Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Les" Is More at Roush Fenway Racing

Roush Fenway's Les Ebert
As a strength coach in a sport that piles up checkered flags instead of touchdown catches, Les Ebert leans on his background of training pro football athletes to strengthen today’s award-winning NASCAR pit crews.

“These guys are the unsung heroes,” Ebert said of NASCAR pit crews. “They’re like offensive linemen in the NFL – they do all the dirty work.”

Ebert, a 39-year-old native of Circle Pines, Minn., is in his fourth season as the strength and conditioning coach for Roush Fenway Racing, including the No. 17 team, which recently won the second-quarter Mechanix Wear Most Valuable Pit Crew Award. It’s an honor voted on quarterly by each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chief with an overall year-end award going to the season’s top-performing pit crew.
Ebert oversees the training programs for Roush Fenway’s NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and Developmental Series pit crews.
“Pit crews work really hard to do the things they do,” said Ebert. “Yes, they have a lot of athletic ability, but to be able to do that repetitively in practice, race-after-race, month-after-month, they have to be in great physical condition. Not only is athletic ability important, but keeping the athletic ability to be able to pit racecars day-in-and-day-out is really what a lot of people don’t see.”
Ebert knows positions can be gained in a matter of seconds in the pits. His role at Roush Fenway is crucial in strengthening some 70-plus pit crew members on a daily basis so they can thrive physically on pit road.
“We run through strength and conditioning workouts four days a week,” explained Ebert. “We do two total body strengthening workouts and two conditioning workouts Monday thru Thursday. We’re real fortunate – Jack (Roush) and Robbie (Reiser) have supported the program very much in the fact that we have the tools we need to get these guys in the best shape possible.”
Known to insiders as “Les’ House of Pain,” the Roush Fenway Racing gym which Ebert oversees is a real “pumpatorium” packed full of free weights, exercise machines and conditioning equipment to keep pit crewmen conditioned and durable over the 36-week grind.
Pit crews are NASCAR's offensive linemen
“Les keeps us in shape and feeling good, which is really important with the long season and hot weather,” said Cameron Cobb, an eleven-year veteran and jackman on Matt Kenseth’s No. 17 Best Buy Ford. “Ever since Les came on board, I have less aches and pains from doing my job. Now Les has given me a few aches, but it’s what you need to win. You have to be physically and mentally strong and he does a good job for us.”
“Les pushes us pretty hard with our training,” echoed Sean Ward, gas man on the No. 17 who got his start in racing with Tommy Houston in 1996. “Les expects a lot, but it’s worth it in the end and I’m better for it. The workouts help keep us in shape and help prevent us from getting injured on pit road.”
Not long after graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a degree in Physical Education, Ebert landed an internship in the NFL under coach Tony Dungy that eventually led to a full-time position. He spent three years as an assistant strength coach with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then went on to become an assistant strength coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars for six years.
Though his career began on the gridiron, his childhood has circle track roots. Ebert grew up around racing through his father's involvement with Dick Trickle in the American Speed Association in the 1980s.
“As a kid I grew up watching my dad work with Dick back in the Midwest in the ASA days,” explained Ebert. “I followed Dick’s racing on TV and he would call often to keep us updated on how things were going on the NASCAR circuit.”
When the job at Roush Fenway became available while Ebert was still working in the NFL, he thought, ‘well, I’ll give it try.’
Four seasons later, Ebert’s top-notch strength and conditioning program is helping produce award-winning pit crews like the No. 17.
“The 17 group is a talented bunch of guys who have been doing this for a while,” said Ebert. “They have good camaraderie and they work really hard and that allows them to perform at a very high level. It’s a combination of their work ethic, their talent as a group and their ability to perform under pressure.”
The No. 17 crew’s performance this season has cemented Kenseth’s solid start to the 2012 campaign, with one win, nine Top-5 and 13 Top-10 finishes. Currently, Kenseth and the No. 17 team sit second in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings.
“It’s nice to be recognized by your peers,” Ward said. “They see you’re doing a good job and that makes you feel good and strive to do better.”
In addition to Cobb and Ward, crew chief Jimmy Fennig’s over-the-wall pit crew consists of Justin Nottestad (front tire changer), Collin Pasi (front tire carrier), Jon Moore (rear tire changer), and Ryan McCray (rear tire carrier). Andy Ward is the team’s pit crew coach.
“There are a lot of crews deserving out there,” Ebert said. “It’s a very competitive sport and we’re very fortunate to have guys at Roush Fenway that can perform at a high-level whether it’s in practice or in a race. It’s an honor and a blessing to be here at Roush Fenway.”

