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NASCAR Cup Series Nigel Kinrade Photography

FINAL FOUR Through the Eyes of NKP: Keselowski

The Final Four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Championship contenders have all had an interesting journey en route to Homestead.

We are very fortunate to have the best photographers in the game capture every exciting moment.

Nigel Kinrade Photography (NKP), led by veteran photographer, Nigel Kinrade, boasts more than fifty years of combined experience. 

NKP is present at every event on the schedule for each of the three NASCAR National Touring Series and serve the major teams and sponsors of our sport.

Check out this video, from a few years back, that will offer some behind-the-scenes action with Nigel.

 

ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Rusty Jarrett NKP

 

Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway | Rusty Jarrett NKP

 

Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway | Lesley Ann Miller NKP

 

Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway | Rusty Jarrett NKP

 

STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway |  John K Harrelson NKP

 

FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway |  Matthew T. Thacker NKP

 

Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway | Russell LaBounty NKP

 

FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway |  Matthew T. Thacker NKP

 

Pocono Green 250 at Pocono Raceway | Russell LaBounty NKP

 

Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway | Russell LaBounty | NKP

 

Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway |  Nigel Kinrade NKP

 

Apache Warrior 400 at Dover International Speedway |  Nigel Kinrade NKP

 

Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway | Russell LaBounty NKP

 

Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway | Barry Cantrell NKP

 

Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway | Rusty Jarrett NKP

 

Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway | Matthew T. Thacker NKP

 

FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway | Nigel Kinrade NKP

 

Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway |  Nigel Kinrade NKP

 

Fold of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway | Nigel Kinrade NKP

 

Go Bowling 400 at Kansas Speedway | Russell LaBounty NKP

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

GALLERY: Fans Looking Forward to Going Back in Time

Darlington’s NASCAR Throwback weekend has become one of the marquis events on the Monster Energy Cup Series schedule.

The theme not only brings back memories to NASCAR loyalists, but serves as a history lesson to our newer fans.

Here’s a look at what the teams have chosen.

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

GALLERY: Earnhardt Jr.’s Top Paint Schemes Through the Years

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Tuesday to unveil his paint scheme for the 2017 Bojangles’ Southern 500 throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway. Following are 12 favorite Earnhardt paint schemes through the years since his rookie season of 2000. 

We ask you to weigh in on social media, where does this year’s Darlington scheme stack up for in your favorite paint scheme?

Daytona XFINITY – 2010

With his father’s success in the No. 3, fans hoped to see Earnhardt Jr behind the wheel of the famed number. The July event at Daytona proved perfect opportunity, as he drove a Richard Childress Racing prepared Chevrolet to victory lane.

Michigan – 2012

Going along with the “Dark Knight Rises/Batman” scheme, Earnhardt Jr. broke through to break a winless drought that lasted 143 races, dating back to 2008.

First Cup Win  – April 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway

In his ninth career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start, Earnhardt led 106 laps en route to scoring his first career victory. For fans, the win is memorable following the bear hug in victory lane from his father.

Daytona – 2008 

The camo design from the 2008 fourth of July tribute also stood out amongst fans, despite the simplicity. Notably, the camo wasn’t done as a wrap, but rather painted by hand, layer by layer.

Axalta Scheme – 2017 

Axalta went with a much different look for the 2017 season, switching to the Sam Bass designed red and yellow Chevrolet SS.

Daytona – 2004

Budweiser came out with a promotion titled “born on date,” which would have the date the bottles were packaged featured. The scheme came at the perfect time, as Earnhardt passed Tony Stewart with 20 laps to go to win his first of two Daytona 500s.

Bristol – 2011

As Bristol Motor Speedway celebrated their 50 golden years of racing in 2011, Dale Earnhardt Jr planned a shining tribute to the historic track. 

Daytona – 2007 

With Daytona ran on fourth of July weekend, Earnhardt has always featured patriotic paint schemes through the years. This edition was memorable with how the stars shined on the dark blue, despite the race not going as planned with Earnhardt caught up in one of the wrecks.

Richmond – 2007 

On September 8, 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr drove a new Car of Tomorrow special paint scheme for sponsor Budweiser. This Chevy Impala featured an Elvis Presley-inspired look for the Chevy Rock & Roll 400.

 

Charlotte – 2008

 

Switching from the familiar AMP scheme, fans raved about the orange scheme.

 

New Hampshire – 2013 

2013 saw many great paint schemes for Earnhardt Jr. but this is the scheme that fans resonated with.

 

All article photos courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography © 2017

Categories
News

Red Horse Racing Ceases Operations Immediately

Just five races into his 13th year of team ownership in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Red Horse Racing’s Tom DeLoach is calling it quits, effective immediately.

In 532 starts with 23 different drivers, the team has scored 16 wins, 112 top-5 and 236 top-ten finishes. They also have garnered fourteen pole awards.

While the team will continue to seek outside corporate funding or entertain partnership opportunities, the employees were notified that they were free to seek jobs elsewhere. That includes the teams current drivers, Timothy Peters and Brett Moffitt.

