Monday, October 31, 2011

Martinsville EFI Test Complete

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — For the third time this month, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams tested Electronic Fuel Injection on track today, as 10 cars turned laps around the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway. Teams from Roush Fenway Racing, Penske Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, NEMCO Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Furniture Row Racing, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing and two teams from Stewart-Hass Racing participated in today’s session.

This was the third EFI test session for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this month. Previously, teams had tested at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. Plans call for the full implementation of EFI in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning with the 2012 season.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Mobil 1 Chevrolet and winner of Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville, said today’s test was all about helping his race team get better. “This test is big for the engine guys and also for our overall organization,” said Stewart, currently second in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. “It gives them the opportunity to read the fuel maps and get a feel for the ins and outs of the EFI system. We’re confident that this system will be bullet proof when we go all in with it next season. Being out here today, running laps; you do this to make your race team better.”

Stewart’s crew chief, Darian Grubb, said that his team came out of Monday’s test “very satisfied. We’ve received a lot of data from the earlier tests and this was a good indicator on how the system might perform on a short track and we came away very satisfied,” said Grubb. “We’re all still in a bit of a learning process with the EFI and still doing some trouble shooting, but this is an exciting move we’re making in the sport.”

Grubb added that Stewart provides the team with “excellent feedback” on how the car is handling on the track. “Tony has experience racing with the EFI systems in the past and with his background in IndyCar and sprint cars, he is able to provide us with a lot of valuable and insightful feedback.”

AJ Allmendinger (No. 43 Best Buy Ford) drove a car for Roush Fenway Racing at the test in his first experience behind the wheel of an EFI stock car. “It was kind of cool making laps in the EFI car after going 500 laps yesterday at this track,” said Allmendinger, who finished 11th Sunday. “It was pretty amazing seeing the marks on the walls and divots in the track from the race. We were able to make a few minor adjustments with our car today and all in all, it was a productive test for us.”

John Darby, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director, said today’s test “was just one more step in the planning process for EFI. Since the time we first began testing EFI at Kentucky in July, I think the teams have been able to work through just about all the configurations of race tracks and the different extremes of weather that they will see in 2012,” said Darby. “At Kentucky, it was brutally hot and the teams were faced with the extreme heat. This morning, it was 30 degrees here at Martinsville, so they’ve been able to test this system under a variety of conditions.”

Darby said the feedback he has received from the drivers has been “consistently positive. When they have the throttle wide open, (the drivers) say the car might run even a little smoother,” said Darby. “When they run it mid-throttle, they say it might feel even a little softer in handling. They all say the cars are handling very similar to what they are used to driving now.”

Notes From A Wild Sunday In Martinsville

Sunday's TUMS Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway gave the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship picture a major shake, severely damaging the title hopes of a number of drivers, while pushing others back into contention. Here are some highlights -- and low lights -- from a busy day in the Commonwealth State...

Sometimes, Bad Can Be Good – Let’s just tell it like it is; Carl Edwards was horrible Sunday at Martinsville. His Aflac Ford ran in the mid-20s for most of the TUMS Fast Relief 500, advancing to a ninth-place finish only after passing a number of cars that were either headed for the garage or pointed in the wrong direction. Part of winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship is keeping one’s head when all others are losing theirs. On that count -– and that count alone -– Edwards ran like a champion Sunday. His ability to make chicken salad out of… well, you know… keeps him in the championship points lead. In the end, that may have been enough.

Too Little, Too Late – Jimmie Johnson did almost everything he could at Martinsville, claiming a typically solid, runner-up finish behind Tony Stewart. Unfortunately for the Lowes Chevrolet team, they were able to trim only a few points off their massive championship deficit, leaving the Commonwealth a whopping 43 points behind Edwards with just three races left. Yes, he’s Jimmie Johnson. Yes, we’ve seen him do some remarkable things en route to a record five consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships. But no, a sixth title will not happen in 2011. Stick a fork in Jimmie, he’s done.

Lose Your Cool, Lose Your Championship – Of all the drivers likely to lose their heads at Martinsville, Matt Kenseth would have been last on the list. Unfortunately, the usually stoic Kenseth did severe damage to his championship hopes Sunday, playing tit-for-tat with Brian Vickers in a series of catastrophically shortsighted exchanges. “It’s disappointing,” admitted Kenseth afterward. “I obviously did a poor job today. We were really bad on used tires… and we kept getting the outside (of every restart). That’s such a disadvantage unless you have a real fast car, which we really didn’t. It was a struggle all day. Obviously, I didn’t make good decisions and we ended up in a bad spot.” Kenseth now trails Edwards by 36 points, and will have the next four months to ponder what might have been.

One Yellow Too Few -- There were 18 caution flags in Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500, and if you ask Brad Keselowski, there should have been 19. After running a smart, incident-free race, Keselowski was seventh with just two laps remaining. That finish would have left him three points behind point leader Carl Edwards with three races remaining. But alas, it was not to be. Contact on the final restart sent Keselowski spinning in Turn Two, and when NASCAR inexplicably declined to throw the yellow flag, Keso hurriedly re-fired his Miller Lite Dodge and limped home to a disappointing 17th place finish.

You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me, Loose Wheel -- Kyle Busch finished 27th Sunday after his M&Ms Toyota team compounded the damage done in a late-race crash by failing to secure his left-front tire on the ensuing pit stop. Busch ran among the leaders all day, and while he was probably not going to win Sunday, those five missing lug nuts ruined what easily could have been a Top-10 finish. Busch is now 57 points behind with three races remaining, and will need a series of miracles to win the 2011 championship.

“Dirty” Junior -– After riding passively in the back of the pack last week at Talladega, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., did things his way Sunday. His Diet Mountain Dew-sponsored Chevrolet never led, but he was never far from the Top-10, either, thanks to a scrappy performance that included a handful of apologies for on-track aggression. His first-turn bump of Kurt Busch triggered the day’s first multi-car incident, and midway through the 500-lap grind, he radioed crew chief Steve Letarte, saying, “If we raced more short tracks, I might be considered a dirty driver. I’d have me a reputation.”

Calling Out Joey -– After coming out on the losing end of a fender-swapping session on lap 151, Joey Logano complained about Earnhardt’s tactics. “He just dumped me,” complained Logano, prompting veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli to call-out his driver. “I’m sick of this shit,” shouted Zipadelli. “Grow some balls and take care of it.”

“Boys, I’ve Had It” -- Brian Vickers will be job hunting soon, and his Sunday Drive will do little to aid the search. Vickers pushed, shoved and flat-out wrecked a smorgasbord of drivers Sunday, including Jamie McMurray and Matt Kenseth. He paid back an early bump from McMurray by planting J-Mac hard into the Turn Three wall a few laps later; a move McMurray called "a cheap shot." He also engaged in a lengthy slugfest with Kenseth that saw each driver push the other into a spin. Vickers’ final assault -- a full-speed body slam while entering pit road – ended the day for both drivers and cemented Vickers' place on Sunday's list of loose cannons. With Kenseth already multiple laps in arrears after repairing damage from the duo’s previous bout, Vickers' final takeout was unwise, unnecessary and vicious.

"I certainly understand that if you're unfairly wrecked… there's a chance that retaliation is going to happen,” said Johnson of Vickers afterward. “(But) after a fourth (or) fifth time with the same car in the crash, you start thinking maybe you're the problem. Something is going on, you're having a bad day.”

Stewart Now Primed For Sprint Cup Title Run

Tony Stewart fired another shot across Carl Edwards’ championship bow Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Edwards dodged that bullet -- and a number of others – setting the stage for a three-race slugfest for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

Just seven weeks after declaring himself a non-threat for the 2011 title, Stewart stormed to his third win of the Chase, driving around five-time champion Jimmie Johnson on a late-race restart to win the TUMS Fast Relief 500. "It was just a matter of keeping him pinned down where I had flexibility to move around on the racetrack," said Stewart, whose surprisingly easy pass for the win left him just eight points behind Edwards in the championship standings. After struggling to finishes of 34th, 24th and 26th in his previous three Martinsville starts, Stewart lit the afterburners Sunday, emerging from a 500-lap, 18-caution flag slugfest that devoured a number of title competitors with a virtually unmarked Chevrolet and his third checkered flag of the season.

