Traditions May Change But Drivers Who Need Atlanta Win Don’t Care

Jeff Gordon, a past winner at Atlanta, desperately needs a victory to make the Chase this year and Atlanta on Labor Day weekend is his next chance.

Sometimes traditions need to be upheld as they bring connection to the past. Having Thanksgiving dinner together as a family is a perfect example.

Sometimes traditions need to be scrapped, as they are deadweight that offers no positive. Grandma’s Jell-O salad that nobody ever ate but Grandma fits the bill.

And sometimes traditions need to be mixed to create new ones. When couples marry they often make arrangements that satisfy both sides of their respective family traditions. Not traveling to two or more houses every Thanksgiving, and instead hosting the big dinner, is one.

There are many fans of NASCAR who believe traditions should be held sacred in our sport. The Memorial Day race from Charlotte should always be the World 600 and the Labor Day Race should have always been the Southern 500 at Darlington.

NASCAR, however, had different ideas.

There is no doubt that the evolution of the sport – and its desire to make major big money – included sponsors throwing their name up on the different race venue marquees.

The World 600 morphed with Coca Cola until the World was entirely dismissed.

If the change with the Southern 500 were just a case of semantics then perhaps we wouldn’t be discussing it. But the change was far more bizarre, intense and, for some, diabolical.

Instead of keeping the Southern 500 on Labor Day Weekend at Darlington, it was moved to Fontana in California in 2004.

The Southern 500 first ran at Darlington on September 4, 1950. It was a popular mainstay on the NASCAR circuit, one that commanded huge crowds and deep southern roots. For the next 53 years NASCAR fans were treated to their Labor Day tradition of racing at Darlington.

The change to Fontana was nothing short of disastrous. Older fans could never embrace the traditional race being run somewhere across the country. NASCAR fans in California clearly had “other plans” that did not include attending the races over Labor Day.

Tony Stewart, the pole winner at Atlanta last year who has also won at the 1.5-mile track, will sit out the weekend with an injury. Mark Martin will drive his car.

Eventually NASCAR understood the error – to a point – and brought the race back to the South. But instead of replacing the date at Darlington, Atlanta won it in 2009.

So the old tradition of the Southern 500 at Darlington is gone. It’s sad, frustrating, irritating, and just plain wrong, but it’s true and has been for nearly a decade.

The new tradition of holding the Labor Day race at Fontana died a relatively quick death.

And now we are left with a mix of traditions in Atlanta.

Being a Southern venue, it’s great to have the race at Atlanta. The weather is typically far better than its past dates used to provide.

And, being that Atlanta is the penultimate race before the Chase offers a lot of intrigue, strategy, and excitement.

It’s never going to be the Southern 500 from Darlington, but this new tradition at Atlanta has worked out well in recent years.

Past winners at the Labor Day race from Atlanta include Kasey Kahne,  Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin. Stewart is, of course, out of contention this season with a broken leg, but the other drivers all have a shot.

Kahne is looking to add more bonus points to his Chase race and Gordon is still seeking entrance into the big show. A win here at this late date could resurrect his bid.

The entire field of 43 drivers is looking for a win so I’ll be tuning in to see the action unfold at Atlanta this weekend.

Traditions are sometimes thrust upon us like Atlanta was for us NASCAR fans. I’m learning to live with it and even enjoy it.

 

 

 

Time To Chase Is Short, So Night Race At Bristol Looms Large

With time growing short before the Chase begins, defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski will be looking for a win at Bristol to help his cause.

It’s time for Bristol racing at night.

I’ve known this is the week for that race for many years, even before I started to memorize the schedule. I know because second Bristol always occurs around my birthday.

Bristol is NASCAR Mecca for many. The most infamous of short tracks in NASCAR’s season, second Bristol is run at night under the lights. It was one of NASCAR’s most sought-after tickets.

At this track downforce is no longer an issue with this modern car; Bristol levels the playing field making man far more important than the machine.

Short-track racing inherently brings out the fierce competitor always at the surface. Egos flex, tempers flare, and the need to win is in over-drive.

