Know Your Nascar 1/31/08
Countdown to Daytona
By Sporting News Wire Service
Jan. 31, 2008
• 17 -- Two of NASCAR's biggest stars, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kurt Busch, have 17 Cup victories. They are tied for 39th on NASCAR's all-time list with Marvin Panch and Curtis Turner.
Today In Nascar History
January 31, 1976: Happy 32nd birthday, Buddy Rice, who has one NASCAR start, finishing 20th in the 2003 Ford 200 Craftsman Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Six months later, Rice starts from the pole and wins the 2004 Indianapolis 500.
Bill Marx/The Sporting News
Quote of the Day
He puts a smile on everybody's face when he gets in there and starts talking about things and the race car. He just has a great sense of humor and keeps everybody lighthearted and laughing.
-- Jimmie Johnson
Comments from the Peanut Gallery
I think that all Teresa is doing by removing all the Dale Jr. and no.
8 memorabilia is "CREATING A BIG GAP IN DEI HISTORY".
YEAH!!, and she's doing it to herself. A time will come when she has to
put it all back, BUT!, only because it will be a "MUST DO" need.
Dale Sr. must be looking down and "GRUMBLING" over all of this.
HEY TERESA, DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO MAKE YOURSELF FEEL BETTER,
BUT!, WE THE FANS CAN'T AND WON'T FORGET DALE JR. IN THE NO.8 RIDE,
THAT YOU CAN'T CONTROL!
As far as the DEI logo, DEI, and anything else DEI I still have all the
respect for because DE is DALE EARNHARDT!!!!!!!!!
Bits and Pieces
Childress named to N.C. Sports Hall of Fame: Richard Childress, the owner of Richard Childress Racing in Welcome, NC will be inducted into the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame in May. Childress is one of eight honorees in the Class of 2008. The NASCAR team owner won six Winston Cup [Now Sprint Cup] championships with Dale Earnhardt Sr. behind the wheel, the Busch Series [now Nationwide Series] Grand National championship in 2001 and 2006 with Kevin Harvick and the Truck Series title in 1995 with Mike Skinner. His team became the first in NASCAR history to win the championship in all three national series. His teams have also won two Daytona 500s. Childress was inducted into the Davidson County Sports Hall of Fame in October. He also owns Childress Vineyards in Lexington, NC. The eight inductees will be enshrined at the 45th annual induction ceremony in Raleigh on May 15. They will be introduced at an afternoon news conference at the N.C. Museum of History. Formal induction will come during an evening banquet at the North Raleigh Hilton. Banquet ticket information is available from the N.C. Sports Hall of Fame in Raleigh at (919) 845-3455 or at the Hall’s Web site, www.ncshof.com. The museum is open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and from noon until 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission to the museum is free.(Lexington Dispatch)
California Testing: Southern California area motorsports fans can get their first look at NASCAR's Cars of Tomorrow at a two-day testing session for Sprint Cup Series cars Thursday and Friday [Jan 31-Feb 1] at California Speedway. The session will put the car on the Fontana 2-mile oval for the first time. The Auto Club 500 is Feb. 24 at California Speedway, a week after the Cup season opens with the Daytona 500. The sessions will be open to the public, with free grandstand seating. There will be access to the infield rooftops to fans who buy Auto Club 500 tickets by Thursday, or for a $5 donation to the NASCAR Foundation for those who haven't bought tickets. Season-ticket holders who have renewed their seats for 2008 will have a question-and-answer session with #7-Robby Gordon after Friday's testing is complete. Testing will open Thursday, with sessions 9 a.m.-noon, 1-5 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. There are two sessions scheduled for Friday: 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5.(Press-Enterprise)
Martin Tests JR Motorsports Car at Vegas
Mark Martin made his 2008 NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at the Las Vegas test this week. The series’ all-time leader in wins (47) and poles (30) was shaking down the No. 5 Delphi/GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for JR Motorsports.
He was sixth-fastest in the first practice at 179.283 mph (30.120 seconds). Martin is a two-time winner at Las Vegas in NASCAR Nationwide Series competition.
Gordon Heads Indoors
Jeff Gordon posted the best single lap time of 26.87 seconds at the grand opening of Pole Position Raceway an indoor karting track in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
Among the 300 who turned out for the grand opening were co-owners 2004 NASCAR champ Kurt Busch and ESPN/ABC Reporter Jamie Little, Al Unser Jr., Al Unser III, Blue Man Group, NASCAR's Jason Leffler and Robby Gordon, X-Games Gold Medalist Ken Block, and four-time world hill climb champion Kerry Peterson, and Smashmouth's Steve Harwell.
