Articles By Matt Taliaferro

Path: /nascar/joey-logano-coming-his-own-team-penske
Body:

The NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, started wet, got wild, settled down, then ended with a bang. Through it all, 23-year-old Joey Logano was in the thick of the action.

Logano led a race-high 108 of 340 laps in the Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway en route to  collecting his first win of the season and second under the watchful eye of motorsports icon Roger Penske.

More and more, he’s proving to be the right man for Penske’s No. 22 Ford after getting the call to join the organization prior to the 2013 season.

“Over the years I’ve been able to kind of hone in who I am as a driver, who I am as a person,” Logano said of his progression. “When you’re 18 years old (his age during his rookie season), you got to grow up — you’re not quite done growing up at that point. I may not be now (but) I feel like I’m getting closer.

“I was able to go to Team Penske, get that fresh start, be able to take everything (I) learned (prior, at Joe Gibbs Racing), but not be taken as an 18-year-old kid anymore. I came over when I was 22. You’re looked at a little bit more as a man than an 18-year-old kid that was still in high school.”

Logano was viewed as a phenom during his rapid ascent to the Sprint Cup Series. Hailed as the sport’s “future” as a 14-year-old by respected NASCAR veteran Mark Martin, the hype and expectations surrounding Logano grew to near unattainable levels.

A rocky four seasons at powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing — with incompatible teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin — in which Logano tallied two wins, 16 top 5s and zero Chase bids, found him on the outside looking in following the 2012 season. When his contract, as well as that of Ford rival Matt Kenseth, came up the sponsors of Logano’s No. 20 ride were in favor of greener pastures. Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champ was in, Logano was out.

However, a confidence-building landing pad came in the form of Team Penske and its defending champion, Brad Keselowski.

It was Keselowski who openly lobbied the Penske brass to hire Logano.

“Brad Keselowski played a really big role in getting me in here and getting a meeting with Roger Penske,” Logano told USA Today shortly after his hire. “He was the one who called me and said, ‘Hey, this is a great opportunity for you.’

“That means a lot to have a teammate that really wants you there.”

Logano’s character also factored into the hire, as Penske’s No. 22 seat had previously been a hot one. Kurt Busch was released from the organization after multiple on- and off-track run-ins with team members and the media. His replacement, AJ Allmendinger, was promptly removed from the ride just half a season later when he failed a drug test. That left mega-sponsor Shell-Pennzoil demanding the right man step into the role.

And that’s when Keselowski’s earlier suggestion to consider Logano piqued the interest of team president Tim Cindric.

“I can’t say enough about how supportive Shell-Pennzoil has been through a little bit of turmoil that we’ve been in the last nine months,” Cindric said in September 2012, shortly after Logano’s hire. “We had to be even more in concert with them than we have ever been with a sponsor in terms of trying to understand what the right fits are to ensure we get it right.

“There was an extra sensitivity around ensuring that we had someone with the right character in the car.”

Logano hasn’t just been the right fit from a PR perspective; the Connecticut native, now in his sixth full season in the Cup Series, is delivering on the earlier expectations.

A first-time Chase entrant in his first season with Penske, Logano now has two wins and 15 top 5s in 42 starts behind the wheel of the No. 22 Ford. That equals his win total and is only one top-5 shy of his marks over a 144-race tenure at JGR.

“(It’s a) completely different situation now,” Logano said after his Texas win on Monday. “I’ve been able to take advantage of (experience), kind of walk in the doors of Penske the first time and say, ‘Here is who I want to be, here is what I want to do, here is how I feel like we can win races, do it together.’”

 

NASCAR Mailbox: Team Penske's success an unexpected twist

 

In Monday’s rain-delayed Texas event, “win races” is exactly what Logano did — and he held off the best to do so.

Outdueling current teammate Keselowski, former teammate Kyle Busch and four-time champion Jeff Gordon in a green-white-checker finish, Logano followed through when it mattered after exhibiting the dominant car of the day; promise delivered.

“I was able to follow (Gordon) through, get to second, get a run off of (turn) four, cross him over, get the lead — then we get the win,” Logano said of the final two laps of his most-recent triumph. “We’ve been in contention every race this year to win these things. To get the Shell-Pennzoil Ford in Victory Lane, it means a lot.”


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
Photo by Actions Sports, Inc.

 

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Teaser:
Texas race-winner Joey Logano has found success at Team Penske in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Post date: Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 17:50
All taxonomy terms: Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/martinsvilles-magic-why-it-remains-best-track-nascar
Body:

NASCAR's short tracks often bring out the best and worst of the sport. The best being the tight, aggressive nature of the racing - a style rarely seen on the giant intermediate palaces of speed whose aero-dependent layouts dominate the circuit.

The same aggressive nature that so entertains fans can bring out the worst in the very competitors that wheel their 3,300-pound vehicles around the tracks for hours on end. But of course, that's part of the reason the fans show up in the first place.

Of NASCAR's three short tracks - Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville - the latter packs more physical action into an afternoon than the others combined.

That's not a knock on the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway, a track that has transcended NASCAR consciousness on the sporting landscape. Yet, Bristol's rousing physicality has been neutered by pure speed; the high banks encourage Evernham-like engineering over Earnhardt-esque manhandling.

Nor is it a slight to Richmond International Raceway, which strikes the best balance of what the paying fan vs. the paid driver enjoys most out of a racetrack. However, even Richmond's three-quarter mile layout - much like Bristol - has fallen prey to higher banking and thus, higher speeds and the fine-tuned geometry they coax.

That leaves Martinsville Speedway, a half-mile jewel that has fought off a sanctioning body's one-time desire to take from the facilities that “got it here” and move events to big-market locales where new fans, new money and a decidedly different style of racing exists.

Quaint little Martinsville, in tiny Ridgeway, Va., is as throwback as they come. It was one of eight tracks on the sport's inaugural 1949 Strictly Stock season - the forerunner of today's Sprint Cup Series. Then a dirt track, Martinsville is now part concrete, part asphalt. Yes, the speeds have increased, but it's nearly flat turns have disallowed the head-spinning speeds seen at the two aforementioned venues. Its seating capacity is now roughly five times what it was then, but train tracks still line the countryside just outside of the backstretch and its “world famous” hot dogs can still be had for two bucks.

It's ironic - and devilishly appropriate - then, that the shortest track with the largest character still plays host to the most intense 500 laps that NASCAR enjoys each spring and fall. Money and sparkling new amenities can buy entry, but they cannot guarantee quality.

On Sunday in the STP 500, the field of 43 failed to make it two laps before the torquey straightaways and hairpin turns got the best of it. The event was interrupted only once for NASCAR's infamous debris caution (a method the powers-that-be use to bunch up the field to spike the entertainment ante).

Make no mistake, there was debris everywhere - rubber from tires, bits of sheet metal, hot dog wrappers, loose nuts and bolts - but there was no need for action-encouraging hijinks from the control tower.

Instead, Martinsville's no-frills, short-track confines once again forced race fans to reflect on the tracks they grew up visiting on hot summer evenings - the little quarter-mile joint out in the county, whose frontstretch (such as it was) was lined with old wooden bleachers. Martinsville provides the same intensity - 33 lead changes on Sunday - but does so at the major league level. And it does so every single time the circus comes to town.

Couch Potato Tuesday: The race ESPN didn't cover

Race-winner Kurt Busch's car would have been a half-second off the pace on one of NASCAR's 1.5- mile monstrosities; he never would've stood a chance. An early-race run-in with Brad Keselowski damaged each car and played witness to the “right” kind of payback that only a short track affords. Busch was able to soldier on, though, because aerodynamics mean little at Martinsville.

He eventually ran down, passed and held off mighty Jimmie Johnson - an eight-time Martinsville winner - in an ending that easily rivals the season-opener on the plate track in Daytona Beach.

“That's an epic-type battle at a short track, with a six-time champion,” Busch said. “To go back and forth and exchange the lead, a couple taps, a couple moves, a little bit of a chess game - that was the hardest 30 laps I ever drove not to slip a tire in my life.”

A couple taps, a couple moves, a little bit of a chess game. That's Martinsville, where time-tested results continue to stubbornly trump the allure of NASCAR's modern-era glitz and glamour.


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
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Teaser:
Martinsville Speedway's STP 500 provided NASCAR fans with the best flag-to-flag action since the season-opening Daytona 500.
Post date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 00:17
Path: /nascar/strategy-play-keselowski-outduels-earnhardt-las-vegas
Body:

The Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway came down to a calculated risk between two of the hottest teams early in NASCAR’s 2014 season.

The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports bunch and driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. had finishes of first and second entering the event. Brad Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske crew weren’t far behind, with consecutive third-place runs to open the year.

Fittingly, the strategy that came into play focused on these Chevrolet and Ford flagbearers.

Just don’t call what happened in Vegas a “gamble” or any other clichéd racing term typically reserved for results in the famous gaming town.

No, the call Earnhardt’s crew chief Steve Letarte made in the final 60 laps of the affair was simply the logical one: Use pit strategy to obtain all-important track position and push fuel mileage on the No. 88 Chevy to the limit. It was a call not too different than what propelled Matt Kenseth to the win in the very same race last season.

It worked for Kenseth; in only his third race with Joe Gibbs Racing, he hit paydirt in 2013 on a track-position play. In Earnhardt’s case, the strategy came up a half-lap short.

That’s when the car sputtered — on the backstretch of the final lap — and handed victory to Keselowski, whose gameplan was to have plenty of fuel and two fresh tires to apply pressure to Earnhardt over the final 42 laps.

“I could tell he was saving a little bit (of fuel) based on the lines he was running compared to where I had seen him earlier in the day,” Keselowski said. “Once I saw that, we ran him down (in) 10, 15 laps and forced him to kind of get up into his speed line, and that was just taking fuel from his car.  Brad Keselowski

“It was going to play out one of two ways: He was going to have to get in fuel conservation mode and I think I could have passed him and drove away or he was going to have to burn fuel to keep me behind him. At that point it was just a matter of whether a yellow came out or not because it was just a ticking time bomb, and it worked in our favor today.”

The win all but guarantees Keselowski of a Chase berth in NASCAR’s expanded playoff format. Earnhardt, whose win the Daytona 500 two weeks ago gave the team the freedom to utilize such a strategy, coasted to a runner-up showing.

“I just couldn’t (gain) any ground, and we fought the car all day,” Earnhardt said of battling traffic in the field. “The air is so dirty behind everybody, the further back you get you’ve got less and less grip. Once we got the lead, it was like driving a Cadillac.”

Letarte used pit sequencing slightly off-kilter to get Earnhardt to the point on lap 223 of 267. He led until Keselowski rocketed by on the final lap.

“It did pay off,” Earnhardt said. “Not the ultimate prize, but we did run second. As much as you want to win — and believe me, we were out there trying to win — you do take pride in a good performance, a good finish, and we weren’t going to run in the top 5 if we hadn’t have used that particular strategy. If we’d have run the same strategy as our competitors, we would have probably run just inside the top 10 where we were all day.”

Translation: This was no crew chief gamble gone wrong — it was solid race strategy that a team confident in its playoff standing has the ability to employ.

