Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Daniel Suarez To Make JGR Nationwide Debut

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Daniel Suarez will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut at Richmond International Raceway on Friday, driving the No. 20 Silent Circle/Telcel Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.  
Suarez is a part of the NASCAR Drive 4 Diversity program, as well as an alumnus of the NASCAR Next program. He is currently running a full season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East for Rev Racing and the NASCAR Toyota Series in Mexico.  He opened this season with wins at New Smyrna Speedway (FL.) and Daytona International Speedway in February, and is currently second in points following the first four races of the 2014 NASCAR K&N Series East season. He also has two wins in the first three races of the 2014 NASCAR Toyota Series season and currently leads the point standings.   
“I’m excited for the opportunity to make my NASCAR Nationwide Series debut,” said Suarez. “I want to thank Telcel and Silent Circle for believing in me and making this a reality. I can’t wait for Friday night in Richmond.” 
Suarez made his K&N Pro Series debut in 2011 competing in seven of 12 races while also competing full time in the NASCAR Toyota Series. He returned to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East to run nine of 12 races in 2012. His first East Series’ win came last season at Columbus Motor Speedway (Columbus, Ohio) and he went on to  finish the 2013 season with six top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 14 races to earn third place in the final point standings.  
While making his mark on the NASCAR K&N East Series, Suarez continued to run full time in the NASCAR Toyota Series in Mexico after earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2010 with one top-five and four to-10 finishes. During the 2011 season, Suarez earned seven top-10 finishes to secure ninth place in the final point standings. He finished the 2012 season third in points with two wins and topped his success the next season finishing second in the final point standings with three wins. 
“Daniel is certainly someone that has proven to have a lot of talent and we are thrilled this was able to come together and allow him to make his debut at Richmond,” said J.D. Gibbs. “I think it’s exciting when you look at the young talent our sport has right now and we certainly feel that Daniel is going to be part of the future for NASCAR.”  

It will be a busy weekend for Suarez, who will pull double duty at Richmond International Raceway competing in the K&N Pro Series East race immediately following the Nationwide Series race on Friday night. He will then drive back to Charlotte to board a plane to Monterrey, Mexico to compete in the NASCAR Toyota Series, hoping to make practice on Saturday afternoon before competing in the race on Sunday afternoon. 

Patrick To Award Coca-Cola Zero Tailgate Championship Trophy At Talladega

The new Talladega Superspeedway tradition of the Coca-Cola Zero Tailgate Championship on world famous Talladega Boulevard will continue during Aaron’s Dream Weekend (May 2-4), and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick will once again present the coveted winner’s trophy. 

One year ago Patrick, driver of the No. 10 GoDaddy Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing, walked Talladega Boulevard – the infamous strip of land in Talladega’s infield known as NASCAR’s “Party Capital” – and handed out the first ever Coca-Cola Zero Tailgate Champion trophy to the best decorated campsite.

On Saturday, May 3, Patrick will once again take to The Boulevard to check out the campsites, meet fans and make the 2014 trophy presentation. 

“There’s no place on the NASCAR circuit quite like Talladega Boulevard,” says Patrick. “It has a fun, party atmosphere, and it’s easy to see the passion these fans have for NASCAR and Talladega when you take a walk down The Boulevard. 

“Getting to pick my favorite tailgate at Talladega last year, thanks to Coca-Cola Zero, was pretty cool, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the fans can come up with this year to impress me. There’s an abundance of creativity out there. And for me, it’s fun spending time with the fans and getting to check out where they party. I’m ready for the second annual Coca-Cola Zero Tailgate Championship at Talladega Superspeedway. I hope the fans are, too.” 

The most notorious strip of real estate in the sport, Talladega Boulevard, has been a mainstay in NASCAR circles since the track was built in 1969. Its Mardi Gras-type atmosphere, complete with beads and shenanigans, is a NASCAR tradition that separates Talladega from other venues. The colorful creativity on display in all the tents, RVs, trucks and trailers on Talladega Boulevard is a much-anticipated part of any Talladega race weekend. 

“We love the passion Danica has for our fans on Talladega Boulevard,” says Talladega Chairman Grant Lynch. “She continues to take a tremendous liking to what the Boulevard is all about, and we can’t thank her enough. We encourage our fans to really dress up their area and get ready for a party. The Coca-Cola Zero Tailgate Champion trophy presentation is now a tradition and part of the lure of Talladega.” 

