Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Stewart Says Fans, Friends Have Fueled Recovery

                                                                   Photo: Bob Leverone
Coming off what he called “the worst two years in the history of me,” Tony Stewart said Tuesday that he is on the road to regaining both his physical and mental health, and ready to retake his traditional place at the front of the NASCAR pack.

A shattered right leg suffered in an August 2013 Sprint Car crash in Oskaloosa, Iowa impacted Stewart’s performance for a time. A horrifying accident at New York’s Canandaigua Motorsports Park on August 9, 214 that saw driver Kevin Ward, Jr. die after climbing from his disabled vehicle and being struck by Stewart put the former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion into an emotional tailspin from which he has admittedly struggled to recover.

Time heals all wounds, however, and Day Two of NASCAR’s annual preseason Media Tour featured a rejuvenated Stewart crediting friends and fans for playing a major role in his recovery.

“My leg is healing very well right now, and my head got a good break during the offseason,” said Stewart in an exclusive interview on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway with Dave Moody. “Typically, I go to a race in Fort Wayne, Ind., between Christmas and New Year’s. I actually stayed home from that this year, then left on the second of January and went to Yuma, Ariz., for the Winter Heat Sprint Car races.

“That was the first time I had been back to a Sprint Car race (since the Canandaigua accident),” said Stewart. “I didn’t even think about it until I got there, but it was the first time I had seen those guys. It was good to be there. I had a lot of fun working with Steve Kinser on his car, then I went straight to the Chili Bowl and spent my time driving a (track preparation) tractor at 1.6 mph for the week.

“I enjoyed it,” he laughed. “I probably could have had a few adult beverages and watched the racing like everyone else, but if I’m not going to be racing, (I would rather) have a job like that where every night, 85 guys are relying on me to do a good job and give them a good race track. It’s a lot of pressure, but I thrive on stuff like that. It was something I really looked forward to.”

Stewart said the reception he received in Arizona caught him by surprise.

“I didn’t realize that I hadn’t seen any of those people since everything happened last year,” he said. “Once I got there and started seeing and talking to everyone, it was so nice. Everyone said how happy they were to have me there, and how they had been thinking about me all summer.

“That meant more to me than I could possibly have imagined. I hadn’t anticipated that aspect of it, but it made a huge impact. The same thing happened in Tulsa the next weekend, with a different set of friends and people that I’m used to being around.

“Those were two really big weeks for my head and my heart, and I’ve had a great 2015 so far. I’m hoping to carry that on.”

Stewart said he was also humbled by the positive reception he received from NASCAR fans when he returned to competition at Atlanta Motor Speedway in late August.

“It helped,” he said. “In a major way, it helped. Sometimes you realize the impact you make as a driver, but you don’t really realize the impact that you have on people as a person.  I hope the fans realize the impact they’ve had on me, helping me feel better about everything.

“Racing is a huge family,” said Stewart. “It doesn’t matter if you’re watching on TV, listening on the radio, or if you’re a car owner or driver; everyone is in this family together.”

The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion also displayed a bit of his customary swagger, promising to “put on a show” at next month’s season-opening Daytona 500.

“I have every intention of running up front this year,” he grinned. “I usually take it easy for the first two-thirds of the race, then make my way forward. But that’s going out the window this year.

“I’m feeling racy, and I’m ready to get out there and make my name known again.” 


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smokey Mountain Backs Sauter In 2015

Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff and Pouches has extended their partnership with ThorSport Racing and driver Johnny Sauter for the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. The eight-race partnership kicks-off with the season opener, NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, Feb. 20.
In 2014, Sauter finished fourth in the final NCWTS driver point standings and collected two Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes while carrying the Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff colors on the No. 98 Toyota Tundra. 
"Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff was looking for a competitive team and a specific type of driver to fit our brand identity," said Dave Savoca, president of Smokey Mountain Chew, Inc. "Johnny showed us through our partnership last year that he has the same passion for driving that we have about our product. We believe both ThorSport Racing and Johnny Sauter are a great fit for the Smokey Mountain brand." 
Sauter has a long history of success that spans a decade and includes 152 series starts, 10 wins, five poles, 56 Top-5and 86 Top-10 finishes. In 2015, with guidance from new crew chief Doug George, the Necedah, Wis., native will be a strong contender for the one thing that has eluded his career; a NCWTS championship. 
"Smokey Mountain has been a huge supporter of our series, and every year they are able to increase their presence in NASCAR," said Sauter. "I'm honored they have chosen not only to extend their partnership with myself and ThorSport Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but to have also increased their presence in 2015.  This kind of partnership is hard to find these days, so I'm honored to be carrying their colors and representing their brand again this season." 
In addition to the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff and Pouches will also adorn Sauter's No. 98 Toyota Tundra at both Martinsville (Va.) Speedway races (March/October), Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway (May), Dover (Del.) International Speedway (May), Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway (Aug.), Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (Oct.), and Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth (Nov.).

