Thursday, July 29, 2010

Richardson Jr. Talks ORP, Iowa and Elvis

With a little more than half the season behind him, Robert Richardson, Jr. is finally riding high.

The driver of the No. 23 Chevrolet is fresh off a career best finish at O'Reilly Raceway Park. And he's hoping the momentum his team gained there will turn the tide on what's sometimes been a frustrating 2010.

"To be able to come away with a top 15 finish and my best finish of my career is definitely a booster," Richardson said when we caught up with him today.

"It makes everybody in the shop work a lot harder, it gets their spirits up and makes them more eager to get back to the race track to see if we can incorporate what we learned from last week’s race and put that into this weekend’s race coming up at Iowa."

In truth, Richardson and his R3 Motorsports crew have had their challenges. Prior to ORP, his best finish this season has been 20th. 

And, like other teams in the Nationwide Series, they've struggled to find consistent backing. Even the car they ran so well last week wasn't sponsored.

Not to mention, the NASCAR-imposed testing ban hasn't made it easy for this relatively young team to nail setups week in and week out.

"Any racer wants to get that advantage over the other guy, and not being able to test, you really don’t know what you’re bringing to the race track other than the traditional setups like what you’ve had in the past," Richardson explained.

So what can a driver like Richardson do to run well at Iowa, a track where he's never raced - nor tested- before?

"I’ll try to get with as many veteran drivers as I can and other guys that have been there and tested there and things of that nature to try to get up to speed as quickly as possible," he said.

In fact, he'll likely pick the brains of Steven and Rusty Wallace, Brendan Gaughan, Michael McDowell and a few other folks in the garage.

"They'll tell me what their car is doing and we'll compare it to what my car is doing and what kind of setup they have on their car versus what we have, and kinda just bat the ball back and forth," he said.

Even with the ups and downs 2010 has presented so far, Richardson gives his team high marks overall.

"They’ve been working their tails off all season long, thrashing to get these cars put together and ready to go to the race track," he said. "We don’t have the hundreds of employees like the major Cup teams do that may have seven or eight guys that do just setup plate and fabricators."

"Everybody’s got their own little niche in the Cup shops whereas at R3 Motorsports, each guy is well-rounded in every bit of racing. Our fabricator may be an over-the-wall guy and also help with the setup plate work. They're just well-rounded mechanics."

Perhaps Richardson can take some encouragement from his favorite entertainer - another guy who started out as small potatoes, but ended up with a super-sized career - Elvis Presley.

An Elvis fan since childhood, Richardson has been to Graceland several times. And he has also paid a visit to The King's childhood home in Tupelo, Miss.

"It’s neat to see how someone can come from having nothing at all to having everything in such a short time," Richardson said.

So true. 

And maybe, just maybe, some of that Elvis Presley magic will rub off on Richardson Jr.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Mysterious Case of

An example of the type of
graphics you'll find on

Whilst researching blog ideas a few days ago, a curious link made me do a doubletake -

I clicked instantly of course (who wouldn't?), and discovered a site devoted to bashing Carl Edwards and, more to the point, raising money to wreck him via product sales and online donations.


So, I reached out via e-mail to the site owner, and what followed was an intriguing exchange that has the suppressed Nancy Drew in me raring to solve the case of who's behind this anti-Edwards site.

Before I go further, let me state for the record that what is posted below may or not be true.  I wasn't able to verify it.  But the sheer idea of folks taking revenge on a hated driver in such a strategic way intrigued me, so here goes.

My source at claims to own the site, but wouldn't share his name because he owns other retail websites.  The attributable name he did provide was Thaddeus Van Martin, which he readily admitted is fictitious.

"I can confirm that I am not Brad Keselowski," said the fake Van Martin. "We chose because someone is trying to become the most famous face of NASCAR. I would not say we are necessarily Brad Keselowski fans."

Fake Van Martin said that he and his cohorts, who are based in the Midwest, do have some ties to NASCAR, but he would not disclose the nature of that relationship.

"We are fairly dedicated to sponsoring a start and park to hook Edwards," said fake Van Martin. "When it happens, our website name will not be on the car as we would hate to give NASCAR the ability to permanently suspend the driver or owner of the car."

When I asked how realistic such a plan was, I didn't receive an answer.  However fake Van Martin did say his site has received more than 10 thousand unique visitors since it went live on July 22.

