Rain Postpones IndyCar Testing At Sebring

Scott Dixon


Wet conditions in Central Florida forced postponement of the final Verizon IndyCar Series private team test of 2016.

The two-team test at Sebring International Raceway – the last of the year before a month-long moratorium on testing – was called off shortly before 11 a.m. ET today. Chip Ganassi Racing was set up and ready to join Dale Coyne Racing on Sebring’s short permanent road course, but the teams called off the single-day test and vowed to return next month, although a specific date was not immediately chosen.

For CGR, a chance to work out its new Honda engines and aero kits was lost for its four drivers – Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball and Max Chilton. The team announced earlier in the week that Chilton would return for a second year in the No. 8 Gallagher-sponsored car.

“It’s so disappointing when you come to the racetrack and you’re unable to run,” said Mike Hull, managing director at CGR (pictured above). “You’re being tugged by the fact the racetrack is sitting there and you know sooner or later it’s going to be dry. But I think you have to weigh all the alternatives, and in this case you can’t buy more test days. They only give you so many. … It will be worthwhile to do what we’re doing today.”

DCR was prepared to debut rookie Ed Jones – the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires champion – and veteran Sebastien Bourdais, who joined the team from KVSH Racing shortly after the end of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Before the postponement, Dixon’s car was seen in the paddock without the familiar Target bullseye, the result of the company’s previously announced decision to step away from Indy car sponsorship after 27 years. Instead, the No. 9 Honda appeared in plain white without a primary sponsor. Hull said the team will wait until later to reveal the new backing.

While conditions improved through the course of the day, losing the early hours to rain led the teams to the decision to postpone instead of having a portion of a day count as a full day against their testing limit.

“We looked at the situation and found out we can come back here in early January with another INDYCAR team,” Hull said. “We’re going to roll the dice on the weather in Florida and see if we can get in eight hours of running then.”

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season begins in about 90 days with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend March 10-12.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Dale Jr. Talks About The Test And The Contract Extension

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
TEAM CHEVY DRIVER PRESS CONF. TRANSCRIPT

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. AND RICK HENDRICK
DECEMBER 9, 2016

DALE EARNHARDT, JR. DRIVER OF THE NO. 88 CHEVROLET SS AND RICK HENDRICK, OWNER OF HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS, spoke with members of the media via teleconference today to discuss Dale’s return to the seat of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for on-track competition in 2017. Full Transcript:

WELCOME BACK.  YOU TESTED DARLINGTON ON WEDNESDAY, WHICH WAS THE FINAL STEP BEFORE BEING MEDICALLY CLEARED FOR COMPETITION.  HOW DID IT FEEL TO BE BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A RACECAR AND HOW DID THE TEST GO OVERALL FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “Well, the test, I thought, couldn’t have gone any better.  Darlington was a great host and NASCAR was really great to work with to put it together.  I really appreciate them creating opportunities and rules for drivers in this type of situation to be able to get in a car.  It really helps build your confidence to know that everything is working like it’s supposed to work, no matter what your injury it before you go get back into a full race weekend.  It’s nice to be able to kind of get some personal reassurance and confidence.  I was really happy to have the opportunity.  We got to the racetrack, the weather was great and we just ran laps.  We put tires on, run 15 laps at a time; take about a 20 minute break, Dr. (Jerry) Petty was there.  We did a personal evaluation before we got in the car to set a baseline and Dr. Petty was evaluating me after each run to see if everything was good.  A lot of the things that he was checking, visual and balance and so forth, actually strengthened throughout the process.  You sort of get acclimated and up to speed with what it takes to kind of drive a racecar and those systems strengthen through that process.  Rather than see them sort of flat-line and stay the same, which was what I was hoping for, they actually got stronger.  That was great.  I felt like throughout the day I got more and more comfortable in the car and it felt like an old shoe by the end of the day.  I was happy with the speed we had. That wasn’t really the ultimate goal, but we had great speed. The car drove really good and we just continued to put tires on it and go out and run 30 laps at a time.  And come in, get out, think about it, talk about it, get checked out and by the end of the day we felt really confident that health wise I was 100 percent and ready to get back in the car.”

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU AND EVERYONE AT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS TO HAVE DALE OFFICIALLY BACK IN THE CAR FOR NEXT SEASON?

RICK HENDRICK: “This place we are as big a fan of Dale’s as the rest of the community.  When you’ve got the most popular driver in the sport you lose him and he is a big spark plug to this place.  Having him out of the car kind of deflated the place.  When that test finished and he came through with such flying colors and just the text I got and the conversation I had you could feel it in the place today when we were with the rest of the team it just elevated the whole place.  I think Dale being back in a car and Jimmie’s (Johnson) championship, man; it’s going to be a really nice Christmas here for all of us.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR RACE TEAM GOING THROUGH THE CHALLENGES OF THIS CONCUSSION AND BEING GONE?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “Well, I learned that we’ve got a great race team.  Greg (Ives, crew chief) did an amazing job in a difficult situation to motivate and keep the morale up in the team.  They actually, their performance, actually improved with the rest of the company throughout the last half of the season.  I think that Greg gained a ton of confidence in himself and the guys. The guys are real happy with how they performed and how the cars performed and the cars they took to the racetrack.  I was thrilled to see that.  We had struggled in the summer and it was great to see the whole company rally together and Jimmie winning the championship.  It was a great feeling to go to (Las) Vegas with the whole company so excited about the future and how things kind of turned around for us throughout the year.

