Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Addition to DIS Debuts This Weekend

For a NASCAR fan, watching the Rolex 24 at Daytona takes some getting used to. Not only has the famous speedway turned into a road course, but the cars are racing with rain, in the dark, with their headlights aglow. And there's lots of unfamiliar names scrolling across the leaderboard.

On top of all that, when the checkered flag finally flies, viewers will also spy a brand-new addition to DIS.
This week, the track debuted its newly installed, state-of-the-art flagstand, which is complete with a full-color LED display that will overlook the legendary tri-oval of the “World Center of Racing.”

The flagstand, made of structural steel and standing 22 feet tall from the race track, will see its first racing action beginning with this weekend’s Rolex 24 At Daytona GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race and the Fresh From Florida 200 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge.

Other interesting statistics behind the flagstand:

· Approximately 60 square feet space at the top of flagstand for the starter

· Eighteen steps to climb to the top of flagstand

· The high resolution LED display is capable of showing race information, live video and replays as well as graphics and animations in 4.4 trillion colors.

· Impressive 49,920 pixel LED display that measures nearly four-feet tall and 22.5-feet wide.

· Two new light tubes featuring super-bright green, red and amber LEDs above the display will flash the flag colors and provide fans and drivers greater visibility of the racing conditions.

Photo info: DIS President Robin Braig, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series champion Alex Gurney christening the new flagstand before Friday’s Fresh From Florida 200

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jimmie Plus Rolex Equals Bad Luck

Jimmie Johnson and the Rolex 24 just don't get along.

Johnson took a nasty hit today during practice for this weekend's 24 hours at Daytona. He was treated and released from the infield care center. And reports say he's uninjured, except for some bruising and soreness.

The car didn't make out so well - it was totalled.

It was just last year at the Rolex 24 that Johnson suffered another bit of bad luck. He sliced his finger open with a knife - while trying to poke a hole in his firesuit, no less. He ended up with stitches to show for it.

However, just like last year, the indomitable Johnson isn't gonna let a little mishap keep him from racing in the big event.

His run in this weekend's Rolex 24 will cap what's turned out to be one heckuva week for the reigning NASCAR Cup champ. The HBO special "Jimmie Johnson 24/7 - The Road To Daytona" premiered Tuesday to much acclaim by the NASCAR faithful.

For those of you (like me) who don't subscribe to HBO and were bummed to miss the big show - just look at what I found - Epsiode 1 on Youtube!

Photo info: A tow truck pulls the Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Chevrolet/Riley back to the garage after driver Jimmie Johnson wrecked the vehicle during practice for the Rolex 24-hour race at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2010. - Associated Press

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The NASCAR State of the Union

President Obama just gave one of the longest State of the Union speeches on record. But even though he spoke for well over 60 minutes and mentioned everything from climate change to national defense, he failed to touch on what my readers care about most - the state of NASCAR in 2010.

I'm no politician. I'm not even a racing expert. But here's my take on the current state of the sport we all love.

Economic Downturn - Ticket sales are down. Souvenir sales have taken a huge hit. Sponsors are bailing. Clearly, NASCAR does not exist in a fiscal vacuum. As the fate of middle America goes, so goes the sport. Like the rest of Americans, race fans are facing job losses, pay cuts, and too much debt. And, as a result, the economics of racing have been adversely affected. NASCAR is trying desperately to adjust to the sport's new consumer reality by continuing last year's trend of discounting ticket prices and offering more manageable payment plans. A move we all applaud.

However, there are many fans I've heard from who are disappointed that the sport's newest weekly TV show will be aired on Showtime ... namely because they don't have the money to pay for the channel. I'm sure the folks at Showtime will do a stand-up job with the new broadcast. However, if a fan has to choose between paying for another cable channel or attending a live race, a live race wins every time.

A Move Toward Populism - The current "My NASCAR" advertising campaign seems to be echoing the recent populist political groundswell. Couple that with the sport's heralded "return to its roots" philosophy and I wouldn't be suprised to see Massachusetts Senator-elect Scott Brown pop up in the next round of commercials declaring NASCAR "the people's sport".

