Friday, May 30, 2014

Former NASCAR Owner Ray DeWitt Dies

Former NASCAR Winston Cup and Busch Series team owner Ray DeWitt passed away Thursday evening after suffering a heart attack at his home in Sunset Beach, NC. He was 63.

DeWitt fielded cars on the local and regional scene for many years, including an American Speed Association (ASA) operation that included eventual NASCAR drivers Ted Musgrave and Tim Fedewa. DeWitt’s NASCAR national series career began when he fielded Sprint Cup Series Chevrolets for drivers Rich Vogler and Ted Musgrave in a trio of 1990 races at Pocono, Michigan and Rockingham.  
He teamed with former driver DK Ulrich to form RaDiUs Racing in 1992, running the full Winston Cup championship schedule with Musgrave, crew chief Buddy Parrott and sponsor Jasper Engines. The team recorded one Top-5 and seven Top-10 finishes that season en route to 18th place in the final championship standings, with a best finish of fifth behind Darrell Waltrip, Harry Gant, Alan Kulwicki and Ricky Rudd at Pocono Raceway in July.
The following year, RaDiUs Racing claimed a pair of Top-5 finishes at Pocono and Michigan with Musgrave at the controls, finishing 25th in the final standings. DeWitt also fielded a full-time Busch Grand National Series effort with driver Tim Fedewa under the D-R Racing banner, finishing 18th in points.
Ted Musgrave's Jasper/USAir Ford
In 1994, DeWitt ended his partnership with Ulrich and concentrated mainly on the NASCAR Busch Series, finishing 10th in points with Fedewa, who was running at the finish of 24 of 28 races that season. He also made 18 Winston Cup starts that year with drivers Jimmy Hensley, Fedewa and Butch Miller.
The high point of DeWitt’s NASCAR career came in 1995, when Fedewa topped Doug Heveron, Johnny Benson, Jr. and brothers Jeff and David Green to win the Meridian Advantage 200 NASCAR Busch Series race at Pennsylvania’s Nazareth Speedway. His final NASCAR start came on Sept. 14, 1996, when a blown engine relegated driver Bobby Dotter to a 35th-place finish in the MBNA 200 at Dover International Speedway.
"If it weren't for Ray DeWitt, NASCAR would never have heard of me," said Musgrave. "He was one of a kind and you always knew right where you stood with him. He was well-off financially, but you would never have known it to talk with him. He was a hard-working man who loved racing and gave a lot of people their chance."
Fedewa shared similar thoughts, saying, “Ray was the guy who believed in me when nobody else did. We started racing in ASA and ARTGO back in Michigan, and he gave me my first real opportunity to shine. If it wasn’t for him, I never would have had the opportunities I had, from ASA all the way to NASCAR.
“Ray was the type owner that was in your corner, no matter what. If I went out and ran the car straight into the wall in qualifying, he’d be right there waiting when I got back to the pits, saying, `don’t worry about it, you did a great job.’ As long as he knew you did your best, he would never complain.
“You don’t see car owners like that anymore. I’ll miss him, and a lot of other people will, too.”

