Speedway Digest Staff
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Team owner Rick Hendrick said before Sunday's race at Phoenix that there's no basis to rumors of impending crew chief changes among his four NASCAR Sprint Cup teams.
"That's right -- no changes," said Hendrick, who swapped crew chiefs among three of his teams at the end of the 2010 season, leaving only the combination of driver Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus intact. "I don't know where any of that came from, but there's not going to be any changes.
"Nobody's even discussed anything. Everybody's pretty happy with what we've got… good momentum in the Chase and winning races. Take the things like blown tires and engines out of the equation, and it's one of the best Chases we've had, so there's no reason to change anything."
Jimmie Johnson knows two things:
After Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he'll likely be a six-time champion.
But … it's dangerous to think that way.
That's why Johnson is circumspect in assessing his title chances, despite having expanded his lead over second-place Matt Kenseth to 28 points with a third-place finish in this past Sunday's AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
"We're heading into Homestead in the position we want to be in," Johnson told reporters Sunday night. "I'll have to go down there and run 400 miles. It's far from over. You've got to finish that race. Although we have a nice cushion, we still have to go down there and take care of business."
Or as baseball great Yogi Berra once said, much more succinctly, "It ain't over till it's over."
Johnson knows all too well how much can happen in 400 miles. A part can fail at the most inopportune time. An engine can explode. A tire can blow. A random wreck can wipe out anyone at any time -- something that came perilously close to happening to Johnson on Sunday.
Johnson and Carl Edwards were racing side-by-side down the frontstretch at Phoenix when Kevin Harvick saw an opening and dived to the inside, making it three-wide, with Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet on the outside.
Edwards' Ford broke loose in Turn 1 and knocked Johnson's Chevy up the track and out of control. But for the five-time champion's extraordinary reflexes, the 48 would have hit the wall, and Johnson likely would have left Phoenix with a deficit rather than a lead.
If Johnson gets in harm's way at Homestead, he might not be as fortunate.
Yes, Johnson has a clearly defined target. He will clinch his sixth championship if:
· He finishes 23rd or better;
· He finishes 24th and leads a lap;
· He finishes 25th and leads the most laps.
In essence, he'll be racing against a number and not against either Kenseth or third-place Kevin Harvick, who trimmed his deficit to Johnson from 40 to 34 points with his victory at Phoenix.
In the last two races at HMS, Johnson has failed to hit any of those clinch numbers. He ran 32nd in 2011 when Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards battled for the championship. Last year, in a head-to-head contest for the title against Brad Keselowski, Johnson appeared to have the upper hand before a pit road mistake and mechanical failure dropped him to 36th at the finish.
"If we have a hiccup or some type of mistake in Homestead, it'll be a race between the 20 (Kenseth) and the 29 (Harvick)," Johnson acknowledged. "But I feel like if we go down there and run as we should, we should be able to take care of business."
At Homestead, business starts on Friday. Johnson will need a strong run in time trials to avoid the potential pitfall that cost Denny Hamlin the championship in 2010.
Hamlin led Johnson by 15 points (in the last year of the Latford scoring system) entering the season finale but qualified 37th, spun and slid through the infield grass off Turn 2 while working through heavy traffic on Lap 25 and finished 14th. Johnson ran second and claimed his fifth straight title by a 39-point margin.
Before Johnson can claim championship No. 6, he will have to cross a minefield of random, unpredictable circumstances and hope that good fortune is on his side.
Sure, it's likely that another Yogi Berra quip will be apt next Sunday, namely that Johnson's championship will be "déjà vu all over again."
But until the checkered flag waves in the Ford EcoBoost 400, the nagging notion "It ain't over till it's over" no doubt will occupy the thoughts of the would-be six-time champion.
Trevor Bayneand the No.6 WFG Ford Mustang team finished seventh in Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Phoenix International Raceway’s (PIR) ServiceMaster 200.
