Sunday, August 31, 2014

Humpy Wheeler statement on the death of former motorcycle racer Don Tilley

   H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, former longtime president of Charlotte Motor Speedway and now a racing consultant, issued the following statement Sunday regarding the death of former motorcycle racer Don Tilley:

   "Don was one of the best motorcycle dirt track racers back in the fifties along with the legendary national champion Buck Brigance. Don raced for me on my dirt tracks back in the sixties when the Hayes Brothers out of Tennessee were so strong," Wheeler said.

   "Don turned his racing prowess into one for business and built one of the biggest Harley Davidson dealerships in the Southeast. He was always around the NASCAR garage area because most of the 
racing folk bought their cycles from him."
   To read more on the death of Tilley, go here.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Statement from Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris regarding Tony Stewart

   Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris, whose store chain sponsors Tony Stewart's No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, released the following statement on Saturday regarding Stewart's return to the race track:

   "Today our thoughts are with our friend and fishing buddy Tony Stewart as he prepares to return to racing after what has been a difficult time in his life. Our hearts go out to him and to the family and friends of Kevin Ward Jr., who died in the tragic sprint car event accident on Aug. 9.

   "I was able to spend time with Tony last week and it made my heart ache to see him so devastated by this accident.

   "Like many other race fans, I love Tony's passion and skill on the track and to watch this fierce competitor compete. But the off-track Tony Stewart is the man that I have come to respect. Time and time again, I've witnessed Tony's quiet generosity and compassion as he gives to others. By personally supporting numerous programs like Catch-A-Dream Foundation and Victory Junction, Tony has given many ailing children a chance to experience outdoor sports and have fun opportunities they might not otherwise have.

   "His love of racing goes far beyond his work behind the wheel. It is common for Tony to sign autographs for each and every race fan for hours on end. Behind the scenes, Tony continually steps in to help junior drivers get started in racing because he cares about the sport and its fans.

   "What started as a sponsorship discussion between Tony and I 15 years ago has turned into a long and special friendship. It's a friendship that has given me the opportunity to get to know one of the most compassionate and kind-hearted individuals I have ever met. 

   "On behalf of the Bass Pro Family, and as Tony's friend, we are proud to stand by him as he returns this weekend to the sport he loves so much."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Roger Penske: 'Right decision' made on Chase waiver for Tony Stewart

   Although he was far removed from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, NASCAR and IndyCar team owner Roger Penske was asked during a media availability at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., of his reaction to NASCAR's decision to give Tony Stewart a waiver to qualify for the Chase should he win one of the last two races of the Sprint Cup Series regular season.

    Here was Penske's answer: 

    “Tony is so rock solid in the sport, he's meant so much to NASCAR for so many years, and to me Mike Helton and (Brian) France (Jr.) and the sanctioning body have made the right decision. Obviously they've left open the opportunity if there was a situation that's come up that's not normal, they can make that decision.  But I'm not part of that decision making, but I felt for Tony and certainly for the Ward family for the last number of weeks," Penske said.

    “I'm glad to see him come out. I think his words and thoughts today that he said personally and wrote personally were from the heart and means a lot to me and means a lot to the people in the garage area and certainly means a lot to his fans."

Traveling to cover NASCAR is hard. So is losing one of your 'road family'

   Traveling the country covering NASCAR races for The Charlotte Observer sounds like a glamorous job and admittedly when I first started it in 1998, it was for me. My family and I never did a lot of extensive traveling as I was growing up, so getting to explore other parts of the country was fun. Over the next 16 years, however, those same trips start to get a little monotonous and more of a grind. 

   Along the way, most sportswriters in similar situations will tell you that you find the opportunity to meet wonderful new people and develop new friendships - sort of a 'road family.' You may only see them once or twice a year, depending on races, but when you meet again it's like you were just down the street for a while and require a quick 'catching up' session.

