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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

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Ty Pennington Joins Claire B. Lang on “Dialed In” Tonight! April 8, 2010

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Jeff Gordon’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Visit

Extreme makeover Home Edition’s Ty Pennington will join me tonight (Thursday, April 8th – 7:15 EST [time edited] p.m. EST ) LIVE on “Dialed In”. I’m mostly a news junkie and don’t watch much television since I’m always on the road or at a race track. I have a weakness for this show- mostly because it takes seemingly impossible situations that average folks find themselves in and it rewards them with help that they so desperately need. Most of the time the people who are chosen for the program look at life with a glass that is half full instead of half empty and despite being faced with major adversity find a way to help others and see life through a positive light. The fact that Jeff Gordon will be featured on this weekends’ installment of the ABC program (Episode will air SUNDAY, APRIL 11 -8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) brings it even closer to home. I want to find out about Jeff Gordon on the set, and although I get to interview a lot of celebrities in my job I have asked to interview Ty Pennington for quite some time, ever since I heard Gordon was going to do a segment. I’m looking forward to the interview tonight. Wonder if Ty Pennington is a race fan?

The challenge: On January 11, 2010, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” traveled to Loris, South Carolina – with race car driver Jeff Gordon as the celebrity volunteer — to meet Amanda and Derrick Suggs, a young couple who had just started their own family when they adopted Amanda’s younger siblings to keep them from being separated in foster care. When Derrick and Amanda got married, they moved into the home Derrick inherited from his grandfather, who built it in 1953. The home came with a long list of needed repairs: a leaking roof, outdated and exposed electrical wiring, rotting foundation and cracked asbestos siding. Did Jeff Gordon grab a hammer? Stay tuned.

Phoenix International Raceway Challenges
Longer race, day to night, spoiler, green-white-checkered, have at it!

The challenges of this race track are many. It’s the first Saturday night Sprint Cup race of the year. This weekend’s Sprint Cup Race here will be an additional 63 laps and miles up from 312. The new distance will be 375 laps/miles.

Some Notes:
-Sam Hornish had a career best PIR finish (9th) in last year’s spring event.
-It’s Brad Keselowski’s second acareer start at Phoenix here and he improved six positions in NSCS driver standings in the last two races. Crew chief Jay Guy says “The new car we are bringing to Phoenix is one of the lightest cars that we’ve produced to date and we’re excited to see how it races.”
-Phoenix was Ryan Newman’s first ever NASCAR start.
-It’s not a self-cleaning track, expect a lot of excitement when an accident happens
-This weekend kicks off a long stretch in the season where we don’t see a break until July. Teams need to stay prepared because if you get behind in this stretch it’s hard to make up.
-You need to be up on the wheel and really drive this track.
-It’s Carl Edwards 200th Career Sprint Cup Series Start. They’ve had very fast cars in the past at Phoenix but Carl has yet to win a Cup race here.
-Qualifying is key – it can be hard to pass at PIR
-This track combines the speed of some of the bigger tracks and some characteristics of short tracks. Some have said it’s a small superspeedway with long straightaways and really aggressive restarts.
-As soon as the sun goes behind the suites in turns one and two, the temperature really drops and the track gains quite a bit of grip. The sun and the track temperature will be an issue. Jeff Gordon says the sun entering turn one during qualifying will be an issue. “We only get two looks at it while trying to set a very quick time,” he says of qualifying here.
-Three of the 27 Sprint Cup races here at PIR have been won from the pole.
-In 15 Sprint Cup Series starts at Phoenix, Dale Earnhardt Junior has scored two wins, four top-five finishes and seven top 10’s. He has led 460 laps. The 88 team will unload Hendrick Motorsports Chassis No 88-586. This is a brand new chassis that has never been tested or raced.
-Engineering Challenges: Howard Comstock, Dodge Motorsports Engineering says, “With the new longer distance and a new earlier starting time, teams will face two new engineering challenges at this year’s Subway Fresh Fit 600. The change from 500 K to 600K will mean new fuel strategies and concerns of brake attrition. The earlier the start time for this race creates a daytime to evening race environment that is always unique when you come to the desert and race.”

Everybody but Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson!
I’ve got the field…except Kurt, Kyle and Jimmie, oh my!

Jimmie Johnson’s average finish at Phoenix is 5.1, Mark Martin’s average finish here is 8.8, Jeff Gordon’s average finish here is 10.8, Kurt Busch’s is 12.0, Kyle Busch’s is 14.5.

I had Tom Busch on the air last night, the father of Kurt and Kyle. He talked about bringing young 13-year-old Kurt Busch to Phoenix on November 3 of 1991 to watch his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at this race track. “We got to go down into the pits before the race and I thought that was so cool,” said Kurt. “When they fired up the engines for the race it was something like I had never heard or seen before.” Hard to believe that just over 18 years later Kurt is one of the favorites to take him on here at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch is second to Jimmie Johnson in NASCAR’s “loop data” statistics for the four most recent seasons. For example, Johnson’s leading average running position here of 5.066 to Busch’s second place 8.063 and Johnson’s leading driver rating of 123.0 to Busch’s runner up 104.6 rating. Even with one fewer race (Kurt did not compete in the Nov 2005 race) Busch is still second in laps led leading 411 (14.6 percent) of the laps.