The naming of the Coca-Cola Zero Tailgate Champion is not the only thing happening on Saturday of the Aaron’s Dream Weekend. The day will kick off at 10 am with the ARCA Racing Series International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200, followed by “Knockout” group qualifying for the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series event. The day will end with Talladega’s legendary infield concert, featuring country star Randy Houser, which fans can attend with a Sunday grandstand ticket.  

Tickets are available at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or by calling 877-Go2-DEGA.  

Timothy Peters Added To Denny Hamlin Shootout Field

Timothy Peters, driver of Red Horse Racing's No. 17 Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will return to his Late Model roots and compete in the seventh annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown on Thursday, April 24 at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. The veteran driver will be behind the wheel of the No. 17 Autos by Nelson Toyota Camry at a track where he's found much success. The team will be led by Marcus Richmond, Peter's childhood best friend, and his current crew chief in the Truck Series. The duo won the Track Championship at South Boston Speedway in 2004, and multiple races at the South Boston, Va. race track since then. 

"The (Short Track) Showdown should be a lot of fun." said Peters. "I love that it's at South Boston Speedway this year because it's a home track for me. I'm really looking forward to racing the No. 17 Autos by Nelson Camry. Marcus (Richmond) designed it just for this event so it should be good!" 
The Late Model that Peters will be driving was custom designed for short track racing by crew chief Marcus Richmond, and built by local company A&E Race Cars, owned by Allen and Earl Rice. 
"Everyone that competes [in the Short Track Showdown] puts a lot of time and effort into the race," said Richmond "Not only is it a fun race because of all the different drivers who show up to race, but it also supports a great cause."  
The Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown began in 2008 at Southside Speedway, a local short track near Hamlin's hometown of Chesterfield, Va., outside of Richmond, before moving to Richmond International Raceway in 2011. For its seventh year in 2014, the race moves just over 100 miles to the southeast of Richmond to another short track with a long history in stock car racing, South Boston Speedway. 
The celebrity Late Model race features a collection of NASCAR veterans and local Late Model stars racing for bragging rights and to raise awareness and funding for the Denny Hamlin Foundation, which supports the Cystic Fibrosis Research Lab at The Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU. 
Advance tickets to the Short Track Showdown are available by calling the track ticket hotline at 1-877-440-1540. General admission is $20 Advance/$25 Race Day for Adult; $10 Advance/$15 Race Day for Youth (ages 12-17); and Free for Children ages 11 and under (with an Adult ticket purchase). Season passes are not honored for this special event. 
Peters currently leads the championship point standings in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which returns to action at Kansas Speedway on Friday, May 9.

Austin Theriault Inks Three-Race JRM Nationwide Deal

Austin Theriault will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut later this season as part of a three-race deal with JR Motorsports and its No. 5 Chevrolet. 

Theriault, a 20-year old Late Model racer from Fort Kent, Maine, will make his debut on May 18 at Iowa Speedway, driving JRM’s No. 5 Chevrolet with primary sponsorship from SPY Eyewear. The upper-rear quarter-panels of the car will carry the logo of Dirty Mo Radio, the internet home for Dale Earnhardt Jr.-related podcasts throughout the NASCAR season. 

“SPY is happy to offer continued support to the JR Motorsports team and be a part of the exciting Nationwide Series debut of Austin Theriault,” said Michael Marckx, SPY CEO and president. “On the heels of our commitment to Dirty Mo Radio, this is only the beginning of the excitement SPY looks to bring to NASCAR, and we’re happy to do it with JR Motorsports. 

Nationwide Series races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (July 12) and Kentucky Speedway (Sept. 20) will fill out Theriault’s three-race schedule.  

“Our company is known for putting young talent in cars and giving them a shot on one of NASCAR’s biggest stages, and that is what we are giving Austin with this three-race opportunity,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. “This keeps our No. 5 car on the track, and it gives Austin the chance to show what he’s got with a lot more eyeballs taking notice.” 

Theriault was the 2012 Maine Vintage Race Car Association’s Driver of the Year and he made his NASCAR K&N Pro Series debut after winning “Maine Young Guns” inaugural competition in 2012. He also became a part-time developmental driver for Brad Keselowski Racing that season. 

In 2013, Theriault won three Super Late Model race son the Pro All Star (PASS) Series, including the Rumble in the Pines at Southern National Motorsports Park, the South Carolina Clash at Dillon Motor Speedway, and the PASS 400 Championship Race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. He finished the season with three wins and eight Top-10 finishes in 25 starts. 

