Monday, May 02, 2016

Random Thoughts From A Wild Weekend At Talladega

Photo: Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
Chess Players And Daredevils: Brad Keselowski continues to be one of the most eloquent, thought-provoking interviews in the sport, as evidenced by his post-race comments at Talladega. "Racing has always been a balance of daredevils and chess players," said Keselowski Sunday, just moments after winning the GEICO 500. "Some weekends we're chess players, some weekends we're daredevils. This has always been the more daredevil style of track.” He also served fair warning that his Miller Lite Ford team is feeling its oats after clinching their second victory of the 2016 campaign. “If you’re capable of winning here, I think you show a certain level of attitude and swagger that carries your way through the rest of the year.”

Photo: Getty Images
On-Track Intensity: While there's nothing worse than rain at the race track, there may be nothing better than impending rain. With thunderstorms skirting the speedway throughout Sunday’s race, drivers were “up on the wheel” all day, making for intense competition and creating multiple Talladega “Big Ones.”
"It's just Talladega,” said runner-up Kyle Busch, one of the few drivers able to bring his car home without major damage. “It is what it is. (With) these cars, you try to get a little bit aggressive, start bumping people and pushing people, they're real easy to get out of control.”
Plenty of people got “out of control” Sunday, including veteran Matt Kenseth and rookie Chris Buescher, both of whom got upside-down on the Talladega backstretch in separate multi-car incidents.
"I really have no clue (what happened)," said Buescher afterward. "It's not the way we wanted to finish. We just got clipped. I'm tired of superspeedway racing, I can tell you that. It’s miserable. It's a bummer. No fun. I’m ready to go home."

Comments like Buescher’s are not uncommon following restrictor plate races at Talladega and Daytona. They are also completely understandable. After all, no one climbs out of an upside-down race car with a smile on their face.

Photo: SportingNews.com
Bad Blood Continues: Among the many postrace storylines Sunday was the rekindling of a long-simmering feud between Kenseth and Joey Logano. The pair famously clashed at Kansas and Martinsville Speedways during last year’s Chase, with Kenseth ultimately earning a two-race suspension for on-track retribution. They butted heads again Sunday, after Logano appeared to force Kenseth below the yellow line in a late-race backstretch incident. The move plummeted Kenseth to the back of the pack, where he was eventually swept-up in a clash with Danica Patrick that saw his Dollar General Toyota flip upside-down into the inside wall.
“I don’t THINK he ran me off,” said Kenseth afterward. “He DID run me off. He ran me so far down that I couldn’t really lift. I couldn’t get back up the track. I thought we were done with (our issues), but maybe we aren’t.”

The rivals had a brief discussion following the race, with Kenseth doing a majority of the talking. Asked about Kenseth’s criticism, Logano quipped, “He can get in line with the rest of them.”
While much will be made about their continuing bad blood, it provides a welcome departure from the “we’re all friends” atmosphere that dominates the sport these days. NASCAR was built on guys like Richard Petty and Bobby Allison going head to head – and bumper to bumper – for the win, carrying personal grudges and animosity from track to track like so many spare tires. Today, on-track disputes are generally settled via Twitter, or over a glass of pinot noir in the oh-so-cozy driver/owner motor coach lot; a far cry from the times when Victory Lane ceremonies were regularly punctuated by a stiff right-cross to the chin.
Disturbing Trend: Dale Earnhardt, Jr. became the second Hendrick Motorsports driver in recent weeks to have his steering wheel come off in his hands. Shortly after returning to the track following repairs from an earlier crash, the steering wheel pulled loose while Earnhardt circled the track under caution. “I was trying to get it back on and the car was headed toward the wall,” he said. “I wasn't going to let it hit the wall, so I grabbed the column and steered with that. It tore my hands all up, but didn't hit the wall.” Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson had an identical situation in a qualifying crash earlier this season.
Encouraging Trend: NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France attended a meeting of the NASCAR Drivers Council Friday, for the first time in the history of the organization. France has said before that he believes the meetings go better – and are more candid – without him in the room; a stance that earned him criticism from Tony Stewart in January. France spent more than an hour in Friday’s meeting before leaving to honor a prior commitment, earning praise from all attendees. "It was great that Brian came," said Dale Earnhardt Jr. afterward. "It was just a good, positive meeting, a lot of good things moving in a good direction.  

For his part, France said simply, “We had a good discussion.” 

Rest In Peace: Earnhardt’s flirtation with the superspeedway car dubbed “Amelia” -- in honor of aviatrix Amelia Earhardt – is almost certainly over. Rebuilt after a grinding crash at Daytona International Speedway in February, Amelia was involved in two more crashes Sunday; one of them a solo spin with just 50 laps complete, that left her a twisted heap once again. She will likely be relegated to the “race car cemetery” Earnhardt has assembled on property surrounding his North Carolina home to rest (and rust) in peace.  

