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March Madness NASCAR Style! March 15, 2011

Posted by claireblang in 2008 Season.
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It’s time for March Madness! When NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France responded this past week that, “This (NASCAR) is a contact-sport,” after being asked about aggressive racing, France slammed the door on any thoughts that the sanctioning body was inclined to respond softly when it comes to allowing the elite of NASCAR to get it on on the race track. Hello up on the wheel!

So with this being an off-weekend for Sprint Cup Series racing, it’s the perfect time to contemplate what we’ll see as we head from the final races of the early spring into the searing, frustrating, burning summer.

Mark Martin says that the drivers were giving every ounce of what they had inside to the racing last season. Yet, even  he said that what happened at Phoenix early in the race, as racers were extremely aggressive early,  had him taking a deep breath. “Even myself, I’ve been up on it and that’s ok but , you know,when you are up on it every second you are bound to make mistakes sooner or later.”  Martin said these are long races and the drivers are fighting for it every single lap. Martin added, “I think it would do us all a little bit of good to take a breath before the flag comes out and think about what we’re trying to really accomplish.”

Kyle Busch has a sense of humor when it comes to how he’s seemingly noticing the big picture, which is less of blowing up over the moment and now comprehending what it would take to win a championship.

When I asked him about it he joked that everything is going well because it’s early in the season. ‘It’s young in the year, were all still fresh,” He told me while grinning at his crew chief. “We’re not wore out, were not sick of each other after being together for thirty straight weeks or something like that. Times are good.”

 

We’ve seen the Kyle Busch, the boy. We’ve seen the hard-to-guard Kyle Busch but what about the grown up, mature kyle? When I told him that we can’t even imagine yet  how he could race when he gets to that juncture of his emotional development he responded, “Well. hi, nice to meet you.”

I interviewed Carl Edwards both mid-week before Las Vegas, when he almost won and got an apology from Kyle Busch and again after he won at Vegas. He too is thinking bigger picture. What angered him to fits of action earlier on in his career is now something he is tempering, as he assesses what it would take to get the champion’s trophy after Homestead.

For all these guys, in the hunt for NASCAR’s biggest trophy who are all seeing the big picture early on- just wait. As Kyle said, it’s early in the season and everything is still fresh. But the true test is the race season that is just beginning to unfold.

Let’s check out the frazzled, frustration if some of the drivers who are used to being in the hunt don’t have better races soon, after the bloom is off the dogwood and the summer get’s hot and steamy.

It’s going to get interesting.

PENALTY TALK September 24, 2010

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

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

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

Clint Bowyer (Media Center Appearance at Dover International Speedway)

TALK ABOUT YOUR WEEK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOU KNOW IF THE CAR’S ALREADY BEEN?

“I just answered that. I don’t know.”

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

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

JEFF GORDON:

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

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

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

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

OTHER TOPICS:
THE DIFFERENCE -CONCRETE TRACK

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

THE GAME PLAN (KYLE BUSCH)

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

Hard-Earned Post Win Vacation For Kevin and DeLana! Body Shop for Most of the Field! July 6, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season.
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Greenhouse Down!

“Greenhouse Down” is a race shop term that means you leave the the roof and the A, B and C pillars on the race car but replace the rest. That’s what will happen to the cars that made it through the carnage at the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday. Kenny Francis, the crew chief for Kasey Kahne (finished second) says their car will get the greenhouse down treatment.

For many of the teams more will be required, as much of the field ended up being towed off the track after multi car accidents.

Meanwhile, the perfunctory, “What happened?” that reporters normally ask drivers at the care center after a big wreck- resulted in a number of unclear answers simply because of the close racing and the melee on the track.

Jeff Burton: “No, I can’t (tell you what happened) I know the two car had a really big run coming and I was just coming down and I don’t know we just hit one of those bad wrecks that happens at Talladega and Daytona but I don’t really know what happened to be quite honest.”

Kyle Busch “I don’t know ……..the 42 was on my quarter panel and the air on both of our cars just started steering me right, right across the nose of his car. I mean I didn’t turn right to wreck myself why would I do that?”

You’ll have that….when racing at Daytona at high speeds.

The list of “I don’t know” answers just kept on coming because, frankly, the cars were nose to tail and the average speed was 130.814 miles per hour. There were 9 cautions for 37 laps, 47 lead changes among 18 drivers, ad the margin of victory was .092 seconds.

Happy Birthday DeLana

Meanwhile, Kevin and DeLana Harvick, who celebrated in Victory Lane, are enjoying a long-awaited vacation this week. “We are actually going on our vacation, a vacation we have not been on together in several years. So, (a win) is the best way to kick off a vacation. We are going straight to Chicago, not even going home,” DeLana told me in Victory Lane. “My birthday is Wednesday so if (Kevin’s) trying to get out of getting me a birthday present, it’s not going to work,” She added smiling.

The Club House in Victory Lane!

Victory Lane at Daytona International Speedway is, as Dale Earnhardt Junior said Saturday night, a special place to be. “Victory Lane is like when you are a little kid and you got a tree house or you and your buddy has got a club house in the woods or whatever,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “That is what Victory Lane is to me and I like going there.”

I’m lucky enough to be LIVE in Victory Lane each week on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio after the race is over. There’s always a lot going on, and it is, as Dale Junior explained, not only something extremely special but for a brief few minutes one of the happiest places on earth.

Even the son of Crew Chief Gil Martin got in on the victory lane action – as Kevin Harvick dumped a bottle of champagne on the head of Martin’s son Ford. “That’s the first time I’ve been to victory lane in my life…14 years, and the first time I’ve ever been to victory lane,” young Martin told me.

Ford and his family went off to Universal Studios to celebrate after Saturday’s win. The young Ford said he was “praying like crazy” as the race was drawing to a conclusion.

You just won the Coke Zero 400 presented by Coca-Cola, what are you going to do now?

Going to Universal Studios!

Mail Bag:

Below are some of the emails that I got over the past few days. Write me at insidercbl@aol.com:

The Golden Horseshoe

Claire, I guess we still know that Harvick has that Golden horseshoe I sent him at the beginning of the year.

Jeff in California

(Note: Jeff, sent Kevin Harvick a gold horseshoe after hearing the comment about the strategically placed horseshoe of Jimmie Johnsons.)

Letter to Brian France from a Fan:

Dear Mr. France,

If you are looking to update or tweak the Chase format… I have the BEST way to do it.