Photo Credit: Scott Hunter/NASCAR Productions, NASCAR.com

COMMENTARY: Stoddard Has Earned The Right...

Townley has struggled mightily
John Wes Townley will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut this weekend at Pocono Raceway, driving for FAS Lane Racing. 

Oh jeez. 

Townley has muddled through a wildly mediocre career in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series’, making 57 starts without anything approaching a Top-10 finish. His best performance – lifetime – was a 14th in Camping World Truck action at Chicagoland Speedway two week ago. Those struggles cannot be attributed to shoddy equipment, as Townley’s NASCAR career has featured stints with powerhouse owners Jack Roush and Richard Childress, both of whom sent the youngster packing when they could no longer keep up with the repair bills. 

In 2008, he ran seven Truck Series races for Roush Racing, crashing three times in those seven events before being handed his walking papers. He also ran three Nationwide races for RAB Racing, crashing twice. If you’re scoring at home, that’s five wrecked race cars in 10 starts, not counting incidents in practice and qualifying. 

In 2009, Townley ran the full, 32-race Nationwide schedule for RAB Racing, and once again proved tough on equipment. He crashed seven times and failing to qualify for six events, finishing 23rd in championship points with a best finish of 16th. 

The 2010 campaign saw Townley and his Zaxby’s sponsorship move to Richard Childress Racing, where he drove the team’s potent No. 21 Chevrolet to an average finish of 22.4 – with one crash-related DNF – in five starts. Even the Zaxby’s money wasn’t enough to fix all the battered race cars, and when Townley was cited for underage possession of alcohol during the Las Vegas race weekend, Childress severed the relationship after just five races. Townley then landed back at RAB Racing, running four Nationwide races at the end of the season with a best finish of 17th. 

After a year on the sidelines, Townley returned to the sport this season with a split schedule of racing in the Nationwide and Truck ranks. His debut was postponed by a preseason DUI arrest, but he eventually got on track to finish 15th at Talladega for SR2 Motorsports, then 20th and 25th at Dover and Daytona for RAB. He has also competed in nine Nationwide events for RAB Racing this season, with an average finish of 20.4. 

Ordinarily, that kind of record will run a driver clean out of NASCAR, not advance him to the headline Sprint Cup Series. But these are trying economic times, and for team owners like FAS Lane Racing’s Frank Stoddard, the struggle to acquire sponsorship and keep the doors open is unrelenting. 

FAS Lane's Frank Stoddard 
There has already been criticism of Stoddard’s decision to roll the dice with Townley this weekend, and much has been made of NASCAR’s latest – and most blatant – example of money trumping talent. That criticism is certainly justified, since in a perfect world, John Wes Townley would be working the drive thru window at Zaxby’s this weekend, not driving in the world’s most prestigious stock car racing series. 

People will say Townley has no business on the race track at Pocono Raceway, and they’ll be right. But if it's your life savings invested in the race team – instead of Frank Stoddard’s – and you are the one responsible for making sure your employees pay their mortgage and feed their children this month, things might seem just a little less cut-and-dried. 

This just in: the world isn’t always fair. Rich kids sometimes get opportunities they don’t deserve; even at the expense of other, more talented candidates who have worked hard for the opportunity. Guys like Frankie Stoddard have to make difficult decisions to survive sometimes, then after doing so, bite their lip and weather a firestorm of criticism from people who have no idea how much is on the line. 

For the record, Frankie Stoddard has spent his entire life in the sport, beginning as a volunteer crewmember at a tiny little dirt track in Vermont and eventually becoming one of the most respected crew chiefs in the sport. He could have remained atop the pit box, cashing seven-figure paychecks and basking in the glory of race wins and titles contended for. But what he really wanted was to own his own race team, and he spent a princely portion of those paychecks to make it happen. 

Like the talented young driver who claws his way to the top rung of the NASCAR ladder, Stoddard made his way to the big-time with hard work, intelligence and guile. Nobody handed him anything, he did it all for himself. Stoddard is taking a tremendous gamble by putting Townley in his No. 32 FAS Lane Ford this weekend. If things go like they usually do, the car will come back a twisted, steaming heap. But if Stoddard is willing to roll the dice, I figure they're Frankie's dice. 

Has John Wes Townley earned a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride? Absolutely not.

But Stoddard has earned the right to put anyone he wants in his race car this weekend, whether we like it or not.

