Friday, May 17, 2013

All-Star Race notes

JIMMIE JOHNSON (WINNER, No. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET): JIMMIE JOHNSON (WINNER, No. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET): “That’s crazy, wow. To beat Jeff (Gordon) and (Dale) Earnhardt, two guys I’ve looked up to my whole life and two of the best icons of our sport, this means the world to me. I didn’t really think we had a shot at winning tonight starting 18th, but we had a great race car and worked our way through there and got our job done. But over time, honestly, it’s just dedication and drive, every member of this Hendrick race team, we’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished, but we know we need to keep working harder and keep pushing. What we did here tonight – I don’t know how we keep doing it; I’m very proud of this race team.
“It’s incredible, especially the way we had to go about it tonight. I didn’t do us any favors qualifying yesterday, and with this average that we had the first four segments, I was really fearful I wouldn’t have a shot at a front-row start or a second-row start. And I felt like the winner would come from one of those two rows. Not to state the obvious, but the goal for all of us is to be on the front row for that last restart, and through a lot of aggressive driving, a great-handling race car and a lot of different things, we were able to keep clicking away at some good finishes through the second, third, fourth segment, and that got us to fourth. Then pit road came around, and our guys had an awesome pit stop. We almost got off pit road first, but we were on the front row, and the front row’s what we needed for 10 laps. Kasey (Kahne) and I pretty much ran wide open around here for two laps side by side. I was finally able to edge by and have the track to myself and put some distance on him.”
CHAD KNAUS (CREW CHIEF, No. 48 LOWE’S CHEVROLET): “I was very proud of those guys. We knew what we needed to do on the race track to get ourselves in good position. We felt like we could come down in the top 5 and try to get a good pit stop and maintain that we would be solid. I really didn’t think we would be able to come down pit road and have a pit stop that fast. Man, those guys just absolutely nailed it. We had to switch some things around over the past month or so, and they rose to the occasion.”
JOEY LOGANO (SECOND PLACE, No. 22 PENNZOIL FORD): “It was entertaining. My guys did a great job calling the race and keeping the average finish up. I thought we averaged fifth and came down pit road, beat one car out and that put us in the second row. In the back of my mind, that was where we needed to be, on the second row, to have a shot at the final 10 laps. My guys, they got me what I needed there, and then it was up to me. But I made the most of what I had. The 48 (Johnson) was really fast. When he got in that clean air, he was gone. And then all I could do was hope for a caution, and that would give me one more shot. Second is nothing to hang our head down, but it doesn’t mean much since there are no points. I gave it all I had today.”
KYLE BUSCH (THIRD PLACE, No. 18 SNICKERS BITES TOYOTA): “I was just getting beat around there on restarts, but that is alright. We definitely had the best car here tonight. We ran up front most of the night. We had some really good runs through the segments. We won two of them, and average finish-wise, we were right there with Kurt (Busch). He beat us out a little bit. Coming down pit road, my guys always prove their worth. Unfortunately, tonight we didn’t have the best stop and came out third. That was the race right there. You have to come out on the front row if you are going to win this thing. Unfortunately on the restart, we were getting sucked around and side-drafted and getting loose and everything else. I had to get it straight and get everyone off me so I could finally race. Once I did that I could go forward. Just another missed opportunity here. We had the best car but came home without a win. ”

MCMURRAY WINS SHOWDOWN: Jamie McMurray won the 40-lap NASCAR Sprint Showdown and earned a berth in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Finishing second was a closing Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who also transferred to the main event.
McMurray took the lead on the first lap and was never challenged as he cruised to the end of the 20-lap segment ahead of Martin Truex Jr., Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Juan Pablo Montoya and Paul Menard.
Most cars chose to pit during the competition caution flag between segments, changing four tires and making adjustments as needed. Montoya was penalized for speeding on pit road and started the second segment from the tail end of the longest line. Casey Mears stayed out in order to gain some track position and led the field back to the starting line; restarting behind him were McMurray, David Gilliland, Truex and Jeff Burton.
