Sunday, July 31, 2011

Menard Scores Another For The First-Timers

Add Paul Menard’s name to the list of first-time winners on the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Hot on the heels of Trevor Bayne’s stunning victory in the season-opening Daytona 500, Regan Smith’s upset win in the Southern 500 at Darlington and David Ragan’s triumph in the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Menard etched his name onto the list of new 2011 winners in what is rapidly becoming one of the most competitive seasons in the sport’s history.

Menard made the most of superior fuel mileage Sunday, soft-peddling the throttle down the stretch until being given the “Go get `em” by crew chief Slugger Labbe with just four laps remaining. He bypassed defending Brickyard 400 winner Jamie McMurray – who was also attempting to save fuel – then held off a furious charge from Jeff Gordon to claim his first career Sprint Cup win in 167 starts.

Menard’s victory made him the 14th different winner in 20 Sprint Cup races this season; one more than in all of 2010. With drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Tony Stewart, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, Greg Biffle and Juan Pablo Montoya yet to visit Victory Lane, it’s conceivable that 20 different drivers – or more -- could hoist the winner’s hardware before season’s end. Menard was also the 10th different winner in the last 13 superspeedway races; proof positive of a competitive era unrivaled in the history of the sport.

While the numbers added-up in NASCAR’s favor Sunday, the big winner was Menard, whose father, John, has owned and sponsored cars in the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but never gotten closer to the brass ring than a third-place finish with Al Unser, Sr. in 1992. "I've been coming here since I was a little kid, and my dad's been trying to win here for 35 years," said a champagne-drenched Menard afterward. “I saw my dad as soon as we pulled into Victory Lane. He came up to the window and I said, ‘35 years of trying here… this one's for you.’ It’s definitely for him. He's put a lot of time and energy into winning at Indy. It's just a big deal.”

Menard smiled when asked about outrunning home-state drivers Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman for the Brickyard victory. “I'm not an Indiana native, but Wisconsin is not far away,” he said. "I spent a hell of a lot of time here as a kid, and I’ve probably been here more days than all three of them combined. It’s a special place for us. There's a lot of emotion. I can't believe we won Indy. This is big."

“It was Paul's day,” said the elder Menard as his son prepared to kiss the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway Yard of Bricks. “He came down here as a very little guy. I remember smuggling him into the garage because he was too young to be in there. He would be sitting on the workbench back there behaving himself. He had to be quiet or the yellow shirts would throw him out. He was there, always interested. He wanted to be a race-car driver.

“Our whole family has been at the Speedway for so long. We all tried very hard. I'm just a proud father right now.”

Menard became the first driver to win his first career Sprint Cup race at Indy, pushing himself into the thick of the championship picture with a jump from 19th to 14th in points. He also validated Childress’ off-season decision to hire him, after the soft-spoken Wisconsin native failed to win in stints with Andy Petree Racing, Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Yates Racing and Richard Petty Motorsports.

Sunday’s win was the 98th for RCR, tying Childress with the legendary Wood Brothers for fifth place (fourth among active teams) on the all-time list. Best of all, it silenced – hopefully forever – the whispers of “Rent a Ride” that have dogged Menard since his earliest days in the sport.

If the regular season ended today, Menard and Denny Hamlin would claim the Wild Card berths for the 2011 Chase. If he is able to triumph again at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Labor Day, he’ll pocket a cool million dollars for winning the Sprint Summer Showdown. Those two facts should go a long way toward putting any further discussion of “daddy’s money” to rest, once and for all.

Paul Menard is a Sprint Cup Series winner at last, and he did it on one of the grandest stages in the sport.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Pastrana Hurt, Team Withdraws From LOR Debut

Pastrana Waltrip Racing has withdrawn its #99 Boost Mobile Toyota from tomorrow night’s race at Lucas Oil Raceway, where Travis Pastrana had been scheduled to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut. Pastrana broke his right foot and ankle after back-to-back crashes in the Moto X Best Trick competition at the X Games in Los Angeles yesterday.

