Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Michael Waltrip Racing Denied On Appeal

The National Motorsports Appeals Panel has denied the appeal of a P4 penalty issued on Sept. 23 to Michael Waltrip Racing owner Rob Kauffman, driver Clint Bowyer and crew chief Billy Scott in the aftermath of the recent race at Chicagoland Speedway. 

The original penalty assessed included a $75,000 fine, three-race suspension and six months’ probation for Scott and loss of 25 championship car owner and 25 championship driver points to both Kauffman and Bowyer.

Upon hearing the testimony, the Panel ruled that the Appellants violated the Rules set forth in the Penalty Notice, thereby upholding the penalty assessed by NASCAR.

It's Official: Stewart To Retire Following 2016 Season

After 17 years competing at NASCAR’s highest level, Tony Stewart has confirmed that his 18th year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will be his last. The three-time series champion will retire following the 2016 season, whereupon Clint Bowyer will take the wheel of the No. 14 machine beginning in 2017.

Since 2009 Stewart has held the dual title of driver/owner at Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR). He co-owns the team with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. Stewart will join Haas as a fulltime owner in 2017, with Bowyer being Stewart’s hand-picked successor to drive the No. 14 car.

“This is a moment every driver eventually comes to terms with, and I know this is the right decision for me,” said Stewart, owner of 48 Sprint Cup victories, 15 of which have come with SHR. “2016 will be my last year in a Sprint Cup car, but it’s not my last year in NASCAR. I love this sport and I love being a part of it, and instead of seeing me in a firesuit on Sundays, you’ll see me in a pair of jeans, and maybe even a pair of khakis.

“I plan to make the most of my final year as a driver in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and part of that is to ensure that when Clint Bowyer takes over the No. 14 in 2017, he has everything he needs to win races and contend for the championship. I’m very comfortable with this decision and what the future holds for me and Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Bowyer is an eight-time race winner in the Sprint Cup Series and finished second in the 2012 championship standings.

“Today is an incredible opportunity and I’m proud and excited to take over the No. 14 in 2017,” said Bowyer, the 2008 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. “Whether it’s racing him on Sunday or watching my dirt late model teams race at his famed Eldora Speedway, Tony and I share the same passion for racing. That makes this opportunity a perfect fit for me. I appreciate everything he’s done for me and the sport of auto racing. These are big shoes to fill, but boy am I ever looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a champion’s ride, and have Tony there with me along the way.”

Haas, who formed Haas CNC Racing in 2002 before partnering with Stewart to create SHR in 2009, embraces the transition.

“Tony Stewart has been a game-changer for Stewart-Haas Racing and for motorsports,” Haas said. “I always had an incredible amount of respect for what he could do with a racecar – any racecar, as he’s been successful in everything he’s ever driven. In getting to know Tony Stewart the businessman, I found a very smart person with excellent people skills. He’s extremely valuable to our race team and a strong voice in our sport. His passion for motorsports is unmatched, and I’m proud that his future outside of the No. 14 Chevrolet remains with Stewart-Haas Racing.”

The primary partners currently represented on the No. 14 Chevrolet include Bass Pro Shops, Mobil 1, Rush Truck Centers, Code 3 Associates, Coca-Cola, Jimmy Johns and Haas Automation. Announcements regarding the partnership lineup for the No. 14 team in 2016 and beyond will be made in the lead up to the 58th Daytona 500 on Feb. 21 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. 

“I have been blessed with fantastic partners throughout my racing career, and I take a lot of pride in the lifelong friendships formed and the great business successes we’ve been a part of,” Stewart said. “I never would’ve accomplished all that I’ve achieved in racing if it weren’t for the support of corporate America. They helped a kid from Columbus, Indiana, reach his dreams and I’ll be forever grateful.” 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NASCAR Confirms Talks On New Ownership Model Underway

NASCAR's Brett Jewkes
NASCAR Senior Vice President and Corporate Communications Officer Brett Jewkes confirmed today that the sanctioning body has held talks with Sprint Cup Series owners with an eye toward implementing a new ownership model, as early as 2016.
“Earlier today, NASCAR met with all Sprint Cup Series owners and presented framework concepts for future qualification to compete in NASCAR’s top national series, with an eye toward implementing a new model for the 2016 season,” said Jewkes in a written statement. “The on-going dialogue with the entire industry has been very good and today’s session was another productive step in that process. NASCAR, the tracks and the team owners all have the same collective goal: making the sport as strong and competitive as it can be for decades to come. 
“Today’s meeting was one step in the process,” Jewkes said. “There is still a lot of work to be done and that will continue over the coming months. We understand there will be speculation and rumors related to the concepts outlined today, but would caution against coming to any conclusions as we work toward final decisions.
"When it is appropriate to do so, NASCAR will make an official announcement. In the meantime, we are excited about the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and this weekend’s race at Dover.”