"I am not sure what the site's future is, but right now we are focused pretty much on making fun of Carl Edwards," fakeVan Martin said.

To be honest, what intrigues me most about sites like is what this means for the intersection of sport and technology.

Not that long ago, the only way to show your disdain for a particular driver was to boo him at driver intros or give him the one-finger salute if you glimpsed him in the garage. Now that's all changed. Fans can instantaneously voice their disdain via a blog post or Tweet.  And, don't forget the Facebook hate pages and myriad message boards.

However, a concentrated effort to wreck a driver takes things to a whole new level.

So here's something to ponder while we talk about secret NASCAR penalties.

Is this type of site just the beginning of fans taking matters into their own hands?  And say does manage to sponsor an Edwards-hunting start and parker - how would NASCAR police that?

McMurray to Drive a Car of a Different Color

Jamie McMurray became one of the few NASCAR drivers to win both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same year this weekend.

And during the upcoming race at Pocono, McMurray will turn heads again with a first-ever paint scheme.  During the Sunoco American Red Cross Pennsylvania 500, McMurray's AXE Twist car will sport brand-new technology.

Simply put, his car will change colors on the track.

Fans should be sure to look for the bold, yet primarily black No. 1 Chevrolet with neon green and neon yellow accents, much like the packaging of AXE Twist.
The vinyl on the hood uses liquid crystals that can be accurately set to show color at specific temperatures and was specifically engineered to meet the exact temperature range needed to show changing colors on the hood of a Sprint Cup Series car.

The idea is that McMurray's car will visually simulate how the AXE Twist fragrance changes over time.

Check it out -

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Buy a Ticket for the Daytona 500 and Get a Piece of the Track

Daytona International Speedway is offering race fans the exclusive opportunity to purchase a ticket to witness history as well as receive a piece of history at the same time.

Beginning on Monday, Aug. 2 at 9 a.m. through midnight on Aug. 8, fans that purchase tickets for the 53rd annual Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, Feb. 20 will automatically receive a portion of Daytona’s original asphalt.

Race fans that have renewed their 2011 DAYTONA 500 tickets or purchased between June 18 and Aug. 1 will also receive this offer, which is limited to one piece of asphalt per account holder.

“Since we began the historic Daytona repave project in early July, race fans have been asking how they can attain a piece of Daytona International Speedway’s asphalt,” Track President Robin Braig said. “This one-time offer will provide two of the most coveted items in motorsports – a piece of Daytona’s legendary asphalt as well as a ticket to the 2011 edition of ‘The Great American Race.’ ”

For only the second time in its history, Daytona International Speedway’s entire 2.5-mile tri-oval is being repaved as well as the skid pads, apron and pit road. Concrete is being used for the pit stalls. All of the existing asphalt is being removed down to the original 52-year-old lime rock base, which will be leveled and then paving will begin.

The repaving project, which is being performed by Lane Construction, began on July 5 and has a targeted date of completion of Jan. 1, 2011.

Race fans can view the progression of the historic repaving project from a section of the Oldfield Grandstands, which will open free to the public. Track tours will also be available through attraction admission to Daytona 500 Experience.

Daytona International Speedway also is posting updates on the project at and on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ultimate Summer Job Winners Share Their Brickyard Experience

Jason Zone Fisher and Adam Ward are two lucky guys.  The pair recently won the ProGlide Ultimate Summer Job contest and, as a result, they're being paid $50 thousand to document their summer which they're spending at major sports and entertainment events across the country.

On Sunday, the guys hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Brickyard 400 where they had the chance to ask Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman a question for us. 

More specifically, they asked the question that's on everybody's mind after that Mullet Nation commercial first aired.  Namely, would either driver ever consider growing a mullet?

Said Kyle Busch, "I think it would take me a long time to grow it. [Points to Adam] You’re on your way though … except you don’t have enough 'party' in the back."

And does Newman see long hair in his future?  "I think that Joey’s (Logano) mullet was better than mine," Newman said.

From the AP - NASCAR Fines Top Drivers for Disparaging Remarks

Looks like freedom of speech is a right that doesn't extend to the NASCAR garage.

Jenna Fryer, who covers NASCAR for the Associated Press, made waves in the NASCAR online community today with her story that the sport's officials have privately fined two star drivers for making disparaging remarks about NASCAR.

