Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hillman Named Scott's Crew Chief At RCR

Richard Childress Racing has hired Mike Hillman, Jr. to crew chief their No. 2 Chevrolet Camaro team with driver Brian Scott in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

Hillman, Jr, 36, comes to RCR with 20 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victories and two series championships. Through 235 NCWTS starts he has also earned 93 top-five and 132 top-10 finishes, including 17 pole awards.

The Lockport, N.Y. native joins RCR and the No. 2 Chevrolet team effective immediately.

"This is a great opportunity for a guy like me to become part of RCR and the No. 2 Chevrolet team," Hillman, Jr. said. "When we first talked about this position, I knew this was something I wanted to do and RCR is known for their storied success at every level in NASCAR.

"Brian Scott is a talented driver who is coming off the best season of his career. He and I share the same goals - wanting to win multiple races and ultimately the XFINITY Series championship. With the team they already have in place, I am confident we will achieve our goals."

This will be Scott's third year with RCR in the XFINITY Series. During that time, the 26-year-old driver has earned four pole awards, nine top-five and 36 top-10 finishes. He's coming off his best season with a final driver points standing of fourth place.

"I look forward to building on what we have achieved the past two seasons with RCR," Scott said. "Mike Hillman, Jr. is an excellent addition to our No. 2 Chevrolet team and has a proven track record of success and experience. I am more than confident he will take our team to victory lane and race for a championship.

"We already have a great nucleus of people on our team and our XFINITY program is strong from top-to-bottom. With the momentum we had at the end of this past season, I feel confident about our 2015 hopes."

Hillman, Jr., will report to Dr. Eric Warren, Director of Competition, for RCR.


"When we started our search for a new crew chief on the No. 2 team, the name that kept coming up the most was Mike Hillman, Jr.," Warren said. "He has a proven track record and everything he's worked and team he's led has been fast. We welcome him aboard and look forward to him, Brian and the rest of the team taking what they did this year to the next level."

Jay Mohr, Lady Antebellum To Headline NASCAR Awards Banquet

Jay Mohr
The slogan is recognized around the world. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. 

But NASCAR will make an exception on Dec. 5 when it gives audiences a front row seat as Jay Mohr, Lady Antebellum, Aloe Blacc and Lennon and Maisy take the stage at the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards show from the Wynn Las Vegas live on FOX Sports 1. 

This year, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards will honor 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, as well as celebrate the other Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ Challengers. FOX Sports 1 will provide coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards beginning at 9 p.m. ET. Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will begin coverage at 8 p.m. ET. 

Mohr will serve as the host for the second consecutive year. The actor, comedian, radio host and best-selling author has one of the most expansive backgrounds in show business. After landing his dream job at “Saturday Night Live” and launching his career in film alongside Tom Cruise in “Jerry Maguire,” Mohr appeared in approximately 200 network television episodes and more than 25 feature films. Additionally, his national radio show, “Jay Mohr Sports,” is syndicated in more than 155 markets across the U.S. With a career in entertainment that spans over three decades, Mohr has become an artist who knows no limits, making him the perfect person to help celebrate NASCAR’s most prominent drivers.   

Lady Antebellum
“This is my fifth time hosting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards and I’m honored to share the stage once again with some of the most talented athletes in the world,” said Mohr. “This has been an incredibly exciting year for NASCAR and it’s not every day that you get to be a part of a defining moment in the history of a sport.” 

Keeping his NASCAR performance streak rolling following his act at NASCAR’s season-opening, crown jewel event the 2014 DAYTONA 500 at Daytona International Speedway, Blacc will kick off the musical entertainment for the night with the soulful selection that has “woken up” audiences around the world. The singer / songwriter collaborated as vocalist and co-writer on well-known DJ/producer Avicci’s 2013 track “Wake Me Up,” which topped the charts in more than 100 countries across the globe, before releasing his third album “Lift Your Spirit” in March 2014. The rapper-turned-singer uses his surging popularity to affect social change and to deliver messages of positivity and passion.  

Later in the evening, the seven-time GRAMMY Award winning trio Lady Antebellum will keep the audience rocking with a new song from their fifth album entitled “747.” The 11-song disc has already spawned the PLATINUM certified multi-week chart-topping smash hit “Bartender,” and its new single “Freestyle” is quickly climbing the charts. The new album follows over 11 million albums sold worldwide, nine trips to No. 1 on the country radio charts, six Platinum singles and “Vocal Group of the Year” honors from both the CMA and ACMs three years in a row. Lady Antebellum just wrapped their headlining “TAKE ME DOWNTOWN TOUR,” which hit 80 cities in Canada and the U.S. over the course of the year, and delighted both fans and critics with the “Dallas Morning News” declaring, "Lady Antebellum shows off its warranted leap to superstardom." For more information visit: www.ladyantebellum.com. 

Additionally, 15-year-old Lennon Stella and her 10-year-old sister Maisy Stella from ABC’s hit drama “Nashville” will perform. The daughters of the recording duo Brad and MaryLynne Stella, Lennon and Maisy’s musical roots run deep. In 2013, the sisters had a show-stopping performance of “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers on “Nashville,” which quickly entered the top 40 of Billboard’s “Hot Country Songs” list. Later that same year, Lennon and Maisy performed at the CMA Awards™ and presented Taylor Swift with her Pinnacle award. They also performed at The White House this year and sang alongside cast members from “Degrassi,” Magic Johnson, Martin Sheen, The Band Perry, and J.R. Martinez at “We Day Minnesota” last month.  

