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Race Day – November 9, 2008 November 9, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers, In The Garage, NASCAR, Teams, Transcripts.
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Blog – Phoenix International Raceway
Race Day – November 9, 2008
Claire B Lang

Brian France – NASCAR Chairman and CEO Q and A with the media heart at Phoenix pre-race today:

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France came into the media center for Q and A’s this morning. We were given about a ten minute notice and told we could ask anything. The topic of conversation revolved around the economy and the stress on NASCAR with the tough economic times with the auto manufacturer’s being in dire straights.

France said NASCAR is not immune to a tough economy but the sanctioning body is working at trying to understand what the partners are going through and how it relates back to the team owners and teams.

I asked him about what Rusty Wallace said here Friday in an interview about the Nationwide car of tomorrow (COT):

Here’s what Rusty said:

Rusty Wallace: “Unfortunately I think that NASCAR is going to put a rule out that we are going to go to the (Nationwide) car of tomorrow and a lot of people will say we’re NOT going to do it. Under this economy and as hard as it is to find sponsors you simply can’t take 21 cars and throw them all away with nobody finding any sponsors. Right now is the wrong time to do that.”

CBL to Brian France: “Rusty Wallace …yesterday said he though that some Nationwide teams might refuse to run the Nationwide Car of Tomorrow or that the cost was just too much. Can you maybe talk about whether that is a reality or not and whether you intend to continue the Nationwide Car of Tomorrow program?”

Brian France answer: “Well we’re not there with deciding that the COT is going to appear in the Nationwide series. What we said is that the Nationwide series will evolve and it needs more of its own identity quite frankly. It has a new sponsor in Nationwide and we’re going to do a number of things that we need to do to keep reestablishing – it’s the number two motorsports series in the US. And I certainly heard those discussions… We do an unprecedented amount of background and working with the team owners before we make any significant moves. We’ve done that on my watch the last five years – more so than we’ve ever done. So the car of tomorrow was as an example two or three years of discussions. Mike and I both led those respectively. We met with every team owner, every crew chief, multiple engineers. We heard all the issues. We didn’t just make a decision in six months. We took a long time to do that. We got an unprecedented amount of feedback. That’s what we will do on any major initiative. The difference is we’re not going to stand up here each week and announce the progress report on that. But that is the progress report for significant rules that affect them.

France had a lot to say- mainly that NASCAR is meeting with not only the manufacturers but also the TV partners related to ad revenue and looking and continuing to look at cutting costs that might help the teams, manufacturers and partners. He said that if a manufacturer pulled out of NASCAR, which he doesn’t think will happen, the sport could survive.

Ray Evernham- What’s Next?

It is not a shocker that word is out that Ray Evernham would look at selling his share in Gillette Evernham Motorsports as he investigates where his passion for racing will take him.

I spoke with Ray this (Sunday) morning and I am including the full transcript for you. Because, unless you hear all of what he says – it might be easy to miss the point.

CBL: Ray it’s not a surprise that you are looking at these options and at pulling back:

“Quite honestly we’d been working in this direction. As I said I’m enjoying TV, I’m enjoying helping the Gillette family and it’s something that you know I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I want to slow down a lot. I’ve been having a good time with Ray Jay and doing a lot of different things. With that said I still have commitments to Gillette Everham. I am on the board – I’m still a minority owner but I’m just not as actively involved as I was. So – you know Mr. Gillette is a guy that knows how to win championships. I mean right now he owns the winningest hockey franchise in history so the best way I can assist him the way I can and kind of stay out of the way.

CBL: So what would you like fans to understand as they read about you and chat about this on the internet:

“I’ve had a great career and I really appreciate the fans and I appreciate – I have been really blessed to have been able to do everything that I’ve done in the sport. But there also comes a time – you know like as did Dale Jarrett and Rusty Wallace and I thought Mark Martin or Bill Elliott you know people want to walk away a little bit not totally. It’s just time for me to do that. I have had a good run but nothing lasts forever. So I would hope that people would look at me and say, ‘wow this guy has been good for the sport.’ I feel like I’ve brought a lot of innovations. I think that we did a great job bringing Dodge back when you look at overall what was going on and helped with a lot of charities, done a lot of different things and have always tried to give back to the sport. I’m going to continue to do that through the grass roots programs. I’m working with short tracks, I’m working with kids, I’m doing all those things to try and help short track racing across America. So, there’s not always some big conspiracy when somebody just wants to slow down a little bit. This has been part of a long term plan. I have said over and over again that at some point the business side of this sport was going to grow much bigger than a) either I was capable of doing or wanted to do. And I think it’s reached that right now. I think it’s going to take people that are as powerful as George Gillette, Rick Hendrick and guys like that to continue to grow it. At this point in my life right now I want to enjoy racing again. I don’t want the stress. I don’t want to have to listen to family worried about all the stuff that is being written on the internet. I’m a racer, I’ve always been a racer. I started my career as a racer and hopefully I can end it that way.