Sources say the new system was presented to owners by NASCAR for the first time today, and is specifically not franchised-based.

Monday, September 28, 2015

COMMENTARY: The Witless Pursuit Of Consistency

Brad Keselowski was black-flagged by NASCAR on Lap 243 of Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, after the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford jumped a restart. It was exactly what a vocal group of drivers, team owners, media members and fans have been demanding for weeks, yet somehow, no one seems happy with the decision.
Keselowski jumped ahead of race leader Greg Biffle as their cars entered NASCAR’s designated restart zone, and was still ahead when they left the zone and received the green flag. Going strictly by the rule book, Keselowski was guilty of a violation, despite the fact that Biffle regained the lead as the pair raced through Turns One and Two. As the rules require, NASCAR ordered Keselowski to pit road for a pass-through penalty that mired him deep in the field, ending his hopes for Victory Lane and triggering a maelstrom of protest from many of the same people that demanded that exact response just a few days earlier.
One of those people was Keselowski’s car owner, Roger Penske, who blasted the sanctioning body for not penalizing Matt Kenseth three weeks ago at Richmond International Raceway, after Kenseth jumped Team Penske driver Joey Logano on the race’s final restart.
“The (official) must have closed the window and pulled the blind down,’’ said Penske at the time. “That’s how bad it was. They’ve got to come up with some way to say what’s right or what’s wrong. When you’re racing as tight as we are with everything that is on the line, you just can’t have that kind of officiating.”
Penske complained...
Penske chastised NASCAR for “inconsistencies” in their restart officiating, and drivers like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Logano and Kasey Kahne quickly joined the chorus of criticism. Media members and fans chimed in, as well, with NASCAR eventually buckling under the pressure and adding an unnecessary “restart camera” to their technological arsenal to keep an eagle-eye on restarts.  
After that, it was only a matter of time until someone fell victim to their competitive native and gassed it up a few feet too soon. Keselowski was that someone, and when NASCAR examined the fancy, high-definition data from that Lap 243 restart, they detected a small (but definite) violation. They then gave the critics what they wanted, assessing Roger Penske’s driver a major penalty for the most minor of violations. 
Ain’t karma a bugger?
In recent weeks, Penske and company have preached “consistency at all costs,” ignoring the fact that officials have always been empowered (and expected) to make judgment calls during the course of a race.
In virtually every professional sport, officials are allowed to exercise discretion in their enforcement of the rules. In Major League Baseball, there are significant differences in the way individual umpires interpret the strike zone. NBA officials routinely overlook traveling and three-second violations, in the interest of keeping the game moving. National Football League officials could easily call multiple penalties on every play, if they chose to do so, while linesmen in the National Hockey League routinely “swallow the whistle” as time runs down, allowing the players to decide the outcome.
... and Keselowski paid the price
They understand what many in NASCAR have apparently forgotten; that fans pay their money to watch athletes, not umpires.
“It was very clear-cut, based on the video we had,” said Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck Sunday. “By having (an official) on the ground directly across from the restart box, they can really get a good understanding and allow us to feel 100 percent that we (made) a very good decision.”
No doubt about it, NASCAR called it right Sunday. The rulebook forbids the second-place driver from accelerating first within the restart zone. Keselowski clearly did that Sunday, regardless of whether he actually completed a pass. And in a sport that no longer values common sense, the hammer had to fall, setting a precedent that will almost certainly plague the sport for years to come.
From now on, NASCAR must rule with the iron hand they displayed Sunday in the Granite State. They must go by the absolute letter of the law, treating a one-inch violation the same as a mile. The stage is set for the 2015 championship to be decided – not by the drivers – but by a sadly embattled man in an official’s uniform, forced to black-flag the leader at Homestead Miami Speedway for gassing it up three inches early in an attempt to secure the greatest prize our sport has to offer
No more common sense, enough of discretion. All we’ll have left is the empty ache created by the witless desire for consistency at all costs.  
“We're not out to get anybody,” said NASCAR’s Buck. “But we're the keeper of the rules and the enforcer of the rules. All anybody asks for in this garage area is to be treated fairly, and we believe we did our job today."

