Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kahne Not the Only Sonoma Surprise

When Kasey Kahne beat Tony Stewart to the punch on multiple late-race restarts, he surprised every fan, broadcaster and vintner in Sonoma. But Kahne's admittedly unexpected victory wasn't the only shocker on Sunday. There were a few more drivers who put on a decent outing at Infineon, despite the low expectations of pre-race pundits.

Rookie Joey Logano wheeled his Home Depot Toyota like a road course vet, moving deftly in and out of traffic and keeping his car clean for the majority of the race. By and large, Logano looked more lively than ringers like Scott Speed and Ron Fellows. But his day ended badly with some contact on the track and he left Sonoma with a 19th place finish--not indicative of the way he ran all day.

Dale Earnhardt Jr is usually so little of a threat at road courses that Direct TV didn't even broadcast his radio chatter this week. (The Junior Hot Pass channel is typically a race day staple). Running in the top 10 toward the end of the race, it looked like Junior was going to astound the NASCAR world with one his best finishes of the year. And then he was dive-bombed by Carl Edwards which effectively put the kibosh on a promising run.

Eliott Sadler managed to leave Cali with a top 10 finish--his first since the Daytona 500. Thankfully, Sadler had nothing to cry about this Sunday.

And AJ Allmendinger gave Richard Petty Motorsports the icing on the cake with his seventh-place run--and his third top 10 of the season. With Kahne in Victory Lane and AJ showing so strongly, Father's Day sure was kind to The King.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Casey Mears' Dad Shares Father/Son Memories

In honor of Father's Day, the folks at Ask.com have contacted the dads of your favorite drivers and asked them to share their fondest memories of their now-famous sons. Roger Mears, Greg Newman, Martin Truex, Sr. and Clyde Vickers all chipped in with their stories about their boys. To read each Dad's interview in its entirety, just search “NASCAR Father’s Day” at Ask.com .

In the meantime, here's a little from Roger Mears on his son Casey's early start in racing:

Sprint Cup driver Casey Mears, pilot of the No. 07 Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet, won his first NASCAR Cup Series race at the age of 29.

But his father, Roger, recalls the first indication that Casey would become a racing great himself. Casey was just two years of age. "One of my earliest memories is when Casey would sit for hours racing his little Hot Wheels cars,” Roger said.

By age four, Casey had left Hot Wheels behind and moved up to BMX bicycles. According to Mears, "Casey was so little that he couldn't touch the ground when he was on top of his bike, so I would have to hold the bike for the start of the race and then run down the hill to catch him when he finished."

Photo: Casey Mears and his dad Roger Mears

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Columbia Speedway: Preserving a Piece of Racing Heritage

If a race track could talk, the Columbia Speedway would sure have some stories to tell.

It might tell you about July 12, 1958, the day Richard Petty scored his first win. Or March 16, 1966, when Fonty Flock gave Chevrolet its first victory. Then there’s the time Frank Mundy won NASCAR’s first-ever race under the lights. Not to mention all the races with legends like Buddy Baker, Junior Johnson, Fireball Roberts, Cotton Owens and South Carolina’s favorite son David Pearson.

Located just outside Columbia, SC in the small burg of Cayce, the half-mile dirt track hosted its first race in 1948. It was NASCAR sanctioned in 1951 and ran NASCAR races there until the early 1970s. That’s a lot of time for memories to mount up and history to be made.

Now, thanks to the folks at Racers Reunion, this historic place and all of the great racing moments that took place there will be shared with future generations of NASCAR fans.

Jeff Gilder, the founder of Racers Reunion, announced last week that Columbia Speedway will be turned into a first-class events facility and that a museum will also be built on the site.

“The track was an important track in the formative years of our sport,” Guilder said. “We need this to preserve our racing heritage. Too many tracks have gone by the way being replaced with condos, Wal-marts, golf courses, etc. The cool thing about this track is that its owners would rather have a race track than a Wal-mart.”

But will any new racing memories be made at Columbia Speedway? “We will return the track back to meet racing specs,” Gilder said. “Whether there will ever be racing there is a question to be answered later.”

