Thursday, April 17, 2014

Competition in Sprint Cup Series is off to a strong start

   The first eight races of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season certainly have given the impression the season is off to a very competitive start, but there are some statistics from NASCAR's Loop Data, which provide some strong evidence to back up the claim.

   Among them:

   - All three manufacturers have won races thus far, led by Chevrolet's four victories.
   - An average of 12 different leaders per race, compared to 8.6 at this point last year.
   - An average of 25.6 lead changes per race, compared to 17.4 in 2013.
   - A total of 29,541 green flag passes, compared to 23,178 in 2013.
   - A total of 346 green flag passes for the lead, compared to 181 in 2013.
   - An average margin of victory of 0.588 seconds, the smallest since the start of the 2008 season.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Talladega winners are getting a sharp new trophy

   Track press release

   In support of the United States Military, Talladega Superspeedway is thrilled to announce the “Freedom Trophy,” which will be awarded to every winner of a Sprint Cup Series race at the 2.66-mile grand venue, beginning with the May 4 Aaron’s 499. The special trophy showcases all five branches of the United States military - Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

   Military personnel will be on hand at each Talladega Sprint Cup Series race to make the presentation of the Freedom Trophy in Victory Lane. Not only will they be in the winner’s circle to award the coveted trophy, but they will also participate in pre-race ceremonies as well. Each Talladega Superspeedway race weekend, a different United States military base will be given the opportunity to present the Freedom Trophy.

   The creation of Talladega Superspeedway Vice President Brian Crichton, the Freedom Trophy is an honor to all military men and women on behalf of the speedway, a patriotic entity since 1969. Crichton enlisted the assistance of Fast Forward Marketing Owner Mike Barth (Spring, TX), who has custom designed trophies in motorsports since 1996. MTM Recognition in Oklahoma City, OK spearheaded the design.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Three observations from Saturday night's race at Darlington

   Observations from Saturday night's Southern 500:

    -- Congratulations to new Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile. I was among many who were skeptical of the change of Darlington’s race day this season, which coincided with the Master’s and spring football games at South Carolina and Clemson. Thanks to the work of Wile and his staff, Saturday night’s crowd was near capacity. It was a perfect weekend of racing – from the weather down to the action on the track both Friday and Saturday nights. Well done.

   -- A lot was made of the struggles in recent weeks by Kevin Harvick and  his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team but any concern that the team would not be able to make the Chase was vastly unfounded. It remains highly improbable there will be 16 different race winners in the first 26 races – Harvick’s win Saturday night is first sign that idea has been wishful thinking at best. The one constant each week by the teams who end up winning multiple times a season is being consistently fast and there are several viable candidates remaining besides Harvick’s team.
   -- Speaking of consistently fast, Dale Earnhardt Jr. already has a win and has now finished third or higher in five of eight races this season. Earnhardt and his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team are primed to join Harvick as multiple-time winners this season.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Contract updates on Roush Fenway Racing's Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards

    The contracts of Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards are both up at the end of the 2014 season and neither has yet re-signed with the organization. Both were asked Friday at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway to address their respective contract status. Here are their responses:

   Q: Are you any closer to a contract extension?
   Biffle: I think so. I think we are getting closer. There are a lot of moving parts to a contract and a lot of new people at 3M but I know the folks are going up there next week to visit some more. I have a feeling it is getting closer. I know there has been a lot of activity. The program works really well for them and we have the America Red Cross on the car this weekend so it is a good program for 3M and I think they are happy and it looks like we are closing in on an announcement. Hopefully here soon we will have something.

   Q: Greg Biffle said he was close on a contract extension. Anything you want to share on that front?
   Edwards: No. I would rather not even talk about it. I have no news and when there is nothing to say all I could do is stir it up. I promise you, no drama. No drama.

NASCAR owner Gene Haas granted Formula One team license

   Team press release:

   Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, has been granted a Formula One license by the FIA.

   The following is his statement.

   “Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One.

    “Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid.

   “I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.”

   Founded in 1983 and based in Oxnard, Calif., Haas Automation is the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world. Stewart-Haas Racing won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New opportunities for NASCAR fans during Charlotte race weeks

   To commemorate its 30th anniversary, the 600 Festival Association, a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting and celebrating motor sports in the Charlotte region, is offering loyal fans the opportunity to customize their event experience with the "Stars, Cars & Guitars" campaign.
   The 600 Festival Association has made premium upgrades available for all four of its May events: "Movies on the Campus" May 9 in Kannapolis, N.C.; "Haulers on Union" May 15 in Concord, N.C.; the "Little 600" May 20 in Mooresville, N.C.; and "Coca-Cola Speed Street Presented by Chevrolet"  May 22-24 in Charlotte, N.C.
   While the 600 Festival Association continues to offer free entertainment to consumers throughout the local region, attendees have the opportunity to upgrade their experience with never-before offered perks such as backstage access, reserved concert seats, introducing artists onstage, serving as honorary starter and more.
   “We wanted to offer fans a new opportunity to enhance their experience at each of the 600 Festival Association events,” said Jay Howard, president of the 600 Festival Association. “Every one of our guests is a VIP and this is an opportunity for them take control and personalize their experience."
   Fans can log on here through April 30 to purchase these exclusive items. To learn more about the Festival, visit

Monday, April 7, 2014

Only 13 laps in and Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s day is done at Texas

   Just 13 laps into Monday's rescheduled Duck Commander 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Sprint Cup Series points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. saw his race come to an abrupt end after he slid into the frontstretch grass and the slid up into the outside retaining wall. His No. 88 Chevrolet caught fire but Earnhardt was not injured.

   Earnhardt spoke briefly after the incident:

   Q: What happened?
   Earnhardt : "Just didn't see the grass. Didn't know the grass was down there. With the way the A-post is on these cars you can't really see that good to that angle. I just didn't have a good visual of where the apron and the grass was and got down in there pretty good. You can't run through there they way they have these cars on the ground like that. Just a mistake on my part. I just didn't know I was that close to the grass, and made a mistake."

   "I drove the car down there. I didn't know we were that close the grass and was following the No. 43 (Aric Almirola). I thought I was taking a decent line through the dogleg. We were going low around the No. 42 (Kyle Larson) so I was lower than normal and just misjudged it. It tears the car up pretty good when you run through the grass."

   Q: Was wet track a factor?
   Earnhardt: "It was no factor. I just made a mistake."