Dream Season Lands Jones Ohio Champion

Dream Season Lands Jones Ohio Champion

Earns Late Model Title In First Season At Columbus

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kyle Jones had the dream first season at Columbus Motor Speedway.

Not only did the 30-year-old from Germantown, Ohio, finishing the season at the top of the Late Model standings at the Ohio track, Jones also earned the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Ohio championship.

Jones collected eight wins and 16 top fives in 19 feature race en route to his first NASCAR title.

“We never thought we’d be running for the championship at the start of the season,” Jones said. “We never felt we could win as much as we did or have the success we had. There’s a lot of talent at Columbus, so for us to win eight races is astonishing.”

It was the quest for a championship and his family’s support that drew him to Columbus.

“I’ve ran some modified and late model races at the track on-and-off for the past few years,” Jones said. “I’ve competed in the ASA National Series and the CRA Super Series and was close to a championship title in 2002, but fell short.

“I wanted to compete for a championship and racing in the late model division kept me close to home, while racing against tough competitors. It was a family affair, my dad helped with the car and my entire family came out to each race.”

In fact, he credits his success this season to his incredible support system. His is mom and dad, his girlfriend Jessica, and their son along with his crew chief, Dan Kovacevich, as well has his sponsors without them, his title hopes would have been dashed.

Jones and his No. 2 Paul Gambles Lawn Service/Kote Solutions/BMC/Manley Graphics Ford had quite the battle for the Columbus title. In one of the closest battles in track history, only three points were separating Jones, Chad Pendleton and Cody Robinson headed into Fall Speedfest.

“We got behind early in the season,” said Jones. “After we won our first race, we got into an accident in the third week that tore up our car and destroyed the body. We had to put a new body on the car and we didn’t catch up in the standings until there was a month left in the season.

“Headed into the Fall Speedfest we knew it would be a tight battle for the title and whoever got the lead would win. We couldn’t have any problems or mistakes. We battled Pendleton side-by-side for most of the night. It was a constant battle for the lead and an exciting race.”

Jones ended up spinning with just three laps to go and Pendleton was sent to the rear on the restart. Kyle Purvis took home the win, but Jones took home the title.

“It feels good to win the track title,” Jones said. “Winning eight races and the track title makes all the preparation throughout the winter and the stress we go through every week worth it.”

But it’s the Ohio championship that really tastes sweet for Jones and his team.

“I’m not saying the track championship isn’t important,” Jones stated. “But winning the state title was our ultimate goal and it feels great to accomplish it. To win both has been amazing and made our successful season feel even better.”

His dedication to the sport and his goals comes naturally to Jones. Racing has been a part of his life since he was a little kid, it’s a way of life for him and his family.

“I’ve been around racing for most of my life,” said Jones. “My dad was into racing and helped my uncle work on his race cars, so I was always around it.”

And not much has changed today.

“When I’m not in the car, I’m working on the car,” Jones said. “It’s all I do, if it’s not my car, I’m fixing up someone else’s car.”

While his plans for next season are up in the air, Jones looks forward to celebrating his successful season. He will be honored at Columbus Motor Speedway’s Gala Dinner and Awards Banquet on January 9 at the Berwick Manor Party House.

Jones will also be awarded for his track and Ohio crowns, with other track and state/province champions from across North America, as a part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 11 at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participated in 2015.

Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.

Jones’ No. 2 Paul Gambles Lawn Service/Kote Solutions/BMC/Manley Graphics Ford Rees Photos

NASCAR: Villains and Heroes At Martinsville Speedway

Jeff Gordon, driver of the iconic #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, is still seeking his elusive fifth championship in his final season.

Jeff Gordon, driver of the iconic #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, is still seeking his elusive fifth championship in his final season.

After the showdown at Talladega last weekend, I found myself astonished and speechless, given the dilemma of processing the spectacle that we witnessed on high banks in the final laps. So much transpired on the track that I considered seeking counseling. But the best advice I embraced was to simply “Let It Go”. I’m done with the Dega drama and ready to watch the final four 2016 Sprint Cup races play out.

The NASCAR circus now moves onto Martinsville Speedway for 500 laps on the tight half-mile oval known affectionately as the “paperclip”, with many simmering storylines. Like Talladega, Martinsville showcases intimate close quarters racing where drivers will be able to reach out and touch one another during the entire race. For those racers who have been keeping a mental checklist, the circumstances are ideal for a little bump and grind payback.