Non-Issues: Any controversy that lingers in the aftermath of Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series finish is attributable to people who are either intellectually incapable of understanding the rules, or psychologically unwilling to do so. 

Elliott Sadler won Saturday’s Sparks Energy 300 after a wild, final-straightaway melee triggered when he and Joey Logano tangled while racing for the win. The victory was his first of the season and locked him into the NXS Chase. Logano led off the final turn, but moved high to block youngster Brennan Poole, opening the inside lane for Sadler. When Logano darted back to the bottom, he and Sadler made contact, forcing the eventual winner below the double-yellow line and sending Logano hard into the outside wall. Poole crossed the finish line first, but was eventually credited with a third-place finish after a five-minute video review that re-wound the running order to the moment the caution flag waved. Justin Allgaier was credited with second, followed by Poole, Jeremy Clements and Brendan Gaughan.

Sadler's win took nearly five minutes to be confirmed by NASCAR officials, who used video tape to determine that he was ahead of Poole and Allgaier when the decisive caution flag flew.  

We use every resource we can,” said series director Wayne Auton afterward. “It took us a little time, (but) we feel 100% that we got it exactly right. We used every bit of film we had. We arrived at the finish we did by using every piece of technology that we had to our availability."

Auton confirmed that Sadler’s excursion below the double yellow line was legal, since, “The rule says you cannot go below the double yellow line to advance your position. (Sadler) did not advance a position, and he was also forced down there when (Logano) and him made contact. In our eyes, he did not gain any positions. He was already (in the lead). It was legal by the rules."  

Auton also explained the final-lap caution flag, saying, "Our No. 1 job is the safety of these drivers, crew members and fans. When you see a car turn hard right… it's pretty scary. Our No. 1 concern when (Logano) hit to make sure Joey was OK. Automatically, we put out the caution. Another car made contact with him when he come off the wall, and we needed guys to roll out of the throttle.” 

 

 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Go Cruising With The NASCAR Greats Jan. 29th

For the first time ever, NASCAR and Entertainment Cruise Productions will bring together some of the top names in NASCAR, including NASCAR Hall of Famers, iconic broadcasters and authentic race cars to create the first NASCAR-themed cruise.  

NASCAR: The Cruise will sail the Caribbean January 29 through February 3, 2017, launching in Miami and spending six days and five nights sailing the sunny waters with iconic and legendary names in the sport including NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty, Rusty Wallace, Bobby Allison and Petty’s famed Crew Chief Dale Inman. Other NASCAR celebrities joining in on the fun will be renowned car owner and NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Robert Yates, drivers David Ragan, Mike Wallace and Ken Schrader, along with broadcasters Jeff Hammond, Doug Rice and Brad Gillie. 

NASCAR TV analysts Kyle Petty and Krista Voda will host the maiden voyage, and encourage guests to trade paint and rub elbows with NASCAR royalty aboard a luxurious cruise. The iconic Beach Boys, southern rockers .38 Special and winner of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, John Heffron will perform on the ship, making NASCAR: The Cruise the ultimate vacation for every kind of racing fan. 

Fans will have unprecedented access to these historic giants of NASCAR, as they share their stories about life on and off the track while the cruise travels from Miami to Key West, Nassau and Great Stirrup Cay on the Norwegian Pearl, which will be transformed into the ultimate racing playground. Fans aboard will compete in virtual racing simulators, pit crew challenges, celebrate in Victory Lane and attend autograph and Q&A sessions with NASCAR legends and other fan favorites. Throughout the cruise, guests will be treated to world-class entertainment, concerts, special events, themed parties and more.

“Taking the amazing NASCAR experience to sea is a dream cruise program,” said Chris Sullivan of Victory Management Group, consultant to Entertainment Cruise Productions on this program.  “In working with Entertainment Cruise Productions, we are confident that their extensive cruise experience, having produced more than 60 full ship charters, together with our history with NASCAR will result in a truly amazing NASCAR experience at sea.  The goal is to create The Ultimate Tailgate Party at Sea…a “Sailgate Party” for NASCAR fans.” 

Cabin rates for the cruise start at just $975 per person and include access to all events, activities and parties onboard, along with gourmet and casual fare meals, 24-hour room service, port charges, taxes and onboard gratuities.  Reservations for NASCAR: The Cruise opened to the public on April 28. Further information can be found at www.NASCARTheCruise.com or by calling (844) 886-2582. 

Stewart Still Confused About NASCAR Fine

Tony Stewart met with the media today at Talladega Superspeedway, and said that despite explanations by NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France, he is still unsure why he was fined $35,000 by the sanctioning body last week.

