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PENALTY TALK September 24, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, Teams, Trackside.
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Clint Bowyer
Image by TheGeekiestMark via Flickr

The aftermath of the RCR New Hampshire Sprint Cup Series #33 Penalty – Reaction here at Dover!

As you can imagine the discussion here at Dover with many of the drivers and crew chiefs is about the severe penalty  for the #33 after New Hampshire. Below is what Clint Bowyer had to say about the matter this morning here at Dover in the deadline media room in the media center. Also listed below are comments from Jeff Gordon

Clint Bowyer (Media Center Appearance at Dover International Speedway)

TALK ABOUT YOUR WEEK

“You always want to win races. You’re very proud to win races and I’m still proud of that win. I don’t believe that we did anything wrong. I guess I’ll go on record and say that, first and foremost, in my opinion. I want my fans to know that. There is a lot of integrity that goes into this sport. I’m damn proud of being a part of this sport. I love this sport and I wouldn’t cheat to win a race in this sport. We have a lot more integrity for myself and our race team at RCR. Hopefully I only have to do this once. I woke up about 6 o’clock this morning, which is uncharacteristic for me. I just grabbed a notebook and wanted to make some notes. You know, for myself and for you guys. I know a lot of you guys have a lot of questions; trust me; there are a hell of a lot of questions that I have too. And I’m going to go through them. I like to have facts when something like this comes down. I’ve got a timeline of facts.

“I’m going to start with number one: We were warned after Richmond that the car was too close to tolerances. Number two: We were told by NASCAR they were taking the car after New Hampshire, no matter what; first or 43rd. Number three: The car passed pre and post-race inspections at the race track. Number four: Monday, the rumors started about all this and in my opinion, forced NASCAR’s hand to do something about it. Number five: Wednesday came and it was a 150-point fine. And the sixth thing, and at least an answer, you know, I’m looking for answers too. There are several things but one of them is a two-ton wrecker pushed me to victory lane.

“I’m going to elaborate on them. I think the first one (is) we were warned that both sides of the car were high after Richmond. Both sides. After the race in New Hampshire, after it got back to the Tech Center or whatever they call that place, just the left side was high. I think this shows that we definitely had it fixed; something within that race happened.

“Number two: after being told that they were taking the car, we made double-sure before it went to New Hampshire that that car was right. Who in their right mind, knowing that they’re going to take that car, wouldn’t have made triple sure that thing was right before it went to the race track? I could have hit the wall doing a burnout, I could have done a lot of things that other drivers have done and that other teams have done in a post-race celebration this year. I didn’t. We didn’t want to push that in NASCAR’s face. We appreciated them warning us on the fact and we tried to fix the situation. They told us about that situation Wednesday. Wednesday the car leaves. We had about two hours to jump on that car and make sure that thing was right.

“And number three:  The car passed pre and post-race inspection, and three days later get such a huge fine? They take the car apart, completely apart to measure this thing and in my opinion that’s not the way the car was raced on the race track. I think that’s something to be said.

“Number four: Once the rumors started it wasn’t long before the penalty. I think NASCAR has a lot of problems with a lot of cars on the race track being out of the box and I think they needed to set an example with something.

“Number five: I don’t think the penalty fits the crime. Sixty-thousandths of an inch, folks. Grab a quarter out of your pocket (holds up a quarter). That’s sixty-five thousandths of an inch thick. Less than the thickness of that quarter right there resulted in a 150-point fine. Before or after this, grab that and ask yourself if that was a performance-enhancing thing right there.

“And the last thing, my question is, is it possible that a two-ton wrecker could bend the quarter panel of this thing sixty thousandths of an inch? You have to ask yourself that. I got hit during the race, turned a couple of times; racing is tough. Now if this thing was knocked out a half of an inch, I could see something being made. But if it passed the height sticks afterwards, the very height sticks the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) and the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin) did not pass, then miraculously enough when that same pit crew pushed it back around after 20 minutes it passed, that was pretty amazing. You know it passed those same sticks.

“And, you know, my dad owns a towing business and has since I was born in 1979. I know a little something about wreckers. About 15 years ago they took them push bumpers off the front of them for this very reason. I remember back when people used to come (during) a snow storm and (say) please, push me out of the snow bank. You push them out of the snow bank and two days later they’d show up with a body shop bill in their hand, wanting you to pay the body shop bill for the damage you did to the back of their car. This could happen. That’s the only question I had for you guys (media) is to ask yourselves if it is possible for that to happen. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

YOU SAID YOU FELT LIKE NASCAR’S HAND WAS FORCED BY THE RUMORS THAT STARTED TO FLOW MONDAY MORNING. DO YOU THINK YOU WOULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN THE PENALTY HAD THOSE RUMORS NOT COME OUT? THOSE RUMORS COMING FROM AN INSPECTION AT THE R&D CENTER, WHERE DO YOU THINK THOSE RUMORS BEGAN AND HOW DID THEY GET OUT AND ARE YOU ANGRY ABOUT THAT?

“I’m angry about the whole thing. This tarnished my win. It’s something you’re very proud of. I’m very angry about it. I’m angry for my fans for our sponsors. I’m angry about it. I think that there are a lot of things a lot of people don’t know about, media included, and I don’t understand it about as much as you do. So I found myself all week, instead of celebrating a win, trying to figure out what the hell they were talking about. The rumors, in my opinion, I truly believe that these rumors forced their hand in making a decision.

YOU SAID YOU THINK NASCAR HAS A LOT OF PROBLEMS WITH A LOT OF CARS BEING OUT OF THE BOX. WHAT PERCENTAGE OF THE CARS ARE ILLEGAL EACH WEEKEND? HOW DO YOU RESOLVE THAT ISSUE?

“I think NASCAR does a great job of policing and maintaining common ground. Look at the racing.

”Now last year and the last two years, when an organization was as dominant as they were, do you think they had something up on the competition? This year it’s as close as it’s ever been. I think it’s pretty damn good racing on the race track. I think it’s the best as we’ve had since this car was put into inception. So, I think they do do a good job. I respect the fact that what they have to look at each and every week. My personal opinion, I don’t like the R&D Center. I think what you bring to the race track is what they inspect. And, you know? Three days later the car the car (is) completely taken apart from something that you haven’t even raced. I mean it’s a completely different vehicle, you know? You take the suspension off the thing; these are all components that bolt on. It ain’t a decal you took off. These things are bolted on and could interrupt the way the car is measured. How can that possibly be kept in the same box?

“So I think there is a lot of cars that are close to being on the out of the box side. I think that’s what crew members and crew chiefs are paid to do and you know, yeah; I do think there are a lot of cars that are very close. I think they do a good job. I appreciated the fact that they warned us, you know? That’s why we tried to fix the thing. That’s why we did fix the thing before it went to New Hampshire so this wouldn’t happen. Not to rub it in their face and say well you know what you’re talking about, we’re going to continue to do this and don’t think you’re going to do anything about it. I mean you’ve got to appreciate this sport and respect the sport and we darn sure did and it bit us in the rear for it.”

THAT WIN HAD BEEN A LONG-TIME COMING FOR YOUR SPONSOR, CAN YOU JUST TALK ABOUT THEIR REACTION AND HOW MUCH OF A CONCERN THAT IS? “I hope they are happy. Like I said, if of any of you guys, or anybody else, think I won that race because not the quarter panels are high; not because the splitter is this much higher; because of some measurement that nobody even understands in this room or watching on TV, if that won me that race, I would gladly give it back to them. We won that race on fuel mileage is what it ended up being. If you want to start looking at something, look at our fuel cell. How could the quarter panels have won that race? I’m proud of that win. I am proud of giving General Mills their first win in this sport. They’ve sponsored this sport for a long time and that was a good win for all of us.”

