Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Breast Gate" Provides Valuable Lesson In Social Media

Kasey Kahne was shopping in a Mooresville, NC, grocery store yesterday when he unexpectedly encountered a woman breastfeeding her baby. What followed was a textbook example of the power of social media, and explains why some public figures, athletes and celebrities are now reluctant to comment candidly on social networking sites.

“Just walking through supermarket,” wrote Kahne on Twitter yesterday. “See a mom breast feeding little kid. Took second look because I was obviously seeing things. I wasn't!" He described the scene further, tweeting, “One boob put away, one boob hanging!! #nasty,” before adding, “I don't feel like shopping anymore or eating."

His comments ignited a firestorm of controversy and a torrent of negative feedback. One woman wrote, “I hope someday you have a kid and someone tells your wife that feeding your child looks nasty." Kahne then poured additional fuel on the fire, calling the woman, “a dumb b*tch" to which she replied, “Stay classy a**hole."

While Kahne eventually deleted many of his more colorful comments, “Breast-gate” was eventually picked up by news outlets and wire services around the world. Late yesterday, the driver issued an apology via Twitter and a more lengthy explanation on his Facebook page, writing, "I understand that my comments regarding breastfeeding posted on Twitter were offensive to some people. For that, I apologize.

“It was in no way my intention to offend any mother who chooses to breastfeed her child, or, for that matter, anyone who supports breastfeeding children,” wrote Kahne. “I want to make that clear. In all honestly, I was surprised by what I saw in a grocery store. I shared that reaction with my fans on Twitter. It obviously wasn't the correct approach, and after reading your feedback, I now have a better understanding of why my posts upset some of you. My comments were not directed at the mother's right to breastfeed. They were just a reaction to the location of that choice, and the fashion in which it was executed on that occasion.

"I respect the mother's right to feed her child whenever and wherever she pleases."

Whether or not you agree with Kahne’s stance on breastfeeding in public, there is no question that he violated the cardinal rule of social networking: “Never say something you may later regret.” Used properly, social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook are valuable tools for professional athletes and other public figures. Five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is a poster boy for proper Twitter use, communicating daily with fans and displaying a sense of humor that is not always on display at the race track. Like Johnson, Brad Keselowski uses social networking to his advantage, speaking directly to followers, answering their questions and sharing snippets of information on both his private life and racing career. Even controversial figures like Kurt and Kyle Busch use social networking, showing their calmer, more human side in a series of spontaneous interactions with fans.

Clearly, there are both good and bad sides to social media. Today’s digitally connected world allows an unprecedented degree of contact and interaction with the general public. But as Kasey Kahne learned this week, not all interaction is of the positive variety.

An Open Letter To Readers

Dear Friends,

When I started, I did not allow visitors to post comments. Honestly, I feared having this site become the kind of profanity filled cesspool so many other online racing sites have become over the years. I was eventually convinced to allow visitor commentary, and the vast majority of readers have made the most of the opportunity.

Unfortunately, a handful of our "Anonymous" posters have taken advantage of this forum to post a series of extremely hateful, expletive-filled comments in recent weeks.

One way or another, it's going to stop.

If you are physically incapable of communicating without four-letter words, we don't want you here. If you are incapable of having a discussion without insulting those who disagree with you, you are also not wanted. If you cannot discuss NASCAR without wishing someone dead, I invite you to spend your online time elsewhere.

I will continue to delete offensive comments; every single one of them, without fail. They take 15 minutes to write, and less than a second to delete with a single click of the mouse.

It's really very simple. is my site. I pay the bills, I post the content, and I make the rules. If you love NASCAR and enjoy talking with people who share that love, you are welcome here.

If you're a foul-mouthed lout who cannot abide by the "no profanity, no name-calling" rule, feel free to boycott this site and go elsewhere. You will not be missed.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

J-Mac, Dinger Tune Up At Daytona

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. -- 2010 Daytona 500 champion Jamie McMurray and fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star AJ Allmendinger, who recently signed to drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge for Penske Racing, are enjoying their off-seasons by returning to their roots; karting.

The drivers are among approximately 1,200 entrants participating in the annual Daytona KartWeek World Karting Association events at Daytona International Speedway. Practice began today, with races scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

Hundreds of karters from across the country are spending their holidays at Daytona International Speedway participating in World Karting Association events on three different courses; the 3.56-mile road course, the sprint track located in Turns 3 and 4 and the quarter-mile dirt track outside Turns 1 and 2.

Tickets for Daytona KartWeek can be purchased at Ticket Booth E above the Turn 1 tunnel. A two-day pass for racing events on Thursday, Dec. 29 and Friday, Dec. 30 is $25. Single-day passes for races on Friday, Dec. 30 only are available for $15.

COMMENTARY: Is JGR Justified In Removing Busch From Nationwide, Trucks? first reported last week that Kyle Busch will slash his involvement in the NASCAR Camping World Truck and (possibly) NASCAR Nationwide Series next season at the request of Joe Gibbs Racing. That report unleashed a torrent of debate that shows no sign of subsiding.

Kyle Busch Motorsports has fielded one of the most successful Truck Series operations in recent years, with Busch winning six times in just 16 series starts last season. KBM will field Toyotas on the NASCAR Nationwide Series for the first time in 2012, and initial plans called for Busch to compete regularly in both Nationwide and Trucks, in addition to his full-time Sprint Cup championship effort with Gibbs. But KBM General Manager Rick Ren confirmed last week that Busch will probably not run any Truck Series races in 2012, and may not compete in the Nationwide Series either; all at the request of JGR.

Since that announcement, has hosted a lively debate on the topic, with Kyle Busch fans protesting what they consider unfair treatment of Busch by JGR and its sponsor M&Ms, while Busch’s detractors argue that he got what he deserved.

The debate raises some interesting questions about just how much control a team should have over its driver; both on and off the race track. There is no doubt that both JGR and M&Ms were damaged when Busch wrecked Ron Hornaday under caution at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch was parked by NASCAR and not allowed to take part in that weekend’s Sprint Cup Series race, with substitute driver Michael McDowell finishing a disappointing 33rd. In light of the controversy that followed, M&Ms chose to remove itself from JGR’s #18 Toyota for the final two races of the season at Phoenix and Homestead, costing them exposure and the team money. Busch’s Texas ban – and two more bad days at Phoenix and Homestead – dropped him to 12th in the final championship standings; resulting in another significant financial blow to the team.

Does Joe Gibbs Racing have the right to restrict Kyle Busch’s participation in the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series? As an employer that pays him millions of dollars each year to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series -- dollars that almost certainly helped finance the construction and continued operation of Kyle Busch Motorsports – is JGR within its rights to have Busch race only for them in 2012?

For the record, Joe Gibbs has not always restricted his drivers to the Sprint Cup Series, or even to NASCAR. Tony Stewart is notorious for racing Sprint Cars and midgets on off weekends from Sprint Cup competition, and Kasey Kahne raised a few eyebrows by flipping a 410 Sprint Car out of the park at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway last summer.

In the past, other team owners have also requested that their drivers avoid taking part in non-Sprint Cup Series events. Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon rarely compete in the Nationwide and Truck Series, honoring team owner Rick Hendrick’s wish that they concentrate on their Sunday jobs and not endanger themselves by taking part in other forms of racing.

Nobody – Joe Gibbs Racing nor anyone else -- can force Busch to withdraw from the Nationwide and Truck Series. They can, however, make it a condition of his continued employment and allow him to decide where his priorities lie. If Busch insists on running the Nationwide and Truck Series’ next season, he can do so, full-time, immediately after resigning from the seat of JGR’s #18 Sprint Cup Toyota.

None of us expect him to do so.

My bosses here at MRN Radio do not allow me to work for other motorsports media outlets; a restriction I consider to be both fair and reasonable. Joe Gibbs Racing seems to be asking the same of Kyle Busch. At the very least, Joe and JD Gibbs seem to want Busch to drive JGR equipment – and only JGR equipment -- next season. That way, if he does something goofy that jeopardizes their team and its sponsors, at least he'll have done it on their watch.

Randy Hill Racing Splits With Spraker Enterprises

Officials from Randy Hill Racing announced today that the team has parted ways with Spraker Racing Enterprises and crew chief/team manager Jeff Spraker, effective immediately.

