Sunday, February 27, 2011

Searching For Balance In Nationwide Coverage

With just two races complete, the 2011 NASCAR Nationwide Series is presenting new and unique challenges for the media.

On the track, things remain largely unchanged from last season, with Sprint Cup Series drivers dominating the action. Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway, Kyle Busch put a stranglehold on the field, leading every lap from the pole position en route to a convincing win in the Bashas' Supermarkets 200. Fellow Sprint Cup regulars Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman claimed the next three positions, with Edwards the only one to mount even a token challenge to Busch.

A week earlier, Tony Stewart carried the checkered flag at Daytona International Speedway for the fourth consecutive season, with three of the top four spots going to Sprint Cup regulars.

But while the on-track results remain unchanged, there is a new dynamic afoot. Busch, Stewart and their Sprint Cup comrades are no longer eligible to receive Nationwide Series championship points, leaving the title chase to a group of drivers who have experienced -- in some cases -- only moderate success in the season's first two events. Reed Sorenson tops the Nationwide Series leaderboard after racing to a pair of impressive Top-5 finishes in his first two starts. He is trailed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. -- who has authored Top-10 showings in both races to date -- and Jason Leffler.

Danica Patrick is tied for fourth in the championship standings, despite an average finish of 15.5 in the first two races of the year. She qualified fourth in the season opener at Daytona before slipping to 14th in the final rundown, and was a non-factor Saturday at PIR, starting 20th and finishing three laps down in the 17th position.

Not surprisingly, Patrick's showing earned her a lengthy, post-race interview on ESPN2. Viewers long ago became accustomed -- or perhaps resigned -- to regular, in-depth questioning of the IndyCar star turned part-time NASCAR aspirant, regardless of her competitive relevance. Unfortunately, ESPN2's latest contribution to Danica Mania came at the exclusion of drivers who finished much closer to the front of the pack, including Top-10 finishers (and Nationwide regulars) Stenhouse, Justin Allgaier, Brian Scott and Kenny Wallace.

Some rationalized Patrick's role in Saturday's post-race coverage by pointing to her fourth-place standing in championship points. They cannot, however, explain the failure of veteran Joe Nemechek -- who is tied with Patrick in championship points -- to gain even a moment of ESPN2's post-race spotlight. Granted, Nemechek ain't much to look at in a bikini, but if we're going to base our coverage of the sport on championship points in Week Two of the season, "Front Row Joe" deserved as much post-race face time Saturday as the GoDaddy Girl.

Others point to Patrick's on-track improvement as a reason for the continued media focus. Well, Landon Cassill seems to have upped his performance since last year, as well, with nowhere near the attention.

Admittedly, Patrick is in a class by herself when it comes to media exposure. Cameras flock to the IndyCar star like moths to a flame, no matter where she finishes. But at some point, the media must allow Patrick to become what she says she wants to be; just another racer. Danica was not the only woman in Saturday's race. Jennifer Jo Cobb finished 32nd at Phoenix, and received no post-race love for her trouble.

And honestly, that's the way it should be.

If you run well, you get interviewed after the race. If not, we'll see you next week, regardless of how recognizable your name is or how many commercials your sponsor bought in today's broadcast. Patrick didn't ask to be spotlighted Saturday, and she is not to blame for the media's continued obsession with anything and everything Danica. She is intelligent enough to capitalize on that infatuation, however, continuing to build her personal brand while determining whether NASCAR is something she wants to do on a full-time basis. Patrick is clearly a talented racer, but she is not the end-all, beat-all of the Nationwide tour, especially on days when she finishes three laps behind the winner.

It's a brand new Nationwide Series in 2011, with new focus, new dynamics and new stories to be told. And as the series moves to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next weekend's Sam's Town 300, the inevitable search for balance will continue.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Daytona 500 Is Now Over

Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne saw his fairytale week come to an abrupt end earlier today at Phoenix International Raceway, when brake issues sent his Wood Borthers Ford into the wall during practice. This sport will sure humble a guy...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Evernham Sues Gillett For $19.1 Million

Ray Evernham has filed suit against former partner George Gillett, Jr., alleging he is owed $19.3 millon from the recent sale of Richard Petty Motorsports.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in North Carolina Superior Court, Evernham claims that Gillett’s Booth Creek Management and Gillett GEMS, LLC failed to pay him the final 20 percent of the purchase price for Evernham Motorsports in 2007. The team later became Gillett Evernham Motorsports and is now known as Richard Petty Motorsports. Evernham retained a 20 percent ownership stake in both Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Richard Petty Motorsports, and claims he received none of what he was due late last year when a financially strapped Gillett sold the team to NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty and two other financial partners.

"We were unable to come to a fair resolution for the amounts due to me related to my sale of the previous RPM race team,” said Evernham in a statement Wednesday. He alleged that creditors of the old Richard Petty Motorsports have been told there are insufficient funds to allow payment for past-due bills. “Like many other vendors and creditors, my claims have been left unpaid,” said Evernham. “We have diligently worked to resolve this matter in good faith without resorting to legal action. This matter has been pending for a period of time and we did not want to disrupt… the beginning of the race season with this unfortunate situation.”

The complaint alleges that the sale of RPM triggered clauses in Evernham’s agreement with Gillett that require full payment of the $19,183,203 he is owed.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NASCAR Penalizes Waltrip's Truck Team

NASCAR has issued penalties and fines to the No. 15 team that competes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, as a result of rule infractions found during post-race inspection Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.

The No. 15 truck driven by Michael Waltrip was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4-J (any determination by NASCAR Officials that the race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules); and 20B-3.1.2E (rear spoiler did not meet specifications in post-race inspection) of the 2011 NASCAR Rule Book.