This year’s talent will join the esteemed list of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards show artists from previous years, which include chart-topping singers, such as John Mellencamp, Phillip Phillips, Sara Bareilles, Dierks Bentley and Kid Rock.  


“The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards present the opportunity to spotlight the biggest names in NASCAR, and we are thrilled to augment that star power with some of the most popular personalities in the entertainment industry,” said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development. “This year’s line-up is sure to add to what has been one of NASCAR’s most climactic racing seasons ever.”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Dillon, Rheem Set For 2015 XFINITY Run

Two-time NASCAR Champion Austin Dillon will return to the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Rheem Manufacturing Company as primary sponsor on Richard Childress Racing's No. 33 Chevrolet for a majority of the 2015 season.

Dillon, the 2013 XFINITY Series Champion, will drive the No. 33 Rheem Chevrolet under the RCR banner during the 2015 season while maintaining a full schedule in RCR's No. 3 Chevrolet SS in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He is a two-time XFINITY Series race winner, 10-time pole winner and holds the record for most consecutive poles in series history. 

"Rheem is pleased to continue our long association with Richard Childress and his legendary racing organization," said JR Jones, Rheem President and CEO. "We are looking forward to working with RCR and Austin Dillon again in 2015. Austin has won championships in both the Camping World Truck and XFINITY Series and we are confident he will put Rheem back in the winner's circle again in 2015. As a longtime sponsor in NASCAR, Rheem has been proud to be a part of racing's history and we look forward to being a part of its future." 

Rheem Manufacturing Company has a long history of success with RCR having participated as a primary or associate sponsor since 2007 in various NASCAR series. Rheem has been the official heating, cooling and water heating provider to RCR for more than eight years and was the co-primary sponsor with Realtree of Ty Dillon's Sprint Cup Series debut this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway.  

"Rheem has a long tradition of reliability and quality in their industry with close to 90 years in the business," said Dillon. "My family has a long tradition in NASCAR and we also have a tradition of reliability and performance. I enjoy racing in the XFINITY Series and will be proud to represent Rheem while contending for wins on Saturday afternoons in 2015." 

RCR also provided race trucks and ECR power to support Rheem-sponsored drivers and entries in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series fielded by various teams in 2014. 

"The association with Rheem has been a great one for all of us at RCR," said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of Richard Childress Racing. "Rheem's focus on providing their customers with reliable and innovative comfort solutions is similar to how RCR likes to approach our business. We both represent quality, durability and overall performance. Rheem's longstanding support of RCR and our sport are appreciated by everyone on our team."

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Remembering Denny Darnell

NASCAR is in mourning today, following the sudden and unexpected passing of veteran public relations representative Denny Darnell near his home in Tennessee Saturday.

A graduate of East Tennessee State University, Darnell began his career as a sportswriter at the Kingsport (Tenn.) Times-News. At various points, he served as general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway, director of communications for the National Hot Rod Association, head of motorsports public relations for R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company during Winston’s long run as entitlement sponsor of NASCAR’s premier stock car racing series and PR spokesman for Dodge.

Dozens of rookie PR reps -- and more than a few greenhorn reporters -- learned the business of motorsports from Denny. His easygoing, southern charm combined with fierce attention to detail and an encyclopedic knowledge of the sport to make him the go-to guy in the NASCAR garage. He had an uncanny knack for keeping his head when all around him were losing theirs, and in an era when PR types often gauge their effectiveness by counting how many times they say “no” in a 24-hour period, Darnell was truly a breed apart.

“I not sure if I can make that happen or not,” said Darnell on literally thousands of occasions. “Let me see what I can do.”

As word of his passing spread Saturday, Darnell was universally recalled as the best in the business at what he did, and one of the most respected individuals in the sport.

David Grace Photo
"Denny was a familiar and friendly face in media centers and NASCAR garages throughout the country,” recalled NASCAR Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes. "He approached his job seriously and professionally, but few could bring laughter like Denny. He was a public relations institution, and will be greatly missed."

"Shocked to hear about Denny Darnell,” Tweeted NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip. “One of the nicest guys that's ever been in racing, he'll be missed. Go rest high on that mountain, Denny,"

"Denny Darnell was an incredibly nice man,” echoed former driver Jeff Burton. “Always enjoyed talking to him. He called me Champ, even though I never won one.”

When Denny made his retirement plans known near the end of the 2013 season, many of us had mixed emotions. We were pleased that he was finally easing out of NASCAR’s fast lane, spending less time in airports and more time with his wife Jean, son Trey and baby granddaughter Harper. At the same time, however, we struggled to imagine how the Media Center could possibly operate without him, or how we would make it through Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway without his ear-to-ear smile, slap on the back and ever-present, “How you doin’, buddy?”

Like any professional sport, NASCAR has its share of egotists, self-promoters, backbiters and con artists. Through it all, though, I cannot recall anyone – not a single, solitary soul -- who didn’t love Denny Darnell.

He was a great PR man. Better still, he was a great man.

