Category:Auto Racing
Posted on: February 17, 2012 5:20 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:22 pm

Daytona to add short track for Speedweeks 2013

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2012) — The bright lights of the “World Center of Racing” will shine on the stars of NASCAR’s regional and touring series, as NASCAR announced today Daytona International Speedway will host the inaugural “UNOH Battle At The Beach” on Feb. 18-19, 2013.

The two-days of racing will be headlined by three non-points special events: the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified tours, and the Late Model division of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. 

A temporary oval will be set up on Daytona’s Superstretch to host the races, It is tentatively slated to be approximately .4-mile. 

“This is all about the stars of tomorrow vying for glory at Daytona International Speedway,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president of regional and touring series. “During two days and nights of intense competition, fans will be able to see today’s aces of short track racing and some great young talent.”

The event will include live coverage on SPEED. 

The process for setting the field for the 2013 UNOH Battle At The Beach will be:

· Winners of the 2012 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West events as well as the series champions will automatically be locked into that series’ race at Daytona next year.

· Similarly, winners of the 2012 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour or NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races and series champions will be locked into the Modified race next February at Daytona.

· The top 10 finishers in the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I national standings will earn a protected starting spot in the 2013 Late Model race.

· In addition, the champions of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, NASCAR Toyota Series from Mexico, and Euro Racecar NASCAR Touring Series in 2012 will earn a protected starting spot in whichever one of the three 2013 Daytona races they choose to run.

· The remaining spots in the 2013 Daytona features will be filled through time trials and heat races during the two days of racing next February.

”Grassroots short track racing is the foundation of this great sport and we are thrilled to give these young drivers the opportunity to fight for a win at the ‘World Center of Racing,” said Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood. “Many of NASCAR’s greatest stars cut their teeth on short tracks around the country and we look forward to hosting the stars of tomorrow in 2013.”

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 3:00 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 9:28 pm

Jimmie Johnson's car fails inspection

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The 2012 season has not started well for Jimmie Johnson.

The No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet failed pre-race inspection for this year's Daytona 500 as NASCAR cited unapproved modifications to the C-Post area of the car.

The sanctioning body cut off and confiscated the sheet metal in question and immediately put the pieces on display behind the NASCAR hauler as is customary.

"We noticed they had modifications to that area that is not permitted," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharpsaid. "We cut off the C-post and we confiscated the C-post. We're allowing them to fix it. And when we get back home (to NASCAR's Research & Development Center), we'll look at it again and see if there needs to be anything further."

The infractions were found on both side of the car on the C-Post, which is a designated area measured between the roof and quarterpanel. 

“It was an obvious modification that the template inspectors picked up on,” said Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby. “We did some additional inspections and found that they were too far out of tolerance to fix.”

Hendrick Motorsports is sending a new piece from its North Carolina headquarters to Daytona and the 48 car will be inspected again on Saturday.

NASCAR will not announce any further penalties or action until after the Daytona 500.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:28 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 2:50 pm

Shootout to provide gauge of Daytona rule changes

By Pete Pistone

  Matt Kenseth, Driver Of The #17 Best Buy Ford, Leads
(Whether the rule changes will result in more pack racing or the return of tandem drafting remains to be seen)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There's money and glory on the line but that won't be the most important thing in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout.

The opportunity for drivers to finally put the many rule changes and modifications NASCAR implemented after last month's Preseason Thunder test into race mode is what's on everyone's mind.

After three days of testing a variety of restrictor plate measurements, spoiler heights, spring packages and cooling system tweaks, NASCAR landed on what for now is considered a suitable package to officially open Speedweeks. In an effort to if not eliminate at least limit the use of tandem drafting, which the sanctioning body found to be an extremely disliked practice by a majority of fans, the rash of changes were introduced to teams.

But while practicing during a test is one thing, being on track during racing conditions is quite another.

"I'm really not sure what to expect," said Greg Biffle. "My guess is you'll see a combination of the big packs that NASCAR seems to want us to return to and then some use of the tandem when the time is right."

The exhibition race will give drivers a chance to try and get a handle on what to expect when next Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races roll around as well as when the green flag flies in the Daytona 500.

"There's no reason to thin the tandem will completely disappear," said defending Budweiser Shootout winner Kurt Busch, who makes his debut with Phoenix Racing in Saturday night's race. "But I do think based on what we saw during the test we won't see it all race long either in the Shootout or the 500."

Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout format remains unchanged from last year with a 25 lap opening segment followed by a ten minute break and then a 50-lap dash to the checkered flag.