The teams best season was 2012, when Timothy Peters finished second in the final series standings to James Buescher. 

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Almirola To Miss Minimum Eight Weeks Due to Injury

With a compression fracture of his T5 vertebra, Aric Almirola will be forced to sit out eight to 12 weeks as the injury heals.

He spoke in the media center earlier today, with the full transcript available below.

 

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – “I’m glad to be here, too.  I wish I was sitting here in a driver’s uniform, but I’m not.  First and foremost, I want to thank God.  I didn’t’ think I was lucky.  I was pretty upset in the moment and then after meeting with doctors in Kansas and Charlotte I realized how fortunate I was.  I want to thank the Good Lord for looking out for me. 

 

“Thank all of the docs and all of the staff at Kansas University Hospital.  They treated me really well and did the best they could with the circumstances we had.  The NASCAR medical staff and everybody that got to me at the race car.  Thank you for taking care of me and getting me out of the race car, and taking all the proper precautions to get me out safely and make sure that I didn’t have any other injury to my spine. 

 

“To my team, and everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports and all the guys on my 43 team and everybody that works at the shop, thank you so much for your support.  I really appreciate it. 

 

“All of our sponsors – Smithfield Food, U.S. Air Force, Fresh from Florida, STP and Ford Motor Company, thank you so much for the support over the last five years.  I think all the people and employees from each of those individual companies have reached out and its amazed me, so the support that I’ve gotten from our team and from our sponsors has been really uplifting. 

 

“To all of my fellow competitors that reached out, I’m taking an IOU on all of the plane rides that everybody offered from Kansas back to Charlotte, and we’ll bank on those here coming up soon.  I think I’ve got a prescription to go to the beach, so we’ll turn in those. 

 

“To all of the fans that have reached out, either to the race team or to our fan page and that have written notes, thank you so much for your support.  It really does mean a lot and it’s uplifting when you’re sitting on the couch to sit and read through some of that stuff, so thank you. 

 

“And to my family, especially Janice.  Thank you.  Janice, my wife, has had to be supermom for this last week and supernurse and dealing with all of the things that come along with breaking your back.  I would have never known that it would have been this complicated.  If I did, I wouldn’t have broke my back (laughter).  I can’t even being to tell you the complications that stem from this, but my wife and my family have been amazing through it and we’ll just continue to get through it.”

  

CAN YOU WALK US THROUGH THE ACCIDENT AND WHAT TRANSPIRED?  “I watched the replay and if you put it on full speed, I was just shy of two seconds behind the accident, so in race car driver terms that is a long way.  I should have missed the wreck, but I committed to turn one.  When I got there the cars that I was racing around went to the bottom, so I committed to the very outside lane and simultaneously when I committed to the outside lane I saw the accident up ahead and they came across the race track very abruptly and went into the outside catchfence.  I immediately knew that they were in my line of path, so my car was loose into the corner all night anyway, but I was entering the corner, I saw the wreck – was very aware the wreck was there – and I got on the brakes and turned the steering wheel to the left and my car got loose, and the next thing I knew I was on oil or water or something because my car wouldn’t slow down, it wouldn’t steer.  I felt like from that point my car was on railroad tracks and I was just headed straight for the wreck.  There was nothing I could do.  I’ve been doing this for a  long time and I feel like I’ve always been able to miss wrecks, especially from that far back.  Yeah, I watched the replay and I feel like an idiot even being involved in the wreck, but there was honestly nothing I could do.  My car was on ice and when you watch the replay it looks like I’m going way too fast and I am because my car wouldn’t slow down.  I had no grip and I assumed that when Danica’s car blasted the outside wall that it must have knocked the radiator and oil and stuff got in the outside groove and it ran down the race track and I was in it, so that’s how I ended up in the wreck.  I knew it was coming.  I saw it.  I braced for the wreck and immediately when I hit Joey’s car I felt pain in my back.  It felt like somebody stuck a knife in my back and then I realized that my car was airborne because I could see the asphalt and when it came back down it felt like somebody took that knife and just twisted it up in my back.  I don’t know.  I’ve met with NASCAR and obviously I’ve met with a lot of doctors and I don’t know what exactly caused the fracture in my back.  I don’t know if it was the frontal impact or the vertical.  Both were big impacts, but nonetheless, I was in the wreck and I broke my back.  I am really thankful looking back on it and watching the replay, I’m very, very thankful that A, that’s the only thing that happened in that wreck is that I got a broken back.  I think if Joey’s car would have been three feet more down the race track and I would have hit him in the door number, that would have been very violent and I think Joey would have been seriously injured.  And obviously seeing Danica’s car on fire.  If I would have got into the back of her and run into her fuel cell or something like that, it could have been a lot worse than it was.  For all relative circumstances, I guess things worked out the best they could.”

