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NASCAR Cup Series

WE NEED TO TALK: The Glen

STAFF: Friday has long been nicknamed “Fast Friday” for a day of on-track activities. Even faster than what occurs on track, the activity that occurs in the NASCAR media centers week in and week out.

With a full schedule of media events ranging from drivers talking about new sponsors, Chase hopes and perhaps an occasional groundbreaking news announcement during “silly season,” the media center is the hub of activity that keeps the fans informed.

Today the hot topic of the media center conferences was asking each driver about Tony Stewart and his recent injury.

What did “Smoke’s” competitors have to say?

Martin Truex Jr.:

Could Tony Stewart’s injury help you qualify for the Chase?

“Honestly, when I first heard about it, I really didn’t even think about the Chase stuff. I’ve really not been focused on points or all that stuff. I mean, there’s still a lot of racing to go. I think my first thought was just that it obviously — it was a bad break for Tony (Stewart). Hate to see somebody out there just trying to have fun and do what he loves to do get hurt and have to sacrifice his real job or his main focus, which is obviously Sprint Cup cars. I honestly didn’t even think about it at first. I just was thinking what he was thinking and just kind of felt bad for him. Obviously, there’s some implications there as far as he’s got one of the ‘wild card’ spots and I’m not even sure to be honest how it all works out. If he comes back in a couple weeks, is he still able to get it — I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it much to be honest with you. Got a lot of races to go. There’s a lot of guys around us that can still win a race on any given weekend and we just need to worry about our own deal and focus on trying to get another win and be consistent enough to hopefully get back in the top-10.”

Jeff Gordon:

How wild is it to not have Tony Stewart in the field this weekend?

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.  I was in Knoxville (Iowa) this week with our ‘Kick it for Kids Cancer’ program there and they’re doing the kickball tournament today, which it’s been such a great relationship to be on Shane Stewart’s car at Knoxville, but to go there and be in that environment of sprint car racing and around the people that are feeling the impact of that and now here I come this weekend to this race where the impact is being felt here as well.  Tony (Stewart) is such an influential person in motorsports as a driver and just as a supporter of racing that it’s tough.  I was looking all over those cars trying to understand what happened and you’re there and you’re in awe of these awesome beasts of race cars.  930 horsepower, 1400 pound cars, tons of downforce.  They just fly and they impress you and it makes me want to get behind the wheel of one so I totally understand the appeal and then you look at Tony and his talents and to go out there and want to be as competitive as he is.  He has a shot at winning these races, which is unbelievable.  He’s racing against guys that do this every single weekend.  They are somewhat, compared to the space cowboys of the NASA program several years ago where they’re sitting on top of a rocket and without a lot of protection.  I hope that this can actually be a great benefit and influence on the sprint car community to make these cars safer.  There are some areas that could be improved.  These cars are lightweight and they’re fast and they’re cool and awesome, but we’ve seen a lot in seat technology in that series, but I think that we’re seeing this type of injury that’s happening from time to time with that torque tube and driveshaft being so exposed and the lightweight components.  I hope to see something like this advance that.  Yeah, we’re missing Tony and haven’t had a chance to speak to him yet, but can’t wait for him to get back as soon as possible.”

Danica Patrick:

How do you think it will affect Tony to watch someone else drive his car?
“I mean I don’t know, but I think that he understands what happened and he is where he is.  I mean essentially he watches people drive his cars a lot. He owns a team and he has his sprint car stuff and so he watches and he has his own drivers already.  I don’t know if that kind of dampens it a little bit just because of his position of being an owner of a lot of cars, but I mean he really was getting on a roll this season.  Especially being at a track that you’ve done really well at as a driver I’m sure it’s a little bit harder to take that one.  He’s on the road to recovery and he is just going to have to keep his head down and get well.  Like I said he was in good spirits so I’m sure it won’t be easy, but I think it probably helps that he owns cars already.”

Kurt Busch:

What are your thoughts on Tony’s injury? You’re a top driver that runs in other series. What goes through your mind about running in a different series and getting an injury where you can’t compete?