Racers Reunion, the group heading up the preservation effort, is an online social network that brings former drivers, crew members and fans together to share connect, share memories, and just talk shop. About 100 of its members (all volunteer) banded together earlier this year to save the Columbia Speedway, hosting the first annual Love Chevrolet Columbia Speedway Spring Festival on April 25.

According to Gilder, the event was attended by 30 thousand people from 17 different states and Puerto Rico. And a host of legendary faces from racing’s past were present as well, including Buddy Baker, Ned Jarrett, Dave Marcis, Little Bud Moore, Gene Hobby, Dick and Johnny Dangerfield, D.K. Ulrich, and at least a dozen other former drivers.

“The response was greater than anyone expected,” Guilder said. “Now the community, the city of Cayce, the county, and surrounding areas have realized the potential of the facility and have embraced our efforts to preserve the track and create an events facility that can be used by a variety of events.”

If you’d like to get involved, fan help is always welcome. There are coordinated work groups that get together to keep up with the track's maintenance. And donations are also accepted on the Racers Reunion web site.

“This race track is one that always prompts some great stories when mentioned to anyone who was there as a spectator or participant,” Gilder said. “All the drivers who raced there agree about the importance of this track.”




Note from NASCAR-ista: Racers Reunion will be holding their 2nd annual Spring Festival in 2010. Love's Chevrolet has just re-signed as the events primary sponsor.




Photo caption: Little Bud Moore drives on to victory at the Columbia Speedway - courtesy of RacersReunion.com

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dudes Must Love to Race

As if running 400 miles in a stock car weren't enough for one day, both Kyle Busch and Scott Speed have added one more race to their Fourth of July festivities.

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates announced today that Busch and Speed will make their Rolex Series debut at the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway. Later that day, both Busch and Speed will also compete in NASCAR's Coke Zero 400.

The duo will pilot the No.02 Waste Management Lexus Riley alongside defending Grand-Am series champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas in the No.01 TELMEX Lexus Riley.

“I am really looking forward to seeing Kyle and Scott in one of our Grand Am cars,” said Chip Ganassi. “Kyle is one of the best racecar drivers in the world and Scott is a young talent with a lot of road course experience. Also, I think having the opportunity for them to work with a road course veteran like Scott Pruett should make for a great experience for them. It will be exciting to see what they can do.”

The Brumos Porsche 250 will be a one-day show on July 4, with practice beginning at 8:30 a.m. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will follow the two and a half hour race with the 8 p.m. Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola.

Photo: Kyle Busch and Scott Speed tangle at the Goody's Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Perfect Timing for a Chevrolet Victory

Mark Martin may have taken the checkered flag, but Chevrolet was the biggest winner at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday.

On the heels of GM's announcement that it plans to cut support for all levels of NASCAR, a win by Chevrolet couldn't have been better timed--or better placed. MIS is about an hour's drive from the headquarters of the Big Three, and the victory by Martin and his #5 Chevy Impala was a sorely needed bright spot on the dim landscape of American auto manufacturing.

Nobody knows how badly the General Motors re-organization will affect Sprint Cup racing, at least not yet. All we know for certain is that GM is eliminating funding for NASCAR's Camping World Trucks and Nationwide series completely. More details about GM's plans for Cup racing will likely be released this week.

Before Sunday's race, NASCAR Chairman Brian France made an unscheduled appearance in the MIS media center, saying that he's confident GM will be involved in NASCAR for many years to come, but he also intimated that NASCAR would consider opening its arms to more foreign makers.

The sport we love is changing, along with our nation and the once-great face of American manufacturing. It's too early to tell what the garage will look like in 2010 and what it will take for NASCAR to weather this storm.

But thanks to Martin, there's at least one headline in which the folks at Chevrolet can take some pride. Their engine beat out the rest of the pack ... and all in their own backyard.

