Las Vegas Hosts NASCAR’s Champion’s Week

December 2, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Las Vegas will once again be the host city for NASCAR’s Champion’s Week – the grand finale of the 2013 racing season. Taking place on 3-6 December the program features a host of events with the highlight being Friday’s celebration with NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson and the rest of the top ten drivers being honored for their achievements at the official closing event of the season. Fans can look forward to mingling with NASCAR drivers and their back up teams, getting autographs, viewing the cars and loading up on all sorts of NASCAR merchandise and memorabilia.

Drivers will have the red carpet rolled out for them to walk through the crowd to the stage when the week’s activities kick off on Wednesday with a FanFest on the Third Street Stage on Fremont Street. All 13 Chase drivers will be participating in the event which is free and open to the public, starting at 1:30pm One of the highlights of the FanFest will be a Deal or No Deal-styled show and six fans are in line to win big prizes as part of the event with the fan paired with the winning team walking off with tickets to Friday’s banquet and other great treats.

Thursday features the Myers Brothers 2013 Awards Luncheon at Encore Las Vegas, during which the Champion Sponsor Awards; Champion Crew Chief Award; Most Popular Driver Award, Myers Brothers Award and Buddy Shuman Award will be presented. Jeff Gordon received the coveted Myers Brothers Award in 2012 for his outstanding contributions to the sport and fans are no doubt keen to find out who the 2013 winner will be.

Starting at Miracle Mile, the NASCAR Victory Lap offers fans the opportunity to interact with drivers while getting a feel for what it’s like to be at a NASCAR start line. Heading north on Las Vegas Boulevard, the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion will perform a burnout at the Spring Mountain Road intersection, followed by the remaining Sprint Cup drivers performing donuts around the turn. Heading south, drivers will make a pit stop in front of the Fountains of Bellagio where members of the Drive for Diversity Crew Development Program will perform pit stop duties. Continuing south to the East Harmon Avenue intersection, all Sprint cup drivers will perform donuts before heading toward the finish line back at Miracle Mile.

Be sure to watch out for the NASCAR vehicles that will be appearing all week throughout Las Vegas, offering free giveaways, interactive video games and other fun auto racing activities as part of the NASCAR Champions Week


Vettel Claims Seventh Consecutive Win

November 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

Sebastian Vettel’s flawless win at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this past weekend was his seventh consecutive victory for the 2013 Formula One season, putting the German driver on a par with Michael Schumacher’s record of seven consecutive victories set in 2004. Driving for Red Bull Racing-Renault, Vettel has clocked up eleven wins this season, and with two more races to go in the 2013 Formula 1 series – United States and Brazil – Vettel still has the opportunity to break that record. Teammate Mark Webber took second place, followed by Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean and Fernando Alonso in the top five positions. The top five in points for the season are (in order): Sebastian Vettel (347 points); Fernando Alonso (217 points); Kimi Räikkönen (183 points); Lewis Hamilton (175 points) and Mark Webber (166 points).

Born in Heppenheim, Germany, Sebastian Vettel started karting at the age of three-and-a-half, beginning his racing career in karts series at the age of eight. His talent was immediately evident and at the age of eleven he was accepted into the Red Bull Junior Team. From there he moved to open-wheel cars, winning the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship, winning 18 of his 20 starts. In 2005 Vettel moved into the Formula 3 Euro Series, going on to test for the BMW Sauber team.

In 2006, Vettel became the third driver for BMW Sauber at the 2006 Turkish Grand Prix, and in 2007 was confirmed as BMW’s test driver for 2007. He substituted for Robert Kubica in the United States Grand Prix, earning his first World Championship point by finishing in eighth position. In 2007, Vettel moved to Red Bull’s Scuderia Toro Rosso team, enjoying a reasonably successful season apart from an accident in the Japanese Grand Prix for which he received a penalty, which was later lifted when it was determined that Lewis Hamilton had caused the wreck.