Fryer's sources spoke on condition of anonymity (and who could blame them, if NASCAR is being so hard-nosed about its brand?), and there were no identified sources in the story.

That said, Fryer is one of the most respected NASCAR journalists around - and I'm sure we'll be finding out more  about this story in the weeks to come:

NASCAR gets tougher to protect its brand
By JENNA FRYER, AP Auto Racing Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)—Concerns about a half-empty race track dogged NASCAR long before Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the sanctioning body’s top officials didn’t want to discuss attendance or any other ailments plaguing the nation’s No. 1 racing series.

The conversation was instead steered to all the things NASCAR is doing right, a theme that became evident before the season started, when competitors spread a message of hope and unity.

Turns out that the racing series was serious about keeping everybody on point.

The Associated Press has learned that NASCAR warned teams during the offseason that public criticism of the sport would no longer be tolerated, and at least two star drivers have been fined—one as much as $50,000—for comments that were deemed destructive to the industry.

Read the rest of the story here.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Crazy Start to a Historic Brickyard 400

The first few laps of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were more surreal than those melting clocks of Salvador Dali.

And it began with a bang.

Kyle Busch lost control of his No. 18 Toyota on lap one. And this uncharacteristic error caused a pileup which collected seven cars total, including Sam Hornish Jr., Elliot Sadler and Reed Sorenson.

The collision also set in motion a series of events which had something to do with the turf Busch tore through on the infield, that then attached to the grilles of multiple cars. The adhesive grass caused multiple cars to overheat and pretty soon, steamingcars were pitting left and right.

Then Max Papis' No. 13 car blew an engine and caught fire. More tires blew up. And, for a bit, it appeared we may be in for the second installment of the 2008 Indy disaster.

But in a few more laps things settled down. And it became clear that Juan Pablo Montoya would dominate the race.

But NASCAR, like Juan Pablo, is nothing, if not unpredictable. And when Montoya's crew chief Brian Pattie called for four tires during the last pit stop (instead of two, like most of the cars out front), Montoya became mired in traffic. And his previous domination was all for naught.

And Montoya wasn't happy about it.

On lap 146, while trying to make up some ground and regain the lead, Montoya overdrove his No. 42 Chevy right into the turn two wall. On his slide back down the track, he was hit by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who simply had nowhere else to go.

The incident ended Montoya's night. And suddenly his Earnhardt-Ganassi teammate, Jamie McMurray was sitting in what minutes before seemd Montoya's spot by rights.

McMurray took full advantage of his track position. And he nosed past leader Kevin Harvick to open a sizable lead. Then it was an easy cruise to the checkers.

Today's win put McMurray into elite company - he's now only the third driver in history to win the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in the same yaer (the other two are Dale Jarrett and Jimmie Johnson).

But, more importantly, it put Chip Ganassi in the history books and possibly a new exhibit at the Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum. With McMurray's victory, Ganassi became the first team owner in history to win the Daytona 500, the Indy 500 (with driver Dario Franchitti) and the Brickyard 400 in the same year.

Call Ganassi's feat the trifecta, the triple crown or the holy trinity.  But whatever you call it, this year's Brickyard was simply surreal.

Photo info: Jamie McMurray and team owner Chip Ganassi celebrate after McMurray won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday - Associated Press.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Haters Are Right - Johnson Gets More TV Exposure Than Any Other Driver

Well, it's official - Jimmie Johnson haters now have one more reason to dislike the four-time champ.

According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc. — which has monitored every NASCAR race telecast over the last 25 years — Johnson gets more on-air coverage than any other Sprint Cup driver.

Johnson’s name was mentioned more than 2,800 times during the first 18 live event telecasts (and replays) of the 2010 season.

Johnson also appeared in a series-high 32 interviews segments, which collectively added up to more than a half-hour of television face time for the driver.

Not surprisingly, the abundance of attention paid to Johnson by the TV networks helped him amass nearly 22 hours of combined on-screen time for the 58 monitored brands associated with him. Johnson’s brands were also mentioned by him, his crew, or the TV announcers on 95 occasions, helping to bring about an overall in-broadcast exposure value of $48 million.

How did the rest of the drivers fare?  You might be surprised.  When interviews, on-air mentions and general exposure time are all added up, here are the top 10 drivers:

1. Jimmie Johnson
2. Jeff Gordon
3. Jeff Burton
4. Juan Pablo Montoya
5. Kyle Busch
6. Kevin Harvick
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Tony Stewart
9. Kurt Busch
10. Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Anyone else surprised that Carl Edwards and Mark Martin didn't make the cut?