Add to the mix the tightness of Bristol, the loudness, and the proximity to the Chase and all emotions culminate to a fever pitch.

This race could very well be the one to put Kyle Busch into Championship contention. He’s great here with a sweep of all three Bristol NASCAR contests in 2010.

He currently has three wins this season and is aching to close the gap between him and Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson. Busch is flying under the radar and is definitely a competitor to watch closely. Last year he was denied entry into the Chase at Richmond and does not want to be turned away again.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. still has a spot in the top 10 going into Bristol, but he’s slipped lately and can ill afford a bad race.

On the flipside, current reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Brad Keselowski is fighting to stay afloat. Bristol is a track Keselowski has tamed in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012. He needs this victory to stay alive before the Chase becomes out of reach.

Kasey Kahne captured the win at Bristol in March so he’s hoping for a return victory. That would put his tally of wins to three for the season, a nice tidy sum of bonus points.

Of course Johnson and Carl Edwards have earned wins at this track so they are anxious to buffer their points in this competition.

And then there is Kurt Busch. He has a five wins at Bristol, most recently in 2006. He has been poised to win all season and this could be his breakout track.

With the media attention surrounding the elder Busch this week with rumors of a job at Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014 – a “rumor” that both parties are currently refusing to acknowledge as fact – a win here would catapult Busch. To where, I’m not exactly sure, but it would be huge.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had a win at Bristol in 2004. It’s been nearly a decade but all of “Junior Nation” hopes the memory muscle is still taut.

Earnhardt Jr. has slipped in points in recent weeks with tough luck finishing races. He’s currently sitting in seventh place but wants to secure his spot in the Chase.

Matt Kenseth was the winner at Bristol in 2006. Currently his rival is Johnson and a win here would once again upset the balance of power in Kenseth’s favor.

Denny Hamlin, Jeff Burton, and Jeff Gordon also have wins at Bristol so they are certainly contenders here.

Of course, the 2013 season has shown that there is no given. “Underdogs” have won, surprise names have fought their way to the front and earned a victory, and this weekend could be no exception.

The race falls on my actual birthday this year – Aug. 24. I’ll be tuning in to watch my birthday race and look forward to a rollicking good time.

Who do you see winning this event?

Look For Earnhardt Jr., And Many Others, To Go All Out At Michigan

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was a favorite at Michigan in June but he returns to the track still seeking his first victory of the season.

The second date at Michigan International Speedway has arrived for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers – the Aug. 17 Pure Michigan 400.

The brouhaha in June centered on Dale Earnhardt Jr. possibly capturing his first win of the season.

He did not.

Instead, Greg Biffle followed his August 2012 victory at Michigan with the win back in June.  Biffle currently sits ninth in points as he comes back to MIS with his one win.

Earnhardt Jr. is still searching for his first win of the season – yet sits rather comfortably in sixth place in the standings.

A win at MIS would do much to boost Earnhardt Jr.’s confidence that could possibly be waning during this winless season.

It also could provide some much-needed momentum – and bonus points – as Richmond, the final race before the “playoffs” is nearing. The Chase is on the horizon.

“Junior Nation” is always supportive of its driver, but the time seems ripe for Earnhardt Jr. to capitalize on his consistent runs.  First he needs to win a few races and then capture the coveted Cup.

It’s the goal for any of the drivers in the series, and for Earnhardt Jr., it’s been a heretofore out-of-reach one.

Brad Keselowski is the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who has yet to win this season. He’s looking to get the victory at Michigan.

Last season Earnhardt Jr. was running decently in the Chase when a concussion sidelined him long enough to end his quest for the Cup.

This could be the year for potential to become reality.

Winning a championship would do much to quell the Junior haters that seem to permeate certain pockets of fandom. Like for any driver, stringing a championship season together offers the type of legitimacy little else can.

With a lot of focus this season on Danica Patrick’s rookie year in Cup, Tony Stewart’s accident that has taken him out of contention, and who may assume Stewart’s vacated No. 14 car on a weekly basis, Earnhardt Jr. has enjoyed some relative peace and quiet media-wise.

