Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Starr Searching For 2011 Truck Ride

David Starr told the Houston Chronicle that he has no ride for next season, despite having a sponsorship contract in hand for the 2011 season.

Starr drove for both Randy Moss Motorsports and SS Green Light Racing last season with sponsorship from Zachry, en route to 10th place in the final championship standings. But while his sponsor is set to return, the Texas native said he has been unable to finalize negotiations for a 2011. "We plan on (returning to SS Green Light Racing),” said Starr. "We are working on it now... to make sure the race team has enough funding.”

"This time of year is very critical and important, trying to get everything situated so the team can hire (people) and update some equipment," he said. "You are trying to get all your sponsors lined up and situated so that you can enhance your racing team. And that is what we are doing right now."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Randolph Tabbed By Rusty Wallace Racing

Veteran crewchief Doug Randolph will serve as crewchief for Rusty Wallace Racing's #66 5-Hour Energy NASCAR Nationwide Series Toyota driven by Steve Wallace. Randolph joins the team following stints as crewchief at Richard Childress Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and Petty Enterprises. In his most recent Nationwide Series role, Randolph led RCR No. 29 team and driver Clint Bowyer to wins at Daytona and Dover in 2009.

"I'm really looking forward to working with Steve Wallace and the 5-Hour Energy team," said Randolph. "Steve's definitely been one of the most improved drivers over the last couple of years and has really developed into one of the best Nationwide Series guys out there. This team has a lot of potential, (and) I'm looking forward to continuing to build this program and hopefully being one of the contenders for the Nationwide Series Championship in 2011."

RWR General Manager Larry Carter said of Randolph's hiring, "We're very excited to add Doug to our organization. I've known Doug for a while and he's a really talented guy. He brings a lot of valuable experience to our team, including a lot of experience with the Car of Tomorrow. We're all looking forward to working with him."

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mayfield's Appeals To Continue

Jeremy Mayfield will continue his lawsuit against NASCAR over a failed drug test for methamphetamines in May of 2009. Mayfield informed the court of his intention to appeal the most recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Graham Mullen last week, and now has 40 days to file his actual argument, along with any corroborating evidence.

Mullen ruled last May that Mayfield had waived his right to sue NASCAR by signing waivers included as part of his competitor’s license applications. The judge also said Mayfield had produced no evidence proving that NASCAR had unfairly banned him from the sport for testing positive for methamphetamines. Mayfield asked the court to reopen the case in June and again in August, claiming both times that he had new evidence. Both appeals were denied. In September, he claimed that NASCAR Chairman Brian France had ordered him black-flagged from the 2006 Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, citing testimony from France’s former in-laws. Mullen disallowed that appeal after France produced travel records proving that he was not with his former relatives on the day of the race.

Mayfield continues to deny using methamphetamines, saying his positive drug test stemmed from a combination of the prescription drug Adderall -– which he allegedly takes to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder -- and an over-the-counter allergy medication.

His latest appeal could be heard as soon as next May, but is likely to languish in the system until at least September.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Listeners' Holiday Cheer!

Colin Braun wasn't kidding! He IS the Clark W. Griswold of NASCAR!

The Fucile Family in Dania, FL proves you don't need snow to celebrate Christmas!

Listener Dave's electric bill is climbing as we speak! And check out his lazy neighbor on the right!

Here's a nice submission from Brett in Myrtle Beach!

Longtime listener "Pepsi Steve" and his lovely wife have their house turned out in style!!

Listener Ben takes his holiday cheer on the road!

Thomas and Julie Clark don't mess around when it comes to a Christmas tree. Don't fall, Julie!

Melissa in Michigan shares her NASCAR-themed Christmas tree!

The S.D. Ireland Concrete truck the Godfather talked about on Friday's show...

Shawn from Indiana does his house up right!

Brian in Greeley, Colorado sends along his holiday effort.

Send photos of your home, car or other holiday cheer to us at and we'll post them here for everyone to see! Please no mass-distributed pics from the internet or YouTube. Make it your own!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Bodine Bobsled Challenge Scrapped For 2011

The Associated Press is reporting today that the Bodine Bobsled Challenge will not take place next year. In each of the last five seasons, the event pitted drivers from NASCAR and the NHRA against each other at Lake Placid, New York’s Mt. Van Hoevenberg course to raise money for the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project and the United States Olympic bobsled team.

The program was instrumental in designing and building the four-man bobsled that carried American Steve Holcomb to the gold medal in Whistler, Colorado last February; the second gold medal for the team since 2002. Bo-Dyn president Phil Kurze told the AP today that he hopes to continue the event in future years with a different format.

Ballew Merges With Vision Aviation Racing

Billy Ballew Motorsports has merged with Vision Aviation Racing, with the new combined operation continuing to field the #15 and #51 Toyotas in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

The team will compete under the Vision Aviation Racing banner, using the trucks, equipment and resources previously run by Billy Ballew Motorsports. Super Late Model and K&N Pro Series West drivers Justin Johnson and Dusty Davis will drive for the team this season, with continued factory support from Toyota.

Ballew commented on the move, saying, “Partnering with a winning and committed team like Vision Aviation Racing was a great way to keep the Billy Ballew Motorsports brand alive in the series. We've worked diligently since the season ended with Tom Davis and his organization to make this happen. Vision Aviation Racing is well positioned to be a top contender and continue the winning tradition of Billy Ballew Motorsports."

Ballew won two races last season with driver Aric Almirola en route to a second-place finish in the championship standings. The team will compete out of VAR's Mooresville, NC, shop, with additional personnel still to be announced.

Ballew told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he will play a major role in the operation of the newly merged team. “I’m going to be very involved in the operation for at least the next 12 months,” he said. “I am also exploring a couple of options in the Sprint Cup Series for next year. I’m not going away.”

Ballew said 2010 sponsorship struggles played a major role in his decision to merge operations. “I needed help,” he said. “From a financial standpoint, I couldn’t continue to do it on my own. (A merger) seemed to be the best way to ensure that we continue on in the Truck Series. The biggest part of the puzzle was finalized last night, and we’ll take care of the minor details after the holidays.”

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wallace Signs With RAB Racing

Kenny Wallace has signed a new deal to run the full 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard. Wallace will make his debut in RAB’s #09 Toyota Camry on Saturday, February 19, 2011, in the season-opening DRIVE4COPD 300 at Daytona International Speedway. The St. Louis, Missouri, native has made more than 800 career starts in NASCAR’s top-three divisions, including 488 Nationwide Series races with nine wins, 10 poles, 63 top-five and 159 top-10 finishes. He has also been voted NASCAR Nationwide Series Most Popular Driver three times, in 1991, 1994 and 2006.