“I was just too tight all day, going to the gas and it was bogging it down, so people could get under me off of turn one especially – down the short chute there they would beat me,” said Bayne. “In three and four our car was really good. I felt like we were as strong as anybody, but we were just too tight for those short runs and that hurt us in the end. I didn’t need them to keep getting short runs and keep those new tires so they were able to get by me a little bit there. But the first takeoff when I was on the outside of the 31 he got me down in turn three and then I crossed him over and got back to the lead, and I was like, ‘Man, we’re going to be leading this thing by turn one,’ and the caution came out. That’s what we didn’t need, but that’s OK.”
With $250,000 dollars on the line for a lucky winner if Bayne visited Victory Lane in his World Financial Group Ford, the team was feeling a little bit of extra pressure for a solid finish Saturday.
At the drop of the green flag the No.6 WFG Ford Mustang quickly began moving to the front of the pack. After a few early cautions, Bayne found himself running at the front of the field until lap 80 when Mike Kelley called his driver down pit road for his first stop of the day. Two rounds in the right rear along with four tires and two cans of fuel was the call. Bayne blended back into the field in 13th.
On lap 105, Bayne once again came down pit road, a track bar adjustment for a tight car was the call. He held his track position of 13th and had moved up to ninth-place by the time the next caution flew at lap 130.
Multiple cautions flew, with Bayne radioing in that his car was still just too tight. Unfortunately the team could never make it back to pit road to adjust on the ill-handling Mustang. Bayne still managed to work his way up through the field to reach the checkers in seventh, moving up to sixth in the NNS Championship standings.
Roush Yates capped off their winning season in dirt racing with two National Series Championships in 2013. Josh Richards brought home the World of Outlaws (WoO) Late Model Series Championship for the third time in his career while Jason Johnson captured his fourth overall Championship in the Lucas Oil American Sprint Car Series.
Roush Yates is transitioning their strategy for next season, making it their mission to supply quality engine components to all dirt series engine builders. The same technology used to build winning engines for Richards and Johnson this season will now be available to customers around the world.
“It’s great to see how competitive our technology is in these markets,” said Doug Yates, CEO for Roush Yates. “We have invested heavily in dirt racers over the past four years, learning the market and fine tuning our engines and the components we use. We look forward to working with engine builders as we transition to sharing this desirable technology.”
A sneak peek of Roush Yates’ commitment to developing components for dirt racing was revealed at the WoO World Finals on Thursday night to select engine builders. The revolutionary new RY45 Series was introduced for the first time and well received by key people in the industry. The new RY45 Series will officially be available at the Performance Racing Industry show in December.
Richards took the points lead only three races into the 2013 season and continued to sit atop the standings for the remainder of the 46-event schedule. With 10 wins and 41 top 10 finishes, he captured the championship Saturday night by an impressive 150 points over defending champion Darrell Lanigan.
“Nothing will be like the first championship,” said Richards, whose previous titles came in 2009 and 2010. “But if there wasn’t a first one, we couldn’t have a second or a third. To take a break from WoO like we did to pursue other opportunities and come back and win it this year is pretty unreal. I’m just proud to represent the World of Outlaws this year and hopefully we can do it again.”
In addition to winning the World of Outlaw Late Model Series Championship, Roush Yates was awarded the Engine Builder of the Year award for the series. Richards was one of four drivers who helped Roush Yates win 14 races in 2013.
The “Ragin’ Cajun” Jason Johnson finished his season sweeping the four race Cocopah Cup Challenge at Cocopah Speedway in Yuma, AZ to win the 2013 Lucas Oil ASCS Championship. 2013 marked Johnson’s fourth title as a driver champion and an owner’s champion.
“It just speaks volumes about this team and what they have accomplished,” said Johnson. “Although the driver won the race, it certainly takes a full team to win a championship. A team that is made up of great people and organizations – the driver, the crew, sponsors, and a great engine builder.”