He’s still a top draw for news stories, but the relaxing of the intense spotlight seems to agree with Earnhardt Jr. But it is time to perform, achieve a win, and put the championship hopes into high gear.

Of course, this can be said for the likes of Clint Bowyer and Brad Keselowski who both stand winless in the Cup series to date.

Keselowski is the reigning Sprint Cup champion, but Bowyer, like Earnhardt Jr., is hungry to pick up his first championship.

The top 14 in points all have a strong shot at a championship if they get into the Chase. These next four races will determine who gets locked in, who the two “wildcard” candidates will be and how this Chase will shape up.

Once in the Chase the competition gets reset with bonus points and the field is set.

This season is far from sewn up. As history shows, injuries occur, engines blow, DNFs plague teams, and nothing is a “given.”

With Michigan’s fast speeds, re-pave from last year, and proximity to the Chase, teams are putting it all on the table this weekend.

Biffle, Earnhardt Jr., Bowyer, Keselowski, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, and Ryan Newman are all hoping this race will be theirs along with the rest of the field.

We will all be watching to see what Michigan will bring.

NASCAR Drivers And Sprint Cars: It’s Been A Tough Summer

Kasey Kahne, who won at Pocono, afterward revealed his feelings over the loss of friend Jason Leffler in a Sprint Car race earlier this year.

I represented my site, “Drafting the Circuits” at Pocono International Raceway this past weekend and was in the media center when GoBowling.com 400 race winner Kasey Kahne was ushered in to answer post-race questions.

My colleagues asked questions about the race itself, but my question for Kahne had more to do with his mental/emotional side.

Kahne had mentioned both Jason Leffler and Gary Zeronian in his television post-race interview and I wanted to know more about how he was dealing with those heart-wrenching emotions upon returning to Pocono.

Kahne replied, “I think this summer has been tough on some racers.  A lot of things have happened with people I know and different guys involved in racing.

“Jason, – I thought about it on my way up here on Friday – I was like, man, the last time I was here he flew with me here and flew back with me.  Just him and me.  We spent a bunch of time together and then that happened that Wednesday.  So it was tough.”

In addition, Kahne explained about Zeronian in more detail.

“Gary Zeronian is a guy I met when I moved to Indianapolis in ’99,” Kahne said. “I met Gary, and we became really good friends and I drove his Silver Crown car on and off for a few different years, probably like three or four years.  We won some races together.

“He’s just a great guy.  He was at Indy with us.  We had lunch and spent Sunday together.  He was at the car before we took off for the race, and then after the race he had a heart attack walking to his car.  So he’s been in Methodist all week, but he’s recovering.”

Kahne concluded by saying, “I think it’s just been a tough summer, and I wanted to mention some of that because a lot of my friends feel the same way about those two guys.”

Tony Stewart drives Sprint Cars on a regular basis. He suffered a broken leg in a crash earlier this week and is likely to miss the Chase.

And the summer continues to be rough with news this week that Tony Stewart crashed his Sprint Car in Iowa and broke his leg. He will not be able to race his NASCAR Sprint Cup car at Watkins Glen this weekend, which means he will not accrue driver points in the race.

This is all but the end of Stewart’s chances to make the all-important 10 race post-season Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Stewart was actually recovering from a wreck in his sprint car directly before the Cup race at Pocono Raceway. When a reporter asked Stewart how he was feeling as “that crash looked really nasty to us mortals who don’t race cars,” Stewart responded with the following statement:

“You mortals have got to learn, you guys need to watch more Sprint Car videos and stuff. It was not a big deal. It’s starting to get annoying this week about that but that was just an average Sprint Car wreck.  When they wreck they get upside down like that.  That was not a big deal.”

The reporter then simply expressed the public’s concern for Stewart, to which he replied, “I appreciate that, but I promise you if there is something to report I will let you know.

“I guarantee you there were 15-20 guys across the country that flipped just like that this weekend and were just fine just like we were.  If it’s bad we will let you guys know.  That was not bad at all. I raced the next night and ran fifth and the World of Outlaw race.  It was not bad.”