“I’ve been nervous since the final 2010 Nationwide Series race at Homestead, trying to find the right fit for next year,” said Wallace. “Now I can finally sleep at night. My goal was to find a team with whom I could be competitive and I believe I have found that with RAB Racing. I have known Robby (Benton) and watched him grow his team for the past few years. Their relationship with Toyota Racing Development (TRD) is huge and will allow me to work with at least three other Toyota teams -- including my brother Rusty’s -- and gain valuable information that will help us with the Nationwide program at RAB Racing next year.”

Co-owner Robby Benton shared Wallace’s enthusiasm, saying, “Having our plans in place before the Christmas holiday is great for team morale and will provide us with ample time to prepare… for the upcoming season. We’ve made significant changes at RAB Racing over the last few months in an effort to elevate our program. Our alliance with Toyota, the relationship we have with TRD and now adding Kenny to the mix will bring depth to our program. It also helps tremendously having a driver with Kenny’s notoriety. People love him and hopefully we’ll be able to reinvigorate his fan base.”

The team currently has 16 races sponsored, with the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) serving as primary sponsor at Daytona in February. Additional sponsors will include Federated Auto Parts and Family Farmers, a coalition of corn and soybean farmers. Benton said sponsorship opportunities are still available for the remaining 18 events, adding, “We have a lot going on within our marketing department right now, and I feel pretty confident about having all 34 races sold before Daytona.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Skinner Mum On Reported Split With Randy Moss Motorsports

Former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Mike Skinner is saying little about published reports that he has been released by Randy Moss Motorsports with a year remaining on his contract. Skinner told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody only that, “I still have a contract with Randy Moss Motorsports through 2011.” He declined to comment further, citing ongoing negotiations between himself and the team.

The 2010 season was disappointing one for Skinner, with an eighth-place finish in points and only two Top-5 finishes in 25 starts. His best finishes were a pair of fourth-place showings at Texas and Bristol Motor Speedways.

The 1995 Truck Series champion moved to RMM after Bill Davis Racing closed its doors on Christmas Day 2008. In 2009 -- his first season with RMM -- he finished third in the championship standings with a trio of wins. Skinner was unable to maintain that level of performance last season, however, after crewchief Eric Phillips left the team for a new position with Kyle Busch Motorsports. Veteran Gene Nead began 2010 as crewchief for the #5 Navistar/International/Monaco RV Toyota, but was replaced by lead engineer Stacy Johnson after the seventh race of the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

While clearly unhappy with his 2010 performance, Skinner attempted to put a positive spin on things late last season, refusing to place blame on any individual. "We can bad-mouth people and make excuses and do a lot of things, but that just creates more negativity,” he said. He said he urged RMM co-owner David Dollar to hire a more experienced leader for the team, however, saying, “I am jumping up and down and working with David… to hire some leadership. When Eric Phillips walked out of the building, we didn't realize what a huge loss it was."

While Skinner remains silent, sources within Randy Moss Motorsports say he is unlikely to drive for the team again in 2011. Multiple sources say the team is negotiating with former series champion Travis Kvapil about replacing Skinner, with an official announcement expected once the details of Skinner’s exit are finalized. Kvapil drove for Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2010, finishing 35th in points.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Martin: Daytona 500 "Is Going To Be Crazy"

Mark Martin awarded high marks to all parties after Day One of a Goodyear tire test at Daytona International Speedway today. Speaking to Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody, Martin said, “I think we ran six laps without even wearing the sticker off the left front tire. In fact, we could probably run the full 500 miles on the same set of tires. There will be zero tire issues during Speedweeks. The track is smooth, its fast and it's not wearing the tires at all. The grip is obscene, and I’m sure the guys from Goodyear are probably having a party tonight.”

Martin also offered his prediction for the upcoming Daytona 500, saying, “The race is going to be crazy. Everybody better start getting ready right now.”

Sources say speeds were in the neighborhood of 195 mph, with three-wide (and some four-wide) racing common. "we ran three-wide quite a bit," said Martin, "and toward the end, we got a little braver and tried four-wide. That's not going to work for very long before someone gets into the side of the guy next to him and causes a wreck."

Only one major incident slowed the day's test, when David Ragan crashed his Roush-Fenway Racing UPS Ford.

New 2011 Sprint Cup Cars Unveiled!

Denny Hamlin will have a new look to his Fed Ex Toyota next season!

Kasey Kahne's new 2011 Red Bull Racing #4 Toyota

Monday, December 13, 2010

Piquet To Steer Third KHI Truck In 2011

Kevin Harvick, Inc., is expected to announce today that former Brazilian Formula One star Nelson Piquet Jr. will drive a KHI Chevrolet in the full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule in 2011.

Piquet made five Truck Series starts for Red Horse Racing last season, with three Top-10 finishes. The highlight of his year came at Daytona International Speedway in February, where he finished sixth. He will compete this season in a new, third entry out of the KHI stable as a teammate to former series champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. in the #33 Chevrolet. The team’s #2 Chevy will be shared by Harvick, Elliott Sadler and others next season.

Piquet told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that sponsorship is in place to finance the ride. “We have sponsors signed at the moment, and they will be announced all together at a later date,” said Piquet. “We want to close all the deals and announce them before Daytona. We’re handling the contracts and all the legal things, and we’ll have an announcement very soon.”

He said he believes he will have the personnel and resources behind him to contend for race wins, the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title and potentially even the series championship. “I had good people behind me in my five Truck starts last season, and they allowed me to have success. I will have good people behind me again at KHI, and I can’t wait to get to the shop and see everything for the first time.”

Piquet is the son of three-time Formula One World Driving Champion Nelson Piquet, and drove a Renault F1 entry in 2008 and part of 2009, before being released.

Algaier Lands Sponsor For 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series Season

Turner Motorsports announced today that BRANDT will serve as primary sponsor of the #31 NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet driven by Justin Allgaier next season.

Allgaier finished fourth in the 2010 Nationwide championship standings, and joins Turner Motorsports for his third full season of Nationwide Series competition. Located near Allgaier’s hometown in Illinois, BRANDT was founded in 1953 to help Illinois farmers implement new technologies for their operations. Today, the Springfield, Illinois-based company consists of three operating divisions: Specialty Formulations, Retail Agronomy and Dealer Support.

This will mark BRANDT’s first foray into NASCAR, and President and CEO Rick C. Brandt said he is enthusiastic about the company’s jump into Nationwide Series competition. “We are extremely excited to team up with Justin Algaier and Turner Motorsports for the 2011 racing season,” he said. “BRANDT is an exciting, aggressive and family values-based company. We feel we are teaming up with a driver who embodies these same qualities, and we are looking forward to seeing him exemplify that on the track. Coming from the small town of Pleasant Plains, Illinois and having the opportunity to team with such a great driver from nearby Riverton, Illinois adds to the excitement of the collaboration! Also, NASCAR’s upcoming transition to ethanol fuel embodies BRANDT’s leadership as a premier producer of environmentally sustainable products for agriculture. We look forward to representing American farmers on the track!”

