Monday, February 08, 2016

Theriault To Daytona With Brad Keselowski Racing

Brad Keselowski Racing announced today that Austin Theriault will drive a third entry for the organization in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season-opening race on February 19 at Daytona International Speedway. 

"I'm really excited and can't wait to get back to Daytona," Theriault said.  "I can't thank Brad enough for this opportunity.  I'm going there with the expectation to win and I'll do whatever it takes to get the checkered flag."

Theriault will drive the No. 2 Ford F-150 in the NextEra Energy Resources 250, joining full-time drivers Tyler Reddick and Daniel Hemric, with Buddy Sisco serving as crew chief.  The Fort Kent, Maine native is quick to point out the advantages of having an additional teammate at Daytona.

"I'm looking forward to working with both Tyler and Daniel," Theriault said.  "Hopefully we can help each other stay in the top five throughout the race and be in position to challenge for the win.  It will be a big help to have another teammate at Daytona."  

Theriault made his NCWTS debut in 2015 with Brad Keselowski Racing at Daytona.  He scored an impressive fourth-place finish, leading the race once for nine laps after starting fourth and finishing with a driver rating of 110.2.  He made nine NCWTS starts for BKR in 2015, claiming two top five and four top 10 finishes.  Theriault spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as part of BKR's driver development program, running a partial schedule in the Southern Super Late Model Series while working full-time in the team's shop.   

Buddy Sisco is a native of Nashville, Tenn., and began his racing career in 1981.  He has served as crew chief for numerous organizations during his career, most recently at Michael Waltrip Racing.  He joined BKR in 2013 and is currently a special projects coordinator and liaison between the 19 and 29 teams.     

"You always want to run well at Daytona and I think we have an excellent chance to do that with Austin," Sisco said.  "He's a student of the game and there are so many things you don't have to teach him.  We've made changes here at BKR and feel like everything about our Ford F-150 trucks is even better than they were last year.  Our teammates are running for the championship and won't take as many risks but we can get outside the box a little bit and try some different things setup-wise to see if it pays any benefits." 

Villeneuve To Run Limited XFINITY Series Slate

Former IndyCar and Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve is apparently ready to make a return to the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2016, with a new operation named Wingnut Racing.  

Villeneuve parted company with the Venturi Formula E team recently, after failing to score points in each of the season’s first three rounds. The Quebec native was replaced by Brit Mike Conway, who finished 15th in an 18-car Buenos Aires field. 

Wingnut Racing will reportedly field a K1 Speed-sponsored Nissan GT-R for Villeneuve in the Pirelli World Challenge Series, as well as six unspecified NXS events.  

Villeneuve has not commented on the new deal. At the time of his parting from the Venturi Formula E operation, he told Motorsports.com, “"I did not leave to switch to another series. I have no other plans at the moment, (but) the current situation will allow me to work on other projects. I am a race car driver and my objective is to race." 

Alsco Director of Sales and Marketing Jim Divers confirmed Villeneuve’s new plan, however, saying, “We will partner with Wingnut for one race in the 2016 XFINITY Series as a primary sponsor and will be an associate partner with them for an additional five races this year. Jacques Villeneuve is a proven winner in motorsports and we look forward to being with him in Victory Lane.” 

The Montreal native has not competed in NASCAR since finishing 41st in the Toyota/Save Mart 350 Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma in June of 2013 for car owner James Finch. The previous year, he made a pair of XFINITY Series starts in Team Penske’s potent No. 22 Dodge, finishing sixth at Road America and third in Montreal on the circuit named for his late father, Gilles. 

In 20 career NASCAR National Series starts, Villeneuve has often drawn the ire of his fellow racers for overaggressive driving. After being unceremoniously dumping by Villeneuve at Road America in 2012, Danica Patrick spoke for many in the NASCAR garage when she said, “it's hard to have a lot of respect for somebody like that. I respect what he's done in his career, but the way he treats other drivers on the track, I can't.” 

Clint Bowyer once called Villeneuve, "a train wreck. An extremely fast train (that) usually ends up derailed.” 

It will be interesting to see what kind of reception Villeneuve receives, if and when he makes an appearance in the NASCAR garage

BREAKING NEWS: NASCAR Expected To Announce New Charter System Tomorrow

NASCAR has scheduled a “major announcement” for tomorrow at 1:30 pm ET at the NASCAR Convention Center in uptown Charlotte, NC.