You want to reward drivers for winning races, but if a driver doesn’t make the chase then those 10 bonus points don’t mean a thing. So first adjust the weekly race scoring. Make it so the winner of the race score a least 25-30 more points than second. That is incentive to go for the win. Make it so first place receives 210 points and second gets 180, then as usual from there. And still add on the bonus points for most laps and laps led. Then the driver receives an immediate reward for winning. And that winning helps him get into the playoffs.

Then for the chase, take the points they’ve earned and cut them to 10%. So if the driver in first leads second by 210 points, he starts the chase leading by 21. and if third place is 279 points behind, he starts 28 points back. In this fashion, a driver who is 570 points behind doesn’t start ahead of other drivers just because he won a couple more races. The drivers are rewarded for their performance for the ENTIRE regular season, not just a few races. It makes no sense for drivers to get a better position in the playoffs when they performed at a lower level during the season.

I’ve been a fan for years, and I appreciate you consistently trying to improve the sport. Some fans say “leave it as it is”, but they probably don’t like the forward pass in football either. If you don’t always look to improve, look to make things better, you will never get new fans and casual fans will lose interest, and eventually you will die.

Thank You
Stephen W Barnes

From a Jeff Gordon Fan:

CBL:

Talk about some hard racin’! Jeff survived by driving like he was on
a dirt track. It was awesome. He was sooooo close once again. He
just didn’t have all his teammates up there supporting him, like the
RCR guys. Several times tonight Jeff tried to get the 48 to help him
and JJ would either jump to the other lane or cut him off. The last
time JJ cut Jeff off, Jeff got shuffled and then the big one
happened. Where Jeff had been, there was JJ. And, therefore, the 48
got in the big one and not Jeff. Bravo to the 48 crew for pulling
Mark Martin out of his burning car! Hey! Jeff is second in points!!
Woohoo!!! I know it’ll get him a glass of yesterday’s ice water once
the Chase starts, but it’s still great. He seemed genuinely surprised
when someone told him at the press conference.

Ann from Indiana

List of thoughts

One listener sent me this – a list of things that he was thinking

This is bigger than Jr:

1. What a shot in jr’s arm he can win if he or his fans thought different.

2. Should he re think running both races the drivers that do win more often ? U might have the % done for the radio.

4. Will a lot say it was the # and not the driver.

5. If I was jr I would drive out were dad died and got out and walk away from the car. What u think.?

6. If he wins tomorrow what are they going to say then? (sent after Junior’s win but before he finished 4th in Saturday night’s Sprint Cup Race)

7. Was the noise louder than most wins ? It could have been the mike but it sounded like other fans were jr’s fans at end of race.

Thank you Ron

NOTE: Ron, the noise for Dale Junior is always loud at Daytona so it seemed very loud. But probably no more than it always is. I don’t see Junior getting out of the car and paying special note to his dad – I think he prefers to hold that close to the chest and mark it in his own private way. I think that is how he usually carries himself. Thanks for the note.

Email from Jennifer

Claire,

You do not know how happy I am to wake up….turn on my Sirius Radio…and hear you this morning! I am so happy to hear you on here! Too often, I have to work in the evening and I miss your evening edition on Dialed In Wednesday – Friday so I am really enjoying this opportunity this morning! Thank you so much for agreeing to do your show this morning!

In regards to Dale Jr and the 88 team….Dale Jr is doing the very best that he can out there and he is driving his ass off every week…but I am so fed up with Lance McGrew and his attitude during, and in some cases, after the race. The comment that Dale Jr made after the Cup race about the setup that was under his and Mark’s car…that really caught my attention. He knew what setup was under his car and he knew it was different than what the 24 and the 48 had and even he wondered why that was.

After all, he said they ran the same setup in February and they did not run well then either, several timely cautions just allowed Jr to move up through the field and finish 2nd in the 500. Why put that same setup in the car again?…especially under such different conditions because the weather was very different. Use the setup that the 24 and 48 were using…it couldn’t have hurt. It really makes you wonder if the 2 shops are truly sharing because if they were then they would all be working off the same setup.

Instead, Lance just seems to throw something up into the air, hoping that it works for them. It seems to me that his attitude is…if it works that’s great…if it does not work…oh well! Lance does not seem to care at all because he acts as if the way Jr ran at Daytona Saturday night is no big deal. Well, I want to let him know that Dale Jr running well at Daytona and Talladega…leading laps…contending for the win most of the time…is a very big deal. It is a very big deal to Jr and it is a very big to us as his fans! It’s time Lance figure that out and if he has not figured that out then somebody needs to tell him!

I know Jr cannot win them all at Daytona and Talladega. I realize things are going to happen to keep him from always winning or always running well so I am not asking for perfection….I just think the effort is not always there on the crew chief’s part to make him the best he can be at those tracks. I do not believe that Lance believes in Dale Jr like he should…that is a shame!

I know that Friday night’s Nationwide Race was perfect…Dale Jr won and it was perfect!…and I know that will not happen every time. However, I was…and still am…so impressed with the overall effort from Tony Jr and that entire team on the Nationwide side. I am not only just impressed with their performance Friday night…I am extremely impressed with the effort that Tony Jr and the team put forth leading up to the race as well. They were well-prepared….they were truly a very cohesive team and they all seemed to gel so well. I am just so proud of the effort and all of the hard work that Tony Jr put into the race. They worked hard and it shows in the finish. Tony Jr was truly so happy after that race was over with and it showed in his emotions!

I just wish Dale Jr had that advantage on the Cup side…unfortunately I do not see it out of Lance McGrew. Every week on that 88 Cup car something else goes wrong…there is another excuse for a bad practice…a poor qualifying effort…or a poor race or finish. Something broke….somebody made the wrong adjustment….something was put on the car wrong….somebody messed up a pit stop. It seems to me a lot of crap goes on over on the 88 Cup car and it seems to me that Lance puts up with it and shrugs it off. Something tells me that if it was happening to the 24 or 48…it would not be “put up with”….heads would roll over there! I just wonder what HMS has to say about the fact that the 88 team is lagging behind every other HMS team, and the crew chief does not seem to care??? It is just a shame to have a driver so upset about how he ran but yet nobody else sees a problem with it. A crew chief who truly cared, would see a problem with it.

