Monday, October 07, 2019

Hamlin Unhappy – But Not Distracted – By Logano’s Aggressiveness

In the aftermath of a chaotic Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway, Denny Hamlin appears determined to remain focused on championships, rather than controversy.

Late in the middle stage of Sunday’s race, defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano found himself in danger of being lapped by leader Hamlin. He raced hard – perhaps too hard – impeding the progress of both Hamlin and second-place driver Martin Truex, Jr., despite the fact that his No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford was 24 laps down at the time.

Logano failed to take the green flag Sunday, after pulling to the garage with a broken rear axle during the pre-race pace laps. A lengthy repair ended any hopes of a Top-10 finish before they even began, leaving the Connecticut native to play a backmarker’s role for the remainder of the afternoon, salvaging whatever points he could, while hopefully staying out of the way of the lead-lap contenders.

He did a masterful job of collecting every available point, gaining a handful of spots in the second half of the event. He made no friends along the way, however, angering some of the same playoff contenders that he will have to deal with in the next few weeks as he attempts to defend his 2018 title.

“Here’s the situation,” explained Logano after Sunday’s 34th-place finish. “There are four or five cars that I could possibly catch. That’s five points. I’m in (the playoffs) by zero points right now, so we’d better get them all. When you think of that, I’ve got to try to get every car I possibly can. I ran as hard as I could this whole race. I don’t have anything to show for it, but I ran it as if we were on the lead lap and did everything we possibly did to be better.”

Hamlin was critical of Logano after the race, saying the Team Penske driver raced the leaders far too aggressively for a driver 23 laps down.

“I’ve got to race,” said Logano afterward. “There’s four or five cars that I could possibly catch. That’s five points. I’m in (the playoffs) by zero points right now, so we’ve better get ’em all. I ran as hard as I could this whole race. I don’t have anything to show for it, but I ran it as if we were on the lead lap and did everything we possibly did to be better.”

Perhaps predictably, Hamlin was hearing none of it.

He called that explanation, “The most idiotic statement I’ve ever heard. It’s not your day, you had bad luck. I don’t understand that at all. That was a bad choice to say that he’s fighting for something. He’s not fighting for anything, he’s just running around the race track. Stay in one lane… get the laps over with. Get the race over with and go home and get ready for Talladega. All he did was piss some people off and what did he really gain? He didn’t gain anything.”

“Make up position? He’s 24 laps down,” said Hamlin, who started on the pole and led a race-high 218 laps. “We’re battling for the end of the stage. It’s not your day, you had bad luck. I get it. But why? I don’t understand that at all. That’s just a stupid statement by an idiot.

“I probably shouldn’t call Joey an idiot,” said Hamlin, measuring his words carefully. “He’s not an idiot. But that was just a bad choice to say that he’s fighting for something. He’s not fighting for anything, he’s just running around the race track. Stay in one lane. Maybe the high lane, because nobody’s up there. Get the laps over with. Get the race over with and go home and get ready for Talladega to try to win that race.”

“I get it. Everyone races hard,” added Hamlin, who enjoyed a sometimes-rocky relationship with Logano as Joe Gibbs Racing teammates early in their careers. “If you’re one lap down, I get it. Even two. Just not 24.

“All he did was piss some people off. And what did he really gain? He didn’t gain anything. He just pissed off some guys that he’s racing with now (for the championship). So now, we’re just going to race him extra hard, and for what? Because he didn’t want to go 26 laps down.”

Logano has never been known as a shrinking violet on the race track. He has never hesitated to employ the “bump and run” in pursuit of Victory Lane, and if Sunday’s incident with Hamlin balloons into a legitimate, late-season controversy, it will not be his first.

Hamlin, however, seems reluctant to dwell on Sunday’s situation, displaying a degree of big-picture focus that has sometimes evaded him in the past.

“Nobody’s going out there maliciously trying to screw over Joey,” he said. “I’m just saying that through these playoffs, you can’t make enemies. You’ve got to give and take. It’s those deposits and withdrawals that I talked about with (Kevin) Harvick earlier this year. You gotta be able to say thank you. Thanks for that spot. … I don’t want to hear, `It’s just racing.’