Somehow I convinced Tom Busch, just for fun of course, to take Kyle and Kurt to win here at Phoenix this weekend in the Sprint Cup Series race. I mean I wasn’t going to pry the man’s boys from his arms for a mere sporting bet. We threw out Jimmie Johnson (neither of us could pick him) but I have the rest of the field. How did I pull that one off? I had FOX analyst Jeff Hammond on the air as a guest last night and his choice to win, he said, would be someone unexpected – like a Marcos Ambrose or a David Reutimann. It should be an interesting weekend.

Is Running the Nationwide race a greater advantage here?
Paul Menard thinks so! ” I think that running the Nationwide race will be an even bigger advantage than usual this weekend,” Menard says. “The schedule for Friday is pretty tight and the Cup Series doesn’t get any practice during the part of the day we race. So, I’m sure (crew chief) Slugger Labbe will stick around for the Nationwide so both of us are able to get a good feel at to show the track will change during the course of the evening.” “The good thing for us is that Paul is running the Nationwide race, so he’ll be able to tell us how the track changed and we can be ready for it Saturday night,” says Labbe.

I’ll be on the air tonight (Thursday) 7-10 EST LIVE from Phoenix International Raceway on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio. Catch you then.

Claire B

Martinsville Victory Lane! March 30, 2010

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Rear View Mirror: The Goody’s Fast Pain Relief 500!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victory Lane!
Denny Hamlin remembers the race fans!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ll have that in short track racing!

Finally —–The Caution
A strike ball call by NASCAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love short track racing!

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

I’ll be in touch.

Happy Easter!

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Talladega race issues November 3, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season.
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Hey! Today I’m busy answering emails and believe me my mail box at ClaireBMail [at] ClaireBLang.com is full of emails on all sides of the Talladega race issues. I thought you might like to see some of my emails and so I’ve posted a bunch of them along with my answers.

Let me tell you something the wrecks at Talladega sure get attention. I was at the grocery store today and at Starbucks and folks who never even watch racing knew of the wrecks. It’s kind of sad that cars flipping end over end get so much attention from folks who don’t know about our sport. But it does get the headline, the photo, the Sportscenter video replay and the conversation jazzed up.

Here’s a list of emails from my box today.

Claire B

___________________MAIL BOX__________________________________________

CBL: The the morons in the media (d cross for one) try to tell us to love Johnson…. we’ll hate him –all there is to it…We hate the points system and Johnson is a part of it…He’s only a 2 time champ in my mind.. so they don’t need push this whole making history of 4 time champ …In my world he’s going for number 3 right now and is about 80 points out of the lead..France and Johnson can kiss my…I hate what they’ve done to this sport…

Hey – I have an issue with the Minn. Vikings too cause I’m a Packer Fan – but even if you hate Johnson isn’t he just doing his job? If your favorite driver was doing same would you feel better/happy? Just asking.

CBL

______________________________

Claire,

NASCAR has put cowl flaps on the cars to keep the front end on the ground. They have put flaps on the roof so when they get sideways they will stay on the ground. So when are they going to engineer flaps on the trunk so when they get backwards they stay on the ground??

Can you ask NASCAR this question for me and let me know what they say?

I’m tired of being worried when a driver flips like Newman did thinking that a trunk flap may help a driver when they get turned backwards.

