NASCAR News & Views – Volume 43 – September 10 – 16, 2012

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 NASCAR News & Views – Vol 43

September 10 – 16, 2012

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September 16, 2012

Jeff Gordon crashes at Chicago, loses momentum in title series

The momentum Jeff Gordon carried into the Chase for the Sprint Cup came to a screeching halt Sunday with a hard crash at Chicagoland Speedway.

Gordon, who had finished third, second and second in his past three races to make the Chase, was running fourth when the throttle stuck on his car and he crashed hard into the Turn 1 wall on lap 188 of 267.

Read more from Sporting News

Chicagoland to host ’13 Chase opener

NASCAR will open the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicagoland Speedway for the third consecutive year in 2013.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR senior vice president of race operations, said before Sunday’s Chase opener that the 1.5-mile track will host the first of the 10 playoff races again.

Read more from ESPN

2012 NSCS Geico 400 Race Results

Keselowski celebrates a win at Chicagoland Speedway
Photo – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

Sunday, during the 2012 NSCS Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, it was Brad Keselowski keeping pole-sitter and dominate driver, Jimmie Johnson – who led the most laps, 172 of 267 – behind him by 3.171 seconds for the victory.

Keselowski, who takes over the points lead by 3-points over Johnson with his victory, received his fourth series win of the 2012 season, his eighth series career win and his first series win at Chicagoland Speedway.

Following Keselowski and Johnson to the drop of the checkered flag were Kasey Kahne finishing in third, Kyle Busch fourth and Ryan Newman finished in fifth.

Sitting 8-points behind Keselowski for third in the points was sixth-place finisher Tony Stewart, and he was followed by Joey Logano finishing seventh, Dale Earnhardt Jr eighth, Martin Truex Jr ninth and Clint Bowyer rounding out the top-ten finishing positions.

Coming into the race and beginning the “chase for the championship” as the points leader, Denny Hamlin ran out of fuel on the last lap and ended up finishing 16th which resulted in dropping to 4th in points – tied with Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer, 15-points behind Keselowski.

Race Notes

Average Speed – 143.363-mph

Time of Race – 2 hrs, 47 mins, 37 secs

Margin of Victory – 3.171 seconds

Lead Changes – 16 among 9 drivers

Cautions – 4 for 23 laps

Attendance – 65,000

Race Results   –   Point Standings

Next Up – The 16th annual Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept 23rd with an approximate starting time of 2:20pm ET and television coverage provided by ESPN beginning with their 1:00pm ET NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

Crew chief Grubb looks to make good with Hamlin

Heading into the Christmas holiday season in early December of last year, Darian Grubb and Denny Hamlin each possessed something that the other deeply desired.

Grubb had a Sprint Cup championship fresh in hand, but needed a job. Hamlin had a job opening – or at least great influence over one at Joe Gibbs Racing – and a great racing resume overall, but no championship.

Read more from NASCAR.com

Carl Edwards needs a new goal

Carl Edwards is ready to go, but there’s a problem.

There’s no big prize in front of him.

Winless since March 2011, Edwards won’t be part of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this season, When the driver who lost last year’s championship on a tiebreaker comes to the track for the final 10 races, there will be a void.

“Everything I’ve done this year has been geared toward these 10 races, and the idea of missing them… that wasn’t the plan,” Edwards told reporters after Friday’s Roush Fenway Racing sponsorship announcement at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I’m physically fit as I can be. I’m mentally fit. I’m prepared, and I feel like we’re ready to go, and there are still victories out there, but there’s not that huge goal, and that’s tough. I don’t know how to really put that into words.”

Whether it’s battling Kyle Busch for 13th in the standings or helping teammates Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle – both of whom qualified for NASCAR’s playoff – Edwards needs something to compensate for the absence of a title run.

“I need a challenge,” Edwards said. “That’s what I told Jack and the guys. If there’s anything I can do to help Matt and Greg, anything to give me a goal, that’s how I’m built.”

To Edwards, perhaps the most disappointing aspect about missing the Chase is the knowledge that any of the 12 eligible drivers can put together a 10-race championship run, as Tony Stewart proved last year when he won five races in the Chase and overtook Edwards for the title.

“That’s why it’s so painful for Kyle and I, to be on the outside, because we know anything can happen,” Edwards said. “What if I go out there in this 99 car, and me and  – crew chief – Chad (Norris) win six races and dominate. How sickening would that be, to not be in it?”

From NASCAR News Wire

Johnson likes chances to reclaim Cup

Driver believes he has team to win again, starting with Chase opener at Chicagoland

Las Vegas oddsmakers cast Jimmie Johnson as favorite to win NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The veteran driver appreciates the endorsement – he’s 9-5 to win – but admits thata oddsmaking is an utter mystery.

Read more from Chicago Tribune

AJ Allmendinger could be re-hired

Roger Penske would consider re-hiring AJ Allmendinger, the suspended NASCAR driver who was at the IndyCar season finale as his guest.

Allmendinger failed a NASCAR drug test in July and was released by Penske Racing when his backup “B” sample also tested positive. He’s currently participating in NASCAR’s “Road to Recovery” program, and Penske said Saturday he felt the driver has been too reclusive during the process.

Read more from ESPN

Is it The Biff’s Turn?

Greg Biffle has raced in the shadow of the championship in previous season…

Of the 26 weeks of the Sprint Cup regular-season schedule, Greg Biffle led the points after 15.

He was the points leader at the end of the regular-season schedule – at least until the standings were reconfigured for the Chase seedings.

Read more at SPEED

New Safety Measures for 2013 Car

Earlier this week, NASCAR issued a technical bulletin to Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams mandating enhanced safety measures for 2013 cars.

Starting in January of next year, teams will be required to strengthen the roll cage through the addition of a forward roof bar and a center roof support bar that will intersect near the front center of the roll cage.

The new safety measure comes as a result of extensive testing at NASCAR’s Research and Developement center in Concord, NC.

From NASCAR News Wire

Engine problem forces Dale Earnhardt Jr to start from rear

Dale Earnhardt Jr will have to start at the rear of the field Sunday for the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup because his team decided to change the engine in his car Saturday afternoon.

Earnhardt had the fourth-quickest speed in qualifying Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway but then a freak occurrence forced the team to change the engine.

Read more at Sporting News

Kyle Busch replaces brother

Kyle Busch has added one Nationwide Series race to his 2012 schedule and may add a few more after missing the Chase in NASCAR’s premier series.

Busch was a late addition to Saturday’s Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway. He replaced his brother, Kurt Busch, who was scheduled to run most of the final eight races in the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 54.

Read more from ESPN

September 15, 2012

2012 NCWTS American Ethanol 200 Race Results

Ryan Blaney in his third career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, became the youngest winner of the series Saturday night, as he holds off Sunoco Rookie of the Year

contender, Ty Dillon – by 0.168 seconds – to win the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway.

Following Blaney and Dillon – who takes the points lead by 8-points ahead of Timothy Peters – who finished 19th – to the drop of the checkered flag were: Todd Bodine finishing in third, Johnny Sauter fourth and rookie contender, Cale Gale finished in fifth.

Rounding out the top-ten finishing positions were Nelson Piquet Jr, finishing in sixth, Drew Herring seventh, Jeff Choquette eighth, Matt Crafton ninth and Miguel Paludo finished in the tenth position.

Race Notes

Average Speed – 88.285-mph

Time of Race – 1 hr, 58 mins, 56 secs

Margin of Victory – 0.168 seconds

Lead Changes – 7 among 6 drivers

Cautions – 9 for 54 laps

Attendance – 20,000

Race Results   –   Point Standings

Next Up – The 13th annual Kentucky 201 at Kentucky Speedway on Friday, Sept 21st, with an approximate starting time of 7:50pm ET and television coverage provided by SPEED beginning at 7:00pm ET.

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NCWTS American Ethanol 200 Starting Lineup

Parker Kligerman, with a qualifying lap speed of 137.507-mph and new series track record – captured his first NCWTS career pole as he wins the 2012 American Ethanol 200 presented by Hy-Vee Keystone Light Pole Award at Iowa Speedway.

Sharing the front row with Kligerman to start second and with a qualifying lap speed of 137.064-mph, will be Ryan Blaney, and they will be followed by Nelson Piquet Jr 136.648-mph starting third, Johnny Sauter 136.464 fourth and James Buescher 236.411 will start fifth.

Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Cale Gale 136.316-mph will start from sixth, while Ron Hornaday Jr 136.216 starts seventh, Miguel Paludo 136.104 eighth, rookie contender Ty Dillon 135.946 ninth and the current series points leader, Timothy Peters 135.858 rounding out the top-ten starting positions.

With only 36 drivers/teams attempting to fill the 36 starting positions, there was no one failing to make the starting lineup.

This evening’s American Ethanol 300 presented by Hy-Vee is scheduled to get underway around 8:50pm ET and SPEED will provide television coverage beginning with their 8:00pm ET pre-race program.

Starting Lineup

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NNS Dollar General 300 Race Results

Stenhouse Jr celebrates 2012 win #5 in victory lane at Chicagoland
Photo – Associated Press

The 2011 defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr, took over the series points lead Saturday as he held off Kyle Busch – by 2.402 seconds – to win the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Stenhouse, who now leads Elliott Sadler – who finished 8th – by 9-points in the standings, received his fifth series win of the 2012 season, his seventh series career win and his – as well as owner Jack Roush’s – first series win at Chicagoland Speedway.

Following Stenhouse and Busch to the drop of the checkered flag were series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Austin Dillon finishing in third, Brad Keselowski fourth and Paul Menard finished fifth.

Rounding out the top-ten finishing positions were Sam Hornish Jr, who finished in sixth, Michael Annett seventh, Elliott Sadler eighth, pole-sitter Joey Logano – who led the most laps, 67 out of 200 – ninth and Brian Scott finishing in the tenth position.

Race Notes

Average Speed – 138.373-mph

Time of Race – 2 hrs, 10 mins, 05 secs.

Margin of Victory – 2.402 seconds

Lead Changes – 17 among 9 drivers

Cautions – 5 of 20 laps

Attendance – 34,000

Race Results   –   Point Standings

Next Up – The inaugural Kentucky 300 at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday, September 22nd, with an approximate starting time of 4:20pm ET and television coverage provided by ESPN beginning at 3:30pm ET.

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NSCS Geico 400 Starting Lineup

Jimmie Johnson, with a qualifying lap speed of 182.865-mph, on Saturday captured the 2012 NSCS Geico 400 Coors Light Pole Award at Chicagoland Speedway.

This was Johnson’s 2nd series pole of the 2012 season, his 27th series career pole and his 2nd series pole at Chicagoland Speedway.

Starting second on the outside pole with a qualifying lap speed of 182.636-mph, will be Aric Almirola, followed by Matt Kenseth 182.334-mph who will start third, Dale Earnhardt Jr 182.070 fourth and Carl Edwards 182.045 will start fifth.

Rounding out the top-ten starting positions will be Kasey Kahne 181.971-mph who will start sixth, Regan Smith 181.953 seventh, Denny Hamlin 181.928 eighth, Clint Bowyer 181.855 ninth and Joey Logano 181.629 will start from the tenth position.

Failing to make the starting lineup were the #23 driven by Scott Riggs, #91 driven by Reed Sorensen, #37 driven by JJ Yeley and the #49 driven by Jason Leffler.

The 12th annual Geico 400 is slated to get started approximately at 2:20pm ET Sunday afternoon, and ESPN will provide television coverage beginning with their 1:00pm NASCAR Countdown pre-race program.

Starting Lineup

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NCWTS American Ethanol 200 Final Practice Session Speeds

Parker Kligerman with a lap speed of 135.606-mph, was the fastest during the final NCWTS American Ethanol 200 practice session at Iowa Speedway.

Second fastest with a lap speed of 135.298-mph, was Ryan Blaney, followed by Nelson Piquet Jr 134.950-mph who was third fastest, series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Ty Dillon 134.927 fourth and Joey Coulter 134.875 was fifth fastest.

Series rookie contender, Cale Gale 134.449-mph was sixth fastest on the speed charts, while David Mayhew 134.432 was seventh, Timothy Peters 134.414 eighth, Drew Herring 134.380 ninth and James Buescher 134.311 rounding out the top-ten fastest during the “Happy Hour” – final – practice session.

The teams will return later today for qualifying at 6:00pm ET – Tape Delayed by SPEED at 6:30pm – to determine the starting lineup for this evening’s inaugural American Ethanol 200 presented by Hy-Vee. The race is scheduled to get underway around 8:50pm ET and SPEED will provide television coverage beginning with their 8:00pm ET pre-race program.

Final Practice Speeds   –   Qualifying Order

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NNS Dollar General 300 Starting Lineup

Joey Logano, with a qualifying lap speed of 178.012-mph, captured the 2012 NNS Dollar General 300 Coors Light Pole Award at Chicagoland Speedway for this afternoon’s race.

This was Logano’s 4th series pole of the 2012 season, his 20th series career pole – out of 104 series races – and his 1st series pole at Chicagoland Speedway.

Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dillon, will start on the outside pole with a qualifying lap speed of 177.649-mph, and will be followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr 177.387-mph who will start third, Sam Hornish Jr 176.991 fourth and the current series points leader, Elliott Sadler 176.835 will start fifth.

Rounding out the top-ten starting positions will be Kyle Busch 176.788-mph starting sixth, Paul Menard 176.028 seventh, Michael Annett 175.987 eighth, Mike Bliss 175.330 ninth and Justin Allgaier 175.012 will start from the tenth position.

With 43 drivers/teams attempting to fill the 43 starting positions, there was no one failing to make the starting lineup.

The 2nd annual Dollar General 300 is scheduled to get underway around 3:50pm ET this afternoon, and ESPN2 will provide television coverage beginning with their 3:00pm ET pre-race show.

Starting Lineup

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

September 14, 2012

National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer Upholds Appeals Panels Decision on the No. 27 NSCS Team

On Sept 14, 2012, National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer John Middlebrook heard and considered the appeal of the six-week suspension penalty of crew member Grant Hutchens, team engineer for the Richard Childress Racing No. 27 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

Upon hearing the testimony of both parties and carefully reviewing the facts, it was the Chief Appellate Officer’s decision to uphold the original penalty assessed by NASCAR. Therefore, Hutchens’ suspension from NASCAR is effective immediately until Oct. 25 and his NASCAR probation will continue until Dec 31. The penalties concern Section 12-1: Actions detrimental to stock car racing; Section 12-4K: If, in the judgement of NASCAR Officials, race equipment that has been previously certified or previously approved by NASCAR for use in an event, pursuant to sub-section 8-12, has been altered, modified, repaired or changed in any matter. Intentionally modifying previously certified frame rails for the purpose of deceiving NASCAR’s inspection gauges. The penalties stemmed from a failed post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Aug 21 following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway on Aug 19.

The original penalties assessed were:

  • Car owner – Richard Childress: Loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship car owner points
  • Car driver – Paul Menard: Loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship driver points
  • Crew chief – Richard Labbe: $100,000 fine; suspended from NASCAR for six-weeks; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec 31
  • Car chief – Craig Smokstad: Suspended from NASCAR for six-weeks; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec 31.
  • Crew member – Grant Hutchens: Suspended from NASCAR for six-weeks; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec 31

On Sept 10, the Appellant appealed the six-week suspensions of Smokstad and Hutchens to the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel. The Appellant did not appeal the loss of 25 championship car owner and 25 championship driver points or the $100,000 fine and six-week suspension of crew chief Richard Labbe, who began serving his suspension from NASCAR Sept 4. It was the unanimous decision of the Panel to uphold both of their suspensions. The Appellant then appealed the suspension of Hutchens to the Chief Appellate Officer.

From NASCAR-PR

2012 NCWTS American Ethanol 200 First Practice Session

Ryan Blaney, with a lap speed of 137.135-mph, was the quickest during the first NCWTS inaugural American Ethanol 200 practice session at Iowa Speedway.