 

DO YOU HAVE A TIMETABLE FOR YOUR RETURN?  “I’ve worked with my doctors down in Charlotte and obviously Dr. Bill Heisel here.  We’re working on it, but everybody is telling me that with this type of fracture it’s 8-12 weeks, so I’m not happy about that, but Dr. Cork in Charlotte advised me that this is nothing to mess around with, definitely need to make sure that this is properly healed before I get back in a race car.  Getting back in a race car two weeks too soon is just gonna add two more starts to my start column and the stat book, but if I were to get in another similar accident and not be properly healed, you’re talking about potentially being paralyzed from the belly button down, so I’m not gonna risk that.  I’ve got a lot of baseball to play with my son and I’d like to dance with my daughter one day at her wedding, so I’m not gonna risk it.  Whenever the doctors clear me, I’ll be ready to get back in a race car.”

 

DID THE SPRINGS COME OUT OF YOUR CAR, SO THERE WAS NOTHING TO BREAK YOUR FALL.  IS THAT ACCURATE?  “I think so.  The springs didn’t actually fall out of the car, like disappear, but I think they came out of the spring buckets.  The springs are actually tethered in, but when the car came back to the garage area the springs were not upright in the spring buckets, so I’m not 100 percent sure.  NASCAR has reviewed the video – the R&D Center has – and there’s nothing showing the springs are physically out of the car upon impact with Joey’s car, but when the car came back down it violently hit on the left side frame rail and the left side jack post and the R&D Center shows that as well, so I think that violent drop from six, seven feet in the air, coming down and hitting the left side jack post and the left side frame rail put all of that energy right up to my back.  I can tell you that at Martinsville when we run really low frame heights and really low air-pressure, when they drop the jack on the left side it’s violent on a pit stop, so I’m fairly confident that dropping a car from six feet into the air down onto the left side jack post is a very big hit.”\

 

BRIAN MOFFITT, CEO, Richard Petty Motorsports – WHAT WAS THE PROCESS OF COMING UP WITH REGAN SMITH FOR THIS WEEKEND AND DO YOU THINK HE WILL CONTINUE PAST THIS WEEK?  “We’re still working through that.  We’re working with our partners.  The process was we wanted to make sure that Aric was OK when this happened.  Our worries were for him and what the future was gonna be and Janice and the kids.  We were mainly concerned about Aric when it happened.  We have a protocol that we go by and having Aric and Janice and all of our thoughts and prayers were first and foremost.  The process that we had was when we got back to North Carolina the King and Drew and Aric and I sat down and came up with a list of people after we knew what the diagnosis was and we’re still working through that with our partners.  As soon as we know for the future we’ll be letting you guys know that, but right now we’re thrilled that Regan’s going to be in the car for this weekend.”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUEDDID YOU EVER THINK ABOUT SOMETHING LIKE THIS HAPPENING AND HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT, AND CAN YOU TALK ABOUT GETTING EXTRICATED FROM THE CAR?  “No, you don’t think about it in the moment.  You don’t ever think about it when you’re in the race car, but as a race car driver you know the risks that are involved.  I’m not naïve.  I’ve seen people get killed in race cars.  I’ve seen people break their backs in race cars.  I’ve seen people break their legs in race cars, so you know that, you take that danger and compartmentalize it somewhere in the very, very far back of your brain and you recognize the risk, but the enjoyment of driving a race car and the adrenaline rush and all that has always outweighed the risk for me.  It’s what I love to do from the time I was eight years old and I drove a go-kart.  The very first go-kart I ever raced I hit a hay bale at 40 miles an hour in a go-kart and slammed a wooden wall and it hurt.  I cried and my grandfather asked me if I wanted to load the go-kart up and go home and I said, ‘No.’  And we stayed and raced the feature that night, so from the time I was eight years old I’ve known that you can get hurt and that it’s dangerous, but I love to race and I love to drive a race car.  That’s always trumped the fact that there’s risk involved.  And then as far as the extrication process, I thought that they did a great job.  Obviously, they were very cautious and very careful.  My dad is a firefighter, so I’ve always grown up with somewhat that kind of mentality.  I know just from being around my dad and understanding that he is a firefighter, I know that the spine is nothing to mess around with.  So if you have neck pain in an accident or back pain, it’s extremely important to make sure that you keep the spine stable.  I knew right away that I had a severe amount of back pain, like an unbelievable amount.  I’ll touch on the fact that I’ve gotten a lot of questions about everybody thought I was okay because I instantly dropped the window net.  Well, I saw that Danica was on fire and when I got in the accident I got this intense burning sensation in my back coupled with pain, so I thought I was on fire.  I was panicking a little bit trying to get my window net down and get my steering wheel off to get out of the car.  I got my window net down just based on pure adrenaline.  I got my steering wheel off and when I went to throw my steering wheel up on the dash and I extended my hands out in front of me that pain intensified even more and I knew I had a problem.  It kind of took my breath away and I kind of looked around while I caught my breath and realized that I wasn’t on fire, so I just sat there and waited because I knew I had a lot of back pain and I needed to get help getting out of the race car.  And then as they got there and I explained what my conditions were and where the pain was coming from, they went through all of their proper protocol to get me out of the car safely without moving my spine and stabilizing my spine.”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA  — THAT 8-12 WEEKS MEANS YOU WON’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.  IS THAT THE WAY YOU VIEW IT AND DOES THAT TAKE ANY OF THE INCENTIVE TO TRY TO RUSH BACK?  “No, not really.  I think the incentive to make sure that I can run around in my front yard with my kids is enough for me to not rush back.  I’m gonna listen to the doctors.  I’m young.  I’ve got a lot of life ahead of me.  I’ve got a four year old and a three year old at home.  I’m not gonna do anything stupid to rush myself back in a race car and risk not being able to feel anything from my belly button down for the rest of my life.  That’s most important to me.  Being out 8-12 weeks and not having a chance at the Playoffs, obviously that stinks, especially coming off Talladega.  When we left Talladega we were only one point out of being in the Playoffs, so I hate it for our race team, for all the guys at Richard Petty Motorsports that work so hard, especially over this off-season – a lot of the change and things we went through to get back on track and perform at a higher level again, and to have this happen and sort of derail all of the momentum and progress that we had made is tough.  It’s tough to swallow for sure, but it’s fate or whatever and there’s nothing I can do about it.  I can’t go back.  I can’t change it, so we’ll have to figure it out and move forward and I’m not gonna rush to get back in the car just because Playoffs are on the line or anything like that.  I’m gonna make sure I’m properly healed before I get back in the race car.”

