Sunday, Oct 01
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (EGR) announced today that Keith Rodden has been named crew chief for Jamie McMurray and the No. 1 Chevrolet SS.  Rodden will assume the role effective immediately to prepare for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season.

”We are very happy to get a crew chief that is the caliber of Keith,” said EGR Owner Chip Ganassi.  “He brings a lot of great experience with him to our organization.  We are building the foundation for what we believe will be long-term success in our NASCAR operation and Keith fits into those plans perfectly.  I look forward to having him in the organization and leading the No. 1 team.”

Rodden joins EGR from Hendrick Motorsports where he was most recently in the role of lead engineer for the No. 5 Chevy.  In his two seasons as the lead engineer on the No. 5, the team won four races and made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in both seasons.  The Denver, NC native has over 10 years of NASCAR racing experience.  Rodden began his racing career as a race engineer for Andy Petree Racing.  He has also worked for Evernham Motorsports, Richard Petty Motorsports and Red Bull Racing in similar positions.  In 2007, Rodden served as crew chief for Kasey Kahne for multiple races while filling in for Kenny Francis. 

“I am excited and appreciative for this opportunity and can’t wait to be just a small piece of an excellent team that Earnhardt Ganassi Racing is building,” said Rodden.  “Chip has quality people and is also building great race cars.  This team has shown that they can win races and compete at the highest level of this sport and I look forward to working with Jamie and everyone on the team as we work to prepare for the 2014 season.”

Rodden is a graduate of North Carolina State University and with his wife Julie and their daughter Emmie, live in Kannapolis, NC.

Jamie McMurray will begin his 12th full-time season in the NSCS in 2014.  McMurray, the 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 Champion, has seven overall wins, including his most recent win at Talladega Superspeedway just five weeks ago.  In just over 400 career NSCS starts he has accumulated nine poles, 108 top-10 and 45 top-five finishes.


Geared up to make his first-career start for NTS Motorsports, Nelson Piquet, Jr. secured the fourth starting position for the No. 9 NTS Motorsports Chevrolet for the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.


With the race in full action under the lights Friday evening, Piquet began reporting to the team in the opening laps that his Silverado was too loose and the team began to work on a plan for the first pit stop of the 134-lap event.


Preparing to make a green-flag stop, the team received a break on lap 40 when the caution waved. The team called Piquet to pit road to change four tires, add fuel and to make a round of adjustments to tighten the handling of the No. 9 Chevrolet. The race restarted on lap 45.


Continuing to battle a loose-handling truck, Piquet slipped to 13th before being told by crew chief Bruce Cook to "hold onto it until the next caution and we will take a big swing at a change to help the truck." The team was able to make changes to the No. 9 Silverado when the caution waved on lap 63 changing four tires, adding fuel and making a spring rubber and track bar adjustment. The race restarted on lap 69.


Five laps after the lap 69 restart, Piquet again reported to Cook that he was still loose. The team made their final stop of the race during the lap 95 caution making a routine four tire and fuel stop with another round of adjustments. The race restarted with Piquet in the 17th position.


Working on moving back to the front of the field, Piquet was caught up in a multi-truck accident on lap 101 that ended the No. 9 Silverado team's race. The accident left the team with a 31st-place finish in the 2013 season finale.


Nelson Piquet, Jr.'s Post-Race Thoughts:

"The NTS Motorsports team gave me a very fast truck and I was able to qualify close to the front of the field. The truck got too loose during the race, so Bruce (Cook) was working on changes to improve the handling on the No. 9. Unfortunately, I was taken out of the race by an accident that I couldn't avoid."



For the season finale of the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season, Brennan Newberry and the No. 24 Qore-24 Chevrolet team unloaded at Homestead-Miami Speedway with high hopes of finishing the season on a high note.


Qualifying in the 23rd position, Newberry strapped in to his Qore-24 Silverado prepared for 134 laps of action-packed racing under the lights on the 1.5-mile track. With the race under way, Newberry remained pretty quiet on the radio as he found himself in the middle of three-wide and close racing while running in the top 25 and battling for his position.


As the Qore-24 team began to devise a plan for their first stop, they caught a break when the caution was displayed on lap 41 keeping the field from being forced to make green-flag stops. Under the caution, crew chief Eddie Pardue brought Newberry to pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to help with the handling of the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado. Newberry restarted the race on lap 45 in the 23nd position and was immediately in a three-wide battle for position.


Running in the 23rd position, Newberry pitted for the second time on lap 63 under a debris caution. The team made a routine four tire and fuel stop. With a solid stop, the team restarted the race on a lap 69 in the 16th position.