“Personally, just going through that process you learn a lot.  I don’t know if we’ve got time to go over it all, but you certainly realize the things that you might be taking for granted.  And learn to appreciate a lot of different parts and aspects of your life a lot more.  I had that same kind of experience before in 2012.  When you get something kind of taken away from you, you certainly realize what it is worth.  We gripe about our schedule and this and that and the other, but once you are not doing it and you are watching all your friends out there on the track and watching your crew work without you it really puts thing into perspective.  It helps you kind of appreciate really what you’ve got.  Definitely feel recharged and energized about the opportunity to be able to come back and race.  I felt like I had a lot left in the tank.  I’m excited about getting to Daytona.  We are going to test in Phoenix, which I’m really looking forward to oddly.  Testing is kind of boring, but I’m ready to get more and more laps in the car so I feel real confident in myself.  Confidence is really critical for me to perform well. The more I can do to help build my confidence before we got to Daytona the better.  I’m excited.”

WHAT HAVE THE DOCTORS TOLD YOU ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF ADDITIONAL CONCUSSIONS IF YOU ARE IN ANOTHER ACCIDENT? WILL THE EXERCISES YOU HAVE BEEN DOING AND ARE DOING HELP PREVENT THOSE?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “Yeah, absolutely.  I worked with Micky Collins and we worked not only to get healthy and back to being a normal human being again, but we worked to get stronger than we were before.  I wouldn’t be coming back to the seat and wanting to drive and excited about driving cars if there was any risk, other than the typical risk that every driver faces on Sunday.  I feel very confident in what I’ve seen in myself and my improvement and I feel confident in what my doctors are telling me about my future and the risks that I’m taking and my ability to be able to withstand the normal wear and tear of not only driving a race, but getting in that unfortunate accident from time to time.  We all feel pretty confident that not only am I as healthy as I was before the symptoms came last year, but I’m actually stronger.  Having gone through this before also gives me additional confidence.  This isn’t uncharted territory for me, so I know what I need to feel personally to know that I’m as strong as I need to be and healthy.  I’m certainly feeling that way, but I’m also hearing the affirmation from my doctors that I can go back and drive racecars.”

WILL YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES TO ANY OF YOUR SAFETY EQUIPMENT LIKE YOUR HEADREST OR YOUR HELMET?  WILL YOU HAVE TO DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT AFTER A CRASH TO MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE OKAY TO RACE THAT IS DIFFERENT THAN ANY OTHER DRIVER?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “I don’t know that NASCAR will do anything different for me than they would anyone else.  I think that they take that stuff very seriously and will handle me about the same way they would handle anyone else.  I have a personal responsibility to myself to be smart, make great decisions for myself.  My health is number one.  Everybody in this room, Rick (Hendrick), and everybody in the shop all put my health first and will always be responsible whatever situations we come across.  I’m not going to take any unnecessary risks with my own health.  I think that as far as my own safety equipment, I feel real good about what we have.  I did get my head scanned for new helmets, but that is just supposed to make them fit better, be more comfortable.  I think Joey Logano got his head scanned for his Stilo’s last year and he said it is the best fitting helmet he has ever had, at least that is what I heard.  They fit pretty good to begin with, but this might be a new level. Otherwise, I am just glad to have had the opportunity to get so much time between me and the events that I’ve had last year and the symptoms.  That is something that I think is really important for everyone going forward is that they take the amount of time that they need not just to get symptom free, but to allow themselves to heal and get stronger beyond the symptoms.  We still have a couple more months of my brain being able to sturdy itself up.  I’m glad that we have had partners that were very supportive. Rick (Hendrick) and everyone was super supportive, everyone was very patient.   We had Jeff (Gordon) and Alex (Bowman) jump in and carry the load and the company worked really hard and it has allowed me to have a lot of time to put this in the past.  In 2012, we took off four weeks, came back and won seven races the next two years.  I’m confident that I can have the same type of success going forward.”

HOW LONG WILL YOU NEED TO RACE AND FEEL COMFORTABLE BEFORE STARTING TO RENEW CONTRACT TALKS WITH RICK FOR BEYOND 2017?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “We are probably going to revisit that before the season starts.  I’ve told you guys that before we got sick me and Rick had been sitting down and talking about our future and the extension and what we wanted to do and all that stuff was starting to come together.  We are going to revisit that here shortly.  That is definitely something on our list to get done.”