Highlights of the 2008 season included Vettel becoming the youngest driver (21 years and 74 days old) in history to win an F1 Grand Prix when he took the checkered flag in the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, and being named Rookie of the Year at the Autosport Awards. In 2009, Vettel replaced retiree David Coulthard at Red Bull Racing and became the youngest Grand Prix driver to win for two different teams when he won the Chinese Grand Prix in April of that year. The following years saw Vettel claim a number of victories, with the 2013 season being his best yet. Fans will no doubt be keen to see how the final races of the season pan out.

McMurray Takes Victory at Talladega

October 21, 2013 by  
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A multi-car wreck on the final lap of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Camping World 500 aided Jamie McMurray in taking the checkered flag at the Talladega Superspeedway event on Sunday, with Dale Earnhardt Jr and Rick Stenhouse Jr taking second and third places respectively. When rookie Austin Dillon lost control of his car on the final lap of the race, the resulting crash ruled out any chance of Earnhardt challenging McMurray’s position, allowing him to cross the finish line in first place for the first time in a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race since 2010 when he won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Dillon had been running third behind McMurray and Earnhardt when he crashed, with the only other driver involved being Casey Mears.

One of the highlights of Jamie McMurray’s career was his first place spot in the 2002 UAW-GM Quality 500 – a race in which he led 96 of the final 100 laps and beat Bobby Labonte. He was a substitute driver for the event and it was his second Cup start. In 2010, he became one of only three drivers to have won both the Brickyard 400 and Daytona 500 in the same year. In 2003 McMurray focused on the Sprint Cup Series and won Rookie of the Year having had five top-5 finishes and finished 13th overall for the year.

McMurray has been driving the #1 Chevrolet for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing since 2010 – the year he won the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400. In 2011 McMurray earned four top 10s and finished the season in the 27th spot in points, while the 2012 season saw him earn only three top tens. 2013 started off on a disappointing note as he crashed on lap 33 of the Daytona 500, finishing in 32nd place. His first top ten of the season was at Bristol, with his second being in Martinsville. He finished as runner-up to Matt Kenseth at Kentucky and took 11th place at New Hampshire. Although not part of the Chase, McMurray’s victory on Sunday reaffirms his skill as a NASCAR Sprint Cup driver.

The current Top Ten in the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings (in order) are: Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr, Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards.

NASCAR’s Man on the Grassy Knoll

September 10, 2013 by  
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Who’s behind this alleged conspiracy?

Who was behind the alleged manipulation of this weekend’s race Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway? The speculation has grown rampant online and on all social media platforms. Who was the the man on the grassy knoll who decided to pull the trigger and cause such mayhem to our sport?

Was this the brain child of Brian Pattie, the Crew Chief of Clint Bowyers #15 car? We know he was on the radio telling Clint to “itch” his arm. Were Clint Bowyer and Brian Pattie secretly laying in wait since Phoenix for their chance to finally retaliate against Jeff Gordon? I honestly do not believe they had this plan the whole time but it appears it may have been the icing on the cake all while helping a teammate make the Chase. What better reason to pit in the last three laps and fall back behind Joey Logano so he could take 10th place, removing Gordon, all while pushing teammate Martin Truex Jr. into the wild card spot.

How about Clint Bowyer, the fun and sarcastic friendly teammate of Truex Jr. and Brian Vickers? I doubt this was Clint’s plan but he was certainly played the biggest role. After being told to “itch” his arm, Bowyer’s car suddenly spins on track, and causes what may become one of the most unforgettable and penalty laced cautions in NASCAR history.