Farewell, old friend, until we meet again.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stenhouse Team Sanctioned For Homestead Violation

Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 17 team that competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series has been penalized for a rules infraction discovered during pre-qualifying inspection Nov. 14 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The infraction is a P3 level penalty which is outlined in Section 12-4.3 of the 2014 NASCAR rule book:
Violations resulting in P3 penalties tend to fall between serious and intermediate in nature. While they might include general “categories” of infractions similar to those in P4 (e.g. unauthorized parts; failing to meet specs; etc.), they tend to pertain more to secondary componentry or systems; modifications of lessor significance; go/no-go measurement failures of an intermediate nature. 
This infraction violates Sections 12-1 - Actions detrimental to stock car racing and 20-12 – Suspension: All front end and rear suspension mounts and mounting hardware must not allow movement or realignment of any suspension/drive line component beyond normal rotation or suspension/drive line travel.
As a result of these violations, crew chief Mike Kelley has been fined $50,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for six months, starting Jan. 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015. Additionally, car chief Patrick Magee has also been placed on NASCAR probation for six months starting Jan. 1, 2015 through June 30, 2015.

Cheez-It 355 At The Glen Returns In 2015

Watkins Glen International and the Kellogg Company have announced Cheez-It has renewed as the title sponsor of The Glen’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. WGI’s marquee event, Cheez-It 355 at The Glen returns August 6-9.

“We’re excited to welcome back the Kellogg Company with Cheez-It® as our title sponsor for the NASCAR event week,” stated Watkins Glen International President Michael Printup. “They have been a great partner and we look forward to continuing the tradition for our fans in 2015.”

This will be the company’s third-consecutive year as the race’s entitlement sponsor, while the iconic snack brand’s parent company, the Kellogg Company, has been involved with NASCAR since 1991.


“NASCAR provides a great way for Cheez-It crackers to reach our fans and Watkins Glen provides an amazing venue that is unlike any other,” said Melissa Pawlowicz, senior director of integrated promotions for the Kellogg Company. “Cheez-It is proud to be associated with ‘The Glen’ and to play a role in bringing the excitement of the Cheez-It 355 to life.”

LiftMaster To Back Kahne In Three 2015 Cup Races

LiftMaster garage door openers will join 11-time Sprint Cup Series champion Hendrick Motorsports beginning with the 2015 NASCAR season, when it will become a primary sponsor of driver Kasey Kahne and his No. 5 Chevrolet SS team.

The new relationship will feature LiftMaster, which is headquartered in Elmhurst, Illinois, as a primary sponsor in three Sprint Cup races annually and as an associate-level partner in all other events. The agreement covers the 2015, 2016 and 2017 NASCAR seasons.

“We’re excited to establish a new partnership with Kasey Kahne and Hendrick Motorsports in 2015,” said Bob Markwart, president of LiftMaster Americas. “Kasey is a threat to win every weekend, and we’re looking forward to joining the No. 5 team’s pursuit of a championship next year.”

In 2015, the No. 5 LiftMaster Chevrolet SS will appear in Sprint Cup Series races May 24 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, July 11 at Kentucky Speedway and Oct. 18 at Kansas Speedway.

“Whether you’re talking products, services or the way customers are treated, LiftMaster has a reputation as the industry leader,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and chairman of Hendrick Automotive Group. “Having used LiftMaster both at Hendrick Motorsports and in our dealerships, we know first-hand the emphasis they put on quality and innovation. We look forward to working together to build a NASCAR program that reflects their brand and drives business.”

Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne, 34, has earned at least one victory each season while securing three consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career wins in NASCAR’s top division, including five in three full seasons with the No. 5 team.

“It means a lot to have support from a great company like LiftMaster,” Kahne said. “The No. 5 team has high expectations for 2015, and they’ll be with us as the primary sponsor at three tracks where we’re traditionally very fast. All of us are looking forward to representing them throughout the season and developing a successful long-term relationship.”

Kahne Signs HMS Contract Extension

Hendrick Motorsports and Kasey Kahne have agreed to a three-year contract extension that will keep the driver with the No. 5 Chevrolet SS team through the end of the 2018 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.

“It’s extremely gratifying to work with a driver like Kasey,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “I think the world of him both as a driver with championship-level talent and an overall terrific young man. Our whole organization has a great deal of respect for how hard he works, the professionalism he displays with our partners and the way he carries himself every day. We’re committed to winning races and competing for titles with him for many years to come.”

Kahne, 34, originally signed with Hendrick Motorsports in April 2010 and officially joined the team’s four-car stable for the 2012 season. Over the past three years (2012-14), he ranks among the top-10 drivers in Sprint Cup wins (5), pole positions (4), top-five finishes (26) and laps led (1,177). The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career wins in NASCAR’s top division.

“I’ve found a home at Hendrick Motorsports,” said Kahne, who since 2012 has earned at least one victory each season while securing three consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. “We have incredible people and partners supporting us, and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction we’re headed as a team and a company. It’s the right place for me, and I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.”

Kahne’s contract with Hendrick Motorsports was set to expire following the 2015 NASCAR season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tyler Walker's Plea Hearing Postponed For 13th Time

Tyler Walker’s endless romp through the American legal system continued today, as the former NASCAR and open wheel Sprint Car driver’s adjudication hearing was postponed for the 13th time.