Yeley To Drive For BK Racing

JJ Yeley will pilot a BK Racing Toyota for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, starting at Daytona International Speedway in a few weeks.

Yeley, who filled in for the team at the end of the 2014 season, has signed on for a full 36 race season. Best known for his accomplishments on dirt, Yeley has been involved in NASCAR circuit since 2004, achieving two Top 5's, eight Top 10's and one Coors Light Pole Award.

JJ Yeley commented, "I am looking forward to getting back behind the wheel of my BK Racing Toyota Camry. I filled in for the team at the end of the 2014 season, and I'm glad to be given the opportunity to come back again for another season. I am ready to get the 2015 season started and head to Daytona International Speedway for some restrictor plate racing."

"JJ has been a great asset to the BK Racing team," owner Ron Devine commented. "He has been involved in the motorsports industry for several years now, and has the knowledge and skill to help build this organization."

CONFIRMED: Annett To HScott Motorsports In 2015

HScott Motorsports confirmed today what GodfatherMotorsports.com first reported on Jan. 20, that Michael Annett will join the team at the wheel of a new Chevrolet sponsored by Pilot/Flying J.

Annett will race as a teammate to Justin Allgaier, who will return to the team’s No. 51 BRANDT Chevrolet.

"The addition of a second team increases HScott's overall ability to better utilize its resources at track and at the shop to be even more competitive," said team owner Harry Scott Jr.  "I'm proud to have seen Justin truly mature as a NSCS driver last year, and I can't wait to see what he does this year. Like Justin, Michael is coming off his rookie year following six years of competition in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Michael is a quality driver with a great future at HScott Motorsports. These drivers complement one another and will make great teammates."

In his rookie season, Allgaier posted 10 Top-20 finishes, including 17th at Bristol; 16th at Michigan and Pocono and 15th-place finishes at Charlotte and Homestead to conclude the 2014 season.

"This is as excited as I've been for a new season, I can't wait to get to Daytona and fire the engines," said Allgaier.  "I'm looking forward to carrying the momentum from the end of last season over to this year.  Michael is a great addition to our organization and I'm glad to have a teammate to compete with each week."  

BRANDT Professional Agriculture, a leading agriculture retailer and manufacturer of agricultural specialty products, returns as the primary sponsor of the No. 51 Chevrolet for 21 races, beginning with the Daytona 500 on February 22.  Auto-Owners Insurance will also be the primary partner on the No. 51 for three races.  

"Justin and the No. 51 team continue to be a great source of pride for BRANDT employees and customers, and we are all looking forward to a great 2015 season," said BRANDT President and CEO Rick Brandt.

Annett competed in all 36 points races during his 2014 rookie NSCS campaign and posted several Top-20 finishes, including 19th at Fontana, 16th at Talladega and 18th at Kentucky. From 2008 through 2013, Annett competed full time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, where he started 163 races and earned seven Top-5 and 34 Top-10 finishes.  Prior to his NASCAR career, Annett competed in the ARCA Racing Series in 2007 and 2008, winning races at Talladega and Daytona.

"I'm excited for the opportunity to drive for HScott Motorsports," said Annett.  "I am impressed with the way Harry is building his NASCAR teams.  Harry and competition director Steve Addington have a long-term vision and I'm honored to be part of it. I'm also looking forward to having Justin as a teammate."


Pilot Flying J, the largest operator of travel retail centers, will be a primary partner on Annett's car.  Other partners include Cypress Associates, Inc., Allstate Peterbilt Group and Northland Oil.  

Moffitt To Drive For MWR At Atlanta

Michael Waltrip Racing announced today Brett Moffitt will drive the No. 55 Aaron’s Dream Machine Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 1.  
The 22-year-old Grimes, Iowa native replaces Brian Vickers, whose return from December heart surgery begins the following weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  
“What a great honor and opportunity,” said Moffitt. “I hate that Brian has to miss the first two races of the season, but everyone is glad he is coming back at Las Vegas. My goal is to work closely with (Crew Chief) Billy Scott and the guys and get the most out of the Aaron’s Dream Machine that I can.  
“This is the best car I will have ever driven and I know my role is to leave Atlanta with a result that will make MWR, Aaron’s and the 55 team happy they showed faith in me.” 
Moffitt has worked with MWR and Toyota Racing Development for the past few years as a test and development driver. Moffitt is a nine-time winner in K&N Pro Series East competition and raced in eight NASCAR Sprint Cup races driving the No. 66 for Jay Robinson Racing/MWR in 2014. 
Scott said Moffitt was the team’s clear choice. 
“Brett was the first guy we thought of when we knew we needed a driver for Atlanta. He’s been part of MWR for several years. We’ve worked with him at tests and in the shop. The only thing missing from Brett’s career is an opportunity and I think Atlanta will be a track where he shows everyone how much talent he has.” 
MWR founder and co-owner Michael Waltrip will drive the No. 55 in the 2015 Daytona 500. 

