Monday, September 09, 2019
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
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.
Thursday, August 29, 2019
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 MRN.com 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, MRN.com, NASCAR.com and the NASCAR Mobile app.
Wednesday, August 28, 2019
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
New York State Police charged him with seventh degree criminal possession of a controlled substance.
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
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 Suarez, Ryan Blaney, Clint 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.
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
|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.
|Bowyer continues to tumble.|
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
Darlington Raceway and the Motor Racing Network will celebrate MRN’s 50th anniversary by giving away some very special opportunities for fans that attend the track’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500.
All fans that purchase the track’s Stripe Zone Hospitality package for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sept. 1, will automatically be entered to win some experiences of a lifetime courtesy of MRN.
The experiences include:
Hot Laps on race day with MRN Analyst and NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace – your opportunity to ride shotgun with a living legend and make laps hours before the green flag drops on the Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Honorary MRN Pit Reporter – Shadow an award-winning pit reporter for Stage 1 of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 and get up close to the cars and stars of NASCAR like never before.
MRN Booth Visit – Get a behind the scenes look at the Motor Racing Network’s coverage of the Bojangles’ Southern 500 from high atop Darlington Raceway in the race control tower and watch Rusty Wallace, Jeff Striegle and Alex Hayden call the action.
Turn 3 with Mike Bagley – Soak up some non-stop racing from the best seat in the house! Join MRN’s Mike Bagley for a few laps as he calls the race above the action in turn 3 at the track Too Tough To Tame.
“I can’t think of a better place to celebrate MRN’s 50th anniversary than at the legendary Darlington Raceway,” said Chris Schwartz, President of MRN. “We are so excited to partner with Kerry and the team at Darlington to present these exclusive experiences to a few lucky Stripe Zone fans.”
On August 16, 2019, a random drawing will take place among Darlington’s Stripe Zone hospitality customers with the winners being contacted prior to the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on Sept. 1.
Additionally, MRN’s broadcast team members will make an appearance on race day in the Stripe Zone hospitality tent, conducting a question and answer session for fans that day.
“We appreciate the wonderful relationship we have with MRN and appreciate their efforts in providing a few of our lucky hospitality customers these unique experiences,” track President Kerry Tharp said. “Congratulations to MRN and their 50 years of broadcasting NASCAR races to fans all over the United States and throughout the World.”
For complete contest rules and information visit www.DarlingtonRaceway.com/MRN50th.
Monday, July 29, 2019
|Jones was strong again at Pocono|
Erik Jones finished third behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex, Jr. Sunday at Pocono Raceway, continuing the most successful streak of his brief, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.
Preceded by third-place finishes at both Kentucky and New Hampshire -- and with Top-10 showings in eight of his last 11 starts -- the Byron, Michigan youngster has solidified his playoff hopes dramatically in the last six weeks, surging from 18th to 13th in the championship standings.
Ironically, he may need every bit of that success to keep his job at JGR.
Not long ago, Jones was seen as an unassailable part of Gibbs’ long-term plan. But with resurgent veteran Denny Hamlin banishing the memories of a winless 2018 campaign with his third victory of the season at Pocono Sunday and Toyota wunderkind Christopher Bell winning Xfinity Series races virtually at will, Jones now finds his future in question with an organization that will soon have more elite drivers than available seats.
After replacing former series champion Matt Kenseth in JGR’s No. 20 Toyota just two years ago, Jones is in the final year of his contract. While all parties have spoken about the possibility of an extension, no such contract has yet been signed.
|Jones hears the rumors.|
"It's so hard putting everything together," admitted Gibbs Sunday at Pocono. "I know people get frustrated because you haven't made a decision yet on some things. But I just say this: there are sponsors involved, so many relationships involved, you're trying to get through that and work it all out. That's part of Erik's world. It doesn't go easy sometimes. He knows. I keep him updated (and) he knows we're working as hard as we can. Hopefully, it will be one of those things we get put in place here pretty quick."
Gibbs’ lukewarm endorsement did little to silence the speculators, and with Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex, Jr. going nowhere in 2020, it appears that either Jones or Bell may be headed to Leavine Family Racing next season; either as a replacement for Matt DiBenedetto or as driver of a new, second LFR Toyota.
Both Jones and Bell hear the scuttlebutt. They know the importance of running up front – every single week -- and showcasing their value to an organization that will soon have a critical decision to make.