At that time, NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France and other key industry executives are expected to announce a new, charter-based ownership system that will govern the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2016 and beyond.
The system has been in the negotiating stage for months now, and is believed to include guaranteed starting spots in all Sprint Cup Series races for teams that have competed full-time in recent seasons. Sources say the starting field could also be trimmed to 40 cars – from the current 43 – with a limited number of starting spots left open for non-charter holding teams.

Austin Hill Announces Limited Truck Series Schedule

Austin Hill will compete in more than half the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races this season.

 The 21-year-old driver, who finished third in the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East championship standings, will kick-off his part-time Truck Series schedule at Daytona International Speedway in the ARCO Design/Build Ford F-150 for Empire Racing Group.  He will then move over to his own race team – Austin Hill Racing – for the remainder of his season.   
I’m very excited about this season and transitioning Austin Hill Racing into a Camping World Truck Series team,” said Hill.  “We are going to be doing it like we did the K&N Series with the guys that we used last year. We’re just trying to step up the ranks.  I feel like this move will be a good stepping stone for us as a team, and I want to go out there and prove that we belong in this series.”   
Hill, a Winston, Ga. native, is set to enter the field at tracks including Atlanta, Dover, Kentucky, Bristol, Texas. 
My goal has always been to run up front and hopefully get a couple of wins,” said Hill.  “To get one win this season in the Truck Series would be awesome, with it being a top-three series in NASCAR.  I’m looking to at least get one win and a good Top-10 finish week-in and week-out as long as we don’t have any big problems. We have a good truck. Now, we just have to have the right setup under us to make it happen.” 
Veteran crew chief Doug Chouinard, who previously partnered with Hill in the K&N Pro Series, will guide the rookie competitor in this next level of his career. 
Doug has been in the sport for a long time,” said Hill.  “He ran with Todd Bodine when he ran the No. 30 Toyota Tundra. He’s got a lot of knowledge and I’ve already learned a lot from him.”  
Hill has competed in six NCWTS races over the past two years.  In his first start, Hill led 21 of 200 laps at Martinsville in 2014.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Sources: Stewart Walking, Eyeing Late-May Return

Tony Stewart still faces a long and difficult road to recovery, but roughly 48 hours after undergoing spinal stabilization surgery, informed sources say the Indiana native is progressing well in his rehabilitation.  

Stewart suffered a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra Sunday in a sand buggy incident in the California desert. He was transported to a local hospital and evaluated, before being flown to North Carolina facility Tuesday for further evaluation.  

The three-time Sprint Cup Series champion underwent surgery Wednesday to remove dangerous bone fragments from the area of the fracture and stabilize the affected vertebra. While many victims of burst fractures are forced to wear a stabilizing brace for 2-3 months post-op, the procedure performed on Stewart reportedly will not require a brace.  

In fact, sources say Stewart was on his feet and walking by Friday. Sources close to the situation say that on the advice of his doctors, Stewart and his team have set a tentative return date of May 21, the day of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.  

Stewart is highly unlikely to return earlier than that, and his timeline for return could easily be pushed back, depending on the success of his rehabilitation program.  

With opening practice for the non-point Sprint Unlimited at Daytona set for next Friday at 5 pm ET, Stewart Haas Racing is expected to name Stewart’s replacement in the next few days.

Sorenson To Daytona With MB Motorsports Truck Team

Reed Sorenson will team with MB Motorsports and Theme Park Connection for the season-opening NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway.

This will mark Sorenson's first-ever Truck Series start. The 30-year-old Peachtree City, Ga. native has competed at the NASCAR national level since 2004. He is a winner of four NASCAR XFINITY Series races and made 234 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

"This is a really solid opportunity for me and the whole MB Motorsports team to score a win at Daytona,” said Sorenson. “Having worked with Theme Park Connection in the past, I know they're great partners. I'm grateful for the team and Theme Park Connection allowing me the chance to go Truck racing."


MB Motorsports owner Mike Mittler said he looks forward to starting the season, adding, "Daytona is our biggest race of the season and having Reed in our truck gives us about as good of a chance as we've ever had at winning it. We're thrilled that Theme Park Connection has joined us for the event. They've been a great partner so far, and we hope to put on a heck of a show for them." 

Theme Park Connection is the worldwide leader in Disney collectables and entertainment memorabilia, carrying rare and unique items from theme parks and attractions around the world. Now featuring NASCAR memorabilia, TPC offers fans of auto racing the opportunity to build their own collection. For more information, visit themeparkconnection.com.