Rush Cregger
Virginia

Hey Rush: I’ll have Series Director John Darby on with me on “Dialed In” on Competition Wed on Wed. on my Sirius NASCAR Radio Show in the 7:00 EST time hour. I will ask him.Thanks Rush.
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Dear Claire;
Well I thought the race was really good, ok until 5 laps to go, there was a fair amount of side by side racing and yes strategy in the middle of the race. All and all pretty good racing until the 2 terrible accidents at the very end of the day. Thank goodness no one was hurt, Ryan Newman’s wreck was just frightening, and he had several valid points about this car going airborne too often at the superspeedways. After the race I heard a few comments that maybe the wing may be part of the problem with these flipping accidents and I have to wonder if it isn’t the reason too. In Ryan’s accident it almost seemed like an invisible hand pulled the car up by the wing, also the fact that the car has higher center of gravity forces more air under the car and that higher green house makes the car less stable at the wheels. And I don’t know what can be done to change this short of a complete change to either the car or the track, and neither will happen.
For all the complaints of drivers that they didn’t like NASCAR telling them how to drive, my question is what was NASCAR supposed to do. They were facing the fall out from the final lap accident in the spring they needed to react, certainly the car kept the drivers safe but what about the fans and track workers the bottom line is that they have to keep those cars earthbound. I think we confuse drafting and bump drafting with what goes on at the superspeedways and that is slam drafting. Too many drivers are slamming into the cars ahead of them and because of the center of gravity of these cars being so much higher the cars aren’t as stable and they can be turned into traffic in a split second. NASCAR is between a rock and a hard place here; they can’t and frankly won’t make infrastructure changes to try to prevent these accidents so they have to control how the drivers run the race to attempt to circumvent the big one.
As for the drivers what a fine day for Jamie McMurray, he was good all day and won the day on fumes, and nice finish for Dale Jr.. And if anyone needed that finish it was Dale, hopefully some much needed stability on the 88 team will translate to good finished. And we now know that Jimmie Johnson will be the champion, because frankly unless he is kidnapped by Bedouin’s the 48 team will not make the mistakes necessary for another team to win the title this year. And if a team had luck it was the 48 team yesterday, the car seemed off and at times he looked like he might loose the draft but Chad made maybe the best call maybe in the chase ever. Come in for gas before they red flagged the race, it kept Jimmie out of harms way for the final restart and gave him a great finish. Conversely for my driver Jeff Gordon the decision to stay out will be the one that cost them a chance at the title. To be fair Stevie was right every time on fuel mileage races and it did make sense not to give up the track position especially since they had a serious chance to win the race. With all that I have to think Stevie may second guess himself on that decision, certainly it was clear that they would need to red flag the race to aid Ryan and you take a chance with fuel pressure after the car is shut off. Still there is a lot to race for the 24 team, get as many wins as possible and finish in 2nd place, both are very reachable goals. And for Hendrick as an organization it would be to try to get Ryan Newman up to the top 5 and have all HMS cars and Stewart-Haas Cars in the top 5.
And a couple of final notes; what an excellent finish for Chrissie Wallace 13th in her first race at Talladega, after the race her dad just beamed. After watching Chrissie’s great day I still have to wonder why we don’t see more companies using racing to attract female fans. Why aren’t Revlon or L’Oreal or Victoria’s Secret sponsoring drivers aren’t like Chrissie Wallace or Sarah Fisher in IRL or Ashley Force-Hood, heck Ashley is racing for the Funny Car Championship. What these and many other companies forget is that half of racing fans are women the person in most homes who makes the purchases for the most part. They have the chance to attract customers and do a good thing by helping more young talented women race. Because without the dollars these young drivers will never get the chance to race, just look at Chrissie’s career. I have seen her in a few races and she is very good but it will be difficult to improve when she can’t race more than a couple times of year. And I know that you don’t cover F1 much but I did watch the end of the race and the new Abu Dhabi track is spectacular especially under the lights and there was some close racing at the end. I was shocked by the new driving champion Jensen Button doing everything but spinning out cars to try to finish in second.

Thank You, Sue from Shorewood, IL
Sue: Not much was said in the media about NASCAR doing this to try to ensure the safety of some of the very fans that it upset. I don’t think anyone wanted to see anyone hurt, drivers and especially fans. If it’s not the right solution or was made to last minute, well then something else will be thought of. Elliott Saddler suggested they lock the drivers in the room and have another meeting. Seems Talladega will always be insane. It seems there is no perfect solution to cars going that fast – Thanks for the email. I’ll continue to ask NASCAR their thoughts on aftermath. CBL

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Claire, firstly I want thank you for being the hardest working person in NASCAR radio. I truly feel you put the listeners first and appreciate your hard work. About the race…Jimmie Johnson commented this morning that Talladega is designed for speed and alluded to the potential risk as being more related to track design. I want to throw out the idea that what if the danger IS the track and, if so, all that NASCAR is doing such as the bump drafting enforcement and restrictor plates are just band-aids. Perhaps they need to drop the angles of the turns to force drivers to reduce their speeds. I know it is expensive, but what is a life worth?
On a second note, I have a big issue with NASCAR’s failed attempt at being big brother on the corner bump drafting, as evidenced by their not black flagging any driver. In football for example, a penalty is called as many times as the infraction occurs. In the race that might have been a few times per lap. If they had black flagged anyone bump drafting in a corner the whole race would have been blown. In my opinion it is an all or nothing thing. They call every single infraction or have no ethical leg to stand on if they attempt to penalize a driver.

Won’t take up too much of your time. Thank you for being so special.
John Robinson
East Hampton, CT

John you make a point – everyone has said that this is a very difficult rule to enforce and other series have not been very successful at trying to enforce it. It’s not an easy solution.CBL
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Hi Claire, I sat on the couch for what felt like an hour waiting for them to get Ryan out, holding my breath I want to know why the roll bar collapsed .Rantin-Ray

Me too Ray, Me too. CBL

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Hi Claire,

If Newmans car had been on fire we would all be having different
discussions today. To me there was not enough urgency in getting to
him and getting him out.

Rob C
St.Petersburg, Fl

Rob: It always seems like that….I mean minutes seem like hours during these situations when they are trying to get a driver out safely, but when you are on the couch it’s easy to be an arm-chair safety worker. I’m just glad that he’s ok.

Claire B

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Hi Claire,
Just wanted to say that I thought the race today was a total bore. I really think that the time for tracks like Talladega and Daytona have passed. NASCAR doesn’t seem to want the drivers to race at these tracks anymore so they might as well just scrap them. Also I think that Brad Keselowski is a menace on the track. He has raced in 2 plate races this year and caused big wrecks in both of them. In the spring he sends Edwards into the fence to win and today causes Kurt Busch to wreck taking out many others. Someone needs to take that boy out to the woodshed. It really sickens me and shows what a sad state NASCAR is in when someone like Brad had a solid cup ride for next year and someone like Mears might not and Stremme doesn’t.

