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Martinsville Victory Lane! March 30, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season.
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Rear View Mirror: The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500!

After going LIVE from Victory Lane I stepped into the broadcast studio in the Media Center, put the headset on, flipped on the microphone and the phone lines lit up after the running of the Good’s Fast Pain Relief 500. Callers from Arizona to Oklahoma and from Canada to Texas wanted to talk about the short track racing that we saw at Martinsville Speedway. The fans had a lot to talk about, from caution calling to fender bumping, but the one common element was how refreshing short track racing is, jam packed with action. Martinsville, after a brief pause for rain, delivered.

Jeff Gordon Almost Wins Again!
Feels he got a cheap shot – wanted to see the replay.

Jeff Gordon ( Finished 3rd -#24 DuPont Chevrolet) fans were upset that, once again, he was close but didn’t get the trophy. Here’s a portion of one of the many listener emails that I got after the race:

” My observation: how convenient of Kyle to cause a caution just when Jeff comes to take the white so his teammate can win. Besides, it’s the sympathy win, since poor Denny has to have surgery.”

As always, you’ll have conspiracy theorists – heck it’s part of the DNA of NASCAR racing to argue about conspiracies. It’s every man for himself at the end of this race though – and that’s what we saw. Of course. those who were not Gordon fans said he should not have complained about being hit when everyone was hit by someone at Martinsville.

Jeff Gordon was a little upset himself but didn’t erupt in anger, just said he was disappointed, not totally unhappy with a third place finish, and wanted to wait until he saw the replay. It’s amazing to me the restraint Jeff shows when he’s upset – never walks away from a media question, and even tried to say initially that “someone” hit him from the back – even though he knew it was Matt Kenseth and eventually did use his name, but even after that, one more time said he wanted to see the replay.

“I got an okay restart. Spun the tires a little bit, got going. I looked at my mirror, 17 was pretty far behind me. Made sure I didn’t drive in too deep. Next thing I know, I got nailed. I don’t know who got into me. I thought it was the 17. If it wasn’t, I apologize to him. I made sure he didn’t win the race down the straightaway,” Gordon said. Interesting, he didn’t want to name him before seeing the replay but he “made sure he didn’t win the race down the straightaway.” Yep Gordon Knew it was him, I just don’t think he wanted to call him out.

“The way he raced me today I didn’t think was the way I would have raced him. But we’ve had our ups and our downs. But I feel like we’ve been past that. I certainly didn’t feel like we had any issues. If somebody hits me, I’m going to hit them. If he hit me, I’m glad I did what I did on the back straightaway,” Gordon said. ” If a guy gives you a cheap shot like that, he doesn’t deserve to win the race, in my opinion. If that didn’t happen, and I have not seen the video, then, again, I’ll be the first one to call him this week and apologize.”

In the media center, after the race, it was interesting what Jeff Gordon said about whether he and his crew chief Steve Letart were able to improve his car during the race. This is a topic that I get a lot of calls about on air. Jeff said, “I did feel like we got off a little bit there towards the middle part of the race and made gains to get back up there. Yeah, I felt like we made gains. Today was all about where you restarted. If you restarted on the outside lane, you were done. I lost like five or six spots one time just being on the outside lane. I made two of them up. Caution came out. Went back to the outside lane, lost two or three more. To me, I almost wanted to like let off and let a car pass me on pit road or something just so I could come out odd to start on the inside lane. When I started on the inside lane, we drove right up there,” Gordon said. ” When we lost those positions, we lost track position and the car wasn’t the same. When we were out front, our car was just so awesome. We never really got a chance to see what it was like towards the front there at the end. So that was a little disappointing. I felt like we made gains to get up to third or fourth before the second to the last caution.”

Matt Kenseth’s Take:
I got into Jeff a little bit – really not that hard!

Matt Kenseth (Finished 18th -#17 Crown Royal Ford) was disappointed himself that Gordon that Gordon retaliated so strongly when he thought that the hit he gave him was not all that hard. “I guess it looked like it was my fault,” Matt said. ” I did go in there and I did get into Jeff a little bit, really not that hard, and I got under him and everything was fine and he just took a left as hard as he could take one and ran me down all the way into the marbles. I’ve got all the marbles on my rear tires and I slowed up to try to get in the corner real slow and I kind of got hit from behind and I got hit in the side and started wheel-hopping. I couldn’t hang onto it when I got to three. It’s nothing Jeff wouldn’t have done or hasn’t done to me, expect he’s wrecked me all the way out, so it was just an aggressive race for the end. We were gonna be side-by-side going into three and four, and the outside lane has actually been an advantage anyway, so it wasn’t gonna be that big of a deal, but, instead, he decided to run me down as low as he could because he knew I’d wreck when I got to the corner. That’s the way it turned out. It was a dumb move on my part. I should have just finished third and collected some points and got one of our best finishes at Martinsville, but I figured I’d go for the win, which, I guess in hindsight, was probably a mistake.”