Johnny Benson Injured in Crash

The 2008 NASCAR Truck Series champ Johnny Benson was injured in a fiery crash last night. Benson, who was racing his ISMA supermodified car at Berlin Speedway, was taken by ambulance to Spectrum Hospital where he is in "serious condition". This morning, the official word is that he is lucid and alert. There is no word yet on the extent of his injuries or when he will be released. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Benson and his family.


Half the Field Hit With Speeding Penalties

Joey Logano beat Kyle Busch at last night's Meijer 300 at the Kentucky Speedway. But half the field may have been beaten by speeding penalties on pit road. Carl Edwards, for one, had to serve two consecutive pass-throughs because he was alleged to have sped on pit road twice in a row.

Luckily, Logano's penalty didn't keep him from victory. But there was a heap of other teams who were adversely affected by what most drivers and even media members are calling an electronic glitch.

Though the ESPN crew tried to get a NASCAR official to comment on the pit road issues at the end of the broadcast, they were met with silence. Look for more on this story during tomorrow's pre-race shows.

I'm sure Carl Edwards (and Brad Keselowski, Justin Allgaier, etc., etc.) would like some answers. And so would the fans.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Sliced Bread Turns Busch Into Track Toast

It wasn't supposed to end this way.

Last night's Meijer 300 was led, for more than half the laps, by Nationwide points leader Kyle Busch. Once again, it appeared that Busch's evening would end with another checkered flag, another fiery burnout and another signature bow.

But Busch's teammate and last year's race winner Joey Logano had other ideas. With the strongest car on the track, Logano raced for the lead early on. Saddled with a pit road speeding penalty (an issue for half the field last night), the new kid had to drive his car forward from way back in the line.

And by the time the field was red flagged after Mike Bliss crunched the wall, Logano was sitting in 2nd spot. That's when ESPN replayed Busch's radio chatter, specifically his spotter saying that Logano was just better than Busch.

Turns out the spotter was right.

With 10 laps to go, Logano nosed past Rowdy and never looked back. He didn't just win, he won by a mile.

Of course, before the race was over, Busch's crew chief seemed to sense his driver's lead might not last. He was quick to point out that Busch had just haloed in from Michigan and that Busch was actually treating the first half of the race like practice. Then after the race, when Busch congratulated Joey on camera, Rowdy kept to the team talking points, saying that practice times at the track clearly played into Logano's favor.

Sorry, but you can't butter your biscuit on both sides. Busch is a more experienced mega-talent in the eyes of his peers, media and fans. He shouldn't need as much practice as Logano. And I'm surprised he admitted that he does.

I guess any excuse will do when your teammate turns you into toast.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ryan Newman Appleseed?

You might think that green living and fast racing don't go together. But Ryan "Rocket Man" Newman would beg to disagree.

Newman took part in a tree planting ceremony today at Michigan International Speedway as part of the kickoff for the "NASCAR Green Clean Air" initiative. And if Newman had his way, the rest of NASCAR nation would pay more attention to green living and environmental conservation.

“There’s nothing to be skeptical about. It’s something that we need to do," Newman said. "Johnny Appleseed came by a long time ago and dropped a bunch of seeds off and we need to follow his pattern."

Although I'm not planning to trek barefoot across the wilderness with a mush pot for a hat, I do think Newman has a point. I've seen what has happened to my native state in the last dozen years. And it would indeed be a step in the right direction if more Florida contractors would practice responsible development instead of razing everything with roots just to build another strip mall.

But it's not just about planting trees. As Ryan Newman told the media today, there are multiple ways for regular joes to make a big impact on the world we live in.

"We can talk about recycle and we can talk about drilling holes in tires and we can talk about planting trees and what we do with the water and things like that," Newman said. "Everybody has to help out. It’s not just NASCAR. It’s the fans and it’s the people. It’s you guys. Everybody has to help out in respect to this to make a difference.

John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, would be proud.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bad News: GM Cuts Support For Camping World/Nationwide Teams

You can shove your fingers in your ears, shut your eyes and refuse to acknowledge the inevitable for only so long. But that doesn't keep the inevitable from happening.