David Romanowski
Endicott, NY

Hey David: Well Brad is a young Buck with a lot of “want to” and up on the wheel. When he mixes up with Cup drivers the end of this year and next…I am sure that he’ll learn a lot. As I’ve always said the Cup guys are a little “self policing” on aggressive young guys who come in.. He’ll learn his perfect balance and place. It will be fun to watch. Having him in the Cup Series early now this year will be fun to watch through Homestead. See – there is something to watch besides the Chase. 🙂 LOL

Claire B

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Hi Claire B.
That was Freekin Awesome Go McMURRY AWESOME!!!!AWESOME!!!!AWESOME

Yea! I was really happy for Jamie too! And his whole team. CBL
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GO VIKINGS LoL You need a purple Farve jersey.

Shut up!!!!! (LOL). Darn I picked that one wrong. I went with my heart on Sirius Pigskin Pickems….I went with Green Bay. All my family at home – in mourning. 🙂 Go Green Bay. CBL

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I usually like any wrangling. In this case Jimmy Johnson I do believe feels trouble in his central nervous system as well as sees the air with his central nervous system like MR. Dale Earnhardt. Folks get ready for MR. Jimmy Johnson and you soon love him like Big E. Hes not a errogant man at all. Hes smooth in public. Most of us racing degenerates are not. LoL.
Respectfully
Jeff from MN

Thanks Jeff….you can go to the K-Mart parking lot like they used to and scrap it out with the fans of other drivers in the field. Kidding. Actually – Jimmie up close is a really nice guy..but everyone has their own take based on who their driver is. I can tell you one thing..there isn’t anyone in the field who isn’t already working on beating him each race in 09 and fixing it so they can charge at him in 10. CBL
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You’re mad that the Vikings come and brought Brett Farve by to Green Bay and they ran over your Packers. Ole’ well, remember that basically the Packers didn’t want Farve anymore. He’s still got the talent and ability and the drive to play, so get mad at your Packers for getting rid of him.
Chris in TX

Chris: Yea good point. But you didn’t convince me to drain the Green and Gold from my veins. I still was hoping GB would put him back in the box when he came into our house. I like the guy – but I still have a hard time trying to beat the Pack (and doing it LOL). 🙂 Oh that was so hard. I’m mad at everyone about that game. Claire B
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What is all the complaining about(bitchn) !!!!!!!!! If it is no wrecks at Bristol because of the new configuration, its the cot. Can’t race with it, It’s boring !! Can you give us all a break PLEASE. I cannot believe we cannot go though 1 race without complaining. Three wide, four wide racin and you got the big one with Ryan on his head!! Excuse me !! Its Nascar IT’S racing 200 mph if you don’t like it, watch the Boston Marathon !!! Mike from St. Louis

Louis:

Louis: You make a good point. I was looking back over history to what other drivers said at the care center over the past races after crashing out at Dega to see what they said. I can recall divers slamming things after their cars got tore up in the All Star Race..but now with the economy bad and everyone so sensitive about things it really does stick out like a sore thumb. It’s tough times for everyone…making the fans happy is a priority but is there any way to make everyone happy – and keep them safe? Not sure. I am glad I am not in charge. CBL
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Claire B – Ok, that was officially scary. I was really concerned that we’d lost another driver for a while there.
And sure it was a great race – if you think WWE is a great sporting event. What a fiasco.
The late David Poole argued very strongly that they ought to bulldoze those banks down and I think I may agree with him.
My .02
Brad T
MA

Hey Brad, I too was worried about Ryan. Well there have been folks on several sides of the “bulldozing” concept. It’s been talked about on SNR for hour some disagree – some agree. It was scary…you are right. CBL
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If it weren’t for Newman’s wreck, and the one on the last lap, this would’ve been a super boring race. This race was almost as boring as most of the California races. Not that wrecks make racing exciting. However, side by side racing is exciting and Talladega and Daytona are about the only tracks you can see side by side racing at anymore. I thought that, in addition to safety, that’s what the COT was supposed to bring to the sport. The car is safe but the racing, I don’t think, is as good. If there is a lot of side by side racing they’re not showing it on TV. In which case, means the coverage is lacking.
Michael

Michael – Thanks for the email. Does that mean that you watch for the crashes? Not that that is bad just wondering. Claire B
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Another week ESPN failed to interview the top finishers. Instead they rush to give the Hendrick boy’s interviews. Maybe next week they won’t even interview the winner, if they’re not a Hendrick team.