"(Edwards) better be worried,” warned the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion afterward. “That's all I've got to say. He isn't going to have an easy three weeks. It's no disrespect to him. He's a great competitor and a great guy. But we've had one of those up-and-down years, and we're (on) run now where we're hungry. We've been nice all year to a lot of guys (and) we're cashing tickets in these next three weeks."

"He's wound up," admitted Edwards, who overcame a horribly handling race car and two lost laps during the day to claim an unlikely ninth-place finish. Edwards called that finish – and his retention of the point lead -- “like a win," insisting that his Aflac Ford is the car to beat for the championship. "Tony’s in Victory Lane, he’s feeling good. He’s going to be tough… (but) they're going to have to beat us."

"I don't care what he says,” replied Stewart. “We're going after him for three weeks."

Arguably NASCAR’s best streak shooter, Stewart has momentum, confidence and experience in this kind of all-or-nothing, late-season championship battle. Edwards has the advantage of Roush-Fenway Racing; an operation that historically dominates on mile and 1.5-mile ovals. With Texas (1.5 mile), Phoenix (one mile) and Homestead-Miami (1.5 mile) Speedways still ahead, RFR and Edwards will be playing to their strength. Stewart also has solid records at each of the three remaining tracks, setting the stage for what could be one of the most exciting championship stretch drives in NASCAR history.

Despite what Stewart and Edwards say, this is not yet a two-man dance. Kevin Harvick lurks just 21 points behind Edwards in third place, with Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth just 27 and 36 points back, respectively. Don’t tell that to Stewart, though, who ratcheted up the championship intensity by throwing the gauntlet at Edwards’ feet.

"It's awesome we have that opportunity to get three (wins) in the Chase like this," said Stewart. "It's awesome sitting here, knowing we have three tracks coming up that have been good for us. I'm excited. It's a great feeling."

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Godfather's Saturday Martinsville Diary

Everyone knows what happens when the microphones are hot and the racing is hotter. But what about the "down times," when things are less hectic and life moves at a slower pace? In an effort to provide a look behind the scenes at Motor Racing Network, here's a rundown of Dave's Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, right up to the start of the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race...

6:00 AM – Wide awake, despite an alarm set for 7:45. It never fails.

6:15 AM – “Back to sleep” plan abandoned. Open curtains to reveal a continuous, steady rain. That’s the second disappointment of the day, and we’re only 15 minutes in.

7:30 AM – S#!t, shower and shave, then downstairs to sample the gourmet breakfast offerings from the Danville (VA) Holiday Inn Express. Third disappointment of the day…

8:00 AM – In the car and headed to the track. Phone conversations with the Mad Canadian -- who also failed in her sleep-late bid -- and Angie Skinner, who delivers play-by-play of hubby Mike attempting to put on his underwear. It’s a wonderful life.

8:15 AM – SPEED’s Bob Dillner tweets that his #51 Super Late Model will kick the #30 Godfather Motorsports Super Late Model’s ass tonight at Hickory Motor Speedway. Oh, it’s ON!!

8:25 AM – Arrive at Martinsville Speedway and am greeting by two, 14-year old parking attendants who announce that I am not allowed to park at the MRN Trailer. After a brief period of negotiation, I inform the ladies that one of two things is about to happen. Either THEY are going to open the gate, or I am going to open the gate. They choose Option B.

8:27 AM – Parked next to the MRN Trailer. Parking Nazis clearly displeased. Jet dryers on the track, in the rain. Pumpkin Spice coffee improves mood only slightly.

8:35 AM – SPEED’s Bob Dillner phones to talk Super LM smack, then admits he is skipping Hickory race to take his daughter to a High School football game. Cool dad.

8:50 AM – Jet dryers shut down. Still raining.

9:00 AM – Second cup of pumpkin spice coffee. Minimal improvement in mood.

9:23 AM – A knock on the MRN trailer door reveals Bear, an aptly named Sirius Speedway fan, who has brought his teenage daughter “to meet the Godfather.” Daughter seems considerably less excited. Understandable.

9:30 AM – Ken Childs from RaceRap.com drops by with a plate of brownies. Breakfast of Champions.

9:35 AM – Rain has stopped, though still heavily overcast. Jet dryers rolling again, Camping World Truck Series gridded for qualifying. Slight improvement in mood.

9:47 AM – Sunshine for approximately 45 seconds. Additional improvement in mood.

9:55 AM – Balance of MRN crew arrives and shares details of death struggle with 14-year old parking Nazis.

10:05 AM – Full sunshine now envelops Martinsville Speedway. Immediate and dramatic improvement in mood!

10:30 AM – Garage area at Martinsville. Two Martinsville hot dogs consumed, despite not being hungry. Hey, it's tradition.

10:35 AM – “Your article on Jack Sprague was right on, Moody. You’re the man.”

10:37 AM – “Your article on Jack Sprague was total bull$#it, Moody. You’re an idiot.”

10:50 AM – Driver “Eddie Leadfoot” denies rumors that he is negotiating with Burnout Racing about a 2012 ride, swearing he has never spoken to anyone there in his entire life.

10:55 AM – The owner of Burnout Racing says, “We’ve talked to `Eddie Leadfoot,’ but there’s nothing done yet.”

11:50 AM --Truck Series qualifying complete. Nobody has any idea if their Truck is good or not.

12 Noon: MRN Truck Series Production Meeting. Producer Amanda Trautman gets off to a bad start by neglecting to mention today’s Green Flag time. Eight minutes of non-stop verbal abuse ensues.

12:05 PM – Sprint Cup Series practice underway

12:10 PM – Amanda begins shouting, apparently unhappy that no one is listening to her.

12:11 PM – Suitably chastised, everyone pretends to listen to Amanda.

12:30 PM – MRN Transporter Driver Frank Curci made chili for lunch! Much rejoicing.

12:31 PM – Informed that MRN Operations guy Mike Doncheff actually made the chili. Lotta people worried.

12:33 PM – Clarification: Doncheff’s WIFE made the chili. Resume rejoicing.

12:20 PM – Chili is spicy and LOADED with peppers and onions. There may be a price to pay later. Screw it, we’re going in.

12:30 PM – MRN Anchorman Joe Moore goes for a second bowl of chili. Booth mate Barney Hall, who is eating a hotdog instead, will be defenseless this afternoon.

1:20 PM – Climbing the Turn Three grandstands. 53 rows x two steps per row = I’m OUT OF SHAPE!

2:04 PM – Singin’ and prayin’ begins. Martinsville High School Jazz Band knocks the National Anthem OUT OF THE PARK!

2:10 PM – Mrs. Yancy’s second grade class delivers the command.

2:23 PM – GREEN FLAG!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Still Raining At Martinsville

The rain continues here at Martinsville Speedway, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice scheduled from 8:00-10:30 AM ET has now been cancelled. The forecast calls for gradual clearing, with rain ending by late morning. Track drying is underway at this moment, with jet dryers circling the half-mile oval, and the starting grid for Sunday’s TUMS Fast Relief 500 will now be set by points with championship leader Carl Edwards on the pole. Today’s revised schedule shows a pair of Sprint Cup Series practice sessions from 9:15-10 AM and noon to 1:25 PM ET. The Camping World Truck Series schedule is currently unchanged, with qualifying at 10:40 AM and the green flag set to fly just after 2 PM.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jack Is Back! Sprague Returns To Trucks In 2012

Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that a shakeup in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series garage will bring three-time series champion Jack Sprague back to the sport next season.

Randy Moss Motorsports principal Randy Moss will reportedly assume full control of the team from partner David Dollar, in an effort to resuscitate the struggling operation. RMM effectively closed its doors earlier this season as part of a self-described “merger” with Germain Racing. The team’s #5 Toyota has been fielded out of the Germain shops since mid-July, with Germain driver Todd Bodine at the wheel.

Multiple sources confirm that the former Minnesota Viking, New England Patriot, Tennessee Titan and Oakland Raider wide receiver will restructure the team that bears his name, clearing the operation’s back debts in exchange for full financial and competitive control. Dollar reportedly packed up his personal belongings and trophies earlier this month and moved back to his home state of Oklahoma.
Moss is believed to have financial backing from a yet-unnamed West Virginia coal mining magnate, and plans to field two Trucks in 2012 with Chris Showalter as crew chief.

Showalter worked as Travis Kvapil’s crew chief at RMM earlier this season, and won the Truck Series title with him in 2003. He is the only individual to take part in every race ever run on the Camping World Truck Series.