Again, I made a 10 year commitment to Dodge you know and then certainly now – next year will be the ninth year of it. But we’ve had a great run a great partnership. RIght now, the economy is making people change and do things and what not and it’s just best for me to be in a position where I can help. Because if I thought I could engineer the redesign of something of a company I would have done that but right now I’m not at that point in my life.

When will you pull out totally?
We don’t know. Right now my plan is not for me to be totally out of it for a while. It’s just a matter of how much George (Gillette) needs me to do and what exactly we are going to do.

I’ve visited a lot of short tracks. I’m looking at helping some of the diversity programs I am working with some people to do that. I’m looking at purchasing a short track in North Carolina. We’re doing a lot of different things to get back to the grass roots to see now again – you’ve gotta be able to give something back. When you look at Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and guys like that you know they are at the point in their career where they are looking at giving back. I’ve always said – I ‘ve been on the diversity council with NASCAR before and I’ve always said that I would love to be able to help where I work with people like Ingersol Rand and Stanley Tools and all those people. We’re going to be looking at doing programs around various vocational schools to get kids involved in racing. I want to have a little bit of fun and hopefully transfer some of the knowledge and give somebody the opportunity that people gave me

Everybody reaches a point where it’s time to retire you know. Whether you are at any sport – and I don’t know that I’m 100 percent at that point in my life but you know I’m 51, not 21 you know there’s a big difference.”

Pick your friends as carefully as you do your enemies
Which does Jack Roush like least – Toyota or Ron Hornaday? Answer Toyota

When Ron Hornaday crashed in Friday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race here at Phoenix Jack Roush sent some of his guys over to help repair the truck. Hornaday was really touched. “I had more tears in my eyes to see them guys working on that truck,” he said. But – why did Jack send his guys to help? Below is Roush’s answer

Jack Roush:
“Well the thing about Hornaday is that he’s Drew Blickensderfer’s father in law. And so every time Hornaday has run into one of our guys – in the truck series which has happened repeatedly Drew has paid the price. I’ve thrashed him pretty hard for it and so I felt that I owed Drew that (Friday) night since we had capacity – we had fabricators and we didn’t have anything involved in the wreck. Kevin Harvick flagged me down when he was in the Nationwide car ready to qualify and I had walked up to watch one of our guys qualify on the line before they went on pit road. He flagged me over and he wanted to thank me and he did thank me and I appreciate that. I said, ‘Don’t misunderstand, I do NOT like Ron Hornaday. I don’t want anybody to get that impression but he was definitely the lesser of the evils that I was confronted with. You need to pick your friends as carefully as you pick your enemies and I had a chance to define some space there and I think I made the right call.'”

The Politics In Racing – JGR Gibbs Racing’s #11 team:
Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin made a comment here at Phoenix as he talked with reporters about the chemistry on his race team. Interesting – read closely what he said –

Do you feel like a little shake up with the team management on the No. 11 car would give you a fresh start for 2009?
“I don’t know. I think we know what our problems are. It’s just real political in the shops. It really is. Just because we know what we want to fix within our race team, there’s other departments, there’s other heads of departments that have been there a long time that think maybe there’s a better way to do it than the way we’re doing it. It’s tough to say. A lot falls on Mike Ford’s (crew chief) shoulders to go out there and help this car perform. I think he’s done a great job of that. I’m behind him, I really think that Mike’s one of the best crew chiefs in the garage with the things he has to work with, I guess you can say. We’re trying to do everything we can and we’re not performing the way we were at the beginning of the year. The No. 18 team isn’t performing the way they were at the beginning of the year. As a team we have to get better. I think to do that we’re going to have to have everyone within that race shop be a little bit more open-minded.”

Roush Driver -Jamie McMurray Pops the Question:
“She Said Yes!”

Jamie McMurray is engaged. After qualifying second for Sunday’s race he said the week was special for another reason. In the media center he gave all the details…..