Second quickest was Joey Coulter with a lap speed of 136.707-mph, and was followed by Parker Kligerman 135.747-mph who was third quickest, Johnny Sauter 135.170 fourth and Drew Herring 134.904 was fifth quickest. Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Cale Gale 134.432-mph posted the sixth quickest lap speed, while Matt Crafton 134.340 was seventh, James Buescher 134.305 eighth, Justin Lofton 134.265 ninth and Jeff Choquette 134.111 rounds out the top-ten quickest in the session. The teams will return Saturday afternoon for their 1:30 – 2:30pm ET “Happy Hour” – final – practice session, and then qualifying at 6:00pm ET – Tape-Delayed by SPEED at 6:30pm. The inaugural American Ethanol 200 presented by Hy-Vee is scheduled to get underway around 8:50pm ET Saturday evening, and SPEED will provide television coverage beginning with their 8:00pm ET pre-race program. First Practice Speeds

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

Miracle at “The Magic Mile”

Baby Girl Born at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Talk about a speedy arrival! Speedway officials confirmed that a baby girl was born just after 3pm today at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The birth is the first such arrival in the history of the track.

The happy, albeit panicked family was in route to Concord Hospital from their home in Belmont, NH when they made an unexpected pit stop at “The Magic Mile.” Baby number four was not going to wait. A family member rushed into the speedway’s main office to ask for help. As fate would have it, “The Magic Mile” had the perfect combination of people and equipment to come to mom’s aid.

With a background of EMT services, Tom Blanchette, New Hampshire Motor Speedway director of operations, rushed to the front parking lot and helped the couple handle the unexpectedly fast delivery.

“When I arrived in the parking lot, mom and dad had just self delivered the baby inside their vehicle,” said Blanchette. “I called Speedway Safely Services, and contacted an ambulance crew whose members happened to be on speedway property. We helped package up the baby and we drove the family to Concord Hospital.”

There is a first for everything, and baby Katie is the first-born at the speedway. As the crews prepare for race week, the right people and the right equipment happened to be in place for the baby’s sudden arrival.

“I am extremely pleased with the quick response from our speedway team,” said Jerry Gappens, speedway general manager. “I also have to give credit to mom and dad for keeping their composure through this.”

Blanchette and the Speedway emergency crew took the family to Concord Hospital, and at last check, mom and baby were doing fine.

“This will be a memory we will never forget and a great story to tell Katie when she grows up,” said Gappens. “Katie will hold a special place in all our hearts.” Even though Katie will not be able to make the Sylvania 300 next weekend, Gappens awarded her two tickets to our NASCAR races for the rest of her life. “That little one is part of our family now. She and her parents are welcome her anytime.”

From New Hampshire Motor Speedway-PR

2012 NNS Dollar General 300 Final Practice Session Speeds

NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Austin Dillon, with a lap speed of 177.632-mph, was on top of the speed charts at the end of the final Dollar General 300 practice session at Chicagoland Speedway.

The current series points leader, Elliott Sadler, was second fastest with a lap speed of 175.838-mph, and was followed by another rookie contender, Brad Sweet 175.188-mph who was third fastest, Justin Allgaier 174.972-mph fourth and Paul Menard 174.791 was fifth fastest.

Series rookie contender and the fastest during the first practice session, Cole Whitt 174.227-mph was sixth fastest, while Danica Patrick 174.087-mph was seventh fastest, Sam Hornish Jr 173.617 eighth, Joe Nemechek 173.316 ninth and Joey Logano 173.299 rounding out the top-ten fastest during the “Happy Hour” – final – practice session.

The teams will return Saturday for their 12:05pm ET qualifying session to determine the starting lineup for the 2nd annual Dollar General 300, which is set to get underway around 3:50pm ET that afternoon, and ESPN2 will provide television coverage beginning with their 3:00pm ET pre-race show.

Final Practice SpeedsQualifying Order

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NSCS Geico 400 Final Practice Session Speeds

During the final NSCS Geico 400 practice session at Chicagoland Speedway, it was Kyle Busch with a lap speed of 181.507-mph, showing the fastest way around the track.

Aric Almirola was second fastest with a lap speed of 181.214-mph, and was followed by Mark Martin 181.123-mph who was third fastest, Carl Edwards 181.050 fourth and the current series points leader, Denny Hamlin 181.002 was fifth fastest.

Rounding out the top-ten fastest during the “Happy Hour” – final – practice session were Kasey Kahne 180.989-mph who was sixth fastest, Jimmie Johnson 180.959 seventh, Trevor Bayne 180.905 eighth, Matt Kenseth 180.905 ninth and Jeff Gordon 180.808 posting the tenth fastest lap speed.

The teams will return Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm ET for qualifying to determine the starting lineup for the 12th annual Geico 400, which is scheduled to get underway around 2:20pm ET Sunday afternoon. ESPN will provide television coverage beginning with their 1:00pm ET NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

Final Practice Speeds

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NNS Dollar General 300 First Practice Session Speeds

NASCAR Nationwide Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Cole Whitt, with a lap speed of 174.233-mph, was the fastest during the first Dollar General 300 practice session at Chicagoland Speedway.

2011 defending series champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, was second fastest with a lap speed of 173.277-mph, and was followed by Kenny Wallace 172.723-mph who was third fastest, Joey Logano 172.678 fourth and Kyle Busch 172.370 was fifth fastest.

Rounding out the top-ten fastest during the practice session were Justin Allgaier 172.287-mph who was sixth fastest, Paul Menard 172.155 seventh, Brad Keselowski 172.112 eighth, Brian Scott 172.057 ninth and rookie contender Austin Dillon 171.778 posting the tenth fastest lap speed.

The teams will return early this evening for their 5:40 – 7:00pm ET scheduled “Happy Hour” – final – practice session before returning Saturday for their 12:05pm ET qualifying session to determine the starting lineup for that afternoon’s race.

The 2nd annual Dollar General 300 is set to get underway around 3:50pm ET Saturday, and ESPN2 will provide television coverage beginning with their 3:00pm ET pre-race show.

First Practice Speeds

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCARmedia

2012 NSCS Geico 400 First Practice Session Speeds

Martin Truex Jr, with a lap speed of 181.763-mph, was the quickest during the first NSCS Geico 400 practice session at Chicagoland Speedway.

Second quickest with a lap speed of 180.681-mph was Dale Earnhardt Jr, and he was followed by Brad Keselowski 179.784-mph who was third quickest, Trevor Bayne 179.695 fourth and the current series points leader Denny Hamlin 179.623 was fifth quickest.

Rounding out the top-ten quickest during the practice session were Jamie McMurray – with the identical lap speed of 179.623-mph, as Hamlin – who was recorded as sixth quickest, Mark Martin 178.926 seventh, Jeff Burton 178.855 eighth, Carl Edwards 178.719 ninth and Ryan Newman 178.560 posting the tenth quickest lap speed.

The teams will return to the track later this afternoon from 4:00 to 5:30pm ET for their “Happy Hour” – final – practice session, and then return on Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm ET for qualifying to determine the starting lineup for Sunday’s race.

The 12th annual Geico 400 is scheduled to get underway around 2:20pm ET Sunday afternoon, and ESPN will provide television coverage beginning with their 1:00pm ET NASCAR Countdown pre-race show.

First Practice SpeedsQualifying Order

From Timing & Scoring provided by NASCAR media

Chasing Firsts

Somebody will record a first or two this weekend as the Chase begins…

There is a 66 percent chance that a driver will score his first Sprint Cup championship in this year’s Chase. The 12-driver field has four entries who already have checked off “champion” in the career achievement category. Jimmie Johnson, owns five, Jeff Gordon four, Tony Stewart three and Matt Kenseth one.

Read more from SPEED

Stenhouse Jr to Drive No. 17 Sprint Cup Ford in 2013 with a Familiar Team and Partners

Best Buy, Fifth Third Bank and Zest to increase commitment with RFR

Roush Fenway Racing confirmed today that 2011 Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr, will pilot its historic No. 17 Ford Fusion next season in the Sprint Cup Series. One of the emerging talents in NASCAR, Stenhouse steps into a championship-caliber program in the No. 17, with current team partners Best Buy, Fifth Third Bank and Zest each returning to the team as primary sponsors in 2013.

“It will be an exciting transition for Ricky and the team next season,” said co-owner Jack Roush. “We take great pride in driver development, and it is rewarding for all involved any time we are able to watch one of our young men grow and progress. We have seen Ricky develop into a NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, and now his career path comes to fruition in the Sprint Cup Series next season.

“I can’t think of a better fit for Ricky than the No. 17 team,” added Roush. “Ricky will have the luxury of being flanked by a championship-level team from the start. His drive, determination and commitment to winning will mesh very well with the demeanor of the No. 17 team. It will be our job to put him in the best equipment possible, as well as to guide him through the learning curves that are part of his rookie season.