Allgaier graduated to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2009 after capturing the ARCA Series championship the previous seasobn. He claimed Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors on the Nationwide tour with three Top-5 and 12 Top-10 finishes. The 24-year-old scored his first series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway last season, en route to eight Top-5 and 20 Top-10 finishes.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jason White Ride Shopping For 2011

Jason White told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he has spoken to multiple teams about the 2011 Camping World Truck Series season.

White has driven for the team since 2009, when GunBroker’s Dwayne Gaulding took the online firearms dealer from sponsor to team owner, purchasing trucks from the former Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia team and forging an engine deal with Joey Arrington. The team formed a partnership with SS Green Light Racing for 2010, campaigning in Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and Toyota livery at various times en route to a 10th place finish in the championship standings. The team recorded three Top-5 and seven Top-10 finishes this season, highlighted by a pole position and a fourth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

“I’m close to doing a deal for next year, but nothing’s finalized yet,” said White. “There are a lot of opportunities out there and I want to make the best decision possible. We may do the same deal next year, or we may do something different.

“We’re trying really hard to make a decision on a manufacturer,” he said. ”We ended up trying them all out last season to see what was best, but I want to go full bore with a single manufacturer next year. I’ve talking to a lot of people, and I’m willing to talk to anyone who’s interested in talking to me.”

Rette To Turner Motorsports, Lofton Shopping For Part-Time Truck Ride

Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that former Red Horse Racing crewchief Mark Rette has found a new home with Turner Motorsports. Rette will serve a crewchief for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet to be driven at different times next season by Reed Sorenson, Jason Leffler and Brad Sweet, among others. Rette formerly sat atop the pit box for Justin Lofton at Red Horse Racing in 2010.

Speaking of Lofton, my sources say he has spoken to a handful of teams about an eight to 10-race schedule of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing next season. In a radio interview last month, the 2009 ARCA Series champion said he had sponsorship in-hand for approximately 10 Truck races in 2011, and hoped to fill the remainder of his schedule with off-road racing.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

With Lofton Out, Red Horse Racing Retooling For 2011 Truck Series Season

Red Horse Racing co-owner Tom DeLoach told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that the team is strongly positioned for 2011, despite major changes in both its driver and crewchief lineup. Veteran Jeff Hensley departed for Kevin Harvick, Inc. recently, effectively swapping jobs with former KHI crewchief Butch Hylton, who will sit atop the pitbox for Timothy Peters at Red Horse in 2011.

“Timothy finished sixth in points last season, and that’s not bad,” said DeLoach. “But honestly, we have higher aspirations than that. I like Todd Bodine very much. But next year, we want to be where he is. We hired Butch Hylton to be Timothy Peters’ crewchief because those two guys are really in tune with each other.”

DeLoach revealed that driver Justin Lofton and 2010 crewchief Mark Rette have left the team. “It was all very cordial, with no hard feelings,” he said. “Justin is still not sure where he’s going next year, and I think Mark just looked around and decided it was time to go in another direction.” Former RHR Competition Director Rick Gay will replace Rette, serving as crewchief for newcomer Miguel Paludo. “Rick really missed crewchiefing and was ready to go back to it,” said DeLoach. “He worked a couple of races with Miguel last season and they clicked well together, so that’s what we’re going to do.” DeLoach has hired former driver Terry Cook to serve as the team’s new Competition Director, saying, “He’s done a little bit of everything, and he’s great on the interpersonal front.”

In stark contrast to 2010, DeLoach said the team is nearly 100% funded for next season. Paludo will drive a fully sponsored entry backed by Stemco Duraline, while Peters’ Toyota is already sponsored for 21 of the 25 races. “We also have an open slot for a third truck,” revealed DeLoach. “We ran a third truck last year at Daytona, but were unable to find the financing to have it continue. We’re talking to a few people about it and hope to run a three-truck team full-time in 2011.”

Monday, December 06, 2010

Gordon Sues Extenze, Says BAM Racing Is Next

Robby Gordon filed suit in L.A. County Superior Court late last week, alleging that Extenze and its parent company, Biotab Nutraceuticals, failed to pay at least $690,000 in sponsorship money owed from the final two months of the 2010 season. He also hinted that he may be back in court soon on another racing-related matter. “We got into a couple of bad deals this year; with BAM (Racing) and Extenze,” said Gordon. “You’re reading about this deal this week and you’ll read about the BAM deal next week.”

Gordon said the Extenze lawsuit involves races held in the months of October and November where he drove a Robby Gordon Motorsports entry with Extenze sponsorship. Extenze’s driver of choice -- eventual 2010 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year Kevin Conway -- had driven the car in a handful of races after moving to RGM from Front Row Motorsports, but gave way to Gordon after the team came perilously close to falling out of the Top 35 in owner points.

“Kevin Conway made the phone call to get approval for me to get back in the race car,” said Gordon to Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody. After giving that approval, however, Gordon said Extenze declined to pay for the races in question, alleging that RGM breached its sponsorship contract by not having Conway at the wheel. “They were already behind in their payments at that point,” said Gordon, “so it is what it is.”

The suit marks the second time this year that Extenze has been accused of not paying its sponsorship tab. In September of this year, Front Row Motorsports sued Extenze and Biotab Nutraceuticals for $2.754 million it says it was owed under the terms of Conway’s sponsorship contract. That total includes more than $734,000 in sponsorship, hard card fees, race licenses and other expenses, plus $135,000 advanced to Conway by the team as part of his base salary.

Asked if Extenze’s problems with Front Row Motorsports had been a cause for concern, Gordon said, “It absolutely was, but Robert Winter (of Biotab Nutraceuticals) gave me his personal word. He said, `You don’t need to worry about a thing, I pay my bills.' We had their corporate word and his personal word that things would be done right.”

In a related story, Gordon said he is close to resolving a lawsuit filed against RGM by Specialized Bicycle Products, alleging that the logo on Gordon’s new SPEED Energy Drink was virtually identical to theirs. “We’ve pretty much got the SPEED lawsuit resolved,” he said. “We’re in settlement talks to do something different (with the logo). I didn’t have a year and a half to fight it in court, so we decided to do something different.”

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Evernham On RPM: "Hopefully, the Facts Will Come Out Some Day."

Former Gillett-Evernham Motorsports co-owner Ray Evernham told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he wishes the best for the new owners of the team that once bore his name.

“It’s difficult, because things didn’t work out for me the way I hoped they would,” said Evernham, just days after Richard Petty Motorsports was purchased by Petty and new co-owners Andrew Murstein and Douglas Bergeron. “Some people I put great faith in didn’t live up to that faith. But I’ve got to move on and get past it.”