“It gives us freedom, and it’s nice to have that freedom to do the things that we did today even though we knew our odds weren't good. We really shouldn’t have made it (on fuel), and we didn’t, but we got to try.”

Paul Menard, Joey Logano and Carl Edwards rounded out the top 5.

For his part, Keselowski, who failed to make the Chase last year after winning the title in 2012, relishes having the same freedom Earnhardt’s team exhibited Sunday.

“I think that shows some of the opportunities that come up and how they can be stress-free days, “Keselowski said. “I’m looking forward to being able to take those same opportunities, because believe me, I’m not scared to take them, and I know Paul’s not, so look out.  It’s going to be a lot of fun.”


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

 


 

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Teaser:
Brad Keselowski beats Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a fuel mileage finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' visit to Las Vegas in the Kobalt Tools 400.
Post date: Monday, March 10, 2014 - 13:06
Path: /las-vegas-motor-speedway-previewing-kobalt-tools-500
Body:

The Kobalt Tools 400
Las Vegas Motor Speedway


Track Specs
Layout:
1.5-mile tri-oval
Banking/Turns: Progressive (18°-20°), Banking/Tri-oval: 9°, Banking/Backstretch: 3°  Las Vegas Motor Speedway


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Date:
Sunday, March 9
TV: FOX (3:00 pm EST)
Race Length: 400.5 miles/267 laps
Track Qualifying Record: 190.456 mph (Kasey Kahne, 2012)
Race Record: 146.554 mph (Mark Martin, 1998)
2013 Winner: Matt Kenseth

NASCAR Nationwide Series
Boyd Gaming 300
Date: Saturday, March 8
TV: ESPN2 (4:15 pm EST)
2013 Winner: Sam Hornish Jr.


Crew Chief’s Take
“Track position seems to play more of a role in Vegas than most any of the other 1.5-mile tracks we go to. It’s fast, and aero-issues come into play, which puts passing at a premium. And there’s a fine line between having a good handling car and having one that’s wrecking loose. It’s also different from the other SMI ovals in that it’s a tri-oval and not a quad. I’ve never thought to ask why that is. Of course, everyone loves going out to Vegas — it’s like an early-season working vacation because of the strip and all there is to do. Keeping the team focused is important here.”


Fantasy Stall
Contenders

Carl Edwards Edwards (left) won twice in the last six Las Vegas races (in which he averaged a series-best 6.8 finish) and finished fifth in 2012 and ’13, the latter being an increase over his 8.1-place average running position.

Greg Biffle Despite his four top-10 finishes in Vegas races dating back to 2008, Biffle ­doesn’t have a win to show for his ample production. Still, he has been a frequent frontrunner; he has led in four of the last five races there.

Sleeper
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
 Earnhardt is the only driver to accrue five top-10 finishes in the last six Las Vegas races. His 8.8-place average finish — a series-high in that span — has translated into only one top-5 result. He’s past due for a breakthrough performance.

Runs on Seven Cylinders
Kurt Busch 
Omit a ninth-place finish in 2011, and Busch has averaged a 30.2-place result in the CoT/Gen-6 era at his hometown track. While it’s reasonable to believe that his fortunes would improve driving for SHR, his results there with Penske Racing — three finishes of 23rd or worse — weren’t inspiring.


Classic Moments at LVMS
When the race is on the line, there are few drivers as good as Jimmie Johnson. We found out just how clutch he would prove to be over his career in the 2006 UAW-Daimler Chrysler 400.

With crew chief Chad Knaus on the sidelines after a rules infraction at Daytona, many questioned how well Johnson would start the ’06 season. However, he won at Daytona, was a close second to Matt Kenseth at Fontana, and looked like he was going to finish second again at Las Vegas. That was before a caution on lap 265 sent the race into an overtime two-lap dash to the finish.

Johnson stalked Kenseth — who led a race-high 146 circuits — on the first of the two green-flag laps, fading to the inside as they came to the white flag. On the last lap, Kenseth — seeing what Johnson did the previous lap — guarded the low line, but that didn’t matter to Johnson as he powered around the outside to nip Kenseth at the stripe by 0.045 seconds, or about a half a car length.
 

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Teaser:
Previewing the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Kobalt Tools 500 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Post date: Friday, March 7, 2014 - 10:52
All taxonomy terms: Kurt Busch, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/kurt-busch-attempt-indy-500coca-cola-600-double
Body:

Kurt Busch has a busy Memorial Day weekend planned. The 2004 NASCAR Cup champ announced on Tuesday that he will attempt “The Double” by running IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C., on Sunday, May 25.

“I enjoyed the era of drivers racing different cars and testing themselves in other series,” Busch said. “It is tough to do now for a variety of factors, but when the opportunity is there, I want to do it.

“It’s literally a dream come true. To go to the famous Brickyard with the iconic Andretti name, it doesn’t get much cooler or better than that.”

Busch, in his first season driving for Stewart-Haas Racing on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, will pilot an Andretti Autosport Honda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Andretti fields full-time IndyCar efforts for Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, 2012 series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay and Carlos Munoz.

His NASCAR manufacturer, General Motors, had to sign off on his racing for another car company.

Busch will be the first driver to attempt the feat since 2004, when Robby Gordon ran both races. Gordon, John Andretti and Busch’s NASCAR co-owner, Tony Stewart, are the only three drivers to have pulled “The Double.” Stewart, who in 2001 finished sixth at Indianapolis and third in Charlotte, is the only driver to have completed all 1,100 miles.

“It’s great having Tony as the co-owner of my NASCAR team as, in the weeks leading up to the month of May, it gives me a chance to talk with him about his personal experiences with “The Double” — to anticipate what’s next and have things checked off the list so that I’m mentally and physically prepared for the challenge,” said Busch.

Although Busch, who has 24 career Cup victories including the 2010 Coca-Cola 600, has yet to start an IndyCar event, he obtained his license in the series last year when an Indy 500 bid first became a possibility.

While sponsorship has not been announced for the IndyCar ride, Busch is dedicating the effort to members of the U.S. military. His girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll, is the president of the Armed Forces Foundation, which supports injured troops and military families.


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

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Teaser:
Kurt Busch will attempt to run the Indianapolis 500 - Coca-Cola 600 "Double" on Memorial Day weekend.
Post date: Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 13:13
Path: /harvick-dominates-desert-wins-nascars-trip-phoenix
Body:

Judging by garage chatter and practice speeds at Phoenix International Raceway there was really no doubt that Kevin Harvick was the driver to beat in what turned out to be the aptly named “The Profit on CNBC 500” … that, of course, if the spelling of the race sponsor were “Prophet.”  Kevin Harvick

Regardless, Harvick and his new No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team was far and away the strongest bunch in the desert after a speedy NASCAR Speedweeks in Daytona, winning in just their second race together.

Harvick led a race-high 224 of 312 laps — after topping the speed charts in Friday and Saturday practice sessions — and commandingly held off a top 5 that consisted of Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Jeff Gordon over four restarts in the final 61 laps to notch his first Cup win in a car not owned by Richard Childress.

“This just solidifies some many things — so many decisions,” Harvick said of his defection from Richard Childress Racing, where he had spent his entire 13-year Cup career, to good friend Tony Stewart’s team. While driver of the No. 29 Chevy at RCR, the Bakersfield, Calif., native garnered 23 wins in the Sprint Cup Series, including the 2007 Daytona 500, 2003 Brickyard 400 and two victories in the Coca-Cola 600 (2011, 2013).

Harvick was the cause of a final-turn crash in last weekend’s Daytona 500, where he placed 13th, but had no such dramatics in Phoenix. Harvick took the lead for the first time on lap 74 on Sunday and surrendered it for only 15 circuits over the remainder of the afternoon. Try as they might in the final four restarts of the race, the competitors were mostly resigned to be racing for second.

“We were a little faster at the end, but (Harvick was) stellar,” said Earnhardt, who followed up his Daytona 500 win with a second-place finish in Phoenix. “Those guys were two-tenths (of a second) faster than anybody all weekend in practice. They were just phenomenal. To be able to run with them as we did all day was a big confidence builder for us.”

It was Harvick’s third win at PIR in the circuit’s last four visits and fifth overall.

“The back of Kevin’s car says ‘Freaky Fast’ and they weren’t lying!” said Logano, referring to Harvick’s Jimmy John’s sponsorship decals. “Such a fast car — he’s got something figured out here.”

Thus far, Harvick’s 2014 showing has resembled Matt Kenseth’s 2013 performance as a driver who jumped to a new team after earning tenure elsewhere over the first 13 years of his Cup career. Kenseth left Roush Fenway Racing following the 2012 season and enjoyed a career year last season, registering seven wins and a runner-up points showing with Joe Gibbs Racing.

“They were really prepared,” third-place finisher Brad Keselowski said of Harvick’s team in the offseason. “We saw it all the way through testing, that they were dominant. They showed it when they came to the actual racetrack to race.

“I would look for big things out of that team. They looked a lot like the 20 car (Kenseth) did last year at this time. They have that honeymoon syndrome going on and taking full advantage of it.”

If there were one team besides RCR where Harvick would seem a natural fit, it’s SHR, which is co-owned by his good friend, Stewart.

“It wasn't that I couldn't be a part of the championship before, it's just that we hadn't won a championship before,” Harvick said. “We do this to win. You want to win races. We've been fortunate to do that in the past, but in this arena it's about winning championships and trying to be competitive on a weekly basis. I felt like I needed that enthusiasm to show up to work. I get to do this with a lot of my friends, with Tony.

“As we’ve gone through time, I've sat and talked with Tony about what's expected. He expects me and Rodney (Childers, crew chief) to help lead the charge on the competition side as to what needs to be the direction.”

 

NASCAR's Drought in the Desert: A case of bad timing

 

Meanwhile, Earnhardt and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports bunch seem poised to make crew chief Steve Letarte’s final season with the team — he’ll abandon pit box duties at the end of the year — a successful one. Earnhardt’s first- and second-place showings in the season’s first two races signify the best start of his 16-year Cup career.

“Our team is performing so well — got a lot of great chemistry and good communication going back and forth,” Earnhardt said. “Everybody's confidence is very high. Everybody's mood and morale is really high. Hopefully we can maintain that and not have any bad luck or make any mistakes and continue to keep working towards winning more races.

“If we run second enough, we're bound to at least trip into one or two. We ran second quite a few races in the last 10 or so (last season). I feel really good. I feel like we're coming around the corner, peaking at the right time this season to try to run for the championship.”


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

 

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Teaser:
Kevin Harvick won NASCAR's The Profit on CNBC 500 in a dominating performance over Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Post date: Sunday, March 2, 2014 - 21:14
All taxonomy terms: Funny, Jeff Gordon, videos, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/jeff-gordon-gets-revenge-pepsi-max-test-drive
Body:

NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon may have a supermodel wife, a tony New York City pad overlooking Central Park and a lifetime contract with the most powerful organization in the sport with Hendrick Motorsports, but he knows how to get his redneck on.

And he knows how to get revenge.

