Posted on: February 13, 2012 8:06 pm
 

Michael Waltrip set for 26th Daytona 500

By Pete Pistone

Michael Waltrip has worked out a deal to drive for Hillman Racin gin this year's running of the Daytona 500.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner will pilot the No. 40 entry for the team owned by Mike Hillman with Aaron's sponsorship.

Hillman acquired the Camping World Truck Series assets of Germain Racing after the 2011 season and plans to expand his program to a Sprint Cup effort beginning with Waltrip at Daytona.

“I can’t think of a better way to start off the season than to have Michael Waltrip behind the wheel of our car at Daytona,” said Hillman, who credits longtime friend and co-owner Joe Falk for the inclusion of the Cup program under the Hillman Racing banner. “I’ve been in this sport a long time, but I’ve never been so excited to go to Daytona. To have two Daytona 500 champions at the start of the season – with Ward Burton in the truck and Michael in the Cup car – positions Hillman Racing for a strong debut and a chance to win both races.” 

Waltrip will now compete against the three teams he owns and drivers Martin Truex Jr., Mark Martin and Clint Bowyer in the biggest race of the year.

 
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Posted on: February 13, 2012 4:41 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 4:41 pm
 

Points swap gives Mark Martin Daytona 500 start

By Pete Pistone

More points swapping and acquisition between race teams has landed veteran Mark Martin with a guaranteed starting position in this year's Daytona 500.

Michael Waltrip Racing has worked out an agreement to transfer points from the FasLane Racing team to the No. 55 Toyota that Martin will pilot in 25 races this season.

FasLane wound up inside the Top 35 of owner points last year and thus was guaranteed a starting spot in the first five events of the new year including the season-opening Daytona 500.

While Waltrip will drive the No. 55 entry in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, Martin will now not have to worry about qualifying for the Daytona 500 through time trials or the Gatorade Duel qualifying races.

FasLane is still expected to field a car this Sprint Cup Series season and veterans Terry Labonte and Ken Schrader remain part of the roster. Labonte brings a past champion's provisional with him that would guarantee a Daytona 500 start for the team if he is tabbed to drive in the season opener.

 
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Posted on: February 13, 2012 3:18 pm
 

Budweiser Shootout entry list released

By Pete Pistone

Here are the eligible drivers for Saturday night's running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway. There are severakl drivers eligible for the exhibition race that currently do not have rides for th eevent:

2012 Budweiser Shootout Entry List

1 - Jamie McMurray
2 - Brad Keselowski
5 - Kasey Kahne
9 - Marcos Ambrose
11 - Denny Hamlin
14 - Tony Stewart
15 - Clint Bowyer
16 - Greg Biffle
17 - Matt Kenseth
18 - Kyle Busch
20 - Joey Logano
22 - AJ Allmendinger
24 - Jeff Gordon
27 - Paul Menard
29 - Kevin Harvick
31 - Jeff Burton
34 - David Ragan
39 - Ryan Newman
42 - Juan Pablo Montoya
48 - Jimmie Johnson
51 - Kurt Busch
55 - Michael Waltrip
56 - Martin Truex Jr.
88 - Dale Earnhardt Jr.
99 - Carl Edwards 

Eligible but yet not entered: 

Mark Martin
Brian Vickers
Bill Elliott
Geoff Bodine
Derrike Cope
Trevor Bayne
Terry Labonte
Ken Schrader 

 
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Posted on: February 13, 2012 2:13 pm
Edited on: February 13, 2012 3:10 pm
 

Unpredictable Daytona Speedweeks lies ahead

By Pete Pistone


Image Detail
(Trevor Bayne's win in last year's Daytona 500 set the tone for a competitive and exciting 2011 season)


The new NASCAR season is about to dawn as it has since 1959 when “The World Center of Racing” hosts Speedweeks. 

Teams have been hard at work preparing for their 10 days in Florida that will no doubt produce surprises, frustration and excitement culminating with the 54th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26.

* DAYTONA SPEEDWEEKS SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Things are a week later than usual at Daytona as NASCAR pushed back the proceedings in advance of the NFL’s proposed move of the Super Bowl to President’s Day weekend in the near future. The separation of the Daytona 500 from the NFL shadow was a wise move to get in front of and has also helped whet the appetites for hungry race fans anxious for the start of the season. 