The action sports icon was positioned to contend for the gold medal before missing his second attempt at a corked 720, landing on his leg with the motorcycle on top of him. He jumped quickly to his feet and hobbled for a few steps before slumping to the ground. He was carried from the field on a stretcher and transported to a hospital for X-rays. The injuries to his foot and ankle came just days after he damaged ligaments in his hand during practice for the X Games. He will reportedly undergo surgery on his foot, ankle and hand this week in Maryland, and will be sidelined indefinitely.

Team owner Michael Waltrip announced the team’s withdrawal today, saying, “Like fans everywhere we were so excited about Travis’ debut Saturday night. We have a long term vision with Travis which includes lots of NASCAR. We can’t wait to get him healed and in our race cars. We talked to our sponsor Boost Mobile and agreed to withdraw from Indy and delay our debut. We’ve waited a long time for someone like Travis Pastrana. I guess we’ll just have to wait a little bit longer.”

Pastrana had planned to compete in Best Trick and Freestyle on Thursday and Friday, fly to Indianapolis to make his NASCAR Nationwide debut Saturday, then return to Los Angeles to compete in RallyCross Sunday. If his injuries heal in time, Waltrip said Pastrana's Nationwide Series debut could be rescheduled for Richmond International Raceway September 9.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Francis Will Move To Hendrick Next Season

Crew chief Kenny Francis will lead the #5 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team when Kasey Kahne moves to Hendrick Motorsports next season. The team has confirmed that Francis will join the organization after the conclusion of the 2011 campaign. He has 11 Sprint Cup victories as a crew chief; all but one of them with Kahne at the wheel.

Team owner Rick Hendrick commented on the announcement, saying, “Our people have a lot of respect for Kenny and what he’s accomplished. We know the chemistry is already there with Kasey, and there’s no doubt Kenny will communicate very well with our folks. He’s a character guy who brings an awful lot to the table as a crew chief. When we look at ‘fit factor,’ it’s a great situation.”

Francis said, “Joining Hendrick Motorsports and continuing to work with Kasey next year is an opportunity I’m excited about. He’s a championship-caliber driver and good friend, and I’m looking forward to building on our relationship. Mr. Hendrick has built an impressive team and culture, and it’s going to be fun to be a part of that when the time comes.”

Francis will remain with Red Bull Racing as crewchief of Kahne’s #4 Toyota for the remainder of the season. Lance McGrew will finish out the 2011 season as crew chief for the #5 Chevrolet and driver Mark Martin. He will remain in a key role with Hendrick Motorsports, focusing on Research and Development and special projects, including the new Chevrolet Sprint Cup car scheduled to debut in 2013.

“Before the season started, I told Mr. Hendrick I was open to any role he wanted me to play moving forward,” said McGrew. “My goal has always been to contribute to the long-term success of this company however I can, period. Mr. Hendrick and everyone on the team is committed to winning races with Mark, making the Chase and finishing the year on a high note. We have a lot of racing left to do in 2011, and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got.”

Francis, who holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Florida, debuted as a Sprint Cup crew chief in 2003. The Jacksonville, Fla., native has worked with multiple drivers, including NASCAR champions Bill Elliott and Dale Jarrett.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sadler Signs With Joe Denette Motorsports

Elliott Sadler will drive a new, #24 Joe Denette Motorsports Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet at Bristol in August and Martinsville in November, racing as a teammate to Jason White.

"I've known Joe Denette for a few years," said Sadler. "So when he offered me the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of one of his trucks at Bristol and Martinsville, I jumped on it!"

Sadler has 16 Truck Series starts in the last five season, with a win at Pocono last season, four Top-5 and eight Top-10 finishes. He is one of only 22 drivers to claim wins in all three NASCAR National divisions and one of only 16 drivers to have earned a pole award and win. Sadler said he is looking forward to debuting with the rookie team. "Bristol is one of my favorite tracks," said Sadler. "I've won there in a Sprint Cup car and a Nationwide, car so it would be really cool to get a win there in the Truck Series. Martinsville is in my home state of Virginia, so there will be a little added pressure to do well that weekend. Jason has made some big strides in the past few races and I feel like we'll work well together as teammates."