As a result, crew chief Doug Howe has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31. Owner Billy Ballew has been penalized with the loss of 25 championship owner points.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Evernham Stays Busy at East Lincoln Speedway

When Ray Evernham purchased North Carolina's East Lincoln Speedway, he promised the competitors, fans and local community that he was committed to keeping grassroots racing alive in the area and making improvements in the facility.

As the 3/8 mile clay oval prepares for its third season of racing under his leadership, Evernham announced today that he is launching a major capital improvement campaignto improve safety and enhance competition at the track.

Improvements include removal of the inside guardrail and installation of a four-foot poured concrete wall in its place. The new wall will widen the straightaways and turns, adding an additional racing groove and allowing for more side-by-side racing without changing the length of the track. Improvements will also be made to the way cars exit the racing surface, to increase safety and enhance traffic flow. Rifenburg Construction, a highway constuction and paving firm with offices in New York and Raleigh, NC, has been chosen to oversee the upgrade, after recently completing runway paving projects at Raleigh Durham Airport, Greenville Spartanburg Airport and Jackson, Mississippi.

“Each season, our goal is to make improvements to continue to enhance the experience for fans and competitors,” said Evernham. “We’ve improved the track surface, the inspection area and process, the garage area and the fan facilities in our first two years. But this is the largest – and most important – project we’ve tackled. It will make significant improvements to the safety of the competitors on the track. The expanded racing surface and new groove will make the action even more intense, so fans are going to love that.”

Construction will begin February 14 and be completed in time for the early April opening day at the track.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Worldwide Leader In (Most) Sports

When it comes to NASCAR, there are two separate and distinct faces to ESPN.

The network’s NASCAR broadcast team includes industry insiders who know the sport with an intimacy born from years of personal involvement. Allen Bestwick, Marty Reid, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns, Shannon Spake, Jamie Little, Brad Daugherty and Dr. Jerry Punch have spent their entire adult lives in the sport. They and former drivers Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett and Ricky Craven and former crewchief Andy Petree speak the language of NASCAR, and report on the sport with passion, energy and accuracy.

Then there’s the other ESPN; a stick-and-ball infatuated network populated by anchormen who routinely mispronounce the names of NASCAR’s most established stars. A network that airs promos for upcoming NASCAR race broadcasts one moment, then offers wildly erroneous and irresponsible commentary on the sport just moments later.

Each week, former Washington Post sportswriters Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon host a weekly exercise in hubris known as Pardon the Interruption, during which they expound, bloviate and opine on various topics from the world of sports. Their conversations are generally long on volume and short on facts, but ESPN mercifully minimizes the damage by placing a strict time limit on each topic.

Tuesday, Kornheiser teamed with substitute co-host Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald, and among their topics was Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s recent run to the Daytona 500 pole. Their conversation proved just how far NASCAR has to go in its bid to become a true major-league sport, and just how disinterested some at ESPN are in treating the sport with even a minimal degree of respect.

Asked by LeBatard if he believed “the fix was in" during Earnhardt’s qualifying lap, Kornheiser replied, “It's a great American moment… when Dale Earnhardt Jr. can have the pole position...a guy who has not won a race in his last 93 starts. There are people in and around the NASCAR world -- not just drivers but people who cover the sport as well -- who are winking at this one; who are wondering if this wasn't a set-up because it's the pole position, not the race. This is a good set-up moment, is it not?”

LeBatard pressed him on the point, asking, “Is it a great American moment, or is it professional wrestling? If you're going to lob this accusation out there... look, I've heard the comments where people say you let something go on the car and give a guy a certain advantage. I can't deny that Junior winning would be good for NASCAR.”

“If he wins it's good for NASCAR, because he is the most popular guy out there,” crowed Kornheiser. “(NASCAR wants) to get the ratings back up. Someone I talked to who covered auto racing for a lot of years said she believed there was a 60% chance that Junior qualified with a car not quite up to code and people looked the other way.”

Kornheiser’s accusations are distasteful, to be sure. But they are far from surprising. Both he and his usual sidekick, Wilbon, have expressed disdain for NASCAR on numerous occasions in the past. They have repeatedly stated their dislike for – and disinterest in – NASCAR racing, gloating that no one at ESPN can force them to learn about, talk about, or care about NASCAR.

Imagine an ESPN commentator announcing on-air that he dislikes professional football, thinks it’s a silly sport and will not discuss it as part of his duties with the network. Now imagine that same commentator accusing the NFL of “fixing” the results of pre-season games in an effort to build interest in the coming season. That commentator would almost certainly need to begin polishing up his resume’.

And yet, Kornheiser continues to cash a healthy paycheck from the network that bills itself as “The Worldwide Leader In Sports.”

Kornheiser conveniently neglected to identify his mysterious NASCAR source Tuesday, which is his right. We all have sources in the sport, many of whom choose to remain anonymous for reasons of their own. That did not preclude Kornheiser from contacting someone else in the NASCAR community for comment, however. His ESPN colleague, Rusty Wallace would certainly have set him straight in no uncertain terms, had Kornheiser taken the time to ask.

Unfortunately, “Pardon The Interruption” doesn’t often deal with facts. They’re more interested in creating controversy and ruffling feathers. Kornheiser, in particular, has a frequent penchant for the offensive.

In February of last year, he served a two-week suspension after making a series of wildly inappropriate on-air comments about SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm’s attire. “She’s got on red go-go boots and a catholic school plaid skirt,” bellowed Kornheiser at the time. "Way too short for somebody in her 40s -- or maybe early 50s -- by now. She’s got on her typically very, very tight shirt. She looks like she has sausage casing wrapping around her upper body.”