McMurray: It’s been a really exciting week for me, getting engaged – what about that? That’s pretty exciting stuff, huh? So, it’s been a fun week.” DID SHE SAY YES? “Yeah. Actually, what her words were, ‘Are you kidding? Are you serious?’ ‘Yeah, I’m serious. What are you thinking?’ So, to come here, it’s cool. Qualified second here before and on like the fifth lap I had something on the grille and had to pit, and hopefully Sunday will go better.” WHERE AND HOW DID YOU PROPOSE? “Actually, I did it at the Phoenician, at the hotel here in town. Christy and I stayed there, three and a half years I’ve known her, so every year we’ve stayed there. Did it after the race on Sunday, we got back and went and hung out and went and had dinner and went back to the room. I had it planned out, and I really didn’t get nervous, but I wanted to wait another day, and I’m, like, ‘I can’t wait another day. I’ve got to do this right now.’ It was cool. We’ve had so much fun this week. It’s exciting for me because it’s certainly a big deal to find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, but to see, Christy’s been glowing, that’s been so cool to me to see how excited that she’s been. I think she likes me.” WHAT DAY? “Monday, November 3rd.” WHAT’S CLICKED ON FOR YOU? JUST CIRCUMSTANCE? “I don’t know. I was just talking to the engineer about that in the trailer, and our cars have been very good over the last, like, three months. We’ve been a lot faster the second half of the year; things just haven’t worked out – whether you just got caught up in accidents, things have just clicked. There’s been a little more fortune on the race track. They just have made really good adjustments to my car, and I think I’ve probably been a little better driver explaining what I’m feeling. When we unloaded at Texas, you kind of know the tone of your weekend when you run your first few laps, like if it drives good we can work on this or you have weekends where you think, “We’ll never get this right,’ and at Texas we unloaded and I thought, “This is going to be tough.’ And we came into the garage and made we made a few adjustments and I pulled back out and I’m like, ‘There you go. It feels great again.’ So, they just have done a really good job of being pretty methodical on the adjustments, and they seem to work.” DID YOU GET ON A KNEE WHEN YOU PROPOSED? “Yeah, I was pretty nervous. I did. Yeah, I got on my knee. Christy and I have been together for so long that it’s weird when you’re talking to your friend. You picture that as a child, I think, doing that, and you don’t know what the person looks like, but we’re sitting there, and I’m, like, ‘Gosh, this is my best friend.’ I kind of felt corny. Do I have to get on my knee? Because I’m certainly not Romeo, by any means, you know? Not even close.”

    Drivers Meeting:

Pit Road Speed: 45 MPH
Caution Car Speed: 50 MPH
Pit Road Speed Begins: 250 feet before the first pit box
Pit Road Speed Ends: 105 feet past the last pit box
Minimum Speed: 31.87 Seconds

Time to go out to the grid. More later – stay tuned.
Enjoy the day.

Claire B

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Claire B Blog- Martinsville Speedway October 19, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, In The Garage, NASCAR, Trackside.
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An older Wells Fargo branch, located in Berkel...Image via WikipediaBLOG – MartinsvIlle Speedway
Claire B. Lang – Sunday October 19th, 2008

Good Morning and welcome to Martinsville Speedway!

I asked Richard Petty today about the rumored merger talks between Petty Enterprises (Boston Ventures) and Dale Earnhardt Inc. While talks have been going on – it’s just conversation between many teams as they posture their companies and adjust their business plans to include looking at satellite teams or mergers. Here’s Richard’s answer about the possibility of a merger – I’m sure parts of it will be used by others who were taping – but I wanted to give you the full answer to my question to Richard about the possibility of a DEI Petty Enterprises merger:.

CBL: What about the reports of a merger between Petty Enterprises and DEI:

Petty: “You read in the paper that Wachovia and Wells Fargo was trying to get together and everybody else is trying to get together. The Japanese sent a bunch of money to buy a bank in New York. Everybody in the world is talking about this crap. OK and that’s just the trend of the time right now. Yea, we’ll talk to anybody. I’d like to talk to Wells Fargo somebody that’s got a lot of money. I don’t, some of these teams that’s trying to join up they ain’t no better off than we are so we need to get some better help than that.

CBL: That would be wild if two rivals (Earnhardt /Petty) Merged:

Petty “What happens is the way the system is now as far as the economy and also the way the system is with some of the other race teams that’s got satellite teams – here we’re sitting with two teams and some of these guys from the major satellite part is sitting there with eight teams. (It’s) kind of hard to compete with so I think that everybody’s looking at different angels of you know how do you compete with what’s out there right now.”

Petty also said that he would not comment when asked a follow-up by a reporter who asked if DEI needed Petty more than Petty needed DEI.

“Can’t never tell man – liable to be three or four names in there,” Petty added when a reporter followed up by asking if it would be Earnhardt Petty or Petty Earnardt if the merger ever did happen.

The word is that while everyone’s talking to everyone the meetings are more like fact-finding meetings and with a number of players in the garage – not just the two meeting to hammer out a deal.