You know, Friday and Saturday night there were a lot of similarities with the 2 races Jr was in. The driver, of course, was the same…Dale Jr drove in both races. The pit crew was the same. According to the drivers, the new Nationwide COT drove a lot like the Cup COT does. There was one difference between the two races….the crew chief! Tony Jr Friday night and Lance McGrew Saturday. Friday night Jr seemed to do very well with Tony Jr…an crew chief it was obvious was giving his all to winning that race….obviously so because he won!

Saturday night it all falls apart under the so called “leadership” of Lance McGrew. To me, that speaks volumes and it tells me that Tony Jr should still be leading Jr’s Cup team. It may not ever do any good put I will always be a Tony Jr supporter and a big supporter of him being Jr’s crew chief. From where I stand, Jr was in a much better position when Tony Jr was leading his team because Lance McGrew seems to be grasping at straws out there! I just wonder when Rick Hendrick is going to come around to seeing this and actually do something about Lance McGrew because it is not working!

Thanks Claire….I have so enjoyed listening to you this morning!

Jennifer in SC

July 5th “floating holiday”

(much discussion on air over whether July 5th is a real holiday and who was working on this day versus whom is taking the day off).

Claire,
Your schedule is insane. After that crazy Saturday/Sunday, now you are driving to Chicago tomorrow?
I know that is why we get all the news but you are only human. Really you need some rest this afternoon.
By the way, I am off today. I am a software engineer for an aerospace company and it was a legal holiday for us.
Paula

Points Discussion – One Word – “Golf”

Claire,

With all the hubbub about the points, I’ll throw my 2 cents in–1 word–GOLF scoring format..Take away all the bonus points and give the driver and owner the points of their finish..1 point for 1st —
2 for second and so on…..At the end of the year..THE LOWEST SCORE WINS!!!! The chance of a tie is almost impossible but if it happens use a no points race to break the tie…Its just an idea but I guess its as good as any…

I drive a truck coast to coast hauling meat and listen to your show all the time–Keep up the good work and Love your show.

I root for the Busch brothers—-go 2 and 18.

Steve Neece

CBL On the Road Again:

I’m on the road again, and heading to the Midwest tomorrow. I’m traveling on the road to Chicago today (Tuesday) and then staying in the Midwest between Chicago and Indianapolis for the running of the brickyard.

I can’t wait to be in my home stomping grounds again for a while, see some family and cover the racing at the same time.

You can catch me on “Dialed In’ on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio or email me at insidercbl@aol.com.

Enjoy the day! Thanks for listening and for emailing.

Claire B

Repercussions of the NASCAR “Nudge” June 29, 2010

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NASCAR’s Drivers Reevaluate How They Race Each Other

Imagine the choices that Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch had to make in the final moments of the Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire. There were milliseconds to decide what to do and anger involved as the two were fighting for the lead, for the money, for the points, for the pride, for the win.

Kurt Busch saw that he had a “last chance” opportunity to pass Johnson. He got in the corner deeper than Jimmie. He didn’t flat out wreck him, he didn’t drive over him. It was, as Busch called it, a “nice nudge.”

Meanwhile, the pilot of the 48 was red faced and, as he described it, was “livid” inside of his race car. That road rage, in which Johnson had “great visions” of causing a “spectacular crash,” almost had Johnson loose any opportunity to later pull off the win.

What is also at stake is that Jimmie does not want Kurt to think that he is soft, or that his peers can “Knock the 48 out of the way,” If Busch, “slipped and accidentally got into him,” Johnson says that’s one thing. But, if it was Bush’s intention, then that’s the first time in nine years of racing with Busch that Johnson has experienced that from Busch and then, Johnson says, it would have “definitely changed the way I race with him.”

Hmmm….

In the end, Busch did not wreck Johnson, so Johnson reconsidered. He filtered all sides in his brain, which holds a very specific racers’ Rolodex. Did Busch intend the move ? Heck yes. He “nudged” Johnson. Did he slip? No. But did he wreck him? No. So Johnson chose to “nudge” him back, pulled it off cleanly and won the race. No foul.

Now what? Does his view of Kurt change? Does he race him differently? Does he know next time that Kurt will “nudge” him and, if so, how does that change how they race together. How would this race end up if it was re-run with the two in the very same position in the fall during the chase?

Does Johnson now race everyone differently because of the nudge he got from Kurt? Everyone’s more aggressive now.

Was it a test Kurt applied to Jimmie and now that he knows how Jimmie will respond, coming back at him with a “nudge” does he still deliver the move. Or, knowing what he knows now, does Busch deliver the “nudge” differently or maybe not at all.

How to Race Each Other?

What happened with Jimmie Johnson was at the end of the race and was for the win. But drivers are racing each other differently early in the races as well. These drivers now have a choice to make.

After Pocono, Tony Stewart said that the “restarts were idiotic,” and chastised his fellow drivers. “For anybody who is looking for drama for the next couple of races start looking -cause I can promise I’m going to start making the highlight reel the next couple of weeks,” Stewart told us.

Stewart’s Crew Chief, Darian Grubb, says, of Tony’s comment, ” I’m pretty excited. That means that he’s just going to step up his game that much more every lap. He’s realizing now,” Grubb told me, “that you have to race that hard every lap. The other guys are going to do it and they are going to be idiots and wreck each other and stuff on lap one. Sooner or later, you are gong to do that too or you are going to be behind them before its over with.”

Grubb says he doesn’t want his driver to tear up equipment doing it but added, “Everybody’s starting to loose a lot of respect for each other as drivers and be in it early in the race because they realize how much track position depends on that. You have to decide how you’re going to run for the day, so they are starting to be idiots right on lap one. So, he’s just basically saying he’s going to be one of the idiots as well,” Grubb said.

Bobby Hutchins, Competition Director at Stewart Haas Racing told me, “We talked about it (after Pocono). I think the drivers will (change their style). If you’re going to be here to win races and stay up front – then you are going to try to change the thought process.”

As to the highlight reel comments – Hutchins says, “I’m hoping he will be a more little aggressive because if we give up anything it’s been on restarts this year. and we’ve been in a position a couple times in the top five, six or seven and we’ve lost six to seven spots on a restart and by the time you get it sorted back out you pass those six or seven cars back and then it’s time for a pit stop and you have a caution then you are in the same spot you were in or worse, so it’s a big part of racing and, hopefully, he figured that out.”

Stewart has begun to apply his new theory.