Matt is a veteran of short track racing, and he knows how the game is played. He’s not one to complain he’ll usually say what he has to say behind the wheel and on the race track.

Jeff Gordon thought that the past short-track frustration history between he and Kenseth was over. Now he’s wondering. That’s what makes short track racing so much fun for the fans.

Carl and Clint Post Race Talk:
Edwards was the meat in the sandwich!

Did you see Clint Bowyer (Finished 7th, BB&T Chevy) and Carl Edwards (Finished 8th -Aflac Ford) talking after the race? So what were they talking about? “I had a guy pushing me and I was pushing him and almost got both of us,” Carl said. ” I just wanted him to know that I was the meat in the sandwich there. It’s good though and he was cool with it. We had a good laugh about the whole thing.”

Victory Lane!
Denny Hamlin remembers the race fans!

I’m LIVE in Victory Lane when the race is over, so I’m in the happiest place on earth every weekend. This weekend though, I watched a demonstration by the race winner as to how to celebrate a race WITH the race fans. As I’m standing in Victory Lane, with (#11 FedEx) crew chief Mike Ford, I look over to the #11 car. He totally blew the tires off that car with the burnout and the team was trying to lift the car (which was banged up like a demolition derby entry at the state fair) and get it up so they could get tires on it and get it off of the front stretch. After some red-faced lift attempts by the entire team, a NASCAR official jacked the car and the guys got it rolling and back to the garage.

Mike Ford told me that when he told Denny about taking four tires, Denny said “10-4″ indicating they were in it together on the decision. Ford told me that some drivers will give a vague answer so that the crew chief is the hero or the zero on a call like this -but in this case Denny gave his crew chief his total support, something that Ford appreciated.

After doing the hat dance, Denny bolted across the track to the race fans to spray champagne on them and the fans loved every single, champagne soaking moment. To do that Denny had to leave Victory Lane and cross the track go through the fence, up some stairs and to where the fans were pushing up against the fence in excitement.

I’m standing by ready to interview Denny LIVE on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio after he returned to Victory Lane for more photos, when Denny indicated I should come with him, and since I was just going LIVE and introducing him on air, I followed him as he returned across the track, back up the stairs, and to the fence where the fans were. He took a whole stack of Victory Lane caps and was signing them and handing them out to the race fans.

This is a Denny Hamlin that fans will get to know better over the years and a guy who knows how important these fans are. He’s good about giving tickets away during the week to race fans – but to remember them in the charged-up, everyone-wanting-something, crazy and frenetic excitement of Victory Lane is really something special.

I salute Denny Hamlin for what he did during his moments of celebration. I was standing there LIVE with him at the fence across the track as the fans screamed and shouted his name and, no matter which driver they follow, I’m sure they will never forget the moment. That was way cool of Denny, and we wish him good luck on Wednesday’s knee surgery.

Did Denny Hamlin bully his way to a win?
Come on people – it’s short track racing!

Some of the callers who were fans of other drivers asked about how fiercely Denny Hamlin battled it from his pit stop for fresh tires to win the race. Leaving the media center, I heard one reporter say, ” NASCAR the fans love ‘have at it’ unless someone is having at their driver – then it’s not so much fun.” That makes sense, it’s understandable. It’s called being a loyal fan. But short track racing has always been gouging your way to a win.

When a reporter noted to Jeff Gordon that Hamlin “bullied his way up there,” and asked how he defined a “cheap shot” as it related to his reference to the encounter with the #17, Gordon replied, “Denny had four tires. That’s different. He had a car that would stick and turn around, go underneath guys. He could out brake guys. Hey, he won the race. So it doesn’t matter. That’s the bottom line. You know, a cheap shot to me is when you don’t really have a shot at it, you just go and rub into the back of a guy. That’s what I think is a cheap shot.”

You’ll have that in short track racing!

Finally —–The Caution
A strike ball call by NASCAR

So let’s talk about the caution at the end of the race that took the Good’s Fast Pain Relief 500 into a green white checkered situation. Gordon cruised under green and Hamlin drove three-wide into Turn 1, battling his way to fourth on fresh tires. Then, another caution was thrown, this time it was for Kyle Busch’s spin in Turn 3 with just over a lap remaining.

Jeff Gordon’s fans and some who favored teams whose result was affected negatively by the caution were frustrated. “It was pretty obvious to me NASCAR wanted to do a green-white-checkered finish,” Gordon said. He was within reach of the finish line at the time. “There were cars blowing tires, hitting the wall [and] they weren’t throwing the caution. One spins out, and they threw the caution in the blink of an eye. I think it was pretty obvious what they wanted.”

NASCAR makes no bones about the fact that they want the race to finish under green and multiple green white checkered flags will be used to ensure that.