When longtime sponsor Pepsi spoofed Gordon test driving a car with a “terrified” car salesman about a year ago, many called foul. And for good reason — much of the ad was staged using a stunt driver (oh, the irony!). Among those most critical was Jalopnick writer Travis Okulski.

So with a little help from Okulski’s bosses, Gordon, a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion with 88 race wins in the sport’s premier series, donned, as he described on Twitter, “sideburns, a mullet and a taxi cab” to, as Jalopnik explained, “scare the crap out of our @tokulski.”

According to Okulski’s Twitter feed, “This is real thing. It really happened. It’s not fake. At all.” We tend to believe him. So sit back and enjoy the ride, folks. And pray — for Jalopnik’s sake — that this time, nothing was staged.

 

 

 

by Matt Taliaferro

Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
Jeff Gordon's Pepsi Max spoof ad, which gets revenge on Jalopnik writer Travis Okluski.
Post date: Friday, February 28, 2014 - 00:04
Path: /nascar/daytona-500-dale-earnhardt-jr-wins-thriller
Body:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - For a sport facing such drastic change — change that has not necessarily been accepted by an obstinate fanbase — NASCAR needed a dose of familiarity. In its marquee event, the Daytona 500, it got just that. Favorite son and this generation's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., broke a 55-race winless skid with a thrilling victory in the Great American Race, giving NASCAR Nation a brief moment of serenity.Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Man, winning this race is the greatest feeling that you can feel in this sport, aside from accepting the trophy for the championship,” Earnhardt said. “I didn’t know if I’d ever get a chance to feel that again.”

The win was his second Daytona 500 victory, the first earned 10 years prior. The triumph juxtaposed with the return of the No. 3 car, a symbol made famous by his late father who lost his life in this very race in 2001.

The event was also reminiscent of great Daytona races of the past. A tweaked rules package promoted passing, and the evening’s cooler temperatures — a six and a half hour rain delay pushed the bulk of the event into prime time — increased grip and speed. The result was an action-packed show that witnessed seven cautions, four of which came in the final 32 laps that set up pit strategies that further escalated the drama.

“I think it was the (rules) package and the way you were having to race to stand your ground,” Earnhardt said of the competitive nature of the race.

The sport’s heavy hitters were front and center, as well, slugging it out at the front of the field as the laps wound down. Earnhardt dueled with teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, the Fords of Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski, and the week’s heretofore strongest contingent, the Toyotas of Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. If NASCAR needed its brightest stars to showcase its biggest event that begins its most dramatically altered season in decades, the boys delivered in fine form.

A chaotic final two-lap dash to the checkered flag found Earnhardt out front, fending off the dogged challenges of Hamlin, Keselowski and Gordon who, along with Johnson, ultimately rounded out the top 5. When the pack failed to formulate a drafting run on the Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevy, he muscled his way to the win as the caution and checkers flew simultaneously due to a crash in Turn 4.

“Tonight it was about not giving an inch; not running fifth,” Earnhardt said. “It was a unique race. We were all pushing the envelope out there and asking a lot of each other.

“Everybody was climbing on top of each other and we all really put each other in difficult situations — but it was really fun. I felt like that for the first time in a long time we were able to see just how talented everybody is.”

“I think everyone raced a hard 500-mile race,” Keselowski agreed. “I never saw a lull in the action from where I was sitting. That has to be the hardest 500 race ever — probably one of the best.”

The competitive race and electric finish, coupled with Earnhardt’s popularity, found the crowded grandstand at a fever pitch on his victory lap. The result was a weight lifted off the shoulders of not only the driver, but that of his massive fanbase.

“It’s a weight when you’re not able to deliver. When people say that you’re the face of the sport and you’re running fifth or 10th every week it’s difficult because you want to deliver,” Earnhardt said. “This bring me a lot of joy.”

It was a joy others felt as well. Jeff Gordon, the sport’s “wonderboy” turned elder statesman, summed up the collective feelings of NASCAR Nation, which has endured droves of change — seemingly for the sake of change — over the past month.

“Congrats to Junior,” Gordon beamed. “All's right in the world!”

For at least one glorious Sunday night in Daytona Beach, mere miles from the sands where the sport was established, all was right in the world of NASCAR.

 

Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins NASCAR's Daytona 500
Post date: Monday, February 24, 2014 - 02:04
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/confusion-reigns-twitter-rain-delays-daytona-500
Body:

What happens when the Daytona 500 goes to a rain delay and FOX decides to re-air the previous year’s race?

When confused viewers take to social media, Twitter hilarity ensues.

The Daytona 500 was red flagged at 2:12 pm EST due to heavy rain in Daytona Beach, Fla. After some live coverage of the delay and quickly running out of content, FOX simply re-aired the 2013 edition of the Great American Race.

Steve Luvender (@steveluvender) took to Twitter, retweeting over three hours worth of viewers who had been fooled into thinking what they were watching was live. It’s unclear why FOX did not “stamp” the screen with a “REPLAY” designation, but we’re glad they didn’t.

Thank you for this brilliance, Steve. Now sit back and observe quickly it can all go wrong .... and the majesty of a confused viewing audience:


 

 

 

 

 

 

Not surprisingly, Danica Patrick got a lot of play. The best part of the above tweet? Danica finished eighth last year, not ninth. Fricking unbelievable, indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As with any new season, drivers, numbers, sponsors come and go. Thus, no 500 run this year for Jeff Burton and Mark Martin — just to clear up any confusion. And that 3 car? Yeah, I heard something about it returning as well…

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, Meagan, the really cool people knew better.

 

 

 

 

 

Wrong 500 AND wrong sport!

 

 

 

 

 

Hanging with the big boys in the motor coach lot, that is.


 

 

 

Why yes, yes it is.


And the crème de la crème … FOX News (yes, the same organization that pays millions to broadcast NASCAR) claims to be fair and balanced, but that's a tall order when they obviously weren't keeping track of the day's events:


 

Teaser:
Twitter confusion over 2014 NASCAR Daytona 500 rain delay
Post date: Sunday, February 23, 2014 - 18:50
Path: /nascar/hype-builds-daytona-500-favorites-emerge
Body:

A week of pomp and circumstance is nearly over in Daytona Beach. On the eve of NASCAR’s most prestigious race, the Daytona 500, Cup cars roar around the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway in the final practice session of the week — known as Happy Hour — looking for that last little bit of speed. Or handling. Or integrity. Or answers of some sort.

Denny Hamlin has been the week’s big winner thus far, posting wins in the Sprint Unlimited exhibition last Saturday and his qualifying Duel 150 on Thursday. Amongst those in the garage, the performance of Hamlin’s No. 11 team — and his Joe Gibbs Racing outfit as a whole — has managed to unseat another popular storyline: The return of Richard Childress’ No. 3 car.

Austin Dillon cornered the publicity market last Sunday when he won the pole while campaigning the number made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt after a 13-year hiatus.

Meanwhile, some of NASCAR’s traditional heavy-hitters have bent more sheet metal than collected hardware during Speedweeks.

Defending series and Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson has destroyed two cars, one in the Sprint Unlimited, the other in a Duel 150. Johnson’s chief rival in 2013, Matt Kenseth, has been involved in two wrecks of his own, though he rebounded for a Duel win on Thursday. Others, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart and Brad Keselowski, have shown flashes of speed but have little to show for it thus far.

Last year’s Speedweeks sweatheart, Danica Patrick, has been far from invisible, having weathered a storm that arose when Richard Petty made pointed observations about her stock-car credibility. However, the 2013 Daytona 500 pole winner’s 13th-place run in the 25-car Duel field and crash in the Unlimited were mundane showings, to say the least.

With that in mind, it’s well past time to seriously examine which drivers have a realistic shot at winning stock car racing’s most celebrated race. When the green flag flies at 1:30 pm EST on Sunday, the media-run of the week prior, the exhibitions and qualifiers, will fall prey to the reality of performance on race day.


Denny Hamlin  Denny Hamlin
The aforementioned Hamlin is undefeated since last season’s penultimate race, having won the season finale in Homestead, Fla., and his two races this week.

Though his qualifying speed on Sunday was only 22nd fastest, his JGR team has found single-car speed since and the No. 11 Toyota seems to do whatever its driver commands in the pack. In 35 years, no driver has pulled the Daytona trifecta — winning the Unlimited, a Duel and the 500 — in the same year, though 13 have won the two prelims.

“I think the biggest challenge we'll have is keeping the reins back for 400 miles, 450 miles,” Hamlin said of the difficulty in sweeping Speedweeks. “(The Daytona 500 is) a much longer race. Obviously, when you go out here and you perform the way we have over these last few races, it's hard not to just want to go out there (and) show that you're still on top and still the best right on lap one.

“I think that will be my challenge within myself, is keeping the reins back and realizing how long this race is, trying to be as patient as I can.”

Thus far, when the reins have been released it’s been Hamlin riding the fastest horse.


Matt Kenseth
A two-time Daytona 500 champion, Kenseth is as stealthy-strong as any plate racer on the circuit. Yes, he’s torn up some race cars this week, but the lessons learned may have only made him better. A masterful win in Thursday’s second Duel wasn’t proof of that, but it was sweet redemption.

“Honestly, I was kind of embarrassed to walk in the garage,” said Kenseth of the two wrecks where he’d been at ground zero. “I feel like they're looking at you cross-eyed when you're walking by.

“To get the car in the front (in the Duel) and keep it there, win that thing, certainly builds confidence.”

Even more encouraging for Kenseth and teammate Hamlin is that as good as they’ve been, the duo has yet to truly work with one another in race conditions.


Kevin Harvick  Kevin Harvick
Kevin Harvick can identify with Denny Hamlin. Last season, it was Harvick who entered Sunday with an unblemished Speedweeks record. His hopes for a second 500 win wasn’t to be, though, as his Richard Childress Racing Chevy — one very similar to the Chevy Austin Dillon will drive this year — was swept up in an accident not of his making.

Starting anew at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, he’s shown strength throughout the week, running second by a nose to Kenseth in the first Duel. Crew chief Rodney Childers says the team is ready.

“I feel like we’re good to go,” said Childers following Happy Hour. “Kevin’s really happy with the car. Didn’t have any vibrations, tire wear has been good.

“It’s a new group of guys. We have to do our jobs, not make mistakes and we should be good.”


Brad Keselowski
Keselowski typically doesn’t make this list. His career-best, fourth-place run in the Daytona 500 boosted the 2012 series champion’s average finish at the track to 22.1. However, Keselowski’s No. 2 Team Penske Ford has shown muscle in the pack throughout the week.

Second to Hamlin in the Unlimited, another showdown between the two was shaping up in the second Duel when a pit road speeding penalty and subsequent flat tire spoiled a promising run.

“I have the best (Cup) car I’ve ever had down here,” Keselowski quipped following a runner-up finish in the Nationwide Series race.

If the car matches the confidence, that average finish could continue its positive trend.


Jamie McMurray  Jamie McMurray
Looking for a darkhorse? McMurray, in a back-up car after the big Duel wreck, fits the bill. Third on the board in final practice, McMurray’s Chip Ganassi Racing team ran 27 laps on Saturday.