Word broke today that General Motors is cutting its factory support for Chevy teams in both NASCAR Camping World and Nationwide Series. This is depressing news for a sport which is also suffering from lower ticket sales, lack of sponsorship and still reeling from a round of 2008 layoffs.

Although some folks, like Rick Hendrick, have publicly said they think General Motors will be all right in the end, I've got to believe that anyone involved with a Chevy race team entertains private doubts.

With the stimulus money long spent and Chapter 11 underway, General Motors must save money where it can. And it would be difficult for the company to justify spending dollars it doesn't have on its NASCAR investment. Especially when it's laying off employees left and right, shutting down plants and operating on a wing and a prayer.

Early news is that the teams most likely to be affected by the cuts will be Kevin Harvick, Inc., JR Motorsports (owned by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Rick Hendrick) and Rusty Wallace Racing -- all three of which are owned by current or one-time Cup drivers.

What's not yet clear is how much less GM will be contributing to these race teams. Hopefully "cutting back" doesn't mean "cutting off."

So far, there's nothing to indicate that the cuts will affect Chevy teams in the Sprint Cup series.

But time, as always, will tell.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Vickers Pits in Manhattan

Brian Vickers and his Red Bull team showed New Yorkers what it really means to move it Wednesday when they treated the crowd in Times Square to a 14-second pit stop. Thanks to Tweep @jaybusbee for sharing the video on Twitter and posting it on From the Marbles.

Biffle Takes a Dive and Other Race Week Ramblings

He meant to do that: For all you #16 fans who remember Greg Biffle's boating "accident" earlier this year, you'll be interested to know that the Biff has taken yet another dive. Fortunately, this time, he meant to hit the water. Biffle was in Tampa yesterday as part of the 2009 Coke Zero 400 NASCAR Media Day. While there, he took the plunge and swam with all manner of fish at the Florida Aquarium. An added bonus, none of Biffle's ribs (or marine life for that matter), were injured during the event.

More than meets the eye: Kyle Busch will drive a new Transformers: Return of the Fallen/M&M's paint scheme at the Infineon road course in Sonoma, CA. This is ironic in so many ways. Given the backlash against guitar man, I bet Joe Gibbs is wishing he could transform Busch's image about now.

Speaking of Joe Gibbs Racing: If anybody needs the luck of the Irish Hills for the Lifelock 400, it's poor Denny Hamlin. Seriously, could he have had a more discouraging day at Pocono? Hamlin had the fastest car in practice, but with a busted fuel pump right out of the gate, he didn't ever have a shot at a decent finish. The law of averages would indicate he's due for a good race. Hopefully, Hamlin will find his pot of gold at MIS--or at least finish in the top 10.

Everyone's favorite track?: It's true. Drivers adore Michigan--even if they've never won there before. Says Jeff Gordon, "You would think my favorite track would be one where I've won more times, but I love Michigan." Per Bobby Labonte,"Michigan is my favorite race track to go to as a race car driver. I just love Michigan speedway. It’s just a fun race track to race at and I know that I’ve used every groove there ever was to run there, from entry to middle to exit. " Then there's Brian Vickers, “Michigan’s a great track with some really fun racing. I like the fact that it’s wall-to-wall racing." Finally, David Stremme, “Michigan International Speedway is awesome."

Just because I love Duke basketball: Houston Rockets star and Naismith winner/Duke basketball alum Shane Battier will be taking in his first Cup race this weekend as part of a promotional effort for the ServiceMaster Clean/Shane Battier Franchise Scholarship . “Growing up in Detroit, with my family and friends entrenched in the automotive industry, gave me a keen appreciation for cars,” said Battier. “And having lived in the NASCAR belt for the past 12 years - in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas – I thought it was about time to get to a NASCAR race.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Tweet Worth Sharing


The cybersphere can't get enough of Kyle Busch's wannabe rock star stunt. And when artist Sam Bass told the media yesterday that he was "stunned and heartbroken" that Busch had shattered his carefully created work of art, the incident took on a whole new tone. (Considering that the official word from JGR the night of the race was that Bass was cool with the smash and knew about it ahead of time...both untruths, apparently.)

