Monday, December 22, 2014

Dr. Jerry Punch to remain with ESPN, covering college basketball and football

   Dr. Jerry Punch, a longtime staple of ESPN's NASCAR coverage, will remain with the network and return to his former role covering college football and basketball. Punch will also serve as a pit reporter on ABC's telecasts of the Indianapolis 500 and other IndyCar Series races.

   “ESPN has been my home for a long time and I’m grateful for the opportunities presented to me to remain part of the team,” said Punch. “I love the passion of college sports and look forward to helping bring those stories to our viewers and to reconnecting with the college coaches and staffs I’ve enjoyed relationships with over the years.”

   Punch has worked with ESPN since 1984 and was a pit reporter and play-by-play announcer on ESPN's NASCAR coverage over the years. ESPN recently completed its final season of live NASCAR race coverage.

   Punch's first game will be Jan. 15 as he calls the Ohio Valley Conference match-up between Murray State and Belmont (Tenn.) on ESPNU.

    In his on-air work, the native of Newton, N.C., has sometimes called on knowledge from his first career as an emergency room physician to explain injuries. He spent 14 years as the director of emergency room services at a Florida hospital and served two terms as chief of staff there. He remains active in the medical profession today.

   After working as a track announcer at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway, Punch made his broadcasting debut on radio for Motor Racing Network at the 1980 Daytona 500. He branched into television in 1982. He is ESPN’s sixth longest-tenured announcer, following Bob Ley, Cliff Drysdale, Chris Berman, Dick Vitale and Mike Patrick. 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

'Sprint Experience' pulled from all NASCAR tracks beginning in 2015

   Sprint, which announced earlier this week it would discontinue sponsorship of the Sprint Cup Series at the end of its current contract, will no longer host its 15,000-square-foot Sprint Experience interactive display area at NASCAR tracks, multiple sources confirmed to The Charlotte Observer and

   The Sprint Experience is a 14,400-square-foot interactive display that brings fans closer to the sport by offering custom interactive games, driver and celebrity appearances, participation in stage games, and the latest handsets and technologies available from Sprint. 

Read more here:

   Hospitality industry workers and others associated with transporting and operating the mobile display were informed this week they would not be used next season, sources said.

   Fans took to social media in July to complain when Sprint first failed to bring the display at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Until that race, the Experience had appeared at every race track on the schedule for several seasons.

   At the time, the company said it was "focusing on markets most important to Sprint corporate priorities."

   When asked Thursday for comment on its decision to discontinue the Sprint Experience, spokesperson Kimberly Meesters provided the following statement to The Observer:

   "We will continue to use the NASCAR Sprint Cup sponsorship platform in 2015 and 2016 to drive our business. Every season we evaluate our specific NASCAR programs and adjust as needed. We are finalizing the details of our 2015 plan now and will be ready to kick off the season Feb. 14 for the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona."     

   When asked about Sprint's decision, a NASCAR spokesman declined to comment and deferred to the sanctioning body's statement released Tuesday when Sprint announced it was discontinuing its sponsorship after the 2016 season.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NASCAR releases 2015 K&N Pro series schedules

   NASCAR announced the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

   The coast-to-coast 2015 slate features a combined 27 dates in 17 different states, highlighted by nine NASCAR national series companion weekends and four new events.


New Smyrna Speedway
New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Greenville Pickens Speedway
Greenville, S.C.
Bristol Motor Speedway
Bristol, Tenn.
Richmond International Raceway
Richmond, Va.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS West)
Newton, Iowa
Bowman Gray Stadium
Winston-Salem, N.C.
Langley Speedway
Hampton, Va.
Columbus Motor Speedway
Columbus, Ohio
New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Loudon, N.H.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS West)
Newton, Iowa
Watkins Glen International
Watkins Glen, N.Y.
Motordrome Speedway
Smithton, Pa.
Virginia International Raceway
Alton, Va.
Dover International Speedway
Dover, Del.

Kern County Raceway Park
Bakersfield, Calif.
Irwindale Speedway
Irwindale, Calif.
Tucson Speedway
Tucson, Ariz.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS East)
Newton, Iowa
Shasta Speedway
Anderson, Calif.
Sonoma Raceway
Sonoma, Calif.
Stateline Speedway
Post Falls, Id.
Iowa Speedway (combo with NKNPS East)
Newton, Iowa
Evergreen Speedway
Monroe, Wash.
Colorado National Speedway
Dacono, Colo.
Meridian Speedway
Meridian, Id.
All American Speedway
Roseville, Calif.
Phoenix International Raceway
Avondale, Ariz.