Johnson Says No Time To Bask In Charlotte Win

Coming off his first win of the season last weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson said today that he and his team have had little time to bask in the afterglow.
“The Monday-to-Friday routine was very comfortable and nice,” said Johnson of the week following his Coca-Cola 600 victory. “Everybody is smiling and has a spring in their step. But truthfully, when we get here and check in, last week seems so far away. When we get on the race track for practice and NASCAR’s timing and scoring goes hot again, it’s completely out of your mind and you (become) focused on the present.
While happy to have his first victory of the 2014 season, Johnson said there was considerable pressure to win; most of it originating inside the walls at Hendrick Motorsports.
“There has been a lot of pressure and expectation put on us, and a lot of things written about us and the long winless streak,” said Johnson. “But the pressure that people see and suspect might be wearing on us is nothing compared to the pressure we put on ourselves.
“We expect a lot out of ourselves,” he admitted. “We feel like wins have gotten away from us this year that we weren’t happy about. We also feel that there were tracks where we had poor performances. So the win is great, but we hold ourselves to (a high) standard.”
Johnson also admitted that there was a bit of friction within the No. 48 team this season, as their uncharacteristic winless streak grew larger.
Johnson is Dover's all-time winner
“If you have speed and you’re (running) okay, it’s easy to not be snippy and maintain whatever mindset works,” he said. “(But) if you’re not where you want to be -- especially with Chad (Knaus) and my group of guys, who spend so much time to come to the race track and to be prepared --  in a way, their feelings get hurt.
“It’s not fun to work so hard and be on the (slow) side of the board in practice or qualifying. That stuff just eats us up, because we work way too hard to be in that position. The sport isn’t easy. This garage area is so strong that it happens. And when it does, you’ve got to pull your boots up, get to work and work harder.”
He said the winless skein had begun to wear on him personally, as well, adding, ““I think a lot about the long winless streak being over. That’s been the common theme among friends and social media, so I’m just having fun with it and trying to remind myself that it’s a backhanded compliment. We have done so well as a team… that we put ourselves in this corner.
“I’m glad I don’t have to answer those questions any longer.”.
After becoming Dover’s the all-time winningest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver last fall, Johnson said he is happy to return to a track that has been so important to him and his career.
 “(The records) definitely have a ton of meaning,” he said. “When I look at the people that I’m tying or have the opportunity to beat for those titles, it’s heroes of our sport and the guys that are in the Hall of Fame. When you look at their stats and what they’ve done for our sport, (they’re) household names.
“It is no small feat to tie or have the opportunity to beat these guys for races won at any track.
“We’re looking forward to winning again soon,” he said. “Over the years, we have been able to adapt to a variety of generations of car, and hopefully, we can adapt quickly to what is needed here and what the set-up needs to be to get around `The Monster’ once again. 
“I’m looking forward to the race on Sunday.” 

Stewart: Sprint Car Return "Nobody's Decision But Mine"

Tony Stewart climbed back behind the wheel of an open wheel Sprint Car this week for the first time since suffering a severely broken leg in a race last August. And while the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion said called the test "a huge day for me," he downplayed its importance when speaking to the media today at Dover international Speedway.
“I am laughing at you guys because it’s like. `My God, I went and tested a Sprint Car,’” he said. “I still laugh about how big a deal this has all been made. We had Cup drivers get hurt last year. One had a broken wrist, one had a broken back and nobody said anything. It was all minor news. I’ve made more news by getting hurt in a dirt car than any of those guys. 
“It’s bigger news than the guy who had the same injury I had falling off a bicycle last week. I just chuckle.
“It was fun (and) obviously, it’s been nine and a half months since I got a chance to run one,” said Stewart.  “It felt good. We actually did a full-blown test, it wasn’t just going out and making laps.  We actually got a chance to run through a lot of shock stuff and set-up stuff. (I’m) ready to go again.
“It was just like when I got (back) in the Cup car. I felt like I hadn’t been out of it.”
The three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champ said he has thought about returning to Sprint Car competition again soon, but will not publicize his plans in advance.
Stewart tested this week
“You won’t know when it’s coming,” he promised. “When I do go (racing), nobody is going to know about it. I’m going to just slide in and do it. I want to enjoy it (and) I don’t want it to be a cluster. Judging off how many people showed up just to talk to me about going and testing for a couple of hours, I can imagine what the group is going to be like after I run my first race.”
Stewart called his return to dirt racing, “nobody else’s decision but mine. It’s my life (and) I’m going to live my life.  I think there are a lot worse things I could be doing with my life than what I choose to do.”
Stewart said that while he had hoped to be fully rehabbed by now, he is not discouraged by the length of his recovery.
“I honestly thought I would be done with all this by now,” he admitted. “As far as rehab, pain (and) all that stuff, I thought it would all be done. I thought I would be healed 100-percent by now. But I keep going to the doctor on my scheduled appointments and they keep updating me on how it’s going and what they think the outlook is for it. 
“We just adjust (the timeline),” he said. “When you haven’t gone through something like this, you don’t know what to think. You don’t know how to feel about it… because you’ve never been through it. If it ever happens again, I will have a better idea of how to answer that. You just take it a day at a time, still.”
He said that while he continues to work out daily as part of his rehab regimen, he has yet to learn to enjoy it.
I hate it,” he admitted. “You sweat; you get out of breath… it is crazy. Then you feel sore. I don’t know anything about this (process) that is good, but I know at the end of the day that it’s going to make me feel a lot better.” 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Earnhardt, eBay Announce Partnership

Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced today a partnership with eBay that will pair NASCAR’s 11-time Most Popular Driver with one of the world’s largest online marketplaces. The extensive partnership consists of several facets that will engage eBay’s community of automotive enthusiasts and include charitable initiatives with The Dale Jr. Foundation.
Additionally, Earnhardt Jr. will drive an eBay-themed primary paint scheme for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan International Speedway on June 14. It will be Earnhardt Jr.’s fourth and final Nationwide Series race of 2014.
“We believe fans will relate to the excitement Dale Jr. feels toward the sport on and off the track,” said Bryan Murphy, Head of eBay Motors. “We are looking forward to helping auto enthusiasts connect with the things they need and love on eBay the same way Dale Jr. does.”
An avid eBay user, Earnhardt Jr. became deeply engrossed in the eBay marketplace in 2012, building out and adding to his collection of vintage stock car magazines and racing memorabilia. His infatuation expanded into eBay Motors, and starting today Earnhardt Jr.’s personal car collection will be displayed on his eBay Garage profile. eBay Garage is an online community where users share personal car photos, explore vehicles, find parts, and converse with fellow enthusiasts.
“As most people are aware, I’ve been obsessed with eBay for the past few years because I do a lot of shopping for vintage racing stuff,” said Earnhardt Jr. “It’s a great place to find all the things you need and love. And eBay Garage is especially cool because it’s an online community for car enthusiasts. I have a profile set up already so you can see what’s in my garage. I’m looking forward to seeing what other people have in theirs.”
In addition, for every person that signs up for an eBay Garage profile between May 28 and June 30, eBay will donate $1 to The Dale Jr. Foundation -- dedicated to giving underprivileged individuals and youth the resources to achieve extraordinary goals – up to a maximum donation of $25,000. Fans who sign up during that time will also have the chance to win a 2014 Chevy Camaro and have Dale Jr. personally hand them the keys.
Users can now examine the items that Earnhardt Jr. shops for on eBay, including rare racing literature, vinyl records, or his favored footwear.

“I feel very fortunate to be in a position to merge my two passions together, which is collecting racing memorabilia and driving race cars,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I definitely have a deep appreciation for history, and eBay has been my go-to source of finding things I never thought were available. I look forward to continuing that, but also engaging with enthusiasts and expanding my presence through eBay Garage and eBay Collections.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Estes Express Lines To Back Burton Full-Time

Estes Express Lines will serve as primary sponsor for ThorSport Racing's No. 13 Toyota Tundra driven by Jeb Burton for the balance of the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, beginning with Friday's Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway.

Estes' president and CEO Rob Estes was the keynote speaker at an unveiling ceremony for the No. 13 Estes Toyota at the transportation company's Richmond, Va., headquarters.

"To have Jeb driving the No. 13 Estes Toyota in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a powerful combination and a perfect match for our company," Estes said. "First, it's safe to say that trucks -- all trucks -- are our passion.

"Second, it takes the effort of a large team of highly-skilled people at ThorSport Racing to make sure the No. 13 Tundra is prepared to race and to win, just like at Estes, where every member of our team is essential to the performance of the company as a whole.

"And finally, Jeb's job is to cross the finish line first each race and to do so safely, without injury or damage. At Estes, our job is to finish that same way with our customers, with every shipment, whether it's door-to-door or coast-to-coast, 40,000 times each day."
Estes and other company leaders expressed widespread enthusiasm for their first motorsports program in the company's 83-year history, anticipating the sponsorship will help Estes raise brand visibility to a national level, while aligning with stated company values of service, performance and family.
Burton, 21, is a second-generation stock-car racer whose father, Ward Burton won the 2002 Daytona 500 and whose uncle, Jeff Burton is a 21-race winner in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series. With shared roots in the small towns of rural southern Virginia, the Estes and Burton families are distant relatives. 

"It's an honor to be driving the No. 13 Estes Toyota," Jeb Burton said. "Each time I get behind the wheel, I'm not only representing the Burton family and ThorSport Racing, now I have the privilege of representing everyone at Estes, which means a team of almost 15,000 employees including more than 6,000 truck drivers."
ThorSport Racing is in its 19th consecutive season of fielding teams in the Truck Series. Its fleet includes the No. 88 Menards Toyota driven by defending NCWTS drivers' champion Matt Crafton and the No. 98 Nextant Aerospace/Curb Records Toyota driven by Johnny Sauter.