 

FROM A SAFETY STANDPOINT DOES THIS GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO SPEAK OUT AND BECOME MORE OF AN ADVOCATE FOR WHAT CAN HAPPEN GOING FORWARD AS FAR AS SAFETY IS CONCERNED?  “Sure, and I’ve already had some of those discussions with NASCAR and the folks at the R&D Center, so I think that process has already started.  I think from just being out of the car you have a chance to look at things in a different light, so I think that’s one thing and then obviously being able to have that first-hand feedback.  We go every year in February to Daytona and we sit through the NASCAR safety meetings and I’ll be the first to tell you that we take all of the proper safety precautions very seriously at Richard Petty Motorsports.  All of our seats and seat belts and everything inside the driver compartment is by their recommendation, so I want to put that out there first.  But, I’ll follow that with I sit in that meeting and you kind of just, ‘Alright, come on.  We heard the same thing last year.  Let’s go.’  But I can tell you that it is very serious and I think me and Dale Jr. and others that have been in serious accidents can learn from the fact that we have those meetings and they’re for a reason and they’re there for our benefit.  Those people aren’t wasting hot air up there, so it’s important to listen to them and we make sure that we do everything we possibly can to make our race cars safe, and I think NASCAR has done an amazing job at making our race cars tremendously safer over the years.  I think if you look at the impact, and I’ve reviewed some of the data with NASCAR, if you look at the impact and you look at the g-load that I went through during that wreck, I’m pretty lucky to just have a compression fracture to my T5 vertebra.  So I think everything that NASCAR is doing and will continue to do to make the cars safer is really great.”

 

BRIAN MOFFITT CONTINUEDDOES IT MAKE IT EASIER KNOWING REGAN HAS BEEN IN THIS POSITION BEFORE?  “Absolutely.  We were looking at a Cup driver for this situation and Regan stepped in and we feel like he’s gonna bring the car home safe and consistency is what we were looking for and he has that type of record.  He has that type of record.  He drives a lot like Aric and that’s what helped us come to this conclusion.”

  

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUEDCAN YOU COMPARE YOUR PAIN LEVEL TODAY TO SATURDAY WHEN IT HAPPENED?  WILL YOU BE IN A BACK BRACE AT SOME POINT?  “I’ll let Heisel talk about the brace, but from everything I’ve been told there’s really no necessity for a brace because of where the fracture is at.  It’s supported by the ribcage and the sternum and the vertebras above and below, so I have not been fitted for a brace or anything like that.  I don’t think there’s gonna be a reason for that.  As far as the pain, it’s pretty bad.  Immediately, on a scale of 1 to 10 if 10 was excruciating it was a 9.5.  It slowly got better and then for whatever reason the last couple days it’s creeped back up.  I’ve been trying to get off the pain meds so I could sit up here and talk to you and not look drunk, so I’ve not taken any pain meds in the last 48 hours.  I’ve been trying to get off of those and as I do that the pain does intensify.  For me, I think the most challenging part is never getting comfort or relief.  I’ve broken other bones and I broke my leg in several places in my tibia and fibula.  I’ve broken my shoulder blade.  I’ve broken a lot of things and as long as you immobilize it and you can sit on the couch and raise it up it doesn’t really hurt until you get off the couch and all the blood rushes to it and it throbs.  But with this it’s constant pain all the time and the only thing that gets relief is constant change, so if I sit for too long, I’ve got to stand up.  When I stand up it feels better because it elongates the spine.  If I stand for too long, it starts to hurt and then I’ve got to sit down.  I’m constantly changing position and nothing alleviates the pain, and then sleeping has been really challenging because laying on my back and putting pressure on my spine and my back hurts.  Rolling over onto my side hurts – either side it hurts.  Rolling over in the bed, I have to roll over like a mummy.  I can’t really separate my shoulders and my hips because if you think about it, you see people before they start to work out in the gym.  They put their elbows out and twist from their hips and they twist their shoulders and it pops their back or loosens their back up.  Well, with a broken back I can tell you that separating the axis of my shoulders and my hips is really painful, so rolling over in the bed or getting up and just get out of a chair to walk away, everything is a very deliberate movement to try and avoid that sharp pain, but the dull ache is constantly there.”