WAS ANYONE WITH RCR ALLOWED TO GO TO THE TECH CENTER AND WITNESS THE INSPECTION EARLIER THIS WEEK? ALSO, HAS THERE BEEN ANY DIALOGUE AND WHAT HAS THAT BEEN LIKE WITH NASCAR OVER THE CONTENTION THAT THE TOW TRUCK PUSH ACTUALLY CAUSED THIS INFRACTION? “They do call you down there. At what point in the inspection do they call you down, who knows. Had they looked at the car before? Probably. That is the thing about the R & D center that I don’t like. It’s, it’s…who knows. You don’t know. To answer that question, I don’t have a clue. They were down there at one part of the inspection. I don’t know if it was the part that mattered or not. I do know, one other fact, the left rear quarter panel was split. The bumper cover from the quarter panel, the rivets were pulled out of it and the rear quarter panel was kinked. You know. We have a picture of that. I know that if it was hit hard enough to have split that…like I’m saying, it wasn’t a half of an inch. You are talking less than the thickness of that quarter right there. Could it have moved it that much? I would say that was my only explanation of the whole mess.”

ON THE DIALOGUE WITH RCR AND NASCAR OF THE TOW TRUCK DOING THE DAMAGE: “IN OTHER SITUATIONS LIKE THESE, WE HAVE SEEN DRIVERS GO THE PC ROUTE, NOT REALLY GO ON THE DEFENSIVE. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO MAKE A STAND? “Because I feel like we were warned. We were told they were going to take the car. We had no reason to take that thing there out of the box. We knew they were taking that car and we knew that was our good shot at winning the race and it didn’t matter whether we finished 43rd or won. They were going to take that car and they were going to look at it. And after being warned, if it was out of the box again, they were going to penalize us. They already told us that. Why in the hell would you take a car to the race track knowing that they are going to take the car and they are going to penalize you if it is out of the box?

“We fixed the problem and that is the only reason I am defensive about this. Richard grabbed everybody, I’m telling you it was an ugly meeting after that warning. This isn’t something that was taken lightly. He took everybody involved with that thing from the fabrication shop to me to Mike Dillon…everybody. Scott Miller, crew chief and it was a butt-chewing and it was a make sure, make damn sure that car passes tech when we go. I’m telling you, everybody did that. That is why I am defensive.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERNS ABOUT THE DOVER CAR THIS WEEKEND DID YOU TAKE IT TO R & D TO MAKE SURE IT WAS OK? “Good gawd, I’m talking about last week. It is hard to even focus on this week. That is what sucks. We are riding a momentum wave, huge boost of confidence over the last month and we get to Dover and all this mess. This is a good race track for me. Won two Nationwide races here and love this race track. I think we can win again. I sure hope so. I can’t wait to be back in this very room talking about ‘wonder if this thing is illegal?’. I bet not.”

DO YOU KNOW IF THE CAR’S ALREADY BEEN?

“I just answered that. I don’t know.”

DOES APPEALING THE PENALTY TAKE ENERGY FROM RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING RIGHT NOW? DOES THAT PULL CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT THAT NEEDS TO BE MOUNTED WITH ALL FORCES?

“You know, it could. And that’s where all the frustration is. I apologize for coming in here and being stern. This isn’t me. This is completely out of character for me. I don’t like being in this situation. But if it paints you into the corner you’ve got to be able to react to it. Does it take away? I’m sure it does. I apologize to Kevin Harvick and Jeff Burton and everybody at RCR for that very reason. This is something that shouldn’t have happened; something that’s completely complicated. I think there is about probably 80 percent of the people in the media and everywhere else that don’t understand what the infraction even was.”

JEFF GORDON:

GIVEN WHAT HAPPENED TO THE NO. 33, CLINT BOWYER AND THAT TEAM IN NEW HAMPSHIRE, DOES THAT PUT YOUR TEAM IN ANY HEIGHTENED AWARENESS OR HEIGHTENED SECURITY TO MAKE SURE EVERYTHING IS BUTTONED UP? “You have to remember, we have experienced what they have gone through in the past. So, we kind of feel like we were the first ones that were made aware of how tight the tolerances are and I’m not exactly sure of what are all the details of what went on there. I know there is an appeal. Because of we’ve been through this, we already are aware that this can happened to any of us at any time and that you really have to build the best race cars you possibly can but they have to be able to go to that (NASCAR) Tech Center and come back to your shop without the phone call from NASCAR.”

IF A CAR PASSES HERE ON SUNDAY, DO YOU THINK THERE ARE OTHER CARS HERE IN THE GARAGE THAT ARE PROBABLY ILLEGAL AND DO YOU THINK THAT DURING THE CHASE, ALL 12 CHASE CARS SHOULD GO TO THE NASCAR TECH CENTER? “I really wish that I had Steve Letarte (crew chief) up here to answer that question because he knows so many more details about the processes, how close those tolerances are. And that is the difference. Here at the track, the tolerances they can only get so close. When they go to the NASCAR Tech Center, they are checking it with lasers. I think that is when they can really get into the details of everything that is going on with those cars. All I can tell you is that since they started that process, it’s made it a whole different ballgame and a whole different process of inspection and how you build your cars. These days for us, we can run a car and we basically have to rebuild the sheet metal on that car just from a race without ever touching a wall. Without ever being hit by the two truck, anything. The body flexes and moves just from the banking or just from the torque, all those things. So, it’s tough for certain areas of the car to meet those tolerances just after a race. I think what I see with this situation, I guess there was something that they noticed after Richmond and so they focused on that area. If you notice, these cars now-days, they are going down the straightaways sideways. We have obviously learned that putting a lot of side force and twisting, we used to twist the bodies, now we are trying to run the car sideways through the toe of the rear-end housing; how we setup the straight line from front to back to basically run the body sideways on the car and that is all legal. We have all figured out how to do that within the rules. Because you realize that is helping the car, then you want to push everything maxed out to figure out how to get more side-force, more down-force. So, there is no doubt that is going to push everybody in the garage area to try to find out where that limit is. I’m not sure if that is what happened with the No. 33. I really don’t want to speculate. There is no doubt that this is racing and teams are always trying to find an edge. I wouldn’t be surprised I if…they don’t take ever car every weekend. It is hard to say how many would pass and how many would fail.”

THE PRECEDENT WAS SET YEARS AGO THAT THEY DON’T TAKE WINS AWAY. DO YOU UNDERSTAND WHY THAT IS AND DO YOU THINK THAT THERE IS A GOOD REASON FOR THAT IN CASES SUCH AS THIS? “I’m sure there is a good reason. I don’t know what it is though. I’m not really sure. In my opinion, taking points away, might as well take the win away. I don’t know if I have ever asked that question before to be honest with you. I try to stay pretty clear of any discussion that have to do with points, fines, wins taken away. Those are usually not conversations I have with them.”

DO YOU AGREE THAT A WIN SHOULD STAND IN A CASE LIKE THIS? “There is still an appeal process going on. I think at this point, who knows what is going to happen. But, I don’t know. I have just felt like this is the process that we go through. This is what we know goes on in our sport and that is just the way they do it. Do I agree with it or disagree with it? Gosh, I mean I don’t know. I really don’t know. I would have to think about it a little bit more. Like I said, in my opinion, they’ve already taken the win away. I’m sure if you ask Clint, he would probably say ‘Might as well’ because the penalty is certainly very extreme. I don’t know. It seems like to me like there at least should be an asterisk next to the win.”

OTHER TOPICS:
THE DIFFERENCE -CONCRETE TRACK

ALAN GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF, NO. 5 DELPHI/GODADDY.COM CHEVROLET: The good thing about a concrete track like Dover is that we’re not out chasing the track due to temperature changes. That just doesn’t affect concrete like it does on asphalt. The big challenges are where the rubber builds up on the racetrack and the joints where the concrete was poured. Dover is really bumpy. We tend to fight making the car run well over those bumps more than we fight the simple fact that it’s concrete

THE GAME PLAN (KYLE BUSCH)

Kyle Busch has two Sprint Cup wins at Dover. What is his game plan this weekend? Kyle Busch (Driver of the #18) “Our game plan is to try to repeat what we did in the spring. Obviously, we had a good race going. We qualified well. We raced well all through the event. Toward the end of the race, it came down to the final pit stop between Jimmie (Johnson) and myself and we were able to get out of there smoothly and cleanly. Jimmie didn’t. He got caught speeding on pit road. We’ll just go back there with our Interstate Batteries Camry and try to make the most of the event and the weekend and get a good, strong finish and keep our momentum rolling here and try to get through the final 10 races strong in order to get a shot at the championship come Homestead.