A sponsorship announcement for Sadler’s #24 Chevrolet is expected in the coming weeks.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Berrier Out As Burton's Crew Chief

Crewchief Todd Berrier will not be atop the pit box when Jeff Burton and the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team compete this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Team owner Richard Childress has confirmed that engineer Luke Lambert will replace Berrier as crew chief on an interim basis, adding, "Todd has been an important part of RCR's success for many years. He is still employed and under contract and his role with RCR will be determined in the near future."

Berrier has guided the team to a disappointing 25th place in championship points. The team has yet to record a Top-10 finish this season. A year ago, Burton and Berrier qualified for the Chase and finished 12th in the final rundown, with six Top-5 and 15 Top-10 finishes.

This is Lambert's first opportunity to serve as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief. The 28-year-old has worked as an engineer with the #31 team since 2008, and Childress said he has "a strong grasp of the job requirements and an established line of communication with Jeff. So we have every confidence that he will do a great job."

"I'm honored that Richard and Jeff have the confidence in me to lead the Cat Racing team," said Lambert. "This is a talented group of guys who know what it takes and has been successful so there's no reason to think we can't be successful moving forward."

Where Will Edwards Land In 2012?

Knee-deep in his quest for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, the last thing Carl Edwards needs is distraction. Unfortunately, barring an unexpected announcement of his plans for 2012 and beyond, distraction is exactly what he has in store.

Edwards is the leading player in this season’s edition of the NASCAR Free Agent Derby, along with Richard Childress Racing’s Clint Bowyer and Ganassi Racing’s Juan Pablo Montoya. Both Bowyer and Montoya are expected to re-up with their current teams, however, leaving Edwards as the Belle of the Ball. He currently entertains at least two offers, from current employer Roush Fenway Racing and determined suitor Joe Gibbs Racing. Jack Roush has made it clear that re-signing Edwards is at the top of his personal to-do list, and Joe Gibbs Racing president JD Gibbs has admitted interest in fielding a new, fourth JGR Toyota for the Missouri native if suitable sponsorship can be found.

In terms of competitiveness, both RFR and JGR both have a lot to offer. Roush Fenway has carried Edwards to the pinacle of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship standings, with one win and a series-high 10 Top-5 and 13 Top-10 finishes in 19 starts. Gibbs is not far behind, however, with Kyle Busch fifth in points – after leading the standings just a few weeks ago -- and Denny Hamlin tenth. If the Chase were to begin today, Busch and Kevin Harvick would top the standings on the strength of three wins already this season. In terms of winning races and contending for championship, both Roush and Gibbs fill the bill. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Roush Fenway’s engine department continues to crank out a steady stream of stout, reliable powerplants. JGR, meanwhile, has struggled with multiple engine-related failures this season, prompting unconfirmed reports that the team will shut-down its engine shop and utilize horsepower from Toyota Racing Development next season. JD Gibbs has denied those reports, but the uncertainty continues. ADVANTAGE: ROUSH FENWAY

In addition to his Sprint Cup effort, Edwards has been a steadfast supporter of the NASCAR Nationwide Series in recent seasons. Both Roush and Gibbs have top-notch Nationwide efforts, winning a high percentage of their starts in the series. Edwards confirmed recently that he will not run the full Nationwide schedule next season, telling ESPN, “I will focus on the Sprint Cup and my family. It will be a big change for me.” Both Roush and Gibbs would still be happy to put “Cousin Carl” in their Nationwide cars for a limited Saturday afternoon schedule, however. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Another factor in Edwards’ decision is cold, hard cash. Faced with a choice between two competitive race teams with impressive track records, personnel and resources, “green pictures of dead presidents” could easily tilt the scales in one direction or another. Roush Fenway Racing is viewed – justifiably or not – as one of the less generous employers in NASCAR, while Joe Gibbs is believed to have a slightly looser wallet. ADVANTAGE: GIBBS

Gibbs, however, is handcuffed in his ability to talk dollars and cents until an actual sponsor is signed. ADVANTAGE ROUSH FENWAY

Edwards continues to insist that he has not made up his mind on where he will race in 2012 and beyond. And the longer he waits, the more of a distraction the situation will become.