“There’s always that risk. We’re always on that edge when you’re racing. No matter if it’s a Cup car or a Sprint car. And when you’re out there, like Tony is, leading your crusade for short track racing, he was out there continuing to do what he has been doing all along. He does it for many reasons. One is to keep himself busy and it’s his outlet to enjoy life at a level that’s fun for him. And I’ve been through the ups and the downs of finding fun in racing versus doing the daily/weekly grind. And for him, he’s been leading a crusade for short track racing. We all commend him for doing such. You look at it, he brought the truck series to El Dora and that was the feel-good story a few weeks ago. So for Tony, that’s just the next step of what he wants to do for short track racing. This won’t set him back from doing that anymore. He’ll get back in the car, he’ll keep running those Sprint Car races and he’ll be back in the Cup car. It’s just a bigger speed bump than we all expected. But as drivers they know that there’s a danger and there’s a fear of when things can happen. I mean I’ve run Grand-AM Rolex races, jumped in an Indy car at Indianapolis to drive around in an open cock-pit at 218 miles an hour. It’s a whole different experience and I’m hoping I’m making the right steps in transitioning to run an Indy race that if I do, to do it the right way. But tony, he is the most experienced racer there is, especially in Sprint cars, in jumping in them and jumping out of them. A freak deal happened. I mean I saw video of it and it was freak deal. It wasn’t anything he induced to put himself in a bad position. That’s the code I’ve always lived by. Don’t put yourself in a bad position to wreck.”

Greg Zipadelli, Competition Direction at Stewart-Haas Racing

What do you think Tony’s mentality is going to be or how you do think it is going to be for him Sunday when he is there watching the race on TV? How difficult is that going to be for him?

“I think that is a really difficult moment for anybody that has been in the sport and has raced.  I think his personality and as much of a racer that he is I think it will be harder on him than anybody else.  When you look at the consecutive starts that he has had over here and how many races he has run and now he can’t get in his car.  I imagine that would be really tough on him.  We will all be there and support him.  It’s still his car he’s just out for you know a temporary spell so we will do the best we can with trying to keep him cheered up as a group.  It is what it is.  He loves racing and knows and we all know that this day could be here.  It’s here now we are just going to do the best we can to navigate through the obstructions that we have one day at a time.  Before you know it we will be talking about him getting back in it and be business as usual.”

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NASCAR Cup Series

Game-Changer for Chase-Chasers

Most of the drivers that were asked on Friday at Watkins Glen didn’t want to say it out of respect for what Tony Stewart means to NASCAR, but the leg injury that has the three-time Sprint Cup champion on the sidelines for the remainder of the season could come to the benefit of some of the fringe Chase contenders.

The absence of Stewart creates a major void in the race to the Chase.

For one, it eliminates a driver from contention who entered the weekend 11th in the standings and who occupied one of the two wild card playoff spots. That’s a title that is now open to any number of drivers who performs the best over the next five weekends.

That list includes Stewart’s teammate Ryan Newman, defending champion Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch — quite the a-list of NASCAR superstars.

Busch, like many of his peers, agreed that Stewart’s health was his primary concern when the news broke but admitted that the injury did put him (Busch) in a better position to make the field of 12 once the points reset after Richmond. Even still, Busch says he can’t afford to focus on that too much as he believes his playoff chances will further improve mostly by focusing on his own efforts.

“We just need to focus on our 78 car,” Busch said. “We just need to worry about what we have to do to get our points and to not have bad things happen in the race. It would be the same as Tony spinning and wrecking on Lap 1 in a sense on Sunday. He’s just not going to get any good points.

“We now have that forecast to know that that’s going to happen before the race even starts. We just need to stick to our game plan now and just stay focused on the 78 car.”

Truex believes that there are too many weeks remaining in the ‘regular season’ to be focused on the standings, as anything could happen. Truex enters the weekend 14th in the hunt and is the biggest beneficiary of the points shakeup as it stands.