He apologized under pressure the following day, saying, "I'm a sarcastic, subversive guy. I'm a troll. That, I think, should go without saying."

On that count, at least, he was correct.

ESPN Vice President of Motorsports Rich Feinberg will take part in a previously-scheduled press conference tomorrow in Daytona International Speedway's Media Center. He, Reid, Jarrett and Petree will be on hand to hype the network’s upcoming season of NASCAR coverage. We’ll be there, as well, to ask if Kornheiser’s comments have the official stamp of approval of “The Worldwide Leader In Sports.”

Bristol, Food City Honor Jeff Byrd

Officials announced today that Bristol Motor Speedway's March 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will have a new name this season. In honor of Jeff Byrd, the late Bristol President and General Manager who passed away last October, the Food City 500will be renamed the Jeff Byrd 500, Presented by Food City.

"Jeff Byrd was more than a business partner, he was a true friend to our company, our associates and to me and my family personally,” said Food City President and CEO Steven C. Smith. “He spent years putting his guests first and instilling that attitude in his team.

“We are all convinced that Jeff absolutely would not have wanted us to do this, as his focus was always on keeping the guests and sponsors of Bristol Motor Speedway front and center. But that’s one of the reasons that this time, we’re putting Jeff out front. It’s only natural to honor someone who worked so hard to build this facility, this sport and this region.”

Bristol Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell said he was speechless when Smith made the offer to honor Byrd, who guided BMS and its employees for 15 years. “Right after we agreed to the partnership extension, Steve looked me right in the eye and said ‘What are we going to do to honor Jeff?’” said Caldwell. “I told him we were talking about some different things and wanted to know what he had in mind. He said ‘I want to name the race for him.’

“I was blown away. Here was a guy who had just agreed to a three-year contract extension -- and that’s not free -- offering to give up the race name for a year. I absolutely didn’t know what to say."

Darrell Waltrip, the winningest driver in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway with 12 trophies was in Bristol for the announcement. “I knew Jeff Byrd for years,” said Waltrip. “I first met him when he was with R.J. Reynolds and then our friendship grew when he took over this place. For a sponsor to do something like this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen, and I am glad I was here to be a part of it.”

McBride To Perform Anthem at Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Fresh off her rousing opening performance at the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards, Country music star Martina McBride will sing the National Anthem for the 53rd running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 20, NASCAR biggest and most prestigious race of the season.

“We’re looking forward to having one of the most popular and recognized voices in country music perform the National Anthem for the Daytona 500,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “With hundreds of thousands of race fans in attendance and the tens of millions more watching live on FOX, we look forward to hearing Martina’s rendition of the National Anthem.”

“Singing our National Anthem is always a great honor for me,” McBride said. “I’ve had the pleasure of singing it at so many prestigious events and now I get to add the historic Daytona 500 to that list. You can’t get any more all-American than NASCAR and country music so I’m looking forward to seeing so many of our mutual fans at this impressive event.”

McBride is a four-time Country Music Association Female Vocalist of the Year, three-time American Country Music Female Vocalist of the Year and a Grammy winning recording artist with more than 18 million in album sales and 24 top-10 singles, including six that reached No. 1.

McBride, whose hits include “Independence Day,” "Wild Angels,” “A Broken Wing,” “Blessed,” “Concrete Angel” and “This One’s for the Girls," recently signed with Big Machine Label Group’s Republic Nashville and is currently in the studio recording her 11th studio album that will be released later this year.

Exide Backs Buescher For 2011

James Buescher told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that Exide Batteries will back his #31 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet in a total of eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races this season, beginning with the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona.

Buescher’s 2010 sponsor, WolfPack Rentals, will also return for an unspecified number of races this season, and Beuscher said more sponsor announcements are expected in the near future. “We’re going to run the full schedule,” said Buescher. “Turner Motorsports has more sponsorship in the works, and even if we don’t get every race sponsored, Steve Turner has made the commitment that we’ll run for the championship.”

Buescher said he is excited to begin the 2011 season for a team that has expanded from a single-truck operation a year ago to field three Camping World Trucks and four Nationwide Series Toyotas this season. “It’s amazing to be able to drive for a team like this,” he said. “I’m as excited to get going as I have ever been.”

Friday, February 11, 2011

Skinner Signs With Eddie Sharp Racing For Daytona Truck Race

Former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Mike Skinner told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he will compete in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway in a #45 Eddie Sharp Racing Toyota, with sponsorship from Cushman Utility Vehicles.

Skinner parted company with Randy Moss Motorsports during the offseason and has been scrambling to put together an eleventh-hour package for Daytona.

“It came together late, but it came together,” said Skinner. “We’d like to race here at Daytona and also at Phoenix, then we’ll have a little time to try and put something together for the rest of the season. I’m going to represent the Cushman Brand, and I’m excited about the relationship. Eddie hopes to run fulltime with one truck (to be driven by former ARCA standout Craig Goess), and maybe we can get something together for a second Tundra.

“Eddie Sharp’s a racer,” said Skinner. “He’ll take last $10 out of his pocket to go racing. My first choice is to continue driving a Toyota. I’m the only guy to run every race for them since they arrived in the series. I feel like I helped them get into the sport, and I’m happy to be staying with them.”

Skinner said he currently has no over-the-wall pitcrew for the race, but intends to find one. “There are lots of pit crews hanging around these garages this week, and I’m going to walk around, beg and plead and get someone to help us out. We don’t have a lot of money to spend, but I’ve got a few friends in the garage that I hope will agree to help us out.”