On January 30 of last year, the 34-year old Walker was arrested near St. George, Utah, after leading authorities on a high-speed chase through in Utah, Nevada and Arizona at speeds topping 140 mph, followed by a brief foot pursuit. His black 2007 BMW stopped only after police laid down spike strips to flatten its tires. When police searched the vehicle, they discovered methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and an open bottle of vodka.

Walker and passenger Raelle McDonald were arrested on multiple charges including evading, possession of amphetamines, marijuana and narcotic equipment, driving under the influence of drugs, open container/drinking in a public place and a liquor license violation. His bail was set at more than $18,000.

Since then, the case has been the subject of repeated delays. Today, Walker’s attorney claimed that paperwork outlining a planned “consent to plea” agreement has yet to be received, prompting Fifth District Judge Eric Ludlow to delay the case yet again. Ludlow denied a defense request that Walker be allowed to sign a copy of the agreement and submit it by mail, saying, “He has until (Dec.) 2nd, then he has to appear in person and we’ll go from there.”

Walker was suspended by NASCAR in 2007 for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy and has never reapplied for reinstatement. He ran 28 races in NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series between 2003 and 2007, with a best finish of eighth in a NCWTS event at Martinsville Speedway in 2007.


Photo: Chris Caldwell, St. George News

Stump Named Technical Director At Stewart Haas

Stewart-Haas Racing has hired Rex Stump to serve as its technical director, effective immediately.

Stump comes to Stewart-Haas Racing after an 18-year career at Hendrick Motorsports, where he founded the organization’s research and development program and has been instrumental in chassis design and technology.

“Rex brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and innovation to Stewart-Haas Racing,” said Greg Zipadelli, vice president of competition for Stewart-Haas Racing. “You can never sit still in this business, and Rex’s record of success will help us stay ahead of the curve.”

“Hendrick Motorsports provided me a lot of opportunities to succeed and I wouldn’t be in this position if it weren’t for Rick Hendrick, Ray Evernham and all the talented people I’ve worked with the last 18 years,” Stump said. “I’m proud of my time there, but I’m looking forward to my new role at Stewart-Haas. This is a team that’s accomplished a lot in a very short period of time. There’s a championship to defend and races to win. I’m ready to go.”

Stump graduated from Kettering University (formerly the General Motors Institute) in 1989 with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and automotive engineering. Upon graduation, Stump worked at General Motors and participated in the Sloan Fellowship program, pursuing a master’s degree in structural analysis from Wayne State University in Detroit. While at General Motors, he began working with the Corvette team in developing the active-suspension of the C5, which was slated to debut in the early 1990s.

When the active-suspension program was canceled and the C5 was delayed, Stump delved into motorsports, becoming a race engineer for Team Penske in 1991. Working with a group of engineers dedicated to improving the performance of the No. 2 team of driver Rusty Wallace, Stump helped advance Wallace from a two-win season in 1991 to a massive, 10-win season in 1993.

By the end of 1993, Corvette had reactivated the C5. Stump returned to General Motors to assist with the project and stayed until the end of 1995, joining Hendrick Motorsports in 1996.

One of Stump’s most memorable achievements at Hendrick Motorsports was the design of Jeff Gordon’s race-winning car for the 1997 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Dubbed “T-Rex” for its Jurassic Park paint scheme that featured a Tyrannosaurus Rex, the car dominated, crossing the stripe with a 1.02-second margin of victory. While the car conformed to NASCAR’s rulebook, the design was so advanced that NASCAR requested the team never bring it to the racetrack again. The sanctioning body amended its rulebook shortly thereafter. Stump continued to build race-winning cars nonetheless, as Gordon captured Sprint Cup championships in 1997, 1998 and 2001.

Francis To New Post At HMS, Rodden Confirmed As Kahne's Crew Chief

Kenny Francis
In preparation for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and revised rules that affect race car development and on-track testing, Hendrick Motorsports has named Kenny Francis to the new position of vehicle technical director and Keith Rodden as crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet SS team of driver Kasey Kahne. The roles take effect immediately.

Francis, 44, will oversee organization-wide car design and development with day-to-day management of Hendrick Motorsports’ chassis, body, research and development, on-track testing, vehicle engineering and simulation programs. Reporting to general manager Doug Duchardt, he will serve as the primary liaison between Hendrick Motorsports’ crew chiefs and its vehicle group.

Rodden will return to Hendrick Motorsports where he worked alongside Francis in 2012 and 2013 while the lead engineer for Kahne and the No. 5 team. For 2014, he was named crew chief for the No. 1 team at Chip Ganassi Racing where he won the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, earned two pole positions and helped driver Jamie McMurray set a career-best season in laps led.

“This is a great opportunity for both guys, and it will strengthen our overall organization,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “With the new rules for next year, it’s more important than ever to have a strong vehicle development program. Unifying those efforts for the first time under Kenny’s guidance will be critical to our success. It plays to his experience as a leader, innovative engineer and race-winning crew chief. He’s just tailor-made for it.

“Keith is one of the most talented young crew chiefs in the garage. He already knows our culture and works extremely well with our people. The relationships and familiarity he has with Kenny, Kasey and the No. 5 team will make it easy to hit the ground running. We talk a lot about ‘fit factor,’ and this definitely falls into that category. He’s the right fit.”