Villains and heroes have now emerged, in what had seemed a sedate season until the Contender round of the Chase played out. One of the unique obsessions within NASCAR is that each driver is able to build a reputation that the fans can partake in. With that mindset, I size up the forthcoming Eliminator Round contenders based on the character they have chosen to play in this latest round of theatre. The pressure of the Chase has demonstrated its ability to bring out both the best and worst in the drivers. Claims Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 Crispy M&M Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

First, the Villains:

As the reigning Cup Champion, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet, was accused by at least four other drivers of triggering the 11-car accident at the end of Sunday’s race to avoid being eliminated from the Chase. NASCAR, however, said a review of the incident failed to show Harvick did anything intentional, and he also rejected his competitors’ claims.

Kevin has shown his icy demeanor, having confronted Jimmie Johnson earlier in the Chicago Chase race when he felt Johnson drove him wrong. On the Talladega incident, Harvick showed no regret. “They can look at it 100 different ways, but you can’t quit. You can’t roll over and be done with it and say, ‘We tried our best.'” And so Harvick remains tight-lipped, perhaps having already said too much on the radio to raise suspicions about his intention on that final restart (or was it the second final restart; I’m still unclear).

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Team Penske Ford, is exposing his greed, having become the first driver to sweep all three races in a Chase playoff round and the first Ford driver to win three successive Sprint Cup races since Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace did it back in 1994. Likewise, Logano eliminated NASCAR’s perennial favorite driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., after Junior led the most laps and seemed poised to take the checkered on the final restart until the caution flag flew. Finally, Logano’s “spin and win” move on Kenseth in the final laps of Kansas two weeks ago surely alienated the entire Joe Gibbs Racing contingent of drivers, with two of those drivers hungry to push him aside in order to secure their own first title.

Kyle Busch’s taunting attitude and smug demeanor, together with his ridiculous knack of winning in all three of NASCAR series, make him an extremely reviled dude. Of course, it’s easy to dislike a driver who has supernatural talent when it comes to driving a stock car. This week, Busch stirred up the NASCAR nation by spouting off on Jeff Gordon’s chance of winning his fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in his final season by saying: “I don’t see Jeff Gordon winning it this year, I just don’t see him going to Homestead and being able to beat the 4 (Kevin Harvick), (or) the 22 (Joey Logano) right now. Straight race to do that, to beat them, I don’t see that.” Massive speculation from a driver who seems to implode at some point in every Chase he has qualified for.

Lastly, Brad Keselowski is always outspoken and has cultivated an image of a brash outsider excluded from the inner circle, a “blue-collar” driver who has been to the school of hard knocks and paid his dues along the way. Brad is hungry for validation as he looks for his second Sprint Cup Championship to establish his true legacy. In last year’s Eliminator round, Keselowski got into a fight with Jeff Gordon on pit road at Texas Motor Speedway after Keselowski’s aggressive move up the middle while Gordon was leading on a restart in the final laps. “Bad Brad” still isn’t remorseful for the move he pulled on Gordon last November at Texas; in fact, he’s impressed and would surely try it again.

Now, the Heroes:

Furniture Row and Truex have a hard row to get to the title.

Furniture Row and Truex have a hard row to get to the title.

Jeff Gordon, driver of the iconic #24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, is still seeking his elusive fifth championship in his final season. He has been close several times, but has not won a Cup championship since 2001. Gordon has had a challenging year, having not yet won a race. Yet, for his legion of “Rainbow Warriors” fans, a victory and Championship would be a stellar walk-off for a driver that has given so much to NASCAR.

Kurt Busch has been flying below the radar screen, in contrast to the drama swirling around his Stewart-Haas teammate Harvick. Busch, driver of #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, is running quite well with solid top 10 results, but has stayed out of the limelight given his past PR antics. For a former Cup Champion who lost his Team Penske ride as a result of his hot-tempered attitude, this season has been a renaissance, culminated by adding a new sponsor for next year. With his fiancé, Ashley Van Metre, accomplished in the art of moving in high cotton circles, he’s marrying someone every bit his equal. Everyone loves a comeback story, and Busch’s would be stellar.