The relationship between Estes and ThorSport Racing came as the result of a business growth opportunity shared among the freight provider and ThorWorks Industries, a conglomerate of diverse businesses including ThorSport Racing based in Sandusky and owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson.

"Everyone at ThorSport Racing has a lot of faith in Jeb as an up-and-coming driver and we're happy to have found a company with Estes' professional legacy and values to sponsor our program," Duke Thorson said. "We'd like to thank everyone at Estes for their support and confidence as this relationship moves forward.
"We're proud to be the team Estes chose for its NASCAR debut. We can't wait to see Jeb and the No. 13 Estes Tundra on the track at Dover this weekend and throughout a safe and successful 2014 season." 

Brett Moffitt Set For Dover Sprint Cup Debut

Brett Moffitt will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Dover International Speedway this weekend, driving the No. 66 Toyota for Jay Robinson Racing.

Moffitt, 21, of Grimes, Iowa is a nine-time winner in K&N Pro Series East competition and serves as a test driver for Toyota Racing Development and Michael Waltrip Racing.

"Brett is a very young driver with a lot of experience for his age," said owner Jay Robinson. "If you ask around the garage, you will learn he's one of the most respected young men in the sport who just hasn't had a chance at a fulltime ride. We think he has a lot of talent and will show it at Dover."

Moffitt finished ninth in his lone Nationwide Series start in August 2012 at Iowa Speedway. He finished 14th and 17th in 2013 Camping World Truck Series races at Kentucky and Michigan.

Moffitt said a Sprint Cup debut is something he began dreaming about as a child.

"I'm honored Jay asked me to drive his car at Dover," said Moffitt. "The Monster Mile is a tough, but fun track and I can't wait to get there. I won the 2009 & 2010 K&N East races at Dover so I think I'll feel comfortable there, but Sprint Cup racing is a whole new world.

"I appreciate all support I have received from Jay Robinson, TRD and everyone at Michael Waltrip Racing for making this happen. My goals are to qualify well and learn all I can during the race."

A newly formed partnership between MWR and Jay Robinson Racing allows the No. 66 to compete in all NASCAR Sprint Cup races with Joe Nemechek as the primary driver. Michael Waltrip raced the Toyota at Daytona and Talladega while Jeff Burton raced in Las Vegas.

Busch Named Indy 500 Rookie Of The Year

Kurt Busch has been named winner of the 2014 Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award for his performance during the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In the first Verizon IndyCar Series race of his career, Busch, in his No. 26 Andretti Autosport Suretone Honda, was the fastest qualifier (12th) and highest finisher (6th) among the seven rookies in this year's Indianapolis 500.
As Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, Busch earned a $25,000 bonus from Sunoco as part of his total race winnings of $423,889. Busch was presented with his award last night at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Indianapolis 500 Victory Awards Celebration presented by Ice Miller Legal Counsel, Contour Hardening, Inc. and Allied Solutions.

Since its inception in 1952, the Sunoco Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Award has been presented to an amazing list of legendary drivers including Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Tony Stewart, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Arie Luyendyk and many more.

The Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award electorate is comprised of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR officials, and members of the media. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Green To No. 14 Nationwide Camry For Five Races

Former NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Jeff Green will drive the No. 14 Hefty/Reynolds Wrap Camry for Team McClure, Inc. in select races this 2014 season.
Green will take the seat of the No. 14 Toyota for the Buckle Up 200 Presented by Click It or Ticket at Dover Int'l Speedway this Saturday, before piloting the car at Michigan International Speedway on June 14, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 16 and Richmond Int'l Raceway on September 5. His last event is scheduled to be on September 27, also at Dover.

"I'm so excited and honored to be able to race the Hefty/Reynolds Wrap Toyota these five races,” said Green. “I hope that I can be an added asset to the team. I can't thank Hefty, TriStar, and the McClure family enough for this opportunity."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