But before “The Great American Race” there will be much to watch at Daytona beginning later this week so we offer you a quick “Guide to Speedweeks 2012:” 

Thursday, February 16 – Media Day

After one of the busiest and most memorable offseasons in NASCAR history, drivers will officially gather to meet the media in a daylong gathering held in a mammoth tent just outside the speedway. Sure we heard from drivers during Preseason Thunder testing in January and during the annual Media Tour in Charlotte, but Daytona Media Day offers one more chance to hear how excited everyone is for the coming campaign. It’s also a chance to see some of the new sponsor and color combinations as well as who stayed on their workout plan during the winter and who strayed from the program. 

Saturday, February 18 – ARCA 200/Budweiser Shootout

The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) stock car series begins its 60<sup>th</sup> season of activity with its annual 200-mile Daytona event. Many of today’s NASCAR stars came through the ARCA Series over the years and young drivers like Brandon McReynolds, Chris Buescher, Mikey Kile and Max Gresham bear watching Saturday afternoon. 

The main event then comes with Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout, an exhibition race open to the top 25 drivers in last year’s point standings as well as others who have won at Daytona in recent years, a criteria that should produce one of the race’s largest fields in history at more than 30. Although no points are on the line, there is a healthy payday to the winner of the event, which is broken into two segments of 25 and 50 laps. But more importantly, it's the first real opportunity for teams to see NASCAR’s new rule package in place after days of testing last month in Daytona. The bigger restrictor plates, smaller spoilers and cooling system modifications -– all designed to at the very least limit the two-car tandem draft that has been so poorly received by a majority of fans –- will get a workout in the Shootout and perhaps provide a sneak peak of what to expect later in the week. 

Sunday, February 19 – Daytona 500 Qualifying

Sprint Cup drivers will get two laps around the 2.5-mile speedway in Sunday’s qualifying session with the fastest of the pair the official mark. However, unlike the other 35 races of the season, this qualifying session is unique in only the front row for the Daytona 500 is locked in. The rest of the starting lineup will be determined through Thursday’s two 150-mile qualifying races with a combination of finishing positions, points and qualifying speeds deciding the 43-car field.

Thursday, February 23 – Gatorade Duel at Daytona

The two Thursday races have lost some of their luster from the days of the “go or go home” heat races they were before NASCAR instituted the Top 35 rule. Now drivers who finished inside the first 35 of last year’s point standings are guaranteed berths in the Daytona 500, so, for some, these two races don’t carry as much pressure as years past. Drivers who qualified in odd spots during Sunday’s time trials make up one race while the even qualifiers comprise the second race. It’s still imperative for some outside the Top 35 to finish high enough in their race to make the field, so although it’s limited, the day does carry a certain amount of drama.


Image Detail
(Michael Waltrip scored an emotional victory in last season's truck series opener at Daytona)

Friday, February 24 – Camping World Truck Series NextEra Energy 250

The season opener for the NCWTS is usually a competitive and at times slam bang affair. Last year’s race saw Michael Waltrip score an emotional win 10 years to the day after his 2001 Daytona 500 victory. This year’s Truck Series features an eclectic mix of young drivers trying to make a name for themselves and veterans looking to add to their careers. Ty Dillon takes the championship-winning ride of his older brother Austin and will face a field that includes four-time champion Ron Hornaday, former champ Mike Skinner, 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, Jason Leffler in Kyle Busch’s truck and another former Daytona winner in Todd Bodine among others.

Saturday, February 25 – Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300

This race has been the Tony Stewart show for the last four years with “Smoke” winning the season-opening race every year since 2008 and victorious in six of the last seven seasons. He’ll try it again this year and as always will battle of stellar field of Sprint Cup drivers as well as Nationwide regulars. The race will mark the debut of Austin Dillon’s NWS effort for Richard Childress Racing while Danica Patrick begins her full-time assault on the series crown. Cole Whitt, Elliott Sadler and defending series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. -- back for another complete season for Roush Fenway Racing -- will be others to watch. 

Sunday, February 26 – Daytona 500

Last year’s Cinderella story of Trevor Bayne bringing the storied Wood Brothers to Victory Lane was the start of what turned out to be what I considered the best season in NASCAR history. The number of unknowns heading into this year’s race has even the most seasoned follower wondering what will transpire once the green flag flies. Will the new rules make an impact in the style of racing? Which news driver-crew chief combinations will prosper? What teammates will be able to work together in the draft and will anyone be left out in the cold ala the last restrictor plate race at Talladega? How will the new electronic fuel injection system function? Can either Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Danica Patrick pull off a victory that would send NASCAR into the stratosphere of publicity and exposure? 

It promises to be one of the most intriguing Speedweeks in recent history. We’ll all find out together when we roll into Daytona later this week. 