“That’s not smart. Being smart is a part of racing, too. Not just skill.”

Logano races hard. Every week, every lap, in every situation. It remains to be seen whether that “damn the torpedoes” philosophy will negatively impact his bid for a second consecutive MENCS championship.

Monday, September 30, 2019

COMMENTARY: Wallace Faces The Wrath of a Kinder, Gentler NASCAR Nation

Bubba Wallace was not happy with Alex Bowman at the conclusion of Sunday’s Bank Of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The two clashed at least twice during Sunday’s race, including an opening-lap scuffle where Bowman appeared to push Wallace through the backstretch chicane, earning Wallace a penalty. Wallace responded with what Bowman alleged were a series of single-digit salutes, and on Lap 42, Bowman issued a response of his own, turning Wallace at the end of the backstretch chicane and sending his Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet into the outside retaining wall.
Wallace confronted an overheated and dehydrated Bowman as he sat next to his car after the race. The two exchanged angry words, before Wallace threw water in Bowman’s face.
The conflict drew an immediate and animated response on social media, where a number of horrified fans chastised an “unsportsmanlike” Wallace for attacking Bowman while he was receiving medical treatment. There were no IVs administered on pit road, no cold compresses applied, nothing more dramatic than a concerned EMT kneeling next to Bowman asking, “Hey man, how are you doing?”  

If “how are you doing” qualifies as receiving medical treatment, I have received medical treatment from virtually every fan who has called my Sirius XM NASCAR Radio show in the last 16 years.

“Hey Dave, how ya doin’? Long-time listener, First time caller...”

Bowman had enough energy to exchange verbal pleasantries with Wallace, and at one point even attempted to swipe the Gatorade bottle out of his hand. I’m not a doctor — and I didn’t stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night – but to my admittedly untrained eye, Bowman appeared to be suffering from a condition that thousands of racers over the years have traditionally cured… by dumping cold water on their heads.
Wallace is almost certainly too quick on the trigger finger. (Actually, the finger adjacent to the trigger finger.) It has earned him the ire of a fellow competitor or two in the past, and it probably will again. But if “flipping someone off” somehow justifies getting turned into the wall at 100+ mph, NASCAR has changed a lot in the last 30 years. And not for the better.

This used to be a sport where intentionally wrecking someone earned you a post-race knuckle sandwich, if not a jack handle to the ribs. Nowadays, though, our definition of fighting is waiting for 10 or 15 crewmembers to get between you and your adversary before yelling, “let me at him!”

Standing up for yourself used to be the right thing to do. Now, it is somehow seen as boorish, Neanderthal and terribly, terribly inappropriate. Apparently, NASCAR drivers are supposed to settle their differences like the illustrious leaders of our nation do, by lobbing empty insults at each other from opposite sides of the aisle, playing “Billy Badass” from beneath the convenient cover of Robert’s Rules Of Order, only to smile politely for the cameras as if nothing happened when standing shoulder to shoulder with their opponent, just a few moments later.

The phrase “talk is cheap” clearly doesn’t apply anymore. In the year 2019, it has become downright worthless.

Bobby Allison punched Cale Yarborough square in the nose following the conclusion of the 1979 Daytona 500. Nobody considered it “unsportsmanlike” of Bobby to involuntarily rearrange Cale’s proboscis, and nobody complained about the terrible impression he was making on America’s youth by doing so. Back then, that’s how grown men with a severe difference of opinion handled their business.

“Wreck my race car, and we’re gonna have a talk.”

In 1995, Rusty Wallace got dumped by the late Dale Earnhardt, Sr. at Bristol Motor Speedway, After the race, he expressed his displeasure by drilling The Intimidator right between the eyes with a full bottle of water. Not just the water, but the bottle, as well. 

NASCAR fans loved it back then, but today, Bubba Wallace is somehow seen as a bad actor and a poor sport. In less than a quarter century, a simple splash of water has somehow become an act of violence; a concept that I honestly struggle to understand. Which has the potential to do more damage? Getting spritzed with water, or getting turned — driver’s door first — into the SAFER barrier?