“It is certainly going to be a lot of fun to watch as Ricky continues to improve his skills each week as his progression rate is accelerated by the increased level of competition around him in the Sprint Cup Series.”

Best Buy, Fifth Third Bank and Zest each joined Roush Fenway’s No. 17 team as primary partners in 2012. These three partners will return to the No. 17 again next year, with each increasing their commitment in 2013 for Stenhouse’s entry into Sprint Cup competition. With their involvement, the majority of Stenhouse’s races for 2013 are fully sponsored.

“In this sport, having great partners is critical to our ability to field top-tier race teams and we are thrilled that Best Buy, Fifth Third Bank and Zest have had such success in our first year together that they are growing their programs for 2013,” said Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark. “We’re privileged to have companies of that caliber and reputation as anchors on the No. 17 program, and appreciate that each of them is very excited about the future with Roush Fenway.

“We have reserved a few primary races with Ricky and the No. 17 team for next year and are in discussions with several companies right now who are interested in what promises to be an extremely exciting rookie year. It’s really a great opportunity for companies that are looking to tap into the power of the sport.”

Roush Fenway Racing is the winningest team in NASCAR history, fielding multiple teams in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series with championship drivers Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, and Trevor Bayne. Celebrating 25 winning years in 2012, Roush Fenway is the leader in NASCAR marketing solutions, pioneering Motorsports’ first team-focused TV program and its award-winning social marketing campaign RickyvsTrevor.com.

From Roush Fenway Racing-PR

New Holland Becomes Official Agricultural Equipment of NASCAR

Innovative Equipment Essential to Thousands of Corn Growers Contributing to the Production of Ethanol

In a joint announcement today at the NASCAR Fuel for Business Council meeting in Chicago, New Holland became the Official Agricultural Equipment of NASCAR. New Holland, the latest NASCAR Official Partner, has served the needs of farmers and ranchers across North America for more than 110 years, and its equipment plays a critical role in the production of ethanol.

In 2011, NASCAR announced a switch in its three national series to Sunoco Green E15, a 15-percent ethanol blend fuel made with corn grown in the United States. The low-carbon fuel emits 20% less greenhouse emissions than unleaded gasoline. New Holland manufactures a wide range of equipment essential for the crop production and harvesting of corn used to produce the biofuel.

“We are proud of our newly expanded alliance with NASCAR and the role our equipment plays in helping power the sport,” said Abe Hughes, vice president of New Holland, North America.

“We are the agricultural industry’s Clean Energy Leader, and are looking forward to further enhancing our 30-year relationship with a sport that is pushing the bar on clean and efficient fuel that is not only helping to restore America’s energy independence, but also serves to strengthen American farmers and the rural economy. New Holland stands 100% behind this impact.”

“NASCAR welcomes New Holland, a company rich in tradition and innovation, as our newest official partner,” said Jim O’Connell, NASCAR chief sales officer. “The use of New Holland’s equipment will positively impact hard-working family farmers grow the corn that will be used to produce ethanol.”

Growth Energy, a leading ethanol advocacy organization, and the National Corn Growers Association created the American Ethanol partnership with NASCAR to push for broad acceptance of a renewable domestic fuel for American motorists. New Holland will work to support this partnership throughout the remainder of the 2012 NASCAR season to support the farmers who play a vital role in the ethanol industry.

From NASCAR-PR

Score to Settle for Sadler, Stenhouse

There’s only one way the NASCAR Nationwide Series title fight could be closer after 25 races, and that’s if Elliott Sadler and Ricky Stenhouse Jr were tied.

As it stands, Sadler leads the defending series champion by just one point entering Saturday’s Dollar General 300 Powered by Coca-Cola – 3:30pm ET ESPN2 – at Chicagoland Speedway. With eight races left on the series schedule the two drivers have separated themselves from the pack, all while their own personal rivalry intensifies. Sadler won the season’s first race at the Illinois track in July, when he bypassed pole-starter Stenhouse, who had led 135 of the 201 laps.

“We’re bringing back the same car so we know our Ford will be stout,” said Stenhouse. “These final eight races, we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”

A wreck last weekend at Richmond International Raceway involving Sam Hornish Jr has helped the top two to break away from the pack. Hornish, who had forged a tie for second place in the Nationwide standings after the series’ race at Montreal, has since dropped to fourth place, 50 points off Sadler’s pace.

Top rookie Austin Dillon – on the heels of four straight top-ten finishes – sits third in the Nationwide standings, 30 points behind Sadler, is Richard Childress Racing teammate.

From NASCAR News Wire

Kevin Harvick Complains About NASCAR’s Changes

As drivers prepare for the Geico 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway on Sept 16 and focus on the Chase, Kevin Harvick is speaking out about NASCAR’s changes to rear steering. He is not the only driver who is not pleased with the decision to implement new rules that must be followed on Sept. 16. Harvick has accused NASCAR of misleading teams because they believe the changes would be forced in 2013.

Read more at Yahoo Sports/Fan View

September 13, 2012

Does Stewart have a new deal for 2013?

Bass Pro Shops is expected to be a co-primary sponsor for Tony Stewart’s NASCAR Sprint Cup effort next season, FOXSports.com has learned.

Office Depot, which supported Stewart since the inception of Stewart-Haas Racing in 2009, will withdraw its sponsorship at the end of the season. The company was the primary on 22 of the 38 NASCAR Cup races this season. Mobil 1, which was a co–primary with Office Depot this season, will continue in that role in 2013.

Read more from FOX Sports

Betty Jane France Award Finalists revealed

“For the first time in my life, I’m speechless!” “This is the call I’ve been waiting for!” “I’m shocked and very, very thankful.” “Oh my gosh! I have tears in my eyes!”

These were the initial responses from finalists Ron Eby, Michael Jackson, Ali McDonough and Lorri Shealy Unumb, who received calls from The NASCAR Foundation informing them they had been selected as one of four national finalists for the 2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award (BJFHA). Each of the finalists is guaranteed a $25,000 donation to their cause from The NASCAR Foundation, with the national winner being awarded $100,000.

The award honors the unwavering commitment that Betty Jane France has demonstrated with her philanthropic and community efforts. The award is granted annually to one passionate NASCAR fan that has mad a profound impact on children in his or her local community.

“The courage, compassion and selflessness that these four finalists have demonstrated is awe-inspiring,” said France. “They have accepted the personal challenges life has thrown at them with grace and dignity, while finding avenues to help others facing similar challenges. These deserving NASCAR fans help contribute to their respective communities in moving ways and their accomplishments make them outstanding selections for 2012 finalists.”

NASCAR fans, friends and families are encouraged to vote for thier favorite humanitarian by logging on to NASCAR.com/award between now and midnight ET on November 29, 2012.

The finalists who amasses the most votes will be declared the national winner, and will be announced by France live on stage during the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards at Wynn Las Vegas on November 30. The victor will also win a 2013 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

2012 Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Finalists:

Ron Eby (Windham, Maine) knew it was time to give back to the community after his daughter experienced meningitis and was rushed to a children’s hospital in Dayton, Ohio, while on a cross-country trip. The incredible care and compassion that his daughter received inspired him to get involved with Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Casco, Maine. As a successful business owner, the 52-year-old auto repair shop owner knew fundraising would be his strength; he has helped raise over $250,000 for thousands of children dealing with serious illnesses. When Eby isn’t recruiting new sponsors for the camp, you can find him serving up food in Ron’s Mexican Cantina. All proceeds from the sale of the authentic Mexican food are dedicated to supporting Camp Sunshine, a retreat for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families in Casco, Maine.

Michael Jackson (Duluth, Minnesota) leads by example and shows the world that nothing should get in the way of happiness. The 18-year-old has battled cerebral palsy, a life-threatening condition, for his entire life, Jackson serves as a Young Adult Community Leader for the Starlight Children’s Foundation’s Starbright World bringing hope, inspiration, support and laughter to fellow teens with serious and chronic illnesses. Jackson has also raised funds for Starlight to sponsor Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment units at Essentia Children’s Hospital in Duluth so that other children could benefit from the Fun Center’s games and movies as part of distraction therapy just as he did.

Ali McDonough (Wilimington, Delaware) experienced something that changed her life forever. Five years ago as a teenager, her younger brother passed away in her arms after a courageous six-month battle with leukemia. Since then, McDonough, 21, has devoted her life to help fight childhood cancer, co-founding The Andrew McDonough B+ (Be Positive) Foundation which funds cutting-edge childhood cancer research and helps families of children with cancer.

