Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Personal Thank You to Dale Jr.



My cousin Michael may be Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s biggest fan.

His bedroom is decked out with No. 88 posters, calendars, diecast and even bath towels.

He drinks AMP before every Sprint Cup broadcast.

And every time Talladega rolls around, Michael hopes with all his heart that he'll be able to see Dale Jr. and get his autograph.

The past three Dega races that hasn't happened. We've waited and waited by the No. 88 transporter in the hot sun. We've interrogated Lance McGrew in the garage area. We even tried to sneak back stage during driver introductions.

But today was different.

Today, Michael finally got his wish.

Thanks to a NASCAR official with a little compassion, Mike Davis (Junior's PR rep) who let us take up Junior's time before qualifying, and Dale
himself, Michael got a few seconds of time with "his driver".

And Michael couldn't be happier. He has been looking at the car Junior autographed for him all day. And those of us who love Michael have been smiling all day.

So thank you Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

I'm sure signing autographs isn't a big deal to you - but to a fan like Michael, it's simply the world.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stewart Helps Out With Daytona Repave

Stewart holds up a core sample of  Daytona International
Speedway's original start/finish line asphalt.
Before heading to Talladega, Tony Stewart stopped by Daytona International Speedway today to help out with the track's repave project.

The driver of the No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet toured the track and joined DIS President Joie Chitwood III in painting the start/finish line.

Smoke also took a Camaro for a spin around turns three and four and into the tri-oval, in what may be the first "test" of the new racing surface.

“I got to rip through three and four and it’s not the same race track,” Stewart said.

“This place is going to have a totally new look and a totally new feel to the drivers and teams. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I can promise you that we are going to fill every square inch of this race track with cars now because we’re going to have that flexibility because this surface is going to be in such great shape when they get done with this last layer.”

The repave project is scheduled to be complete by Jan. 1, 2011.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Non-Chaser of Note: Brad Keselowski

Mark Martin had the best finish of all the non-chasers. And Dale Earnhardt Jr. put on a good show.

But Brad Keselowski wins this week's "Non-Chaser of Note" for leaving Martinsville with his best Cup finish in a Penske car - tenth.

Keselowski has the 2010 Nationwide Series all but sewn up and will likely end his upcoming run at Texas Motor Speedway as the de facto champ.

But on the Cup side, Special K has had his struggles.

In the March Atlanta race, he went flying into the fence courtesy of the No. 99.  Keselowski also crashed out at Talladega, Sonoma and Daytona.

But the good news for the No. 12 team?  As long as Keselowski isn't on the receiving end of "the big one," he can win big at Dega.

Just ask Carl Edwards.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Some NASCAR Sponsors Win Big With "Undercover Boss"



The NASCAR episode of  "Undercover Boss" which aired Sunday on CBS, wasn't just good PR for the sport.

It was also valuable air time for its sponsors.

According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc., a Michigan-based firm which specializes in measuring sponsorships across all forms of media, 84 brands were monitored during the CBS reality show, accumulating a combined 29 minutes, 57 seconds of clear in-focus exposure time and an overall exposure value of $2.7 million.

Coca-Cola fared the best, due in large part to a segment in the show that depicted NASCAR Chief Marketing Officer Steve Phelps operating a concession stand at Daytona International Speedway. Clad in a NASCAR hat and Coca-Cola apron, Phelps’ struggles to deep fry chicken strips and lure customers to the refreshment stand helped the soda brand achieve its primetime success without a race car or driver in sight.

The result?  Some entertaining television, and also more than $400 thousand worth of exposure time for Coca-Cola.

Below are the top 10 brands tracked during "Undercover Boss" - and how much their TV exposure was worth.

Coca-Cola  $437,390
Aaron's  $371,900
Sprint  $171,945
Goodyear $122,485
NAPA $112,600
Gatorade $103,630
Toyota  $97,815
Chevrolet $74,385
Tums $68,780
Eagle (Goodyear) $65,215

Monday, October 25, 2010

Shooting the Breeze With Edwards

Carl Edwards signs autographs
before the Bud Shootout in February.
Editor's Note: Most NASCAR drivers are great with fans.  They sign thousands of autographs and do umpteen special appearances during a season.  But Carl Edwards takes the term "fan friendly" to a whole new level. Below, one of my Twitter buddies, Nicole Brown (@bama_diva99) shares how Edwards took time out of his busy Martinsville weekend to chat a little with her.