“The car has been running better today,” crew chief Keith Rodden said. “We had to get the back up out and we didn’t get much time on the track yesterday. So today we ran in a small pack. It sucked up good (in the draft) and we ran by ourselves to try a few things just for raw speed and Jamie is pretty happy.”

If Rodden may have questions about the car, but there are none surrounding the driver. Four of his seven career Cup wins have come on the plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega. And as McMurray showed in the 2010 Daytona 500, the annual unexpected contender sometimes actually goes to Victory Lane.


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

Teaser:
Pre-race favorites and storylines for NASCAR's Daytona 500.
Post date: Saturday, February 22, 2014 - 16:43
Path: /nascar/kenseth-hamlin-win-budweiser-duel-daytona
Body:

The Budweiser Duel at Daytona, NASCAR’s twin qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500, enjoyed its first setting in prime time on Thursday evening. While the week leading up to the event witnessed practice crashes that forced seven teams to back-up cars, the Duel was a comparatively composed affair — until the final turn of the night.

A grinding crash that swept up seven cars marred an otherwise clean night of racing. Those involved included defending Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson, front-row qualifier Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer, Carl Edwards, David Ragan and Michael Waltrip.

Meanwhile, Joe Gibbs Racing continued its impressive Speedweeks as Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin swept the Duel events, making its three-car stable the prohibitive favorite for Sunday. Hamlin also won Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race.

The first Duel was a clean event, run entirely under green. However, the calm nature turned dramatic, as two distinct drafting lines — one led by Kenseth, the other by Kevin Harvick — turned into a scrum coming off Turn 4 of the final lap. When Kasey Kahne dipped low in the tri-oval, the trio crossed the line in three-wide formation.  Matt Kenseth

“I saw Kevin making that move. You weren’t going to be able to block it without wrecking, “ Kenseth said. “I just tried to get back to him and, thankfully, I had enough time to get that run to the finish line.”

Kenseth, who led two times for 31 laps, nosed out the win by a miniscule .022 seconds. Harvick and Kahne crossed the line second and third; Marcos Ambrose and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top 5.

Harvick’s No. 4 car failed post-race inspection, cited as exceeding the maximum split on the track bar. Thus, his result was thrown out and he transferred into the 500 via 2013 owner points.

Austin Dillon, who is on the pole for Sunday’s 500, led the first 14 laps of the first Duel but faded to a 19th-place showing.

The second Duel was largely a single-file show. Hamlin’s Toyota led following the field’s pit stop with a row of Chevrolets manned by Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Jamie McMurray lying in wait. They made their move on the backstretch of the final lap, as Johnson and McMurray jumped to the high lane, while Busch and Gordon remained low with Hamlin.

As the field exited Turn 4, Johnson’s car, low on fuel, sputtered and was clipped by McMurray. The melee ensued from there. As Bowyer’s car flipped and Waltrip nosed into the pit wall, Hamlin fended off Busch and Gordon to collect his second career Duel win.  Denny Hamlin

“I saw with Kenseth in the first race (that) he stayed on the top line until he got off of Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag,” Hamlin said. “I thought what would be best for me is to take the bottom (lane) early and to make those guys (Busch, Gordon) make the decision to go high. Once it jumbled up the field it gave me a good defensive position.”

For Johnson, who was unhurt in the last-lap crash, the incident cost him a second car in Speedweeks, as he spun into the inside wall in the Sprint Unlimited.

“I tried to get out of the way; I had my hand out of the side,” Johnson said of warning those behind him he was slowing. “But last lap, coming to the checkers — there is so much going on right there, so much energy in the pack. I knew I was going to get run over if I ran out.”

Dillon will start on the pole for the Daytona 500. Martin Truex Jr., who qualified second, will start in the rear of the field after going to a back-up car following his involvement in the accident. Kenseth and Hamlin will line up in the second row; Hendrick Motorsports teammates Kahne and Gordon will comprise row three.


By Matt Taliaferro
Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin win NASCAR's Budweiser Duel at Daytona; field for the 2014 Daytona 500 set.
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 23:45
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-limiting-cup-driver-participation-nascars-lower-series
Body:

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.


Should some sort of cap be placed on how many Nationwide and Truck series races a Cup driver can participate in? How can a lower-series team explain to a company’s marketing director that a 10th-place finish in an NNS or CWTS race — in a field littered with Cup competitors — is often times a de facto win?


Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): Yes. Limit a Cup driver to 5-10 races. But with a caveat. Increase to 10-15 if the team the Cup driver competes for fields the car the remainder of the season for a non-Cup driver. That way, sponsors and teams are encouraged to support both a Cup driver and a development driver.


Ryan McGee (ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): I like the idea of a 10-15 race cap for any driver who has declared that they are running for the championship in a higher series. The problem is that these marketing directors you speak of are the problem. Nationwide and Truck series team owners tell me that sponsors want names, not young up-and-comers. So it’s a heckuva Catch-22. Attendance and TV ratings are down because the big-name moonlighters keep stomping the young guys, but the big-name moonlighters are who owners have to put in the car. I think once we went through a growing-pains year of that entry cap, those marketers would come around. But then again, I don’t own a race team and don’t have to take that risk.


Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): It seems like a great idea, but track owners would hate it. Much of the gate (such as it is) for a Nationwide or truck race depends on having established and marketable talent. As Brad Keselowski has noted, the problem isn’t allowing Sprint Cup drivers to race in lower-tier series, it’s allowing Sprint Cup organizations to field farm teams. The Nationwide Series lost its identity when erstwhile upstart teams such as ppc Racing and Brewco Motorsports were squeezed out of existence. Any serious discussions about reform must start there.


Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net; @mikemulhern): No, there doesn’t need to be a cap on drivers, but there needs to be more financial equity in NNS and Trucks. I would institute a financial cap on each team to keep mega-teams from milking the Friday and Saturday shows. The problem is not that Cup drivers are so much better than NNS or truckers, but that the Cup drivers can run for teams with a lot more money to spend. Solve that part of the problem. And a big part of that problem is right under the hood. This sport desperately needs more independent engine men, not huge engine factories in Los Angeles or wherever.


Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): A limit should absolutely be in place. I understand companies in a lower series wanting to sponsor a Cup driver, and those drivers should not be banned from competing. But if you declare for Cup points, you shouldn’t be allowed to drive in more than 15 total Nationwide or Truck series races per season.

It will open up more well-funded rides for young drivers who may be forced to take a start-and-park ride just to stay in NASCAR. Plus it will help establish careers for more drivers who may never make it to the Cup Series simply because there are only 43 spots.

And it’s also something that lower-series teams can’t explain easily, especially to a company who may be unfamiliar to NASCAR. If you were that company, wouldn’t you want to go with the driver who is in victory lane, especially if he’s more recognizable?

That’s why a limit makes sense. A company can have an instant brand with a Cup driver and also have the opportunity to simultaneously build one with a promising and less-recognizable one.


Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): The business of the sport trumps the logic of keeping Cup regulars out of the Nationwide and Truck series. Sponsors dictate the decision more often than not and NASCAR finds itself in a Catch-22 situation. I’d like to see a cap of 5-10 races to shine the spotlight on the regular drivers in both divisions but without the Cup stars in the mix a lot of sponsorship dollars will dry up.


Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): In a perfect world, each of the three series would be limited to drivers who choose to participate full-time on that tour, with maybe a handful of starts open to “guests”. That isn’t realistic, however, for numerous reasons, among them the fact that Sprint Cup drivers attract fans to second- and third-tier races. The competition isn’t exactly fair, but solutions beyond what NASCAR already has put in place are convoluted and messy.

 

Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

 

Teaser:
NASCAR writers discuss the whether a cap should be placed on how many starts Cup drivers can make in the Nationwide and Truck series.
Post date: Thursday, February 20, 2014 - 12:47
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-forcing-drivers-sit-after-concussion
Body:

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.


The long-term effects of head trauma in the NFL, along with other sports, are just now beginning to be realized. This year, NASCAR has mandated baseline cognitive testing for its drivers — a move applauded by some (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and questioned by others (Brad Keselowski). The question to you: Is NASCAR opening a Pandora’s box? How will the sport enforce sitting a driver not cleared by doctors when championship and future sponsorship considerations are on the line? Can this objectively be accomplished?


Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): Like it or not NASCAR has to be proactive in this area given the NFL situation and now a similar one in the NHL. Drivers aren’t going to like being told to sit out should they fail the baseline test, but the bottom line is the health and well being of all competitors and not putting anyone else at risk. Athletes get injured and are forced to the sidelines. It should be no different in NASCAR.


Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): What we know now is exponentially more than what we knew 10 years ago, and what we’ll know in 10 years will be exponentially more than what we know now.

If there was any question if NASCAR couldn’t enforce a concussion policy, the doubts should have been washed away when Dale Earnhardt Jr. sat out two races in 2012. If the sport’s most popular driver can sit out two races in NASCAR’s playoffs and the sport survives, we needn’t worry about the consequences of anyone else missing a race.

Outside of being extremely complicated, we all know our brains are the most important part of our lives. That life outside of NASCAR should always be considered. If NASCAR institutes an independent doctor or panel of doctors to be in charge of all concussion and head-related examinations and injuries both before and during the season — with approval from many of the sport’s most influential drivers — there should be minimal controversy.


Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): Any professional sport potentially featuring violence must seem proactive in ensuring its athletes are of sound mind. Earnhardt’s concussion (in 2012) proved that the NASCAR industry is ready to accept its stars being sidelined for the greater good. It’s hard to envision sponsors raising vociferous objections to a driver benched because of a brain injury, but it is worth considering if championship dispensation should be given. Though Keselowski raises some valid points, it will be hard for drivers who lack college degrees making the case that they somehow are better suited to evaluate their well-being than board-certified physicians. Yes, there will be circumstances that make the process tricky, but it’s better for NASCAR to err on the side of caution instead of facing the PR nightmares endured by the NFL.


Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): NASCAR owes it to the 10-year-old boy sitting in Row 10 that its drivers’ minds are in the game. If they are not, they must err on the side of caution to prevent accidents that could impact fan safety and driver safety. Whatever the cost of possibly being wrong in sitting the driver is worth it when considering the cost of possibly being wrong and letting a driver race.


Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net; @mikemulhern): The issue of concussion in NASCAR is long overdue for more study. Maybe we could put Jerry Nadeau, Ernie Irvan and Bobby Allison on a committee to help. NASCAR has access to black boxes that record G-force impacts; that’s an easy-to-read number that a doctor could use. By the way, what was the G-force impact of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Kansas crash?


Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): It’s a good move. As is often the case in other sports, athletes sometimes have to be protected from themselves. In a tight point race late in the season, a driver probably would try to start a race with two broken arms and double pneumonia. It could result in some tough calls — do you block a popular driver from competition if his injury is borderline? — but NASCAR is in the tough-call business.