“I am excited to be continuing my professional development with JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series,” Theriault said. “I have been working hard for this opportunity, and to be associated with JR Motorsports and SPY is a dream come true.” 

SPY is the presenting sponsor for two of Dirty Mo Radio’s weekly programs—The Monday Recap and The Dale Jr. Download. Dirty Mo Radio is housed at DaleJr.com but also available free of charge on iTunes, TuneIn Radio and other major podcasting outlets. 

Through seven races, the No. 5 team ranks fourth in the Nationwide Series owner standings on the strength of five top-five finishes, led by drivers Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Keselowski Recalls Sting Of Hendrick Rejection

A little-known 2012 interview with former NASCAR Sprint Series champion Brad Keselowski resurfaced last week, shedding light on just how close the Michigan native came to being a Hendrick Motorsports Sprint Cup driver and how disappointed he was when that opportunity escaped him.

In episode of the syndicated show “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that re-aired last week, Keselowski spoke candidly about team-owner Rick Hendrick’s decision to keep veteran Mark Martin in his No. 5 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet for 2010, despite previously promising the ride to Keselowski.
Keselowski spoke about a meeting with rival team owner Roger Penske two years earlier, intended to gauge his interest in joining Penske Racing.
“He wanted to know what my situation was,” recalled Keselowski. “I knew I wanted to do the Hendrick (deal) and go for that. But this is Roger Penske! How can I say `no’ to a chance to meet him? So I met him in a Conference Room in 2008. I sat in that office and he talked to me. I just wanted to hear him talk. I didn’t know what he (would have) to say.
“At the end, he asked me a very simple question. ‘Are you interested?’ I told him I’m a loyal guy (and) I’ve already made another commitment (to Hendrick).
“I had agreed to race for Rick Hendrick,” said Keselowski. “He had just signed Mark Martin, and I was ready in the wings, so to speak. I wasn’t just ready (in terms of) the sport, I was ready mentally. But obviously, it didn’t play out.”  
Keselowski and Hendrick in happier times
Hendrick spoke openly at the time of keeping Keselowski close at hand, saying, “We're looking at different options… external situations with other teams” like Stewart Haas Racing and Phoenix Racing, in addition to a full-time return to the JR Motorsports Nationwide operation. “He wants to do something associated with our company and we're working on it,” said Hendrick. “He'll be running Cup (in 2009). Whether he'll be running them all or 75 percent of them or what, I don't know."
Keselowski chose to remain with JR Motorsports in 2009, believing he would replace struggling Casey Mears at the wheel of Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet the following season. He made 12 Sprint Cup starts with HMS and Phoenix Racing that season, but realized early in the season that his promised ride might not be his, after all.
“As soon as Mark Martin won (at Phoenix in April of 2009), I knew what it meant,” he recalled. “As soon as he won that race, I knew I wasn’t going to get the ride at Hendrick Motorsports in 2010: the one essentially we’d talked about and I’d been promised.”
One week later, Keselowski took car-owner James Finch to Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway. “I was driving with a chip on my shoulder, trying to put (the rejection) in the background,” he said. And while he initially hoped the victory would be enough to retain his promised spot in the Hendrick stable, Keselowski soon received a telephone call from the HMS owner.
“I know what (the call) was, but I didn’t want to believe it,” he recalled. “As soon as he won Phoenix, (Martin) walked up to Mr. Hendrick and said he wanted to drive the car for the next year or two. Which essentially (meant) there was no spot for me.”
Martin proved difficult to ignore, teaming with crew chief Alan Gustafson to win five times during that decisive 2009 season. It was a fairytale matchup, and given the choice between an established veteran and a largely unproven rookie, Hendrick elected to retain the hot hand.
Asked if he felt betrayed by the decision, Keselowski said, “I never really thought of it as betrayal. (Or) maybe I did, I don’t know.
“I was more heartbroken… chippy. Maybe that’s something that comes from a sense of betrayal, but that’s a strong word. I would say it definitely added fuel to the fire of who I am and my desire to be the best.”


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Swan Racing "Reviewing Ability To Compete" In NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Swan Racing owner Brandon Davis

The Swan Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team released a number of employees today and may not compete in the circuit’s next race at Richmond International Raceway On April 26.

