Speedway Digest Staff
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Questions abound regarding tomorrow's NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 announcement
Twenty of the most hallowed individuals in NASCAR history have already had been enshrined in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with their spires displayed permanently in the museum's Hall of Honor. Their names are a Who's Who List of NASCAR Legends -- names even the most casual of fans get nostalgic for.
Names like Petty, Earnhardt, Johnson, France, Pearson, Allison, Jarrett, Wood, Waltrip, Yarborough and Wallace.
On Wednesday, May 22, 2013, the next five individuals -- the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 -- will be announced at 6:00 p.m. ET on SPEED, in the Great Hall of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in uptown Charlotte, N.C. The five new inductees will be chosen from a pool of 25 nominees.
For the first time in sports history, there will be a NASCAR official behind closed doors live-tweeting from the room where members of the Voting Panel are discussing the contributions and merits of each nominee, and subsequently voting. Fans can follow along via the sanctioning body's official Twitter handle @NASCAR and interact on Twitter using #NASCARHOF.
The announcement of the five-person class will most likely feature some surprises, as there are no clear-cut favorites this year, unlike in years past. Everyone's on the same level…it's anyone's guess.
The lack of a consensus on the class is what makes this Voting Day so intriguing. It also opens the door for good, healthy debates championing the merits of one nominee over another. Is Red Byron a more deserving nominee than Jack Ingram? Do Tim Flock's accomplishments in the NASCAR premier series trump what Jerry Cook did in the NASCAR Modified Tour?
The answers to those questions and many others like them are up to the 54-member Voting Panel to decide.
While there is no widespread agreement on any of the nominees, there are a handful of names that will most assuredly generate a buzz during the Voting Panel's discussion immediately prior to the vote.
Last year, Fireball Roberts came within a hair of being part of the Class of 2013 after tying with Buck Baker for the fifth and final induction spot. In a re-vote between the two nominees, Baker beat Roberts. Roberts, who won 33 races in the premier series, was also one of the top five vote getters in the NASCAR.COM Fan Vote.
Jerry Cook and Tim Flock were the seventh and eighth top vote getters during Voting Day, respectively. Cook won six NASCAR Modified championships, including four consecutive between 1974 and 1977. Flock won the NASCAR premier series title in 1952 and 1955.
Does that guarantee Roberts, Cook and Flock spots in this year's class?
Some may think so, some will probably disagree. There are other nominees whose names will be bandied about and considered heavily when it's time to vote.
What about Dale Jarrett, Maurice Petty and Bruton Smith? All three are on the ballot for the first time and all three have made great contributions to the sport.
Jarrett, whose father was inducted in 2011, won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 1999. As chief engine builder for Petty Enterprises, Maurice Petty won seven premier series titles with his brother Richard, who was inducted in 2010. His father, Lee, was inducted in 2011. Smith is the Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, Inc., which owns and operates eight tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup events.
Will any of the first timers have enough support to hear their name called during the class unveiling or will the fact that it's their first time on the ballots affect their consideration this year?
A nominee getting voted in on his or her first ballot (outside of the inaugural vote) might have been considered unlikely prior to last year when Rusty Wallace was announced as part of the Class of 2013. So, the precedent has been set and no one should be too surprised if one or more of this year's first timers make it into the Class of 2014.
Will all five members of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 come from the six individuals listed above or will some of the other 19 nominees be among those immortalized in the Hall of Honor?
That's what makes this class and this year's Voting Day so intriguing -- it's truly anyone's guess who the five members of the Class of 2014 will be.
It won't be until they make the official announcement on Wednesday that we can stop all the conjecturing. And then we can start speculating on the makeup of the Class of 2015.