Jarrett Joins NBC Sports' NASCAR Team

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett will serve as a pre- and post-race analyst during live coverage of select NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR XFINITY Series racing on NBC and NBCSN. 
Jarrett, a three-time Daytona 500 winner, will be among the first to welcome fans to NBC Sports’ 10-year chapter as the home of NASCAR’s championship run when he, Krista Voda and Kyle Petty open up NBC’s live pre-race coverage from Daytona International Speedway this 4th of July weekend.  In addition to handling pre- and post-race coverage, Jarrett will also serve as a booth analyst during select NASCAR XFINITY Series races and contribute to NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN.         
 “We are excited to welcome Dale and his Hall of Fame credentials to our NASCAR broadcast team,” said Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN.  “As a former Champion, his experience and insights will help us set the stage and break down key races throughout the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.” 
The appointment of Jarrett follows previous NBC Sports NASCAR on-air announcements for analysts Jeff Burton, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty, race announcer Rick Allen, pre- and post-race host Krista Voda and reporters Marty Snyder, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns and Rutledge Wood.
“I'm very pleased and excited to be a part of NBC Sports and their NASCAR coverage,” said Jarrett. “NBC has assembled an All-Star crew for their coverage, and I'm honored to be a part of this group that will bring NASCAR fans inside the sport we all love.” 
Jarrett grew up in and around the sport of NASCAR, eventually turning down a golf scholarship from the University of South Carolina in order to follow in the footsteps of his iconic father, Ned Jarrett, a two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion. The Newton-Conover, N.C., native earned his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in August 1991 at Michigan International Speedway in a car owned by the famed Wood Brothers. In the 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons that spanned from 1993-2002, Dale achieved 29 of his 32 victories, three Daytona 500 wins, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in 1999, and seven seasons among the Top-5 in points. Jarrett raced in his final full season of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in 2007. He made his final appearance behind the wheel in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Challenge race, and was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2014.  Jarrett joined ESPN full time in 2008, and quickly took over the reins as their lead NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing analyst, a position he held for the last seven seasons.     
On July 23, 2013, NASCAR and NBC Sports Group reached a comprehensive agreement that grants NBCUniversal exclusive rights to the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, final 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series events, select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events and other live content, beginning this coming 4th of July weekend from Daytona International Speedway.
With this partnership, NBC’s 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race schedule includes a designation as the exclusive home to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, when the elite national series races through its final 10 events of the season. The Chase culminates with the season-ending championship event, which returns to network television in 2015 for the first time since 2009. Of NBC Sports Group’s 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, seven will be carried on NBC annually, with 13 airing on NBCSN. Four of NBC Sports Group’s 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series races will air on NBC, with 15 airing on NBCSN.

Axalta To Sponsor June Pocono Race

Pocono Raceway and Axalta Coating Systems have announced a multi-year entitlement agreement which includes the renaming of the annual June NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race held at ‘The Tricky Triangle’ as the Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400.  
         
“We are very excited to share this great news, in cooperation with everyone at Axalta Coating Systems,” said Pocono Raceway President/CEO, Brandon Igdalsky. “They have been a great addition to the Pocono Raceway family, and we look forward to growing this relationship in 2015 and beyond. What makes this even more special is the fact we get to work hand-in-hand with a true global powerhouse who also calls the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ‘home.’” 

“Axalta is proud of its 22-year motorsports partnership,” said Axalta Vice President and head of its North America business, Nigel Budden.  “As a leader in the US refinish business, our paint graces race cars that burn rubber on the track each season and we proudly support four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon.  Now, we are pleased to expand our racing involvement as Pocono Raceway’s title sponsor of the upcoming race on June 7.  We look forward to cheering on Gordon as he vies for a seventh win at Pocono Raceway.” 

Axalta Coating Systems is “The Official Finish” of Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports, the two most recent NSCS championship organizations. They also sponsor the No. 24 Axalta Coatings Chevrolet SS driven by Jeff Gordon, who is the winningest NASCAR driver at Pocono with six victories (June 1996, June 1997, July 1998, June 2007, June 2011 and August 2012). 

Tickets for the June 7th Axalta “We Paint Winners” 400 start at $45.  Kids, ages 12 and under are eligible for half-price grandstand tickets starting at $22.50. For tickets and more information, visit www.poconoraceway.com or call 1-800-RACEWAY (1-800-722-3929). 

NASCAR Announces 2015 Drive For Diversity Lineup

NASCAR Drive for Diversity announced its 2015 class Monday, welcoming four program newcomers to the roster of six drivers striving to transition into the sport’s national series spotlight. Rev Racing, the program’s competition arm, has played a key role in the development of 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson and NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suarez.