Mentally eliminating Stewart places Truex in control of that second wild card entering the weekend. Another win or series of good finishes could lock him in.

“We’ve got a lot of races to go,” Truex said. “There are a lot of guys around us that can still win a race on any given weekend and we just need to worry about our own deal and focus on trying to get another win and be consistent enough to hopefully get back in the top-10.”

For those currently already inside the top-10, the very real possibility of a Chase without Stewart has implications on how those final 10 races could play out too.

It was just two years ago that Stewart just barely made the Chase but went on a run of five wins in 10 weeks to win the title over Carl Edwards. The lack of Stewart in the playoff picture or on the track means a lot more possibilities for someone else to find victory lane at the tracks that Stewart typically contends at, says four-time champion Jeff Gordon.

“There is no doubt that Tony plays a huge influence in the Chase and in the championship,” Gordon said. “We saw him squeak into the Chase just a couple years ago and win the championship. You never count them out… I looked to him to being one of the biggest threats for the position that we’re in.”

So with just 15 races remaining in the 2013 season, one injury may have completely changed the face of the season championship.

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Editorial NASCAR Cup Series

A UNIQUE VIEW: What to Watch at The Glen

By Unique Hiram – Left and right turns will be made during this weekend’s double-header at Watkins Glen International. The NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series will make their presence known in the southern Seneca Lake, NY area.

We are approximately five weeks away from the start of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Who will be contending in this year’s prestigious competition? Who will be on the outside looking in, wondering what might have been? I think that is still yet to be seen because as we all know – anything can happen to change the game.

Here are my pondering thoughts for this weekend’s showdown at “The Glen”:

Will Max Papis bring home the victory for Stewart-Haas Racing and capture his first win?

NASCAR driver Max Papis will be subbing for three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart. Due to a leg injury sustained in a 360-winged sprint car accident in Iowa, “Smoke” has been sidelined this weekend.

Competing on a very limited schedule, for the past eight years, Papis’ best finishes are eighth (Sprint Cup) and second (Nationwide). He has mainly participated in road course races, specifically in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, with statistics that include three top 5s, three top 10s and two laps led in 13 races.

“Mad Max” is definitely a very determined and highly competitive road racer. He is not afraid to drive aggressively towards the front of the field. Rest assured, the race leader position and checkered flag are definitely in his sights.

Can Kurt Busch and the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team crack the top 10 this weekend?

2004 Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch is currently sitting 13th in the point standings. Fast, strong cars along with a talented pit crew and determined driver have allowed this single car team to stay in the hunt. After 21 races, in the 2013 season, Busch has five top 5s, nine top 10s, led 271 laps and one pole.

With only 11 points separating him and 10th place Greg Biffle, there is a 98% chance that Kurt Busch gains a few positions upon completing a predominately clean race.  His statistics at “The Glen” include one top 5, four top 10s and 62 laps led. This driver and race team are a true representation of the “the little engine that could” because they are positioning themselves for success.

Is this the weekend for four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon to grab the checkered flag?

Four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon was posed for the win last week until a final restart changed the outcome of the race ending. His teammate Kasey Kahne crossed the finish line 1.392 seconds ahead of him at Pocono Raceway.

Is this still fresh in his mind? Even though I am sure he is focused on this weekend’s race, I believe that there is some thought about the win that eluded him.

Gordon is headed to a track where he holds some impressive statistics. He has four wins, six top 5s, nine top 10s and led 233 laps. Is he a contender for the win? Yes, I believe that this four-time champion is determined and focused on crossing the finish line first. No pun intended – he wants to be the bride not the bridesmaid this weekend.

 

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TICK-TOCK: Time is Fleeting for Chase Hopefuls

By Amanda Ebersole – Do you hear that?

That’s the sound of the clock ticking for those who hope to make the 2013 Chase to the Sprint Cup Championship. Each race that passes, that sound gets louder for those on the bubble and in desperate need of a win.

Who is safe and who needs to step up their game? Let’s look at the contenders one by one.

