Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:39 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 6:02 pm

Jimmie Johnson focused on championship return

By Pete Pistone

Image Detail
(Johnson is determined to bring the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet back to title contention)

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jimmie Johnson's title run coming to an end last season definitely registered with the five-time Sprint Cup champion.

Johnson is still smarting from what he considers a disappointing effort in 2011 that saw his impressive streak of championships run out.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver says he learned a lot from the effort of a year ago and has spent the off-season figuring out how to come back even stronger.

“I didn’t realize that over the five years or six years that we didn’t change as much maybe as we needed to and evolve," Johnson said during Thursday's Daytona Media Day.  "It’s tough to leave a successful road map and (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and the team and I have been good at reinventing ourselves each year.  But until the streak was broken looking back at this off season what we have been through and trying to rebuild the team and make sure we are looking at everything we can, we have a different depth.  I’m focusing on my interaction with the team, how I provide information with the team, what information I’m looking at, there are a lot of things I haven’t done in the past and I felt like I was one of the most in depth drivers out there.

"I’m trying to even take that steps further now, so because of the loss we have been able to dig deeper and get away from the road map we’ve built and challenge ourselves more. At the same time the garage area has been extremely focused on everything the No. 48 car has done over the last six years, so maybe years three or four a lot of guys came out direction and really paid attention to what we were doing and they caught us and we got beat.  We have to reinvent ourselves in some ways this year and we are ready for it.”   

Johnson believes starting the year on a positive note will go a long way in helping re-establish himself as a title contender this season. However he also understands the difference between Speedweeks, the Daytona 500 and then the rest of the grueling season so is not putting too much pressure on himself or the team.

But of course Johnson will still be gunning hard for a win a week from Sunday.

“Yeah, it’s important, I look at the Daytona 500 as we are only here to win the race if we finish fifth, sure the points are nice, but I like a lot of others will do anything to win this race even if it means a last lap crash and you finish 40th," said Johnson. "Once we get out of this race, then a quick start, I think means a lot.  It reflects on the off season and what the teams have done there.

"Anytime you can get points in your back pocket and start separating yourself from tenth or win a race or two to fix that wild card scenario and try to lock yourself in.  It makes you sleep better.  Nobody likes to go to Richmond stressing about that race. That mindset starts at Phoenix and you really start thinking about things then.  The [Daytona] 500 it is the biggest race we have so you’re going to do anything and everything you can to win it.” 

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 3:12 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 10:28 pm

Danica Patrick comfortable in NASCAR world

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.- Danica Patrick is set to embark on her full-time NASCAR career and says she feels comfortable in her no longer new surroundings.

She'll run a complete Nationwide Series program from JR Motorsports in addition to a 10 race Sprint Cup Series schedule, beginning with her first career Daytona 500.

The former open wheel regular is keeping realistic expectations of her initial appearance in "The Great American Race."

“I think that with a race like Daytona, well first off it’s the Daytona 500 and everybody wants to win it of course," Patrick said. "It’s just going to depend on the looking back at the picture of the race and did you run up front at all, what happened, did I make any mistakes, but let’s face it great drivers don’t have great big speedway races because it depends on so many other factors like the tandem running or like staying in touch with the pack or like a pit stop or something like that or staying out of trouble. Like I said you can get caught in an accident that you just couldn’t see through to miss and your day is over.

So I don’t think there is a position that you can put on a race like this because it’s wide open for various levels of experienced drivers to do well. Ultimately we all want to win but at the end of the day it’s going to depend on probably looking back at the race and assessing my mistake level probably.”

Patrick is relieved to have some NASCAR experience under her belt - both behind the wheel as well as simply dealing with the stock car racing culture - and hopes that will be beneficial to growth in 2012.