Evernham declined to speak specifically about former partner George Gillett, Jr., whose financial problems nearly caused the team to shut down last month. “I don’t really have all the information (about) what’s gone on and what has not,” he said. “So (I can’t) sit here and be critical specifically of George Gillett. I will only speak in generalities about the way our legal system works. It’s a shame that our legal and banking systems allow people to continue doing things that put them several million dollars in debt, but still fly on their private jets while others have to worry about medical insurance and paying for their kids’ Christmas. People’s track records and what they are. You can say what you want, but in the end, you’re not going to be judged by what you said you were going to do. You’ll be judged by what you did. Hopefully, the facts will come out some day and people will be able to draw their own conclusions.

“What you hope will be good for the sport sometimes turns out not to be,” said Evernham. “But that’s all in the past, and it’s not going to do any good to spend the rest of my life worrying about it. I’m going to go forward and so is Richard Petty. Andrew Murstein’s a straight shooter and he looks at things a bit more realistically. The sport’s getting healthy again, and hopefully he can bring in some new sponsors and continue to grow. The good news is that I am now free to look at what I want to be when I grow up.”

Evernham said he has had discussions with a number of parties – including ESPN and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick – about the 2011 season, but has made no decisions about his plans.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Stremme Hoping For 2011 Nationwide Return

David Stremme told Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he is working hard to assemble a NASCAR Nationwide Series team for 2011.

"I’ve got my own shop -- right next door to Rusty Wallace Racing -- and we’ve got enough room to run a good Nationwide team there. I purchased some Nationwide cars and have all the equipment I need to run them, but it’s all about the funding. I might own some of the operation, or maybe someone else will own part of it."

Stremme said he has already made a substantial investment in the operation, purchasing cars from "a very good Sprint Cup team. We’re changing them all over to Nationwide specs, and we’re working hard to make sure we do everything right. I don’t want to just be out there, I want to be competitive. And to do that, we need a sponsor. I’m working hard on it, and we’ve got lots of things working, but nothing’s done yet.”

Stremme will campaign his own Super Late Model in this weekend's Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, Florida.

Truck Series Aero Test Set For Jan. 5

Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that NASCAR will conduct a “Spin Aero” test for the Camping World Truck Series January 5 at Dodge’s wind tunnel facility in Rochester Hills, MI. All four manufacturers are scheduled to take part in the test, as they and the sanctioning body attempt to learn more about how to keep race vehicles grounded as they are turned sideways or backward at high speed. Three similar tests were conducted earlier this year with Sprint Cup Series vehicles. Dodge’s facility the only wind tunnel in North America where a model can be rotated 360 degrees while at speed, allowing engineers to accumulate data on how cars and trucks react.

“We’re going to put a truck in the wind tunnel in high yaw,” confirmed NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director Wayne Auton. “In laymen’s terms, that means `backwards.’” Auton said the test is unrelated to Ron Hornaday’s late-season crash at Talladega Superspeedway, which saw his Truck become airborne after turning backward, eventually barrel-rolling multiple times. “It’s just part of our normal winter house cleaning,” said Auton. “We haven’t run the (aero) numbers in a while, and it’s time we did.”

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

McClure, Hefty To Tri-Star Motorsports

Eric McClure confirmed to Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he will move from Team Rensi Racing to Tri-Star Motorsports for the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series, with sponsorship from Hefty.

"It does look like that’s where we’re going to go,” said McClure. “We are going to move over to TriStar Motorsports. Things have kind of skyrocketed in the last 24 hours, and it looks like we’re going to be able to get the deal done.”

He said conversations are underway with 2010 Tri-Star drivers Jason Keller and Tony Raines about ways for them to remain involved, adding, “It’s a great opportunity for me to go over there and learn from two veterans.”

Martin To Make Nationwide, Truck Return In 2011

Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that Mark Martin will run a limited schedule in both the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series’ in 2011 for Turner Motorsports.

Kyle Busch’s drive to become the all-time career winner in the NASCAR Nationwide Series may have just hit a speed bump. Reliable sources say Mark Martin will run an undetermined number of Nationwide and Truck races with Turner next season, in addition to his full-time Sprint Cup Series ride with Hendrick Motorsports. Specific dates will be announced once sponsorship and scheduling conflicts are determined. Turner Motorsports is actively seeking sponsorship for the effort, but a spokesperson for the team denied any knowledge of the deal when contacted earlier today. Martin's representatives declined to comment.

Martin is the all-time NASCAR Nationwide Series win leader with 48 career victories, just five more than a fast-closing Busch. He also has seven career Truck Series wins.

NASCAR Needs A Shot Clock

There has never been a more competitive era in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. The Chase for the Sprint Cup, double-file restarts, a tighter competitive box and even NASCAR’s “Boys Have At It” policy have combined to make the racing as close and exciting as at any time in the nearly 60-year history of the sport.

And yet, somehow, fewer people seem to be watching.

In-person attendance is down dramatically in this difficult economy, as fans struggle to find the discretionary income necessary to fund a weekend at the race track. Television ratings have also plummeted, despite the fact that watching NASCAR on television is – for the most part – free. No one fully understands the motivating factors behind NASCAR’s drop in attendance and viewership, and truthfully, there is no single cause. One significant factor, however, is the average NASCAR fan’s unwillingness to devote an entire afternoon to watching the race.

Today’s ADHD society has lost its stomach for four-hour sporting events. Other sports have recognized this and taken action. The NBA long ago instituted a 24-second shot clock to speed play. The National Football League also has a play clock to prevent undue dawdling in the huddle. Major League Baseball umpires break up manager-pitcher conferences almost immediately these days, to ensure that the game maintains its proper pace.

NASCAR needs to do the same, or risk losing even more of its audience.

The simplest answer, of course, is to shorten the events themselves. With the possible exception of the Daytona 500, the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, none of NASCAR’s events are historically tied to a specific distance. New Hampshire Motor Speedway has run 300-mile Sprint Cup races since Day One, and nobody in the Granite State seems to feel shortchanged. Auto Club Speedway slashed its mileage from 500 to 400 this season, and fans witnessed one of the best races ever at the Fontana oval. NASCAR needs to take a long, hard look at trimming its events to 400 miles, or at least 500 kilometers.

There may be some initial resistance to slashing mileage, and NASCAR is almost certain to hear the “I paid for 500 miles and I want to see 500 miles” retort from its older, more traditional patrons. Eventually, though, fans will realize that the only thing lacking from a 400-mile Sprint Cup Series event is 100 miles of single file, mid-race lollygagging.

That’s no loss.

NASCAR must bite the bullet and cut the distance in all but a few of its marquee events, giving fans a modest rollback in ticket prices in return. A 2½ hour event is tailor made for the modern race fan; a fan who has been raised in a microwave oven society of instant gratification and 90-second, ESPN highlight packages.

There are other ways to speed up the product, as well.