Jimmie Johnson – Cheer or boo as you wish but as we stand, the 5-time champion is 77 points ahead of second place.  (Please don’t send me hate mail, the facts are the facts!)

Clint Bowyer – For Bowyer to legitimately have a shot at Johnson one of two things need to happen… 1. Bowyer wins or 2. Johnson chokes under pressure  Again, say what you want about the 48 team but they know the Chase like the back of their hand. Look for option 1 and for Bowyer to take Michael Waltrip Racing head-to-head with Johnson and company.

Carl Edwards – The highest of the Roush Fenway Racing drivers, the Fords have been struggling this year. Twenty-one races into the season and the blue oval has only been to victory lane three times. Edwards himself has one victory this season but to contend in the Chase, he and Crew Chief Jimmy Fenning will have to play a game of Chess with the Chess Master himself, Jimmie Johnson.

Kevin Harvick – Why is Kevin Harvick leaving Richard Childress Racing? With two wins this season, he is currently fourth in the points and 97 behind. Oh… I think I just answered my own question. Consistency is missing! Those two wins should easily have him second in points if they can get solid finishes week in and week out.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – While fifth in the points isn’t terrible, the results that the 88 team have had are up and down like the stock market. JR Nation is among the most loyal fans you could ever see – good, bad or indifferent, they have their drivers back. Imagine if it were Jr. versus Johnson head-to-head for the championship?

Kyle Busch – Anytime the Chase rolls around and Kyle Busch is mentioned, I think of the song “Under Pressure” by David Bowie. Busch has been in the Chase and cracked like an M&M being stomped on time after time. Can they make it through a Chase without blown engines and numerous parts failures? I’d like to see that because Rowdy always puts on a good show.

Matt Kenseth – Since moving to “The dark side” we are seeing a new Matt Kenseth! Four wins this season has Joe Gibbs smiling from ear-to-ear and Kenseth fans throwing ticker tape parades. Why is he seventh in the points? Bad luck with engines, crashes, etc. Personally, I would love to see Kenseth be a strong contender by the time we reach Homestead with the hopes that he’ll bust out into song and sing, “A change would do you good!”

Kasey Kahne – Kahne’s win at Pocono (his second of the year) may just be enough to give him the edge over over teammate Jeff Gordon. The real question is, can Kahne and Crew Chief Kenny Francis go toe-to-toe with their teammate Jimmie Johnson once the Chase points reset?

Jeff Gordon – Looking at all the potential drivers to make the Chase, no one beats Jeff Gordon in terms of experience. Gordon was so close to a win at Pocono and to secure his spot in the Chase, a win in essential! Side note: It’s hard to believe that Jeff Gordon is the lowest of the HMS teammates!

Greg Biffle – Much like his teammate Carl Edwards, Biffle’s season is nothing to write home about. With one win, Biffle’s average finish is 15th. To make the Chase, he and Matt Puccia have to dig deep and throw the kitchen sink at the No. 16.

Chasing the Chase:

With one win a piece, Tony Stewart (11th), Martin Truex Jr. (14th) and Ryan Newman (15th) get a Chase nod over someone higher in the points with no win. It pays to win, in more than one way!

Tony Stewart – Tony, Tony, Tony… on top of having a broken leg, you are now stuck with the horrible job of any owner/driver and finding a replacement.  Get well soon!

Martin Truex Jr. – Last year Truex shook the NASCAR world when he made the Chase, a first for MWR. With one win this season and teammate Clint Bowyer in second, having two MWR cars in the Chase would be a monumental moment for the young team. Can you imagine Michael Waltrip’s reaction?

Ryan Newman – Of all the potential drivers to make the Chase, Ryan Newman has the most on the line as he awaits a ride for 2014. A Chase berth will have him on the radar of every team and sponsor clamoring for more exposure. The question is, who has a vacant seat? I’ll save that for another story.

