Dale Earnhardt Jr. Reminisces About His Time At Michigan

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. & Trevor Bayne
This weekend marks the last time the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., will compete in the series at Michigan International Speedway.

And while Michigan is one of many tracks Dale Earnhardt Jr. will be saying good-bye to this season, he thinks the 2-mile track in the Irish Hills is one of the best.

“This place here is, to me, the standard for the 1.5-mile or 2-mile race track,” he said on Friday, two days before the Pure Michigan 400. “This place is so much fun to race on for a driver. It’s a great race track.”

Some of Junior’s fondest memories from his racing career came at Michigan. And they’re not all wins. He won here twice in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and twice in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. But one of his strongest memories comes from a race he lost—the 1999 IROC race, the end of which he has rewatched numerous times. Unfortunately, the outcome has never changed!

Coming out of Turn 4 toward the checkered flag, he and his father, Dale Earnhardt Sr., were battling for the win. Rusty Wallace came up behind them. Wallace could have pushed Junior to the win—which would have been poetically perfect, Junior said.

Wallace and Earnhardt Sr. flipped between friends and rivals throughout their careers. That was true on and off the track. If one of them bought a plane, the other one bought a bigger plane. So Junior thought that if Wallace pushed the son past the father for the win, Wallace would have been able to hold that over Earnhardt Sr.’s head forever. But Wallace didn’t get behind either one of them, and the elder Earnhardt won the race.

Junior said, half-jokingly, that he’s still mad at Wallace, 19 years later, for not helping him!

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

“Gassing It Up” With Chocolate Myers

Chocolate Myers

I was recently able to connect with Danny “Chocolate” Myers” for this very interesting and in depth conversation.  For the new NASCAR fans Chocolate Myers may be known for his radio show on Sirius/XM Radio, “Tradin’ Paint”.  For the older NASCAR race fans, they will remember him as “Gasman Choc” on the Richard Childress Racing “Flying Aces”.  The Flying Aces was the nickname for the pit crew that pitted the car driven by Dale Earnhardt, Sr. during his golden days with Richard Childress Racing.  As you read this interview I hope that it adds a little knowledge about Chocolate Myers, Richard Childress, RCR and NASCAR history that you may not have known before.

WorkingOnMyRedneck:  To many of the older and longtime NASCAR fans, which would includes this writer, you may be recognized as one of Richard Childress Racing’s “Flying Aces” and Dale Earnhardt. Sr’s gasman.  Can you tell us how you first got involved in NASCAR?

Chocolate Myers:  My story is kind of a unique story.  My dad, Bobby Myers, was one of the early pioneers in the sport.  My dad lost his life at Darlington in 1957 driving a race car for Richard Petty’s dad, Lee Petty.  Growing up in Winston-Salem, not very far from Bowman Gray Stadium, even after my dad lost his life, we would go to the races at Bowman Gray Stadium every Saturday night during the season.  So for me, my dad was the early pioneer in the sport.

WOMR:  Can you talk about how and when your relationship with Richard Childress started?

CM:  It was at Bowman Gray Stadium where I met Richard Childress.  We sold popcorn and programs in the grandstands every week as kids.  When we got old enough we got us an old race car and that is kind of how we started in racing.  I have known Richard Childress since we were teenagers.  As a matter of fact, Richard mentioned the other day that before we were racing at Bowman Gray Stadium we had the club, The Red Shield Boys Club, there in Winston-Salem.  It is kind of ironic because it was located just right up the street from Bowman Gray Stadium on Stadium Drive.  So I have known Richard Childress about all of my life!

WOMR:  Then how did you get involved with his race team as a crewmember?

CM:  Well it is kind of funny, and I have laughed about this when people ask my how long have I worked for Richard.  I tell people that I started working for him in 1969 and I started getting paid in 1983!  Back in those days the independent guy, the upstarts like Richard,  had a race car and that was about it.  In 1969 NASCAR started a new division, the Grand American Division, made up of Mustangs and Camaros.  He saw me one day early in 1969 and said ” hey what are you doing?”   My answer was nothing, why?  He then asked me if I wanted to go to Daytona with him?  So I went with on down to Daytona to race that old Camaro.  Richard raced that day and heck we thought we were rich because of all the free stuff that they gave us, like STP, engine oil products and stuff like that.  So we left Daytona after that race in an old borrowed truck that was a piece of junk.  We used every drop of oil and every can of STP products that they gave us in order to get back home!  The good thing is that it poured down rain the whole way back home.  I say it was a good thing, because we would have to stop quite often and scoop rain water out of the side ditch and pour it in the radiator to get the motor to cool down !  Later that year we did the same thing, we went to Richmond to race.  Going onto the race track there at Richmond the truck motor blew up.  This was a different truck than the one we had at Daytona.  Richard had to be back at work the next day after the race or he would lose his job.  So he asked me to stay with the truck and keep an eye on it, and I agreed.  So he got a ride home from Richmond, went to work, borrowed another truck, and returned to pick up the one that I was there with.   They loaded up the broken down truck with the race car on the back of this truck and spent all night heading back home!  So, I  helped him off and on during those years.   It was in 1983, while watching a race, that  I decided this was what I wanted to do.

So, I went up to see Junior Johnson because I knew he was going to start two new teams with Budweiser as their sponsor and Neil (Bonnett) and Darrell (Waltrip) as the drivers.  I knew Junior and those guys from the days that I was at Bowman Gray Stadium. With me being part of the Myers Boys, a lot of guys remembered who I was.  For twenty some years they had the Myers Brothers Memorial Race that was named after my dad and my uncle.   I went to see Junior Johnson to ask him about a job and he said that he had just about everybody that he needed.  You ought to go see Childress, he is starting a race team and I think that he is going to be something one day!

I went to see Richard and he had no intentions of hiring me to work on the race cars.  But, he had something that he needed done and I would work for him during the day and then go to the race shop to see if there was anything that needed to be done there.  That was getting my foot in the door.  Then later in 1983 I went to Riverside, CA with the team and I was there at Martinsville with Ricky Rudd when he won the second race for RCR.  So I have been there with RCR for all of them except the very first win.

WOMR:  At the championship banquet, at the end of the season, NASCAR gives out an award called “The Myers Brothers Award”.  This award is given out to  the person, corporation, or entity that has the greatest positive impact on the sport for that year.  Can you explain what your connection with this award may be?

CM:  That award is named after my dad, Bobby Myers, and my uncle Billy Myers, who were early pioneers of the sport.  I have nothing to do with who receives the award.  But I do really like to know who gets this award each year!  This award goes to someone who has really done a lot for this sport.  NASCAR has been giving out this award since 1958.  As I said,  my dad lost his life late in 1957.  My uncle Billy passed away in 1958 while racing at Bowman Gray Stadium.  Later that year is when the Myers Brothers Award was started in honor of my dad and uncle.  Both of them, my dad Bobby and my uncle Billy, were “the thing” at Bowman Gray Stadium!  This award is a big deal to me.