McMurray quickly retook the lead in the in the second segment and was never seriously challenged.

VOTE BRUTON TO THE NASCAR HALL OF FAME: Next week, Bruton Smith will find out if a lifetime of achievement in motorsports has earned him a spot in the prestigious 2014 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. The committee of voters – 53 in all, including 21 from the nominating committee; 31 from former drivers, owners, crew chiefs, manufacturers and media; and one to represent the fan vote – will gather Thursday at the downtown Charlotte shrine to narrow the field from the 25 nominees.
Smith, Speedway Motorsports Inc. chief executive officer and chairman of the board has long been a pioneer in motorsports, dating back to the 1950s, when he was the promoter at tracks such as the old Charlotte Speedway and the Shelby Speedway located at the Cleveland County Fairgrounds.
Smith’s first major speedway endeavor began when he partnered with racing legend Curtis Turner to open Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1960 and held the first World 600 that year.  Since then he has built a racing empire of eight speedways across the nation under the SMI umbrella, with those speedways hosting 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, 17 NASCAR Nationwide or Camping World Truck Series races and many other high-profile motorsports events.
Smith has previously been inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2007), National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame (2006) and Texas Motorsports Hall of fame (2008).
JOSH TURNER CONCERT A HIT WITH FANS: Country music singer, songwriter and two-time Grammy nominee Josh Turner entertained the infield crowd Saturday prior to NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race with his deep, melodic voice. The pre-race concert was presented by Lance sandwich crackers.
“I have done a lot of NASCAR events throughout my career.” said Turner. “It’s always fun to come out here, because the NASCAR fans and country music fans are kind of one and the same, from my experience.  Just being able to come out here and play in the infield, it’s just a lot of energy. People are excited about the show, the race and everything else going on around it. It’s great, and I’m honored to be here today at Charlotte.”
CAM ON A WIRE: By now everyone knows about Fox Sports and SPEED’s famous CAMCAT, the 85-mph, high-tech camera suspended above the race track by a pair of gigantic cranes positioned outside of Charlotte Motor Speedway. The camera made its debut this year at Daytona and will return to add excitement for today’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
The two-point, flying camera system developed in Austria is suspended a maximum of 140 feet in the air, dipping to 45 feet above the track at the 2,900-foot cable’s midpoint.
Aside from the sheer engineering greatness of this cutting-edge technology, what makes the Cat Cam even more special for fans at the track is that speedway officials will be pulling that phenomenal footage from SPEED to air directly onto the world’s largest HDTV, the 200-foot wide, 80-foot tall screen located on the speedway backstretch.
BUSCH WINS TRUCK RACE: Kyle Busch dominated early, overcame a pit error, and then charged back to the front to win the 11th annual N.C. Education Lottery 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Busch took the win by just a half-second over second-place finisher Brendan Gaughan and third-place Max Gresham. Rounding out the top five were Matt Crafton and Ty Dillon.
“Our truck was really fast.” said Busch, who led 80 laps en route to victory. “It’s fun to race here. But we don’t make anything too easy do we? The crew made some good calls, and the truck was awesome. We led some laps and should have led some more. We had to work our way up through the field. But I was glad it all played out.”
This was the 31st truck series win for Busch and his 113th NASCAR national series win. It marked his fifth win in eight truck series starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Busch took command early in the 134-lap race and dominated until his crew left the fuel can attached during a caution-flag stop on lap 84, giving Busch a stop-and-go penalty before forcing him to restart at the rear of the longest line.
Less than 10 laps later, Busch was already threatening the leaders. He took control after the lap 121 restart and was able to hold back the advances of Gaughan in the closing laps to secure the win.
Rookie Jeb Burton started from the pole, his third of the season, and was running in the top 5 most of the night. A loose wheel forced him to make an unscheduled pit stop late in the race, dropping him to 13th.