In the end

In the end – things have changed in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. The new rules and related intensity have been forcing drivers to decide how much they will change and to reevaluate their style and the way they race each other.

Was Jimmie Johnson saying that after racing Kurt Busch for nine years, this is the first time Busch has raced him this hard, with a “nudge”. Or was he thinking the “nudge” was more than a “nudge.” Since Kurt pulled it off – Kurt does not get put into the fence. But – if he had messed up what would have happened? Would Johnson have destroyed his race car, being tested for the New Hampshire chase race to show that he can’t be pushed around. Likely not. Idle threat?

Are drivers just frustrated seeing Jimmie win all the time. So, if Johnson wins the title this year will it be the hardest won title he’s earned? No one will leave Johnson have a position on the track much less a win – they are not above nudging him out of the way. What about when others try it -and don’t pull it off like Busch did? Then what.

What about when we get to the end of the chase….when typically the drivers don’t take a guy in the chase out or drive “like idiots,” to coin a Stewart phrase, on the restarts early? What about when they now do drive ” like idiots” during the chase and everyone is doing it?

Drivers now don’t care about being so cautious and neither does NASCAR. The drivers have been unleashed. Things have changed.

It’s going to get interesting.

Krissie Newman Co-Hosting “Dialed In” with Claire B. Lang from Michigan June 10, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, Fun Stuff, Live Show.
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Pit Road Pets – Show Thursday Night 7-10 EST SIRIUS NASCAR Radio

Krissie Newman has agreed to co-host “Dialed In with Claire B. on Thursday night from Michigan International Speedway. Stay tuned for some wide-open, kick back and have fun for a good cause radio time! From the minute Krissie came on the circuit and married Ryan Newman she’s been one of the most well-liked wives out on pit road. The team guys love her cause she’s fun, she’s honest, she’s smart and she’s using all of those talents to help make a difference for animals. She’s also helping Tony Stewart build his new house, so even the boss man likes her! The racing community has rallied around the cause that she and Ryan selected to lend their time to and the second edition of the book “Pit Road Pets” featuring the stars and fans of NASCAR will be featured in a special autograph session at the track this weekend.

The Photo Shoot!

Photographer Karen Will Rogers took her camera equipment on the NASCAR road and behind the scenes to capture the love of the NASCAR community for their pets. In some cases she went to the homes of NASCAR personalities, and in other cases she captured them behind the scenes with their animals at the track. Fans were included in the camera shoot and featured in the book as well. What resulted is a close up look at NASCAR, through the eyes of the pets that they love.

The Radio Show! “Dialed In” Thursday, June 10th.

Krissie will be in studio at the track to co-host the show Thursday night (June 10th) which will feature a guest list of NASCAR drivers, crew chiefs and media people who appear in the book, telling stories about their pets and the shoot. The show will be packed with guests and good times in support of the book and the autograph signing on Friday evening.

The Autograph Session:

An A-list group of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, crew chiefs and their family members will participate in an autograph session at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, June 11 from 6-8 p.m. in the speedway’s Budweiser Acceleration Club.

The autograph session is open to fans that purchase the “Pit Road Pets:The Second Lap NASCAR Stars and Their Pets” . Fans can buy the book at the Ryan Newman Foundation’s display tent located near the Kids Zone in the New Holland Fan Plaza. Fans that have already purchased the first or second editions of the book may also bring their copy and participate in the autograph session.
The session is limited to 400 fans and passes will be handed out Friday beginning at 10 a.m. at the Ryan Newman Foundation display tent following their purchase of the book. The Newman’s and others will sign copies of the Pit Road Pets book and one other additional item per person.
Scheduled autograph participants are as follows and subject to change:
Ryan and Krissie Newman
• Kasey Kahne
• Clint Bowyer
• Marcos Ambrose
• Martin Truex Jr.
• Max Papis
• Kyle Petty
• Regan Smith
• Casey Mears
• DeLana Harvick
• A.J. and Lynne Allmendinger with dog Misty
• Aric Almirola with fiance Janice Goss
• Chad Knaus (Jimmie Johnson’s crew chief)
• Steve Letarte (Jeff Gordon’s crew chief)
• Tony Gibson (Ryan Newman’s crew chief)
• Darian Grubb (Tony Stewart’s crew chief)

The Book:
The newest edition of the book will be on sale from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Friday, June 11 for $24.95 each. Books can also be purchased at Newman’s trackside merchandise trailer, the MIS gift shop located in the track’s administration building or online at http://www.ryannewman.org. Proceeds from book sales during the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 race weekend will benefit the Michigan Humane Society.

Check out some of the behind the scenes shots with SIRIUS NASCAR Radio host Claire B. Lang and dog Dakota Rose that did not make it into the book…..

IMG_3429
Photo Credit: Karen Will Rogers
Pit Road Pets The Second Lap – NASCAR Stars and their Pets

ClaireBLang
Photo Credit: Karen Will Rogers
Pit Road Pets The Second Lap – NASCAR Stars and their Pets

IMG_3171_2
PHOTO CREDIT: PHOTOS BY Karen Will Rogers
RYAN NEWMAN

Sprint Pit Crew Challenge Night May 19, 2010

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season, Crew Chiefs, Crew Members, Fun Stuff, Pit Crew Challenge.
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The Boys Are Back In Town!!

It’s a highlight, back-home, bragging rights night in Charlotte, North Carolina tonight for the pit crews of NASCAR who are back in town for the All-Star Race activities and who will compete in the Sprint All Star Pit Crew Challenge. Opening ceremonies are at 6:45 p.m. EST at Time Warner Cable Arena.

There are 24 eligible teams who will each be able to bring five sets of tires and their own lug nuts to the event as well as air guns and jacks. Teams can bring four support members in addition to the seven competitors. The teams supply their own “push” car with tech requirements stipulated by NASCAR in the NSPCC Technical Bulletin. This stuff is serious!

All drivers, car owners, crew members and team members must have a valid NASCAR license that has not been suspended or revoked. Participating crew members have to be licensed to the team they are competing for and must be active on the current roster of “over the wall” crew members.

Seeding is done through the 2010 Sprint Cup Series Car owner point standings through Dover, and the top eight teams in points will receive a bye into the second round of competition. In addition to the fastest team in the event receiving the honors of champion, the fastest crew member at each station will be crowned as the individual champion and each of the winning individual crew members will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

The key to the event is the 40-yard push – where after completing their duties as jack man, tire carrier, tire changer, gas man, etc., the team must push their 3,200 pound race car (steered by their driver) across the finish line.