Criteria has been tweaked to fill out the 25-car field to include:

• Drivers finishing among the top 25 in the 2011 championship driver points

• Past Daytona 500 and Coke Zero 400 Powered By Coca-Cola champions and winners of Shootout events. 

Following the first segment, a 10-minute “pit stop” gives crews the opportunity to make normal adjustments to their cars. Other notes: All work must be done on pit road or in the garage; teams may not change springs, shocks or rear ends; all green- and yellow-flag laps in both segments will count. Following the 10-minute “pit stop,” the event’s second segment remains a 50-lap sprint for the win.

Those entered in Saturday’s race: Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Kasey Kahne, AJ Allmendinger, Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Martin Truex Jr., Marcos Ambrose, Jeff Burton, Juan Pablo Montoya, David Ragan, Joey Logano, Michael Waltrip and Jamie McMurray

In addition to Busch, other drivers will be making their debuts with new teams including Bowyer with Michael Waltrip Racing, Kahne with Hendrick Motorsports, Ragan with Front Row Motorsports and Allmendinger with Penske Racing. Allmendinger already has one 2012 Speedweeks victory in last month’s GRAND-AM Sports Car Series Rolex 24. Kurt Busch is the defending champion of the Shootout.

Drivers will draw for their starting positions in a ceremony held Friday night to set the lineup.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:00 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 2:03 pm

Bayne brings back Daytona beach memories

By Pete Pistone

  2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne Drives

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne took a drive down memory lane Friday with a trip around the historic beach course that preceded the Daytona International Speedway.

Bayne piloted the iconic Wood Brothers No. 21 Ford from a portion of the old beach course through the streets of Daytona Beach before delivering the green flag to be used in next Sunday's Daytona 500 to DIS.

"This is probably the coolest thing I've gotten to do outside of actually racing on other tracks," Bayne said. "This is an unbelievable feeling, being on the beach where it all started. This is history right here. I almost want to bottle up the sand and take it with me because this is where it started for Daytona. This is where it started for NASCAR.

"Being in the No. 21 car here, I feel like I'm part of history." 
More than half of the temporary track was sand, a pair of turns and a long strip of beach linked to Route A1A’s pavement. It was unique to say the least but ultimately drew tens of thousands of post-war race fans to Central Florida before Speedweeks was shifted a few miles northwest to Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

"It was just like a dirt track," said NASCAR Hall of Fame member Glen Wood, who won three sportsman races on the beach and finished 11th in his only NASCAR premier series start in 1957. "The turns were like a half-mile track – one bank to the other."  
Bayne drove his No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford over a section of the beach course to the track’s former north turn. Following a press conference, Bayne went on to the speedway.
  Racing began on a 3.2-mile course in 1936. Daytona Beach racer Sig Haugdahl promoted the first two events, which weren’t commercially successful. City officials gave promotional rights to Bill France, who wore both a promoter’s hat and a competitor’s helmet – and with the latter won the Labor Day event in 1938 and a July race the following year.

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 1:05 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 2:27 pm

NASCAR nixes 'General Lee' from prerace ceremony

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Fans of the "Dukes of Hazzard" television show remember the famous (or infamous) General Lee.

However the iconic car won't be part of a planned pre-race ceremony at Phoenix International Raceway after NASCAR stepped in and tabled plans to include the General Lee due to the prominent placement of the Confederate flag on its roof.

Pro golfer Bubba Watson was to have driven the car in the ceremony to be held prior to the March 4 Sprint Cup race at PIR but NASCAR has decided to nix the idea.

"NASCAR, International Speedway Corp. and Phoenix International Raceway officials discussed this and decided it was not in the best interest of our sport," NASCAR spokesman David Higdon said Friday.

"The image of the Confederate flag is not something that should play an official role in our sport as we continue to reach out to new fans and make NASCAR more inclusive."

Watson, who has become friends with driver Denny Hamlin, had tweeted his intention to take part in the ceremony early Friday morning. However he rescinded the plan in a later tweet:

"Sorry to say @nascar won't let me drive The General Lee at the @PhoenixRaceway !!! #dreamcrushed"

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Posted on: February 17, 2012 12:42 pm

New FanVision device set to debut

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - NASCAR fans have an opportunity to enhance their at-track experience through technology this season.

FanVision, a next generation hand-held device that will replace the previous FanView system, will make its debut in 2012.

It will offer a wide array of broadcast content and deliver an extensive menu of audio and video features and services available. 

