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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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Friday Special Drivers Meeting at Michigan International Speedway- Transcripy June 14, 2008

Posted by claireblang in Drivers, Trackside, Transcripts.
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Shot by The Daredevil at Daytona during Speedweeks 2008Image via WikipediaHere’s something I thought you’d like. As I told you on the air yesterday, NASCAR held a special driver’s meeting to address the Sprint Cup Drivers in private in the garage. After qualifying was rained out – Jeff Burton talked about the meeting. I thought you’d like to read exactly what he said. Burton is always excellent at explaining things – and so I thought this would be interesting to all of you:

JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 AT&T

YOUR MEDIA AVAILABILITY WAS BEFORE THE MEETING THIS MORING. WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION? WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE MORE OPPORTUNITIES LIKE THAT FOR YOU GUYS TO MEET WITH NASCAR IN THAT MANNER?
“Well, as I have said before, I think communication is important. I don’t think drivers have any power, but we do hold that information that could be valuable to NASCAR. Of course, NASCAR holds a tremendous amount of information that can be valuable to us. A lot of times, we don’t fully understand, we are complaining about something, but we don’t fully understand how NASCAR got to where they are or for that matter, how the teams even got to where we are. Drivers today, including myself, are much more apart from the race team; apart from the mechanics of what a race car is all about and how we build race cars, than ever before because of engineering and because of the way things work. So I think that communication is really important. We at times complain about things and we think we are the only ones who understand it, when in fact, other people do understand it. There are also times that we see things that people don’t understand. So I think it is a good idea to communicate and I think it is a good idea that we were able to listen to NASCAR. They can explain things to us and they need to listen to us and we can explain things to them too. Whether we need a formal setting to do that, I don’t know. But I do believe that communication is the key to any business. I think our athletes can provide some insight that NASCAR could use to the fans benefit.

“I guess you could have heard in today’s conversation, you could have heard whatever you wanted to hear. I believe a lot of people knew what they were going to hear when they went in there and that is what they heard. I bet if you asked every driver what they heard, they would probably say something different. What I heard, was ‘Hey look, let’s don’t forget that things aren’t all that bad and let’s also don’t forget we can make things better, let’s work to find a way to make them better and let’s communicate. Let’s work hard to make things better.’

“You know it is a frustrating thing, because our perception, teams and drivers perception is that NASCAR gave us this car and we had little input in it and you know, that is true. But, it falls on us to make it work. So, when you have a tough day and things don’t work or whatever, then you want to point the finger at them and say ‘Well, it is their fault.’ It is our job to just do it better than everybody else.

“I have told you guys to begin with that I don’t care what we run. I don’t care if it is the COT, whatever, I don’t care. The only thing I know is that it is my job to drive it better than everybody else and it is my team’s job to set it up better than everybody elses. That is what we do, it is our job. When we don’t, we can’t blame that on NASCAR because somebody wins the race. I think we lose focus on that and I do think that NASCAR has become the point of contention for everybody pointing their finger and saying it’s their fault. When in fact, there are some issues we could help make better.”

WAS THIS A MEETING MORE OF A REMINDER OF THE PARTNERSHIP THAT A DRIVER, THE SANCTIONING BODY AND THE WHOLE SPORT HAS WITH EACH OTHER OR WAS NASCAR ASKING ITS ATHLETES FOR MORE HELP AND SUPPORT?
“I got both and I got more than that. I got a reminder that this sport is bigger than any one person. This proven to be over time bigger than any one person. We got a reminder that we are all in this together. We got a reminder that is we have got a problem there is a way to go about it. I don’t think there is anything wrong with speaking to the media about the issues we are dealing with. I think that our fans deserve to know what we are dealing with. I think there is a way to do it that is constructive. I do believe that NASCAR has become…we all point our finger at NASCAR anytime something happens.

“I mean, how many times has a driver speeded on pit road and said “Yea, I did it.’ (LAUGHS) They’re the…I am raising two children. I have a 13 year-old and a seven year-old and every time I tell them to do something, they don’t want to do it. Every time I tell them they did something wrong, they say they didn’t do it wrong. It is the same. They (NASCAR) is our authority. They are the authority figure. When we question them all the time, because that is human nature I guess.

“I thought today’s meeting was kind of a reminder of that we are all in this together. It was a reminder that if you have a problem, let’s be constructive. It was reminder that don’t think that anyone person is bigger than the sport. Mike (Helton) showed his openness and willingness to look at finding a way to always make things better.

“To be honest, I watch the races from my seat. I don’t watch them from those seats (points to grandstands), ok. We have had some races this year that I didn’t think were very good races. We have had some races this year that I thought were really good races. I betcha if we went back 15 years ago, we could say the same thing. I think what is going on today is because the car of tomorrow has received… the car of tomorrow was kind of thrust upon us, this is what you are going to run. It was all new, so anything that didn’t work, we pointed the finger and said this is a piece of junk. This car does this, this car does that, this car does this. I think it has gotten to the point it hasn’t been constructive. I hasn’t produced better the car or for the racing. So, we are at a point where something needs to change. I think that NASCAR understands that and I think, not in the sense that the car needs a change, but the attitude about the car needs to change. The car doesn’t drive as good as the old car. I mean, it doesn’t. But, that doesn’t make it wrong. It is different than the old car, that doesn’t make it wrong.

“What matters is what is the quality of the race. I believe racing is like any other sport. If anybody thinks that every single race we are going to go out and have a three-wide battle for the lead on the last lap, you are mistaken. By the way, I watched the NBA finals the other night that was a blowout. It is sports. Sometimes people get on a role and they kick everybody’s butt because they are going a better job.

“Listen, I led every lap of a 300 mile race in New Hampshire, I led every lap. That wasn’t celebrated. It wasn’t ‘Wow, that was a history making deal, it was great, it was this, it was that’, it was boring. The race was boring. The part about history being made and all of that, that meant nothing. The only thing that mattered was that nobody passed for the lead, so the race was boring. That the world we live in. Every race isn’t going be what somebody thinks is a great race. Not everybody is going to think that every race is a great race. We have good races this year; we have had races that weren’t so good. Then people talk about in the good ole days, just bring you some of those films out and we will show you the good ole days, I mean.

“We have as good of racing today as we have ever had, on average, that is my opinion. I may be wrong, but my view is that on average, we have as good of racing as we have ever had. And…this car is still an infant. Think about it, this is the first time we have had this car at Michigan. It is the first time. We are going to be better when we come back next time. We are going to be better with it when we come back the next year.

“I think the thing that the teams and the drivers have become frustrated about is that NASCAR hasn’t been willing to change anything about the car. If you go back to six years ago, when they changed something every four months, that drove you nuts too.

“So, NASCAR is in kind of a tough spot. If they don’t change anything they ridiculed, if they change stuff, they get ridiculed. They are in a touch spot. I respect that. I do believe that we could make the car a little better. That we can make it drive just a little bit better, it might produce better racing, that is my opinion. Although, I don’t think the racing we have today is bad racing. That is the way I view it.

“I don’t sit up there though (points to the grandstands). I don’t have that perspective.”
__________________________________________

Personally, I like what Burton said about every driver reading the message from the meeting the way he heard it. It makes sense. Like I said, Jeff Burton is a good one to ask about what was said. I hope the above gives you more information to discuss on this topic.

Enjoy the day !
Claire B

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Claire B
Media Center
Phoenix International Raceway