The team issued a written statement saying, “Swan Racing is in the process of reviewing its current situation and the ability to continue to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The team has been unable to secure the kind of sponsorship required to effectively operate the team. As a result, the team management is exploring every available option.  We hope to be in position to provide a detailed update in the near future.”
The 2014 campaign has been a competitive struggle for Swan, with a best finish of 18th by driver Cole Whitt at Auto Club Speedway of Southern California last month. Whitt finished 42nd in last Saturday night’s Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (his second consecutive 42nd-place finish), while teammate Parker Kligerman was 30th. The team has suffered a total of five DNFs in 16 combined starts this season, with Whitt currently 33rd in Sprint Cup Series championship points and Kligerman 38th.
Team employees were reportedly informed today that the team is suspending operations, and many of them are already seeking employment with other teams. Swan Racing minority owner Anthony Marlowe – who also serves as co-founder and president of TMOne -- commented on the situation today via Twitter, saying, “My mission is to ensure @ColeWhitt races in every #NASCAR Sprint Cup event this season.” Sources say there is a possibility that Whitt’s No. 26 Toyota could be absorbed into the existing BK Racing operation, if Swan Racing is unable to continue.
Majority owner Brandon Davis purchased the former Inception Motorsports in mid-2012, running most of that season with driver David Stremme. Stremme parted company with the team following last year’s fall Atlanta race, with Kligerman, Whitt, Kevin Swindell and Michael Waltrip all filling the seat of the team’s No. 30 Toyota before season’s end. Swan expanded to a two-car operation this year with Kligerman and Whitt, while also adding Marlowe and former NFL star Bill Romanowski as minority partners.
Sponsorship has come from Davis’ Swan Energy – a Denver-based oil and gas company -- and Romanowski’s Lean1 Nutrition Shakes, as well as SMS audio, Widow Wax; the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino and Black Clover.  Phone calls to Davis and the team’s race shop went unanswered today, and messages requesting additional comment were not immediately returned.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

FOX To Air Talladega Qualifying

How big of a deal is NASCAR’s new Sprint Cup Series “Knockout” qualifying going to be at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, May 3?

Just ask FOX. 
The television network announced today that it will air Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Aaron’s 499, moving it from FOX Sports 2 and marking the first time a non-Daytona 500 qualifying session has aired on FOX. If it’s anything like NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying during Speedweeks at Daytona, fans will see four-wide racing at 200 mph in an attempt to gain the top starting spot at one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks. 
“This shows the power of Talladega and what this race track is all about,” said Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch. “Our drivers have three segments to get it done in NASCAR’s new qualifying format, and there will be no time to waste. Talladega is famous for four-wide racing in all our racing events. Now fans can get ready for it in qualifying.” 
“This move is a direct result of the double-digit ratings gains NASCAR’s new knockout qualifying format is delivering every weekend,” said Bill Wanger, Executive Vice President of Programming, Research & Content Strategy for FOX. “We are thrilled to be able to highlight this new format on FOX, and what more exciting place to do that than Talladega Superspeedway.”  

The new format pits drivers against each other in three segments. The first will feature more than 43 drivers in a 25-minute session. After a five-minute break, the Top-24 drivers will advance to the second round, which will be 10 minutes of on-track action. The fastest 12 will move to the final five-minute dash for glory, with the quickest driver in the anchor segment taking the Coors Light Pole Position. 
“I think it’s going to be awesome,” said Kyle Busch, the 2008 winner of the Aaron’s 499, who is still seeking his first pole position at Talladega Superspeedway. “I think it’s going to be some of the most fun sessions we get to have. You’re going to have guys that try to get in a line of two, three, or four cars, and then try to chase down the pack to see how fast they can get going and what kind of laps they’ll run. Talladega is going to be a whole pack of cars trying to figure it all out, so there’s going to be some interesting moments there.”
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson said, “a lot of guys paid attention in Daytona to what the Nationwide cars did, and there is a way to run a fast lap. It just depends on who you are trying to team up with, who’s trying to work together, and how far somebody is laying back. You know you are getting up to speed, and with a group behind you, you are pulling them along at a faster rate. Do you abort your lap and try to catch somebody else and tag on to the back of their draft? So, it is going to be extreme – you can’t predict it. It’s just going to be out of control, in a good way. There could be some wrecks because there’s going to be a lot of cars out there.”
 Denny Hamlin, also seeking his first pole at Talladega, said simply, “It will be very, very interesting.”
Coors Light Pole Award qualifying is set for a 12:10 pm CT start; part of a huge Saturday at Talladega that also includes the ARCA Racing Series’ International Motorsports Hall of Fame 200 at 10 am and the Aaron’s 312 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at 2 pm. The day concludes that evening with country music superstar Randy Houser performing the infamous Saturday Night Infield Concert on Talladega Blvd.
To find out more, call the Talladega ticket office at 1-877-Go-2-DEGA.

