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PHOENIX RACEDAY – CBL “POST-Card”: 4/12/08 April 14, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season.
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Hey all! It’s so darn beautiful in Phoenix today – it could be like the perfect day for a race. Wish you could all be here.

On my way in on Avondale Blvd. yesterday while making a quick stop at Starbucks I ran into Matt Kenseth doing the same. Well – given that Carl Edwards actual “ran into” the motor coach of Elliott Sadler with his vehicle perhaps I shouldn’t quite phrase it that way. I did not actually “run into” Matt Kenseth.

Seemingly just about every team in the sport is staying in the same area as I am this weekend. There was a healthy discussion about the Nationwide race last night in the hotel as various team members chatted up Kyle Busch’s Nationwide win Friday night.

Kyle’s pit crew won the race off of pit road in the NNS race here in Phoenix – the “Bashas’ Supermarkets 200” . The guys that I know from various Sprint Cup teams were discussing Kyle’s NNS pit crew and that it is, in essence, the Sprint Cup pit crew and that as he came in to pit they knew that his pit crew would have him out first and winning.

The guys were discussing how other Nationwide teams who do not use veteran Sprint Cup pit crew members for their cars could possibly compete. It was an interesting discussion.

So today when I got in the garage – I checked to see how many Sprint Cup pit crew members were pitting Kyle’s Nationwide car.

Actually: Here’s the lowdown. These are the guys from the #18 Sprint Cup team that were helping to pit Kyle’s #18 NNS car last night
– Nick O’Dell – Front Tire Changer
– Brad Donaghy – Front Tire carrier
– Jake Seminara – Rear Tire Changer
– Kenny Barber – Rear Tire Carrier

So the discussion last night was how the Nationwide teams with less experienced pit crew members could compete against the above. Kyle totally drove his butt off – but clearly his pit crew members were key to the win – and I thought the information of just who was pitting his car was interesting.

I got an email the other day from a listener who wanted to know more about transponders in the race cars that are used in timing and scoring. I answered the email but promised a longer interview in response. I discussed the transponders this morning over coffee with Nelson Crozier of Nelson Specialties who for years has handled electronics in the garage and who is, frankly, an electronic genius.

Nelson, how about a brief on the transponders:

“The transponders are all mounted to the rear of the car adjacent to the fuel cell and they are tie wrapped into place so normally they don’t come off but if for some reason they do get knocked off in a crash you have to mount a new bracket in the same spot and install a new transponder before you go back out on the track.

All the transponders must be located in the same spot – it is specified in the rule book and that way when they cross the line they are all measured identically. The transponder is about the size of a pack of playing cards or a pack of cigarettes and there’s an activator loop in various spots around the track that activates the transponder. It then, in turn, sends a signal back to the activator loop which goes into the electronics and shows you where each car is when they cross that particular line. That’s why when a caution comes out the field is frozen and they go to back to the last line crossed.

Sometimes you’ll see a car in front of another car and he gets moved back into position that’s because at the last line crossed he was actually behind the car that he just passed.”

How often are they knocked loose or damaged?

“Maybe one every race or every three races not very often.

There is a bracket that is fixed to the frame then the transponder is installed in the bracket and held in place with a tie wrap. NASCAR hands them out and then collects them. They collect them every evening after practice or whatever track activity is going on and then they put them back in the chargers so they are fully charged before being handed out again.They are very similar to the EZ Toll Pass that you use in your car when you go through a toll on the highway.”

To the listener who asked about the transponders good questions. I can check that off my reporters pad for the day. Now, hey will you look at the time! I’ve got to run out to the grid so I’m out of here for now.

Enjoy the race and if you are on the East Coast I want to know how many of you will stay up on the couch the entire race from the green, green until the checkered flag flies. If I get a few minutes I’ll be sending more during the evening.

Have fun!