And on the outside looking in, desperately needing a win:

Brad Keselowski – The champ is in danger of missing the Chase! Everyone panic!!! Seriously, raise your hand if you think “Bad” Brad won’t make the Chase? If it comes down to the last lap at Richmond,

Kurt Busch – For the love of the underdog teams, Kurt Busch NEEDS to make the Chase. How awesome would it be for Furniture Row Racing to make the Chase! Forget about what you personally think of Kurt and focus on the team as a whole. He is just a part of a larger sum that would benefit from a Chase berth.

You’ve read my thoughts, now share yours. Who is in and who needs to hit the panic button? Chat with us on Facebook and Twitter and share your Chase contenders.

 

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NASCAR Cup Series

CALINOFF’S CAPSULE COMMENTS: Living the Insanity

By Mike Calinoff – They gave me an option. At the beginning of 2011 Roush Fenway’s General Manager, Robbie Reiser, asked if I’d be willing to travel back and forth when the No. 6 Nationwide team was apart from the Cup series. I said, ‘Sure’. Then he said, “You’ll be flying with Jack.” I said, ‘That’s fine’. And he added, “Jack is flying the plane.” I stopped, thought for a brief moment and said, “I’ll go. What are the odds?”

** As a side note, the odds of dying in a plane crash are 1 in 11,000,000. The odds of losing your life in a car accident are 1 in 5,000. In essence, you’re at a higher risk driving to the airport.

So, this is my third year of traveling. Depending on where we’re going, they can be long days and nights. But, it’s what I love to do.

This past weekend I did the “double” from Pocono to Iowa and back. Here’s how it all went down:

 

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1

12:49 – Left the house and headed into town to run some errands on the way to the airport. Stopped in at one of our RFR sponsor partners, Fifth Third Bank, to get some cash. I also asked if they had any samples and politely heard, “Next in line, please.”

1:17 – Saw that I had three miles left until I was out of gas. However, there was a Starbucks that I had to get to which was probably 2.5 miles away. I immediately started saving fuel by driving in fourth gear and shutting it off as I’d coast to a stop light.

1:31 – Venti Iced Coffee in hand, I begin the cruise to the gas station. I barely made it.

1:48 – Off to the Charlotte airport for my 1:20 trip on Roush Air to Allentown, PA.

4:00 – Met up with friends for Sushi. Told a bunch of stories – most of them lies, of course – and went to the hotel. It was a relatively easy day.

 

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2

8:10 – I arrived at the track early (for me) because I had a little business to do in the garage before the 11:30 Sprint Cup Series practice with Stenhouse, Jr. Unfortunately, it had begun to rain. I don’t carry an umbrella. I never have. I think holding an umbrella makes you look like a wimp. However, I don’t like walking in the rain due to the fact that I’m a wimp – so, therein lays the dilemma. I stayed in the car.

9:22 – My friend and spotter for Jamie McMurray, Lorin Ranier, shows up for some professional rain-delay activities. We sit in the car and watch stupid YouTube videos and giggle like high school girls. What can I say?

12:41 – NASCAR cancels the activities for the day and I head for the hotel.

I had a great dinner with my friends at a seafood joint near where I was staying. Same folks, different lies.

I went to bed relatively early because tomorrow was going to be the day of days for me.

 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3

6:00 – Let’s roll. I’ve got practice with Ricky from 9:00 – 9:50 and 11:30 to 12:30.

12:41 – I strap in to my Ford Escape and head for the private airport in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to spot for Trevor Bayne. Jack opted out of the trip due to a prior commitment, so I was solo.

1:12 – Arrived at the airport. I grabbed my radios and head in. The truck race is on in the airport lobby and about to start. Keselowski walks in right behind me – he’s also headed to Iowa (to eventually win). “Hey Big Time, they sending you to Iowa?” he asks, “No”, I said, “I drove to Scranton to watch the truck race at an airport.” He looked up at the TV. “We’ve gotta watch the first lap – I wanna see how much this is gonna cost me.”  First lap complete, BKR trucks intact, he headed to his plane and I headed to Jack’s.