Photo Credits: AP Photo

Shane Hmiel: "I Know How Allmendinger Feels"

Hmiel was suspended in 2003
Shane Hmiel says he understands the confusion, loneliness and anger being felt by suspended NASCAR driver AJ Allmendinger today, but insists there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

“AJ is in a deep hole of sadness, embarrassment and emotional upheaval,” said Hmiel, who was suspended three times by NASCAR for failed substance abuse tests nearly a decade ago, before returning to racing and being paralyzed in a Sprint Car crash in October of 2010. 

“When I failed my drug test, I knew (I was guilty). When they took my sample, I knew there was a good chance it wasn’t going to come back pretty. AJ says he hasn’t used drugs, so it’s got to be way worse for him. He was driving for “The Captain,” Roger Penske; one of the biggest, most successful car owners of all time, replacing a former Sprint Cup champion. I feel terrible for him. He’s a good racer, he’s won in everything he’s ever raced in, and he was getting close to a NASCAR win, if you ask me.  

Hmiel recalled that when NASCAR first suspended him from competition, he felt like his world had come to an end. 

“I started racing when I was nine years old,” he said. “Every weekend from then until the day I was suspended -- September 23rd, 2003 – racing was all I knew. I’ve been sitting in this wheelchair for a long time, but I still remember that day. It was the first time anyone had failed a drug test and been suspended from NASCAR since Tim Richmond, and I knew (how serious) it was.  

“I knew I was guilty the minute I got popped,” Hmiel said. “But if AJ believes in his mind and his heart (that he is innocent), it has to be a terrible thing. It’s got to be nerve-wracking going through what he’s going through. I feel terrible for him. 
Hmiel returned to win in Sprint Cars
“I don’t really know AJ,” said Hmiel. “I’ve only met him once. But you can tell that he’s a driven person. I hope he keeps his head down and gets through this. I’m happy to see he’s agreed to go through NASCAR’s Road To Recovery (program).”  

Perhaps surprisingly, Hmiel said he harbors no bitterness toward NASCAR for his past suspensions. In fact, he said the sanctioning body, “got me to where I am today, alive.  

“If NASCAR had not said, `No more racing for you,’ I don’t think I’d be alive today. When that happened, I finally realized that I had to get my life fixed. I did what I had to do, and eventually got back to racing. Ten years ago, I was a bad guy, but I’m not such a bad guy anymore. 

Hmiel said NASCAR is no different than any other cross-section of society when it comes to individuals battling substance abuse.  

“There are thousands of people who run through this sport every year,” he said. “It’s an international sport… and you’re going to have times of trouble. It’s just part of it, the way the world works. There are going to be people who have problems (with drugs).”  

AJ Allmendinger
Hmiel also said he believes NASCAR – and society as a whole -- have learned from examples like his, and softened their stance. “I know it sounds weird, but society is not looking down on things like that as much as they used to. So much has happened, and people are more forgiving that they were a decade ago. I think society has accepted that, `Hey, this stuff happens.’ They’ve seen people come back from (drugs). There are all sorts of NFL players who have failed drug tests, then come back and made millions of dollars. They’ve turned their lives around.  

“We have a great sport, but these things just happen sometimes,” said Hmiel. “I read the other day where Jeff Hammond said he hopes AJ can get things turned around and save his career. There weren’t a lot of people saying that about me, so I hope (the attitudes) have changed. It’s not about supporting drugs, it’s about supporting someone trying to get better. 

Hmiel said NASCAR’s Road To Recovery provided him with valuable insight into his personality and addictions, even though he resisted the effort at first. 

“I was the first one through the system in 2003, and they did what they had to do. They blackened my eyes (figuratively) and did what they had to do to me. I was a real tough guy, I didn’t listen, and I didn’t care what anybody said. I was going to do what I wanted to do.  

“Dr. (David) Black (Administrator of NASCAR’s Substance Abuse program) is a great man. I yelled at him, swore at him, lied to him, but I never fooled him once. He knows exactly what’s happening, and he doesn’t put up with any crap. I hated him at first, but now I realize that he saved my life. He’s a great man.” 
Hmiel said his defensive attitude also manifested itself on the race track. 

“I was a pain to race with,” he said. “Nobody wanted to run next to me. Yeah, I was fast, but I’d run into you to finish seventh if that’s what it took. I don’t know if that (attitude) was due to the drugs, or if it was just my mindset.  