Lorri Shealy Unumb (Lexington, South Carolina) has impacted thousands of children with special needs for more than 25 years. As a mother of three, Unumb was deeply impacted when her oldest son, Ryan, was diagnosed with severe autism at a young age and was devastated to learn that insurance would not cover the cost of treatment for children with autism. As a result, the 44-year-old drafted a bill – now known as “Ryan’s Law” that has been enacted in 31 other states – to encourage autism insurance reform. Unumb also founded the Autism Academy of South Carolina, a non-profit organization that protects the interests of children with the disability.

From Official NASCAR Foundation-PR

Homestead-Miami Speedway announces Fanatics Members

HMS FANatics to provide feedack to improve guests’ experience; inaugural six-member group includes two Homestead residents and individuals from three different Florida counties.

Homestead-Miami Speedway on Thursday announced its selections to serve on its first-ever fan advisory network. Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer made the announcement.

The announcement comes after the speedway fielded applications from hundreds of candidates and interviewed dozens of prospective members. The six FANatics members will serve rotating one-year terms. FANatics purpose is to establish direct communication with track personnel and provide year-round feedback on matters that affect guests. The members’ first official event weekend will be Ford Championship Weekend – November 16-18. Members will participate in quarterly meetings and conference calls. Additionally, members will have exclusive access to an online message board and Facebook page.

“We are overwhelmed by the level of interest and by the quantity and qualify of candidates,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer. “We selected six individuals who should prove to be a great resource for the track. We are eager to garner their feedback and improve the fan experience for everyone that comes through the gates.”

Each of the FANatics members hails from Florida. The group includes:

Melodye Brantley, Miami – Melodye, who lives in Cutler Ridge with her husband of 31 years, has an adult son. In addition to watching and attending NASCAR events, she enjoys playing co-ed softball, boating and fishing.

Scott Bronson, Naples – Scott has been married for 31 years and is a business owner in the west coast of the state. His hobbies include working on his condominium that is located near Homestead-Miami Speedway.

David Gonzalez, Homestead – David’s racing days go back to the days of Hialeah Speedway. Now that he has a son, David feels it’s critical to preserve South Florida’s racing history and help usher in a new generation of motorsports fans.

Teresa Noah, Labelle – Teresa is a life-long resident of Labelle and works with the VIPS program with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department. She has an adult daughter and, in addition to racing, enjoys football and traveling.

Bryan Pease, Naples – Bryan is an entrepreneur who owns several businesses. One of these businesses provided him the opportunity to be among the first to test drive the track’s variable banking when the track was resurfaces.

Julie Shafer, Homestead – Julie works at Homestead’s Turkey Point nuclear power plant. She has three children and enjoys “computer geeky stuff,” and growing orchids in addition to her affinity for all things NASCAR.

From Homestead-Miami Speedway-PR

NASCAR, Sprint and Turner Sports Introduce First Official NASCAR app for iPhone and iPod Touch

NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile App Allows Fans to Follow Their Favorite Drivers and Stay On Top of the Latest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Action from their iPhone or iPod Touch

As the action on-track heats up with NASCAR’s postseason set to begin, NASCAR, Sprint and Turner Sports announced today the launch of the sport’s first official app for iPhone and iPod Touch. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile App allows fans to follow their favorite drivers and stay on top of all the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race action, including access to race day content, schedules, standings, breaking news and more.

iPhone customers with a Sprint Unlimited Data Plan will have access to extra features, including:

  • Live MRN and PRN race radio broadcasts
  • Live in-car audio for all 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers
  • Live RaceBuddy in-car video and track camera views
  • Live NASCAR on SPEED broadcasts including live Qualifying, Practice and favorite trackside shows such as NASCAR RaceDay
  • Live in-race highlights and alerts
  • Live post-race press conferences
  • Real-time leaderboards and Pit Pass telemetry data

“Fan engagement during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is significantly elevated each and every season as the championship battle unfolds and ultimately culminates at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November,” said Marc Jenkins, NASCAR vice president of digital media. “With NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile now available for the iPhone for the first time ever, fans will get a customized experience, bringing them closer to the racing action than ever before.”

The popular NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile App provides fans with 24/7 access to all things NASCAR.

Click here for images of NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile

“NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile is an absolute must-have app for any NASCAR fan,” said Tim Considine, director Sports and Entertainment Marketing, Sprint. “The application puts you right in the middle of the action as it turns your iPhone or iPod Touch into a race scanner each weekend. It’s the perfect time for fans to download it as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is about to begin.”

“Turner Sports has more than a decade of experience with the NASCAR fan, and we’ve applied it all in this new NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile App,” said Justin Williams, Turner Sports senior director of business operations for NASCAR.com. “The collaboration with our partners at Sprint and NASCAR has produced a great experience for iPhone and iPod Touch users.”

NASCAR’s digital rights including NASCAR.com, the official online destination of NASCAR which provides racing enthusiasts with an all-inclusive offering of engaging content including fantasy games, video highlights, social elements and in-depth editorial content, are currently managed by Turner Sports. As part of a restructured partnership announced earlier this year, Turner Sports remains the exclusive sales agent across the NASCAR Digital Media platform through 2016 while NASCAR assumes operational control on Jan 2, 2013 of its interactive, digital and social media rights and all related platforms.

As part of that two-year digital partnership extension, Turner Sports remains the exclusive sales agent across the NASCAR Digital Media Platform through 2016.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Mobile App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod Touch or at itunes.com/appstore.

From NASCAR/Sprint Nextel/Turner Sports-PR

Harvick, Cup teams frustrated with rules change; Hendrick teams not concerned

Hendrick Motorsports drivers aren’t concerned about new rear suspension rules that go into effect this week, but some drivers are frustrated that NASCAR made such a change right before the Chase.

Hendrick teams, which many believe have developed an advantage in the rear suspension of their cars, don’t believe they will have to change anything on their cars after NASCAR issued a technical bulletin last week defining their parameters for using rear steer to help the cars turn better.

Read more from Sporting News

JR Motorsports hires former Cup crew chief Ryan Pemberton to help team

Ryan Pemberton, a former crew chief for several Sprint Cup teams, has joined JR Motorsports.

Pemberton takes a similar role to what Tony Eury Sr had as competition director for the organization, although the team has not yet announced whether he will hold that title.

Read more from Sporting News

Baby Announcement

Michael McDowell and his wife Jami announce the birth of their daughter, Emma James McDowell on Twitter

From @Mc_Driver on Twitter

Clint Bowyer gets new spotter

Will the replacement of a key member of his team be a challenge for Clint Bowyer, as the driver of the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota enters the Chase?

Bowyer doesn’t think so, and on Wednesday at the House of Blues, he talked about the addition of Brett Griffin, who will take the place of MWR general manager Ty Norris on the spotter’s stand, starting this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Griffin’s voice won’t be unfamiliar to Bowyer. When he and Jeff Burton raced as teammates at Richard Childress Racing – where Burton and Bowyer paired up in restrictor-plate events – Griffin spotted for the tandem.

Griffin, who serves as NASCAR Nationwide Series spotter and business manager for Elliott Sadler, lost his job as Burton’s spotter after Sadler announced plans to leave RCR at the end of the season despite leading the NASCAR Nationwide standings.

Burton’s loss is Bowyer’s gain, and Griffin comes to the No. 15 team with Burton’s strong endorsement.

“It’s going to be fun,” Bowyer told the NASCAR Wire Serivice. “I like Brett. We’ve been friends off the race track for a long time. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I talked to Jeff Burton a lot about him, and he was like ‘Hire him – hire him in the morning. Hire him right now.’ I’ve just got a lot of confidence in him. I don’t think it’ll be a transition at all because we know each other so well, and he does such a good job where he is.

“I’ve listened to him a lot, and most of the things I ask for, he does. I wanted to make sure Ty was OK with it, because, first and foremost, Ty helped me get where I’m at in so many different levels. I didn’t want to take anything from him. If he wanted to be part of that, I wasn’t about to make a change until next year. But the opportunity came up, and Ty kind of wants to focus on his job and make sure all three cars are running well. I think it’ll just be a good thing.”

Griffin announced the job change on Twitter, and Bowyer responded by feigning surprise.

