Friday, January 28, 2011

My Home Track is Changing - New Year, New Town, New Job

My home track is changing.

NASCAR bloggers often dream about working for NASCAR, a race team, or a NASCAR partner. They write countless articles, seek out myriad networking opportunities, and they keep plugging away, hoping that one day they can quit their day jobs and work for the sport they love.

I’m one of the lucky ones.

Last Saturday, I packed up the car and headed north on I-95 to a new career and a new town where I’m now the Social Media Marketing Manager for Lionel NASCAR Collectables (LNC).

A joint venture between NASCAR and Lionel Electric Trains, LNC is “The Official Die-Cast of NASCAR”.

All those fabulous die-cast cars available at your driver’s hauler? We make those.

Our offices are right across the road from Charlotte Motor Speedway, a couple miles from Hendrick Motorsports, and in the heart of the racing action.

I’m still pinching myself. And I’m pretty much gawking everywhere I go.

Ironically, the first NASCAR race I attended was the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2000. At the time, I didn’t know a scoring tower from a pit box. But when the engines started and the race roared to life, I was hooked.

Now, more than 10 years and one blog later, I’m working just steps away from the very track where I first became a NASCAR fan.

Talk about life coming full circle.

As part of my agreement with LNC, we will soon be rolling this site’s content into the company’s new web site. I’ll still be blogging from there.

I’ll also be keeping my @NASCARista Twitter handle as a personal account. But for the good stuff – like links to new blogs, sneak peeks, contests and insider content, you should follow me @LionelNASCAR on Twitter and also on Facebook.

So thanks to everyone who read this blog, left comments, sent e-mails and encouraged me along the way.

NASCAR fans are the best fans on the planet – and I’m proud to be one of them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tony Stewart - Not Your Average Poster Boy

It may be the off season, but don't tell that to Tony Stewart.

During his vacation from NASCAR, Smoke has been driving down under.  And if recent reports are any indication, his intensity knows no bounds - no matter when, where or what he races.

Stewart's unyielding - and often fiery - passion for the sport is what draws fans to him like Evander Holyfield to a title fight.

And if you're one of Smoke's fearless faithful, you'll want to check out a new offering by his sponsor, Office Depot.  Each month, Office Depot will feature a new Stewart poster. Fans can download a coupon at to purchase the posters for just $9.99.

Wonder if he'll have a black eye in the next one?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Five Things to Look Forward to in 2011

Kasey Kahne dons the Red Bull Racing firesuit
at the Fall Talladega race.
Good news: NASCAR fans are on the tail end of the off-season slump.

Pre-season thunder is a mere week away.  And the Daytona 500? Just one month to go.

We're on the verge of a NASCAR  tabula rasa. There are second chances for drivers who need redemption. And endless possibilities for the new kids on track who have something to prove.

There's no telling just what will play out this season, but there are five things I can't wait to see:

Team Earntarte: By all accounts, December testing at Daytona went well for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and new crew chief Steve Letarte.  Letarte has already brought some much-needed positive vibes to his new team - and Junior Nation is feeling it. Letarte could well be the golden ticket that gets Junior back to Victory Lane.

The Boys at Red Bull:  Brian Vickers will be back behind the wheel at Daytona and fans couldn't be happier.  Though it's a hackneyed cliche, Vickers has a new lease on life after his medical leave of absence.  And, to make things even more interesting, he'll be working with new Red Bull teammate Kasey Kahne.  Look for them both to exceed expectations this year.

Edwards vs. Keselowski Part Deux: Edwards ended 2010 with a whole lotta momentum.  And, if he keeps it up, he could be a serious threat to Jimmie Johnson's title dynasty.  And now that neither Carl Edwards nor Brad Keselowski can battle it out for the Nationwide Series crown, look for these rivals to settle their unfinished business on the Cup side.