Hmiel (L) remains involved
“Back then, I thought I could smoke pot during the week without having it affect me on race weekends. But looking back, I see a lot of things I should have done differently. As a driver, you never want to admit that you’ve made a mistake, but 10 years later, I know I did things that I should not have done. I know now that (drugs) surely slowed me up, but I didn’t know it then. 

“Once I got cleaned up and started running USAC, I wasn’t like that anymore,” he said. “Yeah, I got hurt in a race car, but it wasn’t from running over somebody. I never had anyone angry at me, or coming over wanting to fight (like I did in NASCAR). 

Hmiel said he has every confidence that Allmendinger can put his suspension behind him and eventually return to the sport. 

“AJ is one of the fastest racers in the world,” he said. “He did well in Champ Cars, and he came over and did well in stock cars. I honestly believe that he will have another opportunity with a good team. I think AJ is going to be a strong guy. He’s going to stand up and fight his way through this. That’s what I hope and pray for.  

“This is not about AJ Allmendinger fighting NASCAR to clear his name,” insisted Hmiel. “It’s about getting back to the point where his (system) is clean and he can do whatever he wants in the sport. If I could talk to him, I’d say, `AJ, this sport’s arms are wide open for you, bud. All you have to do is pee clean in the cup.’  

“Judging from his racing, I think he’s that kind of person. Anyone with a haircut like that,” he laughed, “has got to be good.”

 Photo Credits; NASCAR.com, Jerry Markland/Getty Images, Joe Orth Photos

Moffitt Set For Iowa Nationwide Debut

Brett Moffitt
NASCAR K&N Pro Series East points leader Brett Moffitt will make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut this weekend at Iowa Speedway, driving the No. 99 Toyota for RAB Racing with Brack Maggard. 

The Grimes, Iowa native is currently in his fourth full season of NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition, and has compiled nine wins, 27 Top-5 and 32 Top-10 finishes in 42 series starts. He currently holds a 22-point lead over Chase Elliott in the battle for the series championship, with nine of 14 events completed.

Photo Credit: Michael Waltrip Racing

Drivers Pleased With MIS Tire Test

Monday’s tire test at Michigan International Speedway produced fast speeds and happy drivers.

Twenty-eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams and two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams participated in the daylong tire confirmation. The daylong test allowed teams and Goodyear to check out the tires teams will use when the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series return to MIS in a few weeks.

Goodyear has selected a new combination for the two-mile racetrack; a combination of the original tires from the April test and a slightly softer version of the tire used during the June race.

Though top speeds were not official, some drivers topped out at 210 mph Monday. Average speeds were in the 195-mph range, slower than both the April tire test and the June NASCAR event at the track when. Marcos Ambrose claimed the pole at 203.241 mph. Goodyear was eventually forced to bring in a harder tire, after drivers experienced blistering during practice sessions.
Uncomfortable with running the same tires again, Goodyear has developed a new combination.
“June was our first race on this new pavement,” said Greg Stucker, director of Racing Tire Sales for Goodyear. “We digested everything we saw over the weekend, in practice as well as what we had in the race. We digested that and looked at all the data, pored over all the comments we got from the teams and drivers and made our recommendation for our package coming up in August. That is why we were here today, confirming that.”
Driver Greg Biffle said lower speeds will lead to exciting racing at MIS.
“Since the speed is down just a tiny bit, I think you will see that groove continue to widen out,” he said. “I have even floored it down low on the race track, and the car has some turn in it down there. I think we are going to see some good racing. We were fearful that this tire would be low on grip and the car would be hard to drive. That is certainly not the case.”
Michigan native Brad Keselowski agreed, saying, “Goodyear has us here to kind of reconfirm some things that we saw (in June) and hopefully improve the racing another notch here at Michigan International Speedway. We’re trying to help out… and also make our cars better at the same time. So it’s a good process for all.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

Gibbs Wants Logano To Return

Logano has options for 2013
Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs confirmed Sunday that he wants to add a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Toyota to the stable in 2013. The fourth JGR entry would allow the team to retain Joey Logano while also welcoming former series champion Matt Kenseth to the fold. 

Gibbs said the team is working to find sponsorship to retain Logano, who is in the final year of his current contract. "We want him to retire at JGR," said Gibbs to ESPN.com's David Newton. "We're trying to figure out how to make all of that work."

He said Logano could continue as a full-time Sprint Cup competitor next season, drop back to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, or split time between the two, depending on sponsorship. "We've talked a number of different potentials,” said Gibbs. “But obviously, we'd like him to be in Cup full-time.” 