WERE THERE ANY NERVES OR BUTTERFLIES BEFORE YOU GOT INTO THE CAR AT THE TEST?  WHAT DID THE FIRST LAPS FEEL LIKE?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “I have nerves and butterflies every time I get in a racecar, but I was certainly very anxious to get in the car.  As soon as I got my feet on the ground in Darlington, I was in my suit and over there by the door wondering if the car was ready to go.  I couldn’t wait to get in there and just go ahead and get out there and see what it felt like and see what I felt like.  I was having a hard time sleeping the night before, but it had been a long, long time since I had drove a car.  It is so rare to have that long of a break.  The off season doesn’t seem like it’s that long, plus you do a little bit of testing in the off season, but it was really odd.  As soon as I got out there after about three laps it came right back to me.  I wasn’t like I sort of had to relearn to do it all over again.  It felt very comfortable.  The speed was there.  Obviously, the track was green and had a ton of grip and that made things a little bit simpler.  At Darlington you run right on the fence and you don’t have a lot of room for error.  That was a good challenge. Of all the tracks we could have gone to Darlington was a good choice to really put me through the test physically and mentally to understand where we are at.  I was a little bit nervous about that.  Darlington is a tough track, but the nerves were gone after about four laps and then it was let’s just run, let’s run some more, put some tires on and go some more.”

HOW FAR DOWN THE ROAD DID THE COMPANY GO WITH MAKING PLANS IN CASE DALE WAS NOT ABLE TO RETURN FOR 2017? WAS THAT EVER A CONSIDERATION?

RICK HENDRICK: “You kind of might worry about that, but I think after talking to Dr. Collins he didn’t see any reason he couldn’t come back if we did it the right way.  And a lot of credit to Dale for just working hard outside of the car to get himself better and stronger, you could just see him getting stronger every week and participating here with the teams, with the other drivers and I just kind of refused to accept that he wasn’t going to be in the car.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DECISION FOR DALE NOT TO RACE IN ‘THE CLASH’ AND TO PUT ALEX BOWMAN IN THE CAR FOR THAT WEEKEND?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “I had heard, I guess around Phoenix, we didn’t really know what the rules were going to be as far as getting into ‘The Clash’, but I had heard some rumors that it was going to go back to pole winners, which is something I was super excited about because it brings back an identity to the race and makes it a bit of an exclusive club and it turns it into something you want to be in and strive to be in, which has been missing from the event for a long time.  As soon as Alex, I was at Phoenix standing on pit road on Friday when Alex got the pole and my first reaction and the first words out of my mouth were that Alex gets to run in ‘The Clash’.  If the rumors are true that it’s pole winners Alex is going to be available to run in ‘The Clash’ and I turned to Doug Duchardt (General Manager, Hendrick Motorsports) and said he should drive the No. 88, he earned it with the No. 88 guys.  He has done a great job as a substitute driver.  I really have a great friendship with Alex and I felt like if he was going to be in the race he deserved to be in that car.  My eligibility comes from winning the race in 2008 and I can’t remember the last time I won a pole.  For whatever reason that was just my initial gut reaction and it feel important to me that is owed to Alex.  He deserves it.  It is a bit of a tip of the cap to not only his pole win and how well he did at Phoenix, but how he stepped in and did a great job every week for our guys.  That is not an easy job to do.  He helped maintain and improve the health and performance of the team in a critical time, so we can go into Daytona this year confident that we are going to be competitive and we are not behind the eight-ball or have any catching up to do.  I’m excited for Alex to get that opportunity and I’m happy that it’s with Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the guys that he has worked with over the last several races.”

ARE YOU STILL DOING ANY REHAB EXERCISES? 

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “I’m cleared and I am healthy. My doctor told me that you can strengthen vestibular system even if you are healthy 100%.  Not patting myself on my own back, this is from my doctor’s mouth. His comments are that I had to work really hard to get to be a human being again…to be normal. Then I had to work even harder to get to the level to being able to drive race cars; to be a professional race car driver.  The distance between just being myself and being a race car driver…that was going to be another handful of responsibilities and exercises and so forth. His advice was that if I wanted to continue to exercise and do these types of things, it would only continue to strengthen the system. I’m all for that. I want to be as sharp and….hell, maybe this is something I could have been doing all along.  There is a lot of visual, and stuff on computers that athletes do that don’t even have concussions that I have at my fingertips today that I’ve been able to learn about through this process.  There is a lot of stuff that I can continue to do that will keep me sharp and keep me ready to go.”

IN YOUR OPINION, DO YOU THINK OTHERS SHOULD PROACTIVELY BE DOING THESE EXERCISES?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “I guess if they knew about these exercises and knew about these programs that are available, they may.  They may do it, and maybe some drivers already are.  But when I went to the eye doctor, he showed me some programs that are built specifically that sharpen hand-eye coordination and stuff like that.  It isn’t just for concussion patients.  It is something that was part of my rehab.  But it is something I can continue to use beyond the rehab and beyond the recovery.”

DO YOU SENSE A CHANGE IN THE CULTURE IN ALL SPORTS, NOT JUST RACING AND A CHANGE IN THE AWARENESS? 

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “It is not something that I intentionally wanted to spearhead, but if have seen a culture change tremendously. I think that everyone in general, not just the athletes, but the public, the doctors…everyone, we are all learning something new every day.  Mickey (Collins) sees two dozen patients a day with various types of injuries, various stages of injuries and so forth. And every day he learns something new; obviously he has seen a million people with the same thing that I had, but every day they learn something new. Every day as a patient I think you learn something new.  It’s incredible the progress that is being made, but it is happening right now.  It is happening right in front of us. It is being taken more seriously, and I think that is great. I obviously don’t want anyone to go through the injury much less the rehabilitation. But, it is great for folks that do get injured, whether they are athletes or they are working a job somewhere or they are a kid in school that they know there is something that can be done. They know there is a place to go to get the help.  One of the worst things is not knowing where to go to get the help.  Not knowing how to get the right help and get the proper treatment because every concussion needs a different style of treatment to approach it.  I think that is something that people are becoming aware of that there are ways to get help so you can not only get healthy, but return to the activity that  you love to do, whatever it is that you want to get back to doing.