American Restoration’s Rick Dale Creates One-of-a-Kind HISTORY 300 Trophy

Between championship points and the prestige of winning at the legendary Charlotte Motor Speedway, drivers battling in Saturday’s HISTORY 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race have all kinds of motivation to fight for the win. But with the most unique trophy of the entire season on the line, things are sure to reach a fever pitch as the laps wind down.
In partnership with Charlotte Motor Speedway, HISTORY channel TV personality Rick Dale of the hit series American Restoration has crafted a one-of-a-kind trophy that will be the envy of drivers. The trophy will be unveiled Saturday before the 300-mile race.
“As much as it means to drivers to win at NASCAR’s home track, this adds a little something extra to encourage them to race even harder to the checkered flag,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “The history that this trophy represents and the personal touches that Rick put into it make it truly one-of-a-kind.”
After researching the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway’s storied history, Dale created a unique trophy that represents the facilities early years and some of the challenges builders faced to complete to project.
The base of the trophy is North Carolina granite in the shape of the track — that granite had to be blasted through to make the raceway possible. Dynamite sticks are supported by a brass blaster to represent the force needed to get it done. And in case there was any doubt as to the personalities of speedway founders Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner, two 38 snub-nosed revolvers filled with aluminum sit upright, barrel-to-barrel were included in Dale’s masterpiece. According to speedway legend, as the construction deadline loomed, guns were drawn to encourage crews to pick up the pace of the build.
“As a fan of NASCAR and racing, I’m thrilled for the second year in a row to design this year’s HISTORY 300 trophy using elements of the colorful story surrounding the Charlotte Motor Speedway’s construction and founding,” said Dale. “I’m honored to be part of this exciting race.”
Documenting the production process, HISTORY filmed an episode of American Restoration about Rick’s return to Charlotte and the creation of the 2014 Trophy. Fans can catch the episode during the upcoming season of American Restoration, beginning Monday, June 2 at 10 p.m

HISTORY will also have some of their stars from Swamp People and Top Gear as Grand Marshals, announcing the Start Your Engines” and waving the green flag.”

Johnson Calls HOF Vote "An Amazing Day To Be Part Of"

Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion did something yesterday that he’d never done before. As the defending champion of the sport, Johnson served as a member of the NASCAR Hall Of Fame Voting Panel, casting his vote for five nominees for the Class of 2015.
“That was a huge honor and an amazing day to be a part of,” said Johnson today. “To sit in a room with so many people that care for our sport and know about our sport, then discuss what took place in eras of time when I certainly wasn’t around.  It was an awesome and unique experience. In years to come, it’s only going to help drivers in the garage area understand the history of our sport and grow closer and more attached to the people that built this sport.”
One the nominees on this year’s ballot was Johnson’s car owner, Rick Hendrick. The six-time champion revealed, however, that there was no behind-the-scenes lobbying prior to the vote.
“I’m not sure he feels he should be in there yet,” said Johnson. “He’s a competitor and he appreciates the phone calls he received yesterday and the concern from others. But I don’t think he feels like it’s time to be in there yet, even though I voted for him. I am so impressed with his stats and what he has done, but I still think there are many more to come.”
Johnson said that despite doing plenty of homework prior to the vote, he still struggled to trim his ballot to five names.
“I actually read the book (provided by the HOF),” he said, “and those who know me know how much I despise reading. I read the book twice. I studied up and enjoyed the entire process.
“I probably had seven (candidates) going in,” he admitted. “I thought the discussion would help me whittle it down to five. But after the conversations took place, I think my number grew to nine. And then we had lunch and things moved kind of quickly after that. The ballot was in front of me… and it was time to check some boxes.
“I felt like I could have been there another couple of hours with the open microphone… learning more about the individuals. It was not an easy decision.”
He also commented on the internet debate and second-guessing that follows each year’s vote.
“Following social media and seeing people being upset that someone… didn’t make it in, I feel for everybody,” he said. “I sensed that some took the voting process lightly, based on just 140 characters that come through a tweet. I wish others -- especially the people on the outside of our sport looking in -- could understand how much thought went into (the vote). I was really impressed (with) the whole prepping process, what went into it and how much consideration goes into each and every name on the ballot.
“I wish that the garage area could sit in on that discussion and see the respect that the peers and the people on the voting panel have for our industry and for the people involved,” said Johnson. “It wasn’t an easy process to work down to five. All 20 on that list were very deserving to be in the Hall of Fame.
“Those in (the room) know, it’s not an easy process to pick those five. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

COMMENTARY: Wise's Fans Deserve Your Respect

In an era of sagging attendance and falling television ratings, NASCAR should extend open arms to fans of all kinds. Instead, Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Fan Vote has been greeted with a disappointing mix of disdain, snobbery and mean-spiritedness.

Underdog Josh Wise won the annual Fan Vote, prevailing over presumed favorite Danica Patrick to earn the final spot in the 2014 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The reaction from NASCAR Nation was both swift and ugly.