Photo info: Johnson signs autographs for fans before the Bud Shootout in February at Daytona International Speedway.

Edwards Gets Candid About Brad K Incident

Carl Edwards faced a barrage of media questions today regarding his Nationwide dustup with Brad Keselowski and the resulting penalties handed down this week by NASCAR officials.

Edwards didn't field many softballs and he seemed to answer each question with candor and honesty.  In case you missed it, here are a few of the highlights -

Q: What is your response to the penalties?

"Immediately after the race last week I felt like what I did was right and it was a fair outcome to the race, and I felt like it was within NASCAR’s boundaries that they had set. I think NASCAR felt the same way right then, but then as the week went on, I had the chance to talk to Mike Helton and I understand and respect that those other teams that were caught up in that wreck that Brad and I had initiated, I mean, those guys are working hard. I’ve been in that position, working hard for sponsorship and working hard for finishes, and I feel that NASCAR’s penalty is fair. I talked to Jack and Geoff Smith and I don’t plan on appealing it. I think it’s fair in that respect. I sincerely apologize to those guys that were caught up in that wreck. I would rather finish second in a good race than have to win a race the way I won the race. Now, I’m not gonna finish second in a race the way that one was going, but I respect NASCAR’s decision."

Q: Is it personal between you two?

 "There’s nothing personal between Brad and I – from my side there’s not. I have a lot of respect for him and what he does on the race track, but the problem is that he can’t just run into me to get an advantage, especially for wins. That’s happened way too much between us. The part I’m real happy with on these penalties, I can accept my penalty, but I’m happy that NASCAR recognized that Brad needed to be penalized too – that my race car could have been the one turned around, run into by people behind me, all in pursuit of a win. I think it’s important that NASCAR recognized that."

Q: If it wasn't Brad in the other car, would you have finished that race the same way?

"If that were somebody in that car that we hadn’t had all the trouble before, then that finish would have turned out differently, that’s for sure. Because I maybe could have accepted that it was unintentional, but Brad is a really good race car driver and he knows what he’s doing. I know that and he knows that, and that’s why that race went the way it did."

Q:  How would you have raced him to get the lead if the positions were reversed on the last lap?

"I would not have hit his car, if I could. And if I did hit his car, I would like to think I wouldn’t take advantage of it as much as he did. So, it’s like I said a minute ago, I would truthfully rather have finished second in that race, and had a good race, which, I think if he wouldn’t have hit me, he still would have been able to beat me. He had a stronger car. I would rather that than the way the race went. I mean, we had an unbelievable race 30 laps previous to that. We raced side-by-side. It’s just a little bit coincidental that at the last lap he, oops, he accidentally messed and got the winning advantage."

Q: It's not okay to move somebody out of the way?

"It’s not okay to move me out of the way. If somebody else wants to let people move them out of the way for the win, that’s okay with me. They can do whatever they like, but I can’t allow myself to be run over like that. I’m not gonna win championships like that."

Q: People see all this stuff and wonder who is the real Carl.  Can you understand that?

"I can understand that, but the people who know me and the people who take time to look at the entire picture understand that it is very possible to be kind, but not be weak. There’s a big difference, and I feel as a person it’s my job to be kind to people, treat everyone the way I’d like to be treated, but I will not be walked on. I won’t be stepped on. The people who are my fans and the people who know me respect that, and the other ones, if they don’t respect that, it’s either they can’t understand it or they don’t want to, and that’s a good enough reason for people to not like me, I guess, and that’s okay."

Q: There's a fine line between being walked on and bullying and a lot of people have been saying this week that you're a bully. Do you worry about that and how do you know where the line is between standing up for yourself and being a bully?

"In competition it’s really easy to determine that line. Saturday night was a perfect example. Somebody takes something from you in competition and they take it unfairly, then you either accept that and you can go on and live with that, which, Saturday night I couldn’t, or you go get it back. That’s for other people to decide. I just go do the very best I can. When I was done, I walked out of that race track with my head held high."

Photo info: Driver Carl Edwards pushes his car during practice for the NASCAR Brickyard 400 auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis today -  Associated Press.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

No. 29 Team Take Their Skills to the Store

A race of a different kind went down today in Indianapolis.