In alphabetical order, the 2015 NASCAR D4D roster includes:

Devon Amos
Devon Amos: Returning to the team, the 23-year-old Rio Rancho, New Mexico, native will make the jump to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East after two full seasons in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

Jay Beasley: Finishing 13th overall and sixth in a loaded Sunoco Rookie of the Year field in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East last season, the 23-year-old from Las Vegas, Nevada will return for a second season, aiming to best his rookie campaign.

Collin Cabre: After an impressive NASCAR D4D Combine performance, the 21-year-old Thonotosassa, Florida, native will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East in his first year with Rev Racing. Cabre has spent the past five years racing asphalt and dirt sprint cars.

Natalie Decker: A 17-year-old newcomer to the Rev Racing roster from Eagle River, Wisconsin, Decker collected feature wins in a limited late model and super late model, as well as earning Rookie and Sportsman of the Year honors in ARCA SCAG Midwest Truck Tour. She will compete in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in 2015.

Kenzie Ruston: Entering her third season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and first with Rev Racing, the 22-year-old El Reno, Oklahoma, native is also a member of NASCAR Next, an industry initiative to identify tomorrow’s stars. Ruston broke her own record in 2014 as the highest finishing female driver in the K&N Pro Series East with a runner-up finish at Iowa Speedway on her way to finishing ninth in points.

Dylan Smith
Dylan Smith: The 22-year-old from Randolph, Vermont earned a spot with Rev Racing in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series after competing in his own Late Model last year. The Stewart-Haas Racing employee ran 15 races and finished 38th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national standings.

Rev Racing will field four teams in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and two in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.

“Taking steps to find and develop young female and multicultural athletes who could represent the future of NASCAR is at the core of our organization’s mission,” said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. “We were impressed by the talent displayed at the Combine (in October of 2014), and are eager to help this group develop their strengths on and off the track.”

Under Rev Racing owner and CEO Max Siegel’s leadership, the development program aligns drivers with a team of executives, athletic directors, crew chiefs and mentors tasked with helping NASCAR D4D drivers achieve career successes; thus, improving their goal of  reaching one of NASCAR's three national series.

“NASCAR Drive for Diversity goes much deeper than putting drivers behind the wheel of race cars,” said Siegel. “The program is all encompassing, providing competition, athletic training and professional development opportunities for drivers who have the determination and talent to reach NASCAR’s top levels. We’ve seen this with Larson, Suarez and Wallace Jr. and are excited about the potential of this talented group of drivers.”


Growth of the program extends to pit crew members under the NASCAR D4D Crew Member Development Program, also managed by Siegel. In 2014, more than 30 multicultural athletes pitted fulltime for teams across all three national series. 

Darlington Unveils Commemorative Retro-Ticket

With the Bojangles’ Southern 500 returning to Labor Day weekend in 2015, Darlington Raceway has announced that it will commemorate its history with a retro-style ticket for the September 5-6 race weekend.

The design will incorporate the look of the 1974 ticket, and features South Carolina and Darlington Raceway legend Cale Yarborough, who was highlighted as the defending champion in 1974 after winning his first career Southern 500 in 1973.

The ticket will also honor last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner and 2014 defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, in a similar fashion.

These special tickets will be used for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles’ Southern 500 and NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 races. Tickets are expected to be mailed to all customers beginning in mid-June.

“We announced in December that we would make some exciting announcements each month leading into our race weekend. This new ticket design will be unique for our fans because it captures our storied history with a retro feel and celebrates our defending race champion Kevin Harvick,” said track president Chip Wile. “This is just one of many initiatives we have planned over the next several months as we celebrate the tradition returning to Labor Day weekend in September.”

In addition, Darlington Raceway will introduce a “Fan Hall of Fame” program. The program will honor longtime ticketholders and supporters of the track. A minimum of five fans will be selected in the first year and will be honored during Bojangles’ Southern 500 pre-race ceremonies. Fan Hall of Fame members will be asked to provide feedback and ideas to the track in future years, serving in a Fan Advisory Board capacity.

“We have many loyal race fans who have attended events here for decades, so it only made sense to thank and celebrate them through this new program,” Wile said. “Our fans are the number one reason Darlington Raceway has enjoyed a history steep in tradition. Without them, we would not be in existence today. Their stories are what we need to recognize and honor moving forward.”

Ticket renewals have been mailed, reminding fans to renew their seats for the 2015 Labor Day race weekend. Renewing tickets early guarantees seats at the best prices available prior to the opening of all remaining seats to the general public on February 18.