Stewart was critical of NASCAR’s 2016 decision not to regulate the number of lug nuts installed on each wheel again this season, questioning the sanctioning body’s devotion to safety. France responded with a $35,000 fine, saying “when you imply that NASCAR doesn’t care about safety, you can expect a reaction from us.” NASCAR then changed the rules, mandating five secure lugs on each wheel, at all times.
Stewart said Friday that he remains confused by the penalty, saying, “I’ve been trying to figure out how many more $35,000 rules changes I want to make. I’m glad that something has been done. (NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition) Scott Miller is a huge asset to NASCAR right now. And from what I understand, he’s the one who spearheaded getting something done. You hate to have to pay $35,000 to get somebody’s attention to do something, but apparently, that’s what it took.
“I’ve got questions that I’d like to have answers to,” Stewart said. “I’m still wondering why I’m paying a $35,000 fine for something that got changed three days later. But it is what it is.”
Stewart thanked his fellow members of the Drivers’ Council for offering to pay his fine, saying, “That’s something I’m really proud of with this Driver Council; how the drivers are united about everything we’re doing. This was the first time something had happened where somebody on the Council got a penalty for speaking an opinion, and for them to show that kind of support and show that we’re all one unit; that’s something that you don’t normally see… in this sport. This is the first time we’ve seen public support like that, and I think it went a long way.
“That is why the driver council was started,” said Stewart, “to give us a collective voice. The hard part -- and the scenario that NASCAR doesn’t want to (and can’t) get into -- (is what) we saw with the CART years ago. Everybody is going to have an opinion about what to do, (and) most of the time it’s something that is going to benefit themselves. 
“So, to have a Driver Council where you have drivers from all three manufacturers and different teams and organizations having a unified voice -- everybody saying the same thing -- it’s validation to NASCAR that this isn’t about one individual group, and what we want to help ourselves. It’s what we think as a group is best for everybody. That is why it’s so important to have this started.”
Interestingly, France criticized Stewart this week, saying that despite his status as a member of both the Drivers Council and Race Team Alliance, the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion never expressed any safety concerns to NASCAR.
Stewart countered, saying, “I just got Brain France’s number yesterday. I’m happy I’ve got that now. I might call him at midnight to see if I can get ahold of him, just because I’m up at that hour. He will probably call me back at six in the morning to see if I’m up, which won’t work very well for me. 
“We do have those conversations, but sometimes I think the sense of urgency and the sense of `this really is an issue’ sometimes gets numbed with everything else that is going on. That was (the case) with the lug nuts. It was getting worse, not better. Sometimes you’ve got to shake (NASCAR). 
“Apparently, I shook too hard.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

North East Motor Sports Museum Arrives at NHMS‏

The North East Motor Sports Museum, which broke ground last September amid a who’s who of New England auto racing that included Ricky Craven and Joey Logano, made its long-awaited arrival to New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Wednesday. With NEMSM President Dick Berggren on hand, a fleet of four flatbed trucks made the 500-mile trek from Gettysburg, Md., to the speedway’s south entrance on Route 106.

More than 500 people and organizations have contributed money, artifacts, cars and time to the museum, which was constructed by Morton Buildings in Gettysburg, Md. The museum will initially measure in at just over 9,500 square feet, with an additional 10,000 square feet to be added at a later date. The building will be used to house the history of motorsports from the Northeast area with multiple displays of racing vehicles and racing related artifacts.

“This project is unique in that virtually every museum in the country has one or several wealthy individuals behind it,” said Berggren, who plans to have the museum open for business by NASCAR race weekend Sept. 23-25. “This museum is being built with funding provided by hundreds of racers and race fans rather than a few wealthy individuals. The support of local companies that have donated or reduced the cost of their goods and services has been huge to help the project get where it is.”

A considerable amount of work has already been completed on the museum’s site. Thousands of yards of gravel has been moved to level the property (equipment for that work and payment of the equipment operator has been donated by legendary former supermodified driver Bentley Warren). 

The water well (donated by Capital Well) and storm water evacuation system (pieces donated by EJ Prescott and EF Shea corporations) are both in the ground.

All under-floor plumbing  (donated by Total Climate Control) has been installed.

All under-floor electrical conduit and conduit to carry wiring from the on-property pole to the building has been installed, with labor donated by Doherty Electric.

Footings and foundation have been back-filled, with concrete donated by the Michie Corporation.

Today, a crew from Kendall Construction arrived to prepare the underfloor sand for the five-inch thick concrete floor ,with plans to pour the floor later in the week.

The floor will take approximately a week to cure, after which Morton’s crew will begin to erect the building. The pre-fab will take roughly six weeks to set up and once the building is established, the work will begin to frame the bathrooms, library and offices. Interior plumbing will be finished and electrical wiring will then be installed, followed by sheet rock installation and paint.

Cars, motorcycles, books, photos, helmets and the rest will then begin to be moved in.

Drivers' Council To Donate Stewart's Fine To Autism Delaware

The Sprint Cup Drivers Council will donate the $35,000 it raised last week to pay Tony Stewart’s fine to Autism Delaware.  