To me, expressing unhappiness with six ounces of high-quality H2O seems infinitely more prudent than doing so with 3400 pounds of steaming steel. But apparently, a significant portion of NASCAR’s modern day fan base sees it exactly the other way.

They’re angry at Wallace for “setting a bad example” by delivering spontaneous liquid refreshment to Bowman in the aftermath of Sunday’s race. They decry his lack of sportsmanship and bemoan the terrible example he sets for the children of America.

My friends, if you’re counting on Wallace and Bowman to instill values in your children, you’re a lousy parent. Bubba and Alex absolutely had a job to do Sunday on the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL, but teaching your six-year-old right from wrong wasn’t it.

Instilling proper standards of personal conduct is your job as a parent, and no one else’s. If you were as serious about that responsibility as you seemed on social media Sunday night, you would have used the time you spent lambasting Wallace and NASCAR (in shockingly salty terms for a group so pious) to teach a valuable life lesson to your impressionable youngsters, instead. 
“I don’t know if he was mad about the first lap or what,” said Bowman afterward. “But obviously, that was just a mistake. Then I got flipped (the bird) for every single straightaway for three laps. I got flipped off by him for three or four laps in Richmond, too, so I was just over it. I’ve got to stand up for myself at some point, right? He probably wouldn’t have gotten wrecked if he had his finger back in the car.”
“I get it, I’d be mad, too,” he added. “But he put himself in that spot.”
“He doesn’t like to race,” countered Wallace to “He just runs over everybody. He gets to Lap One and runs over me and (Austin Dillon) in the back chicane. We’re back there in the trunk, man. Just take it easy for a lap. He had a fast car and he just ran over us. Every time he gets to me, he just runs over me.”
Wallace also accused Bowman of “playing the sick card so I couldn’t bust him in his mouth,” a comment that did little to soothe the already ruffled feathers of NASCAR Nation.

Bowman and Wallace did no damage to each other Sunday night that couldn’t be repaired with a paper towel. No lives were lost, no blood was shed and no innocent moppets were led astray to lives of debauchery.

If you have never extended your middle finger to some clodhopper who changed lanes in front of you on the highway, God bless you.

If you have never uttered an obscenity after smashing your thumb with a hammer, you’ll have a much easier path to heaven than I.

If you have never wished death (or at least a sudden bout of explosive diarrhea) on the lady who stole your parking spot at the Piggly Wiggly, feel free to continue casting sanctimonious judgment on Bobby Allison, Bubba Wallace and any other NASCAR driver who fails to uphold your wonderfully lofty standards of conduct.

With any luck, they’ll keep you busy for many more years to come.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go outside and yell at some kids to get off my lawn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

CONFIRMED: Bell To Leavine Family Racing In 2020

It's official.

Christopher Bell will drive for Leavine Family Racing in the 2020 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, wheeling the No. 95 Toyota Camry with sponsorship from Rheem and Procore.

In addition, the technical alliance between LFR, Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota Racing Development will also be enhanced. TRD will continue to build the team’s engines and provide technology, data and technical assistance.

Bell’s NASCAR Xfinity Series crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, will join him in the transition to LFR. Ratcliff is no stranger to NASCAR’s premier series, after spending six full seasons serving as a crew chief at JGR with drivers Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth.

Mike Wheeler will remain with LFR and transition to the role of Competition Director, working alongside Ratcliff.  Wheeler currently serves as crew chief of the No. 95 and driver Matt  DiBenedetto. With Wheeler’s promotion, current Competition Director Michael Leavine will become Vice President of Racing Operations for the organization.  

“I’ve said from the start, I want this team to be competitive,” said Bob Leavine, founding owner of LFR. “Christopher is one of the most talented drivers we’ve seen come up through NASCAR’s ranks and together, with JGR and Toyota’s support, I’m confident our team will continue to grow, just as it has this past year. We’re certainly happy to continue to progress our relationship with both JGR and TRD as the technical partnership takes the next step forward.”