Sprague has been absent from the NASCAR garage since 2008, when he finished ninth in Truck Series championship points driving for Kevin Harvick, Inc. and Wyler Racing. His last win came in the 2007 Chevy Silverado HD 250 at Daytona International Speedway. He amassed 28 career Truck Series wins in 297 starts, along with the 1997, 1999 and 2001 series titles.

He will reportedly run the 2011 season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway for Winfield Motorsports, reuniting with former crew chief Dennis Conner. Sprague and Conner teamed to win 24 Truck Series races and three championships.

While not yet finalized, multiple sources say the Randy Moss Motorsports deal will be announced within the next 30 days. RMM General Manager Tony Budka insisted late Friday that the team "has had no conversations with Jack Sprague about racing for us." A spokesperson for Moss declined to comment today, saying the former NFL star is “a week or two away” from an announcement. Sprague also declined to comment, saying, "You know as much about this deal as I do."

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sorenson Will Finish 2011 Season

Reed Sorenson will remain in the No. 82 MacDonald Motorsports Dodge Challenger for the final three races of the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series season. After splitting with Turner Motorsports three weeks ago, Sorenson joined MacDonald Motorsports for the last two races at Kansas and Charlotte. The team is seeking sponsorship to help finish the season.

“I’m really happy to have Reed in the No. 82 for the final three races,” said MacDonald Motorsports co-owner Randy MacDonald. “He’s a great racer and I want to try and help him finish the season out. If we can get some more sponsorship on the car for these last few races, it would be a big help.”

Two weeks ago at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Sorenson drove the Crusader Staffing/THINK PINK No. 82 Dodge, qualifying 15th and running in the Top-15 for much of the race before finishing 32nd. His season to date includes one win, seven Top-5 and 18 Top-10 finishes. He currently sits fifth in the 2011 Nationwide Series standings.

Racing Needs An Ethical Refresher

The NASCAR community has an important decision to make; a decision that will determine whether stock car racing ever achieves the legitimacy of football, baseball, basketball and hockey.

While clearly the leading motorsports sanctioning body in the country, NASCAR still struggles with its image. A quick look at ESPN’s SportsCenter any Monday morning during the season reveals a few brief highlights from the previous weekend’s race, delivered by anchorpersons who periodically struggle to pronounce the names of the sport’s leading athletes. For every 15 seconds of NASCAR, there are 15 minutes of Major League Baseball and NFL coverage; a situation that has improved only slightly in the last decade.

Sadly, the sport does little to help its own cause. In truth, we are often our own worst enemy.

When Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Raphael Palmiero and Jose Canseco were revealed to have taken illegal, performance-enhancing drugs, they were ostracized from the game of baseball. Once thought to be first-ballot Hall Of Famers, McGwire and Bonds now sit and wait, receiving only a small percentage of the vote in each year’s balloting. Pete Rose’s decision to bet on baseball cost him a lifetime ban from the sport, and Dwight Gooden’s infatuation with alcohol eventually made him persona non grata with the game, as well.

Baseball, like virtually every other professional sport of note, has little or no tolerance for cheaters. Stock car racing, unfortunately, takes the opposite view.

In our sport, cheaters are not ostracized. They are coddled, justified, even embraced. There’s an old racing adage that claims, “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying,” and that attitude continues to relegate stock car racing to the ranks of second-string sports.

When Chad Knaus instructed driver Jimmie Johnson to intentionally damage the rear of his car following Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, it constituted – at very least – a willful intent to conceal the true dimension’s of Johnson’s championship contending Chevrolet. In most sports, such conduct would have been met with immediate disapproval. Among race fans and competitors, however, it was greeted with the kind of “wink and a nudge” attitude that has governed this sport for far too long.

In stock car racing – and only in stock car racing – is willful, out-and-out cheating considered to be an acceptable way to do business. We embrace rule breakers and cheats as heroes, saluting their ability to rob the sport’s bank without ever getting caught. On the rare occasion when a crew chief or driver is found with his hand in the communal cookie jar, he serves a brief, four to six-week suspension, pays a fine and is welcomed back with open arms. This attitude is so firmly entrenched that now, any team that succeeds for any period of time is presumed to be operating outside the rules.

“Everyone does it,” we say. “If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t competin’.” That attitude needs to change.

If Albert Pujols’ bat shatters in tonight’s sixth game of the World Series, unloading its corked innards all over the infield at Busch Stadium, he will face the immediate ire of the game, its competitors and fans. In this one area, NASCAR has something to learn from Major League Baseball.

This sport needs a morality lesson; an ethical refresher course in the difference between right and wrong. It’s time to cast off our long-entrenched “cheater’s mentality” and begin supporting those who do things the right way. For far too long, we have embraced those who get ahead by taking short cuts. This debate is bigger than Jimmie Johnson or Chad Knaus. It's bigger than Gary Nelson, Junior Johnson and Smoky Yunick; all reknowned in their day for creative interpretations of the rules.

Only when our collective attitude changes can NASCAR truly take its place among America’s major league sports.

The Curious Case Of Chad Knaus

After five years of uninterrupted dominance, the wheels have finally come off Jimmie Johnson’s Lowes Chevrolet. The five-time and defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is currently seventh in points -- a whopping 50 behind leader Carl Edwards -- and with just four races remaining before the Sprint Cup is awarded at Homestead Miami Speedway, it appears that Johnson’s title run has finally come to an end.

While a 26th-place finish last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway effectively sealed Johnson’s on-track fate, a pre-race conversation with crew chief Chad Knaus has spawned a firestorm of off-track controversy, as well. Moments before the command to fire engines, Knaus leaned into the #48 Chevrolet to engage in what he thought was a private moment with his driver. Unfortunately for Knaus and his Hendrick Motorsports team, a microphone installed in the car for NASCAR.com’s RaceBuddy application captured the conversation, in full.

"If we win this race,” said Knaus, “you have to crack the back of the car. Got it?"

“Really?” replied Johnson.

"Yes,” explained Knaus. “You don't have to have to hit it hard, you don't have to destroy it. But you've gotta do a donut and you've gotta hit the back end, or somebody's gotta hit you in the ass-end or something. OK?

"You'll be alright,” assured Knaus. “(We) can't take any chances."

Knaus' comments have prompted speculation that the #48 team may have been operating outside the rules Sunday. Knaus is an easy target for such speculation, having been caught outside the letter of the NASCAR law at least twice in the past. In 2006, the #48 team made illegal adjustments to their car’s rear window following a Daytona 500 qualifying run, earning Knaus a hefty fine and multi-race suspension. In June of 2007, Johnson was not allowed to qualify at Infineon Raceway, after NASCAR officials discovered issues with his car’s fenders. Johnson was forced to start at the tail of the field, and Knaus was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races.

Johnson defended his crew chief in a Monday interview on ESPN’s NASCAR Now, saying, “We're afraid of the tolerances following the race when it's over -– when you win the race and go to inspection. If you have significant damage… from the bumping and the contact, you're fine and NASCAR knows that's happened within the window of racing. (But if) you come back with the car moved around and you're outside of where the tolerances are, you've got an issue. So Chad was just making sure that I was aware of that.”

Johnson correctly stated that his Lowes Chevrolet passed multiple inspections at Talladega, saying, “"That car passed inspection after qualifying, (and had) been through inspection quite a few times. So it's not like we have an issue. NASCAR hasn't come to us and said, 'Your car is illegal.' We've not done anything wrong in that sense.”

Previous guilt does not prove current wrongdoing. But Knaus’ “crack the back” order raises legitimate doubt about the #48 car’s legality Sunday, especially since Johnson drove to Victory Lane with no self-inflicted body modifications following his April 17 victory at the same track. With the exception of minor changes in restrictor plate size and cooling system pressurization, NASCAR’s superspeedway rules did not change between April and October. The sanctioning body’s stringent body tolerances were the same last week as they were in April, and both races were contested with an equal amount of potentially bumper-damaging bump drafting.

With no changes in NASCAR’s rules and regulations, the question must be asked. What was Chad Knaus so afraid of?

The world will likely never know.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

HOMESMART to Back Sadler, TRG At Martinsville

TRG Motorsports has announced a new sponsor for Hermie Sadler's No. 71 Ford this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Sadler will drive the HOMESMART Ford Fusion in the Tums Fast Relief 500, after steering the No. 71 car on two occasions this season, including a 28th place finish at Martinsville in the spring.