Well – I hate that….I think there are so many stories to tell the next few races — including stories that lead into next season….and preparation and watching drivers like Joey Logano, and Brad Kezelowski, and what Dale Junior’s team does, and a whole list of other drivers. I think there are many stories beyond the chase.
Claire B
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Just saw Newman’s wreck at Talladega. It looks like the wing on the cup cars creates lift when the car points backwards. Safety issue Nascar needs to look at????
Michael

Rockingham
Hey Michael – Jack Roush made some great roof flap comments — after the race. I will definitely ask John Darby about roof flaps on Wed during “Dialed In” and “Competition Wed” tomorrow. Roof flaps can’t possibly stop everything especially when another car is involved and helps launch the flip. Check into “Dialed In” if you can with Series Director John Darby on Wed on Sirius NASCAR Radio.CBL

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All: Thanks for all the emails and while I’ve answered them quickly – I’ll talk about them in more detail on air on Wed. on “Dialed In” and further discuss. I have found the fans of this sport to be so smart and to be very critical and hold the sport up to a lot – because they have found the sport to be so special and many grew up with it. That’s ok. The more loyal that you are to a sport the more you expect from it and so it makes sense that fans would be critical and hold the sport to a lot of what they expect.

I appreciate your emails and have a whole bunch more…so back to answering them and I’ll catch you on “Dialed In”. I’m headed to Texas on Thursday morning.

Can’t wait. Love Texas, Dallas Fort Worth and Texas Motor Speedway. It’s great fun and there will be a bunch to talk about.

As always, thanks for listening and for emailing.

Claire B

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Dover Racing – Chase Race #2 – NASCAR Sprint Cup Race Weekend! September 25, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Breaking News.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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ATLANTA - MARCH 06:  Mark Martin, driver of th...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Welcome to Dover. The forecast is part of the conversation this weekend – as is Mark Martin’s age, the chase format, the high banks of Dover, concrete versus asphalt, pit road incidents and what to do to prevent them, and partial schedules for drivers (i.e. Jeff Gordon and would he ever go part time)

Let’s start with the weather: This is one of those weekends that might be affected by rain – but hopefully we’ll be able to make it through without significant delays to the schedule and/or impact on the racing. So let’s start there:

Here’s the latest weather forecast for Dover:

DOVER FORECAST:
Sep 25 Friday
Mainly cloudy. A few peeks of sunshine possible. High near 70F. Winds NE at 10 to 20 mph.
Sep 25 Friday Night
Some passing clouds. Low near 55F. Winds ENE at 10 to 20 mph.
Sep 26 Saturday
Cloudy early with showers for the afternoon hours. High 66F. Winds E at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 50%.
Sep 26 Saturday Night
Cloudy with periods of rain. Low 59F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 90%. Significant rainfall amounts possible.
Sep 27 Sunday
Cloudy with rain in the morning. Highs in the upper 70s and lows in the low 60s.

Claire B.’s SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Broadcast Schedule:

Here’s the broadcast schedule for “Dialed In” on Sirius NASCAR Radio and for met this weekend.

Friday, Sept. 25th

“Dialed In” with Claire B. Lang 7-10 EST

Saturday, September 26th
“Dialed In” 2PM-3PM leading into the Dover 200 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race
Also “Dialed In” after the race until 9PM ET

Sunday, September 27th

SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Pre-Race Show
10:15AM-12:15PM ET (Claire B.in Studio)

SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Post Race Show (two full hours after the Sprint Cup Race) – (Claire B. in Victory Lane)

After post race: “Dialed In” with Claire B. Lang until 10:00 p.m. EST

Now what’s going on here in the Media Center at Dover:

BREAKING NEWS: Here in the Media Center today at DIS:

Mark Martin’s Age Continues to be a Topic:

To Brian Vickers: How amazed are you with Mark Martin’s accomplishments this year?“It’s crazy to think about that. It really is. …….. Why is he still doing so good at that age? I think it has less to do with his age and more to do with the fact that he’s still really hungry. If he had won four championships, would he still be able to do it at 50? I think desire has more to do with it than age. He is still real hungry. And what he has, and is a huge advantage over any of us, is he has just as much desire, but he has a lot more experience. I think experience in these cars goes a long way. We don’t have the telemetry. We don’t have the computers telling the crew chief what to do to the car like Formula One does. I think that’s where the experience comes in. Knowing these tracks and understanding these tracks, 500 mile races. It’s easy to say it, even for a young athlete, that you gotta be there at the end of the race to win it, but it’s much harder to do it. Mark is always there at the end of the race. He’s had some problems at the beginning of the season, but most of those, were those his fault? I’m proud of him. I’m impressed. I admire him for what he’s accomplished throughout his entire career, and especially what he’s done this season. I think he’s a huge threat to win the championship. I don’t think his age hurts him whatsoever. I don’t see that as being old, me personally. But I’m not 50 yet. I might change my mind when I get that age. I think most of the time, when a very talented athlete — even a race car driver — gets to be that age, if they’re still in the sport, then they’ve probably had a certain level of success. And with that, they get, ‘Okay, well I’ve already done it. Do I really want to push myself to do it again? I’ve won four championships, or five, or six or seven or whatever.’ They probably lose a little bit of desire. Mark is hungry. You can see it. You can see it even when you talk to him. You can see it on the race track. He’s never won a championship before and he wants it bad. He’s got more experience than anybody and he’s probably in better shape than most of the guys in this garage.