WOMR:  In all your years with RCR what would be your most memorable highlight with the No. 3 race team?

CM:  I am glad that you asked that question because I have a great answer for you.  To be there for so many years, we did some great things with all the wins and the championships.  This list goes on and on and on.  I have told this story before, but I will share this story again.  Growing up without a dad is pretty tough on anybody!  Growing up we didn’t have much and when my daddy died we moved in with my grandmother and another uncle.  It was tough, but we made it.  If we didn’t have a garden and a pear tree across the street we would have starved to death!  We were a good family and we were raised up right.  But growing up in a racing family and dreaming about Darlington was big.  Now growing up as the son of a race car driver, everyone asked you the same question, when you grow up are you going to be a race car driver like your daddy?  I was probably asked that question a million times, and I always thought that I would do that.  To drive a race car and not have any luck at it was nobody’s fault but my own.  But to go to Darlington, to win the Southern 500 and to stand in Victory Lane was pretty dang emotional to me!  The Southern 500 at Darlington was pretty special for me.  (Editor’s note:  Darlington was where Chocolate’s dad lost his life)

WOMR:  After the loss of Dale Sr.,  Richard Childress hired Kevin Harvick and changes the car number to 29.  What was you most memorable moment with that race team?

CM;  Well, it had to be the win in Atlanta over Jeff Gordon.  We were totally upside down.  We were devastated.  We had lost our best friend, our hero, the guy that we were making a living with.  We were all having a tough time!  When I say we were all having a tough time, maybe some were having a tougher time than others.  For those of use that had been there the whole time and had spent a lot of time with Dale, it was tough.  To go to Atlanta and to win on the last lap with Harvick, that is when we knew that we were going to be ok.  That was just one of those magical days when you look back and think about it.  When you win a race and the entire crowd is silent, when Richard Childress can’t talk, when Darrell Waltrip can’t talk and has a tear in his eye, that was special! It was an unbelievable year for RCR and Harvick.

WOMR;  Now that you have moved on from “Gasman Choc” to being a radio talk show host at Sirius Radio, what is your relationship with Richard Childress and RCR?

CM;  I’ve got the coolest thing in the world.  I am still at the Richard Childress race shop, which ironically is the same race shop that we raced Dale (Sr) out of.  The museum is the old race shop.   We put it back to the original condition the best that we could.  We have 50 some cars there.  My radio show and office is in there as well.  I get up in the morning, go to the museum which is on the same property as the RCR race shop and ECR (Earnhardt-Childress engines).  I do the radio show between 11am and 3pm there as well.  My life is pretty dang good!

WOMR;  I would be remiss if I didn’t ask you what your relationship with Dale Sr. was like?

CM;  That is a great question.  Man, in the beginning it was awesome.  It was awesome not just with Dale, but for the whole crew. For the longest time there was not a lot of money in racing, it was tough.  It was not uncommon for all of us to load up in the van and meet at a Holiday Inn near the race track.  I am not talking about a fancy hotel.  I am talking about the kind of a hotel now that you wouldn’t stay in!    When things got pretty good Richard got an airplane, just one airplane.  So every Thursday afternoon Richard, Dale, Teresa, myself, Will, Danny, and everybody would load up on that airplane and fly to the race track.  Being on that airplane was a hoot and we were cutting up, fighting, playing cards and having a great time. Everyone got to know everybody very well.  You knew when someone was having a bad time or great times.  You became very tight and very good friends.  Even more than good friends, maybe like brothers.  I tell people that maybe we became successful not because we all liked each other, but because we all loved each other!  We did this for a long time.  Then things got really better and the money got a whole lot better, the relationships changed.  Richard had his plane and  Dale had his own plane, so we were spending less time together than before. But we were still spending time at the track together.  We were close.  We did some things outside the race track.  From the mid 80’s to the mid 90’s it was awesome,  because it was before the motor coach lot and before everyone had their own airplanes. During that time we spent a whole of time together.  Those times were awesome and none of them bad.  It was from Thursday morning til Sunday night you were with the crew.

The fact of the matter was that back in those day you never had any time off!  I have joked about it saying that there were three kinds of employees in racing- part-time, full-time and all-the-time.  We were the all the time bunch!

WOMR:  What led to your decision to retire?

CM:  Well,  there was a couple of things.  One was my age.  I was getting too old and to a point where being gone every week was getting to me.  We were in a rebuilding process at RCR, moving into a new building, we were adding new teams, we were moving people around and it was just a good opportunity for me to go.  I thought to myself that I was going to do this the rest of this year and then I am going to step away.  I have no regrets whatsoever!  One reason why I have no regrets is that Sirius/XM Radio gave me the opportunity to do two things.  I get to stay at the Richard Childress museum and I also get to talk to the NASCAR race fans.  Doing the Sirius /XM Radio is pretty special.

WOMR;  What you are saying is that your life did not change a whole lot and you get to stay home more?

CM;  Yeah, I get to stay home more.  I do go to about 10 races a year.   We go to Daytona every year and take one of my dad’s old race cars.  I have two of my dad’s race cars and we take one of them down to Daytona to show off, do the beach parade, haul it around and have a good time with that stuff.

WOMR;  I saw some of the photos that you wife took at Dale Earnhardt. Jr’s wedding.  What kind of relationship do you have with him?

CM;  You know I love to tell people that I am a Dale Jr. fan, not because he is Dale Earnhardt Sr’s son, but because he is a kid that I got to see grow up in the NASCAR garage.  Are we buddies or buddy around, no.  Do we speak to each other when we are in the same place, heck yeah.  It was so special to me that he invited me and my wife to his wedding!  I have never worked with or for him, but he has so much respect for this sport, the people in this sport and the people around this sport.  It was just real special to be invited to his wedding.  Dale Jr. is the real deal!  You ask him a question and you get the answer!  You do not get some politically correct BS, you get what he is thinking.  I have a lot of respect for him.

WOMR:  Now we are going to get to the fun part of the interview!  I want to get some of your opinions on 2017.  Who do you think will win the Rookie of The Year?

CM:  I am not totally familiar with the rookies in the Truck Series.  But I will say that anybody driving for Kyle Busch has a chance at winning that.

WOMR:  Who do you think may win the Truck Series championship?

CM:  Boy I really enjoyed that deal where you had Johnny Sauter being able to do it.  I would like to see Johnny Sauter back it up again.  He is a the real deal.  It meant a lot to him.   I have known him and his family for a long time and I would like to see him repeat.

WOMR:  Who do you think may wind up as the NXS champion?