“We want our fans to take advantage of all the great pricing and benefits we offer during the renewal period,” Wile said. “This is the best way to guarantee your seats or campsites when NASCAR racing returns to Labor Day weekend at Darlington Raceway. This is going to be one of the most exciting events of the season, and we encourage everyone to get their tickets now and start preparing as the Tradition Returns to Darlington Raceway on Labor Day weekend in 2015!”

Renewing customers receive many great benefits for being a loyal customer, including the raceway’s best pricing for Labor Day weekend.

Renewal benefits include the track’s best prices for the Bojangles’ Southern 500, a flexible, six-part payment plan option, the opportunity to auto-renew for three or five years at 2015 prices, special renewal pricing for Darlington Stripe Zone Hospitality (a $30 savings), special renewal pricing for pre-race pit passes ($5 savings), special renewal pricing for driver intro/pre-race concert access ($10 savings), special renewal pricing for FanVision rentals ($15 savings), special renewal pricing for Racing Electronics scanner rental ($10 savings).


Guests may renew their tickets and campsites by calling 866-459-RACE (7223) or visiting www.DarlingtonRaceway.com/renewals. Renewal deadline is Friday, Feb. 6.

Kyle On Media Reports: “It’s The Wrong Brother”

"I think it's stupid..."
Kyle Busch said yesterday that he is bothered by erroneous media reports linking him with a domestic assault allegation involving his brother.

Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kurt Busch – older brother of Kyle – faces possible domestic violence charges after former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll accused him of slamming her head against the wall of his motorhome at Dover International Speedway in late September. A handful of media commentators – including ESPN2’s Keith Olbermann – have misidentified Kurt Busch as his brother in on-air reports.

''I think it's stupid,” said Kyle Busch on the opening day of NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. “I think people need to do a little bit more background before they write names or say names if they don't know what the heck they are talking about.

''It's not that hard to differentiate between two people that have the same last name. I think people need to do a better job and not be so slackish.''

Busch said he has not spoken to his brother about the case, and has no plans to.

''(I) haven't spoken to him, don't know nothing, trying to stay away from it all and let him handle his business.”
He said the media reports have not created issues for his sponsor, M&Ms.

''It hasn't been bothersome from a sponsorship standpoint yet, that I know of,'' he said. ''(But) I know it could be if it continues. I think the relationship I have with the Mars family is far beyond that, hopefully.''


Monday, January 26, 2015

Motor Racing Network Earns NMPA Honors

Motor Racing Network – “The Voice of NASCAR” – was honored by the National Motorsports Press Association last night with seven awards for radio excellence in 2014, including first place in the Live Event Broadcast category for the second year in a row.

Barney Hall, the legendary voice who has been part of the MRN family since the network’s debut in 1970, was named Broadcaster of the Year and Darrell Smith was honored as Producer of the Year.

MRN’s coverage of the dramatic, season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway – with Kevin Harvick edging Ryan Newman for the Sprint Cup Series championship -- took top honors in the Live Event Broadcast category.  It was produced by Brian Nelson, and MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt accepted the award.

“The 2014 season will be remembered as one of the most thrilling, dramatic years in NASCAR history,” Hyatt said.  “Our team performed exceptionally well in delivering that excitement to our listeners and NASCAR fans across the country.  We humbly accept these accolades from the NMPA.”

In addition to being named Producer of the Year, Smith won two other first-place awards.  He produced a feature on Hall’s retirement from full-time race coverage in July, and was also cited for his work on MRN’s “Talespin,” which features Hall as a master storyteller, spinning some of the sport’s most interesting yarns from years past.  Smith won with a feature titled “Creative Engineering in NASCAR,” which was produced in collaboration with Alex Hayden, Hall’s co-host.  These awards were in Event-oriented Feature Radio and Topic-oriented Feature Radio, respectively.

“Talespin” is available for download at www.MRN.com and also at itunes.

Smith and Hall also teamed up to win second place in Topic-oriented Feature Radio with MRN’s pre-season special “1979 Daytona 500: NASCAR Storms America.”

Nelson won second place in Spot News for producing a story which outlined NASCAR’s new qualifying procedures that were put in place for the 2014 season.

“Race teams use success at the end of one year to build momentum for the next season,” Hyatt said.  “We are no different.  All of us at the Motor Racing Network are honored for the achievements of 2014 and eager to get 2015 rolling.”

MRN Turn Announcer Mike Bagley and Pit Reporter Pete Pistone won third-place honors in Event-oriented Feature Radio as co-hosts of SiriusXM’s “Morning Drive.” 

Turn Announcer Dave Moody also won three awards for his work outside the network; second place in Spot News for coverage of the Tony Stewart sprint car accident, fifth place in Race Coverage for Brendan Gaughan’s XFINITY Series win at Road America -- both posted online at GodfatherMotorsports.com -- and third place in Broadcast Spot News for a feature titled “Remembering Lynda Petty” that aired on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s SiriusXM Speedway.