By Nicole Brown
Special to NASCAR-ista

Sitting at seventh in the Sprint Cup standings, you would think that a driver's main focus would be on winning races and trying to capture his first championship.  Not Carl Edwards. I have always heard that Carl is amazing to fans, but never had the opportunity to experience it for myself until last Friday afternoon.

When I received a text from my friend Jenny, who was attending the Martinsville race, I didn't think anything of it until she asked if I could receive personal calls at work. So when my phone rang, I never expected to hear Carl's voice in the background.  And the next thing I heard was Jenny's voice saying "Would you say 'Hi' to my friend Nicole?"

At this point, I am silently freaking out at my desk (I am still at work and my boss is right down the hall) as Carl takes the phone and says hello to me by name.  He could have handed Jenny back her phone, but he didn't.  He actually walked away with Jenny's phone and continued to talk to me asking me where I worked and what I did there and event telling me what he went to school for before focusing on a racing career.

Carl Edwards is one-of-a-kind. His passion and dedication for racing makes him my favorite driver, but his generosity to fans makes him a great man in my book.  If he ever gets to read this, I want to thank him for making my day and quite honestly my year by just taking a few minutes of his time to shoot the breeze with me.

Positive Weekend All Around for Dale Jr.

From left to right: Austin Petty, Executive Vice President of Victory Junction; Pattie Petty; Kyle Petty;
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.; Kelley Earnhardt; Richard Petty; John McKee, President of Victory Junction


A top 10 finish at Martinsville wasn't the only good thing that happened for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this weekend.

Saturday afternoon, the driver visited Victory Junction in Randleman, NC for the grand opening of Dale Jr.'s Corral and Amphitheatre - all donated to the camp by Earnhardt.

While the venue features playful and colorful buildings, the amphitheatre's design is fashioned after the mock western town located on Dale Jr.'s property in Mooresville, N.C.  This new addition to Victory Junction will be used as an interactive activity center for campers, and a venue for local concerts and camp fundraisers.

Founded by Kyle and Pattie Petty, Victory Junction is a camp for children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses.

Photo by Karen Elliott/Gene Ho Photography

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Hamlin Names It and Claims It at Martinsville

Denny Hamlin celebrates his
victory at Martinsville.
Earlier in the week, Denny Hamlin said he'd be the guy to beat at Martinsville and that points leader Jimmie Johnson had better be worried.

He was right on both counts.

With Hamlin's prophetic win today at Martinsville (his third straight at the track) he chopped Johnson's points lead to six - a virtual tie.

The No. 11 Fed Ex Toyota didn't dominate the paper clip.  In fact, at the beginning, it looked like Hamlin had been shot backwards out of a cannon.

But the driver's surprising patience throughout the 500 laps coupled with a crack pit stop by the No. 11 crew, put him in good stead to bring home the "W".

"We did not have a race-winning car until the very end," Hamlin said. "My pit crew got me from sixth to third before the last restart and that was the key."

Hamlin's victory means the upcoming contest at Talladega could be a more strategic barn burner than usual.

With just a smattering of points separating Johnson and Hamlin - and third place Kevin Harvick trailing by a mere 62 - the boys will be forced  to race each other for position.

And that, my friend, will a wild race make.

Wonder if Hamlin cares to make another prediction?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Stewart Visits Wounded Warriors

Tony Stewart is one busy guy.

But Thursday before heading to Martinsville for race weekend, the driver of the No. 14 Office Depot Chevrolet took time out to visit with US Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Below are a couple photos of Smoke's visit -

Stewart greets a wounded service member at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune on Thursday. During his visit to Camp Lejeune, Stewart spent time at the Wounded Warrior Barracks and held a private autograph session for service members at the Camp’s on-site Office Depot ServMart.


Photo credit: Lance Cpl. Victor Barrera, USMC

Tune in to "Undercover Boss" Sunday for a Different Look at NASCAR

There's a NASCAR doubleheader of sorts on tap for Sunday.