The change leaves both companies with sufficient time to solidify new opportunities and options for the 2012 racing season. “We are extremely appreciative to Jeff and all of his employees for helping ignite our program in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards and NASCAR Nationwide Series,” said Randy Hill, owner of Randy Hill Racing. “Our team wishes them nothing but the best in their future endeavors.”

Hill, a Texas entrepreneur who still plans to field an entry in the NASCAR Nationwide Series next season added, “We’re very close to finalizing everything for 2012. We will be at Daytona for the Nationwide race and we’re looking forward to having Casey Roderick at the helm of our Zer08 (No. 08) Ford Mustang.

"I also feel that the ARCA Racing Series is a great stepping stone," said Hill. "ARCA was incredibly welcoming to us when we made our debut at Iowa Speedway in July. We brought Ross Chastain to their open test at Daytona International Speedway two weeks ago and we’re hoping to open the door for newer talent as the season draws near. We’re confident in the direction of our team and looking forward to the future and impending seasons ahead.”

Further details on the team’s 2012 effort will be forthcoming after the New Year.

Allgaier Inks Northeastern Supply For 2012

Northeastern Supply, one of the nation’s leading regional distributors of plumbing, heating, HVAC, air conditioning, water systems and hardware supplies will return as a sponsor in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2012 for the 19th consecutive year; serving as an associate sponsor with Turner Motorsports on the #31 Brandt Chevrolet team and driver Justin Allgaier.

“Our NASCAR program has grown significantly over the years, and because of the strong support it receives from our customers and vendors each year, it was a no brainer to make it 19 straight seasons in 2012,” said Steve Cook, Northeastern Supply’s President and CEO.

“The support we have given so many NASCAR teams in the Nationwide Division over the years has been an interesting journey for our company, and because of how they do business and treat their sponsors, it was an easy decision for us to remain with Turner Motorsports for another season,” Cook explained.

“We enjoyed three good seasons backing the efforts of the Great Clips team and drivers Jason Leffler and Kasey Kahne. Now we’ve decided to move over to Justin Allgaier and the #31 Brandt Farm Equipment Chevrolet team in 2012 in hopes of helping them challenge for the championship,” Cook added.

Allgaier has posted two victories in his two seasons of Nationwide competition, finishing fourth and third, respectively, in the 2010 and 2011 driver championships. The 25-year-old Riverton, IL native competed for Penske Racing in 2010, before moving to Chevrolet and Turner Motorsports last season. He recorded six Top-5 and 17 Top-10 finishes, trailing only champion Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and runner-up Elliott Sadler in season-ending points.

Nicknamed “Little Gator” at a young age because of his small size and ferociousness behind the wheel, Allgaier began developing his talents driving quarter midgets and by the time he was 12 had already earned more than 100 feature wins and five championships. He moved to Late Models at age 13, and in 2001 -- at just 14 years of age -- made national headlines by becoming the youngest driver to qualify for the famed Chili Bowl indoor midget event in Tulsa, OK.

Two years later, he debuted in the ARCA RE/MAX Series with a team owned in part by former NASCAR star Ken Schrader. In three starts that season, Allgaier earned a best finish of 11th. He ran all 23 ARCA races the following year, finishing fourth in points with one win, four Top-5 and 11 Top-10 finishes, in addition to winning five UMP Late Model main events and three midget races.

Allgaier eventually won the ARCA RE/MAX Series championship, earning himself a driver development contract with Penske Racing. He made his Nationwide Series debut that same year, before competing full-time in 2009 en route to sixth in championship points. A lack of sponsorship dollars kept Allgaier from continuing with the Penske organization beyond the 2010 season, when he posted his first Nationwide Series victory, two poles, and a fourth-place effort in driver points.

“We’re excited to have Northeastern Supply back in the Turner Motorsports family next year,” Allgaier stated. “I know they have several big events scheduled throughout the year and I’m honored to have the chance to be included and play an integral part in them.”

Allgaier is the latest in an impressive series of drivers who have been sponsored by Northeastern Supply over the years; including Jason Leffler, Kasey Kahne, JJ Yeley, brothers Mike and Kenny Wallace, Jason Keller, Phil Parsons, Sterling Marlin, Hank Parker, Jr. and Kevin Lepage.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kyle Busch Unlikely To Race In Truck Series Next Season; Nationwide Schedule Also In Doubt

Kyle Busch is unlikely to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2012, at the request of Joe Gibbs Racing and their Sprint Cup Series sponsor, M&Ms.

Kyle Busch Motorsports General Manager Rick Ren confirmed today that there is “a high probability” that Busch will withdraw from the 2012 Truck Series. “That topic is being discussed almost constantly around here right now,” he said, adding, “It is not necessarily something that Kyle chose. If he doesn’t run Trucks this year, it will be at the request (of JGR). Not by demand, but by request.”

After winning six races in 16 Truck Series starts last year, Busch was involved in a controversial crash with championship contender Ron Hornaday at Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 4. He did not take part in the NCWTS season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, and M&Ms pulled their sponsorship from his JGR Sprint Cup Series entry for the balance of the season.

“Things change on an hour-by-hour basis,” said Ren today, “but if I had to answer you right now, I’d say he will probably not race in the Truck Series next year. There is a possibility of him running no Nationwide races under certain circumstances, as well. There are a lot of things being discussed right now, which makes it pretty tough on me.

“I’ve been trying to figure out whether Kyle’s going to be available to run our Trucks and Nationwide cars, then determine whether the individual sponsors will stay around without him behind the wheel.” Ren said many of the team’s sponsors came aboard with the understanding that Busch would drive a specified number of races in their entries. Now, with Busch’s participation uncertain at best, many of those negotiations are back to square one.

“I believe Kyle will drive a KBM Nationwide Series Toyota in a certain number of races next year,” said Ren. “I can’t swear to it, but that’s what it looks like today.”

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Red Horse Partners With Joe Gibbs Engines

Red Horse Racing has signed an agreement to participate in Joe Gibbs Racing's engine program for the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign. As part of the agreement, JGR will also provide Red Horse Racing with additional technical support.

JGR's engine program provides engines for NASCAR Camping World Truck and Nationwide Series teams. JGR has been one of NASCAR's most dominant teams in the Nationwide Series over the past four seasons, with three owner's championships in 2008, 2009, 2010. Over that four year span, JGR has won 59 races, with 143 top fives and 205 top-ten finishes.

"We're honored to have Red Horse Racing participate in our engine program," said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. "Everyone in our Nationwide Series program has done an outstanding job over the past several years and certainly our engine program has been a big part of that success. We look forward to helping teams elevate their programs in both the Truck and Nationwide series through our engine program and added technical support."

Red Horse Racing enters its eighth year of Truck Series competition in 2012. Thus far the team has amassed five wins, 46 top-five and 99 top-10 finishes. With their success Red Horse Racing with its drivers and team members have established themselves as one of the premier Truck Series operation in the garage area.

"We are thrilled to announce we are making the move to use Joe Gibbs Racing engines and receive technical support from such an outstanding organization," said Red Horse Racing Managing Partner Tom DeLoach. "JGR has established themselves as the leading Toyota team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series'. As we look toward our new relationship in 2012, our goal is for Red Horse Racing to put Joe Gibbs Racing engines in victory lane for the first time in the Truck Series and to compete for the 2012 Truck Series championship. We are very excited about this opportunity to grow Red Horse Racing and we feel that this new technical and engine relationship combined with the people we have in place is the combination we have been looking for."

It's Official: Kurt To Phoenix Racing In 2012

Kurt Busch says, “I just want to get back to having fun in the race car.”

The 2004 Sprint Cup champion will chase that goal with Phoenix Racing, driving the team's #51 Chevrolet in the full 2012 Sprint Cup schedule.

“I’m very happy to join Phoenix Racing and after entertaining a lot of quality offers, there’s no better place for me,” said Busch, winner of 24 Sprint Cup races, as well as the 2010 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, the 2011 Gatorade Duel and the 2011 Budweiser Shootout. “We’re going to run the full schedule together, and we’re going to have fun doing it.

“It’s going to be old-school racing, where we show up, race hard and go for the win. And if we don’t win, we’ll go back to the shop, work hard and do it all over again next week. That’s the way we all started racing, and it’s great to get back to that.”