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, is another comeback story, in more ways than one. Truex lost his MWR ride in 2013 after the Richmond Chase cut-off race debacle, at first believing he had qualified for his first Chase, but subsequently docked 50 points to squelch his Chase playoff qualification. As he recalled, “I pretty much said, ‘Oh crap.’ It was like getting punched in the face. You just didn’t see it coming. It came out of nowhere”. Then consider that Truex has stood securely by the side of his long-time girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, in her battle and recovery from ovarian cancer. Running for the only single car team in the Chase, many counted Truex out at the beginning of the Chase, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He is the classic underdog that has already conquered insurmountable odds.

Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, has been running in the shadows. While his teammates Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Matt Kenseth have been flaming in the sport’s headlines, Carl has kept a low profile and let his on-track performance do the talking. Heck, Cousin Carl doesn’t even have a Twitter account; how much more low profile can you get? Edwards is famous for flashing that majestic smile and is one of the best sponsor pitchmen in the business. As a sentimental favorite, Edwards is the same guy who showed true sportsmanship in congratulating Tony Stewart on his 2011 Cup Championship, after Edwards was heartbroken by losing on a point tiebreaker in the final race of the season. He took a big chance this year to leave Roush Fenway Racing and join Joe Gibbs Racing, and it just might payoff with his first Cup Championship.

With the curtain now rising for the third act, NASCAR is racing forward at wide open throttle since its visit earlier this year to the historic Virginia short track. If this week’s race plays out like the spring installment at Martinsville, we should be in for a thrilling race, and perhaps a few clashes both on and off the track.

By Ron Bottano. Follow me on Twitter @rbottano and @motorsportsunplugged


Consistency Fuels Rogers’ Florida Title

Consistency Fuels Rogers’ Florida Title

1994 National Champion Has No Plans to Slow Down

DAYTONA BEACH, Florida – With more than four decades of competition, a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship, and countless race wins, you might think that David Rogers is ready to ease into retirement.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

In fact, Rogers earned his third consecutive NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Florida championship in 2015, and has no plans to stop racing his super late model anytime soon.

“When I quit enjoying racing, I’ll quit,” Rogers said. “But I still love it.”

nwaas15_state-champ_4c_prtRogers credits his team’s consistency as the key to their current state title run. Despite not winning a race this season, Rogers earned seven top-five finishes and eight top-10 finishes in 16 starts at New Smyrna Speedway. His last points win was Aug. 17, 2013. He won three times that year en route to the Florida title in New Smyrna’s first year as a NASCAR-sanctioned track.

This is the longest victory drought in Rogers’ 40-year racing career, and one he isn’t particularly fond of.

“I should have enjoyed those winning streaks a little more I guess,” said Rogers, who finished as runner-up in four of his last six races this year. “I can lose one race, and I’m already tired of losing.”

Rogers has raced alongside the legends of NASCAR, including Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson, Harry Gant, and Jack Ingram. When asked about the differences between drivers entering the sport today compared to his first win at the old Florida State Fairgrounds in 1974, Rogers said he sees fewer young drivers working on their cars.

“It’s enormously different – I was an old man (at 18 years old) compared to today’s standard as far as when they start driving. And if you were racing a car, you were working on a car,” he said.

One aspect of racing that hasn’t changed for Rogers is the camaraderie and friendship he enjoys with his all-volunteer crew – “I buy their dinner and I buy their beer and that keeps them pretty happy” – though his schedule isn’t quite as hectic as years past, when he competed in well over 50 races per season.

Rogers finished third in the New Smyrna Division I standings, 12 points behind champion Anthony Sergi and six behind veteran driver Brad May. U.S. state and Canadian province champions are determined by a drivers best 14 finishes within the state or province.

Rogers will be honored along with other state / province and track champions from across North America on Dec. 11 at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participated in 2015.

Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.

Rogers has raced at New Smyrna since the 1970s. He briefly moved to the newly-paved Volusia County Speedway, a half-mile oval in nearby Barberville, Fla. He won the series’ 1994 national championship with a perfect record of 22 wins in 22 starts. He won four track titles at Volusia before the track moved away from super late models in 1995, and Rogers returned to New Smyrna.

New Smyrna will celebrate the achievements of all of its competitors at their Awards Banquet on Jan. 9 at the Spruce Creek Fly In Country Club.

Rogers says he is still hoping to get that elusive first win in 2015 at the half-mile asphalt oval just ten miles south of Daytona International Speedway when New Smyrna hosts the 50th Annual Governor’s Cup on Nov. 15, a race Rogers has won twice previously.