Be careful what you wish for, NASCAR fans. Because you just got it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Brandon Jones Full-Time At RCR Next Season

Brandon Jones will return to Richard Childress Racing in 2016 as a full-time driver in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.  

Jones shared seat time with Austin Dillon and Paul Menard as drivers of the No. 33 XFINITY Series Chevrolet in 2015. The Atlanta native has competed in four XFINITY Series races under the RCR banner at Iowa Speedway (twice), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Bristol Motor Speedway.  

Jones made his series debut at Iowa Speedway in May where he started fifth and finished eighth. Through four XFINITY Series races, Jones has earned an average starting position of 10.2 and an average finishing position of 17.5. His final XFINITY Series race of 2015 is at Kentucky Speedway on September 26.  

The 18-year-old driver also competed on a limited basis in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR K&N Series East and ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. So far this season, Jones has 20 starts combined between the three series, capturing eight top-five and 11 top-10 finishes with 143 laps led. In June, he earned his career-best NASCAR sanctioned event finish of second place at Iowa Speedway in the Camping World Truck Series.  

In 2014, Jones competed in three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events, earning a fourth-place finish at Dover International Speedway. In addition, Jones competed in three ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards races. Jones became the first driver in the 62-year history of the ARCA Racing Series to win his first two starts by taking the checkered flag back to back at Winchester and Indianapolis and notching a third-place finish at Madison, WI. in his next start. 

"Brandon's performance in his limited schedule with RCR this season has been very impressive," said Richard Childress, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of RCR. "We're thrilled to provide him an opportunity in 2016 to showcase his talents over an entire XFINITY Series season." 

Jones' crew chief and team will be named at a later date. Currently this season, Jones has worked with RCR crew chiefs Nick Harrison and Danny Stockman. 

"I'm honored to have the opportunity to drive for RCR on a full-time basis in 2016," said Jones. "I've learned a lot working with the RCR organization and the No. 33 XFINITY Series team in 2015 and look forward to continuing my development, contribute to RCR's success and produce positive results for all of my sponsors and fans. I'm excited to see what the 2016 season holds for me and our team. I look forward to setting my goals higher for the season because of the support from RCR, ECR Engines and Chevrolet."

Ground Broken For North East Motor Sports Museum‏

Celebrating the rich history of racing in the region, an impressive collection of New England racing legends, fans, donors and New Hampshire Motor Speedway leaders broke ground on the North East Motor Sports Museum on Friday to protect and preserve the stories and artifacts of the region’s racing and riding past.

Following a multi-year fundraising project, construction on the museum will begin this fall, with a planned opening scheduled for September of 2016. In celebration, for the first time ever, all four New England based drivers who have won at NASCAR’s top level, were together at the same time, as Pete Hamilton, Ron Bouchard, Ricky Craven and Joey Logano all stood in front of a huge crowd of more than 250 people.
“This vision began more than 15 years ago – to put the deep, rich history of motorsports of all kinds into a museum in New England,” said Dick Berggren, president of the North East Motor Sports Museum. “We wouldn’t be here without the help of Speedway Motorsports Executive Chairman Bruton Smith. His willingness to sign a 90-year lease for one dollar a year is the reason we are all here today.”
Berggren, Bouchard, Craven, Logano, Andy Cusack, Bentley Warren, Ken Smith, Skip Matczak, Dave Frahm, Frank Manafort, Bill Manafort, and Paula Bouchard (in memory of her father, Ed Flemke) assisted in the groundbreaking, which took place on speedway property near the south entrance.
Marcus Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., Bruton Smith, Executive Chairman of SMI, and New Hampshire Motor Speedway VP/GM Jerry Gappens were also in attendance.
“The large crowd assembled here today shows how supportive fans are to the sport of racing in this region,” said Marcus Smith. “Racing is about family, friends and having a good time with stories to share. This museum will ensure that those stories are told for years to come for not only fans today, but the future fans of tomorrow.”
New Hampshire political dignitaries present included Chuck Morse, Senate President for the State of New Hampshire and Bob Krieger, selectman for the town of Loudon.
“So much credit has to be given to Dick Berggren and his perseverance to stand strong through a tough economy and see this all the way through,” said Gappens. “This could have been built anywhere, but the fact that it’s being built here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway means the world to us. We look forward to supporting this as best we can moving forward.”
The museum will be built in two phases with the first being 10,000 square feet with an additional 10,000 square feet being added at a later date. The building will be used to house the history of motorsports from the Northeast area with multiple displays of racing vehicles and racing related artifacts. Construction will begin as soon as practical following the groundbreaking.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Gordon Set For Duck Boat Tribute At NHMS

Boston Duck Tours, which has carried championship teams like the Boston Bruins, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox on celebratory laps around Boston, will travel north this weekend to visit New Hampshire Motor Speedway.  