Kevin Harvick's No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil crew took part in the Shell-Kroger Grocery Bagging Challenge at an Indy Kroger store. It was crew versus fans to see who could bag the fastest.

Below are a few pix of the contest, courtesy of photographer Harold Hinson.

Getting Bullied a Rite of Sprint Cup Passage

Brad Keselowski has his critics.

He doesn't take any guff.  He races to win, even if that means a Cup veteran ends up in the wall.  And he doesn't make apologies for his hard-driving style.  In short, he's not about to be bullied just because he's a Sprint Cup freshman.

And while there are thousands of fans who respect Keselowski's drive and competitive fire, there are others who say that if he'd just cut the old guard some slack, he'd make more friends in the garage and find his transition to Cup racing a little smoother. 

All he needs to do is play nice for a change.

Sounds fair enough, but playing nice sure hasn't made things easier for another new kid on the Cup scene.

As last year's rookie driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, Joey Logano entered the realm of the big boys with a level of humility and sometimes unease that should have appeased the very drivers who criticize Keselowski.

Logano rarely hit someone on purpose - and if he did send a car spinning, inexperience was usually to blame.  But Logano's under-the-radar tack didn't win him many friends in the garage either.  In fact, his demeanor early on may have encouraged a few fellow drivers to peg him as an easy mark.

Logano has been intentionally wrecked more than once by Greg Biffle and then there's the infamous incident with Kevin Harvick a few weeks ago (which led to Logano's heated post-race interview that helped Delana Harvick sell a few thousand T-shirts).

And although Logano has finally talked tough in front of the cameras, he has yet to seek revenge on the track. And he still gets bullied.

So it seems to me that whether you're Bad Brad or congenial Jo Lo the results are the same.  If you're new to the highest echelon of racing then you're going to have to prove your mettle.  You're going to have to make some enemies. And you'll likely take a few cheap hits.

So have at it boys - being nice just doesn't pay.

Photo info: Brad Keselowski's No. 22 hits the wall at Gateway International Speedway Saturday night.  Photo courtesy of NASCAR Media Group.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NASCAR Faults Edwards for Keselowski Smashup

There's nothing like a violent feud between two top-tier NASCAR drivers to get you out of vacation mode and back into the blogging routine.

And  I'd be a fool to pass up the opportunity to dish about the latest round in the Edwards/Keselowski slugfest.

First, a recap:

Remember, if you will, the spring Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Paying Kes back for some hard-nosed racing, Edwards hit the No. 12 car with enough force to send the car and its driver flying into the fence at speeds of nearly 200 miles an hour.  Edwards was summoned to the hauler and later placed on probation.  The smack flew, and a week later, both drivers had a come-to-Jesus meeting with NASCAR officials.  They emerged from the meeting with Cheshire grins, and they vowed to race each other clean.

And I almost believed them 'til Saturday night.

During the last lap of the Nationwide Series race at Gateway International Speedway, Keselowski (who had led most of the night) nosed Edwards out of the way for the lead. That one move re-instated the feud. 

It didn't take too long until Edwards hit Kes back, sending him spinning into the safer barrier and back across the track and into traffic.  Edwards won the race.  Keselowski suffered a pretty nasty hit.  And Keselowski's father, Bob, while waiting outside the infield care center, accused Edwards of trying to kill his son - again.

God, I love NASCAR.

Today, NASCAR handed down its verdict. Both drivers will be placed on probation until Dec. 31.  But this time, instead of the love tap he received post-Atlanta, Edwards got more of a smack on the head.  Edwards will be docked 60 points, team owner Jack Roush will be docked 60 owner points and Edwards will be fined $25,000.

Too add salt to the wound, NASCAR's penalty means Edwards now trails Keselowski in the Nationwide standings by 228 points, with Keselowski in first place.

So a few questions remain - can Cousin Carl keep his cool the rest of the year?  Will the terms of their probation be long enough to smooth both drivers' ruffled firesuits?  Or will Edwards and Keselowski just settle their differences the old-fashioned way - with a few good punches and a couple busted lips?

Time will tell ...  but I can't wait to watch it.  One thing's for sure - these two aren't going to settle things quietly.

Stewart Gives Back Close to Home

Tony Stewart still calls Indiana home.  And Sunday, this born-and-bred Hoosier will be racing on his home turf as the NASCAR Sprint Cup series heads for the Indy Brickyard.