Artie Kempner, coordinating director for NASCAR on FOX and his wife, Marcy, founded Autism Delaware in 1998. It has raised more than $5 million and served more than 1,000 children and adults living with autism.  

“I appreciated the Drivers Council support, but I didn’t want them to pay the fine. We decided as a group to donate the money to charity,” Stewart said. “Artie is such a good friend to all of us and his foundation does a lot of great work.”  

Comprised of Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano and Stewart, the Drivers Council was formed in 2015 and meets periodically with NASCAR to discuss various issues from competition to safety.  

Hamlin will present the check to Kempner at his Drive for Autism golf tournament May 12 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

COMMENTARY: NASCAR Can Learn From Handling Of Stewart's Fine

NASCAR has a bit of a communication problem these days.

In the aftermath of the recent decision to fine driver Tony Stewart for comments critical of the sanctioning body, drivers and crew chiefs are once again left to wonder what they can (and cannot) say.
Last week, just hours after announcing his triumphant return from a fractured lumbar vertebra suffered in a February off-road accident, Stewart was docked $35,000 for comments critical of NASCAR. In announcing Stewart’s penalty, NASCAR cited the specific section of the rulebook that he violated; Section 12.8.1, which forbids “disparaging the sport and/or its leadership.”
Unfortunately, NASCAR did not specify which of Stewart’s comments landed him in hot water.
Was it his assertion that NASCAR had “totally dropping the ball and… made a grossly bad decision” by not requiring teams to install five lug nuts on each wheel during pit stops? Or was it his insinuation that the sanctioning body had suddenly become lax on safety, saying “this is not a game you play.”
NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France attempted to clarify his stance on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Tradin’ Paint today, saying that NASCAR reacts only when drivers “denigrate the racing product (by) saying we don’t care about safety, or that the product is not good.”
France spoke specifically about Stewart’s comments for the first time, saying the three-time Sprint Cup Series champion “alluded to us not caring about safety… and said we were not talking to (the competitors) about safety” leading to the $35,000 fine.

NASCAR's Brian France
While France’s comments shed light on the specifics of Stewart’s penalty, they were too late to do the maximum amount of good. The sanctioning body’s insistence on quoting chapter and verse from their rulebook – without citing specifics of the individual penalty – leaves competitors, media members and fans with no choice but to speculate on what violation may have been committed and where the sanctioning body stands.
Speculation is never good, especially when accompanied by lingering questions about other comments in recent weeks that went unpunished.
Last month, Kyle Busch blasted race officials for not throwing a caution flag when his left-front tire exploded on the final lap of a NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway; a caution that would have sent Busch to Victory Lane. Instead, NASCAR chose to allow the event to race to a conclusion, with Austin Dillon bypassing Busch’s crippled racer in the final turn to claim the checkered flag.
“Debris all over the race track and they don’t throw a yellow,” said an angry Busch over his in-car radio. “I’m just so pleased with you, NASCAR. Thanks. Y’all are awesome. Fixing races.”
Busch was not sanctioned by NASCAR for his “race fixing” allegations, leaving question marks in the minds of many about what is (and isn’t) allowed. France insists that the sanctioning body has drawn “a clear line” in terms of driver conduct, but competitors remain uncertain where that line lies.
Danica Patrick, who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, said today that Stewart’s fine makes her less likely to speak her mind in the future.
“I have definitely thought, `Will I get in trouble for saying that,’” said Patrick on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. “And now, I think I should just say nothing.
“(The fines) are taking character away from people,” said Patrick. “The drivers’ ability to have opinions and be fiery and opinionated and cause a ruckus is going away. It’s a slippery slope. (NASCAR) doesn’t want anything bad said about them, because it’s their brand. But on the other side of things, you still have to let people be themselves. You still have to let the drivers have personality. That’s what makes (the sport) interesting, and I have told them that. So if they fine me for saying this, I can at least say, `I told you this already in the privacy of the NASCAR trailer.’
“When I think of NASCAR, I think of `Boys Have At It;” rough, aggressive racing... (and) being able to do whatever you want. (But now), that seems a lot less possible. There haven’t been a lot of times when I’ve had to keep my mouth shut when I wanted to say something, but it has crossed my mind a few times that, `I don’t know what they (NASCAR) would think of that.’”
France said Stewart had opportunities to address his concerns directly with NASCAR, but never did.
“He’s a member of the Drivers Council and a team owner, as well,” said France. “He has a direct line to speak to us… which he did not do. And when you imply that NASCAR doesn’t care about safety, you can expect a reaction from us.”
France also reasserted his previously stated view that NASCAR allows far more criticism from its athletes than any other professional sport, saying, “Our line is way out there compared to any other league.”
The NASCAR CEO is correct in his assertion that Stewart’s penalty is “not a big deal” when compared to those levied by other sports. In the stick-and-ball world, coaches and managers are routinely ejected from games merely for questioning officials’ calls. Six-figure fines are routine for anyone who second-guesses the referee, much less impugns his integrity. NASCAR can do better, however, by sharing more information, in a more timely fashion.
With the specifics of Stewart’s penalty now made public, France and his fellow NASCAR officials need to be equally forthcoming in the future, explaining immediately (and specifically) why penalties have been levied, thereby short-circuiting all the speculation and uncertainty. With a clear sense of what is allowed, drivers can feel more free to express themselves, rather than biting their tongue in moments of controversy or unhappiness.
Most of us have no problem with the umpire calling balls and strikes.
Just tell us where the Strike Zone lies.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Ben Kennedy Signs With GMS Racing