An actual World War II Duck Boat, a vehicle synonymous with transporting the region’s greatest sports heroes, will give multi-time NASCAR’s champions Jeff Gordon a final send-off before he makes his last start in the SYLVANIA 300 on Sunday afternoon. 

Gordon, a four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and three-time winner at the Magic Mile, will be accompanied by his family and No. 24 Drive to End Hunger crew members onto the amphibious landing vehicle for the champion’s lap. The duck boat will then deliver him to his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS for the final time as a full-time driver at the 1.058-mile oval.  

“I have many fond memories of racing in New Hampshire and I am thrilled to share the pre-race moment with my team and family,” said Gordon, who is the only competitor to start all 41 Cup races ever held at NHMS. “I have raced here since 1991, and it’s been a heck of a ride.”

In addition to being Gordon’s final scheduled start at NHMS, Sunday’s race will be Gordon’s 789th consecutive Sprint Cup Series start, breaking Ricky Rudd’s record of 788.
Gordon has never missed a race in his illustrious career. Drawing comparisons to Cal Ripken’s streak of 2,632 straight games in Major League Baseball and Brett Favre’s 297 straight games played in the National Football League, Gordon’s streak is on par, given the risks that come with every lap.
Tickets to the SYLVANIA 300 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend can be obtained at the track’s ticket office, by visiting the speedway website at, or calling the NHMS ticket hotline at (603) 783-4931.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

MWR, Bowyer Hammered For Chicagoland Violation

The No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota team and driver Clint Bowyer have been penalized by NASCAR for infractions discovered in opening day inspection at Chicagoland Speedway.  

The infraction(s) resulted in a P4-level penalty for the team. Crew chief Billy Scott has been fined $75,000, suspended for the next three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events and placed on NASCAR probation for six months. Clint Bowyer has been penalized 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship driver points, with Rob Kauffman penalized 25 owner points.   

NASCAR has requested that the Appeals Administrator of the National Motorsports Appeals Panel expedite the appeals process outlined in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rule book.  

Pending appeal, the deduction of driver points drops Bowyer to last place in the 16-man Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He now has 2005 total points, 26 out of the final transfer spot currently held by Jeff Gordon and four points behind 15th-place Kevin Harvick.  

Michael Waltrip Racing has issued a statement saying the team “respectfully disagrees with today’s penalties and plans to immediately appeal. MWR has made mistakes in the past, but we feel we are correct in this instance. We look forward to the opportunity to present our case to the appeals committee and have no further public comment until the process is completed.”

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

MRN To Broadcast K&N East, West Finales

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – is highlighting its fall schedule with a pair of live broadcasts to showcase some of stock car racing’s rising stars.

MRN will air the season-ending races in both the K&N Pro Series East and West; two of the sport’s top developmental tours.  The Drive Sober 125 K&N East season finale will air on Friday, Oct. 2, from Dover International Speedway.  Six weeks later, on Nov. 12, the Casino Arizona 100 at Phoenix International Raceway will bring the 2015 K&N West schedule to a close.

Each race will be run in conjunction with Sprint Cup Series weekends at “The Monster Mile” and PIR.  Joe Moore and Jeff Striegle will anchor both K&N Pro Series broadcasts.

“The K&N Pro Series features some of NASCAR’s rising stars and we’re excited about the opportunity to introduce them to our audience,” said MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt.  “While the industry focuses on the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the weeks ahead, our K&N broadcasts will give fans a glimpse at NASCAR’s future.  Some of those names they hear at Dover and Phoenix this year could be the ones they hear racing for Sprint Cup championships in years to come.”

Air time for the Oct. 2 Drive Sober 125 is 5 p.m. (EDT).  Joining Moore and Striegle on the broadcast from Dover, Del., will be Mike Bagley, Alex Hayden, Steve Post and Kim Coon.  The show will be produced by Brian Nelson.