A native of Jacksonville, Florida, Francis holds a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Florida. Known as one of the most innovative minds in the NASCAR garage, he worked as a team director, engineer and fabricator before posting 17 wins as a Sprint Cup crew chief. Francis has led Kahne’s efforts since the final race of 2005, earning 16 race wins and five Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. The pair joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012.

“When it was clear there was a need for this role, I was very intrigued and felt it would be a great challenge,” Francis said. “It encompasses areas I’m passionate about, and I know we can make a difference for our teams, especially with the new rules for next year. There are a lot of reasons why it feels right at this point in my career, and I’m looking forward to contributing in a new way.”

Rodden, 33, has enjoyed a long relationship with Kahne, having worked with the driver as a team engineer from 2004 until 2013. After graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, his motor sports career began in 2003 with owner Andy Petree. Rodden in 2004 joined Evernham Motorsports to support Kahne’s NASCAR XFINITY Series effort before moving in 2006 to the No. 9 Sprint Cup team, which began an eight-year stint under the tutelage of Francis.

“Opportunities like this don’t come around often,” said Rodden, who grew up in Denver, North Carolina. “The people at Hendrick Motorsports are like my family, especially in the 5/24 shop. I expect we’ll have great chemistry right off the bat, which should make for a smooth transition. I’m looking forward to hitting the ground running with the No. 5 team and everyone who supports us. There’s no better resource than Kenny, so I hope he’s ready for some late-night phone calls.”

Since joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, Kahne, 34, has earned at least one victory each season while securing three consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berths. The Enumclaw, Washington, native has 17 career wins in NASCAR’s top division, including five in three full seasons with the No. 5 team.

“I’m so grateful to Kenny and happy for him and his family,” Kahne said. “He’s one of my biggest supporters and best friends, and I’m excited about his new role. It’s going to give all four Hendrick Motorsports teams the best possible opportunity to win races and compete for championships.

“Bringing Keith back is big for us. We spent 10 years together, so we have a very strong overall relationship and understanding of how to communicate. There’s a great friendship and a lot of mutual respect, but at the same time I know he’s really going to push me. I trust Mr. Hendrick to put the right people in the right places to make us successful, and I know these decisions will do that.”

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Matt McCall Replaces Keith Rodden At Ganassi Racing

Rodden to Hendrick?
While there has been no official announcement of Keith Rodden’s anticipated jump to Hendrick Motorsports next season, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates gave a strong indication that a move is afoot today.
CGRFS announced this afternoon that Matt McCall will serve as crew chief for Jamie McMurray and the No. 1 team in 2015. McCall will assume the role effective immediately to prepare for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
McCall joins CGRFS from Richard Childress Racing where he most recently has been the race engineer for the No. 31 Chevrolet that made it to the Championship round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, ultimately finishing the season second in the championship point standings.   
He is also a former driver who has competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA Racing Series. In fact, racing has been in his blood from an early age as he began racing go-karts at age nine and eventually joined the World Karting Association Dirt Series where he would ultimately win the honor of Grand National Champion. He would also go on to race in Super Sport events as well. 
The Denver, NC native graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a major in mechanical engineering. The 33-year-old McCall is also passionate about fitness and holds a third-degree black belt in karate. 

McMurray will begin his 13th full-time season in the NSCS in 2015. The 2010 Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 Winner added another big win to his resume this year with a victory in the 2014 Sprint All-Star race. In nearly 450 career NSCS starts he has accumulated seven wins, 11 poles, 121 Top-10 and 52 Top-5 finishes.
Rodden is expected to replace Kenny Francis at the helm of Kasey Kahne's No. 5 Farmer's Insurance Chevrolet next season.

Evernham's "AmeriCarna LIVE" Set For Nov. 29

Ray Evernham’s  “AmericCarna LIVE” Car Show has announced an initial lineup of celebrity cars and stars expected to join hundreds of classic, custom, and collector cars on the Ingersoll Rand corporate campus in Davidson, N.C. on Saturday, Nov. 29.

Ray Evernham, a former NASCAR championship crew chief, host of “AmeriCarna” on Velocity and founder of IGNITE, hosts the AmeriCarna LIVE Car Show presented by Ingersoll Rand and MSC Industrial Supply Co., along with auto enthusiasts from around the East and some of his NASCAR friends.

This year’s event initial lineup will feature a number of celebrity cars, including Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s 1988 Chevrolet S-10, Joey Logano’s 1939 Rat Rod, Denny Hamlin’s 1967 Lincoln Continental, Kelley Earnhardt Miller’s 1972 Volkswagen Beetle, Rusty Wallace’s 1966 El Camino, Chad Knaus’  1972 Camaro, several cars from the collection of NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick and cars from Season II of “AmeriCarna.”

Hamlin's `67 Continental
Among the stars expected to appear are Hamlin, Logano, Ryan Newman and No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet car chief Ron Malec, as well as Lou Santiago from Velocity’s “Car Fix.”

“AmeriCarna LIVE” will support IGNITE, an innovative community center in Davidson for young adults with high functioning autism or Asperger's Syndrome.  IGNITE offers activities, skills training, and educational workshops that will foster social, financial, educational, and employment independence for its members. 