Drivers Meeting:

Couple of quick notes – the main warning at the driver’s meeting from race director David Hoots was about Martinsville’s pit road: “LET’S LEAVE THE RACING ON THE RACE TRACK AND NOT ON THE PIT ROAD,’ Hoots emphasized. “We all know how small it is,” he added, “It’s been redone it’s nice and smooth – Let’s leave the racing out on the race track.”

There was one question in the driver’s meeting. It was from #48 Crew Chief Chad Knaus:
“Last race here it seemed that you guys opened up the pits kind of late. We were almost all the way through one and two – can you guys push that back?”

David Hoots answered: “Chad’s question is the last race we opened the pit road a little bit late and around one and two – we’ll try to advance it as much as we can but we also look at how the field is spread out and see if it makes sense but we’ll try to take care of that for you.

Pit Road Speed: 30 mph
Caution Car Speed: 35 mph
Pit Road Speed Begins: 110 feet before the first pit box
Pit Road Speed Ends: 75 feet past the last pit box
Minimum Speed: 23.00 seconds

No more questions and we prayed.

I’ll have more coming up – headed into the garage for a few more. I just wanted to get this posted.

Claire B

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Claire B.log Race Day August 3, 2008 Pocono Raceway August 3, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, In The Garage, Teams, Trackside.
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Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Famous Wall of the C...Image via WikipediaClaire B.log
Race Day August 3, 2008
Pocono Raceway

Hi All! Sorry this was not posted sooner. I wrote and sent it in this (Sunday) a.m. but had problems with my blog, I hate that.

I just got back from the Driver’s Meeting and have been working on some stories for next week so have been busy in the garage and now am back in the media center to drop you a line. I think today’s race is going to get interesting.

At the Driver’s Meeting Kiefer Sutherland was a real hit. “Mirrors,” starring Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton and Amy Smart and directed by Alexandre Aja, will be featured on J.J. Yeley’s No. 96 DLP HDTV Toyota Camry during the race, while Sutherland is grand marshall today and will give the “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines” command. In “Mirrors,” which opens in theatres everywhere Aug. 15, I am told that Sutherland portrays a troubled ex-cop who must save his family from an unspeakable evil that is using mirrors as a gateway into their home. After the Driver’s Meeting a huge throng of Kiefer’s peeps – his fans – his handlers and others made their way to and into the DLP hauler. It was quite the crowd.

Also a hit at the Driver’s Meeting was Cindy McCain wife of U.S. Senator and presidential candidate John McCain. She was introduced at the Driver’s Meeting and told the drivers and crew chiefs in attendance that she is a huge race fan (aren’t all political candidates?) although I think she meant it -and she wished them well in today’s race. She played a role in the pre race ceremonies on the stage.

At the Driver’s Meeting itself – NASCAR announced a competition caution 20 laps into the race due to the heavy rains and no practice on the track for the Sprint Cup guys.

There were the usual drivers rules and regs and no questions from the drivers before we prayed.

Pit Road Speed: 55 mph
Caution Car Speed: 70 mph
PIt Road Speed Begins: 165 before the first pit box
Pit Road Speed Ends: 75 past the last pit box
Minimum Speed: 59.36 seconds

Observations from the Driver’s Meeting:

Is Kasey Kahne working out? I usually don’t notice but he had a grey t-shirt on and his shoulders looked dramatically wider to me. He must be hitting the weights.

Kiefer Sutherland had a DLP crew shirt on – you might want to keep an eye for him in the pits

I heard Cindy McCain visited the garage stall of the 48 team.

No, I am told, Penske Racing has not already selected it’s driver for 09.

On another note I got a news release from Goodyear at 1:00 p.m. EST Today – so I’m passing it along to you:

News Release:


LONG POND, Pa., August 3, 2008 — NASCAR and Goodyear made history
yesterday, running its first-ever points-paying race in the rain in the
Nationwide Series event at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

When rain covered the 2.709-mile course, NASCAR red-flagged the race
and teams came down pit road to put on their Goodyear Eagle Wet Weather
Radials, as well as other modifications to the car to make racing in
wet conditions possible. When drivers eventually took the track to
restart the race on lap 11, history was made.

“It’s been about 10 years since we ran in the rain at Suzuka, Japan, so
it’s great to finally see our wet weather tires race in competition,”
said Stu Grant, Goodyear’s general manger of global race tires.
“Goodyear has always performed well in wet conditions and this NASCAR
version was certainly no exception.”

Goodyear’s partner in this historic event – NASCAR – was equally
pleased with the results.