Ok, so at the end of the race cautions might not be called as quickly when NASCAR thinks the race will still end under green – and we can debate that all day long. As the race is nearer to conclusion – it does seem that the cautions are called more quickly if there’s a chance the race will end under yellow without the caution. The object is to end under yellow. Sometimes the late race caution will bite your team, sometimes it will favor your team.

While I won’t begin to argue constency when it comes to cautions, since it’s a judgement call, it’s about the finish under green in my mind, and not which driver might win, or not win the race as a result.

If Kyle Busch had not had wrecked Jeff Gordon probably would have won the race and without double file restarts Denny would not have had a chance anyway-as he came from fourth place to win in two laps. That’s to say nothing of the #11 team choice to pit for four tires, and the chance that Denny could have lost the race because of that call.

I love short track racing!

It’s a beautiful day in Charlotte, North Carolina – enjoy the day!

I’ll be in touch.

Happy Easter!

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Sloshing Around Martinsville! March 29, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season.
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We’re racing today here at Martinsville. The weather has lifted and, if we’re lucky, we might actually get this race completed in its entirety today!

Stay tuned for the race broadcast (starting at noon on FOX TV and MRN Radio carried by Sirius Satellite Radio). I’ll be on after the race in Victory Lane LIVE and until 7:00 p.m. EST will break the race down on Sirius NASCAR radio.

Some questions to answer :

What happened during the practice session between Travis Kvapil and Tony Stewart.

From Tony Stewart’s (Driver #14 Old Spice/ Office Depot Chefy) Perspective:

LOOKS LIKE YOU AND TRAVIS KVAPIL GOT TOGETHER AT THE END OF PRACTICE, WHAT HAPPENED, WE ONLY SAW THE END OF IT? “That is a really good question, I wish I knew the answer to that. That is all I saw was the end of it too when he checked up in front of us. Not sure why that happened.”
From Travis Kvapil’s (Driver #34 A#W All American Food Ford) Perspective:

CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED IN PRACTICE YESTERDAY WITH YOU AND TONY STEWART? “Yeah, I don’t really think it’s a big deal. To me, it was just Martinsville. I was on new tires trying to get a qualifying run at the end of practice and the track was really crowded. On new tires it takes a lap or two until they get going and I was still slipping and sliding and trying to get my tires to hook up. Tony was on his last lap, I guess, and had a lot of speed. To cut to the chase, I was in his way. My plan was to get down the backstretch and move over to let him go, but I never got good enough traction off the corner to get going and get out of his way. I am sure he is upset and our guys are upset that the race car got beat up a little bit. To me, it isn’t a big deal, its just a product of things that happen when you go short-track racing.”

Look Out for Rubber In The Track:

Juan Pablo Montoya (Driver #42 Target Chevy): “The rubber in the corners. You start getting rubber on the green, you get lines of rubber. You really have to find a way to drive around that. You get there and it doesn’t turn. It moves the car or it steps out. It depends on which tire hits it. It is a challenge but it is exciting.”

Jeff Burton (Driver #31 Caterpiller Chevy) : “The rubber builds up on the exit of both corners. It starts to build up just past the center of the corner and through to the exit. You have three options—run all the below it with the right side tires, which means that your left tires are right up next to the curb, straddle it, or run with all four tires above it. You adjust your car to run whichever way you think is the best at that time, and then a caution comes out and the rubber goes away, and then you run for 40-50 laps with no rubber on the track. So then you have your car set up to run in a certain area that your car doesn’t want to run in anymore. It’s a constant balance between where the rubber builds up and where it doesn’t. It is important to understand where that rubber is and I see a lot of people in practice that forget that and practice with the right tires exactly where the rubber is going to be. So and when they have that setup starting the race, they can’t run anymore. The knowledge of that and how it changes your car is very important because it affects how you practice your car and how you set up your car.”

Denny Hamlin’s Surgery:

Denny Hamlin (driver #11 Fed Ex) will undergo surgery to repair the ACL in his left knee. The surgery will be performed by Dr. Patrick Connor with OrthoCarolina. Hamlin injured the knee in January prior to the start of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

The surgery was scheduled for today (Monday) but it has been moved until tonight or Wednesday due to the rain delayed running of the Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500 today. If Denny is able to get back to Charlotte early enough it may be tonight, but I am told it is more likely to take place Wednesday.

Is there any chance you get out of the car at Martinsville?
Denny Hamlin (Driver of the #11 Fed Ex Freight Toyota) “No, I don’t think so. I really didn’t feel much pain, a little bit, at the end of Bristol. Not much until afterwards when we got out and went home. There’s no chance this weekend.”

Crew Chief’s Corner. Penske Dodge Crew Chiefs perspective on today’s race:

The Penske Racing crew chiefs for the three Dodge teams offer insight on the “Keys for Success” at Martinsville Speedway.