“They’re not real NASCAR fans,” sneered some observers, labeling Wise’s backers “internet geeks” and worse. The online community – largely responsible for Wise’s selection – faced accusations of online election fraud, accusations that quickly proved to be baseless.

Others dismissed the vote on the grounds that Wise had little chance to actually win the All-Star Race, conveniently ignoring the fact that in the 30-year history of the event, only one Fan Vote winner has ever gone on to win the million-dollar top prize. Patrick herself finished a distant seventh in the preliminary Sprint Showdown, and would certainly have failed to contend for All-Star Victory Lane, as well.

One member of the NASCAR media corps even went so far as to label Wise’s selection “a farce," claiming that Patrick was “bumped from the all-star race by a little-known driver who was barely noticed until his small fan base stuffed the ballot box.”

Wise, he wrote, “had no business being in Saturday night’s race,” claiming he was voted in by “a savvy online community that figured out how to manipulate the fan vote.”

That assertion is both insulting to Wise’s fans and totally devoid of fact. is the largest online community on the planet, and hardly qualifies as a “small fan base." Reddit and Dogecoin members did not engage in “manipulation,” they simply worked harder – and smarter – than any other group. They mobilized their fan base in a way that was both impressive and 100-percent legal. No rules were broken – in spirit or otherwise -- any more than they were broken when Bill Elliott was voted NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver 16 times (10 times consecutively) in the 1980s and `90s.

Elliott’s secret back then was a massive, well-organized and wildly efficient Fan Club that succeeded in getting out the vote for their driver. Wise’s fans did exactly the same thing this year, albeit in a more technologically advanced way.

While most fans were content to cast an online vote or two for their favorite driver, Wise’s backers went the extra mile, devoting hours of personal time to the voting process and prevailing in a contest where the odds were heavily stacked against them.

Many of them also backed that effort with their own paychecks, contributing to Dogecoin’s dollars-and-cents sponsorship of Wise and the No. 98 Phil Parsons Racing entry. Most NASCAR fans have never opened their wallets to sponsor their favorite driver, short of buying a new Dale Junior T-shirt. Based on that fact alone, Wise’s fans deserve your respect.

The reaction to Saturday night’s fan vote can best be described in two simple words.

Sour grapes.

After three decades of All-Star competition, we should understand by now that the annual All-Star Fan Vote is a popularity contest. Popularity can be measured in many ways; through race day applause, souvenir sales, sponsor endorsements and NASCAR’s annual All-Star and Most Popular Driver fan votes. None of those yardsticks are more (or less) valid than the others.

In 2005, Martin Truex, Jr. won the All-Star Fan Vote, despite having competed in only two Sprint Cup Series races that season. His popularity had as much to do with his team owner – Dale Earnhardt, Jr. – than it did Truex himself, but there was no public outcry over the decision. The fans had spoken, and Truex competed in the All Star Race.

It didn’t matter why Truex was popular. All that mattered is that he was.

It’s the same today.

Josh Wise’s fans do not deserve your disdain. They deserve your applause, and even your envy. They are as legitimate as any of us – whether or not they ever attend a NASCAR race -- and have displayed a level of loyalty and determination that most fans can only dream of emulating.

They are not a lesser version of NASCAR fandom. They are, in fact, what all NASCAR fans should aspire to be.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Surprising McMurray Claims All-Star Million

Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
Jamie McMurray was not on anyone’s short list of potential NASCAR Sprint All-Star winners. 
The Chip Ganassi Racing driver ranked 24th in championship points coming into the event, with just two Top-10 finishes in 11 starts this season and a best finish of sixth.
But Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, McMurray was NASCAR’s “Million Dollar Man,” moving steadily forward in the race’s four preliminary segments, then executing a testosterone-rich maneuver to squeeze past pole sitter Carl Edwards in the final, 10-lap sprint to claim a lead he would never relinquish.
McMurray started mid-pack Saturday and managed only an 11th-place finish in the opening 20-lap segment. He was 10th in Segment Two, then then rolled the dice prior to the start of the third 20-lap session, foregoing a pit stop in favor of improved track position. He overcame those older tires to finish third behind winner Kasey Kahne and runner-up Kevin Harvick, then trailed Harvick to the checkered flag in Segment Four.
His 6.5 average finish earned him an outside-pole starting spot in the decisive, 10-lap finale, and when he squeezed between Edwards and the Turn Two SAFER barrier following the drop of the green flag, he was able to claim the lead and hold it to the finish.
“That’s what you grow up wanting to do, to have a shootout like that,” said McMurray afterward. “Honestly, I wanted Carl to take the outside on the (final) restart, because I thought the inside was the better place. I had restarted on the inside both times before and been able to beat the guy to Turn 1, and when he took the inside, I was like, `Screw it, I don't care. If we drive off into the corner and we all wreck, I don't care. I can see the million bucks.’”