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Victory Lane at Darlington May 10, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, claire blang, Trackside, Transcripts.
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What a wild Saturday night – Sunday morning at Darlington. Victory Lane is the size of a living room at Darlington Raceway, fitting for the kind of down home atmosphere that makes that track special. Everyone is packed in for a really fun, tight-knit celebration. After interviewing Denny Hamlin’s Mother, his crew chief, his team president and team owner – I took a golf cart ride to the media center (hitched a kind ride with the folks rushing crew chief Mike Ford to the media center) and appreciate the lift greatly. We’re all squeezed on the golf cart and there was a Victory Lane Champagne bottle on board which became the topic of discussion during the ride. It was totally empty but going on the shelf at Mike Ford’s house and Ford talked about perhaps having to build a new shelf for more hardware and souvenirs of wins.

Finally, Denny Hamlin, stepped out of the media center and well into the early morning hours of Sunday I interviewed him live. I noticed something that I had not noticed before about him. For some reason Denny reminded me of Jeff Gordon. After all that had transpired, Hamlin was calm and focused during the interview as if he was devoting that several minutes entirely and with complete attention to what I was asking, even after a long day and on a night into early morning where all kinds of things were now being thrown at him. It struck me that this characteristic is something I have always noticed in Gordon. When you have those few minutes with Jeff either behind his hauler or after qualifying or racing – he pays complete attention to the moment and is not distracted. He is remarkably able to isolate each of the moments he dedicates entirely to what he is doing at that moment and he doesn’t give standard answers but truly answers what you are asking giving completely of himself to the moment. I have always notice this in Jeff Gordon and it struck me that this is why I like interviewing Hamlin, because from the interviews of him after his first pole to his firt win to now, he is the same way and it is a characteristic I see in the champion drivers.

Honestly, I am not sure if it is coincidence or the mark of great talent, but I have to believe that inner calm and stress free focus into the moment, allows a driver to enjoy what he’s doing more and excel in focus on the track. Interesting.

In interviewing the team after the race for the “teardown” to be broadcast on “Dialed In” this week – it was easy to pick up on the teams support of Hamlin, even in the tough times, certainly after a win. In the media center Hamlin said he has to believe his faith in his team demonstrated by staying in the car when he injured his knee has paid off with the team. “We have those good pit stops at the end. Is it coincidence?,” He asked. Talking with the team, their confidence and admiration of him was through the roof. This is a team that will not gloat but they feel they are championship level – without a doubt in their being.

Struggles – Dancing with the Lady in Black:

Interaction between driver and crew chief who appear on the same page – even after a frustrating run. it was a long night.

DALE EARNHARDT JR., AND CREW CHIEF LANCE MCGREW, NO. 88 AMP ENERGY /NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET – Finished 18th:
SO YOU’RE NOT FRUSTRATED?

JUNIOR: “We ran really good at the beginning. Lance will go home and work on what he can.”
MCGREW: “I think the best thing is that now we have a notebook. We didn’t have that. And now we can go back and we can look and we see.”
JUNIOR: “We ran better this time than we did last time here. I think this has been one of the worst races I had last year.”
MCGREW: “Yeah, it was horrible.”
JUNIOR: “We see that we can do it. We’ve just got to be able to finish.”
MCGREW: “We overcame a cut right rear tire and that was good. You have nights like this.”
JUNIOR: “I enjoy working with Lance every week.”

Tony Stewart finished 23rd – on a frustrating evening for the #14.

From the start of the 367-lap race, Stewart had a racecar that was loose back to the gas each time he came off the track’s corners. Track bar, wedge and air pressure adjustments were used throughout the race to alleviate the car’s ill-handling ways, but adding to the team’s headaches was a slew of problems that only compounded their original difficulty in navigating the track’s tight confines. There was a chain-reaction crash that saw Stewart get into the back of Paul Menard’s Ford on lap 63, when traffic stacked up in between turns one and two. While Menard spun to the apron, Stewart received some cosmetic damage to the nose of his Old Spice/Office Depot machine. Then, on what was supposed to be the team’s third pit stop on lap 85, Stewart missed his stall when traffic clogged pit road and prevented him from angling into his box. The non-stop did have one benefit as it put Stewart into the lead when the race restarted on lap 89 – Stewart and team kept fighting. On lap 336, Stewart lost a lap to eventual race-winner Denny Hamlin, and it was a deficit he could not overcome. When the checkered flag mercifully dropped, Stewart was 23rd.

Note: I got a kick out of the writing of Stewart’s PR guy Mike Arning who gets full credit for noting that the checkered flag “mercifully dropped,” for Stewart. Touche Mike.

Bad night for AJ (and Jimmie Johnson)

Jimmie Johnson #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet – At the infield care center after being caught up in AJ’s Brake rotor mess (see below) Johnson wasn’t sure what happened. He was wacked out of nowhere and calm as could be. I was surprised how a guy could be so laid back after being what he called “drilled” with no notice. When I asked him about it he said that they were running good times, and called it an “adventurous” night. He told me he felt like they were “doing their best,” and was positive that they were fast before being taken out. Not a good night for the 48 – but situation out of their control. He’s a master of not wasting time worrying about what is out of control and moving on.

So what did happen?

AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 43 Insignia/Best Buy Ford Fusion (Finished 37th) – “The brake rotor exploded. The last 40 or 50 laps we were struggling with brake problems and just no brakes. We took all the brake cooling off and thought maybe we were gonna fix it, and when that yellow came out I went to hit the brakes to slow down and the brake rotors exploded. I’m not sure which one, but I was just trying to aim for the bottom and try to miss everybody. I’m sorry to Jimmie. It wasn’t his fault, but I had no brakes and couldn’t do anything about it.”

Looking ahead to Dover:

Hang on to your clothes –

Grammy-nominated country music artist Joe Nichols will sing the national anthem prior to the start of the “Autism Speaks 400 presented by HERSHEY’S Milk & Milkshakes” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on May 16, 2010 at Dover International Speedway. Nichols’ hit song “Gimmie That Girl” currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart. The singer of country hits “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off,” ooh boy did you catch that race fans –it should be a wild weekend. LOL.

Jeff Gordon – #24 Dupont Chevrolet -“It’s high speed, really high banked — Dover is just one of those white knuckle experiences that you really feel the sensation of the speeds that our cars are capable of probably more there than any other track that we go to. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I love Dover because it’s got those big, fast high banked corners, but it’s great racing as well. The groove has really widened out. You can run high, you can run the middle and you can run low. We’ve seen a lot of different lanes there to race on. It’s challenging. Every lap, you’re on the edge.”

DOVER 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – (SIRIUS NASCAR Radio) 5:00 p.m. EST Friday

Interesting Note: Elliott Sadler returns to Kevin Harvick Inc. (KHI) to pilot the No. 2 Best Buy/Insignia Silverado for the second time this season. Despite the fact that Sadler has been competing in NASCAR’s top-3 series for over 15 years, he has NEVER made a Truck Series start at Dover International Speedway. Sadler has, however, made a total of 27 combined starts in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series at the one-mile concrete track. Sadler has led a combined total of 189 laps at the track, and has earned a best finish of sixth in both series (Fall of 2005 in Cup, Fall of 1997 in Nationwide). Is there any added pressure in returning to the truck that currently sits first in the owner’s points? “No pressure at all. I know it’s a great truck and I’m really looking forward to being behind the wheel of the Best Buy/Insignia truck at Dover. It’ll be a lot of fun.”

Did you know?

According to NASCAR’s Loop Data statistics, over the past four Truck Series races at Dover International Speedway – Ron Hornaday has gained more points than any other Truck Series driver. Hornaday has picked up a total of 771 points at the Monster Mile over the last four race events. Hornaday also holds the title of driver fastest early in a run at Dover.

Catch the Heluva Good! 200 NASCAR NASCAR Nationwide Series -(SIRIUS NASCAR Radio) 2:00 p.m. Saturday

Thanks for your Crown Royal #17 Pit Crew Name Suggestions!!– The #17 team is looking for a name for their pit crew, a creative challenge that is fun – especially with the new sponsor. I opened up the phone lines and email and got a ton of suggestions including, Royal Knights, Kings of the Road, Gold Diggers, Crown Over-The-Wall Bangers, The Barneys, The Royal Wrenches, The Purple Reign, Purple Predators, Purple People Eaters and more. Some of them were a bit royal and snobby in nature for a down and dirty pit crew, one that is not included to step out on pit road acting like they are more regal than everyone else. There lies the challenge of naming the crew with a name that matches a “Crown Royal” type hook. Hmmm. Send an email at insidercbl@aol.com if you have a suggestion. I interviewed Robbie Reiser, the GM of Roush Racing who reminded the listeners that the “Killer Bees” earned their nickname – and that the #17 pit crew earned that initial name they didn’t create it. Reiser is tough. I like that.