Cal Wells Out at Michael Waltrip Racing

Michael Waltrip Racing announced today that the organization has parted company with Executive Vice President of Operations Cal Wells, effective immediately. Wells had been with MWR since the earliest days of the operation and was responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations of its NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams. A statement from MWR said the parting was “mutually agreed,” but sources within the organization say the decision was made by team owners Waltrip and Rob Kauffman.

“We want to thank Cal for his strong contribution to getting Michael Waltrip Racing to where it is today, said Kauffman. “We wish him the very best in his future endeavors. We plan to go forward now with the solid management team that is in place, and bring MWR to the next level.”

Before joining MWR, Wells owned and operated PPI Racing, winning a pair of Cup races with driver Ricky Craven. No replacement has been announced.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Frenette Eight and Fifth In Newport "Twin 50s"

Veteran driver Rick Frenette made the most of his maiden voyage in the Godfather Motorsports/ Sirius Speedway Chevrolet Saturday night, claiming eighth and fifth-place finishes in the Super Late Model “Twin 50s” at Newport (TN) Motor Speedway.

Electrical issues limited the team to just one practice session, and Frenette qualified 14th out of 15 cars. When the green flag flew in the first main event, Frenette spent the first few laps feeling out the car’s handling, ultimately pitting under the race’s second caution period to remedy a tight condition in the corners. Crewchief Jim Gallison, Jr., added a spring rubber to the car’s rear suspension, but the adjustment worked too well, creating a loose condition and forcing Frenette to ”feather the throttle” at the exit of the turns over the final 34 laps. He still managed to work his way forward to finish eighth at the drop of the checkered flag.

“Rick gave me great feedback between races,” said Gallison, “and we determined that instead of a loose condition, we were suffering from a loss of forward bite on exit. So we put the chassis back to square one and made a gear chance to give the car more bite.” The adjustments paid off immediately in the second Twin 50, with Frenette quickly surging into the Top-10 from his 12th-place starting spot. He suffered minor body damage in a multi-car front stretch crash near halfway, then restarted at the rear of the field and dodged a minefield of late spins to finish fifth; the team’s best finish of 2011 to date. “It was crazy out there,” said Frenette afterward. “It was pretty hot in those racecars (temperatures in the high 90s and a heat index of 112) and I think a few guys lost their cool at the end. We picked up a couple of battle scars, but the car is in one piece and we’re pretty happy with the finish. We passed more cars that anyone else, and I think we learned some things that will make the car better in the future.”

Next up for the Godfather Motorsports/Sirius Speedway team is the Saturday night, August 20 “PASS Super Late Model 150” Presented by the Gazette Virginian newspaper at South Boston Speedway in South Boston, Virginia.

Newport Twin 50s -- Race One

1 7 2 Kevin Leicht
2 6 24 Keith Rankin
3 5 92 Mark Nesbitt
4 3 76 Jerick Johnson
5 1 80 Blake Jones
6 9 82 James Holton
7 10 2 Jeff Myers
8 14 30 Rick Frenette
9 2 O4 Jerrod Foley
10 13 3 Brian Vales
11 8 8 Ed Surrett
12 12 5 Eugene Smith
13 11 22 Mike Bargo
14 15 27 Junior Franks
15 4 9 David Flynn

Newport Twin 50s -- Race Two

1 2 76 Jerick Johnson
2 3 O4 Jerrod Foley
3 1 2 Jeff Myers
4 6 92 Mark Nesbitt
5 12 30 Rick Frenette
6 4 2 Kevin Leicht
7 11 8 Ed Surrett
8 8 80 Blake Jones
9 7 24 Keith Rankin
10 5 82 James Holton
11 13 5 Eugene Smith
12 9 22 Mike Bargo
13 10 3 Brian Vales
14 DNS 27 Junior Franks
15 DNS 9 David Flynn