Ryan McGee (ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): Listen, the days of taping one’s eyelids open and going racing are over. It’s easy to romanticize those moments now, but the reality is that they were stupid and we’re lucky no one got killed because we let them happen. This is a not privacy issue. This is a life-or-death issue. And the practice of establishing baseline medical stats so that on-site medical teams and local doctors have a better understanding of their sudden patients is nothing new. Other race series have done it for years. I have covered many an IndyCar race where a driver has had to sit-out a race because they suffered a concussion or blacked out the week before and doctors ordered them to sit. At the time, that’s not fun for the racer or their fans. But the motive isn’t a conspiracy. It’s to keep the racetrack as safe as possible. Oh, and help make sure your favorite lives longer.


Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

 

Teaser:
NASCAR writers discuss the delicate topic of how the sanctioning body could force drivers to sit out a race after suffering a concussion.
Post date: Monday, February 17, 2014 - 23:58
Path: /nascar/dillon-no-3-car-pole-daytona-500
Body:

The stylized No. 3, made famous by the late Dale Earnhardt, has made its way back to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And it has done so in a big way.  Austin Dillon

Austin Dillon, grandson of team owner Richard Childress, who fielded Chevrolets for Earnhardt until his death in the 2001 Daytona 500, drove the No. 3 livery to the top of pylon in Sunday’s Daytona 500 pole qualifying.

Dillon’s team has shown intimidating speed at Daytona International Speedway since the series tested in early January. That speed has carried into Speedweeks.

“You want to perform with the No. 3; everyone wants to see it perform,” said Dillon, who won the pole with a lap of 196.019 mph (45.914 seconds). “It’s a long season and this is one of the top points. You want to carry that momentum going forward.”

Teams with Childress-powered engines have been near the top of the speed charts since the sport made its return to the beach late last week.

Martin Truex Jr., whose Furniture Row Racing Chevy runs Earnhardt-Childress Racing powerplants, qualified second, just .039 seconds behind Dillon.

Ryan Newman (fifth) and Paul Menard (10th) helped ECR horsepower secure four of the 10 fastest speeds on Pole Day.

Dillon’s run marks the first time the No. 3 car has sat on the pole in Daytona since Earnhardt posted the fastest speed for the 1996 Daytona 500. Earnhardt finished second that season but won “The Great American Race” two years later.

“You know, the 3 is special to all of us,” Childress said. “The (Childress) family, the Earnhardt family — to every one of us. But I think it’s special because Austin, our family, is in the car. You know, the emotion will fly if the 3 rolls in there (to victory lane) on Sunday. I won’t hold it back, I promise.”

The 23-year-old Dillon will run for the Rookie of the Year award in the Cup Series this season. He has already campaigned the No. 3 to two NASCAR national touring series championships: the Nationwide Series (2013) and Camping World Truck Series (2011).

Being the man to bring the vaunted No. 3 back to NASCAR’s premier level, though, presents a new set of tasks. To his credit, Dillon grew up with the number and is all too familiar with the gravitas that comes with being the first driver to don the stylized No. 3 in 13 years.

That sentiment was echoed by none other than Dale Earnhardt Jr.:

“I look forward to seeing it out on the racetrack,” Earnhardt said. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. I would be worried if I didn’t think he’d respect it or not understand the legacy, but he does. I know he does. He appreciates it.”


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

Google
Teaser:
Austin Dillon in the No. 3 car wins the pole for NASCAR's Daytona 500.
Post date: Monday, February 17, 2014 - 13:22
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-nascar-reaching-unattainable-goal
Body:

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.


NASCAR continues to search for a more exciting form of racing. On this topic, Jack Roush stated that, “It's an impossible thing (NASCAR is) looking for, to make the (racing) increasingly exciting. Because there is only so much you can do with four tires and a 3,400-pound car.” Aside from simply trying to improve its “on-track product,” is NASCAR reaching for an intangible goal that’s simply not attainable? Or should this be the sanctioning body’s priority?


Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): Fascinating question. NASCAR is never going to be able to have every race finish with two cars mere inches from each other, nor will it be able to eliminate fuel mileage races and other things that a vocal bunch doesn’t care for. And that’s fine. Every other sport has blowouts and unentertaining games, and it’s those events that make the close and exciting ones so special and breathtaking.


Ryan McGee (ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): Mr. Roush isn’t wrong. There are a lot of folks out there who think that every finish — heck, every lap — should be like the final lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. But here’s the thing about that race … it was awful until the last few laps. If they ran that race today, Twitter would collapse under the weight of all the complaints. You can’t blame the sanctioning body for wanting to make everything awesome all the time, but no matter whether you are at your local short track or the Bristol night race, “riding around” until you get the car right or the checkers are in sight is just part of a real race experience.


Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): NASCAR has to bring in new customers to an aging fan base, and if it means changing some long-standing practices or procedures, so be it. The 3-point shot, designated hitter and shootouts in hockey were born out of the same goal, and big-league stock car racing simply has to change with the times in order to entertain and remain relevant.


Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): Roush makes a hugely incisive point. Jimmie Johnson has made it more subtly in noting that NASCAR should consider fixing racetracks after putting so much of the onus on teams and Goodyear to ‘fix’ the cars with the aim of improved racing. Rather than expend so much effort on chasing an unattainable goal, it might be wiser to launch a clever marketing campaign that would redefine competitiveness and help manage the unrealistic expectations of incessant excitement in a sport that can be inherently boring.


Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): Yes and yes. Much like safety, there is only so much one can do. But NASCAR must continue to find ways to improve the product. There’s no harm in trying.


Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): This is a difficult issue for NASCAR because its “playing field” changes so much from week to week — from very short tracks to gigantic ones, from fresh asphalt to aging surfaces, from 200 miles per hour to half that. Developing the perfect car for such a wildly varied schedule is virtually impossible. The best approach would be to fit the car to the 1.5-mile tracks — because there are so many — and let teams work out the resulting issues at other tracks.


Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net; @mikemulhern): Jack is wrong, and considering the problems Team Ford had last season, it’s understandable why he’s is aggravated.

One easy way to make the racing more exciting is to eliminate the rules that give such an advantage to the race leader — drop the wave-around, for one, and leave pit road open the entire race, for another. There is no good reason for closing pit road; that is a rule that dates back to the early 1990s when scoring miscues at North Wilkesboro, Pocono and elsewhere, led NASCAR to just “stop pit stops” until the scoring tower could sort out the running order. That is no longer an issue. Keep pit road open and let the teams take their chances when the caution comes out. There’s nothing wrong with “chance” playing a role in this sport, the way it did for so many years.

Another way to make racing more exciting is to slow the durn cars. The slower a car, the “wider” the track, thus the more opportunities to pass, and the less the effects of aerodynamics. Simple physics.

Yet another way to make racing more exciting: Cut into the Chevrolet advantage. Check out how many races Chevrolet has won the past 10 years, compared to Ford and Toyota and Dodge. And maybe ask Dodge execs why they really decided they didn't need NASCAR marketing any more. When a performance car company drops NASCAR, there’s something wrong somewhere.


Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
In an offseason full of drastic changes, is NASCAR trying too hard to improve its on-track product?
Post date: Sunday, February 16, 2014 - 23:50
Path: /nascar/nascar-sprint-unlimited-what-we-learned-daytona
Body:

Denny Hamlin is loaded for bear. The winner of the 2013 season finale in Homestead, Fla., Hamlin won all three segments of Saturday night’s Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway in an event that unofficially kicked off NASCAR’s 2014 season.

Hamlin sat out four races last year when an accident at Auto Club Speedway left him with multiple fractures in his lower back. His title hopes gone, Hamlin was relegated to a test driver down the stretch for his Joe Gibbs Racing team, which fielded cars for championship contenders Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch.

Was that Homestead victory a sign of things to come? Judging by Saturday’s performance, it very well could be. Richard Childress Racing cars have shown the most pure speed at Daytona through offseason testing and Speedweeks — and are favorites for the the front row — but there was little doubt who had the piece to beat in race trim.

“The best car won, that’s for sure,” said Hamlin in Victory Lane. “That was survival of the fittest for sure. With three (laps) to go we were at the tail end of a small pack and it’s really tough to get a run — but this car was phenomenal.”

Phenomenal it was. Hamlin led 27 of 75 laps – easily a race high — staying in front of the mayhem that played out in the pack. And survival it was as well. With attrtition high, only eight cars lined up for a final five-lap dash to the finish.

“Passing's going to be tough no matter what aero package they have in these cars,” Hamlin continued. “The fewer the cars, the tougher it is to get runs. That's probably what saved us at the end of the race is that the few guys that were left were fighting each other versus lining up and getting a run on us once we got out there so far.”

As others battled for position over the final five circuits, Hamlin used a push from Busch to launch into the lead. He held off the small pack from there, scoring his second career Sprint Unlimited victory. Brad Keselowski, Busch, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 5.


Full moon fever
What was learned that could translate to next weekend’s Daytona 500? Well, when a wreck eliminates all but nine cars at the halfway mark, the lessons are relative. With that in mind, the aero package for the Cup cars may have changed — with more intense racing throughout the event being the goal — but don’t expect a three-wide, nine-deep battle for 500 miles.

“The reason we were all racing around (was because we) could go anywhere we wanted to — there was more space,” Busch said of the thinned field. “Less cars, more space gives you opportunity to do stupid things, I guess you'd say. You can't make moves like that bottom to top, top to bottom, when there's 30 cars out there.”

Like last year’s Daytona 500, drivers will mind their manners until “go time.” The field ran in single-file formation through a large portion of the first segment not because drivers were pigeonholed into doing so, but because it only made sense. Winning demands one be there at the end, so why do anything too crazy, too early?

Well, actually, it did get too crazy, too early. When Kenseth dipped to the low side and clipped Logano in Segment 2, he set off a grinding crash that eliminated seven competitors.vThat left nine drivers to battle it out in what was a virtual all-star race with only a trophy and cash on the line.

Blocking and daring passes will surely shape the closing laps in the Great American Race, but don’t expect the intensity to be at a fever pitch until the final 100 miles.


Popular attrition
Drivers involved in the second segment’s “Big One” on lap 35 included Kenseth, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Harvick (though he was able to continue), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (who smashed into his girlfriend after she had seemingly made it through the mayhem), Jeff Gordon and Carl Edwards.

Jimmie Johnson crashed on lap 28 of the first segment, ending his evening. Dale Earnhardt Jr. retired after tangling with Marcos Ambrose, and then the wall, with 10 laps remaining in the final segment.

By the final sprint to checkers, only Hamlin, Keselowski, Logano, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Jamie McMurray were left to spar for the win. Expect a group three times that size to be jockeying for the Harley J. Earle trophy next week.


Smoke is Stoked
Sidelined since August with a broken leg suffered in a sprint car crash in Iowa, Tony Stewart was chomping at the bit in his return to racing.

Not satisfied with running a high-speed parade in the Unlimited, Stewart didn’t hold back in the event’s first segment, jumping out of line multiple times while the rest of the field seemed content to take it easy. His moves didn’t always pay off, but they served a purpose: Stewart was afforded the opportunity to work some pent-up adrenaline out of his system before the racing that really matters unfolds later in the week.

“I waited seven months to race,” Stewart later quipped. “I damn sure wasn’t going to ride around in line.”