 

WILLIAM HEISEL PA-C, Director of OrthoCarolina Motorsports – HOW DOES ARIC’S INJURY COMPARE TO DENNY HAMLIN’S AND WHAT TONY STEWART HAD LAST YEAR, AND HOW WILL HIS HEALING PROGRESSION GO TO HELP?  “This fracture is at a higher level than the injuries that Denny sustained or that Tony sustained.  This fracture though has outstanding healing potential.  Because of the location it’s a very stable fracture from the standpoint that the ligaments that connect the bones are all intact and they’re all doing well based on the imaging studies that we’ve obtained so far, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.  The bone is, for lack of a better term, crunched and it’s something that first and foremost we’ve got to get some of the edema or some of the blood out of the bone and that is something that is a time phenomenon as much as anything.  And then we have a lot of work to do from a physical therapy standpoint.  That days that Aric is not available to move around because of the pain and because of the guarding are days that he’s not using those muscles fully and we’re going to have to rehabilitate those.  So there’s definitively some physical therapy to come.  We want to deal with the acute pain phase first and foremost.  Aric alluded to the brace and this is a fracture that we don’t need a brace in this case because his rib cage effectively works as a brace.  The term that we use is the rib cage works effectively as an external fixation device because it connects to the spine and connects to the sternum, so the location of it as well also facilitates the healing close to the heart and close to the lungs.”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED – “I’m not doing any physical therapy just yet, I can tell you that right now.  It hurts.  I’ve already asked for a prescription to go to the beach.”  HEISEL INTERJECTS.  “We’ve got that covered.”

 

ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUEDCAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE HIGH OF WINNING AT TALLADEGA AND BEING IN VICTORY LANE WITH YOUR KIDS TO BEING HURT THE NEXT WEEK?  “That’s tough and that’s our sport at its finest.  The emotional rollercoaster that you go through as a NASCAR race car driver is unlike anything else.  I think in every other professional sport every weekend you either win or you lose, but in NASCAR you have to identify what success is.  It’s not always by winning or losing because there are so many more losers than winners, so throughout the year I feel like this year has been a better year for us.  We’ve seen progress.  We’ve seen momentum and everything was looking so good and everybody at the team is happy, the moral in the shop is good, everybody just keeps digging harder and working harder because when you see those results it just drives more ambition, so to go through Talladega and have such a great weekend there – to win on Saturday and have Janice and the kids in victory lane with me, and then to have a great run on Sunday – and then literally seven days later to be on a helicopter heading for the hospital, there’s nothing that describes it better other than that’s our sport.  One day you’re a hero, one day you’re a zero, although I don’t classify myself as a zero just because I broke my back, but I think it does, it messes with your emotions and that’s where I’m fortunate that I have faith that keeps me level.”

 

THERE WAS A LOT OF DEBATE ON SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT THE IMAGE TAKEN OF YOU GETTING OUT OF THE CAR.  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT?   “I’m pretty pissed off about it, to be honest with you.  I’m glad you asked.  I wasn’t gonna talk about it unless somebody asked, but I think that is extremely unprofessional of them.  They have no medical expertise whatsoever.  They had no idea what was wrong with me.  They didn’t know if I was bleeding to death.  They didn’t know if I was paralyzed.  They didn’t know anything, but they used it as an opportunity to go snap some pictures of me.  They were literally three feet away from the accident, hanging through the catchfence with their shutters running wide-open the entire time.  I’m pretty upset about that.  I feel like it’s wrong.  I’ve got a wife and two kids that are sitting at home that have no real idea what’s going on.  They’re trying to get in communication with the staff at the race track and our team, so they’re finding out more through looking at images online or during the race broadcast than our PR department or people at the race track getting back to them, and I just think that’s wrong.  I was obviously in a very vulnerable situation and I’m disappointed to say the least.  I think whatever.  If they got $500 for selling it for USA Today I hope they enjoy that $500 because they had no idea when I got pulled out of the race car if they were gonna see a pool of blood all over my uniform, they didn’t know if my legs were going to be attached, they didn’t know any of that and they were just sitting there with their shutters flying wide-open.  So I just think it’s extremely unprofessional.” 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary

Changing of the Guard In Line with New Era

Change is difficult, but it’s not so bad when there are greater things ahead.

When Carl Edwards dropped a bombshell on the NASCAR industry this week, it surprised everyone. One of the sport’s most likable and talented drivers is stepping away from racing after finishing runner-up in the championship standings twice. It was a tough pill to swallow, especially since Edwards is only 37-years-old.

Many drew comparisons to similar announcements by Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart. Gordon “retired” in 2015 yet made starts in the No. 88 last season to help out Hendrick Motorsports, while Stewart hung up his helmet this past November. Both made the announcements before the season began, giving fans a farewell tour of sorts. For Edwards, he acted on his personal decision immediately, something his gut told him to do.