“It’s been great to have the opportunity to go to Pittsburgh; to meet Mickey and his whole staff and have exposure to everything that they are doing and get to understand how much they have learned and what they are capable of doing.  It’s given me so much confidence to be able to come back and race again knowing that those guys are there, and they are able to patch you up and get you stronger.  What they have been able to do is incredible for people like me. They are doing that every day with dozens and dozens of folks.”

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU WERE GOING TO BE OKAY AND THIS WAS GOING TO WORK?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: “The last few evaluations that I went to Mickey about; Mickey and his team put you through a lot of physical stuff that is harder than most workouts that I have ever been a part of.   They put you through a lot of mental practice and mental programs; visual stuff. It is an all-day process to just get evaluated. Just to get checked, to check the systems, to be able to get evaluated. I went to get evaluated probably a dozen times or more through this whole process. To be able to see tangible numbers each time we went and improve was giving me a lot of confidence. Hearing my doctor tell me that I am actually getting better than I was before we had the injury, and to hear his confidence in my ability to come back and race; those last few evaluations really got me fired up that I was healthy, and back to my old self. I felt like my old self. When you are injured and you are sick, you feel like a completely different person and all your systems are all screwed up and nothing seems to be working right.  You notice it. When your mind gets off just a little tiny bit, you will notice that so clearly. And when it sets itself right again, it is crystal clear. I wanted to do the test for me personally. It is great to be able to do it and have the doctor see you in the car and have the doctor see you in the car.  Having Dr. Petty there was great to be able to evaluate me while I was driving.  He has seen this situation and seen so many people in this situation so he was a great person to have there to help reassure me that things were good.  But I wanted to do the test.  I needed that personally for personal reassurance for myself.  I’m going to get married on New Year’s Eve and then going on my honeymoon, and I have a lot of other stuff to do – photo shoots to prepare for the season. Taking pictures for all of our sponsors and getting everything ready. But in the back of my mind, I haven’t been in a race car yet. And what’s that going to be like. Now I’ve got that box checked.  Personally I can go forward with a clear mind and peace of mind that I am ready to go.  But that test did more for me than anyone else.”

HOW IMPORTANT WAS IT TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO GIVE DALE AS MUCH TIME AS HE NEEDED?

RICK HENDRICK: “First of all we care about him as a friend and a person. That’s first.  Just seeing him healthy and himself rather than trying to rush him to get back in the car. I think talking to the doctor…I didn’t know if you just sat out and did nothing you would be okay.  By Dale going to the right person and working his butt off, it has made him stronger.  I really want to thank all of our sponsors…every single sponsor said his health is priority one.  We don’t want him in the car until he is ready, and we are okay.  Everybody was good with him sitting out.  Once we weren’t going to be in the Chase, it just didn’t make any sense because we wanted him for the long term.  It’s a tough decision to pull the plug on a year because we didn’t really know if he would be healed up enough to come back with a few races left.  We were very fortunate with our sponsors that they put his health first.  That was never a question, just to watch him, and watch him at the test.  I wasn’t there, but to just talking to the crew being excited. Everybody is excited. Everybody if fired up. It is a great Christmas present for our company and our fans.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

My Thoughts On The Roush Fenway/JTD/Daugherty/Chris Buescher Loan Deal

Chris Buescher

The NASCAR 2016 season ended with a really strange announcement.  Roush Fenway Racing was entering into a loan deal with JTG/Daughtery Racing.  This type of loan deal was not new or unheard off in NASCAR.  However, this kind of deal has never been consummated between two race teams of differing manufacturers, ie, Ford and Chevrolet.

The RFR/Ford/Buescher loan to JTG/Daugherty, a Chevy team, is definitely a first for the NASCAR premiere series that I can recall!  There are so many more question than answers regarding this one season “driver loan” of RFR driver Chris Buescher.

It seems rather awkward that a Ford driver will be privy to the well guarded performance and engineering proprieties of the Chevy industry!  How does that cross-pollination, Ford-Chevy racing technology, work within the racing community?  How much information will the Ford RFR driver, Buescher, be privy to during this one year loan?  There are obvious Chevy proprietary technology that the manufacturer will not want to let out of the bag, shared with Buescher, during the 2017 race season.  Likewise, there are certain Ford technologies that this manufacturer does not want Chevy to learn that Chris Buescher has knowledge of presently.  How does that fit into this cross-pollination puzzle?  It is mind baffling for sure!

Awkward!

Will this JTD/Daugherty-RFR agreement compromise the competitive edge of one manufacturer with another?  That is not out of the question to ask this question.  How are the closed held manufacturer performance “secrets” going to be guarded?  My head is spinning with questions!  This particular loan deal seems to throw up  many red flags, caution flags and curious signs all over the garage!