Roush Yates Engines PR
It is an impressive line-up of celebrities for Ford Championship Weekend (Nov. 15-17), both on and off the track. Pre-race ceremonies at Homestead-Miami Speedway feature a variety of regional and national talent. Country music star Dierks Bentley will kick off the day on Sunday, performing an hour-long concert prior to the NASCAR Spring Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400. The2013finalists on NBC’s “The Voice” Swon Brothers will take the stage next, performing America the Beautiful. Disney Channel star and Dancing with the Stars runner-up Zendaya will round out the musical performances, performing the National Anthem before the green flag flies.
Singer-songwriter, actor and music producer Toby Keith will utter the most famous words in racing – “Drivers, start your engines,” as Grand Marshal for the Ford EcoBoost 400. Dierks Bentley’s performance on the pre-race stage will begin at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
On Saturday, Group Vice President of Ford Motor Company’s Global Product Development Raj Nair will serve as Grand Marshall for the Ford EcoBoost 300. Miami-based singer-songwriter Elizabeth Elias will perform the National Anthem on Saturday.
Friday’s pre-race highlights will include the National Anthem by Captain Roman Bas, a decorated member of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and U.S. Navy veteran.
Sunday – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 400 (3:00 p.m.)
12:30 p.m. Dierks Bentley, American country music artist
National Anthem: Zendaya, Disney Channel star and Dancing with the Stars runner-up
Grand Marshal: Toby Keith, singer-songwriter, actor, and music producer
Honorary Starter: Joe Heinrichs, president of the Americas for Ford Motor Company
Honorary Race Chairman: Jeff Porter, mayor of Homestead
Honorary Race Chairman: Edsel B. Ford III, Board of Directors of Ford Motor Company
Honorary Race Chairman: Mark Fields, chief operating officer for Ford Motor Company
Honorary Pace Car Driver: Ramon Rodriguez, actor in the upcoming new movie “Need for Speed”
Flyover: The “Warbirds” (Eight CJ-6As) vintage planes
Color Guard: US Coast Guard Base Miami Beach Color Guard
God Bless America: Madison Rising, American rock band
Pledge of Allegiance: Jim Anson, original member U.S. Special Forces Green Berets (1961)
Invocation: Pastor Scott Claunch, Calvary Chapel
DJ: DJ Irie, Miami based and internationally-known DJ
Saturday – NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m.)
National Anthem: Elizabeth Elias, Miami-based singer-songwriter
Grand Marshal: Raj Nair, group vice president global product development, Ford Motor Company
Honorary Starter: John Felice, vice president, US marketing sales and service, Ford Motor Company
Color Guard: Miami-Dade Young Marines
God Bless America: Madison Rising, American rock band
Pledge of Allegiance: William Chapman Elementary, winners of Homestead-Miami Speedway’s “Racing to Read” program
Invocation: Pastor Scott Claunch, Calvary Chapel
Friday – NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship Ford EcoBoost 200 (8:00 p.m.)
National Anthem: Captain Roman Bas, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and U.S. Navy veteran
Grand Marshal: Aaron Galloway, service zone manager – Charlotte Region for Ford Motor Company
Honorary Starter: Lauren Jasper, sales zone manager – Atlanta Region for Ford Motor Company
Color Guard: Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Honor Guard
Invocation: Pastor Scott Claunch, Calvary Chapel
For a complete list of entertainment during Ford Championship Weekend, visit the interactive schedule here.
Homestead-Miami Speedway PR
It’s no secret Martinsville Speedway is a fan favorite. It’s been that way since founder H. Clay Earles first opened the gates to the half-mile oval in 1947.
Sixty-six years later fans are still leaving races with smiles on their faces and great memories to share with friends and neighbors.
“I finally fulfilled a dream of mine to go to a race at Martinsville last weekend and the only thing I can say is ‘why did I wait so long,’ “ said Jon Goddard of Chattanooga, TN, after his first trip to Martinsville for the Goody’s® Headache Relief Shot® 500 Powered by Kroger two weeks ago.
“From the staff to the track walk, the ticket and concession prices, and even the relative ease of exiting the parking lot after the race, the experience couldn’t have been better. I’ve been to numerous tracks through the years, but now I have a new favorite track.”
Jim Freed, a policeman from Bethlehem, PA, and his wife Laura also made their inaugural visit to Martinsville two weeks ago. They were blown away by the experience.