“The rain tires worked well under extreme circumstances,” said Robin
Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president of competition. “Once the teams got
used to running them, the lap times really started to come down. We were very pleased with how the tires handled the rain.

“We didn’t set out to create history, we set out to put on a good race
for the fans,” Pemberton added. “It being the first points race run in
the rain, we’ll all look back on it as a good experience for us.”


Tricia in California had this emailed question to me:

Hey Claire B:

While watching practice this morning, my husband noticed that Brian Vickers’ car had red rims on the front instead of the back. Did they put rear tires on the front, or were the rims just on the wrong tires?? TV even covered them changing tires, but no one mentioned the rims being backward. Inquiring minds want to know… Thanks.

– Tricia in CA

I talked with the Red Bull guys and they said that the red rimmed tire was a Pocono tire that was put on the rim for possible use last week in Indy and that’s why it got on a red rim. It was placed in the right spot but was mounted last week in case they needed it for Indy and was a Pocono tire.

I’ll have more later…I’ve got some ground to cover in the garage so I gotta go.

Enjoy the race..enjoy the day.

Claire B
XM Satellite Radio
Pocono Raceway

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POSTCard from Dover May 31, 2008

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Dover International Raceway
POST-Card -Saturday – May 31, 2008
dover monster

Scott Speed Rocks the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Garage!!
Welcome to Saturday afternoon at Dover! It’s so funny – I interviewed Scott Speed yesterday on my XM “Dialed In” show and he told me about his blue- tipped pedicure. I asked him to take his socks and shoes off and show me right then and there. He had the French pedicure with blue tips on the top of each of his toe nails. Wild! I laughed so hard I almost fell off the chair. Here’s a transcript:
CBL: You’re way different than anyone else in the garage!
SPEED: Yea – I mean I don’t know many guys who got a pedicure before they came here!
CBL: What? You take your shoes off and show me! He’s got striped socks. (laughter)
SPEED: (Showing CBL his toes) How awesome are those?
CBL: Why did you get the blue tips on them? (laughter)
SPEED: Ahh- just because I guess. They look cool I mean – You gotta take yourself lightly (laughing)
CBL: I can guarantee you that if you do kick some butt (today) they’ll be left with a little blue nail polish on.
SPEED: It just makes it worse for them. If they’ve got a guy beating them with blue nail polish tips on his feet – it makes it harder to deal with on Monday.
CBL: Can I just say thanks for showing me those.
SPEED: Hey no problem

The funny thing is that Speed went on to win the darn race. I got so many OMG emails on that one –fans enjoyed it. Here’s the part that cracks me up: In the garage after the Speed interview and before the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race I talked with a few other NCTS drivers. They joked that if Speed won- they’d have to paint their toe nails for the same kind of luck. They were kidding, of course, because they never thought Speed would win the race here in Dover. LOL on that one.

Mike Skinner:
SKINNER: I gotta find out who is giving Scott Speed all these pedicures and manicures and stuff. Obviously it’s working, he keeps moving up the charts every week you know Doug and those guys are giving them awfully fast stuff – I am starting to get a little jealous.
CBL: Maybe you should try it. Have you ever?
SKINNER: I am going to. We’re talking about – we’re going to show up somewhere – we haven’t figured it out yet. I’m going to wear those glasses and some of that outfit and get my toe nails done and stuff. He’s going to wear Justin boots and a cowboy hat and we’re going to confuse the whole NASCAR world!

Johnny Benson:
BENSON: Well -I mean his trucks blue so that would have been the color I would have went with. Maybe with my truck I should go with Red. Scott is just sooo funny. What you see with him here maybe doing interviews and out this and that is totally different than him in the truck and it’s totally hilarious…..I have enjoyed hanging out with him – but I did NOT get a pedicure with him….Apparently I have to get on the band wagon here or something.
CBL: Well if he wins or something you’ll run right and get one right?
BENSON: Well yea – there’s some weird stuff that happens if you win so if he goes out and wins there will be a lot of guys going out and doing it (a pedicure) I’m sure. (laughter).

Speed won. He gave short one-word answers after the win on the broadcast. He was more talkative in the media center after the race.