Just a week after parting company with Red Horse Racing, Ben Kennedy has a new home.  

The Florida native announced today that he will join GMS Racing for a multi-race NASCAR Camping World Truck Series deal, with 10 races already confirmed. Kennedy will begin his new deal on May 6 at Kansas Speedway, driving the No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado alongside teammates Johnny Sauter and Spencer Gallagher. Kennedy has 53 NCWTS starts under his belt and looks to claim his first victory in the series with GMS Racing.  

Jacob Companies will continue their support under the GMS Racing banner.  

“I am very excited to join GMS Racing for the remainder of the 2016 season,” says Kennedy. “I have watched the organization grow into a powerhouse team over the last year. All of their teams show up to the track each weekend with fast Chevrolets and I have total confidence that GMS will provide me with a solid truck each weekend. It’s a great privilege to join Johnny (Sauter), Spencer (Gallagher), Kaz (Grala) and Grant (Enfinger) in the driver lineup. I am looking forward to the accomplishments we will achieve together as a team. ” 

Additional details on new partners and schedule will be released in the coming weeks.

Chitwood Promoted By ISC, Wile Named New Daytona President

Joie Chitwood, III
International Speedway Corporation announced today that Joie Chitwood III, Executive Vice President, ISC and President of Daytona International Speedway, has been promoted to Chief Operating Officer of ISC. The Company also announced that Chip Wile, President of Darlington Raceway, has been promoted to President of Daytona International Speedway. 

“Joie has played a tremendous role in the success of our flagship racetrack at Daytona International Speedway since 2010,” stated ISC CEO Lesa France Kennedy.  “Most recently, his leadership of the DAYTONA Rising project, while simultaneously operating the facility, has demonstrated his operational acumen.”   

Chitwood moves into the newly-formed role of COO following oversight of the Company’s largest development to date – the $400 million transformation of Daytona International Speedway into the world’s first motorsports stadium -- along with the 2010 repave of the Speedway. In his new position, Chitwood will oversee ISC enterprise facility operations, along with strengthening key industry initiatives.  

Chip Wile
“Joie’s promotion is well deserved and reflects his achievements and increased role in the Company’s future,” said John Saunders, President of ISC. “He brings a distinct passion, creativity, and drive to this new role and we look forward to his contributions.” 

Wile, promoter of one of NASCAR’s most successful events of the 2015 season – the Bojangles’ Southern 500, will transition from leadership of Darlington Raceway to President of Daytona International Speedway.  In just two years as President of Darlington Raceway, Wile transformed the facility’s identity and impact on and off the track. He spearheaded a five-year strategy to reinvent Darlington Raceway with an inaugural Throwback Campaign during NASCAR’s return to Darlington on Labor Day weekend, in addition to re-engaging the local community hosting nearly 15 annual events. In his new role, Wile will oversee promotion and operation of the new motorsports stadium beginning with its first major event, the Country 500 over Memorial Day weekend, followed by the Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola.  

“Chip personifies the ideal track president being someone who values relationship building as the catalyst for collaboration and promotion,” stated Kennedy. “He not only operates with a fan-first mentality, but is deeply community-focused and a real team player, all of which will serve him well in this new role.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Good Day Gone Bad: NASCAR Fines Stewart $35,000


Just hours after announcing that he will return to the sport this weekend at Richmond International Speedway, Tony Stewart was fined $35,000 by the sanctioning body for violating its personal conduct policy.  

Section 12.8.1 of the NASCAR rule book forbids disparaging the sport and/or its leadership.
 
Stewart criticized the sanctioning body yesterday for its handling of loose lug nuts. NASCAR declined to police the number of lugs nuts applied on pit stops last season, leaving the number of lugs (and their tightness) in the hands of race teams. Some teams have elected to omit lug nuts on late-race pit stops, leading to a number of loose wheels.