Newly Posted Photo: The Stewart Haas team guys with the ARMY Team at Fort Benning, with driver Ryan Newman. The trip to Fort Benning last week was beyond worthwhile – and we all had great pride over the pit stop that the team busted off before being thrown into the training course with the US ARMY Rangers. The Stewart Haas guys held up their end of the deal, they may have been pushed to the limit by the Rangers but they didn’t buckle. To the Army guys – thanks for all you do! Meeting some of America’s finest and chatting with them at Fort Benning – filled all of us with pride in what America represents.
Claire B.

US Army Racing Team at Fort Benning

48 Team Post Texas Motor Speedway Crash “Let’s Build Something Together” November 8, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Drivers, NASCAR, Trackside.
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Dallas/Fort Worth 11/08/09 – Claire B Lang 5:48 p.m. EST Sunday

As the Lowe’s team lifted the cover on the #48 team’s crash cart to begin work on Johnson’s destroyed race car – I noticed the Lowe’s logo and the slogan printed adjacent to it in large white letters, “Let’s Build Something Together.” That is exactly what the Chad Knaus (crew chief) and Ron Malec (car chief) led race team did – they rebuilt the 48 car after a second lap crash not of their driver’s making.

As I watched the Lowe’s team work on their race car, I was expecting Johnson to jump out and grab a wrench and Chad for to ask him ( as he does in the Kobalt tools commercial), “What are you doing Jimmie?” And Johnson would reply, “I’m helping fix the car Chad.” But Johnson stayed right were Knaus wanted him -inside the car ready to pilot it back out when the time was right, because Knaus had supreme confidence that this car was returning to the race track.

The team replaced the rear end housing, drive shaft, rear deck lid, mounts, front end, welded the chassis and the list goes on and on. It’s easier to list what this team did not do to their race car. Watching this team work exemplifies what makes the 48 guys so good.

It’s as if they had rehearsed this scenereo to perfection. There were some 15 Lowes guys working in sync, without speaking, on the points-leading race car while three NASCAR officials looked on. Knaus, as always, carried himself like the team owner, keeping calm and overseeing a major reconstruction project.

Twenty five media folks, local, national, print, broadcast, all standing around watching the one hour plus repairs on Johnson’s ride in the garage here at Texas Motor Speedway. Their comments initially ranged from, “He needs to man up and get out of the car and talk,” to “This is so smooth it’s like watching doctors work in the ER,” to “They’ll never get this car back out there,” to “that’s incredible.” Most of the comments were about how this team went to work, didn’t show even so much as a frown or a facial expression of any kind, any of them, and, like machines, went to work to get the car back on the race track.

There was Chad Knaus pounding sheet metal to bend it using the side of the garage stall’s concrete wall to bend the piece. They were welding, pounding, fitting, inspecting, and screwing metal, hoses, tape and wiring. They carefully used a broom under the car several times to clear the way for the tires as they prepared to pull out of the garage and at one point welded near the gas tank and a fire extinguisher and safety tarp were brought over.

Three times, they’d get close to being ready to take the car out and Chad or one of the officials would see something that needed attention. So, once again without expression, the appropriate member of the team, or Chad or Ron would move in and finesse the area one more time.

Chad would feel around the spoiler, or a rim or area he was concerned about and the team would watch him like a hawk, instinct telling them what they needed to do next. Watching this team work on their car –one just knows that most of these guys know this race car better than they know their girlfriends, wives and family members.

As the car pulled out to return to the track, I watched the members of the 48 machine run out like a football team chasing on to the field to return to the pits. Leading those running out of the garage towards the gate that leads onto pit road was car chief Ron Malec and, as he ran, he turned around quickly once and look back over his shoulder at the team guys running behind him. His face lined with grease and sweat, he gave them a thankful and confident warm smile, in a trademark 48 calm and focused way – he did so faintly but I’m sure they picked up on it because I did.

And on the 48 went to take, once again, the field of battle in a car many thought would never make it back on this race track today.

Over the years I’ve covered this sport I’ve seen many teams make incredible repairs to race cars that we thought would never make it back out onto the race track- so this is not a first.

It was something to watch though.

They made it seem easy.

So Ready for Atlanta Motor Speedway September 3, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Drivers, Live Show, Trackside.
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Atlanta Motor Speedway

Excruciating Wait Until Saturday for Sprint Cup Drivers

It seems so unusual for there to be no track action on Friday. I get a kick out of how “on go” the drivers usually are. They can’t wait to get back to the race track and climb into their race cars. For those who have to hold their own or make up valuable and hard earned points to make it into the chase at Atlanta Motor Speedway it’s got be excruciating to wait until Saturday to get back in the race car.

Sure there are appearances and golf tournaments and sponsor events (see some of the driver appearances below) but the time will tick by on Friday – and this weekend for a stack of drivers there’s so much on the line.

Broadcast Schedule:

Sept. 3 (Thursday) “Dialed In” 7-10 PM EST
I’ll be on the air 7-10 p.m. tonight with “Dialed In”

Sept. 4 (Friday) “Dialed In” 7-10 p.m. EST LIVE from AMS
“Dialed In” will be LIVE from Atlanta Motor Speedway 7-10 p.m. EST. There will be no track activity but I’ll have a party for the listeners on air –and will be in the media center broadcasting

Sept. 5 (Saturday) “Dialed In” 2-4 p.m. EST LIVE from AMS
“Dialed In” will be on air from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. EST leading into the start of Pep Boys Auto Club Qualifying (MRN coverage) Be sure to set your watch for qualifying as it’s on Saturday of this week.

Sept 6 (Sunday) “Dialed In” 2-3:30 p.m. EST LIVE from AMS
“Dialed In” will be on the air leading up to the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show LIVE from AMS

“Sirius NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show” – 3:30 – 5:30 (I’ll be in the booth)

(MRN’s Inside track follows –the MRN coverage of the Pep Boys Auto Club 500 starts at 6:30 p.m. EST on Sirius NASCAR Radio

Driver Appearances
A number of NASCAR drivers will be making local appearances around the Atlanta area prior to the Pep Boys Auto 500 race weekend. Below are a few driver appearances preceding Atlanta Motor Speedway’s first Sprint Cup night race:

Clint Bowyer: On behalf of Prilosec OTC, Clint Bowyer will sign autographs at the Walmart located at 11465 Tara Boulevard in Lovejoy on Thursday, Sept. 3 from 7:00 through 8:00 p.m. Two hundred tickets will be distributed at 5 p.m. on a first-come, first-serve basis.

David Reutimann: David Reutimann will be making an appearance at Dick’s Sporting Goods at 1855 Jonesboro Road in McDonough on Friday, Sept. 4 from 5:00 to 7:00 PM.

Casey Mears: Casey Mears will kick off a month-long celebration of Jack Daniel’s birthday by signing autographs Friday night at Southside Steve’s from 7 to 9 p.m. at 715 Industrial Blvd. in McDonough, Ga. On race day, Mears will sign autographs and meet fans at the Jack Daniel’s merchandise trailer from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. in the Display Lot. A limited number of tickets are available prior to his appearance and issued on a first-come, first-serve basis.

