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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Stenhouse Jr. takes the title as Smith takes the checkers

A winning combination - Mike Kelly, Jack Roush, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
on the grid at Texas Motor Speedway - Credit: Skirts and Scuffs 
When the green flag flew on the final NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season, just 20 points separated defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his closest threat, Elliott Sadler. Lurking and hoping one of the two leaders would have a catastrophic issue was Austin Dillon.

Although Dillon and Sadler fought hard, Stenhouse Jr. clinched his second straight title with a sixth place finish. Stenhouse Jr. becomes the sixth driver in series history to repeat joining Sam Ard, Larry Pearson, Randy LaJoie, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. Second place points finisher Elliott Sadler finishes behind Stenhouse Jr. for the second year in a row with Rookie of the Year winner Austin Dillon wrapping up third place in the title hunt. Joe Gibbs Racing led by Joey Logano and the No. 18 team captured the Owner's Championship.

Starting from the pole position, Kyle Busch looked to have the strongest car of the afternoon dominating the first portion of the race. As the race progressed, the No. 54 lost track position finishing second marking the first season since 2004 that Busch, the all-time series leader in wins, hasn't won in the series.

Regan Smith, who will join JR Motorsports in 2013 to contend for the Nationwide Series Championship, took home the win. In his victory lane interview Smith said he was sad to see the season end now, but looks forward to what the team can do in the future.

Top 10 in standings:  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Elliott Sadler, Austin Dillon, Sam Hornish Jr., Michael Annett, Justin Allgaier, Cole Whitt, Mike Bliss, Brian Scott, Danica Patrick

Final running order:
  1. Regan Smith
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Brendan Gaughan
  4. Sam Hornish Jr.
  5. Austin Dillon
  6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 
  7. Brian Scott
  8. Ryan Blaney
  9. Elliott Sadler
  10. Cole Whitt
  11. Justin Allgaier
  12. Michael Annett
  13. Danica Patrick
  14. Joey Coulter
  15. Kenny Wallace
  16. Joey Logano
  17. Brad Sweet
  18. Joe Nemechek
  19. Mike Bliss
  20. Scott Lagasee Jr.
  21. Kevin Swindell
  22. Jeremy Clements
  23. Jeffrey Earnhardt
  24. David Starr
  25. Dakoda Armstrong
  26. Mike Wallace
  27. Eric McClure
  28. Andrew Ranger
  29. Jason Bowles
  30. Hal Martin
  31. Danny Efland
  32. Joey Gase
  33. Robert Richardson Jr.
  34. Johanna Long
  35. Erik Darnell
  36. John Blankenship
  37. Juan Carlos Blum
  38. Ryan Truex
  39. Blake Koch
  40. Jeff Green
  41. Chase Miller
  42. Josh Wise
  43. Dexter Stacey

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Live Blogging = Test

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Kevin Conway: NASCAR's 2010 Sprint Cup Raybestos Rookie of the Year

Courtesy of Kevin Conway's official Facebook page
The 2010 NASCAR Raybestos Rookie of the Year award goes to the Toyota ExtenZe Racing driver Kevin Conway. The official award presentation will happen during Champions Week in Las Vegas on Thursday, Dec. 2, during the NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon. 

Conway started 28 races during the 2010 season and finished 82 percent of his starts. Without having the luxury of provisional start availability, Kevin had to race his way into all of the events through qualifying. Conway's average starting place this season was 40.3 and his statistics show a 32.6 average finish for 2010. Kevin finished 35th in Cup Series season points after earning 1,830 points throughout the season and bringing home more than $2.5 million in earnings.

Though Conway receives the Rookie of the Year award as the only qualifying Cup Series rookie in the field, if Landon Cassill had declared himself for the ROTY award and been in one more race in 2010, Conway would have still come out on top. If driver Terry Cook, who declared himself eligible for ROTY at the beginning of the season, had stayed in for more than three Cup races, it is likely that Kevin would have beaten Cook for the honors as well. In the three races Cook participated in during the 2010 season, Conway finished an average 10 spots better in all three. Conway earned the 2010 Rookie of the Year award by keeping the car out of trouble on the track, qualifying for and finishing races, and through overcoming much adversity during his 2010 season.