Carl Edwards To Appear In Super Bowl Commercial
Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards will appear on advertising's largest stage this Sunday, February 3 - Super Bowl Sunday in a 60 second Under Amour spot, the brand's first-ever Super Bowl Commercial. The commercial, showcasing several professional athletes will mark the first time audiences will see Under Armour's new performance trainers.
"I am really looking forward seeing the commercial. I'm going to the Super Bowl and I hope that they show the commercials at the game," said Carl Edwards. "The scale of the production was huge and I'm looking forward to seeing the end product."
Dale Earnhardt Junior will also star in ads for Pepsi's AMP energy drink.
Hershey to Honor Dale Earnhardt with Collector Edition Bars: The Hershey Company is offering racing fans a taste of history with the debut of four Collector Edition bars this month featuring iconic images of racing legend Dale Earnhardt. The bars coincide with this year’s 50th Anniversary of the Daytona 500 and the 10th Anniversary of Earnhardt’s historic 1998 Daytona 500 victory. The promotion invites fans to show their respect for the racing legend by visiting www.hersheys.com/dale. The Hershey/Dale Earnhardt Web site gives fans the opportunity to make a donation to the Dale Earnhardt Foundation and also allows visitors to post their name, message and picture online for other fans to view. These individual pictures will become the pieces of a large fan photo mosaic designed to look like Earnhardt, which will be displayed throughout the year. Hershey will notify fans of the exact location of their image within the mosaic. The final mosaic, along with a check representing the funds earned from the promotion, will be unveiled and presented to The Dale Earnhardt Foundation on “Dale Earnhardt Day,”April 29, 2008, at Dale Earnhardt, Inc., in Mooresville, NC. More info on the Dale Earnhardt Tribute page.(Hershey PR)
Super Bowl Commercials featuring some NASCAR drivers: The pulse of American pop culture is racing right through Super Bowl Sunday and it's hitching a ride on the back of Pepsi's unprecedented slate of Super Bowl advertising that features a lineup of brands, images and stars as diverse as Pepsi's portfolio of drinks. Promising a one-of-a-kind lineup for a one-of-a-kind day, Pepsi's Super Sunday lineup includes: #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. getting a charge out of AMP Energy drink as he gets over the hump and harness the energy, focus and control he needs to compete in a camel race. According to the PepsiCo site, this ad will be shown during the pre-game show.
#99-Carl Edwards will appear on advertising's largest stage this Sunday, February 3 - Super Bowl Sunday in a 60 second Under Amour spot, the brand's first-ever Super Bowl Commercial. The commercial, showcasing several professional athletes will mark the first time audiences will see Under Armour's new performance trainers. "I am really looking forward seeing the commercial. I'm going to the Super Bowl and I hope that they show the commercials at the game," said Carl Edwards. "The scale of the production was huge and I'm looking forward to seeing the end product."(Roush Racing PR)
Dale Jr. upset over DEI's removal of his memorabilia UPDATE: A mix-up over memorabilia has created hurt feelings with #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., while his former team claims it's all a misunderstanding. Earnhardt said Monday he's upset that all signs of his stint at Dale Earnhardt Inc. had allegedly been removed from the shop. First told of the absence of his memorabilia last week, he originally said he didn't care. But at the first day of testing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Earnhardt said time to think about it had made him mad. He said the team members that were part of his Daytona 500 victory and two Busch Series championships should be recognized at the shop. "It sort of hurt my feelings that it's sort of a hack at even the guys that are still there and have worked on that car," Earnhardt said. "To not see the accolades or any sort of appreciation for the work that they did, and they're still there." The absence of Earnhardt-related items was noticed by media who attended a luncheon at DEI last Wednesday. The driver left his late father's company at the end of last season, and he'll drive for Hendrick Motorsports this year. But Max Siegel, president of DEI, said Monday that the team has Earnhardt memorabilia on display and "about nine of his old cars" had been moved off the showroom floor to make room for the luncheon. "There seems to be some confusion over memorabilia and merchandise," Siegel said. "We no longer have a relationship with Dale Jr. or Budweiser, so we have no license, agreement or business reason to sell any of that merchandise in our gift shop. But as far as memorabilia, more than half of the showroom floor is dedicated to Dale Jr.'s history here."(Associated Press/ESPN.com)(1-29-2008) UPDATE: #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr. said his feelings about the removal of show cars and memorabilia at Dale Earnhardt Inc. were mischaracterized, and he has no ill will toward his late father's company. Max Siegel, president of DEI's global operations, said Wednesday that the cars and memorabilia were returned to the showroom after the media luncheon on Jan 23. "There is no anger or ill-feeling towards DEI, period," Earnhardt wrote Wednesday on his Web site. "Nearly half the cars that were moved out of the showroom to accommodate the media tour consist of cars I've won races and championships with, and any fan of mine who wants a glimpse of my past can still and always will find it at DEI. I know that DEI is proud of its past. Max Siegel has been nothing but honest, direct, and supportive. We both sincerely wish success for each other. We both want to move forward diligently with our individual futures in this sport. To continue to have to answer about the past makes it difficult for either one to achieve that. We're both solidly entrenched in new chapters of our lives, and it's a great feeling."(AP/ESPN.com)
Grand Marshals named for Daytona Community Motorsports Parade: Alli Owens, a Daytona Beach native, is proud to announce that she will serve as the Co-Grand Marshal for the Inaugural Community Motorsports Parade. The event, which marks the start of Daytona Speedweeks festivities, is being held on February 2, 2008 in conjunction with the Community Motorsports Festival. NASCAR driver Mike Skinner is the other Co-Grand Marshal. Owens is entering her rookie season in the ARCA RE/MAX Series. Driving the #12 ElectrifyingCareers.com Chevy, the 19-year-old is making her first start on the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway. The parade, which is scheduled to begin at 10:00am/et, starts at Lincoln and Mary McLeod Blvd. runs to Beach St. to Magnolia Ave. to City Island.(PR)
Petty to serve as honorary starter for Daytona 500
Daytona International Speedway officials say seven-time Daytona 500 champion Richard Petty will serve as honorary starter for the 50th running of the historic race on Feb. 17.
