Saturday, March 31, 2012

Commentary: Team Racing Makes Fans A Loser

Kevin Harvick enjoyed every advantage in Saturday’s “Kroger 250” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Martinsville (VA) Speedway.

He had the fastest truck in the field, qualifying on the pole and surging to multi-truck length leads throughout the event. He held the edge in experience, having turned more laps on the challenging Virginia oval than virtually any other driver in the field. And unfortunately, he also enjoyed the advantage of a closest competitor – runner-up Ty Dillon – who showed absolutely no interest in passing him at any time.

Harvick’s Tide-sponsored No. 2 Chevrolet and Dillon’s No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy are both fielded out of the Richard Childress Racing shops in Welcome, NC. The two drivers are teammates, and as a result, sometimes cut each other a little extra slack on the race track. One of those times came early in Saturday’s race, when Harvick suddenly slowed at the exit of Turn Four and allowed his rookie teammate to pass him on the outside. The move earned Dillon one championship point for leading the race, and he dutifully returned the favor just two laps later, waving Harvick back into a lead he was able to maintain for the rest of the afternoon.

Through seven different restarts over the ensuing 243 laps, Harvick ceded the advantageous low line to his youthful teammate. Each time, Harvick’s blue and yellow Chevrolet surged back into the lead at the drop of the green flag, while Dillon feathered the throttle and allowed it to happen. Even on the final restart of the day with just five laps remaining, Dillon made no serious effort to wrest the lead away from his RCR teammate, coasting into the first turn and allowing Harvick to drive away to an uncontested, .953-second victory.

Technically, neither Harvick nor Dillon did anything wrong Saturday. But it sure wasn't right, either.


Harvick pulls away once again.
We spend a lot of time talking about “team racing” in NASCAR these days. At Daytona and Talladega, teammates routinely pair-up and draft in search of additional speed, pushing each other past the 200 mph barrier. Saturday was not the first time someone has backed out of the throttle temporarily, allowing a teammate to take the lead for a lap or two before returning it to its rightful owner. But what happened late in Saturday’s race went too far, extending the concept of “team racing” far beyond what the sport (or any of its competitors) should be comfortable with.

Harvick confirmed the RCR team’s strategy after the race, saying, “It’s (Dillon’s) job to win the championship, and it’s my job to win races. That’s the way this team works.” He also admitted, “my role was to protect Ty on those restarts by giving him the inside line.”

Third-place finisher James Buescher expressed frustration with the RCR team’s tactics, saying he literally shoved Dillon into Turn One on a late-race restart, in an attempt to get at leader Harvick. Fourth-place finisher Justin Lofton wondered aloud what might have been, saying, “If I could have gotten up there (to the front row), there might have been a race for the lead at the end.”

For the record, nobody did anything illegal Saturday. There is nothing in the NASCAR rulebook that requires Ty Dillon to race hard. There is nothing forbidding teammates from cooperating on restarts, to their mutual benefit. The agreement between Harvick and Dillon paid off handsomely, preventing Dillon from restarting in the slower outside lane and being gobbled up by a snarling pack of drivers intent on actually winning the race.

But between the lines, where the unwritten rules of sportsmanship and fair play are found, there was a lot to dislike about Saturday’s race.


Let the celebration begin!
Instead of securing the 14th victory of his Camping World Truck Series career in dominant fashion, Harvick celebrated in a Victory Lane filled with question marks and asterisks. Could Buescher or Lofton have given him a run for his money in the final laps, without Dillon there to run interference? We’ll never know. Could Dillon possibly have passed his more-experienced teammate to score a career-milestone upset on one of NASCAR’s toughest and most demanding tracks? Again, we can only speculate, since no real effort was made to do so.

What happened Saturday was unquestionably best for Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, Richard Childress Racing and their sponsors. But the people who matter most – the fans who laid down their hard-earned money at Martinsville Speedway's ticket booths expecting to see a vintage, bare-knuckled Truck Series street brawl – did not get what they paid for, or what they deserved.

The Camping World Truck Series has built a reputation over the years as the division where drivers will shank their grandma to win a race. That makes them special in our eyes; a throwback to way NASCAR used to be before multi-million dollar sponsors and multi-car teams made things so damned complicated.

There is likely nothing NASCAR can do to prevent what happened Saturday from occurring again one day. But that doesn’t mean anyone should be particularly proud of it.

Saturday Martinsville Notebook

Good morning from Martinsville Speedway, where Mother Nature decided to give the jet dryers an early workout today. A light rain fell here since the early morning hours, but Sirius XM Speedway meteorologist Cassie Behofist was correct in assuring us that the precipitation would depart before noon, clearing the way for Camping World Truck and Sprint Cup Series qualifying. Just after 11 a.m. ET, the track was virtually dry, and Truck Series qualifying is now underway.