“Well, to be honest, whether we win or not, it doesn’t really affect my confidence. I don’t let results control how I feel about myself. I said a thousand times, I mean, today we had a good strategy and we had an awesome truck. We got everything we could out of it. But if our truck was a fifth-place truck and we did the race and finished fifth I’d be just as happy with myself. Hats off to the team. They are really the ones that won this race. I’m pretty confident that anyone in this truck the last 50 laps of this race after the pit stop would have done the exact same thing. So, for me, I’m learning step by step. It’s going to be a long process. I mean just to have the experience to know what to do on the trucks or on the cars when I go to the COT. You can’t just learn it right away. It’s something you have to feel and you have to learn and the learning curve that I’ve had is amazing. I’ve learned a ton every time I go out on the track for a race I definitely come away with a lot of feeling, a lot of experience and knowledge. I’m certainly looking forward to continuing on and looking forward to my first Cup race but I’m not in any rush. I’m having the time of my life just coming over here and trying to learn this sport. And it’s awesome. Red Bull has given me an incredible opportunity to do this and my hat’s off to them. Without them none of this would have been possible.” HORNADAY SAID HE HAD AN ENGINE PROBLEM AT THE END OF THE RACE. DID YOU HAVE ANYTHING FOR HIM IF HE DIDN’T HAVE THAT PROBLEM? WERE YOU WORRIED ON THE RESTARTS? “It’s hard to say. He took four tires at the beginning so we expected him to be quite a bit stronger than he was. It really didn’t take much to pull away from the field so it wouldn’t surprise me if someone did have a problem. That’s how it plays out and that’s why I said it’s not this win that has made me feel great about myself because it just happens. It’s circumstance. Today it was our day.”

Several competitors told me that while Speed is low-key and almost calm and non-competitive out of the truck with comments about savoring meals and living the European life style – he’s just as competitive – with just as much racing edge as the rest of the drivers once he straps the helmet on.

Speed is definitely fun to hang out with. I never laughed so hard-during the interview I had with him. He’s a little off the beaten path – ok at times way off the path from the norm in the truck garage. That mix of drivers on the track makes things even more interesting.

Just don’t be surprised if a few NASCAR Crafstman Truck Series drivers have pedicures hidden under their fireproof racing shoes in the coming weeks.

They’ll do anything for luck.

It’s raining here…practice delayed. Now Nationwide back on the track.

More later –
Enjoy the day!

Claire B
XM Satellite Radio

Saturday Coffee Break: from Lowes Motor Speedway May 17, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season, Drivers, In The Garage.
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“Saturday Coffee with Claire”
Greetings from Lowe’s Motor Speedway!

Wish you could be here too. It’s beautiful, an absolutely beautiful day – blue skies and sunshine. I got to the media center, as usual way before it opened at 1:30 p.m. (avoid the traffic)- and so I wrangled my way in to get set up and started working – feeding the XM Sports Nation with reports etc.

I think we’ll see a presidential candidate here today – a bunch of secret service looking guys in dark suits with sunglasses and pins on their lapels were escorted in here by a security guy before the media center opened. They were given a detailed tour of where the deadline media room is and the layout of the place. I told them that they were pretty obvious with their dark suits on and asked who was coming. They tried to be all serious at first- but, finally ,with me poking at them they laughed, actually I joked with them for a while, but I didn’t get the full story on that one.

Last night of course Kyle Busch won the pole for the All-Star Race and then had to rush off to get to the truck race. Some of the print media were frustrated that they hauled him off after the qualifying and did not bring him in the media center.

I headed to a party last night – something I rarely do because I’m always working it seems but what the heck. During race weeks here there are so many things going on – all at onetime – next week is going to be insane. I guess that tomorrow is for sleeping and then it’s wide open.

Here’s part of what Jeff Gordon said about Kyle Busch. I thought you’d like to read it:

IS KYLE BUSCH’S AGGRESSIVENESS ON THE TRACK REMINISCENT AT ALL OF DALE EARNHARDT’S AGGRESSIVENESS? Jeff Gordon: “In a youthful way, yeah. I think that Dale Earnhardt, he was a little more stubborn (laughs), which I find myself doing as I get older too. That’s how he was. He was aggressive but I never saw Dale out leading the race with the car that could just lap the field, bounce a car off the wall every couple of laps, never saw him do that. If he was trying to make a pass on the guy for the lead, I’ve seen him go in there and get loose underneath the guy and take the guy out and possibly even himself, seen that happen. But to me there’s a big difference between the two and I think that Kyle is an extremely talented driver and we all recognize and know that but I still think that sometimes his aggressiveness and his youthfulness does get the best of him and when he balances that out and if he ever really truly balances that out he’ll be unstoppable. He’s almost unstoppable now, but those times he hits the wall, if he hits it a little bit too hard that car might not be quite that good.”