Petty will wave the green flag to start the race at 3:30 p.m. EST.
"We are so honored and proud to have Richard Petty drop the green flag to get the most anticipated event in racing history underway," Daytona President Robin Braig said. "Richard and the Daytona 500 are synonymous with NASCAR's biggest, richest and most prestigious race, and we're thrilled to have him get the 50th spectacle under way."
Eury Sr. staying on as JR Motorsports crew chief
JR Motorsports tried to find a permanent crew chief for driver Brad Keselowski in the Nationwide Series, but in the end, the team has decided to stick with Tony Eury Sr.
Eury Sr., who joined the team last year as director of competition, took over as Keselowski's crew chief last October. Eury Sr. took the crew chief role on an interim basis, but team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr. asked Eury to stay on this year.
"I tried to hire a crew chief all winter long," Eury said recently. "We just never really found that person we wanted. We had two guys on the hook one time we thought we were going to hire."
Neither worked out, Eury said.
"Dale Jr. just came to me and asked me if I could do it" Eury said. "He thought Brad would be better off if I helped him. He said, 'If you don't mind doing it this year, I wish you would, just to help Brad out.' I said I would."
Keselowski, 23, begins his first full season with the team, which has also merged with Hendrick Motorsports' Nationwide operation.
Truck Series Schedule Revised
The 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule of 25 races has been revised.
Kentucky Speedway’s previously announced race of Saturday, July 12 has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 19. The switch resolves a conflict with the July 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Chicagoland Speedway that in past years was held on Sunday afternoon but becomes a Saturday night race in 2008.
Welcome to Diesel's Dirt Road: an open forum for fed-up fansBy Marty Smith/ESPN.com
SAN DIEGO -- Door-To-Door is on hiatus this week, folks. In its place: Diesel's Dirt Road, an open forum for fed-up NASCAR fans to voice disdain with everything from the Top-35 rule to Brian France's sleeves. For real.
It's crazy sometimes, this job. I know there are satisfied fans out there, because the grandstands are at least marginally occupied everywhere we go. But I don't hear much from those folks. I don't get e-mails raving about how great a job Mike Helton and Brian France and John Darby are doing leading NASCAR, only ones that criticize -- often harshly -- for this or that or the other.
No doubt NASCAR has its flaws. Several, in fact. But damn, man, the sport is doing OK. Most of the issues are fixable. And to be quite honest, a lot of times when I think something NASCAR has done is utterly ridiculous (and say so), Helton or Darby will take a moment to explain it to me and suddenly I feel like a jackass.
And I'm not saying it's all peaches, either. Far from it. NASCAR needs some fixing and the brain trust knows it -- and I know it and you know it. And when France admitted last week that NASCAR had forsaken its core fan base in recent years and seeks to restore that trust moving forward, it was a big step that took some guts.
But again, it's show me, don't tell me.
Last week's Door-To-Door -- which centered on France's admittance that NASCAR needs to steer back a little to its roots -- triggered a firestorm of angst-filled feedback. Now I know how Jeff Gordon feels when all those boos rain down from the heavens.
The fans want to be heard but don't feel they have an outlet. The media is that outlet.
Welcome to Diesel's Dirt Road, where the Haterade is always on tap.
I just read your article about NASCAR going back to its roots. Very good and I agree with everything. But if NASCAR wants its credibility back, it seems to me that they should bring the car right off the showroom floor like they did back in the day.
