Posted on: January 28, 2011 3:25 pm
Edited on: January 28, 2011 3:26 pm

Lottery winner starts truck team

Posted By Pete Pistone

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran driver Jason White has hit the jackpot - literally.

Sirius NASCAR Radio's "Sirius Speedway" reports White will team up for the upcoming NCWTS season with the brand new Joe Denette Motorsports team. Denette is a lifelong race fan who won the $75.6 million Virginia State Lottery in May of 2009. Denette took the $47.8 million lump sum payment and has decided to invest a portion of it into a NASCAR race team.

White will bring long-time sponsor gunbroker.com along with him to the start-up team and after finishing tenth in the standings a year ago has high hopes for 2011.

The team will run its operation from the Tri-Star Motorsports Nationwide Series operation in Mooresville, North Carolina and there are plans to possibly field a second entry in selected races.

Posted on: January 28, 2011 12:13 pm

Kvapil joins Moss truck series team

Posted By Pete Pistone

Former Camping World Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil has signed on to pilot the Randy Moss Motorsports Toyota entry for the 2011 season.

Kvapil replaces veteran Mike Skinner who parted ways with the team at the end of last season.

The Janesville, Wisconsin native will drive the team's No. 5 Toyota Tundra and have veteran Ricky Viers as crew chief.

"I'm excited to be competing with Randy Moss Motorsports and International Truck/Monaco RVs for the 2011 season," said Kvapil. "The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a great series with a lot of tough competition and I'm excited to be there full-time."

Kvapil won the 2003 series title and has scored nine wins in his NCWTS career.

Viers was part of Roush Fenway Racing's Nationwide Series crew chief rotation in 2010 and is a 28-year veteran of NASCAR racing.

The team will debut its new drivers as well as a new paint scheme at the series' season opener on February 18th at Daytona.
Posted on: January 27, 2011 4:25 pm

Kyle Busch sets schedule

Posted By Pete Pistone

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. - Kyle Busch has his 2011 NASCAR racing plans in place and will once again take part in a busy schedule across all three of NASCAR's top divisions.

During Thursday's NASCAR Sprint Media Tour visit to Joe Gibbs Racing, Busch outlined his schedule for the coming year which will include another assault on the Sprint Cup Series championship behind the wheel of the JGR No. 18 Toyota.

Busch will also run fifteen races in his Kyle Busch Motorsports NASCAR Camping World Truck Series entry. He plans on trying to run another truck in selected events with a driver to be determined if sponsorship can be found.

The former Nationwide Series champion will run a JGR Toyota in 20-22 events in NASCAR's number two series teaming up with Cup teammates Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano, who will split driving duties in the No. 20 JGR Camry. The team will also field a full-time Nationwide effort for former truck series driver Brian Scott.

The visit to the Gibbs headquarters included a celebration of the team's 20th anniversary in NASCAR. Former JGR Sprint Cup champions Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte were on hand to commemorate the occasion which also included a video presentation from Dale Jarrett, who gave Gibbs a victory in the Daytona 500.

The JGR stop was the final event of the 2011 Media Tour.
Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 27, 2011 2:17 pm

NASCAR start times move to avoid NFL

Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - NASCAR will stray from last year's standardized start times this season in an effort to boost sagging television ratings.

Specifically NASCAR races in the last third of the season will slide back to a later green flag to avoid going head-to-head with NFL kickoffs.

While the majority of the races televised in the first half of the year as part of the FOX television package will remain in the 1 p.m. ET start range, green flags will slide back later in the year.

A 2 p.m. ET beginning is the plan for most of the races in September through November with west coast venues including Texas and Phoenix near the tail end of the schedule, going to a 3 p.m. ET start.

The Homestead-Miami season-ending Ford 400 will also begin at 3 p.m. ET.

The decision is a major departure from the highly-touted standard start time plan which was introduced last year and attributed to fan request.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 27, 2011 1:50 pm

Edwards may not run full Nationwide series

Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - Carl Edwards may not compete in the entire NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011.

Last week's announcement that NASCAR would mandate drivers be eligible for only one championship in 2011 took Edwards from title contention this season. However he told reporters at last week's Preseason Thunder test session in Daytona he still planned on running the whole series despite the policy change.

During Thursday's NASCAR Sprint Media Tour stop at Roush Fenway Racing, Edwards and team owner Jack Roush both stressed that unless the No. 60 entry can find sponsorship for the whole year only a partial schedule may be run.

"All of our Sprint Cup teams are fully funded for the entire year," Roush said of the Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle and David Ragan fleet in NASCAR's top series. "We're planning on running Carl in the Nationwide Series along with Trevor Bayne and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. But that plan may have to be adjusted for Carl depending on our sponsorship situation."

