Sunday, March 29, 2015

Joe Gibbs' full statement at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sunday

JOE GIBBS, Team Owner, Joe Gibbs Racing

   "I will address J.D.'s (Gibbs, president, Joe Gibbs Racing) situation. J.D. at our team meeting earlier this week, he got up and basically he said, 'I know God has a plan and God puts us through things for a reason.' I think J.D. gains his strength from the fact that he has a personal relationship with the Lord and I have to tell you that he's my hero. I kind of watch him and I don't know if anybody has ever dealt with anything as crazy as J.D. does. He went through a situation with his son Taylor having leukemia at two and we fought through that for about three or four years. By the way, appreciate all of you all's prayers for Taylor and Taylor's doing great today. Like I said, J.D. through his entire life has probably been the craziest person that I've ever been around or knew. Basically, his situation medically – there's very few answers. We've been dealing with this for about six months and basically what the doctor's say is that they really don't know. J.D. has lived a very active lifestyle. All the things that he's done in his life physically he's loved all sporting events and it's everything from football to snowboarding, racing cars, racing motor bikes – he's lived in a lot of ways for him, he loved all those things. We can't point to any one serious thing that happened to him, certainly any injury is a possibility that led us into some of the symptoms that he's experiencing now. I wanted to address the NASCAR community. I have to tell you that as a group, from all the contact that we've had, the people praying for us and the people reaching out to us, whether it was through Taylor's situation or now through 

   "J.D.'s situation, it's been just unbelievable for us as a family. I include the media in that. All of you have always treated us and J.D. in particular with such a caring attitude and you've always treated us fairly. Certainly everybody in the community out there, we've got so many different things and people praying for us right now, it's real encouragement for us and I think that's one of the thrills that we love about what we do and of being a part of your family. We've been dealing with this for about six months so as far as the management team for Joe Gibbs Racing, we have a senior management team and most of our people have been in place for the full 24 years – it's amazing really. I think very few people have noticed anything or any difference in the way we operate with the race team. The good thing there is that J.D. and I share the same responsibilities. If I'm not there for a particular reason, J.D. will be there and if J.D. is not there for some reason, I'll be there. As he goes through treatment, he will probably be doing less at the race track because he has a full week that demands quite a bit from him as he goes through treatment. You will probably see less of him at the race track, but he'll be there on a day-to-day basis with the race team and be in all of our meetings and all of the key decisions that we make, J.D.'s going to have a huge impact on that. 

   "So for our whole family, Coy (Gibbs), who's primary focus is the motocross team, but Coy also shares a lot with all of our big decisions with any of our racing and he'll have a huge impact on anything we do in the future and working with us and his responsibilities – he has a lot of them, but he's a very big part of our family and our race team and everything going forward. Coy will have a big input on that. I just want to kind of finish by saying this is a personal thing for us. We appreciate the way you guys handle everything and we certainly will appreciate all the prayers going forward. Thank you."

Saturday, March 28, 2015

NASCAR driver Kyle Larson sits out Sunday's race at Martinsville, doctors checking 'heart area'

   Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson will sit out Sunday's STP 500 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and will undergo more tests at Charlotte's Carolinas Medical Center after suffering a fainting spell Saturday afternoon during an autograph session at the track.

   A statement from Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team on Sunday morning said Xfinity Series regular Regan Smith would drive Larson's No. 42 Chevrolet in Sunday's race.

   "Although all tests came back negative and Larson feels completely fine, the doctors felt he should be held for more testing today," the statement said. Larson, 22, was scheduled to start seventh in Sunday's race.

   In an interview prior to the race with SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's Claire B. Lang, team part-owner Felix Sabates said doctors were "checking the heart area" although he said "nobody thinks it's anything serious because his blood pressure has been pretty normal."

   John Olguin, the team's vice president of communications, told The Observer that Larson fainted during an autograph session and was taken to the track's infield care center. Doctors at the care center suggested Larson go to a local hospital for further evaluation, Olguin said.

   Doctors at Martinsville Memorial Hospital thought Larson should see a neurologist but the hospital did not have one available so he was eventually taken to CMC. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Dale Jr. on NASCAR safety: 'You never can be safe enough'

   NASCAR's most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., was asked during his media availability on Friday at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway to assess the safety initiatives by NASCAR and if he were surprised there were still spots at tracks where there was nothing but concrete.