Gordon Fast In Practice: Jeff Gordon topped the speed charts in both of yesterday's Sprint Cup Series practices here at Martinsville. In Round One, Gordon’s AARP/ Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet recorded a fast lap at 97.048 mph to edge Kyle Busch (96.959) and Denny Hamlin (96.835). Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan Newman completed the top five. Gordon also topped the final practice at 97.028 mph, besting Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Newman and David Stremme.

Hendrick Strong: Gordon may have been fastest Friday, but the entire Hendrick Motorsports stable looked strong in practice. HMS is gunning for its 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup victory this weekend, and put three cars in the Top-10 in practice. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Kasey Kahne joined Gordon in the Top-10, and garage area railbirds say HMS will make a strong bid for their 200th checkered flag in tomorrow’s “Goody’s Fast Relief 500.”

Harvick Is Top Trucker: Kevin Harvick was fastest in the opening practice session for this afternoon’s “Kroger 250” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, before posting the tenth fastest time in the second session.  After finally breaking into Martinsville’s Victory Lane in last year’s Sprint Cup Series “Goody’s Fast Relief 500,” Harvick said he hopes to add another trophy to the mantel today.

“It’s fun to finally get that win out of the way last year,” he said. “Hopefully, we can start putting a few more of them in the victory column and go from there. It’s been good start to the season, and hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

New Eyes For Kasey: Kasey Kahne has a new spotter this week, with Shannon McGlamery assuming the radio duties from Kasey’s cousin, Kole Kahne. Kasey Kahne was upset after a crash two weeks ago at Bristol Motor Speedway, when he was erroneously cleared by his spotter before moving up the race track, pinching Regan Smith into the wall and triggering an early, multi-car crash. “I was a little unpleased after California,” admitted Kahne yesterday. “We are just looking at something for a couple of weeks. (After Texas) we are going to sit down and decide if that is the direction I want to go, or if I feel comfortable with Kole doing it again.”
 


Friday, March 30, 2012

Joe Denette Featured On ABC's 20/20

Mega Millions Lottery winner and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner Joe Denette will be featured on tonight's edition of 20/20 with Barbara Walters. The feature, "Lottery Happiness" will air at 10 p.m. on ABC.  
Denette and his wife, Meagan sat down with Walters on Thursday in New York to discuss life after winning $75.6 million dollars in the May 2009 in Mega Millions lottery. With the current Mega Millions jackpot at an all-time high, $540 million dollars, the big question to ask is, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Denette bought a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team. 

Tune in tonight to find out more about Joe Denette's "Mega" life in the fast lane.

Team Owner Joe Falk Set For NASCAR Return

Hermie Sadler will race in Sunday’s “Goody’s Fast Relief 500” at Martinsville Speedway, driving a No. 33 Chevrolet fielded – officially – by Richard Childress Racing. The Virginia native has confirmed, however, that the No. 33 team will soon belong to former Sprint Cup Series owner Joe Falk, who will make his return to the sport in two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway.

Hermie Sadler
“I had been talking to Richard about driving the No. 33 at some point this year,” said Sadler on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius XM Speedway. “And in the last week to 10 days, Richard made a deal with Joe Falk… to purchase the team and its (owner) points. Joe is a big NASCAR fan who has done pretty well in the car business. A lot of people know him, he’s been around the sport forever."

Sadler called this week’s entry “a collaborative effort” between RCR and Falk, as part of a transition that will see Falk assume ownership of the car at Texas Motor Speedway on April 14.

“This is technically an RCR effort this week,” he said. “It’s an older Richard Childress car with a Childress engine under the hood.  Richard entered the car this weekend because of (NASCAR rules concerning) entry blanks and when they have to be submitted. After they filed the entry, conversations began between him and Joe about making the transition official in time for Texas.”

Falk, the 1976 Winston Racing Series Track Champion at Virginia’s Langley Speedway, owned the LJ Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team from 1997 to 2000. He fielded the #91 SPAM-sponsored Chevrolet for driver Mike Wallace for the 1997 season, and his cars were also driven by Steve Grissom, Kevin Lepage, Todd Bodine, Ted Musgrave, Dick Trickle, Ron Hornaday and Morgan Shepherd. Bodine earned the team’s best finish; a fifth-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1998.

Falk fielded the SPAM car for Mike Wallace in `97
Falk was listed as co-owner of the Hillman Racing No. 40 Toyota that Michael Waltrip attempted to qualify for this year’s Daytona 500, and sources say the No. 33 entry may be housed at the Hillman Racing shop in Mooresville, NC. Hillman Racing also fields the #27 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet that veteran Ward Burton drove to an eighth-place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Burton’s son, Jeb, is driving the truck this weekend here at Martinsville.
“Joe Falk comes from a racing family,” said Sadler. “He’s been around the garage for years, and I’m excited to have an opportunity to drive for him. He’s helped a lot of different drivers and teams in Cup, Nationwide, Trucks, Late Models… you name it.  His plan now is to keep the No. 33 car on the race track and try to build it into a competitive race team, with support from Richard Childress.  I’m hoping to have the opportunity to maybe drive a couple more races for him later this year.
“A lot of things had to come together, and a lot of people had to cooperate with each other (to make this happen),” he said. “The end result is that I’ve got an opportunity to drive a Sprint Cup car at Martinsville, and I’m going to try and make the best of it.”
Calls placed to Falk and Hillman Racing owner Mike Hillman, Sr., in search of comment were not immediately returned.