"Being based in Central Florida, we consider Daytona our home racetrack and are excited to watch Reed Sorenson drive the Theme Park Connection Silverado,” said Brian Ramsey, General Manager of Theme Park Connection. “Theme Park Connection already has an extensive collection of Disney and NASCAR memorabilia, but we're always happy to collect trophies. We'll be rooting for Reed and the MB Motorsports team to pull through with a victory."
Trip Bruce will serve as crew chief for Sorenson's No. 63 Theme Park Connection Chevrolet Silverado.

Tifft To JGR For 13-Race XFINITY Slate

Ohio-native Matt Tifft will drive a 13-race schedule in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota Camry on the NASCAR XFINITY Series.

The 19-year old driver has 16 career starts in NASCAR’s top-three national series over the last two seasons, while running a limited schedule in both the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. Tifft has earned six Top-10 finishes in Camping World Truck Series competition, along with a Top-10 XFINITY Series result in 2015. He has also raced competitively in NASCAR’s K&N Pro West, K&N Pro East and ARCA Series, as well as the X-1R Pro Cup Series.
In 2015, Tifft made his first career XFNITY Series start at Kentucky Speedway in September. In what he described as a learning experience, he started 16th and made steady gains through the race, finishing 10th.
Tifft’s 2016 XFINITY Series schedule will kick off at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway on April 23 and continues for a total of 13 scheduled races including: Dover International Speedway (May 14), Iowa Speedway (June 19), Daytona International Speedway (July 1), New Hampshire International Speedway (July 16), Iowa Speedway (July 30), Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (August 13), Bristol Motor Speedway (August 19), Road America (August 27), Kentucky Speedway (September 24), Charlotte Motor Speedway (October 7), Texas Motor Speedway (November 5) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (November 19). 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to work with Joe Gibbs Racing for the 2016 season,” said Tifft. “I feel after our run last year at Kentucky that this is a great fit for me with an outstanding and well-respected organization, and I look forward to a very exciting and successful year driving the No. 18 Toyota Camry.”
Over the years, Joe Gibbs Racing has encouraged young drivers to gain experience by developing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck and NASCAR XFINITY Series. In recent years, names such as Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones have proven the JGR program successful. In 2015, Suarez earned NASCAR’s Rookie of the Year honor while finishing fifth in the XFINITY Series’ driver ranking. Jones captured the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship in 2015 and earned two victories while driving a part-time XFINITY Series schedule. Both Suarez and Jones will compete full-time in the XFINITY Series in 2016, affording Tifft the opportunity to continue to learn alongside them.  
Executive Vice President of XFINITY Series Operations at Joe Gibbs Racing, Steve DeSouza commented on Tifft’s signing, saying, “We take a lot of pride in using our XFINITY Series program to develop talent. That not only includes our drivers, but crew chiefs and our team personnel as well. It’s great to have Matt expand his program with us in 2016 and have the opportunity to run alongside Erik and Daniel for a good portion of the season. When you add Cody Coughlin to our roster, who will drive part-time in the Truck Series with KBM, we feel fortunate to have so much young talent in our system.”  
“I am very excited to work again with Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Kyle Busch,” added Tifft. “Last year, they helped me a ton with development, and I will continue to try and advance my career by drawing on the experience and talent of those around me. Hopefully I can also help them in some ways as well. I look forward to a very exciting and successful year driving the No. 18 Camry, and can't wait to get this year started!
Tifft is also a second-year student at the University of North Carolina, majoring in business management.

Primary sponsorships will be announced at a later date.

Cessna To Back JR Motorsports

JR Motorsports and Cessna Aircraft Company have announced that Cessna will serve as the official business jet of Dale Earnhardt Jr. As part of the agreement, JRM’s No. 88 Chevrolet will carry the Cessna brand as primary sponsor in six races during 2016 NASCAR Xfinity Series with drivers Alex Bowman and Cole Custer. 

“We are looking forward to representing Cessna on both the business and competition front,” said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. “Cessna is a strong and leading brand and our business strategies complement one another. Together we have a unique partnership with tremendous potential for growth.”

Cessna will also receive associate placement on the No. 88 driven by Earnhardt, Jr. in two NXS events at Texas Motor Speedway (April 8) and Richmond International Raceway (April 23). 

“Cessna Citation business jets are designed for speed and efficiency, two trademarks valued by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team at JR Motorsports. We’re looking forward to the relationship with JRM that will demonstrate those qualities as Dale travels in the Citation this season to races and events across the country,” said Scott Ernest, president and CEO of Textron Aviation.