Bell is currently competing in his second full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series season for JGR, where he has amassed 15 career victories. Last year, he set a record for most wins (seven) by a rookie in the series. With seven victories already in 2019, Bell currently ranks first in the championship point standings.

“Since I was young, I wanted to make a career out of racing,” said Bell. “To take this next step and race in the NASCAR Cup Series with the support of LFR, JGR and Toyota is just a dream come true. It also means a lot to me to have Rheem make the move to Cup racing with me. I wouldn’t be in the position I am today without their support and I’m also excited to have the opportunity to represent Procore now.

“Having been under the JGR banner these past seasons in the Xfinity Series and with TRD for as long as I can remember, having their continued support as I transition to LFR is extremely comforting and will be a tremendous benefit to me. I can’t wait to close out this season in the Xfinity Series with a strong run, and I’m looking forward to the challenge that awaits in 2020.”

A native of Norman, Oklahoma, Bell began his career racing on local dirt tracks around the Midwest. He then moved on to compete in USAC Racing’s National Midget Series where he joined TRD’s driver development program and won the 2013 title.

Bell’s NASCAR career started in 2015 racing a Toyota Tundra in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. Just two years later, he won the 2017 Truck Series championship, and that same year he captured the first of three-consecutive Chili Bowl titles (2017, 2018, 2019) driving a TRD-powered Midget for Keith Kunz Motorsports.

“TRD and Toyota have worked with Bell since his early dirt track career and we’ve been proud to see him work his way to NASCAR’s highest level,” said David Wilson, president of TRD. “Christopher is a special talent and we’re happy to have him winning races and championships in a Toyota. We look forward to seeing his continued growth and success at Leavine Family Racing in 2020. We’re also pleased with how the relationship between JGR and LFR has progressed during their first season working together. We’re confident this enhanced alliance for 2020 will continue to make them a threat for race wins, week in and week out.”

Monday, September 23, 2019

Newman On The Cusp Of Playoff Advancement

Ryan Newman continues to do more with less.

Just two weeks after sliding into the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs on points, the Roush Fenway Racing veteran now appears ready to advance to the postseason Round of 12.

A season best fifth-place finish in Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond boosted Newman above the cutline for advancement, heading into Sunday’s first elimination race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL. Newman qualified 19th, drove immediately into the Top-10 at the drop of the green flag and ran as high as third in the race’s middle stages. He spent the entire evening racing strongly among the Top-8, displaying a degree of speed that RFR has often struggled to attain this season.  

He now ranks ninth in the postseason standings -- 14 ahead bubble man Alex Bowman – and likely needs nothing more than another Top-10 showing on the ROVAL to advance to the second round.

It’s been a long time since Newman has ranked among NASCAR’s title contenders. He fell just one spot short of a championship at Homestead Miami Speedway in 2014 – despite not winning a race – but has ranked between 11th and 18th in each of the last four seasons. A lackluster 17th-place effort preceded his move from Richard Childress Racing to Roush Fenway Racing this season, giving Jack Roush’s organization a much-needed infusion of veteran experience.

It has taken a while to turn things around, and Newman readily admits that there is much more work to do. But his analytical, “steady as she goes” approach has proven to be just what the doctor ordered for an RFR team that is struggling to regain its once-lofty perch among NASCAR’s elite organizations.

“There are a lot of teams that would like to be in our situation,” said Newman late in the regular season. “There are a lot of teams better than (us) that would love to be fighting for a playoff berth. We will do what we can to be the best we can and enjoy the race. There is a lot going on, but I definitely enjoy it.”

Saturday night, after raising the RFR bar yet again, a characteristically low-key Newman analyzed a performance that brought him – perhaps unexpectedly – to the brink of the Round of 12.

“It was a good team effort, (with) good pit stops,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot to (our strategy); just put four tires on. But we had a good short-run car. At one time, we had a good long-run car, but we could never get both. If we would have had both, we could have ran with those (Joe Gibbs Racing) guys, but who would have known there were going to be that many green flag runs?

