.”

ESPN Starts Fifth Year of Sprint Cup Coverage
At a dinner hosted by ESPN Tuesday evening, Andy Hall, manager, media relations for ESPN, announced the network was excited about starting its fifth year of an eight-year deal to broadcast NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series races with only minor changes to the program.

“We’ll pretty much have the same schedule we’ve been running since we started this contract in 2007,” Hall said. “Our NASCAR races are a strong property, and we are looking forward to the season.

“Ray Evernham won’t be with us any more because he went back to work for Hendrick [Companies]. That just means a little more work for Ricky Craven, who is going to be doing booth analysis for seven Nationwide races and will continue his role with our studio programming.”

Hall also noted that ESPN has extended Rusty Wallace’s agreement through 2014. Wallace is an analyst for ESPN’s NASCAR studio programs, including NASCAR Countdown and NASCAR Now.

Red Bull Racing Welcomes Back Vickers, Prepares for One Year with Kahne

Jay Frye, general manager of Red Bull Racing (RBR), introduced the team’s 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers – Brian Vickers and Kasey Kahne – who visited with the media in a one-on-one format on the second day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.

Vickers is returning to the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota for the 2011 season after an extended medical break from racing. Since May, 2010, Vickers has been treated for blood clots in his legs and lungs, received two surgeries to mend a hole in his heart, and had a stent inserted into his left leg. The 27-year-old driver was cleared to race without limitations at the end of last 2010.

“It was obviously a long process,” Vickers said. “Not only finding out what happened, but how to solve it. Going through the surgeries, having the heart surgery. Training again to get back in the routine. Going back to my first steps. Going through the first steps at Disney [testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida] was a really big moment. Being back in the car… I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to race again.
“How tough is it to watch racing and not be racing? I find racing very entertaining,” Vickers said. “Watching a Cup race you are supposed to be in sucks! It is just horrible. I talked to some other guys who experienced that. I talked to Kyle Petty, who was out of his car for a period of time. It’s painful. I didn’t go to all of the races because of that. When I was there, I was just miserable.

“What do I expect from the Daytona 500 next month? To win the race.”

Kahne comes to RBR for a unique one-year-only contract after a disappointing partial 2010 season with Richard Petty Motorsports. His ride for 2011 is the No. 4 RBR Toyota – a number the team was able to “borrow” through NASCAR from Morgan-McClure Motorsports, which used the number from 1983 through 2009. The number, which is significant to Kahne’s open-wheel racing history, will return to Morgan-McClure in 2012 when Kahne begins driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports.

Like his teammate, but to a lesser extent, Kahne experienced some health issues toward the end of 2010. The long-distance running enthusiast had painful knee problems when the plica in his kneecap became inflamed. Arthroscopic surgery two days after the end of the 2010 season gave the 30-year-old full use of his legs.

“I don’t even feel them when I’m sitting in the race car,”  Kahne said. “They feel better now than they felt at the end of last year. From what I understand, we are all born with plica but it usually goes away. Mine didn’t, so it rubbed on my joints. Then, I tore the meniscus on my right knee and had to live with it all year. I was lucky it didn’t affect me enough to slow me down. I just kept going.

“The toughest part [of working with RPM] was going into the year [2010]. I was pretty excited. Then, it really fell apart pretty quickly. I broke a ton of parts. I lost brakes several times [including during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October]. There were a lot of little things like that. I was worn out. Some other stuff happened later in the season. I made my mind up that I needed a change. I was happy I moved on when I did.

“All they’ve (RBR) done is work to build the best cars. They are working on stuff to have the right cars and win races. The best part about it is to know I’m with a stable team, and I’m with a stable group of people who want to win races and won’t take shortcuts.”

Quotes of the Day

Brian France, NASCAR chairman and chief executive officer, on the points restructuring: “Many of our most loyal fans don’t fully understand the points system we have used to date,” he said, referencing the system that has been in use since 1975. “So, we are simplifying the points system to one that is much easier to understand. Conceptually, it is comparable to our previous system, but it is easier to follow.”

Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, on the points restructuring: “I think it makes for a simpler system,” he said.” I like a lot of other fans had to break out the book to figure it out, to see how the points worked. Even with years and years of being involved in the sport it was difficult to know exactly how the points would shake out to be in a given race. Now we know it’s very simple. The margin of points has not changed a tremendous amount, but they have put more emphasis on winning which as a fan I love and I think all of the fans out there will really like it as well.”

Director of Ford North America Motorsports, Jamie Allison, on Ford Racing’s rich tradition: “We like reaching milestones at Ford. The first is that this is Henry Ford’s 110th anniversary of racing. Ford himself raced once and won the race he entered. That win attracted the investors he needed to start Ford Motor Company. We have 599 Cup wins – The King (Richard Petty) is responsible for nine of those – so, obviously, we’re going for the 600 club very soon. We want it bad and we want it at Daytona. Destiny is on our side, legend is on our side, and the future is on our side.”

Rick Hendrick on the driver/crew chief changes at Hendrick Motorsports: “We just felt a realignment would get us smart and some synergy. It’s not like these guys haven’t worked together. So far in practice, I think we are poised for a very good year. I will really be surprised if all four teams are not better going in to 2011 than we were in 2010. Our goal, as always, is for all four teams to get in The Chase [for the Sprint Cup], win races, and compete for the championship.”

Ken Howes, vice president of competition at Hendrick Motorsports, on starting the 2011 season: “You get a little nervous this time of year because you don’t know what the other teams have figured out. We are still learning about the cars, and it’s an ongoing thing. We do our final preparations and go with what we have and know. You never get ready; it’s just time to go.”

Brian Vickers on what it was like to sit out part of the 2010 season: “I’ve used this quote several times, and I have to give Dale Earnhardt credit for it: He said being out of the car was like watching his wife cheat on him. Sitting on top of that box, I know exactly what he went through.”

Kasey Kahne on his decision to leave Richard Petty Motorsports in 2010: “I didn’t really have a next step for 2011, but this whole Red Bull thing came together, and it’s as good as anything I’ve ever had – if not the best thing I’ve ever had. It’s pretty exciting. I look forward to the whole season."

- Release courtesy of Charlotte Motor Speedway