Not long after the checkered flag drops at Martinsville, another side of the sport will be featured on the CBS hit show "Undercover Boss."

Steve Phelps, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for NASCAR will go undercover with a pit crew, participate in an exhausting training session, and struggle to keep pace working alongside a ground's crew preparing for a race at Daytona International Speedway.

The NASCAR episode of "Undercover Boss" airs Sunday Oct. 24 at 9 p.m. on CBS.

Below are a few photos from the show:












Photos courtesy of CBS

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time Running Out for a Gordon Win


Prior to Saturday night's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, it appeared that Jeff Gordon was going to be the chaser to beat.

He was on the pole.  He was confident.  He was hungry.

And then all hell broke loose and he ended the race in twenty-third place.

Not quite the night he was hoping for.  Not quite the finish to contend for a championship.

But as time quickly runs out on the No. 24 team like so much sand through the hourglass, there is a bright spot on the nearby horizon:

Martinsville.

Gordon will enter the paper clip as the top-rated driver at the track.  He boasts seven wins, seven poles and leads all active drivers with the most top five and top 10 finishes.

Plus in March, he left Martinsville with a respectable third-place result.

If his pit crew hits their marks and Gordon can keep from speeding on pit road, the No. 24 team could well notch their first win of the season - and perhaps make up some ground on that other "four-timer".

And if it all falls apart?

Well, there's always next year ...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Non-Chaser of Note: David Ragan

Roush Fenway driver David Ragan talks things over
with team owner Jack Roush.

When it comes to Roush Fenway drivers, David Ragan often seems to be on the outside looking in.

Ragan is the only RFR driver not in the Chase. And he's also younger and less experienced than his teammates Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.

But Saturday night at Charlotte, Ragan managed to hang with the rest of Roush.  And he maneuvered his No. 6 UPS Ford from a 26th starting spot to a 10th place finish - and one of his best results of the season.

Ragan's run at Charlotte Motor Speedway tied his career best finish at the track. And it also marked his first top ten since the April race at Talladega.

If Ragan can manage another such race before the season comes to a close, he'll have improved on his 2009 performance.  And, more importantly, he'll give his team some needed momentum for 2011.

Monday, October 18, 2010

ESPN Richmond Documentary Tells the Cold Hard Truth


Tim Richmond was NASCAR rock.

Bold, wealthy and wide open, he blazed onto the racing scene in the  mid-1980s and turned the good ol' boy contingent on its ear.

He was smooth with the ladies.  At home in the Hollywood Hills. A veritable force behind the wheel.

But even Richmond's larger-than-life personality couldn't change a culture which had yet to come to terms with AIDs.  In fact, he couldn't even deal with the diagnosis himself.

And that's the cold hard truth which ESPN Films powerfully details in Tim Richmond: To the Limit, the newest documentary in the 30 for 30 film series which premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

Produced for ESPN by the NASCAR Media Group, the film is an effective combination of racing history gold and raw emotive moments that hit you in the gut like a punch you weren't expecting.

The footage of Richmond and Dale Earnhardt battling head-to-head are archival ore.  And at times, the documentary images make you long for the NASCAR of old.  When Harry Hyde manned the pits. When "The Winston" said it all. When Chase was just something Rosco P. Coltrane did to the Duke boys.

Then there are the present-day NASCAR interviews which bring you back to reality with a thud.  And more of-the-era clips which remind us that though the past had its shining moments - it also had its flaws.

There are the memories of Greg Louganis. News footage of Ryan White. An almost youthful Dan Rather expounding the ramifications of AIDs. 

Director Rory Karpf does an excellent job of weaving these capsular moments in time into the warp and woof of Richmond's story, constructing a larger cultural picture which is all-too easy to forget.

However, it's Richmond's sister, Sandra Welsh, who more than anyone in the film, captures the raw pain and fear which haunted Richmond and her family as the disease took hold.

Before he was finally denied entrance into the 1989 Busch Clash at Daytona, Welsh said Richmond seemed to realize - if not accept - that his racing days were at an end.

"He thought about taking the car into the wall really, really hard and killing himself," Wolf said.

Richmond, who had once won seven races in one year, died in a Florida hospital on August 13, 1989.