   Here is his complete response:

    “I think that the changes that were made in the last 10 to 15 years to help safety have been great. We put barriers where we felt like were common places the cars hit. But as we found out over the last couple of years, specifically, we’ll find all the empty spots where there aren’t any barriers. And I think that NASCAR is taking some steps to make it right. The tracks are taking some steps to move it along. You never can be safe enough. You never can do enough to be safe and keep the competitors safe and keep the fans safe. You never can do enough. So you shouldn’t ever stop trying. But unfortunately, it takes an accident like that to wake everybody up and make things happen. I know that NASCAR was very disappointed that there wasn’t a SAFER barrier on the wall at Daytona and that Kyle (Busch) was injured. And it’s real unfortunate to have to go through that whole process to really fire this thing kind of back up and get people moving on it," he said.

    “But, at the same time, I appreciate the things that they’re doing. And I know that the tire stuff is temporary. The tires are better than the concrete wall, but at the same time those tires can be a problem when you get into those. There’s no telling what direction that car is going to go when it hits a tire barrier. It’s better than the wall, for sure, but nothing’s better at this point than a SAFER barrier. So I guess their intent, over time, is to get SAFER barriers where they feel like they need it. And until then, we’ll have these tires in those areas. I’m happy with the things the tracks are doing. You look back at the cockpit of these cars when I first started driving them, and look at the advances we’ve made inside the cars and outside the cars, and when I was racing in 1998 and ’99 and 2000; and when I was racing Late Models without headrests and neck restraints, I never once was worried about anything ever happening to me. You get complacent, I think.

   “You look back at how stripped down safety was inside the cars years ago, and we didn’t worry about it then. And I think over time, you kind of get a little complacent. You do a lot to get better and get safer and then maybe you get complacent and you think you have enough. And there’s just never enough, you know? You just always keep trying. It’s evident, unfortunately, when someone is injured. But we’ve done a ton of stuff over the last several years that we need to be proud of and thankful for and appreciative of. But it’s weird how just looking back over time and I never got into a car worried about my safety. And we’ve come a long, long way. We’ve got headrests wrapped around us, and harnesses and six, seven, nine-point harnesses. We’ve got straps going everywhere. We can hardly be comfortable in the cars with so many damn straps down there. But you’ve just got to keep trying, I guess, is the message that we are all learning. We’ve got to keep trying to improve all the time and never really let it plane out; and always keep trying to improve.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Could single-car qualifying runs return to restrictor-plate tracks? It's possible

   NASCAR officials confirmed Tuesday that they have not settled on a format for qualifying at the next restrictor-plate race weekend, scheduled May 1-3 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

    A more traditional single-car qualifying format, but run at a much quicker pace, is currently under consideration for the spring Talladega races, multiple sources confirmed to The Charlotte Observer.  

   NASCAR has experienced several problems over the past year adapting its new group qualifying format to restrictor-plate races and used the format for the first time at this year's Daytona 500.

   Since "drafting" at Daytona and Talladega can produce faster speeds, teams have tried to time their appearances on the track together during the different rounds in order to maximize speed. The result has been some wrecks and other teams failing to register a speed during the time limit.

   After the Daytona qualifying event for the Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR made some tweaks to the format for qualifying for the Trucks and Xfinity races - including increasing the number of groups and eliminating waits on pit road - in hopes of preventing some of the issues.     

   Following the Daytona weekend, NASCAR Executive Vice President Steve O'Donnell said the sanctioning body would continue to review the format for future superspeedway events.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Martinsville (Va.) Speedway adding tire barriers for this weekend's NASCAR races

Statement from Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell

   MARTINSVILLE, Va. (March 23, 2015) – After a full track evaluation by NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation (ISC), Martinsville Speedway will add to its existing barrier system in advance of the STP 500 weekend March 27-29. Tire pack barriers will be installed on the inside wall at the end of the backstretch, prior to the entrance of pit road.

   “We are committed to the continued safety of the drivers and our fans,” said Clay Campbell, Martinsville Speedway President. “We will continue to collaborate with ISC and NASCAR for additional safety enhancements deemed necessary.”

Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck addresses late-race cautions for debris at Fontana

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director Richard Buck addresses the late-race cautions for debris in Sunday's Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway:   
   RICHARD BUCK:  We got multiple reports over the radio and confirmed there was a piece of material, something, in the racing groove.  So we went ahead and called the caution.  By the time we called the caution, somebody hit it. I don't have it back yet, I don't have the piece back yet.  But we always ask the safety and cleanup crews to return that stuff.  But there were multiple reports.  
   We always make our best effort. I mean, safety is number one. We always make our best effort to let it race back. We had well over a mile. The leaders were coming off of (Turn) two. We have multiple people in the tower watching multiple things. We're all communicating very quickly and at a high level. 
   We could see the cars coming off of (Turn) two. We were watching the frontstretch. (Greg) Biffle got it started back up, got it turned around and headed off. We have two folks in the flag stand that were right there on top of it, so we had a bird's eye view from their perspective that there was no debris there and we could let it come back and come back to a natural finish. 
   Q. When you say you had multiple reports, were they from drivers ... 
   RICHARD BUCK:  It's a process during the race. It's pretty consistent. The driver will call it in, then we'll check with our turn spotters. That's heard over the radio, whatever the race control is, with a one or ten, so the teams know in case there is a piece of debris they need to know about for safety reasons. Then we'll confirm it. We've got the pit open and the pit closed folks that are close to that area. We have the caution car. We have spotters on the backstretch and on the entrance to turn three. 
   We'll go through our process quickly and make sure that we have a confirmation that there is debris, if we can identify the debris, where it's at, if it's anywhere in the racing groove. As you know, this place, the racing groove's all the way across. If it's anywhere in the racing groove, we'll have to go to the caution and go get it. 
   Q. Just to confirm so I understand, somebody hit it after it was called in? 
   RICHARD BUCK: Yeah. Well, I don't know. That piece should come back on one of the cleanup trucks because they go out there now. But it was reported multiple times as a piece of metal. 
   Q. One of your officials said they saw something but couldn't tell exactly what it was.  How do you balance trying to find out what it is versus having to throw the caution for safety reasons? 
   RICHARD BUCK:  Safety's number one. If there's any question whatsoever, we'll throw the caution. We want to identify it first, obviously, because there was a lot of paper flying around today, a lot of, you know, paper trash and plastic bags and those kind of things which circulate. But we got definite confirmation on it that it was debris, actually that it was metal. It looked like a piece of metal.
    Q. Obviously you don't have an interest in the race.  I'm sure you might be able to sympathize how much a little thing like that can change the whole course of the race.  Are you cognizant of that when you make those kind of calls? 
   RICHARD BUCK:  No. It's strictly a process that we go through.  You know, we don't have any favorites. We try to keep every emotion out of it. Safety's number one. We have over a hundred years worth of experience in the tower with Mike Helton, Robin Pemberton, David Hoots, myself. Between us we work very closely in a very dynamic way to identify the situation and look for the solution to it, then that solution is backed up by multiple layers. So we feel very, very confident about our actions.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Michael Waltrip Racing statement on Brian Vickers

CORNELIUS, N.C. – Brett Moffitt will drive Michael Waltrip Racing’s No. 55 Toyota in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
The team’s regular driver Brian Vickers informed MWR he has experienced a reoccurrence of blood clots, which will require the 31-year-old driver to begin taking blood-thinning medication and he is not able to race while on the medicine.
“First and foremost our thoughts are with Brian and his family,” said MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip. “He isn’t just our race car driver, he is our friend and we know the NASCAR community will continue to rally around Brian. We are fortunate to have Brett Moffitt in our system and marveled at his great drive in Atlanta three weeks ago, so we know he can get the job done in the No. 55 this weekend. As this news is very fresh and the situation is very fluid, we can only plan for this weekend at this point.”
Vickers missed the season’s first two races recovering from December heart surgery. He finished 15th at Las Vegas and 41st at Phoenix.
“Thankfully, because I recognized the signs and symptoms, the doctors caught this early and I’m going to be ok. I had finished my treatment for the clot I had in my leg back in 2013 and I haven’t needed to be on a blood thinner for a clot in my leg or lung since,” said Vickers. “Now I won’t be able to race because I’ll need to be back on a blood thinner. I’m going to follow doctor’s orders and do everything I need to do to get well.”
“Believe it or not, it’s Blood Clot Awareness Month and I was supposed to be at the track this weekend doing some work with my partners at Janssen focused on getting the word out. I’m disappointed I can’t be there but if there is a silver lining in all of this, hopefully what’s happened to me will help to raise awareness on this important health issue,” said Vickers.
In 60 races driving MWR’s No. 55 Toyota, Vickers scored eight top-five and 19 top-10 finishes. He won the July race at New Hampshire in 2013 and captured the pole at Talladega in October 2014. The 2003 Nationwide champion owns three victories and 12 poles in 318 career Sprint Cup starts.
Moffitt, 22, of Grimes, Iowa, finished eighth at Atlanta on March 1 driving the No. 55. He has also raced twice for Front Row Racing in 2015.