“I wanted to start by stating that this was by far the best race and race track that I’ve ever been to,” Jim said in an email to track president Clay Campbell. “It was incredibly easy and smooth driving into the parking area for the track. I couldn’t believe how close the parking was to the track. I was able to go back and forth from the track to my vehicle without having to walk very far.”
The Freeds said it was the most “fan friendly” track they had been to, that they were able to get pictures with several drivers and celebrities, including Jeff Gordon.
The entire experience had a lasting effect on the Freeds.
“My wife and I were so impressed with the track and the area in general, that when I retire in three years from my police department, we are going to relocate to your area,” Jim said.
“We work hard to make sure fans have an enjoyable, worry-free visit to Martinsville Speedway,” said Campbell. “But it is always so gratifying when we here so many good stories like the ones we’ve gotten since our fall race. It gets us excited to go to work on the STP 500 on March 30.”
Carl Vandevander and his wife discovered on race morning their tickets were nowhere to be found. Expecting the worse, Vandevander checked with the ticket office. The Greenville couple was amazed with the response.
“Your employee worked out a stressful morning for my family and I before arriving to the race. If we had been at any other venue, we would have most likely been told we were out of luck and would have had to purchase another set of tickets,” Vandevander said in an email to Campbell. “This is one reason our family has continued to return to your race track each year, due to the great hospitality and kindness of your staff.”
Racing excitement returns to Martinsville Speedway with the STP 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend March 28-30, 2014. The Kroger 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race is scheduled for March 29 and Pole Day on March 28.
Martinsville Speedway tickets remain the most affordable in racing again in 2014, with STP 500 tickets starting at $35 and Kroger 250 tickets at $25. This guaranteed special pricing is available for a limited time, now through December 3.
Martinsville Speedway PR
The final five contestants have been selected! Now it’s time to vote on who will become Darlington Raceway’s next Lady in Black!
Starting today, Nov. 11, fans can visit www.DarlingtonRaceway.com/LadyinBlack and cast their vote for the next Lady in Black. Voting will conclude on Wednesday, Dec. 11, with the winner being announced in mid-January (exact date TBD).
The position is an integral part of Darlington Raceway’s efforts to focus on the fans and represent the track in the local community, which has supported it since 1950.
“We have narrowed the field to five quality candidates for our Lady in Black position. We feel that any of these five finalists could represent Darlington Raceway as the Lady in Black in 2014,” track President Chip Wile said.
The final five selected were Kaitlyn Bailey of Darlington, S.C., Cydney Gandy of Darlington, Kaitlynn Jessup of Hampton, Va., Nicole Kinder of Hemingway, S.C. and Hayley Taylor of Darlington. More information on each candidate can be found on the voting page.
The five finalists were selected from over 50 candidates that submitted an online application for the contest. The finalist were introduced last Friday at the track’s inaugural Speed & Feed BBQ Cook-Off and Car Show presented by Piggly Wiggly event, which drew thousands of fans to the track Too Tough to Tame.
Darlington Raceway PR
Next week, Charlotte Motor Speedway will welcome holiday revelers of all ages for the Eggnog Jog 5K and opening night of Speedway Christmas, a spectacular wonderland featuring a drive-through holiday light park, Christmas Village and so much more, all at the legendary 1.5-mile superspeedway.
Speedway Christmas is returning to Charlotte Motor Speedway bigger, brighter and better in its fourth year, with a new route of 3.1 miles, more than 3 million LED lights in 800 displays and a drive-the-track experience that always delights visitors.
Visitors can get a sneak peek of the lights during the Eggnog Jog 5K fun run on Friday, Nov. 22. Open nightly from Nov. 23 through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day, the Speedway Christmas drive-through light show will also feature a life size Bethlehem-themed village, photos with Santa, marshmallow roasting pits and more. Speedway Christmas will also screen holiday classics like “A Christmas Story,” “Polar Express” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” every Friday and Saturday night beginning Nov. 29.