Rounding out the top 10 were James Buescher, Miguel Paludo, John Wes Townley, Ross Chastain and Justin Lofton.
KYLE BUSCH (WINNER): “Our truck was really, really fast. These guys did a great job; they’ve worked awful hard. It’s fun to race here, and we don’t make anything too easy, do we? It was pretty cool. I thought that we didn’t quite have the truck to win with yesterday with the test sessions. We had some opportunities to do some stuff and test some things. (Crew chief)Rudy (Fugle) made some good calls, and this morning it was an entirely different piece. It was awesome. I thank the guys for giving me a really good truck. This is just part of the reward, that we are able to go to Victory Lane. The race was fun. We led some laps and should have led some more laps but had a fuel issue. So we had to work our way back up through the field. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it all the way back up there, but the late cautions helped me and got me in the right position there. It was interesting; glad it all played out. Glad to get the win.”

ALL-STAR RACE SHOWDOWN QUALIFYING: Martin Truex Jr. won the pole for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Showdown, an event consisting of two 20-lap segments with an optional pit stop between. The top two finishers will transfer to the main event, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
“It was a good day. The guys did a good job, made good adjustments for qualifying there and looking forward to tomorrow night,” Truex said. “Unfortunately I do have a lot of experience in this race. We do understand a little bit about how the race works, how it’s probably gonna play out. We made a mistake last year by not pitting on the 20-lap caution and got beat by it, so I think this year we’ll be ready for anything.”
Truex was distracted throughout his post-qualifying media interviews, hoping to catch a glimpse of the All-Star race qualifying on the TV monitors dotting the room.
“I want to watch this,” Truex said. “I texted Mark (Martin), and I said how was it practicing for this qualifying. I was like, it looks awesome; I’m jealous. And he said it was insane, so I’m looking forward to watching it for sure. I’m definitely jealous I’m not out there. And I have to go to a wedding now, so I can’t even watch it. I would rather not go to the wedding and be in this. It’s not my wedding.”
THEY NEVER ‘TIRE’ OF SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS: It’s just one more way Charlotte Motor Speedway and its corporate partner Goodyear salute our armed forces. In addition to the usual “Goodyear” branding, this weekend’s tires for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will sport special “Support Our Troops” decals.
RAVE REVIEWS: Before NASCAR All-Star qualifying had even concluded, polesitter Carl Edwards was already raving about the three-lap, one-stop, no-pit-road-speed format. In fact, he was campaigning for it.
“I vote we do this at every race track! This is so fun,” Edwards said, who will sit on the pole in tomorrow night’s Sprint All-Star Race.
Clint Bowyer emerged from his qualifying run slightly breathless and with a wide grin, also singing the format’s praises.
“Man, that’s a wild deal,” Bowyer said. “It’s amazing coming off pit road like that. It’s interesting, it’s exciting … that’s a fun event right there.”
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH NO PIT ROAD SPEED: The drivers have had one 15-minute session to work on their new approaches to and exits from pit road for tonight’s All-Star qualifying event. So how’d it go?
“It was chaos,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said. “It was borderline humorous at times what you were seeing out there.”
Earnhardt said he got as much as he could out of the short session, but that he’s still expecting tonight’s session to be a crapshoot for most drivers.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of people all over the place as far as how they approach coming onto pit road and leaving pit road, but we’ll try to do the best we can,” Earnhardt said.
Former NASCAR driver Ward Burton fondly remembers his experiences coming down pit road with no speed restrictions, and he said he thinks today’s drivers are so skilled that they won’t have too much trouble acclimating.
“A few of them will slide right through their pits, but probably not too many,” Burton said. “The biggest thing is the transition from the banking down onto pit road. They’re probably better off to be conservative coming in and concentrate on running a good couple laps and getting out fast.”