But now the story is different. Like a child who refuses to learn from past mistakes, Stewart has had an accident within a week of the last one. The latest wreck in Iowa has left Stewart incapacitated for the job he is paid most handsomely to do.

And although Stewart is his own boss at Stewart-Haas Racing, he does have sponsors to answer to for taking himself out of championship contention.

It wasn’t ludicrous to think that Stewart could win the top prize in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series as he had done it three times before, most recently in 2011.

Many Stewart supporters point to the fact that Stewart is a “Racer’s racer” who is only happy behind the wheel of a car – most specifically a Sprint Car – and should be allowed to live in the manner he is most happy.

Perhaps.

But by being a Sprint Cup driver there are responsibilities to the team, the sponsors, the fans, and NASCAR itself.

Stewart is a huge draw for the fans. Having him at a race is healthy for the sport. He was always a strong contender for a win at Watkins Glen, the historic road course on the Sprint Cup circuit that comes just five races before the Chase is locked up. A win there – or at least a strong finish – could have helped solidify a berth in the Chase.

Now a substitute driver will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders to bring the team a decent finish.

With the money, responsibility, and time racing at NASCAR’s top level takes, why does Stewart feel compelled to race in other series every week?

Only Stewart could answer that.

When asked his opinion about Stewart driving Sprint Cars, Jeff Gordon refused to assume responsibility for Stewart’s thoughts but offered this scenario:

“But you know, if he [Stewart] was a young driver that was coming to work for Hendrick Motorsports, I would try to discourage him from doing that running Sprint Cars because that’s an investment to us as a team,” Gordon said. “We ask a lot out of our sponsors and our team and everything, but he’s the team owner so there’s no asking that out of him.

“You don’t want to take away that joy that those individuals have, you want them to make those decisions and choices on their own and just understand what they’re getting themselves into.

“Some of the younger guys maybe don’t always appreciate that, but somebody like Tony does and handles himself well with it.”

Maybe Stewart’s decisions are right for Stewart, but perhaps not for his entire organization.

The ripple effect of driving the Sprint Cars by NASCAR drivers is in the headlines a lot this summer. As Kahne said, it’s been a rough season. Now Stewart understands, once again, how rough.

Perhaps it’s time to sit back and re-evaluate the risks versus the rewards.

 

 

 

 

It’s Pocono, So Do Not Count Jeff Gordon Out

An older Jeff Gordon has priorities that have changed. But to win races is not one of them. Gordon will be a favorite this weekend at Pocono.

It was a year ago at Pocono that Jeff Gordon earned his first win of the 2012 season. The victory helped the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team realize a spot in the Chase, which was hard earned in Richmond in September.

Although the end of the race was rain delayed, Gordon was nonetheless excited and relieved to have picked up the win.

I was fortunate to be at Pocono covering the Pennsylvania 400 on that storm-ridden day. Gordon, surrounded by his family, savored the rain-drenched pomp and circumstance of the makeshift victory lane.

He and crew chief Alan Gustafson took their time in the media center, answering each and every question thoughtfully. They were gracious, happy and in no rush to beat it out the door.

I asked Gordon what it was like to get this particular win – his 86th – compared to others in his career.

Gordon was ecstatic that his family was present for the win.

“Today was an amazing victory experience, probably one of the best in my career because with the rain, the lightning, wind blowing sideways, everything going on, you know, I was just so excited to be able to have my family here,” he said. “ It’s the first time I’ve had all of them here for a victory.  I didn’t care if it was under the shed or in the garage.  I didn’t care where it was.

“That experience to me today means so much more than anything else.  And we talk about it.  You know, we have these race wins that you come up short, the family’s there.  My wife said, ‘I so badly wanted to experience that.’

“Even my wife, she’s not been able to experience all those wins, those multiple‑win seasons and stuff.  I want her to be able to feel what it’s like.  I know how much it means to her.

“Ella is getting to the age where it’s exciting.  Leo was able to hold up his finger, ‘No.1,’ that was cool.  But today was a great day for that reason in itself, not to mention all the others.