Claire B
Phoenix International Raceway

Postcard from the media center: Jeff Burton on a NASCAR driver organization & drug testing policy April 12, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Drivers, NASCAR.
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Jeff Burton (JEFF BURTON, DRIVER OF THE NO. 31 AT&T IMPALA SS) was very vocal Friday when discussing his thoughts about whether a driver’s organization is needed in NASCAR. While answering questions regarding the latest topic on whether random drug testing is needed in the sport – the question was has Burton changed his mind – an advocate for there not being a need for such an organization in the past. Here is his entire answer – worth the read:

Jeff Burton: “I haven’t changed my opinion about whether we should have an organization. My fear in the drivers having an organization is that a group of drivers with power isn’t necessarily in our sports best interest. NASCAR’s willingness to listen to drivers is in our best interest. But a group of drivers that could, because they are given power, demand things, that could manipulate things for their benefit rather than the sports benefit, I don’t think is a good situation for our sport. While we’re talking about drug testing policy, one of the reasons that the drug testing policies in other sports have been really lax is that the players, the players unions and the players unions representatives put up huge fights about when they could be tested, how they can be tested and not only that what would happen when they tested positive. A few years ago when you got tested positive for marijuana in the NBA you kept playing. There was no penalty, there was nothing and that was because of the players union, well one of the reasons was the players union. That’s an example of how I don’t believe that a group of athletes that have power over a sport, that can force the sport into decisions that aren’t good for the sport, that’s my fear. If we were living in poverty and we were living lives that where we were highly underpaid, we were mistreated poorly, we were miners in the early 1900’s then a union would be a productive thing because their conditions were so deplorable that they had to have force. They had to have a group in order to get just everyday ordinary things accomplished. We don’t have that. We’re all well compensated, we’re in a sport today that’s very safety-minded. We aren’t in a perfect sport. There are things that could be better but, as seen by me, having a group of drivers that have power is not in the best interest of those guys sitting in the seats. That’s what I believe has happened in other sports. I may be wrong about it, but that’s what I see. I don’t see how the players union, the players union in major league baseball just looks so powerful and so many decisions have been made that are counter-productive to what’s good for the game. How many people quit watching baseball because of strikes? How many people have not gone back to watching hockey because of strikes? Those kind of things are when a union is counter-productive and that would be my fear.

“Here’s the other side to my comment. A group with no power really is no group. It really isn’t very productive. It would be very hard in a non-formal fashion for a group of drivers or all the drivers to get together and be productive because once we all get together we have an association or whatever you want to call it, what’s the recourse for us? If we say we want to do this and NASCAR doesn’t do it, what do we do? I believe that our athletes need to be able to go to NASCAR, have a conversation with NASCAR, NASCAR listen and then make the decision. Ultimately its NASCAR’s job, everything that revolves around our sport it’s up to them to make sure fans are in the stands. They have a broader perspective. Do I wish NASCAR would listen to us a little more sometimes, I do. If you sit down with them and they walk you through a decision, then you kind of okay that makes some sense even though I disagree with it, it makes some sense. There’s logic there. NASCAR doesn’t make decisions with no logic put to it. That’s my stance on it, that’s the way I feel.”

Burton also talked about his thoughts on a drug testing policy:

“I’ll be frank about it, I wish we tested more. I like the policy. I like the way the policy reads once you’ve tested positive. It’s one of the most strict policies in sports. I’m really happy with that, but I think we ought to test more. It is an interesting dynamic in NASCAR because I don’t work for NASCAR. NASCAR doesn’t pay me, the race tracks don’t pay me, Richard Childress pays me. I’m an employee of Richard Childress Racing or actually I’m an employee of my own but I’m subcontracted or however you want to say it to Richard Childress Racing. So it’s a little complex because who is responsible for testing me, is it Richard Childress Racing or is it NASCAR? I think that makes it a little more difficult, it complicates the issue. Ultimately though, NASCAR does make the rules and they do enforce the rules. They are the ones that penalize you 25 points for being high, they’re the ones that penalize you 100 points for having the wrong wing on the car or whatever, so ultimately they are probably the ones that have to penalize us for illegal drug use as well. I guess the way I look at is that everything you do has a negative side to it. What’s the negative to testing too much and what’s the negative to not testing enough? If you’re gonna look at it like that, you rather screw up by testing too much than screw up by not testing enough. I’d like to see us test a little more. I know people get tested, because people have got caught. I guess I’m honored, I’ve never been tested (laughs), I feel like I should be. Maybe, I don’t know, I’ve heard a lot of people say they’ve never been tested. I don’t know. Again, I just think if we’re gonna mess up, let’s mess up by testing too much. Let’s be real aggressive about it and two years from now when something does go down we can stand together and say look. One of the things I was talking about earlier, and I’ve read all the articles, not all of them but I’ve read some of the articles and seen some of the stuff on television. We have a unique position here, every driver I’ve heard talk about testing, said yeah let’s do it. There’s no opposition, well I’m not going to say that. There’s not a lot of opposition, I’m sure there’s some opposition but there’s very little opposition. That’s a unique position and I think that’s a good thing.”