Rest In Peace, Tom

Tom Carnegie has died at the age of 91.

Carnegie is best remembered as the longtime public address voice of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, delivering his trademark calls, including, "Heeeeez-on-it!" and "It's a newwwww trrrrrack rrrrrecord" from 1946 to 2006.

He recalled his hiring by track owner Tony Hulman in a Sirius Speedway Legends conversation nearly a decade ago, saying, "I was announcing some little event at a short track somewhere, and Tony Hulman and Wilbur Shaw came over and said, 'Hey, you want to work the 500?' I don't know what came out of my mouth, but it was good enough for them to hire me.

"After that, I think they were too embarrassed to fire me. So I stayed for 61 years."

Carnegie was also an award-wining sportscaster for more than 30 years at WRTV Radio in Indianapolis, calling the Indiana State High School basketball tournaments for decades. He retired from radio 1985, but continued as the voice of the speedway for another 11 years.

Carnegie called virtually every meaningful moment in the history of the legendary Brickyard, and was close with many of open wheel racing's legendary names. In addition to being one of the finest announcers ever to hold a microphone, Carnegie was a truly beloved figure at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and throughout the state of Indiana.

We will celebrate the life and career of our friend Tom Carnegie with a special Sirius Speedway Legends rebroadcast in the final half-hour of today’s show.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

As Promised, It's Freddie, The World's Fastest Fish!

Annett Had Prior Text-While-Driving Crash

Michael Annett’s recent DUI-related car crash was apparently his second major motor vehicle incident in the last seven months.

A check of North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicle records shows that the Nationwide Series driver was involved in a crash last July in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he rear-ended a stopped car and pushed it into a third vehicle, causing injuries to another driver that required physical therapy.

Annett told police at the time that he was texting on his cell phone and became distracted, similar circumstances to an early Sunday morning crash when he slammed into another vehicle, reportedly while texting and with a blood alcohol content four times the legal limit.

Annett did not receive any alcohol-related charges in the July crash.

Tire Kingdom Backs Bodine's Daytona Triple

Tire Kingdom will serve as primary sponsor of Todd Bodine's quest to compete in all three of NASCAR's national racing series at Daytona International Speedway.

The 36-time NASCAR winner and two-time Camping World Truck Series champion will drive the #30 Tire Kingdom Toyota Tundra in the Feb. 18 Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250, the #15 Tire Kingdom Toyota Camry in the Feb. 19 Nationwide Series Drive4COPD 300 and the #60 Tire Kingdom Toyota Camry for the Feb. 20 Daytona 500. All three machines will also carry associate sponsorship from Valvoline, National Tire and Battery, Merchant's Tire and Auto Centers and Big O Tires.

Since 2005 -– Bodine's inaugural full-time season with Germain Racing -- he has never finished lower than fourth in the championship point standings. In addition to winning the series title last season, he also claimed the Truck Series crown in 2006. His Daytona truck record includes two wins, two second-place finishes, a third and a fifth for a finishing average of 2.3 in six career starts.

“I am very excited to have Tire Kingdom and Valvoline for all of my races at Daytona,” said Bodine. “It does not happen often that you get to represent one great company, let alone two in all three races in a weekend. Hopefully, with a little luck, we can run up front and get into Victory Lane.”

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Mayfield Remains Defiant

Jeremy Mayfield told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he apologized to his former stepmother, Lisa Mayfield, because “it was the right thing to do.”

The suspended NASCAR driver issued a public apology to Lisa Mayfield Tuesday, settling a slander suit she filed against him in Iredell County, NC, in 2009 after he accused her of complicity in the death of his father two years earlier; a death that has officially been ruled a suicide. "I have previously made statements to the press in which I accused Lisa Mayfield of either murdering my father, Terry Mayfield, or being involved in a conspiracy to murder him," Mayfield wrote. “Those statements were made in the heat of my emotional state at the time. I now retract those statements and apologize to Lisa for having made them."

In an exclusive Sirius Speedway interview, Mayfield said he was anxious to set the record straight and bring an end to the litigation involving his former stepmother. “We’ve been in a legal battle, (but) we got everything straightened out today,” he said. “I felt like it was the right thing to do, to put this behind us and move forward; get all this junk out of our lives, keep moving forward and not look back. We wanted to focus on just the NASCAR stuff… and leave all that other junk behind us. That’s what we’ve done.”

Mayfield sued NASCAR for breach of contract, discrimination and defamation after being suspended by the sanctioning body on May 9, 2009, shortly after a random drug test came back positive for methamphetamine use. While the associated legal fees have been a major drain on his finances, Mayfield said, “We knew that going into it. We knew it was going to be expensive. Dan Marino, my main attorney on the NASCAR stuff, (is) ready to go. We’ve got him paid for all the way through the deal, so I’m sticking it out, no matter what. I made sure I had that covered before I even got into it, because I knew that’s what the case was going to be. It’s definitely not a cheap thing.”

Mayfield said a recent auction to liquidate some of his belongings was not an indicator of financial distress. “I’m still going to auctions,” he said. “I still have stuff, I’m still buying and selling and doing trades. (Financial trouble) is not what that was about. The timing just happened to be right where we was going to have (an auction) anyway.

“We’re still here, we’re still alive and we’re still living in… the same place we were. I’m not going to sit here and tell you it hasn’t been expensive. It has. It cost me a lot of money I’ll never see again. But financially, we’re making the best of what we’ve got right now. And hopefully I can figure out something to do (for work) here shortly and move forward from there, you know?”