Kyle is the pole sitter for tonight’s All-Star race. Here’s what he had to say to reporters about the pole and the race. I figured you’d like the short transcript editorial free:

Kyle Busch – Post Qualifying:
Was your qualifying run a great team effort? Kyle Busch: “It definitely was — I’m surprised. I thought I got busted speeding there. If it wasn’t it was that close — very close. Man, I can’t thank these guys enough at Joe Gibbs Racing. Steve Addington (crew chief) and all these guys that work on this do such an awesome job for me. That thing is humming this weekend. If (Kevin) Harvick thought the Toyota had motors before, watch out now because we’re coming big time. This stuff’s nice. We just keep clicking them off and keep going. It’s obviously paying off really, really well. I just have to thank M&M’s, Toyota and everybody that’s been involved on this whole deal.”

Does the All-Star race lend itself to your style? Kyle Busch: “I don’t know about the race, but qualifying I was as nervous as I’ve ever been in qualifying for anything. That was pretty nerve wracking. This race, it lends to my style and I’d have to say yes, being able to start out front and hopefully get some clean air and see what these guys behind us have for us. We know the 99 (Carl Edwards) style, but we know he’s going to come from a long ways back.”

How important was your crew in qualifying? Kyle Busch: “This M&M’s team and everybody at JGR do such an awesome job. They gave me a great race car that ran three laps phenomenal and gave me great pit stops — they were solid on pit road and that’s all you need in this kind of deal. I was nervous as I ever was today. I guess it’s probably because if I knew, I would have screwed up just a little bit, which I thought I did coming to pit road, I would have got busted. Proud of the effort.”

Can you talk about your entry to pit road? Kyle Busch: “I don’t know, it was awfully, awfully close. I knew that if I could get it to the maximum limit and I had a spot in turn four where I was going to start braking at. My car was so much faster than it was in practice. We ran over a second faster lap time, so I was going faster. I just misjudged by a little bit. I guess I didn’t over misjudge, so it was pretty good.”

Well I’m going to get back to work here. Expect more when the garage opens. Take care….enjoy the afternoon. I have to admit I like the concept of a burnout contest – I’ll probably be right on pit road laughing my butt off while those boys burn the tires down.

Take care. Have fun today!

Claire B
XM Satellite Radio

All- Star Race – Lowe’s Motor Speedway

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.

Steve Hmeil – Takes the High Road October 19, 2007

Posted by claireblang in In The Garage, Teams.

Note: Cup practice began here at Martinsville a few minutes ago and it’s been stopped (after 15 minutes) because of rain. Jeff Gordon was leading in practice at 94.718 when practice was halted, (2nd) John Andretti, (3rd) Tony Raines, (4th)Jeff Burton, (5th) Jeff Green.NEXTEL Cup qualifying has been moved to 4:45 p.m. and the weather looks af it will rain on the NASCAR qualifying parade but we are hopeful. Gordon was fast off the truck having run only three laps before the rain came here.

Steve Hmeil LIVE Yesterday on “Dialed In” With Claire B. Lang After Parting Ways with DEI

Everyone here in the garage at Martinsville is talking about the impending rain. That, and the news of Steve Hmeil and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. parting ways. People are shocked – and up and down the garage stalls here they are saying that Hmeil will have no shortage of offers.

Last night on my “Dialed In” show – I called up Hmeil – the former technical director at Dale Earnhardt, Inc. who parted ways with DEI yesterday. He was fresh from clearing his desk out – and making an emotional walk out of the DEI building a place that was part of his character for nine years. I would not have minded if he did not take my cell phone call and took the night to think things over before going on my national show. I would have understood if his cell phone went to voice mail. He did not ignore my call. He agreed to come on and talk with me immediately.

He knew clearly why it was time for him to move on and, with class, he supported the direction DEI is going. During the LIVE interview last night with me he was candid and honest – and supportive of team DEI.

‘I want everybody to know it was a tremendous experience for me,” he told me. “I’ve only had 3 jobs in 33 years and I was glad for what happened at Richard Petty years ago and Jack Roush’s and now at Dale Earnhardt’s. That place will have a spot in my heart forever but this isn’t an emotional time, this is a time where you got to go out and make sure you continue to make a living and continue to make an impact on a sport you dedicated your entire life to. Im not quiting and im not giving up. Im just going to apply my trait to another direction and I just want to be in a situation that appeals to me.”

Hmeil has long been a guy to go to to if you need someone to explain a test session or a technical procedure to the race fans. He can take a mechanical issue and put it into layman’s terms better than anyone I know. He is passionate about the sport and his race team and he doesn’t mind if that passion shows. He’s hard charging and knows it – but the garage is made up of guys like that.

He’s lived through the good and bad parts of the sport. He’s seen it’s thrills an the pain it can deliver and he’s one of the true racers left in the garage.

It may be that the time has come that it was simply time to move on..but it won’t be easy.