Considering that before the season started, Front Row Motorsports opted to not allow Kevin an attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500 because of his lack of superspeedway experience, it is ironic that Kevin's best finish of 2010 came at the Coke Zero 400 in July at Daytona. His 14th-place finish in that race is also the best finish for Front Row Motorsports since the team formed in 2005.

Even with FRM's best finish of their five-year history, after his 21st race of the 2010 season Kevin and ExtenZe Racing left FRM because of a disagreement regarding sponsor payments. Showing himself to not be bitter about the split, Conway said, "It was exciting for me to be able to give Front Row their best finish ... it's unfortunate that we can't work it out to remain in the car for the immediate future."

In week 24 Conway and ExtenZe Racing debuted with Robby Gordon Motorsports. The remainder of the season proved to have several rough spots. During his time with Front Row Motorsports, Conway had just three DNFs in his first 21 races in 2010. In the last seven races of the season, the team shows six DNFs with Robby Gordon Motorsports. With a variety of issues plaguing the Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota, ranging from a transmission problem and engine failure to brake issues and a bad fuel pump, Kevin said that it felt like going from the frying pan into the fire. 

Courtesy of Kevin Conway's official Facebook page
“It was extremely frustrating,” Conway said. “You try to work with what's in control and not worry about the rest. As a team we have to evaluate what went right and improve on what went wrong. To be a competitive race team and get the results you want to have, you have to remain in the sport even with ongoing mechanical issues. When you beat yourself in the shop it's tough.”

When asked how much he is looking forward to the 2011 season after achieving his best finish of 2010 at Daytona, Kevin said, “I'm really looking forward to getting back to Daytona. There was a lot of track changes and handling that came into play last year.” 

But Conway expects that with the new surface at Daytona International Speedway, the aerodynamic package will come into play more and with that there are new opportunities. Kevin went on to say, “The new track surface levels the playing field to some extent. The teams who have ability to do research can capitalize on that ... I expect more three- and four-wide racing and better handling.” He said that ultimately, everyone's 2011 season will depend on surviving the races and coming away with decent finishes.

With plans to run both Cup and Nationwide races in 2011, Conway said that hitting the reset button with the switch to Robby Gordon Motorsports led to having limited resources in the latter part the season. Kevin said that not having the equipment or experience in Cup cars proved to create challenges in 2010 for his ExtenZe Racing Team. For 2011, Kevin wants to build more familiarity with the team and improve dramatically on 2010. 

With the majority of a full year under his belt, Conway says that the ExtenZe Racing Team wants to finish consistently in the top 20—25 next year and be able to capitalize on other teams' bad days. He said it is up to the driver and the team to create opportunities for success. Setting realistic goals in addition to learning and developing himself as a driver are at the top of the to-do list for Conway in 2011. Keep an eye out for a formal announcement regarding a sponsorship agreement between Kevin and Robby Gordon Motorsports following Champions Week in Las Vegas, possibly just before Christmas.

Conway said that although nothing is booked yet, after the awards in Las Vegas he is going to take a look at the calendar and is “planning on planning a trip to the mountains” during the off-season. Either somewhere in Canada or maybe the Rockies for some snowboarding, he said. 

As a final question, I asked Kevin if there was anything that NASCAR fans should know about him, his season or his team that he would like to share; his reply speaks volumes. 

“We've had a lot of racers over the last couple weeks saying you're the new hero; we're making sure that we are keeping the dream alive for the little guy. This is the first time a non-major team has won Rookie of the Year in 12 years. Regardless of the number of competitors, to be able to run the majority of the races we had to have tenacity, persistence and hard work. Six years ago I was racing weekends in midgets, working for Richard Petty Driving Experience to pay the bills. Six years later, to be in a position to compete for Rookie of the Year ... people sometimes don't understand what it takes to get to this position.”

This is a man who has fought tooth and nail for every inch gained on and off the racetrack. A man who believes in himself, his team and his future. A man who had to overcome adversity more than once during 2010. A man who appreciates each opportunity that has come his way. 

To Kevin Conway, the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year ... Congratulations. You have earned it.