If you have a comment on what Jeff Burton said – register it below. I have posted his entire answer so that you can read it for yourself and get the most complete and accurate version of his comments on these issues.

Your thoughts on his comments? Send them to me at ClaireBMail [at] ClaireBLang.com -or- comment below.

Claire B
Media Center
Phoenix International Raceway

I have new mail from Claire B’s Mailbox posted- check it out April 12, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Claire B's Mail.
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I have new mail from Claire B’s Mailbox posted- check it out


Results are in from Poll 3- Worst MWR Crash April 12, 2008

Posted by claireblang in NASCAR Poll.
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Last week’s crash of Michael McDowell took the lead position and never gave it up. Here are your results:

Worse MWR Crash- PieChart

Worse MWR Crash- Results

Cortney and Johnny Sauter Wedding Pictures April 8, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Drivers.
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On “Dialed In” (4/8/08) Johnny Sauter talked about his off season wedding after a listener asked about his beautiful girlfriend Cortney. Sauter told the listener “I married her” and I asked Cortney if I could have a few photos to post here. Beautiful couple huh?

Cortney and Johnny Sauter Wedding Pictures

Cortney and Johnny Sauter Wedding Pictures-LeavingChurch

Cortney and Johnny Sauter Wedding Pictures-FirstDance

Hey Girls- here’s Earl’s photo April 8, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Crew Members.
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Earl Barban is a Yates Racing Crew member – he’s a mechanic and spotter for Travis Kvapil’s #28. Barban was on “Dialed in” with me last week and let it slip out that he’s single 🙂 The phones started ringing – and so girls, here’s the photo!

Earl Barban's Photo


Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers.
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Nascar Sprint Cup Series – Samsung 500 – Sunday 4/6/08

If you’re watching the race – you saw what happened to Jeff Gordon (on lap 110). Gordon hit the wall and then pulled into the garage with an ill handling race car. He told his crew that he’ll just use this race (Samsung 500) as a test session. He says he’s “terrible” at Texas. After a meeting inside the hauler with team leaders – Gordon responded to questions. He was very calm – but said he has not run like this since his rookie year:

“Today was about trying to find a problem we’ve been dealing with all weekend long with just not having the handling and comfort there for me. We’ve tried every set-up we can find but none of them seem to work. We are going to fix the car. I hate it that I damaged the car. I was just hanging out on every single lap. You get frustrated. The car is not going what you want it to do. You’re trying to figure stuff out and change your line and everything and I just lost control and got in the wall. So now we’ll see if we can fix it up to go out and do some testing and see if we can figure out what it is.”

“You know what, it’s the same sensation he was feeling. It’s just boggling my mind. We didn’t have any of that in Vegas or California, very little of it in Atlanta. There are some crazy set ups going on in these cars right now and I guess when you don’t hit it right it’s not much fun and that’s kind of the way it was for us today.”

“I can’t remember the last time we struggled this bad. Yes, it’s just a bad day done worse for our Dupont Impala SS team. I wish I had an answer for you but I don’t. We are just really , really bad and I lost control of the car and I was hanging on just every single lap. We are going to fix the car and get back out there and do some testing. We have never felt anything like this. We saw the NO. 48 in Las Vegas with their troubles but we haven’t sensed anything like that until we got here and we have been way off. We have to find it because we can’t go through the year like this.”