Reporting to the team that his Silverado was "too free from the center of the corners off," Pardue and the team created a plan to tighten the Qore-24 machine during the next stop. When the caution waved for the No. 29 truck, Newberry pitted for four tires, fuel and adjustments to help with the handling. Newberry restarted the race in the 21st position.


As the field crossed the 100-lap mark, a multi-truck incident brought out the caution on lap 101. The race restarted with 25 scheduled laps remaining with Newberry in the 19th position.


Continuing to fight a loose-handling Silverado, the No. 24 team was able to make one more round of adjustments when the caution waved on lap 130. The team changed tires, added fuel and made adjustments. The race restarted with the first attempt at a green-white-checker finish, but the race was immediately slowed again for a multi-truck accident which included Newberry.


The race utilized three attempts at a green-white-checker finish, extending the race 14 laps beyond the scheduled 134-lap event. Newberry was credited with a 29th-place finish to end the 2013 season.


Brennan Newberry's Post-Race Thoughts:

"I hate to end the 2013 season by being taken out in an accident, but I am proud of my Qore-24 team for working hard. We had a fast truck that was capable of a strong finish. I want to thank all of the Qore-24 team for their dedication this race and the entire season. I can't wait to get back to racing in 2014."



As a racer, driver Max Gresham is never satisfied with anything less than a victory. But as his first full-time season comes to an end, he is very aware of the challenges of competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.


Together with his No. 8 Made in USA Brand (MIUSA) team, Gresham carved out a 22nd-place finish in Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On the surface, he was not pleased with the finish, but was happy with the effort that led to the eighth consecutive lead-lap finish for the Sharp-Gallaher Racing team.


"If you look at the big picture, this was an incredibly successful year," the 20-year-old driver from Milner, Ga., said. "But as a racer, you only think about your most-recent race. We closed out the year with a lot of good races in a row, but you want to win. We're proud of our effort on this 'Team Ocho' Made in USA Brand Chevrolet. We wish we could have gotten even more, but that's the way all racers think."


Gresham qualified 16th for the season finale at the 1.5-mile oval in South Florida. Practice came during the afternoon hours, and the race started at night.


"That created a big challenge for everyone," crew chief Chris Showalter said. "We were faced with a difficult choice: Do we set your truck up to be fast for the beginning of the race, or do we set it up for the end of the race? It's a gamble, either way."


Gresham's Made in USA Brand Chevrolet was mired in mid-pack traffic throughout the race, and he climbed as high as eleventh on Lap 80.


He avoided the late-race calamity that led to three different attempts at a green-white-checkered finish. The red, white and blue machine received only minor damage as he avoided being collected in the Lap-132 caution.  


"Track position was everything," Gresham said. "We just couldn't break out of that pack in the middle. When you're stuck in traffic like that, it becomes a race of survival. We hung on for another lead-lap finish, so that's a positive. I just wish we could have gotten a little closer to the front where we could have been a little more aggressive."


The Sharp-Gallaher Racing team finished its first full-time season with Gresham ranked 16th in the final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver point standings. Gresham posted a career-best third-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and he also had four top-10 finishes.


"It was a good year," Showalter said. "We came a long way from the first race [at Daytona International Speedway in February] to Homestead. I've been around this sport for a long time and I can't tell you how much I appreciated seeing a young team grow up so much during the season."


Max Gresham PR

NASCAR announced today that Kenny Mitchell has been named Managing Director of Brand and Consumer Marketing, responsible for leading and implementing the company’s overall brand direction and overseeing the strategic growth plans for several critical segments, including youth, millennial and multicultural. Mitchell will start on Monday, Dec. 2, and be based out of NASCAR’s headquarters in Daytona Beach.

Mitchell is the next step in the evolution of NASCAR’s marketing function reporting to Vice President of Marketing Kim Brink. He will be responsible for developing and executing the annual NASCAR marketing plan and overseeing the company’s media strategies and planning in close collaboration with other NASCAR departments. Additionally, he will work on advancing the Industry Action Plan strategies aimed at growing and diversifying the sport’s fan base.  

Mitchell joins NASCAR from Dew Tour, a Division of Alli and The NBC Sports Group, where he served as vice president and general manager, responsible for overseeing all aspects of the Dew Tour brand and business, including partnerships, sales, marketing, content, events operations and execution. In addition, he led all business development and expansion efforts.