*A special thank you to Kevin for taking the time to speak with me.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Jamie McMurray and wife welcome baby boy

Jamie and Christy McMurray at the Daytona champion's breakfast
in February. (Motorsports Images & Archives)

After an incredible season, Jamie McMurray and his wife Christy have something else to be thankful for this year. On Thanksgiving, the couple welcomed their first child, son Carter Scott McMurray, into the world at 8:34 a.m. Carter is 7 lbs, 12 ounces and 20 inches long, according to McMurray's official website.

The 2010 season has been prolific in more ways than one for McMurray's No. 1 team at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. McMurray won three Sprint Cup races, including two of NASCAR's premier events, the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400, in what has been likely the best season of his career. The McMurrays' new addition also marks the eighth - you read that right, eighth - baby born to members of the No. 1 team this year.

The birth is the latest in the NASCAR baby boom. McMurray joins fellow Sprint Cup drivers Elliot Sadler, Carl Edwards, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman in expanding their families in 2010. Just over a week ago Newman and his wife Krissie welcomed a baby girl.

But the baby boom isn't over yet. Sam Hornish Jr. as well as SPEED personality Wendy Venturini are expecting babies next month.

Richard Petty and financial partners take control of RPM

Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR (2009 photo)

Concord, N.C. (November 29, 2010) — Racing legend and all time NASCAR win leader Richard Petty is back in the driver’s seat.

Richard Petty Motorsports signed and closed a sale of its racing assets to an investment group comprised of Richard Petty, Medallion Financial Corp. (Nasdaq:TAXI) and DGB Investments.

Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR champion has won 200 races, including 10 Daytona races. Known in the NASCAR world as The King, Petty will serve as chairman and will be actively involved in overseeing day-to-day operations of the company. As previously announced, the team will operate the legendary No. 43 car driven by AJ Allmendinger and the No. 9 car driven by Marcos Ambrose.

“Today is a great day for me, my family, our fans and our wonderful sponsors. Ford, Stanley, Best Buy, Valvoline, Reynolds, Air Force, Super 8, Paralyzed Veterans of America, WIX Filters and Menards have supported me through thick and thin and I thank them from the bottom of my heart,” said Petty.

Andrew Murstein, President of Medallion Financial, commented: “We could not be happier to be able to acquire these assets together. Richard is one of the greatest names, not only in NASCAR, but in all sports. His name and image are a world recognized brand with unlimited potential to grow and expand in racing. Ample working capital has been invested in the company to insure this great team and legend will not only continue to perform, but will thrive and be back in the winner’s circle.”

“George and Foster Gillett deserve a great deal of credit for running a successful race team,” commented Petty. “They made a significant investment into the business and helped get back into Victory Lane. Going forward, we have put together an all-star ownership team consisting of myself, Medallion, and VeriFone CEO Doug Bergeron.”

Medallion Financial, a publicly traded investment company, has invested over $3 billion in companies since its IPO in 1996 and its board members include such notables as former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, former Connecticut Governor and Senator Lowell Weicker, and another King of his sport, Hank Aaron. The Murstein family is the largest shareholder in Medallion, owning approximately 20 percent.

DGB Investments is an investment vehicle of Canadian-born investor Douglas G. Bergeron, CEO of VeriFone Systems, Inc. (NYSE: PAY), San Jose, Calif. In 2001, Bergeron and DGB participated in the acquisition of VeriFone Systems from Hewlett-Packard in a transaction valued at $50 million. Today, VeriFone’s market value exceeds $3 billion dollars and Bergeron remains CEO and one of the largest individual shareholders.

Douglas Bergeron commented, “With Richard Petty’s unmatched name and reputation in the motorsports industry, I know this investment is well-timed to succeed. We are going to help put Richard Petty Motorsports back in victory lane.”

Petty concluded, “Our partnership with Andy Murstein and Doug Bergeron will help take us to a whole new level and I could not be more excited about our future.”

Champion's Week kicks off in Vegas

Jimmie Johnson does a burnout on the Las Vegas Strip during last year's
Victory Lap in Las Vegas. (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Johnson to be honored; schedule of events to start Wednesday

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The champion is crowned, the celebration awaits.

What a party it promises to be.

The 2010 edition of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas will fete Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson, who earned an unprecedented fifth consecutive series title following the Nov. 21 season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With events starting Wednesday, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week is full of fan-friendly activities that showcase the nation’s No. 1 form of motorsports while honoring its top driver and its loyal fan base.

Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR
After a 28-year run in New York, the annual postseason celebration made its Las Vegas debut last year, capped, as always, by the champion’s Friday-night coronation. This year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony returns to one of the city’s premier resorts, Wynn Las Vegas, on Friday, Dec. 3.
SPEED will once again broadcast the event, live at 9 p.m. ET.

Comedian Frank Caliendo and country rockers Rascal Flatts will entertain during the awards ceremony. Joining them will be “Viva ELVIS by Cirque du Soleil,” a special performance of dance, acrobatics and music celebrating the King of Rock ‘n Roll, Elvis Presley.

The ceremony culminates several days of whirlwind activity involving not only the series champion, but also the other 11 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – NASCAR’s “playoffs.” Those drivers, together with Johnson, comprise the top 12 in the series’ final standings.

“It's just been an amazing experience, amazing for myself and the team,” Johnson said of his five-title run. “I think it's been great for our sport to see the comparisons drawn to other sports that have been able to link together multiple championships. It's been awesome, a ton of fun.”

For the second consecutive year, some of the thousands of fans who flock to catch a glimpse of stock car racing’s biggest stars will join drivers, team owners and industry leaders in celebrating Johnson at the awards ceremony. Approximately 300 tickets are available to fans, which are being distributed by tracks, NASCAR partners and teams through various promotions. Fan tickets offer the following experiences:
  • NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon seats
  • Access to “NASCAR After The Lap, Made Possible By Coca-Cola and Ford”
  • Fan reception & Red Carpet walk prior to the awards ceremony
  • Awards ceremony seats
Following is a complete rundown of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week activities.

Wednesday, Dec. 1:
  • NASCAR Street Tour: Two tricked-out NASCAR interactive Ford vehicles are scheduled to appear all week throughout Las Vegas with dynamic street teams, interactive video games and free giveaways.
  • NASCAR Pit Stop Tour: The Pit Stop Tour program will run from Dec. 1-3, consisting of Official Partner show cars placed in iconic locations throughout the Las Vegas Strip. Brand ambassadors at each location (locations TBD) will be on site from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for all three days, engaging the fans.
  • Chasers for Charity Event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway: Gates open at 10 a.m. The Richard Petty Driving Experience will offer rides with a percentage of the proceeds being donated to charity. The speedway will offer tours of the facility. There will be interactive displays throughout the track’s “Neon Garage” and live music on the main stage from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. In addition, all 12 Chase drivers will participate in a Family Feud-style game show hosted by comedian Kevin Burke between 2 to 3:30 p.m. Admission to the Fanfest is free, and mass transportation will be available from the strip and downtown.
 Thursday, Dec. 2:
  • NASCAR NMPA Myers Brothers Awards Luncheon: This annual industry/media event begins at 11 a.m. in the Bellagio Ballroom at the Bellagio and includes presentations to the Champion Crew Chief, Champion Sponsor, Raybestos Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver. Fans have the opportunity to attend for the first time. It is co-hosted by NASCAR and the National Motor Sports Press Association.
  • Victory Lap: Set for 3:30 p.m., the top 12 drivers will motor down the famed Las Vegas Strip in their respective race cars. Expect an authentic pit stop along the route and two burn-out sections for drivers. Victory Lap begins in front of Planet Hollywood Hotel & Casino and ends at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Prior to Victory Lap at 3 p.m., Johnson will receive the Key to the City of Las Vegas from Mayor Oscar Goodman and Commissioner Tom Collins. Commissioner Collins also will present a Proclamation recognizing Champion’s Week and Johnson’s accomplishments.
  • NASCAR After The Lap: This free fan event starts at 4:30 p.m., at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and features a question-and-answer session with drivers and an interactive Coca-Cola Fan Zone experience. Select fans will win NASCAR-themed prizes, including a 2011 Ford Taurus SHO. The Coca-Cola Fan Zone opens at noon, with doors to NASCAR After The Lap opening at 3 p.m. General admission seats are free, on a first-come, first-serve basis. Register for tickets at
Friday, Dec. 3:
  • 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony: The big show starts at 6 p.m., crowning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion driver and owner and honoring the other drivers who finished in the top 10 in the final series standings.