About Godfather Motorsports – Godfather Motorsports is jointly owned by Motor Racing Network and Sirius NASCAR Radio personality Dave Moody and partner Jim Gallison, Jr. The team enjoys major corporate support from Bea’s Gift and a comprehensive list of technological and marketing partners including Eibach Springs, JRI Shock Absorbers, Wilwood Brakes, C&R Racing Inc., Five Star Race Car Bodies, Dynotech Engineering, RaceCom of Virginia, ASM Graphics, Pink Carburetors and X-Flex Racers Tape. For additional information on the team and marketing opportunities with Godfather Motorsports, contact Dave Moody --

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Newman Stripped of Mod Tour Win

NASCAR has stripped Ryan Newman of his win in Saturday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour “F.W. Webb 100” at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Newman’s car –- owned by Sprint Cup Series crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion -– was found to be in violation of a NASCAR rule requiring intake manifold ports to completely seal to the cylinder head ports. Sources say the car’s intake manifold bolts were drilled out allowing air to bypass the restrictor plate, then filled with wax to hide the modification until the engine heated up on the racetrack. Those reports have not been confirmed and NASCAR did not comment on the specifics of the violation.

Newman won the pole by more than three-tenths of a second, and claimed a 1.9 second win over runner-up Todd Szegedy, who now inherits the win. Newman becomes the fourth driver in the 25-year history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to be stripped of a victory. Crew chief Mike LaRochelle has been suspended from all NASCAR regional touring series events until Dec. 31, 2011. Manion has been disqualified from the race and suspended from NASCAR regional touring competition until Dec. 31.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Pattie Out As Montoya's Crewchief

Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has announced a crew chief change on the No. 42 Target Chevrolet driven by Juan Pablo Montoya. Effective immediately, Jim Pohlman will replace Brian Pattie atop the pit box for Montoya on an interim basis, after filling numerous posts within the organization since 2006.

Team Owner Chip Ganassi said of the move, “We are pleased to have someone of Jim’s caliber to be able to place into this role. I have confidence in his abilities to move the team forward.” Montoya is currently 17th in championship points, 59 out of the Top-10.

No mention was made of Pattie or his future with the team. Pattie said today that he has not been officially informed of the change, but is aware that an interim crew chief has been named. He declined to comment further until after a scheduled meeting with Chip Ganassi early next week.

Details On Newman's Disputed Mod Tour Win

More details have emerged regarding possible issues with Saturday’s winning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour entry at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The car -– owned by Sprint Cup Series crew chief Kevin “Bono” Manion and driven by Ryan Newman -- has gone four-for-four in cameo appearances on the tour over the last two seasons, sweeping both 2010 NHMS events and dominating the circuit’s annual stop at Bristol Motor Speedway. He claimed Saturday’s F.W. Webb 100 from the pole position, taking the lead from Ronnie Silk on lap 84 and claiming a relatively comfortable 1.9-second win over runner-up Todd Szegedy. The car’s performance resulted in increased post-race scrutiny from NASCAR officials, and the sanctioning body ultimately impounded the car for further investigation.

NASCAR spokesman Jason Christley said Saturday that officials would take the car back to their Concord, NC, Research and Development facility. "If there is something in question, we take the parts in question back to the R&D Center to make full use of our resources and expertise there, rather than make a spot decision at the track," he said. While Christley stressed that the move “is not necessarily an indication of any impending penalty," multiple sources tell Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that the car’s intake manifold bolts appear to have been drilled, allowing air to bypass the restrictor plate. The holes were reportedly filled with wax, hiding the modification from NASCAR officials until the engine heated up on the racetrack, melting the wax and allowing more air to flow.