To Mark Martin: ON YOUR DECISION TO SIGN A CONTRACT EXTENSION – COULD YOU JUST TALK A BIT ABOUT WHETHER THERE WAS MUCH SOUL SEARCHING INVOLVED? Mark Martin: “Really things are going really, really well. I’m having the time of my life. It’s a little long-range for my liking but for Hendrick Motorsports planning purposes, sponsorship deals and all those things it made sense to go ahead and make the commitment so they could plan longer term than just a year. I’m definitely having a blast. I’m having the time of my life and I think that’s obvious. So I was comfortable with it.”
Other topics:

PIT ROAD INCIDENTS INCREASING -SOWHAT IS THE FIX?

To Brian Vickers: Would it be safer if NASCAR penalized drivers for hitting crew members or other cars on pit road?
“Well, are they going to make the crew guy run a lap if he jumps out in front of a car? They do it. I think that in the heat of the battle — it’s tough. The last thing I want to do as a driver is hit a crew member — I can assure you. I don’t think there’s a guy out here who wants to hit a crew guy. But, when you pull in your pit box and the crew guys they get up on the wall and they’re anxious and they’re ready to go and their car is a few behind you and they jump out a little bit early and they’re watching this and they’re not paying attention to here — oh, trust me, I’ve had plenty of guys jump out in front of me. And, I’ve had guys that they have a tendency to swing way out of the box. They run around the car about four or five feet out in pit road — they’re not even in their box.”

GORDON SAYS IT DOESN’T MAKE BIZ SENSE FOR HIM TO GO PART TIME
Jeff Gordon says since he has equity in Hendrick Motorsports he doubts he’d do a partial schedule in the future because he doesn’t see where it would make good business sense for HMS. He says if he’d go to Rick Hendrick and tell him he’d like to go to partial schedule that Rick probably would allow it – but it would never be with the intention of coming back one day to a full schedule. It doesn’t look as if this is something he’s considering.

Stewart has not talked with Danica:

Tony Stewart says he has not talked with Danica Patrick since the announcement was made that she was staying in Indy Car and had signed a new contract with Andretti Green Racing – that out of a report in the Indianapolis star.

That’s it for now. More later. I’ve got to get back out in the garage.

Enjoy the day.
Claire B

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Welcome to Indianapolis Motor Speedway! July 22, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season, Trackside.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far
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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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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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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Home From Vegas But Barely March 3, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season.
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Vegas was just sick!

Did you hear me interview Jamie McMurray this weekend? He was sick as a dog – said that last Wednesday he was so sick he could not have driven a race car. He actually had to have the hotel doctor make a room visit. I interviewed him – and a bunch of other race car drivers who were sick. Sunday night – about an hour before I finished the post race show I felt like I was hit by a truck filled with the flu. I was on the air when it came on and it is the only time in my life I felt like I knew exactly within the hour when I got ill. I barely left Vegas. If you were on the Vegas rental car shuttle and you saw a girl with her head on the rail of the shuttle that was me and it wasn’t a party that put me there . Honest, I was so weak that I had to ask people to help me. I ran into a listener who introduced herself and since she didn’t have bags she asked if she could help pull my bag, it was obvious I was about to keel over. I usually would say. “No thanks I can handle it,” but this time I could not. It was a good lesson cause I have never had to lean on others — I hated the feeling. So I let people help me get my luggage on and off the shuttle, and onto the airplane and the overhead. Blessings to everyone who helped me seeing how sick I was. I really don’t know how I got home without the help of others so thanks to the unnamed to helped. I was never more thankful to get home.

Where are you Atlanta?
I met the nicest people on the West Coast and they seemed so happy. Not trying to create anything artificial – I just felt as I met the fans on the West Coast that they were so appreciative and happy that it put me in a good mood and I just totally felt it when I met them. They came out late at night to watch the haulers, they screamed and jumped and got excited and were thrilled to be there and soak up every single small moment of the NASCAR circus being in town.

I’m wondering if we’ll see the same at Atlanta this weekend. I know it’s a different market. To me- it’s not all just about numbers of people –it’s the fans’ enthusiasm. Atlanta is a market that I would assume would embrace NASCAR as NASCAR has it’s roots in the deep south. Maybe that’s why sometimes it seems as if Atlanta takes NASCAR for granted. If you live in town maybe you don’t go to see your parents much as if you treasure moment with them when you live close. I live in Charlotte, NC and my parents and brothers and sisters live in Wisconsin so I miss them all the time and stay in touch more than they do even though they live closer. Maybe it’s that kind of thing. If the weather is nice I would hope Atlanta would show up big time this weekend- and have some fun – the kind of fun I saw people having in California and Nevada.

I’m not selling this – I’m simply observing. You can’t fake pure joy– and boy is it catching. I am just interested in what we see in Atlanta this weekend. By the way the weather forecast looks pretty good. Subject to change of course.