THREE DRIVERS TO BE HONORED: Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer, along with team owners Rick Hendrick, Michael Waltrip and Rob Kauffman, will be honored Wednesday, May 22, at the 33rd annual Speedway Children’s Charities Gala presented by Sonic Automotive.
The event, located at the Ritz Carlton in uptown Charlotte, is aptly themed a “Night of Champions” as Johnson, Kahne and Bowyer each won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last year.
“We are proud to be able to honor five of NASCAR’s biggest stars at the gala this year,” said Marcus Smith, vice chairman of Speedway Children’s Charities. “These men are not only winners on the track; they are winners off the track too, giving back to the Charlotte community as well as the communities where they were raised.”
The gala is one of the biggest fundraising events in the Charlotte area and has raised millions of dollars over the past 30 years to improve the quality of life for children in the region since its inception. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the grant program of the Charlotte Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities and will be awarded to local nonprofit organizations that help children in need.
“Our goals have remained constant – helping children in educational, financial, social and medical need in our community who many not otherwise have a voice,” said Lisa Starnes, director of the Charlotte Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities.
“The funds raised at the gala will have an important impact on the lives of many children and families in our community.”
The gala will be hosted by FOX Sports personality Krista Voda. Entertainment will be provided by popular recording artist Edwin McCain.
Festivities begin at 6:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by dinner at 7:30 p.m. ESPN personality Marty Smith will host the silent auction during the reception. Among the items up for bid is a VIP visit to FOX NFL Sunday, where the winner will meet Terry Bradshaw, Howie Long, Curt Menefee, Jimmy Johnson and Michael Strahan, plus watch all of the day’s NFL games in a VIP room at the FOX Studios in Los Angeles, Calif. Other items up for bid include other VIP packages, jewelry, vacations and a yellow labrador retriever puppy.
For more information on the Charlotte Chapter of Speedway Children’s Charities and how you can help children in need, visit
TRACK KANGAROO EXPRESS OPEN FOR BUSINESS: Ward and Jeb Burton signed autographs, posed for pictures and greeted fans Friday during a special autograph session at the newly opened Kangaroo Xpress infield convenience store.
Located inside the backstretch, the Kangaroo Express offers nearly anything a race fan could need in a convenient on-site location: ice, chips, sunglasses, drinks, T-shirts, personal care items and much more.
“Have you been in there?” Jeb Burton asked. “It’s really cool.”
Jeb Burton is the pole sitter, driving the No. 4 Arrowhead/Kangaroo Express Chevrolet in tonight’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200. Burton was fastest in Thursday’s final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice, turning a lap in 29.905 seconds (180.572 mph).
ALL-STAR SPECIAL PAINT: A handful of cars will feature special paint schemes this weekend, including the No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson (red, white and blue); the No. 2 of Brad Keselowski (blue-on-blue); the No. 18 of Kyle Busch (brown); and the No. 47 of Bobby Labonte (red-and-blue).
SEE YOUR FAVORITE DRIVER: Many NASCAR Series drivers will make appearances during the 10 Greatest Days in Racing beginning this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Below are a few highlights.
Saturday, May 18: Sprint Unlimited Fan Experience, located in the midway in front of the Charlotte Motor Speedway main grandstand. Schedule: Bobby Labonte, 4 pm; Dale Earnhardt Jr., 5:05 pm.; motorsports artist Sam Bass, 5:45 pm.
Monday, May 20: Meet and greet brothers Ty and Austin Dillon with grandfather/team owner Richard Childress at Bass Pro Shops, 8181 Concord Mills Blvd. in Concord, NC. Autographs are scheduled to begin at 6:00 pm.
Wednesday, May 22: GoPro Be a Hero Karting Challenge with Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne, Brad Sweet, Scott Speed, Matt Crafton, Jason Bowles, Kyle Larson, Jason Allgaier and Nelson Piquet Jr. at the Mooresville Motorplex, 130 Motorplex Dr., Mooresville, NC. Fans will get access to the garages and drivers for $15. There will also be a 10-lap Wonder Woman race for leading females in the racing industry. Fans will also get a track walk over the .7-mile facility.