He was 34.

And although Richmond never went public with his disease during his lifetime, his story still serves as a poignant reminder of the brevity of life, the importance of tolerance, and the power of personal choice.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

McMurray Routs Chasers in Another Emotional Win

Jamie McMurray put on two shows Saturday night.

The first ended with McMurray out-restarting chaser Kyle Busch and out-running points leader Jimmie Johnson for a win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The second was his touching post-race interview in Victory Lane.

Saturday night sure was special for McMurray.  It not only marked his second win at the track where he won his first Cup race in 2002, it also also marked his third checkers of 2010. 

Pretty amazing for a guy who, just a year ago, was wondering if he'd even have a ride this season.

In addition to spoiling all Chasers' hopes of a mammoth points gain and schooling the field in how to beat Busch (the self-proclaimed "Restart King"), McMurray endeared himself to fans with his humble post-race interview.

"As those laps were winding down I was thinking about Daytona and why I cry and the power of prayer," McMurray said. " I never got to explain that then and I just want to take the time to explain that now. I had a tough year last year. I found out the power of prayer and what that can do for you.

And in the post-race press conference, McMurray elaborated on winning and prayer a bit more:

"I wanted people to understand that sometimes you see people's emotions on TV, and I don't know, I just I just wanted it to be understood that after the season that I had, or the last four years I had, I found the power of prayer and that it's something that I really believe in," McMurray explained.

"And when I got to victory lane in Daytona that's what I was thinking about. You know, I was crying, obviously because I was happy, but also because you feel like a prayer has been answered. And so that is, as a very powerful thing, and it's obviously very emotional when you feel like you I don't know, that's a very selfish thing to ask for."

"Certainly it's not the first thing that I pray about every day. But everyone wants to be successful and you want to do well in life, so when you feel like that's been answered, it's emotional. And I don't know, I thought about it the last eight or ten laps. I was like, you know, if I win this race, Lord, if you don't throw a caution, is what I said, and I win this race, I'm going to explain to people my feelings and why I felt that way," McMurray continued.

"And I think that's important. I watch other professional athletes, whether it's bull riders or basketball players or motorcycle riders, you hear them get out and you hear them thank God and talk about the power of prayer, and I just think that that's important for people to understand, and understand why my feelings were the way they were."

We get it Jamie. 

Don't stop believing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why NASCAR Fans Like Harvick


If lots of NASCAR fans have their way, Kevin Harvick will be the man who kicks Jimmie Johnson off the Sprint Cup pedestal.

Harvick, who is currently third in points, trails Johnson by just 54 ticks - mere peanuts.

And while the current Sprint Cup champ has been dubbed "vanilla," there's little chance that Harvick would garner such a moniker.

Rocky road? Maybe.  Vanilla? Never.

Harvick can be a punch-throwing good ol' boy one minute and a strategic-thinking team owner the next. He has been known to cuss out the media on a bad day, but he has a rep for being always gracious with fans.

He's a winning driver and a successful businessman.  And, thanks in large part to his presence on Twitter, fans know he's one of the funniest NASCAR drivers around.

But enough of my Harvick assessment.  I recently asked fans to tell me what they like about the driver of the No. 29 Shell-Pennzoil car.  Here's what a few of them had to say -

"I like Kevin because of what he did after Dale Sr. was killed - how many young drivers could step into shoes as big as Dale's and survive in this sport? He handles situations with grace and humor sometimes, wit sometimes, and then at times (with reporters and drivers) is arrogant and cocky, but with fans he is thoughtful and very available. No other driver has these qualities, so how could you not like Kevin?" Jeannie J.

"He is just one of NASCAR's nice guys. I have met him and his wife several times and they are just really down-to-earth people," Michael H.

"Harvick is great. He stepped into big shoes and took on a huge challenge. He is outspoken and isn't afraid to move someone," Jonathan G.

"Consistency. Lead the year without the hype." Steven B.

"He's in your face, tells it like it is. No apologies. Loves his job but has fun while doing. Fierce competitor. Plus Bristol in 02 vs Biffle!" Kelly C. 

"Why I like Kevin Harvick? What you see is what you get. He is who he is and is fine with it!" Denise H.