When three well-known drivers leave within two seasons, it seems like the sport is falling apart – except it’s not. It’s simply ushering in a new era.

A lot of change has been announced since the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In addition to Smoke and Edwards leaving, the series is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The evolution isn’t stopping there, either; NASCAR has hinted at more adjustments coming in the next week or so. This new sponsorship deal caused a domino effect, allowing the sanctioning body to work on their brand and image. This was expected, yet it is still a shock.

Despite Monster’s entrance setting up change, this was brewing under the surface for a while. The youth movement emerged years ago and is still going strong, with NASCAR XFINITY Series champ Daniel Suarez taking over Edwards’ Joe Gibbs Racing ride. Although an unintended byproduct of this announcement, Suarez’s promotion proves times are changing. The dynamic between veteran drivers and youngsters has undergone a drastic remodel. Rookies are now legitimate threats, with sharp skills and quality equipment. Suarez moving up to the No. 19 is a testament to young guns throughout the entire sport.

With younger drivers and an energy drink sponsor, the fan base should become saturated with younger people. That’s the goal here; NASCAR has turned over many stones since its inception, but it failed to capture the interest of young adults. There is so much potential for growth at the moment – and that should excite people, even if their favorite driver steps away.

Although various sports go through a ‘changing of the guard,’ NASCAR’s current transition is both jarring and complex. Three of the sport’s most recognizable names walking away emphasizes that. They’re leaving a large hole, a gaping unknown that is meant to be filled with Cup Series improvements and young talent.

It’s a crazy way to ring in a new era – but there is so much in store. Let’s embrace it.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Three Resolutions for the 2017 NASCAR Season

The New Year is approaching, and people tend to set goals for the upcoming 365 days. Resolutions involving cutting carbs and frivolous spending top everyone’s lists, and they swear this time is different, that they will see these objectives through. Even if they break those resolutions, they had the right idea.

Maybe NASCAR should give it a go. To ring in 2017 and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, here are three goals the sport should work toward over the next 12 months.

Strike a Balance

As the era of Monster Energy begins, the sport will scramble to harness the buzz surrounding the entitlement change. They will also narrow in on the younger crowd; that’s a large part of why they wanted an energy drink sponsor, of course. All of this is expected. However, NASCAR cannot abandon the mainstays who have staked out Sunday couch space for over 25 years. The new demographic is alluring, and it should be NASCAR’s focus. That does not devalue those who keep coming back year after year, change after change.

This big swing could impact the older fans and how much money they contribute. NASCAR will need that money since the Monster deal is a fraction of what Sprint paid. The lifelong fans should give the sport some leeway as they construct their new identity – but NASCAR should not take advantage of that graciousness. The sooner they discover a way to please much of each demographic, the better.

Find Consistency

It is hard to maintain strict rules in sport; it’s a constantly moving target, and new situations arise occasionally. This does not excuse glaring inconsistencies in officiating and penalizing drivers. From 29-lap cautions to unjustified yellows, it was a year of questionable calls. Mistakes were so abundant that two of the sport’s most neutral drivers – Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson – questioned its legitimacy. Ouch.

The sport cannot afford to lose the support of fans and media, so they must prioritize consistency. What constitutes a caution with 290 laps to go should also bring out a caution with six laps remaining – and vice versa. If ‘pulling up to pit’ is an issue, clear it up in the drivers’ meeting, so they aren’t surprised when a penalty is handed down. Setting precedence early in the season should cut down on controversy later on. If the sport makes an active effort to right the wrongs made in 2016, it’s an improvement.

Be Proactive – not Reactive

Out of these three resolutions, this one has the largest implications on the future. Dealing with fan relations and perfecting punishment is necessary, yes – but all of that could have been prevented with more initiative. There are bound to be rough patches during Monster’s inaugural season, and NASCAR can prepare for those obstacles right now.

While doing that, thought can be put into others issues. Other pressing matters include teams loaning charters (and cutting down the field size), the general dislike for splitters, and tweaking 2018 Chase details for the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. There are a lot of things that will need attention in the not-so-distant future, so NASCAR should get ahead. A lot of good can come out of trying to build this sport up. There is potential under the surface; it’s just whether they get to it in time.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Popular Speed Staff Picks Most Memorable Moments From 2016

Throughout each season of NASCAR competition, there are positive and negative moments which take place. However, there are a select few each year which become memorable and talked about for years to come, like the fight at the 1979 Daytona 500 or Ricky Craven barely beating out Kurt Busch at Darlington in 2004.

After a season which included some history in Jimmie Johnson winning his seventh Sprint Cup Series Championship, a select number of the Popular Speed staff picked one moment from each of NASCAR’s top-three series which stood out.

 

SPRINT CUP SERIES

MITCHELL BREUER: Matt DiBenedetto getting his top-10 at Bristol. The feel-good story of the year in my opinion. It’s one thing to see a combo like BK Racing and Matt DiBenedetto succeed, it’s another to see the emotion from DiBenedetto post-race with tears of joy and seeing how much it meant to him. The thing I love about sports (especially NASCAR) is how unpredictable it can be and the emotion. Both of those things were on full displayed by the 25-year-old, and that is why it is my favorite.