Hamilton Means Racing Debuts At Martinsville

After overcoming numerous obstacles and setbacks, Hamilton Means Racing will make its series debut at this weekend’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 here at Martinsville Speedway, with driver Scott Speed behind the wheel of the team’s No. 52 Crusader Staffing Toyota.

HMR will run Toyotas purchased from Michael Waltrip Racing and engines leased from Mark Smith’s Pro Motors.  The No. 52 is a late entry for this weekend’s event, so it will not accrue any driver or owner points.

“We are so happy to finally have everything come together and we’re ready to get out there on the track,” said Dell Hamilton, co-owner of HMR. “We’re happy to have Scott driving for us and are confident that he can get the job done.”

Speed has run a limited schedule in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series since his release from Red Bull Racing in 2010. His best finish with Red Bull Racing was a fifth at Talladega in 2009, and he recorded his first career Top 10 finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series; a 10th at Martinsville Speedway.

Speed must beat three other teams on time to qualify for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500.

Hamilton’s company Crusader Staffing will be the primary sponsor while the team seeks new partnerships and sponsors. Crusader Staffing is a nationwide company that specializes in professionally managed warehouse labor.  Since 2002, Crusader has been serving its customers all across the US.  Headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Crusader provides a wide range of logistics services with a core specialty in loading and unloading freight. This includes unloading containers, railcars, and trailers at warehouses and distribution centers. 

Vickers Adds Two Races For MWR

Michael Waltrip Racing announced today that it has added two more races to Brian Vickers’ 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule in the team’s No. 55 Toyota Camry. Vickers, who led 125 laps and finished fifth in his debut with MWR at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago, will pilot the No. 55 at Infineon Raceway on June 24 and Watkins Glen International on Aug. 12.


Brian Vickers goes road racing for MWR
“Brian did such an amazing job at Bristol that we wanted to reward him with more races,” said co-owner Michael Waltrip, who will drive the No. 55 in four races this season. “It has as much to do with how he interacted with (crew chief) Rodney Childers and the crew as what he did on the race track. They really enjoyed his input and his professional approach, and he was a great teammate to Martin Truex Jr. and Clint Bowyer. Those guys were really impressed with how he engaged with them and managed his race car. Brian is a great young driver who is hungry to show what he can do. In my mind, he earned these extra races with his approach and attitude, and I’m so happy we were able to offer them. Brian’s contribution to the team has continued the momentum Rodney and Mark Martin created pushing the No. 55 up to eighth in owner points.”
“I purposely waited for an opportunity that would allow me to be competitive and this is what I have found with Michael Waltrip Racing,” said Vickers, who earned Toyota Racing Development its first Chase for the Sprint Cup berth in 2009.
“I could see all of the progress MWR has made from the outside, and when I was able to get to experience it first hand at Bristol, I was so impressed. It’s hard to explain, but each one of these team members and each one of the drivers truly cares about the other. There is a team atmosphere here and they welcomed me with open arms. That cooperation is how we were able to put three cars in the top five at Bristol. People don’t think of me as a road racer, but I love road racing and am so happy I will get a chance to compete at Infineon and Watkins Glen.”
Mark Martin will drive the No. 55 Toyota in 24 races, and the NASCAR Sprint All Star race.
Vickers, 28, owns two victories and 11 poles. The Thomasville, N.C. native competed full time in the Sprint Cup Series for eight years, and in 2011, he scored three top-five and seven top-10 finishes. He began his Sprint Cup career in 2003 driving for Hendrick Motorsports, before moving to Red Bull Racing in 2007. Vickers has raced only Toyotas since the manufacturer entered Sprint Cup competition in 2007.
Photo Credit: Jared Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR

Kahne Enters Rockingham Truck Race

Kasey Kahne is coming to The Rock.

Kahne Will Race at The Rock
Rockingham Speedway and Positec Tool Corp., a global company that manufactures and markets power tools and lawn and garden equipment, announced today that Positec's Rockwell® Tools brand will serve as the "Official Power Tool" of Rockingham Speedway and as primary sponsor of the No. 4 Turner Motorsports entry driven by Kasey Kahne for the upcoming NASCAR Camping World Truck Series “Good Sam Roadside Assistance Carolina 200 presented by Cheerwine” on Sunday, April 15.
"The Rock" has been the site of two significant milestones in Kahne's career. He made his first NASCAR National Touring Series start there on Feb. 23, 2002, in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and two years later -- on Feb. 22, 2004 – he finished second to Matt Kenseth by 0.01 seconds -- one of the closest finishes in NASCAR history -- in only his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. 