Bowman and Custer will drive the No. 88 Cessna Chevrolet Camaro in six races, with Bowman competing at Michigan International Speedway (June 11) and Iowa Speedway (June 19). The Tucson, Ariz., native will also drive the Cessna entry at Richmond International Raceway (Sept. 9), Dover International Speedway (Oct. 1) and Phoenix International Raceway (Nov. 12).
 

Custer, who competes full time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for JRM, will race the Cessna machine in one of his five NXS starts with the organization this season, at Kentucky Speedway (July 8).

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Experts Say Stewart Was Lucky

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Stewart sustained a burst fracture of his L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident Sunday while vacationing in California. He was transported to a local hospital and evaluated before being flown to a Charlotte, NC-area hospital Tuesday evening. He underwent surgery Wednesday, and will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time. 

Make no mistake about it, the injury was a crushing blow for Stewart and his race team. But looking at the big picture, Tony Stewart is a very lucky man. 

Medical experts familiar with burst fractures – though not Stewart’s particular case – say his injury was extremely severe. The result of high-energy vertical loads, burst fractures compress the vertebra and cause it – quite literally – to explode. Fragments of bone can then penetrate the surrounding soft tissues and spinal canal, often causing permanent damage to the spinal cord and irreversible paralysis. 

Stewart reportedly has both feeling and function in all four extremities, meaning that he – quite literally – dodged a bullet. He has undergone surgery to stabilize the break, and now begins a lengthy process of healing and rehabilitation. 

Wednesday’s surgery likely involved removal of bone fragments, along with stabilization of the affected vertebra. This is accomplished in one of two ways; the first being spinal fusion surgery, where two or more vertebra are permanently immobilized with titanium plates or implants. In rarer cases, the fractured vertebra is completely replaced with artificial or cadaver bone. Experts say that type of procedure is less likely to be performed on a person as young and active as Stewart, since no long-term studies have been done to determine the long-term stability of that type of repair. 

Stewart’s timeline for recovery will be measured in months, rather than weeks. Patients typically spend 2-3 months in a lumbar brace, before being cleared to return to light duty. “Light duty” for an office worker might include spending half days in the cubicle for a week or two.  

Unfortunately, there is no “light duty” in NASCAR.  

Stewart’s shattered vertebra must be allowed to fully and completely heal before he even thinks of climbing back through the window of a race car, lest a bump in traffic, a sudden stop or – God forbid – a high-speed crash leave him with permanent, paralyzing injuries. 

Stewart will almost certainly be treated aggressively, by the foremost experts in the field. Even with the best possible treatment, however, he is unlikely to see the inside of a racecar again for many weeks.  

The good news is, when he’s ready to leave the hospital, he’ll walk out on his own two feet, rather than in a wheelchair.

Stewart Out After Undergoing Back Surgery

Tony Stewart will miss the start of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season after suffering a burst fracture of the L1 vertebra in an all-terrain vehicle accident in California on Sunday.

“Stewart was transported to a local hospital following the non-racing accident and promptly evaluated,” said Stewart Haas Racing in a prepared statement today. “He was awake and alert throughout the process and able to move all of his extremities. Stewart flew to North Carolina Tuesday evening and was admitted to a Charlotte-area hospital for further evaluation. On Wednesday, he underwent surgery.”

There is currently no timetable for Stewart’s return, but experts familiar with his type of injury say the recuperation be measured in months, rather than weeks. In normal cases, patients with burst fractures wear an immobilizing lumbar brace for 2-3 months, followed by light duty. There is no “light duty” for stock car racers, especially with a type of injury that could be compounded dramatically by additional impact.

He is expected to return to the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at some point during the 2016 season. No replacement driver has been named.

COMMENTARY: Stewart's Injury Gives Owners Cause For Concern

Stewart's timeline remains unclear


Tony Stewart suffered a burst fracture of his first lumbar vertebra Sunday while driving an off-road sand buggy in the California desert. He was transported to a local hospital and evaluated; awake and alert throughout the process and able to move all of his extremities. The former Sprint Cup Series champion flew to North Carolina Tuesday evening and was admitted to a Charlotte-area hospital, where he underwent surgery.  

Stewart will now miss the start of the Sprint Cup Series season in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway. A timetable for his return has not been determined, but his Stewart Haas Racing team says he is expected to return to competition in 2016.  

Stewart’s injury has once again focused the spotlight on NASCAR’s contractual policies, and what drivers are (and are not) allowed to do in their free time.