Chaser McMurray: Although it doesn't affect my life  in any way whatsoever, I'm still dismayed that Jamie McMurray didn't make the 2010 Chase for the Sprint Cup after sweeping the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and Charlotte's Bank of America 500.  In the words of my cousin (also named Jamie), "That ain't right."  Given Jamie Mac's stellar year, I have no doubt he'll be in the top 12 post Homestead.

Waltrip Getting the Nod: In 2010, Darrell Waltrip was left out of the NASCAR Hall of Fame class for the second year in a row.  But I seriously doubt he'll get the cold shoulder again.  Waltrip rejoice - you'll get your moment in 2011.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

From Where I Sit: 2010 NASCAR Year in Review

Looking back on 2010, the NASCAR images that are emblazoned in my mind are those I witnessed in person.

Richard Petty and Bobby Allison running into each other before the Homestead race.

A young Dale Jr. fan telling Jimmie Johnson she'd switch drivers if he'd only sign her hat (which he promptly did with a smile).

Tony Stewart handing his Coke bottle to a little No. 14 fan after driver introductions at Talladega.

My Mom meeting Joey Logano at the Homestead Tweetup.

Dancing with my nephews on the Daytona infield to the music of Zac Brown Band.

My cousin Michael finally getting Dale Earnhardt Jr's autograph.

I've discovered that NASCAR is a highly personal sport.  Sure, there are the driver feuds, photo finishes and dramatic races that the collective remembers. But the moments that mean the most are those that are yours.  That you shared with family.  That you enjoyed with friends.

I was fortunate enough to make a slew of NASCAR memories this year.  Above are just a few of them.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The First NASCAR Day of Christmas: A Win for the Number Three

Dale Earnhardt Jr's Nationwide Series win in the No. 3 Wrangler car at Daytona was one of the brightest moments of the year.

The buildup to the race was unprecedented and the event itself was fraught with emotional weight and fan expectations.

It could easily have gone very badly.

But in the end, Dale Jr. and his cousin Tony Eury, Jr. reunited once more to bring one of the most recognizable paint schemes, and the famous number in NASCAR history, back to Victory Lane.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime night. And it gave Junior Nation something to cheer about, in what was an otherwise lackluster season.

So as Dale Jr. fans dream of team "Earntarte" and how their driver will have a winning 2011, I wish you all Merry Christmas. 

The best present of all? The Daytona 500 is only fifty-six days away ...

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Second NASCAR Day of Christmas: Two Fighting Jeffs

Sometimes the cosmic force behind NASCAR gives fans a gift that is so unexpectedly wonderful, it lives in the annals of racing lore for years.

And the fight between Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton at Texas Motor Speedway is one of those gifts.

An unlikely pair of enemies, these two were applauded by fans for having the guts to "have at it" face to face (and not face to camera as other drivers often do).

There went Gordon, stomping down the track after his smashup with Burton, like a man on a mission.  And he didn't waste time.  Upon reaching the object of his anger, there was a leap, a shove, and what looked like an attempted hair pulling.

The moment made for darn good TV, a colorful highlights reel, and precious fodder for bloggers and pundits alike.

Here's hoping that the "have at it boys" mandate gives fans even more such moments in 2011.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Third NASCAR Day of Christmas: Three Rowdy Wins

In many ways 2010 was a banner year for Kyle Busch.

He got engaged to Samantha Sarcinella. He started his own race team, Kyle Busch Motorsports. He finished eighth in the Chase, and he won three Cup races all told.

But what iced the cake on Rowdy's eventful season was his historic performance at Bristol Motor Speedway in August.

Busch predicted he would win all three races - and he did just that.

On Wednesday, he won the Camping World Truck Series event. Friday, he took the Nationwide Series checkers. Then Saturday he sealed the trifecta with a Sprint Cup victory.

It's a feat of which no other driver can boast - sweeping all three national series races in the same weekend.

In fact, it was such an accomplishment, that the brooms in Victory Lane inspired a musical ode to Kyle Busch entitled "Bristol Sweep" - which is a big improvement over the guitar smash song of 2009 ...