In recent seasons, NASCAR has found a way to turn every caution flag into a 10-minute intermission. Even a simple, single-car spin with no damage and no debris on the racetrack requires 5-7 laps of caution, and those unnecessary stoppages give television viewers plenty of time to check out the NFL game on another network. Many of them never find their way back, contributing significantly to NASCAR’s recent ratings drop.

When the caution flag flies, NASCAR must make every effort to complete its pit stop procedures as quickly and efficiently as possible. As soon as the Pace Car has the field in tow, get the lead-lap cars on pit road for service. One lap later, do the same for the lapped machines. On the third caution lap – assuming the track is clear -- the green flag should wave once again. TV and radio will need to modify their traditional way of doing business, breaking away quickly when the caution flag flies to air the necessary commercial announcements. Pit stops may not be aired live under this new system, but if something goes wrong on pit road, the networks can easily recap the action when they return from break.

NASCAR also needs to resurrect the “quickie caution,” a good idea that went by the wayside a few years ago with no logical explanation.

Slowly, almost imperceptibly, NASCAR’s fan base has changed over the last 50 years. Old-time NASCAR was not forced to compete with the internet, Facebook, Twitter and 250 channels of satellite television. Fans either watched the race live, or they didn’t watch it at all. It’s a different world today -- faster and more accommodating of people’s individual schedules -- and the sport must keep pace with those changes if it hopes to thrive. NASCAR must commit to keeping the show moving at all times, realizing that even the most hardcore fans are no longer willing to commit their entire day to the watching of a single race.

Monday, November 29, 2010

New RPM Owner Douglas Bergeron: "“I’m Not Going To Bulls#it Anybody."

Make no mistake about it, new Richard Petty Motorsports ownership partner Douglas G. Bergeron sees NASCAR as a way to make money. Big money. Saving one of the sport’s legendary teams is a nice fringe benefit.

The Canadian-born Bergeron is best known for his ownership of VeriFone; the system used to verify credit card transactions around the world. He purchased VeriFone a decade ago for $50 million. Today, the company is worth an estimated $3 billion. He and his new partner, Medallion Financial Corp CEO Andrew Murstein, are making their first foray into the world of professional sports, and Bergeron said he is looking forward to being part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“NASCAR teams have historically been quite profitable businesses,” he said. “They’re also a lot of fun to own. There’s quite a lot of personal pleasure that comes from owning a business that succeeds.”

Asked where the team’s previous owners, Boston Ventures and George Gillett, Jr. went wrong, Bergeron stated emphatically, “Too much debt. It is widely known that Gillett took out a $90 million loan with Wachovia. That’s five, six, or seven million dollars per year in interest payments alone; money that cannot go toward funding the team (and) investing in next-generation technology.”

He called RPM’s financial structure “fundamentally strong, but poorly financed and over-paid for at the wrong time,” saying Gillett fell into a trap that consumed many investors. “It’s not unlike a lot of businesses outside the motor racing industry that were bought in 2006 and 2007,” said Bergeron. “There was too much debt that needed to be restructured. They were also in the wrong place at the wrong time when the auto industry went through bankruptcy in 2008 and 2009, (leaving the team) with a lot of receivables that were not paid.”

Bergeron called those economic circumstances “a perfect storm of unfortunate events. I don’t think those guys did anything wrong operationally. They just had too much debt up front and failed to plan for a recession that forced sponsorship revenue down. But we’re in a new place now. With a new balance sheet, a new investor group and Richard Petty involved as a very significant co-owner and chairman, I think it’s going to be a very successful several years for the business.”

The VeriFone CEO stressed that neither he, Murstein nor Petty bring any debt to the team, allowing RPM to proceed without the financial encumbrances that crippled the previous owners. “It’s the same as with an individual consumer,” he explained. “If the first bill you have to pay each month is to the bank, it has a big influence on how you run your personal business. If you can invest what you earn, it’s a much easier way forward.”

He said RPM’s newfound financial freedom will allow the team to invest revenue from sponsorship and race winnings back into the operation, rather than making multi-million dollar interest payments to banks. “I think this is going to be a much easier, less-stressful structure for the team,” he said.

Bergeron admitted that he is motivated primarily by the opportunity to purchase a NASCAR team for pennies on the dollar, from a lender highly motivated to sell. “I don’t apologize for being opportunistic,” he said. “I bought VeriFone 10 years ago from a seller who didn’t know what to do with it, and just wanted to get rid of it. I have found that if you buy things right and put the proper amount of management attention to them, you can create great value. The Petty name is fantastic, but getting a franchise with a great track record and a bright future at an opportunistic price was the real attraction.”

Bergeron said he and Murstein will have a different management style than Boston Ventures or Gillett. “Both of them did the same thing; running off the people within the organization who know and understand the sport,” he said. “My management style over the years has been to let the people who know the business run the business. Set goals and milestones, agree to a budget up-front, then get out of the way and let your people perform. I don’t know how to run a race team, but I know how to create value. We’ll have good communication with the (competition side), but we need to get out of their way and let them excel.”

Bergeron said that while Petty will serve as chairman of Richard Petty Motorsports and “the face of the organization, we will also install profession managers to run the financial side of the business and give Richard a hand with that.” He pledged that Petty will have “a much more active and meaningful role with the team than he had under the previous ownership structure.”

There are plenty of examples of businessmen running NASCAR teams into the ground. JD Stacy, Bobby Ginn, BANG Racing owner Alex Meshkin and homebuilder Michael Holigan all came to the sport with considerable fanfare and grandiose plans, only to slink away in a maelstrom of broken promises and shattered dreams. Bergeron attempted to calm fears that he and Murstein are cut from the same cloth, saying, “I’m not going to bullshit anybody. Investors invest in businesses to make money and create value. The way you create value in professional sports is to put out winning teams… and make sponsors want to pay larger amounts to sponsor you.”

Not all NASCAR investors fail. John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group has done tremendous things for Roush Fenway Racing, opening financial and marketing doors that were not accessible before. The same can be said for Michael Waltrip Motorsports’ “silent partner,” Rob Kauffman. Douglas Bergeron and Andrew Murstein seem determined to join the list of successful businessmen who have found a home in NASCAR; simultaneously helping Richard Petty Motorsports regain its former glory.

“I’m putting my money at risk because there is money to be made,” said Bergeron. ”I don’t apologize for that.”

Gillett Out As Petty Takes Control of RPM

Richard Petty has completed his bid to oust former Richard Petty Motorsports majority owner George Gillett, Jr., and take control of the team that bears his name. The seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has completed a deal with Medallion Financial Corp and DGB Investments to restructure the team’s financing, installing himself as chairman. Gillett retains no ownership stake, banished in much the same way he ousted Ray Evernham in the weeks following his purchase of the team in 2007. RPM recently downsized to a two-car organization, and will field Fords for AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose next season.