With just one race left in the K&N Pro Series East, William Byron holds a 13-point lead over Scott Heckert with Austin Hill in third place, 14 off the pace.  Byron has a series-high four wins in 2015.  Hill is a two-time defending winner of the Dover race.

The Casino Arizona 100 will air at 7:30 p.m. (EST) on Thursday, Nov. 12.  The MRN broadcast from Phoenix International Raceway will be produced by Ryan Horn; and include Hayden, Post, Coon, Kyle Rickey and Dan Hubbard.

The championship battle in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West is a tight one with just 16 points separating the top four drivers.  Noah Gragson leads the way with Chris Eggleston, Ryan Partridge and Gracin Raz in hot pursuit.  There are two races left in the K&N West season.  The tour will stop in Roseville, Calif., on Oct. 17 before moving on to Phoenix International Raceway for the November finale.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Harvick Behind The Eight-Ball As Chase Heads To New Hampshire
With just one race complete in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, defending series champion Kevin Harvick already finds his back to the wall.

Harvick tangled with six-time champ Jimmie Johnson on a Lap 135 restart Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, sustaining damage that cut his left-rear tire a lap later and sent him crashing into the Turn Three wall. He returned to the track after lengthy repairs, eventually finishing 42nd in the 43-car field; a finish that leaves his hopes for a repeat title in considerable doubt. 

“I got a pretty good restart, and (Joey Logano and Johnson) got a good run,” said a steaming Harvick after the wreck. “I held my line and the 48 slammed into the side of my door. I stood my ground and he just slammed into the side of my door like I wasn't even there.

“My spotter was telling me 'four-wide' and I guess he just figured that he'd come up the race track."

Josh Hedges-- Getty Images
Not surprisingly, Johnson had a different take, saying Harvick “was pinning me down (when) I’ve got to get back up on the track. When you’re in Kevin’s situation, you want to give that inside car a bad angle, so they’ve got to lift. I was fine with lifting, but I had to get back on the race track. I pulled down inside of him, and as I moved back into the racing groove, that’s when we touched door-to-door, tire-to-tire.”

Harvick was still steaming when he returned to the track after lengthy repairs, telling crew chief Rodney Childers, "Let me know when that 48's near me on the track." 

The two never crossed paths on the race track, but they did clash after the race when Johnson went to Harvick’s motor home to discuss the incident. The conversation quickly grew heated, with Harvick showing Johnson in the chest with a closed fist before being pulled away by Kevin Harvick, Inc. Director of Business Development Josh Jones. Additional words were exchanged until Harvick’s wife, Delana, coaxed him into a waiting vehicle and away from the scene.
Now dead-last in the 16-man Chase standings, Harvick almost certainly needs a win at either New Hampshire or Dover to advance to the Contender Round. Despite having just one victory in 56 combined Sprint Cup starts at those two ovals, Harvick embraced the challenge Sunday, saying, “We can win anywhere. It’s just a matter of putting a couple of days together and being able to come back to Victory Lane. Same thing as last year.”

Childers also spoke optimistically about the job at hand, saying, “"We led the most laps in the last two races at Loudon and -- I think -- the last three races at Dover. You just have to go and do the best you can. The way (this Chase) is, it can be taken away from you in a week.

"It doesn't matter if it's the first week or last week… it's just the way it is."

That’s what’s best – and worst – about NASCAR’s Chase format. With just three races to make their case for advancement, drivers cannot afford to make mistakes. A momentary clash in Sunday’s opening round at Chicagoland now has Harvick hanging on by his fingernails, needing a win in the next two weeks to continue his championship dream. Unpredictability sells tickets, and also pushes tempers to the boiling point.

Anytime you break your season into a three-race (segment), every point matters,” said Hamlin in Victory Lane. “Every position matters. We saw more fights in the Chase last year than we've seen in the last 10 years, because when people feel they're wronged by somebody, they can feel their entire season has been ruined.

"It's just racing," he said. "We mess each other up every single week, but those who are battling for a championship take it a little bit more seriously now than they did during the summer months.

“This is not the first and it's definitely not going to be the last confrontation you're going to see."

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

With Chase Looming, 13 Drivers Test In Kansas

Thirteen drivers took to the Kansas Speedway oval today in a NASCAR open test session to prepare for the Oct. 18 Hollywood Casino 400, the fifth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. 