McMurray called the start of the final segment, “three or four of the hardest laps I've ever driven in my racing career. It's one of those memories that I hope I never forget. I have such a clear vision of those laps with the 99 car on the inside of me. That's what we wake up every single day and live for; to get to be put in that exact position. 

“This is just a really awesome moment, said McMurray, whose best finish in seven previous All-Star Races was an eighth last season. “It's so much different than winning the Daytona 500 or the Brickyard 400, because there are no points. The mentality going into that last segment is `all or nothing,’ and that was my thought process.  I was like, `I don't really care if we wreck, I don't care what happens. I'm racing for a million dollars. I'm going to make the most of the restart and everything that goes with it.’”

Team owner Chip Ganassi said he had confidence that his driver would prevail in a final-segment shootout with Edwards.

“I think Jamie likes this place,” he said. “If he gets a sniff of the front, he gets a calm over him. He likes it up there.”

Harvick overhauled Edwards in the late laps to finish second, and later blamed poor pit stops for his inability to challenge for the win.

“We had a really fast race car and we did all the things we needed to do to put ourselves in position on the race track,” he said. “We just couldn’t get it done on pit road tonight. If I could have gotten up front, I could have held on, (but we) ran out of time as we got to the closing laps.”

Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Edwards. Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Brian Vickers, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completed the Top-10.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Josh Wise Made The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race

A spokesperson for the dogecoin and reddit online communities outlined in detail today the techniques used by himself and his fellow members to vote John Wish into the 2014 NASCAR Sprint All Star Race. 

Dogecoin, an online internet currency, sponsored Wise at Talladega Superspeedway three weeks ago, and organized through to vote their driver into the All-Star Race, prevailing over presumed favorite Danica Patrick and others. Immediately following last night’s announcement, speculation surfaced that Wise may have benefitted from an automated vote-casting program, or bot, which bypassed online tests designed to prove that voters are actual human beings. These test are referred to as captchas.

A user identified by the screen name ihaveabulldoge refuted those charges, saying, “Those saying we used a bot… are incorrect. You need a human to solve those. How did we vote so fast? Skills. 

“(We) read the rules (and) realized we could vote unlimited times with double votes on (Sprint) mobile. I personally was on the slow end and could bang out 2-3 votes per minute on mobile, depending on captcha difficulty. So in one hour of hardcore voting, that is a minimum of 120 votes from just one person. We have over 80k subscribers and a ton more people on reddit to help. 

He revealed that at first, there was no captcha technology on NASCAR’s Fan Vote site. 

“Once we started, NASCAR implemented the captcha,” he wrote. “Instead of discouraging us, it actually helped us, since many fans of dogecoin and Josh Wise are also skilled at the internet. (We) voted quickly by using the back button (to solve) the captcha each vote...instead of re-clicking through 2 other pages. Simply put, instead of using a mouse to slowly click, we used a keyboard shortcut for `go back.'

“We knew our adversary and the awesome fan base we would be up against,” he wrote. “They are a dedicated bunch, so we knew we would have to vote nonstop and whenever we could in order to have a chance. There was no paying for extra votes, or hiring offshore (voters) as some people have theorized. We did NOT use bots, as a bot cannot beat a captcha. It was good ol’ fashioned crowd-sourced voting.

“We had a vested interest in Josh winning,” wrote ihaveabulldoge. “A lot of people donated a lot of dogecoin to get the sponsorship (and) that means that a piece of us -- no matter how small -- was plastered on that car. It was more important for us to win, because we invested real money. Sponsored drivers have a big company behind them, but we had a group of individuals. 

“Community members started streaming their votes live and showing off their speed voting skills.” 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Austin Dillon Wins All Star Showdown Pole

Rookie Austin Dillon will start in the pole for tonight’s NASCAR Sprint All Star Showdown, after claiming the top spot with a fast lap in 27.747 seconds, at an average speed of 194.615 mph.