Newman called Richmond, “Our best team performance all-around, throughout the entire weekend. We failed at qualifying. We got the car too tight, but overall, it was a great team effort to get the Roush Performance Ford a good run.

“What meant the most to me was being better than we were the first race (in the spring),” he added. “We ran ninth in the first race and qualified 30th or something like that. We came back and showed that we are learning, and we’ll keep learning.”

With 36 points added to his playoff total, the Indiana native now owns a 14-point edge over Alex Bowman; the first driver below the cutoff line.

“I don’t know that I’m looking forward to the ROVAL,” he admitted. “I don’t really know anybody that is, except for maybe Truex. Our team is so new. It is newer than I have ever experienced,” he admitted. “The changes we had in the offseason, I think were underestimated by me. (It was) a huge change to tackle.

“I feel like we have done a good job,” he said. “We just need to continue to progress and make our cars go faster. Good things need to turn into great things. Those experiences will hopefully build a notebook… and help us be more successful.”

Monday, September 09, 2019

Now That It's Over, 100 Words On Jimmie Johnson

No blaming the rules.

No complaining that the cars are too easy (or hard) to drive. 

No bitching that it’s too tough to pass

No blaming his manufacturer, team or problems on pit road. 

No whining that William Byron and Kurt Busch were “racing too hard.” 

No snapping at reporters.

No pouting, sulking, or one-word answers. 

No air of entitlement.

No insistence that it was a bad race because he didn’t win. 

Not every king wears a crown.

Not every champion wins a trophy. 

Today more than ever, Jimmie Johnson is a champion, in every sense of the word.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Labonte Joins Motor Racing Network at Darlington

Motor Racing Network will add another NASCAR Hall of Famer to its 50-year long list of guest analysts during Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at Darlington Raceway, when  2020 inductee Bobby Labonte handles the role of guest analyst in the MRN booth.

"I am really looking forward to joining the MRN booth for this weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington, it's something I've wanted to do," said Labonte. "I still love racing and have always loved racing, so to have the opportunity to talk about it live while it's happening is going to be really fun for me."

Labonte is no stranger to success at “The Track Too Tough to Tame.” The 1991 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion has a pair of series wins at Darlington. He also won the 2000 Southern 500 on his way to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship that year.

He joins an illustrious list of NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductees who have worked a broadcast for Motor Racing Network, including drivers Ned Jarrett (Class of 2011), Rusty Wallace (Class of 2013), Dale Jarrett (Class of 2014), Benny Parsons (Class of 2017) and Bobby Labonte (Class of 2020), along with Squire-Hall Media Award recipients Barney Hall (2013), Ken Squier (2013) and Chris Economaki (2014).

Coverage from Darlington Raceway begins with two MENCS practices today (Friday) at 2pm and 4pm ET. On Saturday, the action continues with Bojangles’ Southern 500 qualifying at 2pm ET and the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at 3:30pm ET, on and the NASCAR Mobile app. The weekend culminates with Sunday’s running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at 5pm ET, heard locally in Darlington on WEGX – 92.9 FM and nationally on 390 radio stations, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90,, and the NASCAR Mobile app.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Motor Racing Network Backs Sorenson at Darlington

Motor Racing Network will partner with Spire Motorsports as the sponsor of the No. 77 Motor Racing Network Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, driven by Reed Sorenson, for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend.

The livery will pay tribute to MRN’s 50 years as “The Voice of NASCAR” and celebrate 11 radio stations who have carried and supported NASCAR racing since the network’s inception.

“Our radio partners are the original ambassadors of Motor Racing Network and this sport,” said Cheryl Knight, Director of Radio Partnerships. “Every one of our 600 stations has played a significant role in MRN’s growth and success. Having 11 stations air our broadcasts consistently since 1970 is remarkable and we are proud to honor them this weekend by placing their call letters on the No.77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.”

While many teams are throwing back to “old school” paint schemes and team sponsors, Spire Motorsports felt nothing said “throwback” more than the historic radio network formed in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1970.