Speeds Coverage of the event begins at 9:00 p.m. (tape delayed) “Dialed In” on SIRIUS NASCAR Radio will begin LIVE coverage as the event begins at 7:00 p.m. EST

Last year, the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet pit crew outpaced the No. 43 US Air Force Dodge team to capture the team title. While doing so, the team set a new event record with a time of 22.115 seconds and earned a $70,675 payout, which equates to $10,096 per crew member or $3,195 earnings per second.

Individual winners in 2009 were:

Dennis Terry, Front Tire Changer No.1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 14.855
Shannon Keys, Front Tire Carrier No.1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 14.855
Jake Seminara Front Tire Changer No. 18 M&M’s Toyota 14.900
Kenny Barber Rear Tire Carrier No. 18 M&M’s Toyota 14.900
Preston Cordell Gas Man No.1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 10.072
Eric Hoyle Catch Can No.1 Bas Pro Shops Chevy 10.072
Jeff Kerr Jack Man No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy 5.666

Take a look at the bios of the team guys on the roster for tonight’s event and you’ll see many of them are racers or who knew people who were in racing. These guys first jobs range from commercial fisherman, to golf course manager, log cutter, steel tower construction, air craft refueler, commercial driver and firefighter, to name just a few of the interesting occupations these guys held before their current team role in NASCAR. Trevor Lysne the Front Tire Changer for the No. 42 Target Chevy worked in a treatment center for troubled children before racing. Kenneth Purcell the jack man for the No. 48 Chevy used to work at his dad’s animal hospital before joining the team.

The team guys have nicknames within their teams, like Jeff Patterson the two-time individual champion gas man from the No. 14 Office Depot Chevy whose nickname is “Gooch” and Mike Morneau the rear tire changer for the No. 14 who the guys call “Shrek.”

And their teams have nicknames too. The over-the-wall teams nickname for the No.333 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Chevy is the “Helping Hands pit crew.” Each crew member has the Hamburger helper hand on their firesuit doing their respective position. The jackman has the Hand holding the jack, the fueler has a gas can, etc.

Some, come from a long line of crew member or racing families. Take, for example Jeremy West from the No. 48 Lowes Chevrolet. He and his father worked on David Gilliland’s car in the Winston West series. They won the championship in 1996. Jeremy changed and his dad, John, carried.

These guys have played football and rugby, wrestling, baseball and soccer in college and several have been semi-professional athletes. Shaun Peet the jack man for the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota is a former professional hockey player. Some of them have been carrying or changing tires for a race team for over years. Their pit crew coaches train them hard with everything from weights to yoga, aquatic and heat training.

These guys have seen their share of close calls on pit road and some have been hit in the line of duty. Eric Maycroft the rear tire changer for the No. 00 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota said, “Yes, (I’ve been hit) by AJ Allmendinger, the wing caught me and flipped me into the next pit stall head over heels.”

The pit road warriors who have their time in the spot light tonight at the Sprint Pit Crew Challenge are an integral part of winning in NASCAR Sprint Cup series that most of their drivers will attend tonight’s event to show support and these guys are scouted, under contract, and in the pressure-cooker that making up time on pit road presents must be at the top of their game physically and mentally to have made it to the level of pit crew member for NASCAR’s elite division teams.

Tonight, is their night. These guys are the best of the best and their families and their team members and their drivers and their fans will be there to cheer them on.

It’s a great event. For more information check http://www.pitcrewchallenge.com.

Media Pit Crew Event!

On Tuesday national and local media members competed in the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge at Time Warner arena. The event, just for fun, pitted media members from various national and local broadcast and television entities against each other in the media pit crew competition. For the second year in a row as the driver of the car for the winning team, after surviving two heat races and the final face off against a team from the Carolina Panthers (pushing the car like it was Super Bowl Sunday) I felt just a slight sensation of what these guys will feel like tonight. Just as the final heat race was about to begin while filing a report, it was a rush to get into the race car in the nick of time, secure the steering wheel and be pushed to the line. The key to driving the car in this event (a role a number of driver’s wives will handle tonight) is to not brake while you are pushed towards a brick wall, and then just in the nick of time slam on the break. Ah, sweet victory!

See the photo of the winning crew, including my team mates Ray Dunlap, Phil Parsons and Jeff Hammond from Speed and Fox.

Hope you can make the event or catch it on Speed or SIRIUS NASCAR Radio tonight. It’s well worth it and one of the fun events of All-Star week in the heart of racing in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Claire B Lang
CBL PIT CREW CHALLENGE PHOTO

Victory Lane at Phoenix International Raceway: Tears, Emotion, Celebration, First Win! April 14, 2010

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Tony Gibson sat down on the stage for my LIVE interview at PIR after the Subway Fresh Fit 600 – emotionally spent after his first Sprint Cup Series win. Sitting next to him – Krissie Newman, the wife of winning driver Ryan Newman.

Drivers sometimes sit down during the interview, after a race-hardly ever crew chiefs. But it wasn’t from lack of being in shape, nor from being tired, it was sheerly from the emotion of the moment. What was especially exciting, other than seeing the smiles from Ryan who, more than he lets on externally was bothered by the lack of wins since Daytona, 2008, it was the excitement from members of the race team. Many of the guys on this team came from DEI and many of them had not had a Sprint Cup Series win until this moment. After Victory lane I went to the teardown to talk to the team members – many of whom said that this day was a culmination of a dream that started for them when they were 8 or 9 years old. Later, as I went into the garage, Ryan Newman was back at the teardown getting a pat on the back from Series Director John Darby, who, like those who enjoy seeing history made in the sport, noted that we were seeing a historical moment as the #39 car got its first win in the series.

Ryan Newman is not an emotional guy, he’s a great, great guy. He doesn’t drink, at all, never smoked, makes himself wide on the race track, speaks his mind, is funny as all get out and extremely loyal to team and friends. I saw some emotion in him in Victory Lane that I rarely see – and it was sweet to see him showing that emotion in the winner’s circle – visited by the likes of Jimmie Johnson who along with Jeff Gordon stopped to congratulate him. He doesn’t throw his helmet or pitch a fit when he doesn’t win – but like many drivers who have been groomed to win since childhood – not winning is hard on the psyche.