For Stewart, the storybook ending never materialized; he was swept up in Kenseth’s crash on lap 35 and eliminated but emerged from the car under his own power and showed no ill effects.


Protect your line
The low line again appeared to be the preferred groove at Daytona. While Stewart noted that side drafting made passing difficult, there was no shortage of action. Taller rear spoilers have increased the closing rate while making cars less stable in the pack. Being out front and protecting the low groove was the most secure place to be.

“There was some interesting moments where the inside lane started going (when) guys were trying to make the outside lane go,” Kyle Busch said. “Seemed like more guys were trying to get the third lane going up against the wall, that kind of killed the middle lane a little bit, so the bottom persevered.”

Johnson used that low line to win his second Daytona 500 last season while most ran in formation on the high side. Prior to his crash on lap 28, Johnson worked his way from 18th to third by passing on the low side.


Not even the pace car was safe
In one of the evening’s most bizarre moments, the pace car caught fire while leading the field prior to Segment 3. A battery pack in the trunk used for the external caution lights overheated, causing the fire. I’ll save the comparisons between pace driver Brett Bodine and Daytona jet-dryer destroyer Juan Pablo Montoya and simply say that with a full moon presiding over an exhibition race on a plate track, was the pace car going up in flames really that surprising a development?


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

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Teaser:
Rundown and reaction from the NASCAR Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.
Post date: Sunday, February 16, 2014 - 01:13
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-catering-television-vs-honest-competition
Body:

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.


Sticking with the parity theme from yesterday’s Roundtable question, some claim that today’s Cup cars are too closely matched and that “wave-around” and “Lucky Dog” rules keep the field more tightly grouped. Is this simply a product of “sports,” circa 2014? Has the importance of catering to a television audience trumped honest, on-track/on-field competition?


Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree):In a word, yes. But NASCAR always has been about “manufactured” racing, to a degree. In a perfect racing world, a driver who works hard to build a two-second advantage on the track during green-flag racing should retain that margin after a caution. That isn’t feasible, of course, and entertainment value certainly is boosted by repeated green-flag restarts. The wave-around? A bit ridiculous.


Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): Yes, it caters to television and is a product of sports circa 2014. But so what? You need rules that keep fans interested. The free pass and wave around do that, and they also play a key safety role as drivers don’t race back to the start-finish line when the yellow comes out. The wave-arounds also keep a nearly lapped-down car from racing the leaders on a restart. There’s nothing wrong in giving a driver who has a flat tire early in the race a little more hope thanks to these rules.


Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): It’s the product of a governing body that might be too attuned to the whims of its followers. More tricks have been added in the past decade of NASCAR’s premier series than in its first 55 years. Though it’s wise to be mindful of fans’ demands, it’s a fine line of catering to entertainment at the expense of competition. NASCAR can’t roll back many of the changes that have been made, but eradicating the “free pass”/wave-around rule and the three attempts at a green-white-checker finish (one is plenty) would be a good start.


Ryan McGee (ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): When I talk to the old-timers, these lead-lap rules drive them nuts, way more than stuff like the Chase or the new points system. NASCAR has gotten ripped over the years for being such a dictatorship, but perhaps their biggest flaw in recent years is that they’ve reacted to fan feedback a little too much. That’s where some of all these parity-driven policies have come from — hits and misses. But what’s fascinating to me is that no matter how hard they work at creating that mythical 43-wide finish, the best teams still win the most races and championships. And I can tell you firsthand the catering-to-TV theories are overstated. If that was the primary impetus for all decisions, then no race would last longer than three hours.


Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): Continuing with the “close doesn’t always equal competitive” theory, I’ve never taken an issue to NASCAR’s institution of the wave-around and Lucky Dog rules. It replaced a gentleman’s agreement of racing back to the caution flag; an agreement that had different terms each time it happened. The equal terms of the official rule is more important than any perception of parity-forcing.

But I’m not sure how those rules are catering to a television audience rather than a common sense simple major-league sports move. It was only natural that NASCAR was going to have to increase rules and regulations when teams started to spend more and more to find speed.


Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net; @mikemulhern): NASCAR Cup racing has become a made-for-TV show; at-track fans have been all-but MIA. The sport's decline since 2007 has been striking, and it's unclear why Daytona/NASCAR has been unable or unwilling to make the major changes to shake things up. The wave-around rule was a bad idea to begin with, and it's become a terrible part of the sport — one big reason for lack of competition on Sundays — because the leader always gets clean air on restarts instead of having to fight his way back to the front. The “Lucky Dog” is OK, as Dale Jarrett and many others, like Bobby Allison, can attest. Yes, the Cup cars today are way too tightly regulated, which plays right into the hands of the mega-teams that can afford engineering armies. You ask why the Hendrick teams dominate? Just look at the rulebook ... and count the engineers on the Hendrick payroll. NASCAR is changing the rules for 2014? Then expect another Jimmie Johnson championship.


Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): I think NASCAR has done a good job in walking that fine line between competition and entertainment but it’s not going to get any easier in the coming years. The sport simply has to cater to a new breed of fans' expectations while maintaining its core of long-time supporters. Tough balance to say the least.


Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
Are today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup cars are too closely matched so that “wave-around” and “Lucky Dog” rules keep the field more tightly grouped. Is this simply a product of “sports,” circa 2014? Has the importance of catering to a television audience trumped honest, on-track/on-field competition?
Post date: Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 23:58
All taxonomy terms: Carl Edwards, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-carl-edwards
Body:

By the close of last year’s Daytona 500, Carl Edwards had already wrecked four of his Fords five times in the 2013 calendar year.  Carl Edwards

It wasn’t exactly the auspicious start Edwards had hoped for as he tried to snap a winless streak that reached 70 races over the course of the prior two seasons. And it wasn’t the start his team needed during the early period of NASCAR’s transition to its Gen-6 car, in a shop already working overtime to fine-tune the new pieces.

But good track position and horrible passing conditions rectified that a week later at Phoenix International Raceway, where Edwards drove the No. 99 to Victory Lane after leading 122 laps. He snapped that winless streak — the longest of his 10-season Sprint Cup career — and seemed to make a statement that Roush Fenway Racing had corrected the issues that kept him out of the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“I think we have a lot of great things to look forward to,” Edwards said days later. “A win right off the bat is really, really good for us.”

Alas, it was a bit of a mirage in the desert.

Yes, Edwards did improve in 2013 on his personal-worst 2012. He did return as a qualifier for the Chase. He also saw an increase in important statistical averages.

In 2012, Edwards finished 15th in points, without a win, and with just three top-5 finishes while racing only 56.2 percent of the season inside the top 15. Last year, he nabbed two wins — you’ll excuse most fans who forgot about the fact that he was the winner of the oh-so-controversial regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway — while pushing his top-5 finishes to nine and piling on a 12.7 percent increase in his laps run inside the top 15.

All told, Edwards’ driver rating jumped to 92.5 after a dismal 84.2 in 2012. The cumulative effect of Edwards’ strength was most notable after that second Richmond race. Without the Chase format causing a reshuffle of the point standings, Edwards would have left Richmond one point ahead of Jimmie Johnson with 10 races left.

It was those final 10 races, however, that ultimately left Edwards in a non-speaking role at last season’s Las Vegas awards banquet. In fact, he was dead last in the Chase when the checkered flag flew on the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway. An average finish of 16.9 in the Chase will do that to a driver.

But the way Edwards came about that horrible, no-good finish to an otherwise nice season of team improvement is exactly why it makes sense to believe that he’ll do better this season.

No, Edwards was never really championship material — his strength all year was consistent finishing, not necessarily overpowering wins. However, his Chase run was marred by two mechanical failures. First, he suffered a wheel hub issue at Dover that left him 15 laps down in 35th after starting fourth and leading. Later, he lost an engine at Texas Motor Speedway, a track where Edwards is traditionally a favorite.

Those failures were combined with an uncharacteristic shortage of Chase top-10 finishes — Edwards had only three. There was also a blown opportunity for a Phoenix sweep, but he ran out of gas and was ultimately relegated to 13th in the point standings.

If his team can just put its bad luck behind him, Edwards figures to improve his position this year. He’ll also be in his second season with crew chief Jimmy Fennig, personally requested after a tumultuous 2012 left Edwards searching for a team leader.

The relationship between Fennig and Edwards was easily the biggest question mark before last season, but the Type-A personalities seemed to mesh amazingly well. Fennig, despite his military style, managed to avoid stepping on the toes of his driver, while Edwards managed to align to Fennig’s straight-and-narrow style of team leadership.

All told, it’s a relationship with a minimal amount of unicorns, rainbows and butterflies, but one that seemed to work without fireworks in 2013. That’s exactly what team owner Jack Roush was hoping for. But as Ford’s No. 1 wheelman, signed to a multi-year extension in 2011, Edwards needs to step it up one more notch. Since the signing, he’s won only twice, finished outside the top 10 in points the last two years and fallen outside the marketing limelight. There’s too much money getting paid out here for executives to be satisfied with that.

With a year of fine-tuning under their belts, Edwards and Fennig should improve. But 2014 can be no mirage.


What the Competition is Saying
Anonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media
There may have been behind-the-scenes questions about Carl Edwards’ personality in the past, but none of his rivals currently question his desire.

“He is a very consistent driver who is truly passionate about the sport,” one crew chief says. “He’s driven for performance and physical fitness. When he was in contention for the title, he was so competitive, almost to a fault.”

“The tide of success with the Gen-6 car seemed to be against Edwards and the Ford camp,” another rival notes. “They’re making some crew chief changes and moving some stuff around over there that will probably make them better. He needs to have success early and then ride the wave to the Chase next year.”

From a media perspective, one member values Edwards’ insight and honesty: “I don’t always personally agree with Edwards’ opinion on every topic, but I sincerely appreciate the fact that he’ll lay it on the line with you. Carl isn’t gonna BS you. And he really takes ‘this side’ of his job seriously — not all drivers are as willing to give an honest effort in communicating with the media like he does.”


Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers:
His 2013 wins came on a three-quarter-miler and a one-miler, but 11 of his 16 triumphs in the CoT/Gen-6 era have come on the intermediates.
Pretty Solid Pick: See that 6.6-place average finish at Homestead in the chart above? He’s in the zone when others are mentally on a beach in the Caribbean.
Good Sleeper Pick: We’ve covered his intermediate prowess, so how about that 7.9-place average showing in the seven races at Watkins Glen in the CoT/Gen-6 era?
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Has averaged a 17th at Talladega dating back to that scary catchfence-tumble in 2009, cracking the top 10 only twice.
Insider Tip: We love Jimmy Fennig, and Edwards is a fascinating thinker, but is the 99 team still a feared unit?