“There’s nobody at the racetrack who wants to win more than I do.”

Piercy Scores First Track Championship

Piercy Scores First Track Championship

Second Generation Driver Adds To NASCAR History At Hickory

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Matt Piercy knew at a young age he wanted to follow his dad’s footsteps and drive a race car at Hickory Motor Speedway. 

The 21 year-old Mechanical Engineering major at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte can now add 2015 Hickory Motor Speedway Track Champion to his resume.

Piercy battled another second-generation driver in Landon Huffman throughout the season and used consistency to win his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track championship in the Bojangles Late Model Division on the .363-mile track.

The achievement still hasn’t fully sunk in yet for the Conover, North Carolina native. 

“I know it’s been several weeks now and I guess the best way to describe it is surreal,” Piercy said. “It’s such an honor to be able to add your name with drivers like Ned Jarrett, Ralph Earnhardt and so many others who have won track championships at Hickory”

Piercy and Huffman both finished the season with 20 top-10 finishes in as many starts. The difference would up being Piercy’s 19 top-fives to Huffman’s 16. While Piercy only scored one win, his consistency paid off in scoring the title by 10 points (898-888). 

Piercy said felt that his car was at its best over the last handful of races he knew he had to race smart to secure the Championship. While it’s not uncommon for a second-generation driver to win a title, what is unique is how the younger Piercy was able to find the time and ability to race for a championship.

Piercy had to juggle finishing up the spring semester and starting the fall semester while competing in a close battle for his first title.

“It was a little tough in the spring finishing up classes, working on the car and racing but we found a way to get it done,” he added. “It took a lot of late nights.”

Piercy got veteran car owner and former late model racer Greg Marlowe and Roger Johnson of Performancenter to build a new car and they helped out for the first part of the season. While Piercy took the reins from there and began working on the car, Marlowe and Johnson were there for advice if he needed it.

“We really didn’t have a crew chief for the car this year,” Matt Piercy said. “Greg and Roger created a great baseline, and then I began to fine tune the car and got it ready each week the way I needed it. I was fortunate to have really good cars each week and we only finished out of the top five in one race which says something about how consistent our car was all year long.” 

Piercy had primary sponsorship for his No. 25 Chevrolet from ZLOOP IT, a computer and electronics recycling facility.

Piercy’s dad, Kevin, competed at Hickory in the 1990’s in the Late Model division and has been the General Manager at the track since 2009. While the elder Piercy is usually tied up operating the track on race nights, Matt was happy he was able to race in front of his family each week.

“I can remember coming to the track when I was young and playing with cars while dad raced and I knew that I wanted to do this someday,” he said. It was a lot of blood, sweat and sacrifice – but I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

The competition was close all season long and while racing at a track his family promotes can be a challenge, Piercy was just focused on doing the best he could on track each week.

“The field at Hickory is so close each week, if you were off just half of a tenth or so in qualifying it could cost you six or seven spots.,” Piercy said. “I just tried to be conscious of my surroundings and respectful to my fellow competitors each week.”

While Piercy wants to take time to enjoy the title, he’s also ready to move on to the next phase in his life.

“I’m definitely looking forward to graduating and I’m excited about what lies ahead in my future,” Piercy said. “I feel that I have options. I’m going to keep driving as long as I can and I hope to have an opportunity to move up in to one of the NASCAR touring series.”

If Piercy doesn’t make it as a driver he knows he’ll still be involved in motorsports at some level.

“If I’m not driving I’ll probably be working on race cars or maybe even be part of the family business,” said Piercy. “I’ll definitely be involved in racing.”

Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participated in 2015.

Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.

Hickory will hold its 2015 Banquet of Champions and recognize Piercy’s accomplishments on December 12th at the Newton Expo in Newton, North Carolina.

Piercy will also be honored for his Hickory Motor Speedway crown along with other track and state/province champions from across North America as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 11 at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We had a great year and I’m so thankful and blessed to have the opportunity to race at Hickory with my family and I appreciate everything my parents have done for me and I want them to enjoy this championship as well,” Piercy said.

Matt Piercy (25) collected one win and 19 top-five finishes in 20 starts this season to win his first track title at his home track. Photo courtesy of Sherri Stearns

2015 NWAAS State/Province Champions

Heywood Continues Record Run

Heywood Continues Record Run

Earns Second Straight Airborne NASCAR Track Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Consistency was the key in 2015 for Nick Heywood as he repeated as NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champion at Airborne Park Speedway.