CM:  Once again I like Daniel Hemric and he is one of our guys (RCR).  I would like to see Hemric step up to the plate and get the job done there.

WOMR;   How about the 2017 Cup champion, who is your choice?

CM;  I would like to see one of the young guys step up to the plate.  We have Chase (Elliott), Blaney (Ryan), and now Ty and Austin (Dillion), Kyle Larson, and now you got Erik Jones and Suarez coming in.  If you can’t find a young guy in the Cup Series to pull for, then you are in bad shape!  We got plenty of them.

WOMR;  If you had never gotten into NASCAR, been a part of the famous Richard Childress Racing’s “Flying Aces”, what would Chocolate Myers have done to make a living?

CM:  Oh my gosh!  You know I tried my hand at everything and I was a pretty dang good mechanic at a Chevrolet dealership.  I don’t know if I would have ended up there.  I was also a guy that was not really good at staying out of trouble!  The best thing that has happened to me is my lovely wife Caron!

WOMR:  Of all the things that you have done in your life, what are you most proud of?

CM:  I got to go over to the combat zone to meet the troops.  I flew with the Tennessee  Guard, in a tanker plane, into Ramstein AB, Germany, to NAS Sigonella, Sicily  and on into Bosnia.  To go meet the troops, to talk to them and to see what they really were doing was quite a honor for me.

I hope that this interview has given our readers an insight into Danny “Chocolate” Myers.  More importantly the new or casual NASCAR fans may not have had any idea of the historical ties to the early days of this sport that Chocolate has, and now they can fill in those areas.  Let me add that Chocolate is the real deal, a very nice man that gives freely of his time, as well as the fact that he has great stories to tell about this sport!

And as the late Paul Harvey would conclude his radio broadcast, “now you know the rest of the story”!

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

Jimmie Johnson Joins Some Very Select Company After Homestead

Jimmie Johnson & Chad Knauss

Call him driven, call him Superman, call him whatever you may, but you should most deifintely call him Mr. Seven-Time!

Jimmie Johnson joined NASCAR’s most exclusive club on Sunday, winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to claim his seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, putting the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on par with icons Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

“You’re a good man, you’re a great champion, and now you’re a seven-time champion,” crew chief Chad Knaus radioed to Johnson, who grabbed the lead from Kyle Larson through Turns 1 and 2 during the first and only attempt at a two-lap overtime.

Johnson pulled away to win by .466 seconds. Polesitter Kevin Harvick ran third, followed by Championship 4 contender Joey Logano, who finished second in the final standings on the strength of his fourth-place run.

“Oh, my gosh, there is no, no way on earth,” said Johnson, who picked up his first victory at Homestead, his fifth of the season and the 80th of his career. “Just beyond words. Just didn’t think the race was unfolding for us like we needed to be the champs, but we just kept our heads in the game. Chad called a great strategy, made some great adjustments for the short runs. 

“Luck came our way and we were able to win the race and win the championship. So grateful for the opportunity, and so thankful and blessed. I am at a loss for words.”

Until the closing laps, Johnson seemed the least likely of the four finalists to win the championship. Carl Edwards was leading on Lap 252 of a scheduled 267 when Dylan Lupton’s contact with the Turn 2 wall caused the fifth caution of the race.

On the subsequent restart, Edwards tried to block Logano into Turn 1, and the resulting nine-car wreck left Edwards’ No. 19 Toyota crippled against the outside wall. The wreck knocked Edwards out of the race and left him fourth in the final standings.

Kyle Busch restarted next to Johnson on the inside of the second row on Lap 263—after the accident that ended Edwards’ night—but Logano, who had pitted for fresh tires on Lap 260, surged forward as Busch slipped back.

Larson, who led a race-high 132 laps, held the top spot with Johnson in second and Logano closing in third when Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s Ford nosed hard into the inside wall off Turn 2 to cause the seventh and final caution on Lap 263.

On the ensuing overtime restart, Johnson started second to the inside of Larson, and cleared the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet through the first corner. Logano slipped to fourth and out of the championship picture.

“That last restart, I was hoping to get Jimmie there and trying to get either to the inside or outside of him,” Logano said. “I just timed it a little bit wrong to get underneath him. I bumped him at the start/finish line, and I just didn’t have enough time to get under him.

“We lost some time there, and unfortunately we finish second. The championship means so much and everyone forgets about second place. That’s what stinks. But overall I’m proud of this team. This will be motivation for next year. This hurts.”

Busch restarted 13th in the overtime after pitting for fresh tires, charged up to sixth over the final two laps and finished third in the championship standings.

“All in all, we fought hard tonight,” said Busch, the defending series champion. “We gave it everything we had. We didn’t come in here with the greatest race car today, but we knew that we had enough of a one that we could run with those guys, and we showed that when the lights came on.

Johnson, who didn’t lead a lap until he beat Larson to the stripe on the final restart, had to overcome more than his share of adversity to reach his holy grail. In the first place, he surrendered his 14th-place starting position and took the green flag from the rear of the field after NASCAR discovered unapproved modifications to the “A” posts of the No. 48 Chevy during pre-race inspection.

By the time the first caution flag waved on Lap 27, however, Johnson had driven up to 17th place. But less-than-stellar pit stops kept him mired in traffic behind the other three championship contenders for the majority of the race—until an adjustment under caution on Lap 172 brought his car to life.

Check out the unofficial results of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

We have a new Sheriff in town my friends!

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

The 2011 Daytona 500: A Reflection

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(workingonmyredneck file photo)

It has been almost a week since the “feel good” story of the 2011 Daytona 500 happened. As WOMR was preparing for the trip down to Daytona this year, the over whelming story line was the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.’s tragic death.  Most all of the media was focusing in on celebrating the life of “The Intimidator”.

However, coinciding with this 10th anniversary was the release of Michael Waltrip’s book, “In The Blink of An Eye”WOMR finished reading the before making the journey to Daytona.  It is a must read for the NASCAR fan.  Waltrip describes his early years and his desire to follow his older brother Darrell Waltrip into the racing world, his relationship with his family, specifically ol DW, his relationship with Richard Petty, and specifically his relationship with Dale Earnhardt, Sr.

Mikey relives the day that he broke his 0 fer 462 string, that is how he described his lack of wins in his NASCAR career up to that point.  That day was February 18, 2001, the day that he won the Daytona 500, also the day that his good friend and boss lost his life in the Daytona 500.  It was supposed to be the very best day of his life!  Unfortunately, it turned out to be the, self described, worst day of his life!

Notwithstanding all of the above, there were media writers with two other story lines.  One of which was what it would be like if Michael Waltrip would win the 2011 Daytona 500, a fitting tribute by Michael to Dale,Sr.  Other writers were giving credence to the fact that, because Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had won the pole for 2011 Dayton 500, “the prodigal son” could have an excellent shot at winning the 2011 Daytona 500.