“I’m pleased to see how the track is aging. Fortunately, it hasn’t developed any bumps around the track through the hard winters and summers,” said Jimmie Johnson. “In the spring we put on a great race and could run anywhere on the race track. It’s only going to get better as time goes on.” 

Kansas native Clint Bowyer also participated in today’s test at his home track, while his team concentrates on Sunday’s opening event of the 2015 Chase at Chicagoland Speedway.  

“This is a pretty important test today,” said Bowyer. “At this point in the year, you’re kind of just verifying things. It is an advantage, this track being so close in similarities to the Chicago race track. It’s also an important track in the Chase and for when we come back because it’s home.” 

Brad Keselowski, who won at Kansas Speedway in 2011, knows that conditions could be different when his team returns in a month for the Hollywood Casino 400, but they’re happy to get time on the track. 

“The weather is close enough. We have plenty of stuff to try here. We’re happy just to be on the track. And we’ll run with that.”  

While teams testing today are preparing for the Hollywood Casino 400, Goodyear conducted a two-day test on Monday and Tuesday of this week in anticipation of a new aerodynamic package for 2016. 

“The last two days of the test, we were in the potential 2016 package,” said Johnson. “I had a lot of fun with the lower downforce package. I found myself behind a few cars and felt like the car drove really well in traffic.”

Racing returns to Kansas Speedway this October with the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards season finale on Oct. 16, the NASCAR XFINITY Series Kansas Lottery 300 on Oct. 17, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 -- fifth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- on Oct. 18. Tickets are currently on sale.

Groundbreaking For Northeast Motorsports Museum Set For Sept. 25

In celebration of New Hampshire Motor Speedway's 25th Anniversary of NASCAR racing in New England, the Racing History Preservation Group will break ground ceremony on the North East Motor Sports Museum during the SYLVANIA 300 race weekend.

The ceremony will take place on Friday, Sept. 25 on the site of the future North East Motorsport Museum, on speedway property near the south entrance. Former and current drivers including Pete Hamilton, Ron Bouchard, Ricky Craven and Joey Logano, all of New England’s driver who have won at NASCAR’s highest level of racing, are expected to be part of the celebration as well as political figures from New Hampshire.
The event is free for the public to attend and will take place at 2 p.m., leading into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying for the SYLVANIA 300 at 4:45.

Twelve individuals have been named as groundbreakers; Joey Logano, Ron Bouchard, Ricky Craven, Andy Cusack, Bentley Warren, Ken Smith, Skip Matczak, Dave Frahm, Frank Manafort, Bill Manafort, Dick Berggren and Paula Bouchard, in memory of her father, Ed Flemke.
The museum will be built in two phases with the first being 10,000 square feet with an additional 10,000 square feet being added at a later date. The building will be used to house the history of motorsports from the Northeast area with multiple displays of racing vehicles and racing related artifacts. Construction will begin as soon as practical following groundbreaking.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Johnson, Lowes Re-Up With Hendrick Through 2017

Bad news for the competition: Jimmie Johnson and Lowe’s will remain with Hendrick Motorsports through at least the 2017 season.

Team owner Rick Hendrick confirmed today that the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and his longtime sponsor have each signed two-year contract extensions, ending a brief period of speculation that Johnson might not finish his career with HMS.

Crew chief Chad Knaus is also locked in, having recently signed a three-year contract that will keep him atop Johnson’s pit box through the 2018 campaign. Together, they have won 74 races and six championships in seven-plus years together, all of them sponsored by Lowe’s.

Johnson is tied for the top spot in the championship standings as the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Gibbs Holding High Hand As 2015 Chase Begins

With the opening race of the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup still days away, it seems clear that three-quarters of the title contenders already have some catching up to do.

Joe Gibbs Racing reasserted its dominance yet again Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway, with Matt Kenseth claiming a dominant victory and all three of his teammates finishing in the Top-11.  Only once in Kenseth’s 18-year Sprint Cup Series career has he led more than the 352 laps he led Saturday night, and a late-race debris caution added only a smattering of uncertainty to the verdict, before the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota motored away to Victory Lane.

The 35th victory of Kenseth’s Sprint Cup career came on a track where JGR has struggled in the past. This spring, Kenseth was the only Gibbs Toyota to finish in the Top-10 there, prompting a post-race tongue lashing by team owner Joe Gibbs that many credit for the team’s dramatic second-half turnaround.