Busch's antics were such a contrast to JR Motorsports driver, Brad Keselowski, who won the Nashville guitar trophy last year. He fell asleep holding the guitar on the plane back to NC and the trophy has since been given a place of honor. So, I had to laugh when I logged on to Twitter tonight and saw the Tweet by @MikeDavis88 (Communications Director at JR Motorsports). I repost it here for all of you non-Twitter folks.

The caption that ran with the picture above: "At JR Motorsports, We Break Hearts, Not Guitars."

Priceless.


Racing a Family Affair for Moses Smith

Thanks to the folks at NASCAR This Week for giving me today's guest column spot. Here's a repost of today's column below. Ya'll be sure to check them out!

Go to any race track on any given weekend and amid the pit crews, die-hard fans and media types, you'll find a slew of wide-eyed youngsters who dream of being a professional driver one day. It's the nature of such dreams to change with the passage of time. But when a child is blessed with real talent, a passion for motorsports and a supportive family, a boy's far-flung dream can turn into a man's present-day reality.

Just ask Moses Smith. He's one of the lucky ones.

Smith drives the #16 Hasa Pool Products Toyota in NASCAR's National Camping World Series West - a feeder league that prepares drivers for the top levels of NASCAR racing. But Moses began his racing odyssey more than 20 years ago, as a young boy growing up in California. His dad Paul is an undefeated San Diego Sand Drag Champion, and his Mom would tote Moses and little brother Zachariah to watch dad's races.

"My earliest memories are of my dad working on his street/drag car or building his sand rail in the garage," Smith said. "He was always involved in motorsports as a hobby and I thought it would be cool if I could do it for a living," Smith said. "I guess that's the short version of how it all started."

Bit by the racing bug, Moses began driving go-karts competitively in what was at first a "father and son thing". He eventually became the California State Champion and has seen more recent success in Formula One and now NASCAR.

So far, 2009 has been good to Moses and the HASA Pool Products team. They've snagged four top 10 finishes and two top fives. But Moses is the first to admit his accomplishments would never have happened without the superhuman efforts of his Mom and Dad. "My parents never really had the big bucks like other parents," Smith said. "But they showed me how to work for it. Giving up was never an option."

Moses learned from the example of his parents' work ethic. Both "z." and Paul hold down full-time jobs while going all out for their son's career. "Z." (or NASCAR Race Mom as she's known online) can spend up to four hours a day writing Moses' newsletters, handling media requests and updating his web site. She helps out at hospitality events, and has been known to clean the hauler a time or two. Last year, Paul was even a member of Moses' crew.

"It has never been a chore or a challenge," "z." said, "We really do not balance racing and family because to the Smiths it is one and the same."

The Smiths have got it right. The hard work that goes in to making any driver a success isn't just a one-person effort. The racing life is not so much a destination, as it is a shared journey.

"There are a lot of sacrifices that are made to make it to the top," Smith said. "This is our dream, and the reward of achieving your dream is amazing. And if you never quite achieve your dream, well at least you get to dream for a while..."

... Said the once little boy whose dream is coming true.

Photo courtesy of "z." Smith

Monday, June 8, 2009

Bowling for Sadlers -- or Something Like That

If you're a member of the Sadler Fan Club, then now's your chance to go bowling with your favorite NASCAR brothers.

The fun in the "fast lanes" takes place from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., Oct. 14 at Dave and Busters in Concord, NC. This Fan Club members only event includes bowling (obviously), autographs, photos with Elliott and Hermie, prizes, food and more!

Tickets are $20 a pop and that includes food, drinks and bowling. Limit four tickets per Fan Club member. Purchase them now at at SadlerFanClub.com. You can order them by clicking here. There are a limited number of tickets available so order ASAP.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Stewart Had to Slow Down for This Win

Tony Stewart may not have liked the way he had to race to the checkers. But he sure loved the outcome.