And finally this quote from Bryan N. - who won an autographed Kevin Harvick hat for this answer: 

"I like Kevin Harvick because he always has that fire to win. He's also a great car owner. He is a threat to win in whatever he races."  

The fans have spoken.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Special Logo for Harvick and a Special Prize for a Reader


The No. 29 car of Kevin Harvick will be sporting a special deck lid logo Saturday at Charlotte which is all about supporting the 811 "Call Before You Dig" initiative.

The national "Call Before You Dig" number, 811, was created to help protect people from potential life-threatening situations and against the disruption of service to America’s underground infrastructure systems. Every digging job requires a call – even small projects like planting trees or shrubs.

Calling 811 can help to avoid risking injury to yourself and those around you in addition to potentially causing harm to the environment.

As a special treat, I've been given one autographed Harvick hat to give away to a lucky reader.  Tell me what you like best about Harvick via e-mail (nascarista@att.net) or Twitter @NASCARista to enter.

Contest ends at midnight tonight.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Non-Chaser of Note: Ryan Newman

Someone should tell Ryan Newman that he can't win the championship.

Because he sure is racing like it's his to lose.

Since the Chase for the Sprint Cup kicked off at Loudon, non-chaser Newman has notched a top 10 every race - giving him an average finish of 7.5. 

Those are better numbers than points leader Jimmie Johnson - who has an average Chase finish of 7.75.  And it's the same average as Chase contender Kevin Harvick, who tangled with the hard-charging Newman at the tail end of Sunday's Pepsi Max 400.

"We had a little beating and banging there with the No. 29 car near the end of the race that caused a little bit of damage that we had to fix," Newman said.  "We got behind but our car was strong enough to get back in the top five."

In other words, Newman doesn't plan to give an inch - championship contender or no.

Too bad Newman and the No. 39 team didn't run this consistently earlier in the season.

If they had, Newman would be right up there with boss, teammate and Fontana winner Tony Stewart - who's now fifth in the points.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stewart Catches Fire in Fontana

There's a big lesson to be learned after Fontana: Never count out Tony Stewart. 

Ever.

At a track where he's never won before, in a Chase that he wasn't expected to dominate, Smoke beat out Clint Bowyer and blazed to a win.

And while the dreams of several other chasers went up in the smoke of blown engines and crunched metal, Stewart kept his team's championship hopes afire with his performance at the Pepsi Max 400 at Auto Club Speedway.

Bigger picture? He gained five spots in the points, moving up to fifth place.

And if he can pull off a repeat performance Saturday at Charlotte, he'll be sitting in first.

Consider yourself warned.

Friday, October 8, 2010

If NASCAR Had Style Points, What Would Reuty Do?

I've recently become addicted to "A Conversation On Cool"  - a pictorial Tumblr site that oozes Rat Pack hip, Hepburn chic and McQueen macho.

And while viewing the site's most recent posts, I began to contemplate the idea of form over substance.  The under-rated importance of a good delivery.  The role that style plays in life and sport.

These musings led me to to wonder if style should count for more in NASCAR.  Racing is, truth be told, a sport which relies heavily on drama and big personalities to keep the tickets selling.

And this, in turn, got me thinking about David Reutimann.

Bless his heart. 

Reuty seems like a nice guy.  He is a talented driver who is gracious with fans.

Yet his pitiful attempt to take Kyle Busch out in Sunday's Kansas contest made me cringe.  I felt a little sad for him.  Perhaps NASCAR should tack on an addendum to its current dictate: "Have at it boys ... but try not to wreck yourself in the process."

I don't disagree with Reutimann's reasoning. After Bristol, ol' Reuty sure had a score to settle with KB.  And Busch takes other drivers out often enough.  But here's the rub - Busch at least pulls off his efforts at revenge with showmanship and a bit of ├ęclat.

On the other hand, if NASCAR were to hand out style points in the vein of college football, then Reutimann should have been docked at least a few dozen for his unwieldy smashup of the No. 18.

Other faux pas that should merit a loss (or gain) of style points in NASCAR (were NASCAR ever to adopt such a policy)?