No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Sponsors:
Fastenal/Subway/Aflac/Kellogg’s
Owners: Jack Roush/John Henry
Crew Chief: Jimmy Fennig
Years with current team: 11
Under contract through: 2015+
Best points finish: 2nd (2008, ’11)
Hometown: Columbia, Mo.
Born: Aug. 15, 1979

 

 

Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

 

 

Teaser:
Previewing the season of Car Edwards on the NASCR Sprint Cup circuit.
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:55
All taxonomy terms: Greg Biffle, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-driver-profile-greg-biffle
Body:

Greg Biffle earned his sixth berth in the Chase for the Sprint Cup last year, and it’s not lost on the Ford driver just how important making the sport’s postseason actually is. In fact, he believes the Chase is what offers the sport’s top drivers and teams a sense of legitimacy.  Greg Biffle

“What makes up the face of this sport is the Chase, and the Chase guys,” Biffle says. “That’s what everybody talks about from the Daytona 500 on is the 12 or 13 cars that are gonna be in the Chase. It’s really important, and that’s been our focus. Let’s face it, you can’t win the championship unless you’re in the Chase.”

This season, Biffle should expect to earn his seventh appearance in the NASCAR championship format and sixth in a row. While making a legitimate run at the title seems unlikely, it will be another postseason berth based on Biffle’s sterling consistency and strong ability to find a way to Victory Lane. Of his 11 full-time seasons, Biffle has failed to win a race just twice.

Last year, Biffle notched just one victory — he held off a hard-charging Jimmie Johnson in the June race at Michigan International Speedway — but he ultimately didn’t need it for his Chase qualification effort. Still, Biffle knew at the time that the insurance was awfully nice.

However, making the show is one thing; succeeding is another task altogether. Biffle ultimately finished ninth last season in points due in large part to a Chase effort that garnered only three top-10 finishes, one of which was a top 5. As it so often is with Biffle, his No. 16 was good enough to be within the select group of drivers, but not quite good enough to make a legitimate title run. He hasn’t been a serious candidate down the stretch since 2005.

That’s a crucial point, because Biffle enters 2014 at age 44 in the midst of a contract year with longtime Roush Fenway prospect Trevor Bayne waiting in the wings. Bayne’s progress has been tediously slow, but he has driven for Biffle’s sponsor, 3M, and has been searching for a full-time Cup opportunity since winning the 2011 Daytona 500. As we saw with Kenseth two years ago, Roush has a history of going younger as a way of doing business. Biffle’s job this year is to show that he’s still the best option.

It’ll take improvement on Biffle’s part to make that happen, despite a solid history of regular-season success. Consider that, overall, Biffle’s 2013 was a one-win affair with just four top-5 finishes and 13 top 10s. Those numbers were substantially off from the prior season and similar to 2011, a year that found him outside the Chase picture.

Even if Biffle does not improve, he’ll likely breeze into a 16-team Chase this season, though once there may be surpassed by a competitive slate of drivers who weren’t in Chase competition last fall (Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Tony Stewart). It’s a hungry trio, backed by the off-track PR hype that has never quite seemed to attach itself to Biffle.

A good note is that Biffle’s crew chief relationship survived some offseason reshuffling at RFR. Biffle and Matt Puccia will now work their third full season together, although you have to wonder what kind of production Roush will require early in the season’s slate. He has to have concerns that Biffle’s average start dropped more than six spots last year, the worst result in years for a driver who struggles in traffic.

Some of that problem may also be attributable to the Fords Biffle drove. While consistent (Biffle finished every race last year), he often talked about how the team was playing catch-up. Ford drivers won just six times overall and didn’t finish higher than eighth in series points.

However, the Ford camp did spend time last season lobbying NASCAR for some undisclosed concessions. The manufacturer was primarily concerned that some of NASCAR’s in-season car modifications across all makes had unfairly caused a disadvantage among the Blue Oval brigade. No direct evidence was ever made available, though.

NASCAR never made any public announcement about new allowances for the Ford teams, but at the very least, a new grille molding will be used. If it did — or if Ford found some speed through good old-fashioned research and development — then Biffle and RFR could stand an improved chance.

Otherwise, it’s difficult to envision Biffle being more than another mid-level Chase competitor in 2014. Does that mean free agency’s next up?


What the Competition is Saying
Anonymous quotes from crew chiefs, owners and media
“Biffle knows how to win — he’s a proven champion in the Truck and Nationwide series,” one crew chief says. “And he can win on any type of track, although he hasn’t won on a road course. Biffle runs a street stock race on his farm every year and builds the car himself. That knowledge helps him share pertinent information with his race team.”

Another crew chief points to some inhibiting factors that could derail any hopes for a NASCAR “title trifecta” — at least in 2014: “While he can win, he can be very inconsistent. His personality can be a drawback, too. He is a rather dry individual. And he’s in Roush equipment, which — if you look at the success that Matt Kenseth had this season — appears to be an inhibiting factor.”

A media member who has watched Biffle his entire NASCAR career still believes in the Washington native’s talent: “I’ve always thought Biffle was a helluva wheelman. He really came out of nowhere — like, literally, the Great Northwest — to win his two championships (NNS and CWTS), but the Cup level is something entirely different. I think he has the ability, but the Roush program has been a step off since Edwards’ missed title bid in 2011.”


Fantasy Stall
Looking at Checkers:
We all know the “intermediate” story on Biffle, who has recorded 16 of his 19 career Cup wins at seven tracks: Auto Club, Darlington, Dover, Homestead, Kansas, Michigan and Texas.
Pretty Solid Pick: In the CoT/Gen-6 era, Biffle has managed to score five top 10s in six starts — with two third-place runs in the last four years — at Indy.
Good Sleeper Pick: Hey, have we mentioned Biffle’s success on seven specific tracks?
Runs on Seven Cylinders: Martinsville is the obvious choice, but strangely enough, Biffle has bucked the intermediate trend at Kentucky, where he’s averaged a 25.3-place finish.
Insider Tip: He’s not an A-lister, but he makes a fine selection out of the B-list when the circuit visits seven very specific tracks.


No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Sponsors:
3M/American Red Cross/Fastenal/American Dental Association
Owner: Jack Roush/John Henry
Crew Chief: Matt Puccia
Years with current team: 12
Under contract through: 2014
Best points finish: 2nd (2005)
Hometown: Vancouver, Wash.
Born: Dec. 23, 1969


Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
Previewing the 2014 season of NASCR Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle.
Post date: Wednesday, February 12, 2014 - 23:52
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-grading-performance-gen-6-car
Body:

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.


With its inaugural season of competition now in the rear-view mirror, grade the performance of the Gen-6 car. And what, if anything, would you do to enhance said performance?


Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): The Gen-6 car gets an A for appearance but a C for performance. In reality there wasn’t much difference in the on-track product than previous incarnations. Somehow NASCAR has to find a way to enhance the competition and produce more side-by-side racing, especially at 1.5-mile tracks.


Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): Gen-6 gets a C-plus. Good on some tracks, not close to “passing” on others. There is no easy fix, but “dirtying up” the car with a shorter spoiler and less front-end grip should help. The car looks good on the track, but performance lags.


Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net; @mikemulhern): I'd give it a C-plus, no more. The new 2013s didn’t improve the action on the track; if anything, the excessive speeds, especially at the 1.5-milers, worked against the premise of improving competition. After spending several years in development, clearly the men designing the Gen-6 didn’t come up with something to make the action better out on the track.

How to improve things? Slow the cars 15 mph, probably by cutting cubic inches, with a new, smaller engine block; a 280-305. Robert Yates was pushing for such smaller engines 20 years ago, before Ernie Irvan’s first bad crash. NASCAR is 20 years behind the curve here. Why drivers have to run into 14-degree-banked corners at 208 mph is absurd.


Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): The car doesn’t deserve a failing grade, simply because we all knew that there would be growing pains. However, the car wasn’t an instant hit either, so let’s go with a C-minus. As much as NASCAR wants to tout the increase in total green-flag passes, passes for the lead were down measurably and races on intermediate tracks still got strung out significantly.

This non-engineer would take away a significant amount of aerodynamic downforce and make the cars much less reliant on the air around them. Fans would gladly trade a spate of qualifying speed records for drivers who are able to control their cars side-by-side with each other for more than a few laps after a restart.


Ryan McGee (ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine; @ESPNMcGee): First half of the year: B-plus.  Second half of the year: B-minus. I never hated it like so many others seemed to. And no matter how much you disliked it, you have to admit it was an improvement over the CoT shoebox. As for “fixing” it, I think that anything NASCAR comes up with, the teams will find a way to tunnel around. That’s what happened with the Gen-6 car in 2013. To me, it might be as simple as slowing the cars down (though I like the higher speeds) and shortening the races, especially on the mile-and-a-half tracks. If you chop down the distance between green and checkers, it always dials up the intensity. Just ask New Hampshire.


Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News; @bobpockrass): B-minus. It gets an A-minus for looks and a C for racing. The racing at the start of the year was pretty decent but then teams all got on the same page. I don’t often agree with Carl Edwards, but in this case I do — I would take away rear downforce.


Nate Ryan (USA Today; @nateryan): On aesthetics, it earns an A-minus. On action, it’s a C. Green-flag passes were up in 2013, but lead changes — the true currency of competition in NASCAR — were down. The answer to improving it is whatever makes it easier for drivers with strong cars to retake the lead after a mediocre pit stop or restart, instead of getting stalled in traffic as many are now. Less downforce seemingly might help despite the vociferous objections by drivers (and in the inversely proportional world of racing, what’s good for them often is bad for fans). The current tinkering with slowing the cars also might bear fruit.

 


Photo by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro


Teaser:
As part of the 2014 NASCAR season preview, Athlon Sports sits down with seven of the sport's leading journalists to grade the Gen-6 race car that was introduced to the Sprint Cup Series in 2013.
Post date: Monday, February 10, 2014 - 23:55
Path: /nascar/nascar-media-roundtable-legacy-richmond-scandal
Body:

Each day from mid-February through late November, a small band of motorsports journalists work nearly around the clock — this being the digital age — to keep rabid NASCAR fans as up-to-the-second informed as possible. Many of these media members are ensconced in the sport’s “traveling circus,” working in garage areas, media centers and pressboxes nearly 40 weeks a year. So who better to go to for a “state of the sport” talk than them?

While drivers may toe the company line — keeping sponsors happy and staying in the sanctioning body’s good graces are important to their livelihood — it’s the job of these journos to provide news, insight and opinion in a sport that has no shortage of any.

In this nine-part feature, Athlon Sports sits down with seven media professionals from different outlets to get a healthy cross-section of ideas, opinions and feedback on the biggest issues alive and well in the sport of NASCAR, circa 2014.


Undoubtedly, the biggest story of the 2013 NASCAR season was the actions and ensuing fallout from the Richmond race. Five years from now, what will the legacy of “Spingate” be for the sport of NASCAR?


Ryan McGee (ESPN.com/ESPN The Magazine@ESPNMcGee): The lesson learned is that you have to think big picture before acting. One idiotic idea made the entire sport look awful for weeks. Past that, the legacy will be embarrassment. I think back on incidents like the nitrous oxide mess at Daytona in 1976 or the “jet fuel” disaster of ’07, even Richard Petty’s 198th career win, which came via an illegal engine at Charlotte. All of the people involved in those, from Darrell Waltrip to A.J. Foyt to Michael Waltrip, still get questions about those, even now, years later.

Over time it’ll fade and the topic will come up less, but this will be like the “black spot” for Michael, Clint Bowyer and Ty Norris. It’ll never fully go away. I just hope we don’t look back and say this was the night that Martin Truex Jr.’s career died.