Health Care Reform - Probably the best thing NASCAR can do to promote driver/fan health is figure out a way to keep the cars from flying a la Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards. Time will tell if the recent changes to the Cup car will help keep drivers and spectators safer during Daytona and Talladega. If NASCAR can balance driver safety with good racing, fans will be happy.

Foreign Relations - With Juan Pablo Montoya's impressive Chase finish in 2009, racers from other series and other countries are being taken a lot more seriously in 2010. And with the news that controversial ex-Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. will be making his NASCAR debut during the Daytona ARCA race, the sport is poised to expand its global reach once again.

NASCAR Now Returns Next Week

ESPN2’s daily NASCAR news and information program NASCAR Now returns for its fourth season on Monday, Feb. 1, at 5 p.m., to coincide with the beginning of the 2010 NASCAR season.

With hosts Nicole Briscoe, Mike Massaro and Allen Bestwick, NASCAR Now originates from ESPN’s high definition studios in Bristol, Conn., with reporters and analysts checking in from locations around the country wherever NASCAR news is happening. In addition to reports from races, NASCAR Now reporters also visit race shops and special events.

The program regularly airs at 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, with all weekday programs 30 minutes except for a one-hour Monday roundtable discussion edition with ESPN analysts and reporters. ESPN2 also airs an hour-long edition at 9 a.m. on the morning of each NASCAR Sprint Cup race, and a weekend wrap-up edition will begin in July.

NASCAR Now will originate from Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla., site of the NASCAR season-opening Daytona 500, with special hour-long programs Feb. 8-14. Massaro will host the first week of episodes beginning Feb. 1, with Briscoe reporting from Daytona starting Feb. 4.

The first two weeks of the program will include a focus on the top 10 teams in the sport, looking back at the 2009 season and looking ahead to 2010 with predictions from ESPN analysts. In addition, the first week of the program will feature drivers of the decades, starting on Feb. 1 with drivers from the 1960s.

Photo courtesy of ESPN

The Bud Shootout Gets "Chicken Fried"

It's official. The Zac Brown Band will be the featured performers at this year's Budweiser Shootout. Rather fitting - consider one of the band's most singable lyrics involves "cold beer".

The group - which consists of bandleader Zac Brown, bassist John Hopkins, violinist Jimmy De Martini, guitarist/organist Coy Bowles, drummer Chris Fryar and multi-instrumentalist and song writer Clay Cook – will perform three songs prior to the Shootout on the Pre-Race Stage as well as the National Anthem, all of which will be carried live on FOX Sports.

Plus, after the checkered flag waves, Zac Brown Band will perform a 60-minute post-race concert from the Sprint FANZONE Entertainment Stage.

This won't be the first time the group has performed during a NASCAR race weekend. They played the Talladega infield on Halloween night 2009 - in what may have been the muddiest musical bash of the year.

Zac Brown Band, whose latest No. 1 hit is “Toes,” are nominated for three GRAMMY Awards including Best New Artist, Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals and Best Country Album. In 2009, the group captured two fan-voted honors – Top New Vocal Group at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year at the CMT Awards for “Chicken Fried” In addition to four Country Music Association and three American Music Award nominations in 2009.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Catching Up With Liz Allison

Liz Allison has been involved in racing for more than 20 years.

Liz was married to racing superstar Davey Allison, until his death in 1993. And since then, she has covered the sport via radio and television.

In addition to being a recognized motorsports media personality, Liz is also a popular author. She has written everything from NASCAR-themed Harlequin romance novels to the best-selling "The Girl's Guide to NASCAR". Her latest book, "The Ultimate NASCAR Insider's Track Guide" was released earlier this month.

We caught up with Liz to find out the scoop on her latest book, her favorite track, and to see what else she has in the works.

Here's what she had to say:

Why do you think fans will like the NASCAR Insider's Track Guide?