Gordon said his win at Pocono in 2012 was enjoyable not only because his family was there, but that it was also crew chief Alan Gustafson’s (left) birthday.

 

“And it’s Alan’s birthday.  He has his family here.  This is a cool day.  This is one that I’m not going to forget.”

In his forties, Gordon’s perspective has changed from the boy who raced 20 years ago. Winning is still important, but not the utmost.

It’s clear Gordon is not ready to retire, but family is the priority. Making the Chase and winning races still make the “short list,” but being with his family is what makes Gordon tick.

As the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers descend on Pocono Raceway, it will be interesting to see how Gordon runs.

Being the defending race winner – and having a total of six wins at the track – means the odds are good for another victory for Gordon.

Gordon is a driver you can never count out at Pocono.

 

 

 

 

Author Has Own NASCAR Passions, Perspectives; So What Are Yours?

Dale Earnhardt, a past winner of the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, was a target for many anecdotes by the media, including the author.

I have a unique perspective as a racing fan, especially a NASCAR one.

Having been raised by an amateur sports car racer who hungrily consumed any and all racing news, articles, pictures, and stories, I learned to have an appreciation for all forms of motorsports.

Living in southwest Virginia with my husband I cultivated a love and appreciation for NASCAR, its history and lore as well as its present and future.

Raising three children ages (nearly) 11, seven and four, I have an awareness that what is exciting and engrossing for adults is not usually what captivates children.

I have my passions when it comes to NASCAR. My father has his. My husband champions his own. And my children often verbalize theirs to me.

Then, of course, there are the fans of NASCAR who both ask my opinion and boldly share their own on my social media walls.

As with belly buttons, all people have opinions and within the world of NASCAR there are many strong ones.

I have built a reputation as the writer who loves NASCAR and recite the reasons why weekly.

Many read my articles for my “voice.” I appreciate that greatly.

NASCAR is many things.

Jeff Gordon was the first NASCAR driver to win at Indianapolis and he went on to win the Brickyard 400 three more times.

For me NASCAR is my home, my career, my hobby, and my interest. It gives me a commonality with the men in my life and provides a source for friendships.

My first race was at the historic Martinsville Speedway. I took my sons to their first race at the same track.

I delight in retelling Dale Earnhardt stories with my fellow fans that still mourn his loss and find great comfort and joy in reminiscing about him.

And I revel in the enormity and enthusiasm of Jr. Nation.

With awe I look at record breakers and setters like Jimmie Johnson and still find hope in my heart for underdogs who can win at the end of the race.

After all, my daddy taught me that bringing the car back in one piece and enjoying running the race was winning.

Researching names from NASCAR’s long, complicated, and choppy history enthralls me. History, as I mentioned, is a passion of mine.

Witnessing the first Brickyard 400 as a fan and still counting myself as one in its 20th running this weekend makes me smile.

Pocono Raceway used to just be my closest track and now has become my home track complete with an extended family.

NASCAR is a part of my everyday life. I follow the season, learn the personalities, explore the venues (mostly virtually), and truly care about the outcomes of the races and the season.

So what does NASCAR mean to you?

No, seriously.

How long have you been watching/following NASCAR? Why does it capture your attention? And what keeps you a NASCAR fan? Does the history of the sport interest you or just the current season?

I really would love to know so leave your answers in the comments section.

As always, I truly thank you kindly for reading and so look forward to your words to learn more about YOU.

 

 

Sprint Cup Off For Weekend, Then Full Bore To The Chase

Matt Kenseth is sixth in points with seven races remaining before the Chase, but he already has four wins this season, equal to Jimmie Johnson’s.

In only the second weekend off of the season (the first was at the end of March), the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers are enjoying a rare and well-earned mini-vacation.

It’s been a wild season filled with injuries, rivalries, several “underdog” wins, and some domination.

The Gen 6 car has passed muster with most fans and drivers although there are always those who will find fault.

And now the Chase is starting to become a reality in 2013. With only seven races left to determine the 10 positions and the two “wildcards,” teams are starting to step up their game, make every moment count and throw in their all.