"With all the crap we’re going through with all the safety stuff, for them to sit there and sit on their hands on this one ... this is not a game you play with safety,” said Stewart yesterday. “And that’s exactly the way I feel like NASCAR is treating this. This is not the way to do this.
"We didn’t make the change to begin with,” he said. “It’s not our responsibility. That’s their responsibility. We did it for how many years in the sport – 50-plus years, 60-plus years? And now in the last two years… we don’t have to do that.
 "Last year, it started. This year, you see the problem getting worse. Well, if you see a problem getting worse like that, where’s the bottom of that trend going to happen? It’s going to happen when somebody gets hurt, and that’s going to be one of the largest black eyes I can see NASCAR getting when they’ve worked so hard and done such a good job to make it safe."
Stewart said NASCAR has generally done an admirable job of policing safety, but that "in this one particular area, they are totally dropping the ball and I feel like really made a grossly bad decision."
The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion said he believes the end result of NASCAR’s new leniency is driver injury.
"I guarantee you that envelope is going to keep getting pushed until somebody gets hurt,” he said. “You will not have heard a rant… as bad as what’s going to come out of my mouth if a driver gets hurt because of a loose wheel.”
 
 
 

 

Stewart Returns This Weekend At Richmond

For Tony Stewart, the wait is over, more quickly than expected. 

The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion announced today that he will return to racing this weekend at Richmond International Raceway, less than three months after suffering a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra in an ATV accident in the California desert on Jan. 31. 

Stewart has missed the first eight races of the 2016 season, after undergoing reconstructive surgery that included the addition of metal robs and screws, as well as a wire mesh “cage” around the affected vertebrae. 

“As soon as the doctors said they were happy with my scans, I wasn’t going to wait any longer to get back in my racecar,” said Stewart, who announced last September that he will retire following the 2016 season. “I want to make the most of my last season in Sprint Cup, and I’ve been on the sidelines long enough.” 

Shortly after Stewart’s announcement, NASCAR released a statement granting a waiver for qualification into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. 

“NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “We also have granted the request from Stewart-Haas Racing for a waiver for Tony to be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. As he begins his final season, we wish Tony the best of luck.” 

To earn a Chase spot, Stewart will need to win at least one race – something he hasn’t done since June of 2013 – as well as finish the 26-race regular season among the top 30 in points. Matt DiBenedetto currently sits 30th in the driver standings, with 112 points. 

Following Richmond, Stewart will participate in a Goodyear tire test April 26-27 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will then practice, qualify for and start the event at Talladega Superspeedway, before giving way to relief driver Ty Dillon. As the driver of record, Stewart will receive championship points for that event.  

Dillon (three races) and Brian Vickers (five) have substituted for Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet this season, combining for an average finish of 22.0 with one Top-10. The No. 14 currently sits 23rd in owner points. 

“We’re taking a strategic approach to my return,” Stewart said. “Richmond is a track where I feel very comfortable and because it’s a short track, the speeds are substantially less. The Goodyear test in Indy is sort of a controlled environment, allowing me to get more acclimated with my car at higher speeds. We’ll start the Talladega race to get the points, but understanding the style of racing and the higher potential of getting involved in an incident, we thought it was best to minimize the amount of time I’m in the car. I’ll return fulltime at Kansas and enjoy every moment I can in my final year of Sprint Cup.” 

Stewart has three wins and 19 top 10s in 33 starts at Richmond, site of Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Matt Tifft To Drive For Red Horse Racing At Kansas

Matt Tifft will join the Red Horse Racing stable for several races, beginning at Kansas Speedway. The 19-year old driver has 15 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts to date, with six Top-10 finishes. He also has four NASCAR XFINITY Series starts with one Top-10. 

"We're very glad to bring Matt on board for the next few races," said team owner Tom DeLoach. "He's a great young driver with a lot of potential and I think we can help him gain some more experience and continue to improve."            

Tifft will pilot the No. 11 Toyota Tundra recently vacated by Ben Kennedy at Kansas Speedway, Dover International Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and possibly additional races with veteran crew chief Scott Zipadelli leading the team.  

"I'm really excited for the opportunity to join Red Horse Racing," said Tifft. "I'm looking forward to working with (teammate) Timothy (Peters) and (crew chief) Scott Zipadelli on our No. 11 Toyota Tundra team. We're going to some tracks I really enjoy and I'm confident we're going to have some speed and we'll go and try to get some really good runs."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Arrive Hungry! Talladega Adds "Talla-Mento Dogwich" To GEICO 500 Weekend Menu

Fans will be sinking their teeth into Talladega Superspeedway’s new signature hot dog – the Talla-Mento Dogwich –during the track’s upcoming GEICO 500 race weekend, April 29-May 31.