“I was just screwing with Brett,” Bowyer said. “He announced it, and I was like, ‘What?!’ It was kind of funny, but that’s the kind of relationship we have. That’s why I don’t think there’ll be any transition period. It’ll be business as usual.

“And I’ve worked with him before at Talladega. In the tandem races, when Burton and I ran together, he was the spotter I used. I’ve worked with him, so I know what I’ll have-it’ll be fun.”

From NASCAR Wire Service

September 12, 2012

Is Keselowski The ‘Darkhorse’?

Brad Keselowski enters Chase on strength of three victories

Brad Keselowski figures everybody in the Chase field who isn’t considered a championship favorite wants to be the darkhorse.

“I would say there are a lot of darkhorses right now and only a few favorites,” Keselowski said Wednesday.

Keselowski might be the “brightest” darkhorse.

Read more from SPEED

NASCAR cuts staff at Charlotte TV hub

NASCAR Productions laid off about 15 percent of its Charlotte-based workforce this week in a restructuring of the unit that produces video for the motorsports giant.

In all, 32 of 180 jobs were eliminated. Some of those employees will remain into the fall as the final leg of the NASCAR Sprint Cup races are run.

Read more from That’s Racin’

Dale Earnhardt Jr refutes report that he’s getting married after season

Don’t send those wedding gifts to Dale Earnhardt Jr just yet.

NASCAR’s most popular driver says he’s not getting married, no matter what the National Enquirer says.

The National Enquirer posted a story online Wednesday saying that Earnhardt is expected to marry girlfriend Amy Reimann by the end of the year.

Earnhardt, says, not so fast.

Read more from Sporting News

SRT Motorsports Presents The Numbers – Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway

1 – win from the pole – Kyle Busch, 7/12/08

1 – number of times qualifying canceled due to weather – 7/12/08

3 – most wins by driver – Tony Stewart

4 – fewest cautions – 7/10/10

6 – fewest leaders – 7/11/09

6 – number of jet dryers available for track drying this weekend

8 – different race winners

10 – different pole winners – qualifying canceled in 2008

10 – fewest lead changes – twice, most recent 7/10/10

10 – most cautions – twice, most recent 7/10/05

11 – fewest cars on lead lap at finish – 7/13/03

11 – number of drivers that have competed in all 11 races

11 – fewest laps led by race winner – Dale Earnhardt Jr, 7/10/05

13 – most leaders – 7/11/04

22 – most lead changes – 9/19/11

21 – fewest caution laps – 7/10/10

29 – most cars on lead lap at finish – 7/12/08

42 – most running at finish – twice, most recent 7/12/08

120 minutes – amount of time it takes to dry the 1.5-mile track after a significant rainfall

195 – most laps led by race winner – 7/11/09 – Mark Martin, 267-lap race

2012 Caution Update

1 – fewest cautions this season – Fontana

7 – races extended beyond scheduled distance – Daytona1, Martinsville, Talladega, Darlington, Sonoma, Michigan2 and Atlanta

13 – most cautions this season – Bristol2

148 – cautions in the first 26 races of 2012; includes 71 for accidents, 36 for debris and 15 for spins.

787 of 7,264 – laps under caution in 2012

1,100.082 of 9,712.536 – miles under caution in the first 26 races

From Darnell Communications for SRT Motorsports – Dodge-PR

“Just a Driver” Vs. “Team Leader” in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup

SPEED Analysts, Sports Psychologist weigh the importance of team leadership in championship efforts

Sports psychologist: “Raw talent is just the price of admission.”

“Kyle (Busch) doesn’t rise to the occasion. He kicks your butt in the regular season, but when everyone else raises their game a bit, he’s just Kyle and he stays the same.”

Those words, spoken Aug 16 by SPEED analyst Kyle Petty on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, seemed to eerily foreshadow Kyle Busch’s failure to qualify for the 2012 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

“When it comes time to go to another place, he’s just a driver; he’s not a team member,” Petty continued. “Jimmie (Johnson) and Tony (Stewart) are team leaders. They motivate their guys but Kyle doesn’t. You see it in other sports. You see it in baseball where a guy hits a lot of home runs and then gets to the playoffs and jost goes cold. He’s playing at the the top of his game. I don’t think Kyle has another level. He can’t pick it up. Jimmie Johnson takes it to another level. Tony (Stewart) and those guys are great athletes like Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods – they rise to the occasion.”

Jeff Gordon certainly rose to the occasion last weekend at Richmond International Raceway, manhandling an ill-handling race car and rallying late in the race to secure the 12th and final spot in this year’s Chase. Gordon’s triumph, however, juxtaposed Busch’s devastation. Considered the favorite by most heading into the race, Busch suffered a questionable pit call by his crew chief and a slow pit stop late in the race. Many observers, though, noted Busch’s angry team radio rants that were his trademark last season.

“We see the tale of two guys,” said Darrell Waltrip, three-time Cup Series champion and SPEED analyst, Sunday on NASCAR Victory Lane. “We saw Jeff Gordon, who is calm under fire and able to overcome adversity. That’s something that Kyle just cannot do. When things don’t go well, they just keep getting worse. He can’t make them better. (When Busch was getting lapped at Richmond), the wheels (were) coming off big time.”

Busch has missed the Chase only three times in eight full seasons but never has finished higher than fifth in points despite dominating the regular season several times. In 2008, he wrapped the year 10th in points after winning eight races.

So, what exactly is missing in Busch’s championship aspirations? Is he, as some have contended, not enough of a team leader to guide his crew to that elusive Cup Series championship? And exactly how much of a factor to team leadership and a driver’s ability to excel in a “Game 7″ scenario really play in winning a championship?

“Drivers are leaders,” said Dr. Mark Tobin, a Charlotte, NC-based sports psychologist who has not worked with Busch. “Some take that to heart and some do not. Some have great talent but aren’t great leaders. They don’t know how to motivate their team. They’re critical. For example, a driver’s string of expletives after a bad pit stop is not good leadership. Leaders encourage their folks when they make mistakes. They’re demanding in terms of performance, but they know a key aspect of their success is their relationship with their team and their ability to motivate. Mistakes are magnified during the playoffs, but the most successful drivers who are the ones the team can count on to keep a cool head no matter what happens.”

Dr. Tobin, who appears on Wednesday’s NASCAR Race Hub at 6pm ET, says excelling under championship pressure means moving past bumps in the road and learning from mistakes, a practice Gordon seemingly employed to perfection at Richmond in his charge to finish second.

“If they have a failure, one of the things I work with my athletes on is treating that performance as nothing more than data and information,” Dr. Tobin explained. “Analyze the situation, figure out what happened, and if a fix is required, put that in place and move one. You must have instant amnesia if you’re going to be an athlete at the highest level. If you allow a poor performance to be more than data or information, it leads to doubt. Those athletes usually don’t make it through the learning curve of a championship and playoffs.”

“I love and admire Kyle’s passion for winning,” SPEED analyst Larry McReynolds said. “We need more of that. He’s a great race car driver when everything is going well, but it’s easy to be a great race car driver when things are going well. What separates champions from the rest is the ability to overcome adverse conditions. Until Kyle learns to do that, it’s going to be tough for him to be a champion.”

By all appearances, Denny Hamlin allowed a poor performance late in the 2010 Chase to derail his focus and confidence in his quest to win the title. Now the points leader heading into this weekend’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Hamlin has been declared by many as the favorite for this year’s championship. He first will have to beat battle-tested five-time champion Johnson and four-time champ Gordon, in addition to nine others including three-time champion Stewart. This type of environment, according to Dr. Tobin, is where the importance of psychological skills is realized.

“In playoff time, it’s not about raw talent,” Dr. Tobin elaborated. “It’s about understanding psychological skills and the motivational and leadership qualities necessary to win a championship. The athletic graveyard is littered with raw talent. We’re talking very small differences in raw talent at the highest level. So, the further advanced you are in your sport, the more important psychological skills are. At the highest level, raw talent merely is the price of admission.”

Twelve drivers and teams have paid that price of admission. Now it’s a matter of who will be standing in 10 weeks when the show is over.