But not one single writer had given any thought to the idea that the Wood Brothers Racing had any possible chance to score a Daytona 500 victory!

Nevertheless, reflecting back on Trevor Bayne, the Wood Brothers, and the happenings of this year’s “Great American Race”, the story was such a fairy tale come true.  The Hollywood movie script writers, in their wildest dreams, couldn’t have written this story, and made it believable!

The fact that the Wood Brothers, one of the oldest and most storied race teams in NASCAR, had not won a Sprint Cup race in ten years.  Secondly they hire, with the help of Jack Roush, a 19 year old race car driver that is relatively unheard of to drive their very famous Motorcraft #21 Ford in race 17 races for 2011.  This combination does not make for winning the Daytona 500 these days.

Nevertheless, that is exactly what transpired on February 20, 2011.

What a great story not just for motor sports, but for all sports!  This is the story of the ultimate underdog triumphantly over-coming astronomical odds!

What are your views on this 2011 ultimate feel good story in NASCAR?

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


The Dichotomy of The 2011 Daytona 500

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(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

This year’s running of “The Great American Race”, the Daytona 500, is filled with many story lines.  The dichotomies are abundant.  The stories range from triumph to tragedy, hope to gloom, happiness to sorrow, and everywhere in between.  Quite possibly, this race could be the key that unlocks one of the biggest sports stories in the first part of the 21st century!  “The prodigal son” returns and triumphantly reclaims redemption”.

The sports writers that cover the NASCAR beat have written every story imaginable, covered all the angles, searched every nook and cranny, on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. since Dale Earnhardt, Sr. met his untimely and tragic death on February 18, 2001.  Dale Jr. has been scrutinized, viewed under the microscope, and analyzed more than any other NASCAR race car driver over these last 10 years.

On Saturday, Dale Jr. won the pole with the fastest qualifying time of the day.  It has become very apparent that he and one of his teammates, Jeff Gordon, have very fast race cars for this year’s Daytona 500.  Could the 2011 Daytona 500 have a similar ending as the 2001 Pepsi 400?  That poses a very interesting story line for this year.  You do remember how the 2001 Pepsi 400 played out, don’t you?

Let WOMR refresh you memory!

NASCAR, and “the prodigal son”, returned to Daytona for the running of the 2001 Pepsi 400 in July, just a mere 4 1/2 months after the tragic death of Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  As the evening unfurled, and the laps wound down, “the prodigal son”, Dale Jr., weaves his way to the head of the pack.  The crowd of over 200,000 goes berserk!  With those maneuvers the entire grandstands were standing and cheering wildly!

The fairy tale was starting to unfold.  As Dale Earnhardt, Jr. comes off turn four, leading the pack, with his teammate Michael Waltrip’s front bumper glued firmly to his back bumper pushing him, “the prodigal son” wins his first race back at the track that claimed his father’s life just less than five months earlier!  Hollywood could not have scripted this movie any better!

Nevertheless, recent times have not been so good for Dale Jr.  The wins have been very scarce, just two victories since joining Hendrick Motorsports three years ago.  However, in  this past off season there has been some earthshaking movements over at the HMS complex.  From Saturday’s qualifying efforts it would appear that it has paid off for both Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon, they comprise the front row for the 2011 Daytona 500!

In light of this, the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt, Sr’s death, and in light of the scarcity of wins  for Dale,Jr. lately, and in light of all the media hype and articles that are and will be written, wouldn’t it be fitting, even though somewhat bittersweet, if around 5pm this Sunday evening, that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is being swarmed by all the media, full of smiles, and is hugging the Harley J. Earl trophy as he celebrates his second Daytona 500 victory of his career?

How fitting and bittersweet that would be for “the prodigal son”, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., to be the victor!  All would be good in NASCAR, as well as Junior Nation!  Could this be a reality Sunday?  Are the Hollywood script writers sharpening up their pencils?

What are your thoughts?

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

Junior Nation Celebrates With The Pole

(photo courtesy Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

The Earnhardt’s heroic/tragic relationship  with the Daytona International Speedway added another chapter to its fabled storybook as Dale Jr. won the pole for the 2011 Daytona 500 on Feb.20th.  This pole award comes on the 10th anniversary of his father’s untimely death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

This was first pole for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in the annual Daytona 500, and only the second for the Earnhardt family.  Dale,Sr. only scored one pole in the Daytona 500 in all of his starts in February’s “Great American Race”.  That pole for Dale Sr. came in the 1996 Daytona 500, just five years before his untimely death.

For Junior, this was the first qualifying attempt after the earth-shaking shakeup at Hendrick Motorsports.  Maybe this is advance notice of what is come with the new team of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Steve Letarte as his crew chief.

Accompanying Earnhardt on the front row is his Hendrick teammate, Jeff Gordon.

“I feel great,” Earnhardt said in the media room after qualifying. “I mean, it’s hard for me to sit up here and do all the talking because I didn’t do anything today other than hold the wheel. The engine does a large majority of the work, and the body on the car has to be perfectly situated to get the most speed out of the car. Steve here has to plan the car out, get the attitude of the car just right for the maximum speed.

“Those three things right there are the biggest players. I’m only maybe, you know, 5/10ths of a percent of what happened today. So all the credit really goes to all those guys that built the car and built the engine, put the car together in the 8/48 shop.”

Letarte said, yep, good car.

“We’re happy the car had speed,” Letarte said. “It’s a test of speed. Racing is a test speed. Today we had the most speed.”

Jeff Gordon,too, put up some big speed in Sunday’s qualifying attempt, he will be looking for his fourth Daytona 500 win.

Sunday’s pole run by Earnhardt Jr. will surely add to the emotion surround this year’s 500 – the emotion generated by the 10-year-anniversary of the death of the man who had become the face of the sport.

His son said that he could not allow himself to get caught up in that emotion.

“I’m here to race,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “I understand the situation. I’m looking forward to seeing how my father’s remembered and honored throughout the week. I’ll enjoy that. I don’t really get into the hypothetical, fairytale sort of stuff.

“I just want to focus on my job, what I need to do every single corner, every single lap, what’s best for me at this moment, what gets me closer to Victory Lane on Sunday. That’s all I’m going to concern myself with.”

Only Dale, Jr. and Gordon are locked in their starting positions for the Daytona 500. All the rest of the field will have their starting positions slated by either how they finish in their Duel 150 qualifying race or speed, it can be very complicated procedure.

The running of the 53rd annual Daytona already has many storylines, the two car drafts, the new racing surface, the 10th anniversary of the tragic death Dale Earnhardt, Sr., Dale Earnhardt, Jr. winning the pole, and quite possibility Dale Jr.winning this year’s running of “The Great American Race”!

