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Coffee with Claire- Happy Birthday Dale Earnhardt April 29, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Coffee with Claire B., Drivers.
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It’s 7:00 a.m. EST. You know that I would not forget you this morning. I am literally running out the door and sending this via Blackberry as I am headed to Dale Earnhardt Inc, for Dale Earnhardt Day. I’m going to broadcast “Dialed In” from DEI today 4-7 EST from DEI. Today’s event at DEI Honors the birthday of 7 time NASCAR Champion Dale Earnhardt… “Behind the legend – he was one of us”.

You know it was a spectacular Dega race to talk about on air with you all yesterday. It may be like reality radio today but I just have to be there and to take you with me. I have packed every cord and wire and have enough equipment with me to rig the space shuttle! Get some rest at work today and I’ll catch you at 4:00 EST – it’s going to be wild. It doesn’t matter who you follow – Dale was one of a kind and we should stop – even if we’re busy – and remember him and the stories that surround Dale and his legacy. I hope we never forget the drivers who have paved the way for the young guys racing today.

I remember the song he liked played for him on local radio in Charlotte, when I was had a local morning radio show there – “I’m in a hurry to get things done – rush and rush until life’s no fun…” It’s an awesome song and I’ll open the show with it today.

Catch you then. I gotta get in gear and fly.

Later –
Claire B
XM Satellite Radio

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Loose Lugnuts…from Talladega April 27, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers, Teams.
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Since my last post there are a few things (loose lugnuts) I wanted to let you know about –

JD Gibbs and Joe Gibbs (Joe Gibbs Racing) held court – regarding Tony Stewart’s Contract:

How much is Tony Stewart worth and what will you give up for him?
JD: “The reason my dad went back to coaching the first time was to pay for his last contract. If we have to send him back in — I have no problem with that. I think for us, there’s a financial value, but we’ve had some great drivers in our history — Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte really built this team and Tony (Stewart) is a huge asset to JGR, our organization and our history. We would love for him to be a part of our future as well until he feels like it’s time to go do something else.”

Where does Joey Logano fit into your plans?

JD: “He’s a phenomenal talent, we love him and we’re in no hurry — Joey (Logano) can take his time, if he’s rocking and rolling out of the gate — great. If it takes him a little while — great. He’s kind of our future and we don’t have any plans to speed that up and steam roll that to fill a void right now.”

Does this contract have to do with money for Tony (Stewart)?
Joe Gibbs: “Tony (Stewart) doesn’t have to worry about money. Tony’s got enough money to last the rest of his life. JD (Gibbs) put it best, I think for us I think back on it and it’s been 10 great years. I remember the very first time I met Tony standing on the tarmac over there in Columbus. I think it’s been 10 great years and we’re hoping that somewhere in this we wind up staying together. That’s simply the way it is.”

Rick Hendrick in the garage pre race regarding his interest in Tony Stewart:
Rich Hendrick regarding Tony Stewart and speculation that he might end up in the #5 car in his stable. After saying that the inn is full at his place and taking questions about it -with him saying he’s working on performance with the teams he’s already got signed at HMS -Hendrick added –

“Tony and I almost hooked up before he went to Gibbs so – he’s a great guy and a great friend but ah..you won’t see Tony Stewart in the #5 car how about that – you can write that.”

Garage Update: Tums Ride, Stremme in for Dario April 27, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Breaking News, Drivers, In The Garage, Transcripts.
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Talladega Superspeedway- David Stremme Transcript

David Stremme who will fill in for Dario Franchitti and competition manager for Chip Ganassi Racing Steve Hmiel met with reporters at the Ganassi hauler in the garage this morning here at Talladega Superspeedway. Bottom line – Sremme is in for one race, Dario will see his Doctor in Indy and the team will look at other opions on Monday. Here are the key parts of the conversation:

Question: When did you get contacted and how do you feel about filling in for Dario today?
Stremme: “Obviously, right after the race yesterday people had started talking with Jeff Dickerson who represents me and there’s a lot of chain of events that had to go on. Obviously, I called Rusty and had to ask him and then we called Roger (Penske) and asked him which Chip (Ganassi) had already spoke to him in Kansas. So all that was approved and then it was just a matter of getting my seat insert down here and putting it in the car. But you know this is something we don’t like to see anybody get hurt and I didn’t know how bad Dario was. During the race I knew they were working on him down there but there were so many big wrecks yesterday. But it was just a misfortune. I went and seen Dario last night. His ankle was all wrapped up and stuff and you know we’ll just sit in for him today and try to help him out.

Question: Steve (Hmiel), what’s the deal looking ahead and how is Dario doing and that sort of thing how long will he be out?
Hmiel: I don’t know. He’s actually out here in his motor home and I’m sure he’ll end up going to Indianapolis this week to see Dr. Trammell and his group. Probably the best in the business at patching stuff like that up. They can perform miracles it seems like but you’d think an ankle injury like that would be at least two to three weeks even more.

David have they talked to you about filling in for other races?
Stremme: It’s just this weekend. That’s all we got.

Question: You really got an opportunity to show some people – that -you know you got something to prove that you still have a shot in these cars…
Stremme: It’s not really necessarily today that I have something to prove. I mean I proved that signing with Roger Penske and the opportunity they’re going to give me there. It’s something that I feel very strong on the situation I have there and looking forward and what I have with that organization. Nothing with Chip and them I left on good terms and that’s why I’m helping them out today.