Kenseth has confirmed that he has a deal in place for 2013 and beyond, but has declined to comment on the details, honoring a clause in his contract with Roush Fenway Racing that precludes him from discussing his plans for at least another month. Logano is investigating options with other teams, but sources say he would prefer to stay with JGR and crew chief Jason Ratcliff.

2013 Sprint Cup Cars Receive Final Approval

Dodge's 2013 NASCAR Charger

Based on the final results of an aerodynamic wind tunnel test conducted on July 18, NASCAR has announced that all four of its Original Equipment Manufacturers have met the necessary targets for the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race car.  

This represents a major step forward in the new car process, and clears the way for the manufacturers to begin making body parts and pieces for the new models.  

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car is the result of more than two years of collaborative efforts between the manufacturers and NASCAR. Intended to enhance product relevance by featuring race cars that more closely resemble their respective manufacturer models on the showroom floor, the roll out of the new car has been highly anticipated by NASCAR fans.

Ford's new Fusion for 2013
The four new models -- Chevrolet SS, Dodge Charger, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry -- will make their competitive racing debuts next February at Daytona International Speedway, with the first championship points event being the 55th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 24, 2013.

"We commend the manufacturers and our team at the R&D center on all the hard work they've put into this new car," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. "With all the designs and surface areas of the car now approved, manufacturers can now move forward with building the components needed to outfit their cars. The wind tunnel testing we've had with the manufacturers over the past several months has given us the timely and necessary data we needed to come to this confirmation. We believe the new car is going to be a milestone opportunity for our sport, one that our fans will embrace

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Rain Stops Godfather Motorsports At Orange County

Qualified tenth...
Severe thunderstorms forced cancellation of the CCS Super Limited Series event at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC, Saturday night, spoiling the 2012 debut of Tracie Bellerose and the #30 Rockingham Speedway/Fast Track High Performance Driving School Chevrolet.
After qualifying tenth for the event, the Godfather Motorsports team waited out a lengthy rain delay after heavy thunderstorms drenched the speedway.
...watched it rain...
The track was eventually dried, but a second round of heavy rain forced the event to be postponed. Double features will now be run at the CCS Limited Super “Labor Day Classic” at Caraway (NC) Speedway on September 1.
“We’re disappointed,” said Bellerose after the rainout. “We weren’t happy with our qualifying effort, but I was really interested to see what the car would do on a longer run. I felt like we could run the same lap times all night long, while most of the field fell off dramatically after just a few laps."
...then called it a night.
Crew chief Jim Gallison, Jr., said, “We’ve got some time before our next race to make some changes based on what we learned today. It was a long, 11-hour day, but we’ll chalk it up as an extended practice session and use it to come back stronger next time. 

About Godfather MotorsportsGodfather Motorsports is owned by Motor Racing Network and Sirius NASCAR Radio personality Dave Moody. Sponsored by Rockingham (NC) Speedway and Fast Track High Performance Driving School, the team also enjoys technological and marketing support from RACE 101, Eibach Springs, Wilwood Brakes, C&R Racing Inc., Five Star Race Car Bodies, Dynotech Engineering, RaceCom of Virginia and ASM Graphics. For additional information on the team and marketing opportunities with Godfather Motorsports, contact Dave Moody -- mrnturn1@hotmail.com.

Keselowski Wins, Sadler Fumes In Controversial Indy Nationwide Debut

Brad Keselowski claimed the checkered flag in Saturday’s inaugural NASCAR Nationwide Series “Indiana 250” at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but not before a controversial, late-race ruling saw leader Elliott Sadler black-flagged for jumping the final restart. 

Keselowski's win was controversial
Sadler and Keselowski restarted side-by-side with 18 laps remaining Saturday, with Sadler (the second-place driver) beating Keselowski to the start/finish line by more than a car length. That is a violation of Section 10-2-A of the NASCAR Nationwide Series rule book, which states, “when the green flag is displayed by the starter, cars must maintain position as designated by NASCAR Officials until they have crossed the start/finish line, and the No. 2 position must not beat the No. 1 position to the start/finish line.”  

Having beaten Keselowski to the line, Sadler’s only recourse was to “give back” the position by allowing Keselowski to reclaim the lead. He failed to do so, and NASCAR black flagged the Nationwide Series point leader, ending his bid for a second consecutive series victory. 

Keselowski went on to win the race, while Sadler claimed a bitterly disappointing 15th-place finish that left him clinging to a one-point lead over Austin Dillon in the championship standings. After the race, an angry Sadler claimed he was a victim of unclear rules and selective enforcement by NASCAR. 