“The Motor Racing Network has brought us all so many great calls over the years”, said Spire Motorsports co-owner Jeff Dickerson. “It’s a true honor to collaborate with MRN and celebrate such an incredible milestone at Darlington Raceway. We all have memorable moments that have been narrated by some of the most iconic voices in the sport. Honoring 50 years of MRN is really special.”

Although it will be a first for the network to call a race with an MRN car in the field, the nostalgia of the Southern 500 made it an easy decision.

“We jumped at the opportunity to partner with Spire Motorsports and Darlington Raceway to celebrate Motor Racing Network’s 50th year during the Bojangles’ Southern 500 weekend," said Chris Schwartz, President of MRN. “The car looks terrific and represents so many talented folks that have worked for -- and on behalf of -- the network for five decades.”

Coverage from Darlington begins with two MENCS practices on Friday, August 30 at 2pm and 4pm ET. 

On Saturday, the action continues with Bojangles’ Southern 500 qualifying at 2pm ET and finishes up with the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at 3:30pm ET. All MENCS on-track activity and all race events can be heard on and the NASCAR Mobile app. 

The weekend culminates with Sunday’s running of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at 5pm ET, which can be heard locally in Darlington on WEGX – 92.9 FM and nationally on 390 radio stations, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio Channel 90,, and the NASCAR Mobile app.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

UPDATE: Dippel Reinstated, Possession Charge Dropped

NASCAR rescinded Tyler Dippel's indefinite suspension late yesterday, and his problems with the law appear to be solved, as well.

The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver was suspended late last week after a traffic stop in his hometown of Wallkill, NY. He was stopped for driving 80 mph in a 65-mph zone and making an unsignalled lane change, and allowed officials to search his truck. That search revealed a bottle of prescription medication in a backpack that was not prescribed to either Dippel or his passenger.
Dippel was arrested and charged with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance; a Class A misdemeanor. He appeared in Orange County Court Wednesday and had those charges dropped, after the owner of the pill bottle presented a sworn affidavit saying that the backpack in question was his and had accidentally been left in the back of the truck without Dippel’s knowledge.
“We presented proof that the prescription was not mine and the person that the prescription belonged to accepted responsibility for leaving them in my vehicle,” said Dippel in a Facebook statement today. “Because it was in my vehicle, I was charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance. I contacted NASCAR within hours to inform them of the situation. Due to the NASCAR rule book and code of conduct, they ruled to suspend me indefinitely. I respect their decision.”
Orange County chief assistant district attorney Christopher Borek confirmed to NBC Sports that the possession charge has been dropped. Dippel pled guilty to a charge of failure to stay in his lane and speeding. He paid a fine of $150 and a $93 surcharge, and points were applied to his driver’s license.
NASCAR has not reinstated Dippel, but the 19-year old said he is hopeful to return to competition soon.
“I along with my team will work closely with NASCAR to hopefully be reinstated so I can be back in the Young’s Motorsports No. 02 Chevrolet,” he said. “I take full responsibility for my actions.”

Monday, August 26, 2019

FS1: Dippel Charged With Possession of a Controlled Substance.

More details are emerging on the indefinite suspension of Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Tyler Dippel, who was sidelined late last week for violating NASCAR’s Member Conduct Guidelines.

FS1’s Alan Cavanna and Bob Pockrass are reporting today that Dippel is accused of violating Section 12.1 of the NASCAR Rule Book for “actions detrimental to stock car racing” after New York State Police charged him with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.

The 19-year old driver was stopped by state troopers after being clocked at more than 80 mph in his hometown of Wallkill, NY on Sunday, August 18. He gave verbal consent to search his vehicle, and a prescription pill bottle belonging to neither occupant was discovered inside a backpack. Troopers say the bottle contained amphetamine and dextroamphetamine, key ingredients in the prescription drug Adderall.

Troopers say Dippel and his unnamed passenger gave conflicting stories about their destination and the ownership of the prescription bottle.

Possession of those substances without a prescription is a Class A misdemeanor.

This is not Dippel’s first 2019 brush with the law. He was charged with misdemeanor reckless driving during Martinsville Speedway’s March race weekend, after reportedly nearly striking a police officer. He eventually pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of improper driving.