Prior to joining the Dew Tour, Mitchell spent time at Gatorade/PepsiCo. While at Gatorade, he held several brand management and sports marketing positions. Most notably, Mitchell served as the director of sports marketing at Gatorade where he managed many of the brand’s sports marketing partnerships, including athlete and property relations, sponsorship negotiations, activation and the creation and execution of retail programming.

“We are confident that Kenny’s wealth of marketing experience and solid sports background will help to guide NASCAR in our efforts to grow the brand across several key demographics,” said NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps. “Kenny’s innovative work in developing and growing brands so that they appeal to a younger and more diverse audience makes him the perfect fit for this role and our organization.”

Mitchell holds a B.A. from Dartmouth College in New Hanover, N.H., and an MBA from Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. He was inducted into Dartmouth’s Sports Hall of Fame as a member of the school’s men’s basketball team. He and his wife, Heather, have a daughter named Carter.


Ricky Stenhouse Jr. closed out Roush Fenway Racing’s (RFR) 13th NASCAR Rookie of the Year award with his 22nd -place performance in Sunday’s Sprint Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“It is such an honor to win this award,” Stenhouse said. “Many Sprint Cup champions won the Rookie of the Year honors so hopefully I can add my name to that list one day. To win the Nationwide ROTY honors in 2010 and now the Sprint Cup ROTY three years later is a great achievement and a true testament of the strength of Roush Fenway Racing.”

Stenhouse, who won the NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) rookie award in 2010, becomes the third Roush Fenway driver to bring home multiple NASCAR Rookie awards, joining Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.

He is the first RFR driver to win the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year award since Matt Kenseth in 2000.

Greg Biffle brought home RFR’s first NASCAR Rookie award in 1998 in the Truck Series. He also won RFR’s first Rookie Award in the NNS in 2001. All-in-all, a total of 10 drivers have won NASCAR Rookie Awards for RFR.

The two-time NASCAR champion, will be honored for his accomplishment during NASCAR Champions Week in Las Vegas.

Roush Fenway Rookie of the Year Awards Winners

2012    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Sprint Cup

2000    Matt Kenseth - Sprint Cup

2010    Ricky Stenhouse Jr. - Nationwide

2007    David Ragan - Nationwide
2006    Danny O'Quinn - Nationwide
2005    Carl Edwards - Nationwide
2001    Greg Biffle - Nationwide
2008    Colin Braun - Truck
2006    Erik Darnell - Truck
2005    Todd Kluever - Truck
2003    Carl Edwards - Truck
2000    Kurt Busch - Truck
1998    Greg Biffle - Truck


Tuesday night’s recipe is simple, yet untested. Take one part Stuart Scott, one part Billy Crystal. Add a handful of Chris Berman, and a pinch of Ken Jeong. The result: Television history, as six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson becomes the first athlete to guest host ESPN’s flagship news and information program, SportsCenter.

Johnson will join regular anchors John Anderson and Lindsay Czarniak for the 6 p.m. ET show on Tuesday, Nov. 19 on ESPN.

The aforementioned actors Crystal and Jeong are the only other celebrity guest hosts of SportsCenter in the show’s 34-year history. Crystal was the first in 2012 and Jeong guest hosted earlier this month on Nov. 1.

Johnson, who wrapped up his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title in 12 full seasons this past Sunday, has appeared on SportsCenter numerous times during his racing career both in-studio and via satellite, but always as a newsmaker. He also appeared in a humorous and memorable “This Is SportsCenter” commercial in which he used a pickaxe to remove speed bumps in the ESPN parking lot.

But this time the driver of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet will perform all of the duties of a SportsCenter host, including presenting news and highlights and conducting interviews from around the world of sports. And just like SportsCenter veterans Scott and Berman, and every other anchor who has sat behind the desk, Johnson will spend the day Tuesday preparing for his guest hosting responsibilities.

“I don’t know if SportsCenter knows what they are getting themselves into,” Johnson joked. “It’s probably a good thing I’m there pretty much all day preparing. I’ve got some tough shoes to fill with Billy Crystal and Ken Jeong but I’ve met most of the anchors and I am really looking forward to becoming the first athlete to ever guest host SportsCenter.”

Since its debut on ESPN’s launch day of Sept. 7, 1979, SportsCenter has aired more episodes than any television show in U.S. history, reaching the 50,000-episode mark in 2012.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to change it up and give SportsCenter viewers a different take on the day’s news, have some fun and do some memorable television,” said Jack Obringer, SportsCenter senior coordinating producer. “And having a six-time champion like Jimmie Johnson on your set is pretty cool.”

Fans are encouraged to join in on the conversation using the hashtag #JimmieOnSC.