Which reminds me of a song from the early 70’s, (1971) “Signs”!

And the sign said “Long-haired freaky people need not apply”
So I tucked my hair up under my hat and I went in to ask him why
He said “You look like a fine upstanding young man, I think you’ll do”
So I took off my hat, I said “Imagine that. Huh! Me workin’ for you!”
Whoa-oh-oh

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?

Personally, after trying to come to terms with this RFR/JTD/Daugherty deal, my head feels like I am on a dirt track, backing it into the turn, getting down heavy on the loud pedal, I am taking whatever the track is giving me, and I am rocketing down the back straight away with caution to the wind!

Could Ford/RFR and JTG/Daugherty/Chevy be throwing caution to the wind and just flat “gassing it up” for 2017?  We shall see what the long term affects may be from this “loan” deal when the checkered flag flies at the end of the year at Homestead!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Chris Buescher Continues To Deal With Yet Another Race Team

Chris Buescher

NASCAR premier series driver Chris Buescher says he remains under contract with Roush Fenway Racing.  However, for the second consecutive season the Prosper, Texas native will drive for a still another team not named RFR when he straps in the cockpit for 2017.

The end of November brought with it confirmation that the 24-year-old will compete full-time in a new, second entry to be fielded by JTG Daugherty Racing for the upcoming year. JTG Daugherty had one full-time team with driver AJ Allmendinger in the No. 47 Chevrolet in 2016.

Buescher, the 2015 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion, spent ’16 driving the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports where he earned his first premier series win in the weather-shortened Pocono event and made the 16-team Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Heady stuff for a rookie.

“It was pretty incredible,” Buescher said of his season with Front Row and crew chief Bob Osborne. “I’m just so proud of Front Row Motorsports and the No. 34 team for what we were able to accomplish … to get that first win and have a lot of good runs along the way, be competitive at different types of tracks was a blast.

“Unfortunately we didn’t perform as well in the Chase as we would have liked … (but) I learned a lot along the way.”

Buescher’s victory came at Pocono Raceway in August. It was his 27th career start.

Having his 2017 plans in place eases much concern but Buescher, 16th in points for 2016, said there are “still a lot of moving pieces floating around.”

Some are comparable to what he faced heading into this past season when he transitioned from the XFINITY Series.  Still, other obstacles are entirely different.

“It’s actually really similar to this year with Front Row,” Buescher said of the situation with JTG Daugherty. “This year with Front Row was a loan as well. It was a little bit easier with the (technical) alliance that Front Row and Roush have with the manufacturer (Ford) being the same.”

However, JTG Daugherty Racing fields Chevrolet entries and enjoys a technical alliance with the three-team Richard Childress Racing organization. RCR provides engines through Earnhardt-Childress Racing as well as engineering support.

“There are some unknowns to work through,” Buescher said. “But I’m still under contract with Roush Fenway.”

Team personnel and other aspects of the new entity have yet to be announced. Cars won’t be on the track for competition until February. Until then, Buescher said he will be looking over notes from the previous season in an attempt to better understand what worked, what didn’t, and why.

“That’s pretty much the bulk of what we can do (for) next season … as we kind of wait out the calm before the storm,” he said.

It is going to be very interesting to see how this odd loan deal will pan out for JTD/Daughtery Racing and the once powerhouse RFR.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

 

All Is Well In Junior Nation……….Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Is Back!

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Following a test session Wednesday afternoon at Darlington Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been medically cleared to resume NASCAR competition after making a full recovery from a concussion. He will return for the beginning of the 2017 season at the Feb. 26 Daytona 500.

Earnhardt, 42, was cleared Wednesday evening by Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh, in consultation with Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Petty attended the test at the 1.366-mile South Carolina racetrack.

“Dale is one of the hardest-working patients I’ve ever encountered,” Collins said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked, and we believe he is ready to compete at a professional level again and can withstand the normal forces of a race car driver. Dale has been very open with us, and we’ve had plenty of time for his treatment, so we feel very good about his long-term prospects and how this has been managed by everyone involved.”

Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS for Hendrick Motorsports, completed 185 laps during a nearly five-hour session at Darlington under the guidance of his crew chief, Greg Ives. In addition to the on-track test, which was observed by NASCAR, the driver has logged more than 15 hours in a racing simulator during his recovery.

“I feel great, and I’m excited to officially be back,” Earnhardt said. “I expected things to go really well yesterday, and that’s exactly what happened. Actually getting in a race car was an important final step, and it gives me a ton of confidence going into 2017. Thanks to the staff at Darlington for hosting our team and to NASCAR for giving us the opportunity to put a car on the track. I’ll do more testing in January to help knock the rust off. When it’s time to go to Daytona, I’ll be ready.”

Alex Bowman (10 races) and four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon (eight races) handled substitute driving duties for the No. 88 team during Earnhardt’s recovery. He missed the final 18 races of the 2016 NASCAR season beginning with the July 17 event at New Hampshire.

“Dale deserves so much credit,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “I’m proud of him for listening to his body and standing up to take responsibility for his health. He’s worked extremely hard and set a terrific example for others. It’s great news as we go into the off-season, and we can’t wait to see him back on the racetrack at Daytona.”