STEVE ADDINGTON (Crew Chief, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
“Keep the brakes on the car, stay out of trouble and stay calm all day long. That’s it.”

TRAVIS GEISLER (Crew Chief, No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger)
“First of all is patience. This place can really frustrate you. When you have a better car than the guy in front of you and you want to get past him and another guy is beating your bumper off from behind, you’ve got to be patient and not use up your equipment.

“Second is track position. It’s got to cycle through and you have to pit at the right time. During the race, some guys will pit this time while some will pit at the next caution. You hope that when the last one comes, you cycle through in the right spot. You will see a lot of two-tire stops. It’s pretty much the craziest pit cycles you have anywhere we go. Track position becomes so important, people do things that don’t really make sense, but they know they’re never going to pass the 20 cars if they come in and get four tires and get behind them. So, you just stay out and hope your driver can hang on and protect what you have. Track position is important.

“The third is drive off. That’s what everyone will be working on today. You tend to be so loose on exit here on throttle. That will be our focus in practice today, trying to give him (Sam Hornish Jr.) the ability to come to throttle hard (off the turns) so he can get underneath people and make passes.”

JAY GUY (Crew Chief, No. 12 Dodge Motorsports Dodge Charger)
“If we can get good track position early in the race and be able to maintain that track position, that is very key to running well here at Martinsville. You have to have good pit strategy and have brakes at the end of the race. Those are biggest things you have to do to be successful here. I think with Brad’s (Keselowski) driving style, we can obviously do that.

“There will probably be a little bit of pit strategy involved, depending on how everything takes off at the beginning of the race. I can see maybe pulling a no-tire or two-tire stop early in the race just to see how it goes because you never know, you might need it for the end of the race if you are competing for the win. You just need to get a feel for how it’s going to play out. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.

“We’re disappointed qualifying was rained out. Brad hasn’t been here in quite a while, but we have a lot of information coming in from the 77 and 2 and all the folks at Dodge. We felt like we could do well, qualifying solidly in the teens or maybe a little better than that. Brad learned a lot in practice yesterday. We got the car a little better for him. We were disappointed for sure not being able to qualify and having to start 30th.”

Getting into a competitors head – or not!!
Jeff Gordon (Driver of the #24 DuPont Chevrolet) “I think that if you focus on that, you’re the one that can get messed with the easiest when things aren’t going your way. That’s not a way I’ve ever approached it. If you just go out there and win and do your job and just keep focusing on doing that, then I think that’s going to win your respect as well as keeping you focused on the important things with your team. There’s no doubt that when someone has been as dominant as they’ve (Jimmie Johnson and No. 48 team) been, you sit there and scratch your head and say man, what do they have? What are they doing? What do we need to do differently? And they’re just that good of a race team. If I ever question anything, it’s just how do we make small little changes to our team and our race cars to be that good. I see all the data. I see everything. And those guys know how to put themselves in position and capitalize on it when it counts the most. And they’ve just built confidence. There’s no doubt that they have a lot of confidence in their program and what they’re doing. Jimmie does in his driving and Chad (Knaus) does in his ability to be a crew chief. But nobody is invincible out here.

When you were the guy everyone else was gunning for:

“To me, it just made us work that much harder to try to stay on top of it. Those were the easiest weekends I ever had in this sport. When you have things going your way like that, you just go to the race track and it doesn’t matter where you’re at on the board. You feel like you’ve got a shot at winning the race. And you just focus on that and the cars are driving so good. It seems like the decisions that are made are always the right ones. At the end of the day, you’re driving into victory lane going, ‘Wow, we won another race!’ And you win the races that you shouldn’t be winning and you’re winning the ones that you should be winning. And it’s an awesome feeling. But I’ve never focused on how that affects the competition. I just really focus on how do we maintain that.”


I’m headed out to pit road and ready for race time! I’ll get back with all of you after the race is run. Enjoy the race!

Claire B. Lang

Bristol Brawls -Feuds – and Fights. March 20, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season.
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You know this weekend has been insane – but I remember so many Bristol weekends that seemed to spiral out of control with stories of aggression and anger with hurt feelings, pushing, shoving, calls to the hauler and of course, in the center of it, media grappling for position as the intensity and frustration rises on this race track.
Fights at Bristol — As I left the race track after my “Dialed In” show last night in the media center, I walked up the banking and across the race track. The memories of skirmishes here in years gone by seemed to swirl around in the dark of night and in the empty race track their presence presented a reminder of racers who have battled here in years gone by.
Over the years, Bristol Motor Speedway has seen more than a few on-track skirmishes between drivers whose emotions have gotten the best of them.
Many times the differences of opinion began before they ever got to BMS and then, with the close-quarters action of the race itself at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, dispositions rapidly changed and emotions boiled over, resulting in some memorable scenes.