The car show is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Spectator admission is $5 per person and kids under 10 are free.  The car show awards will be presented at approximately 2:15 p.m. The car show also will feature live music from local bands, Q&A with Ray Evernham and local celebrities, silent auction, food vendors and a celebrity car corral.  The general public can enter their own cars at http://americarnatv.com/americarna-live/2014/.

Borland Named VP Of Technology For SHR, Haas F1

Veteran motorsports engineer Matt Borland has been named vice president of technology for Haas F1 Team and Stewart-Haas Racing. In this role, Borland will serve as a liaison between the two organizations – Haas F1 Team in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Haas F1 Team will make its Formula One debut in 2016, becoming the first American-led Formula One team in 30 years. Stewart-Haas Racing is a four-car NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team with drivers Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Stewart-Haas Racing debuted in 2009 and won the 2011 Sprint Cup championship with Stewart and the 2014 Sprint Cup championship with Harvick.

Borland will oversee the transfer of Formula One technology to Stewart-Haas Racing while providing Haas F1 Team with deep engineering resources. Concurrently, the highly-respected Borland will serve as a gatekeeper, ensuring the privacy of proprietary information respective to each team.

“With his knowledge and work ethic, Matt has helped build Stewart-Haas Racing into the team it is today, and as we build Haas F1 Team and prepare it for 2016, his expertise has already proven to be incredibly useful,” said Joe Custer, chief operating officer, Haas F1 Team and executive vice president, Stewart-Haas Racing. “Matt’s talent as an engineer and manager are augmented by a sterling reputation that is beyond reproach. He is well suited for this dual role that will ultimately lead to the betterment of Haas F1 Team and Stewart-Haas Racing.”

Borland joined Haas CNC Racing, the precursor to Stewart-Haas Racing, in May 2007. He has served in numerous capacities, including crew chief, competition director, technical director and, most recently, vice president of engineering, where he oversaw all of the team’s technical initiatives and research and development projects.

Borland came to Haas CNC Racing with significant NASCAR experience, first with Team Penske from the end of the 1999 season through 2006 and then with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2007. Prior to coming to NASCAR, Borland was the race engineer for driver Mark Blundell at PacWest Racing in Champ Car and before that, Borland was at Pi Research, a well-known engineering organization specializing in motorsports.


“I’m an engineer at heart, so I’m always interested in building things,” said Borland, who in 1994 earned a degree in mechanical engineering from Kettering University (formerly the General Motors Institute). “It’s been very satisfying to help build Stewart-Haas Racing from a two-car team to a four-car team that’s always capable of winning championships. Now I have the best of both worlds, as I can continue to help improve Stewart-Haas Racing while building Haas F1 Team. We work smart and efficiently at Stewart-Haas Racing, and there are best practices we can apply to Haas F1 Team. Eventually, both organizations will make each other better, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Monday, November 17, 2014

COMMENTARY: Dear NASCAR...

Dear NASCAR;

Thank you for a wildly entertaining 2014 season.

Strategic rule changes ratcheted-up the level of competition, allowing drivers to race side-by-side – two and three-wide – without falling victim to the dreaded “aero push.” That process will continue in 2015, with a reduction in horsepower, aerodynamic changes and other adjustments, all designed to put more “race” in the race cars.

An exciting crop of hungry young drivers burst onto the scene this season, with names like Larson, Elliott, Dillon, Blaney, Wallace and Buescher ensuring that the sport’s future is in secure and talented hands.

Your new, 2014 Chase format was an unqualified success, delivering a steady diet of drama and intrigue that began with Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s popular victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 and carried all the way through Sunday’s mind-boggling finale at Homestead Miami Speedway. An increased emphasis on winning got drivers “up on the wheel” like never before and produced fireworks, both on and off the race track. It struck a fair and appropriate balance between winning and consistency, culminating in a late-race Homestead championship duel that pitted one of the biggest winners in the sport against a driver who had not won a race all season.

It brought out the best in your drivers and teams, encouraging hard driving, aggressive strategies and a willingness to roll the competitive dice. It virtually eliminated the term “good point day” from our vocabulary, and made every race worth winning once again.

It provided new challenges that many long-established stars were unable to overcome.

It allowed smaller teams like Richard Petty Motorsports and JTG Daugherty Racing to bask – albeit briefly -- in the championship spotlight, allowing us to root for the underdog in a sport that has traditionally been dominated by high-dollar super teams.

It allowed four hungry drivers to compete for the sport’s ultimate prize in an unprecedented, winner-take-all finale, ultimately crowning a deserving, first-time champion.

It out the passion and emotion back into our sport, prompting drivers and crew members to stand up and fight for what they believe in. We’re not looking for a weekly ration of post-race fisticuffs, but this 2014 season offered a much-needed reminder of how this glorious game – properly conducted – can stir our emotions and command our attention.

It brought fans back to the grandstands, with sold-out crowds at the season’s final two events and increased television ratings for the first time in recent memory. Yes, there were still empty seats at most events and viewership was down for the season as a whole, but an upward trend at season’s end is cause for encouragement, and something to build on.

Just one request, if I may.

Ignore the pleas of those who want to continue “tweaking” the Chase in 2015, especially those poor, misguided souls who would institute a separate points system for Chase contenders. No matter what they say, there is a significant difference between finishing 16th and 43rd. The championship points should continue to reflect that reality.