"As a fan myself, I find the guide very helpful since everything I may need to know about any track is all wrapped up in one book. It is great to keep on hand at home while planning trips and equally as easy to throw in a suitcase to take along for the next NASCAR road trip. The great part about this guide is there is something for everyone. If Dad wants to go to the track for qualifying and Mom wants to go shopping and the kids want a hotel with a pool, and oh by the way, the family pooch wants to go along…this guide can get everyone where they want to be, including the hotel that allows the four legged family member to tag along. This guide is quite extensive…I really cannot think of anything we left out. It took a full year of working on this project to make sure the fans received the most information possible so that it could truly be a fans guide. "

The Daytona 500 is fast approaching - what are some things fans going to the race need to know?

"The Daytona 500 is so exciting with the racing season getting back in to full swing. The weather is usually much warmer than most places this time of year so it is fun to get a little break from the cold harsh winter ( for many of us) and enjoy the Florida sunshine. This is also a great track to take the kids along. My kids have always loved this track. The Daytona Experience is a great exhibit/museum located right on the grounds of the track. This is a must stop for every race fan. Make sure you check out the Allison family exhibit. Of course I am a bit partial. Race day itself is exciting and quite long. Check the weather before you leave for the track and make sure to dress in layers. Daytona in February can be tricky weather-wise. Most importantly, wear comfortable shoes and get ready for some great racing. The history of this track, combined with the great racing, makes this a fun and incredibly exciting day. "

What are you favorite tracks to visit?
"I love Darlington and Daytona due to the rich history and of course the great racing. I am also partial to Talladega, as this was the Allison’s home track. And what’s not to love about Bristol? What a gem of a track."

As the author of "The Girl's Guide to Winning a NASCAR driver," have you ever thought about starting an online dating site for NASCAR fans?

"Oh boy, I have not and I think I might better leave this to the professionals. I did have great fun writing this book though. I mixed in some good ole racing info with lots of humor. I found myself laughing at myself while writing this book. It was meant to be a fun and light hearted approach to the sport. I shared lots of insider knowledge about the drivers (and how to hook one) but the book did not come with a money back guarentee. "

What's next for your writing life? Any big projects in the works?

"I have two more NASCAR Harlequin romances (co-authored with Wendy Etherington) coming out this year that I am excited about. As a full time writer, I am always either promoting a new book or putting the finishing touches on a future book. I love what I do. I feel very blessed."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Will She Or Won't She?

The news out of JR Motorsports is that Danica Patrick might run the Daytona Nationwide race after all. But then again, she might not.

Once again, the "will she or won't she" questions looms over Danica. This time the answer all hinges on her performance in the ARCA race the week before the Nationwide season opener.

And, although Patrick is the girl with all the hype, she's not the only girl who'll be taking the track during that race. Carbon-free girl Leilani Munter will also make her ARCA debut at Daytona.

Alli Owens returns to the series with Venturini Motorsports. And IndyCar series driver Milka Duno and Amber Cope (niece of NASCAR driver Derricke Cope) also plan to run in Daytona.

So hang on to your helmets race fans. Only time will tell which girl fares the best -and if Danica does well enough to move up her Nationwide debut.

Top photo: Danica Patrick talks to her Nationwide crew chief Tony Eury Jr.
Bottom photo: Leilani Munter

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hit the Track Like an Insider

NASCAR nation is readying for the 2010 season and there's an undeniable certain something in the atmosphere.

Perhaps it's the scent of exhaust in the air or the feel of Daytona sun on the skin. Maybe it's the fact that NASCAR TV has re-emerged from its winter hibernation.

All I know is, I've lately been visited by visions of transporter convoys trucking south on I-95 , carrying their precious cargo into the DIS infield.

It's the time of year when the buildling excitement leads fans to start planning their NASCAR road trips - while hoping they can save enough money to fit a new track into their travel schedule.

If you're one of the fortunate souls who will be heading to a track you've not yet been to (or even one you have), I encourage you to pick up Liz Allison's new "NASCAR Insider's Track Guide." The popular radio/TV personality and best-selling author gives attendeees the low down on everything from which tracks are the most kid friendly to nearby campgrounds and places of worship.