Mayfield said he is not discouraged by a recent series of court decisions against him and in favor of NASCAR. “We had a huge success in winning an injunction right off the bat, but obviously things have changed since then (and) we’ve been back and forth. It hasn’t been good for them, either. Brian (France) has been exposed pretty good, and probably will continue to be throughout the deal.

“It’s a situation where we’ve asked the judge twice to reconsider his decision, and he decided both times not to do that. It looks like we lost two rounds, but we really didn’t. We’re still right back where we were when we filed our appeal. We’re going to move up the (judicial) ladder, and we feel like the higher we get up the ladder, the better chance we have.

“All I want is a fair shot in a jury trial where somebody else can look at everything from the outside, looking in,” said Mayfield. “Not a NASCAR official, not a NASCAR lab, or me or anyone else. Let a jury decide what happened and what went on. That’s all we’re asking for.

“If we come up short on that deal, fine. I’ll apologize to everybody for everything’s that’s went on. If I get that opportunity, that’s all I want. I think we deserve that and I think the sport deserves that.”

Mayfield said he is not concerned that retracting his accusations against Lisa Mayfield could lead to questions about the veracity of his allegations against NASCAR. “I didn’t have to send (the retraction) out today,” he said. “It was the right thing to do. I said some wrong things and I’m admitting that. I apologize for that. I wouldn’t do it again, but I was caught in the heat of battle and was very emotional the day that it happened. That’s just part of it. I made a mistake and I’m admitting that now.

“If anything, it should add to my credibility, because I didn’t have to do that. I did it because I felt like it was the right thing to do to get things behind us. I made the decision, and I feel good about it. Now Shana and I can go do our own business, and (Lisa) can do hers.”

Mayfield said he hears little criticism from race fans and is comfortable in public.

"You’d be surprised,” he said. “I’ve gotten a ton of support. I feel like I’ve gotten more (support) now than I ever had as far as the fans. I’ve not had anybody come to me (and say something negative). Everybody… who has had anything to say about it has been positive, and has a good understanding and their own opinion of what’s been going on. It hasn’t been bad like you think it is, because I think people have seen what’s going on."

The Kentucky native said he is doing his best to look to the future, despite the looming spectre of his lawsuit against NASCAR. “We’re starting a little scrap metal business,” he said. “I’ve been messing with that and I love it. I’m talking about going back racing – in another series, obviously – and who knows what’s going to happen there? I’m going to take it day by day and get my stuff back together here. And who knows? Maybe one day we’ll get our chance at a jury trial and then everybody will know everything. Or at least it will all be over with and I’ll know we had a fair shot at it.”

Asked about resurrecting his racing career, Mayfield said, “We haven’t really been talking about it that much. There’s some stuff I could have already done. I could have done some drag racing last year (and) some dirt car racing, World of Outlaws; a lot of things. I have had opportunities to do things, but haven’t done them because I want to get this (lawsuit) behind me. I want to go into it with a clear mind and not have to worry about anything going on, as far as lawsuits and all that junk. I want to just get that behind me and go racing again.

“(Racing) is hard enough as it is without anything else going on. Throw in all this mess with the legal system, and it’s really hard.”

Mayfield said he does not know how long it will take to see his case through. “It could be up to a year,” he said, “but I assure you we’re not going away. If they say there’s no possible way for us to have a jury trial, then we’ll go do something different. But we’re going to stay here if it takes a year, two years… whatever it takes.”

He said he still follows the NASCAR, though not to the degree he did prior to his suspension. Asked about the recent reinstatement of former NASCAR Busch Series champion Randy LaJoie following an indefinite suspension for substance abuse, Mayfield said he has never questioned his decision to take his case to court, rather than rehab.

“I remember Randy saying, `Mayfield should have done this and that,’” said Mayfield. “But if Randy LaJoie didn’t smoke pot, and (someone from NASCAR) told him he did, he wouldn’t have done (rehab), either. That’s what people don’t understand. I’m not going back racing if I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not going to rehab and going through the reinstatement process, because I didn’t do anything.

“Randy did it. He admitted he went out and smoked pot and got caught. That’s not the case here. I took a prescription drug and did everything (NASCAR’s) policy states, and it still came down to this. So no, I wouldn’t change anything. We’ve lost a lot of money (and) spent a lot on attorneys. But we’re still standing here, and I’m not going away until (the case) is heard. That’s what I’m fighting for. Sometimes you have to stand up for what’s right and not bend over every time (NASCAR) says to do something.

“NASCAR is not always right,” said a defiant Mayfield. “They win every appeal they get in, for whatever reason, but it doesn’t mean they’re right every time.”

No Rush To Judgement Needed For Annett

NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Michael Annett was arrested early Sunday morning in Mooresville, NC and charged with driving while intoxicated, texting while driving, failure to reduce speed and resisting an officer. According to police, Annett had a blood alcohol content of .32; exactly four times the legal limit. He reportedly resisted an officer’s attempt to handcuff him, leading to an additional charge of resisting an officer.

Since news of his arrest broke late Monday, many in the NASCAR community have called for the sanctioning body to take action, suspending Annett from SpeedWeeks 2011 at Daytona, or even for the entire season. Annett’s charges are serious, but at present, they are nothing more than charges. Until Annett has his day in court – complete with an opportunity to present whatever defense he and his attorneys are able to muster – he is innocent until proven guilty. Until the courts have their say, a rush to judgement by NASCAR, its fans or the media is both unnecessary and premature.

Annett is not the first NASCAR driver to be charged with DUI. Most recently, AJ Allmendinger was arrested in October of 2009 after registering .08 on a breathalyzer test following a routine traffic stop. NASCAR placed Allmendinger on probation for the remainder of the season, but did not suspend him from competition. Annett should be treated equally.