“Yeah, and I think that comes from learning how it works and getting comfortable and familiar," Patrick said. "I’m very good when I know what’s coming. When I get surprised and things getting added on the schedule is when I get frustrated because expectation levels are everything for me. But not only from my perspective am I more comfortable now but from my assistant’s perspective and the help she gets from Junior Motorsports and Stewart-Hass, I think we all have a much better picture of how to do everything and how to keep it in line and how to help you folks do your job.”
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Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:36 pm
Edited on: February 16, 2012 2:56 pm

2012 Daytona 500 entry list released

Posted by Pete Pistone


No. 1  Jamie McMurray, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

No. 2  Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing
No. 5  Kasey Kahne, Hendrick Motorsports 
No. 6  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Roush Fenway Racing
No. 7  Robby Gordon, Robby Gordon Motorsports
No. 09 Kenny Wallace, RAB Racing
No. 9  Marcos Ambrose, Richard Petty Motorsports 
No. 10 Danica Patrick, Tommy Baldwin Racing
No. 11 Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing
No. 13 Casey Mears, Germain Racing
No. 14 Tony Stewart, Stewart-Haas Racing 
No. 15 Clint Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing
No. 16 Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing 
No. 17 Matt Kenseth, Roush Fenway Racing 
No. 18 Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing 
No. 20 Joey Logano, Joe Gibbs Racing 
No. 21 Trevor Bayne, Wood Brothers Racing
No. 22 AJ Allmendinger, Penske Racing
No. 23 Robert Richardson Jr., R3 Motorsports
No. 24 Jeff Gordon, Hendrick Motorsports
No. 26 Tony Raines, Front Row Motorsports
No. 27 Paul Menard, Richard Childress Racing 
No. 29 Kevin Harvick, Richard Childress Racing
No. 30 David Stremme, Inception Motorsports,
No. 31 Jeff Burton, Richard Childress Racing
No. 32 Terry Labonte, FAS Lane Racing
No. 33 Elliott Sadler, Richard Childress Racing 
No. 34 David Ragan, Front Row Motorsports 
No. 36 Dave Blaney, Tommy Baldwin Racing
No. 37 Mike Wallace, MaxQ Motorsports
No. 38 David Gilliland Front Row Motorsports
No. 39 Ryan Newman, Stewart-Haas Racing
No. 40 Michael Waltrip, Hillman Racing
No. 40 Juan Pablo Montoya, Earnhardt Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates
No. 43 Aric Almirola, Richard Petty Motorsports
No. 47 Bobby Labonte, JTG-Daugherty Racing
No. 48 Jimmie Johnson, Hendrick Motorsports 
No. 49 JJ Yeley, Robinson-Blakeney Racing 
No. 51 Kurt Busch, Phoenix Racing
No. 55 Mark Martin, Michael Waltrip Racing 
No. 56 Martin Truex Jr., Michael Waltrip Racing 
No. 78 Regan Smith, Furniture Row Racing
No. 83 Landon Cassill, BK Racing
No. 87 Joe Nemechek, NEMCO Motorsports
No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports
No. 93 David Reutimann, BK Racing
No. 97 Bill Elliott, NEMCO Motorsports
No. 98 Michael McDowell, Phil Parsons Racing
No. 99 Carl Edwards, Roush Fenway Racing 


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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 16, 2012 2:26 pm

Brad Keselowski a fan of social media

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - If you're a NASCAR fan that utilizes Twitter, chances are you'll run across the thoughts of Brad Keselowski.

The Penske Racing driver is very active on the social media front (@keselowski) and in fact has created a program that provides fans with an opportunity to have their Twitter handles displayed on his own team's Camping World Truck Series entry, that will be driven full-time by Parker Kilgerman this season.

“I was thinking about this the other day when I was around my dad," Keselowski said of his social media philosophy.  "I grew up with him and the race team in the Camping World Truck Series.  I was thinking about his approach and remember thinking about how that was so 1990’s.  I was thinking about how it’s a reflection on social media and how much from just five years ago the world has changed and social media is a large part of that.  It affects the sport of NASCAR and how we engage our fans and our sponsors.  I think those that are able to be leaders in that matter will come out on top.  This new age of NASCAR that’s coming where social media has so much power, I’m committed to being one of those guys, committed more than just in words.  I spent a pretty good chunk of money on the Twitter stuff that I have for the truck campaign.”