Phoenix Racing owner James Finch celebrated his 20th year as a NASCAR team owner in 2011. His Spartanburg, S.C.-based team has won 13 NASCAR races; most notably the April 2009 Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

“All we want to do is win,” Finch said. “Winning is why I’ve been in racing for as long as I have, but NASCAR is a very competitive sport, and winning – especially at the Sprint Cup level – is hard. But now with Kurt Busch as our driver, we have a shot to win every week. He’s a past champion and he’s proven he can win everywhere. Our sponsors are looking forward to Kurt representing their brands.

“We have excellent equipment and a hard-working group of guys who want that trophy at the end of every race. Kurt’s the guy who can deliver it to them.”

Busch will drive the No. 51 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet Impala in 2012, and his first race will be the non-points Budweiser Shootout at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway where he is the defending winner.

“James Finch has always had pretty stout cars for the restrictor plate races and I know we’ll be very competitive at Daytona,” Busch said. “We’ll participate in the test down there in January to get a good handle on our Daytona 500 car, but also to win another Budweiser Shootout.

“Christmas came early for me this year, and I honestly can’t wait for the season to begin.”

The 33-year-old Busch has made the Chase for the Sprint Cup six times since the inception of the Chase in 2004, when he won the series title. His Sprint Cup championship followed the International Race of Champions (IROC) title he won in 2003. And before joining the Sprint Cup ranks in late 2000, Busch was the 1999 NASCAR Southwest Tour champion, where at age 21, he was the youngest driver to win that series’ championship.

Kurt Busch To Phoenix Racing: Ragan/Petty Announcement Could Come Tomorrow

Expect an announcement tomorrow from Phoenix Racing that former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch will drive the team’s No. 51 Security Benefit/Thank A Teacher Today Chevrolet in 2012. Team owner James Finch confirmed the signing to FOX Sports NASCAR reporter Lee Spencer today, and sources close to the team say an official announcement of Busch’s signing will be made tomorrow morning.

The deal is reportedly for one year, and Finch told Fox Sports he is not worried about reining-in his often controversial driver. “I’ve worked with iron workers, I worked with construction workers, so working with a driver is not going to be a problem,” he said. “All we want to do is win.”

Busch parted company with Penske Racing after a profanity laced tirade directed at ESPN pit reporter Jerry Punch and his camera crew at Homestead Miami Speedway in November. Penske Racing announced yesterday that AJ Allmendinger will replace Busch in the team’s No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge next season. Sources say David Ragan is likely to replace Allmendinger in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, with an announcement possible as soon as tomorrow.

Phoenix Racing will campaign Chevrolets built by Hendrick Motorsports again in 2012, after finishing 30th in championship points with driver Landon Cassill last season.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baxter Confirmed At Eddie Sharp Racing

Eddie Sharp Racing confirmed today what Sirius Speedway first reported last Thursday; that veteran crew chief Jerry Baxter will join the team to compete for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship with driver Cale Gale next season. With 20 years of experience in the motorsports industry, the San Diego, Calif., native will lead the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet Silverado team.

“I’m excited to join the team at Eddie Sharp Racing and have the chance to work with Cale Gale,” said Baxter. “Cale has a tremendous desire to be a good driver, the team is keyed up for a new season, and everyone at Rheem seems greatful to have that kind of enthusiasm surround our entire program makes me excited to walk in the shop every day.”

After spending the last few years working with young drivers at Michael Waltrip Racing and Pastrana Waltrip Racing, Baxter will join Eddie Sharp Racing on January 1, 2012. He has previously worked with a roster of drivers that included David Reutimann, Scott Speed, Trevor Bayne, and Ryan Truex.

“I’m really looking forward to this season,” said Baxter. “It’s another challenge with another young driver, and I think it will be a lot of fun. Cale is a great guy.”

“I’m very excited to have Jerry on-board for the 2012 season,” said team owner Eddie Sharp. “He’s a veteran crew chief and has the ability to bring a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to our team. His enthusiasm for the job has everyone else excited for the upcoming season, and I can’t wait to see what he and Cale are able to achieve in the No. 33 Rheem Chevy Silverado.”

Bullins Tapped To Lead Penske Nationwide Team

Penske Racing announced today that Jeremy Bullins has been named crew chief of the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Bullins makes the move from Richard Childress Racing where he most recently served as race engineer for Kevin Harvick's No. 29 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet.

“We are pleased to welcome Jeremy to the Penske Racing team,” said Roger Penske. “His experience and engineering background will allow him to integrate well with our approach to preparing our race cars and executing at the track. We are excited for Jeremy to lead the No. 22 team and to continue with the winning tradition that has been established over the last two seasons.”

Bullins will join a team that has quickly become one of the most successful in NNS competition. Over the course of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, the No. 22 Dodge has scored 12 wins with Brad Keselowski as its primary pilot. In its first season of existence, Keselowski led the No. 22 team to the 2010 NNS title, the first-ever NASCAR championship for Penske Racing. Bullins will take over for Todd Gordon, who last week was promoted to crew chief of the Penske Racing No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“It is an honor to have the opportunity to join Penske Racing and lead this successful program,” said Bullins, who was race engineer for seven Cup Series point-paying wins on the No. 29 car over the last two years. “The No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team is one of the premier teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Not many people get the opportunity to work with a driver of Brad’s caliber in their first crew chief position. I am excited to get to work and get ready for the 2012 season.”

Keselowski will share the driving duties with Penske Racing development driver Parker Kligerman in the No. 22 car during the 2012 campaign. Keselowski, the former series champion, is looking to continue his rise up the NNS all-time wins ladder. With five more victories, Keselowski will enter the top 10 in career wins.

“I am very proud of what we have been able to build over the last two seasons with the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team,” said Keselowski. “I am confident Jeremy can continue to build on that. He brings an impressive resume from a solid organization. It is also good that we were able to move quickly to bring Jeremy aboard Penske Racing so we can all start working together to prepare for 2012.”

"Legends Helping Legends" Set For Feb. 4

The Sixth Annual "Legends Helping Legends" will be held Saturday, Feb. 4 from 10 am to 2 pm at Memory Lane Museum in Mooresville, NC.

Home of the Racers Reunion Hall of Fame, Memory Lane will honor NASCAR's fabulous Flock Family; which consisted of brothers Tim, Bob, Fonty and sister Ethel. All four were extremely talented drivers and hold a number of records to this day. Youngest brother Tim led the family in wins and on-track accomplishment, and his widow, Frances, will be an honored guest at the Feb. 4 event.

A portion of the proceeds will go to the medical fund of the Old Timer’s Racing Club, which helps early racing veterans in need. The group is under the leadership of Mike Sykes, who devotes much of his time to supporting those who served as the true back bones of early auto racing.

The Statesville (NC) Shrine Club will provide food and refreshments for the event, and will have a raffle car on site with proceeds going to the Shriners Children’s Hospitals.

More than 50 racing personalities -- including drivers, mechanics, car owners and others are expected to attend the annual event, supporting the Old Timers Racing Club, meeting fans and signing autographs. Admission to the event is just $10.00 per person. Raffle and door prize drawings will be held, with proceeds also going to the Old Timers Racing Club Medical Fund.

As drivers and racing personalities commit to this year's gathering, they will be posted on the Memory Lane Museum website: Memory Lane is located at 769 River Highway in Mooresville, NC.

Computer Theft Compromises NASCAR Driver Information

NASCAR has informed more than 1,000 drivers and crew members that a laptop computer containing social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and other personal information was stolen last month from an employee of Aegis Laboratories, the company that oversees the sanctioning body’s substance abuse testing program. Aegis administers planned and random drug tests to NASCAR license holders throughout the season, screening samples for banned substances and reporting back to the sanctioning body.

The laptop computer was reported stolen on November 22nd, but many licensees were not informed of the theft until this week.

NASCAR Director of Communications Kerry Tharp said the stolen laptop contained no medical or lab records, only driver’s license and Social Security numbers. He said there have been no reports of any identity theft, adding, “in all likelihood, the person who stole the laptop sold it at a local Pawn Shop without ever knowing what was on it.”

Asked why it took more than 30 days for the involved parties to be notified, Tharp said, “It has taken a while to call everybody and get in touch with them. Aegis first had to notify the appropriate state agencies, and once Aegis reported the theft it to us, we began calling people immediately. Everyone has been notified at this point.”

A written statement from NASCAR said the sanctioning body “is taking every precaution possible to address this situation including contacting all individuals whose names appear on the file. Aegis also is providing outreach and consultation.”