“Coach yelled at us after the spring race,” admitted Kenseth Saturday, “and everybody paid attention to that. This track has been tough for us, (but) JGR has worked really hard on their short track stuff.”

Saturday’s win was Kenseth’s third in the last six races and JGR’s eighth in the last 11 events. Only Dale Earnhardt, Jr. (Daytona) and Joey Logano (Watkins Glen/Bristol) have managed to break Gibbs’ recent stranglehold on Victory Lane, and Saturday night’s across-the-board dominance gave little indication of that changing, anytime soon.

Kenseth begins the 10-race Chase tied with teammate Kyle Busch and six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson at the top of the point parade. Stablemates Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are just six and nine points behind, respectively; making JGR the only operation in NASCAR to place four drivers in the championship field. And after a thoroughly dominant Saturday night in Richmond, the team heads to Chicagoland with more than their fair share of momentum.

“This was a really important race for us,” admitted Kenseth Saturday. “In the championship battle, I know it doesn’t have a lot implications, but it was real important for us as a company to run good here.”

“Good” may be a bit of an understatement, especially when the high-flying Gibbs teams are measured against their Chase competition.

Johnson is uncharacteristically winless since Dover in late May. While displaying uncanny consistency – finishing outside the Top-10 Saturday night for only the fourth time this season – defending champion Kevin Harvick hasn’t cracked Victory Lane since Las Vegas in early March, a span of 19 races. Perennial title contender Hendrick Motorsports has led only seven laps since Daytona in early July, and Roush Fenway Racing failed to place a single driver in the Chase for the first time in history.

Presently, only Team Penske seems capable of slowing the Joe Gibbs roll for any length of time, and even Penske’s dynamic duo of Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski has struggled to keep pace with the JGR juggernaut in recent weeks.

Kenseth, Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards play second-fiddle to no driver lineup in NASCAR. In poker terms, Joe Gibbs has four aces in his hand and is ready to push “all in.” The team’s Toyota Camrys combine “win at any time” speed with the consistency needed to survive the next 10 weeks and race for a championship at Homestead Miami Speedway. Their over-the-wall pit crews have been the best in NASCAR for nearly two full seasons and show no sign of slowing, anytime soon.

That’s a tough combination to beat, and the competition knows it.

“You can’t be good every three weeks,” said Harvick of the upcoming title chase. “You’ve got to be good for 10 weeks. Hopefully, they’ll be peaky like they normally are, and we can capitalize on the momentum we’ve had through the last two years and do what we have to do.”

Kenseth concurred, saying, “You never know what's going to happen in these rounds. Every race is important. Every point is important. These are all big events, (and) it's so fun when you have a car that does what you want it to do.”

“I believe 100 percent in momentum,” said Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff. “I’d say right now we’ve got a lot going into the Chase.”

No one is ready to hand Joe Gibbs Racing the Sprint Cup trophy just yet, and plenty of water will flow under the competitive bridge in the next 10 weeks. But unless something changes dramatically – and quickly -- JGR will be hard to guard in the 2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Hamlin Suffers Torn ACL, Will Race at Richmond

Joe Gibbs Racing has announced that driver Denny Hamlin suffered a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in his right knee while playing basketball Tuesday night. 

Hamlin had a MRI this morning to confirm the diagnosis and has been evaluated by the medical team at OrthoCarolina. He has received the medical clearance necessary to continue racing activities and is expected to race the remainder of the season and through the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Hamlin will require surgery to repair the ACL damage following the season. 
Hamlin will address the media on Friday at 2:55 PM in the Media Center at Richmond International Raceway.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Erendira Wallenda To Perform CMS Aerial Stunt

It’s been said that behind every great man is a great woman, and that certainly holds true in the Wallenda household. While Nik Wallenda is known for his daring feats of balance and bravery, at the Bank of America 500 on Saturday, Oct. 10, Nik’s wife Erendira will take center stage as she performs a first-of-its-kind aerial thrill show before the green flag falls.

Erendira, is an eighth generation acrobat who has performed with her family since she was five years old. She is, in all ways, Nik’s equal when it comes to daredevil acrobatics.

“I’ve watched Nik perform at Charlotte the last couple of years and always wanted to be part of the energy that fans bring to pre-race for the Bank of America 500,” Erendira said. “We’re always trying to top ourselves, and I’m really excited to come back to ‘hang out’ and put on a world-class performance at a world-class speedway.”