There is no doubt that Michael Annett displayed a serious lack of judgement by climbing behind the wheel Sunday morning. There is no defending his actions, and no attempt from this corner to minimize their severity. However, there is also no need for NASCAR to begin playing judge, jury and executioner.

Annett will almost certainly pay a heavy price for his mistake. Court costs, attorney fees, fines and other expenses routinely top $10,000 for DUI-related offenses, and Rusty Wallace Racing said yesterday that they will institute their own sanctions, including “a zero tolerance policy toward alcohol use, a yearlong community service program and… successful completion of a comprehensive alcohol awareness program.”

While Annett will drive in next week’s Nationwide season opener at Daytona, Wallace called the 24-year old driver’s situation, “something I don't take lightly at all. It's embarrassing for everybody. He's hurt his team, himself and everybody.” Annett has not spoken with the media since his arrest, but released a statement saying, "I am deeply remorseful for my actions and my extreme lack of judgment. I let down my team, my sponsors, my fans and my family. I sincerely apologize to everyone that I hurt.

“This was truly a life-changing moment for me,” he said. “Despite all of the negativity that will undoubtedly arise from it, I'm going to strive to use this incident as the impetus to make a lot of positive changes in my life."

He is set to appear in court next month.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

So Long, Suzy!

As most of our listeners are aware by now, Suzy Armstrong announced Friday that she is leaving Sirius Speedway to devote her attention to a number of exciting new projects.

"The Q" will lend her considerable talents to MRN Radio's syndicated "NASCAR USA" and "College Football Country" programs, while also voicing weekly NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race recaps on Other projects will be announced in the near future.

Suzy was an original member of the Sirius Speedway cast, alongside yours truly and producer Marty Hough. The cast of characters has changed occasionally over our 7 1/2-year run, with Ryan Horn, Craig Moore, Suzanne Clavette and now Bob Tozzi taking their turn in the producer's chair. Through it all, though, "Suzy Q" was a constant. She delivered the daily NASCAR news with a clarity and confidence that our listeners immediately came to rely upon. She also served as my chief sounding board and "idea person," and exhibited a remarkable ability to derail the show with unexpected comments and observations at the most unlikely of moments. Nobody took Sirius Speedway to "Porno Town" like Suzy!

We shared a lot of laughs over the years, from "Turdis Curner" to her alleged Love Child with former NHRA Champion Gary Scelzi (never proven) and her steadfast insistance that a Martinsville hot dog -- without chili and slaw -- was STILL a Martinsville hot dog. Sadly, we shed a few tears along the way, as well. The passing of dear friends like Darrell Russell, Bobby Hamilton, Eric Medlen, Scott Kalitta and Jim Hunter made for some extremely dark days, but we got through it together, like families do.

Like you, we're sad to see Suzy go. But we're excited that she'll be expanding her horizons, stretching her wings and tackling new projects that she's truly excited about. We're also thrilled to announce that Angie Skinner has agreed to become a full-time member of the Sirius Speedway family, effective immediately. Angie is a true NASCAR insider, and brings a unique mix of knowledge, opinion and scathing wit to the program that I know you're going to enjoy.

To Suzy Q, good luck, best wishes and thank you for all the great years.

To Angie, welcome aboard, we're excited about what lies ahead.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Here We Go A-Ginn, Another Bizarre Owner Point Swap Muddles The NASCAR Playing Field

NASCAR’s annual pre-season owner-point orgy is in full swing once again, headlined by a bizarre, multi-team transaction that makes former Richard Petty Motorsports owner George Gillett, Jr. the new owner of record for Wood Brothers Racing. Here’s how it all went down.

Sources say Wood Brothers Racing has acquired 2010 owner points from the #19 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford driven last season by Elliott Sadler, which is not slated for competition this year. Richard Childress Racing now owns the owner points accrued by the #71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet last season, for use on Menard’s new #27 RCR Chevrolet.

Calls and e-mails to Wood Brothers Racing seeking confirmation were not immediately returned, but Richard Childress Racing Director of Corporate Communications David Hart confirmed his team’s share of the transaction today, saying, “Thomas Pumpelly divested from his partnership with TRG Motorsports on January 27 and took with him the #71 (owner) points. He has joined RCR as an equity partner and the #27 Menard’s Chevrolet will be operating with the #71 points. Pumpelly will be listed (as owner) on the entry.”

Earlier today, TRG owner Kevin Buckler denied that an owner point transfer had taken place, saying, "We’re going to stand on our own two feet. We had a lot of people contact us about doing various owner point deals, but we decided to say `no' to them all. We’re going to put Andy Lally in the #71 car for the Daytona 500 and go racing.”

Told of Buckler’s statement, RCR’s Hart said, “That’s not what I have been told, and my information comes from the highest authority.”

Sources speaking on the condition of anonymity tell Sirius Speedway that Buckler will compete at Daytona using owner points accrued last season by the #98 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, though that could not immediately be confirmed.

Why is Gillett’s name being used, instead of Richard Petty’s? Because Petty reportedly owned just 4% of the team that bore his name last season, and NASCAR requires owners to hold at least a 10% stake in order to sell owner points.

Thus, for the second time in the last three seasons, a major NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team will be “owned” by a man who is no longer involved in the sport. In 2009, Bobby Ginn was listed as owner of a Dale Earnhardt, Inc., Chevrolet, nearly a year after slinking out of town amid a twisted trail of broken promises and unpaid bills. Now, it’s Gillett, who appeared in the Cup garage just slightly more than Jimmy Hoffa last season, before leaving his team high and dry with a handful of races still to be run. In his wake, he reportedly left a veritable Mt. Everest of debt for suppliers, employees and former partners to bear. The vast majority of that debt was either written off or left unpaid while Gillett – amazingly – walked away unencumbered.