Brad Womble, Jack’s personal pilot, had N6JR gassed up and ready to roll. I like Brad — he’s a smartass like me. “Get here when you can, Calinoff.” I started to explain watching lap one of the truck race, but he chose to ignore me.  He asked, “You gonna sit right seat (up front with him) or in the back?” I said, ‘I’m going back there and take a nap.’ And he shot back, “Yeah, me too.”

Two hours and twenty minutes later, we arrived in Newton, IA – right behind the track.

N6JR3The pilot thought this was funny

 

3:16 (local) — I could literally walk from the airport to the track — it’s on the same property — but I took a golf cart ride to the Iowa Speedway garage instead. I put my radios on charge in the hauler and hung out with the guys.

 

RACE TIME!

7:21 — Green Flag! 

The race was the race — no sense in recapping it lap-by-lap. We had a strong car for most of the race and Trevor did a great job wheeling it. In the end, we ran out of laps and finished 10th.

10:33 — Wheels-up and headed back to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport.

We had a kick-ass tailwind. When you peer out the window at 37,000 ft. and are zooming past clouds, you know you’re making good time. We made it back to PA in a hour and twenty-six minutes. The ground speed was 700 MPH. Looks like Brad nailed the setup!

1:41 (local) — Back in my Ford and off to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow is already here and the race starts in few hours.

 

SUNDAY, AUGUST 4

6:44 — I pop out of bed, shower, dress and head for Pocono Raceway. I head into the garage for few meetings and general pass-the-time stuff. Stenhouse Jr. is starting 17th. We had a really good car all weekend and I was excited about the prospect of having a great day.

1:19 — Green Flag!

1:19:11 – In the wall. Contact to the left-rear essentially ends our day — we never made a corner. Getting into turn one, the No. 42 hit us in the left-rear quarter panel and we were toast. Going three-wide into turn one on the initial start was ridiculous. But then again… well, you know.

We were in the garage for 47 laps and came back out just to finish and score as many points as we can. For me, 47 laps doing nothing at Pocono is just outright painful. I didn’t even watch the race until we came back out. When the race was over, Juan Pablo went to Ricky and the guys. He took full responsibility and apologized. Yeah… great… thanks.


HOMEWARD BOUND

As soon as the race ended I went straight to the car, to the airport, onto the plane, into my car and headed home. I didn’t keep track of exact times anymore —  I was living on a combination of exhaustion and aggravation. I just wanted to get home.

I dropped my bags in the foyer, went into the living room and plopped onto the sofa for the official greetings of my dogs. It’s funny, I’ll be gone four days and when I get home the dogs are thrilled to see you — gotta love that about dogs. Then again, I can be gone for 45-seconds to get the mail and come back to the same greetings.

I replayed the weekend in my mind. Leaving, going to Pocono, to and from Iowa, minimal sleep, the race and the trip home. They call that living the dream — I call it living the insanity.  It’s a fast-paced, be-on-your-game life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Freakin’ Montoya.

 

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Max In for Smoke

Max Papis has been tapped by the Stewart-Haas Racing team to fill the vacant seat of Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet this weekend at Watkins Glen.

Papis, an eight year NASCAR veteran, has made 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, with a career-best finish of eighth in 2009 at Watkins Glen.

Known as “Mad Max,” Papis recently tested the No. 14 Chevrolet on July 30 at Road Atlanta.

Why did the Stewart-Haas team choose Papis? His resume speaks for itself.

Papis has made 35 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts, with a career-best finish of eighth in 2009 at Watkins Glen. He has competed in Formula One, Indy car, sports cars and other NASCAR divisions, including the Nationwide Series, Camping World Truck Series and Canadian Tire Series. He is a three-time CART race winner and a seven-time winner in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, which includes a Daytona Prototype victory at Watkins Glen in the 2004 Sahlen’s Sports Car Grand Prix. Papis won the 2004 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series championship with co-driver Scott Pruett and is a two-time winner of the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona (2000 and 2002). Papis, 43, is from Como, Italy, and is a political science graduate of Milan University. He resides in Mooresville, N.C., with his wife, Tatiana, and sons, Marco and Matteo.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Who Fills the Seat?