"As soon as I heard that NASCAR was adding the Rockingham to the Truck Series schedule, I wanted to run it," said Kahne, who will compete for his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in five career starts. "I think it is great for the sport and the fans that we are going back to Rockingham. I'm looking forward to having Rockwell Tools on board for their first NASCAR truck race. Hopefully we can put on a good show for the fans." 

Turner Motorsports teammate Brad Sweet will practice and qualify the No. 4 Rockwell Tools Chevrolet on Friday and Saturday at Rockingham, while Kahne competes at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Texas Motor Speedway.

"The momentum behind this race just took another big leap forward with the addition of Kasey Kahne to our driver line-up, and Rockwell Tools to our partner list," said Rockingham Speedway President Andy Hillenburg. "Kasey and Rockwell both understand what this race means to stock car racing fans and are both contributing their support in a major way."

Like the speedway itself, which ceased operation for several years, Positec acquired the Rockwell brand of power tools after it was taken off of the market in the mid-1980's, re-introducing it back to the market in 2005. Today, the Rockwell® brand of power tools and accessories is available at thousands of home improvement retailers in the United States and Canada. In rebuilding the Rockwell® brand through innovation, Positec has also taken Rockwell's commitment to quality and customer satisfaction to new levels with a "Free Batteries for Life™" program. If a customer purchases a cordless Rockwell® or Rockwell Shop Series® tool and the battery dies, Rockwell will replace it for the life of the tool. 

"Rockingham Speedway and Rockwell® Tools both reflect a great history," said Tom Duncan, CEO of Charlotte, N.C.-based Positec USA. "Positec has had success in revitalizing the Rockwell® brand, so to be able to support the return of NASCAR racing to Rockingham and enable Kasey Kahne to get another chance for a win at the Rock, where his career began to take off, is really exciting for us."


Sanborn, RACE 101 Set For Hickory Debut

Trevor Sanborn isn't one to brag, but the Maine native feels confident his RACE 101 house car will contend to win next weekend's Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (NC) Motor Speedway. Now a resident of Lincolnton, North Carolina, Sanborn strangely attributes a test at Southern National Motorsports Park with the car's speed at Hickory.


Sanborn is ready for Hickory
"We tested at Hickory a few weeks ago, and the car felt awesome," said Sanborn. "Tony (Blanchard - RACE 101 founder and team owner) wanted to test at Southern National, and that's when we noticed something was missing."

The handling at Southern National wasn't what the team was looking for, so they packed up and returned to the shop. In typical Blanchard fashion the car was cut apart and tweaked. "Sometimes you don't get the best idea of what you're working with at Hickory because of the nature of the surface," said Blanchard. "Southern National is much faster and smoother, and I saw areas where we could make improvements."

Less than a week later, the team returned to Hickory for more testing, and the results were mind-blowing for the driver. "The changes we made were minor, but we had to cut the front end apart to make them," said Sanborn. "It's a totally different car. That thing is bad fast." 

With just more than a week remaining until the Easter Bunny 150 Pro All-Star Series race, it's clear that Blanchard is feeling revitalized. "The last few years have been about helping young racers learn," said Blanchard. "We created the RACE 101 school, and I'm very proud of what we have accomplished.

"It's time to go and contend to win races again, and we plan on starting next weekend."

The customized RACE 101 Howe chassis will feature Pave-Tek as a partner on the quarter panels, but Sanborn is equally as passionate about a smaller decal the team will run. 

"I really appreciate Bill Stilphin and Pave Tek for the support they're showing," said Sanborn. "I want to bring Bill to Victory Lane, along with the SaveSpeed4TheTrack organization. This is a cause I feel passionate about. I've had people close to me get hurt and even die from accidents that could have been prevented. This cause promotes kids getting involved in racing the right way." 

SaveSpeed4theTrack.org is the website, and the organization's mandate is connecting youth with local speedways and racing teams to inform them how they can fill their need for speed the right way - on the race track, and away from the streets.

The Easter Bunny 150 is the first of seven races the RACE 101 team has planned for this season. Sanborn will race in four events before he hands the reigns to Canadian dirt racer Luke Whitteker.

Whitteker graduated from the RACE 101 program, along with Sanborn. After being named Premier Driver in the program, Whitteker earned the opportunity to race the house car. Sanborn was hired this winter to work in the RACE 101 shop and also drive the house car when the opportunity arises. To learn more about the program, visit www.RACE101.net

Sanborn and Whitteker aren't the only two graduates who will stay on to represent the program officially in 2012. Daniel 'the Hammer' Alvarez was too valuable to lose after graduating the program this winter, so the team brought him back, as well. The South Carolina teenager was recently hired to handle public relations duties. 

"The Hammer is a natural when it comes to the media and public speaking," said RACE 101 marketing instructor Adam Ross. "We know his first priority is his racing career, but while he works towards his next driving opportunity we want him to help us build our brand. Daniel believes in what we're doing, and he has a magnetic charm that we want to include on our race team." 