Heywood secured another title behind two wins, 15 top fives and 18 top 10s across 19 feature races in the J&S Steel Modified division at Airborne. It was his fourth-consecutive crown at the .4-mile asphalt oval in the Adirondack Park region of Plattsburgh, New York, and second under the NASCAR banner.

“Competition wise, we had a lot stiffer competition this year,” Heywood said. “I only had two wins, but had a consistent year and only one DNF.”

Heywood took home five checkered flags in 2014 to garner the Jostens National Rookie of the Year as a first-year Whelen All-American Series Division I license holder when Airborne joined the NASCAR program. This season, the native of Plattsburgh relied on regular top finishes to retain the track championship.

His two triumphs bookended the campaign as he won the opener on May 2 and the back end of a season-finale doubleheader on Sept. 5.

“We started off really strong and just stayed consistent and held our ground,” Heywood said. “I think we only dropped out of the points lead once or twice, but consistency propelled us back up.”

An owner/driver, Heywood piloted his No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet to a 96-point advantage in the division’s final standings over Jason Durgan, despite Durgan’s two more victories. With his father, Randy, serving as the team’s crew chief, Heywood finished fourth in the Whelen All-American Series New York state standings and 21st nationally.

The fourth-consecutive Airborne title overall for Heywood came with some history, as it marked the first time in the track’s 62-year history that a driver accomplished the feat.

“They started talking in early August about how nobody had ever done it,” Heywood said. “It added a little bit of pressure. There’s been some pretty big names that have come through Airborne during the years so to be the first two win four in a row feels great.”

It remains to be seen whether Heywood will have an opportunity to extend the record. Airborne is currently up for sale or lease, leaving the champion unsure of his 2016 plans.

“I don’t know if we’re going to do any championship hunting,” Heywood said. “We’re probably going to do a little traveling. We’re going to try Autodrome St-Eustache in Canada, and maybe try dirt racing as well.”

Like Airborne, St-Eustache (Quebec) also promotes dirt-style modifieds on asphalt, which provides Heywood with a natural alternative only 90 minutes from his hometown. St-Eustache is a NASCAR-sanctioned weekly track as well.

Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 58 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participated in 2015.

Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.

Airborne Park will hold its 2015 Banquet of Champions and recognize Heywood’s accomplishments on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Rainbow Wedding and Banquet Hall in Altona, New York.

Heywood will also be honored for his Airborne Park crown along with other track and state/province champions from across North America as part of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards on Dec. 11 at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We had a great time last year so we’re going back down and have another good time I’m sure,” Heywood said.

Heywood’s No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet modified. Dave Brown

Talladega: Is Kevin Harvick a Genius?

Mike Helton

Mike Helton

What in the Hell actually happened yesterday in that slice of unique America, perhaps more accurately a Principality, called Talladega? Forgive me, I don’t have the prose, thought process or word-smithing ability of our Ron Bottano, but I’m clueless as to why NASCAR allowed Harvick to stay out on that track in a green/white checker situation.

Let me be clear, I don’t think NASCAR manipulated the situation, far worse, they let the bear grow too big. It got away from them somehow. Have they now become a corporation where everyone involved is the smartest guy in the room?

That’s probably closer to the truth. Unless my tiny little South Carolina cracker brain is finally failing me like a pair of jumper cables at a redneck funeral, cars must be capable of maintaining a safe racing speed. I believe there is a minimum speed established for that, they must keep up with the pace car, unfortunately they seemed to throw that rule right out of the window when it came to Kevin Harvick.

Knowing that he could advance to the next round in the Chase elimination process, Harvick could be accused of deliberately crashing Trevor Bayne on the only Green/White checker opportunity that NASCAR would allow under their special Talladega rule. He has been accused of just that by everyone from the drivers to multitudes of Dale Earnhardt Jr fans.

Is Harvick really that smart? Yes he is.

Is Harvick really that smart? Yes he is.

The best read on the incident and aftermath may be by Bob Pockrass. Read it.

I’ve no reason to elaborate on what Bob wrote, but the whole incident does make you wonder just how easy it is to implement a rule or regulation only to run into the rabbit hole of “Unintended Consequences”. Did NASCAR really sit down and think this race, it’s ‘special’ rules and what permutations of consequence it might have?