So as you can see, all is well in Junior Nation today!

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

Dale, Sr.: The Tenth Anniversary

(photo courtesy of NASCAR)

The 2011 Daytona 500 marks the tenth anniversary of the death of one of NASCAR’s biggest stars, Dale Earnhardt, Sr.  Even though he was known for his “take no prisoners” driving style, Dale Earnhardt, Sr’s true legacy will undoubtedly be all the safety improvements that came about in the wake of his untimely death on the last lap of the 1991 Daytona 500.  Those safety improvements were not just for NASCAR, but for all of auto racing in general.
Those safety improvements  range from SAFER barriers to the crush panels in the race car, to the improved racing helmets that help to reduce concussions, all working to make the sport safer for the men and women that risk their lives driving those racing vehicles.

Without a doubt the biggest safety innovation, though, is the required use of head and neck restraints such as the HANS Device. It was invented and perfected by Dr. Robert Hubbard, then a crash engineer for General Motors, after his brother-in-law, sports car racer Jim Downing, saw a problem and came up with the idea of finding a way to prevent unrestrained head and helmet movement while the torso was restrained during sudden deceleration.  That situation often led to fatal fractures to the base of the skull, the same injury that killed Earnhardt on the final lap of the 1991 Daytona 500.

Downing was the first to wear a prototype of the HANS Device while racing in IMSA in the late 1980s.

Now, with the 10th anniversary of Earnhardt’s death at Daytona International Speedway coming up in two weeks, a lot of people are thinking about The Intimidator and what he meant to the stock car sport.  Quite honestly, many of them would like to know if wearing a HANS Device would have saved Earnhardt’s life.

HANS Performance Products issued a Q&A with Downing this week to answer that question and others about his life-saving invention:

Q: If Dale Earnhardt Sr. had been wearing a HANS Device during his crash at Daytona in 2001, would that have prevented a fatal injury?

A: “We have learned over the years at HANS Performance Products that re-constructing accidents is an extremely difficult and complex chore. We rely on the professional experience of others and in this case there were different opinions by experts about the cause of the fatal injuries.

“With that in mind, I believe that when Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s car hit the wall and the belts from his safety harness were loaded by the impact that a HANS Device would have kept his head back. That likely would have produced a better outcome under the different scenarios that have been proposed by experts. This is what it seems like to me, but we don’t really know for sure.”

Q: HANS Performance Products had been selling the HANS Device since 1990. How did the fatal crash of Earnhardt Sr. affect the sales of the HANS Device?

A: “We went from selling 250 in 10 years to selling 250 in one week. Ultimately, we sold about 3,000 in 2001. We had known that the HANS Device was a safety breakthrough from our sled testing and from the feedback we got from members of the medical community who were active in racing, such as Dr. Terry Trammell and Dr. Steve Olvey. When guys like that understand it, then you know your conclusions about the HANS Device being a safety breakthrough are correct.”

Q: People may not be aware that the fatal crash of three-time world champion Ayrton Senna in 1994 also influenced the development of the HANS Device. How did that come about?

A: “The Senna crash started a really serious re-evaluation of safety in Formula One, much as what

(The HANS device)

happened later in American racing in 2001. This crash led to cooperation with Daimler Benz to get the HANS Device to fit into an F1 car and more independent testing which also confirmed that it worked. Through that development, we were able to reduce the size of the HANS Device and get a better fit for drivers in all types of cars, including stock cars.

“The HANS Device would have been recognized as a safety breakthrough without the catalyst of the unfortunate crashes of Senna and Earnhardt Sr. It just would have taken longer. In America, the legacy of Earnhardt Sr. includes not only the HANS Device, but soft walls, better seats and cockpit safety and (NASCAR’s) Car of Tomorrow. Even now when I think of Dale Earnhardt Sr. I think of safety instead of the macho driving style he was known for.”

Q: Over the last decade (your company) has made the HANS Device universally available through innovation and new technology with over 110,000 now in use worldwide. How was that accomplished?

A: “The low initial sales volumes of HANS Devices made them expensive. When the sales volume began to grow, we found suppliers who could build it more efficiently and in a wider range of sizes. In addition to economies of scale, we developed the Sport Series using injection molding techniques. All these efforts helped drop the price dramatically. We were able to pass the savings along to customers. The dealer network was also expanded so that it is easy to find a dealer, which also helped sales volume.”

Q: The high-speed crashes get a lot of attention, but isn’t it accurate that low-speed crashes can also cause serious or fatal head and neck injuries?

A: “There’s a misconception that almost everyone has, that you’re safe at 30 or 40 miles per hour. Earnhardt Sr.’s actual change of velocity caused by hitting the wall was 43 or 44 mph.  To many observers it looked like a fairly routine wreck and they never expected the outcome. This happens on a regular basis on the street or in racing. A car’s speed may not be very high but if it stops suddenly you can be in real trouble.

“It’s not how fast you go, but how quickly you stop. Trying to get that message across to short track racers and drag racers has been especially difficult. A short track driver can easily get turned into the wall by another car. If a drag racer has a mechanical problem and turns into the retaining wall, the vehicle can come to a very sudden stop. Both circle track and drag racing are relatively underserved when it comes to frontal head restraints.”

There will be much said about Dale Earnhardt, Sr. during this year’s speed weeks a Daytona.  There will much reminiscing about that wily old veteran and his driving style!  Notwithstanding all those great stories of his prowess, Dale Sr.’s legacy to NASCAR will undoubtedly be all the safety features that came into being as the results of his death at Daytona in 1991.

What are your thoughts?

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

Bowyer Edges Harvick In The Amp Energy Juice 500

(photo courtesy Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

WOMR just returned home from the trip to Talladega for the AMP Energy Juice 500 and have only one thing to say.

This wasn’t just another NASCAR race, this was Talladega!

In many ways Sunday was like days of old at the famed 2.66 mile superspeedway in the heart of Alabama and Earnhardt country.  Richard Childress was back at his old familiar spot as the winning car owner in a Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway, a track where Dale Earnhardt, Sr. had been so dominate winning many races over his career. It also was the 10th anniversary of Dale,Sr’s. last, and most would agree, his most spectacular victory! It was also arguably the greatest single fete in motor sports ever!

Even after 10 years sports writers still marvel over the way that Dale, Sr. carved his way through the field coming from 18th place to win the race in just four laps with Kenny Wallace glued to his bumper, kind of like a warm knife through butter!  It was Dale,Sr’s last hurrah, but what a marvel it was!