Before NASCAR’s best take to the track for the Bank of America 500, Erendira will leave fans on the edge of their seats, suspended over the infield on an aerial ring hanging by a cable under a helicopter high above the infield. The 10-minute show, which Erendira will perform without any safety equipment to tether her to the ring or the helicopter, will feature artistic stunts and tricks, building to a dramatic finale as she hangs from the ring by only her toes.

“I’m so excited about this opportunity for her,” Nik said. “Like the Pettys, the Earnhardts and other NASCAR royalty who have made racing a family tradition, performing is a Wallenda family tradition and this is what Erendira was born to do. I’m sure I’ll be more nervous standing on the sidelines than I ever have been standing on the high wire, but I know she will put on an unforgettable show.”

In addition to the Wallenda stunt, country music megastar Hunter Hayes will get the crowd revved up for a night of racing with a free pre-race concert. During the race, speedway officials and fans will also pay tribute to NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon with a variety of special tributes honoring the future NASCAR Hall of Famer’s final race at CMS. For more information on the pre-race festivities or the speedway’s #JeffsLastRide campaign, visit

Fans can catch all the action surrounding the only Saturday night race in the Chase, including Bojangles’ Pole Night on Oct. 8, the NASCAR XFINITY Series Drive for the Cure 300 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina on Oct. 9 and the Bank of America 500 on Oct. 10 with weekend packages starting at just $99.

Monday, September 07, 2015

COMMENTARY: NASCAR’s Aero Future On Display At Darlington

If driver feedback counts for anything – and it does – Sunday night’s Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway offered a clear look ahead at NASCAR’s aerodynamic future. 

A new, low-downforce aerodynamic package – with an accompanying softer tire -- received rave reviews for the second time in as many outings, with competitive racing, multiple lead changes and an exciting, multi-car battle that had fans on their feet throughout the final 50 laps. As in the package’s first outing at Kentucky Speedway in July, drivers had their hands full at times, wrestling their cars through Darlington’s challenging turns while teetering on the edge of control. And perhaps surprisingly, they emerged from their Darlington-striped mounts raving about the experience.

“This is as good as it gets,” said winner Carl Edwards, a longtime proponent of the low-drag package. “This is what it’s about. We’re sliding cars (and) tires are falling off.

“It was an awesome day.”

Jamie McMurray echoed those thoughts after finishing 14th, saying he experienced less of the dreaded “aero push” than in past events.
“When you were behind someone, it wasn’t as noticeable as what we had (before),” he said. “They race better when you are behind someone (and) you are not as dependent on having air on the car. I am a big fan of this package. We had a little bit more front downforce with some pans that they allowed us to have, (and) I think that was better. At Kentucky, everybody struggled with getting the front to turn. Here, that didn’t seem to be as big of an issue.
“The leader always has a little bit of an advantage,” he said, “but it seems like he has less of an advantage with the smaller spoiler and this rules package.”
Sixth-place finisher Kurt Busch was also complimentary. While admitting that there is still an advantage to racing in clean air, he called NASCAR’s low-drag package “a nice balance of slip-sliding around and being on the edge.”  

Darlington is admittedly a track like no other. Its unique layout and abrasive surface maximize tire fall-off, tilting the ratio of “man versus machine” decidedly in favor of “man.” There was a common denominator among the Top-5 finishers Sunday night; Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick. They’re all wheelmen; ready, willing and able to get “up on the wheel” and manhandle an ill-handling race car to the front of the pack, by whatever means necessary.  

NASCAR gave them an opportunity to do exactly that Sunday night, and Goodyear contributed a softer tire that fell-off dramatically in just a few short laps. The end result was some of the best racing we’ve seen this season, and a happy garage area at evening’s end.  

Edwards prodded NASCAR to stick with its new rules package for the remainder of the season, saying, “If there’s any chance we can run this in the Chase, I hope we can do it.”
It is unlikely that NASCAR will grant Edwards’ wish at this late date, but multiple sources say that after Sunday’s race, the sanctioning body will almost certainly mandate the low-drag aerodynamic package in a majority of its non-restrictor plate races next season.
McMurray lobbied hard for that change Sunday, saying, “The general consensus among all of the drivers is that we would like to start with this and possibly try to even get more downforce off the cars.”
NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell admitted Sunday night that the sanctioning body was pleased with the outing, but will “spend the proper time with the industry -- the race teams and drivers – before making a final decision on how to proceed.  

“We’ll have a decision toward the end of the month," he said.