Before the race - tomorrow to be exact - Stewart will take part in a special charity event close to his home and heart at the Office Depot store in Carmel, Ind.  That's where Stewart will give away 5,000 backpacks to representatives from local organizations as part of the Office Depot Foundation's National Backpack Program. 

Although backpacks will not be given to the general public, Stewart will be signing autographs for 350 fans at the event. Wristbands are required for the autograph session and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the 12417 N. Meridian Street Office Depot beginning at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Fans with a wristband must be in line no later than 3:30 p.m. to receive an autograph. One autograph per wristband.

Maybe this good turn close to home will bring Stewart a hometown win on Sunday.

Photo info: Tony Stewart shakes hands with a backpack recipient at a Back to School Celebration in Chicago on July 8.

Friday, July 2, 2010

What a Night for Earnhardt Nation

It took more than luck for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to take the No. 3 to Victory Lane at Daytona tonight.

It took a crack pit stop by the No. 3 crew.

It took a risky call by Tony Eury Jr. to stay out, while teams further back pitted for tires. 

And it took a driver who was gonna win come hell or highwater.

In short, it took heart.

Whether you believe the impetus behind the revived Wrangler No. 3 paint scheme was entirely fan-centered or not is a moot point.

Nobody who watched Tony Eury Jr. tear up post race could doubt that there was a lot more riding on this night than millions of dollars in merchandise sales.

"We lost everything here," said Eury. "To come back with that number and do this, it means everything."

And nobody who heard Junior's effusive post-race interview could doubt that this win was deeply personal for him as well. 

"I was so worried I wasn't gonna win," Junior said. "And anything but a win ..."

Who can blame him for being worried?

Dale Jr. has suffered through a two-year stretch of bad luck, self doubt and some pretty hateful critcism.  Judging by the way his races sometimes go, to hope that he might actually take the No. 3 back to Victory Lane at Daytona was tantamount to tempting fate.

Add the enormous pressure for Junior to live up to the number on that car, and the odds that something could go wrong increase exponentially.

But sometimes fate smiles on the star-crossed.  The planets in their courses align.  And the folks with heart win the day.

Congrats Earnhardt nation.  What a night.

Photo info: Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Richard Childress celebrate after Earnhard took the checkers in the No. 3 Wrangler Chevy at Daytona International Speedway.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nationwide Boys (and Girl) Might Steal the Daytona Show

The Coke Zero 400 is shaping up to be all sorts of good. 

Kyle Busch is already causing trouble.  He wrecked his teammate and erstwhile "frenemy" Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Reed Sorenson in the last few laps of Thursday's practice. 

Bobby Labonte will be making his 600th career start and his first appearance as a Cup race Grand Marshal.

And Goodyear has introduced specially designed tires to show NASCAR's support of the U.S. military.

But even with all the fireworks that are sure to explode on the Cup side, Friday's Subway Jalapeno 250 might steal its thunder.

In the category of a long time coming, the Nationwide Series is going back to the future as the newest evolution of the "pony cars" take to the track.  The new Ford Mustang and the Dodge Challenger will be long-awaited eye candy for those fans who have long lamented the lack of brand identity on race day.

And although Danica Patrick isn't on the entry list, another lady is - Jennifer Jo Cobb. Cobb, who has a number of ARCA, Truck and Nationwide starts to her credit, will drive the No. 27 Ford for owner Mike Curb.

Then there's the most photographed car in recent memory - the No. 3 Wrangler Chevy with Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind the wheel.  A throwback to one of his father's most famous paint schemes, the car is the result of a three-way partnership between JR Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Teresa Earnhardt.

Not surprisingly, fan response to this collaboration has been unreal. 

Michael Smith at the Sports Business Journal reports, "Wrangler No. 3 merchandise has accounted for eight of the Superstore’s top 10 best-selling items and it has led all other driver categories in sales. Within 36 hours of the announcement, Superstore sold out of its second-highest-priced item, a special die-cast car that came in a limited edition of 333, priced at $89.99."

And Friday night under those Daytona lights, the famous No. 3 Wrangler car will receive a worthy salute.  Richard Childress Racing is requesting that all fans in attendance stand to their feet at the start of lap three and hold up three fingers for the entire lap.

Now how's the Cup race gonna top that?