   My time in New Hampshire over the years has been much like that. Since 1998 when I first started covering NASCAR races for The Observer, I have stayed at the Bayside Inn in Alton Bay, N.H., for New Hampshire race weekends. It's north of the track - away from the traffic woes - and on beautiful Lake Winnipesaukee. My colleagues David Poole and Tom Higgins, before me, stayed there as well. 

   I learned this week that owner Stephen Rogers passed away unexpectedly from a stroke. Steve was a laugh hardy, always pat you on your back kind of guy. He and his family - wife, Raquel and daughter Ashley - treated us 'NASCAR folks' like an extended part of their family. We had cookouts, shared dinners, went boating and watched their small family-owned inn develop into one of the most beautiful marvels on the lake. I've watched Ashley grow up in front of my eyes to the smart, beautiful college student she is today. I was there for the introduction to their new puppy Tequila and there years later when he passed away.

   My heart is heavy this week - it seems it's been that way for a while, between a tragedy at a race track in my native upstate New York to family issues back in Charlotte. Living on the road is rough and losing one of the few parts of it that make it special even tougher. 

   My prayers are with Stephen's wife and daughter. They were the BEST hosts - and are the best 'road family' a weary traveler could have. They all made us feel special, not just someone renting a room. And for Steve - who was sort of a local icon in the community (sometimes for good reasons and sometimes bad lol) - Lake Winnipesaukee won't be the same without you.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Investigation of Tony Stewart sprint car racing incident 'still on-going'

   The investigation into the Aug. 9 racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart and killed driver Kevin Ward Jr. is "still on-going," a spokeswoman with the Ontario County (N.Y) Sheriff's office told the Observer on Wednesday.

   The spokeswoman said there was no timetable on when the investigation would be completed.

   It was just over two weeks ago Sheriff Philip Povero held its last news conference in which he said it would be "two weeks or more" before the investigation would be concluded. The resolution of the investigation will be released by the sheriff's office, or jointly with the district attorney's office, the spokeswoman said.

   During a sprint car race on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, a sprint car driven by Stewart struck and killed Ward, a 20-year-old driver from Port Leyden, N.Y., who was standing on the track while the race was under caution.

   Stewart has not raced in any NASCAR events - or in any other series - since. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A sneak peek at some 2015 Sprint Cup Series dates

   NASCAR will officially unveil its 2015 schedules for the Sprint Cup, Nationwide (although the name will change next season) and Camping World Trucks series on Tuesday evening on Fox Sports 1 and NBC Sports Network.

   Here is a sneak peek at several of the Cup series dates based on information already announced, ticket renewal information received from fans and other track sources. Again, the official schedules will be released Tuesday evening.

   Some 2015 Sprint Cup Series race dates:

   Feb. 22  Daytona 500

   March 1  Atlanta 

   March 8  Las Vegas

   March 15  Phoenix

   March 22  Fontana

   March 29  Martinsville

   April 11  Texas

   April 19  Bristol

   April 26  Richmond

   May 16  All-Star Race, Charlotte

   May 24  Coke 600, Charlotte

   May 31  Dover

   June 7  Pocono

   June 14  Michigan

   June 28  Sonoma

   July 5  Daytona

   July 11  Kentucky

   July 26  Indianapolis

   Aug. 9  Watkins Glen

   Sept. 12  Richmond

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Kyle Busch walks away from a frustrating night at Bristol

   After taking the lead early in Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch picked up a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 63 of 500 and his night went downhill after that.

   He got caught up in a wreck on Lap 125 and repeatedly claimed there was so much damage to the car, he couldn’t drive it. 

   Late in the race, Busch again complained over his team radio, “I need a whole new right-front suspension” and said he was about to hit the wall. 

   His crew chief, Dave Rogers, replied over the radio: “Park it behind the truck and take your whiny little ass to the bus.” 

   Busch ended up parking his No. 18 Toyota on pit road near Turn 2 and left the infield while his crew arrived shortly thereafter and pushed the car to the hauler. Before leaving the track, Busch and Rogers met at the team's hauler.

   Team owner Joe Gibbs called the situation a “series of bad circumstances.” “Something like that happens (and) you can get frustrated,” he said.