Of course, the teams have been doing that since February at the Daytona 500.

There are few surprises in the current top 10 in points.

Jimmie Johnson seems to have a stranglehold on the points lead. His commanding margin seems harrowing to his competitors and to fans of the sport who aren’t fans of Johnson, but that’s why the Chase was implemented.

Like Johnson, Matt Kenseth has four wins this season. At present they would start with the same amount of bonus points in the Chase.

But the Chase does not start now. There are seven more races to run with points to acquire through winning.

The biggest surprise to me is Clint Bowyer.

Kyle Busch is seventh in points but has two victories, which could lift him in the standings when the Chase begins at Chicagoland.

Next to Johnson, the only person who has more top-fives and top 10s than Bowyer is Kyle Busch.

Bowyer boasts seven top fives and 11 top-10s. Busch has a commanding nine top fives and 11 tops-10s.

Bowyer has no wins yet Busch has two.

The difference?

Busch has three, yes, three DNFs to Bowyer’s one.

But I digress. As long as they both stay in the top 10 in points – or secure a wildcard if need be – they will be in the Chase and that’s where one needs to be to win a championship.

So what should the next seven races bring for the Cup drivers?

The tour returns from hiatus at the most historic track in the United States, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Conventional wisdom would point to Johnson earning his fifth win at the Brickyard.

But Tony Stewart is looking to take his third victory at the storied track.

Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, and Jeff Gordon all have a crack at a repeat win at this track.

And, of course, like we’ve seen three times this season to date, an “underdog” like could swoop in for an unexpected win and change the course of events.

It’s racing, folks, that’s why we play it out ‘til the end.

After Indy the summer unfurls with second stops at Pocono, Michigan, and Bristol with a road course – Watkins Glen – thrown in the mix. Atlanta and Richmond close the regular season before the Chase begins in earnest in September at Chicagoland Speedway.

If you are like me, you watch every race with anticipation and interest. It’s a long season but it’s a great one.

So enjoy the mini-break because the season roars back to life on July 28th at the Brickyard and doesn’t stop until November 17th in Homestead when a champion is crowned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winning Consecutive Cup Titles Is The Exception To The Rule

Richard Petty is a seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion who won consecutive titles twice in his career.

In NASCAR there are exceptions to every rule. Throughout its illustrious and storied history, those exceptions sometimes seem like the rule.

I’ll explain.

When Jimmie Johnson was on the verge of winning his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup championship his fans were thrilled with his dominance and his detractors were fed up.

What many may not understand is that winning a consecutive championships, two in a row, is the exception to the rule.

Piecing together a championship season is very difficult and rare. Doing it twice (or more) in a row is nearly impossible.

Brad Keselowski is the latest champion to learn firsthand how difficult it is to have lightning strike twice.

After a successful run for the title last year, that saw Keselowski crowned champ in Homestead, he has yet to win a race and will possibly be out of this year’s Chase, if his performance on the track doesn’t improve drastically.

Keselowski is in good company. There are other drivers who have never won a second championship, let alone a consecutive one.

Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Bobby Labonte are active drivers and could possibly win a second championship. But they could not duplicate their title-winning season consecutively.

Some on the all-time championship list have pieced together two championships – Herb Thomas, Tim Flock, Ned Jarrett and Terry Labonte – but not consecutively.

Last year’s champion, Brad Keselowski, is finding it difficult to win a second straight championship. He is outside the top 10 and hasn’t won this year.

Buck Baker figured out how to win two championships in a row in 1956 and 1957. Joe Weatherly made it happen in 1962 and 1963.

NASCAR has even had its share of three-time Cup champions with drivers like Tony Stewart who was never able to win consecutive championships. His titles came in 2002, 2005, and 2011.

The rest of the three-timers, Lee Petty, David Pearson and Darrell Waltrip were able to piece together two consecutive championship years.

Only Cale Yarborough claimed the distinction of winning three consecutive championships in the years 1976-78.