Penalties, if any, are expected to be announced Tuesday. While NASCAR has never overturned a win in its top three national series, there is precedent for such a move in its lower divisions. In 2008, Burt Myers was stripped of a Modified Tour victory at Martinsville Speedway after spliced ignition wires raised concerns over possible traction control.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Smith's Comments Compound Fans Anger

Fans had quite a bit of trouble getting into Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago. But by the following Friday, traffic had cleared enough for Speedway Motorsports, Inc., President Bruton Smith to back a rather large bus over Kentucky governor Steve Beshear, the company hired to handle parking at the speedway and even NASCAR fans themselves.

In a bombastic media event staged at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday, the SMI boss initially apologized for the situation,” saying, “I’m sorry that we had such a traffic.” Sadly, he spent the next 20 minutes attempting to deflect blame away from SMI and Kentucky Speedway, and onto other parties. “I don’t think anybody, even the people who were unlucky enough to sit in traffic for four hours… could foresee what occurred,” he said. “Maybe God knew, (but) I don’t know of anybody else that knew how many people would try to come and see this event.”

Smith blamed the company hired to handle parking at the speedway, saying, “I think they did a lousy job. They had a lot of inexperienced people (and) I did not think they did a very good job on parking.” He blamed adjoining landowners, saying, “We've studied the aerial (pictures), and our neighbors who were going to do all this parking, they didn't do a very good job, either.”

However, when told that a spokesperson for the Kentucky State Police had also blamed inadequate parking procedures for the fiasco, Smith immediately changed his tune. “I don’t know the gentleman,” he sniffed. “I don’t recognize his expertise. I disagree completely.’’

Pressed for remedies, Smith inexplicably criticized the racing at Daytona and Talladega. “I’m asking NASCAR, let’s go to work on this car and stop this foolishness of having two cars; one pushing another one,” he said. “That’s not what we built this sport on. That is not good. We’ve got traffic problems, but let’s work on that, too. Let’s see who can fix what first. I am absolutely dedicated to fix the problems in Kentucky before the dancing partner thing can be cured.’’

Smith repeatedly blasted the state of Kentucky and Gov. Beshear, saying, “Interstate 71 is horrible. It sucks. It’s terrible. It’s the lousiest piece of interstate that I’ve ever driven on… and it should have been corrected 15 years ago.” He vowed to pressure Beshear to expand or refurbish the highway, a project the Governor has warned may not be feasible for his cash-strapped state.

Smith’s response?

“I can't go out there and widen the highway myself. We don't control the highways. I wish we could sit here and tell you we do, but we don't control the highways.” Asked what he will do if the state is unable to meet his demands for infrastructure improvements, Smith played a now-familiar card, crowing, “Las Vegas baby!” He has used similar strong-arm tactics in Concord, NC, and Loudon, NH, with considerable success in the past. Time will tell if Beshear is as easily bullied.

The governor has refused to join the name-calling and finger pointing. He has pledged to work with the speedway on its traffic and parking issues, while cautioning that taxpayers are already heavily burdened and funding tight. “It’s clear that there are issues… which must be addressed before next year's event,” he said. “We will work with track officials to determine what can be done to address these problems, so that next year's NASCAR event will be even bigger and better."
Prior to Friday’s media event, NASCAR President Mike Helton called Kentucky’s traffic situation a "very serious issue," saying the sanctioning body “will not rest” until a solution is found. Michigan International Speedway president Roger Curtis went further, calling the traffic jam “an exercise in blame and unpreparedness” and saying Kentucky Speedway “should have known the challenges it would face when it tripled in size. It appears the mentality at some other racetracks today is to see how much money they can make off a fan.”

“I don't know who in the heck (Curtis) is, and I don't care to know,” huffed Smith. “It would be like if one of my people responded to Daytona in a nasty way when the track broke up. …That is not what we're about.”

To their credit, SMI President Marcus Smith and Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger have done yeoman work, offering to exchange unused Kentucky tickets for upcoming events at Bristol, Atlanta, New Hampshire, Charlotte and Texas Motor Speedways, or next year’s race in Kentucky. They have also worked tirelessly to salve the feelings of irate fans; issuing repeated apologies and accepting blame for their part in the debacle. Unfortunately, the man who embodies both SMI and Kentucky Speedway is unwilling – or unable – to do the same. Asked if he considered refunding money to patrons unable to make their way into Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago, Bruton Smith snapped, “No. Did not and will not.”