Since the computer file in question was created in 2009, NASCAR and Aegis have instituted a new data-processing system that prevents such an incident from happening again. Aegis is revising its security procedures, encrypting data on laptop computers, and retraining affected employees on confidentiality and security procedures. Aegis has also agreed to supply all involved parties with two years of complimentary credit monitoring.

NASCAR said it “apologizes to the affected individuals for this unfortunate incident involving one of our vendors, and we are pressing Aegis to do everything necessary to mitigate this situation.”

CONFIRMED: Allmendinger To Penske In 2012

After five years of trying, AJ Allmendinger has finally hit the NASCAR lottery.

Penske Racing confirmed today that Allmendinger will drive the team's No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge Charger on the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, replacing Kurt Busch. The former Champ Car World Series star has competed in the Sprint Cup Series since 2007, and recorded a career-best 15th place finish in the 2011 championship standings.

Allmendinger came to NASCAR from the Open Wheel ranks, after winning the 2002 Barber Dodge Pro Series championship and the 2003 Toyota Atlantic Series title. He claimed Champ Car World Series Rookie of the Year honors in 2004, then won five races en route to a third-place finish in the 2005 Champ Car standings. He moved to NASCAR in 2007 with Red Bull Racing, which pushed him immediately into Sprint Cup competition despite an almost complete lack of stock car experience. He struggled to adapt, failing to qualify for eight of the first 10 races in 2007 before being pulled from the ride temporarily in favor of veteran Mike Skinner. Allmendinger ran just 17 times in his rookie season, with a top finish of 15th.

He ran 27 of 36 races for Red Bull in 2008, recording a pair of Top-10 finishes en route to 36th in points, before being dropped by Red Bull and moving to Richard Petty Motorsports. He has driven for RPM in each of the last three seasons, most recently at the wheel of Petty's iconic No. 43 Ford. The California native posted one Top-5 and 10 Top-10 finishes this season.

“I am really excited about the opportunity to join Penske Racing and drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge in 2012,” said Allmendinger today. “I have always admired Roger Penske and the way his teams compete and win in every series where they race. It is a privilege for me to represent such iconic and respected brands as Shell and Pennzoil, AAA and Dodge. I am honored to join Penske Racing and I will do my very best to continue to build on the standard of excellence established across the organization.”

Allmendinger joins a team that won twice in 2011 with driver Kurt Busch, and claimed three poles, 16 Top-10 finishes and a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He will be teamed with newly announced crew chief Todd Gordon, who led the Penske Racing No. 22 Nationwide Series team to six victories last season.

“AJ is a very talented and motivated driver and we believe he will be a terrific fit with our team,” said Roger Penske. “He has shown great promise and consistent results on the track over the last few seasons and working with Todd and the Shell-Pennzoil Dodge team will allow him to take the next step and compete for race wins and a spot in the Chase in 2012.”

“Shell and Pennzoil are extremely pleased by Penske Racing’s selection of AJ Allmendinger to drive the No. 22 Shell-Pennzoil Dodge,” said Lisa Davis, President of Shell Oil Products U.S. “AJ has consistently demonstrated great potential and continuous improvement as a driver, and with Penske’s track record, our employees and customers can look forward to seeing him contending for wins and ultimately a championship in the NASCAR Cup Series. We know he will represent our brands well on and off the track and we look forward to a successful 2012 with AJ behind the wheel.”

Sources: Allmendinger Talking To Penske Racing

NASCAR Silly Season remains in full swing this week, with multiple sources saying AJ Allmendinger is now a leading candidate to drive Penske Racing’s No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Dodge next season.

Former Roush Fenway Racing driver David Ragan met with Penske Racing officials and their sponsors recently, hoping to replace the departed Kurt Busch. Those negotiations reportedly ended early this week when Best Buy announced plans to leave Allmendinger’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford for a limited schedule of races with Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards at Roush Fenway Racing. That move left Allmendinger without a guaranteed ride for the 2012 campaign, and talks were quickly initiated between the former Champ Car World Series star and Penske Racing.

An announcement of Allmendinger’s signing could come as quickly as this week, and talks are reportedly underway to have Ragan replace Allmendinger in the legendary #43 Ford.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Best Buy Jumps To Roush Fenway, Petty Restates Desire To Remain A Two-Car Team

Best Buy announced today that they will not return to the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford next season, moving instead to Roush Fenway Racing for a limited schedule of sponsorship with teammates Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.

The electronics retailer will serve as primary sponsor of Edwards' #99 Ford for two races and Kenseth’s # 17 machine for nine races next season, in addition to appearing as an associate sponsor on both vehicles. Best Buy has been a NASCAR sponsor for the past seven years, first with Haas Automation (now Stewart Haas) Racing, and more recently with Richard Petty Motorsports, where they backed drivers Elliott Sadler and AJ Allmendinger.

"Best Buy is thrilled to announce this new NASCAR sponsorship deal with Roush Fenway Racing," said Drew Panayiotou, Senior Vice President of Marketing for Best Buy. "Roush Fenway Racing is a great fit for Best Buy Racing. NASCAR continues to be a relevant way for us to connect with our customers. Our goal is to reach our target audiences in a meaningful way, while maximizing the value of our marketing and sponsorship investments."

RPM co-owner Richard Petty expressed sadness with the departure of Best Buy, saying, "We have had a successful and rewarding relationship with Best Buy for the past few years and appreciate all they have done for us. Although it is very disappointing that Best Buy is changing directions at this late date, we wish all our friends there the best in their future endeavors.”

Petty said the team still intends to field a pair of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fords in 2012, saying, “our plan has always been to run a two-car team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series… and we are continuing down that path. We have several partners that remain committed to the #43 team (and) we will move forward and explore all of our options in regard to the #43 program in the coming weeks." Petty made no specific mention of either Allmendinger or teammate Marcos Ambrose in his statement today.

Friday, December 16, 2011

NASCAR Moves To Stop Two-Car Drafts

NASCAR has announced changes to the rules package for January's Preseason Thunder test at Daytona International Speedway, in preparation for the Speedweeks 2012. The changes were implemented as a result of information gathered during recent tests at Talladega Superspeedway in October and Daytona in November.

The new rules package includes changes to the cooling system in an attempt to reduce the two-car drafting. It is headlined by a smaller radiator – maximum two-gallon capacity – with a smaller, half-gallon overflow tank and a radiator inlet located closer into the center of the front bumper. The new package also includes a mandated softer sprint rate, a reduction in rear spoiler size and a restrictor plate size of 29/32 inch; 1/64 inch larger than that used in the 2011 Daytona 500.

CONFIRMED: Zipadelli To Stewart Haas

Greg Zipadelli, winner of two championships and 34 races as a crew chief in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been named Competition Director at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He will work with Vice President of Competition Matt Borland and oversee the Nos. 14 and 39 teams, while also building the No. 10 team for which Danica Patrick will run a 10-race Sprint Cup schedule with in 2012.

Zipadelli comes to SHR from Joe Gibbs Racing, where he served as crew chief for the No. 20 team since 1999. It’s where the 44-year-old from Berlin, Conn., began a 10-year tenure with Tony Stewart, the co-owner of SHR along with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation.

From 1999 through 2008, Zipadelli was Stewart’s crew chief, with the duo winning Sprint Cup titles in 2002 and 2005 while claiming 33 victories and 10 poles. When Stewart left JGR following the 2008 season to form SHR, Zipadelli stayed and spent three years as the crew chief for Joey Logano, where he helped deliver Logano’s first career Sprint Cup victory on June 28, 2009 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon.

“We’re very proud to have Greg Zipadelli join Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Stewart, the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion. “Greg and I have a long and successful history together. I know him and he knows me, and we both know what it takes to build race teams.

“We took our time in searching for a competition director because it’s an important role with a lot of responsibility. Greg knows all that goes into the job, understands the importance of teamwork and communication across all levels of the organization, and is ultimately someone I have a great deal of trust in.”

The addition of Zipadelli to the SHR family is a reunion on two fronts – Stewart, of course, but also with Steve Addington, who spent 2004-2008 at JGR and is now Stewart’s crew chief at SHR with the No. 14 team. (Tony Gibson serves as crew chief for the No. 39 team and driver Ryan Newman.)

