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.