Marcus Jadotte Leaving NASCAR D4D Program

NASCAR announced today that Marcus Jadotte, vice president of public affairs and multicultural development, will be leaving the organization. Jadotte will serve as a consultant as NASCAR continues to evolve its diversity and multicultural development initiatives throughout the organization. Additionally, NASCAR will expand its existing relationship with Teneo Strategy, a strategic advisory firm which has worked with NASCAR since 2013, to support its public affairs activities.  

“During his nine years at NASCAR, Marcus has made a truly meaningful impact on our business,” said NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France. “Thanks in large part to Marcus’ passion and leadership, we have become a leader in diversity and inclusion among the sports industry, and we will continue to deepen our commitment in the years ahead. We are grateful for his years of dedicated service to NASCAR.” 
“The NASCAR ecosystem reaches nearly every facet of the American economy, so it was particularly gratifying to have worked with leading NASCAR stakeholders and to have contributed to the sport’s development over the last nine years,” Jadotte said. “I am especially grateful for the professional support and friendship I have received from Brian France and NASCAR President Mike Helton during my tenure.” 
Among his accomplishments since joining NASCAR in March 2005, Jadotte led the development of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Pit Crew Development programs. These initiatives focus on developing the skills of promising female, Asian, Latino and African-American drivers and crew members in NASCAR. Jadotte has effectively overseen NASCAR’s relationship with Rev Racing, which operates teams in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for the NASCAR D4D program, resulting in an increase in minority participation and on-track success.  
NASCAR D4D will continue under the leadership of Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president OF racing operations, to whom Jadotte previously reported. The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program and annual NASCAR Diversity Awards also are among a number of diversity and inclusion programs started by Jadotte that will continue at NASCAR.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hermie Sadler Set For Hamlin Short Track Showdown

1993 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year and current Fox Sport 1 analyst Hermie Sadler will return to the track in this year’s Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown. The celebrity-laden Late Model race returns to its roots at South Boston (VA) Speedway on April 24th, as host Denny Hamlin and an all-star cast of drivers return to the track that helped launch Hamlin's NASCAR career. 
Sadler, who competed at South Boston in the Late Model Division in the early 1990's, said holding the race at the legendary Virginia short track made him want to compete this year. 
"I really appreciate Denny and everything he does with his foundation and am honored to be invited to race,” said Sadler. “And getting to race again at South Boston Speedway makes it that much more special for me. It's also my birthday, so I'm hoping a lot of my family and friends can come out and celebrate with me for a great cause!" 

Sadler will be driving a Chevrolet prepared by H.C. and Peyton Sellers of nearby Danville, Virginia.  The car will be sponsored by Boyd Cars of Henderson, South Hill, and Emporia, Global Force Wrestling and the all new Dominion Raceway. Practice for the Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown begins at 1 p.m., with qualifying at 5:30, qualifying races at 6:30 and the 200-lap feature at approximately 8:00 pm.  For more information, visit www.southbostonspeedway.com or call 434-572-4947.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Talladega To Present New "Freedom Trophy"

Winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway has always been fraught with history, tradition, prestige and honor.  

Now, it has taken on a new meaning.

In support of the United States military, Talladega Superspeedway has announced the “Freedom Trophy,” to be awarded at every NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the 2.66-mile grand venue, beginning with the May 4th Aaron’s 499. The trophy showcases all five branches of the United States military; Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. 

Military personnel will be on hand at each Talladega event to make the Freedom Trophy presentation in Victory Lane. Not only will they be in the winner’s circle to award the trophy, but they will also participate in pre-race ceremonies, as well. Each Talladega Superspeedway race weekend, a different United States military base will be given the opportunity to present the Freedom Trophy. 

The creation of Talladega Superspeedway Vice President Brian Crichton, the Freedom Trophy is intended to honor all military men and women. Crichton enlisted the assistance of Fast Forward Marketing Owner Mike Barth, who has custom designed trophies in motorsports since 1996. MTM Recognition in Oklahoma City, OK spearheaded the design. 