There’s a moment that I wish the fans could see – it’s when the series director in the garage or NASCAR President Mike Helton in Victory Lane – walk to the victor and say “great race” and shake the hand of the winner. John Darby did just that to Ryan long after the race was over as Ryan visited his team tearing down the car in the garage. For the driver, no matter how seasoned, or not, no matter how few or how many wins, or how vocal the wheel man is – it always means a great deal to the driver to get the mark of respect and achievement from these guys.

One other note – It’s not often said how many team members have young children at home watching the race. Their kids call before bed on Sunday evening and say “daddy, how did you do?,” or watch the race on TV and think their dad at the track is a super hero and ask when he will win. Time after time in the garage at the teardown team members will tell me after winning how much it means to them to tell their kids that daddy was a winner that night – and many of them tear up while telling me that. Standing there looking at these guys busting their hump to tear the car down, full of sweat and grease and far from home, I am moved by the look in the eyes of the team member as he tells me about calling his kid to tell them that they won! It’s a special moment in the dark of the garage after the TV cameras have been turned off – that I will always treasure.


Texas Take – Spoiler Talk!

Spoiler questions will dominate at Texas

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the new spoiler. There were jokes at Martinsville from drivers who were making up funny statements on the supposed impact of the spoiler over the wing there to the, “It won’t make a difference until we get to Texas,” comment we are all familiar with. The spoiler, well and Denny Hamlin’s knee, has been the major conversation topic the past few weeks.

Well, we’re headed to Texas this weekend. So, get ready to hear endless questions leading into the race weekend on the new spoiler. To save some time, here’s the take of a host of drivers as to just how much of a difference the spoiler will make this weekend at Texas:

WON’T MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE:

Jeff Gordon, who will drive a specially-painted No. 24 DuPont/National Guard Chevrolet at TMS: “The true test is going to be at the 1.5-mile tracks – Texas being the first one.But I don’t think it’s going to change who’s going to be fast and who’s going to run well.


David Gilliland – Drivr No. 37 Taco Bell Ford :
“I don’t think the spoiler will be a really big deal this weekend. Most people have an understanding how it has changed the cars. It’s not a huge difference. There are some small things that make the car handle differently, but we’re not reinventing the wheel with this change.

Matt Kennseth – Driver #17 Crown Royal Black Ford: “Texas to me is a track that’s more about real racing and making sure that you have a car that handles better than the rest of the guys, so that you can make sure you’re the fastest car around the track every lap. I’m a little unsure about how the spoiler change may effect the racing action this weekend heading into Texas. I don’t foresee any big changes, but we won’t know until we get all the cars on track for practice. Texas is a track that I really enjoy a lot and we’ve been very successful here, so I always look forward to racing at Texas Motor Speedway.”

ITS GOING TO BE INTERESTING:

Kurt Busch – Driver #2 Miller Lite Dodge – “I think teams will just really tip-toe up to speed there this weekend. It’s hard to know just how hard to push the car with it being the first time out. Then, we’ll make adustments from there. You may try to change some things and explore the aero situation. It’s not like we didn’t try some of the things when we did the tire and spoiler testing at Charlotte, but this will be the first real test..the first time that all the cars and teams will be there at the Texas track together.”

Martin Truex Junior – Driver of the #56 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota: I think Texas will be the ultimate test for the new spoiler since it is one of the fastest tracks we go to. It will also come into play with all of the side-by-side racing we do. We’ll definitely see how this new change effects all of us and obviously, the teams that can figure it out should do well and I hope that is us.

Kevin Conway – Driver No. 37 ExtenZe Racing : “Texas is going to be a big test for everyone. We have to study what the car needs. It’ll definitely be the first test for us at a racetrack of that speed with the rear spoiler. Martinsville and Phoenix gave us some information, but nothing like Texas. It’s going to be interesting to see which teams can hit on something or not.”

NOT SURE – BUT NOT SO MUCH

Kasey Kahne – Driver #9 Budweiser Ford Fusion “Some of the cars have already tested there and didn’t say there was a huge difference. We (tested) at Charlotte and it didn’t seem like there was a huge difference. Once we get racing together and have a lot of cars on the track, whether it’s Sunday during the race or Saturday’s final practice, I think we’re going to all learn more than what we know right now. I’m kind of looking forward to that to really see what it changes, because it has to change something when you’re around 42 other cars.”

Jimmie Johnson – Driver #48 Lowe’s Chevrolet “From my standpoint, I feel that the cars drove very similar to the way that I have in the past. I didn’t even think about wing or spoiler on the back of the car throughout the (Phoenix) race. It seemed the same. The final test will be in Texas. And even to Talladega. There’s some things with this spoiler that should help the car stay on the ground and change the draft a bit at Talladega. So we have a nice progression in tracks to really evaluate what’s going on. But so far I think it’s going well and it’s driving a lot like it did before.”

Kyle Busch – Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry: “Not a whole lot of difference, but definitely some change. Whether it’s change for the good or the bad yet, we won’t know until we get into a pack at a race. My initial thoughts after the Charlotte test would be that it adds a lot of grip to the car, makes the cars comfortable to drive but, to me, it might make it harder in traffic. I’m very curious to see how it changes the handling during a race, since this weekend will really be the first big test for the spoiler on an aero track.”

————————–
We may have to wait , yes, even until race day to tell how much of an impact the spoiler will have.

Kudos to Denny Hamlin for driving his race car, not complaining on the radio despite the car not running up front. I’m sure between the spoiler and Denny Hamlin’s knee, oh and how everything is bigger in Texas we’ll have a lot to talk about this weekend.

Texas is always big, fast and exciting. Stay tuned.

Claire B

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

Posted by claireblang in 2010 Season.
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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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Back Stage at “Sound and Speed” January 14, 2010

Posted by claireblang in Off Season Fun.
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American country musician Taylor Swift perform...
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Nashville, TN – 1/9/09 – Claire B. Lang

Once a year I dedicate one of my few off weekends to giving back via “Sound and Speed” in Nashville, an event that I have contributed my time to since it began. I’m proud to help in any way that the event needs. I always come away from Sound and Speed with more than I give. My heart is full when I leave Nashville after this event and it takes me to a place of a great spirit and in the right frame of mind to hit the long and winding road again to cover yet another NASCAR race season. It’s like a spa for the brain in an incredibly competitive business in an insanely competitive sport. At this event, everyone arrives and says, “How can I help?”