Professional sports franchises generally look to protect their investment by forbidding highly paid athletes from taking part in certain high-risk activities. In the National Basketball Association, standard player contracts specifically prohibit boxing, professional wrestling, motorcycles, mopeds, auto racing, skydiving and hang-gliding. NBA contracts expressly permit such tamer pursuits as swimming, hiking, golf, tennis, handball, softball and volleyball. 
The National Football League’s uniform player contract prohibits players from “any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.” Unfortunately, the word “significant” is open to significant debate and interpretation. One man’s hobby – say, wheeling a fire-breathing 410-cubic inch Sprint Car around a high-banked dirt track – is another man’s insanity. And what one team owner considers perfectly reasonable, another might forbid outright.
"Smoke" has been hurt before
Despite the use of standardized base contracts, NBA and NFL team owners can also add more specific language to individual agreements, as needed. Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant is infamous for his rambunctious personal life, and in the aftermath of repeated incidents of boorish behavior, the Cowboys mandated a strict “no-alcohol, no-strip club” policy in his 2012 contract, along with a midnight curfew. Those clauses reportedly remain in effect, to this day.
Major League Baseball teams are more specific in their guidelines. The New York Yankees once banned log-rolling in their standard player contracts, while the Washington Nationals routinely forbid players from piloting airplanes. 
In December of 1967, Boston Red Sox pitcher Jim Lonborg inadvertently added new verbiage to his teammates’ contracts when he tore ligaments in his left knee while skiing, just weeks after winning the American League Cy Young Award and finishing sixth in Most Valuable Player balloting. Lonborg was plagued by injury for the remainder of his career, winning only 27 games from 1968 to 1971.
In the 1990s, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken negotiated a clause in his contract allowing him to play pick-up basketball during the offseason; an activity in which other players were expressly prohibited from taking part in. Ripken, who built a basketball court in his home, called basketball an important part of his off-season conditioning program. For their part, the Orioles had a difficult time convincing anyone that Ripken -- the all-time record holder in consecutive games played -- comprised a significant risk of injury.
Compared to the so-called “stick and ball” sports, less is known about driver contracts in NASCAR. In our sport, drivers and teams function as independent contractors, with no commissioner or players’ union to negotiate on their behalf. As a result, drivers and teams are under no obligation to publicize the specifics of their respective deals.
A new, charter-based ownership model – if it occurs – will not alter that dynamic. Neither the Race Team Alliance nor the newly formed NASCAR Drivers’ Council function as unions, per se. Neither is authorized to negotiate contracts on behalf of its members, meaning that agreements between drivers and teams will remain private for the foreseeable future.
It is believed, however, that most NASCAR teams already include some sort of language in driver contracts, restricting hazardous off-track activity. We don’t see it, because the contracts are private. But like a ship passing in the night, it’s there.
One NASCAR national series driver, speaking on the condition of anonymity, recalled being forbidden to race anything not owned by his respective team owner. Unhappy, with that restriction, the driver requested that specific language be placed in his ensuing contracts, outlining exactly what was – and was not – allowed.
In most circumstances, a driver injured while taking part in an unapproved, off-track activity will also not be paid until he/she is healed, healthy and able to return. That, along with a high degree of responsibility to sponsors, keeps most NASCAR drivers on the straight and narrow, most of the time.
Clearly, however, accidents do still happen. And with hundreds of millions of dollars invested in a specific athlete, sponsors are not anxious to have their driver sidelined for any length of time.
Frisbee. No kidding.
In the aftermath of Sunday’s incident, Stewart will now miss at least a portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule for the third time in the last four seasons. In August of 2013, the Indiana native lost significant time after suffering a compound fracture of his right leg in a Sprint Car crash at an Iowa dirt track. One year later, Stewart’s Sprint Car struck and killed driver Kevin Ward, Jr., on an upstate New York dirt oval. The former series champion sat out a number of races following that incident, as well, and has struggled to return to competitive form since.
While Stewart’s sponsors have been overwhelmingly supportive through his hard times, make no mistake about it. They do not relish the possibility of beginning the 2016 campaign with “Smoke” on the sidelines.
Sponsors wield a great deal of clout in NASCAR, and Stewart is a perfect example of their influence. The Stewart Haas Racing driver has not strapped into a winged Sprint Car since Aug. 9, 2014, the night of Ward’s death. The psychological trauma associated with that incident certainly played a role in his decision to withdraw, for a time. But near the end of last season, as Stewart announced his impending retirement from NASCAR, he immediately declared his intention to “do a whole lot of Sprint Car racing” once again in 2017.
Stewart’s hiatus from Sprint Cars clearly has been at the request of his sponsors, as evidenced by his anxiousness to return immediately to the dirt tracks, once his NASCAR career is over. Freed from his multi-million dollar sponsor and team obligations, Stewart will soon get back to doing what he wants to do, instead of what he has to do.
Stewart is not the only NASCAR driver to be sidelined by off-track injury. Denny Hamlin has undergone two reconstructive knees surgeries in recent seasons; the result of his penchant for pickup basketball. Carl Edwards suffered a broken right foot while playing frisbee in late 2009, while multi-time series champion Jimmie Johnson broke his arm falling off a golf cart in 2010.
While golf and frisbee are unlikely to be added to the list of dangerous activities banned by NASCAR team owners, it will be interesting to see whether Stewart’s latest off-track incident affects the way NASCAR does business, going forward.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Hayley Confirmed For Fourth ThorSport Toyota