“Winning a Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega just got extra special,” said Talladega Chairman Grant Lynch. “With the Freedom Trophy, we pay tribute to our race winners, as well as our servicemen and women who make so many things possible for us on a daily basis.” 

The Freedom Trophy is five-sided, reflective of each branch of the military. Silver aluminum panels, complete with a design of each military branch soldier and branch logo, are showcased, along with a water jet cut star in the center. The base is black-stained wood with circular discs at the bottom and top made of black acrylic, and includes the Talladega Superspeedway logo, the date of the race and the name of the base awarding the trophy. 

“As a symbol of our military, we thought it was fitting to start with a pentagon shaped base,” said Crichton. “The artists did a great job by bringing together all five branches of the military, incorporating the star in the center and showcasing each branch seal on the individual pillars. It is a trophy we hope every Talladega Sprint Cup winner will be proud of (and) that it will mean a little something extra when they display it with the rest of their trophies.”

In addition to presenting the Freedom Trophy, Talladega Superspeedway is proud to offer special ticket prices for all members of the military and their families for its race weekends. For more information, visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com/military

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Chase Elliott Leaves His Mark On Darlington

There’s a new young lion in NASCAR. And my goodness, how he roars.
Friday night, 18-year-old Chase Elliott muscled his way past veteran Elliott Sadler on the final lap to score his second consecutive NASCAR Nationwide Series win in the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington (SC) Raceway. It was the second victory in just seven career Nationwide starts for Elliott, the son of former NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Bill Elliott.
While Elliott was clearly the dominant driver of the evening, leading three times for a total of 52 laps. He needed a little luck, however, to make it to Victory Lane. He trailed leader Kyle Busch by nearly two seconds until Tanner Berryhill spun to bring out the caution with just seven laps remaining. A poor pit stop dropped him to sixth in the running order, setting the stage for a furious, late-race charge to Victory Lane.
Despite lining up sixth for the ensuing green-white-checkered flag restart, Elliott wasted little time getting to the front. He powered past Kevin Harvick for fifth on the high side of Turn One, before disposing of both Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson on the backstretch. He drove around Matt Kenseth as the white flag flew to take the runner-up spot, then capitalized when Sadler bobbled at the exit of Turn Two, regaining the lead and holding it to the checkered flag.
The victory was Elliott's second in as many weeks – after his inaugural series win at Texas Motor Speedway last Saturday night-- and made him the first NASCAR National Series driver to win in his Darlington debut since Dick Rathmann in 1952; three years before proud papa Bill Elliott was born. He also expanded his lead in the Nationwide championship standings to seven points over teammate Regan Smith.
"That last restart was crazy,” said Elliott, who skipped his High School prom to race at Darlington. “I didn't know what to expect starting sixth. I knew the guys on two tires were going to be a little slower than those on four, and it happened to work out. Elliott (Sadler) got a little loose in two and gave me the outside, and that's where I wanted to be, anyway."

While Elliott’s win was his first at Darlington, he is no stranger to Victory Lane at “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” His father was a five-time Darlington winner, including a 1985 Southern 500 victory that earned him the nickname "Million Dollar Bill."
After the race, Chase Elliott called his victory at the legendary 1.366-mile Palmetto State oval, "truly a dream come true. It's a place I've always loved watching races, and it's probably my favorite track to watch a race as a fan."
Sadler made the most of a two-tire gamble on the race’s final pit stop to finish second, followed by Kenseth, Busch, Joey Logano, Larson and Harvick. Elliott’s win left several veteran NASCAR drivers shaking their heads in amazement. Seven-time Darlington Sprint Cup winner Jeff Gordon tweeted, “Man is it fun to watch these young kids drive! Amazing final lap by @ChaseElliott.”
Six-time and defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was more succinct in his praise, saying simply, “Damn, that kid is good!”
Elliott’s car owner, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., said after the race, "I like to call him the new Elvis … he's the full package." Earnhardt also warned that the best may be yet to come for his young protégé, saying, “He ain't even focusing on racing (yet). He's in school. Wait until he gets graduated, he's going to be really trouble for those other boys."
Elliott graduates from Dawson County High School on May 17, and will juggle his racing schedule to attend. Plans call for him to practice at Iowa Speedway that Friday, before returning home to Dawsonville Saturday for afternoon graduation. He will fly back to the track to qualify that evening.

"I want to make mom happy,” said Elliott of his whirlwind Graduation Day. “I know she's going to be excited about that one.”