Some are forever etched in the memories of fans and drivers alike. So … in no particular order, a few of the most notorious BMS feuds follow:
Dale Earnhardt vs. Terry Labonte (Round 1)
Bristol Motor Speedway was Dale Earnhardt’s favorite playground so whenever he was racing at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile, he was confident he would end up in Victory Lane.
During the August night race of 1995, Terry Labonte went to the point on lap 432 and stayed there. But it wasn’t easy. With just a few laps to go, Earnhardt, who was running second, got into Labonte’s car, spinning him. Labonte somehow managed to stay in front and crossed the finish line backward and beat up but still in front of Earnhardt. The Intimidator had to settle for the runner-up position, a mere .10 second behind Labonte.

Dale Earnhardt vs. Terry Labonte (Round 2)
Again it was the August night race, this time in 1999, and once again it was Dale Earnhardt battling Terry Labonte for the win.
From lap 300 on, the two exchanged the lead eight times. It appeared Earnhardt had taken control by lap 490 but on lap 499 Labonte was able to get around him. With a single circuit to go, Earnhardt drove deep into Turn 1 to move around Labonte and hit his car, sending Labonte spinning.
Earnhardt went on to win his ninth, and final, race at BMS to a mixture of cheers and boos, while Labonte finished eighth. Afterward, as Labonte seethed, Earnhardt said all he meant to do was “rattle his cage.”

Carl Edwards vs. Kyle Busch
In the waning laps of the Sharpie 500 in 2008, Edwards and Kyle Busch had an on-track scuffle that continued into the cool-down lap as Busch hit Edwards a couple of times and Edwards, who won the race, retaliated.
Neither driver was happy with the other’s tactics.
“He hit me getting into Turn 1,” said an irate Busch afterward. “Carl’s going to say he’s sorry, he didn’t want to race that way, because that’s what he always does.
“I couldn’t get by him and I couldn’t get by him,” Edwards said at the time, “and I had to ask myself, would he do that to me? And he has before, so that’s the way it goes.”

Rusty Wallace vs. Dale Earnhardt
Yet another heated confrontation on-track occurred in the 1995 Goody’s 500, the same race as the Earnhardt-Labonte incident, when allace threw a water bottle at Earnhardt while standing at the gas pumps in the infield after the race had ended.
Wallace’s actions came after he and Earnhardt made contact on lap 32, sending Wallace into the wall and ending his chances at another Bristol win.
Rusty Wallace vs. Jeff Gordon (Round 1)
Wallace started from the No. 1 slot in the 1997 Food City 500 and had every intention of finishing in the same place. Jeff Gordon had other ideas.
Despite dominating the event and leading 240 laps, including taking the white flag, Wallace finished second after a tap from Gordon between Turns 3 and 4 sent Wallace up the track and
Gordon to Victory Lane.
Wallace would win three more times at Bristol for a total of nine, but he strongly believes he should have been in double digits and this is one of the ones that got away.
Jeff Gordon vs. Rusty Wallace (Round 2)
The rematch came in the 2002 August race. Wallace was leading the race when, with just two laps to go, Gordon AGAIN applied the bumper, moved Wallace out of the way to take the lead and the win.
Gordon’s win was his fifth at BMS while a smoldering Wallace had to settle for second AGAIN.

Jeff Gordon vs. Matt Kenseth
At the 2006 Food City 500, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon had been battling all day long, getting into each other on several occasions.
In the late going, Kenseth touched Gordon’s bumper going into Turn 1, spinning Gordon and taking him out of contention.
Kenseth finished third. After the race, Kenseth approached Gordon on pit road. Gordon, helmet still on, went after a surprised Kenseth, pushing him backwards before calm was finally restored.
At least on the outside.

Greg Biffle vs. Kevin Harvick
During the 2002 Food City 500, Greg Biffle got into the back of Kevin Harvick’s car and sent Harvick into the wall.
Harvick climbed from his wrecked car, walked straight to Biffle’s pit, talked to some of his crew members and then just waited for the race to end. At the conclusion of the race, when Biffle pulled onto pit road, Harvick leapt over the hood of Biffle’s car and dove after him. After a heated exchange the two finally were pulled apart.
Tony Stewart vs. Kevin Harvick
On the last lap of the 2008 Food City 500, friendship was set aside and Stewart and Harvick, both starving for wins, got together between Turns 1 and Turn ending the chances for either to make the trip to Victory Lane
So close, but yet so far.

Kurt Busch vs. Jimmy Spencer
The first shot in a feud that would last for months was fired on the high banks of Bristol in the spring of 2002.
Battling for the lead much of the day, Spencer was going for his first Cup win in eight years and Busch for his first ever. With just 55 laps left, Busch “moved” Spencer from the racing groove and never looked back — except to see if Spencer was gaining. Spencer got back to second, but that’s as far as he made it as Busch earned his first win.
By the time the duo returned to Bristol in August, they had exchanged, barbs, bumpers and punches resulting in Spencer being suspended for the event and both being placed on probation by NASCAR.