Calgary native Cameron Hayley will return to ThorSport Racing and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, piloting the No. 13 Cabinets by Hayley Toyota Tundra. Hayley, who competed for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in 2015, finished sixth in the championship point standings, amassing four Top-five and 13 Top-10 finishes.  

“I’m expecting big things out of my ThorSport Racing team in 2016,” said Hayley. “Last year was a big learning year for me; whether it was learning the race tracks or learning how to drive these Tundras. I plan to build on the experience I gained in my first full-time season and be a strong contender for Victory Lane, each and every week. I’ll have a new crew chief and team this year, but everyone is hungry to win. I think this can be a championship-contending season for me. I can't thank Duke and Rhonda Thorson enough for allowing me to drive their Tundras for a second season, and I look for a lot of good things to come.” 

Hayley’s 2016 campaign will be led by crew chief, Eddie Troconis. Troconis, who has an engineering background, spent the last three NCWTS seasons as a race engineer at Kyle Busch Motorsports, working with drivers Christopher Bell, Gray Gaulding and Matt Tift.

Hayley will complete the roster for the Sandusky, Ohio-based team, joining two-time NCWTS champion; Matt Crafton, who will pilot the No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra; Ben Rhodes, driver of the No. 41 Alpha Energy Solutions Toyota Tundra and Rico Abreu, who will pilot the No. 98 CURB Records Toyota Tundra.  

Furniture Row Bucks NASCAR Trend; Roots For Broncos In Super Bowl 50

Once again, Furniture Row Racing finds itself in a precarious position among the teams it competes with in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.  

While other Sprint Cup teams – most of them based in the Carolinas -- are cheering for the Carolina Panthers in Sunday’s Super Bowl 50, Denver-based Furniture Row Racing will be rooting for its hometown team, the Denver Broncos. 

"Denver is our town, the Broncos are our football team and the excitement level is peaking at our Furniture Row race shop for the big game," said team president Joe Garone. "When we qualified for our Super Bowl -- the Championship 4 at Homestead -- (Broncos executive vice president/general manager) John Elway sent a tweet wishing us good luck. It's our turn to reciprocate."  

Garone added, "We love Charlotte, the racing hub of NASCAR, but for a few hours on Super Bowl Sunday the NFL team from Charlotte will be our adversary. We won't divulge names, but along with the champion Cup driver, there are some other rabid Broncos fans residing in the Charlotte area." 

In less than a week after Super Bowl 50, Furniture Row Racing and driver Martin Truex Jr. will be back in action with the opening race of Daytona Speedweeks – the non-points Sprint Unlimited on Saturday night, Feb. 13.  The Daytona 500 is set for Sunday, Feb. 21.  

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Cole Whitt To Premium Motorsports

Premium Motorsports has signed Cole Whitt to drive its No. 98 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car this season. The 24-year-old Whitt, who will be entering his third full season in the series, finished 31st in driver points in each of the last two seasons. 

“We believe Cole is an accomplished young driver who drives aggressively, yet smart,” said team owner Jay Robinson. “He’s a great fit for our team as we look to improve our competitiveness in the Sprint Cup Series.”

This off season, Premium made several strategic moves to upgrade the team and its race cars. On the competition side, Premium acquired additional updated equipment, along with hiring Mike Hillman to fill the role of competition director and Mark Hillman to serve as crew chief. They join team manager Scott Eggleston to round out the Premium Motorsports management team.

“Jay and the crew at Premium Motorsports impressed me with their vision for the future and commitment to making the No. 98 car competitive week in and week out,” said Whitt. “I look forward to being a big part of the family atmosphere at Premium and having a successful start at the Daytona 500 in a few weeks.”