The Talla-Mento Dogwich is a grilled, all beef hot dog, split in two and placed on top of melted Yancey’s Fancy buffalo cheddar cheese, topped with a generous helping of Pimiento Cheese, then placed between two slices of golden brown, grilled Texas toast and cut down the middle.
Talladega is cutting no corners on this dish, using Yancey’s Fancy New York’s Artisan signature spicy buffalo cheese and cheddar cheese to drive home the flavor. Yancey’s Fancy has specialized in hand crafted cheeses for more than 60 years, with a reputation for producing high quality products.
“We have the best and most competitive form of racing in the world here at Talladega Superspeedway, and now we have the most unique, tasty and ‘big’ menu items anywhere,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “At Talladega, ‘Size Matters’ and our fans won’t be disappointed with the incredibly large Talla-Mento Dogwich. It joins The Big One Meatball’ as the most creative and delicious food items at any sporting event in the world.”
The world-renowned “The Big One” Meatball, the biggest of its kind, weighs in at over a pound. It has a center of blended Mozzarella and Pepper Jack Cheeses, mixed with smoked BBQ Pulled Pork and house BBQ sauce for an extra kick. It is then covered by a layer of ground beef, rolled in a panko bread crumb and parmesan mix, before being deep fried to a golden brown. And finally, it is topped off with a dollop of BBQ sauce and a spaghetti garnish.

The Talla-Mento Dogwich ($5) will be sold in the O.V. Hill North and South Grandstands as well as the Tri-Oval Tower and all Infield Locations. The Big One Meatball ($13) will be sold at concession stands in the Gadsden and O.V. Hill South Grandstands, along with the Tri-Oval Tower along the frontstretch.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Northacker Says Rockingham's Silas Guilty Of "Stealing From A Non-Profit"

Vets-Help.org Executive Director Craig Northacker
Vets-Help.org executive director Craig Northacker responded today to statements made by Rockingham Speedway mortgage holder Bill Silas last week.

Northacker’s written response, submitted to the GodfatherMotorsports.com comment board, took issue with Silas’ contention that the North Carolina oval “should have gone on the auction block a long time ago,” saying, “the only reason (Rockingham) was not on the auction block is that I was to be given the opportunity to buy it. We had a deal worked out last year, but the other members in the triad refused to cooperate. I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars as well trying to make it work, only to be thwarted time and again.”

In that response, Northacker claims that he assisted in paying down Rockingham’s $4-million note, saying, “We had it down to $2.7 million last year before the bank intervened, (then) did not sign the purchase contract.”
Northaker called the deal “lousy business,” adding, “I have offered to enable you to recover your losses from the track - for you to handle the massive amounts of construction we are entering in to. I have the purchase contract you recently sent me - I asked to make sure that no one else had claims, and that if Hillenburg was in bankruptcy that we had the permission of the Court appointed trustee.”
He also accused Silas of being “in conversation with people I was paying to get work done there without telling me,” terming those alleged conversations “stealing from a non-profit.
“I have a lease there, which you acknowledged and which I have insurance for that you are named as a loss payee on,” wrote Northacker. “And yet you deny me access wrongfully. The real sordid history of the track is being unraveled as we speak - it will not have a chance to get to auction.
“There is a lot more to the story,” he wrote. “But Dave Moody was uninterested in what we can do for our military and veterans there.”
Contacted by phone today, Northacker complained about a recent interview on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius XM Speedway in which he was “not allowed to speak about the plans we had to turn Rockingham into a Reintegration Center for military veterans.”
He alleged that in the approximately 15-minute interview, this writer “continually steered the conversation away from our plans and back to racing.” Reminded that the channel caters to a NASCAR-centric audience that was primarily interested in the racing aspects of his plan, Northacker replied, “So you’re not interested in helping our veterans,” before abruptly hanging up.
Here is Northacker’s written esponse, in its entirety:
"Billy, the only reason it was not on the auction block is that I was to be given the opportunity to buy it. We had a deal worked out last year, but the other members in the triad refused to cooperate. I have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars as well trying to make it work, only to be thwarted time and again. Why are you asking me for $ 4.1 million, only to turn around and auction it? There is a lot more to the story - but Dave Moody was uninterested in what we can do for our military and veterans there. Actions speak louder than words, Billy. Why do you not want to let me do what we started - turn it into a reintegration center? You paid $ 4 million for the note when we had it down to $ 2.7 million last year before the bank intervened. Then did not sign the purchase contract. This is lousy business - I have offered to enable you to recover your losses from the track - for you to handle the massive amounts of construction we are entering in to. I have the purchase contract you recently sent me - I asked to make sure that no one else had claims, and that if Hillenburg was in bankruptcy that we had the permission of the Court appointed trustee. A couple of weeks later after no answer, without telling me, you put the track up for auction. And it appears you have been in conversation with people I was paying to get work done there without telling me. That is stealing from a non-profit. You told me recently that you had $ 400,000 in escrow from another buyer, but that you wanted the veterans to have the track. Your attorney belied that sentiment with his comment that my concerns over 10,000 veteran suicides was mere "diatribe". You reinforced that sentiment by your actions now. I have a lease there, which you acknowledged, and which I have insurance for that you are named as a loss payee on. And yet you deny me access wrongfully. The real sordid history of the track is being unraveled as we speak - it will not have a chance to get to auction.”