The guide is full of helpful phone numbers, address and insider tips. And while I can't vouch for every restaurant Allison recommends, I do know that her must-eat suggestion for Talladega is right on the money. Just thinking about the venerable Dreamland BBQ makes me long for a dripping rack of ribs and a piece of white bread.

I'll be putting this guide to the test this year, as I plan to hit as many races as possible in 2010 - and I'll let you know how that works out. But until then, get ready all you NASCAR road trippers - it's almost travellin' time!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Little Help for Haiti

To be honest, it's kind of hard to think (much less write) about NASCAR tonight after watching the Haiti coverage on cable news.

Rick Hendrick and the folks at Hendrick Motorsports are doing their part to assist in the much-needed disaster relief and humanitarian efforts. On Monday alone, HMS helped evacuate 87 people, including 27 orphan children. Check out this video, which shows how HMS is helping out.

Not everyone can lend planes and flight crews to the relief effort, but we can all help in some small way. That's why I'm posting a link to Performers like Dave Matthews Band, Peter Gabriel, Hoobastank have all donated downloadable tracks in support of Haiti relief.

Check out the songs here - and click to download and donate to the relief efforts. It's the least we could do!

Above photo: A Hendrick Motorsports plane on the tarmac in Haiti

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Daytona First - Mustang to Pace the 500

Americans love Mustangs. And now Daytona fans will get to see the original Pony car pace the field at the Daytona 500 - for the first time ever.

In fact, this year's race marks the first time in 40 years that a Ford has served as the pace car for "The Great American Race," with the last time being in 1970 when a Ford Torino GT convertible did the honors. It is Mustang’s first time as pace car for the Daytona 500.

Fifty special pace car editions of the 2011 Mustang GT will be built and sold to the public.

The actual Race Red Mustang will be auctioned at the 39th Annual Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale Collector Car Auction on Jan. 23, with the help of Richard Petty, the newest member of the Ford Racing family.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome to NASCAR High

It's only day one of this year's media tour and, from the sound of things, the boys of 2009 haven't grown up quite yet.

At the end of last season, we all wondered if the Hamlin/Keselowski feud would continue into 2010 and if team ownership would mellow Kyle Busch.

Lucky for us, the answer is no and no.

Take this bit of Twitter-smack relayed by ESPN's David Newton whilst on today's tour of Joe Gibbs Racing and Penske:

In response to Denny Hamlin's tweet that he was going to play basketball, Newton asked "Can u take Brad K to the hole?"

Message back from Hamlin - "I'd rather play a 10-year-old girl"

Response from Keselowski? "Cause you know you would win."

Oh, and Keselowski claimed he sent Hamlin a Christmas card emblazoned with "Peace on Earth" - but didn't get a holiday greeting in return. In fact, Brad's not even on the guest list for the opening of Hamlin's new Charlotte night club called Butter - not that Brad minds.

And let's not forget the most infamous bully of them all - Kyle Busch. Rowdy told reporters today that Keselowski, his brother's new teammate, hadn't asked big brother about "diddly squat, so that doesn't build a strong relationship." (An accusation Brad strongly denied).

Then Kyle went and picked on a girl. Per former Scene Daily reporter Jeff Gluck, Busch told the media that the only time he'd think about Danica Patrick was while he was lapping her.

Sound like a bit of high school drama and playground trash talk? Well, Hamlin, Keselowski and Busch aren't the first to resort to such means of expressing their emotions.

Lest we forget, it was only last year that Carl Edwards tried to beat down Kevin Harvick in the garage after leaving a "note" on Harvick's helicopter. And we thought NASCAR was for grownups...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

In Case You Missed It - Jeff Gordon on Sesame Street

Drivers were busy during the off-season and Jeff Gordon took some time to make an appearance on "Sesame Street" - calling a race for the Street's own "Squirmadega".

It may be a children's show, but the writers for Sesame Street are pretty darn clever. The play on NASCAR drivers' names, for instance, is just too cute - I especially like Dale "Squirmhardt" Jr. and Kyle "Squish".

So enjoy. Looks like Jeff Gordon may have a future in children's broadcasting.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Southern Voice" to Be Raised at the Daytona 500

What do you get when you blend a country music superstar, a song about the No. 3 and the granddaddy of all NASCAR races?