Unlike last weekend's head-to-head battle with Jimmie Johnson, Stewart drove the last laps at Pocono more conservatively than he had all day. In an attempt to save fuel, Smoke slowed it up and coasted into the corners. And, when it was all said and done he was just fast enough to keep his competitors at bay.

While crew chief Darian Grubb counted down each lap, Stewart made his feelings on the slower pace clear declaring, "I hate this."

Slowing down just ain't Smoke's style.

The finish sure was a study in contrasts compared to how he shot out of the Pocono gates. Starting in last place with a back-up car, the pre-race pundits thought Stewart may have a tough time snagging another top five finish. But Smoke didn't seem to care. Like Bo Duke on a dirt road in Hazzard, Stewart "straightened the curves and flattened the hills" as he rocketed into the top 10.

This Pocono win is well-deserved. And with the strength of Stewart-Haas racing behind him, Smoke may just steal that fourth Cup championship out from under Jimmie Johnson's handsome nose.

Note from NASCAR-ista: Be sure to enter my "If I Were Smoke Contest" and win an Armor All prize pack!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

You Can't Call Busch a Guitar Hero

Kyle Busch put on a show in Nashville Saturday night. He was on the pole. Led almost every lap. And was never really challenged for the lead.

But the fireworks didn't begin until after the race. That's when he literally set the track ablaze in a race-winning burnout and smashed the Gibson Guitar trophy in Victory Lane. Yup. Smashed it. With all the grace of a coked-up death-metal front man, Busch hoisted the custom-designed award over his head and broke it to pieces on the concrete.

This is why no matter how talented he is (and he's remarkably talented, no doubt) most race fans don't cotton to him. He doesn't race with respect. He won't hang around when he has a bad night and answer a simple media question. He leaves his teammate to take the heat for his own bad finish. And when things do go his way, he puts on a display worthy of a three-year-old chimp.

If Kyle ever grows up, fans may come around. But after this business in Nashville, he'll be nobody's hero for a while.

Say What? Driver Quotes From Pocono

With Friday's on-track activity rained out at Pocono, the drivers had ample time to chat it up with the press. Here's a few of the more interesting "behind the hauler" sound bites that came out of the day's washout.

How does Jimmie Johnson bide his time during a rain delay? “Days like today are really actually relaxing. At home there’s a lot going on. At the track, I usually catch up on emails and phone calls and catch up with friends and stuff like that. I’ll just sit around and hopefully not eat too much.” Hey Jimmie, if you get too bored, I could always use a pool boy. Love that Jimmie.

Ryan Newman on which turn he sets up for at the Tricky Triangle: “You make the car as good as you can and then as a driver you manipulate it the way you need to so if you’ve got to run the bottom of three or the top of one or the way you enter turn two that’s what you do as a driver. That’s why they put the steering wheel in there." Hear Hear! More drivers need to quit yappin' about setups and manhandle the dang car.

Rain delay an advantage for Mark Martin: "I view it as the less time on the track the better. I feel like for our team, for us we usually hit the track running and the longer we run the more the competition has a chance to catch up." Sounds like the old man's got it all under control. Maybe I should pick Martin to win Sunday's race ...

Jeff Burton surprised that the restart rule changed so quickly: “I’m shocked that we are doing this this year. I have become very used to the shipliner analogy about how it is hard to turn a ship real quick." Is there a fan who ISN'T thrilled about the new restart rule? Here's to more shootout-style racing.

Kasey Kahne gives a glowing review of this week's tire test at Indy: "The tire drove as good as any tire that we’ve had there with this car. It actually probably drove the best that we’ve had with this car. They (tires) didn’t blister. They didn’t cord. They looked really good. I was real pleased." I hope he's right. Another Indy race like last year and Tony Stewart won't be the only one on a tirade.