Crying in Victory Lane: -50

Whining on the radio: -50

Cleaning your own windshield under caution: +100

Throwing another driver onto your car hood: +75

Leaving an "I Hate You" note in a fellow driver's 'copter: -75

Getting your wife to flip off another driver: -100

You get the picture. 

There's something to be said for cool ...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wilson Should Wear His Penalty With Pride


If your first name is Shane and your last name is Wilson, then you'll probably have some free time on your hands during the next few weeks.

Although NASCAR reduced the suspension for Wilson (who's the crew chief for the No. 33 team of Clint Bowyer), he'll still have to sit out four races. He won't return to the track until Nov. 7.

But Wilson shouldn't fret too much.

Back in the day, bending the rules 'til they almost broke was a mark of honor. (Junior Johnson anyone?) And more recently, a few line-crossin' crew chiefs once benched by NASCAR have gone on to do pretty darn well. 

Case in point? Chad Knaus.

So I say to Shane Wilson, embrace your newfound renegade status.  Wear your infraction like a NASCAR merit badge.  After all, you don't get far without pushing the envelope. And whether the wrecker-made-us-do-it defense was legit or not, you've now joined the ranks of an elite band of rebel brothers.

Oh, and if you're looking for something to do while you're missing Fontana, I hear there's a construction crew in Charlotte that could use help filling a sinkhole.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Non-Chaser of Note: Paul Menard

Lately, Paul Menard is making Richard Childress look like a talent acquisition genius.

When Childress announced in August that Menard would join RCR's Cup stable in 2011, there were those in NASCAR circles who openly scoffed.

Certainly, they said, Childress was just bringing the driver on board for the Menards sponsorship alone. A few even claimed Childress was pretending Menard had talent just to get the bucks.

Take this quote from SB Nation writer, Jeff Gluck:

"People can convince themselves of many things, and when it comes to Paul Menard, that seems to be the case with Richard Childress.

Childress kept a completely straight face on Friday when he discussed Richard Childress Racing's new three-year deal with Menard, a below-average driver who has gotten elite rides due to the Menards sponsorship he brings."

Well who's convinced now?

In the last two races, this below-average driver has finished in the top ten.  At Kansas Speedway, Menard was the highest-finishing non-chaser with an eighth-place finish.  He qualified second.

So far, Menard has posted his best season to date - earning one top five finish and five top tens.  He's currently 23rd in points (his highest points standing ever) and he's looking better and better as the races wind down.

Guess Childress isn't so crazy after all ...

Monday, October 4, 2010

Gordon to Debut Pepsi Max Paint Scheme


Jeff Gordon has three wins at Fontana under his belt.

And he'd like nothing better than to earn numero quatro at Auto Club Speedway on Sunday.

That's when Gordon will debut the newest Pepsi Max paint scheme (pictured above).

In conjunction with the race (the Pepsi Max 400), Pepsi Max, will award 400 winners one of 400 prizes. Tune in to ESPN at 2:30 p.m. October 10, when Gordon will reveal the unique word that fans can text to 73774 or enter online at www.facebook.com/pepsimaxusa for their chance to win.

Prizes include travel packages to Las Vegas, Bristol Motor Speedway and Hendrick Motorsports; autographed Pepsi Max hats; and a phone call from Gordon himself.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Biffle Wins the Battle; Johnson Winning the War

Jimmie Johnson played bridesmaid to Greg Biffle at Kansas Speedway.

But his runner-up finish was just enough to put the four-time champ back at the top of Sprint Cup points standings.

Sure, the lead is tenuously slim (a mere eight points over Denny Hamlin, to be exact). But the look on Johnson's face after the race said it all - it's good to be king of the hill, even if you're holding on by your fingernails.

So Johnson is again the man to beat for the championship, but Biffle's surprising Kansas win puts Roush Fenway in good stead.

Early on, Biffle's No. 16 car faded fast - even the boys in the broadcast booth thought The Biff didn't stand much of a chance.

But a lot can happen in the course of a race, and between Biffle and crew chief Greg Erwin, the No. 16 team made all the right calls to turn a lackluster start into a stellar finish.