The Chase to the Chase – Get ready – Atlanta is going to be a doozy!
“All of them are important. No matter where you are in the points and in terms of the Chase, a good run always helps. We feel like we’re in a pretty good spot but we definitely will not take anything for granted. We want to go to Atlanta and win, just like the other guys.” Denny Hamlin

Story Line: The story of the weekend is the points position of the drivers on the bubble for the chase, or around the bubble. You can write it any which way you want..but it all comes down to this:
(Pos) (Driver) (Points +13)
8 Greg Biffle +75
9 Juan Montoya +64
10 Mark Martin +60
11 Kasey Kahne +52
12 Matt Kennseth +34
(Pos) (Driver) (Points -12)
13 Kyle Busch -34
14 Brian Vickers -39
15 Clint Bowyer -112

More when I get to the track. Beautiful day here in Charlotte NC. Enjoy the day!
Claire B

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Welcome to Indianapolis Motor Speedway! July 22, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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INDIANAPOLIS - MAY 23:  An Indianapolis Motor ...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I’m one of the first to arrive for broadcast coverage of this weekends Brickyard race at IMS as I’ve been in the Midwest since Chicagoland. I’ll be on the air tonight on Sirius NASCAR Radio in the Safety Clean Suite in Gasoline Alley from 7-10 EST tonight (Wednesday, July 22). There’s something special about being on the air late at night before or after the races at tracks all across the country. It’s when the memories of past races circle around the track like the warm breeze and with every clang of a flag pole, or grounds keepers moving through the night working on the infield, even the stillness creates an aura of spectacular battles in year’s gone by. At some tracks, with a long-rich history the feeling of being at a track when the track is empty of fans and competitors and is often times dark except for the track lights is overwhelming. I can almost feel the races of years gone by come alive in the sounds of the wind at an empty track that awaits fans. It’s really something special each week.

Broadcast Schedule for “Dialed In” with Claire B Lang:

Wednesday, July 22
“Dialed In”- 7-10 EST from IMS

Thursday, July 23
“Dialed In” 7-10 EST from IMS

Friday, July 24
“Dialed In” 7-7:30 p.m. EST from IMS
Leading into the start of the AAA Insurance 200 Camping World Truck Series Race at O’Reilly Raceway Park

Saturday, July 25
“Dialed In” 3-6 p.m. EST from IMS

Sunday July 26
10-12 p.m. EST CBL in the booth for the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show
CBL in Victory Lane post race for the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Post Race Show
“Dialed In” after the Sirius NASCAR Radio Post Race Show until 10 p.m. EST

Indianapolis Motor Speedway
How Crucial Is This Weekend’s Race in NASCAR’s Big Picture?

As we head into this race weekend at Indianapolis motor speedway there’s a good question to ask the race fans. How important to you think this particular race in NASCAR’s big picture? NASCAR has always said that this sport is bigger than any one driver. Certainly history has proved that to be true over the years. That given, then the sport is much bigger than any one particular track. Some say that NASCAR can say that but they don’t believe it to be true. As always with NASCAR fans there are two sides to the issue depending on where you live, and what glasses you are seeing things through.

It would be safe to say that some bloggers and columnists are acting like the NASCAR world will fall apart if there are any issues at Indy this weekend because, well Indianapolis is sacred ground. I interview drivers all the time and in their minds, this track is special. But the question is not how special the track is — it’s – it’s how crucial is this race?

NASCAR did not have a huge Midwest presence before Indy. Before there was a Kansas or Chicago race … there was Indy. The Brickyard is unique and it’s not just like every race.

Stock cars racing at the home of open wheel racing gave NASCAR some form of legitimacy within open wheel ranks and the legions of casual race fans that understood the history of racing at Indy.

Jeff Gordon should know – he’s both a student of the sport, a team owner and has a rich history himself at Indianapolis.

Ask Gordon what the damage was, when last year’s race was ruined by tire issues….. whether the damage can be overcome and does NASCAR still need to be at that racetrack? Here’s how Gordon responds

Gordon on Indy repairing the issues from last year:

JEFF GORDON: Well, I mean, I’m certainly biased because, you know, as a kid growing up, I always dreamed about racing at Indy and thought those dreams had gone away when I was moving down south and starting my NASCAR career.

I love the fact that the Brickyard 400 happens every August or July. And it’s just a spectacular event.

I think it’s. I don’t know the financials and everything that go along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But, you know, to have two successful races there a year, I think, seems to make more sense than just one. But, you know, the history of the Indianapolis 500 has kept that place alive and doing so well for so many years that maybe it can sustain just one race. And I think that certainly had a lot to do with prestige and history of not only that event but as to the meaning of the Brickyard 400 when it came along.

Since then, you’ve had to Formula 1 race and now MotoGP. So there’s certainly decisions that go beyond my capabilities and depth, but I think it’s an important race. I think that you’re going to see us come out of what happened last year with the tires, you’re going to see a whole different type of race. And the issues with tires are not going to be from wearing them down to cords in eight or ten laps like last year. I’m very confident in the tires. I did the last test there and was very pleased.

So I think certainly a lot of damage was done. It might not take one race. It might take more than one race. I hope it happens and we get a chance for that to happen because the fans are supporting the event and, you know, knowing it could take more than one race to repair that. But I believe it can happen.

Q. Following up on that, Jeff, the reports are that ticket sales are pretty sluggish for Sunday. I’m sure some of that is due to the economic downturn, but I’m sure some of it is due to fans staying away because of last year’s race. I don’t think anybody would question that you guys and Goodyear have done a lot of work to try to fix the problem. Do you think the problem was remedied a little bit too late and it was only a month ago you guys declared it had been solved? Do you think there might be a little bit of lag time for fans to sort of react to realizing that, hey, this race may not be that bad and we should get tickets?

JEFF GORDON: I think some of that will build as we get closer to the race. We have seen a lot of that this year in general with the economy. I think, you know, a lot of fans are waiting it out for it could be a number of reasons. It could be their own finance issues that they’re dealing with, like so many others, basically everybody that’s dealing with something with the economy and holding off on that. It could be, you know, waiting for less expensive ticket prices and seeing if that happens later leading up to the race.

And I think, also, with Indianapolis, it’s a lot of it is what happened last year. So it might that’s why I say it might take a couple of races, at least one I’m hoping, to really kind of win back those fans that were very disappointed. And they should have been. I think we were all pretty disappointed in what happened there.

But we all had to come together to work it out, and I think Goodyear took the brunt of it. And it is not just all their responsibility. I mean, those tires were wearing out for a number of reasons and, yet, they took it and ran with it. And it took a long time, I think a lot longer to figure out what tire and what compound was going to work there.

But it took longer than I think they expected, all of us did, but they did get it. That’s what I’m happy about, is that they have found it.

Q. when Formula 1 had its tire debacle a few years ago, everybody sort of returned from that series very contrite. When they were at Indy next year, the drivers went out of their way to do autograph sessions. I know Michelin did a lot, too. Does NASCAR have a responsibility, drivers, series and sponsors as a whole, to maybe welcome Indy back into the fold this year and try to do more to reach out?

JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. Absolutely. I feel like, you know, we already have a series that’s built around that. We do so much for the fans, whether it be autograph sessions and different types of meets and greets at the track or away from the track during the week for our sponsors.

I mean, I don’t think any sport is more accessible than ours is. I think just this year in general the economy the way it is and really trying to show our appreciation for how much we do appreciate our fans and how loyal they are and avid they are and we are still getting great crowds.

Kyle Busch represents the younger drivers –and his thoughts on Indy include having watched Gordon master the rack:

Q: Do you remember when you first heard the words Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy 500, Brickyard 400? Kyle Busch: “Probably the first time I knew of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, or the Indy 500, was back in the ’80s – probably ’89, maybe even 1990. Of course, the first time I knew of the Brickyard 400 was ’94, being a big Jeff Gordon fan and following him growing up in Las Vegas. When he came into the sport a few years earlier and won the Coca-Cola 600, and then carried that into the Brickyard 400, and then won that race right off the bat, that was quite an accomplishment, for sure.”
Is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway a difficult track to master? Do you personally like driving there? Kyle Busch: “It’s a very difficult track to master. I’m not even sure that I’ve done it. Just racing the races that I’ve run there, I’ve finished well a couple of times. I think I’ve had a seventh and a 10th, and a fourth. To me, it has been one of those racetracks that is very unforgiving. It’s narrow, tight, not a lot of passing goes on there. It’s tough to get your car set up perfectly there, so you have to do what you can to make it the best you can. All four corners being so different, remembering exactly how to drive all four of them, and just trying to be able to be able to qualify up front and to race up front is so important there.”
What is it about Indianapolis Motor Speedway that makes it unique compared to other tracks that the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series visits? Kyle Busch: “It’s very tight down the straightaways. You roll through (turn) one and (turn) two, and there are people on the inside, there are people on the outside, there are people in the grass, just sitting along the back straightaway on the inside. You’ve got the golf course there, and fans sitting on the hills underneath the trees. You start back up into turn three, with the grandstands going around (turn) three and (turn) four, and then down the frontstretch and, again, there are two tunnels. There’s a tunnel at the (turns) one and two side, and on the (turns) three and four side. There’s a center road that runs all the way through, and then coming down the frontstretch again, looking on both sides of you, you’ve got the pit road, which is really narrow and really tight, and the grandstands on the inside and the outside, so you’re going down a V of just people – a sea of people. Coming to the Pagoda and the media center, the way it is, and of course the scoring pylon being as tall as it is, you come down there and, if you’re leading the race, sometimes you can’t see that high, so you’re kind of wondering who is second and third, or who is behind you. It stinks when you’re running in the back because you can see yourself right there.”