“Joe Gibbs always says that you win with people, and Tony Stewart is a winner,” Zipadelli said. “We won a lot together at Joe Gibbs Racing, and it was a sad day when he left. But Tony had an unbelievable opportunity with Stewart-Haas Racing, and he’s obviously made the most of it. To become a part of what he’s already built, but to do it in a new role with a new set of responsibilities, was a challenge I wanted. I really appreciate Joe and J.D. Gibbs for all that that they’ve given me over the years and for allowing me to seize this opportunity.”

Zipadelli’s career began humbly. His first job in racing was working on a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car owned by his uncle at age seven, and by age 14, he was preparing race cars for his family-owned Sherwood Racing Team. By the time he was 20, Zipadelli was a championship-winning crew chief, leading Modified Tour driver Mike McLaughlin to the series title on the heels of five wins and 15 top-five finishes. When McLaughlin moved up to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East with prominent New England car owner Mike Greci, Zipadelli followed and the tandem recorded five wins between 1990 and 1993.

McLaughlin departed Greci’s operation at the end of the 1993 season, but Zipadelli stayed with the team and worked with a handful of drivers in 1994 and 1995. Zipadelli’s perseverance paid off in 1996 when driver Mike Stefanik joined the team. While no wins were recorded that year, eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes made way for a championship season in 1997. Stefanik marched to the series title that year riding a wave of consistency with two wins, 14 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes, giving Zipadelli his second NASCAR touring series championship in less than a decade.

With two championship rings before age 30, Zipadelli headed south in January 1998 to join Roush Fenway Racing’s Sprint Cup operation as the chassis specialist for the No. 99 team of then driver Jeff Burton. As Burton won two races, earned 18 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes and finished fifth in points, Zipadelli’s talent was noticed.

In late 1998 when team owner Joe Gibbs began laying the groundwork for a second team with Stewart behind the wheel, he tabbed Zipadelli to be the No. 20 team’s crew chief. Now, after 13 highly successful years at JGR, Zipadelli’s career ascension continues with his new role as competition director at SHR.

Zipadelli Set To Join Stewart Haas Racing

The off-season crew chief shuffle is expected to continue later today, with official confirmation that longtime Joe Gibbs Racing crew chief Greg Zipadelli will leave the team to assume the vacant Competition Director’s post at Stewart Haas Racing.

Zipadelli has served as crew chief for Joey Logano’s #20 Home Depot Toyota since 2009, finishing 24th in championship points last season. His contract with JGR runs through the 2012 season, but multiple sources say he has negotiated an early release, in order to rejoin former driver Tony Stewart at Stewart Haas Racing. SHR has functioned without a Competition Director since the midpoint of the 2011 campaign, when veteran Bobby Hutchens was released.

Zipadelli will reportedly be replaced by Jason Ratcliff, who has led JGR’s #18 NASCAR Nationwide Series team for the last six seasons. He has been with the team since 2000, and won the Nationwide series championship with driver Kyle Busch in 2009, and the owner’s title in 2010 with a number of drivers sharing time at the wheel..

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Norris Denies Talk Of Pastrana Waltrip Shutdown

Michael Waltrip Racing General Manager Ty Norris is moving to quell speculation that the team will shut down its Pastrana Waltrip Racing NASCAR Nationwide Series team and highly successful NASCAR K&N Pro Series East operation due to lack of sponsorship.

Former Pastrana Waltrip Racing crewchief Jerry Baxter left the team recently to accept a new position as Cale Gale’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series crew chief at Eddie Sharp Racing. Since then, rumors have circulated that MWR will shutter its Nationwide and K&N Pro Series East operations and lay off a number of employees. Norris denied those reports today, saying, “I know where they came from, and they are absolutely untrue.”

Norris revealed that PWR is contractually committed to run seven NASCAR Nationwide Series races in 2012 with Pastrana and sponsor Boost Mobile, saying the team “will absolutely honor that commitment. The plan was to run the full K&N Pro Series East schedule with Travis, then use the personnel from the K&N team to support our Nationwide effort,” said Norris. “But we simply don’t have the funding to do the K&N East Series right now. We’ve been hanging onto those (employees) since September because we don’t want to break up a championship team. The question is, how long do we wait when the funding is not there?

“We’re actually looking at doing some additional things with Travis next season; things I hope to be able to talk about more in January,” said Norris, who doubles as MWR’s Executive Vice President of Business Development. “There are three companies talking to us about doing more, and we absolutely want to. But right now, seven Nationwide races are all we have sold.”

This season, Pastrana Waltrip Racing ran 10 of the first 14 Nationwide Series races with driver Ryan Truex, posting a best finish of eighth at Richmond International Raceway in April. Pastrana was scheduled to take the wheel of the #99 Toyota for the second half of the season, but suffered a badly broken right foot and ankle in X Games competition on July 28; just days before his scheduled Nationwide debut at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. He underwent surgery to repair the breaks, and never raced in the Nationwide Series. The team made its final start at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October, with Truex finishing 34th after a mid-race crash.

MWR’s K&N Pro Series East team has dominated the circuit in recent years, claiming the 2009 and 2010 series championships with Truex at the wheel. MWR won three of 12 series races this year with driver Brett Moffitt, en route to third place in the final championship standings.

Report: Wheldon Died When Head Hit Fence

INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 15, 2011) - A comprehensive review of the racing accident that claimed the life of IndyCar star Dan Wheldon is now complete.

A press release issued by IndyCar states that Wheldon, the 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, suffered a non-survivable head injury Oct. 16 in a 15-car crash in Turn Two at Las Vegas Motor Speedway during the final race of the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season.

"There are multiple factors that are not uncommon to racing that came together in a way that claimed Dan's life," said Brian Barnhart, President of Operations, INDYCAR. "It is a tragedy. Our thoughts and support will always be with Dan's family."

The accident review revealed that Wheldon's path on the lower portion of the racetrack was blocked by the multi-car crash he was approaching. His No. 77 car became airborne and ultimately impacted a vertical post of the track fencing. The pole intruded the cockpit, and the impact with the driver's helmeted head produced non-survivable blunt force trauma.

The response to the scene by INDYCAR's Holmatro Safety Team was rapid and decisive, according to the review.

INDYCAR analyzed data from accident data recorders carried on board each race car involved in the crash, the on-board data acquisition system from teams, timing and scoring data, video, still photographs, physical evidence and eyewitness reports from participants. Third-party experts with Indianapolis-based Wolf Technical Services provided independent assurance that the investigation protocol, evidence examined and reviewed, and the conclusions reached are consistent and appropriate to standard scientific and engineering investigation methods.

Examination of video of the incident revealed the type of "pack racing" that is common on high-banked ovals. However, there was almost unlimited movement on the track surface under race conditions not previously experienced that is attributed to track geometry beyond banking. Such freedom of movement outside of normal racing grooves not only increased the probability for car-to-car contact, but made it more difficult for drivers to predict the movement of other drivers. As a result, the opportunity for this incident was increased.

While this incident could have occurred at any track at any time, the dynamic of the current car and the overall track geometry at Las Vegas Motor Speedway under race conditions appear to have been contributing factors in the incident.

The 34-car starting field was determined to be acceptable based on factors such as length and width of the racetrack and pit space capability. This incident and its consequences could have occurred with any size starting field at any track.

"INDYCAR's commitment to safety was enhanced by Dan Wheldon's testing throughout 2011 of the new car to be used by INDYCAR in 2012," said Randy Bernard, CEO, INDYCAR. "The 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season ushers in an era of a new race car and the opportunity for continued safety advancements. Dan Wheldon was instrumental in the testing and development of this new car and the safety innovations that it represents. We are thankful for his efforts and commitment to racing."

The 2012 Dallara Automobili chassis enhances safety components such as side intrusion panels and wheel tethers. The cockpit is longer and wider than the decommissioned monocoque, which allows for additional padding underneath and behind the driver. Also, a "floating headrest" works in conjunction with the mandatory FHR (Frontal Head Restraint) attached to the helmet. Driver positioning allows for better sightlines.

Roush, Edwards Re-Up With Kellogg's

Roush Fenway Racing and Kellogg Company have announced a multi-year extension of their NASCAR partnership. Kellogg will serve as a primary sponsor of the No. 99 Ford for four Sprint Cup races in 2012, teaming Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes cereal and Cheez-It crackers with championship contender and fan favorite Carl Edwards.

Kellogg has been involved with NASCAR for many years, including serving as a primary sponsor of the No. 99 Ford with Roush Fenway for the past two seasons. Edwards finished as runner up in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup and has accumulated 19 wins during his Sprint Cup career. He also has 89 top-five finishes, 144 top-10 finishes and 10 pole awards in just over 250 starts.