Out of his four championships, Jeff Gordon earned one consecutive championship couplet in the years 1997 and 1998.

Seven-time champion and “King “of the sport Richard Petty earned two sets of two-in-a-row championships in the years 1971-72 and 1974-75.

The other seven-time champion and legend in the sport Dale Earnhardt won consecutive championships three times, in the years 1986-87, 1990-91, and 1993-94.

Even “The King” and “The Intimidator” could not string together more than two championship years in a row.

As previously mentioned, Yarborough won three in consecutive years.

But not until Johnson’s unprecedented and unbelievable five consecutive championships, which occurred in the years 2006-2010, did the sport experience anything as outstanding.

And like them or not Johnson, crew chief Chad Knaus and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Lowe’s team found some way to earn championships one after the other for five straight seasons.

They are truly the most glaring exception to the rule that it is nearly impossible to win more than two in a row.

Only 29 drivers to date have actually won a Cup in NASCAR. Of those, 14 have won only one.

Keselowski should remember that he’s living in an era where the exception seemed like the rule, but in the big picture his accomplishments are still incredible.

Because any driver who has never won a Cup will tell you that piecing together a championship season is incredibly difficult.

Keselowski did it in the Johnson era.

Any driver whose name is on the list of champions is special in NASCAR.

Winning consecutive titles, be it two, three, or five in a row are all exceptions to the rule.

 

Daytona Coke Zero 400 Winners A List Of NASCAR Greats

With a reputation of getting “hot” when the weather gets warm, Tony Stewart has won the July Daytona race four times and will be a favorite this year.

As the mercury rises, the stars and stripes wave proudly in honor of the United States of America’s birthday, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup cars head to Daytona, it’s time to whip up a glorious celebration.

Daytona has been the site of amazing races and happenings in NASCAR’s storied history. Although the February Daytona 500 gets the most attention, so many great memories were made in the July 400-mile race at the 2.5-mile track.

Who could ever forget NASCAR Hall of Famer Fireball Roberts winning several contests in Daytona on the Fourth of July? In 1959, 1962, and 1963 Roberts was the dominant racer on that course in the heat of summer.

A.J. Foyt was another driver who drove especially well in Florida’s oppressive July temperatures. He racked up wins in 1964 and 1965.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough celebrated Independence Day in Victory Lane at Daytona in 1967-68, and the Bicentennial run in 1976.

Fellow NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson made fireworks in Daytona winning in 1961, 1972-74, and 1978.

And another Hall of Famer, Bobby Allison, picked up a few Fourth of July wins in Daytona in 1980, 1982, and 1987.

Not to be outdone, the scion of the sport, King Richard Petty himself, took the checkered flag at Daytona on Independence Day on his auspicious 200th win with then-President Ronald Reagan present.

Petty had won the race in 1975 and 1977 as well, but that trip to victory lane in 1984 must have been the sweetest.

Jeff Gordon is the only driver to win the summer Daytona race when it wasn’t held in the summer. Wildfires postponed the race until October.

Edgy and flamboyant driver Tim Richmond checked winning Daytona in July off of his list when he crossed the finish line in 1986. It was the greatest season Richmond had ever – or would ever – experience with seven victories.

Bill Elliott has the distinction of winning the first July Daytona race not run on the Fourth of July. That first date was July 2, 1988. Elliott also took top honors in July in 1991.

From the first class of NASCAR Hall of Famers, Dale Earnhardt ran well in the July contests at Daytona, winning in 1990 and 1993.

Another Dale, newly announced NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Dale Jarrett, won in 1999.

Jeff Gordon has the distinction of winning the only Daytona July race held in October. Wildfires earlier in the summer had forced a postponement making a later date necessary in 1998. Gordon won that and also collected wins in 1995 and 2004.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the most emotional win in a July event at Daytona when he won in 2001, just months after losing his father in the Daytona 500.

His victory is remembered vividly by many fans and still resonates with fans of Earnhardt and Earnhardt Jr., as well as all of NASCAR.