Sadler said he is excited to be back behind the wheel in his home state. "It's always great to get the opportunity to race at home," he said. "I want to try extra hard this weekend to get a good finish for my hometown fans and our new sponsor HOMESMART. This is a track where I grew up watching races and a strong finish here would mean a lot to me."

He said his on-track efforts also make him better in his on-air role as a pit reporter and analyst for SPEED. "Racing in the Sprint Cup Series is always a blast," he said. "These are the best drivers in the world. Being behind the wheel allows me to gain information that I couldn’t get any other way. I can then take that information and relay it to the fans watching at home on TV. It will be a busy weekend, but I couldn’t think of a better opportunity to get back behind the wheel."

Sadler will pull double duty this weekend, driving the No. 71 car in addition to his SPEED duties.

Mark Rudnick, Vice President of Marketing for HOMESMART, commented on the new deal, saying, "We are thrilled to team with TRG Motorsports and to be part of the NASCAR Sprint Cup series action at Martinsville Speedway this Sunday. As one of the fastest growing specialty retailers of furniture, appliances, electronics and computers in the U.S., this partnership will allow us to introduce our business to NASCAR fans nationally and compete at the sport's highest level. We look forward to Hermie bringing HOMESMART to the checkered flag Sunday."

Team owner Kevin Buckler said he is excited to have Sadler back in the car. "Not only is Hermie a talented driver, but he is a likable personality with a large following," said Buckler. "We love working with him. This weekend will be a great opportunity for HOMESMART to have access to on-track exposure and spend some of the weekend with Hermie to help launch their smart shopping opportunities and full line of brands. Our team has a lot of potential and we are glad to be working with Hermie and HOMESMART to help us maximize our performance."

Roush Says "No Team Orders" At Talladega

Jack Roush says there were no “team orders” issued to driver Trevor Bayne or anyone else in Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway. A controversy arose late in Sunday’s race when Bayne initially agreed to draft with Chevrolet driver Jeff Gordon on the final restart, then abandoned the four-time Sprint Cup Series champion in favor of fellow Ford pilot Matt Kenseth. Gordon finished 27th, and said of Bayne afterward, “If somebody is going to screw you, you'd like them to say it to your face."

Bayne, meanwhile, said he felt “strong armed” by Roush and Ford Motor Company, saying he would rather sit out of next year’s superspeedway races than be subjected to such a situation again.

Roush issued a statement Tuesday saying, "At Roush Fenway Racing, we expect our individual drivers to make decisions that put themselves in the best position to win each and every race. That is a philosophy that we have lived by for over two decades, and one that we will continue to abide by going forward. Of course, as in any team, we would prefer for our drivers to work together when possible. However, to be clear, we did not micromanage or dictate to any of our drivers, nor any other Ford drivers, how to race… at Talladega last Sunday.”

Roush said, “There are unique codes that all drivers… have to live by on the track. How they manage their code is up to our drivers as individuals. There were no team orders -- from myself or anyone at Roush Fenway -- given to any of our drivers as to whom they could or could not run with or assist. I've spoken with Trevor and understand that he was put in a situation requiring a split-second decision on the track. Trevor is extremely talented, but it is still very early in his career. Over time he will grow to understand that in such a high-paced, competitive and hostile environment, it is unlikely that all of his decisions will make everyone happy. I'm confident in his decision making, his ability and actions on the track, and I'm excited as we continue to move forward with his development."

Ford’s Director of North America Motorsports, Jamie Allison, told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio's "Tradin’ Paint" Monday that the automaker also has no team orders, "per se.”

Allison said, “We discuss many strategies… (but) we don't mandate. We don't issue orders.” Allison said he personally spoke to each Ford team at the start of the Chase, saying, “If an opportunity presents itself where you can help a Ford teammate, please be aware and try to help out.” He called his request, “an outreach, a consideration… no orders,” saying, “We are just reaching out and helping fellow teammates.''

Stewart Signs With Joe Gibbs Racing

Motocross legend James "Bubba" Stewart hopes to follow the tire tracks of colleague Ricky Carmichael, all the way to NASCAR.

Stewart announced this week that he has signed a multi-year contract to ride for JGRMX; the motocross division of Joe Gibbs Racing. As part of that deal, Stewart will reportedly test a Late Model Stock Car for JGR in the coming weeks, with a limited schedule of Late Model and K&N Pro Series East events possible as early as next season. He will continue his full-time motocross career for at least the next three years, with an eye toward transitioning to stock cars in 2015.

"I am excited about joining the Gibbs racing family," said Stewart. "My goal in Supercross is to pass Jeremy McGrath's record of 72 Supercross wins. I am more than half way there and look forward to realizing that dream during my time with JGR. I have also had an interest in car racing and we are going to explore my potential in that sport through the NASCAR side of the operation." In a related story, JGRMX has extended its relationship with Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA, and will campaign Yamaha motorcycles exclusively through the 2014 season.

Stewart and Carmichael are the only riders ever to finish a season undefeated. Nicknamed “The Tiger Woods of Motocross,” Stewart went a perfect 24-for-24 in 2008 en route to the 2008 AMA Speed Athlete of the Year Award.

Lally Out, Sadler In As TRG Shuffles Lineup

Hermie Sadler will drive the #71 TRG Motorsports Ford this weekend at Martinsville Speedway with a new sponsor to be announced tomorrow. Plans originally called for Sadler to steer the #71 machine in his home state Sunday, with TRG’s regular 2011 driver, Andy Lally, wheeling a second, #77 TRG Ford. Lally revealed today via Twitter that those plans have changed, saying, “TRG withdrew the 77… I won’t be racing this weekend.”

TRG Motorsports owner Kevin Buckler explained the move today, saying a hard crash at Talladega forced him to change his plan for this weekend. “We took ourselves out of the Top 35 in owner points with that crash at Talladega,” said Buckler. “We had planned to run both the 71 and 77 cars at Martinsville, but if we run the 77 now, we’ll be competing against ourselves for one of the “Go Or Go Home” spots. That obviously doesn’t make good business sense, so we will run one car with Hermie Sadler this weekend, and hope to get back into the Top 35 for Texas.”

Buckler said the team will announce a new Martinsville sponsor tomorrow that “really likes Hermie. We really like Hermie too, so we’re going to put him in the car.” Buckler said the driver change is not a sign of unhappiness with Lally, adding the road racing specialist could return as soon as next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

“Ideally, the plan is to run well enough this weekend to get back into the Top-35, so we can field two cars at Texas for Andy and TJ Bell,” he said. “If not, it’ll be one car at Texas with a driver to be determined. With just a couple of races left this season, I have to take care of business and do what’s best for the team.”

The #71 TRG Motorsports Ford now trails the #38 Front Row Motorsports Ford by just two points in the battle for 35th place in owner points. The top 35 teams in this year's final standings will earn guaranteed starting spots in the first five races of next season.

SKF To Sponsor Penske In NASCAR, IndyCar

SKF USA Inc. has announced plans to serve as major associate sponsor of the Penske Racing teams, beginning with the 2012 season. The SKF brand will be featured in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and IZOD IndyCar Series next season.

Entering its 15th year as a major associate sponsor of auto racing in North America, the SKF brand will be featured in 2012 on the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge driven by Brad Keselowski and the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driven by Kurt Busch in the Sprint Cup Series; the No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Dodge driven by Sam Hornish Jr. in the Nationwide Series and the No. 3 Team Penske IndyCar driven by three-time Indianapolis 500 Champion Helio Castroneves.

“We are excited to welcome SKF to the Penske Racing team,” said Roger Penske. “The addition of SKF’s technical knowledge and specialized mechanical expertise will be a significant benefit to our teams’ ability to win across all of our racing categories.”

”We are excited to be associated with Penske Racing,” said Poul Jeppesen, President of SKF North America. “Their reputation for quality, preparation and consistency are a perfect match to the products SKF manufactures and the services we sell.”

SKF is a longtime backer and innovator in motorsports, worldwide. The company has worked the Ferrari Formula One team since 1947; the longest technical supplier relationship in the sport. Ferrari's F1 machines contain over 150 components designed and manufactured exclusively by SKF. The company also maintains a close racing partnership with Ducati.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Suspensions, Fines For Waltrip Team Members

NASCAR has issued penalties to the #00, #47 and #56 teams that compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as a result of rule infractions discovered during opening day inspection Oct. 21 at Talladega Superspeedway.

All three cars were found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book, or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-3.2.1A (unapproved modification to an approved windshield) of the 2011 NASCAR rule book.