It doesn’t look as if they did or they didn’t count on a driver at Harvick’s level being clever enough to pull of a frozen field scenario. I’m not saying Harvick crashed intentionally, but he’s is certainly intelligent enough to have figured it out without being outed on the radio. He is most definitely smart enough to have done so. That doesn’t mean he did. But if I were him, I would have.

I would have to say that whether he did it on purpose or not, it was incumbent on NASCAR to have forced him to the back of the line knowing that he could not accelerate and was a moving chicane in a field of wolves ready to drop the hammer.

If he did it on purpose then he’s a genius to have called that play alone in the car.

To me the big question is: Why would NASCAR allow the field to approach a start at 30 to 35 MPH? That pace car should have been pacing the field at 50 to 55 MPH on a track that size and on a green/white finish.

They didn’t, Harvick did, NASCAR lost a lot of credibility.

No one really came out a winner on Sunday.

NASCAR: Earnhardt Jr. Gears Up for Dega Dance


Earnhardt Jr knows the restrictor plate racing dance. Expect him to come prepared.

Earnhardt Jr knows the restrictor plate racing dance. Expect him to come prepared.

With Joey Logano having put the squeeze on the rest of the field with back-to-back victories, seven spots are open for advancement to the Eliminator 8 Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and will be decided on the massive high banks of Talladega Superspeedway this Sunday.

With all the unpredictability of a restrictor plate race, the CampingWorld.com 500 is shaping up to be the wildest race of the year. Since a driver who loses the draft can fall from front to the rear in a single lap, many liken the odds to roulette with 43 numbers on the wheel, instead of the traditional 38.

With only 18 points separating the top eight contenders, the seven remaining spots to advance will likely not be known until checkered flag flies, assuming that half the field has not already been collected in the “big one”.

Four drivers, namely Kyle Busch, Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth, will control their own destiny only with a win.

However, among active drivers, no one has wheeled around the hallowed banks of Talladega with more folklore than Earnhardt Jr. At Dega, the No. 88 Chevrolet driver owns the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ best driver rating (92.8) and second-best average running position (14.0).

Of Junior’s 25 career victories, ten have come on restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega, where the top speed of cars is limited for safety. This year, Earnhardt Jr. has been thoroughly dominant on plate tracks, having finished 1st and 3rd at Daytona, while winning at Talladega back in May and leading over 60% of the race.

Of the 31 races in his career at Talladega, Earnhardt Jr. has shown superb results, including collecting 6 wins, 11 top 5’s and 15 top 10’s. The dilemma, however, is that Junior is in a position where he must win, and all those top 5’s and top 10’s amount to nothing, given his need to advance in the playoffs.

Will Jimmie Johnson help his Hendrick teammate or not?

Will Jimmie Johnson help his Hendrick teammate or not?

Earnhardt Jr., however, has become a cerebral driver who understands that Talladega is a high-stakes dance that requires making the right moves. Drivers at the end are usually mentally spent, needing to constantly analyze which packs are running best, and determining when to race your guts out and when to be patient, all while being constantly surrounded by 42 other cars.

With his father’s teachings and his own sage experience, Earnhardt Jr. understands this rhythm of Talladega and how to make the right moves. “At Talladega, you give more mentally than you do physically,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “In a restrictor-plate race, you need to make decisions with confidence and make them quickly. If you have any kind of hesitation, someone makes that decision for you and takes away that opportunity.”

Moreover, Earnhardt Jr. asserts that he is bringing back his “monster” of a car to Talladega, the same car which won both Talladega in May and Daytona in July. “We’ll have the same car we won with earlier this year,” says Earnhardt Jr. “It’s got great speed and we feel confident. It helps when your car is that that dominant.”

Inherently, Talladega remains unpredictable. Normally, in the NASCAR playoffs, Chase contenders win between 80% and 85% of the races. Conversely at Talladega, Chasers only have won 55% of the races.

However, Chasers still typically finish strong, even if they do not win. In the three restrictor plate races earlier this year, Chasers claimed 7 of the top 10 positions in the finishing order on average.

But calling your shot? That takes it to another level of absurdity, given that one untimely bump or one poor pit stop will likely ruin a driver’s day.

For Earnhardt Jr., the secret sauce may lie with his Hendrick Motorsports’ teammate Jimmie Johnson, who has already been eliminated from Championship contention. While not having collected a plate win this year, Jimmie has finished 5th, 2nd, and 2nd in this season’s three plate races.