Medallion Financial President Andrew Murstein met with Petty at Homestead-Miami Speedway last month and reportedly pledged his support only if Petty made a substantial financial commitment to the team. Gillett had very little of his own money – if any – in the operation, financing his purchase through heavily leveraged bank loans that he eventually proved unable to repay. Murstein told’s David Newton that Gillett’s financial collapse threatened to destroy the team, as well, saying, “things were shaky for a while. If we didn't move as quickly as we did, I'm not sure the Petty name would have continued in this sport." The deal was finalized in less than three weeks, allowing Petty to assume operation of a team that is debt-free for the first time. "Now that there is no debt,” said Murstein, “I think it will do quite well."

Murstein said he watched Gillett closely as he was forced to sell his interest in the Montreal Canadiens and other sports-related ventures. "As George Gillett started selling assets, I thought maybe this was next on his list," said Murstein. Gillett reportedly owed more than $100 million to various parties in relation to the team, and say one of his lenders, Mill Financial, is reportedly suing him for breach of contract, alleging he owes approximately $117 million in connection with his failed English Premier League soccer club. Petty called the new deal, “a great day for me, our family, our fans and our wonderful sponsors."

This week’s news is a much-needed ray of sunshine for a team that has had little in the way of good news recently. The team slashed its payroll dramatically following the 2010 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with RPM Vice President and Director of Competition Robbie Loomis, President and General Manager Max Jones and Director of Operations Sammy Johns meeting with employees to announce who will remain with the team and who was being let go.

Richard Petty issued a statement saying the team “has completed its restructuring process and is now in the process of moving forward. RPM will shift from running four cars to two in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and that is never an easy process for the people involved.” No information was released on how many employees were terminated, but crewchiefs Kenny Francis and Slugger Labbe had already announced plans to follow drivers Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard to Red Bull Racing and Richard Childress Racing, with at least some of their former crews in tow. AJ Allmendinger’s team – led by crewchief Mike Shiplett – will return virtually intact in 2011.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hendrick Shuffles Crewchief Deck; Letarte to Earnhardt's #88 in 2011

Hendrick Motorsports has made personnel adjustments in advance of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, with drivers Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. teaming with new crew chiefs.

Mark Martin will now be teamed with former Dale Earnhardt, Jr. crewchief Lance McGrew, while Martin's former crewchief, Alan Gustafson, will now work with Jeff Gordon on the #24 Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., will be paired with Gordon's 2010 crewchief, Steve Letarte, while the championship-winning combination of Jimmie Johnson and crewchief Chad Knaus will remain intact.

The cars of Martin and four-time Sprint Cup champion Gordon will have their cars fielded out of the same facility, now known as the 5/24 shop. Earnhardt Jr.'s Chevrolets will be prepared out of the renamed 48/88 shop alongside those of five-time and defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.

"This will improve us as an organization, across the board," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. "We had a championship season (in 2010), but we weren't where we wanted and needed to be with all four teams. We've made the right adjustments, and I'm excited to go racing with this lineup."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Layoffs at RPM Pave Way For Petty Takeover

Richard Petty Motorsports is officially a two-car team today, after a series of employee layoffs early this morning.

The meeting was held today at 8 AM, to announce which employees will remain with the team going forward and which are being let go, with Vice President and Director of Competition Robbie Loomis delivering the news along with team President and General Manager Max Jones and Director of Operations Sammy Johns. There is no immediate word on how many employees were terminated, but crewchiefs Kenny Francis and Slugger Labbe had already announced plans to follow drivers Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard to Red Bull Racing and Richard Childress Racing, respectively, with at least some of their former crews in tow.

Reliable sources tell Sirius Speedway that AJ Allmendinger’s team – led by crewchief Mike Shiplett – will return virtually intact in 2011.

Richard Petty issued a statement late this morning saying that the team “has completed its restructuring process and is now in the process of moving forward. RPM will shift from running four cars to two in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and that is never an easy process for the people involved.”

Medallion Financial Corp. President Andrew Murstein was at Homestead-Miami Speedway yesterday to meet with Petty, Allmendinger and officials from Ford Racing. Medallion is expected to provide financing for Petty to purchase a controlling interest in the team and force out embattled majority owner George Gillett. Petty created a new limited liability company -- R P Family Franchise – earlier this month, a move that is thought to be a part of his takeover bid.

Richard Petty Motorsports placed two cars in the Top Five yesterday at Homestead Miami Speedway, with Aric Almirola fourth and Allmendinger fifth.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Petty Nearing Deal To Seize RPM

Richard Petty says that the team bearing his name will be a part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next season. Petty declined to offer specifics on potential investors in his bid to wrest control of Richard Petty Motorsports away from majority owner George Gillett, but sources say talks with Medallion Financial Group are nearing fruition. Petty said his previous assessment of RPM as a team “in limbo” was not longer accurate. "We're going to make it," he said, "(but) that's all I can say now."

Multiple sources at RPM have told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that they expect to learn their fate during a mandatory 8 AM ET Monday meeting. It is likely that the team will close its doors for at least a day, before reorganizing under a new, Petty-led ownership group later in the week. Multiple layoffs are expected, but those layoffs would almost certainly have taken place anyway, as the team contracts from four Sprint Cup Series entries to two.

Petty met with officials of Ford Racing Saturday, and Ford spokesman Kevin Kennedy said the automaker is “confident it will get worked out.'' Ford Motor Company’s Edsel Ford II said this weekend that Ford has “done everything we can'' to help the team survive. “Quite frankly,” he added, “a lot of their suppliers have done the same."

Ford Director of North American Motorsports Jamie Allison called the talks, “is a daily conversation that goes on between the team, its new investor and its new partner," adding, "We want to see an orderly transfer of ownership to Richard Petty and his new ownership group. I am more confident today than I was at the start of this development.

"But we await just like you — confirmation from the team.”

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ray Evernham: "I'm Free!"

Ray Evernham is free at last.

The former crewchief, team owner and current ESPN analyst revealed Saturday that he is no longer contractually bound to the team now known as Richard Petty Motorports,and is free to entertain offers from rival race teams. Evernham had been barred from working for other NASCAR operations, even after majority owner George Gillett stripped him of his management role more than a year ago.

“I am free and clear,” said Evernham to reporters at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “According to my (legal) people, every contract I've had has been breached in every shape or form. I have been buried under a mire of legal paperwork, caught up in something I don't really want to be involved in. But it is what it is.”

Despite widespread speculation that he might return to Hendrick Motorsports to assist former driver Jeff Gordon or lend his expertise to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s struggling #88 Chevrolet, Evernham said he has no interest in returning to a full-time competitive role. "I have no desire to be… the guy on top of the box,'' he said. "I'm past that. That was a different time in my life. I have a lot to offer in a lot of different areas. I don't want to be pinned down in one area.”

He admitted that a part-time consultant’s position might pique his interest, and left the door open for a return to his TV duties in 2011. "I love my ESPN job and the people I work with,'' said Evernham. "We're talking about that. We haven't talked about specifics (and) I haven't made any decisions because I haven't had enough time to talk about it.