Bowman will race the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS in the Feb. 18 season-opening, non-points The Clash at Daytona International Speedway, which will feature pole position winners from the previous year. Bowman won the No. 88 team’s lone 2016 pole at Phoenix in November.

“Alex did such a great job in the car this year, and I felt like he deserved another opportunity,” Earnhardt said. “When I spoke with Rick and the team about him driving The Clash, everyone agreed that he more than earned it, and Nationwide was 100-percent on board. I’m really grateful to him and Jeff for what they did for our team, and I’m glad Alex is getting another run with us.”

So fret not Junior Nation!  The Pied Piper is returning to his office with the running of the Daytona 500!   Once again the world is at peace, the gravitational pull has equalized, and there is no dire threat of falling off of the end of the Earth, at least not yet!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Do You Want More Drivers Doing The Memorial Day Double?

Ryan Hunter-Reay

Would you like to see more drivers from NASCAR attempt the “Memorial Day Double”?  Is there is one thing that IndyCar executives could do to make that more palatable and easier to pull off!

Team Penske president Tim Cindric says that the Indy 500’s noon start is a major negative for NASCAR drivers who wish to attempt the Indy 500/Coke 600 ‘double’ on Memorial Day Weekend.

Cindric was very vocal about what is needed to be done to aid these drivers in their quest: “The race stands for itself, [the 101st running in 2017] doesn’t need another hook, but no matter what you do, there’s only one 100th running of the race so it’s going to be a hard act to follow.

“I think a lot of people went this year because it was an event; it was the most well-attended 500 in recent memory, and it will be difficult to repeat that. I think there will be people who were exposed to it for the first time who will return, but you’ll still have the normal fall-off afterward.”

Cindric believes one obvious way to regularly encourage more fans through the gate for the race, and to boost TV viewership, is to encourage drivers to compete in both the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte, N.C.. He says the idea last attempted by Kurt Busch in 2014 could become more widespread were the Indy 500 to move from 12 noon back to its once-traditional 11a.m. start time.

He commented: “The Indy 500’s heritage was about getting the best drivers in the world racing there, whatever their specialized form of racing. So I’m in favor of anything that can add to the race’s legacy, and someone doing the Indy 500/Coke 600 IndyCar/NASCAR double is an intriguing thing.

“But the start time of the race has continued to hamper the ability of drivers to do that. You know, maybe there are numbers and stats showing why the “500” should be noon instead of 11a.m., but for years and years it was 11 and the double was more doable.

“Would bringing it forward by an hour mean that we’d suddenly have a flood of NASCAR drivers trying to race at Indy that weekend? No, I doubt it… but I think even one would make a difference. And there’s three to five drivers out there who would like to do it one day, and have openly talked about it.”

“With the race at noon, it’s still possible, but it’s that much more difficult. And then there’s the situation that if a guy doing the double does win Indy, what happens then? There are a lot of post-race activities and duties to fulfill so that situation is still a bit of an unknown.”

Busch qualified 12th and finished sixth in 2014, racing for Andretti Autosport, but his chances of completing all 1100 race miles that weekend were ruined by mechanical failure in the evening’s Coke 600.

No Keselowski in the 101st Indy 500

Cindric ruled out the chances of Team Penske’s 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski attempting the Indy/Charlotte double next year.

Roger Penske’s squad is already due to run five IndyCars next Memorial Day Weekend – four for full-time drivers Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden, plus one for recent team incumbent and two-time Indy winner Juan Pablo Montoya. Cindric’s abrupt response to a sixth Penske-Chevrolet at IMS was, “No chance!”

However, Cindric seemed open to the idea – though still doubtful – of Keselowski running a fifth entry on one of the IndyCar Series’ other tracks, following the Michigan native’s test in Pagenaud’s #22 IndyCar at Road America last year.

“It’s not something we’ve discussed,” said Cindric. “Those chances always exist but it’s not something we’ve put on the table as a consideration.

“Having said that, we like cross-pollenating the groups and we’ve done it with AJ Allmendinger in a different way [in 2013]; and while he was an IndyCar driver, we ran Montoya at Michigan and the Brickyard 400 in NASCAR a couple of years ago.

“I don’t see it in the short-term plan for Brad, though,” added Cindric. “I’d say don’t rule it out, but I’d be surprised if it happened next year.”

On the age-old question of whether a Ford NASCAR driver would be allowed to race a Chevrolet-powered IndyCar, Cindric said: “Well, any time you have those manufacturer changes, it’s never a welcome thing. But the fact that Ford don’t compete in IndyCar means it isn’t any different to Scott Dixon driving the Ford GT in IMSA.

“So I’d say that switch would definitely not be Ford’s first choice, but a precedent has already been set.”

So can enough pressure be brought on the executives at ABC and IndyCar to bring a change of heart and revert “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” back to its historically original 11am starting time?  That remains to be seen.  However, if that were to happen in the near future you might see a few more NASCAR stars, Kurt and Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson, Rico Abreau, Christopher Bell, and possible Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. attempt “The Memorial Day Double”!

I am just saying….