Edwards and defending series champion Brad Keselowski had intended to take part in the full 35-race Nationwide calendar even with the championship limitation. Thursday's news could leave only Keselowski as the lone Cup regular planning to compete full-time in the series in 2011."

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 26, 2011 8:58 pm
Edited on: January 26, 2011 9:44 pm

New NASCAR rules miss the mark

Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - The winds of change blew through NASCAR as expected on Wednesday night during CEO Brian France's annual "State of the Sport" address. Now we'll have to see if it's nothing but a lot of hot air.

As expected, France laid out huge changes to the NASCAR championship system that are intended to impact both the regular season and the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But at the end of the day fans may be even more confused on how NASCAR tabulates points and crowns its champion.

Brian France (Getty Images) The championship system that had been in place for more than three decades has been ditched in favor of a "simpler" format that awards points on a 43-1 scale through the finishing field. As with the previous plan, bonus points will be distributed for winning the race, leading a lap or leading the most laps.

However although the numerals in the post-race results rundown may look different the end result will be nearly the same.  The emphasis on winning that NASCAR has preached in recents months and years wasn't addressed at all. Consistency will be paramount in winning a championship as it has been for more than sixty years.

Winning does play a role in at least making the Chase with the top ten in points after the 26th race of the regular season joined by the next two drivers (who reside within the top twenty in the standings) with the most victories. If such a policy were in play last season, Jamie McMurray - despite missing the Chase cut sitting outside the first twelve in the point standings - would have made the playoffs on the strength of his three victories.

But let's not get mired in too many of the specifics of numbers and distribution and making the twelve driver Chase field. For all intents and purposes not much has changed except a few digits.

Rather let's look at a bigger picture and simply ask - why?

Why did NASCAR feel compelled to scrap a point system that had served the sport since 1975. Why did the sanctioning body make changes to its controversial Chase championship format for the fourth time since its inception in 2004? And what was the reason to ignore what France himself said two years ago that the best course of action for the NASCAR was to stay the course and not make any huge modifications to the sport?

Only those inside the halls in Daytona Beach know those answers for sure. But the perception from many - including the most important faction of all the fan base - is that there is no clear direction in major league stock car racing.

All sports make changes to their formats for a variety of reasons. Whether it's a designated hitter in baseball, wild cards in the NFL, a shootout in hockey or the three point shot in the NBA. Sports need to evolve from time to time and play to the tastes of their audience. NASCAR is no different but since graduating to the level of big time mainstream sport about ten years ago, the sanctioning body has reached the tipping point in the change category.

The very credibility of NASCAR has taken a hit in recent years, not so much for what has changed but rather for the frequency of those changes.

How can a championship format be validated when the parameters change on nearly a yearly basis? Traditions are built in sports over time but NASCAR seems to change its mind as much as a teenage girl shopping for a prom dress.

After two of its biggest stars in Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon missed the Chase early in its existence, the field was raised from ten to twelve drivers in what appeared to be a response to ensure its names were part of the playoffs.

When fans complained that winning wasn't as big a deal as it should be, the Chase seedings were suddenly based on victories in the regular season.

Now after McMurray won three of the sport's biggest events of the season last year including the Daytona 500 yet wasn't eligible for the championship, the new Chase policy reflects a correction for that scenario.

With sagging attendance and declining television ratings, perhaps the panic button is within reach more than it should be. While those numbers are down, NASCAR still ranks behind the NFL on TV and regularly draws 100,000 or more fans on a consistent basis. Still nothing to sneeze at.

The on track product was the shining star a year ago and the "Boys Have at It" era did exactly what NASCAR had hoped for when that mantra was rolled out in January of 2010.  Yet there was not an even a mention of that at this year's "State of the Sport" address.

That tells fans there is no consistency within the sport, that whatever might have seemed important earlier gets shuffled to the back burner in short order if another flavor of the day issue needs to be addressed. And that more than anything is hurting the sport. It's not Jimmie Johnson's dominance, crummy television broadcasts or people butchering the National Anthem.

Let the racers race. Keep putting on what I still believe is the best form of racing in this country and maybe around the world. Build the personalities of the sport into household names and let the fans feel they have a vested interest in a sport that became huge for those very reasons.

Mixing up points, changing championship systems, making knee jerk reactions and swapping one set of numbers for another won't do anything to engage fans in NASCAR.

By the way, under the new point system if a driver wins the race, leads a lap and leads the most laps his total points for the effort will be.......48.

For those of you keeping score at home that's Jimmie Johnson's number.

Unless NASCAR decides to change it.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 25, 2011 5:44 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 5:50 pm

Media a subject of Media Tour

Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - The press members that have gathered in Charlotte this week are here to cover the news prior to the start of the 2011 NASCAR season. But a couple of stories that have broken out in the early going have made the media the news.

It started at the tail-end of Monday's Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing presentation when television analyst Larry McReynolds, who served as emcee for the affair, ended the gathering with a lecture to the media audience.