From SPEED-PR

Chandra and Jimmie Johnson Go ‘On The Road’

New Book Chronicles Johnson’s NASCAR Run In the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship

Chandra and Jimmie Johnson announced today the release of their self-published book, On The Road. The 208-page, hardcover book chronicles Johnson’s 2011 unsuccessful quest for an historic sixth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

The book reveals lifestyle photographer Missy McLamb’s unprecedented access to all aspects of the Johnsons’ lives, from the frustrations of ending his record-breaking winning streak to the joys of fatherhood with then 1-year-old daughter Genevieve. NASCAR’s 10-week playoff known as the Chase serves as the backdrop for this first-hand account of the emotional toll running for a championship takes on Johnson, his family and team.

“I don’t think many people realize just how consuming and stressful the Chase can be,” said Chandra Johnson, who helped spearhead the project. “Most fans know what happens on the racetrack. This was a unique way for us to show what happens behind the scenes.”

The book was self-published by the Johnson’s and packaged for publication by designer Mark Pollard. Pollard’s history of book design includes editions with Stephen King, Roy Rodgers and The Pace Gallery. He is an award-winning designer for the film industry and has worked with such renowned directors as Wes Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Jim Jarmusch and Todd Haynes, whose mini-series, Mildred Pierce, was the 2011 Creative Arts Emmy winner.

A limited release of 2,000 copies will be available for purchase exclusively trackside at the No. 48 merchandise hauler starting Friday (Sept 15) at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. The track is the site of the first race in this year’s 10-race Chase where Johnson will begin his quest for a sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Johnson will sign books at the merchandise hauler Saturday (Sept 16) immediately following the Nationwide Series race. He will hold additional signings at track during the Chase while supplies last. In addition, copies are available at jimmiejohnson.com.

“This really was a passion project for Chani and me,” Johnson said. “Missy (McLamb) had unlimited access to our family, as well as the team. She did a wonderful job of capturing the emotional roller coaster that is the Chase. It’s a perspective fans typically don’t get to see.”

A gallery showing of select prints will take place Oct 13-20 in Charlotte, NC. For more information, visit ontheroadstudio.com

From True Speed Communication for Team Lowe’s Racing-PR

‘Most Popular Driver’ Finalists Unveiled

10 Drivers Locked in for final voting

The National Motorsports Press Association – NMPA – announced the finalists for the NASCAR Most Popular Driver Award today. With more than a half-million votes cast, the top 10 drivers that earned the most votes will now be reset to zero with voting continuing over the next 10 weeks, coinciding with the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The 10 finalists are, in alphabetical order: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Matt Kenseth, Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart.

Fans now have 10 race weeks to cast their vote once a day at MostPopularDriver.com to determine the winner from the final 10 drivers. Voting will conclude Nov 18 at 11:59pm ET and the winner will be announced at the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon in November.

Dale Earnhardt Jr collected his ninth consecutive Most Popular Driver award at the end of the 2011 campaign, joining Bill Elliott as the only drivers to win the award eight years straight. Elliott holds the record for most consecutive Most Popular Driver wins with 10, and he also holds the record for total wins with 16.

He removed himself from voting after earning the honor the 16th time.

“The voice of the fan continues to be heard through the Most Popular Driver award,” said Rea White, NMPA president. “These drivers are each great representatives of the sport and of its fan base.”

For more information, and to vote on the NASCAR NMPA Most Popular Driver Award, fans should log on to MostPopularDriver.com

From Breaking Limits Marketing for NMPA Most Popular Driver-PR

September 11, 2012

Fab Four Chase Championship

Hamlin, Stewart, Johnson, Keselowski start Chase from top rungs

If there are Four Horsemen in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, they are Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski.

Although almost anything can happen – Stewart proved that last year by roaring back from an underdog position to win five races and the Chase, the numbers say the top four drivers in the standings will carry favorite roles into Sunday’s playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Read more from SPEED

NASCAR sends drivers on ‘Chase Across America’ to promote 10-race playoff

Kasey Kahne took some imaginary swings before he was handed Philadelphia Phillies jersey and cap.

“I’d love to take some batting practice,” he said smiling.

Kahne’s hacks at the plate have to wait. He’s focused on going deep in NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship as a contender for the sport’s biggest prize.

Read more from Washington Post

Jeff Gordon loses bet, bringing back ‘the stache’

Of all the things that Jeff Gordon hopes to resurrect from the early days of his career, one likely isn’t the moustache he wore as a young driver in the early 1990s.

But it’s coming back.

After his incredible comeback Saturday night to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Gordon revealed he had made a bet with his team.

Read more from Sporting News

Bowyer Joins 3,000 Northwest ISD High School Students in Honoring Local Heroes During Special 9/11 Ceremony

Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship contender, Clint Bowyer joined more than 3,000 students from Byron Nelson, Northwest and Steele Accelerated high schools to help honor local first responders as part of a special 9/11 remembrance assembly held Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Area firefighters, paramedics, police officers and dispatchers took part in a special “Heroes Walk” with cheerleaders lining the grandstands, the bands performing, and students standing and cheering to demonstrate their respect and gratitude. Bowyer, visiting Fort Worth as part of NASCAR’s Chase Across America program, expressed his gratitude for the sacrifices made by the first responders and the lasting impact of 9/11 that occurred 11 years ago.

“I’m proud to have them here,” Bowyer said of the first responders on hand. “It’s so important to remember them. I can’t go anywhere without knowing somebody who wasn’t directly affected by it (9/11). My truck driver lost his brother on 9/11. It’s incredible the sacrifices that those folks give for our freedom so that we can have a comfortable way of life.”

The assembly also included a special competition among the three high schools, with the winning team earning tickets to November’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 a Texas Motorspeedway for its school’s entire student body. Selected students from each school took part in an obstacle course that require them to roll tires, push a stock car down the frontstretch and catch a t-shirt out of a launcher.

Byron Nelson High School’s team proved victorious and earned the entire student body tickets for the Nov 4 AAA Texas 500, the eighth race in the 10-event Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. However, Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage and Bowyer wanted to make sure every student that attended the 9/11 remembrance could attend the AAA Texas 500 and they announced that all 3,000-plus students would be receiving a race ticket and also offered a special discount for their families.

“We just gave away over 3,000 tickets to high schoolers,” Bowyer said with a smile. “Every year, you always go to NASCAR meetings and they ask the younger drivers, ‘How do we get the younger demographic?’ Well, Eddie just accomplished that. He just got over 3,000 future fans of this sport to come watch us race.”

Bowyer, in his first season with Michael Waltrip Racing driving the No. 15 Five-Hour Energy Toyota, qualified for the Chase for the fourth time in his career and is riding the momentum of last week’s victory at Richmond.

The 12-driver Chase field consists of, respectively, Denny Hamlin, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, three-time Sprint Cup Series champ Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Greg Biffle, Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr, 2003 Sprint Cup champion Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr, Kasey Kahne, and four-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon. Gordon made a dramatic run at Richmond to secure the final Chase sport while notables such as Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards did not make the field.

“This was me going into Richmond, ‘Who do you want in the Chase?'” recalled Bowyer with a chuckle. “Do you want Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon to race for a championship? I don’t like any of those. I’d rather somebody else win, maybe one of those start-and-parks. Could we possibly get one of them in the Chase? Is there any way in this last race that they could get in? I was going to help them. But there wasn’t any way.”

Despite a stiff field that includes four former Sprint Cup champions and 13 combined crowns, Bowyer likes his chances of capturing his first championship. The pursuit begins Sunday with Round 1 of the Chase at Chicagoland Speedway.

“That’s what I love about the Chase,” Bowyer said. “If you look at my stats and my records, some of the Chase races are the best races that I have ever had. I’m very much looking forward to the Chase because of that track record and, more importantly, because of the speed in our race cars. These MWR cars are extremely fast week in and week out. The last four races we had a shot at winning all of them and probably should have.

“If you look back at our last five, six, heck, even give us 10-races, we’ve had some bumps in the road but not nearly as many as the other guys in the Chase. Martin Truex Jr, and I and Mark Martin, are capable of winning a few more races in the Chase. If we can do that, we can compete for this championship.”

Of the 10 races in the Chase, Bowyer has the AAA Texas 500 circled because Texas Motor Speedway is one of his stronger tracks. He has yet to earn a Sprint Cup victory at Texas Motor Speedway, but he has turned in solid performances with seven top-ten finishes in 13 career starts. He finished a personal-best second in last year’s Samsung Mobile 500, but Bowyer desperately wants to be the one hoisting the six-shooters in Victory Lane following the AAA Texas 500.