"About the first half of the race, I didn’t adjust on it really. When I got right behind the 14, really putting pressure on him, I still couldn’t get the gas down. At that point I said, ‘I got to tighten the car up if I’m going to win the race'. If I go backwards, I go backwards," Biffle said.

"We decided to tighten it up and put some wedge in it, put some air in the left rear tire and I think the car really started tightening up. At the next stop I put some more wedge in it. I’ll tell you what, those last two runs, it was amazing. It was literally the best car I’ve ever driven here."

After a killer of a pit stop, Biffle gained the top spot. And his car took off like a rocket, leaving the pack behind.

With today's win, Biffle moved up to eighth in the Chase, just 85 points behind leader Johnson. And Biffle said the team is more motivated than ever to make a title run.

“You know, everybody asked us last week if we’re out of the Chase, have we given up, whatever the case was," Biffle said.

"The 16 team will never give up. We’re just going to approach each race like we did today, qualify the best we can, do the best we can in practice, execute the best we can at the racetrack."

Johnson take note.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Kyle Petty Talks Bikes, Childress and the Chase

Kyle Petty is known as a guy who gives it to you straight.  Fans love hearing his no-bull approach to racing analysis.  And they also admire all he does for charity when the cameras are off.

Right now, Petty is getting revved up for the eighth annual Ride to Victory - a charity bike ride that will benefit Victory Junction, the camp for kids with chronic medical conditions and serious illnesses that Petty and his wife Pattie founded.

We caught up with Petty earlier today and asked him about this year's ride, the Childress penalty and other things NASCAR.  Here's what he had to say:

Describe what the Ride to Victory is like for folks who may be thinking about joining you.

"It's like one day on the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America. The riders show up and everything is handled from the moment they arrive at zMAX Dragway. All they have to do is get on the bike and ride.

We have one fuel stop at Pilot Flying J, 'the Official Travel Center of the Kyle Petty Charity Ride' with our amazing Charity Ride Fuel Team working the pumps. A typical day on the Ride Across America involved three to four pit stops. First-time riders are always amazed that hundreds of bikes can be fueled so quickly.

We're parading around Victory Junction and heading to my farm. This year we're adding something totally new to the mix - a Songwriters' Jam at my place. My good friend Mark Collie is joining us, along with Rafe Van Hoy and my son-in-law's father Billy Montana. These guys are amazing singers and songwriters and they've written for some of the biggest names in country music. Writers' rounds are really popular in Nashville - on any given night you can find one on Broadway. We've had a few of these songwriters' nights before and they've been a huge hit. This is something we're hoping to introduce to our area."

Can you give us a preview of your set list for the post-ride concert?

"You will recognize the songs from Billy, Rafe and Mark. Songs they've done and songs they've written for other artists you hear on the radio. My songs are all original and are only heard when I play a writers' night such as this or when I play for my friends."

Would you rather be at the race track on a Sunday or on your bike?

"At this point in life - it's a toss up."

The networks who broadcast NASCAR each year can take a beating when it comes to fans' criticism of their race coverage. Do you think NASCAR needs its own TV network? Would having an all-NASCAR, all-the-time channel boost fan interest or make it even harder to attract new fans?

"I don't think a NASCAR network would mean less criticism from the fans and I don't think it would attract new fans. The fans of the sport have access to NASCAR 24/7 365 days a year through the major networks, radio and other media outlets. Social networking and Twitter have a lot to do with this. Fans can ask a driver a question or make a comment and receive an answer from the driver himself, not through a PR rep or media statement. There's as much information for the fan today as there is misinformation for fans. So some of the criticism the sport and networks receive is not always justified."

Who's your dark horse for the championship?

"The 24 - Jeff Gordon"

What are the odds that NASCAR will eventually reduce the penalty against Richard Childress Racing and the No. 33 team? Should Childress just accept the defeat and move on?

"Slim to none. Childress shouldn't accept the penalty, but at the same time he has to move on."

If you were stranded on a desert island, who would you rather be with - Kenny Wallace or Darrell Waltrip?

" 'Kenny Waltrip'. He could talk up a storm that would blow us back to the mainland."

This year's Ride to Victory will take place on Sunday, Oct. 17.  For more information or to pre-register, visit http://www.kylepettycharityride.com/ or call (704) 714-4545.