But on this Sunday it was Clint Bowyer and the Richard Childress Racing #33 BB&T Chevrolet team that ran near the front of the pack during a high-speed duel, taking the lead with 10 laps remaining and held off teammate Kevin Harvick to win the Amp Energy Juice 500 on Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Bowyer held off a hard-charging Harvick on the low side of the track and momentarily awaited the official announcement as a last-lap caution froze the field and necessitated an officials’ review of the finish which showed Bowyer slightly ahead of Harvick. Harvick overcame an earlier incident and his second-place finish pulls him to within 38 points of Chase leader Jimmie Johnson.

The AMP Energy Juice 500 was remnants of the old Talladega, it was deja vu.  There were 87 lead changes, one short of the record of 88, among 26 drivers Sunday.  Those lead changes were only the lead changes at the start/finish line.  However, there were at least that many lead changes elsewhere on the track, however they were not considered official!

Additionally, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. was representing his family in his traditionally classy manner.  Early in the race it was apparent that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. had a race car that was capable of winning the race. On lap 133, after having led 24 laps earlier in the race with a very strong race car, Dale Jr. got tangled up with Jeff Burton in the middle of turns 3 and 4.  The wreck destroyed Jeff Burton’s machine and caused extensive damage to the AMP #88 Chevy of Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

But to Earnhardt’s great credit, even as he continues to struggle on the track most weeks, he remains one of the classiest drivers in the sport today.  He took full blame for his crash with Jeff Burton.

“I got into Jeff and didn’t hit him square and turned him down the race track and ended up wrecking him,” Earnhardt said. “Cost his crew a great race car and opportunity to win. He had a really fast car. I apologize to Richard (Childress) and all of those guys over there. My boys too, they worked really hard on my car. We had a terrific engine today and a real fast car.”

He said he was especially sorry to have wrecked Burton, as he explained when asked what he said to Burton when the two made their mandatory stop in the track hospital.

“I just wanted to apologize to him,” he said. “Man, he’s one of the ambassadors for our sport, and I have so much respect for him. When you are out there racing, you aren’t considering all those things. As soon as I turned him, I felt terrible about it. I just respect him so much. He’s taught me a lot in my career. I didn’t show him as much respect as I should have but I didn’t have any intentions of spinning him out. I was racing a little bit hard out there.”

Here is the unofficial results from The AMP Energy Juice 500.

This is how the Chase for the Cup looks after the AMP Energy Juice 500.

Twelve drivers, now three races, one championship, who will be the last man standing?

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



Talladega Superspeedway History

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On an unassuming stretch of land suited for soybean farming located next to a couple of abandoned airport runways, crews constructed the biggest, fastest and most competitive superspeedway in the world – – Talladega Superspeedway.

Since Alabama International Motor Speedway (as it was called until 1989) opened its gates in September of 1969, the track has surpassed every initial expectation in terms of sheer size, speed and competition.

Talladega, Ala. emerged as the top choice among several possible sites in the Southeast, with the main criteria for selection being availability of land, access to the interstate system and a population base of at least 20 million people within 300 miles. Anniston insurance executive Bill Ward, a racecar driver and fan himself, helped NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation founder William H.G. (Bill) France find the land in Alabama, following a casual conversation with France in Daytona in the mid-1960s.

Ward found what he thought was the perfect site in north Talladega County near an airport that the U.S. Government had sold to the City of Talladega after World War II. He set up a meeting with then-Talladega Mayor James Hardwick and other city officials, and in a restaurant in Anniston in 1966, France got the group to consider the idea of putting a major track on the site. After a trip to the Firecracker 400 in Daytona to observe first-hand the potential economic impact, the group was sold.

Several obstacles had to be overcome, including financing. With France as the guiding force, however, construction began on the 2,000-acre site on May 23, 1968, with the first race being the ‘Bama 400 Grand Touring race on Saturday, September 13, 1969. Ken Rush drove his Camaro to Victory Lane in that event. The next day, Richard Brickhouse won the first Grand National (now NASCAR Sprint Cup) race, the Talladega 500 (now known as the AMP Energy 500), edging Jim Vandiver and Ramo Stott.

Setting precedents

Putting that first race weekend on the record books wasn’t as easy as it may sound, however. The practice and qualifying speeds were so high (Charlie Glotzbach won the pole at 199.466 mph) that the tire companies – try as they might – could not in the time available come up with a compound that held together for many laps. The Professional Drivers Association (PDA), led by Richard Petty, declared the situation unsafe, and left the track Saturday afternoon.

Knowing that thousands of fans had traveled great distances to see the race, France decided the race would go on, using the drivers that decided not to participate in the boycott, plus some of those who had raced the day before. The full 500 miles were run without a major incident and France rain-checked the house for any future race at either Daytona or Talladega. His action broke the back of the PDA, which dissolved a couple of years later.

Establishing records, developing careers

It was not long before the track came into its own with unprecedented speeds and unparalleled competition. The combination of the two also played a major role in the development of many drivers’ careers as they built reputations for setting records and taking wins at the largest, fastest and most competitive track on the circuit.

Brickhouse was the first winner of a NASCAR Cup race at Talladega, and his victory began a string of surprise winners in both headline events at Talladega each year.

Pete Hamilton became the first to win two major events by sweeping the 1970 Grand National races in Plymouths prepared by Petty Enterprises. David Pearson became the first three-time winner at Talladega by capturing successive spring wins in 1972, 1973 and 1974.

Buddy Baker won three straight races, both 1975 races and the 1976 spring event, then added another, the Winston 500 in the spring of 1980, to become the first four-time winner. Darrell Waltrip and Bobby Allison have since joined him in that category, tying three ways for fourth on the all-time series win list here.

In 1987, Bill Elliott established a world stock-car record when he posted a speed of 212.809 mph in qualifying for the Winston 500. Mark Martin established a 500-mile stock-car record in 1997 when he won the caution-free spring Winston Select 500 with an average speed of 188.354 mph.

But the track’s true dominator was Dale Earnhardt, who posted 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup victories at Talladega over the years. Earnhardt’s first victory was in the 1983 Talladega 500, driving for Bud Moore. He won again the next year in his first season with Richard Childress.  When he captured the 1990 Die Hard 500, he became the first three-time winner of that event, then added Die Hard 500 wins in 1991, 1993 and 2000.

Earnhardt also had victories in the 1990, 1995 and 1999 IROC races, as well as the 1993 Fram Filters 500k NASCAR Nationwide Series race, to give him a total of 14 career victories at Talladega. That put him ahead of Davey Allison, who had four ARCA triumphs and an IROC win to go with his three Cup victories.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has followed in his father’s footsteps. Dale Jr. won the 2001 EA Sports 500, defending the title for his late father. Dale Jr. swept both races at Talladega in 2002 and won the 2003 Aaron’s 499 for an unprecedented four-in-a-row winning streak. With a win in the 2004 EA SPORTS 500, he is third in terms of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins here, with five.