Edwards has secured a position in the Chase for the Sprint Cup NASCAR “playoff” six times in seven attempts, and finished second in 2008 and 2011. In addition, he won the 2007 Nationwide Series Championship. This season, Edwards and the No. 99 team led the Sprint Cup point standings for 23 of the 36 weeks.

“It’s an honor to be involved with Kellogg,” said Edwards. “They have tremendous commitment to quality in everything they do and racing fans love their products. They are a fun partner to go racing with and I’m excited about continuing the relationship.”

“Our involvement with racing gives us a great opportunity to interact with our consumers in a fun, exciting environment,” said Brad Davidson, president, Kellogg North America. “We are thrilled to extend our relationship with Carl and Roush Fenway Racing, and we look forward to seeing Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and Cheez-it crackers on the No. 99 car next season.”

Busch Extends Deal With TAG Heuer

TAG Heuer Eyewear announced today that it has re-signed NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Kurt Busch to a multi-year contract extension in his role as an ambassador for the company and its eyewear products. Busch, who joined the TAG Heuer family at the beginning of 2010, exclusively wears TAG Heuer sunglasses and is featured in Eyewear print, billboard, in-store and Internet advertisements. He will continue to display the TAG Heuer Eyewear logo on the racing helmet that he wears in NASCAR competition, as well as in other forms of motorsport. In 2011 TAG Heuer created a Kurt Busch collector edition sunglass that was made available at U.S. retailers.

“Kurt has been an excellent ambassador for the TAG Heuer Eyewear brand,” said Guillaume Pottecher, President of Premiere Vision, the U.S. distributor for TAG Heuer Eyewear. “TAG Heuer is affiliated with leading personalities and properties around the sports and entertainment world and Kurt fits that role perfectly. He is unquestionably one of the premier talents in NASCAR and in his work for us on every occasion he has gone above and beyond what we could expect of him. We very much look forward to the future together with Kurt.”

“I’m thrilled to continue my ambassador role for TAG Heuer Eyewear,” said Busch. “It’s an honor to be affiliated with TAG Heuer which is globally recognized as a blue chip brand. Our working relationship has proven effective and enjoyable. I’ll continue to take a great deal of pride in representing TAG Heuer Eyewear in the years to come.”

Beam Leaves Roush Fenway For New Job At KBM

Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that former Roush Fenway Racing crew chief Mike Beam has left the organization to accept a new position as crew chief for the Kyle Busch Motorsports NASCAR Nationwide Series team.

Beam’s resume’ as a NASCAR crew chief dates back to 1981, with stints atop the pit box for a list of drivers that includes Richard and Kyle Petty, Michael Waltrip, Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin, Elliott Sadler, Ricky Craven, Kenny Wallace and Bobby Hamilton, Jr. He has three career Cup Series wins; two with Elliott and one with Craven. He most recently served as crew chief for Carl Edwards’ #99 NASCAR Nationwide Series effort at Roush Fenway Racing, leading the team to eight victories in 33 starts last season.

Beam revealed that he also considered the vacant Competition Director’s position at Turner Motorsports, overseeing the team’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series operations before deciding to sign with KBM. “I won eight races with Carl last year, and I really like that winning part,” said Beam. “This cat (Busch) is going to get it done. It’s going to be hard work, but I really like the look of this deal.”

Beam said no driver has been selected for the KBM’s new Nationwide Series Toyota, adding that he hopes a decision is coming soon. “I think Kyle’s getting close on a driver,” he said. “He’s on vacation this week, but I know they’re working on it. I’m not sure who it’ll be yet, but we need to get some seats ordered pretty soon. It’s tough to get anything done through the holidays, so from my point of view, we need to get busy right now.”

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Biffle Set For Rose Parade Appearance

NASCAR driver Greg Biffle will help Natural Balance Pet Foods make a “splash” in the upcoming 123rd Rose Parade on January 2nd, 2012. In 2010 the Natural Balance float rolled into the Guinness Book of World records as the world’s longest float and in 2011, took the record for the world’s heaviest float.

This year the Natural Balance float will be 116 feet long and feature a tropical floral setting. After extensive training, the dogs on the float will actually surf on 65-foot long waves in over 6,600 gallons of water on a float weighing more than 100,000 pounds. A specially designed “wave” machine is incorporated into the design of the float and creates a wave every minute.

The Rose Bowl Parade will air live from Pasadena, Calif. on ABC at 11:00 a.m. EST. Check out Biffle and Tillman, the World’s Fastest Skateboarding Bulldog at and get a sneak peek at the building of the float at

“I can’t wait to see the float,” said Biffle. “I’ve heard a lot about this year’s float and I’ve seen video of the floats from the last couple of years. Tillman came to our shop at Roush Fenway Racing last month and we got to see him skateboard. I heard he’ll be surfing on the float this year so I can’t wait to see that. It was definitely an honor to be asked to ride on the Natural Balance float because we share the same passion for the well-being of animals.”

In addition to the ABC broadcast, the 123rd Rose Parade will be broadcast on the Hallmark Channel, HGTV, KTLA (Tribune), NBC, RFD-TV and Univision. The Parade is also seen in more than 200 international territories and countries.

The Natural Balance float is 54th out of 91 parade entries. It is preceded by a high-school band and succeeded by the Southern California Peruvian Paso Horse Club Riders. The parade will make an unprecedented pause for 45 seconds when the Natural Balance Float, a float of "high visual interest", passes the viewing stand, in order to ponder "dogs that surf". For the very first time in Rose Parade history there will be a robotic camera on the float, which will be powered by Ford's latest version of the 6.8L 3v engine.

Gordon Named Crewchief By Penske Racing

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (December 14, 2011) – Penske Racing announced today that Todd Gordon will be the new crew chief of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The move comes on the heels of a successful 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series campaign, during which Gordon led the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Charger to six wins and six pole positions.

“Our first priority is always to look within the walls of Penske Racing when making personnel decisions,” said team owner Roger Penske. “We want to reward success. The path we are taking with Todd mirrors what we did with Paul Wolfe who led the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to a Chase berth in 2011. We think Todd can get the job done in the same manner.”

Gordon joined Penske Racing in January of 2011, and he and Brad Keselowski quickly developed a driver-crew chief rapport that made the No. 22 Dodge one of the premier entries in NNS competition.

“I can’t thank Roger and everyone at Penske Racing enough for this vote of confidence,” said Gordon. “It’s an honor to step into a race-winning team. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but this is an organization full of talented people that know how to get the job done. I look forward to getting the Shell/Pennzoil Dodge back in Victory Lane.”

Penske Racing officials say they continue to evaluate drivers to fill the seat of the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge.

2012 Budweiser Shootout Field Announced

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – NASCAR has announced the list of eligible competitors for the 2012 Budweiser Shootout. The 34th annual season-opening event launches Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 18 with start time set for 8:10 p.m. FOX Sports and MRN Radio will broadcast live nationally. Eligibles drivers must have been active in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during the 2011 season, with spots in the Budweiser Shootout awarded to the 25 highest-ranked competitors in 2011 Driver Points and previous event winners at Daytona; including the Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola, and Budweiser Shootout.

“The criteria for the 2012 Budweiser Shootout ensures race fans that the best NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers will battle for a coveted victory on the historic high banks,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III. “Throughout its long history, the Budweiser Shootout has produced plenty of fireworks on the track and race fans can expect another exciting star-studded night of racing as we kick off the new NASCAR season.”

“By taking the top 25 competitors in last year’s driver points and combine that with former race winners at Daytona, you have all the ingredients for an extremely deep and talented field of drivers for the 2012 Budweiser Shootout,” said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition. “When you take a look at the roster of drivers that this entails, I have to believe this is one of the most competitive fields that have ever been assembled for this event.”

The race distance will again be 75 laps (187.5 miles), divided into two segments of 25 and 50 laps. Green-flag and yellow-flag laps will all count toward the total. Following the first segment, there will be a 10-minute pit stop allowing teams to pit to change tires, add fuel and make normal chassis adjustments. Crews will be permitted to work on their cars and perform any function done on a normal pit stop in any NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. Changing of springs, shock absorbers or rear-ends will not be permitted.

Starting positions will be determined by a blind draw at the annual Budweiser Shootout Draw Party on Friday, Feb. 17 at 8 p.m. on the SPEED stage in the Midway, outside Turn 4.