Tony Stewart has amassed a bevy of victories in the July events at Daytona. He’s put a “W” in the column in 2005-06, 2009, and 2012. Clearly Stewart has a handle on the track in the intense heat of the Florida summer.

Who will take the Independence Weekend win? Jimmie Johnson, Gordon, Greg Biffle, Stewart, David Ragan, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, or somebody else?

Whoever it will be, I’ll be watching as I wish my country a very Happy Birthday – NASCAR-style!

 

 

Austin Dillon Can Return Legendary No. 3 To Prominence

Austin Dillon is the grandson of noted team owner Richard Childress who has won NASCAR titles and is working his way into Sprint Cup competition with the famous No. 3 car.

Austin Dillon is NASCAR royalty. He may not have any NASCAR Sprint Cup wins in the seven starts he’s had to date, but he is still a part of one of NASCAR’s royal family.

Dillon, of course, is the grandson of championship team owner Richard Childress.

Raised around racing his entire life, Dillon found early success in his own career. For example, he was the 2008 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East at 18 years old.

Notoriety followed Dillon as he raced his grandfather’s number – the iconic No. 3 – in NASCAR competition.

The black Goodwrench Chevrolet No. 3 is heavily associated with Childress’ late driver Dale Earnhardt. It was while driving the No.3 Earnhardt won six of his seven championships with Childress as his team owner.

Earnhardt’s death on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 was a critical blow to Childress, his team, and the sport as a whole.

But racing people continue to do what they know – race – even in the face of death, mourning, and loss.

In NASCAR, numbers are not retired like they are in other sports. Many drivers have died on the job, others while in the prime of their racing careers, and still others who have retired gracefully. None of their numbers have been retired.

Many loyal fans to “The Intimidator,” Earnhardt, feel that once their hero died that the car number so associated with him should be retired.

One of Dillon’s accomplishments this season was to win the pole for the Dover Nationwide Series race in June.

Childress never has run the number in the Cup series since Earnhardt’s death. Earnhardt’s erstwhile replacement on the team, Kevin Harvick, took the No. 29 Childress asked permission to run.

But ever since Childress’ two grandsons, Austin and Ty were little boys, they hung around the world of NASCAR. They attended races, hung out at the garages and plotted their own racing careers.

Austin, the elder of Childress’ two grandsons, was able to strike out first. He did so running his grandpa’s No.3 in competition as he came up through different series.

The number is a part of the man.

Running the No. 3 in competition on the race track is as normal as can be for Dillon.

Many argue the only driver who should run the iconic number is Dale Earnhardt Jr., Earnhardt’s son. But Earnhardt Jr. vehemently disagrees.

Earnhardt Jr. is on record stating that the No. 3 was creating history in NASCAR long before his father stepped into the ride, and should continue to do so even though his famous father is gone.

In fact, Earnhardt Jr. equated the car as a bank where drivers continue to deposit history.

And he doesn’t want in the car.

Earnhardt’s legacy was Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI). No longer the organization it once was at its heyday, Earnhardt Jr. left his namesake company and sought greener pastures at arguably NASCAR’s greatest modern race organization, Hendrick Motorsports.

Earnhardt Jr. spends his entire career and life proving he is not his father. He certainly does not want to run his late father’s car in a time when his fans still remember his dad.

Driving the No. 3, however, is the exact legacy that Childress has created for his grandson since he was a young lad.

Dillon is a strong, vital, and unique young man who makes no apologies for who he is. His handshake is firm, his eye contact direct, and his words well thought out.

From his signature cowboy hat to the way he carries himself, his driving style to his unmistakable results, Dillon is one of NASCAR’s rising stars.

And who better to step into the No. 3 to continue its distinguished and storied history – from Junior Johnson to Earnhardt – than Childress’ grandson?

In his relatively short time racing in NASCAR in its top three tiers, Dillon has won the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, was the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year and continues to make inroads in both Nationwide and Cup.

It’s time to welcome back the No. 3 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. It’s time to embrace the next generation of NASCAR royalty who happens to be the real deal.

Dillon swept at Kentucky Speedway in 2012 in Nationwide. Look for him to be a major contender

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