Below are all 25 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2014 Nominees:
· Red Byron: First NASCAR champion (1948 Modified Division) and first NASCAR premier series champion (1949). · Richard Childress: Eleven national series owner championships and first owner to win titles in all three national series. · Jerry Cook: Six-time NASCAR Modified champion with four of them coming in consecutive years (1974-1977). · H. Clay Earles: Opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, which is the only track to host NASCAR premier series races every year. · Tim Flock: Two-time NASCAR premier series champion (1952, 1955) with 39 career wins, putting him 18th on the all-time wins list. · Ray Fox: Named 1956 Mechanic of the Year and built the cars that won the 1960 Daytona 500 and the 1964 Southern 500. · Anne B. France: Matriarch of the sport who served as secretary and treasurer of NASCAR and ISC. · Rick Hendrick: Ten premier series titles, 13 national series titles, which are both NASCAR records. · Jack Ingram: Two NASCAR Nationwide championships (1982, 1985) and three consecutive Late Model Sportsman titles (1972-1974). · Bobby Isaac: Won the 1970 premier series championship and holds the single-season pole record with 19 (1969). · Dale Jarrett: Won the 1999 premier series championship and the Daytona 500 three times (1993, 1996, 2000). · Fred Lorenzen: Won the Daytona 500 and World 600 in 1965 and won five consecutive starts in 1964. · Raymond Parks: First NASCAR premier series champion owner who began his career in 1938 with driver Lloyd Seay. · Benny Parsons: 1973 NASCAR premier series champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner. · Maurice Petty: Built engines that propelled Richard Petty to seven NASCAR premier series championship and close to 200 wins. · Larry Phillips: Only five-time NASCAR Weekly Series champion; won 13 NASCAR track championships in three states. · Les Richter: Held roles as NASCAR executive vice president of competition and senior vice president of operations and president and general manager of Riverside International Raceway. · Fireball Roberts: His 33 wins ranks him 20th on the all-time wins list; won the Southern 500 twice (1958, 1963) and the 1962 Daytona 500. · T. Wayne Robertson: Senior vice president at R.J. Reynolds and president of their Sports Marketing Enterprises division who oversaw the creation of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. · Wendell Scott: First African-American to win a NASCAR premier series race in 1963 and the 1959 NASCAR Sportsman Division Virginia champion. · Ralph Seagraves: Helped put NASCAR in the national spotlight through Winston sponsorship, including sponsorship of the developmental series. · Bruton Smith: Chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns and operates eight tracks that host NASCAR Sprint Cup events. · Curtis Turner: 1956 Southern 500 winner who won 38 of the 79 races he entered in the NASCAR Convertible Division. · Joe Weatherly: Two-time NASCAR premier series champion who won 101 modified races and the championship from 1952-1953. · Rex White: 1960 NASCAR premier series champion whose 28 wins place him 22nd on the all-time wins list.
Valvoline, the manufacturer of NextGen™ recycled motor oil, made with 50% re-refined oil, today launched the NextGen Stunt Amplifier. The Valvoline team, working in partnership with Roush Fenway Racing and itsNASCAR Nationwide Series driver, Travis Pastrana, will show fans just how exciting recycling can be.
Fans can visityoutube.com/Valvoline to view a collection of homemade stunt videos hand-selected by Pastrana, then vote on ways to make those stunts even more thrilling. The Valvoline brand and its team of thrill-seekers will recycle one stunt at a surprise location based on fan votes. Additionally, fans can engage with Pastrana by visiting ValvolineNextGen’s Facebook page for a chance to win autographed prizes.
“The NextGen Stunt Amplifier is all about recycling a good stunt to make it even better than before,” said Pastrana, driver for Roush Fenway Racing. “That’s always been one of my mantras. Throughout my career, I’ve always pushed myself to make tweaks, revisions and improvements to my game in order to complete that perfect trick or race.”
The launch of the NextGen Stunt Amplifier is the latest program in a multi-year partnership with Roush Fenway Racing. In 2011, Roush Fenway Racing first adopted NextGen motor oil technology, testing it at the lab and on the track. In 2012, impressed with the oil’s performance, Roush Fenway Racing announced that it would shift all of its Sprint Cup and Nationwide racecars to use Valvoline with NextGen technology. Since 2011, regular season cars using Valvoline with NextGen technology have won a total of 57 races, including 17 victories inNASCAR with Roush Fenway Racing. In addition, Valvoline with NextGen technology has won two Nationwide series championships with Roush Fenway Racing in 2011 and 2012.
“Roush Fenway is a long-time, proven partner for us,” said Michelle Allen, associate brand manager for Valvoline global brands. “That’s why we are excited to work with the Fenway race team, particularly Travis Pastrana, to show drivers everywhere that recycling can be more exciting than you’d expect.”
Annett Returns to the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford
Announced earlier today, Michael Annett will return to the driver's seat of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford. Annett suffered a broken and dislocated sternum after an accident during the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) race at Daytona International Speedway. He was cleared by medical doctors, along with NASCAR officials, to compete in this weekend's NNS race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, following an MRI on Monday afternoon.
This weekend will be Annett's 140th career NNS start and his eighth start at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His best start and finish at the mile-and-a-half oval came last year, starting 13th and earning a 10th-place finish, for his first top-10 at the track.
EFS returns to the No. 43 Ford as a primary partner for the second season in a row. The company provides an easy way for customers in the transportation industry to make payments on-the-go and served as the primary partner for the fall race at Kansas Speedway last season.
Fans will have several chances to meet Annett this week. He will participate in RPM's Fan Appreciation Day on Thursday, May 23rd and will sign autographs from 11 a.m. to Noon ET with teammates Aric Almirola and Marcos Ambrose along with NASCAR Hall-of-Famers Richard Petty and Dale Inman. Wristbands for the autograph session will be available beginning at 8 a.m. ET the day of the event. Annett will also sign autographs on Friday, May 24th in Uptown Charlotte at the Creative Loafing Area of Speed Street from 1-3 p.m. ET.
Comments from the No. 43 EFS Ford Mustang driver Michael Annett:
"Obviously, I can't wait to get back into the No. 43. It has been a long three months, and I am more than ready to jump back in the car. The accident at Daytona was disappointing for our team, but I'm very grateful for the amount of support I had from the team, NASCAR, family, friends and fans and not to mention the outstanding medical team that helped me through all of this. While it was really hard to be on the sidelines, I realize that it was even more important to heal properly.
"It's pretty cool to have EFS on the car for my first race back. They were on the car last year, and it's great to have them back again. Their continued support means a lot to our team. Hopefully, we can have a strong run for them this weekend.
"It's always fun to race at Charlotte. Since it's a 'home' race for most of the teams, it's cool to see so many family and friends get to experience what we do every weekend. It's a fast mile-and-a-half track and we typically run well at the bigger tracks, so hopefully we can get a decent run my first time back in the car."
Comments from Crew Chief Philippe Lopez on Charlotte:
"The entire team is really excited to have Michael back in the car. We had such high hopes for a good season, since the end of 2012 was so good for us. We were disappointed after Daytona, but Reed (Sorenson) came in and did a good job and kept the team going. Now that we have Michael back, we can get back to work on fine tuning this program and building it around him.
"The schedule has worked out really well for us with the additional testing time added on Wednesday. In the beginning, we'll give him a little bit of time just to knock the rust off since he hasn't been in the car for three months. After that, it's back to business. In the last three months, we've been working on a lot of different set-ups and different things for the cars, so this test session is welcomed. It will give us some low pressure hours and give Michael a chance to get back into the groove of things.
"Charlotte is Charlotte. You have to be careful about how you practice and what you call 'good' and what you call 'bad.' The main question is, 'At what time during the day do you race?,' and that is what your focal point is. This track changes by the hour, all day long, and obviously the guys with a lot of experience and good notes can keep up with that. You've got to know that your car is going to behave a certain way at 12 o'clock and it won't behave like that at four o'clock. You have to keep that in mind while you're testing/practicing, and when it comes to the race, you have to put it all together."
'It's a Test for Both Man and Machine'
David Ragan cites the Coca-Cola 600 right up there with the rest of NASCAR's historic races: the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Southern 500. Only the 600-miler is an even greater test of the endurance of both the driver and the car.
Ragan and his No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford will both be tested in their return to Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Sunday night for NASCAR's longest race. The long-running Coke 600, held in NASCAR's hometown of Charlotte, helps mark the Memorial Day weekend every year.
Ragan has celebrated some solid results at the 1.5-mile oval in his Cup career, including one top-five and three top-10 finishes. Sunday night's race will be his 13th career start at Charlotte.
Comments from Dockside Logistics team driver David Ragan heading to Charlotte:
"Half-way into the Coca-Cola 600, you're 300 miles in. And in a typical race you don't have much longer to go. In fact, that's about the standard distance of a Nationwide race. But in the 600, they tell you you're just half-way and you've got to do 300 miles all over again. So, it is a long night.
"I've had some really good racecars there where the night flies by. But I've also gotten wrecked early on and just rode around for points the rest of the day, and that can be a long night. The Coca-Cola 600 always has a huge crowd. It's an important race - our longest race of the year. So it's good for the guys who build our cars and our engines to finish the race and take the checkered flag. That's cool for everyone to get through that and experience that sense of accomplishment.
"The length of the race is a test for both man and machine. It's been around this sport for a long time, obviously. The Daytona 500, the Brickyard, and even Darlington and Martinsville, are known for being the longest running races around, but this one has some history, too. Charlotte is the center of our sport, besides Daytona, and is home for a lot of the NASCAR teams, the companies and organizations that make this NASCAR world go around. It's important and there are a lot of people here watching. Memorial Day weekend is an important weekend for all Americans, so it's a fun weekend to run well."
Wise Preps for His First 600-Miler
Josh Wise will run his first Coca-Cola 600 this Memorial Day weekend and is preparing in every way possible to prepare for NASCAR's most endurance-testing event. The 30-year-old driver of the No. 35 MDS Transport Ford, who still considers himself a rookie in some of the Sprint Cup Series events, has been preparing both physically and mentally.
Wise is a triathlete, with both Half Iron Man and Full Iron Man competitions on his schedule this year. He says his physical conditioning has him ready to run the extra mileage in Sunday night's Cup race. He's preparing mentally with racing simulators, video and a little help from his teammates.
Wise has just one Cup start at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway and seven Nationwide Series starts.
Comments from MDS Transport team driver Josh Wise heading to Charlotte:
"The Coke 600 is obviously going to be a long night. I've never run it, so 600 miles is going to be a long race, particularly for me since it's my first time. Mentally, it's a long time to focus. Luckily, I've put a lot into my conditioning over the winter and leading up to this point in the season, so I shouldn't experience any physical fatigue in the car. But it's definitely a learning process as far as how much focus you have to put in and how to run such a long race strategically.
"A lot of these races, I'm still a rookie really. So I go into them with an open mind and I try to prepare as well as I can with simulator racing on iRacing, watching videos, talking to my teammates, looking at last year's scouting reports, understanding race histories and things like that. And I'll take that same approach into the 600 and know that it's going to be 100 miles longer than what I'm used to."
Adjustability Is Name of Game for Gilliland
The annual Coca-Cola 600 is one of David Gilliland's favorite races. It's also among the most challenging.
The driver of the No. 38 Long John Silver's Ford says adjustability is the key to making it through Sunday night's 600-mile event at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway - being ready to adapt the car to the changing conditions over the course of the night. Gilliland also points to the importance of not losing focus and making mistakes during the extra 100 miles of the marathon race.
Gilliland has 13 career starts at the 1.5-mile oval. His best finish came last fall when he finished 23rd at the October Sprint Cup event.
Comments from Long John Silver's team driver David Gilliland about heading to Charlotte:
"It's a long race. You get about 400 miles into it and you start to think, 'Man, it's got to be getting close to the end.' It's a long race and definitely a very challenging race as well. The track changes a lot over 600 miles, so it can be challenging to build adjustability into your car throughout the race, and staying focused and not making a mistake for that extra 100 miles longer than we usually run. It's a lot of hours to try to get everything perfect, but that's what we do.