Motor Racing Network’s 2015 event broadcast schedule will begin this Friday with exclusive radio coverage of the sixth annual NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony from Charlotte, N.C.  Air time will be 8 p.m. (EST), with live streaming at MRN.com.


Coverage of Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway will follow, beginning Feb. 13 and culminating with the 57th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 22.  Joe Moore and Jeff Striegle will anchor Motor Racing Network’s broadcast of “The Great American Race” starting at 12 p.m., also with live streaming at MRN.com.

Martinsville's Mike Smith Honored By NMPA

Mike Smith, Director of Public Relations at Martinsville Speedway, has always gone the extra mile to ensure everyone leaves the track having a positive experience.
Apparently, his hard work has not gone unnoticed.  
Smith was named the 2014 recipient of the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award by the National Motorsports Press Association at the organization’s annual Awards Dinner last night. 
“Ken Patterson set the standard in working with the media and I’m beyond humbled to receive the award that honors his legacy,” said Smith. “I’m very fortunate to work with a team at Martinsville Speedway that appreciates the media and understands their importance in what we do. When I was in the newspaper business, our track’s founder, H. Clay Earles, always told me that next to race fans, the press were the most important people a track works for. It’s a philosophy that I hold close.” 
Smith’s award was well-received by those who work with him on a daily basis.
 “Mike Smith embodies everything the Ken Patterson Helping Others Award stands for,” said Martinsville Speedway President Clay Campbell. “Not only is he great in his role as the Director of Public Relations, he treats everyone with the highest level of respect and compassion. The NMPA couldn’t have picked a more deserving person and I couldn’t be more proud to have him on my team.”
Smith started work at Martinsville Speedway in 2001, after a long career as the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. It was in this role that he was first introduced to NASCAR, covering the sport for more than 20 years before working in it.  
Named for the former Talladega Superspeedway Director of Public Relations Ken Patterson, the award recognizes a public relations representative in the motorsports industry who has exhibited the kind, generous qualities that Patterson always demonstrated. 
Patterson died in 2004 from complications of myelodysplasia syndrome. 
In addition to the award, Talladega Superspeedway will donate $1,000 in Smith’s name to the Ken Patterson Educational Trust Fund. 

Fronius USA Joins Viva Motorsports

Viva Motorsports has announced a new partnership with Fronius USA for the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series Season.

Fronius USA will serve as primary sponsor of the No. 55 Chevrolet Camaro for multiple races this season, beginning in Daytona. In addition to running the Fronius USA colors, Viva Motorsports has been outfitted with the latest welding technology from Fronius.

“We are very proud to be a part of NASCAR,” says Wolfgang Niedrist, CEO of Fronius USA. “This is a new and exciting time for our company. It shows our commitment to the US market. Fronius USA supports Viva Motorsports.”

Viva ended the 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series season 25th in owner’s points. Crew chief Mark Setzer and crew are busy preparing the No. 55 Fronius USA Camaro for the first superspeedway race of 2015.

“We are thrilled to have Fronius USA on board for the upcoming season, they are an outstanding company with outstanding products. We are excited to grow with them throughout 2015 and into the future,” said team owner Jamie Dick.

A driver announcement for the No. 55 Chevy Camaro will be released at a later date. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Wallace, Coon, Gold Join MRN Broadcast Team

Rusty Wallace
Motor Racing Network – launching its 46th year on the air – has announced the addition of Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace, former Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon and veteran voice Eli Gold to its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series lineup for the 2015 season.

Wallace, the 1989 Cup Series champion, was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in February 2013.  He’ll bring a driver’s perspective to MRN programming in 2015 with a presence during select race broadcasts and on weekly network shows, in additional to providing commentary and content at MRN.com.

Coon’s duties will include reports from pit road during the network’s Sprint Cup Series qualifying and pre-race shows, as well as interaction with fans via social media and on the air during MRN’s race coverage.  

Gold was a vital cog in the network’s formative years and is one of its most recognizable talents after more than three decades on the air.  He will host MRN’s pre-race and post-race coverage of the Sprint Cup Series, and provide in-race updates. 

Kim Coon
“The addition of Kim Coon and the return of Eli Gold to our Sprint Cup Series lineup bolsters a roster of broadcast and racing professionals who will continue to produce quality content as we head into our 46th year as ‘The Voice of NASCAR,’ ” said MRN President and Executive Producer David Hyatt.  “We welcome Rusty Wallace to MRN and the International Speedway Corporation family, and look forward to having him at many of our venues throughout the 2015 season.  As the broadcasting landscape changes and the digital platform continues to evolve, Motor Racing Network will navigate this ever-changing terrain with the best team in motor sports.”