Jeff Gordon stops just short of calling Kyle Busch an instigator: "It's hard to create your own rivalry. I think Kyle is a little bit involved in that. He’d like there to be one. I don’t think Junior is really as involved with that as Kyle is. That’s cool, if it materializes on the race track. To me, rivals really are the guys who are battling on the race track that have sort of unique fanbase to themselves. And that is definitely true among Junior and Kyle because I’m pretty sure Kyle’s fans aren’t the same as Junior’s fans. " You can say that again.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Go Behind the Scenes With Smoke

Tony Stewart is having one smokin' year. He's first in points. He's a new Cup team owner. And he won his first All-Star race in May--not a bad start to 2009. And, I've decreed from the start that it won't be long before Stewart scores his first points victory of the season.

But if you're one of those Stewart fans who lies awake at night wondering what your favorite driver does when he's not wheeling a race car, then your prayers have been answered. Thanks to the new "Off Track With Tony" video series, Smoke is giving folks a behind-the-scenes peek at his personal life-- from his impressive collection of dream cars to a tour of his property in Columbus, Indiana. You can check out the videos (a new one will be posted each week) at the Armor All Owner Center. And, as part of the video series kick-off, you can also enter to win a VIP race weekend with Stewart himself.

Here at NASCAR-ista, we're running our own little "If I Were Smoke" contest. Just send me a picture of the dream car YOU would buy if you were Tony Stewart, with a brief note about why this is THE car for you and you'll be entered to win one of two Armor All Prize Packs. E-mail me at nascarista@att.net and be sure to attach a jpeg image of your dream car. I'll post the entries of the two lucky winners. The entry deadline for the "If I Were Smoke" contest is August 1.

In the meantime, check out these "Off Track With Tony" highlights:

video

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Labonte Might Just Shine at Pocono

There's been lots of big NASCAR news during the past few weeks -- the impressive performance of Stewart-Haas, Dale Jr's crew chief shift, Jeremy Mayfield's indefinite suspension, et cetera, et cetera. And while the media has been shining its spotlight on these high- profile stories, one new Cup team has been quietly plugging away and will likely surprise some folks before the season is over.

Though you probably haven't noticed it, Bobby Labonte and his Ask.com Ford Fusion have been steadily getting better. And last week, if it weren't for a pit road speeding penalty, Labonte and Co. would have bagged their best finish yet.

That's why I'm looking forward to seeing what the #96 team has in store for the Pocono 500. After all, Mark Martin isn't the only Cup veteran who's still got it. When it comes to racing at Long Pond, Labonte has got the goods. He's a three-time Pocono winner, with three top-five finishes and seven top tens to his credit. And if his crew can get his car in shape, he and the boys at Hall of Fame Racing may put on quite a show come Sunday.

“Last week I saw this team come together in the pits and on the track," said Labonte's crew chief Ben Leslie. "The guys have started really getting Bobby out of the box fast and Bobby’s really been racing what we give him hard. I think we’re in for a good weekend in Pocono.”

Let's hope so. This fan would love to see Labonte back in Victory Lane.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Darrell, We Will Miss Thee. Digger? Not So Much.

Boogity, Boogity, Boogity! How time flies when you're a race fan.

When the checkered flag flew at Dover Sunday, viewers said "so long" to the FOX Sports portion of the 2009 season. And though the network's coverage has had its up and downs (Sunday's absent ticker being a definite down), this fan will miss Waltrip and company's darned entertaining coverage of the best sport ever.

Say what you will about Waltrip. He makes race day fun. Sure, he's dopey at times. He has an irritating habit of telling every driver he talks to to that they're his pick to win the race. And he's a shameless huckster of gopher paraphenalia (rumor has it that Digger's last name begins with "W"). Still, ol' Darrell is amusing, energetic and one hard-working broadcaster. The same can also be said for his fellow cohorts in the Hollywood Hotel.

The bright spot to the end of FOX coverage is that the-gopher-who-shall-not-be-named and his annoyingly catchy theme song will now be absent from race day broadcasts. But with all that DW/Digger merchandise on the market, it's probably unrealistic to hope that FOX will nix the rodent cartoons in 2010.

Ghastly gophers, absent tickers and occasional dopey-ness aside, I've got to thank Darrell for one heckuva ride. We'll catch you and the boys in 2010.