Ray Evernham, who owned 20% of RPM last season and has yet to be paid in full for his share of the team, said he was given no say in this most recent transaction, leaving him with no way to recoup any value from the team that once bore his name. Evernham declined to comment on the deal today, other than to say, “I am not surprised at the way this was handled by my former partners."

Today’s owner point swap illustrates yet again why it’s long past time for NASCAR to outlaw such chicanery, once and for all. Any loophole that allows people like Bobby Ginn and George Gillett to remain a part of this sport – even in name only – is a loophole in need of closure. Richard Petty, Richard Childress and the Wood Brothers deserve no blame in this latest perversion of process, They are merely availing themselves of a rule that long ago outlived its usefulness. Make no mistake about it, however, today’s ruling damages the sport in ways that will not soon be undone.

NASCAR can – and should – do better.

Lally/TRG Team For Daytona 500

TRG Motorsports will field its #71 Chevrolet in the Daytona 500 with Andy Lally at the controls.

"We’re going to stand on our own two feet,” said TRG owner Kevin Buckler today. “We had a lot of people contact us about doing various owner point deals, but we decided to say `no” to them all. We’re going to put Andy Lally in the car for the Daytona 500 and make use of our own owner points.”

Lally made seven Sprint Cup starts for TRG last year, with a top finish of 18th at Watkins Glen. He is fresh off a GT class win in the ROlex 24 at Daytona driving for TRG, and will be a guaranteed starter in the 500. Buckler declined to comment on what offers he received for his 35th-place 2010 owner points, laughing, “I’m staying completely out of that.”

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Stoddard Forms New Sprint Cup Team

Veteran crewchief Frank Stoddard has joined the ranks of team ownership, joining with U.S. Chrome Corporation owner and CEO Bob Reath to form FAS Lane Racing, a new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series operation that will run the full 2011 championship schedule.

“We’ve acquired a few cars from Richard Petty Motorsports and a few from Roush-Fenway,” said Stoddard. “Doug Yates is going to build us some killer race engines, and we’re looking forward to making our debut at the Daytona 500.” Stoddard said his goals are realistic for 2011. “We’re not going to be out there knocking off Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush,” he said. “Our goal will be to run between 15th and 30th, and by doing that, to give a smaller sponsor a ton of exposure.”

While major Sprint Cup teams command $20-25 million in sponsorship for a full season, Stoddard said his new operation can do the job – on a smaller scale – for as little as $3-4 million. “There’s an untapped market out there,” he said. “There are sponsors that want to be in this sport, but don’t have that $20 million to spend. We’re going to reach out to those companies and give them a chance to be involved.”

Stoddard and Reath first joined forces nearly a quarter-century ago -- in 1988 -- when U.S. Chrome backed New Hampshire driver Dana Patten in five races on what is now the Sprint Cup Series. Stoddard served as crewchief and chassis specialist for the team, and more recently teamed with Reath to field cars for Boris Said in a limited schedule of events on the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Last year, he served as crewchief for the #26 Latitude 43 Motorsports team, an operation that is not expected to compete this season.

“I am energized to be back partnering with U.S. Chrome and Bob Reath… this time as co-owners on NASCAR’s grandest stage.” Stoddard said. “With U.S. Chrome’s sponsorship of the FAS Lane Racing Team, we look forward to hitting the ground running at the Daytona 500.”

Stoddard has had success at Daytona in the past. He teamed with Scott Wimmer to finish third in the 2004 Daytona 500; still the best rookie finish in the history of the event. He has 14 career wins and 90 Top-10 finishes in Cup competition, many of them with driver Jeff Burton during their time together at Roush Racing.

“At U.S. Chrome, we have two passions,” said Reath, “developing superior-performing, environmentally-friendly coatings – and racing. We are excited to renew our partnership with Frank Stoddard and to re-enter NASCAR in the biggest way possible – by challenging the world’s best at the Daytona 500.”

The team will announce its Daytona 500 driver early next week, with Stoddard hinting he may utilize multiple wheelmen over the course of the season.

Sauter Primed To Improve On Solid 2010 Truck Series Season

A year ago, Johnny Sauter finished third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship chase. He’s aiming even higher this time around, with a new sponsor to assist in the effort. Safe Auto Insurance will join longtime backer Curb Records on Sauter’s #13 Chevrolet.

“I know what this team is capable of, and I really think we should win four or five races in 2011,” said Sauter. “If we do that, then we’re going to go to Homestead with a chance to win the championship.” To that end, ThorSport made a change under the hood for 2011, turning to ECR horsepower for the first time. “It’s not like we were underpowered last season,” said Sauter, “but I’m excited about having ECR engines this year.”

After coming so close to the Truck Series title a year ago, Sauter said it’s difficult to identify and implement major improvements in the team. “We had some problems on pit road, and we’ve addressed that over the off-season; (bringing) in some new guys and working hard, practicing every day. We’ve also built some new trucks and we’ve updated the ones we had that ran so well the past two years.”

Sauter made single trips to Victory Lane in each of his first two seasons driving for ThorSport, with wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009 and Kansas Speedway in 2010. He makes no bones about believing that he and his team should notch multiple wins this season.

“Winning once at this level is an extremely difficult thing to do,” he said. “So on one hand, we’re really proud to win in each of the last two seasons. But once you win, you know you can do it and you want more. It’s a hunger that feeds off itself.”