Please, NASCAR, resist the temptation to do “just one more thing” by micromanaging a system that succeeded beyond our wildest dreams in 2014. Bask in the success of the season just completed, and leave the Chase alone.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Wallace Claims Truck Battle, Crafton Wins The War

Crafton wins his second
Matt Crafton made history Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion became in the first back-to-back champion in the history of the series.
Crafton is the 13th different driver to win the Truck Series title and the fourth to win multiple crowns. Although the idea of Crafton becoming the first back-to-back series champion since the NASCAR Truck Series inception in 1995 has been circulating for several weeks throughout the NCWTS garages, Crafton said he had banished the thought from his mind. 
“It’s definitely an awesome feeling to say you’re back-to-back champion,” Crafton said. “I definitely didn’t want to talk about it at all the last few weeks. Without a doubt I wanted to go out there and do my job and try to win more races and lead more laps and that’s what we did.”
Crafton’s ninth-place finish secured the top spot over Brad Keselowski Racing driver Ryan Blaney by a 21-point margin. The 2014 season marked Crafton’s 15th in the truck Series, and he leads the series in consecutive starts with 337. 
Wallace win his fourth
Kyle Busch Motorsports took home the NCWTS Owner’s Championship; the team’s second-consecutive and third all-time owner title. KBM is now the second team in NCWTS history to win back-to-back championships. Their third title leaves them tied with Hendrick Motorsports and Kevin Harvick Inc. for the most all-time championships. 
While Crafton claimed the Truck Series championship, Darrell Wallace Jr. won the 19th Annual Ford EcoBoost 200, his fifth victory in 44 NCWTS races. Four of those victories came this season. 
“I can’t thank my guys enough for continuing to come up each and every race and never give up and have that desire to win,” Wallace said. “I told them before the race even started, we want it more than anybody else. We don’t have a shot at the title, but we want this race more than anybody else. Let’s show that. And I had to work for it there. I had to battle off Kyle (Larson) and Kyle (Busch), so a lot of things knocked off tonight in the mile-and-a-half win. We beat the boss finally.” 
The win was bittersweet for Wallace, whose No. 54 ToyotaCare team learned earlier that morning that the

“Eddie, our engineer, lost his mother earlier,” said Wallace. “I wanted to put her name, Alejandra, on the top of our door, and she was our guardian angel, so that’s what got us to Victory Lane.”

KBM Adds Boston, Tifft To Truck Series Lineup

Justin Boston
Kyle Busch Motorsports has announced the addition of Justin Boston and Matt Tifft to the team’s driver lineup for the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

Boston will run a full-time schedule competing for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award, while Tifft will run a six-race schedule and share the driving duties behind the wheel of his Tundra with KBM owner-driver Kyle Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing developmental driver Daniel Suarez competing for the Truck Series Owner’s Championship.

Boston completed his second full-time season in the ARCA Racing Series in 2014, finishing fifth in the championship standings and collecting wins at Toledo (Ohio) Speedway in May and Madison (Wis.) International Speedway in August. In addition to his two wins, he collected three poles, 241 laps led, seven top-five and 13 top-10 finishes resulting in an average finish of 10.6 across 20 starts this year. Overall in two seasons of ARCA action, the Maryland native has posted two wins, five poles, 15 top-five and 29 top-10 finishes across 41 starts and finished inside the top-five in the championship standings both years.

The 25-year-old also made two NASCAR Nationwide Series starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2014, finishing ninth in his series debut at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta and following it up with a 12th-place finish at Dover (Del.) International Speedway. He made one Truck Series start this season, but was relegated to a 30th-place finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway getting caught up in a late-race accident.

Matt Tifft
“Being able to drive full time in the Camping World Truck Series next season is definitely a big step in my career and I can’t thank everyone at KBM enough for this opportunity,” Boston said. “KBM builds really fast Toyota Tundras and I know that I’m going to be in a position to win races next year -- as a driver that’s all you can ask for. I was only able to make one Truck Series start this year, -- so there are going to be some learning curves -- but I’m confident that my experience running full-time in the ARCA Series the last two seasons has helped me prepare for the challenge.”

Tifft has made 12 ARCA Racing Series starts the last two seasons, registering six top-five and eight top-10 finishes. The Ohio native registered a career-best runner-up finish in this year’s September event at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta. In addition to his time in the ARCA Racing Series, the 18-year-old has competed in the NASCAR K&N East and West Series, posting one top-five and nine top-10 finishes across 24 starts.

The University of North Carolina at Charlotte freshman has competed in two of the last three Truck Series races this season, including an eighth-place finish at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in September, and is entered in the series finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway this weekend.  

“The opportunity to drive Toyota Tundras for Kyle Busch Motorsports in six Camping World Truck Series races next season is one that I’m extremely proud of being provided with,” Tifft said. “KBM is such a well-respected team in the Truck Series and I’m excited to be able to go out next year and prove what I can do behind the wheel of top-notch equipment. I’m confident that this part-time schedule will allow me to showcase my abilities as I work towards securing a full-time opportunity for 2016.”