——————

So how important is Indianapolis and the Brickyard race to NASCAR? The Midwest is suffering the downturn in the economy as much as any part of the country. Attendance will be affected.

Do you really think that with all the testing at Indy that fans will stay away because of last year or do you think that they will go if they want to see stock cars at Indy the one time of year that stock car racing visits the prestigious IMS.

Isn’t it possible also that fans will go to the race, even after last year’s mess to see what unfolds…to find out whether there will be more drama? We’ll see walkups – and like every track attendance will depend on the weather.

I think that Indianapolis is a key race, that stock cars racing at Indy gave NASCAR a bump in prestige and that this is an important race. Drivers feel that this one is special – because they love racing where Indy Car racing laid down so much rich history.

But how important in the scheme of a 36 race schedule – when compared to tracks in other venues? Especially now that open wheel racing has had its challenges and is smaller than it used to be.

I say that in this economy every single race is important, extremely important competition is on the line here and must be presented at the level of a national sport – at every track, every race, every venue.

That’s a question for the fans to answer. The ones who buy the tickets.

And remember – I love Indianapolis Motor Speedway as much as anyone.

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Raining at Chicagoland: Weather Dampens NASCAR Again! July 10, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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It’s raining at Chicagoland Speedway (2:25 p.m. EST) – Jet dryers are on the track but it’s iffy but possible we’ll sneak the Nationwide race in here. Everyone’s hoping that mother nature cooperates.

Here’s my broadcast schedule –

“Dialed In” – is scheduled to be on the air from 7:00-7:30 p.m. EST tonight (Friday July 10) leading up to the start of the Dollar General 300 powered by Coca Cola. If the rain halts the race or the start of the race and MRN Radio throws it back to affiliates – then “Dialed In” will be on from 7-10 p.m. EST. I’m broadcasting from the Safety Clean Trailer in the garage here at Chicagoland Speedway.

Saturday- Dialed In is on from 2:00-4:15 p.m. EST -leading up to the start of the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio pre race show at 4:15 p.m EST. The MRN start of the Lifelock.com 400 is at 7:15 p.m. EST.

After the race I’ll be LIVE in Victory Lane and on the SIRIUS NASCAR Post Race Show until 1:00 a.m. EST.

More coming from the media center as it happens.

Next Week’s Schedule:

My sister is getting married in Green Bay Wisconsin on the off weekend between Chicagoland and Indy races. “Dialed In” will be off next Wed, Thurs, and Friday so that I can attend the Wedding. I will be LIVE from Indy on Wednesday, July 23rd

I’ll be back with more during the rain delay and practice.

Still raining here at Chicagoland.

Claire B

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Happy 4th of July – God Bless Our Troops: July 4, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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Looking across the Daytona International Speedway
Image via Wikipedia

Broadcast Schedule:

“Dialed in”— 2-4:15 p.m. EST today
Sirius NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show 4:15 p.m. EST
POST Race: LIVE in Victory Lane immediately following the race

Happy 4th of July – God Bless Our Troops:

Since I travel a great deal I seem to spend nearly every other day either getting on or getting off of a shuttle at an airport.

So I’m getting on the shuttle at the airport at Charlotte and we were all wedged in the bus like sardines. As the bus pulled to a stop a young man began to literally unload the bags off the buss for several of us who were without help. We sure did not expect, nor ask for the assistance. “You are so kind,” I said to him, as I had a huge broadcast box a rolling bag and suitcase which would have required three trips off the shuttle and some massive lugging. “You must have been brought up by great parents,” I said to the man. “Thank you so much.”

“Ma’am,” he said, “I’m a US soldier,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been in.” I stopped, looked the young man in the eyes and said “Well God Bless you.” I was stopped in my tracks by his kindness and pride.

Today we stop and we thank the patriots, and young men and women who are the cream of the crop and who today, are representing us and keeping us secure around the world, or in past conflicts.

I won’t forget that young man. It sticks in my mind. I hope God keeps him safe.

Happy 4th of July!

Race Day- Daytona
Blog Thoughts – Daytona Site of Major Story Lines Over the Years

Daytona International Speedway has been the site of so many story lines over the years. Set up your computer, microphone, broadcast unit or photographers at DIS for NASCAR events and you’re sure to have cars that don’t pass inspection, penalties issued, “big one” crashes, comments from the sports owners that send reporters running to feed, a few celebrities and plenty to talk about. Think about all the major story lines that have broken while we’ve been here covering stories at Daytona. The list is long.

This weekend we’ve been on the Jeremy Mayfield watch. We’ve all heard that he’s coming to the race track – that he’ll make an appearance but we’ve not seen him. Perhaps today – and if he shows – it’s sure to be the story of the day pre race.

Here are some comments from drivers here in the garage and media center at Daytona to tune you up for the running of today’s Coke Zero 400 Sprint Cup Series race:

To Kyle Busch:

Was the bottom lane the place to be tonight (after Nationwide race)? “It was and I expected it to be that way tonight. The inside lane I figured was going to be the way to go because these cars are wide open the whole time almost. I think tomorrow it will be the top. The outside lane carrying the momentum is definitely going to be the better lane.”

To Jeff Gordon:

How is the rubber that the Grand AM cars are going to put down on the track before your race tomorrow night going to affect the race?
“I haven’t really thought about it a lot to be honest with you. It’s a good question but we won’t know until tomorrow. You know this track is always pretty hot and slick and those guys run pretty much around the bottom and I don’t know, I don’t think they are going to lay a ton of rubber down. So, I don’t think it’s going to be a big issue but we’ll find out once we get out there. You know this place is kind of strange for putting rubber down on the track anyway it’s not like most tracks because the radius of the corners is so big and its fairly abrasive and what wears tires, I can’t really say that it lays a lot of rubber down and if it does, it won’t take us long to get the Goodyear rubber laid in there.”

To Juan Pablo Montoya:

DO YOU BRING THE MENTALITY OF LOOKING AT POINTS FROM FORMULA ONE?: “Point are important in every series. A lot of guys that you get in here are guys that are winning races. When you’re winning races then you can have a bad weekend. If you finish first in one and 30th in another one then it averages out to like 12th or something with the points. It’s not bad, but when you’re finishing 10th and you have a 30th then it goes to 18th or something like that. It really hurts it. If our good weekends were to be a little bit better then it would be a lot easier. Then you can say, ‘I’m going for wins,’ but we’re not.”

To Greg Biffle ( who will have to start tonight’s race from the back because he will be in a back-up car that didn’t complete a lap during Thursday’s practice sessions. Biffle’s primary car was wrecked very late in the second practice session)

Since the car hasn’t made a lap yet, when the race starts what’s on your mental check list of things to check on the car right off the bat:
“Really, in the old days, it used to be tire rubs. Do you smell smoke? Nowadays, with the bodies being templated all the same and the suspension and all that, that kind of stuff is out of the question. So, really, as long as everything feels right – and these cars, we’ve been doing this so long, we unload cars all the time, they’re brand-new, and test all day, like at Indy. We unloaded the car, tested all day and then put it back on the truck, and we had no issues. So, I feel confident. And, really, the cars are brand new and have never turned a lap at every race we bring them to – because all of the parts come off of them, and they’re all put back on, and engines and everything else. So, technically, they’re all brand new every time we unload them for the day. But, yeah, we have little issues we have to fix. Here, we won’t have that issue. But, we have a big race track, two and a half miles, so you can do a lot of stuff under caution, as long as it’s not major. If you have little issues you need to fix or address or work on, here you have plenty of time. Track position, here, is not that important until the fifth hour.”