Question – But you did very well yesterday and you’ve done well at this track so this would be an opportunity…
Stremme: Yea obviously – we could win today you never know – here. You know like yesterday we had a really good run and I like speedway racing. We finished seventh here in the spring last year with this same team. So, ahm…but there’s a lot of obstacles that we gotta overcome. They had to qualify the car in- there’s a couple of things that they got to do there. But at the end of the day you know anybody can win this race and I feel like plate racing – I have a lot of fun at it and that’s what we are going to do today is get them the best finish we can for Dario, Chip and Tums.

Hmiel: We don’t know. We’re very grateful that we have David for this weekend and after that it’s a matter of getting through today, seeing where Dario ends up and then sitting down as a group and deciding who’se the best option for where we’re going. Certainly we’d like to have one stand out guy like David Stremme do it all. He’s not available so we may end up picking and choosing a little bit based on the fact that we have to qualify this car into the race because we are not in the top 35 and we have to look at all our options in terms of getting the car into the race and then how good we’ll do in the race to stay in the top 35. So we may end up with multiple drivers. We may end up with one single driver. All that’s the kind of stuff that we’ll talk about on a Monday morning at the shop certainly with Chip and with everyone else involved.

Note: When asked about whether his contract would allow him more – Stremme repeated “This is a one race deal.” Steve Hmiel noted that they had asked for Stremme to possibly be available for more but it’s clear that that is not an option at this point and that this indeed is a one-off race for Stremme to help another driver out and to assist Chip Ganassi in a pinch.

Race Day Coffee Break from Talladega April 27, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Coffee with Claire B., Drivers.
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Good morning from Talladega – Welcome to race morning. On Friday, Dario Franchitti was telling reporters how much progress he felt he had made since entering stock car racing. Today, he’s in his motor coach elevating and icing his leg with a fractured ankle suffered in a multi car accident here at Talladega in the Nationwide Series race yesterday.

David Stremme will fill in for him. I walked into the garage earlier today and saw the Ganassi guys with Stremme getting him fit and adjusted to the car he will race today. Several permission slips were needed – from Rusty Wallace who Stremme races for in the Nationwide Series and from Roger Penske who uses him as a test driver. I asked the Ganassi folks how long Franchitti will be out with the fracture – they said it’s hard to tell. Franchitti will visit his own doctor I am told next week and they’ll go from there. Franchitti did not take an airplane home and is here in Talladega – impressive. He may venture into the garage yet I am told but elevating the leg is key right now.

Stremme will meet with the media at 9:30 this morning so I’ll be leaving soon to go over and see what he has to say. I’ll fill you in when I get back. I have to make this quick as I’ll be leaving soon.

Light rain early this morning here at Talladega. As I left the hotel the desk clerk was sitting outside smoking a cig. “You need the room another night in case it rains?” she asked. “I’m trying to get a total.” So goes the story of the morning.

I’ll be back with you. Oh, and I’ve had a lot of email about my interview Friday with Shane Hmiel – in case you missed it I transcribed a portion of it and am posting it below. I’ll be back with more of it and replay it next week.

Enjoy the morning.

The garage calls.

Claire B

Claire B Lang Interviewed Shane Hmiel on Friday April 25, 2008
XM Satellite Radio “Dialed In”

Former NASCAR driver Shane Hmiel failed a third drug test in 2006 and was banned by the sanctioning body. Since then – he has taken steps to revive his career and turn his life around and he is being considered to be approved by the sanctioning body of ARCA. He found out he was bi-polar and he’s been through intensive treatment.

CBL: How are you feeling:
“I’m feeling good, I mean I’ve been out in California racing USAC Sprint cars and Midgets and we raced three times and won all the races and sat on a pole and led a bunch of laps but you know I mean I’m feeling good. I’m feeling better than I was this time last year. Everybody knows what all I went through and that was all brought upon by you know it was all my fault but I’m in a better place now. You know I went through a treatment center last July and found out a lot about myself and found out I was bi polar and you know I always knew something was kind of messed up with me. You know I knew I wasn’t a complete idiot. I have made some stupid decisions racing and off the track so you know it just feels good being back acting normal and being at the race track.

CBL: How much do you feel different on the inside and how much do you feel that you have grown up? How old are you now?
“I’ll be 28 in less than a month. I was 25 when I got in trouble last time failing a drug test so it’s been three long years that I’ve grown up. I’ve grown up more, no I’ve been sober now nine months so I’ve grown up in the last nine months than I’ve grown up the first 26 and a half years of my life. So it’s been a huge change and a change that I’m glad about because my life is in a much better place than it was even five years ago when everything was going good.”

CBL: You don’t want to celebrate this and say oh wow it’s great he’s better and all that but you do want to check back and say this is a horrible situation for all involved and your family has put a lot into helping you get back to where you are now . You have people who want to be race car drivers. Young people who are listening right now. What would you say to them?
“I would say stay as far away from drugs as possible. Truthfully it’s something that I just didn’t fall into by the time I was a professional race car driver. It’s something that I did all growing up and it’s just something that I knew. Truthfully.. it was something that – you know I self medicated myself due to my by polar and not knowing what was wrong with me and it made me cope you know what I mean? And to find out later on in life you know I’m 27 years old and I was 21 just six years ago and I was a professional race car driver making tons of money and now I’m 27 years old and a recovering drug addict and you know I don’t have ten dollars in my pocket but you know I’m living better now than I was then. Just stay as far away from drugs as possible it’s really a waste of time. I mean I could be down there in Talladega qualifying for the Cup race right if it wasn’t for drugs. Some people don’t think drugs can ruin your life but I am a proven picture that it can.”