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Kaz Grala Joins Gallagher Motorsports For 2017

Kaz Grala


Gallagher Motorsports  Racing announced that Massachusetts-native Kaz Grala will pilot the #33 Chevrolet Silverado full time in 2017, across all 23 races of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The soon-to-be 18-year-old rookie, a part-time driver at GMS Racing in 2016, accomplished three top-10 results in only nine races and has now earned a larger opportunity to step up to full-time competition in one of NASCAR’s premier racing series.

In recent years, Kaz has made a name for himself in Late Model racing by breaking records. In his first race at fabled Hickory Motor Speedway, Kaz won the 2013 UARA 150 and became the youngest winner in series history. The following year, he became the youngest NASCAR winner in Caraway Speedway history when he held off the Whelen All-American Series National Champion to win the 171-lap event. In 2015, Kaz won his Pro All Stars Series debut at South Boston Speedway with a dominant performance, leading 131 of 150 laps.

Kaz differentiates himself by tearing up road-course events each year. He has won the 12 hours of NJMP, the 13 hours of VIR, and competed in the 2016 Rolex 24 at Daytona, the pinnacle of sports-car racing in America.

Kaz made it to the final round in NCWTS qualifying in all but one race in 2016. He scored his first top-10 finish in only his second start in the series at Dover International Speedway. In his first race at Gateway Motorsports Park, Kaz brought home yet another top-10 finish. At the rookie’s home track, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he brought home his best finish of 2016, a 7th-place result. Joining the GMS Racing stable in 2017 is veteran crew chief Jerry Baxter who claims time in the principal team role in all three of NASCAR’s top racing series, dating back to 1986.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

HScott Motorsports Shutters Their Operations

Clint Bowyer


Harry Scott, Jr. announced in a team meeting that HScott Motorsports would not field a NASCAR entry during the 2017 season.

Below is Mr. Scott’s statement:

“Over the past several months I considered a number of options for moving forward with the team. Regrettably there are no viable sponsor/driver options immediately available to allow the team to participate in 2017. One thing I learned about NASCAR is that it is a ‘people business.’ I will forever be grateful to the men and women who worked tirelessly to make HScott Motorsports successful. This includes our dedicated employees, sponsors and partners.

We were fortunate to have the support of world-class sponsors like Brandt, DC Solar, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Pilot Flying J, and 5 hour ENERGY. Our racing program would not have been possible without the assistance of Rick Hendrick, Hendrick Motorsports, and Chevrolet. I love this sport and being part of it.

I invested in NASCAR because I truly believe it represents the best racing competition in the world and the best people in all sports. Looking back, I will always be especially proud of the unprecedented success of our NASCAR K&N Series teams, including four consecutive championships and for the lifelong friendships that were forged over the last seven years. My hope is that we were able to develop drivers that will thrive at the highest levels for years to come.

In a deal that was finalized late last week the #15 Charter, which was owned by HScott Motorsports, has been sold to Premium Motorsports (#55 & #98). The charter that was leased for the #46 team was sold by Premium Motorsports to Furniture Row Racing.”  So that means the 2nd FRR #77 with Erik Jones has a Charter for 2017. Premium Motorsports still has one Charter left (from the #15) to use, sell or lease in 2017.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY RENDECK!

Dodge Is Exploring Re-Entering NASCAR!

Image result for dodge nascar

Sergio Marchionne, who is the CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, said he spoke with NASCAR vice-chairman Jim France and International Speedway Inc. CEO Lesa France Kennedy about the return of Dodge to the stock-car series.

The three had dinner Saturday night during the Ferrari Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway. Marchionne, who is also CEO of Ferrari, was in town for the Ferrari-only World Finals and Sunday’s Formula One exhibition.

Dodge returned to NASCAR in 2001, then exited in 2012 just after Brad Keselowski won the Cup Series championship for the American-made nameplate.

Asked about the return to NASCAR, Marchionne said, “Yes,” then explained it.

“I talked to Jim France about this (Saturday) night,” he said. “I was the one who made the decision to pull out of NASCAR. I am the guilty party at the table. In 2009, we came out bankruptcy and tried to race NASCAR (but) with the big bills and make payroll was a stretch.

“We are in a different place now. I think it is possible we can come back to NASCAR. I think we need to find the right way to come back in, but I agreed with both Jim and Lesa we would come back to the issue.”

France confirmed that he had spoken to Marchionne about bringing Dodge back into NASCAR’s top series, now sponsored by Monster Energy.

“Yes, we talked,” France said. “He is a very intelligent man. We had a good discussion.”

So now that Dodge is expressing an interest to return to NASCAR, it is going to be extremely interesting to see the terms with which they will return.  Equally as interesting will be what race teams will Dodge partner up with to make its re-emergence? These are but two of the questions that will be answered as this event comes closer to fruition.

There are many more questions than there are answers at this point of the early talks between NASCAR and Fiat Chrysler! Nevertheless, the American race fans will fully welcome Dodge with open arms when they return to the race track!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The Motorsports Industry Honors Tony Stewart With A Huge Philanthropic Donation

Tony Stewart


To honor three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart as he retires from his 20-year NASCAR driving career, the motorsports industry came together in unprecedented fashion at the season-ending NASCAR Awards Banquet by making a $1.8 million contribution on Stewart’s behalf to the EB Research Partnership, the largest global non-profit dedicating to curing EB.