"I'm excited to work with RACE 101," said Alvarez. "I've never seen everyone so focused on winning. Trevor Sanborn is going to be fast at Hickory, and my job is to keep our fans informed."

Alvarez created a new Twitter account where people can stay up to speed with the team. "Our friends and fans can follow us on Twitter @RACE101DotNet to keep up with all the action," said Alvarez. "We'll be posting updates on a regular basis, but I plan on working even harder during race weekend. I can't wait."

Alvarez will accompany the team to Hickory Motor Speedway next week for the Easter Bunny 150. Blanchard says the time to shine is now, and the pieces are coming together nicely. Fans can stay informed by visiting www.race101.net. For interview requests, or for any information not found on the website please send inquiries to adam@race101.net.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

MRN's Post Will Be Cookin' At Martinsville

Race fans are invited to be a part of the studio audience this Friday at 2 p.m. for "Cooking with Paul,” to sample some tasty creations whipped up by guest Steve Post, pit reporter and co-host of "NASCAR Performance Live" on the Motor Racing Network.

"Geez Posty, what's with the garlic breath?"
Post loves food just as much as he loves racing, and to showcase the area’s hidden culinary gems, the Martinsville-Henry County EDC's Tourism Division has taken him to visit several local establishments during past visits to Martinsville. Post writes reviews on his website -- FoodAroundtheTrack.com -- as well as on Facebook to help promote area eateries to race fans. 

This week, The Postman will share two of his favorite "finger food" recipes, guaranteed to be a hit at your next racing party. Then it’ll be your turn to enjoy great tastes from the "foodie," who definitely likes what he's tasted in Martinsville thus far. 

Chef Paul Farrar and Post will tape the show with BTW 21 at The Artisan Center's Culinary Arts Studio, located at 54 West Church Street in Martinsville. Admission is free and the public is welcome to participate in the studio audience. Recipes will be given out at the taping of the show or you may contact the MHC Visitor Center for a copy after the taping at (276) 632-8006.

Reutimann, RBR Racing Set To Rebound At Martinsville

It’s been five weeks since the Ricky Benton Racing Enterprises/BTS Tire and Wheel Distributors No. 92 Chevrolet loaded up and left Daytona International Speedway after failing to qualify for the opening race of the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

Reutimann tested at Little Rock Tuesday.
After recording a Top-5 finish in the race a year before, crew chief Jason Overstreet said the team was disappointed, but determined to make a better showing in Round Two of the season this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. "Not making the race at Daytona was disheartening, that's for sure," said Overstreet. "But you can't dwell on it. It motivates us to get better. We were back at the shop the next week, focusing 100 percent on getting ready to come to Martinsville. The truck that we are bringing to the track this week is one that we have spent a lot of time on."

The team spent Tuesday shaking the truck down with driver David Reutimann at the “Little Rock” half-mile oval, located on the grounds of the legendary Rockingham Speedway.

"The truck is good," said Reutimann. "We (got) some good laps. We have been trying some different things and seeing how the truck reacts. The key to being fast at Martinsville is to make sure the truck can carry speed through the center of the turn, and that's what we've been working on. 

"With the race being essentially a one-pitstop race, you had better be close to right, because you don't have a whole lot of time to work on the truck."

Both driver and crew chief are confident in the team's progress as they move past Daytona. "We have brand new trucks for Rockingham and Charlotte that are going to be fast," said Overstreet this week. "Daytona is what it is, but we are moving forward and putting the best truck that we can on the track for David at Martinsville."

Earnhardt Poised To Earn Hendrick's 200th Win

Hendrick Motorsports is just one checkered flag away from its 200th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory. Martinsville Speedway could be the place, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. may be the man. 

Can Junior win at Martinsville?
Why Earnhardt, you ask, when Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon own a combined 13 victories on the legendary Virginia short track? Gordon has seven Martinsville grandfather clocks to toll the hour, while Johnson is close behind with six. Earnhardt, meanwhile, is winless in 24 career Martinsville starts. 

It’s all about momentum and timing. 

The Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet driver has been a force to be reckoned with in his last three outings on the half-mile Martinsville oval, with finishes of seventh, second and seventh. Since joining Hendrick Motorsports at the start of the 2008 season, he has finished in the Top-8 six times in eight Martinsville starts, contending for the win virtually every time.

He is off to the strongest start in his 13-year Sprint Cup career, ranking third in championship points with a pair of Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes to date. He and crew chief Steve Letarte are talking openly about the confidence they have in each other, and seem to be communicating on a higher, calmer, more professional level than ever before. 

Hendrick is one win away from history.
There’s plenty of history – both good and bad – for Hendrick Motorsports at Martinsville. The team claimed its first NASCAR Winston Cup Series win there in 1984; a victory by Geoff Bodine that allowed team owner Rick Hendrick to sign a sponsor and keep his then-fledgling operation afloat. Since then, they’ve won more races at the Virginia oval than any other team; their 18 checkered flags now just one shy of Petty Enterprises for the most Martinsville triumphs, all-time. 