As for whether he tries to dial down his thoughts before Tweeting, Keselowski says what you read is from the hear.
“Absolutely not.  If I have to think about it twice, it’s not authentic," he said.  "If I have to stop and think, ‘If I should cut out this world not to make so and so mad’, I’m a big believer in authenticity.  I’ve had a few moments where I’ve had to explain myself.”

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 1:00 pm

Daytona repeat on Trevor Bayne's mind

By Pete Pistone

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Defending Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne is under the spotlight this season as the young driver tries to follow-up his Cinderella win a year ago with a repeat trip to victory lane in "The Great American Race."

Bayne was one of the main attractions of Thursday's annual Daytona 500 Media Day and said the Wood Brothers team has its sights set squarely on a second straight 500 victory.

"That’s the plan," Bayne said. "We wouldn’t have come if we didn’t think we could win.  There’s a little bit more pressure this year.  We’re not exactly flying under the radar, but I think we can go for it, that’s for sure.” 

After his breakthrough season last year that also included his first career Nationwide Series win at Texas Motor Speedway, Bayne tries to take his career to the next level. He'll have the same basic Sprint Cup program with the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford and a limited schedule of approximately 15 races.

He has more confidence then he did this time twelve months ago and is still basking in what was accomplished in 2011.

“It’s hard to follow up, you know?  It’s crazy because last year when I came here I was so under the radar," Bayne said.  "I didn’t expect any of this.  I just came in as a guy that had been running Nationwide and had a great opportunity to run with an awesome team, so here I am at Daytona, driving in with my truck.  I qualified third and I remember looking at that podium in the center of the track all weekend long like, ‘How cool would that be to finish third,’ and they were talking about the winnings and just how awesome a top-three would be, and then we win the thing.

I’m driving out and I remember looking at that thing and seeing the 21 at the top of the board and the crazy feeling that was, but I don’t think it even sunk in – like the whole Victory Lane thing.  I’m just bouncing around everywhere and the next day I’m on the plane and I look down and I see that ring and I almost teared up because I’m like, ‘Man, this is real.’  It’s not something you wake up from and go on the next day, so I’m excited to be back here this year.  I’m trying to get back to that same mindset of just appreciating being here to begin with, but you do want to back that up and you do want to win and do all those things again, so, hopefully, we have a better insight of what our goal is.” 

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Posted on: February 16, 2012 10:05 am

Johnson the preseason favorite of NASCAR media

Posted by Brian De Los Santos

On Wednesday, Pete Pistone and I unleashed our 2012 NASCAR season predictions on the world.

Today, NASCAR released a poll it had been taking among NASCAR media members. Jimmie Johnson came out on top, just ahead of Carl Edwards.

In our picks, both Pistone and I felt Johnson would be in the thick of the title hunt yet again, with Pistone picking him to win it all, while I placed him second. We disagreed a bit about Edwards. I'm  pegging Edwards as my preseason favorite, while Pistone think it may take him a year to recover from last season's disappointment.

Here's the complete NASCAR press release:

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2012) – Undoubtedly, Jimmie Johnson would like to forget that the 2011 season ever happened. Apparently, voters in’s annual preseason poll already have.

Members of picked Johnson to reign supreme once again – despite a career-low sixth-place finish in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points.

Johnson received 147 votes in the annual preseason poll, just two more than Carl Edwards, who finished second in last season’s championship points. Rounding out the top 12: defending champion Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.

Voting among the top four was especially close, as Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon were separated by only seven votes. Stewart trailed Johnson by three votes.

“To be honest I'm stoked they did,” Johnson said. “They know racing and know how much last year will motivate us. Now, we need to go out and do our best to make them all look good.”

Media members were also tasked with predicting the final top 10 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR reporters feel déjà vu in NASCAR’s No. 2 series, picking Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to become the first NASCAR Nationwide repeat champion since Martin Truex Jr. accomplished the rare feat in 2004-05.

Stenhouse, who tallied 74 votes, nabbed two more than Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dillon and last season’s runner up Elliott Sadler. Filling out the top 10: Justin Allgaier, Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick, Kenny Wallace, Cole Whitt, Trevor Bayne and Michael Annett.