“Things change, you know 8, 9 years is a long time,” Hmeil told me on the air yesterday. ” Im not saying things got worse or better, things are just different. I haven’t been as motivated as I was years ago of late. Its not a difficult situation there but its one that requires a lot of patience. I consider myself a young man. I want to do another 20-25 years in this business. Im anxious to go, im anxious to move forward, I want to see things get better. Probably a little over anxious at times but it felt like I would be letting myself down if I didn’t explore myself a little bit and go off and do something different. Its time for both parties to do something different.We shook hands and walked away. I had a terrific time there are some wonderful people there, I have great respect for what all has happened there. It has something to do with the sport changing, with DEI changing, it has a little bit to do with me still chomping at the bit with me wanting to prove something”
As always, when things like this happen – usually something better comes of it. It’s hard for both sides to cut the ties, to agree that it’s time to split. For Hmeil to box up the memories and move on when so much of his life has wrapped around DEI was the kind of pain that everyone understands…. it’s growing pains.

He’ll do just fine.

Ray Evernham in Garage this morning in Dega October 6, 2007

Posted by claireblang in In The Garage, Teams.

Busy in the garage at Dega:

Some notes from this morning:
Evernham says NASCAR is coming to a fork in the road:
Team owner Ray Evernham had some interesting things to say about the growth of NASCAR and says the growth is all well and good as long as the sport does not become “racing wallets”

CBL What can NASCAR do to prevent “racing wallets” :

Evernham: “I think they (NASCAR) are taking the proper steps with the car of tomorrow. The next thing that they are going to have to do really is take a look at some kind of a team union type thing because people are not honoring contracts they are stealing people from other teams they are raising labor crazily. I think NASCAR is working on the car stuff. I think they they are working on the engine stuff but the next thing is going to be in the personnel. You know again we have lost some team members to other people here that have come in and just doubled their salary and that’s ridiculous.

CBL: Team union….

Evernhan: There needs to be some sort of fairness on negotiating with team members.

Evernham said that he is not the decision maker on the much talked about contemplated merger of resources between Petty Enterprises and Gillette Evernham Motorsports adding, “I think those discussions are probably between the Pettys and the Gillettes. I think a lot of that stuff has stalled but again I have not been involved in (those discussions) purposely…at this point it’s like, ‘Look, tell me how many cars you neeed and I am going to make them as fast as I can.”‘

Ray Evernham has put his name to a charity event next week – Racing For A Reason Celebrity Cutsom Bike and Auto Show Fundraiser at the Cabarrus Arena October 10-11th. http://www.racingforareason.org/event .

Kyle Busch Fails Post Race in Busch Race September 30, 2007

Posted by claireblang in Breaking News, Drivers, In The Garage.

It was the wildest thing. Late Saturday night, around 9:00 p.m. Central Time NASCAR began making and taking phones calls here in Kansas on word that Kyle Busch’s race-winning car in the Yellow 300 Busch series race had failed post-race inspection.

Officials had seized the intake manifold from the car and were expected to announce penalties, if any, early this coming week. It was late-breaking and interesting word from NASCAR long after most journalists had left the track. Most had filed their stories on the race and had left the track. NASCAR decided rather than simply take the car and check it out the infraction was serious enough that they would fail the car because of an intake manifold issue.

Busch fought back from a pit-road speeding penalty early in the race and then rallied to win Saturday’s Yellow 300 at Kansas Speedway, holding off Matt Kenseth in a thriller of a side-by-side finish.

Garage Scurry – Move to the Back For Johnson September 29, 2007

Posted by claireblang in Drivers, In The Garage.

Pole sitter joins Ryan Newman at the back of the pack.

I’m in the garage here at Kansas Speedway. Jimmie Johnson, the pole sitter for Sunday’s Lifelock 400, spun midway through the final NEXTEL Cup practice and scraped the wall. Before Johnson even drove the damaged primary #48 car into the garage, the backup was being unloaded from the Lowe’s hauler. It’s insane all the activity going on around this race car.

There was literally a member of the #48 team sitting inside the back up car under the hood working on the backup car as it was being pushed rapidly into the garage and a flurry of team and Hendrick activity ensued. Series Director John Darby came into the garage to watch the team get the back up car ready for action and keep an eye on the process. With 30 minutes left in Happy Hour practice Johnson was in the backup car and headed out onto the track.

Scott Riggs will now lead the field at the green for the start of Sunday’s race.

Yesterday, Ryan Newman who qualified 2nd was moved to the back of the pack for the race after his #12 car failed post qualifying inspection – the roof height was too low for NASCAR templates.

What the heck will happen next?

I’ll keep you posted.