So the only benefit lost by starting in the back is not knowing right away how the car reacts in traffic? “Yes. Yes, that would’ve been nice for this not to rain out, we qualify in the top 20, we start there and then we could’ve gotten a feel for it right out of the gate. But, there’s a part of me that doesn’t mid starting in the back so I can figure it out on my own and then start working through traffic – because, inevitably, sometime during the night, you’ve lost some track position, you got out of line and get shuffled out and end up 30th, you get back in there and race your way back to 10th. So, you’re back and forth anyway. So, really, it’s a non-issue.”

To Tony Stewart:

HOW WILL THE NEW DOUBLE-FILE RE-START RULE AFFECT THE RACING THIS WEEKEND AT DAYTONA?
“I don’t think it will, honestly. As quick as people get shuffled forward and backward here anyway, I don’t think it matters. I think last weekend was more critical on which line you were in. But I don’t think for Daytona, I don’t know that anybody is going to sit there and say well, I’m going to ride third here because I want to restart on the inside. I mean you know don’t know if you’re going to get a caution. You don’t know when it’s going to come out. Nobody’s going to plan their strategy around a caution and where they’re going to re-start with it.

“You’re not going to decide. You’re just going to try to get to the front and stay at the front. If you can do that, you’re a much better racer than I am because I can’t think that far ahead. Nobody is going to be able to plan and put themselves in those kinds of situations. You’re just going to have to take it as it comes. It’s no different than if four guys pass you on one lap, that’s where you’re at when you restart. So, nobody’s going to try to plan that and say well, I’m just going to ride third so if we have a caution and have a restart then we can do something.

To Jeff Burton:

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE HEAT AT DAYTONA AT NIGHT VERSUS WHEN THE JULY RACE WAS DURING THE DAY?:
“The cars are hotter then they were then, but we have more things to help the drivers than we did then as well so they kind of counteract each other. I like the morning because I can remember leaving here race day and being home, back in Charlotte, in time to be on the lake. It was kind of fun and coming down here was always kind of like a vacation. The teams, we would practice in the morning, the garage would be closed down by one o’clock or 12 o’clock, the way I remember it. Back then the teams weren’t so big that they’re families would come down and they would rent hotels on the beach and it was just a completely different environment, it was much more relaxed than it is now. This was almost like a race and an off-weekend at the same time. We don’t really have that atmosphere anymore. The intensity has picked up so much and it’s so competitive that there’s never a relaxed moment. It was fun to race at 10 o’clock, at the same time I think the fans like the night race a lot better. Obviously, it gets cooler as the race goes on versus it used to get hotter as the race would go on. But you would be done really so it wasn’t that bad. It is hot here, but it’s just what we do.”

I’m in my hotel room getting ready for today’s race. I’d better pick it up – much to do before my show starts over in the media center. I look forward to the heat, fireworks blowout, story lines, arguments, last-minute breaking news from the garage, fireworks filled summer 4th of July event that is the Coke Zero 400…..Let’s go racing!

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Welcome to Darlington Race Day May 9, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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Darlington Raceway during the 2006 Dodge Charg...
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The Southern 500 Returns in a Blaze of Glory

It’s an absolutely beautiful and sizzling hot day here. I think about the traditions of this race track and the history that made it what it is today. I think about all the true racers who never gave up on this place including the man who had the idea to build a race track here. When it comes to tenacity – the name Harold Brasington comes to mind.

A local Darlington business man, Brasington returned from the Indy 500 in 1933 and told some of his friends that he wanted to build a paved superspeedway in Darlington, South Carolina. His buddies likely laughed at him. Imagine your friend is sitting at the local restaurant or bar here in Darlington that many years ago and he tells you of this giantic race track plan.

There were not many paved speedways anywhere in the world let alone the tiny town of Darlington. They were still racing on the beach in Daytona when Darlington was finished

But Brasington proved to be a stubborn man. In 1949 he set out to build his dream on land that once grew peanuts and cotton and here we are today.

Today we celebrate the tradition of the Southern 500 and the fans here are wild over this event! Tony Stewart said of driving here, “It’s like driving down a bad alley.” After practice Friday the buff machine Carl Edwards said his “forearms hurt, because I was squeezing the wheel so tight,”

Matt Kennseth won the Diamond Hill Plywood 200 – and has the pole for today’s race. I told him after the race about Carl’s forearms hurting after practice from gripping the wheel. Kennseth had just battled the lady in black for one hour 47 minutes and 33 seconds. He was soaking wet and fresh from the win. He joked with me that he was in better shape than Carl –so no problem.

All of the drivers have been talking about the surface here and how much it changed since a year ago and the repaving.

Greg Biffle’s crew chief Greg Irwin is cranked up — he thinks that Biffle is so good here that we’re sure to see something spectacular from him today.

Tony Stewart has never won here. It’s one of few tracks that Stewart cannot claim yet. “I’d win on my roof and on fire here,” he said. “I’ll take it any way I can get it here.”

Dale Jr used to not like this track at all. It was so abrasive…..and not one of his favorites. “It’s my job weather I like it or not,” he said yesterday of racing here. He called the track “this is the hardest place to pass on on the circuit,” he said.

This will be a long, physical race.

I can’t wait.

Enjoy the day

Claire B

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Hello from Talladega April 24, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Live Show, Trackside.
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Hi all! Hope your day is going well. My broadcast schedule for this weekend – is as follows:

Friday (April 24) “Dialed In”
7-10 p.m. EST – LIVE from the Media Center at Talladega

Saturday (April 25) “Dialed In”
After Qualifying for the Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup Series Race until the start of the Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race at 2:30 p.m. EST on MRN

Then –enjoy MRN’s coverage of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 Camping World Truck Series race in Kansas after the Aarons 312

“Dialed In” continues after the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 until 10 p.m. EST LIVE from the media center at Talladega Super Speedway

Sunday, (April 26)
I’ll be in the booth for the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show for the Aaron’s 499 beginning at 10:15 a.m. EST.

Here are some thoughts on a busy Friday – after many trips to the garage:

Jeff Gordon on Aggressiveness at Talladega:

Gordon is working out the issues with his back which he told me were more of an issue at a track like Phoenix than they will be here. He was not feeling well (was sick aside from the back) last week and told me that he felt he did not give his team good feedback.

Gordon had some interesting comments on Talladega recently as we gathered to chat with him about this race:

“Things have always been aggressive at Talladega. Go back the last 15 years and show me a race that they haven’t had a big crash (at Talladega). You know their might be one or two…but this car is really almost designed for Tallladega. The way that the bump drafting happens, the aerodynamics of the car the engine package – it’s perfect for Talladega. We put on spectacular races but when you run that tight together in those kinds of packs it’s easy to make a mistake and one little mistake happens and a big crash is going to come out of it.”

“I think the one thing that I would like to see happen is that the bump drafting be a addressed a little bit more. We all hear about the warning and where the no bump zone is and it’s all the way around the track and yet we sit there and just nail one other all day long and nothing really seems to happen until some guy gets way out of shape and gets wrecked and you know it doesn’t seem to me that there’s really a lot being cracked down on that. I’d like to see that but even with that being said if all 43 cars at the end of that race one lap to go it’s still going to be a mele you know cause now it’s time to go and you are going to take the risk of being aggressive whether you get a penalty or not.” Jeff Gordon.

Richard Childress – RCR Changes:
I asked Richard Childress (RCR) what would happen if the recent swap of teams between the teams of Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears doesn’t work. He told me “We don’t have an option – it has to work – No options.” Look in the mans eyes and you know that he means business.”