CBL:I hear that you may be allowed to run the ARCA Series. I don’t want to jinx that for you – but should that come to be what would you think about that?
“That would be amazing. I have totally not been in a race car for the last couple of years. I raced three times this year. USAC was fantastic for letting me get to race. I have to take drug tests for them and you know they got a new drug test policy and ARCA’s got the same thing. So you know what I mean just for people to believe in me and think that I have made the right decisions and changes in my life to let me race is you know I’m just very thankful if that happens. You know I’ve heard about it and heard some talk about it and if they do it I’d be very grateful and appreciative.”

CBL: What are your plans. I mean -you know there are some people who would say don’t let him ever race and there are others who would say he’s only twenty some years of age. The bi-polar thing may and doctors saying that is what you had may help in the sense that there was something else wrong with you. I don’t know what these series consider…what should they consider?
ah…it’s hard to say. Because you know there are going to people who are totally like’ he should never be able to drive blah blah blah anything ever again. Some people are probably going to say I shouldn’t even drive a street car. But those are people that have never had any kind of addiction or ever been around it or known anybody who has an addiction or a sickness like bi-polar. I mean, you know addiction is not something that you choose you know what I mean it’s a real disease. It’s something you have to treat just like cancer and diabetes. If a man is diabetic and he doesn’t take his insulin he’s in as bad a shape as a drug addict is without his drugs and that is just part of life. Some people are born with it some people are born without it and you know sorry for me that I was born with it. But you know I’m not making excuses I made all my own decisions and you know what I mean. Time will tell – if they let me race I think I’ll do a good job. I’m smarter, I’m older, I’ve been through a lot and I’m ready to grow up and be a man.”

MORE OF THIS INTERVIEW WILL BE POSTED AND IT WILL BE REPLAYED NEXT WEEK ON XMSN CHANNEL 144 – on “Dialed In” with Claire B Lang.

Coffee with Claire B. from Talladega April 26, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Coffee with Claire B., Drivers, Trackside.
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Good morning from Talladega Superspeedway!

Who is the favorite here at Talladega Superspeedway? I can hear the shout out from the campground here even as folks look up from frying eggs and bacon recovering from a night of Dega mania and “Hell Hill” yelling – “Junioooooor,” Jeff Gordon can’t be overlooked and, well, Tony Stewart has been in such a great mood!

The favorite here? I’d have to say Dale Earnhardt, Sr. Somehow when I drive in the tunnel here I can never forget the time that big E looked me in the eyes and I had probably the most engaging discussion that I ever had with him in all the interviews that I did. It was after his stellar performance here at Talladega in the fall of 2000. I had seen him race so many times here but this was perfection. He came through the pack from 18th to first place like a bat out of hell in the last five laps and it was brilliance. Later, there was a media event at DEI and I asked him to explain how he did it – and I told him my breath was taken away watching him navigate this racetrack. He looked me directly in the eyes and for what seemed like 20 minutes described how he did it. With Dale Senior you usually had to walk while you talked – or he had the glasses on so to actually get that much time and to have him describe his racing Talladega – I knew at the moment that it was a rare moment that I would not take lightly. I never did.

Today, here at Talladega I thought you’d like to read what Jeff Gordon said yesterday here in the garage about Dale Sr., about his career, and about his chances here. Below, is something to sip on with your coffee.

WHAT’S DALE’S LEGACY HERE?
JG: “Obviously seven championships. Being the Intimidator, a guy that’s just relentless. To me I think he was the greatest restrictor plate driver of all time. I don’t think there is even a question about that, but he has so many things that can contribute to his legacy it’s hard to pick one.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE RACING AGAINST HIM?

JG: “It was incredible. I miss Dale a lot. I miss racing Dale, a great deal, he brought a lot to this sport. Something I don’t think anybody can bring to a sport, just everything sort of matched up from his personality to driving style, his black 3 Chevrolet, his nickname to what he did in the race car on track and the fan following that he had. It’s all those things that make him the legend that he’ll always be.”

WHAT ABOUT THE ENGINE ISSUES YOU HAD EARLY AT DAYTONA?
JG: “Yeah, that won’t be an issue here.”

SAME CAR, DIFFERENT CAR?
JG: “Don’t know, couldn’t tell you. They all the same. I think we had our short track car at the shootout there in Daytona. All at issue was the stress we were putting on the upper control arms and it just broke the bracket, I think it was the left upper control arm bracket. We’ve addressed that. We feel confident we’ve fixed it and we didn’t have an issue here. This place is not near as hard on the suspension components as Daytona is.”

HOW MANY MORE YEARS, HOW MANY MORE WINS AND CHAMPIONSHIPS DO YOU HAVE LEFT IN YOU?
JG: “You always love getting asked that question. Makes you feel old. I don’t feel pressure. I feel I’m in a great place in my life and my career. No matter what this season offers me I have a lot to be excited and proud of and happy about. I’m a competitor, I like to be competitive and I think what’s helped me contribute to team’s I’ve driven for throughout my career and be successful. I hope it always continues until the day that I can walk away from it. Hopefully I can walk away from it on my own terms. I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you.
When you have tough years you want to walk away sooner when you have good years you feel like it extends your career longer. After last year I was excited to get back in this year and obviously a tough year ahead of us and we’ll see where it all ends up being at the end of the year I can’t give you a number, I don’t know. But if I never get the fifth championship, I will always be proud of my career, what I have a accomplished. My four championships and my wins. The competitor in me wants to keep going, I have a great race team, great people around me, so that is what I am looking at.”

WHAT’S THE BEST DIRT TRACK?
JG: “Man, there’s a question. I hate to say it but Kokomo (Speedway) would be on my top 15 or 20. Maybe because I wasn’t very good at Kokomo. I used to love Bloomington, Indiana, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, Haubstadt, Indiana and I loved a lot of short tracks, Chillicothe, Ohio is one of my favorites. I mean I always loved Eldora. I think Eldora is probably the ultimate dirt track that there is. All kinds of race cars put on great races there. A guy that personally grew up on little short tracks, I’d probably have to say Lawrenceburg or Chillicothe or something like that.”

WHEN YOU GET GEARED UP TO COME BACK TO TALLADEGA, YOUR NOT SUCH A BAD GUY?
JG: “I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as the more things they throw at me, it seems like the better things are going for me. I think that our fans our passionate and I like to see their passion. Obviously you don’t want them throwing things. It’s always been a love/hate relationship for me ever since I came to NASCAR. Prior to NASCAR everywhere I went the fans were all for me and having an incredible fan following, but when you get in NASCAR you start battling Dale Earnhardt, you’re second, third year into the series created quite a rivalry among the fans and that’s just the way I’ve always looked at it.”

THEY AREN’T THROWING STUFF AS HARD NOW, MAYBE?

JG: “Sometimes they do, it depends on how good we are doing. You know. It doesn’t seem like it ever changes here at Talladega. There are a lot of Earnhardt fans here. But there are also a lot of Gordon fans. I think that is one of the coolest things I love about Talladega is the on going rivalry. When you are in the car and you are making a pass for the lead and you pass Dale Earnhardt, Jr., even if he is your teammate, you know the fans are going nuts. That is a cool feeling.”

DO YOU THINK YOU SHOULD BE THE FAVORITE HERE BASED ON LAST YEAR?
JG: “Maybe, I mean, if I was doing odds, I would definitely put us as one of the favorites. I don’t know how really separate them by much here. Anybody can win at this race track. The only reason you might put me is because we won the last restrictor plate here with this car and won the last couple of races. But Jimmie has been good here. Junior has been good here. I am very interested to see how Junior does here with Hendrick equipment, I think he is going to be really strong cause because he is a very good drafting.”

Time for me to gear up and get in the garage, but here are some notes before I run:

Loose Lug Nuts:

-Did anyone hear Carl Edwards say last week on camera that the race in Mexico was “the most fun he’s had with his clothes on”? I know I heard him correctly.

-I had Shane Hmiel on the air yesterday – He was banned from NASCAR due to not passing the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. Since then he’s been in treatment and found out that he is bi polar. He said he used drugs to try to manage the bi-polar situation. Word is that ARCA may soon approve him to race in their series. He says he’s never been so poor or felt so good now that he’s straight. I’ll keep you posted on the ARCA deal and I wish him well.

More later.

Claire B
at Talladega Superspeedway

Zippy note – usually don’t add on but this was good April 25, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Drivers, Teams.
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Garage Note: 11:59 a.m. Friday April 15, 2008

Hey all: I just got back from the garage after talking with Greg Zipadelli (Tony Stewart’s Crew Chief) here at Talladega Superspeedway. While he says “nothing is forever” he also said it’s way too early to be talking about where Tony Stewart and he individually or together might end up after contract talks end.

Zippy: “It will work itself over time you know what I mean. Hopefully, you know it works out where we’re all still racing here in orange you know what I mean? But…nothing is forever, you know what I mean.”

Regarding the possibility of an early contract release:

Zippy: “…From what I’ve been told, what I’ve seen ..it’s really not an option. We’ve got commitments – we have obligations and that’s one thing that our group is strong believers in is finishing what you started, or finish what you signed up for. So to me it’s business as usual.”

Zippy said its way too early to speculate what is going to happen.

Zippy: “Right now we are racing for the next two years right here with these people with this sponsor with that car and that’s pretty much….that’s it and until something changes…..”

More on “Dialed In” at 4:00 EST today.
Claire B. Lang

Tony Stewart Transcript- Leaving JGR or Not? April 25, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Breaking News, Drivers, Teams.
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TONY STEWART, No. 20 Home Depot Toyota Camry, Joe Gibbs Racing

Can you talk about the reports about your contract? Are you happy at Joe Gibbs Racing and do you want to leave?
“There’s nothing wrong at Joe Gibbs Racing. There’s nothing broke — there’s nothing that needs fixing and there’s no problems there whatsoever. It’s the same thing that happened two or three years ago when we got a year within the end of my contract. People started talking and talking to our people about the possibility of us doing other things. It’s the same scenario that we had a couple years ago just this year the variables are a little different. There’s a couple groups that have thrown some ownership in the mix. Like I said, there’s nothing broke and we didn’t go out and say that we were looking to leave Joe Gibbs Racing. We haven’t made a 100 percent decision yet on what we’re going to do, but we’re going to look at all the options. The options are exciting all the way around. It’s pretty exciting as a driver to be in this position and when you see the offers that have been presented to us — I think for me it’s been a huge honor to get these offers because it gives me a perspective of where I fit in this series and what the car owners think of me. We’ve got multiple offers on the table right now and there’s a couple in particular that have really caught our interest. Right now it’s just a matter of trying to figure out what we want to do and just being smart. We’ve had a great run at Joe Gibbs Racing and it doesn’t mean it’s over yet — we’re just going to look at everything that’s out there. A wise person told me that it never costs a dime to listen so right now we’re all ears.”