“Adding these two talented young drivers to the driver lineup at KBM next season gives us the opportunity to compete for the Rookie of the Year honors with Justin, a Driver’s Championship with Erik (Jones) and the Owner’s Championship sharing a truck between Matt, myself and Daniel,” Busch said. “Justin was able to pick up a couple ARCA wins this season and had solid runs in his starts for JGR in the Nationwide Series. Matt knocked on the door of victory a couple times in the ARCA Series while running a part-time schedule and had a nice run in his Truck Series debut at Martinsville last month. We’re looking forward to seeing both of them behind the wheel of our Tundras next year.”

Announcements on truck numbers, sponsors and crew chiefs for both drivers are forthcoming.

Friday, November 14, 2014

France Says NASCAR Will Wait For Busch Investigation Before Acting

NASCAR Chairman Brian France said today that the sanctioning body will take a tough stand on domestic violence, but not at the expense of due process.

With Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kurt Busch being investigated for domestic assault by the Dover (Del.) Police Department and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), calling on NASCAR to suspend him, France told reporters today at Homestead Miami Speedway that the organization will wait until actual charges are filed before acting.

“It's a very sensitive topic today, rightfully so,” said France. “And so, (it’s) not surprising that some members of Congress and other leaders might have some strong views on what we should and shouldn't do.

“We'll stay the course, let the investigation be completed and then we'll react.”

In the aftermath of high-profile domestic violence cases involving NFL players Ray Rice and Greg Hardy in recent weeks, France said the sanctioning body understands the need to send a clear message to its drivers and teams.

“What's not lost on us by any stretch is a rightful, heightened awareness of domestic abuse and violence,” he said. “So you can expect our policies to reflect the understandable awareness that that's not going to be tolerated. It's pretty clear when you see what's happening around the country and in some of the other leagues that our policy will reflect the significance and importance that it should.”

Stewart Haas "Taking Kurt At His Word" In Domestic Violence Case

Stewart-Haas Racing has issued a statement today, in the aftermath of calls by United States Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) that Busch be suspended, pending the outcome of a domestic violence investigation. 

"The allegation made against Kurt Busch is one Stewart-Haas Racing and its partners take very seriously,” said the team. “We have spoken to Kurt in depth regarding this matter and he has vehemently denied that it happened and assures us there is no truth to it whatsoever. We are monitoring this situation closely and will let the authorities continue with their thorough investigation. At this point in time we are taking Kurt at his word and his status with the team is unchanged."

Busch Has Yet To Speak With Law Enforcement, Congresswoman Chastizes NASCAR For Handling

The Dover (Del.) Police Department has yet to interview former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch, more than a week after former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll accused him of domestic assault.\

Driscoll said Busch grabbed her face and repeatedly smashed her head against the wall in his motorhome at Dover International Speedway on Sept. 26, leaving her with severe pain, difficulty breathing and bruising on her neck. Since those allegations were made public last Wednesday, Dover Police public information officer Cpl. Mark Hoffman said his department has interviewed a number of witnesses associated with to the case, but not Busch.

In his words, “We would like to speak with him, obviously. We're working with Mr. Busch and his legal team to schedule an appointment that we can sit down and talk with him. Whether that's in person or by videophone, we're not completely sure yet. It's just going to depend on their availability at this point.”

Hoffman said the department’s willingness to accommodate Busch’s schedule is not related to "who he is or what he does for a living," adding that the case is complicated by Driscoll’s decision to wait approximately six weeks to file a police report. Driscoll has said her delay stemmed from an ongoing dispute with her ex-husband over the custody of their son.

Busch’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, said last week that his client “will fully cooperate with (the) investigation and expects to be vindicated when the entire truth of the situation comes to light.’ He called Driscoll’s allegations “a complete fabrication by a woman who has refused to accept the end of a relationship.”

In a related story, a member of the United States House of Representatives has criticized both NASCAR and Stewart Haas Racing for failing to suspend Busch from competition until the case is resolved.

SI.com is reporting that Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), wrote to NASCAR president Mike Helton and Stewart Haas owners Tony Stewart and Gene Haas this week, calling NASCAR and SHR’s response “totally inadequate.

“Despite the severity of the criminal allegations against Mr. Busch,” wrote Speier, “I am disappointed to see that NASCAR and Stewart-Haas Racing have not taken any action.” She said NASCAR’s refusal to suspend Busch and driver Travis Kvapil – who received two years’ probation and community service as part of a deferred domestic assault prosecution agreement in October of 2013 – “calls into question the enforcement policies exercised by NASCAR.


"NASCAR would rather let Mr. Busch drive for the remainder of the racing season than take a stance on violence against women," wrote Speier. "While he rounds the track, the legal processes for his domestic violence charges race forward as well. Until his legal proceedings end, NASCAR should put Mr. Busch's car in park. The charges are horrifying, and NASCAR's inaction sends a clear signal to drivers that owners do not take these violent actions seriously."

She called for NASCAR and SHR to “suspend Mr. Busch from his weekend’s Championship and adopt a policy going forward in all domestic violence cases to suspend drivers until criminal proceedings end, or there is a clear lack of evidence.”

She also requested that she be included in all of internal investigations conducted by the sanctioning body or race team, and requested “a history of sanctions levied by NASCAR and racing teams for domestic violence incidents brought to your attention over the last five years.”