Crew chiefs Rodney Childers (#00), Frank Kerr (#47) and Chad Johnston (#56) have each been fined $50,000 and have been suspended from the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events and suspended from NASCAR until Nov. 23. Car chiefs Steve Channing (#00), Raymond Fox (#47) and Anthony Lunders (#56) have also been suspended from the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events and suspended from NASCAR until Nov. 23. Additionally, Bobby Kennedy, director of competition for Michael Waltrip Racing, has been placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31.

Car owners Rob Kauffman (#00), Tad Geschickter (#47), and Michael Waltrip (#56) have each been penalized with the loss of 25 championship owner points. Drivers David Reutimann, Bobby Labonte and Martin Truex Jr. have each been penalized with the loss of 25 championship driver points.

Michael Waltrip Racing has issued a response to the penalties, saying the team, "is ultra-sensitive and very serious about working within the guidelines of NASCAR policy. We do not condone this type of activity and as such we will take appropriate internal corrective action immediately. We thank NASCAR for providing a fair and equitable platform for all of its competitors and respect its decisions; therefore, we will not appeal.”

MWR said #56 crew chief Pat Tryson will serve as interim crew chief in place of suspended crew chief Chad Johnston at Martinsville, with mechanic Allen Mincey serving as interim car chief. On the #00 team, Bobby Kennedy will serve as interim crew chief in place of Childers, with Chris Hall as interim car chief.

Both crew and car chiefs will return to their positions following their suspensions.

Martinsville Is NASCAR's Latest Wildcard

With four races remaining in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Roush Fenway Racing appears to be closing in on its third Sprint Cup Series title. RFR teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth hold the top two positions in championship points, with Edwards leading his RFR counterpart by 14 markers.

Sunday afternoon’s “TUMS Fast Relief 500” at Martinsville could change all that in a heartbeat.

While dominating NASCAR’s intermediate tracks, Roush Fenway Racing has struggled mightily on the bullrings this season. Both Edwards and Kenseth have long records of personal disappointment at the half-mile Virginia oval as well; a trend that will have to change if either man hopes to remain at the top of the 2011 championship standings.

In 14 career Martinsville starts, Edwards has just one Top-5 finish; a third-place effort back in 2008. The tight confines of the historic Virginia oval have not been kind to the Aflac Ford driver in the past, relegating him to an average finish of 16.9. After finishing a dismal 18th there in June, the Missouri native will almost certainly be happy to put the final short-track race of the season in his rear view mirror, once and for all.

While Edwards has struggled mightily at Martinsville, Kenseth’s numbers are even worse. He has only two Top-5 finishes in 23 career starts there, with a best-ever showing of second in August 2008. With finishes of 23rd, 14th, 18th, 15th and 6th in his last five Martinsville races, Kenseth also faces a “make or break” weekend in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Third-place championship contender Brad Keselowski has been lukewarm in his limited Martinsville Sprint Cup starts, finishing 12th, 10th and 19th in his three career races there. The Michigan native has been on a major role of late, and if Edwards and Kenseth struggle this weekend, another solid run by Keselowski could push him to the championship lead.

Fourth-place points man Tony Stewart has two career wins on the tight Martinsville half mile, the most recent coming back in 2006. He also has a pair of poles and Top-10 finishes in 13 of his 25 career starts there. In recent years, though, “Smoke” and his Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet team have lost their Martinsville fire. Stewart has struggled to finishes of 26th, 24th and 34th in his last three starts, while teammate Ryan Newman has been 30th and 20th in his previous two outings. “We’re out of mistakes,” said Stewart last week at Talladega. “One more bad race and we can kiss the championship goodbye.”

Currently fifth in points – 26 behind Edwards – the same can likely be said for Kevin Harvick. With an average finish of 16.5 in his 20 career Martinsville starts, this does not look like the week for him to jump back into title contention The Budweiser Chevrolet team’s short track program has recently shown signs of improvement, though, claiming the pole at Martinsville last spring and winning there last time out. A repeat performance Sunday will almost certainly resurrect Harvick’s title hopes.

There’s still a long way to go before NASCAR crowns its 2011 champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 20. But what happens Sunday in the tiny town of Martinsville, Virginia, may go a long way toward determining who hoists that championship trophy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Team Orders" Threaten NASCAR

It’s been a tumultuous season for Trevor Bayne.

In February, the 20-year old driver authored one of the biggest upsets in NASCAR history, winning the 2011 Daytona 500 for Wood Brothers Racing. Just a few weeks later, Bayne found himself sidelined by a mysterious ailment that sapped his strength, compromised his eyesight and threatened to end his racing career. Sunday, Bayne found himself an unwitting pawn in a bizarre, “team orders” controversy that earned him the ire of four-time series champion Jeff Gordon and Gordon’s highly vocal fan base.

The dispute stemmed from an edict handed down by Ford Motor Company and Roush Fenway Racing majority owner Jack Roush that prohibited Ford drivers from drafting with non-Ford driving championship contenders Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. After daylong drafting partner Robby Gordon fell by the wayside late in Sunday’s race, Bayne found himself on Jeff Gordon’s front bumper for the final restart. After first pledging to work with his childhood hero down the stretch, Bayne then abandoned the Hendrick Motorsports driver in favor of fellow Ford pilot Matt Kenseth; a move that relegated Gordon to a 27th place finish and snuffed out his flickering hopes for the 2011 championship.

"I didn't expect him to commit to me on the radio," said Gordon after the race. "I expected him to say, ‘Man, I'm sorry. I can't.' So when he said, ‘Yeah, I'm pushing you. We're good," I believed him.

"I was going to go with (Casey Mears)," added the four-time series champion, "but when Trevor lined up behind me and agreed to (work together), I said, `He's got a fast race car and we have a history of working well together.' I thought it was a no-brainer, but I probably should have known better."

Gordon said Bayne approached him after the race and apologized, saying, "Hey, it wasn't me. That's what I'm being told to do."

"I just think it could have been handled better," Gordon said. "If somebody is going to screw you, you'd like them to say it to your face."

Tony Stewart, who lost preferred drafting partner David Gilliland to the Roush/Ford edict, said the move may produce an unexpected backlash for championship-contending Ford drivers. “Jack Roush went a little crazy… and I think that decision could come back to haunt him,” said Stewart. “There are a lot of guys thinking that if that’s the game he wants to play, we can make his life pretty miserable over the next five weeks, too.”

While Gordon and his fans are rightly upset with Bayne, Ford drivers were not the only ones looking out for their own Sunday. Gordon carried out his own version of “team orders” at Talladega, repeatedly remaining on track under caution in an attempt to prevent point leader (and Roush Fenway Ford driver) Carl Edwards from leading a lap. Fellow Hendrick Motorsports driver Mark Martin did the same.

While NASCAR “team orders” still fall well short of Formula 1 -- where drivers have pulled over and handed victories to championship-contending teammates -- it is clear that Sunday’s race ushered in a new and unsavory era of team and manufacturer collusion.

Bayne displayed his usual candor after the race, saying via Twitter that he was “strong armed” into abandoning Gordon in the final laps. “I would have rather pulled over and finished last than tell (Gordon) I would work with him and then be strong armed into bailing,” he said. “I'm not happy about what this has become. It's too premeditated. We should be able to go with whoever is around.”

After being criticized by fans on the social networking site, Bayne tweeted, “I agree. That's why I'm so sick about all this. I won't race restrictor plate races next year before I'm put in that situation (again).”

NASCAR is the only professional sport where teammates regularly compete against each other. It is also the only sport where opponents assist each other on the field of play. With tens of millions of dollars on the line, it is not surprising that savvy team owners like Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick have adopted an “us first” mentality in an attempt to win.

If only there was a way to make it seem a little less contrived.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ray Evernham Donates $1M to Ronald McDonald House

CHARLOTTE, NC (October 21, 2011) – Ray Evernham has a long history with Ronald McDonald House, from the early days when he stayed there while his young son Ray J received treatment for leukemia. Now, he has come full circle – with plans to present a $1 million check for the new Ronald McDonald House in Charlotte.

As part of the check presentation, Evernham and wife, Erin Crocker Evernham, will host a trick-or-treat party for the families and patients staying at the house, providing costumes for everyone and lots of candy for the children.

WHO: Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker Evernham

WHAT: Halloween trick-or-treat party for patients and their families staying at the Ronald McDonald House will receive donated costumes and trick-or-treat room to room at the house. Evernham will also present a $1 million check to the Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte.