Would you like to get out of your contract early?
“No, not necessarily. We’re going to look at all these options and we’re going to evaluate what we want to do. I think once we decide what we want to do then we’ll decide what the plan is from there. Right now we’ve not asked to be released out of our contract or anything. They know that there are other offers on the table and we have said, ‘what if this is the case?’ and ‘what if this is presented to us?’ Then we might see if there is a possibility if we can leave early, but we have not asked to be released from our contract at all.”


Do you think you will be at Joe Gibbs Racing in 2009?
“We haven’t signed anything so it’s too early to say I think. This isn’t something that’s happened overnight. This has been one of the best kept secrets in this garage because secrets don’t last long here, but even as early as this morning we got another offer that came to us. We’re going to do our due diligence and go through looking at every option and looking at the pros and cons to everything and then make a decision. The good thing is we have a year left on our contract; we’re not in any rush right now. There’s nobody putting any pressure on us to make something happen next week. Right now we are going to do our job and do our due diligence on all the offers and try to figure out what’s the best option for us.”

Would you like to get back to Chevrolet?

“I’m still passionate about Chevrolet. I’ve had a great relationship with General Motors — obviously when I started I was with Pontiac and then we won a championship with Chevrolet in 2005. They are our power plants and our sponsor in the open wheel series. I still have a lot of connections there, but at the same time we’ve built a great relationship in a short amount of time with Toyota. It’s not an issue where there’s something wrong there, but I have a lot of strong ties to Chevrolet obviously.”

Is Home Depot part of your future?
“You guys are way ahead of us right now. There’s a lot that has to happen before we get to that point. We haven’t even decided where we’re going to be yet so it’s hard to decide what your sponsor’s going to do.”

When would you hope for a decision to be made?
“I don’t know, I’m not in a huge hurry. For me, it’s a matter of taking the time to make the right decision and do what we think is the right thing for us. If that takes a week or if that takes the rest of the year then so be it. I don’t know what it’s going to be. The important thing is to not be in a big hurry and do the due diligence and take the time to make sure we look at every offer very thoroughly and know what the option is.”

Would you be willing to run 15th every week to be a part of building something?
“I didn’t say I wanted to run 15th anywhere. That’s why we have to do the due diligence — we have to think about those things and we have to think about, is that something that could be a product of whatever decision we make. There’s still a lot of decision making that has to happen and the due diligence is part of figuring those questions out and knowing the answers to those before we make a decision.”

Have you talked to Bob Nardelli (former CEO of Home Depot) at all?
“I have not actually and Bob’s (Nardelli) a good friend too. Like I said, this is all really new. I went on vacation last week and I didn’t really do much while I was on vacation and so I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of people calling. My phone has rang so much in the last 48 hours that I’ve got a feeling that before the weekend’s over, I’m sure there will be a conversation with Bob Nardelli too.”

Is there too much emphasis put on the Haas CNC story?
“That’s one of the groups that has spoken to us. I don’t think that’s a secret by any means. That’s not the only offer that’s been presented to us. We’ve got a lot of work to do. Nothing has been decided today — I’m going to be in a Home Depot car tomorrow for Joe Gibbs Racing and I will be through the end of the year. We’re going to take the time that we need to take through the rest of the season to figure out exactly what our game plan and long term goals are going to be. That’s the hard part and I wish I could give you guys more because I’m excited about this. This is not something that I’m trying to keep a secret by any means and I think today’s proof of that. It’s just exciting that we’ve got this opportunity. Talking to a couple other drivers that have come up and we’ve spoke with today — they’ve all mentioned that it’s nice to have options and it’s nice to be in a position where you know that many people are interested in you. We just have to wait and see right now.”

What type of owner role do you want to have?
“I don’t know what’s going to happen yet. Like I keep going back to and I’m not sure it’s registering with you guys (media) yet, I have to do homework. It’s kind of like going to class, you don’t just go take finals on the second day. They actually teach you things, you study, you think about things and you try to figure this all out before. That’s why we’re not having some formal press conference behind a desk — this is something where one of the options came out yesterday, you guys (media) found out about it and we’re having to talk about it today. We haven’t done all of our homework yet — we haven’t signed anything with anybody and we haven’t made a decision about what we’re going to do yet. We have to go through that process right now, but it’s a fun option. It’s exciting to know that it could be part of the equation and it could be a possibility that we could be a part of that role.”

Are you going to talk to Joe Gibbs Racing about partial ownership for you to remain with their organization?
“I don’t think it’s fair for me to go ask those guys for anything. I think Joe Gibbs Racing has not only been a great partner, but they’ve been great friends. They’ve given me great race cars for 10 straight years now. If that is something that they want to offer, they have that option obviously, but I don’t feel like it’s my position to go ask them for anything. They’ve been fair to us for nine years and put up with things that they probably didn’t have to put up with when they probably could have gone an easier route, but they stuck it out with us.”

What was the reaction you got at Joe Gibbs Racing when you presented some of these scenarios?
“Obviously it’s a shock. When they don’t know anything about it. We wanted to be up front and honest with them and tell them, ‘listen, this is what’s being presented to us’. They’ve been such great partners all along — there’s not something broke, there’s not something that needs to be fixed and there’s not a problem over there. We felt like the best thing to do was to be up front and honest with them from day one about it and at least let them know what was being offered to us and let them know what was going on and why we were taking longer to discuss our contract with them than what we had planned.”

Was it after Phoenix that you spoke to Joe (Gibbs) about these other options?
“That’s when we had brought it up. We wanted to make sure that a couple of these offers were legitimate. We didn’t want to just go and cry wolf right away. That’s part of being responsible and doing the due diligence process of making sure that we knew that these options were realistic and this was something that could happen. We wanted to make sure we had our facts before we went to Gibbs.”