Evernham is still owed millions of dollars by Gillett from the original sale of the team in 2007, and said he is mulling legal action to collect the amount due. He hinted that Gillett’s much-publicized financial problems could make a lawsuit pointless, however, saying, “Before you file a lawsuit (though), you have to make sure there is something to get.” He also restated his support for Richard Petty’s attempt to assemble an investor group to wrest control of the operation away from Gillett, and expressed confidence that Petty will ultimately be successful.

In his words, "He has the support to get it done.''

Sources close to the situation say RPM may close its doors Monday, only to reopen the following day under a new name, with a new ownership team that does not include George of Foster Gillett. That move will allow the team to proceed without the encumbrance of its existing RPM contracts, allowing them to retain select team personnel while letting others go. The team will downsize from its current four cars to two in 2011, with drivers AJ Allmendinger and Marcos Ambrose.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Gaughan Back To Trucks With Germain

Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that Brendan Gaughan will compete on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next season, running for the series championship in a new #62 Toyota Tundra fielded by Germain Racing and sponsored by the South Point Resort and Casino. Multiple sources confirmed that the deal was completed earlier this week, with an announcement expected as soon as this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Rumors have circulated concerning a possible return by Gaughan to the Truck Series, and the Las Vegas native commented on those reports in a Twitter posting earlier this week saying, “I will drive the #62 South Point Toyota next season.” He has eight career NCWTS wins; six of them coming during a 2003 season that saw him finish fourth in points behind champion Travis Kvapil. Gaughan has spent the last two seasons with Rusty Wallace Racing on the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and currently ranks 11h in points with three Top-5 and eight Top-10 finishes in 34 starts. He will run next season as a teammate to newly crowned NCWTS champion Todd Bodine.

In a related story, sources say Michael Annett will take his Pilot Travel Centers sponsorship from the #15 Germain Racing Toyota to replace Gaughan at Rusty Wallace Racing next season, with an announcement to come within the next few days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Layoffs At Red Bull Racing

Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that Red Bull Racing laid off a number of crewmembers from its #82 Toyota team Wednesday, in part to clear the way for new personnel expected to join Kasey Kahne when he drives the car full-time in 2011. There is no immediate word on how many crewmen were let go, but sources say crewchief Ryan Pemberton remains with the team. Kenny Francis will serve as crewchief for the team next season. An after-hours call to Red Bull Racing in search of comment was not immediately returned.

Decision Time Coming For Colin Braun

Colin Braun told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he is approaching the date when Roush Fenway Racing will be contractually obligated to offer him a ride for 2011 or allow him to begin talking with other teams.

If RFR is not able to make him an offer, Braun will have to begin the all-too familiar process of searching for a new job. “It all comes down to relationships and who you know (in the garage),” he said. “The toughest part of the deal is that you can’t talk to anyone when you’re under contract. It’s tough, but since I was racing quarter midgets at five years old, I’ve never had a super clear picture of what I was doing the next year. I’m used to the uncertainty.”

Joe Gibbs Says "Plan Laid Out" To Govern Busch's Behavior

Joe Gibbs told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he has spoken with Kyle Busch about the profanity laced tirade at Texas Motor Speedway that resulted in Busch being fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for the remainder of 2010.

"(Kyle) gets so uptight that every now and then, he makes mistakes,” said Gibbs. “We’ve got to do everything we can here – inside Joe Gibbs Racing – to make sure that doesn’t happen. That’s what we’re totally focused on. We’ve got a plan laid out, and Kyle has agreed to do the things he needs to do… to ensure that we don’t put ourselves in that position again. We think he’s a huge talent; a smart, bright guy that we enjoy being around. His whole life is Sam (his fiancĂ©e)… and racing. There are no issues with him running around drinking or anything. He doesn’t care about any of that. He’s totally focused, and all he wants to do is race cars. (Unfortunately) he gets so wound up at the race track that it’s hard for him to handle some of the things he needs to handle. We love his competitive nature, but he just needs to learn to handle things better.”

Gibbs declined to speak specifically on what discussions have been had, or what guidelines have been put in place regarding Busch’s future behavior. He stressed, however, that all parties agree that incidents like his recent outburst at Texas Motor Speedway cannot continue to occur.

“(It) was not good for us at Joe Gibbs Racing, and it certainly wasn’t good for our sponsor,” he said. “We feel like there was a plan that we had to put out there, to assure that this doesn’t happen again. We’re going to keep that in-house, but it’s something that we think is smart, and Kyle does too. He realizes where he is, and that’s a great part of this. We just have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ren Says KBM Hoping For Two Trucks In 2011

Kyle Busch Motorsports Director Of Operations Rick Ren told Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that the team hopes to field two Toyota Tundras on the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, pending sponsorship.

"We want to run two full-time Truck deals next season, but I don’t know if that is going to happen or not," said Ren. "Sponsorship is pretty tough out there right now, but there are still some irons in the fire. Even for Kyle, we only have a few races sold for next year. There are definitely some holes that we’re still trying to fill."

Ren said he hopes to put together a similar lineup of drivers for KBM's #18 Toyota next season. "We’d like to have a Cup driver for some races and a young guy for a few more races; three or four drivers overall. Then we’d like to run another truck full-time for the driver’s championship."

He said discussions are ongoing with potential drivers for that championship effort, but that nothing has been finalized. "We’ve talked with a few (drivers) and we had a meeting today with a potential guy," said Ren. "Unfortunately, some of them are trying to sell sponsorship to companies that are new to the sport, and they don’t understand that right now is the time to build your team for next year. In January, you’re not going to find the people you need."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Furniture Row Racing Transporter Involved In Massive Highway Crash

A racecar transporter and motor home belonging to the Furniture Row Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team were demolished this morning in a massive pileup on Interstate 25 near Larkspur, Col.; about 40 miles south of Denver.

Authorities say the crash happened on northbound Interstate 25 at about 8:45 a.m. local time. The Colorado State Patrol said 34 vehicles, including four tractor-trailers, were involved in three separate crashes on northbound Interstate 25. Two victims required extrication from their vehicles, and approximately 20 people were transported to hospitals with non life-threatening injuries. One of the semi-trucks spilled diesel fuel onto the highway, requiring a HazMat crew to respond to the scene.

Furniture Row Racing General Manager Joe Garone told Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that details on what caused the crash are still sketchy. "From what I understand, our transporters came over the top of hill and saw cars all over the highway."

Garone said the tractor was "for sure totalled" and the trailer seriously damaged, to the point of being unusable. "We cant get the back door of the transporter open," he said. "We'll have to cut it open." The motorcoach, a pickup truck in tow behind the coach and a golf cart in the bed of the pickup were also destroyed in the crash. The motorhome was used to house team personnel at the speedway. Driver Regan Smith's personal coach was not involved.