EB, or Epidermolysis Bullosa, is a devastating skin disorder. Those with EB lack critical proteins that bind the layers of skin together. Without these proteins, the skin can tear apart, blister and sheer off, leading to severe pain, disfigurement and wounds that never heal. EB can also affect the body internally, causing blisters in the eyes, mouth, esophagus and the fusing together of fingers and toes. EB affects one in every 50,000 births and is not specific to any ethnicity or gender, but because it only affects an estimated 25-30,000 people in the United States, advancing research to combat this disease relies on the generosity of individuals and corporations.

The industry initially targeted a $1.4 million donation to the EB Research Partnership as a subtle nod to Stewart’s No. 14 car number, which he drove to his third Sprint Cup title in 2011 and chose in honor of his hero and friend, the iconic A.J. Foyt who raced the No. 14 throughout his versatile career. However, widespread support for this initiative quickly gained momentum and the original $1.4 million target was easily surpassed.

“Tony wanted to have a very low-key sendoff during his final NASCAR season and he was pretty emphatic about it. He certainly earned a lot of recognition for all that he accomplished, and as an industry we felt it was important to honor him,” said Mike Helton, vice chairman, NASCAR. “People know how passionate he is about motorsports, but he’s equally passionate about helping others. On behalf of the entire motorsports industry, we felt this collective donation in Tony’s name was a fitting tribute to all that he’s accomplished during his NASCAR career.”

Well known for his accolades on the racetrack, which includes 12 driving championships and victories in nearly every American-based racing series, Stewart is also known for his philanthropy.

In 2003, he formed his own charitable foundation. Known simply as the Tony Stewart Foundation, the 501(c)(3) organization’s goal is to raise funds primarily distributed to serving three specific groups – chronically ill and physically disabled children, animals that are endangered or at-risk, and drivers injured in the sport of motor racing. To date, the Foundation has awarded more than $6.5 million to assist charitable initiatives for more than 150 well-qualified organizations throughout the United States.

Stewart’s work on behalf of the foundation crossed paths with his love for music earlier this year when he met Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. The two discussed their work in racing and in music, respectively, before the conversation dovetailed into their mutual commitment to charity. It was here where Stewart learned about EB from an impassioned Vedder, who co-founded the EB Research Partnership.

“When I first heard about it, it was quite hard to grasp the intensity of the condition,” Vedder said. “It’s about the most insane skin disorder you could imagine. And when you realize it also affects the internal organs, you see it as diabolical. It’s very hard to describe until you meet the young folks with it, and they make you realize how much you take for granted. You also realize that these are some of the strongest, coolest, most admirable people on the face of the Earth.”

The tenacious and sometimes cantankerous demeanor Stewart carries at the racetrack vanishes when he is off the track and in the presence of children, especially those who face physical and mental challenges. Children fighting EB have a perseverance and strength that is unworldly, and it has resonated with Stewart.

“The pain these kids face is constant, and yet they still find ways to stay upbeat,” Stewart said. “You quickly realize that your idea of a bad day is nothing. It puts your life and the things you take for granted in perspective. But it also makes you mad, because this is a devastating disorder that no one should have to endure. Yet it exists, and after seeing it, you want to do anything you can to make it go away.”

Stewart’s $1.8 million donation to the EB Research Partnership will accelerate life-changing research and reduce the timeframe of getting results for children with EB, while ensuring treatments go to those in need as swiftly as possible.

This donation on Stewart’s behalf is an embodiment of all the philanthropic work Stewart has performed as a NASCAR driver. He never sought accolades for his work, but his charitable efforts have been noticed nonetheless.

Stewart was named “Most Caring Athlete” by USA Weekend in 2004 and in that same year was selected by The Sporting News as “NASCAR’s ‘Good Guy’” and received the NASCAR USG Person of the Year award. In 2008, NASCAR Illustrated bestowed upon Stewart its Person of the Year award, as Stewart’s Prelude To The Dream all-star dirt Late Model race at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio,  raised more than $4 million for charity during its eight-year run. In 2009, Stewart was nominated for the National Motorsports Press Association’s (NMPA) Humanitarian and Spirit awards, each of which recognizes philanthropy. In 2010, Stewart again was a finalist for the NMPA Humanitarian award, becoming the only person to ever be nominated in back-to-back years. Making the 2010 selection even more noteworthy was that Stewart won and earned $100,000 for his Foundation. And in 2013, Stewart earned the prestigious NMPA Myers Brothers award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to the sport of stock car racing.

“Tony’s legacy on the track is known and respected, but his efforts off the track should be known as well, even though he’ll never be the one talking about them,” Helton said. “Tony Stewart is a true humanitarian, and this sport is better off thanks to him and all of his contributions. It’s only appropriate that we, as an industry, can contribute to Tony’s philanthropic endeavors.”

To learn more about the EB Research Partnership, please visit www.EBResearch.org or www.Facebook.com/EBResearch. And to learn more about the Tony Stewart Foundation, please visit www.TonyStewartFoundation.org or www.facebook.com/14TSF.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!