How 'bout a perfect recipe for a pre-race show.

It was announced this weekend that Tim McGraw will perform three songs before the Daytona 500 on Feb. 14. And it's a safe bet that his hit "Southern Voice" will be included in the performance. The tune pays homage to Dale Earnhardt - and a host of other prominent Southerners - with a driving hook that makes you want to lift a glass and shout "Yee Haw".

If this is part of NASCAR's infamous "return to its roots" strategy, this booking gets an A+.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Martin in His Element at Daytona Fan Fest

NASCAR fans were out in force tonight at Daytona International Speedway - and so were their favorite drivers. And, at times, it was hard to tell which group was enjoying it more.

Take Mark Martin for example, "I'm excited about the racing this year. I'm a driver but I'm a fan too. When there hasn't been any racing for 60 days you get excited for it all to start again."

Martin, a quintessential favorite among the NASCAR faithful, spent some time answering questions on the Speed TV stage and and signing tons of autographs. He even managed to fit in an ESPN interview. Not bad for one night.

To be honest, tonight's Preseason Thunder event isn't all that different from Martin's usual M.O. He's one of those drivers who always takes time to acknowledge the fans. At Talladega last year, I watched him stop for every autograph request on his way to the Sunday drivers meeting.

Martin claims to have modest prospects for his GoDaddy Chevy this season, "I just want to continue what I've been doing my whole life and enjoy doing it. That's my goal for 2010."

Humble as always. But there's no doubt Martin would enjoy it even more if he was hoisting that Sprint Cup come November.

And what fan wouldn't love to see that happen?

Sounds Like a Recession-Friendly Deal To Me ...

Bank of America, the Official Bank of NASCAR, is providing fans an opportunity to kick off the 2010 NASCAR season by attending the most prestigious race of the year – the Daytona 500-- for free.

NASCAR fans, like all Americans, have been impacted by the bad economy, travel costs, and lower personal spending funds so Bank of America is providing the opportunity for fans to attend the race free when they show their passion for NASCAR and sign up for NASCAR Banking products with Bank of America. When fans open a NASCAR Checking account and apply for a NASCAR Banking credit card, they can acquire two tickets to the Daytona 500.

The offer is available now on the Bank of America website and will last until Feb. 5th. Right now, you can choose from credit cards featuring these drivers - Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Martin, Kasey Kahne and Rusty Wallace. Even more drivers will be added later this year.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Danica Patrick Goes Hollywood - But What About Martin?

Hard-core Marilyn Monroe fans might not cotton to a certain GoDaddy Superbowl ad. But then again, hard-core Monroe fans likely aren't the target market.

As part of the company's 2010 bowl ad blitz, Patrick channels Marilyn Monroe in an homage to what is arguably the most iconic movie moment of all time - the skirt blowing scene in "The Seven Year Itch." Not a bad re-creation of the dress, but couldn't Patrick at least have donned a blonde wig?

"Weird Science" and "Flashdance" also get the Patrick treatment in the new spots. But I'm highly disappointed that Mark Martin, who will be driving a GoDaddy paint scheme in 2010, wasn't included in this spate of ads. Couldn't you see ol' Mark playing Rhett Butler to Danica's Scarlett O'Hara? Or taking on Bogart in Casablanca?

Here's looking at you, kid.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Robert Richardson Jr. Talks NASCAR, Elvis and Tim Tebow

Robert Richardson Jr. is what I'd call a NASCAR Renaissance Man. This self-proclaimed Elvis fan is a former college quarterback who also majored in studio art at SMU. Oh, and did I mention he hopes to run a full Nationwide schedule in 2010 for R3Motorsports?

Richardson will pilot the No. 23 Chevrolet beginning at Daytona (he has 18 races planned right now), and he'll also run a few races on the Cup side as well. We caught up with Richardson a couple days ago and asked him about everything from Danica Patrick to Tim Tebow. Here's what this up-and-coming driver had to say:

What are your goals for 2010 - I know you're hoping to run a full season in the Nationwide Series...