Maybe Ty Norris, the General Manager for Michael Waltrip Racing, was the alleged Mastermind behind this whole debacle? Jenna Fryer and the Associated Press reviewed radio communications between Norris and driver of the #55 car Brian Vickers, teammate of Marting Truex Jr. The AP reported the following was said; “We’re probably going to pit here on green,” Norris says. “Are you talking to me?” a surprised Vickers asks. Vickers continued to question the call, at one point asking, “I don’t understand, pit right now?” “You’ve got to pit this time. We need that 1 point,” Norris replies. “10-4. Do I got a tire going down?” Vickers asked. Obviously Norris knew something needed to be done to change to order of things. After the pit when Vickers questions if anything was wrong with his tire, Norris just tells him he owes him a kiss. Lucky Brian Vickers, the newest driver to the MWR team, is now undoubtedly wrapped up into this and is certainly a part of it, not that I think any of this was his idea.

Martin Truex Jr. seemed to have the most to gain from this whole situation. He earned a spot in the coveted Chase for the Spint Cup Championship, which means millions of dollars for his team and the potential to be the next Sprint Cup Champion. Truex was running his race hard and was almost there, but it seems a little push from his team is what inevitably got him there. Truex Jr. certainly did not do anything illegal during the race, but what consequences does he now face if his team helped him get there?

Or was it the man himself, was it the wizard, Michael Watrip? Could it be that that one of NASCAR’s most celebrated faces from a legendary NASCAR family could be behind all of this? What if Mikey was behind the whole thing, he was been unusually quiet since the end of the race, considering the pride he must feel being an owner with two of his cars in the Chase. It is an impressive feat for any organization, especially a newer younger group who has risen so quickly.

Well NASCAR has come to the conclusion of their investigation, and they certainly did things much faster than the Warren Commission, but will fans be satisfied they did things right? It seems GM Ty Norris is the Mastermind after all. He was even thrown under the bus by MWR team owner Michael Waltrip in a tweet, with Michael stating, “This wasn’t a master plan or about a spin. It’s about a split-second decision made by Ty to try to help a teammate. I stand by my people.”

Well okay, I guess that takes care of that and Michael is ready to forget this ordeal and let Norris hang out there with the most lengthy penalty, an indefinite suspension by NASCAR. NASCAR President Mike Helton spoke at length regarding the penalties facing MWR which included; a $300,000 fine to MWR, loss of 50 points each levied against Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, and Brian Vickers, and placing all three crew chiefs on probation until 12/31/2013.

Martin Truex Jr. seems to be the biggest loser though, with his 50 point penalty now bouncing him out of the Chase, and putting Ryan Newman in the Chase. Truex appeared to be the only person in this whole investigation who did not even do anything wrong, but he must pay the price for his team’s behavior according to NASCAR.

“Based upon our review of Saturday night’s race at Richmond, it is our determination that the MWR organization attempted to manipulate the outcome of the race. As the sport’s sanctioning body, it is our responsibility to ensure there is a fair and level playing field for all of our competitors and this action today reflects our commitment to that.” NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton.

I agree with Mike Helton on many points, especially when he said this is supposed to be fun, and we will move on. I know we will continue to debate if this was enough, or why Jeff Gordon was’t put back in the Chase, but at some point we do need to close this and move forward with the Chase. I do feel Michael Waltrip himself has walked out of this smelling like a rose for all that has happened, shocked he let Ty Norris take the fall for him and his organization, disappointed he did not take the reigns of a leader.

Article submitted by Mike Sanford – twitter: @msanford146

The Crossroads NASCAR Faces

September 9, 2013 by  
Filed under Features

NASCAR’s regular season came to a close Saturday night at Richmond International Speedway, but fans don’t seem too satisfied with the way things ended. Late race cautions and pit stops mixed up orders and saw many familiar faces now looking from the outside in at the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Fans took to social media in droves following a late caution caused by a spin out by the #15 car driven by Clint Bowyer, they were outraged, and they may have good reason to be.