Thursday, May 23: Kyle Busch Motorsports in Mooresville, NC will host an open house featuring drivers Joey Coulter, Erik Jones and Darrell Wallace Jr. They are scheduled to appear from 11am-12pm. Coulter will also hold his first annual corn hole tournament. Fans can participate with an $18 entry fee.
Thursday, May 23-Saturday, May 25:The 14th annual Food Lion Speed Street festival in uptown Charlotte. Driver appearances, music, booths, activities and more. Free admission; open daily noon to 11 pm.
Friday May 24: Lottery winners to meet Dale Earnhardt Jr., Regan Smith and Brad Sweet at JR Motorsports at 2 pm. Wrist bands will be issued May 23 at the JR Nation retail store in Mooresville, NC.
Friday, May 24: Fan Day with Kasey Kahne, 10 am. Race fans can meet drivers Brad Sweet, Cody Darrah and Daryn Pittman. Kasey Kahne Racing, 265 Cayuga Dr., Mooresville, NC.
SPEED IN THE PITS: The last time pit road was without a speed limit during a NASCAR race, Kyle Busch was a 15-year-old kid. Joey Logano had just hit double digits and begun to race Bandits cars. David Ragan wasn’t old enough to get his driver’s license.
But tonight, they will get a taste of NASCAR’s roots as the series abolishes the pit road speed limit for NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race qualifying, which will consist of three laps with a pit stop and four-tire change.
NASCAR’s last foray into limitless pit speed came during the All-Star qualifying races in 2000. Only four drivers eligible for tonight’s race are left from that original roster 13 years ago: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Mark Martin.
“It’s been a long time (since there was no pit road speed limit),” Busch said. “We’ll see how it all plays out. I think it’ll be interesting. I have no idea what to expect, to be honest with you.”
Busch might not know what to expect, but anyone who was around NASCAR in the 1980s and ‘90s knows. One grizzled PR veteran recalled making a point to go out and watch pit road practice during that 2000 All-Star Race weekend, because it was the most chaotic, entertaining, frenzied time of the entire weekend. The drivers who had experience driving without pit road speeds were still able to perform, but the uninitiated were glaringly obvious, overshooting their pits and generally creating havoc.
“I’m glad I don’t have to do it with no pit road speed (every week),” Matt Kenseth said. “I think it can get pretty crazy and pretty dangerous… I can’t imagine what it would be like today.”
BUSCH THE BOOKIE: Kyle Busch probably thinks Bruton Smith is a pretty smart dude. Smith has offered up Bruton’s Big Bonus, a $1 million windfall for any driver who can win all five segments in addition to the winner’s $1 million prize. Busch said he didn’t like the odds of a winner taking all five segments.
“If I were a sports bookie, I’d put a 300 to 1 on it,” Busch said. “You have to run each segment as hard as you can. You have to stay out front to keep your average finish as high as you can. There’s gonna be a lot of things playing out in between the segments with pit stops, tire strategy; do you take two, do you stay out? Do you come in and get four? If there’s a yellow in the middle of the segment, do you pit then and get yourself ready for the next segment? It’s certainly gonna make it a lot more fun, not only for the fans but for the crew chiefs as well. I say fun, but I’m sure they’re going to have their headaches after it… I think this year’s gonna be a heck of a lot better.”
MOMENT OF SILENCE: Charlotte Motor Speedway and fans attending the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Camping World Truck Series race Friday observed a moment of silence to recognize the passing of former NASCAR driver and short-track legend Dick Trickle.
GIBBS TO SAY ALL-STAR INVOCATION: It’s a race full of tradition and pageantry, and this year’s NASCAR All-Star Race will be no different. In what is becoming a quasi-tradition, team owner Joe Gibbs will deliver the invocation before Saturday’s thrilling NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star Race. He also said the pre-race prayer in 2012 and 2009. In 2010, Gibbs’ grandson Taylor gave the invocation.