“We’ve had some good meetings, positive meetings, so we’re moving in the right direction,” said Jones two weeks ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “I’d love to get it done here soon. We’ve had good meetings between my guys and JGR. I’ve had good meetings with Coach talking about it and moving forward. I know I keep saying it, but I feel like we’re pretty close to getting it done.
“I want to get it done. We both want to get it done and move forward and stop worrying about it and stop focusing on it, but we’re close. Hopefully here soon.”
|Christopher Bell just keeps winning.|
For his part, Bell admitted feeling powerless to determine his future path, telling reporters, “I think you know as much as I do. Actually, you probably know a little bit more than I do. Ultimately, it’s not up to me. I can’t make the decisions. I’m just along for the ride.”
He also commented on rumors of a possible move to Leavine Family Racing, saying, “I learned early on in my career that a race car driver is only as good as the equipment. I definitely want to make sure that I’m in equipment that can win.”
Bell is clearly a blue-chip prospect, with Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson stating repeatedly that the Oklahoma speedster, “will never drive anything but a Toyota in NASCAR National Series competition.”
With a finite number of seats available in NASCAR’s premier series, however, something has got to give, and soon. Toyota has historically emphasized quality over quantity in its MENCS efforts, fielding a smaller number of cars, while devoting a higher level of resources to each. That approach has paid clear dividends, with both JGR and Furniture Row Racing contending annually for the championship and winning multiple titles.
Jones and Bell have not competed head-to-head since the end of the 2017 Xfinity Series season. But make no mistake about it, they are in direct competition today, battling for one of the premier seats in all of NASCAR.
May the best man win.
Monday, July 22, 2019
With just six races remaining in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season, there is as much attention being paid to the bottom of the championship ladder as the top.
Just 101 points separate 13th place from 21st in the regular-season standings, with no fewer than nine drivers fighting over the final four spots on the playoff grid. Kyle Larson is now ranked 13th, 31 points above the cutoff line. Hot off a third-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sunday, Erik Jones climbed to 14th in the standings, 28 points to the good. Ryan Newman helped his cause with a seventh-place finish at the Magic Mile, jumping to 15th in the standings, 21 points above the Danger Zone. Clint Bowyer (20th in New Hampshire) is now on the hot seat as the final playoff qualifier, 17 points ahead of multi-time series champion Jimmie Johnson.
Johnson finished 30th Sunday -- 13 laps down -- continuing an up-and-down season that has seen him dancing on the edge of the playoff blade, virtually every week.
With just two laps remaining in the second stage of Sunday’s Johnson was poised to claim a handful of much-needed bonus points. He was sixth on a Lap 149 restart, but ran into the back of another car as the green flag waved, creating debris that damaged the pulleys on the front of his Ally Chevrolet’s engine. Those damaged pulleys quickly spit the power steering and water pump belts, plummeting him through the field and forcing him to pit road for lengthy repairs.
“It was certainly a letdown, to say the least,” said Johnson after the race. “We had some issues with the power steering and the water pump pulleys. I thought it might have been from some
contact on the restart. I got into the back of the car in front of
“They told me that wasn’t the case, so I assume some debris got in the pulley system and took out my power steering and the water pump as well. It’s just unlucky on that front. (It was) certainly the wrong time of year to have bad luck.”
Less than a month ago, after posting back-to-back Top-5 finishes at Chicagoland and Daytona, the Hendrick Motorsports driver looked ready to return to his customary championship form. Consecutive 30th-place results at Kentucky and New Hampshire have dropped him from 15th to 17th in the championship chase, however, and his involvement in the 2019 postseason is once again in doubt, to say the least.
He is currently tied with Stewart Haas Racing youngster Daniel Suarez for 17th in the regular-season standings, trailed by Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Chris Buescher; all of whom are still mathematically eligible (though highly unlikely) to make the playoffs on points.
“We’ve been trying all year,” said Johnson, the only driver to qualify for the postseason every year since NASCAR invoked its playoff-style format in 2004. “It’s not like we can magically flip a switch and all of a sudden have more. We’ve been able to run in the Top-5 and we need to get back to doing that. That’s really what it boils down to.”
“(This is) certainly the wrong time of the year to have some bad luck,” he added. “The guys I’m worried about in the points didn’t have the best day either, so maybe I got a pass on this one. I’m just disappointed to say the least.”
While Joey Logano and Kyle Busch continue their mano-a-mano battle for the 2019 regular season title, the next six weeks will almost certainly focus an increased amount of attention on the final few seats at the playoff dance.