"I have always looked forward to a full season effort. I've always felt taking two to three week breaks in between races and splitting the seat with other drivers has always put a damper on my experience in a car. The more seat time we have, as drivers, the better and more experienced we become. But, without the support from our sponsors, we would not have been able to accomplish the goals we have, thus far, with R3 Motorsports."

What are your favorite tracks on the circuit and why?

"Talladega Superspeedway and Texas Motor Speedway are tracks that hit close to home with me. Texas was where my whole career started and where I earned my first win in a Late Model. Talladega is where I have always run well, and where I made my very first Sprint Cup Series start last year finishing in 18th place."

What are your long-term racing goals - where would you like to be five years from now?

"Well, every race car driver dreams to race in the Sprint Cup Series one day. But for now, I want to hone my skills a little bit more in the Nationwide Series before I make the leap of faith into the Cup Series full time. But, hopefully five years from now, I will be focusing more on running a full Cup schedule. If I feel I’m ready and we can do it properly, it could happen sooner, too."

You know I have to ask - what are your thoughts about Danica Patrick? Do you think all the hype surrounding her takes away from other, more worthy drivers in the Nationwide Series or do you even care?

"I think having her in the sport right now is something NASCAR needs to help put the fans focus back on the sport, and even our Nationwide Series. Although I have never raced against her or met her in person, I won't count her out on being competitive. If she brings the fire and intensity she had from IRL into NASCAR; people better watch out. "

Elvis' 75th birthday was last Friday and I know you're a huge Elvis fan. What's your favorite Elvis song and why?

"(Laughs) Yes, I am a HUGE Elvis fan. It's hard to pick just one song because I like so many of them, but one of my favorites is "Tiger Man" because it has such an upbeat tempo that makes you tap your toes every time I hear it and, occasionally, I’ll sing it while I'm in the car."

You've also got no small amount of football experience on your resume. I live in the heart of Gator Country. What do you think about Tim Tebow and his prospects in the NFL?

"I grew up a Gator fan because my mother’s side of the family lived in Florida. I used to watch the Gators when Danny Wuerffel was their star QB. I admired how he played and when I was in Middle School and High school; I looked up to his "style" of being a quarterback. But, I'm not sure what to think about Tebow in the NFL just yet. He's more of a mobile QB and runs a lot. Most of the NFL quarterbacks are 'stand back and pass' cookie cutter QB's. It will be interesting to see how he does, and see who will draft him."

How does your football experience come into play behind the wheel? Is there anything you learned on the field that has helped you on the track?

"Oh, absolutely. Hand- to-eye coordination was something I worked on a lot playing quarterback in school and having quick feet. You need those abilities while driving race cars, as well. Also, teamwork and creating that "get after their tail" attitude amongst your team is important. One thing I’m big on is having camaraderie with your team. That is, by far, the most important piece of the puzzle to have, in my opinion. Because when it's time to do battle; they will be beside you every step of the way."

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Get It Together With Tony Stewart

Judging from the photo above, it looks like Tony Stewart hired a stylist during the off-season. Either that, or he's going to update his profile photo on eharmony.

But I digress.

Now that Smoke is in his sophomore year as a Cup team owner, he's sharing a few of his tips for how to get organized before the NASCAR season begins. (Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's sponsored by Office Depot).

Below are a couple of Tony's own organizational hints for budding professionals. Check out the rest on Office Depot's Facebook page.

· I have a frequent nightmare about showing up at the wrong race track during the NASCAR season…so, yes, I WILL take that new day planner, thank you very much!

· Gotta get a new dry-erase board for some very serious race strategy sessions with my crew chief, Darian Grubb. And – you caught me – our occasional game of Pictionary.

· When a computer virus or hard-drive meltdown catches you off-guard, it’s a lot like wrecking your primary race car and then realizing you forgot to bring the back-up car to the track. That said, I’m making it a New Year’s Resolution to back-up all of my important files on CDs and memory cards from Office Depot…just in case.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Snowin' at Daytona - And More Signs That Hell's Freezing Over

Events at Daytona International Speedway have been cancelled or postponed by precipitation before. But today might be the first time in the track's history that an event was delayed because of snow.