Martinsville has also been the site of great tragedy for the team. In 2004, team owner Rick Hendrick lost his son Ricky, his brother John, two nieces and six other employees in the crash of a company plane that was en route to the speedway. The blow was staggering in a personal sense, but the team never faltered. Jimmie Johnson won the race that day and drove to a Victory Lane drenched with tears instead of champagne. 

Today, Hendrick Motorsports is on the brink of becoming the most successful operation in the history of Martinsville Speedway. Earnhardt is poised to put his personal, 134-race winless streak out of its misery for good.

Why not kill two birds with one stone?

Sadler Set For Martinsville Sprint Cup Start

Hermie Sadler
Virginia native Hermie Sadler will drive the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Martinsville Speedway, with sponsorship from Anderson's Maple Syrup and AM-FM Energy. He will be a guaranteed starter in Sunday’s Goody's Fast Relief 500, after younger brother Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan drove the car to 35th place in owner points in the opening five races of the 2012 season.

Buddy Sisco will serve as crew chief for the effort.

Sadler ran three Sprint Cup races last season for TRG Motorsports, with a best finish of 26th at Martinsville. He has 63 career Sprint Cup starts, dating back to 1996.

Dover Offers "Breakfast With The Bagman"

Have breakfast with the Bagman!
Dover International Speedway has created a special, all-inclusive “Breakfast with the Bagman” package, featuring Delaware’s own Mike Bagley, for the Sunday, June 3 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. 

The $99 option includes a ticket to the race in sections 202-204, an all-you-can-eat hot breakfast buffet, a souvenir program, and a question-and-answer session with Bagley. And you never know who else may pop in to say hello, too! 

Bagley is an on-air turn announcer with the Motor Racing Network (MRN), and also serves as host of The Morning Drive on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. He has strong ties to the area, growing up in Milford, Del., approx. 15 miles south of Dover International Speedway. Mike served for a short time as a PA announcer on race weekend in Dover, and went on to join MRN in 1992. 

The breakfast and question-and-answer session will be held in the Rollins Center ballroom in the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino. Doors open at 7 a.m., breakfast will be available beginning at 7:30 a.m., and Bagley will arrive at 8 a.m. Ticket holders that already have purchased tickets to the June 3 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race may add the package to their ticket for only $29. 


The morning will also include fun games for fans in attendance. A contest called “Bagley’s Pick” will be open to all fans in attendance. The morning of the “Breakfast with the Bagman” event, Bagley will select his choice for that day’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner. If his pick brings home the Monster trophy that day, each attendee will receive a free ticket to the next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Dover. The prize is not transferable. 

“It was a no-brainer to create a package with our local racing veteran, Mike Bagley,” said Denis McGlynn, president and CEO of Dover Motorsports, Inc. “He attended races here as a kid with his parents, and has made us proud. He is always quick to crack a joke, and is rarely seen without a smile on his face. Race fans appreciate that, and his warmth and energy shines through on the radio.

“We hope his fans come out for a fun morning of stories and laughter with the Bagman.” 

The deadline to purchase the package is May 18, 2012.

NASCAR returns to the Monster Mile on June 1-3, 2012 with the June 1 “Lucas Oil 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the June 2 “5-hour ENERGY 200” NASCAR Nationwide Series race and the June 3 “FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. To purchase tickets, call 800-441-RACE or visit DoverSpeedway.com.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Watkins Glen Forges Ahead With Improvements

Capital improvement projects at Watkins Glen International continue to move ahead under sunny skies this spring. There are a variety of projects, in addition to the grandstands, that are in progress simultaneously to ensure they are complete on schedule with the aspiration of completing them ahead of time. 
Genesee Construction, based in Dansville, NY, has poured approximately half of the extension to the curb in Turn 1. The curb is being expanded to run proportionally with the length of the run-off area. In addition, Genesee has completed both retention ponds fans will see as they enter Gate 2 in 2012. The ponds have been created to provide a sufficient amount of water run-off on Watkins Glen International property and are similar to infield lakes at ovals. A majority of the fill removed from the larger pond will be used in The Boot to level camping areas and along the spectator fences. Some will be used to level the area under The 90 grandstand as well. 

Work has begun on The Glen Club with the first step Genesee must complete which is the removal of the concrete slab located behind The Club. Completed prior to the 2011 season, The Glen Club’s final additions will be complete in advance of the 2012 slate. Among those is a permanent bathroom for patrons of The Glen Club to use and a kitchen preparation area for catering purposes.

Morgan Construction, based in Bedford, NY, while E&D Specialty Stands, from North Collins, NY, have laid half of the new foundation for the new grandstand, has placed gravel under the former Red, White and Blue grandstands. In addition, they have continued to finish The 90 seatwork with end ramps and stairs left to install. 