By Amanda Ebersole – With the sudden and shocking news that Tony Stewart is sidelined the question now becomes, “who fills his seat?”

Truthfully, no one can fill Tony’s seat and drive like he would. The summer months are notorious to be his “hot” streak.

Who is available to fill his seat in the Sprint Cup Series garage? Not really anyone. 

Looking at the available drivers, I believe that Stewart-Haas Racing should look to the Nationwide Series talent pool. If you want to keep it in the Chevy family here is my list of who Tony and his team should be looking at:

Nelson Piquet, Jr. – Winner of the 2012 Nationwide Series race at Road America, Piquet has road course experience. If we are talking beyond Watkins Glen, see the next few options.

Regan Smith – In terms of experience in the Cup Series, Regan clearly has the upper hand on knowing how to bring a car home in one piece but his finishes are less than impressive for a team used to top 10s.

Justin Allgaier – The rumor persists that Allgaier is going Cup racing next season with Brandt and Turner Scott Motorsports. Why not use this time as a “test” for another Chevrolet team and give Allgaier a boost on 2014? (No pun intended!)

Kyle Larson – While Larson may be a long shot because of his inexperience, Tony may have a soft spot for Larson because they have similar backgrounds. Both Larson and Stewart will race anything and everything and will leave a NASCAR race just to head to another series.

If you were making the decision for Stewart, who would you pick to fill the 14 seat while Tony is on R&R eating some soda cookies?

UPDATE: Max Papis was chosen for this weekend’s race at Watkins Glen. Who will be chosen next week and for the remainder of the races? See above!

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NASCAR Cup Series

Hello Newman!

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Ryan Newman, now a job seeker, couldn’t have added a more important or timely accomplishment to his resume.

Taking advantage of an uncharacteristic glitch on pit road on the part of Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team, Newman grabbed the lead during a long cycle of late green-flag pit stops and held on to win Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Samuel Deeds 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The victory was Newman’s first at the Brickyard, at the only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in his native state. Newman won for the 17th time in his career and for the first time since April 2012 at Martinsville.

Nearly three weeks ago, Newman learned there wouldn’t be a ride for him next year at Stewart-Haas Racing, with Kevin Harvick scheduled to supplant him on the team and end Newman’s five-year stint with SHR. To a prospective new employer, Newman now can sell himself as the winner of two of the crown jewels of NASCAR racing.

In 2008 he captured the 50th Daytona 500. On Sunday, he added the 20th renewal at the Brickyard to his portfolio.

“Starting on the pole and winning the race — just an awesome day for us,” Newman said after climbing out of his car. “This is a dream come true for me. I can’t wait to push my lips on those bricks.

“I don’t realize it yet. It’s a dream come true. It’ll take a week or so for this to set in.”

In the job search, there’s no doubt the victory will be a benefit.

“Obviously, it helps,” Newman said. “The emotions have been an absolute roller coaster — no doubt. I got fired a couple of weeks ago and come back here and win the pole and win the race, and it’s all because of hard effort. These guys (his team) are behind me, and I’m behind them.”

Johnson ran second, 2.657 seconds back. Kasey Kahne came home third, followed by Tony Stewart — Newman’s team owner — and Matt Kenseth. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Joey Logano, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kyle Busch completed the top 10.

A slow pit stop on Lap 133, because of a problem with the left rear tire, cost Johnson his edge over Newman. With a quick stop one lap later, Newman was back on track with a five-second advantage over the No. 48 Chevrolet, as the drivers waited for pit stops to cycle through.

Johnson couldn’t make a significant dent in Newman’s margin over the remaining laps.

From the outset, Johnson and Newman were the speed horses in the field, and it seemed inevitable they would settle the issue between them. Johnson spent just over 17 seconds in his pit stall taking four tires on his final stop. Newman’s two-tire stop lasted less than 12 seconds.