Who is the ‘we’ that you keep referring to?
“I don’t make enough money to hire 10 or 20 people just to baby-sit me. I’ve got a group of people that I trust and that I rely on and I don’t discuss them a lot because I don’t want the pressure being put on them. I want them to work on the stuff that I need them to work on versus having to discuss all this — it’s my job to talk about this stuff, no theirs.”

How much do you want to keep racing in NASCAR?

”Nowhere in this process has anybody said anything about me stopping racing. It’s been talking about signing me up to race longer. I’m excited about that and there’s nothing in it that says I want to stop racing. I don’t know how long it’s going to be — we haven’t set a date yet. A lot can change in three years or eight years or 15 years down the road. As long as we’re still having fun and we still want to drive then it’s not a matter of setting a particular date. We’re going to do it until we’re not having fun doing it anymore.”

How important is this contract based on your age and older drivers statistically don’t have the same results?
“You have to remember, I act about 12 anyway so I’m not sure how it really equates when it pertains to me. Physically, yes, but mentally I think you have to split the difference and then you still have to figure that I’m in my late 20s or early 30s. We didn’t go out and search these options, these options came to us. I don’t think that was our attitude or thought process at all when these started coming in. It was just a matter of saying, ‘what’s best for us and what’s going to be best for us long term?’ We’re thinking long term so I’m not necessarily looking at this as being my last contract by any means. We haven’t signed a contract and we haven’t decided on who it’s even going to be with so we don’t even know what the terms and the duration will be anyway. That’s for further down the road too.”

Would these long-term deals be beyond your driving career?
“Yeah, oh absolutely. That’s why these multiple offers of ownership make it so appealing. There’s a lot of drivers that come in and they race and when they are done they leave the sport. This is an opportunity to stay in the sport and follow in the footsteps of a Richard Childress or Rick Hendrick or somebody like Joe Gibbs that was involved in drag racing, but wanted to be a part of NASCAR and be a part as an owner. I have that potential to have that opportunity now and that is something that makes this a little different contract negotiation versus a normal deal that we’ve done in the past.”

Are you a candidate for Richard Childress Racings’ fourth car?

“It goes back to Mike Mulhern (Winston-Salem Journal), who has already left. He has already got all of the information that he needs to write this awesome story that he is going to write without you guys. The people that are involved — obviously Haas has come out and discussed that they were one of the parties involved. But I think unless the groups that we are talking to actually want us to mention it, I think we need to respect their side of things on the business side of it and not get them involved yet.”

What were you and Kevin Harvick standing out there laughing about?
“He was telling me about the oil rig he was on today like 150 miles out in the ocean and I asked him if he was actually there on purpose. I don’t want to be that far out there. That scares me to be that far out in the ocean and think I’ve got to swim back, because I might be able to swim 150 feet and then I’m probably going to go down.”

When you were dirt track racing in Indiana, did you ever envision yourself in a spot like you are now?
“I had a hard time even envisioning before that when my mom came to me and said, ‘you’ve got to figure something out quick, because I can’t have another $350 phone bill this month.’ That is what I was spending calling car owners trying to get midget and Sprint car rides. No, there is no way. That is kind of what I meant when I said this is exciting right now. I never thought these opportunities would be presented, and it’s not just the typical driver offer where they want you to come drive. There’s a couple of the offers that have a perk in it that I can be involved, after my career as a driver is over, and stay involved as a car owner and that is something I never would have dreamed could have happened. It’s like every five years something happens and the yard stick keeps going up higher and higher. I guess I grew up in a small enough town that I never thought that big because I just had never been around anybody that had something that big happen.”

Why do you want to own a Sprint Cup team?
“Why not? If somebody came to you today and said ‘hey, we can make you a part of ownership of a Sprint Cup team,’ wouldn’t that somewhat excite you a little bit? My mom worried the first time I got upside down in a three-quarter midget at a fairgrounds too, but everything was alright. That’s part of this due diligence process — there’s no guarantees. There is nothing that says if that is the route that we decide to go that it’s going to be the right decision for us or that it’s going to be successful. It is also — that is the part that makes it exciting — the unknown and what ifs and what can happen or not happen.”

Are you disappointed with J.D. Gibbs coming out and saying that you have a contract through 2009 and you are going to be driving for Joe Gibbs Racing through 2009 with all of these other options and opportunities out there?
“No, not at all. Definitely not. Sitting in the conversations that we’ve had with Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs), they want me to stay and that is flattering. Like I said, they are family to us. There is nothing wrong, there’s nothing broke there. There’s no strain in the relationship that has led up to this. We have the same relationship we’ve always had. For him to say that shows me how much that I mean to them and how much I feel like they want me to be a part of their program as long as possible. To me, I think that is a flattering comment — at least from my side.”

Have Joe (Gibbs) or J.D. (Gibbs) come back and offered you part ownership and said that they want you to be more a part of our family?
“It’s going back to that process of — I’m not sure we can talk about that part of it yet as far as what is going on in their side. I don’t think it’s fair to them to discuss what the business dealings are behind closed doors. Our meetings have been behind closed doors and I don’t think its right to come out and talk about what has happened like that?”

What about Hendrick Motorsports with Haas’ relationship there? They can certainly provide the same package as Joe Gibbs Racing.
“We’ve been made aware of what Haas’ agreement is with Hendrick (Motorsports) as far as the support that they get so we’ve been made aware of that already. That is part of the due diligence process and doing our homework and knowing what we are getting into and what is available and what resources are going to be available. We’ve got a lot more to discuss than that, but that has been brought to our attention and we still have to go through that process with all the other offers, too. There’s more to it than just the resources that Hendrick and Haas have the agreement.”