 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Silas Speaks On Rockingham Speedway, What Went Wrong And What Comes Next

Rockingham Speedway’s Bill Silas broke his lengthy silence today in an exclusive interview with GodfatherMotorsports.com, clarifying his role in the operation of the North Carolina speed plant, discussing what went wrong and outlining his plans for the future.

It was announced this week that the venerable speedway will go up for public auction on Thursday, May 5 at the Richmond County (NC) Superior Court, with the track, its grounds and infrastructure being sold to the highest bidder. Silas confirmed that the sale will take place, while disputing past descriptions of him as a part-owner of Rockingham, along with former ARCA champion and NASCAR racer Andy Hillenburg.

“I have never been a partner in the speedway,” he said. “I co-signed the note for Andy to purchase the track. I saw it as something for my son Bryan to have a hand in at some point in the future, but I was never involved in the day-to-day operation of the track.

“I never thought we’d make a ton of money, but I didn’t think we’d lose a ton, either,” said Silas. “I thought we’d have it paid off in 10 years, and it would be a great opportunity for Bryan. It has always been about Bryan.”

Silas said that in his opinion, Rockingham’s financial downfall stemmed from a failure to supplement its on-track activities with other, non-racing events.

“The first race Andy booked was an ARCA show,” he recalled. “We spent $300-400,000 and never made it back. That was a tough way to start. Sponsorships didn’t come through the way we expected them to, and then we got hit with one of the biggest financial recessions in history. The timing could not have been worse.

“We tried bringing in the (NASCAR Camping World) Truck Series,” said Silas, “and it was a complete financial failure. (The monetary strain) began impacting my main business, and I started to realize that this was not working out the way we had hoped. I suggested (to Hillenburg) that he either buy me out, or that we hang a ‘For Sale’ sign out front, but he didn’t want to do that. He sincerely believed that we could make it work.”

Silas said that after some financial restructuring, he mistakenly believed that his name had been taken off the bank note.

“I trusted that my name was off the note,” he said, “but that was not the case.”

Silas stressed that he harbors no animosity or ill-will toward Hillenburg, who “put his life on the line for that race track. He never misled me. He worked his tail off, because he loves Rockingham Speedway and Richmond County. The decision was made to run a second NASCAR Truck race, and again, there was no money (made). A lot more money went out the door, with nothing coming back in.

“At a certain point, it just doesn’t make sense to keep writing checks.”

Silas said that in his opinion, Rockingham “should have gone on the auction block a long time ago.  You can’t keep throwing good money after bad. I’ve spent more than $200,000 on attorney’s fees alone since the last race there (in April of 2013). I bought the note from the bank. I have spent millions of dollars. I’m spending money right now to get the track as operational as possible for a future buyer.”

Silas said he believes Rockingham could make money, if properly run.

“It can’t be just racing,” he said. “Two or three races a year will not begin to pay the bills. The track needs other (non-racing) events to draw people in. The place is totally underutilized. When you’re paying 7.5% interest on a bank loan and your payment is $37,000 a month, $22,000 of that is interest alone. That doesn’t work unless you have cross-revenue from other events.”

Silas said he believes Rockingham “will never be just a race track, ever again. Look at Charlotte Motor Speedway,” he said. “There is something going on there just about every day. They have 2-3 major racing events each year, but they’re putting something in the bank just about every day.”

He stressed, however, that he is not the man for the job.

“I have 1,000 employees in seven states,” he said. “I can only do so many things at the same time. Running a racetrack was never part of my plan. I am stretched too thin to do it myself, and Bryan doesn’t want to tackle it, either. The best thing to do is hand it off to someone who can give it their full attention.

“Rockingham needs a businessman, not just a racer.”

Silas declined to comment on statements made by Vets-Help.org executive director Craig Northacker, who announced plans in January of 2015 to purchase the speedway as the centerpiece of a “Reintegration Center” for military veterans. He did say, however, that at various points, a number of individuals have expressed interest in buying the track.

“At least 10 people have talked about buying Rockingham,” he said. “Unfortunately, not one of them put forth a single dime. In fact, people got in trouble for using the track, after being given permission to do so by people who had no authorization. Locks were cut off gates by folks who thought they had permission to be there."

Finally, Silas said he has been disappointed with the lack of support shown by area race fans, as well as the unfair criticism he believes he has received from some members of the racing community.

“I’m not going to write checks all day, if people won’t support the race track,” he said. “The people who criticize me are not the ones draining their checking accounts (to keep Rockingham running). I’m not trying to kill the speedway, I‘m trying to save it.

“On May 5, someone is going to own this race track, debt-free,” he said. “Any previous debts have either been paid, or forgiven by the courts. There is an opportunity here for someone to make a clean start and do what it takes to make Rockingham Speedway successful again.

“All it takes is for the right person to step forward.”