WHERE: Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, 1613 E. Morehead St., Charlotte, NC 28207

WHEN: October 25, 2011 at 3:30 p.m.

For more information or to attend the event, please contact Deborah Robinson at drobinson@vmg1.com or 312.505.4336.

KBM To Tackle Nationwide Series Next Season

Kyle Busch Motorsports has announced that Denny Hamlin will drive the #18 Toyota Tundra in the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway next Saturday, with sponsorship from both Toyota and Traxxas. Team owner Kyle Busch explained the move, saying, “'He's better than I am at Martinsville, and I really want to win there.” Hamlin has won four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at his home-state track -- including three of the last four -- and has recorded eight Top-5 finishes in his 12 career Sprint Cup Series starts there. He also has two Top-10 finishes in four Truck Series starts at Martinsville.

KBM also announced that it will field a fulltime NASCAR Nationwide Series effort in 2012, competing for the series’ owner’s championship. Busch said it is “safe to assume” that he will drive the car in a limited schedule of events, in addition to his schedule of Nationwide events with Joe Gibbs Racing. Sponsors and additional driver(s) will be announced in the coming weeks. KBM will also continue its multi-vehicle program in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2012.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wheldon Memorial Services Set

Funeral services for IZOD IndyCar Series driver Dan Wheldon will be held at 10 a.m. (ET), Saturday, Oct. 22, at First Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg, 701 Beach Drive N.E. in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Wheldon's wife, Susie, released the following statement on behalf of the family, inviting members of community to attend the service. "Although the last few days have been unbearable for our family, the overwhelming love and support we have received are rays of sunshine during these dark days. The outpouring of sympathy and condolences has been so comforting, and I want to thank everyone for their kind notes, letters, gifts and flowers.

"Dan touched the lives of many people, and I would like to invite those citizens in our community who knew and loved my husband to attend his funeral service at the First Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg on Saturday, October 22, at 10 a.m.

"Though we won't be able to fit everyone inside, I know that Dan would have wanted the community to share in the celebration of his life and to grieve his passing. Thank you again. I am forever grateful for your kindness."

A Trust Fund has been established for the financial security of Wheldon's family. The public can make contributions to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund at the following address:

Fifth Third Private Bank
Attn: Dan Wheldon Family Trust
251 North Illinois St.
Suite 1000
Indianapolis, IN 46204

All of Fifth Third Bank's Indianapolis branches also are accepting contributions in person, which will be routed to the account. In lieu of flowers, friends and fans also can choose to make a donation to the Dan Wheldon Family Trust Fund or the Alzheimer's Association, a cause close to his heart.

For more details, visit http://www.alz.org or http://www.danwheldonmemorial.com, a memorial site, which includes a Facebook link to leave condolences and remembrances and a career photo retrospective. Those wishing to send their sympathy and condolences to the Wheldon family, can address letters to:

The Wheldons
9600 Koger Blvd N, Ste. 105
St Petersburg, FL 33702

INDYCAR will hold a public memorial service to celebrate the life of Wheldon at 4 p.m. (ET) Sunday, Oct. 23, at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Doors open to the public at 2:30 p.m. The Virginia Street parking garage will be open free of charge to augment on-street parking.

Bellerose To Drive For Godfather Motorsports at Hickory

Former Thunder Road (VT) International Speedbowl champion Tracie Bellerose will drive the #30 Godfather Motorsports/Sirius Speedway Chevrolet in the “Hickory 150” Pro All Stars Series event at Hickory Motor Speedway on Saturday, October 29.

Bellerose tested with the team at the legendary North Carolina oval this week, and impressed Godfather Motorsports co-owner Jim Gallison, Jr. with her smoothness and adaptability. “She has never even seen the race track until we unloaded,” said Gallison, “but with five laps, she was running competitive laps. She found the groove almost immediately, gave me great feedback on the car and really seemed to have a good feel for what she was doing.”

Bellerose turned a fast lap of 15.3 seconds on old tires, just a tenth of a second off the fastest lap of the day, recorded by Hickory’s 2011 track champion on new tires. “The car was comfortable right from the start,” said Bellerose, “and when Jim made a rear spring change, it really came to life. The set-up on this car really suited my driving style, and I can’t wait to get at it for real!”

Bellerose won the the 2000 “Queen of the Road” title at Vermont’s Thunder Road, a track founded and owned by longtime CBS-TV motorsports anchor Ken Squier. That championship is believed to have made her the first woman to win a lead-division title in weekly auto racing. Her resume also includes a 1993 Super Stock Championship at Groveton, New Hampshire’s Riverside Speedway, along with multiple Late Model wins at Oxford Plains (ME) Speedway, White Mountain (NH) Motorsports Park and Thunder Road, as well as on the highly competitive American-Canadian Tour.

Her career was curtailed in a 2003 crash that left her with a badly broken left arm. Months of recovery – including early talk of possible amputation – sidelined the Gorham, NH, native for the better part of three years. But after relocating to Mooresville, NC, recently, she struck a deal with longtime friend (and Godfather Motorsports co-owner) Dave Moody to shake down the #30 Chevrolet a Hickory.

“Once she climbed back through the window of a race car, I suspected it would be just like old times,” said Moody. “We were very pleased with this week’s test; pleased enough to put her in the car for the `Hickory 150.’ I can’t wait to see how it goes.”

Practice for the “Hickory 150” begins Saturday, October 29 at 2 pm, with qualifying set for 4:30. Feature events for the Bandolero, Legends car, Allison Legacy and CCS Sportsman divisions begin at 6 pm, culminating with the 150-lap PASS Super Late Model main event.

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 technological and marketing support from Eibach Springs, JRI Shock Absorbers, Wilwood Brakes, C&R Racing Inc., Five Star Race Car Bodies, Dynotech Engineering, RaceCom of Virginia, ASM Graphics and X-Flex Racers Tape. For additional information on the team and marketing opportunities with Godfather Motorsports, contact Dave Moody -- mrnturn1@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Trucks Test At The Rock Monday

Toyota has scheduled a test for its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams at Rockingham Speedway Monday; the first chance Truck Series teams have had to prepare for the April 15, 2012 "Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 presented by Cheerwine."

There is no word on specific drivers or teams expected to take part in the test, but a number of Toyota teams are expected to make their first competitive laps on the historic Rockingham oval. The test will run from 9 am to 5 pm ET, and while most testing of this type is closed to the public, Rockingham Speedway President Andy Hillenburg confirmed today that he will throw open the gates and allow spectators to view the test from the frontstretch grandstands.

The Rockingham ticket office will also be open for fans to purchase advance-sale tickets for the event.

Rain Ends Day One of D4D Combine

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 19, 2011) – Rain washed out the on-track portion of the 2011 Drive for Diversity Combine at Langley Speedway Wednesday, pushing all Late Model testing to Thursday.

Featuring 26 drivers competing for spots on the 2012 Revolution Racing team as part of Drive for Diversity, the Combine is one of NASCAR’s most successful initiatives. Drivers of diverse backgrounds ranging from ages 16 to 24 representing 10 U.S. states, Mexico and Puerto Rico, took part in media training Wednesday as they waited out the rain.

Sergio Pena is making his third trip to the Combine. The 18-year-old from Winchester, Va., picked up three wins for Revolution Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East this past season.

“I can't thank Revolution Racing, the Drive for Diversity program and NASCAR enough. They've given me such a great opportunity,” Pena said. “Hopefully we can set some fast times tomorrow. There’s going to be some tough competition out here, so it’s going to be hard to make the team. We’ve got some super fast drivers that are going to be looking to impress everyone.”

That list includes drivers like 17-year-old Amber Colvin, from Tallahassee, Fla. She will be making her first appearance at the Drive for Diversity Combine after making the transition from a successful run in Legends cars to Late Models at the end of last year. “It's so much easier and so much more fun for me,” Colvin said. “It's a very big weight and size difference – you just have to get used to the size of the Late Model. … I’m really excited to be out here at Langley. It looks like a really cool place and I’m looking forward to show how fast I can go on a track I’ve never been to.”

Drivers attending the Drive for Diversity Combine will be evaluated by a select committee on multiple fronts including on-track performance, marketing and media aptitude, physical fitness and personality.