Coon, a Florida native, spent four seasons (2011-2014) as Miss Sprint Cup and is one of only 11 ladies to fill that role.  She appeared at more events than any other Miss Sprint Cup in the history of the program.  Coon helped activate the series sponsor’s strategic plan through social media, broadcast channels and trackside events.  Her background includes marketing and public relations experience with Charlotte, N.C.-based agencies in the years preceding her stint with Sprint. Coon is a graduate of the University of Miami and earned a Master’s Degree in Communication from the University of Alabama in 2007.

Eli Gold
Gold has ties to the University of Alabama as the longtime radio voice of Crimson Tide football.  But to NASCAR fans, he’s best known for his work on the Motor Racing Network.  Since 1984, Gold has hosted “NASCAR Live” each Tuesday evening and will continue to do so as a complement to his new assignment in the Sprint Cup Series.

Motor Racing Network’s 2015 event broadcast schedule will begin Friday, Jan. 30, with exclusive radio coverage of the sixth annual NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony from Charlotte.  Air time will be 7 p.m. (EST) with live streaming at MRN.com.


Coon’s debut will follow with MRN’s coverage of Budweiser Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway, which will begin Feb. 13 and culminate with the 57th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 22.  Joe Moore and Jeff Striegle will anchor Motor Racing Network’s broadcast of “The Great American Race” starting at 12 p.m., also with live streaming at MRN.com.

Friday, January 23, 2015

NASCAR Hall Of Fame Profile: Joe Weatherly

This is the fourth in a series of profiles on the five members of the Class of 2015 of the NASCAR Hall Of Fame. The five will be inducted in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Jan. 30, in a ceremony to be broadcast live at 8 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network, Motor Racing Network Radio and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

Joe Weatherly’s time in NASCAR’s premier series was short, just two fulltime seasons. 
But what an impact the Norfolk, Virginia, native had on NASCAR racing in those brief, 24 months. 
Weatherly, previously a winner of American Motorcyclist Association and NASCAR modified titles, claimed back-to-back premier series championships in 1962-63. He posted 25 victories in 229 starts before his untimely death in January 1964 at Riverside (California) International Raceway. 
“He would have been as good as any that’s been along,” said one of Weatherly’s early car owners, the late, fellow Virginian Junie Donlavey. “He had quick reflexes and good equipment. He was just a natural born driver. 
“He would have been right there with all the greats. He was that good.” 
Weatherly also was one of the sport’s characters, a one-of-a-kind practical joker whose antics off the racing surface endeared him to fans and fellow competitors and earned him the nickname “Clown Prince of Racing.” A friendship quickly blossomed with NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Curtis Turner, another larger-than-life figure. The 5 feet 4 inch Weatherly and the lanky Turner made the perfect Mutt and Jeff pair.  
They raced hard and – according to legend – partied just as wide open. Both were reputed to have been black-listed by rental car companies for racing and wrecking numerous cars. 
“They were fearless on the track but also fearless as far as their habits and lifestyles,” said NASCAR Productions archivist Ken Martin in a Nov. 27, 2014 National Speed Sport News feature written by Ben White. “No one loved to throw a party more than Curtis. Joe was more the comedian and Curtis loved a good laugh.” 
Earl Swift, writing in Norfolk’s Virginian-Pilot in 2007, remembered Weatherly as “a rough-and-tumble Southern rogue. Weatherly was the archetype of the early NASCAR hero, an inveterate practical joker and hell raiser.” 
No surprise, Weatherly was voted the premier series’ Most Popular Driver in 1961. 
Joseph Herbert “Joe” Weatherly was born May 29, 1922. He served in World War II – as did his later car owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bud Moore – with the 809th Aviation Battalion Engineers of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Discharged in November 1945, Weatherly raced motorcycles from 1946 through 1950 winning a pair of AMA championships as well as the 1948 Laconia (New Hampshire) Classic that resulted in his posthumous induction into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 1998. 
“Little Joe,” as he’d became known, switched to stock cars telling a reporter for Consumer Guide, “I like having something between my head and the ground when I crash.” 
Weatherly proved to be a fast learner on four wheels. Between 1952 and 1953, he won 101 NASCAR Modified races as well as the division’s championships in 1953. Weatherly’s first premier division start came in Darlington Raceway’s 1952 Southern 500. He finished 16th driving Donlavey’s Hudson. 
Weatherly’s initial premier series victory came on Aug. 10, 1958 in the inaugural race at Nashville Speedway. He drove a Holman-Moody prepared Ford convertible in the “Sweepstakes” event that was open to both hard and soft top cars. Weatherly was no stranger to the open top cars winning 12 times in NASCAR’s short-lived convertible division. 
After winning the opening race of the 1961 season in Dr. Bradford “Doc” White’s Ford, Weatherly gave his competitors a taste of NASCAR’s future. Racing in just 25 of the schedule’s 52 events – most of them in Moore’s No. 8 Pontiac – Weatherly posted nine victories, good for a fourth-place championship finish behind champion Ned Jarrett, a NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2011 inductee. 
The duo stepped up for a full campaign in 1962. Weatherly again won nine times including his Daytona 500 qualifying race which, at the time, carried NASCAR premier series points. With 45 top-10 finishes in 52 starts, the 40-year-old Weatherly beat NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty by more than 2,000 points to become Virginia’s only premier series champion. Moore also captured his sole owner’s title. 
Moore reduced the team’s schedule in 1963 forcing Weatherly to beg and borrow cars from fellow competitors – frequently driving what politely could be called semi-competitive equipment. Weatherly persevered, winning three times and again bested Petty, who counted 14 trips to Victory Lane. What would be his last victory and 20th with Moore came at Hillsboro, North Carolina on Oct. 27. 
True to form, Weatherly quipped, “I had greater luck (than Petty), rather than greater skill. I was lucky to get rides when I needed them.” 
Weatherly’s luck ran out several months later in Southern California. Laps behind due to an early race mechanical problem, his No. 8 Mercury left the track entering Riverside’s Turn 6 and skidded into a steel retaining wall. Weatherly, without a shoulder harness or window net, died when his head struck the barrier.
Weatherly was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He previously was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, National Motorsports Hall of Fame and National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame. Darlington Raceway’s stock car racing museum was christened in Weatherly’s name upon its opening in 1965.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gordon Hailed After Landmark Announcement