MEADE TO SING NATIONAL ANTHEM AT COKE 600: She may be best known as host of Headline News’ Morning Express with Robin Meade, but Meade is also making a name for herself as a country singer. As she prepares to release her second country album next month, Meade will showcase her pipes next weekend while performing the National Anthem at the May 26 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
BRUTON’S BIG BONUS: With a $1 million payday, the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race already offers the richest per-mile winner’s purse in motorsports. But this year, the pot gets a little sweeter with Bruton’s Big Bonus. If a driver wins all four of the 20-lap segments and stays up front to win the final 10-lap shootout, he will double his payday to $2 million thanks to Bruton’s Big Bonus of $1,000,000.
The May 18 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race will consist of 90 total laps: four 20-lap segments, followed by a mandatory four-tire pit stop and the 10-lap sprint to the big-money finish.
“My dad, Bruton Smith, says that three things motivate people – love, fear and money,” said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “These drivers love to race, and they fear losing with backyard bragging rights on the line. This is motivation like never before to get up on the wheel for the fans.”
STILL TIME FOR NASCAR ALL-STAR FAN VOTE: Race fans have until 5 p.m. Saturday to vote their favorite driver into the All-Star Race. Fans can vote an unlimited number of times by downloading the NASCAR ’13 application or by visiting The votes received on NASCAR ’13 will count twice towards a driver’s total. The driver receiving the highest number of votes will earn a starting position in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
There are 26 drivers eligible for the fan vote, including Rookie of the Year candidates Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. To be eligible for the 2013 Sprint All-Star Fan Vote, drivers had to finish in the top 55 of the 2012 Sprint Cup Series point standings or attempted to qualify for the 2013 Daytona 500.
JOSH TUNER TO PERFORM BEFORE ALL-STAR RACE: Double platinum-selling country music artist Josh Tuner will perform Saturday at 3:15 p.m. in the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield as part of pre-race activities for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series All-Star race. Charlotte-based Lance brand snacks will sponsor the 90-minute show, which is free to all race ticketholders, and will also include special promotions and games for the family. Gates open at 1:00 p.m.
JONES TO SING: Pop music sensation Kaya Jones will perform the national anthem preceding Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.
Jones came to prominence as a member of the popular music group “The Pussycat Dolls” in 2003 and later reached international acclaim as a solo act, performing alongside celebrated entertainers including Mick Jagger, Eminem and Katy Perry.
At the age of 26, Jones became the youngest female in history to start her own record label, HueMan Race Records. An avid supporter of the troops, Jones completed a two-week USO tour in Iraq in 2010, performing two shows each day for the troops.
A seasoned artist, Jones has performed at events such as VH1's “Diva's Live,” VH1's “Fashion Rocks” and MTV's “Rock the Vote,” among others. She has also appeared on the covers of entertainment and fashion magazines including Esquire, Interview, Maxim, Stuff, FHM, Blender, Guitar and Us Weekly.
Danielle Johnson, who played the role of Annie Who in the 2012 musical national tour of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” will sing the national anthem before Friday night’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Camping World Truck Series race.
In addition, two Speedway Superstar winners will perform “God Bless America” during the weekend pre-race shows. Logen Hall of Spartanburg, S.C., will sing at the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 on Friday, while Rosalee Johnson of Belmont, N.C., will take the stage Saturday before the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Hall and Johnson were selected from among 350 eligible auditions held across North and South Carolina during the Speedway Superstar tour presented by Best Buy and Coca-Cola.

More blog entries from The Auto Racing Journal
(a book of great stories about the Intimidator)
(the book of great NASCAR stories)

Blog entries from The Dog Blog
• Katie cried
• Growl and pull

More blog entries by Tom Gillispie

Anecdotes by Tom Gillispie

No comments: