Speedway Digest Staff
Follow us on Twitter @SpeedwayDigest
Austin Dillon, a champion in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, will compete full-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2014 driving for Richard Childress Racing.
Dillon joins Paul Menard, who will drive the No. 27 Menards Chevrolet with crew chief "Slugger" Labbe, and Ryan Newman, who will drive the No. 31 Caterpillar/Quicken Loans/Wix Filters Chevrolet with crew chief Luke Lambert, as full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers under the RCR banner in 2014. The Welcome, N.C., organization has invested significant resources in its competition and engineering departments to prepare for the 2014 season. Many of these changes were spearheaded by the additions of Dr. Eric Warren (director of competition) and Mark McCardle (director of racing operations) to the organization, along with the recent addition of Mike Coughlan (technical director).
Dillon's program will be led by crew chief Gil Martin, a 13-year veteran of the organization who led Kevin Harvick to six chase berths. It also marks the highly anticipated return of the No. 3 to Sprint Cup Series competition. Dow and General Mills' Cheerios brand will be the primary brands featured on the No. 3 Chevrolet SS throughout the season.
"My grandfather and everyone at RCR have done a great job of not pushing me too quickly into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series," said Dillon. "I feel like I've been able to spend adequate time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Nationwide Series preparing for this next step in my career. I am thrilled to be making this move with partners like Dow and Cheerios, along with some long-time partners who have supported me and RCR throughout my career. I am truly grateful and looking forward to this opportunity."
The program between RCR and Dow is driven by several Dow businesses that are directly involved in R&D projects and strategic business and relationship opportunities unique to the NASCAR community.
"We see this as a great opportunity to partner with a historic team like Richard Childress Racing that is synonymous with success, integrity and championships, and a championship driver in Austin Dillon," said Joe Harlan, executive vice president of Dow. "Austin's winning passion is representative of Dow. Our employees and customers were very supportive of our debut into our partnership with RCR during 2013 and they are looking forward to continued involvement with Austin next year. Dow's technology-focused, market-driven, customer-centric organization aligns perfectly with the performance-driven values of RCR and NASCAR. We look forward to being a part of Austin's rookie NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and continued success in NASCAR."
General Mills is entering its 17th year in NASCAR and its sixth year with RCR. They began their association with Dillon last year when the Minneapolis, MN.-based company used its Honey Nut Cheerios brand to help Dillon make his inaugural Daytona 500 start. Today, Cheerios launched the @CheerThe3 communities on Facebook and Twitter so fans can access exclusive content and share their excitement around Austin and the No. 3 race team.
"With Austin Dillon's success in both the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, we're proud to continue our support of Austin, a proven winner and passionate driver," said Gregg Dorazio, manager of shopper marketing and motorsports for General Mills. "He shares many of the same values as the Cheerios brand and has a bright future in the sport. We're excited to join him in this next step in his career. We're also proud to continue our partnership with RCR and continue our heritage in the sport."
In addition to Dow and Cheerios, several long-time partners associated with RCR and Dillon will join him as he moves to full-time competition in the Sprint Cup Series including Realtree Outdoors, Bass Pro Shops, American Ethanol and the University of Northwestern Ohio.
NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France has announced the appointment of long-time auto industry executive Brent Dewar as Chief Operating Officer of NASCAR to strengthen its executive management team and accelerate a number of key growth initiatives. Dewar begins at NASCAR on January 6, 2014.
Concurrently, NASCAR announced that Steve Phelps, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, has been promoted to executive vice president, while Steve O’Donnell, senior vice president, racing operations, has also been promoted to executive vice president. The company’s general counsel, Gary Crotty, has been elevated to chief legal officer/general counsel. Mike Helton continues as NASCAR President with continued oversight of all racing operations.
NASCAR’s executive leadership restructuring reflects France’s effort to make bold resourcing decisions that accelerate progress as the company focuses on announced changes in competition, research and development and on-going efforts to serve the current fan base and grow audience. The addition of Dewar, who has been consulting with NASCAR over the past year, will balance the responsibility across the executive leadership team and allow France to focus on setting the vision for NASCAR and driving key strategic growth initiatives and innovation across NASCAR.
“In Brent Dewar, we will add a seasoned leader with deep experience in the automotive sector, plus intimate knowledge of and passion for NASCAR as well as various other forms of motorsports,” France said. “Brent brings creativity, drive, intelligence, operational acumen and a clear understanding of our assets and challenges to NASCAR. He’s a leader who’s naturally collaborative, an essential trait as we work more closely with the OEMs, teams, tracks, broadcast partners and others to grow the sport over the next decade.
“Steve Phelps and Steve O’Donnell have led critical evolutions in key areas of our business over the last several years with great success, and Gary Crotty continues to lead one of the best legal teams in all of sport,” said France. “Their promotions are reflective of their achievements and the increased role they’ll play in 2014 and the years ahead.”
In recent years, Dewar has worked in senior executive consulting roles at GreenOrder, Courland International and most recently has been managing partner at Whitby Advisors, the company through which he has consulted NASCAR on its wide-ranging initiative to transform its Competition model in the areas of governance, rules, deterrence / penalties and officiating / inspection.
Dewar began his career at General Motors and achieved increasingly senior roles over nearly three decades at the global auto manufacturer. The breadth of his assignments at GM spans many areas of operations, global marketing, product development media, motorsports and sales operations for multiple brands. His final assignment with GM was Senior Vice President Global Chevrolet, responsible for leading GM’s volume brand across four regions and 130 markets.
“Working closely with NASCAR over the last year I’ve been very impressed by Brian’s vision for NASCAR’s future and the talented people he has put in place to achieve that vision,” said Dewar. “I have great passion for racing and I look forward to adding my experience, ideas and relationships throughout racing to help the team drive NASCAR’s growth and position it for a bright future.”
NASCAR’s top drivers throughout its regional touring and weekly series will be in the spotlight this week in Charlotte, N.C., with a bevy of activities leading up to the awards ceremonies Friday and Saturday night.
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards will take place Friday, Dec. 13. Among those honored will be the 2013 national champion Lee Pulliam, as well as track champions from 55 tracks across the United States and Canada, state and provincial champions and top rookies.
"We've been really looking forward to this," said Lee Pulliam, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion. "A lot of hard work has gone into this year to get us to this point. Charlotte was a blast last year, and it's already started off that way this year.
"I'm just really proud of everybody's hard work and determination that's gotten us here. Getting that handshake from NASCAR President Mike Helton and receiving that coveted trophy, that’s something I've always dreamed of."
On the following evening, NASCAR’s touring series champions will be recognized at the traditional NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards. Set for Saturday, Dec. 14, honorees will include the champions from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and West, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR Canadian Tire Series presented by Mobil 1, Mexico’s NASCAR Toyota Series and NASCAR Whelen Euro Series.
"It's great - this week is always terrific," said Ander Vilarino, who won his second straight NASCAR Whelen Euro Series in 2013. "All the moments are very special. Just having the car in the NASCAR Hall of Fame -- all the champions cars are there. And you can see Petty's car and Johnson's car and there is our car.
"And obviously the awards ceremony is the key moment - the most exciting moment of the week - when you receive that NASCAR championship ring."
Both the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards and the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards will be streamed live on NASCARHomeTracks.com. Friday will be in English and Spanish, and Saturday will be in English, Spanish and French.
NASCAR Champions week kicks off Wednesday, Dec. 11 with the first NASCAR Home Tracks Champions Challenge presented by iRacing.com.
The unique event will be held on the iRacing simulator pods at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. iRacing.com is the world’s premier motorsports racing simulation which allows drivers, race fans and gamers alike to hone their skills and enjoy the thrill of the racetrack from the comfort of their home.
The event will kick off at 1:30 p.m., with an autograph session in the Great Hall at the NASCAR Hall of Fame where the championship trophies and cars will be on display with the seven NASCAR touring series champions and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.
Fans will be able to sign-up to compete against the champions, including Tyler Hudson, the recently crowned NASCAR iRacing.com Series World champion, in iRacing races from 2-4 p.m.
The final championship race will begin at 4:15 p.m. and will feature all nine champions competing against one another.
The Indiana Motorsports Commission approved preliminary plans by Hulman & Company to invest state funds on infrastructure upgrades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, targeted at improvements that enhance the quality of motorsport events and the fan experience at the facility.
The commission approved a resolution to adopt the IMS improvement plan, including creation of a new Motorsports Investment District for IMS, a step toward issuing bonds to fund improvements at the facility.
"We're grateful for the support we've received from Hoosiers, the Indiana General Assembly and Governor Mike Pence to assist us with needed capital improvements," said Jeff Belskus, Hulman & Company president and chief administrative officer. "We have a plan for IMS that assures the best return for taxpayers and enhances our role as an economic engine for the state."
IMS has an annual economic impact of more than $500 million in Indiana, and the motorsports industry in Indiana supports more than 6,200 Indiana jobs that pay an average wage of $63,000, according to an Indiana University Public Policy Institute report released earlier this year.
The plan submitted to the IMC used these criteria to broadly identify the types of improvements to fund with bond proceeds over the next several years:
•Focus on necessary track modifications, including:
o The addition of an apron in the four turns of the IMS oval to be used in NASCAR events, enhancing competition
o Repaving and reconfiguration of the IMS road course, a project completed in November 2013
o Refurbishing of catch fencing
•Focus on the fan experience, including:
o Seating improvements to improve comfort, better grandstand access with more elevators and suite renovations
o New video screens and Scoring Pylon
o Modernized restroom facilities
o Increasing concession choices, expanding fan zones and providing more entertainment
o Need for improved access, traffic flow and parking
•Focus on technology, including:
o Availability of wireless access throughout the facility
o State-of-the-art data, video and audio availability
Some components of the plan already have been implemented. Improvements to the IMS road course were pivotal to the creation of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis IndyCar Series race on May 8-10, 2014 and the retention of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP World Championship race Aug. 8-10, 2014 - two events with significant economic impact for Indiana.
"We'll complete our master plan next spring, but the first upgrades, which complement our new Month of May, are already underway," Belskus said. "We just completed paving the newly modified road course that will host the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 10 and be used by MotoGP competitors in August. Our fans also will see a new Scoring Pylon and new video screens next spring. And that's just the beginning."
Additional plans for IMS development and enhancement beyond the funding managed by the Indiana Motorsports Commission also will be included in the master plan to be released in spring 2014.
"We started with ideas for improvements that totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, and we've reduced our list to a list of potential projects with total spending of about $140 million," Belskus said. "Now we have some difficult decisions ahead to pare the list further before we ask the commission for its approval."
The plan does not include installing lights on the famed, 2.5-mile IMS oval for night races. Economic studies showed this $20-million investment did not provide the best return for taxpayers.
Instead, capital improvements in fan experience and track modifications will make IMS a more attractive venue with higher quality racing events. IMS will continue to put a top priority on investments that grow ticket sales and protect revenue from existing events.
"Improving the quality of racing will grow ticket sales," Belskus said. "For example, adding an apron to the track would improve the passing opportunities during the Kroger Super Weekend at the Brickyard."
The apron only will be used for NASCAR racing and will cost less than $1 million. The estimated cost for lights is $20 million.
Speedway officials, working with a planning team led by Michael Browning, of Browning Investments, and including such partners as CSO Architects, Shrewsberry & Associates, Browning Day Mullins Dierdorff and Populous, are working on a master planning process and have identified nearly $140 million in potential capital improvements.
The bond issue authorized by House Enrolled Act 1544 and signed into law earlier this year will generate about $90 million to fund improvements at IMS. The bonds will be repaid through credits equal to incremental state sales and income taxes from the Motorsports Investment District and proceeds from a new admissions tax. IMS also will fund at least $2 million annually toward lease payments and debt service.
A copy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Qualified Motorsports Facility Improvement Plan and accompanying exhibits may be found on the IMC website at www.in.gov/imc/2339.htm.
Daniel Hemric entered the famed Snowflake 100/Snowball Derby doubleheader at Five Flags Speedway as a favorite to win in the two events, but bad luck with both cars left the Kannapolis, N.C., native returning home without the hardware. Throughout the five-day affair, Hemric split his time between the No. 54 Sharp-Gallaher Racing Pro Late Model (Snowflake 100 entry) and the No. 98 Carswell Motorsports Super Late Model (Snowball Derby entry). Both cars demonstrated solid speed with Hemric posting the fastest time amongst the Pro Late Models and the third-fastest time in the Super Late Model during Thursday's practice session.
When the cars returned to the track on Friday, he posted the second-fastest times in both cars during the practices in which he participated. Friday evening, the Super Late Model teams had their first opportunity to secure a starting position for the 46th Annual Snowball Derby during qualifying where the top 30 cars were locked into the field. Hemric had an ace in his pocket - he held a provisional position thanks to his 2013 Southern Series and 2013 Blizzard Series Championship titles. His 16.313-second lap was the fourth fastest and secured him valuable track position to start Sunday's 300-lap race.
Hemric returned to Five Flags Speedway on Saturday ready for a full day in the No. 54 Sharp-Gallaher Racing Pro Late Model and for Snowball Derby Happy Hour. He was sixth fastest in final practice for the Snowflake 100 and logged a 16.561-second lap during time trials to earn the 10th spot for the start of the 100-lap race. That afternoon he put the No. 98 Super Late Model eighth on the speed charts in final practice. With practice and qualifying sessions behind him, Hemric was ready to focus on the two races that remained at the popular short track.
Lining up in the 10th position for the start of the Snowflake 100, Hemric was confident that they had a car capable of winning. The 36-car field took the green flag under the lights of Five Flags Speedway for some good, old-fashioned Saturday night short-track racing. Hemric remained inside the top 15, planning to preserve his tires and stay out of trouble during the early laps. On lap 40, the No. 54 machine slowed on the racetrack and Hemric brought the car to pit road to the attention of his crew. Upon evaluation it was discovered that damage to the throttle linkage would end their night, relegating him to a 29th-place finish.
Following the disappointing result from the previous night, Hemric was ready to turn things around in the weekend's highlight event, the Snowball Derby. Known as the Daytona 500 of the short-track racing world, leaving Pensacola (Fla.) with the Snowball Derby trophy would mean a lifetime of bragging rights. Hemric started the race from the fourth position and climbed into the second spot by the time the yellow flag was displayed for the competition caution on Lap 75. A lightning fast, four-tire pit stop put the No. 98 out in the lead. Hemric was named the recipient of the Charlie Bradberry Lap 78 bonus for leading that lap. Shortly after the race returned to green-flag conditions, Hemric reported that something felt like it had broken underneath his car. He quickly fell in the running order but remained in the top 20, making multiple visits to pit road for repairs every time a caution period occurred. As the race approached the halfway point, Hemric was in the 22nd position but was still on the lead lap. Following numerous visits to pit road for service and additional repairs which ultimately cost him his lead-lap position, long green-flag racing would continue to plague the young driver and he was unable to return to lead-lap competition and contend for the win. Hemric was running times as fast as the leaders and despite being able to pass lead-lap cars on the racetrack, was trapped two laps down and could not gain positions, finishing the 300-lap event 21st.
Daniel Hemric Quotes:
"We were so good in both cars all weekend, but just rotten luck cost us in the end. Thank you to Sharp-Gallaher Racing for the support in the Snowflake 100. I really wanted to get them the win in their first Snowflake. The car was great and then out of nowhere, I could tell something wasn't right. It was heartbreaking.
I was so excited for this year's Snowball Derby, especially with the success that we had at Five Flags (Speedway) all year. The car handled great during every practice and was so fast in both qualifying and race trim. When we got off pit road first, I thought we had a chance to win this thing. But on the restart I could tell something was off. The guys did a great job making the repairs, but we just couldn't stay on the lead lap with our time in the pits. We were just as fast as the leaders. The 21st--place finish does not show how strong this car was. Thank you to all these guys at Carswell Motorsports. We had an amazing year and I am so proud of to be a part of this team."
Darlington Raceway will once again team up with the American Red Cross Blood Services to host a holiday blood drive on Wednesday, Dec. 18 from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Appointments are encouraged and can be made in advance by visiting www.RedCrossBlood.org and entering sponsor code “darlingtonraceway” or by calling 1-800-REDCROSS.
For each donation, fans will get a behind-the-scenes look at the Lady in Black, which includes the opportunity to take a pace car ride around the Darlington oval. The first 50 donors will also receive a gift bag courtesy of Georgia Pacific.
This is the third blood drive Darlington Raceway has hosted in 2013.
In two previous blood collection events this year, the track has helped generate 380 units of blood donated. With each unit having the ability to benefit up to three people, Darlington Raceway’s efforts have helped approximately 1,140 people in the local community.
Since 2005, Darlington Raceway has collected 1,668 units of blood for the American Red Cross, potentially saving the lives of 5,004 people in their community.
“We encourage our fans to come out on December 18 and donate a unit of blood during the holiday season,” Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile said. “It’s a great opportunity to support the American Red Cross at a time when they need blood donations the most.”
Darlington Raceway PR
With a little help, Richmond International Raceway is taking its holiday spirit to new heights with a unique food drive to benefit FeedMore’s Central Virginia Food Bank. Classic Rock 96.5 radio DJs Sam and Mason won’t leave the top of RIR’s 153-ft Video Scoring Tower until NASCAR K&N Pro Series driver and Richmond, Virginia native Sam Hunt’s race car is packed with food to help those in need this Friday, December 13, for “Sam & Mason – Rockin’ & Racin’ to FeedMore.”
Anyone interested in donating may come to the track (enter through the Main Gate at 600 East Laburnum Avenue), beginning at 8:00 a.m., to donate food, which will be piled into Sam Hunt’s No. 18 Drive Technology Toyota Camry. Those donating five or more food items will have the opportunity to drive their vehicle around the track. If you’re interested in donating to FeedMore, but can’t make it to RIR this Friday, visit www.feedmore.org/rir to make a donation.
“We love to raise awareness for nonprofit organizations in need throughout the Greater Richmond Metropolitan Area, especially during the holiday season,” said RIR President Dennis Bickmeier. “Now we’re taking things to a new level, and can’t thank Sam, Mason and Sam Hunt enough for their participation in the event.”
"In Central Virginia, over 200,000 individuals live with hunger each and every day, so we are extremely grateful for the continued support of community and corporate partners like Richmond International Raceway," said Jeff Baldwin, media and public relations manager for FeedMore. "Over the last 6 months, the amount of food distributed by FeedMore's Central Virginia Food Bank has increased by twenty percent."
Sam and Mason will be perched atop the Video Scoring Tower at the command of Bickmeier, who won the season-long fantasy racing contest among the three. Dennis decided to turn his “consequence” into something good that would benefit FeedMore. The DJs will be broadcasting throughout the day – tune to WKLR 96.5 FM in the Richmond market or stream live on www.rock965klr.com.
Once Hunt’s Toyota is filled with food, it will be transported to FeedMore.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, known worldwide for their precision aerobatics, will return to Daytona International Speedway to perform the flyover for the prestigious 56thannual DAYTONA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener on Sunday, Feb. 23.
It’s the fourth consecutive year that the flying team, officially known as the U.S. Air Force Air Demonstration Squadron, will be at the “World Center of Racing” to perform the flyover for “The Great American Race.” For the 2013 DAYTONA 500, the Thunderbirds were unable to fly their signature "Delta" formation flyover due to cloud ceilings below mandatory minimums.
The Thunderbirds also provided the flyover in 2008 for the 50th running of the DAYTONA 500.
The Thunderbirds flyover will feature six F-16 Fighting Falcons, the Air Force’s premier multi-role fighter aircraft, soaring over the Speedway at the end of the national anthem.
“We’re deeply honored and privileged to have the USAF Thunderbirds return, and we’re looking forward to witnessing an exhilarating flyover during the pre-race ceremonies for the DAYTONA 500,” Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood III said. “The sight and sound of the Thunderbirds flying above Daytona International Speedway will give goose bumps to the thousands of race fans in attendance and the millions more watching on FOX Sports.”
After the federal budget sequester took effect in the spring, the flying team was forced to cancel all but one of their 2013 performances. In October, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that the Thunderbirds will be back on the road next year.
“We are absolutely excited for another opportunity to showcase American air power at one of the signature events in our great country,” said Lt. Col. Greg Moseley, Thunderbirds commander and lead pilot. “The Daytona crowd is incredible, and we plan on giving them a flyover they deserve.”
Assigned to Air Combat Command, the squadron is composed of 12 officers and more than 100 enlisted Airmen serving in about 30 Air Force job specialties.
Since the unit's inception in 1953, more than 350 million people in all 50 states and more than 60 countries have witnessed the distinctive red, white and blue jets in thousands of official aerial demonstrations.
Tonight's Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony at Richmond International Raceway Canceled Due to Inclement Weather
Richmond International Raceway’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, originally scheduled for tonight, is canceled due to inclement weather.
Although tonight’s ceremony is canceled, the Christmas tree WILL be decorated and illuminated this week, and it will shine each night through Christmas. The decorations were constructed by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School.
The festive holiday season at Richmond International Raceway also includes the ninth annual toy and food drive, benefiting the Marine Toys for Tots program and the Central Virginia Food Bank. Everyone is encouraged to donate a new, unwrapped toy and food items to benefit these great causes. RIR will match every donation received at the track, toy for toy and can for can.
At first glance the blue prints for the 46th Annual Snowball Derby had Chase Elliott capping off his weekend sweep with his second career Snowball Derby victory and defending winner Erik Jones settling for a solid runner-up finish. However, after Elliott's car failed post-race inspection due to an illegal weight, it would be 17-year-old Jones holding the Tom Dawson trophy for the second consecutive year. The Michigan native's name will now forever hold an elite spot amongst Rich Bickle and Augie Grill as the only drivers to ever win in back-to back-years. Additionally, the talented youngster joins Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) owner Kyle Busch and short track legend Gary St. Amant as the only drivers to win the Winchester 400 and Snowball Derby in the same year.
Hamner Racing Engines
Hightower Racing Transmissions
Bassett Racing Wheel
JGR Driven Racing Oil
Bob Tyler Toyota
Brown and Miller Racing Solutions
Schroth Safety Products
Coleman Racing Products
VDL Fuel Systems
Five Star Race Bodies
National Speed Sport News