“Improving the fan experience at-track is a key component of our five year industry action plan,” said Steve Phelps, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for NASCAR. “By upgrading to FanVision, we will be offering the fans who attend our races an enhanced live event experience that allows them to further engage in the sport. This will certainly not be the last upgrade we make at track but it’s certainly a significant one that will have immediate impact on how the sport is consumed.”

The new FanVision will feature:

-       High-definition video

-       Larger screen (4.3 inches)

-       More video channels

-       Improved, fan-friendly interface

-       Richer statistics

Fans will be able to purchase or rent the system at select NASCAr races this season beginning with Speedweeks activities in Daytona. 

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:55 pm

Repeat definitely on Tony Stewart's mind

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Make no mistake, Tony Stewart has his eyes set on a second straight Sprint Cup Series championship.

Stewart's impressive performance down the stretch to win last year's title has the three time champ pumped up about his prospects for 2012. Even though his stirring run to win the crown at Homestead was more than three months ago, Stewart remains sky high on the eve on the brand new season.

"I mean in all honesty we have still been riding that high, but we really didn’t sit there and say hey we are celebrating a championship," Stewart explained at Thursday's Media Day session.  "That lasted through the banquet then it was right back to work.  I mean we were immediately back on the job of trying to figure out how to do the same thing this year.  It was easy to do that having Zippy (Greg Zippadelli) and (crew chief) Steve Addington come on board, guys that weren’t really with us when we won the championship at the end of the year.  Their focus was on what we were going to do this year so it kind of got the whole mindset of the shop to not get lazy and think about what we accomplished last year and get working on what we can do to try to repeat this year.”

As for scoping out this year's competition and handicapping the field in this year's title derby, Stewart will need some time to see exactly what his re-tooled race team has for 2012.

“I don’t think we know until we start," he said  "The hard thing is you have to improve through the winter and all the teams will improve.  It is just a matter of if we get five percent better and someone else gets seven percent better is that enough to put them ahead of us.  I don’t think you really know until you get two or three races into the year exactly see what the results are from the winter and the hard work.”

Don't ask Stewart how he was able to take a so-so regular season effort and turn it into one of the sport's most dramatic runs for teh championship when he won five of the final 10 Chase races to edge Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker.

“I can’t, I still can’t," he said.  "I wish I could explain it.  The way our year went, it was like the first 26 weeks anything that could go wrong went wrong, something went wrong every week.  The days that we didn’t have a problem, we just missed it on the set-up.  The days that we were good, something would happen, we would have pit strategy go wrong or something would happen.  Those last 10 weeks, with the exception of Dover, everything kind of went right.”


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Posted on: February 16, 2012 5:30 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 5:35 pm

Confident Dale Earnhardt Jr. ready for 2012

By Pete Pistone

  Dale Earnhardt Jr., Driver Of The #88 National Guard/Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet, Speaks
(Earnhardt Jr. is unsure about what to expect in this year's running of the Daytona 500 - Getty Images)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes his improved performance of 2011 will lead to even better things this coming season, beginning with the Daytona 500.

After making the Chase for the first time in three seasons and finishing seventh in the final Sprint Cup Series point standings, Earnhardt carries a lot of confidence into teh new campaign - his second with crew chief Steve Letarte calling the shots.

“I feel pretty good," Earnhardt said. "I’m frustrated that we didn’t win last year, we came close. I’m ready to get back to that. I’m ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can’t do that without racing and we haven’t been doing any so it’s been a little frustrating."

Although he has always enjoyed racing at Daytona and showed restrictor plate racing prowess during his Sprint Cup career, Earnhardt is somewhat cautious about his chances in this year's Speedweeks because of the new two car drafting style of competition.

"Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here," Earnhardt said. "This is going to be a fun experience but I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races.” 

There was a time when Earnhardt was considered an automatic contender to win at Daytona and Talladega but the recent changes in plate racing has made things much different today. But Earnhardt says he's fine with the evolution and like everyone else, will deal with the new style of racing.

“That’s just the way it is," he said. "We did a lot of work this off season. To NASCAR’s credit they’ve been working really hard trying to put it back into the driver’s hands and give the driver’s control of their destiny instead of pairing up and having to take care of each other out there on the race track all the time. You want to be stubborn and looking out for yourself only, that’s how you want to do it so they are trying to go in that direction.

"I give them a lot of credit for trying really hard and hopefully we made a lot of good changes so we will see. Everybody is really gotta be anticipated, it’s got to be exciting for everybody, fans, media anticipate what’s going to happen tomorrow and the Shootout Saturday night. There should be a lot of people glued to the action.”

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