Observations – Check it out!
Scott Speed: I caught up with him at the care center after the Nationwide race on Saturday- at LVMS and was so impressed with his presence. The first few times I interviewed him he said he’d do his best in this sport and whatever came to him came to him and he wouldn’t worry about it. I was like “yea right.” I never saw a racer who made it with that attitude. But you know after getting whacked on the track and starting from the pole and just getting our of the care center- he had an inner peace I don’t usually see of drivers there and I have seen a lot of them there over the years. It was pretty impressive. I ran into him pre race and walked with him. He was so focused and had an inner calm. This guy seems to keep his head together and stay focused when the world is swirling around him. Could that translate to success on the track? We’ll see. Interesting to cover him this year.

Jeff Gordon: His fans have sent me so many emails. Have I seen a change in him? Not really – he’s always been appreciative of being in the sport – and he’s always had the fire to win. He is felling better this year and I think it shows in his driving. His back was an issue – no longer. Can it be true that Jeff Gordon was 23rd in points after Las Vegas last year. Woah. The SMI tracks are starting fan (PRN up to Speed) events with drivers on stage and when Jeff Gordon was asked about it he was the first to say yes he’d do it. I heard a story told to me the other day from a track official about Jeff and a guy who had a terminal disease. Not only did Jeff meet the guy but knew exactly what to say to someone who was dying…..the track official was in tears telling me how Jeff handled the situation with grace and deep sincerity and kindness but also with a deep faith, from the spirit, the heart. It’s good to see him figure into the story lines this year.

Carl Edwards: The man is really made of steel. He doesn’t flinch his timing is perfect (It’s the one characteristic I see in all champions). They don’t laugh at the wrong time or say the wrong thing at the wrong time or miss the timing in an interview. Sometimes in a pack of reporters when I leave the pack after getting what I need he will tap me on the arm as if to say thanks Claire for coming. He doesn’t miss anything. He’s always pleasant and on his game. The other day, I interviewed Carl while walking and fans noticed him – they came running and were talking to him and handing him things and we changed directions twice and he kept talking doing an interview. I always notice how his focus is about as strong as anyone I’ve ever seen.

Dale Earnhardt Jr: I have been covering him since he began in this sport. Usually I would use the word “respect” to define him. In previous years I would have always used that word when asked about him- more than any other driver. I am not seeing Dale Junior as the poster child for respect this year -yet. That is not a knock at all. He’s still a really nice and decent guy up close. I think he’s testing the lines of “too nice” and “I gotta show respect -not act a fool” that he learned as a child afraid to knock anyone around and pushing into “Damn I gotta get the job done and nice might not get me there.” Dale Junior has always been true and real -as I have seen in covering him and I would guess that he might be figuring out who he really is and how he wants to be as he grows at Hendrick so that he can be real about it. Cause he’s not going to give us anything fake. We’ve never seen any less from him. I remember the day that Martin Truex got his first Busch series championship and I went up on stage. Not bothering him I figured as owner I would not ask him too many questions. I said, “I hate to be a pain – but I’d like to talk with you.” He said quietly, “You’re not being a pain.” I never forgot the kindness because he didn’t need to say that. It was years ago – but it stuck with me. Or the sunglasses he designed that had the word “respect” on the tag. I knew that word was ingrained in him. Dale doesn’t like loud but if you are not asking for much he usually will do what he can to make time and he digs deep usually. I hope he doesn’t change that as he grows up. He’s a really decent guy. He’s just stretching.

Well that’s about all the observations I have now. I’ll talk to you more later. I need to get some sleep and fight this flu so that I can be ready to leave Thursday crack of dawn for Atlanta.

Thanks for all the emails to insidercbl@aol.com

To the anonymous people who I had to lean on getting home from Las Vegas: Thanks. You can’t imagine how sick I was and how much you helped me get home. You helped a stranger and I send you many blessings.

Claire B

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What a Wild Ride February 14, 2009

Posted by claireblang in 2009 Season.
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Jeff Gordon in August 2007 a...
Image via Wikipedia

What a Wild Ride
Claire B LOG – Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Welcome to Daytona – the eve of the Daytona 500. It’s been one really busy week and I thought I’d send you a postcard from the media center. I’m on the air tonight (Saturday) from 7-10 p.m. EST – for a final recap before race day.

Story of The Day – Stewart Haas Crash in Saturday practice

Today was wild. Watching Ryan Newman spin and Tony Stewart plow into him in the final practice – the crash drew a gasp from even the hard core media. The media here in the media center, most of them, got up off their chairs and stood at the monitors , almost in disbelief that lightning could strike Newman again and that the Stewart-Haas team which has been so organized leading into this race here at Daytona. This, in the last practice before the big race.

Out to the garage we went. Newman was Newman – pleasant but as honest as the day is long, unflappable and seriously frustrated with Goodyear and he wasn’t going to back down. Tony was pleasant and business like but it was one of those interview sessions where all of us knew that if you asked a stupid or ill thought out question, get ready, cause Tony would let you know in no uncertain terms what he thought of it. Tony told everyone that he was in an understandable bad mood and he wasn’t in a good mood. I think he was letting us know that he was still boiling inside so understand that.

One reporter asked Tony “Does this tire make you concerned for your safety?” and Stewart was on the edge, saying “Get out of here!” to the reporter. He later told the reporter that he’d likely not be talking to him any time soon. Those on the PR side of the fence thought it was an incendiary question and understood why it angered Tony. To his credit -Stewart spoke at length with the media and didn’t cut it short or run off – he but his anger at Goodyear was evident in his eyes.