SHANE CARSON: Tony Stewart being vintage Tony Stewart at Sonoma this summer was my favorite moment, for various reasons. First off, I think every fan wanted to see Stewart victorious one last time, whether you liked him or not. I grew up watching him and he definitely has had an impact on the sport. Second, I love the raw emotion he displayed. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the hard road Tony had traveled to get back to relevancy. Third, I respect Tony’s flair for the dramatics. He always makes things interesting, and by knocking former teammate, Denny Hamlin out of the way, you knew how bad he wanted to win that race.

JOHN HAVERLIN: Maybe because it’s still fresh in my mind right now, but the final restart at Homestead-Miami Speedway was the most exciting moment of the season. My heart was pounding as I watched the last two laps of the year. Jimmie Johnson had the restart of his life to hold off Championship 4 contender Joey Logano as well as Kyle Larson, who led a race-high 132 laps. He won the race and joined The King Richard Petty and The Intimidator Dale Earnhardt Sr. as the only NASCAR drivers to win seven Cup championships. A very historic moment in motorsports history.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: The Daytona 500 kicks off every season. Well this year, we got a big treat in how it started. From watching how a perfect strategy folded together, to a rookie’s promising debut, all the way to a classic finish. It doesn’t get any better than how things came down to just a bumper for Martin Truex Jr. and Hamlin, esp in the way Hamlin played those last laps in the move he made on Truex. You want excitement to kick off the year and well, this year we got it.

 

XFINITY SERIES

MITCHELL BREUER: The insane rain race at Mid-Ohio. Lots of fans look forward to stand-alone weekends for XFINITY Series, simply because of the lack of Cup drivers, but this wasn’t just any other stand-alone race. The action was wild, guys like Justin Marks, Andy Lally, and newcomer, Alon Day, showed off their road course skill, did I mention it was also raining during the race?! Fans crave exciting, and wild racing and this race was exactly that.

SHANE CARLSON: Perhaps it was because I was at Iowa Speedway covering this race, but my favorite moment was when Sam Hornish Jr. won in an interim role for Joe Gibbs Racing while subbing for Matt Tifft. The race also took place on Father’s Day weekend, and for the first time in his career, he had his kids and his wife with him in Victory Lane.

JOHN HAVERLIN: My favorite moment of the XFINITY Series season was Michael McDowell’s victory at Road America. McDowell has been in NASCAR since 2007 and had never won a race. Richard Childress gave him a one-time deal to drive the RCR No. 2 at the Wisconsin road course and he prevailed by holding off Brendan Gaughan for the win in the final laps. Certainly a feel-good moment for the series and the fans.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: Darlington Raceway holds a lot of historic value for obvious reasons. What a great to celebrate that by having a veteran, guy who’s worked at revitalizing his career this year – Elliott Sadler – in scoring the victory. To be honest, the pure excitement on Sadler’s face after winning, and how thankful he was to JRM for the opportunity just sealed the deal for me.

 

CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

MITCHELL BREUER: Brett Moffitt winning at Michigan. This is a moment I feel went under the radar, much like Brett Moffitt. This is a driver who made the most of an opportunity with Red Horse Racing during his run as a substitute driver for Matt Tifft. The highlight of which came at Michigan, where on the last-lap pass, Moffitt passed by Timothy Peters and William Byron (two drivers who were serious Championship contenders throughout the season) in route to his first win. It’s always cool to see a driver make the most of an opportunity, and that’s exactly what Moffitt did.

SHANE CARLSON: I’ve got two moments: The first one is Ben Kennedy‘s breakthrough win at Bristol. He bounced around teams until landing a ride at GMS Racing. It’s cool to see people make the most of the opportunity they’re presented. He certainly did that as he made the Chase. My second moment is seeing Johnny Sauter win the title. I’ve seen him and the rest of the Sauter family make a name for themselves racing on the short tracks of Minnesota and Wisconsin. I’m happy to see the Midwest represented well in a sport not typically known for us folks.

JOHN HAVERLIN: There’s not denying the truck race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park was … interesting. John Hunter Nemechek drove Cole Custer onto the grass as they fought (literally) for the win in the final corner of the race. They crossed the finish line side-by-side, and Nemechek’s No. 8 beat Custer’s No. 00 by a few inches. After the race, Custer sprinted out to the frontstretch where Nemechek was waiting for the officials to hand him the checkered flag and tackled him before the two were pulled apart. It definitely wasn’t NASCAR at it’s finest, but it was pretty entertaining to watch.

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN: Over the past three years, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has been known to produce excitement. This year, by the way, was no exception. From some of the on-track battles throughout the race for position to the late-race drama between the ThorSport teammates, everything built up as normal. Of course, nothing could’ve prepared us for what happened on the last lap between Nemechek and Custer. I will say there’s nothing like standing on pit road set to interview Daniel Hemric, and seeing Custer go running by you and wondering where he was going. From the last lap last corner action to the tackle to the pit crews arguing on pit road, it had every bit of drama you could want as a fan – even if you didn’t necessary agree with Nemechek’s tactic in running Custer off the road.