Bob Pockrass (The Sporting News@bobpockrass): The legacy will be more scrutiny over every maneuver by every driver at Richmond and Homestead. Just listening to Brad Keselowski’s radio in the Nationwide race at Homestead and his asking about what he should do (with Penske teammate Sam Hornish Jr. in a championship battle) — and the reaction of fans that followed — means that this is not over. It is the nature of teammates to do subtle things to help teammates.

NASCAR has opened up a quagmire that it could have prevented if it just had penalized Clint Bowyer for intentionally spinning under caution. It also has opened itself up to scrutiny with an ambiguous “100 percent” rule as well as the precedent of adding an additional driver to the Chase.


Nate Ryan (USA Today@nateryan): In late September, in the wake of the announcement of NAPA’s impending departure, I’d have said the team orders scandal at Richmond International Raceway probably would rank as triggering the biggest sea change in 21st century NASCAR competition. But as with most Sprint Cup controversies that have a half-life of roughly three to five days, Richmond faded much more quickly than anticipated.

Aside from the Michael Waltrip Racing repercussions, its impact seemed negligible by the midpoint of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Its legacy will be more about how it challenged perceptions and changed the personas of the major players — Brian France taking charge and weathering crisis with his predecessors’ iron-fisted panache; Michael Waltrip facing the greatest escape act in a career filled with them; Clint Bowyer stripped of the happy-go-lucky charm that made him a favorite of fans and peers — than whether it significantly influenced philosophies in the long term.

Richmond will stand among the most apocryphal tales in recent NASCAR history, and it’s unlikely that such dirty pool ever will unfold that way again. But the multi-car business model and consistency-based points structure still ensure there will be future scandals of a similar ilk.


Nick Bromberg (Yahoo! Sports; @NickBromberg): Unfortunately for NASCAR, it will be the way that the incident was handled by the sanctioning body, simply because there will forever be a 13th driver listed in the (Chase) box score. Whether it’s via teammates moving over for another to lead a lap or a start and park car being entered to pull off the track early, manipulation isn’t a new phenomenon. No other sport would add another team to its playoffs, and the addition of Jeff Gordon will be forever annotated.


Mike Hembree (Athlon Sports; @mikehembree): Tighter scrutiny. It often takes an outlandish event like this to spur serious action by NASCAR, but, once it’s in place, it’s generally productive. Radio chatter isn’t as much fun.

 

 

Pete Pistone (Sirius/XM NASCAR Radio and MRN Radio; @PPistone): As much as some want to sweep it under the carpet I think the Richmond scandal will hang over the sport for years to come. The actions by MWR and NASCAR’s response by altering the Chase with a 13th driver will go down in history as a couple of dark days in the sport’s legacy while the “100 percent rule” is fraught with complications.

 

 

Mike Mulhern (MikeMulhern.net; @mikemulhern): No, the biggest story of 2013 was Brian France pulling off the multi-billion-dollar NBC TV deal and getting FOX to also agree to funding the sport through 2024. “Spingate” will hardly be recalled next season, except as just one more poorly handled issue by NASCAR and the Daytona brass.

 

 


Photos by Action Sports, Inc.

Athlon Sports’ 2014 “Racing” annual delivers full driver profiles as well as complete 2014 NASCAR coverage. Click here to view more.

For coverage of Speedweeks and the entire 2014 NASCAR season, follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro

Teaser:
As part of the 2014 NASCAR season preview, Athlon Sports sits down with seven of the sport's leading journalists to answer the question of how the sport will deal with the legacy of Michael Waltrip Racing's “Spingate” scandal at Richmond in 2013.
Post date: Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 22:36
All taxonomy terms: NASCAR News & Notes, NASCAR, News
Path: /nascar/potential-nascar-chase-changes-sacrificing-credibility-bottom-line
Body:

Stop, NASCAR. Just please, stop right now. Hit the pause button. Let’s all take a breath and ponder for a moment.

NASCAR, we know you’re wont to send up trial balloons every so often, and the leaked proposal to drastically alter the Chase for the Championship playoff format — and thus the very sport itself — is obviously a zeppelin-sized stethoscope on the chest of the fanbase.

We know you are closely monitoring fan reaction; that Fan and Media Engagement Center is getting a workout about now. Caller feedback on SIRIUS XM’s NASCAR channel is being noted and measured. Hopefully, folks are filling your inbox with thoughts and opinions via email that you’re tabulating. And hopefully, the brass safely tucked away in that ivory Daytona Beach tower are in the process of measuring twice before cutting once.

All that said, allow me to wander for a bit.

NASCAR, please, just stop. ... You’re not a stick ‘n’ ball sport. However, Your unwavering determination to become one has us teetering on the brink of divorce.
See, there’s a fine line in what I do. I was a fan of NASCAR long before I could attach a “media” designation anywhere near my name. I’ve played the professional role the best I know how for the last 12 years. I’ve learned how to parry the “but come on, deep down I know you have a favorite driver!” question (mine retired years ago, so no problem there). I transitioned to watching, commenting on and writing about races and current events in the sport as a third party. In fact, I feel I’ve evolved into as unbiased a viewer of all-things NASCAR as anyone you’ll find. I have no allegiance except to the readers.

But every now and then a situation arises that challenges those “fan vs. professional” pitfalls that have been dutifully and strategically programmed into my brain. The Charlotte Observer’s report late last week has managed to dodge and weave said mental pitfalls like Indiana Jones carrying a golden statuette in a South American rainforest.

So for the first time in over a decade, I’m putting my professional hat aside. If the Observer’s report is, in fact, a method for CEO Brian France, president Mike Helton, vice president of competition Robin Pemberton, et al, to gauge fan reaction then I’ll bite. After all, my passion for the sport, built over 25 years, led me to where I’ve been the last 12 years and what I do today.

So NASCAR, please, just stop. Your obsession with appealing to a new demographic has cost you the diehards that once filled your racetracks; it has cost you a television audience that was once there, but no longer is. You’re not a stick ‘n’ ball sport — and that’s why we fell in love with you in the first place! However, your unwavering determination to become one — and line your already deep pockets in the process — has us teetering on the brink of divorce. These points, though, have been discussed ad nauseam over the years, so I will not dwell.

France has often cited “Game 7 moments” as the goal for what his 10-race Chase format would provide. There have been a couple: Kurt Busch’s wheel coming plum off in the inaugural edition and the classic 2011 clash of Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards are two unforgettable moments in the first 10 years of your playoffs, NASCAR.

That isn’t a bad percentage as “Game 7 moments” go. In fact, it’s just about right. After all, Joe Carter — though technically a Game 6 moment — doesn’t belt a walk-off home run to win the World Series every year. If he did, “the amazing” would become “the expected” and the wonderment of “Game 7 moments” would render said moments non-existent.

See NASCAR, that’s what has perplexed me over the last 10 years. As a fan, the ‘80s, ‘90s and early part of this century were magical times. Cars were racy, drivers were renegades and crew chiefs were salty, stubborn men I’d never cross. You truly didn’t know what mayhem would transpire each week, and every so often something like a Kulwicki vs. Elliott season finale mesmerized us all — I mean absolutely topped any crazy scenario I dreamt while using Hot Wheels to run the Kitchen Table 500. Your sport was still niche, but I was part of the niche, so it was high times. I was hooked, I’m telling ya.


Athlon Sports' 2014 Racing Preview hits newsstands Jan. 21. Order online

But then you went and started taking yourself too seriously, NASCAR. You’re like the rock ‘n’ roll bands of my youth: There was an edge and excitement that drew me in, but once you felt you’d hit the “big time,” it was more about the money, merchandise and endorsements than the music. As the great racing scribe Ed Hinton once noted, “greed does not regress.” The outlaw nature of the sport that appealed to me had been replaced by a safeness that guaranteed middle-of-the-road semi-popularity and lots and lots of cash.

However, NASCAR, once you realized that you didn’t actually have 75 million fans, sponsors were no longer plunking down $30 million to back teams and television ratings were no longer in the stratosphere, a playoff system was hatched in an attempt to mirror what worked for the National Football League. I was never fully sold because I was more interested in a rightful and deserving champion than how much money could be made. And I’ve never felt that tournaments work in a sport like auto racing. Make no mistake, the NFL playoffs and the NCAA’s basketball tourney are about making money just as much as they are about crowning a winner, but they work organically. The old “apples and oranges” adage applies well here.

Oh, but that first Chase was a doozy; I’ll give you that, NASCAR. It actually worked. But then you started tinkering with the system. And you haven’t stopped. Any changes that are announced over the coming weeks — and changes are coming — will mark the fourth points tweak in 11 years. That averages to a change to the playoff format — the way you determine your champion — once every two and three-quarter years! How are fans expected to view the championship (not the champion, mind you) with legitimacy if it’s ever-changing?

That brings me to the present day. Potentially, we could see an expanded Chase field (it’s gone from 10 drivers up to 12, then 13 and now possibly 16), built-in eliminations (although those happen naturally as-is) and, worst of all, points resets that would climax in a four-driver, winner-take-all, one-race setting for the championship.

NASCAR, a scenario such as this is nothing more than a blatant gimmick to attract viewers who, at best, will give you a ratings bump in four select races. Oh, you’ll have your “Game 7 moment” each year, but at what cost? At what point will those moments become the norm and not the memorable? And therefore, at what point will you, NASCAR, conclude that further tweaking must be done once again to satisfy your short-term advertising and ratings goals in an effort to wow the masses?

An emphasis on winning is great, but these reported changes are about much more than that. These changes shine a light on a sanctioning body more concerned with its bottom line than a sport’s credibility. And competition without credibility is simply entertainment, not sport.

The truth is that we don’t know what changes will be made to the Chase, only that change in some form seems likely. It may play out in the radical terms that the Observer outlined or fan feedback may talk NASCAR off the ledge. I hope it’s the latter. I so hope it’s the latter that I’m willing to push aside my professional duties and speak purely as a fan.

If gauging fan reaction is the goal of this most recent report then NASCAR, consider this article feedback from a life-long fan.


Follow Matt Taliaferro on Twitter: @MattTaliaferro
 

Teaser:
Potential tweaks to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Chase for the Championship format rooted in a sanctioning body's bottom line, not the sport's credibility.
Post date: Sunday, January 19, 2014 - 15:38
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-sprint-cup-series-schedule
Body:

The official 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with dates, start times, television information and defending winners.

 

Teaser:
The official 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule with dates, start times, television information and defending winners.
Post date: Monday, January 13, 2014 - 13:31
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-nationwide-series-schedule
Body:

The official 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with dates, start times, television information and defending winners.

 

Teaser:
The official 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with dates, start times, television information and defending winners.
Post date: Monday, January 13, 2014 - 13:28
Path: /nascar/2014-nascar-camping-world-truck-series-schedule
Body:

The official 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule with dates, start times, television information and defending winners.

 

Teaser:
The official 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule with dates, start times, television information and defending winners.
Post date: Monday, January 13, 2014 - 13:16

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