In 2008, Whitt became the youngest winner of the USAC National Midget Championship. He switched to NASCAR in 2010 to run a full season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, before running full seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011 and the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2012. He finished in the Top-10 in driver points both years

Many of Whitt's previous Sprint Cup Series sponsors are expected to support him again in 2016, with more details to be released at a later date.

Stewart Injured In Off Road Crash

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart is hospitalized today with an unspecified back injury sustained Sunday afternoon in what a spokesman termed a “non-racing incident.” 

A statement issued by Stewart Haas Racing said Stewart was transported to an undisclosed local hospital following the Sunday incident and is currently being evaluated. He is awake, alert and able to move all extremities. No further update is expected until Thursday afternoon, when more information is known. 

Sources speaking on the condition of anonymity said the 44-year old Stewart attended the Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale, Arizona Saturday, then joined a number of friends for an off-roading excursion in the Arizona desert the following day. He was reportedly injured while driving an all-terrain vehicle – believed to be an ATV or off-road “sand buggy” -- a pastime popular with many NASCAR drivers.  

Stewart is preparing for his final season as a Sprint Cup Series driver, having announced his impending retirement late last season. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France commented on the news today, saying, “"We have received word from Stewart-Haas Racing of Tony Stewart’s accident and injury. On behalf of everyone at NASCAR, I wish Tony a full recovery and look forward to seeing him back in our sport when he's ready to return."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Darlington Announces Retro Southern 500 Tickets

When fans received their Darlington Raceway tickets in the mail last season, the throwback look commemorating the track’s 1974 ticket was enough to bring back nostalgic memories.  

In the second year of its throwback campaign, Darlington has announced that it will once again commemorate the sport’s rich history with a retro-style ticket for its events on September 2-4, 2016. 

The retro design will mimic the look of the ticket from the 1978 Southern 500. It features South Carolina native and Darlington Raceway legend David Pearson, the track’s all-time leader in  Cup Series wins with 10 victories. Similar to last season, the ticket will also link eras by honoring last year’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 winner, Carl Edwards, in a similar fashion. 

“The retro-style ticket was one of many touchpoints fans enjoyed during last season’s throwback festivities,” track President Chip Wile said. “We felt that it was important to continue to honor our rich history with a tremendous champion like David Pearson, while also celebrating last year’s winner Carl Edwards, on the ticket.” 

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. Tickets are expected to be mailed to customers in mid-June. 

Ticket renewals have been mailed reminding fans to renew their seats for the 2016 Labor Day race weekend. Renewing early guarantees seats at the track’s best prices prior to the opening of all remaining seats to the general public on February 17. 

“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 for Labor Day weekend, which will feature another exciting throwback celebration in 2016.” 

Renewing customers receive a number of benefits, including the raceway’s best pricing for Labor Day weekend. Other benefits include a five-part payment plan, special renewal pricing for Darlington Stripe Zone Hospitality ($30 savings), special renewal pricing for pre-race pit passes ($5 savings) and a $10 savings on all-inclusive driver intros, pre-race concert and pre-race pit road access.  

In addition, renewing fans will receive special pricing for FanVision rentals ($15 savings) and Racing Electronics scanner rental ($10 savings), in addition to an opportunity to purchase NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 tickets for just $25 each when renewing a Bojangles’ Southern 500 ticket package. 

Guests may renew their tickets and campsites by calling 866-459-RACE (7223) or visiting www.DarlingtonRaceway.com/renewals. The renewal deadline is Friday, Feb. 5.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

COMMENTARY: Godspeed, Barney Hall

We knew this day was coming. But still, we weren’t ready. 

Barney Hall passed away yesterday from complications following a recent medical procedure. He died in his hometown of Elkin, North Carolina, where he was born and lived his entire life. Barney was a small-town boy in the purest sense of the term, and the values he learned in a town that rarely topped 4,000 residents served him well in his 83 years. 

Barney knew everyone, but his circle of true friends was relatively small. He made a living with his voice, but was shockingly shy and soft-spoken. It took time to get to know Barney, but to be his friend was well worth the wait. In his career as a broadcaster, he earned enough awards and honors to fill a dozen mantels.  

He was one of a handful of broadcasters good enough to be identified specifically with his sport. Like Vin Scully in baseball or the late Dick Irvin in hockey, Barney Hall was NASCAR. 

But as I mourn Barney’s passing today, I don’t think of the awards and honors. 

I think of Barney Hall, the man.

Barney was born to call stock car racing. From his early days on a tiny Elkin AM station to the modern era of NASCAR, his smooth-as-silk baritone and understated style served as safe harbor in a sport awash in hyperbole. He began as a public address announcer at local, North Carolina short tracks, and soon graduated to the PA microphone at Bristol Motor Speedway, pulling down the princely sum of $75 for a weekend’s work.