“There’s definitely disappointment there,” said Johnson, who has squandered winning opportunities on late-race restarts this year, notably at Dover and Kentucky. “But that’s racing. It happens. I’ve given away a few out there this year, too…

“We win as a team, lose as a team. There’s been some late‑race mistakes on my behalf that have taken race wins away from us. Granted, not a major event like this. But we win as a team, lose as a team. We still ended up second. We have a lot to be proud of over the course of the weekend. We’ll do the best to let it roll off our shoulders by (Monday) afternoon.

Stewart didn’t have a winning car, but he got to enjoy Newman’s victory as a car owner. Both Newman and Stewart both say they remain close friends despite the impending split.

“I can’t wait to give him a hug and congratulate him,” Stewart said after the race. “He did a great job all weekend. It was between him and the 48. That was clear to see. I didn’t know what strategy was going to be at the end. I just kept watching the Jumbotrons coming off (Turn) 4 to see where he was at.”

 

Notes: Johnson expanded his series lead to 75 points over second-place Clint Bowyer, who finished 20th. Carl Edwards, who lost ground on a late restart, came home 13th and is 85 points behind Johnson in third place… Kevin Harvick’s streak of top-10 finishes ended at nine with a 19th-place result… Gordon gained two spots to 10th in points, the last Chase-eligible position, with six races left before the Chase field is set.

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Editorial NASCAR Cup Series

A UNIQUE VIEW: Attitude and Happiness are Keys for Patrick

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered to be the “epicenter of racing” because it plays host to a number of different motorsports entities that include the IndyCar, MotoGP, NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series. The “Indianapolis 500” and “Brickyard 400” are two of the most highly anticipated events of the race season.

After some well-deserved rest and relaxation, the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are getting ready to strap in, fire the engines and hit the bricks – literally.

Three pondering thoughts that I have going into “The Brickyard 400”:

Can Jeff Gordon make a charge at the Chase?

The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season has been a challenging one for four-time champion Jeff Gordon. He has been able to capture four top 5s and 7 top 10s but wins have eluded him. It hasn’t helped that Gordon has been involved in four crashes this season and currently sits 12th and 175 points behind leader/teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Heading to a track where he has been successful may prove to be a turning point for Gordon’s team. He has four wins, 11 top 5s and 15 top 10s, fast cars and engine prowess haven’t been much of an issue for this team. Evading trouble on the track and positioning himself up front could produce a long awaited season win.

Will Danica Patrick serve up another “first” this weekend? 

In the Indy Car Series, Danica Patrick made history by becoming the first female driver to lead a lap in the 2005 Indianapolis 500, winning the 2008 Indy Japan 300 and becoming the highest finishing woman in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 – finishing third.

Fast forward – in 2013, she became the first woman to win a Daytona 500 pole and leading a few laps under green. Finishing eighth in this race placed her in the record books (again) as the highest finishing female driver in this historic race.

In an interview with NASCAR.com, Patrick expressed how she felt about racing back in Indy. “I feel like I know the surface, the circuit. I enjoy going there and I think sometimes one of the most beneficial things on a weekend is to just be having a good attitude and being happy. I’m always happy there.”

Will that happiness translate into another “first” for this history-making driver? Granted, she only has one top 10 and an average finish of 25th but there is always the possibility that Patrick can find success at a track where she is in her comfort zone.

Can Chevrolet take home their 15th win on Sunday or will their streak be broken?

 Chevrolet has been a dominating force in Indy. Out of the 19 Sprint Cup races run at this track, they have accounted for 14 wins that include the last 10 consecutive races (2003-2012). Some of these winning drivers have included Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson. It has definitely been proven that there is some dynamic horsepower under the hood of those racecars.

Ford is the second winning manufacturer at this track, accounting for three wins – two with Dale Jarrett (’96 & ’99) and one with Ricky Rudd (’99). So far, this season, Ford has managed to win three races (Phoenix, Talladega and Michigan) and they have been very competitive on the track.

Will Chevy be able to put another “W” in the record books? Or will Ford pull off an upset and “kiss the bricks?” Only time will tell with these two highly competitive manufacturers.

Despite the outcome, I am sure there will be a dual until the checkered flag waves in Indy.