"You all know that no matter what role you play, we've got to roll our sleeves up and we've got a lot of work to do in 2011 to get this sport back where it was at one time," McReynolds told the crowd, an opening statement that was met with audible groans from several areas of the room. "I know it's easy to write about all the bad things and I know it can't all be about the good things, but the only thing I reach out to you:

"If it's television ratings, we know the ratings are down. How about also promoting that we're second only to the NFL? If there's 25,000 empty seats in Michigan, how about making sure you document there's still over 100,000 people in those grandstands.

Things like that will get our sport back to where we were, along with storylines like this (EGR) group right here with the type of racing that we had in 2010."

It's not the first time that McReynolds has chastised the media. However it is somewhat ironic since the former crew chief IS a member of the media as an analyst for FOX, TNT and SPEED.

It's also not the first time the "Be Positive" mantra has been tossed out to the assembled media masses during this annual trek to Charlotte. Last year's media tour was also peppered with several pep talks to encourage a more positive view of the sport by a number of drivers, team owners and NASCAR officials.

The bottom line however is pretty simple. It's not the media's job - in any sport - to only tell the positive side of the story. From what I remember in journalism and broadcasting school (first one who says how could I possibly remember anything from that long ago gets smacked), the media's first and foremost responsibility is to report the truth. 

The truth is that NASCAR, while not close to dying or falling completely apart anytime soon, has hit upon troubled times. For a variety of reasons. I believe it's cyclical and NASCAR is in a downward trend not unlike what other big time sports go through. I remember when the NHL nearly became extinct, when the NBA was so far off the radar the championship finals were televised on tape delay and when Major League Baseball struggled to find an audience after one of several labor disputes and strikes.

Do I believe NASCAR will bounce back? My opinion is yes, perhaps not to the level it enjoyed during the boom period of about a decade ago but certainly with a bigger audience than its generating right now. The on-track product is the best it's ever been and the stories that keep unfolding on almost a daily basis still make NASCAR a pretty entertaining and engaging form of sport.

But as a reporter it's my duty to you the reader to give it to you straight. I believe sports fans are smart enough to be able to take information and facts and make their own decision. Sugar coating and propaganda are an insult to both the reporter and the fan.

Truth be told, today's NASCAR fan is much different than those of twenty or thirty years ago. Heck, it's probably safe to say today's NASCAR fan doesn't compare much to maybe only five years ago.

Attention spans, lifestyles and how people go about following sports have all added up to change the landscape dramatically.

Which brings us to media story number two of the week and FOX Sports president David Hill's comments.

The outspoken Hill held court with the media on Monday night and basically said things were going to have to change for his network to continue presenting NASCAR coverage.

In Hill's view, races are too long and holding the attention of anyone to sit in front of a television set for more than four hours has become nearly impossible. His answer is a compressed pre-race show, a tighter race distance and a quick recap of the event. Tax, tip out the door at no more than four hours.

FOX has seen ratings decline in recent years and with a new television contract only a handful of years away Hill said it would be a "business decision" when the time comes for possible renewal. Translated that means bigger audiences need to start watching or else Digger and his Friends may be absent from the NASCAR scene for a while.

I agree with Hill's assessment that a shorter event and quicker pace are needed. But there's also the problem of the longest season in professional sports that demand's a fan's attention for ten months, the longest of any pro sport on the planet. However there's way too much money at stake to cut races anytime soon so the grueling schedule won't be going away.

It's not always easy to cover a story in the job of being a media member. It's even harder and quite honestly a bit awkward to sometimes actually be the story.

Category: Auto Racing
Posted on: January 25, 2011 4:04 pm
Edited on: January 25, 2011 4:09 pm

Bruton Smith thinks Chase could be scrapped

Posted By Pete Pistone

CONCORD, N.C. - Speedway Motorsports Inc. president Bruton Smith believes unless NASCAR's fortunes begin to improve the Chase for the Sprint Cup format could be ditched within a few years.

Speaking during this week's NASCAR Sprint Media Tour, Smith told reporters the sanctioning body may have to abandon the controversial championship system unless he sees more positive response.

"It started off as a good idea but maybe it's time to look for something," Smith said. "I know it's not as exciting for fans now as it was initially. I think it started off being very important, but I don't think it's as important as maybe we thought it would be."

Although three of Smith's SMI properties host Chase races - New Hampshire, Charlotte and Texas - Smith isn't sold on the title system being a selling point for ticket sales.

Smith thinks since ticket sale interest and television ratings don't spike for the Chase, it could soon become a thing of the past.

"We may be looking around here in another year or two and maybe we have done something differently and we no longer have the Chase," Smith said. "That's my thinking. In one or two more years, we'll find out. That's just my opinion."

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com