Randy LaJoie vs. Buckshot Jones (Round 1)
Differences between drivers have not just been limited to Cup races at Bristol Motor Speedway.
In 1997, it seemed two-time Nationwide champion Randy LaJoie and Buckshot Jones were tethered and neither often like the results. After repeated incident with each other throughout the year, it came to a head at Bristol in August at the Food City 250.
Both drivers led laps. Each, it seemed, was always near the other. With the laps waning, Jones found his car backed into the wall, courtesy, he thought, of LaJoie. As Jones began slowly limping his car back to pit road, he swerved suddenly as LaJoie went back by. He missed, however, and destroyed the front of his car. LaJoie finished fourth; Jones 26th. Both earned a trip to the NASCAR trailer.

Randy LaJoie vs. Buckshot Jones (Round 2)
In the very next Nationwide race at Bristol, with barely 30 laps to Jones’ car appeared to cut a tire between Turns 1 and 2 and turn sharply to the right and directly into the path of another car — driven by LaJoie.
It ended the day for those two and five other drivers as well.
There have been other heated incidents, some involving thrown items – like the heel pads Ward Burton fired at the car of Dale Earnhardt Jr. after the two clashed or the race where Dale Jarrett tossed his helmet through the window of Bobby Hillin’s car after a dust-up between the two. Jarrett, after having separate incidents with both Roger Penske-owned cars in the 2005 Food City 500 – the latter with Ryan Newman, which put Jarrett in the wall – returned the favor later in the race, ending Newman’s day.
With Sunday’s Food City 500 looming, and a number of rivalries heating up, anticipation is high as fans wait — and wonder — about what might happen next.
In the course of covering many of these incidents above, I have been knocked to the ground, dodged elbows as folks tried to pull the drivers back out of the way of each other, and in the case of Kevin Harvick had a driver flying over my shoulder as I reached out my microphone to interview the intended target (Greg Biffle). You gotta love Bristol baby.
Tickets remain available for the Food City 500. For ticket information for Sunday’s race call the BMS ticket office at 423-BRISTOL (423-274-7865).


Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season.

Welcome to Atlanta Motor Speedway! I’ll be blogging throughout the weekend and into the season now so stay tuned.

First: Here are some pit notes from today’s interviews at Atlanta Motor Speedway

Friday, March 5, 2010

KYLE BUSCH,No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry,Joe Gibbs Racing
How would you describe yourseason so far this year?
“It’s finally good to seeeverybody.I’m finally back in the top-12 again, you know, it’s been awhile.So it’s always nice to get back in here and do some mediaavailabilities.Besides that, our year has been pretty consistent I guess– 14, 14, 15.We’d like to make it where it was more top-fives thantop-15s but we still need those finishes in order to make ourselves capableenough to run in the Chase.We’ve had some good runs this year sofar.We had a fast car at Daytona.We had a fast car at Californiaand the same thing at Vegas.In all three races we had circumstances notquite go our way so we’re hoping to change our luck around a little bit thisweekend at Atlanta and get back down to business with the No. 18 M&M’s Camryand hopefully have a good strong run.”

Do you have to take a second lookat how you race the 48 team this year after the way they’ve started theseason?
“No, it’s just the 48 (JimmieJohnson) team.That’s them every single week.So it doesn’t put aworry in our mind at all.We’ve got to be a team that can run with thoseguys.Right now, we’re a team that’s a few spots behind them in therunning but we’re definitely not finishing nowhere near where they are.Weknow they’re going to be tough every single.It’s not that we’re worried,but it’s a long season and right now we’re not racing the 48, right now we’reracing the top-12.We’ve got to be in the top-12 by the 26th race and thenafter that you’ve got to worry about racing the 48.We’ll see whathappens.Anything can bite you here in the next 23 races before we getthere so we’ll just have to try to make sure it’s not us.”

What has your experience been sofar as a team owner with your new Truck seriesteam?
“It’s been a challengedefinitely.We’ve had a lot of things that we were really excited aboutcoming into the year and then we got a lot of bad news and we’ve been strugglingtrying to find some sponsorship but at least the golden goose.We had somehelp from a great company, Heluva Good, for Daytona and we’re giving them somesupport here in Atlanta.They’re on the bed cover.Toyota hasstepped up.They’ve come to help us here for this weekend as well alongwith the 56 (Tayler Malsam) truck.It’s been a struggle just trying tofind the sponsorship dollars that you need to run the team.We’re going torun the year regardless but it would certainly make it nice to pay off all thenotes I got outstanding on buying everything.It’s going to be maybe atough challenge for this year but hopefully down the road it will pay off andtwo, three, four years down the road we’ll be stronger thanever.”