“I did not jump the start,” said Sadler to SI.com’s Dustin Long after the race. “The video clearly shows (Keselowski) going first, beating me to the restart line. (Hornish) then hit (Keselowski), getting him really loose and spinning his tires. (Austin Dillon) was also pushing me, so it’s not like I can stop. We just got a better restart and beat them to the start/finish line.  

“It’s just like him missing a shift,” claimed Sadler. “Do I stop and wait for (Keselowski) to get his shifting right? Do I stop and let him (stop spinning) his tires? I don’t know the protocol and (NASCAR) did not give me one.’’

Team owner Richard Childress went a step further, accusing Keselowski of slowing intentionally in an attempt to earn his driver the black flag. “He went first and was in front of Elliott at the start,” said Childress. “Then he checked up like he does every week and false-started.” 

“(Sadler) did not jump the restart,” confirmed NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton afterward. “But the rules are that he cannot beat the No. 1 starter to the line (and) he clearly did that. He had him cleared by the time they got to the start-finish line (and) made no attempt to give it back.” 

Sadler disappointed... and confused
 “This is a tough one to swallow,” said a disappointed Sadler. “We really wanted to win this inaugural race. My heart was definitely ripped out my chest and I don’t know why. I honestly can stand here right now and tell you I have no idea what I did wrong and NASCAR really can’t tell me what I did wrong either.’’ 

Saturday’s controversy was exacerbated by debate over the race’s initial start, when Kyle Busch beat polesitter Kasey Kahne to the green flag, but was not sanctioned.  

"When we displayed the green flag, the leader of the race did not go," explained Pemberton. "In our judgement -- and on the replays -- the leader absolutely didn't go. That's why there was a no-call on that." 

"This was the first time I'd ever seen them throw the green that early,” said a puzzled Kahne afterward. “I was looking at the restart line and I'm like, 'OK, we just got by.’ I'm getting ready to take off, (then) Kyle took off and they threw the green. I wasn't ready to go yet, but they threw the green." 

Told of Pemberton's explanation, Kahne said NASCAR is inconsistent in its handling of starts and restarts. "To me, it should be a consistency thing,” he said. “The flagman should know where the (expletive) restart line is, and if he doesn't, then go look. I start about 55 NASCAR races a year, and that was the first one they started so soon. I was like, 'Holy (crap), are you kidding me?"

Few would argue that NASCAR should enforce its restart rule to the letter. No one wants to see a driver black flagged for beating the leader to the line by 1/1000th of a second on the final restart. In the absence of concrete, inflexible enforcement, race officials must have the discretion to determine how much of a restart advantage is too much.  

Unfortunately, when judgement calls are made, someone is always going to be unhappy.

Clearly, NASCAR judges restarts differently than they do the initial green flag. And according to the published rules, they should. Section 10-2.B of the Nationwide rulebook makes no mention of the initial start, speaking only of restarts when discussing the so-called restart zone.  

All restarts shall be made at designated zone on the race track,” reads the rule, “and will be made known to the drivers in the Pre-Race driver's meeting.”

"It's a difficult call at best," admitted Pemberton. "We use every means that we can. We've got a lot of video up there. There are plenty of people up there… to look at these types of situations.” He also alluded to possible changes in NASCAR procedure, saying, “Moving forward, as the competition continues to close, you never know what will come out of things like this."

Friday, July 27, 2012

Smith's Chevrolet Feature Tribute To Shooting Victims

Regan Smith's No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet that will pay tribute to the victims of the Aurora, Colo. tragedy during this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

The movie theater where the shooting took place is approximately seven miles from the Furniture Row Racing shop in Denver, Col., and the paint scheme on Smith's car this weekend pays tribute to the victims and their rescuers. 

The hood of the car will feature a ribbon encircling a memorial cross, along with the red and gold logo that appears on the Colorado state flag .The rear quarter panels include the inscription, “Aurora, CO” and the names of the 12 people killed in the tragedy .The rear TV panel features the dedication, “For Those Lost, Those Injured And Countless Acts of Bravery -- 7/20/12.”  

The tragedy directly impacted the Furniture Row family. Kimber Avra, an employee of the Furniture Row Companies, was at the Aurora movie theater with her friend, Micayla Medek when the attack occurred. Avra suffered only scrapes and bruises, but sadly, Micayla was one of the 12 killed in the shooting. 