Watkins Glen International staff has taken point on the remainder of capital improvement projects, including the massive undertaking of a new tire wall completed along the Turn 1 run-off area. The addition of a classroom in the garage is being taken care of by WGI providing drivers and crews a place to meet. WGI has entirely gutted the existing structure and have replaced electric and insulation thus far. 

Tickets for the 2012 race season at Watkins Glen International are on sale now! Fans can purchase their tickets and camping by contacting the WGI ticket office at 866.461.RACE(7223) or logging on to the official website, www.TheGlen.com. Gift certificates, tickets and track merchandise can all be purchased at The Shop located at 2 North Franklin Street in downtown Watkins Glen. The Shop is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is closed on Sunday.

Smith Confirms Changes Will Be Made at Bristol

SMI Chairman Bruton Smith
After more than a week of studying requested fan input, Bruton Smith, Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, today announced he has ordered the go-ahead to make changes to the track surface at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“The race fans have spoken,” Smith said. “We had input that included a wide range of opinions. But the majority we heard from said they wanted to see changes made. As a result, I have ordered the equipment and work will begin within the next two weeks to allow time to have everything ready for August.”

Smith said an announcement regarding the scope of the work will be made soon.

“The question we wanted to answer as quickly as possible was ‘Is something going to be done?’ Smith said. “The answer to that is ‘yes.’ We will have the details in two weeks as to what that ‘something’ is.

“Bristol Motor Speedway has been voted the most popular race track in the country more than a half-dozen times, even one of the 10 things you need to see before you die. We aim to keep the status as the fans’ favorite.”


Goodyear Set For Busy Test Schedule


Goodyear's Greg Stucker
Goodyear Tire& Rubber Company has announced an aggressive schedule of tire tests at NASCAR tracks. Beginning next week at Michigan International Speedway, Goodyear will hold four tests in a six-week stretch.

Two of the tracks at which Goodyear will test – Michigan and Pocono Raceway –will have new surfaces for 2012, creating an immediate need for tests. The other two tracks – Dover International Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway – have been designated as tracks where Goodyear continues to incorporate feedback and stay in tune with the advancements NASCAR teams continue to make.

“When a track gets resurfaced, our goal is to conduct a test as soon as the asphalt curing process and weather allows,” said Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of race tires. “Michigan was finished just before last winter set in and Pocono will be completed within the next couple of weeks. Because both of those tracks will have brand new asphalt, it’s a sure bet we’ll return with a tire set-up that's different from what has been run recently at those tracks.

“As with all repaves, Michigan and Pocono will have smoother surfaces, thus giving the cars more grip, which leads to more heat build-up in the tire. That’s why tire testing is so important -- we need to get on the new surface and find the right balance between controlling heat providing an adequate grip level. Every facility has its unique characteristics. We'll work closely with track officials to get a gauge on the asphalt mix they’re using, and combine that with our knowledge of the track configuration. Neither of these tracks are planning any significant changes to the track layout.”

The Michigan test is scheduled for next Tuesday and Wednesday, April 3-4. The tentative list of participating teams and drivers includes the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge with Brad Keselowski, No. 17 Roush Fenway Ford with Matt Kenseth, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Jeff Gordon and No. 42 Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing Chevrolet with Juan Pablo Montoya.
Gordon will test at Michigan
Pocono’s test is scheduled for April 24-25 with the No. 1 Earnhardt-Ganassi Chevrolet with Jamie McMurray, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsport Chevrolet with Kasey Kahne, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with Joey Logano, No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge with A.J. Allmendinger and No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with Aric Almirola.

Before Pocono on the calendar, however, is the test at Dover. Goodyear will test Dover’s concrete surface on April 17-18, with an eye toward controlling the “rubbering in” process.

“In talking with teams, we wanted to see if we could actually rubber in the track a little less,” explained Stucker. “While concrete surfaces are always tricky to take rubber, we feel like we have a good understanding of that process this point. Now we want to go back and see if we can strike a better balance of how much rubber gets put down while still providing the right level of grip and wear.”

Participating in the Dover test will be the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford with Marcos Ambrose, No. 22 Penske Racing Dodge with A.J. Allmendinger, No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with Kevin Harvick, No. 36 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet with Dave Blaney, No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with Ryan Newman, No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet with Kurt Busch and No. 56 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota with Martin Truex Jr.

At the end of this stretch of tire testing will be New Hampshire. There, Goodyear will be looking to standardize its mile track tire set-up with what it found at Phoenix International Raceway.

“At New Hampshire, we’re looking to incorporate similar construction changes to that which we found to be successful at Phoenix,” added Stucker. “We've been happy with the results of that construction combination at Phoenix, and our goal is to adapt it to Loudon."

Teams scheduled to test at New Hampshire are the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with Paul Menard, No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Toyota with Bobby Labonte, No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet with Regan Smith, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with Carl Edwards.

All in all, it will be a busy stretch for Goodyear Racing engineers. With the help of 21 different Sprint Cup teams, this slate of tire tests promises to have a positive impact on the 2012 NASCAR season.