See Custer’s tackle on Nemechek by clicking here

 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Sponsorship Search Hindered by Series Mistakes

The sun set on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with the service provider ending the partnership after 13 years. Their relationship brought copious amounts of success on and off the track; in addition to the on-track product evolving over the years, Sprint differentiated itself as a sponsor by implementing unique programs like Miss Sprint Cup.

When Sprint announced their 2016 departure at the end of the 2014 season, NASCAR knew finding a company to fill their shoes would be difficult. However, they most likely didn’t expect to struggle this much; the season ended over a week ago, and there was nothing confirmed for 2017 – till now.  It was announced on December 1st in Las Vegas that Monster Energy will take over Sprint’s role. No length or cost of the deal was mentioned.

It is no surprise this reveal is coming late in the year, but the sanctioning body was flustered negotiations took longer than expected. That has been their state of mind the entire season – confused.

In the final few months of the 2016 season, NASCAR made a series of mistakes that left a bad taste in the fans’ and drivers’ mouths. From inconsistencies with officiating to simply boneheaded decisions, the sport lost the benefit of the doubt many gave them for years.

The October race at Martinsville Speedway – a Chase event the entire sport circles on their calendars – fell flat when a caution flew in the middle of green flag pit stops. The result was a 29-lap caution period to figure out the running order. A red flag would have halted the racecars and made it easier to decipher who ended up where versus where they were supposed to be. Instead, NASCAR killed an entire afternoon’s worth of momentum in a split second.

NASCAR also can’t ignore their other mistakes, such as inconsistency in penalties. Out of the blue, they started calling drivers out for “pulling up to pit,” which is where the drivers pull ahead of the pace car while on pit road. Martin Truex, Jr. and Jimmie Johnson received that penalty at Phoenix International Raceway, causing both drivers to question the rule’s validity.

That mindset extended into Championship Weekend when a controversial caution flag flew late in the race. The field lined up with 10 laps remaining, creating tension and aggression that cost Carl Edwards another shot at the title. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver – who is usually neutral on various issues in the sport – called out the sanctioning body after his wreck, questioning if the caution needed to come out for Dylan Lupton’s mechanical issues.

These instances happened during the final two months of competition – when the finalists for the sponsorship were chosen. Drivers denouncing the sport and its officiating isn’t conducive in closing deals and most likely impacted negotiations. NASCAR will address the difficulty of finding a company to represent the premier series – but they fail to acknowledge their actions’ effect on that process.

Although the sport made strides while with Sprint, there have been some flops as well. This new entitlement deal is a chance to reframe the series and rebuild their credibility. To do this, though, they have to admit they lost their credibility in the first place.

By the time the sun rises at Daytona International Speedway, they might have it figured out.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Edwards Ends Up on Losing End Once Again

Carl Edwards knows this feeling all too well.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver seemed like the favorite to win the championship and the race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with his No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry leading laps and fending off opponents. Most importantly, he kept his three title rivals in his rearview mirror.

Unfortunately, that is what erased his chance at winning it all.

Edwards restarted second with 10 laps remaining in the Ford EcoBoost 400, with championship hopeful Joey Logano lined up behind him. The No. 22 Team Penske Ford dove to the apron and attempted to make it three wide going into turn one. Edwards went to block and went across Logano’s nose – and in an instant, his shot at redemption vanished.

“[Logano] was so good in the short run. I don’t know how he got that restart. It was a really good restart. I thought everything was going to work out and Jason [Hedlesky, Edwards’ spotter] told me basically he was there. I just pushed the issue as far as I could because I figured that was the race there,” Edwards said after being cleared from the infield car center. “[Logano] just timed it perfectly; he moved down, and I thought I could feel him a little. I was probably a little optimistic, but I thought I could clear him or force him to lift. He drove down as far as a guy could be expected to drive down and that’s how it ended.”

Because of the damage to his racecar, he could not head back out on the track and finished 34th. The result relegated him to fourth in the point standings. Edwards came close to the championship before; in 2008 and 2011, he claimed the runner-up position in the Chase.

The JGR driver believed the blame was shared and didn’t want any negativity between the teams. Edwards walked to the No. 22 pit box after the incident to express his thoughts to crew chief Todd Gordon. His sportsmanship didn’t go unnoticed by others within the NASCAR community.

Edwards said, “I just wanted to say, ‘Hey, that’s just racing and good luck to you guys.’ There’s so much on the line. I don’t want to be anything extra to mess with Joey. He’s done a good job, and they deserve to go have a good, fair race.”

Despite the circumstances and déjà vu, he didn’t leave Homestead empty-handed; the driver enjoyed the racing up until the end.

“That was just a fun race. I wish it didn’t end like that,” he said. “My guys deserve better than that. Hindsight obviously it would’ve been better to be a little less aggressive and maybe race him but man I thought if he got in front of me it’s over.”

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.