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @PPistone on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed      

 
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Posted on: February 13, 2012 11:42 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 2:59 pm
 

2012 Daytona Speedweeks Schedule

By Pete Pistone

Here's this year's official Daytona Speedweeks schedule of events with radio/television coverage information. All times are Eastern:


Date Event Time TV
THURS 2/16 ARCA Racing Series Practice 1 p.m.-5 p.m.  
FRI 2/17 ARCA Racing Series Qualifying 2 p.m.  
  Budwiser Shootout Practice 5 p.m.-5:45 p.m. SPEED
  Final Budweiser Shootout Practice 6:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m. SPEED
  Drawing for Budweiser Shootout Lineup 8 p.m. SPEED (8:30 p.m.)
SAT 2/18 ARCA Racing Series Final Practice 10 a.m. -10:45 a.m.  
  Sprint Cup Series Practice 11 a.m.-1 p.m. SPEED
  Sprint Cup Series Practice 2 p.m.-3:45 p.m. SPEED
  ARCA Racing Series Lucas Oil SLick Mist 200 4:30 p.m. SPEED
  Radio Pre-Race 7 p.m. MRN
  Sprint Cup Series Budweiser Shootout 8 p.m. FOX
SUN 2/19 Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 Qualifying 1 p.m. MRN/FOX
WED 2/22 Sprint Cup Series Practice 12 p.m.-1:30 p.m.  
  Sprint Cup Series Practice 2:30 p.m.-4 p.m.  
THURS 2/23 Nationwide Series Practice 9 a.m.-9:50 a.m.  
  Nationwide Series Final Practice 10:15 a.m.-11:50 a.m.  
  Camping World Truck Series Practice 12:10 p.m.-1 p.m.  
  Radio Pre-Race  1 p.m. MRN
  TV Pre-Race   SPEED
  Sprint Cup Series Gatorade Duel 2 p.m. MRN/SPEED
  Camping World Truck Series Final Practice 6 p.m.-7:20 p.m.  
FRI 2/24 Sprint Cup Series Practice 11 a.m.-12 p.m.  
  Sprint Cup Series Practice 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.  
  Nationwide Series Qualifying 2:05 p.m.  
  Camping World Truck Series Qualifying 4:05 p.m.  
  Radio Pre-Race 7:15 p.m. MRN
  TV Pre-Race   SPEED
  Truck Series NextEra Energy Resources 250 7:30 p.m. MRN/SPEED
SAT 2/25 Sprint Cup Series Final Practice 10:30 a.m.-12 p.m.  
  Radio Pre-Race   MRN
  TV Pre-Race   ESPN2
  Nationwide Series DRIVE4COPD 300 1:15 p.m. MRN/ESPN2
SUN 2/26 Radio Pre-Race 12 p.m. MRN
  TV Pre-Race 12 p.m. FOX
  Daytona 500 1 p.m. MRN/FOX
 
 
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Posted on: February 13, 2012 11:38 am
Edited on: February 14, 2012 6:21 am
 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. lands sponsor for Daytona

Posted by Pete Pistone

From News Release

CONCORD, N.C. (Feb. 10, 2012) – Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2011 NASCAR Nationwide champion, will be sponsored by Kellogg Company and its Pop-Tarts and Rice Krispies Treats brands for the Nationwide season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 25, 2012. The Rice Krispies Treats logo will be featured on the hood of the No. 6 Ford Mustang with the Pop-Tarts logo accenting the quarter and TV panels, as Stenhouse begins defense of his 2011 NNS title

“I am excited about having Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts and Rice Krispies Treats on our car for the season opener at Daytona,” said Stenhouse. “Kellogg Company has been a great partner of our Roush Fenway organization. I look forward to eating my favorite breakfast food, blueberry Pop-Tarts, during SpeedWeeks.”

“Ricky is a fantastic driver and we are thrilled that he is a true fan of Kellogg’s products,” said Melissa Pawlowicz, senior director of Kellogg Integrated Promotions.   “Our partnership with Roush Fenway Racing has proven to be a great way for us to share the excitement of NASCAR with our consumers and we are excited to expand our involvement.”

In his four career starts at Daytona International Speedway, Stenhouse has one top-five and two top-10 finishes.
 

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Posted on: February 13, 2012 11:28 am
Edited on: February 13, 2012 11:28 am
 

HendrickCars.com to sponsor three NASCAR teams

By Pete Pistone

HendrickCars.com will support three Sprint Cup team efforts this season ironically including two of Hendrick Motorsports' Sprint Cup rivals.

The retail automotive website, which supports Rich Hendrick's business ventures outside his NASCAR program, will lend its support to both Phoenix Racing and Richard Childress Racing in 2012.