He will appear in court on Wednesday at 9 am in Middletown, NY to answer these latest charges.

Monday, August 19, 2019

COMMENTARY: DiBenedetto Making A Strong Case For NASCAR Inclusion

Saturday night, Matt DiBenedetto strode onto the Driver Introduction stage at Bristol Motor Speedway to the pulsating beat of the “Rocky” theme, wearing boxing gloves and a red-and-gold robe with the phrase “Italian Stallion” enblazoned on the back.
Just over three hours later, the California native looked even more like Rocky Balboa, slumping against his car -- beaten but unbowed -- after a dramatic heavyweight slugfest with winner Denny Hamlin that left a monstrous Bristol crowd roaring its approval and chanting his name.
Saturday’s career-best runner-up finish capped a rollercoaster week for DiBenedetto. Just four days earlier, he had been informed of plans to replace him in the No, 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota next season, most likely with promising youngster Christopher Bell. He responded – not with anger and animosity – but with a stirring performance that saw him lead 93 laps in the race’s final stage until contact with Ryan Newman caused front-end damage that affected the handling of his Toyota and left him a sitting duck to Hamlin’s late-race charge.
“When I was marching through the field, I was hoping somebody else would pass him so I didn’t have to take the win away,” Hamlin said. “I knew I was going to get him. I was just thinking, `There are a lot of people at home and a lot of people in the stands that probably don’t want to see this happen.’”
Hamlin made the decisive pass with just 12 laps remaining, then motored away to a margin that was too much for DiBenedetto to overcome, while still tantalizingly close. DiBenedetto called it “like being stabbed a hundred times in the chest,” a pain that Hamlin admitted to sharing in the celebratory hubbub of Victory Lane.
“Matt is doing a phenomenal job of showing his résumé in front of everyone,” added Hamlin. “He doesn’t need to type it out. He’s going out there and performing. He will land as good or better on his feet after this year.
“I am certain of it.”
One after another, rival drivers stepped through the throng surrounding DiBenedetto’s steaming Toyota to offer their congratulations, their condolences and their sympathy for an on-track performance that was so close… and yet so far.
Chase Elliott, Daniel SuarezRyan BlaneyClint Bowyer, even retired series champion Jeff Gordon alternately shook his hand, thumped him on the chest or locked him in a series of bear hugs, hoping to somehow ease the pain of being second-best on a night where only first would do.

None of it worked, at least right away.
“It was hard to hold it together with all those drivers coming up to me,” DiBenedetto said. “It’s amazing to have earned that respect from them.
“I wanted to win so bad for these guys, for this team, for them giving me this opportunity,” he said, his voice choked with emotion. “I'm just thankful that they gave me this opportunity. But man, I'm sad. We got tight after the deal with Newman, when he came up into us. All of a sudden, it got really tight after that.

“Congrats to Denny. He raced hard. I've been a fan of his since I was a kid. To be racing door to door with him at Bristol, in front of a great group of fans. I'll try not to get emotional, but it's been a tough week. I just want to stick around and keep doing this for a long time to come. I love it. I love the opportunity. I'm not done yet.

The former Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver walked to Victory Lane after the race, where he and Hamlin locked in a long embrace. Hamlin spoke quietly, sharing words that both drivers insisted would remain private. As they separated, DiBenedetto said simply, “That means more than you know.
“This journey has made me strong and I would not change it for the world,” he insisted to reporters afterward. “It makes you appreciate being here 1,000 times more. This journey has beat me down on the ground more than I can possibly explain.
“It’s hard. It’s really hard. I’m glad it’s been hard. I want to appreciate it the most that I can. I want it to make me fight and claw and dig as hard as I possibly can, and that’s what this journey has done.”
DiBenedetto’s roller-coaster ride has also not been lost on NASCAR fans. His pass for the lead elicited the loudest ovation of the night, as fans wearing a rainbow of other drivers’ apparel suddenly found themselves rooting hard for the underdog affectionately known as “Guido DiBurrito.”
They roared even louder when he appeared on Bristol’s “Collossus” video screen after the race; an ovation so thunderous that it stopped him in mid-sentence, no longer able to speak through the emotion.
It has been a long road since DiBenedetto made his Cup Series debut with the underfunded BK Racing organization. It’s been even longer since he was forced to accept a series of start-and-park Xfinity Series jobs, just to keep his name in the garage after a lack of sponsorship trimmed his JGR developmental schedule to just seven races in 2009-2010.
Not enough money. Not enough time. Not enough opportunity.
But Saturday night, for 93 magical laps, DiBenedetto erased all doubt about what he can do, if only given a chance.
Hopefully, someone was watching.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