Tickets for the Budweiser Shootout start at $39, with special advance pricing available for tickets purchased in January, and admission is free for children 12 and under. Tickets for all 2012 Speedweeks events -- including the Budweiser Shootout -- can be purchased online at or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.

Drivers eligible for the 2012 Budweiser Shootout include:

2011 Top 25 Driver Points

Tony Stewart
Carl Edwards
Kevin Harvick
Matt Kenseth
Brad Keselowski
Jimmie Johnson
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Jeff Gordon
Denny Hamlin
Ryan Newman
Kurt Busch
Kyle Busch
Clint Bowyer
Kasey Kahne
A.J. Allmendinger
Greg Biffle
Paul Menard
Martin Truex Jr.
Marcos Ambrose
Jeff Burton
Juan Pablo Montoya
Mark Martin
David Ragan
Joey Logano
Brian Vickers

Others (criteria in parentheses)
Bill Elliott (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400, Budweiser Shootout)
Geoff Bodine (Daytona 500, Budweiser Shootout)
Derrike Cope (Daytona 500)
Michael Waltrip (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400)
Jamie McMurray (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400)
Trevor Bayne (Daytona 500)
Terry Labonte (Budweiser Shootout)
Ken Schrader (Budweiser Shootout)

Scott Speed Signs New Sprint Cup Deal

Scott Speed has joined Leavine Family Racing for a limited, 15-race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for 2012, driving the team's No. 95 Ford.

A veteran of all three of NASCAR's premier national touring series, Speed joins Leavine Family Racing after making 13 Sprint Cup starts with Whitney Motorsports in the No. 46 Ford last season. He will be competing in his fifth Sprint Cup Series season, after running full-time with Red Bull Racing in 2010; earning two top-10 finishes and leading 21 laps.

"We are pleased to have Scott Speed join our team," said team owner Bob Leavine. "We, as a team, want to give Scott the equipment and the resources he needs to win - and that is what I believe he will do for us in return. Scott is a proven driver. He was the first American to race in Formula One since Michael Andretti and has a lot to offer our program as a teammate and a competitor."

Speed has made 18 starts in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and 16 starts in the Camping World Truck Series over the past four years. He posted a truck series win at the Dover International Speedway in 2008. His best Nationwide Series finish came on the road course at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve last year where he placed sixth.

He began his racing career in arting at the age of 10. Making his way through the open-wheel racing ranks throughout the West Coast, he made his Formula One debut in 2001. From there he has successfully competed in Formula One making 28 career starts before making the transition to stock-car racing in 2007 with the ARCA Racing Series.

The 28-year-old driver is thrilled to have the opportunity to compete with Leavine Family Racing.

"I am excited to team up with Bob Leavine and his guys at Leavine Family Racing," Speed said. They have a solid group of guys working on the team and I think it will be a real fun deal. Our goal is to build this race team to become competitive. We know it will be baby steps, but we are all excited to get it rolling."

BRANDT Back With Algaier In 2012

Turner Motorsports has announced that BRANDT will return to the team as primary sponsor of the No. 31 NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet driven by championship contender Justin Allgaier.

Allgaier finished the 2011 season third in the overall NASCAR Nationwide Series championship point standings, notching one win, six top-five finishes and 17 top-10 finishes. His lone win came at Chicagoland Speedway, the home track of both BRANDT and Allgaier.

BRANDT President and CEO, Rick C. Brandt, is enthusiastic about the company's return to NNS competition with Turner Motorsports, saying, "We are extremely pleased with the outcome of our first season in NASCAR and look forward to returning as a championship contending team with Turner Motorsports and Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide Series. We look to expand on the successes we had with the program both on and off the track in 2011 and take the program to the next level in 2012."

Turner Motorsports owner Steve Turner said he is pleased to welcome BRANDT back on board as an integral part of his NNS program. "We are thrilled to have BRANDT back as a primary partner for the 2012 season," said Turner. "Just like Turner Motorsports, BRANDT is a family-based company, whose values and ideals align well with ours. Also, Justin [Allgaier] is a great fit for BRANDT, having grown up not far from the company headquarters. We believe 2011 was a great start to our partnership, but plan for the 2012 season to be even better as we contend for more wins, and ultimately, a Nationwide Series championship."

A native of Riverton, Ill., the "Little Gator" began in Midget and Sprint cars at age six before moving onto stock cars as a teenager. After capturing the ARCA Racing Series championship in 2008, he graduated to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, claiming Rookie of the Year honors with three top-five and 12 top-10 finishes. The 25-year-old scored his first series victory in 2010 at Bristol Motor Speedway and rounded out the season with two pole awards, eight top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

RPM Considering Busch For #43 Ford

Kurt Busch may return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in a quality ride, after all.

Sirius XM NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that in an effort to retain sponsor Best Buy, Richard Petty Motorsports has proposed replacing AJ Allmendinger as driver of the legendary #43 Ford with Busch. RPM struggled to re-sign Best Buy a year ago, negotiating until early January before inking a one-year contract. The electronics retailer served as major sponsor of the #43 team in 26 events this season.

Richard Petty Motorsports Chief Operating Officer Robbie Loomis confirmed today that discussions have been held regarding Busch, saying, “Best Buy has been a great partner for a long time, and AJ Allmendinger has done a fantastic job for us. He’s coming off his best season yet, but I can tell you there is a lot of interest on our part in having Kurt Busch in the fold. It makes sense to have Kurt with our team, if we can make it work.

“Our main focus is to continue building on what we finished the season with last year,” said Loomis. “But right now, I feel like I’m running down two different sets of train tracks. From a personal standpoint, nothing has excited me more than when I heard Kurt had become available. I’m excited about the opportunity to add a driver like Kurt Busch to Richard Petty Motorsports.

“I would mortgage my house to make Kurt a part of this team,” said Loomis. “We value what he has done on the race track. He has won a (Sprint Cup) championship and worked for a first-class operation like Penske Racing. Guys like that don’t come along every day.”

Allmendinger finished 15th in 2011 Sprint Cup Series championship points, with one Top-5 and 10 Top-10 finishes. His best finish was a fifth in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in late May. Busch won a pair of races this season at Infineon and Dover en route to 11th in points, tallying eight Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes. He parted company with Penske Racing earlier this month, in the aftermath of a much-publicized verbal confrontation with ESPN pit reporter Dr. Jerry Punch during the 2011 season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.

As a former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, Busch would almost certainly be a guaranteed starter for all 36 races next season. That Past Champion’s Provisional is of little use to the #43 team, however, which finished solidly in the Top-35 in owner’s point last season and is already locked into the first five races of the 2012 campaign.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Darlington Raises $5,000 For Toys For Tots

Fans of Darlington Raceway were in a giving mood this holiday season with several hundred participants donating a toy or $20 donation during the track’s Toys for Tots Drive Saturday.

The event, which gave fans the opportunity to take their personal vehicles for laps around the historic Darlington Raceway for a donation, generated over $5,000 worth of toy and cash donations for the local U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program just in time for the holidays. The collection, the largest for the area’s U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program, will benefit five local counties surrounding the track, including Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Marion and Williamsburg, respectively.

“We’re very pleased with the turnout and want to thank our fans for their generosity this holiday season,” Darlington Raceway President Chris Browning said. “We were able to collect many toys and donations for the U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program and to be able to help families that need assistance right before Christmas.

“We’re more than happy to open up our racing facility for a day and give our fans the chance to take their vehicles on the high banks of Darlington Raceway and in turn give back to the local communities that have supported us for more than 60 years!” Browning continued.

Vehicles of all kinds participated in the event, some traveling hundreds of miles from all parts of South Carolina, North Carolina and beyond. John Bachman, from nearby Hartsville, S.C., heard about the drive on the local radio and donated toys and cash for the opportunity to take his truck on the track with his son.

“What a great opportunity to take a few laps around Darlington Raceway and also give back to the community,” John Bachman said. “Giving back to people who are less fortunate, especially kids, is so important and we were happy to participate in the event. My son, Jonathon, lives in North Carolina so I thought this would be a fun thing for him to be able to say he took laps around this great track.”

The local U.S. Marines Toys for Tots program assisted over 10,000 children in 2010, including over 5,000 in Darlington and Florence counties alone. Events like the Darlington Raceway drive make a tremendous impact in its efforts to make sure every child has a toy(s) to unwrap during the Christmas season.