There’s something about Nashville, something about the NASCAR drivers all unselfishly contributing their time, about pitching in on the event not just covering it and the association with the huge hearted folks who make country music that, all together, gives me the big click. I leave Nashville full of warmth and good feelings about our sport, about the drivers and about life in general.

I thought I’d take you behind the scenes at the event and let you see some of what I saw at Nashville – in the drivers and in the sport.

Friday
Friday, I got on a 7:55 a.m. EST flight to Nashville and arrived as folks were just getting up on a cold winter day in music city. I decided to head over to the hotel to check in and get breakfast. Kyle and Patty Petty arrived a few minutes later and sat down for breakfast themselves and the staff at the hotel could not have been more excited. Kyle and Patty and their business manager had breakfast and began the task of making sure that everything would go smoothly for those celebrities who were on their way, for the stage shows that were being prepared and for the fans who were beginning to arrive in Nashville.

I headed over to the SIRIUS XM Studios in the Sommet center a beautiful facility with a picture window that looks down over the honky tonks of Nashville. If I were to compare doing a show in this studio to driving a sport’s car it would be like being given a Lamborghini to drive for the evening – it was so incredible. I got word that the fans had already arrived at the Municipal Auditorium and were planning to camp out to be in line for autographs the next morning. The officials of the event allowed the fans inside for the night because of the cold weather. I took a car over to the auditorium and headed for the basement to talk to the fans. They would have camped outside in near freezing temperatures all night long for a chance to see their favorite driver up close. Welcome to Nashville! God bless the NASCAR race fans.

Saturday
As I have done for many years, I emceed on the stage in the afternoon at Sound and Speed. I met many race fans and got to meet a good number of the artists and enjoy some non- race track time with the drivers who arrived to pitch in.

Country music sensation Taylor Swift surprised everyone in the green room by showing up in the late afternoon to just say hi. She was as beautiful as ever and twice as friendly. Everyone wanted a photo. I heard she was interested in coming to get a photo with Dale Earnhardt Junior. She performed on stage at previous Sound and Speed events and wanted to drop by in support of the event. She wore a white beret and was laid back and totally cool.

The group that I introduced on stage included Chuck Wicks who into the mainstream country music world with the hit “Stealing Cinderella,” but he burst onto the national scene as the handsome guy who was paired with Julianne Hough on “Dancing With the Stars – and who was linked off stage with her too. I had forgotten that they had a personal relationship when I asked if he’d do dancing with the stars again – he replied (on stage) that he’d maybe consider it with a different partner. I said, “Come on, Julianne Hough…wow!” Later I told him I hoped talk of DWS was cool…and he was as nice as can be, saying, “Naw, no problem it’s all good.” Nice guy.

Danielle Peck was in the country group that I introduced on stage– amazing that a lot of these artist began writing music at 5-10 years of age – similar to the age the race car drivers on stage with them were beginning their driving career. I got a kick out of her – her personality was just as big as her talent. It’s refreshing to meet people like Danielle.

Just before I went on stage, on the steps heading up to emcee, I ran into the guys from Fast Ryde (“That Thang”) singer-songwriters James Harrison and Jody Stevens. They told me that I was “wearing” it –loved what I picked out for the event. Ha!. I hear they may be coming to a track near you soon for anthem singing. I kind of saw them as the Kyle Busch of Music City. They got some push back from “That Thang” (a butt song) for another junk in the trunk song. They didn’t seem to care about the push back, in fact I got the idea that they maybe even liked it. Up on stage we went – you gotta love being in a totally new environment and meeting folks from a completely different perspective. I laid back on the stairs so that the guys wouldn’t see my back side on the way up the stage, lest I have anyThang extra on the backside. LOL.

Inside reflections/stories/catching up:

Former NASCAR great Ernie Irvan was at Sound and Speed and I spent some time catching up with him in the green room. He’s never been better. He and wife Kim moved to Charleston – but Ernie says they Miss North Carolina and are going to move back as soon as they can. He moved there to support his wife’s desire but seemed thrilled that now they both want to move back.

Kerry and Renee Earnhardt were at Sound and Speed and we had fun catching up behind the scenes. I wish more folks could meet Kerry and Renee –in person as they are an incredible couple. Kerry is the kind of guy who is extremely sensitive to others feelings and he’s about the most down to earth person I know and I’m not just counting racers. I hadn’t seen the two of them for a while so it was fun to sit around in the green room and laugh, which we did. When he arrived, Kerry left the green room to go say hi to the show car drivers out in the main arena area. He did this on his own – said they had driven long distances to get there and that he wanted to go meet them. That’s just like Kerry. The show car drivers were beyond thrilled that Kerry Earnhardt would come talk to them – almost speechless. People still come up to Kerry and, because he’s an Earnhardt, just want to hug or touch him. When I spilled a cup of coffee, it was Kerry who went to get the napkins, helped me not worry about the stain on the leg of my jeans and helped me figure out how to get it out. I asked him where he got that sensitivity – he smiled and said honestly, my dad.

Kyle Petty took to the stage at the Ryman Auditorium and sang several songs he had written himself. Earlier in the day he told me that he had not practiced much with the band and that he wasn’t sure how good it would be. He was definitely being humble because the man is a born entertainer who rocked the house. Watching him perform I wondered how the Opry band could play with him as if they were regulars when the songs were songs written by Kyle and they had very little practice time. He described the process for me in which the band sat with him and in a matter of minutes while he played, they assigned number categories to each cord and in minutes sounded as if they were a band who had traveled with them for years. Amazing, that’s why at the Opry no matter who was performing the band and the artist had the big musical click. “The King” Richard Petty who has been a part of this event in years past was not in attendance this year.

Michael Waltrip said on stage that he wasn’t trying to make a fashion statement with his calf length coat – he was just trying to keep warm. Fans told them they loved his new hair cut (short) and he told them how excited he was to be heading to Dubai to race. Waltrip told me he was thrilled to meet Hank Williams Junior in person back stage at the Opry.