Friday, April 11, 2014

Experienced Johnson Not Reaching For The Panic Button

"It's just about getting the job done."
Despite a series of on-track misfortunes in recent weeks, six-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson said his confidence level remains high this weekend at Darlington Raceway.
“There’s definitely an ‘ouch’,” said Johnson of the blown tire that robbed him of a possible victory three weeks ago in Fontana, Cal., and the damage inflicted by debris from teammate Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s early off-road excursion last weekend in Texas. “But it’s more from a position where we hate to see opportunities slip away. It doesn’t hurt our confidence.
“For us -- and I think for most teams -- when you’re that close, have a shot to win, know that you have fast race cars and don’t pull into Victory Lane, it’s a confidence booster. The end result isn’t what you want or what you like, but you know your cars are fast and your pit stops are good.
“You have all the pieces there and it’s just about running the distance of the race and getting the job done.”
Johnson said he is especially happy to be back at Darlington, a track where he has visited Victory Lane three times in 15 career starts.
"You can only give 100 percent."
“I’m excited to be back at a track that is a favorite of so many, including myself. The sensation of speed here is higher than any other track we go to. The line and racing surface are so narrow and unique and challenging, that it really is an accomplishment to run 500 miles here. (It’s tough) to be successful and qualify well and have a good race, and then ultimately to win. So, I’m very excited to be back and I’m looking forward to a good race.
“We’ve had a lot of speed in our cars, insisted Johnson. “I feel terrible that in the last three weeks, we’ve had a race-winning car and haven’t been able to take advantage of it. Last week, our race was cut awfully short; just three or four laps before we had all the damage from Junior’s trip through the grass. I think we were really in a great position to compete for a win, but that stuff happens. We’re looking forward to -- and are focused on -- this weekend’s race and hopefully can get a ‘W’.”
The six-time series champion said he has learned over the years that “over-trying” in times of struggle can actually hurt a team. 
“We’re giving 100 percent and that’s really all you can do,” said Johnson. “You can only work so many hours in the day and then in the week. You can only give 100 percent. Anything more is going to be detrimental to the team and not help things progress.
“We’ve had speed in our race cars. We’ve been competitive and have had looks at wins (before) things have happened. That happens in motorsports. We hate that it hasn’t happened, we hate opportunities slipping away.
“But when you’re giving 100 percent and you have fast race cars, you’re controlling most of your variables. We feel good about that and know that once we get things rolling, we’ll be in great shape.”

Larson, Dillon Earn Early Darlington Stripes

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookies Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon wasted little time earning their inaugural Darlington stripes today, tangling with the Turn Two wall during Opening Round practice.
“Kyle came over and asked, ‘where did you hit?’ said Dillon after his bout with the Darlington SAFER barrier. “I said, `off Turn 2- and he said, `me too!’
“We are just learning, I guess. I felt good into (Turn) 1 and through the middle, (but) I got tight late around the corner. It just carried speed. I hit the wall, but I learned a lot right there. Hopefully it doesn't happen again. 
Larson said his meeting with “The Track Too Tough To Tame” was virtually identical.
“We were talking and it sounded like the exact same thing that (I was) describing. The difference is, I have to get a back-up car out. 
“They said our back-up is just as good as our primary, and we had a really good run before I hit the wall. I’m just learning, I’m (usually) in the wall in 3 and 4, and never off 2. But I killed the wall in 2 (today).
“We will get back out here soon and I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

Hass Gets Green Light For Formula One Team

Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation and co-owner of the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, has been granted a Formula One license by the FIA.  

Haas commented on the approval today, saying, “Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One. 

“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.” 

Founded in 1983 and based in Oxnard, Calif., Haas Automation is the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world. Haas also founded Windshear, a 180-mph rolling-road wind tunnel in Concord, N.C., that is the first of its kind in North America. It is only the third rolling-road wind tunnel of its scale in existence and the world’s first commercially available, full-scale, rolling-road wind tunnel. 

Stewart-Haas Racing won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011.  

Haas is expected to announce more details in a press conference on Monday in the Charlotte, N.C., area

Waltrip, Elliott Take Part In MLB Game

In preparation for Aaron's Dream Weekend on May 2-4, NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip and Chase Elliott were on hand when the Atlanta Braves took on the New York Mets Wednesday night at Turner Field in Atlanta, GA. 

Waltrip, who won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega in 2003, threw out the first pitch while Elliott, the most recent winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and son of two-time Talladega winner Bill Elliott, was the Braves’ Honorary Team Captain. 