When Bill France, Jr., needed voices to broadcast the inaugural Daytona 500 on a daisy-chain network of southeastern radio stations in 1959, Barney was one of the first to sign-on. His voice became instantly familiar to race fans across the south – as comfortable as a favorite pair of slippers -- and when the Motor Racing Network was chartered in 1970, Barney was there as its lead turn announcer.

Pick a landmark moment in the history of the NASCAR since then, and Barney Hall was there to provide the sound track.

In an era when drivers and media members traveled together, shared hotels and patronized the same after-hours establishments, Barney was the ultimate NASCAR insider. He traveled with Hall Of Fame driver David Pearson for many years, riding shotgun in Pearson’s private airplane and eventually becoming an accomplished pilot himself. His relationship with flight service meteorologists around the country made him the go-to guy for the latest race track weather forecast, and his stories of NASCAR “back in the day” were poignant, gripping and often hysterical. Dinner with Barney Hall, especially on a night when he could be convinced to indulge in an amaretto sour or two, were events not to be missed.

MRN president David Hyatt called Barney "perhaps the most trusted reporter of his day.” And in all our years working together, I never knew him to break a confidence. When controversy reared its ugly head – as it often does in professional sports – crewmembers, fans and members of the media would flock to Barney in search of the inside scoop.

“What’s really going on, Barney?” they’d ask.

“Aw, it’ll all come out in the wash,” he’d reply, before slowly meandering away.  Another secret kept safe, forever.

I learned a lot from Barney about how to operate in the NASCAR garage, how to cultivate relationships and treat people properly.

“You talk to a lot of people,” he told me, many years ago. “I see you in the garage. People tell you things because they trust you, and because they know you won’t throw them under the bus to get a scoop.

“That’s a good way to do business,” he counseled. ”A scoop lasts 24 hours, if you’re lucky. But if you ruin a man’s deal by talking about it too soon, he’ll never tell you anything again.”

Barney brokered dozens of deals over the years, matching at-liberty drivers with team owners in search of talent.

“You really should go talk to that guy,” he’d say. And in a matter of hours, the deal was done.

Barney’s impeccable advice made him a mentor to many of us who make our livings covering NASCAR. His soaring example made us better, more conscientious broadcasters; better prepared, always thinking of the listeners, always striving for more.

In recent years, the steady encroachment of age and illness made life on the road difficult for Barney. Commercial air travel – exhausting for people half his age – took a heavy toll, as did separation from his beloved Karen; his chief organizer, supporter, cheerleader and the love of his life for the last 35 years. 

Barney’s impossibly high standards made him his own worst critic, and in recent seasons, he complained privately that while he knew exactly what he wanted to say, the connection between his brain and his vocal chords had slowed. The same words that had flowed so effortlessly -- for so long -- now came more slowly. Or sometimes, not at all. 

Most of us barely noticed. Barney’s “bad broadcasts” were still 50-percent better than we mere mortals could muster. But to him, it was an unconscionable decline. In his final season of 2014, Barney would often seek me out after a race, apologizing for what he considered a sub-par performance.  

“You bailed me out a few times today,” he’d say. “Thank you for that.” 

My response was always the same. 

“Barney, you’ve bailed us out for 50 years. If I can throw you a line every decade or so, it’s the least I can do.” 

Barney called his final race in July of 2014 at Daytona International Speedway, a fitting farewell for a man who – by his own count – broadcast 154 race events at “The World Center of Racing.” In 2003, he missed his first Daytona 500 broadcast when his beloved mother passed away during Speedweeks. When we traveled from Daytona Beach to Elkin to attend her wake and comfort him in his time of grief, Barney was predictably apologetic, feeling he was “letting us down” by missing the biggest race of the year. 

Barney, you never let us down. Not once. 

You were our anchor, our leader and the man we relied upon – in good times and bad – for more than half a century. You steered our ship through sometimes angry seas, charting a course that was unfailingly professional, compassionate, correct and sincere.  

You taught us to pull together, covering each other’s mistakes and making the next man in line look better; all for the good of the broadcast. 

You taught us the value of truth, honesty and respect. Of gentleness, humility and humor. 

You taught us to be better broadcasters, better people and better friends. 

We will never forget you – or the lessons you taught – so long as the roar of racing engines can be heard on the radio dial. 

Thank you, Barney Hall.  

And Godspeed.