That's what people from the old-school racing want. I want to be able to say, "Yeah, I have a Chevy just like that home in the garage." Wasn't the old saying, "Win on Sunday ... Sale on Monday"? I think it would help with GM, Ford and Dodge. (Toyota is a bad word for real NASCAR fans).
They could build those cars just as safe as the COT. Plus bring back two races at Darlington ... Rockingham ... NASCAR needs those tracks worse than one in Fontana or Texas. I have been around racing my whole life with an uncle working on a pit crew in the '70s. I know real racing and this is not it. Bring back the Superbird and let's race!
Scott, Smith Mountain Lake
Interesting e-mail, Scott. It makes for an interesting debate. It's been so long since a NASCAR racing machine was an actual, true stock car, the thought of it is almost foreign. Let's dissect this argument.
Could a street car with a roll cage actually be built to respond to impacts as safely as the Car of Tomorrow? I'm not an engineer. I don't know. But I feel certain that the spoiler cars used in recent years easily could have been adapted to very similar safety standards as the Car of Tomorrow -- at least that's what multiple garage sources tell me. Move the driver's seat over to the right a bit, increase the height of the driver's compartment a bit. But keep the same idea. The COT is a whole new idea.
The big question about the COT is why? Why did NASCAR implement this strange-looking new car that ultimately cost Cup Series team owners eight figures to transition into their fleets? And that simultaneously reduced the value of their current inventories by 80 percent?
One big reason is to reel the teams in and start from scratch. The engineering on the team side was so advanced that NASCAR was struggling to keep up. The teams were years ahead of the sanctioning body. So the sanctioning body invented a car that shrunk the ingenuity box and enables them to keep a very close rein on its competitors.
NASCAR also wants to create good competition by way of putting the onus back on driving talent and pit crew excellence. It's too early to tell whether that will happen with this concept. On the stat sheet, Hendrick Motorsports dominated COT competition in the inaugural year, winning nine of the 16 events in which the new car was used. But Joe Gibbs Racing was always close. And Richard Childress Racing was, too. The gap is not as wide as it looks on paper. Not even close.
Though many drivers still loathe the COT concept, they're warming to it. COT races last year were no less fun to watch than spoiler-car races, Texas not withstanding. That race was so dang good for NASCAR. It was two elite drivers -- Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth -- racing hell-bent sideways for a victory in an epic finish that wasn't the result of a late-race caution flag for debris or anything else. (More on that particular beer in a moment. There were many e-mails about that topic.)
And in a day and time when fuel economy and greener automobiles are such hot-button issues, is it truly feasible to use cars from the showroom floor? Would it be entertaining to watch Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon race front-wheel drive sedans around Indianapolis? For fans? Probably. Real fans would enjoy watching those two race shopping carts. But I don't know the answer to that, really.
The roar of those breathy carbureted engines would be gone. And you can say whatever you want, that's an allure to a lot of fans: the noise. Fundamentally, NASCAR racing machines use archaic technology, with carbureted engines and whatnot. Is fuel-injection the next step? Probably not in my lifetime.
NASCAR lost me and all my friends the minute we heard the word Toyota in association with the sport. We haven't been back since and don't plan to go. How can they say they're looking to return to their roots when they let Toyota in?
-- Jason Dunn, Alabama
You're done with the sport, Jason, yet you still read about it. Intriguing. I grew up with a guy named Jason Dunn. He lived a couple houses down from me for my entire youth, age 4-18. Then there is the NFL tight end named Jason Dunn. I digress …
About Toyota. I receive a ton of hateful e-mails about Toyota's entrance into NASCAR and hear the frustration from fans in bars and restaurants all over the country. But I've never been given a single explanation why. Not one.
And when I ask for clarification from the guy at the bar who's all fired up and in my face about it (like it's my fault or something), all I ever get is a crass comment about the foreign invasion and how it's against everything NASCAR stands for.
My rebuttal: What, then, does NASCAR stand for? Crickets. I mention, every time, that there's an awful lot of red-blooded Americans buying Toyotas. I see it every day. My buddies back home in the country that wore Davey Allison hats because they grew up bouncing around the hayfield in the ol' man's Fords are driving Tundras and Tacomas. I said this last week: Toyota's biggest score was Tony Stewart. They got a gritty good ol' boy driving their cars. Suddenly the hatred doesn't carry as much weight.
And here are some numbers: According to a 2005 Center for Automotive Research study, Toyota, along with its dealers and suppliers, has generated nearly 400,000 U.S. jobs, including jobs created through spending by direct, dealer and suppliers employees.
I know what the fans mean, though. It's a foreign automaker penetrating an American institution. That concerns people. And with the current climate of traditional American automakers, it scares people.