NASCAR Announces 2012 Nationwide Schedule

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 19, 2011) – Highlighted by an inaugural visit to one of the most historic race tracks in motorsports and a return trip to Montreal, NASCAR announced today the 2012 schedule for the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Full-time rides for Danica Patrick and Austin Dillon plus the addition of action sports superstar Travis Pastrana, who plans to run the majority of the schedule, give the 2012 season a huge dose of anticipation.

“From the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the 2012 schedule has a great mix of tracks that will continue to deliver great racing for our fans,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We're excited to bring the NASCAR Nationwide Series to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, along with the addition of a second date at Kentucky Speedway.”

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series season features 33 race dates, including the series’ first visit to Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of a companion weekend with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and GRAND-AM Road Racing. The inaugural Brickyard event will take place on July 28.

Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve – a fan-favorite that has evolved into a “crown jewel” for the series – returns for a fifth-consecutive season, on Aug. 18. The 14-turn layout is one of three road-course events on the calendar, joining Road America (June 23) and Watkins Glen International (Aug. 11).

Additional 2012 schedule highlights:

· Daytona International Speedway again opens the season, on Feb. 25, a week later than past years.

· Iowa Speedway hosts the series’ first stand-alone event on May 20, with a second date on Aug. 4.

· Homestead-Miami Speedway will once again host the season-finale, on Nov. 17.

· For the first time, Kentucky Speedway will have two NASCAR Nationwide race dates, on June 29 and Sept. 22.

· Chicagoland Speedway also returns with two dates, one a stand-alone affair on July 22.

· Daytona’s summer event and Kentucky Speedway’s race will swap weekends in 2012, as the July 4th holiday falls mid-week next year. Daytona will run on July 6.

· In conjunction with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ schedule shift, Kansas Speedway’s date moves to Oct. 20 to accommodate the track’s repave, scheduled for April of 2012.

2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series Schedule

2/25 Daytona Int'l Speedway
3/3 Phoenix International Raceway
3/10 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
3/17 Bristol Motor Speedway
3/24 Auto Club Speedway
4/13 Texas Motor Speedway
4/27 Richmond International Raceway
5/5 Talladega Superspeedway
5/11 Darlington Raceway
5/20 Iowa Speedway
5/26 Charlotte Motor Speedway
6/2 Dover International Speedway
6/16 Michigan International Speedway
6/23 Road America
6/29 Kentucky Speedway
7/6 Daytona International Speedway
7/14 New Hampshire Motor Speedway
7/22 Chicagoland Speedway
7/28 Indianapolis Motor Speedway
8/4 Iowa Speedway
8/11 Watkins Glen International
8/18 Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
8/24 Bristol Motor Speedway
9/1 Atlanta Motor Speedway
9/7 Richmond International Raceway
9/15 Chicagoland Speedway
9/22 Kentucky Speedway
9/29 Dover International Speedway
10/12 Charlotte Motor Speedway
10/20 Kansas Speedway
11/3 Texas Motor Speedway
11/10 Phoenix International Raceway
11/17 Homestead-Miami Speedway

Busch: Penske Holds Option On Addington's Contract

Kurt Busch responded to widespread reports that his crewchief, Steve Addington, will leave the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team at the end of the season, saying team owner Roger Penske holds an option on Addington’s contract that will keep the veteran crewchief atop the #22 pit box in 2012.

Busch told Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody, “Roger Penske told me he has a contract option on Addington. It was not even up for discussion back in August, which is the normal contract season.” He accused outside parties of trying to distract the team from its championship run, which currently has him seventh in points, 27 behind leader Carl Edwards. “When you win like we did at Dover, you’re on top,” said Busch. “And immediately, somebody has to try and take you down. That’s when this rumor started, after we were a winning combination at Dover.

“Why would we be splitting up?” asked Busch. “We’ve got five weeks (to go) and we’re in championship contention. (The media) wants to talk about things, and we want to get through the Chase. So why don’t we just wait until the end?”

Addington has called the reports, "pure rumors and speculation."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Martinsville Curbs Go Pink For Breast Care Awareness Month

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (October 18, 2011) – The unique four-inch high curbs guarding the inside of the turns at Martinsville Speedway have drawn the anger of almost every driver who has competed at the historic half-mile oval. But for the TUMS Fast Relief 500 weekend, the curbs will show a softer side. They have been painted pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Four ladies involved with ”Ladies First” Martinsville and the Henry County Breast Health Initiative helped track crews paint the curbs pink this morning. Two of the guest painters are breast cancer survivors.

“We hope this small effort on our part will help draw some attention to a cause that’s so important,” said Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell. “All of us know someone that has been touched by breast cancer. We all need to do anything we can do to help bring attention to the cause.”

“Martinsville Speedway continues to demonstrate their concern, involvement and commitment to our local community,” said Rita Winbush, Project Director of the “Ladies First” MHC Community Breast Health Initiative. “By painting the curbs pink, they bring attention to not only a national program like the Susan G. Komen Foundation for the Cure but also to local programs like our “Ladies First” MHC Community Breast Health Initiative. We commend NASCAR and Martinsville Speedway for all they do to help raise breast cancer awareness throughout the year.”

The newly-painted curbs will be unveiled to the public for the first time on NASCAR Sprint Cup and Truck Series Practice Day, Friday, October 28. They will get their first real test the following day with Farm Bureau Pole Day and the Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. And they will be center stage of the racing world on Sunday, October 30 for the TUMS Fast Relief 500.

Tracy Mulling Retirement: "I Saw Him Dying In Front Of My Eyes,"

Paul Tracy has done all there is to do in Open Wheel racing. In 1985 — at age 16 -- he became the youngest-ever Canadian Formula Ford Champion, before rocketing through the Can-Am and American Racing Series ranks to claim more than 50 victories and eventually, the 2003 Champ Car World Series championship. He’s taken turns in Grand Am, NASCAR and IROC competition as well, and now, “The Thrill from West Hill” wonders if the time has come to call it a career.

Tracy was in the thick of Sunday’s 15-car IndyCar holocaust at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; a crash that took the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon. Tracy’s left-rear tire served as the launching pad for Wheldon’s fatal flight, and what he experienced that day has the Scarborough, Ontario, native contemplating his own mortality.

“After the accident, I was in the (infield) hospital when they wheeled Dan in,” said a subdued Tracy. “I could see it was bad. Real bad. I went and talked with Dario (Franchitti), Tony Kanaan and Justin Wilson, and they were like, `We heard he’s stable and his vitals are good.’ I told them, `Guys, that’s not what I just saw.’ Ten minutes later, they came in and told us he had passed.”

The hours that followed became a blur of sadness, sorrow and anger; emotions that Tracy still struggles to understand.

He said there were "a lot of tears,” as drivers huddled with IndyCar officials to determine how best to proceed. “There was a lot of posturing and a lot of opinions. Should we re-start the race? Should we cancel it? Should we go out there and put on some kind of staged exhibition? Nobody really knew for sure.

“Mario Andretti was there, and he felt very strongly that the show must go on. He’s seen it all over the last 40 years; he used to lose friends on a weekly basis. Mario said that in his opinion, cancelling that CART race at Texas in 2001 (when drivers experienced dizziness and vertigo due to high speeds and elevated g-forces) doomed Open Wheel racing to the state it’s in today. He said we couldn’t just say, `We’re folding the tent and shutting it down.’ We couldn’t do something that wasn’t right, and I feel that ultimately, the right decision was made."

After about an hour of conversation and debate, “(IndyCar CEO) Randy Bernard came in and said, `OK, we’re going to go out and do a five-lap salute to Dan.’ And pretty quickly, everyone agreed that was the best thing to do. It was certainly better than trying to put on a race with drivers whose heads were not in the game. If your head’s not clear, you shouldn’t be on the track, and we all knew that.”

In hindsight, Tracy called the Las Vegas race, “a recipe for disaster. It was like an Open Wheel Talladega," he said. "The track was freshly paved, and we know that when a track is fresh and new, it has a ton of grip in it. What we had was a fresh, brand-new track with high banking, and cars with a lot of downforce. That adds up to a Talladega-style open wheel race at 225 mph, which is a recipe for disaster. And that’s what it ended up being; a disaster.

“We had a great champion in Dan Wheldon, and now he’s gone,” said Tracy, while holding out hope that something good may ultimately come from the tragedy. “When we lost Greg Moore in 1999, a lot of good stuff happened,” he said. “The HANS device was invented, and they paved the area inside the turns to keep cars from going through the grass and barrel-rolling. When Dale Earnhardt died, the SAFER barrier… and the Car of Tomorrow came about.”