He joked that a better start than he had in 2010 will help. In last year’s season-opener at Daytona, Sauter qualified a solid eighth, but made it only to Turn Two of the opening lap before being swept up in a crash and sidelined from the event. “I barely even had my seat belts tightened before it was over,” he recalled, “and it put us in a big hole. We were eventually able to climb out of it, but I would really like to have a better start to the season this time around.”

Sirius Speedway Presents Special Look at Sponsorship In NASCAR

Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody will present a special look at the state of sponsorship in NASCAR on Friday, February 4.

Guests will include Hendrick Motorsports Vice President of Marketing Pat Perkins, who will outline the sponsor procurement process at one of NASCAR’s largest and most successful teams, while Linkous Enterprises President Ron Linkous speaks on the challenges smaller teams face in attracting and keeping sponsors.

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte – who owns his own short-track race team, as well as one of the sport’s most successful marketing companies – will provide his unique perspective, as will RainEater, LLC President Lance Thornton, whose company is set to enter the sport as a sponsor in 2011.

Veteran NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Kenny Wallace will recount the exhaustive, one-man sponsor search he undertook during the offseason; a search that brought three new backers to his RAB Racing Team for the coming season. Richard Petty Motorsports/Best Buy Ford driver AJ Allmendinger will outline the off-track responsibilities drivers and teams face in keeping sponsors happy over the course of a 10-month racing season.

“It’s no secret that the economy is still suffering,” said Sirius Speedway host Dave Moody. “We hear anecdotal reports that things may be beginning to turn around, but we thought it would be good to talk to the people on the front lines. I look forward to giving fans and industry insiders alike a look at the state of sponsorship in our sport.”

Sirius Speedway is heard weekdays from 3-7 p.m. ET on Sirius NASCAR Radio, Channel 128.

Benson To Drive For Charity At Berlin Raceway announced today that former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and Grand Rapids, MI, native Johnny Benson will drive the team’s new Boyne Machine Premier Super Late Model car at Marne, Michaigan's Berlin Raceway in 2011. Benson continues to search for a full-time ride in one of NASCAR's top three national divisions, but has committed to drive in up to six races on the new series. Foundation, a Michigan based non profit charitable foundation supporting Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital of Grand Rapids, Michigan, will also campaign a Berlin Modified this season, after raising more than $50,000 for the hospital in 2010. In addition to its fundraising efforts, Racing Awareness provides seriously ill children and their families with visits to the race track and meet-and-greet sessions with drivers.

Benson is scheduled to make his debut behind the wheel of the Racing Awareness car on Tuesday, June 21 in the Rowdy 251, named for NASCAR driver Kyle Busch, who is also scheduled to compete. For the latest information on Racing and Johnny Benson, plus the 2011 Racing Awareness and Berlin Raceway schedules, go to or search RacingAwareness on Facebook.

Stankiewicz To Keselowski Racing

Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody has learned that Jeff Stankiewicz has left Turner Motorsports to accept a position as crewchief for Parker Kligerman's #29 Camping World Truck Series entry at Brad Keselowski Racing.

Stankiewicz came to Turner Motorsports when the team purchased Braun Racing in mid-2010, after serving as crewchief on Brian Scott's #11 Nationwide Series Toyota. He won six ARCA championships with Frank Kimmel and a Nationwide Series title with Kevin Harvick at Richard Childress Racing.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Wallace To Sub For Kenseth At Daytona

Kenny Wallace told Sirius NASCAR Radio’s Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he will be standing by to take over Matt Kenseth’s Crown Royal Ford, if Kenseth is called away during SpeedWeek 2011.

“I got a call last night from (Roush Fenway Racing GM) Robbie Reiser, and he said Katie Kenseth is due to give birth to their second baby in a couple of weeks," said Wallace. "They want me to be on standby in case she goes into labor before the Bud Shootout or Gatorade Duel. He said Matt will run the Daytona 500 no matter what, but they want me there in case they need me earlier in the week.

"Even though it’s probably because I’m the same size as Matt and will fit into the seat easily, it took me about a quarter of a second to agree.”

Sadler Inks Tapout Sponsorship with KHI

Elliott Sadler told Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway with Dave Moody that he will have a new sponsor in a limited number of NASCAR Nationwide Series races this season.

“KHI announced today that the Mixed Martial Arts apparel brand `TapouT' will be on our vehicles for a couple of races this year," said Sadler. "They’ll start out on my car at the Las Vegas Nationwide race, and they’ll be on Harvick’s machines a time or two, as well. The Trucks look bad to the bone.”

KHI co-owner Kevin Harvick will also carry the black and white TapouT logo on the hood of his #2 2 Chevrolet Silverado in the Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway in 2011.

Harvick, an MMA fan, said he is looking forward to helping TapouT expand into the NASCAR market. “TapouT has become one of the most well known brands in sports,” he said. “To have the opportunity to become part of the TapouT organization means a lot to not only me, but the KHI racing family. DeLana and I are very excited about this program and look forward to kicking it off in Las Vegas.”

More Sneak Peeks At The New Cars

Marcos Ambrose's new Stanley/DeWalt Ford from the Richard Petty Motorsports stable.

Steve Wallace will wheel this 5-Hour Energy Toyota in the 2011 Daytona 500.

David Ragan's sharp new UPS Ford.

Paul Menard has a new #27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet!

Kenny Wallace's RAB Racing/UNOH Toyota has a new look for 2011!

Elliott Sadler's One Main Financial Chevrolet is ready to roll at Kevin Harvick, Inc.