"Our hearts go out to the victims and to their families," said Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone. "It really hits close to home for us here in Colorado. The movie theater where the shooting took place is only a few miles from where our team is based in Denver. We mourn the loss of life from this senseless tragedy, and feel we also need to stand up and acknowledge the heroism of those people who put their lives on the line to save others. Our thoughts this weekend will be with all the people who suffered from this horrific act of violence."

Godfather Motorsports Set For Orange County Saturday

Bellerose debuts for GMS Saturday
Former Thunder Road (VT) International Speedbowl champion Tracie Bellerose will drive the #30 Rockingham Speedway/Fast Track High Performance Driving School Chevrolet in Saturday night’s CCS Super Limited Series event at Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC.
The race comprises the 2012 season debut for the Godfather Motorsports Racing Team.
Bellerose tested with the team at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway earlier this week, and turned competitive laps despite a nagging issue with the car’s power steering.
“We threw a few chassis adjustments at it, just to see how it reacted,” said crew chief Jim Gallison, Jr. “The car did exactly what we expected to do, so we’re ready to go racing at Orange County Speedway Saturday night. It’s one of our favorite tracks, and we’ve had some good runs there over the years.
“This team has made a lot of improvements to their program during the off-season,” said Bellerose, who made a single start for Godfather Motorsports late last season. “They say this is the best race car they’ve ever had, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do Saturday night.”
Practice begins Saturday at 2 pm, with time-trial qualifying for all divisions set for 5:30. Feature events for the Bandolero, Legends, CCS and PASS Super Late Model divisions begin at 7 pm.

About Godfather MotorsportsGodfather Motorsports is owned by Motor Racing Network and Sirius NASCAR Radio personality Dave Moody. Sponsored by Rockingham (NC) Speedway and Fast Track High Performance Driving School, the team also enjoys technological and marketing support from RACE 101, Eibach Springs, Wilwood Brakes, C&R Racing Inc., Five Star Race Car Bodies, Dynotech Engineering, RaceCom of Virginia and ASM Graphics. For additional information on the team and marketing opportunities with Godfather Motorsports, contact Dave Moody -- mrnturn1@hotmail.com.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Stewart Still Aiming For Three Teams In 2013

Tony Stewart told reporters today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that Stewart Haas Racing hopes to field three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams next season, despite the loss of the U.S. Army sponsorship.

Stewart called the Army’s recent decision to leave NASCAR “a setback,” but insisted he has not given up on plans to field a trio of Sprint Cup Chevrolets next year. “It has been (planned) since we signed Danica,” he said. “Last year at this time, it seemed like the (sponsorship) environment was changing a little bit and maybe getting a little bit better. (We’re) still seeing that kind of thing…I still think it's gaining momentum. We have been able to bring Aspen Dental and Quicken Loans on board and those are two companies that had not been a part of NASCAR racing in the past. I'm pretty proud of that side of it. 

“It was definitely a huge disappointment that we were going to lose the U.S. Army,” said Stewart. “But it's not something we have had a lot of at Stewart Haas Racing. We have not lost a lot of partners… especially a group like U.S. Army. They have been a lot of fun to work with, they been a very dedicated group and have been very involved with what the race team is doing. 

“We are going to miss out having them on board next year, but I still think it's coming around. There (are) a lot of new companies that we are seeing in the sport, and that we are seeing that in our organization. We are not giving up hope and throwing in the towel thinking that we are losing one sponsor. We are going to hopefully be able to try to find somebody else.”

Nationwide Chevy Shocker: Camaro Coming In 2013!

Chevrolet will have a new entry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2013. The Chevy Camaro will make its series debut next February at Daytona International Speedway. 

“Chevrolet is proud to bring the Camaro to the NASCAR Nationwide Serie sin 2013,” said Jim Campbell, vice president, Chevrolet Performance Vehicles and Motorsports in a surprise announcement today.“ The Camaro Nationwide race car incorporates many of the distinctive styling elements of the production Camaro, including the unique power-bulge hood and deep recessed grille. In addition, the design incorporates the distinctive halo light rings, dual-port grille appearance and the gold bowtie.” 

“Our team of Chevrolet designers and aerodynamic engineers did a fantastic job capturing the great looks and styling cues of the production Camaro, while providing our NASCAR Nationwide teams with a highly competitive aero platform,” said Pat Suhy, manager of Chevrolet Racing Oval Track Group. “For the remainder of 2012,our engineers will be busy working with our Chevy teams on wind tunnel and on-track testing to fine-tune the car in preparation for next year. It will be great to see Camaro compete on the track against its showroom competition, starting with the2013 season opener at Daytona.”