Dillon won the pole in his first attempt as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. The last driver to win the pole in his first try was Carl Edwards in 2007. AJ Allmendinger will start on the outside of Row One in tonight’s race, followed by rookie Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Marcos Ambrose. Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Casey Mears and Aric Almirola completed the Top-10 qualifiers.

Dillon is one of seven drivers making their first career All-Star appearances, joining Larson, Michael Annett, Alex Bowman, Cole Whitt, Blake Koch and Ryan Truex.

The first and second-place finishers will advance to tomorrow night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.

Unofficial Starting Line-Up
Start         #              Driver
1                3              Austin Dillon #
2               47             A. J. Allmendinger
3               42             Kyle Larson #
4               15             Clint Bowyer
5                 9             Marcos Ambrose
6               27             Paul Menard
7                10            Danica Patrick
8               17             Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
9               13             Casey Mears
10             43             Aric Almirola
11             26             Cole Whitt #
12             44             J. J. Yeley
13             23             Alex Bowman #
14             77             Dave Blaney
15             38             David Gilliland
16             98             Josh Wise
17             7               Michael Annett #
18             40             Landon Cassill
19             83             Ryan Truex #
20            36              Reed Sorenson
21             66             Joe Nemechek
22            32              Blake Koch

23             33             David Stremme

Earnhardt: All-Star Race Is A Test Session... Unless

Dale Earnhardt, Jr., said he views tomorrow night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race as a well-paid practice session.
Unless he can put himself in a position to win, that is.
“We will use this weekend to see if we can find speed in the car and prepare ourselves for the (Coke) 600,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to be at the race track and get some laps in race condition to give yourself the best opportunity to win the 600-miler. 
“There is a lot of money on the line this weekend, which is basically all we are racing for,” he said.” But there is a lot to be learned, too. So you try and pay attention to what you are doing and feeling in your car, so you can use those notes next week. You try to look at what your teammates are doing… that you might want to do next week. There is a lot to be learned and hopefully we will get our car going pretty quick.”
He admitted, however, that his emphasis on caution and learning could go out the window if he finds himself within striking distance of the checkered flag.
“I think it’s going to depend on how close -- how much within reach -- the million dollars really is,” he said. “If a guy jumps out in that last 10 laps and gets a good lead, what can you do? What are you going to be able to do? (But) if you can run a guy down, it’s going to get interesting. If you can reach out and grab somebody, you will get pretty aggressive for a million dollars. It just depends on if someone is in reach.
“I hope that it will be close, unless I am leading,” he laughed. “And if we are leading, I hope we are leading by a straightaway.  I hope it’s real boring.”
In terms of strategy for Saturday night’s race, Earnhardt said, “You need to be up front at the last re-start. You’re not going to drive through a handful of guys. (Late at) night, at this track, the groove narrows-up. It gets faster and faster on the bottom and there’s no time to be gained in trying to… run the high line like you might during the afternoon. It’s a really fascinating race track in the middle of the day, but as it gets darker and darker, cooler and cooler, the groove really shortens up.
“You need to be in that top three to have a shot at it,” he said. “Unless those guys get bottled up, banging on each other and somebody scoots around on the top on the restart, I don’t know that you’re going to have much of a chance at winning the race.”
He added, however, that those restrictions “make everything in the first several segments count. It makes you really have to hustle in all those segments… to give yourself an opportunity to start as high as you can in the last segment. The way it’s laid out really pushes you to work every lap, every restart and every opportunity you can seize a position.”
Earnhardt also endorsed the idea of moving the All Star Race away from Charlotte Motor Speedway, saying, “the surface here is indestructible. We can’t wear it out, for some reason. But I think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to take it to Bristol or somewhere (else) and mix it up a little bit. I think you could take it to several tracks and have different results. You could run it at Bristol 10 years in a row and some are going to be awesome and some aren’t. It’s just the same way you have it here.
“I think the venue can make a little bit of a difference. Sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t.”
Despite winning the All-Star Race – then called The Winston – in 2000, Earnhardt joked that he has never held the winner’s check.
“I don’t think I ever saw it,” he laughed. “I was driving for Daddy back then (and) he got all that money (laughs). It was a big deal money-wise, but him being there in Victory Lane and passing him in the last 10 laps like we did (was special).

“Just winning it blew us away. (it was) really one of the most fun Victory Lanes I can remember, aside from the Daytona race this year. It was really just a lot of raw emotion and it just felt great.”