COMMENTARY: Does Anyone Want The Final Spot In NASCAR's Playoffs?

With just three races remaining before the start of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, it appears that nobody wants the final spot in the 16-man championship field.

In the last 30 days, title contenders Clint Bowyer and Jimmie Johnson have struggled mightily, youngster Daniel Suarez has made inconsistent bids for a Top-16 berth, while veteran Ryan Newman has done just enough to keep his head above water.

Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, both Johnson and Bowyer crashed their way to back-of the-pack finishes, allowing Suarez to erase a major deficit with a fifth-place finish that left him just six points below the playoff cutoff line.

Johnson’s day was over almost before it began. He slapped the wall exiting Turn Two on Lap 15, pancaking the right side of his Hendrick Motorsports Ally Chevrolet. A series of pit stops immediately left him four laps down, and the seven-time series champion continued to struggle for the remainder of the afternoon, finishing eight laps behind in 34th place.

“The right-side tires went into the PJ1 and as soon as I got my tires in it, I went straight into the wall,” said a sheepish Johnson afterward. “When you’re aggressive, it doesn’t work. Then sometimes you’re cautious and it doesn’t work. It was a great car. That hurt, for sure. We’re just going to have to rally on. We’ll keep digging.

“It’s super disappointing,” Johnson said. “But I’m (the man) behind the wheel, and I’m the one that got us in the fence.”

Johnson was in trouble early at MIS
Johnson’s demise left the door wide open for Bowyer, who came to the Irish Hills 16th in points after running as high as ninth earlier in the 2019 campaign. His Stewart Haas Racing team failed to capitalize, however, despite a fifth-place qualifying effort that raised hopes for a solid finish. Bowyer languished well outside the Top-10 for most of the day, before tangling with Paul Menard and walloping the Turn 3 wall on a Lap 137 restart. Severe damage to his One Cure Ford Mustang forced him to the garage with 61 laps remaining, en route to a disappointing 37th-place finish.

“Somebody got in the back of me,” said an incredulous Bowyer. “When I went around, I saw Bowman and thought it was him. I guess maybe (it was) the 21. As soon as it happened, I was just along for the ride.

Bowyer continues to tumble.
“We have to get something figured out with these race tracks,” he added. “We are really fast by ourselves, practicing and qualifying really well; in the Top-5 almost every single time. But then we start the race and don't make the grip we need to compete. We definitely need to figure some things out. You can talk about the bubble and worry about points, but I am way more worried about getting established and running up front at these types of race tracks.

“If you make the Playoffs and can’t compete, then what’s the use? We have some time. We have some good race tracks for us -- including Bristol -- coming up. We have plenty of racing, but we have to get some things figured out.”

After the points were tallied Sunday, Johnson had dropped two spots to 18th in the championship standings, 12 points behind both Bowyer and Ryan Newman. Suarez is now back in the hunt in 17th, trailing Newman and Bowyer by just four points, eight in front of Johnson.

“It was a decent day for us,” said Suarez, after a fifth-place showing that included overnight repairs from a practice crash. “We had ups and downs. There was something wrong, a bad set of tires or something in that second stage. We couldn’t control it.

“The team was able to overcome that with good adjustments and they put me back in the game with track position, and we were able to get a good result from there.”

Johnson, who has qualified for the playoffs every year since the format was introduced in 2004, said it best Sunday, noting that “the guys around that cutoff point all seem to be having bad luck.”

With just three races left before the playoff tickets are punched, it’s time for someone to step-up and prove that they belong.