Chevrolet currently leads the NASCAR Nationwide Series in wins, manufacturer standings and driver points. 

“We have been working on this new Camaro for over a year and I am excited to have it approved by NASCAR for 2013 competition in the Nationwide Series,” said Shane Martin, program manager, Chevrolet NASCAR Nationwide Series. “This car has a bold look that will be reinforced by its performance on the race track.”

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

NASCAR's Higdon: Allmendinger Spokesperson's Statements "Inaccurate"

AJ Allmendinger was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR late yesterday, after a much-anticipated test of the driver’s `B’ sample tested positive for a banned substance.  

AJ Allmendinger
Shortly after that announcement, Allmendinger’s longtime business manager, Tara Ragan issued a written statement saying, ““This was not the news we wanted to hear and we will work to get to the source of what may have caused this. To that end, we have secured the services of an independent lab to conduct thorough testing on every product within AJ’s home and motor coach to find what might collaborate with his test, which created results that were within nanograms of accepted standards."   

In subsequent statements to the media, Ragan claimed that NASCAR’s substance abuse testing agent, Aegis Analytical Laboratories, has not informed Allmendinger of the specific compound that triggered his suspension. 

NASCAR’s Managing Director of Communication David Higdon flatly denied that claim today, telling SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody that Allmendinger has been informed of the substance in question. “When the Medical Review Officer is informed of a positive test result on the `A’ sample, he speaks directly to the competitor and alerts him to the exact substance,” said Higdon. “The subsequent call to NASCAR is the same; (revealing) the exact substance that he tested positive for.  AJ certainly knows that.

Higdon also disputed Ragan’s claim that the level of banned substance in Allmendinger’s sample was within nanograms of accepted standards, calling it “inaccurate information. It was characterized as just over the threshold,” said Higdon, “but that’s just not the case. It was over the threshold by a significant amount. It’s unfortunate that information has been put out there… and honestly, I don’t think (it) is helping him. I think the best thing for him to do is to get into the program and meet with people who have only one interest; and that is to help him get his life back (and) get his career back on track.  That’s all we care about right now… (but) unfortunately there has been some inaccurate information out there.”

Higdon revealed that NASCAR is allowed to reveal the substance publically, but has traditionally elected not to do so.

NASCAR's David Higdon
“Our rulebook – through the driver/owner agreement – allows us to announce any of this information,” he said. “We have chosen not to do so, primarily because we are trying to provide the best road back. In most of the cases we’ve had so far, we feel like the privacy (we provide) is best for them. That’s what the substance abuse experts tell us, and if (the competitor) chooses to announce the information themselves, that’s fine. That’s our policy, we feel it has worked (in the past) and we will continue to stick by it.”

Higdon confirmed that the `B’ sample test is more complicated than the initial `A’ test, providing both NASCAR and the competitor with additional specific information on the offending substance.

“(The `B’ test) is not the exact same test,” he said. “It tests only for the category of substances that the `A’ sample test has already identified. The `A’ sample takes longer, because we are testing for a wide range of different substances. The `B’ sample is tested solely for that particular category. That’s why you saw a quicker turnaround on the `B’ sample. But both tests are conducted on the exact same urine sample that was provided… at Kentucky.” 

Higdon said NASCAR is not concerned with the degree of the infraction, only that an infraction has occurred.

“The way this testing works is not all that dissimilar from a Breathalyzer,” he said. “Our perspective is that that you’re either positive, or you’re not. We’re not interested in discussing the levels, (but) we are interested in setting the record straight. And when our program gets called into question, we will defend it. We think it is the right program for the sport (and) the right program for our members.”

He also said NASCAR is not interested in debating how a banned substance got into a competitor’s system.

“If you test positive, you test positive. Full stop. That’s the way it works. Ultimately, we need to have a very clear, black-and-white program where we (NASCAR) remove ourselves from the process and allow the program administrators and experts do their jobs. 

Higdon said NASCAR’s Road to Recovery is tailor-made for the needs of the individual driver or crewmember.

“It is completely customized for the individual,” he said. “An evaluation will be done by the Program Administrator, evaluating the facts and information about the substance, having an interview with the competitor and determining what is the right path. It is very much customized to determine what makes the most sense to get them back on the path. Each and every one is different, because each individual is different and the substance they test positive for is different.”

Photo Credit: Getty Images