Allmendinger Sets Fashion Back A Decade...


AJ Allmendinger (L)  and his much-better dressed Penske Racing teammate, Helio Castroneves, compare wardrobes at an event earlier this week. Amazingly, The Dinger looked in the mirror that morning and thought, “Man, I am looking GOOD!”

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

BIGGEST NEWS IN THE HISTORY OF NASCAR!!

Sixty-five years after the first Jesse Jones wiener was served at Martinsville Speedway, the company has an official partnership with the historic Virginia track.
Martinsville Speedway president Clay Campbell announced today that the track and Jesse Jones, LLC had partnered to bring official status to the wiener just in time for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 weekend.
Don't forget to trademark your weiner!
“We have obviously been partners for many years, ever since my grandfather, H. Clay Earles, made the first Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog™, but this makes it official,” said Campbell. “Our hot dog is the most iconic concession item in all of racing, and the key reason for that is the Jesse Jones wiener. We have our special, secret way of dressing it, but the dog is at the heart of it all.”
If stretched end-to-end, the hot dogs sold during this weekend’s events at Martinsville Speedway would wrap around the half-mile track more than nine times.
“We at Jesse Jones are proud and excited to carry on the historical relationship between Jesse Jones and Martinsville Speedway,” said Leigh Smithson, executive vice-president of the Fredricksburg-based company. “This is a proud tradition that has been carried on for 65 years and Jesse Jones looks forward to coming back every year.”
The Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog™ has achieved rock-star status in racing over the years. Team members battle to see who can get in line first when the infield concession stands open on race Friday; hundreds of stories have been written about the hot dog over the years, and it even has its own Twitter account.
“When my grandfather first started selling Jesse Jones products, he just wanted to sell the best hot dog possible,” said Campbell. “He accomplished that and so much more because he was working with such a great product.”
Good tickets remain for all of this weekend’s events at Martinsville Speedway, including the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 on Sunday, the Kroger 250 on Saturday and NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck series practice on Friday. Tickets may be purchased by calling 877.RACE.TIX or online at www.martinsvillespeedway.com.

New All-Star Format Rewards Winning

The 28th running of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race will provide some additional incentive for drivers to win one of the four segments heading into the final 10-lap shootout, as the emphasis on winning and pit road strategy have never been more prevalent in this special night of NASCAR star-studded competition. Through the annual Sprint Fan Vote, under way now, fans can again cast ballots for their favorite eligible driver. The driver receiving the highest number of votes will earn a spot in the field. 
The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, set for Saturday, May 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, will consist of four 20-lap segments, concluding with a 10-lap sprint and a $1 million payout to the race winner. This year’s format will place a higher premium for drivers who win one of the four segments, however, as the winners of the first four segments will move to the front of the field and line up 1-4 prior to the field coming to pit road for the final mandatory pit stop.  

When the drivers come down pit road, crew chiefs will have to decide on their best pit strategy, as multiple scenarios will unfold. The team that makes the best call, combined with the optimum performance on pit road, is likely to be in the driver’s seat for the final 10 laps of competition. Wherever the drivers are positioned as they come off pit road after that pit stop is where they will line up to start the final 10-lap segment. 

“This new addition to the format is going to provide even greater incentive for the drivers to go all out to win one of the four segments,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “It also puts even more focus on the pit crews and how they perform during that final pit stop. The team aspect of the sport will be highlighted more than ever and it helps set the stage for an exciting race and an exciting evening for the fans.”

The eligibility standards for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race remain the same: race winners from either the 2011 or 2012 season through May 12 or any past champions of the all-star event or NASCAR Sprint Cup Series over the previous 10 years are eligible for the race. In addition, the top-two finishers in the Sprint Showdown, a 40-lap preliminary race scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote, all advance into the all-star race lineup.  

Fans can vote by using the NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile Android™ application on their Sprint phone, or by texting “VOTE” to 229466 on any wireless carrier (standard text messaging and data rates apply). Voting is also open at NASCAR.com/AllStar or by visiting the Sprint Experience, located in the midway at all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Voting will continue until 5 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 19. As an added customer benefit, votes submitted from a Sprint, Boost, Nextel or Virgin Mobile device count double toward an individual driver’s total.

Individual tickets for the May 19 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and Blake Shelton pre-race concert presented by Target are on sale now starting at just $39. Fans can also purchase an All-Star Four-Pack for just $99. Tickets can be obtained online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com or by calling Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS. 

The eighth annual NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge returns to kick off the all-star week’s competition, Thursday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Time Warner Cable Arena. The event’s finishing order determines pit selection for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The No. 11 FedEx Toyota team is the defending Pit Crew Challenge champion. Tickets for the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge start at $15 and can be purchased online at www.pitcrewchallenge.com or by calling the Charlotte Bobcats ticket office at 800-745-3000.

Drivers currently eligible for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (as of March 27) include: Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Mark Martin, Paul Menard, Ryan Newman, David Ragan, Regan Smith and Tony Stewart.