What is really important to you and what kind of team do you want to race for?
“I want to do like I’m doing now. I want to have fun racing. There is nothing broke at JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing). There’s nothing that needs fixing. I think our team has had as much fun as we’ve ever had this year. I think Zippy (Greg Zipadelli, crew chief) and I are communicating as good as we ever have and that is what I want to keep doing. I don’t want to make a decision that’s going to put me a step backwards. I only want to do this if I feel like at the end of the day it’s going to be something that was a forward step for us, not a backward step.”

So you didn’t say that you wanted out, but you did speak through some scenarios of maybe making that happen?
“Absolutely. We’ve not asked to be let out of our contract, but with some of the offers that we’ve had they have expressed their interest in it starting next year. So we’ve been upfront with Joe (Gibbs) and J.D. (Gibbs) and said that if they are very adamant about this and if we were to go this direction would this be an option. That conversation has happened, but we have not asked to be let out of our contract.”

How many offers have you had — five or 10?

“You are closer on the five than you are on the 10. If it was 10 that would be great — that would be unbelievable. If we would do that I would have to hire all of you guys as media people to work for us if that were the case, but it’s not been that strong yet.”

How important is money to you?
“It’s not. I could retire right now and live the rest of my life the way I want to live it, if I chose to. What makes this such a much more difficult decision than in the past is because I have an opportunity to do something I’m passionate about and it’s still being a part of racing after racing. The opportunity of either driving for somebody else or having the opportunity to own a race team is something that — like I said, at the end of the day I’m not a very good spectator. I don’t like just going and watching something to just go watch it. When I go to Sprint Car races with the World of Outlaw teams or the USAC (United States Auto Club) teams it’s a lot more exciting being a part of it even though I’m not behind the steering wheel. I know being there as a car owner and having my hand in it is something I’m excited about — knowing that I had a hand in the outcome of what happens at the end of that day. That’s what makes this time around and these couple offers that we’ve had, in particular, so appealing to look at. It’s not something that has been offered in the past.”

Are you worried if you don’t do it now, that the business model will continue to change with people owning race teams that were not drivers in the past?
“I don’t know what the model is like. That is where you guys are still smarter than us right now. I don’t feel like that is the case. I think this has just been a unique situation where unique offers have come along. I don’t — to the best of my knowledge — I don’t know that it’s happened before. I don’t know if the timing is right. I don’t know if two years, three years down the road would be too late or too early or what. Right now there are offers that are outside the box. It’s outside the normal offer that we’ve had in my whole career in NASCAR. It’s something that’s worth taking a look at.”

How much did the Dale Earnhardt Jr. offer last year and the Kyle Busch offer intrigue all of these other people to come to you?
“I don’t know, honestly. I think a lot of it is timing. You look at drivers contracts and you look at how many guys each year, when their contracts are up — I think a lot of it is just timing in all honesty. There’s years when there’s for or five guys that their contracts are up and it seems like that’s kind of when the switches start to happen and then there’s years where maybe one or two guys are available. If you are race team that is looking to make a change when you have those years where there are only a couple guys available if they are guys that you are interested in, it makes you want to sweeten the pot and put your best offer forward right away. I don’t know if that is necessarily what is going on here. Like I said, the offers here that have come in so far are very flattering.”

Would companies like Gillette-type or Fenway-type organizations that have massive across the board sports appeal be of interest to you?
“There is no offer that is unappealing right now. Right now we’re just looking at everything that is coming along. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings. It’s kind of cool with the Roush Fenway deal. It would be nice to say ‘hey, I want to go to the ballgame tonight and know that guy is a part of our racing program, too.’ But, that is not necessarily what this is about. It’s really early to get much deeper than what we’ve already discussed.”

How daunting of a task is it to know you have all of this to go through in the next year?
“I guess you can look at it two ways. I guess you can look at it like it’s going to be a lot of headaches for the people that are closest around me. It’s going to be a lot of stressful nights and a lot of headaches, but at the same time I’m really excited about it. I’m excited because I’m flattered about the opportunities that are being presented. I think that excitement outweighs the headaches and hassles that go along with it. I don’t see it as a drain. I don’t see it as a strain on me personally. I look at it from the opposite side. I feel very flattered that we’ve been presented these offers. It would be like the highest of media companies coming to you and saying ‘hey, we’re really excited about you coming and being a part of our organization.’ I never thought that would happen so you can’t say that won’t happen for you. You don’t know — I mean tomorrow you might get that phone call and the day after that you might get a phone call from somebody else that is a parallel company to them. That is how it has happened for us. This is something that came out of the blue and multiple offers that stand alone are great offers by themselves. I don’t think if we would have said in September last year that somebody is going to come to us early in the year and make us an offer there is no way I would have predicted that it was going to be like this. I’m not sure I’m that deserving of it, but it’s very flattering to be in this position where these companies are that interested in us right now.”

How much does sponsorship have to do with it?
“Yeah, but we’re putting the cart before the horse, too. We haven’t decided were it’s going to be at and it may not be a situation where we have to worry about it anyway. Like I said, I think we are putting the cart before the horse in that category.”

