Wednesday, February 29, 2012

NASCAR Connection Helps Solve Cold Case

A four-year old hit-and-run fatality was solved this week, thanks in part to a NASCAR connection.

Melissa Lech died August 7, 2008
On August 7, 2008, 20-year old Melissa Lech was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking home from a night on the town with friends. Police were unable to identify a suspect in the case, prompting to co-ed’s family and friends to post a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Those efforts also went for naught, and last summer, driver Kevin Conway featured Lech’s photo on the trunk of his NEMCO Motorsports Sprint Cup Series Toyota, hoping to attract publicity to the case. 

Still nothing, until Sunday. 

While NASCAR Nation sat in the rain at Daytona International Speedway, waiting for a Daytona 500 that was ultimately postponed to the following evening, 27-year-old David McCarthy appeared on the doorstep of Lech’s sister, Michelle, confessing that he was the driver who had struck and killed her sister nearly four years ago and saying his conscience could no longer bear the weight of his actions. He said he became uneasy seeing “the NASCAR thing” and told the family -- and subsequently police – how he had struck Melissa Lech, stopped to see if she was still alive, then sped away to avoid apprehension.

McCarthy held on $1 million bail.
“He just came and said, ‘I ran over your sister, I ran her over’,” said Michelle Lech to WLS-TV reporter Chris Bury. McCarthy did not use his last name, but Lech’s husband had the foresight to write down his license plate number and give that information to police.

McCarthy is jailed today on $1 million bail, charged with causing personal injury and leaving the scene of an accident. 

Contacted today, Conway said he received word of the arrest while in Daytona Beach, telling reporter Bury the news was, “an awesome way to start the racing season. I hope this brings an element of closure so (the family) can begin the healing process.

“We have so many fans around the country; millions of people watching on TV and thousands in attendance,” he said. “We wanted to use the platform that NASCAR gives us to tie it back into the community.”
Mission accomplished.

Barrett Jackson To Back Ragan at PIR

The No. 34 Ford Fusion won't be up for auction, but the renowned Barrett-Jackson auto auction will be all over it at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. The famed automotive auction house will be the primary sponsor of David Ragan's Front Row Motorsports entry in this weekend's Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the one-mile desert oval.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company specializes in providing products and services to classic and collector car owners and automotive enthusiasts around the world. The company produces the "World's Greatest Collector Car Events" in Scottsdale, Palm Beach, Fla., Las Vegas and Orange County, Calif.

"Barrett-Jackson is excited to sponsor David Ragan's No. 34 Ford this Sunday," said Craig Jackson, Chairman and CEO of Barrett-Jackson. "This is not only a tremendous opportunity for Barrett-Jackson to increase its visibility on racing's biggest stage, but an honor to be involved in NASCAR's most celebrated competition series."

Ragan is ready to get back in the saddle after a disappointing second-lap crash in Monday’s rain-delayed Daytona 500. He has 10 career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix, with a top finish of 10th in 2008. Sunday's race airs on FOX with coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. (ET) and on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

"It's really cool having Barrett-Jackson on our No. 34 Ford Fusion this weekend,” said Ragan. “Who doesn't love the Barrett-Jackson auctions? It's like a car collector's Disney World. I know because I'm a bit of a collector myself. I love getting my hands on some of the old classics - they just have so much character and style. So, I think this partnership is perfect. And it's in the perfect place, right in their backyard, too.

"Obviously, Daytona was really disappointing,” he said. “We saw over the course of Speedweeks that the track conditions and the car set-ups made for some pretty dicey racing, so we expected to be on the look-out for that in the 500. But we sure didn't expect to be taken out on the second lap. But, we've already put that behind us.

"It'll be good to go to Phoenix, where we think we'll at least have a little more control over our own destiny. We're in a situation where we have to run a strong race and get as many points as possible, and I think the car that our crew chief, Jay Guy, has been working on for us will help us do that. I ran pretty well on the short tracks last year, and we've all got one race with the new configuration under our belts, so we know what we need to go do this weekend. I'm really anxious to get back in the car and get a good run in our Barrett-Jackson Ford Fusion."