Tracy is firm in the belief that there is an area of safety still to be addressed. “Even with the new technologies that have come about in the last 10 years, nothing has changed when it comes to the catch fencing," he said. "We saw it with Carl Edwards at Talladega, and we saw it again Sunday with Dan. When cars get into the fencing, it acts like a spider web. It grabs them and tears them to pieces. Fifteen drivers were involved in a horrendous wreck Sunday, and everyone walked away but Dan; the one guy who got into the fence.

“That needs to be the next wave of development in driver and track safety,” he said. “Why can’t there be some kind of ballistic, plexiglass-type cover that goes over the catch fence and keeps cars from getting caught-up and torn to pieces?”

Even if a way is found to keep cars out of the fence, Tracy said he may not be around to see it. “I’m like any other race driver,” he said. “I don’t rest on my laurels. My mentality has always been that I’m no better than my last race. But my wife had never seen anything like what happened Sunday, and she asked me that night, `Why do you need to do this anymore? You’ve got a house full of trophies, you’ve got a Champ Car championship and all those wins. What are you trying to prove?’

“The problem is, I don’t remember all those wins,” said Tracy. "I only remember what happened yesterday.

“Racers are different,” he said. “We have a mental shut-off switch that blocks out all the bad things that can happen to us. Without that switch, it’d be impossible to do a job that requires you to risk your life every time you compete. When you’re tucked up behind another car at 225 mph, you don’t think about it. You don’t even consider lifting (off the gas). But afterward, you think about it and say, `Damn, that was crazy.’”

In the aftermath of Wheldon’s death, Tracy said there is a question he must soon address. “I’m not a 20-year old kid anymore,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and what I saw (Sunday) when they wheeled Dan into that medical unit is something I’ll never forget. I saw him dying in front of my eyes, and that memory is etched into my brain forever.

“I don’t need to drive anymore,” he said “At this point, I’m not in equipment that allows me to win races, anyway. I am doing this purely out of ego. I spend my own money to do it, and I need to ask myself, `Are the risks worth the reward?’

“I think it’s finally time for me to weigh those options and decide if I should look at doing something else.”

Monday, October 17, 2011

Here's The Scoop On NASCAR's New Fuel Injected Engines

NASCAR, Freescale/McLaren and Roush Yates Racing Engines took the NASCAR media to Electronic Fuel Injector school Monday, updating reporters on the status of the sport’s new fuel injected powerplant that will debut in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at next year’s Daytona 500. As teams tested the new. fuel-injected powerplants on track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Steve Nelson, Director of Marketing for Freescale Semiconductor joined Roush Yates Engines’ Doug Yates and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby to outline what EFI is, and what it is not.

Freescale’s Nelson revealed that the system used in NASCAR competition is largely the same as those used in passenger cars. “When we build components for the automotive industry, the requirements are incredibly stringent,” he said. “Consumers demand that they be reliable, fuel efficient and safe. The electronics that go into the new NASCAR ECU (electronic control unit) are the same electronics that are running in your passenger car. We’re excited about helping to put the `stock’ back into stock cars.”

“This is very important to the auto manufacturers,” said Yates. “Ford Motor Company’s decision to spend money in this sport has been re-energized by the decision to convert to EFI. These are some of the most modern, highly refined pushrod engines in the world. We are stepping to the forefront of technology. This is the best of both worlds.”

Yates said NASCAR’s new throttle body fuel injection system is based on one electronically controlled injector for each cylinder. He called the system “highly reliable,” noting that Freescale/McLaren has never experienced a system failure in any series they have competed in. The traditional, V8 engine sound will not change with the advent of fuel injection, and teams will benefit from Increased diagnostic capability. “Teams can now download data between practices and see what’s really going on,” said Yates. “In the past, I driver could say, `I missed a shift, but it wasn’t too bad.’ Now the team can look at the data and tell exactly how hard the engine turned, and how much damage may have been done. NASCAR can also plug into the system and police the data to ensure everyone is on the same playing field.”

He said EFI will also reduce fuel waste, since fuel flow is cut off when a driver lifts off the throttle. “You won’t see excess fuel burning off in the exhaust pipes and exiting into the atmosphere when a driver lifts out of the throttle,” he said. “It will be cleaner and more efficient, with less carbon emission.”

The main advantage to EFI will be in at-track tuning. Laptop computers will replace carburetor adjustments and timing changes, with teams able to adjust their engines right up to the start of the race. No telemetry will be allowed once the race begins. Yates said that in the future, fans could even access data during the race. “A fan at Kansas Speedway two weeks ago could have watched Jeff Gordon’s oil temperature climb until his engine finally blew,” he said, adding that such technology is still a few years away.

Yates addressed the cost factor of converting to EFI, saying, “There is definitely more up-front cost for the teams, since it’s a whole new hardware system. But we’re working hard with the teams and car owners to make sure this comes out on the good end.” NASCAR’s Darby said the sanctioning body is also conscious of cost, adding, “We’re working to be as frugal as we can for the team owners. I’m not going to tell you this is cheap, because it’s not. But over time, it will all come back to the teams.”

Both Yates and Darby were quick to downplay concerns that the advent of EFI could open the door to illicit, computer-based traction control devices. “There are no sensors in this system to measure traction or wheel speed,” assured Yates, “and NASCAR has limited the amount of adjustment in the system to prevent any possible use of traction control.”

Darby said, ”One of the major reasons we partnered with McLaren was the security built into their system to prevent the introduction of traction control. NASCAR will have the capability to watch every lap, just like the teams can. There are a tremendous number of fire walls built into this system to prevent teams from making any unauthorized modifications or changes. We’re using the same technology that produced traction control to defend against it.”

The Sprint Cup Series Director said ultimately, EFI may allow teams to run multiple races with the same engine, without the expense of a rebuild. “Increased access to engine data will allow engine builders to push the limit further,” he said. “Ultimately, the goal is to get Sprint Cup engine builders comfortable with the idea of running an engine for more than one race between rebuilds.” He admitted that goal is also still at least two years down the road.

“This is an exciting time for engine builders,” said Yates. “A carburetor has just four adjustments. It is what it is. With EFI, an engine builder can adjust every cylinder separately.” He said there is still some question about how the new system will work in the draft at Daytona or Talladega. “We’re interested to see what happens (in an EFI test) next week at Talladega,” said Yates. “We need to see whether the system will update fast enough to account for changes that occur in and out of the draft. The test next week will tell a lot.”

It is expected that restrictor plates will still be part of the EFI superspeedway package. However, the plate will now regulate the flow of air only, rather than the air/fuel mixture delivered by the current carburetor-based system. .

IndyCar Cancels Championship Celebration

Following the death of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and 2005 Series champion Dan Wheldon, the IZOD IndyCar has cancelled its 2011 Championship Celebration. The event had been scheduled for tonight at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, but IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said the event has been cancelled out of respect for Wheldon, who died in a multi-car crash on Lap 12 of yesterday’s season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“No words can describe my feelings as I reflect on my memories of Dan,” said Bernard. “His infectious smile, bubbly personality and big heart made Dan one of the most caring people I had ever met. You could never ask for a better ambassador to a sport. Dan represented INDYCAR with the upmost respect and integrity. He will not only be immortalized as being a great racer but also a wonderful person. My prayers are with Susie and his two children in this very difficult time.”

He revealed that a public memorial service for Wheldon will be held, with further information to be announced at a later date.

In the aftermath of the crash, IndyCar championship runner-up Will Power and fellow racer Tony Kanaan have cancelled plans to compete in this weekend's “Armor All Gold Coast 600” in Australia. Power was one of 15 drivers swept up in Sunday’s fatal crash, but walked away from his demolished Penske Racing machine. He was subsequently transported to University Medical Center in Las Vegas complaining of lower back pain, treated and released. He will be replaced at the wheel of the #5 Orrcon Steel FPR Falcon this weekend by Irishman Richard Lyons.

Power commented on his decision to withdraw today, saying, “I'm devastated that we lost Dan Wheldon today. It was a terrible accident and I feel so bad for Dan's family. My thoughts and prayers are with them. Dan was great champion and a great guy. He will definitely be missed."

Kanaan -- who was leading the Las Vegas finale at the time of the crash -- has also cancelled plans to compete down under this weekend, surrendering his seat in the Jana Living Commodore by Danish racer Allan Simonsen.