Race cars for this weekend's event at Homestead-Miami Speedway were not in the transporter at the time of the crash, and Garone said Richard Childress Racing has offered a transporter loaded with equipment to help FRR make it to Homesetad on time. "Mike Dillon jumped immediately on board to help," he said. "They're putting the final touches on a transporter full of equipment for us."

Garone assessed the damages at more than $500,000, and said the total could climb higher once a more accurate assessment can be made. "It's a big mess," he said. "We're just grateful that nobody got seriously hurt."

Random Thoughts On The Final Monday Of The NASCAR Season

Dale Earnhardt Jr. reiterated for the 732nd time Sunday that he doesn't want to talk -– or think -- about a possible crewchief change on his #88 Chevrolet until after this weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Junior told The Sporting News, "I ain't really making any decisions on that until after the season's over with. I asked Rick (Hendrick) and everybody in the corporation if I could not consider any options for next year… until we're done racing.”

In comments eerily similar to those he made about former crewchiefs Pete Rondeau and Tony Eury, Jr, before their departures, Earnhardt said, “I've really enjoyed working with (Lance McGrew). I've enjoyed even more so becoming his friend and getting to know him as well as I have. I have a lot of respect for him, and he's put up with a lot of crap this year and last year, trying to help get this thing going. He gave me his best effort to try to help each weekend, and I've just got a lot of respect for him."

NASCAR’s perennial Most Popular Driver is winless since June of 2008, and stands 19th in championship points after missing the Chase for the second consecutive year. He started 31st and finished 14th at Phoenix yesterday and called the ongoing performance issues surrounding his team, “a moving target."

Job Hunting: Is anyone else buying this sudden burst of interest in NASCAR by out-of-work Indy Car drivers? Both Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon have spoken with Kyle Busch recently about possible 2011 opportunities with Shrubby’s Camping World Truck Series team. Those discussions are being called preliminary in nature, and both drivers are honest enough to admit that their preference is to remain in open wheel.

For the record, any deal struck with KBM will be contingent on sponsorship, and if Kanaan and Wheldon had sponsorship, they’d still be in Indy Cars. Both Tony and Dan are good guys and great drivers who would energize the Truck Series with their personalities alone. But when did NASCAR become the fast food gig you take after getting canned from your “real job?”

The Mania Continues: Danica Patrick had another rough day at Phoenix International Raceway Saturday, qualifying 28th and jostling her way to a 32nd place finish in the Nationwide Series WYPALL 200. The highlight of her effort was the payback-bump administered to young Alex Kennedy, after Kennedy leaned too heavily for her liking on the driver’s door of the Chevrolet. Her “bump back” elicited a veritable standing ovation from her team, but did little to improve her eventual finish.

In 11 Nationwide starts this season, Patrick has an average start of 28.8 and an average finish of 28.4, making one wonder exactly what Steve Arpin did that was so wrong?

In Case You Haven’t Noticed: Here’s proof -– as if any is needed -– that non-Chase drivers fly considerably under the radar at this time of year. Heading into Sunday’s race at Phoenix International Raceway, only three drivers had scored more points in this year’s Chase than Joey Logano. His Joe Gibbs Racing/Home Depot Toyota finished third yesterday; Logano’s fifth top-10 finish in his last five starts.

After suffering through the growing pains expected of any young driver in his first two years on the Sprint Cup circuit, “Sliced Bread” and veteran crewchief Greg Zipadelli seem ready to begin the 2011 campaign right now!

And Finally: The only way Denny Hamlin can guarantee himself the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship Sunday is by winning the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, or finishing second while leading the most laps. That scenario is exactly what the boys in the big mahogany offices in Daytona Beach had in mind when they dreamed up the Chase format a few years ago.

Even After Phoenix Stumble, The Odds Still Favor Hamlin

Carl Edwards delivered his customary Victory Lane back flip at Phoenix International Raceway Sunday, on an afternoon when the Sprint Cup championship chase also got turned upside down.

Edwards’ victory trumped an afternoon of complete and utter dominance by championship point leader Denny Hamlin, whose Joe Gibbs Racing/Fed Ex Toyota appeared headed for an easy win until poor fuel mileage forced him to pit road with just a handful of laps to go. Hamlin led a race-high 190 laps Sunday, soaring over the competition like the Luftwaffe over London while fellow contenders Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick struggled with mediocre race cars and – in Harvick’s case – a horribly timed miscue that forced him back to pit road to tighten a loose lug nut.

The door appeared wide open for Hamlin to take a cushy, 60-point lead into the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Then that door came slamming shut.

Poor fuel mileage and a lack of late cautions forced crewchief Mike Ford to play it safe, calling his driver to the pits for a green-flag fuel stop with 14 laps remaining. Hamlin relinquished the runner-up position and returned to the track in 19th place, slashing his way forward in the final laps while Jimmie Johnson milked his fuel cell at near-pedestrian speed to finish fifth, one spot ahead of a resurgent Harvick. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, Hamlin’s dominant day had wilted into a 12th place finish; with his 60-point lead suddenly a paltry, 15-point bulge.

"That was ugly," said Ford on the cool-down lap. "That’s something we've definitely got to work on. Fuel mileage. That was awful."

"It's tough not to be happy (with) the point lead going into the last race,” said a crestfallen Hamlin afterward. “But we were sitting pretty."

Johnson, meanwhile, basked in the afterglow of a day that was the NASCAR equivalent of found money. After winning the last three fall races at PIR, his Lowes Chevrolet was never in the hunt Sunday, and he welcomed the late turn of fortune that kept his drive for a fifth consecutive Sprint Cup title alive.

"We have one heck of a points race going to Miami and I'm pumped," he said. "I am so happy to put pressure on the #11 team. We're ready to race for this thing. (It’s) one race, winner take all, and it's going to be a hell of a show.” Johnson also attempted to turn the trash-talking tables on Hamlin, saying, “I hope the pressure of us being on his heels really works on his mind throughout the course of the week."

Hamlin must ensure that it doesn’t.

In the aftermath of their Phoenix misfortune, it’s tempting for Hamlin and company to focus on the negatives. But there is no time to think about what might have been. Instead, they must focus on the reality of what is. They enter this weekend’s season finale at Homestead-Miami with 15 points in hand; a far better fate than awaited any of Johnson’s challengers in the last four years. They are the Sprint Cup point leaders, and have consistently fielded the fastest cars on the racetrack in recent weeks.

If Johnson is going to complete his quest for a record fifth consecutive title Sunday, he’ll have to do it by coming from behind. And if recent history is any guide, he’ll have to beat a red-hot driver with a better racecar and a superior over-the-wall pit crew. Can it be done? Absolutely. It happened at Phoenix, and it can happen again at Homestead.

But if you’re Denny Hamlin, you’ve got to like the odds.