The program will kick off during Speedweeks in Daytona Beach, Fla., with primary sponsorship of Phoenix Racing and 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch in the Feb. 25 Nationwide Series race and Feb. 26 Daytona 500. It will continue with primary sponsorship of JR Motorsports and driver Cole Whitt in the March 17 Nationwide event at Bristol Motor Speedway.

In addition, HendrickCars.com will be a major associate sponsor of the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet with driver Elliott Sadler in NASCAR's biggest race, the Daytona 500.

"Last year's Daytona 500 broadcast alone averaged more than 15 million viewers, and we expect 2012 will be even stronger," said Hendrick, who in addition to owning Hendrick Motorsports is also Chairman of Hendrick Automotive Group, which owns HendrickCars.com. "Combined with our sponsorship in the Nationwide Series, that's tens of millions of people seeing our brand, hearing our message and then visiting HendrickCars.com. We wanted to showcase the new site, and there's no more effective marketing tool than NASCAR."

James Finch's Phoenix team, which purchases equipment from Hendrick, is obviously pleased with the additional backing for the biggest race of the season.

"We're proud to have HendrickCars.com as our primary sponsor for both races in Daytona," said Finch. "The Hendrick people know how well sponsorships like this work when they're done the right way. Daytona is a big opportunity for our team to build some positive momentum to start the season. Having a sponsor for Speedweeks means a lot to us, and we're going to do everything we can to put HendrickCars.com up front."

The sponsorship of Whitt pairs HendrickCars.com with an up-and-coming young driver and Nationwide Series rookie-of-the-year contender. In his first season at JR Motorsports, Whitt, 20, is joining a No. 88 team that finished fourth in the championship standings in 2011.

"We feel fortunate to be a part of the initiative to drive awareness of HendrickCars.com and the new inventory of cars," said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Vice President of JR Motorsports. "We pride ourselves on having assets both on and off the track to support our sponsors' marketing goals. HendrickCars.com has such an incredible inventory of new and used cars -- literally something for everybody -- and we look forward to doing our part to help with its continued success."

Hendrick is hoping to replicate the success of previous Daytona sponsorships.

In 2009, HendrickCars.com sponsored driver Tony Stewart in the season-opening Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Stewart led 23 laps on his way to winning the event, which drove record traffic to HendrickCars.com.

"Last time HendrickCars.com was a major sponsor of a car at Daytona, the response was overwhelming," said Hendrick, who also is the owner of championship-winning NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports. "It was a big success and ultimately helped drive sales. If we do our part by building a great program, these sponsorships will be another business win for us."

In 2011, HendrickCars.com was a sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott, who competes full-time in the NASCAR K&N Series East. HendrickCars.com will continue to support Elliott in 2012, along with having associate sponsor placement on the No. 5 Chevrolet of Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne throughout the entire Sprint Cup Series season. 

  
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Posted on: February 10, 2012 6:15 pm
Edited on: February 10, 2012 6:16 pm
 

Team suspends John Wes Townley after DUI

By Pete Pistone



John Wes Townley was charged with DUI on Tuesday.
(John Wes Townley was charged with DUI on Tuesday - Oconee County Sheriff's Office Photo)


NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver John Wes Townley was suspended by RAB Racing in the aftermath of the driver's DUI arrest earlier this week.

Team owner Robby Benton released a statement on Friday regarding the decision to replace Wes Townley as driver for its No. 09 entry immediately.

"Obviously, this is an unfortunate situation," said team Benton.  "However, we have to react to the severity of the incident accordingly.  His actions do not reflect those of RAB Racing, nor the sponsors associated with the team.

"John Wes has accepted full responsibility and will take the necessary personal steps in order to correct his actions, among other internal sanctions. We stand by John Wes and will welcome him back to the team at the appropriate time."

Wes Townley had been out of NASCAR for more than a year after an unsuccessful Nationwide Series effort.

Townley was charged with DUI after crashing his 2012 BMW into a telephone pole in his native Georgia Tuesday; his second alcohol-related incident in the last two years. According to a report in The Athens Banner-Herald a 911 caller early Tuesday morning reported "a suspicious man knocking on the back door of a home.” Officials discovered Townley "swaying from side to side and bleeding from his bare feet" and disoriented, and he was arrested and charged with DUI. Sherriff’s deputies reportedly found blood on the seat and deployed airbags of Townley’s BMW.

NASCAR has been in close communication with the team and will continue to monitor the situation until it is decided whether Townley returns as driver.

 
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