Phoenix International Raceway- Rear View Mirror

Stewart’s Eyes

Mark Martin was just pulling his car into victory lane when I headed out to the grid to talk to Tony Stewart. I like Tony – and I think that one of the reasons I have never had an issue with him, even in his “tormented” days, was because I’ve always found Stewart’s eyes to be the gate to his soul and a clue to how he’s feeling. The first time I noticed this was after he won his first Championship and came to the XM Studios in New York City for an interview. I had an hour with him, and he was testy at the time. The PR team brought him in the bldg and I could see his eyes darting around the room as if he was a caged animal – he seemed to be looking for an escape and felt anything less than comfortable. I began to worry. On Impulse, I pulled him to the side and told him from the heart that I took great responsibility in interviewing him in a way that would show the fans who he really was and wanted to do a great job of being real and I needed him to feel comfortable and I felt that he was anything but, which made it impossible for me to do a good job at what I do. As I poured out my thoughts from the heart – and trust me I was scared to be so honest- Stewart’s eyes, warmed and the thaw began. He converted from a guy who wanted to escape to a guy who wanted to give me a good interview because he knew I was worried about it and wanted me to be at ease. That’s Tony Stewart in a nut shell and he’s been great to me ever since. It’s hard to imagine that Tony Stewart when you see him today.

Since then, of course, Tony has warmed in general and has done his own radio show and is much more comfortable in his own skin. But the eyes still have it with him and what I saw from Tony talking to him as he got out of the race car at Phoenix was total complete and uncomplicated pure happiness and joy. The eyes connected and he was rattling off how happy he was with his new race teams’ success. It was if he was bubbling over with excitement and for a guy like Tony Stewart who downplays the cliche question and abhors over blown story- seeking media questions from anyone – he was almost giddy. I don’t think I’ve seen Tony happier.

You don’t interview a race car driver right after he jumps out of a race car and not get a glimpse into his soul. There’s something raw about that first few moments with a man after a race once he climbs out of the car that is hard to explain. I wish that every fan could have a chance to see the intensity that these guys put into these races. It’s pretty amazing.

Later, as I finished my live reports from Victory Lane – I walked into the garage to check on the teardown. Most of the transports had left and the garage was almost empty. There was Tony Stewart standing with a group of officials in the middle of the PIR garage, with his race uniform half way undone and the top part tied around his waist, in the dark at around 1:30 a.m. EST. I first thought maybe there was an inspection issue with his car – and then I walked over and got a closer look. Tony was cutting up and beaming, hanging out enjoying the end of the race day as if he was at a local short track race where the garage doesn’t clear out and racers savor the day.

Tony Stewart is a real racer. In Victory Lane Saturday night, Stewart was one of the first of the line up of drivers to come and congratulate Mark Martin. I was standing there as he arrived and he was, again, so happy for Mark that he stayed at the stage and seemed to soak in Mark’s victory as if it was his own.

I’ve always felt that Stewart was a sensitive guy with a big heart and a hard core on the outside. I’m really happy – to see that things are going so well for him because new teams like his are so good for the sport and he’s going to be exciting and downright fun to cover his season.

Oh yea, and the eyes go completely jet black like the dark hole when he’s furious and I haven’t seen any of that directed to anyone since he began his own team.

Mark Martin Victory Lane
I’ve covered many victory lanes – and, yes, they’re all addictive. It’s a euphoria place where, for a brief hour or so, you forget about the economic crisis, the shop hours and toil, what you gave up or lost to be there, and yes, even the times that through luck, or misfortune or someone else’s dumb move you deserved to be there but were not.

Before the race as I interviewed him on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio – Mark Martin told me he was nervous and had butterflies in his stomach. As the race was winding down I recalled those comments – because even for Mark they seemed out of character. After all he’s a seasoned racer – and this was not his first rodeo. I totally got it when I was watching him take the checkered flag. He was nervous before the race because his car was that good and he wanted to not screw it up. Note to fantasy racers – when Mark worries it’s when he has a good car not a bad one.

I reflected on Mark’s win at 50 years of age, by remembering the journal that Mark kept after every race as a 14-15 year old young racer. It’s on display at his Batesville, Arkansas Ford dealership and I couldn’t get enough of reading it when I was there for his fan days. Some of the postings give a real look into the talent, heart and competitiveness of a young Mark Martin. The comments below are just snippets thumbing through the journal, race after race.

“Did alright, got 5-points $56”

“Blew up, second lap, no points,”

“Bumped others, a lot – Second in overall points”

“Everyone was too rough. Didn’t place in money”

Locust Grove: “Not a good night. Too sticky for heavy car. three points, $33.”

“Car wouldn’t run…flag man screws up, and puts #10 ahead of me in third heat race. Seven points, $9 a point, $63”

“Blew it up in the third race – had local boys to strike”

“I got run over by the #7 on purpose”

“I got the sportsmanship award. I beat Wayne by a fender”

“28 put me in the mud hole”

“I tapped him and I went around and he went crazy and ran over everything $125”

“State Championship, won pole position – ran good race with #43 for 30 laps. He had to pull out then the sob started playing ping pong with me. I got third, left mad so we were disqualified.”

In the journal Mart lists yearly totals. Here’s one: “1975 season totals- 96 races – feature races won 20, 51 firsts 32 seconds eight thirds, three fourths and two fifths.

Mark Martin learned a tough, competitive business as a child – and didn’t make much money at it to start. He became a gentleman racer and one of the most respected drivers in the garage.

Standing in Victory lane with the Hendrick #5 car covered in confetti and champagne, with the admiration of the superstar drivers in the sport , lined up to congratulate him, I thought back to what Mark put into this to be where he is today. The mud holes, the disqualifications, the times the engine blew up or a local guy went out of his way to take him out the times he made mistakes or lost despite his talent.

The challenges were there and Mark Martin persisted.

Now, he’s just getting started.

Look out!

Enjoy the day.

Claire B.

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Welcome to Phoenix! April 17, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
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PF Chang's Signboard
Image by Alaivani via Flickr

It’s absolutely beautiful here today. Here’s my broadcast schedule for this weekend. It’s a crazy short weekend with everything scheduled so tightly and we’re all rushing from one thing to another here in the media center and garage. .

I’m on the air tonight (Friday April 17) for “Dialed In” LIVE from the media center at Phoenix from the end of Sprint Cup Qualifying (Qualifying begins at 7:00 p.m. EST) to the start of the Basha’s Supermarkets Nationwide race (coverage on MRN Radio heard on Sirius NASCAR Radio).

Tomorrow – “Dialed In” will air from 2:00 EST to the start of the SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Pre Race Show at 4:46 p.m. EST at which time I will be in the booth and Steve Post in the garage for the pre race show. Following the Sprint Cup Series Race (Subway Fresh Fit 500) and following the race I’ll be in Victory Lane for the post race show.

Kasey Kahne – like clockwork!

I never miss a PF Changs visit near my hotel in Peoria Thursday evening near the sports complex and neither does Kasey Kahne. When I got off the air last night I stopped by PF Changs for a late dinner and, once again, there was Kasey and a group of his buddies seated at the adjacent table. It seems every year at Phoenix when I arrive at PFC – there is Kasey. The wait staff gets pretty excited because they know he will be there. A woman at the next table with a cute little toddler kept passing Kasey things to sign – the baby’s block , the babies bottle – I was waiting for them to pass the baby over for a signature. The waiter had a sharpie ready to hand to the family while Kasey ate. The young family thanked Kasey and then exited with a baby bag full of signed merchandise. Kasey, who is always great with signing for fans, was extremely accommodating, as always.

Kahne is currently 10th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver points standings, 112 points behind fifth place Tony Stewart. He’s got an average start of 12th and an average finish of 21st here at PIR. Tonight (Friday night) Kahne will be on hand for the “Grand Opening” of PIR’s New Budweiser ROLL-BAR. Tickets to the Budweiser ROLL-BAR can be purchased on line at http://www.phoenixraceway.com or on the phone at 1-866.408.RACE).

Matt Kennseth – Doesn’t think anyone knows for sure the status of McMurray team – assumes the out team will move across the street to Yates.

Matt Kennseth is on the podium right now….talking to media here in the media center. . “I don’t know and I don’t know that anyone knows what’s going to happen or how they are going to move that team or whatever,” Kennseth is saying. “But with the Yates Racing Team being right across the street and sharing an engineering department – car builds are the same, engine departments the same you know really those guys are really two more team mates so I imagine and I don’t know I imagine that whatever team has to move out of Roush under the new four team cap that goes into affect next year…I would assume it would just go to the Yates team and it really wont change that much.”

I have to get out in the garage I’ll have more for you later.

Enjoy the day!

Claire B

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