The praise continues to roll in for four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon, who announced today that 2015 will mark his final season as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver. Here is a sampling of what is being said…
“Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race. We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season. His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe. Today’s announcement is a bittersweet one. I’ll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Jeff for his years of dedication and genuine love for this sport, and wish him the very best in his final season.” -- Brian France, NASCAR Chairman/CEO
“I think with the announcement of 2015 being Jeff Gordon’s last full-time year behind the wheel, we all need to stop and say ‘thank you Jeff’. His contributions to this sport are so numerous it would be a blanket ‘thank you’ for everything. Primarily he helped to take NASCAR to another level. He was a young kid from the Midwest with a lot of potential, coming in here in 1993, starting his career when our “King” was winding his up. He arrived on the scene at a perfect time. I looked at his stats here at Martinsville and was truly shocked. I knew he was good here but not until I saw his record did I realize just how good he is here. Forty-four starts, eight wins, 35 Top-10s, 28 Top-5s, no DNFs and out of the 44 starts he led in 34 of them. That is an amazing record. Jeff Gordon is a class act and I wish him the best this year as well as whatever the future holds for him.” -- Clay Campbell, President, Martinsville Speedway
“Jeff Gordon is an incredible competitor, leader and ambassador for Chevrolet and motorsports. He has contributed so much – not only on the track with his 92 wins and four championships, but also away from the track as a businessman, with the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, and more importantly, as a husband and father. He is a champion, and he has been a great friend. We are proud of our relationship with Jeff, and, just like all of his fans, we look forward to watching him compete for one more championship. We wish Jeff and his family – Ingrid, Ella and Leo – all of the best.” -- Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain
“As promoters we are supposed to be neutral observers, but given his local roots and the tremendous success he’s had at our track, I must admit Jeff Gordon has always been looked upon as the home team around here.  If he were to win our race in June on his way to his fifth Sprint Cup Series championship, it would likely be a huge cause for celebration among our local race fans.  We look forward to helping Jeff celebrate the culmination of a remarkable sports career.” -- Steve Page, President/General Manager, Sonoma Raceway

"I've known Jeff since he was a teenager with a really bad mustache. It has been thrilling to watch him develop from a promising Busch Series driver into perhaps the greatest professional our sport has ever seen. Jeff showed last season that he still has a burning desire to win races and championships. You won't find a finer professional, person or charitable athlete.  We have been fortunate to be associated with him for all of these years. I'm sure all fans, even of the other drivers, will want to show their appreciation to Jeff this year." -- Eddie Gossage,President, Texas Motor Speedway 



“Jeff Gordon’s significance to our sport cannot be overstated. He is an incredible competitor, and a favorite of millions of fans. His contributions throughout his career to NASCAR have elevated our sport’s popularity worldwide. On behalf of the France family and ISC, I thank him for those contributions and wish him the best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career – and his life. We all look forward to watching him take the green flag for his last full-time season, beginning with the DAYTONA 500.” -- Lesa France Kennedy, CEO, International Speedway Corporation

“Jeff Gordon is a great champion and a tremendous ambassador for NASCAR. He is truly a class act who played an integral role in helping to broaden the appeal of our sport. Jeff has always had a large fan-following at our race, and we look forward to celebrating his accomplishments prior to the Ford EcoBoost 400 on November 22 as he concludes his full-time Sprint Cup Series career at Homestead-Miami Speedway.” -- Matthew Becherer, President, Homestead Miami Speedway