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

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season.
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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 The home came with a long list of needed repairs: a leaking roof, outdated and exposed electrical wiring, rotting foundation and cracked asbestos siding.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

PHOENIX RACEDAY – CBL “POST-Card”: 4/12/08 April 14, 2008

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season.
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Hey all! It’s so darn beautiful in Phoenix today – it could be like the perfect day for a race. Wish you could all be here.

On my way in on Avondale Blvd. yesterday while making a quick stop at Starbucks I ran into Matt Kenseth doing the same. Well – given that Carl Edwards actual “ran into” the motor coach of Elliott Sadler with his vehicle perhaps I shouldn’t quite phrase it that way. I did not actually “run into” Matt Kenseth.

Seemingly just about every team in the sport is staying in the same area as I am this weekend. There was a healthy discussion about the Nationwide race last night in the hotel as various team members chatted up Kyle Busch’s Nationwide win Friday night.

Kyle’s pit crew won the race off of pit road in the NNS race here in Phoenix – the “Bashas’ Supermarkets 200” . The guys that I know from various Sprint Cup teams were discussing Kyle’s NNS pit crew and that it is, in essence, the Sprint Cup pit crew and that as he came in to pit they knew that his pit crew would have him out first and winning.

The guys were discussing how other Nationwide teams who do not use veteran Sprint Cup pit crew members for their cars could possibly compete. It was an interesting discussion.

So today when I got in the garage – I checked to see how many Sprint Cup pit crew members were pitting Kyle’s Nationwide car.

Actually: Here’s the lowdown. These are the guys from the #18 Sprint Cup team that were helping to pit Kyle’s #18 NNS car last night
– Nick O’Dell – Front Tire Changer
– Brad Donaghy – Front Tire carrier
– Jake Seminara – Rear Tire Changer
– Kenny Barber – Rear Tire Carrier

So the discussion last night was how the Nationwide teams with less experienced pit crew members could compete against the above. Kyle totally drove his butt off – but clearly his pit crew members were key to the win – and I thought the information of just who was pitting his car was interesting.

I got an email the other day from a listener who wanted to know more about transponders in the race cars that are used in timing and scoring. I answered the email but promised a longer interview in response. I discussed the transponders this morning over coffee with Nelson Crozier of Nelson Specialties who for years has handled electronics in the garage and who is, frankly, an electronic genius.

Nelson, how about a brief on the transponders:

“The transponders are all mounted to the rear of the car adjacent to the fuel cell and they are tie wrapped into place so normally they don’t come off but if for some reason they do get knocked off in a crash you have to mount a new bracket in the same spot and install a new transponder before you go back out on the track.

All the transponders must be located in the same spot – it is specified in the rule book and that way when they cross the line they are all measured identically. The transponder is about the size of a pack of playing cards or a pack of cigarettes and there’s an activator loop in various spots around the track that activates the transponder. It then, in turn, sends a signal back to the activator loop which goes into the electronics and shows you where each car is when they cross that particular line. That’s why when a caution comes out the field is frozen and they go to back to the last line crossed.

Sometimes you’ll see a car in front of another car and he gets moved back into position that’s because at the last line crossed he was actually behind the car that he just passed.”

How often are they knocked loose or damaged?

“Maybe one every race or every three races not very often.

There is a bracket that is fixed to the frame then the transponder is installed in the bracket and held in place with a tie wrap. NASCAR hands them out and then collects them. They collect them every evening after practice or whatever track activity is going on and then they put them back in the chargers so they are fully charged before being handed out again.They are very similar to the EZ Toll Pass that you use in your car when you go through a toll on the highway.”

To the listener who asked about the transponders good questions. I can check that off my reporters pad for the day. Now, hey will you look at the time! I’ve got to run out to the grid so I’m out of here for now.

Enjoy the race and if you are on the East Coast I want to know how many of you will stay up on the couch the entire race from the green, green until the checkered flag flies. If I get a few minutes I’ll be sending more during the evening.

Have fun!

Claire B
Phoenix International Raceway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Claire B
Media Center
Phoenix International Raceway