How would you size up the 48 teamright now?
“They’re the best of thebest.They’re the guys that you’ve got to beat every single week, everysingle year.There’s no question that the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) isn’t thebest team probably in history — that they have the opportunity to win everysingle week.They had the opportunity at California and they had a perfectcall go their way and they won the race.They had the opportunity to winat Vegas and they had another good call go their way and their teammate (JeffGordon) to take two tires and whatever, who was the best car all day but theywere the smartest and they won the race.As long as you put yourselves inposition to win some of these races, you’re not going to win them all.Just like myself at California — we put ourselves in position to win that raceall day.We ran second all day and we certainly weren’t the best car towin but we ended up winning.So that’s just how you’ve got to play itsometimes and the 48 is the best at it.”
Do you think the change from thewing to the spoiler will help your driving?
“It’s hard to tell.Ihaven’t been able to drive with the spoiler yet so I’m unsure about how exactlyit’s going to change the handling characteristics of the car.I’m lookingforward to the change.At least we get to test it I think at Charlottebefore we get to go to the race track with it.It will be good to testwith it.As far as what the guys have been doing in the shop, I’munsure.I know they’ve been to wind tunnel testing some numerous things –not just the spoiler but some other things to try to see if we can’t find alittle bit more downforce out of our cars as well too.The rules are sotight, you have such a small area and a small window to work in that you doeverything you can.We’ve been working everywhere trying to findstuff.I know they’re doing their due diligence on what to do and where tofind some more downforce and stuff.That’s not what’s going to make ourcars go faster but it certainly, hopefully will make it better for racing and alittle bit easier to drive in traffic.”
What are the new challenges youface being a team owner and driver during raceweekends?
“To be honest with you, we wentthrough the truck race at Daytona and really nothing was different.It wasjust different because you’re driving your own equipment.You don’t treatit any differently really.I went out there and crashed on the first lapand put it back together and went back out there.We made a name forourselves, at least we had a fast truck that could compete.I might’vemade some other people mad that I was up there 18 laps down or whatever racing,but they’ve got to recognize that I’m trying to work for sponsorships and tryingto get stuff sold so I can be out there and make the series stronger.Thatwas the whole goal in Daytona.Here this weekend it’s going to be the samething.We’re just going to go out there and do what we can, try to sit ona pole and win the race in the truck and of course just learn as much as we canfrom the truck to the Cup car.The same as I would any other time so tracktime is always crucial.”

What does winning 50 Sprint CupSeries victories mean to you?
“I think it’s verysignificant.I think the more significant number — and this might justtell you how long Jimmie Johnson is still going to be around — is somewhere upin the 80s.That’s definitely a more significant number.Jimmie(Johnson) is now at 49 or 50 or whatever it is so he’s right there at the top-10brink.You want to win as many races as you can in anything and of coursethe more wins you get the closer you get to the 200 whether it’s Truck orNationwide.Cup wins, the more wins you get there, the closer you get tothe 50 (wins).Once you get to the 50 then you shoot for the 80s.Ithink I’m at 16 or 17 right now.There’s a long way to go and fortunatelyI’ve got time on my side right now so hopefully we can start punching thoseout.It would be nice if it was as easy as Jimmie (Johnson) makes it lookbut it’s certainly not.”

What has your teammate JoeyLogano improved on this year?
“All around Joey (Logano) hasjust been better.He’s been a better communicator in the teammeetings.He looks like he’s a lot smoother on the race track.He’slearned how to drive these cars.He’s been a lot better — it’s all aboutinformation.It’s all about telling your crew chief what you need and whatthe car has done for you or what you need it to do differently.Joey(Logano) has done a great job and obviously he’s leading the team right now withthe good finishes and leading the point standings for the JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing)drivers.I’m real proud of him.And I think that if he just keeps itgoing and keeps doing what he’s doing he’s got a great leader with GregZipadelli (crew chief).I’d like to say that Denny (Hamlin) and I are goodteammates and that we’ve been able to help him and get him to where he’s at buthe’s got to be the guy that gets himself better so he’s done a goodjob.”

ALLMENDINGER GOES GREEN: AJ Allmendinger’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford will have a new look for this weekend’s Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Instead of the traditional Best Buy and Petty blue, Allmendinger will sport a green Insignia logo, representing Best Buy’s own line of affordable consumer electronics. “Best Buy’s been very excited with the name recognition it’s gotten through NASCAR,” Allmendinger said. “They’re using that to take their Insignia brand and boost that, use it as a stepping stone. It shows what NASCAR can do for a great product.”