Ryan Newman and his #39 battled to first place with 7 laps to go in a must win situation to be included in the Chase, all while Jeff Gordon and Joey Logano continued to struggle through the field to get and keep themselves in the Chase. This is when things got strange. Clint Bowyer was told by spotter Brett Griffin that Newman and the #39 were in first and were gonna win this race, inevitably knocking out Bowyer’s Michael Waltrip Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. Bowyer’s crew chief Brian Pattie then took to the radio saying to Bowyer, “Is your arm starting to hurt,” “I bet it’s getting hot in there. Itch it.” Shortly thereafter Bowyer had a well-placed spin out which brought the caution out. During this caution cars pitted, Ryan Newman lost first and eventually did not make the Chase, losing the tiebreaker with, you guessed it, Martin Truex Jr. “He just spun right out,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said afterward of Bowyer. “That’s the craziest thing I ever saw. …He was hemming around on the brakes and jerking the car around, and then the thing just spun out. It was crazy. I don’t know what was going on.”

Dale Jr. has been around racing his whole life, this isn’t his first big rodeo. He seemed shocked about what just occurred in front of him and appeared to not want to “dime out” Clint Bowyer. Clint Bowyer’s interview didn’t make matters any better. The usually jovial and sarcastic Bowyer was quite calm and and appeared to be the cat that ate the canary, denying any intentional spin out and suggested a flat tire may have caused the mishap. No evidence suggests this notion, and NASCAR made no official comments on the issue, leaving every analyst, whether in the box or on the couch, to come to their own conclusions. Rusty Wallace and Ray Everham came out of the box swinging, making their feelings known immediately with point blank answers. I appreciate and value their opinions and they didn’t dance around the issue at all, which I find to be rare for most analysts. As more information developed throughout the night on Twitter, more questions came to light about MWR, and why Brian Vickers was driving like my mother-in-law on the last lap. Was their team ordered to make moves to help Martin Truex Jr. get in the Chase for the Sprint Cup? The biggest question in my mind is, where do we go from here?

Cheating is certainly not a new idea to NASCAR. Since its inception teams continue to fight for the edge, seeking any gray area in the rule book to get an advantage over the other competitors. Some would say a crew chief isn’t worth his weight in salt if he wasn’t doing this. Crew Chiefs and engineers routinely test and push the envelope to get ahead. I would dare to say that this has what has advanced the sport and pushed the innovation level as far as it has. But this all happens behind the scenes and in the garage where everyone has a level playing field, where everyone can experiment if they choose to. This isn’t ripping first place from a seasoned veteran with seven laps to go in what was the hail mary of his season, albeit maybe his career.

I grew up loving sports and think there is nothing better than working with a team player. It was nice when we would let the little kid win when shooting hoops, but this isn’t shooting hoops in the mini park. People win because they deserve to win, not because the team created a win and changed the course of the game. NASCAR now faces a crossroads and has stated they are now investigating the end of the race. NASCAR continuously faces declining attendance, declining ratings, and has been fighting for its life for years. The governing body has done a great job to promote NASCAR and has taken many positive steps to elevate its game. Now the fans have spoken, and they’re angry, they want to watch a sport that cannot be changed by a team at the end of the game. This is not about cheating, it’s about the integrity of the sport. It is about being able to tamper with an entire season and losing the faith of the people whose backs you built this sport on.

What will NASCAR do if they can even prove that anything was done intentionally? What future steps will they take to ensure this does not happen again and give the fans a sense of security that this isn’t a fixed sport and has not become professional wrestling? The worst part about this is some are elated that Bowyer is such a team player, and other MWR supporters are in such denial they are making fans feel like they are ignorant and just unintelligent spectators with no knowledge of the sport they love so much. Some classified this last night like it was a conspiracy of Kennedy proportions. The more radio transmissions I hear, the less of a conspiracy theorist I become. The more quotes from MWR crew members on pit road I read, the more disappointed I become. As much as so many wanted this to go away, it’s just getting worse. It’s time for NASCAR to put an end to this conspiracy and validate the feelings of its fans. Michael Waltrip needs to take reign of this situation he has created before his career as an owner spirals out of control faster than Bowyer’s car.

Article submitted by Mike Sanford – twitter: @msanford146

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