“We truly appreciate the efforts by track president Chris Browning and his staff to open up Darlington Raceway and allow its fans to participate in this special event, which is our largest collection event of the season,” Jim Williams, U.S. Marines Toys for Tots Program Coordinator said. “Because of the generosity of great local community members like Darlington Raceway, a child in need will be able to open a gift this Christmas season.”

Darlington Raceway -- or the track Too Tough To Tame as it is known to many -- has been a NASCAR staple since 1950, and seen some of the sport's most talented drivers fight their way to Gatorade Victory Lane. On Mother’s Day weekend, May 11-12, 2012, NASCAR’s biggest stars return to battle the track Too Tough To Tame in the Sprint Cup Series Southern 500 and Nationwide Series Darlington 200.

Tickets for events at Darlington can be purchased by calling the Darlington Raceway ticket office at 866-459-RACE or online at

Gordon Tops Best Seller List

Lionel NASCAR Collectables announced their Top-10 Best Selling NASCAR diecast collectable cars for 2011 today, and perhaps surprisingly, NASCAR's Most Popular Driver was not at the top of the list. In fact, Dale Earnhardt, Jr.'s No. 88 Amp Energy/National Guard Chevrolet was only the number-four selling diecast for the season just completed.

Jeff Gordon's new No. 24 AARP/Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet topped the list of best sellers for 2011, followed by Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet. Trevor Bayne's Daytona 500-winning No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford was third, followed by Earnhardt's Chevrolet. Members of Earnhardt Nation can take heart, however, as their driver accounted for no less than three of the Top-10 sellers.

The complete Top-10 list included:

1. Jeff Gordon No. 24 AARP/Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet

2. Kevin Harvick No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet

3. Trevor Bayne No. 21 Motorcraft Daytona Win Ford

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 Amp Energy Chevrolet

5. Tony Stewart No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet

6. Dale Earnhardt No. 96 Cardinal Tractor Ford

7. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 National Guard Heritage Chevrolet

8. Tony Stewart No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet

9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. No. 88 Dale Jr. Foundation/Vh1 Save the Music Chevrolet

10. Kevin Harvick No. 29 Budweiser Military Tribute Chevrolet

Armour Backs RCR In Nationwide, Trucks

Pinnacle Foods Group and Richard Childress Racing have reached a partnership agreement for sponsorship of two of RCR's teams for 2012. Pinnacle's Armour brand will serve as the primary sponsor for three races on the team's #33 NASCAR Nationwide Series Chevrolet with Kevin Harvick at the wheel; March 18 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway; May 6 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway; and September 8 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway.

Armour canned meats will also appear as an associate sponsor of Childress' #33 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and on one of RCR's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams. The specific team and races will be announced at a later date.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Martinsville President Climbs Pole For Charity

Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell could have made an early descent from atop the track's entrance sign Friday afternoon, but he knew the longer he stayed, the more money he raised to help needy children in the Martinsville and Henry County area.

Campbell had vowed to stay perched 38 feet in the air until he raised $20,000 for the Martinsville Speedway Children’s Foundation. That total was hit by mid-afternoon, but Campbell made the decision to stay put as temperatures dropped later in the afternoon.

By the time he descended at 4 p.m. contributions had topped $25,000.

“It wasn’t nearly as cold as it was last year, so I figured I would stick it out up there as long as I could and help as many children as we can,” said Campbell. “It always amazes me how generous the folks of Martinsville and Henry County and our friends in our racing family are. In today’s economy, to be able to raise this much money in a single day is incredible.”

The temperature hovered just below freezing when Campbell was hoisted to his perch. The temperature rose only into the high 40s during midday, then dropped as the afternoon wore on. The only time he descended during the eight-hour stretch was for a couple of TV and radio interviews.

The Christmas spirit revs up at Martinsville Speedway Saturday with the 15th Annual Martinsville Speedway Toy Drive to help needy youngsters in the Martinsville and Henry County area have a good Christmas. During the Toy Drive, fans will drive their personal vehicles around Martinsville’s famous half-mile oval for a donation of a toy or a $10 cash contribution. Volunteers from the Grace Network will be at the pit gate to collect donations.

For fans wanting to make a little quicker trip around the track, Campbell will give five hot laps in one of Martinsville Speedway’s pace cars for a $25 donation. Participants will receive a certificate of completion from Campbell. Fans will also be able to walk into the infield via the pedestrian tunnel and drop off toys and monetary donations at a table set up close to the infield concession stand.

Martinsville Speedway staff members will be making and selling the Famous Martinsville Speedway Hot Dog and Pepsi products for $1 each, with proceeds going to the Grace Network. The Grace Network, a local group comprised of almost 100 churches, will distribute the collected toys to families in need. The monetary donations from Saturday will be used to purchase additional toys. All of the toys will remain in the Martinsville and Henry County area.

Santa Claus will be making his annual appearance at the track from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.

Vote Smoke Onto The SI Cover

For nearly 60 years the cover of Sports Illustrated has defined the story of the day in sports. The magazine's iconic cover always stirs passionate dialog, debate, celebration and criticism; and for those who believe in jinxes, fear. But there has always been one constant. The choice of who appears on the sover of SI has always rested in the hands of the magazine's editorial team.

Today, that all changes.

Beginning at 3:00 p.m. EST, sports fans can visit SI’s Facebook page ( to rank the top five sports moments from 2011 drawn from a selection of 15 images which correspond to the editorial staff’s selections for the best sports moments of 2011. The image receiving the most votes as of December 16, will appear on the cover of the year-end double issue.

“Sports Illustrated has always been an advocate and voice for sports fans,” said Terry McDonell Time Inc. Sports Group Editor. “This is an extension of that mission, letting fans in on one of the most important and discussed decisions of the year.”

Tony Stewart's dramatic -- and championship clinching -- victory in the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway is among the 15 nominees, as is Abby Wambach’s goal in the 122nd minute of the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals; Derek Jeter’s dramatic home run for his 3,000th hit; paralyzed former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand leading his Scarlet Knights on the field against West Virginia, and David Freese's dramatic Game Six World Series home run for the St. Louis Cardinals.

The complete list of SI's Top-15 moments includes:

Pack on Top— February 6: Aaron Rodgers throws three TDs to lead Green Bay to a 31-25 victory over Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLV

Griffin’s Dunk— February 19: In the 2011 NBA slam dunk contest, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin soars over a Kia sedan to jam home the title

UConn Survives— March 10: Kemba Walker hits a buzzer-beater to defeat Pitt 76-74 in the Big East quarters; the Huskies roll to the NCAA title

Messi and Barça Reign—May 28: Lionel Messi and Barcelona overwhelm Manchester United 3-1 to win the Champions League title and stake a claim as the greatest team ever

Mavs Win— June 12: Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks beat LeBron James and the star-studded Heat in Game 6 of the NBA finals for Dallas’s first title

Bruins Hoist the Cup— June 15: Behind a historic performance from goalie Tim Thomas, the Bruins defeat Vancouver to win their first Stanley Cup since 1972

McIlroy Majestic— June 19: After his epic Masters meltdown, Rory McIlroy bounces back to win the U.S. Open in historic fashion

Jeter’s 3,000th— July 9: On a home run at a packed Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter becomes the first Yankee to reach 3,000 hits

U.S. Women Stun Brazil— July 10: Abby Wambach scores a 122nd-minute equalizer against Brazil in the Women’s World Cup quarterfinals, and the US wins on penalties

Djoker’s Wild— September 10: Novak Djokovic fights off two match points to defeat Roger Federer in five sets in the U.S. Open semis on the way to the title

Michigan State’s Hail Mary— October 22: After unbeaten Wisconsin had staged a wild fourth-quarter rally, Michigan State stuns the Badgers on a last-second Hail Mary to win 37–31

Cardinals Magic— October 27: David Freese’s World Series Game 6 heroics—a ninth-inning, two-out triple and an 11th-inning walkoff homer—save the Cardinals

Eric LeGrand Returns— October 29: A year after his devastating injury, paralyzed former Rutgers player Eric LeGrand leads the Scarlet Knights onto the field against West Virginia

Slater Soars— November 6: Kelly Slater advances at the Rip Curl Pro Search in San Francisco, securing his record 11th world surfing title

Stewart Triumphs— November 20: Tony Stewart outraces Carl Edwards on the final day to win the Sprint Cup, capping NASCAR’s greatest title chase ever