Monday, December 15, 2014

NASCAR alters eligibility rules for Sprint Unlimited at Daytona

News release

Coming off an exciting 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale, NASCAR announced today all 16 Chase drivers will be eligible to compete in the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway (DIS). The 75-lap, non-points race will once again kick off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing season Saturday, Feb. 14 (FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and will feature an expanded field of drivers based on new eligibility requirements.

A minimum of 25 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are eligible to participate in the Sprint Unlimited at DIS.  In addition to the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup participants, the field also will include 2014 Coors Light Pole Award winners, as well as former Sprint Unlimited race winners and Daytona 500 pole winners who competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time in 2014. Any remaining spots will be filled by drivers highest in 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship points who are not already eligible.

“The 2015 Sprint Unlimited has potential to be one of the most competitive ever,” said NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell. “With more drivers eligible, the intensity level increases for our fans and competitors, making for a compelling start to the 2015 season.”
The 2015 eligible participants include:

·         Kyle Busch (2014 pole winner)
·         Austin Dillon (2014 pole winner)
·         Jeff Gordon (2014 pole winner)
·         David Gilliland (2014 pole winner)
·         Denny Hamlin (2014 pole winner)
·         Kevin Harvick (2014 pole winner)
·         Jimmie Johnson (2014 pole winner)
·         Matt Kenseth (2014 pole winner)
·         Brad Keselowski (2014 pole winner)
·         Kyle Larson (2014 pole winner)
·         Joey Logano (2014 pole winner)
·         Jamie McMurray (2014 pole winner)
·         Brian Scott (2014 pole winner)
·         Tony Stewart (2014 pole winner)
·         Brian Vickers* (2014 pole winner)
·         Kurt Busch (former Unlimited winner)
·         Dale Earnhardt Jr. (former Unlimited winner)
·         Carl Edwards (former D500 pole winner)
·         Danica Patrick (former D500 pole winner)
·         Greg Biffle (former D500 pole winner)
·         Martin Truex Jr. (former D500 pole winner)
·         Ryan Newman (2014 Chase driver)
·         AJ Allmendinger (2014 Chase driver)
·         Kasey Kahne (2014 Chase driver)
·         Aric Almirola (2014 Chase driver)

* – Michael Waltrip Racing today announced that Brian Vickers will not be available to race during the early part of the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup season due to health issues.)

Statement from Brian Vickers on missing the start of 2015 Sprint Cup season

   “First, I want to thank everyone for their sincere support. I have faced obstacles before and it has made victory that much sweeter and I know that will be the case again," Vickers said.

   “My previous experiences have given me a very keen understanding of my body. Late last week I knew something wasn’t right, so I went to the hospital to be checked out. Following several tests, it was discovered that my body was rejecting an artificial patch that was inserted in 2010 to fix a hole in my heart. Saturday, I had to have corrective surgery to repair the hole and now I am beginning the recovery process. I will need plenty of time, rest and rehab but this temporary setback will not stop me from pursuing my dream of becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.”

Saturday, December 13, 2014

#SixTime Jimmie Johnson gets a new hashtag for a day - #KeepPounding

   Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is getting a new job - at least for one day.

   The NFL's Carolina Panthers on Saturday announced that Johnson, who lives in Charlotte, had agreed to be the "Keep Pounding" drummer for Sunday's Panthers game vs. Tampa Bay at Bank of America Stadium.

   Following the coin toss before every home game, an honorary drummer hits the "Keep Pounding" drum four times to signify four quarters.

   Johnson's participation comes at a crucial point for the Panthers this season. They are seeking their first home victory since Oct. 5 and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Kyle Busch has successful foot surgery; expected to make full recovery

   Team press release

    Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) had successful surgery on his left foot this morning. Busch is expected to make a full recovery in time for the start of the 2015 NASCAR season in February.

   The scheduled offseason surgery was performed to relieve a recurring source of inflammation in his left foot. The surgery was performed by Dr. Robert Anderson of OrthoCarolina.