Juan Pablo Montoya, who was at DIS this morning for the Rolex 24 test, broadcast the above photo via Twitter, while he was waiting for the weather to improve. It was announced today that Montoya, along with Jamie McMurray,
Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will run the No. 02 Target/TELMEX Dinan-BMW Riley at the Rolex 24 for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.

Speaking of things I thought I'd never see nor hear, Kyle Busch told the media today at Sound and Speed in Nashville that he might personally be to blame for some of the drama his team experienced last season.

"Sometimes you have to learn from your mistakes," said Busch, who's now the proud owner of his own truck series team. Being a team owner may mature Rowdy before our very eyes - but I hope he doesn't outgrow all of the drama. It's darn fun to watch.

Finally, NASCAR may actually lift the ban on passing below the yellow line at Daytona and Talladega - answering the fervent prayer of many a fan and driver. NASCAR PR man Ramsey Poston hinted the rule change is coming on Sirius Radio yesterday, "We're going to let the drivers drive."

'Bout time!

Are You Ready For Some NASCAR? Bocephus Should Play Dega

Hank Williams Jr. rarely plays Nashville's Ryman Auditorium. But last night, as part of NASCAR Sound and Speed, Bocephus took that venerable stage and wowed fans and drivers with what I've heard was one heckuva show.

And the crowd went even wilder when Williams tore open his shirt at the end of his encore to reveal he was wearing an Alabama Football tee underneath.

Roll Tide!

So here's my plan - get the folks at Talladega Superspeedway to book a Bocephus concert for April's race. What better star to entertain the whiskey-bent partiers on Talladega Boulevard than the original country boy who's always got Dixie on his mind?

Just put him in a Crimson Tide shirt, give him a stage and let 'er rip. Cause Dega is one place where nobody rowdies on down.

Photo info: Hank Williams Jr. performs at the Ryman during Sound and Speed - photos courtesy of @NASCARsays via Twitter.

Friday, January 8, 2010

A NASCAR Birthday Tribute to Elvis

It's the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birthday (or, as I like to call it, Elvis' 75th birthday) and I just couldn't let the day go by without posting a little something about The King of Rock 'n' Roll.

I grew up with a Mama who grew up loving Elvis. So a few years ago, with feelings of reverence and fun that a few years ago, she and I and Mom's two older sisters embarked on a pilgrimage of sorts. We left Alabama on Highway 78 and headed to Presley's birthplace in Tupelo, Miss. and once we toured that tiny shotgun shack, we drove on to the Memphis Mecca of Graceland.

We booked the gold and platinum suite at The Heartbreak Hotel (located at the end of Lonely Street, no less) and we spent the weekend roaming the property off Elvis Presley Boulevard. I loved every minute of it - and I've wanted to go back ever since.

Like many a NASCAR fan, Elvis also loved cars, speed and the big show. And I've no doubt that were he alive today, Elvis would be the biggest NASCAR hound of them all. One could even argue - as did writer Colleen Kowalewski in a 2500 word paper - that there are striking simiarities between NASCAR's own legend Dale Earnhardt and the mythic status of Elvis Presley.

But such a comparison is a little bit heavy for our purposes. So, for a more light-hearted commemoration of Elvis' special day, check out this video snippet I unearthed on Youtube - it's Dale Earnhardt Jr at Elvis Week last year. Enjoy - and Happy Birthday Elvis!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More Than Just Sound And Speed

If you're in Nashville for Sound and Speed this weekend, there's more to do than meet your favorite drivers and listen to Hank Williams Jr.

Nashville is one of my favorite towns. And if you really want to appreciate all that Music City has to offer, be sure to check out at least a couple of these itinerary suggestions.

The Travis Mann Band - these guys rock the Full Moon Saloon on Broadway every Friday and Saturday night. The bar itself is bare bones and nothin' fancy, but the music is hot. Think rockabilly swing meets Montgomery Gentry. And the boys in the band can throw it down live. I stumbled into the Full Moon one weekend a couple years ago - and stayed until the show was done. Definitely worth your time.