JOEY LOGANO IS BACK AT HIS SOUTHERN HOME: Joey Logano ruled the quarter-mile Thunder Ring at Atlanta Motor Speedway as a youngster, spending most of his childhood dominating the Legends and Bandolero divisions he raced in. A decade later, Logano is back with the big boys of NASCAR to try to change his stock car luck at what he calls his “second home” track.

“It’s cool to come back and see some of your friends, and this is Home Depot’s headquarters too,” said Logano, who originally hailed from Connecticut but spent his formative years in Alpharetta, Ga. “In the past, this race track been kind of tough for me.”Logano has competed in two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta, finishing 22nd and 30th“ This track’s fun, because it’s so wore out,” Logano said. “It makes it tough as a driver and crew chief to try to make things good on the long run.”

EMAIL BAG………………….

Here’s a look at some of the mail in my email box on a number of topics –

On SPEED Channel’s new TV show “What’s the Deal” with Jimmy Spencer
(Spencer was a guest on “Dialed In” to talk about his new show which airs Monday nights)

I would be interested in the show If jimmy can back his statements then I am okay with it.
I would be curious how long the show would last and if he would have enough material week to week

By the way the only thing the 48 team needs to do is brush up on their

Other then that they are top notch for now

On Kyle Petty being on the NASCAR Victory Lane show on SPEED

listener email: I have been some what critical of him (Kyle) from time to time based on his families position.Now that he is on Nascar victory lane and Jimmy Spencer is not even though he has has a new program. I can not help but feel there is some politics behind it.Kyle made the remark ,that every time he gets a new gig,people think i got some one fired.I can not help but think that that is more that a off the cuff statement…just curious…thx

On Jimmy Spencer:

Still trying to figure out why no driving Jimmy Spencer hit Dale Earnhardtr’s car a Bristol after Dale spun out Terry Labonte

On Ann in Indiana who has written and called frustrated over JJ and 48 wins (she’s a Gordon fan)
Claire, As I a long time Jeff Gordon, I really can’t figure out for the life of me why another Jeff Gordon fan could be upset with Jimmie Johnson. I guess they forgot the days when Jeff ran over the competition the same way or better. I can remember going to the track and feeling like I was on a lone island unless I was around a bunch of other Gordon fans. I was not a easy feeling and wouldn’t want to do it to anyone else. The old saying applies what rises to the to the top will eventually fall down to the ground. And I’m not saying Gordon isn’t good anymore, I’m just saying he’s not at his peak anymore were as Johnson is! I think most Gordon fans don’t like Jimmie Johnson winning because it reminds them of the good ole days!
From Ann in Indiana (who called in to “Dialed In”)

Thanks for having me on. You know you- and Jeff- are the only reasons
I’m sticking around, because I truly am fed up. You would probably
know this. Do the drivers, crew chiefs, or someone on the crews
listen in on the radio feeds to what is going on with their
competitors? Do they have private channels for communication that we
can’t hear? I’m on the computer now and my radio is in another room,
so I can’t listen and type at the same time.

Ann from Indiana

Email from a hard working transport driver:

I delivered in Mc donough,ga last night. I drove by speedway. Looked ready For you. passed few RVs on there way. And few speckled in RV lot. Looks like a party to me. Brewing. But wife and 2 children in Peoria,IL got priority so headed that way I go. And a new trumpet for my 15 year old is on plans so enyoy the fun and be safe Ron piper
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

On Jimmie Johnson and 48 team wins.

I am a tony stewart fan but i say good job to jimmie johnson. however, having him win over and over again is killing the NASCAR audience. it getting boring. I used to have a deal with my mother (a johnson fan) that every time jimmie wins i buy her something from nascarsuperstore.com but i had to stop because it was making me go broke.

Jay in NH

On the Driver for Five:


Jeff has been doing the “Drive for Five” for awhile now. So we will keep that tag line for him.

Jimmie will be “Strive for Five” or “Stride for Five” so we can keep them separate from each other.


From Shawna Robinson, who has a new web site – and has started a chair business: Way cool

She writes: Check out new website!

Many Thanks!
I asked Chad Knaus in Victory Lane at Las Vegas if he commiserated with Steve Letart who took two tires while he took four. He joked that he didn’t know the meaning of the word. Haaa! Here’s an email on that.
Hey Claire:

Maybe Chad did know what it meant!
Here is what the Merriam Dictionary says is the definition of commiserate.

Entry Word: commiserate with
Function: verb

Meaning: to have sympathy for
Also see pity.


Love your show. I am working tonight on my laptop and enjoying the NASCAR talk!

Greensboro, NC
AFTER Daytona win by Jamie McMurray:

Hi Claire B.
I’m stoked I stayed Loyal to Egr. And the 1 team and they did not dissappoint….It’s Awesome Daytona 500 winner.. Jamie and Bono and the team were Awesome…
Old School With An Attitude
Go Jamie McMurray and the Whole Team….KICK ASS AND TAKE CAR NUMBERS