Jeff Gordon surpassed Earnhardt Jr. for second on the all-time winners list with his victory here in October 2007, giving him six over all.

Delighting fans with fierce competition

The track itself is 2.66-miles long, four lanes wide and is banked 33 degrees on each end, with 18-degree banking in the tri-oval. This configuration has produced some of the fastest and most competitive racing in history. The backstretch is nearly 4,000 feet long, and stock cars have reached speeds in excess of 220 miles per hour there in competition.

The grandstands seating capacity is 143,231 including the most recent expansion of the O.V. Hill South Tower. The 212-acre all-reserved infield holds many thousands more.

Fans know that flag-to-flag competition is the name of the game at Talladega, and the record book backs it up.

Perhaps the greatest 1-2-3 finish in motorsports occurred in the 1981 AMP Energy 500, when rookie Ron Bouchard passed both Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte in the final 500 yards to win by less than a foot over Waltrip and two feet over Labonte. Labonte got even with the 30-year-old track 18 years later, when he edged Joe Nemechek by .002 seconds to win the Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race. The finish had to be reviewed several times before a winner was determined.

The 1984 Aaron’s 499 set a motorsports standard with 75 official lead changes in a 500-mile race. In 1986, 26 of the 40 drivers who started the AMP Energy 500 led at least one lap, 19 of them under green flag racing.

In 1993, the AMP Energy 500 became the first 500-mile race to produce 1,000 official lead changes over the years, an amazing feat considering the race was only 25 years old, and has only 188 laps – or opportunities – to record lead changes.

Talladega Superspeedway’s second event of the season was moved from the summer to October in 1997, and it marked the first time in the track’s history it had two sellouts for its NASCAR Sprint Cup races.

But competition always has been fierce at Talladega, no matter what time of year. In the 2000 AMP Energy 500, 26 cars finished on the lead lap, a NASCAR record for a 500-mile race.

The 2004 Aaron’s 499 saw 54 lead changes among 23 drivers, the third highest number of leaders in a race in NASCAR history (the 2008 AMP Energy 500 holds the record for first place  with 28 different leaders). Then in the fall of that year, fans saw 20 drivers share 47 lead changes in the AMP Energy 500 at Talladega, bringing the year’s total over 100, as the track celebrated its 35th anniversary.

NASCAR has instituted a new championship format, and the AMP Energy 500 has enjoyed placement in the final 10 comprising the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In the 2005 AMP Energy 500, many fans expected to see the 2005 Aaron’s 499 victor Jeff Gordon or defending AMP Energy 500 race winner Dale Earnhardt, Jr. take the checkered flag at the end of the day, but it was Dale Jarrett who led the final and most important lap. It was a particularly fitting finish to another great year of racing at Talladega Superspeedway, as Jarrett put a Ford in Gatorade Victory Lane here for the first time in 7 years just as UAW-Ford made its debut as the track’s fall NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event sponsor.

New surface yields incredible results

In the winter of 2005, track officials announced that the legendary track would be repaved for the first time since 1979. The project would become the fourth repaving for the track, as it was first paved when constructed, again following the inaugural race, then once more in 1979. After 26 years, it was time for the 2.66-mile tri-oval to get a fresh new surface, and competitors made the last race on the aged asphalt one of the best in history.

Jimmie Johnson became the 34th different Talladega race winner in spring 2006, taking his first Talladega victory in the Aaron’s 499. Fans witnessed 22 drivers swap the lead 56 times, tying the race for 10th on the all-time list for lead changes. Then Tuesday morning, May 2, 2006, former Talladega Superspeedway President Grant Lynch climbed aboard a trackhoe excavator and helped get the repaving project under way with members of the media on hand to document the beginning of one of the most ambitious projects here in recent years. Over the summer, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Tony Stewart and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Dennis Setzer stopped by to lend a hand in the paving process, each climbing aboard the gigantic paver as it made its way through the steeply-banked turns.

Both Goodyear and Hoosier conducted tire tests two weeks prior to the race, and the week prior, ARCA RE/MAX Series held an open test with over 35 teams in attendance , including Formula One racing star Juan Pablo Montoya, who participated in his first test for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The team announced over the summer that Montoya would make the transition from open-wheel racing to stock cars in order to drive for the team starting with the 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and he was released from his former team in time to make his first stock car start in the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 race at Talladega on Friday, Oct. 6. Numerous drivers gave the new pavement rave reviews during testing, a sign of things to come for the 2006 AMP Energy 500 event weekend.

The 2006 fall race weekend at Talladega Superspeedway went down as the most successful in track history in terms of attendance. The stands were filled to see the first competitive laps on the new asphalt and the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in track history, the Mountain Dew 250 on Saturday, Oct. 7. They were rewarded with even more “firsts” at the legendary race track. Despite having won at nearly every other track on the circuit, seven-time ARCA RE/MAX Series Champion Frank Kimmel had yet to visit Gatorade Victory Lane at Talladega. That is, until Friday, Oct. 6 when he won the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 at Talladega.

Earlier in the day, Mark Martin claimed the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pole award to be awarded at the track, and then on Saturday, won the inaugural Mountain Dew 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race to become the first driver to post wins at Talladega in NASCAR’s top three series. Also on Saturday, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie David Gilliland took his first career pole award, after putting the No. 38 Robert Yates Racing Ford on the pole for the third consecutive time at Talladega. Then on Sunday, Hendrick Motorsports driver Brian Vickers took his first career victory in the AMP Energy 500, becoming the ninth driver to win his first race at Talladega, but the first since Ken Schrader accomplished the feat in 1988.

Although there were a lot of firsts during the AMP Energy 500 event weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, one thing remained unchanged – the astounding level of competition on the track. Twenty-three drivers swapped the lead 63 times in the AMP Energy 500, which is the most lead changes fans had witnessed in NASCAR racing since July 1984 when 68 lead changes were recorded here at Talladega. The statistics tied the race for third all-time in terms of race leaders and sixth all-time in terms of lead changes. NASCAR reported there were a total of 15,951 passes for position in the AMP Energy 500, a 75 percent increase over the 2006 Aaron’s 499.

The 2007 Aaron’s Dream Weekend continued the trend of firsts at Talladega Superspeedway when Bobby Labonte captured his first NASCAR Nationwide Series win at Talladega during the Aaron’s 312 race.  Labonte’s pass for the win was the 36th of the race, a record for lead changes in a Nationwide Series event.  More records would fall before the weekend was over.