Here are some essential facts about Speedway Christmas, by the numbers:
More than 3 million LED lights will be a part of Speedway Christmas. The highly efficient LED lights use nearly 90 percent less energy and produce a brighter light than incandescent bulbs. During the 38-night schedule, Speedway Christmas displays will use less energy than 37 typical North Carolina households in a given month.
More than 100,000 people are expected to visit Speedway Christmas in 2013.
300,000: feet of animated LED lights will be strung along the speedway’s frontstretch grandstands as part of a crowd-pleasing display set to music.
800: different light displays will line the Speedway Christmas route, including displays depicting a NASCAR Christmas, a Penguin Winterfest and the fan-favorite Patriotic Alley.
80: new light displays that Speedway Christmas fans have never seen before.
10: movie nights, featuring holiday classics like “A Christmas Story,” “Polar Express” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” playing on the world’s largest HDTV. Admission to the movie night is included in the price of the light show ticket.
38: nights that Speedway Christmas (including the Eggnog Jog 5K night) will be open to the public, from Nov. 22 through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day.
1,900: pounds of marshmallows that are expected to be roasted during nights the Christmas village is open.
2,000: photos expected to be taken with Santa in the Christmas Village.
17: The number of days it will take to set up the lights and displays for Speedway Christmas. Crews are working 12-hour days, around current track activities, to complete the set-up in time for the Nov. 22 Eggnog Jog 5K. Set-up started on Nov. 5 and is scheduled to be complete by Nov. 21.
384: volunteers that will be on hand to help with all aspects of Speedway Christmas.
This year’s newly designed Speedway Christmas light show course measures 3.1 miles in length, winding through the infield of the legendary superspeedway. Speedway Christmas goers will have the unique opportunity to drive their vehicle around the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway for nearly one mile after entering the infield at Gate 26.
Fans can get a sneak peek of the light show and enjoy a concert by Charlotte, N.C.-based Charity Case during the Eggnog Jog 5K on Friday, Nov. 22. New for 2013, the fun run is a unique way for fans to see the lights and kick off the Christmas season. Participants are encouraged to dress in their most festive attire and bring friends. For registration details and more information, visit www.eggnogjog5K.com.
Operating hours for the drive-through Speedway Christmas will be 6 to 10 p.m., Nov. 23 through Dec. 30, excluding Christmas Day. Tickets are available online or at the gate nightly during event hours for drive-up traffic. Admission is just $15 per car on nights the Christmas Village is closed and $20 per car on nights the village is open. Group packages are available.
On Dec. 12, 2013, fifteen lucky donors will get to strap in next to 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Brad Keselowski in his Race 2 Recovery Ford Fusion as he takes them for qualifying-speed laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway. Even better, it's all to benefit veterans through Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation, which supports severely wounded heroes and their families.
"With my Checkered Flag Foundation, we look to provide once-in-a-lifetime experiences for men and women who have served our country honorably and sacrificed greatly for the rest of us. We do that, primarily, through our Race 2 Recovery program," Keselowski said. "We are going to replicate that ride-along program for 15 couples with this Ride 2 Remember event to allow them to not only have a great experience, but also have the opportunity to directly support the Race 2 Recovery program in 2014."
Individual or corporate donors have the opportunity to join Keselowski, Penske Racing driver Ryan Blaney and the rest of the Brad Keselowski Racing team with a first-come, first-served donation of $5,000 per couple or $2,500 per individual.
This exclusive, premium package includes:
· A full-dress, full-speed ride-along with NASCAR driver Ryan Blaney in the 2013 R2R Ford Mustang for the second guest
· Behind-the-scenes tour of the cars and hauler with Brad Keselowski Racing team personnel
· Meet-and-greet and autograph session with Keselowski and Blaney
· Catered dinner
· Silent auction with unique Keselowski and Penske Racing memorabilia
· Small-group setting to offer guests one-on-one interaction with the drivers and team
· Premium gift bag filled with Keselowski and CFF memorabilia
· Custom professional still & video imagery provided for each guest, including in-car ride-along video.