Johnny Sauter came a scant six points short of winning last season’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. Instead, Austin Dillon wore the 2011 crown. Dillon’s gone now, moving to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and prognosticators believe Sauter will take advantage of his absence.

In the closest vote among the three series, Sauter’s 62 votes barely edged Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ty Dillon (Austin’s little brother) for the top spot. The younger Dillon tallied 61 votes from the media.

Rounding out the top 10: Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton, James Buescheer, Timothy Peters, Parker Kligerman, Joey Coulter, Nelson Piquet Jr., Jason Leffler, Justin Lofton and David Starr.

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Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: February 16, 2012 6:41 am

Michael McDowell named PPR team's Cup driver

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

Fifth-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Michael McDowell will pilot the #98 Ford Fusion for Phil Parsons Racing (PPR) for the entire 2012 Sprint Cup season, it was announced today by PPR's Phil Parsons and new partner Mike Curb. Parsons, the former NASCAR driver and current television commentator on SPEED, merged the assets of his PPR team with Whitney Motorsports during the offseason in an effort to bolster his 2012 Sprint Cup effort.

Curb, owner of Curb Records who also has long and successful history of race team ownership in the NASCAR and open-wheel ranks, among others, becomes a partner in the PPR effort for 2012.

"Combining our efforts with Whitney Motorsports with the support of Mike Curb and having Michael (McDowell) behind the wheel of the #98 Ford means we'll open the season at Daytona better prepared than ever before," Parsons said. "We feel the timing couldn't be better for us to build this program into a proper Sprint Cup Series effort."

The #98 Ford Fusion will run with Roush Yates Racing power under its hood. The team will be headed by veteran crew chief Gene Nead, who has worked with McDowell in previous Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series efforts at PPR and Michael Waltrip Racing.

"I'm particularly excited about this program for a number of reasons," Curb said. "The players who have come together to form this latest effort shows that it's built to succeed, and I'm glad to be a part of it. Michael is a tremendous driving talent and is a wonderful young man. He has a special interest in our Christian music operation at Curb Records and building partnership opportunities involving that segment of our business. It's truly exciting."

McDowell and Curb have already tasted success on the racetrack this season as the 28-year-old driver scored a podium finish in last month's 50th Rolex 24 At Daytona co-driving a Curb Records-sponsored Michael Shank Racing Ford. A second Curb Records-sponsored Michael Shank Racing Ford won the race overall.

"This is the opportunity I've been looking for  to work with various Christian music outlets, Mike Curb and Curb Records, and our other partnerships that are taking shape," said McDowell, who has 84 Sprint Cup starts to his credit. "This opportunity will allow me to expand my brand and put me in a position to work with the types of companies I've been wanting to work with for a long time. On the racetrack, I'm excited about the chance to have my best NASCAR season ever."

Specific partnership announcements involving the #98 Ford for PPR will be made in the coming days. 

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Posted on: February 14, 2012 5:29 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2012 5:33 pm

Daytona 500 ride for David Reutimann

By Pete Pistone

The Sprint Cup Series "mystery team" has struck again and David Reutimann is the beneficiary.

Reutimann will drive a Toyota for the organization - reportedly called BK Racing - that purchased the former Red Bull Racing team's assets and tam up with Landon Cassill for the Daytona 500.

Reutimann confirmed the story Tuesday afternoon with an appearance on SIRIUS/XM NASCAR Radio.

“They’re up there in Statesville thrashing away, getting things ready to go to the Daytona 500,” Reutimann told the "Sirius/XM Speedway" program. “Things came together pretty quickly on this deal. We talked a bit a few days ago, but it took a little longer (to finalize) than I would have liked, simply because they’re trying to do so much at once. We had talks back and forth, exchanged a few text messages, and it has finally gotten to the point where we can make a bit of an announcement.
“They’re a great bunch of people. They’re very serious about what they’re doing. They’ve invested a lot of time and money to get this far, and I’m pretty impressed with what they’ve done."

Reutimann has a 26 race schedule already in place for Tommy Baldwin Racing but Daytona was not part of that plan.

Brian Vickers and Travis Kvapil remain candidates to pair with Cassill at the new team for the balance of the 2012 season.

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