Jeff Gordon captured his first pole award at Talladega Superspeedway for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Aaron’s 499.  This was Gordon’s 60th career pole, moving him into fourth place on the all-time list, breaking a tie with Darrell Waltrip.  Gordon went on to win the race, his 77th victory of his NASCAR Sprint Cup career, which enabled him to pass the late Dale Earnhardt for sixth place on the all-time win list.  The victory was car owner Rick Hendrick’s ninth all-time at Talladega Superspeedway, tying him with Richard Childress for the most at the track.  The win also marked Gordon’s fifth career victory at Talladega, moving him into a tie for second place on the all-time list with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The 2007 AMP Energy 500 event weekened featured thrilling side-by-side finishes in all three races.  During the ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 on Friday, Oct. 5, rookie driver Michael Annett edged veteran driver Frank Kimmel by a mere .042 seconds.  Annett’s win marked the first time ever a Toyota would pull into Gatorade Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway, while Kimmel’s second place finish secured his ninth ARCA RE/MAX Series championship.

The Mountain Dew 250 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday, Oct. 6, featured another Toyota win, with Todd Bodine winning from the pole by only .014 seconds.  The finish went to the wire with Bodine squeaking past Alabama native Rick Crawford and Johnny Benson for a three-wide finish.

The excitement for the AMP Energy 500 on Sunday, Oct. 7 was only intensified by the dawn of NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow (COT) at Talladega Superspeedway.  The AMP Energy 500 was not only the first restrictor plate race for the COT, but also the first race on a track greater than 1.333 miles in length.  The COT didn’t disappoint with Jeff Gordon edging Jimmie Johnson at the line by .066 seconds.  The win marked Gordon’s sixth win at Talladega, moving him up to second on the all-time wins list behind Dale Earnhardt.  Gordon’s victory also gave car owner Rick Hendrick his tenth victory at the track, making him the winningest car owner in Talladega Superspeedway history.

Fan’s were bristling with excitement for the 2008 Aaron’s Dream Weekend, as five-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. made his first start with ten-time Talladega winner Hendrick Motorsports.  Joe Gibbs racing however would steal the show early in the week with Tony Stewart setting the pole for the Aaron’s 312 on Friday, April 25.

On Saturday, April 26th, Stewart looked poised to capture the pole for the Aaron’s 499 as well, but late qualifier Joe Nemechek ran a fast lap of 187.386 mph to secure the first ever pole award for Furniture Row Racing.  Pre-race activities for the Aaron’s 312 soon followed qualifying and fans were treated to a three-song mini concert by Toby Lightman with a special appearance by Darrell Waltrip singing “NASCAR Love.”  The race was an exciting one with Tony Stewart capturing his first ever Talladega victory by a margin of 0.302 seconds.

Talladega Superspeedway lived up to its moniker as NASCAR’s Most Competitive Track during the Aaron’s 499 on Sunday, April 27th, with 52 lead changes among 20 different drivers.  Kyle Busch held off hard charges from Juan Pablo Montoya and Denny Hamlin to secure his first ever win at Talladega Superspeedway and the second Sprint Cup Series victory for Joe Gibbs Racing at Talladega.

Justin Allgaier capped an action-packed ARCA RE/MAX Series 250 on Oct. 3, by making a final-lap pass of teenage phenom Joey Logano as more than a dozen cars jockeyed wildly for position over the final five laps.   Allgaier finally grabbed the lead for good by zipping past Logano on the high side as the pack roared into turn one.

The excitement continued to grow as the weekend wore on, when Travis Kvapil in the No. 28 Yates Racing machine sped around the track at 187.364 mph to claim his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole.  Later, Todd Bodine edged out Ron Hornaday, Jr. by 0.074 seconds to win the Mountain Dew 250 Fueled by Winn-Dixie NASCAR Camping World Series race.  It was Bodine’s second time winning the coveted Talladega trophy.

A NASCAR Sprint Cup Series record 28 drivers exchanged the lead 64 times during the AMP Energy 500 ending with Tony Stewart claiming his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at the 2.66 mile track by 0.052 seconds over Paul Menard.  In a controversial finish Stewart actually crossed the finish line second, but NASCAR officials determined that Regan Smith illegally passed Stewart below the yellow, out-of-bounds line.

In 2009, Juan Pablo Montoya captured his first career NSCS pole position with a qualifying run of 188.171 mph, edging out Greg Biffle’s effort of 188.141 mph.  Ryan Newman then nearly went on to win the Aaron’s 312 from the pole, but is edged out at the last moment by David Ragan, who picked up his first victory in any NASCAR series in his 196th career start.  Newman led the race coming out of Turn 4, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. hard on his bumper. As the pack roared through the trioval and headed for the finish line, Earnhardt attempted to pass Newman on the high side. Newman moved up the track to block Earnhardt, and then dipped back down to cut off a hard-charging Tony Raines.  In the midst of all the commotion, a hole opened up for Ragan, and he zipped through it to edge Newman by 0.030 seconds.

The next day, Brad Keselowsi won the Aaron’s 499 in only his fifth career NSCS start. In the process, he gave veteran car owner James Finch his first NSCS victory.  (talladegasuperspeedway.com)

WOMR looked it up so you wouldn’t have to!

See you at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend!

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

Dale Earnhardt,Sr #5 Inductee

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The “cat-who-ate-the-canary” look was pure vintage Dale Earnhardt,Sr.  Earnhardt built a career on his reputation for bullying, and sometimes, just running over the competition.

Dale Earnhardt,Sr. was the definition of a dichotomy!  On one hand he was every man, on the other hand he was Superman.  He was a friend, he was a foe!

“Iron Head”, “The Intimidator“, and a few more names that most likely are not printable was assigned to him by his frustrated competitors. Dale, Sr. was above all a very fierce competitor in NASCAR.

“The Man In Black” struck fear in the hearts of his competitors.  What you didn’t want to see late in the race was a mirror full of the black #3 car!  Earnhardt would find a way, any way, to get by you and beat you to the start/finish line.

Earnhardt is tied with Richard Petty with the most championships, 7.  His career Sprint cup wins were 76 with a grand total 97 victories including Busch/Nationwide Series races.  He was the next face of NASCAR following Richard Petty.  Dale was “the working man’s” race car driver!  The NASCAR fans were equally divided- half of them loved him and half of them despised him!  Either way was ok for Earnhardt!

Dale Earnhardt, Sr’s defining moment

Dale Earnhardt’s defining moment came in the fall race of 2000 at Talldega Superspeedway.  It was, unfortunately his last hurrah in NASCAR.  With just a handful of laps to go in the race, “The Intimidator” came from 19th place, slicing through the field with Kenny Wallace on his bumper pushing him, like a warm knife through butter!  It was to be Dale Earnhardt,Sr.’s final victory!

In February 2001, just four months after this quite unbelievable show of driving skills, in a wreck on the last lap of the Daytona 500, NASCAR lost its “working man’s hero”!  Dale Earnhardt, Sr. died at the young age of 49.

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