“We don’t want to.”

Shiplett Out, Erwin In As #43 Crew Chief

Former Roush Fenway Racing crew chief Greg Erwin will replace Mike Shiplett as crew chief for AJ Allmendinger’s #43 Richard Petty Motorsports Best Buy Ford. Erwin was fired last week from his post as crew chief for Greg Biffle, but will be atop the #43 pit box when the Sprint Cup Series returns to action in two weeks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Mike and I have been together for a long time, so from a personal standpoint this is difficult for me,” said Allmendinger today. “We’ve worked really well together and I think our personalities really complemented each other. Mike and I both came into this year committed to working on our weaker areas. I know we both tried our best to be better and communicate better, I couldn’t have asked for either of us to try any harder. Sometimes though, you need to take a step back and have a new perspective or new set of eyes look at things to move to the next level.

“Greg Erwin is a really talented crew chief and we’re lucky to have him come on board with us,” continued Allmendinger. “He has had a lot of success, brings a fresh perspective and has shown he knows exactly what it takes to win. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do together and taking the team to that next level.”

In his two-year plus tenure with Roush Fenway Racing and the #16 Ford, Erwin racked up five victories, 36 Top-five and 66 Top-10 finishes, making the Chase three times and finishing as high as third in the year end point standings. “When one door closes, another one opens and this is a great example of that,” said Erwin. “I couldn’t be happier to have found a new home at Richard Petty Motorsports. To work with Richard Petty and lead the iconic No. 43 team is a great opportunity for me. AJ Allmendinger has shown that he has a great deal of talent and I’m excited to have the chance to get the No. 43 team back to Victory Lane.”

Allmendinger is currently 16th in championship points with one Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes, after finishing 12th this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Is Back!

Dear Readers --

After an unwanted, two-month vacation due to various technical issues too complicated to explain, is back online! Many thanks to our many devoted readers for their e-mails, tweets and text messages expressing concern and exasperation. Believe me, I felt the same way!

Please spread the good news of our return to your friends, and check back daily for breaking NASCAR news and commentary. Also, stay tuned for an all-new, full-service website, coming soon!

Best Always --

Dave Moody

Gibbs Refutes Rumors Of Engine Shop Closure

Joe Gibbs Racing President JD Gibbs told Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he has no plans to shutter the team’s engine shop and merge motor-building operations with Toyota Racing Development.

“I think a lot of that started when Red Bull Racing announced they were going to cease operation,” said Gibbs. “A lot of people started trying to plug things into different spots. There are some things that TRD and Toyota do really well, and there are some things that we do really well. For several years, we’ve been working on how to bring all those strengths together. (JGR Head Engine Builder) Mark Cronquist has got some real sharp guys… and the question – again – is how do we bring all that together (with Toyota and TRD)? If we can do that, I think there will be some real value. But there is no shutting down our shop, or shutting down theirs. We’re going to keep working on combining what they do well with what we do well.”

Gibbs also commented on persistent rumors of negotiations with Roush Fenway Racing driver Carl Edwards, saying, “We get the most attention because we have an open spot. If other (teams) had spots, they’d all be in the rumor mill, too. The reality is that Carl is a gifted, talented driver. But you have to have all the parts; driver, crew chief, team and sponsorship. And that sponsorship piece is difficult to put together. From our standpoint, we are far from having any concrete decisions or directions. We have the availability to add a fourth car. We look at it each year and examine the possibilities. But we haven’t been able to make it work.”

Gibbs said Joey Logano’s job is secure, whether or not Edwards joins the JGR camp. “People in general just assume things,” he said. “If we do a fourth car, it will be a great addition. For Joey, the key is that we finished last year so strong, but just haven’t had that same consistency this year. We’ve had it the last few weeks, so that’s encouraging for us and the whole (#20) team. He’s young, but we have to perform. We all know that, and what we saw (out of Logano) last year is what we’re starting to see again now. That’s encouraging.”