Waltrip, who will compete in the Aaron’s 499 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega on May 4, claimed his pitch was a strike, saying, “I had some steam on that throw. It was fast, really fast....not as fast as we will go at Talladega, but fast."  

Elliott, a life-long Braves fan, is a rookie in the Nationwide Series and currently leads the championship chase in his JR Motorsports Chevrolet with Top-10 finishes in five of the first six races in 2014. The Aaron's 312 will be his first attempt at Talladega's 2.66-mile venue. 

"It's a dream come true for me to be a part of the Braves game tonight," he said. "I got to meet a lot of my favorite players, so it was exciting. It's a big game but our big game is coming up in a few weeks at Talladega. I can't wait. My dad has a lot of history there, so it's going to be a special time for me." 

The most competitive racing in NASCAR combined with a mix of southern hospitality returns to Talladega Superspeedway May 2-4 for the Aaron’s Dream Weekend.  Experience the excitement as the superstars of NASCAR attempt to tackle the high-banks of ‘DEGA at 200 mph. Get your tickets at www.talladegasuperspeedway.com or by calling 877-Go2-DEGA.  

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Chase Elliott Joins MRN's Darlington Broadcast Crew

Last Friday, 18-year-old Chase Elliott turned heads with a statement win in the Nationwide Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

This Saturday night, Elliott will join the Motor Racing Network broadcast crew for the network’s exclusive radio coverage of the Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 from Darlington Raceway. Elliott, the son of 1988 Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, will join MRN’s Mike Bagley in Turn 3 of the famed South Carolina oval to give listeners a racer’s perspective of the track that’s “Too Tough to Tame.”  He will also will answer fans’ Twitter questions throughout the race at #AskMRN.

“Adding a driver to our broadcast team at Darlington will put listeners behind the wheel and give them a look into the minds of the competitors through Chase’s eyes,” said MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt.  “The Elliott name is synonymous with success at Darlington and it’s a privilege to have one of NASCAR’s rising stars join us this weekend.”

Before donning the headset for Saturday night’s broadcast, Elliott will drive his No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet in Friday’s Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200.  His victory last weekend in Texas lifted him into first place in the championship standings, where he carries a two-point advantage over teammate Regan Smith into Friday night’s race.

Motor Racing Network will provide live coverage of both events at Darlington, anchored by Barney Hall, Joe Moore and Jeff Striegle and produced by Brian Nelson. Air time Friday night is 7:30 p.m. (ET) with the broadcast of Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 beginning at 5:30 p.m.

The Darlington doubleheader is part of Motor Racing Network’s 2014 schedule that features 116 live events from 39 different venues including the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series; and exclusive radio coverage of the inaugural TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Speeds Soar At MIS Tire Test

217 mph for Junior!
Blazing fast speeds continued at Michigan International Speedway today during the final day of a two-day Goodyear Tire test.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Clint Bowyer went 217 mph during the morning session, calling the experience, “white-of-your-eyes fast.”

Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Ryan Newman and Trevor Bayne took part in the test at the two-mile racetrack, with Earnhardt saying he hit speeds between 212 to 215 mph on the straightaways and approximately 180 in the turns.

“This is one of our better tracks, and our fans will probably say the same,” said Earnhardt. “Having success here over the last four or five years has given us a lot of confidence when we come here, and I think that’s why Goodyear brings us to test.

“I enjoy racing here. It’s a fun track. The asphalt is really aging well and it’s just going to keep getting better and better over the next couple of years.”

Newman and Biffle agreed, saying that winter has aged the track, making the super-smooth surface less oily and creating additional grooves.

“I think (Michigan) will be a good race; I really do,” Biffle said.

Though speeds on a racetrack are sexy, MIS President Roger Curtis said passing and fierce competition are what makes great racing.

“The drivers are posting 200 mph,” he said. “That’s awesome. The fans get very, very excited about that. But at the end of the day Sunday -- when the green flag drops -- the numbers ‘two zero zero’ are not anywhere in the fans’ minds. It’s lead changes. It’s the competition.”

The track was repaved in 2012, making for blazing fast speeds. The asphalt has aged since then, but NASCAR has made significant changes to the cars, keeping speeds fast.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway this summer for two weekends: Quicken Loans 400 weekend, June 13-15 and Pure Michigan 400 weekend, Aug. 15-17. For tickets and camping, visit www.MISpeedway.com or call 800-354-1010.