How has your friendship with Kevin Harvick and what he has done for that organization impacted your thoughts about ownership?
“Yeah, that was fun. To be a driver, at that time, in their Nationwide program was a fun part of that time with Kevin (Harvick) and Delana (Harvick) and our friendship with them was being a part of developing and being a part of their company grow. And seeing them go through the process. I didn’t go to the shop everyday. I was at the shop once or twice during the whole time I drove for them so I can’t say I was there to see the steps that it took for them to build it to what they’ve built it to already. My friendship with Kevin and having discussions that we’ve had about ownership have made a couple of these offers not seem so frightening, I guess.”

What type of owner would you be — A.J. Foyt or Joe Gibbs?

“I don’t know. I think you’ve got to go and ask the Outlaw guys and the USAC guys right now because it’s not a new deal to me. I’ve been a World of Outlaws team owner since 2001 and I think 2002 was when we started the USAC program so I wish you would call those guys cause I’m kind of curious to see what kind of car owner they think I am, too, in all honesty. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from Joe Gibbs as a car owner and what I’ve tried to apply to my teams is put the right people in the right positions and let them do their jobs. My specialty is driving. I’m not somebody that goes to the shop and says ‘do this, this, this and this and this is going to be successful.’ I try to give our teams the right resources and I try to get the right people to do the right jobs and put the right people in place and let them do what they do best. When you hire somebody to do those jobs you let them do what they are hired to do and look for the results to come from it.”

Coffee with Claire B. April 25, 2008

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Claire B. Lang – Talladega Alabama
April 25, 2008

This is the first in a daily morning blog – a quick post over coffee to stay in touch with you on claireblang.com. The posts and hits to this site are increasing – and I’m hoping this site is a way for me to post things that you may have missed on the show or items over the weekend after “Dialed In” goes off air. Note: Major breaking stories I will file on XMSN Sports Updates (every 20 minutes) over the weekend. Most days are crazy busy – so I’m going to attempt to jot you a quick note every morning about what’s going on – with the hope that even if you can’t be on the road following the NASCAR circuit like I do – you’ll feel like you are along for the ride.

I picked up my Starbucks today and headed to the race track shortly after 7:00 a.m. I’m in the radio room here in the media center – and there are a handful of radio talk shows live down the hall from me. These rooms are not soundproof. I can hear all the radio hosts talking loudly (as if all trying to outdo each other with opinions) – and the buzz is, of course, Tony Stewart. Sounds like “Conspiracy Theory Thursday” from what I can hear – with everyone throwing theories around now that Tony has said that he’s negotiating and has not decided where he will end up.

I thought that I’d miss Stewart’s conversation about his contract yesterday in the Nationwide garage as I was live on air in the mobile unit in an area in front of the track when it was initially scheduled. The hauler chat with Stewart was delayed as he was still in the Nationwide practice. When I got off air in the Chevy mobile unit I slammed my computer and audio equipment in a back pack and drove as fast as I could get by with through the tunnel and to the media center then ran into the garage. When I got there Stewart was still debriefing with his team and the media corps in attendance was waiting for him in front of the hauler.

What did I notice? Well first of all I had said the day before as the Tony Stewart “inside source” stories outlined what they had learned that I felt Stewart was negotiating plain and simple. When you negotiate you check out what’s out there and you most certainly would want it to get out that you are in demand.

It struck me as Stewart held court that he took every single question and bent over backwards to be accommodating to every single media person in the group. I like Stewart and he’s always been good to me when I need an answer on something–but trust me Stewart does not hold court with the media for almost a half hour – after practice – in that mood- unless it’s something that he wants to get out and communicate.

Do you not think that if Stewart or his people did not want the story out about his being offered deals that could have him at some point asking for an early release that it would have gotten out?

This, as I said earlier in the week is what negotiating is. I’m not always right – and I try not to be too opinionated so that listeners feel more comfortable with their opinions – I don’t want to tell race fans how to think. I want to hear what they think and give them all the information I can gather that would spur the discussion in an accurate and unbiased manner.

This time – I was right. Stewart was and is negotiating.

And that is what he announced on Friday.

I was glad I was there. Stay tuned today – I talked with Kevin Harvick after I left the garage with Tony Stewart. I’ll share with you what he said.

Also – After driving five hours – anchoring a live three hour show – filing reports to XM Sports Nation and XM Channels across the board and audio back to XM – it was time for dinner and a Merlot. I was fried.

At 9:30 p.m. EST I headed to the steakhouse near the hotel which is like team central on race weekend – and within walking distance of the hotel. This is what I love about NASCAR – the bar restaurant area was full of crew chiefs and engine builders and chassis guys and competition directors and we discussed everything from the Camping World Penalty to where will Tony Stewart go?

Will you look at the time – I gotta get out into the garage.

Have a great day!
Claire B

New Mail April 21, 2008

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I have new mail from Claire B’s Mailbox posted- check it out
mail-pile

http://clairebmail.wordpress.com

In Memory of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Official Brienne Davis April 15, 2008

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Brienne Davis was smart and talented. She was one tough cookie who enjoyed life and the sport she represented. Her fellow officials, drivers, crew members and NASCAR officials remember her as being extremely focused on what she wanted to accomplish and a true friend to many in the NASCAR community who embraced her as a member of the family. The memorial service at Raymer Funeral Home in Huntersville, NC today is a testament to what she accomplished as an official and as a friend before she tragically lost her life in a car accident last week in Huntersville, NC. This past weekend at Phoenix, many in the garage struggled to make sense of the loss of Davis and to do their jobs while grieving for one of their own.

In Memory of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Official Brienne Davis
Photo Credit: HHP/Harold Hinson

CLICK HERE to view a scrap book compiled from interviews with those in the garage who shared their remembrances of Brienne with me so that I might share them with.