” We haven’t had any time to test here. Well this is a tricky race track, we have been very hit or miss here. I couldn’t tell you . I couldn’t tell you, we were bad on Friday. But ever since we got into race practice yesterday, we have been very far off the pace and uncomfortable. At this track , if the car isn’t pretty close at this race track, I am terrible. I can’t get around this race track. I don’t know what it is. Today, to be off like we were and as slow as we were, the harder it was to drive. It was a challenge, we will see if we can’t get it better.”

THAT IS QUITE A STATEMENT TO SAY YOU ARE TERRIBLE HERE: “I just don’t think I have ever been very good at Texas, that is why we have never won here. But we have had our moments, when the car has been really good. But you know what, when the car is off I am lost here. I mean, I haven’t felt this lost since my rookie year at a race track. We have been struggling here,. I know Jimmie and some of these guys have gone through some weeks, it is frustrating. We just have to try and figure it out.”

“I don’t know. We are going to try and get the car back out on the race track and see if we can’t find something to give me some comfort. I don’t really know. If I had that answer, we wouldn’t have been running 40th or wherever we were at.”

“We could, but that was basically Jimmie’s set up we had in it. Nothing we have done has fixed the problem we are having. I don’t think it’s a set up thing, something else is going on and we are trying to figure it out.”


Greetings from Texas Motor Speedway! (New Poll- Please Vote) April 5, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers, NASCAR Poll, Teams, Tracks.
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I have received a huge number of emails on the crash of Michael McDowell during qualifying for the Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. He joined me on the air on “Dialed In” on XMSN (Channel 144) a short time after the crash and while I have interviewed many drivers over the years after spectacular crashes – I was impressed with how calm McDowell was just minutes after such a spectacular and frightening crash.

One e-mailer in particular posed this question to me as an idea for a survey and I think it’s an interesting one for this week:

Which MWR driver’s crash was worse?
1) Michael Waltrip at Bristol
2) David Reutimann at California
3) Michael McDowell at Texas

MWR Crash

The e-mailer suggested that it was interesting that Michael Waltrip’s crash was in 1988 – 20 years ago….David Reutimann’s crash was one year ago and Michael McDowell’s was with the new car.

Many of the emails that I received were complimentary of NASCAR for the safer new car that NASCAR is using in 2008. Here’s an example:

Listener Email:

Hi Claire,

I have written to you several times this year and many times my comments have been flip, based on who I cheer for. This is not one of those times.

Michael McDowell’s crash was a sobering reminder that this is a dangerous business and nobody can afford to let their guard down. I have been a race fan for the last 40 years ( I am 48) and love the sport for the competition. There are those fans that go for the wrecks and I hate them. One year at the Knoxville Nationals some people in front of us said ” I hope we se some great flips ” and I and the people I was with were ready to take them down.

Bottom line is that the C.O.T. passed it’s final exam with flying colors today. Brett Bodine and Robin Pemberton should be very proud and Michael McDowell should be very grateful. And the legacy that comes out of this is that Tony Roper, Dale Earnhardt, Adam Petty, and Kenny Irwin brought change that will make the sport safer and better.

Michael McDowell joins Katherine Legge, Dario Franchitti, and John Force as examples of how motorsports has worked to put safety on the front burner and how all these individuals have gone on to race again.


Other emails mentioned what could have happened and what they saw Friday during qualifying as the crash ended and the driver walked away from it:

Listener Email:
Does the crash makes us fall into a false sense of security….Is there more the sport can do?….Can they really be satisfied with the results?….What happened if he hit driver’s side first instead of front corner first?….What about his feet and legs with the petals?….He looks pretty wobbly walking over to the ambulance.

Today I thank God that this young driver was able to walk away from this crash, kiss his wife and return to race another day.

Claire B
XM Satellite Radio
Texas Motor Speedway

Poll Results- “Nothing to worry about at Hendrick” April 1, 2008

Posted by claireblang in NASCAR Poll.

The Question was: What level of concern do you have for what’s happening at Hendrick Motorsports so far in 2008?

The results are in, and it seems that most people feel it is best to be patient with the Hendrick camp.


We had participation even greater than Week #1. Thanks for chiming in!