Clearly, Johnson knows what it takes to run up front and has worked with Junior successfully in the past. Now that Johnson has already been eliminated in the Chase, he surely has inspiration to help his Hendrick teammate. At the same time, Johnson wouldn’t mind winning at Talledega this weekend himself.

One thing is for sure: Should Earnhardt Jr. win, Dega’s grandstands will be raucously rocking out. Many celebrants may just point to the sky, remembering his iconic father, who won ten races at Talladega, more than any other track in his iconic career, believing that the Redneck Jesus was drafting alongside his son.

By Ron Bottano. Follow me on Twitter @rbottano and @motorsportsunplugged

Diversity Internship Application Now Open

Diversity Internship Application Now Open

Multicultural Students Encouraged To Apply For Paid Internships

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Each year, the NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP) seeks to obtain the highest quality of undergraduate and graduate applicants to be selected for this 10 week, paid opportunity. NDIP exposes multicultural students to employment opportunities within America’s number one motorsport. NDIP is also an important part of NASCAR’s ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion.

This year’s application process opened October 16, 2015 and will close January 15, 2016.

Candidates must have at least a cumulative GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale and must be at least a sophomore in college to be considered.

NDIP offers opportunities in various disciplines including marketing, public relations, engineering, human resources, public affairs and production among others. NDIP interns begin their internship with a three-day all inclusive orientation in Charlotte, NC, which includes attending the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race and touring the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Throughout the summer, interns complete hands-on projects and participate in developmental workshops and volunteer events. Senior executives meet with NDIP interns at weekly “Lunch and Learns” to provide key insight and professional advice.


NDIP interns are placed across several NASCAR departments and with industry partners such as Hendrick Motorsports, Octagon, Rev Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Pocono Raceway and Switch: Liberate Your Brand. Partner participation has helped to solidify the role of NDIP as a pipeline for employment across the motorsports industry.


At the time of application, all candidates must:

• Be currently enrolled in, or be considered a recent graduate of an undergraduate or graduate degree program who has graduated within the last semester.
• Be a U.S. citizen or eligible to work in the U.S.
• Be at least in their sophomore year of college.
• Have a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.

*Temporary visas will not be issued for this internship program.




Application opens: October 16, 2015

Application closes: January 15, 2016

Coby Celebrates Championship

Coby Celebrates Championship

Veteran Sweeps At Thompson To Win Third Whelen Title

See video

THOMPSON, Conn. – The season finale for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour featured three drivers in contention for the championship in the Sunoco World Series 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

It was unfortunate that two of those competitors had to go up against Doug Coby.  

Coby dominated the event in his No. 2 Dunleavy’s/HEX/A&J Romano Construction Chevrolet, and despite having to just finish second to Justin Bonsignore to clinch the title, made a daring pass on Lap 145 to sweep all four races this season at the track and win his third tour championship.

Coby dominated the first half of the race leading up until the leaders all pitted on Lap 92. Patrick Emerling stayed on the track to inherit the lead and was passed by Bonsignore on the restart on Lap 103.

Timmy Solomito followed Bonsignore in third at the checkered flag with Todd Szegedy fourth. Woody Pitkat, who entered the race just four points behind co-leaders Coby and Ryan Preece in contention for the title, rebounded from an early caution and penalty that put him a lap down to finished fifth.

Emerling was sixth with Preece seventh. Ted Christopher, Chase Dowling and Donny Lia completed the top 10.

The win and championship add to an already impressive resume for the Milford, Connecticut, native Coby. He joined Mike Stefanik (seven) and Tony Hirschman (five) to become just the third driver in the 31-year history of the tour to win three or more championships. He also joins Stefanik (1998) and Steve Park (1996) as the only drivers to record a season sweep at Thompson.

The final championship margin for the trio was Coby at 613, Preece at 602 and Pitkat at 600. The 11-point margin for Coby tied his 2012 mark for the third-closest championship chase in Whelen Modified Tour history, also over Preece.

Coby and Preece have finished 1-2 in the points standings in each of the last four seasons. Preece’s title came in 2013.

The Sunoco World Series 150 will be televised on NBCSN on Thursday, October 22 at 8 p.m. ET.


Doug Coby (2) gets by Justin Bonsignore late in the Sunoco World Series 150 to win the race and his third NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship. Billy Weiss/Getty Images for NASCAR 


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