“I want to leave Texas a full-on sportsman,” said Bowyer, who has recorded top-ten finishes in his last four AAA Texas 500 starts. “I want a shotgun (given to the pole winner) to go turkey hunting and pistols just in case the Wild Wild West fires back up. I want guns when I leave here blazing. That’s exactly what I want. I never had those and they’re awesome.”

Tickets for the AAA Texas 500, which includes the AXE Salute Our Troops Pre-Race show featuring The Eli Young Band, are available by contacting the Texas Motor Speedway ticket office at 817-215-8500 or by visiting TexasMotorSpeedway.com

From Texas Motor Speedway-PR

NASCAR Superstar Delivers Groceries in Connecticut with Fan as Part of Best Western’s “Fan Swap”

Best Western International, The World’s Biggest Hotel Family, selected truck driver Brian Belanger as the winner of the brand’s annual “Fan Swap” contest. As part of his grand prize, Waltrip visited Belanger in his hometown of Bristol to help assist with his job for one day. In addition, the Belangers received a $1,000 Best Western Travel Card to use on a much-deserved vacation at any of the more than 4,000 Best Western hotels worldwide.

This is the first year the “Fan Swap” contest asked racing fans to nominate their “Travel Hero,” a frequent business traveler who sacrifices time at home with family and friends to hit the road to make a living. Belanger was nominated by his wife Renee, who noted that her husband typically works 60 hours a week and spends two nights each week away from home.

Best Western-PR

September 10, 2012

“GOD BLESS JUAN PABLO (MONTOYA). IT WAS STUPID REALLY. HE WAS – I DON’T KNOW HOW MANY LAPS DOWN HE WAS – I KNOW HE WAS AT LEAST ONE AND WE WERE RUNNING SECOND OR THIRD THERE AND HE JUST GOT INTO US AND KNOCKED MY LEFT REAR (TIRE) DOWN. BUT, LUCKILY I GOT SPUN OUT DOWN THERE, GOT THE CAUTION AND DIDN’T GO A LAP DOWN AND THAT WAS THE THING THAT WON US THE RACE. YOU NEVER KNOW. YOU NEVER GIVE UP IN THIS SPORT.” – CLINT BOWYER AFTER WINNING AT RICHMOND, SEPTEMBER 8TH, 2012

After a rain delays in Richmond, fans now know the Chase contenders and wild card entries for the final ten races of the season. Clint Bowyer wins his second race of the season and Jeff Gordon edges out Kyle Bush for the #2 wild card, with Kasey Kahne taking wild card #1. The Chase for the Sprint Cup begins next week at Chicagoland Speedway. It’s going to be fun watching the Chase unfold over the next ten weeks.

Check out this coming weekend’s NASCAR race schedule.

Let’s begin with Monday, September 10, 2012 News & Views…

Event Schedule at Chicagoland Speedway

Mike Ford to Lead Ambrose, Parrott Take Duties to Almirola; Crew Members Follow

Richard Petty Motorsports – RPM – announced today it has made changes to its crew lineup in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Mike Ford will now lead Marcos Ambrose and the No. 9 Ford while Todd Parrott has been assigned as the crew chief for Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Ford. In addition, team members from both teams will also make the switch with their respective crew chief. Several pit crew members were also recently changed. The move is made to strengthen the entire RPM organization and improve the performance level now and into the future. The change is effective immediately.

Richard Petty Motorsports currently has one win, three poles, ten top-tens and three top-five finishes this season in the Sprint Cup Series. The team was also in position to make the Chase for the second consecutive season with driver Marcos Ambrose.

“We’re continuing to make improvements at Richard Petty Motorsports and we’ve added talented people to our organization this season,” said Sammy Johns, director of competition. “This move is to make sure that we are using that talent to the fullest to get the best results for our teams each weekend. We feel this adjustment will strengthen the organization, allow us to continue to compete for wins and ultimately challenge for championships.”

Ford and Parrott are both veteran, winning crew chiefs. Parrott has one Sprint Cup championship, a Daytona 500 championship and 31 Sprint Cup wins to his credit. Ford has six Chase berths and 25 Sprint Cup race wins on his resume. Both are looking at the change as an opportunity to better Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Aric has really shown the desire and dedication to get his first Sprint Cup Series win,” Parrott said. “It was great our team helped lead Marcos to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win and poles. We are now ready to help direct Almirola and the No. 43 team to the same results and better.”

Ford is also ready to work with Ambrose and the No. 9 race team.

“Marcos is a racer who has proven to win poles and races,” Ford said. “Our goal is to take my experiences and make sure we can consistently run up front and continue to win races.”

Ford, Parrott and their teams will be working with their new respective drivers this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

From Richard Petty Motorsports-PR

National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel Uphold Penalties Assessed to the No. 17 NSCS Team

The National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel today heard and considered the appeal of the No. 27 Richard Childress NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team.

The penalties concern Section 12-1 – Actions detrimental to stock car racing; Section 12-4K – If, in the judgement of NASCAR Officials, race equipment that has been previously certified or previously approved by NASCAR for use in an event, pursuant to sub-section 8-12, has been altered, modified, repaired or changed in any matter. Intentionally modifying previously certified frame rails for the purpose of deceiving NASCAR’s inspection gauges.

The penalties stemmed from a post-race inspection at the NASCAR Research and Development Center on Aug 21 following the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Michigan International Speedway on Aug 19.

The original penalties assessed were:

  • Car owner – Richard Childress – loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship car owner points
  • Car driver – Paul Menard – Loss of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship driver points
  • Crew chief – Richard Labbe – $100,000 fine; suspended from NASCAR for six weeks; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec 31
  • Car chief – Craig Smokstad – Suspended from NASCAR for six weeks; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec 31
  • Crew member – Grant Hutchens – Suspended from NASCAR for six weeks; placed on NASCAR probation until Dec 31

The Appellant did not appeal the loss of 25 championship car owner and 25 championship driver points or the $100,000 fine and six-week suspension of crew chief Richard Labbe, who began serving his suspension from NASCAR Sept 4. The Appellant did appeal the six-week suspensions of Craig Smokstad and Grant Hutchens.

The Appellant acknowledged that the No. 27 car failed post-race inspection.

Upon hearing the testimony and carefully reviewing the facts, it was a unanimous decision by the National Stock Car Racing Appeals Panel to uphold the original penalties assessed by NASCAR. Therefore, both Smokstad and Hutchens’ six-week suspensions from NASCAR will be effective immediately.

The Appellant has the right under Section 15 of the rule book to appeal this decision to the National Stock Car Racing Chief Appellate Officer.

From NASCAR-PR

Jeff Gordon Now a Contender for 2012 Title

After finishing second last weekend at Richmond and securing a “Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup” berth, Jeff Gordon said he felt like he had won the race. Actually, it was nearly three races that he won that night.

Gordon entered the 26th race of the 2012 season trailing the points leader by 145 markers. Now, with the points reset for the 12 title contenders entering Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway, the deficit stands at only 12. That difference equates to almost a three-race gap that was erased in one night.

“It was a great fight we had at Richmond and I am so pumped heading into Chicago and the rest of the Chase,” said the driver of the No. 24 DuPont “20 Years” Chevrolet. “There were a number of times this year when we had strong performances but didn’t have the results to go with it. We now have ten races to pair good runs with good results.

“At Richmond, the determination that – crew chief – Alan Gustafson and this team showed was incredible. Anything is possible from this group.

“Including a championship.”

A championship for the No. 24 team in 2012 appeared to be a long shot a dozen races ago. In June, Gordon exited Pocono 22nd in the point standings and 84 points out of 12th place. In the 12 races since, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion recorded one win, six top-fives and nine top-tens in the stretch run that determined the Chase field.

“We finally started putting together some results,” said Gordon. “But it still seemed like every time we had a great finish, something would happen that would break our momentum.

“We have three top-three finishes in a row that we’re hoping to build on in Chicago.”

In 11 starts at the 1.5-mile Illinois track, Gordon has one win, one pole, six top-fives and seven top-tens. Will his next start deliver a statement?

“You want to come out of the gate strong and get the best possible result you can,” said Gordon. “if that’s a win, great. If that’s fifth, great. A lot can happen during the Chase. To me, ten weeks is a lot of racing.

“More than a lot of people think.”

From Performance PR Plus for DuPont Motorsports-PR

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