Dale Earnhardt Junior seemed to enjoy the visit to Sound and Speed this year – and, as always, got a lot of attention from fans. One thing struck me as I stood in the green room and a local media person, accompanied by his son approached Junior for a photo back stage. The boy was about 12-13 years old and had long hair that swept around and covered his eyes. Junior was kind in posing with the boy and his dad for the photo, even when the first take didn’t happen. Junior had his arm behind the kid for the photo. I was standing behind them and noticed as he patted the kid on the back after the shot, as if he understood what it was like to be a 13 year old kid back stage with his dad and in that awkward stage of life. For a guy who gets so much attention you could just sense how nice he was to the kid, making him feel comfortable. I know it’s a small thing but to a kid that age it means a lot. These sorts of things never show up in print or on camera but when you’re there back stage you notice them. Even the country music stars wanted photos with Dale Junior.

NASCAR (racing) News Notes from Sound and Speed:
Here are some comments from some of the talk from drivers at Sound and Speed that I thought you’d like to read:

MORGAN SHEPHERD/on 2010 and a new car coming into Nationwide and how that affects him: “…..We operate with a very small amount of money. The race fans help us. Of course, Tony Stewart helped us last year. He won’t be able to do that this year. He bought us tires and all. We’re going to go out with the same goal of going and making every race. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. So we’ve got the will, and we’ll find the way.”

ELLIOTT SADLER/ on the possibility of going back to blade spoilers, doing away with the double yellow line at Daytona and Talladega, and any other changes that might be coming down the pike?
“Going back to the spoiler, if that happens, I’ve heard the same thing as you have, I would be happy to see that as a driver. It will give us more vision, especially on restrictor plate tracks and things like that. So I think it will help as far as the racing is concerned.
As far as the look of the car, I think it will bring some identity back to the manufacturers, identity back to NASCAR racing. It looks more like a NASCAR if it has a spoiler on it. So when I heard the news that might be happening, I was

Dale Earnhardt Junior ( Hendrick Motorsports)/ Do you think Danica Patrick is going to struggle? Do you think she’s going to adapt? Will it take her long? Are you the perfect person to be a car owner for her because you understand the attention she’s going to be getting?
“Yeah, I’m kind of going into it with an open mind. I mean, it’s going to be an uphill battle for her to do well. But I think she can. She’s a racecar driver. She should be able to adapt and do whatever she needs to do.
We’re going to give her the best tools we can. I don’t know if there’s a perfect owner or whatever. But, you know, we’ll just do the best we can for her. She has been in a car. Pretty happy with how that’s gone. Pretty happy with what we’ve seen. I love her attitude. She gets along great with Tony, Jr. All that stuff is going better than planned. We just need to get to the racetrack. I mean, she’s been around Daytona. Went to Orlando tested. Need to run some laps.
I hate testing myself. But, you know, the policy as it is now, it’s difficult for someone like Danica to come in and really try to understand the cars, get to know them. We’re going through that challenge, trying to help her as much as we can.
But feel pretty good about it. I don’t know what she’ll do. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to sort of guess on how her performance will be or what her stats will look like. We’ll just have to see.”

MIKE SKINNER (Camping World Truck Series)/ With your record of poles in the Truck Series, Mike, what is the secret to being a good qualifier? What gets you up on the wheel? What do you do different that’s better than other guys? What does it take to make one perfect lap?
“I think the desire and the willingness to scare the hell out of yourself for two laps comes into play. You know, when they came out with I call ’em restrictor plates, but we run a spacer plate under the carburetor now that takes about a hundred horsepower or so out of the engine. We got to making so much horsepower, these trucks got to running over 200 miles an hour at some of these places. They’re just not aerodynamically sound for that. NASCAR slowed us down to keep us from flying up and hurting somebody in the stands or hurting ourselves.
Nowadays, these big tracks like Texas, Atlanta, places like that, a few years ago, there might have been only three or four of us in the field that was crazy enough, brave enough, stupid enough, I’m not really sure which, to try to hold it wide open all the way around of the racetrack. I’ve been blessed to have the ability to be one of those people that has been able to do that.
Nowadays, everybody holds it wide open qualifying. So there’s no real advantage to being a great qualifier any more in this day and time, except when you get to places like Martinsville, Virginia, Bristol. Anywhere you have to lift off the throttle, then it’s really still important. But a lot of the racetracks we go to now, everybody runs wide open.”

MIKE SKINNER Have you pleaded with NASCAR to take the taper spacer out of the Nationwide and Camping World trucks and cars?
“Yes, we have. I have to say that I would hate to be in NASCAR’s position because it’s a double edged sword. They take those plates out of there, we put a truck up in the grandstand somewhere and harm our fans, now we’ve got a really big black eye in our sport. You know, we go out, a couple drivers lose their lives, we’ve got a huge black eye.
It’s a double edged sword. I totally understand NASCAR’s position, but I do think we need to put recovery and acceleration back in these things. I still think that the Camping World Truck Series is the best show in NASCAR as far as the time of the race. It’s about half the distance. We race every lap from green to checkered. But we’re still the third tier series, and that’s okay. I enjoy it. I enjoy it just the way it is.
I would vote for putting the horsepower back in the motors, though.”

Aric Almirola (racing in the 09 Phoenix Racing car in Sprint cup in 2010/Aric, is that a full season in ’10?
“Well, I talked with James (Finch) about it. I mean, his plan is to go full time. Still working on a lot of things. At this point, when I got off the phone with him just the other day, it was, We’re going racing, and the rest will take care of itself. Hopefully we can get everything situated in the next couple weeks. But, yeah, I mean, we’re going to go to Daytona. I’ve asked them, Are we going to race, start and park? What’s our plan? He told me, Just get in and drive it. So I’m excited. I’m looking forward to 2010. I’m ready.”

Clint Bowyer and Michael Waltrip/on the possibility of NASCAR eliminating the yellow line rule?
Bowyer: “It’s a mistake. The yellow line, like he said, at the end of the straightaway, there’s 10 foot of runoff over there between the yellow line and the grass, say. You get down there and you don’t get back up before the bank starts again, you’re just gonna launch up there. You’ll turn right, wipe everybody out.
At least the yellow line keeps everybody on the bank as you get into the transition of the corner. I think it’s important. It’s a good rule. It’s tough. Like David Ragan or whoever it was that lost that race, you know, got blocked down there. Probably if that yellow line rule wouldn’t have been there, he would have won the race.
It’s unfortunate, but I think it’s a good cause. It’s done its job, what it was intended to do. I hope they keep it.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: By the way, that was my idea, too, the yellow line.

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That’s just some of the conversation with the drivers and behind the scenes at ‘Sound and Speed”. I’ll catch up with you later. I can’t wait to go back racing in 2010.

Enjoy the day!

Claire B.

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