Shawn Camp at The Station Inn - if unplugged roots music is more your style, then head on over to The Station Inn - a spot frequented by the likes of Dierks Bentley and a heap of other country stars. Saturday night's show features Shawn Camp - one heckuva songwriter who's penned lyrics for headliners like Brooks & Dunn and Garth Brooks, and played with everyone from John Prine to Alan Jackson. Camp's show begins at 9 p.m. on Saturday.

RCA Studio B - Elvis Presley's 75th birthday is Friday. And what better way to pay homage to the King of Rock 'n' Roll than by signing up for the RCA Studio B tour at the Country Music Hall of Fame? A bus will take you out near music row (away from the Hall) and you'll get an intimate look at Elvis' favorite place to record. "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" was recorded here - and it looks like the decor hasn't changed since Elvis was alive. If you heart Elvis - don't miss it.

Homes of the Stars - if you're a country music fan (and if you aren't, you darn sure should be) there are plenty of opportunities to see the way your favorite stars live. One of my favorite tours (and the one most convenient to The Ryman Auditorium) is put on by the good folks at the infamous Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Broadway. If you've got the time, it's loads of fun.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Johnsons - NASCAR's Newest Baby Boomers

Although it's been an unconfirmed Twitter rumor for a few weeks, it's now official. Jimmie Johnson and his wife Chandra are expecting their first baby in July.

There must be something in that infield water, because Johnson joins fellow Sprint Cup drivers Carl Edwards and Elliott Sadler who will both become fathers in February and March, respectively.

Even broadcasters are getting in on the baby boom. ESPN pit reporter Shannon Spake gave birth to twin boys on New Years Day.

Fortunately for guys like Johnson, there's no dearth of infant merchandise sporting the #48. My only question is, what baby names are the couple's hot list? Could we see a Jimmie Jr. or even a Chad Hendrick Johnson? And if Baby Johnson is a she, will Jimmie and Channie could take a page from Ramona Quimby and name her Chevrolet or maybe Lowe-la?

Regardless, it seems babies will be the hottest infield accessory in 2010. So watch out Danica - and don't drink the water.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What Was Good About NASCAR in 2009

Bloggers and fans often take a lot of flack for being too negative. We're quick to criticize the sport we love and the NASCAR powers-that-be don't always appreciate that our sometimes negative comments are usually well-intentioned.

It's human nature to be quick to criticize and slow to praise. And, in looking back on the 2009 NASCAR season, there was plenty that was praiseworthy. Maybe it was a long time coming, but here's my take on a few of the positive developments in 2009 :

Double file restarts "shootout style" - One of the better decisions made by NASCAR this year was establishing double-file restarts for the Cup and Nationwide series. The new rule has made for some exciting late-race green flags. And anything that adds more excitement to a Cup race is welcome indeed.

Driver safety - While there is definitely some tweaking that needs to be done at restrictor plate tracks, the Sprint Cup cars are safer now than ever before. The fact that Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman are walking around in their right minds is proof positive of that. Kudos to NASCAR for their commitment to safe cars and safe racing.

Cheap seats - The continued economic recession did mean one boon to fans in 2009 - cheaper admission to most of the tracks. And, fortunately for us, that low-cost trend is continuing in 2010. Backstretch tickets for the Daytona 500 begin at $55. Add in free parking and that's not such a bad deal for The Great American Race.

NASCAR gets more credit - In recent years, NASCAR has steadily been gaining traction in the widers sports world as a legitimate athletic endeavor. And Jimmie Johnson's historic four-in-a-row championship only added to NASCAR's cred and acceptance among more mainstream audiences. Johnson was named the 2009 Male Athlete of the Year by The Associated Press - the first time a NASCAR driver has won the award.

Hall of Fame Inductees - The inaugural inductees into the NASCAR Hall of Fame make a fine company indeed. Back in October, NASCAR announced the five members of the first HOF class - Richard Petty, Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., Dale Earnhardt and Junior Johnson. Just thinking about what those five people have meant to the sport gives me chills. And I can't wait for the Hall to open to the public in May 2010.