Stu Grant the GM of Worldwide Racing for Goodyear came into the media center……and said that Newman’s tire showed no indication of high wear —and that they looked for fender rub – there was not enough of the upper side wall to give an indication of that. In their exam Grant said that Goodyear officials found a clear puncture or hole that was the “likely” cause of the air loss in Newman’s Tire. This is not what Goodyear wanted.

Newman tells me it was not a punctured tire

Later, back in the garage, I asked Newman about the puncture comment from Grant and he said “I’m sure he would have said that yes,” I asked him if he looked at the tire and Newman said, “It came apart. I felt it coming apart before it blew up. I was running 195 miles an hour and there’s nothing you can do. I mean it’s just – it exploded. A puncture in a tire doesn’t lead it doing what it did…the rest is more than obvious.”

In his media center session I asked Grant, “Tony out in the garage pretty much said not to let him anywhere near you guys when I asked him if he was going to go chat with you. Are you going to call a little pow wow with him this afternoon?”

Grant answered, “It’s not unusual to be very upset when you go through something like that as a race driver as a race owner and certainly that’s understandable. I do want to talk with Tony and I do plan to talk to Tony. Yes, I’ll do that Claire.”

Sometimes with Goodyear and Tony it takes more than a day for them to get back together. No idea if that meeting will happen before the Daytona 500.

Gordon Works on Back Issue -Stronger in 09

Here at Daytona Jeff Gordon had said that he was working on the issue with his back that had affected him last year. I asked him about it……”You were talking about your back -did you hurt your back or are you just trying to build up the strength in it,” I asked him. I had heard some back comments last year but this one seemed more serious. Could it be that a bad back – more than just a small back problem was bothering the four time champ and affecting his driving last year?

“It’s something that’s been lingering for a while. I think it’s just years of bouncing all over race tracks going around in circles,” Gordon told me ” You know, I’m getting older and so, you know, I gotta pay attention to those things and work on them. You know especially when I get to short tracks and the road courses pushing on the break pedal is really affecting it. So, it’s something that I really noticed the last couple years but I really started working on it last year and during the off season I was really able to go to work on it and I hope it will pay off.”

Jeff Gordon’s Rabbit Foot:

John Bickford, Jeff Gordon’s step-father in victory lane after the Gatorade Duels told me with a big grin— “I asked (Jeff) if he emptied his rabbits foot box out to make it through that maize of cars and he said, “I think I got one left, I’m saving it for the 500.”

Meanwhile, Johnny Sauter, who raced on Friday the 13th in truck #13 -told me he was not superstitious. “I don’t believe in luck I don’t believe in any of that,” he told me before the Camping World Series race with a cheery disposition. “If somebody told me I had to wear a green uniform and there was peanuts all over inside my truck I’d say, Alright, let’s go race.” Sauter was out of the race caught up in an early incident not of his doing.

Luck in the 500. Oh yea..you have to have it.

Boris Said – Says We’ll Get Out of The Mess We are In:

Boris said did not make the Daytona 500. A comment he made here earlier in the weekend was worth posting in the blog, though, I think. “If you don’t think this is the best entertainment out there. If you didn’t like that Budweiser Shootout the other night. To me that was one of the most exciting races I’ve ever seen,” Said noted.

“Granted this economy is in a hole right now,” he said. ” But it’s the greatest country in America no matter who you voted for we have a new president and sooner or later we are going to get out of this mess and our country will be thriving. I’m a big believer in that. Unlike NFL which is the most popular sport in America. In NASCAR you can come here and you see the fans faces when they see Dale Earnhardt Junior and they can actually get his autograph. I have been to a football game and I have never got anywhere close to a Brett Farve or somebody to get their autograph. So I think it’s a unique sport in the fact that it is a fan friendly sport and hopefully NASCAR will still do their best to still keep it that way.
I think that’s kind of what’s grass roots about it. I see NFL and NBA players. I mean they are so sheltered and they are such babies about who they are. They don’t give back to the fans like racers do. So I think it is a good investment cause it’s good entertainment.

Shout out to Boris!

Daytona 500 Pick – Not Going to Happen:

Driver after driver this week has told us that it’s almost impossible to make a good pick for the Daytona 500. Impossible. Jeff Gordon said that anyone can win. He talked about how although Ryan Newman won the 500 last year he would never have selected Newman as a front runner before the race from racing around the team or seeing the practice sheets.

In this race you have to have help at just the right time. You ,preferably, would like a push from a teammate – and even that seems to be like two ships passing in the wind that at the right moment in time, when each driver has been patient enough to get ready to pounce and they meet at just the right moment in the race for the push to be executed.

Shut your eyes, point to the starting line up and have at it. LOL

I’ll be anchoring the pre race show tomorrow (Sunday) for the Daytona 500 and will be hosting “Dialed In” live from the media center 7-10 tonight. I’ll catch you then and will try to blog you before the start of the race Sunday.

So keep posted.

Take care, enjoy!

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