In addition to his SportsCenter guest-hosting duties, Johnson will also appear on Late Show with David Letterman tonight and LIVE with Kelly and Michael tomorrow morning to talk about winning his sixth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.


Even through the glass windows of the luxury suites at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the loud blast sounded like the explosion of an artillery shell.

In reality, what happened on Lap 232 of Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was the detonation on the right rear tire on Paul Menard's No. 27 Chevrolet.

The force of the explosion blew the entire wheel assembly off the car and engulfed the crew in black smoke.

The trouble for Menard began with a Lap 194 restart, when the outside line stalled. Menard rammed series champion Jimmie Johnson and in turn was hit from behind, sustaining damage to the rear of his car.

"On that restart, everybody kind of checked up, and we got some right rear damage and had a flat tire," Menard explained. "I guess a bunch of rubber got wrapped up underneath around the axle. Came in a couple of times trying to fix the damage and try to get the rubber off. We didn't get it all, and I guess it just caught fire.

"I didn't really know it until there was a little bit of a spark coming in the car and landed on the window net; thought that was kind of weird. About a lap later they said I was on fire; I lost my brakes, then the damn wheel blew right off."

Menard was unhurt, and several of his crew members narrowly escaped injury from the flying wheel, but the car was done for the night.

End of several eras

Monday, Nov 18

Nine drivers in Sunday's race either raced for the last time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or for the last time in their current rides.

Ken Schrader, who recently announced his retirement from NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, ran 34th. Mark Martin, in his last race as a substitute for injured Tony Stewart, came home 19th.

Kevin Harvick, in his last race for Richard Childress Racing before moving to Stewart-Haas Racing next year, finished 10th and held third place in the final series standings. Ryan Newman, moving from Stewart-Haas to RCR in 2014, ran 17th.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished 18th in his swan song for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. Montoya will drive for Penske Racing in the IndyCar Series next year. Kurt Busch came home 21st in his final race for Furniture Row Racing; Busch, like Harvick, is bound for Stewart-Haas next year.

Jeff Burton rolled home 23rd in his last race for RCR. Dave Blaney was 38th in his final event for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

And Martin Truex Jr. finished his career at Michael Waltrip Racing in style, with a fourth-place result. He'll move on to Furniture Row next year.

"I wish we could have got it figured out a little bit earlier," said Truex, who was strongest at the end of the race. "I just can't thank all these guys enough -- Michael (Waltrip, team owner) and Rob (Kauffman, team owner) and NAPA and Toyota and everybody that has made it possible the last four years to have such a good time, make the Chase and the win at Sonoma this year.

"All the things we did together were special, and (I'm) going to miss these guys and hopefully see them around a lot next year."

Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s season ended with a glaring "0" in the victory column, but his run over the schedule's final two months kept the spark of optimism alive in the No. 88 team.

Earnhardt finished third to winner Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and claimed fifth in the final points standings. In the season's last nine races, he had only one finish worse than eighth and scored three seconds.

"I'm really happy to run as well as we have this season," Earnhardt said. "This has been one of the best years I've had, certainly the best year I've had working with Hendrick (Motorsports, which he joined for the 2008 season). Just want to give my team a lot of credit. Steve Letarte (crew chief), my engineers, did just an amazing job providing these good cars every week. I'm hoping next year we continue that trend and that trajectory and get a shot at winning a championship. I think we can do it."

Earnhardt led 28 laps, including four of the final 30, Sunday and battled Hamlin and Kenseth in the top three over the closing miles.

"We came here and tested," he said. "Really liked how that worked out. Worked on the car real hard Saturday. Worked on it real smart. Felt like we had a car that was going to come to us, and it surely did. We weren't that great at the start of the race, but as the race wore on, the thing really came to life."

The same could be said of Earnhardt's season. After some tough going in the spring and summer, the 88 team became a force to be reckoned with in the Chase period. Only a blown motor -- and a 35th-place finish -- in the Chase opener at Chicago stained the closing run.

What sparked the surge?

"I've asked Steve over and over, asked my car chief, Jason (Burdett), over and over, and asked everybody on the team at least once or twice what we're doing different," Earnhardt said. "They said they're not doing anything different. You know, I really don't know why. I have the same feeling -- like our cars are way faster. We have been more competitive, I think, not as a company -- I just think the 88 team has really stepped it up.

"But each year, like I said, we've gotten better. When we first started working together, it's easy to forget about all this, but when me and Steve started working together, we were working our guts out to finish in the top 10. Each year it's kind of gotten easier to run a little better."


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