Knaus Docked $100,000, Suspended Six Races

NASCAR dropped the hammer on Hendrick Motorsports, driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus today for body violations detected during pre-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500.
Knaus socked by NASCAR
The No. 48 car was found to be in violation of Sections 12-1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing); 12-4J (any determination by NASCAR officials that race equipment used in the event does not conform to NASCAR rules detailed in Section 20 of the rule book or has not been approved by NASCAR prior to the event); and 20-2.1E (if in the judgment of NASCAR officials, any part or component of the car not previously approved by NASCAR that has been installed or modified to enhance aerodynamic performance will not be permitted – unapproved car body modifications).
The sanctioning body penalized Johnson 25 championship driver points, docked team-owner Rick Hendrick an identical number of owner points, suspended Knaus and car chief Ron Malek for six races and fined Knaus $100,000. The monetary penalty is less than the $200,000 fine assessed to Carl Long for an illegal engine at the 2008 All-Star Race. The point deduction leaves Johnson -- who finished 42nd in the season-opening Daytona 500 after crashing on the opening lap -- at minus-23 points heading to Phoenix International Raceway this weekend. He becomes only the second driver in NASCAR history to have a negative point total, after Michael Waltrip was docked 100 points for illegal fuel additives prior to the 2007 Daytona 500.
Hendrick has promised to appeal any sanctions.

Sports Reporter Suspended For Danica Patrick Comments

San Diego television sports anchor Ross Shimabuku has been suspended without pay after implying a sexist slur against NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in on-air comments last week.
The controversy began late last week when Patrick complained about female athletes being described as "sexy," when male athletes are not. "Is there any other word that you can use to describe me?" she asked. Shimabuku replied, “Oh, I've got a few words. Starts with a 'B' and it's not 'beautiful.’"
He called Patrick “a pretty girl" who makes “money in sponsorships because of it. But what's not attractive is that she's sexy and she knows it,” he said. “What she says and what she does are two totally different things. She always has a chip on her shoulder, trying to prove something.”
Shimabuku backtracked quickly after video of his comments went viral last week, saying, “I truly apologize to anyone who may have been offended by (my) comments. It was not meant to be an attack on Danica. I have worked with her before at Phoenix (International Raceway), and I think she’s great for the sport. I hope she does great this weekend at the Daytona 500.”
Fox 5 San Diego announced via Twitter that Shimabuku has been suspended for one week without pay.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Daytona 500 Delivers Big Numbers For FOX

It took 36 hours to complete from its scheduled start time but fans won’t soon forget the 2012 Daytona 500 and the dramatic events delivered for FOX Sports. For the first time in the race’s 54-year history, rain postponed Sunday's 1:00 PM ET start until 12:00 PM ET Monday with continued showers in the afternoon delaying the green flag until 7:00 PM ET.

A total audience of over 36.5 million Americans watched last night’s race, according to fast national ratings issued today by Nielsen Media Research, making 2012 Daytona 500 the most-watched in FOX history. The 36.5 million total viewers, a measure of the audience that saw at least a portion of the race, is +22% higher than last year's total audience of 30 million and +22% better than 2010's 29.8 million. Yesterday’s total audience is the second best ever for a Daytona 500 on any network behind 37.0 million viewers in 2006 on NBC.

FOX won the primetime night among Adults 18-49 and total audience figures, a significant achievement going up against original episodes of popular network programs like ABC’s The Bachelor, CBS’s How I Met Your Mother and NBC’s The Voice, which was -10% lower in the Adults 18-49 demographic last night than it did a week ago. The Daytona 500 on FOX posted a 4.6 and averaged 14.1 million viewers from 8:00 – 11:00 PM ET, making it FOX’s most-watched Monday night in 16 months, dating back to Game 5 of the 2010 World Series.

The 2012 Great American Race, which included a fiery crash caused when Juan Pablo Montoya hit a safety truck/track-drying engine and red flagged the race for over two hours, earned an 8.0/14 rating/share and averaged 13.7 million viewers. While down slightly from last year’s Sunday afternoon race that occurred without any significant delays, (-8%, 2011 Daytona 500 - 8.7/20), Monday night’s race was up +4% when compared to the 2010 event (7.7/16), which saw lengthy delays for pothole repairs to the track.

Ratings for the 2012 Daytona 500 grew gradually through the first two and a half hours, climbing to an 8.2/12 (14.2 million viewers) in the 9:30 half-hour when the Montoya wreck occurred. Ratings grew further at 10:00 PM, peaking at an 8.8/13 (15.1 million viewers.) When the epic race concluded, Matt Kenseth emerged as the winner, capturing his second Daytona 500 victory in four years.

Top-rated markets for the Daytona 500 include: Greensboro (18.1/27), Jacksonville (18.1/27), Charlotte (16.7/26), Greenville (16.7/26), Dayton (16.1/25), and Orlando (16.0/26). Markets seeing the biggest growth from last year include: New Orleans (+46%, 7.3 vs. 5.0), Salt Lake City (+33%, 8.1 vs. 6.1), Ft. Myers (+30%, 15.5 vs. 11.9), San Antonio (+17%, 7.5 vs. 6.4) and Tampa (+17%, 12.5 vs. 10.7).