"It's a great race. I love Charlotte Motor Speedway. It's one of my favorite racetracks. And, of course, it's another 'home game' for us, which makes everybody happy because we get to be home for two weeks. It's a holiday weekend, people have Monday off, so it's really a fun party atmosphere at the track for all the fans. And they do a great job of filling the stands in Charlotte. People tend to come from all over because they can see so many other things while they're here, like visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, check out the race shops. It's always a fun weekend, so I'm really looking forward to that race."
With Thoughts on Fallen Warriors, Kurt Busch Ready to Contend in NASCAR’s Memorial Day Weekend Classic
Kyle Busch ‘Building’ Toward a Win at Charlotte
On Monday, Kyle Busch, crew chief Dave Rogers and several members of his No. 18 M&M’s Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) team headed to Charlotte to help build a home at a Habitat for Humanity build site.
The driver of the No. 18 M’Prove America™ Toyota and his team have also been building their way toward a long-awaited Sprint Cup win at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, site of Sunday’s traditional Memorial Day-weekend Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest event. With 10 top-10 finishes in his last 12 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, Busch feels his team is closer than ever to hoisting his first trophy there.
But first, the team hoisted trusses, hammers and nails at the job site Monday. The visit was part of the special M&M’s Red, White, and Blue scheme that will adorn the No. 18 Toyota this weekend in support of the M&M’s M’Prove America campaign, a year-long partnership with Habitat designed to fund construction of new Habitat homes across the United States.
Fans can join Busch and M&M’s by pledging to volunteer their time and talents at Habitat for Humanity build sites across the country at www.mproveamerica.com. Also, fans can support the M’Prove America program by purchasing specially marked red, white and blue M&M’S at their local retailer through Labor Day.In addition to encouraging fans to volunteer time, M&M’s is also making a donation of $500,000 to Habitat for Humanity to fund the construction of Habitat homes in 2013
Sunday’s race in his M&M’s M’Prove America colors will be Busch’s 19th career start at the Charlotte oval, two more than he has started at any other track. Busch has posted 17 starts at six other racetracks – Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, Phoenix International Raceway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Ironically, of those six tracks, Busch has won at all of them except Martinsville, and he’s combined for 13 of his overall 26 Sprint Cup wins at those six tracks.
Statistically speaking, Busch’s best Sprint Cup tracks are Bristol and Richmond as he has compiled an impressive nine wins, 20 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s in 30 starts at the two short tracks during his nine-year career. Add some memorable wins at difficult places like Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in 2008, his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2009, and his first Sprint Cup win in 16 tries at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth earlier this season, and Busch can’t help but realize Charlotte is still the one venue where a Sprint Cup win has eluded him.
Ever since his childhood in Las Vegas, some of Busch’s favorite race-watching memories came during Charlotte’s traditional Coca-Cola 600 and All-Star race during the month of May. He dreamed that one day he, too, could be the one hoisting the trophy at one of stock car racing’s most hallowed grounds.
In his 18 previous Sprint Cup starts at Charlotte over the past nine-plus seasons, Busch has managed to enjoy plenty of success on the 1.5-mile oval nicknamed the “Beast of the Southeast.” He’s currently riding a streak of 10 top-10 finishes during the last 12 points-paying races there, dating back to October 2006. In addition to solid Sprint Cup finishes, Busch has captured six NASCAR Nationwide Series wins (May 2004, 2005 and 2008, October 2008 and 2009, and May 2010) and five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins (2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, and 2013).
So, will this be the weekend that Busch finally scores his long-awaited Charlotte win? Well, he’s been building up to it for quite some time.
Ryan Newman ‘Home’ Game
It could be argued that there’s no track on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit Ryan Newman feels more at home than at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
It was at the 1.5-mile track where Newman first made a big splash. And there’s no doubt Newman has made himself right at home in Charlotte since the beginning of his stock car career. He’s hoping the track will once again prove to be home sweet home for his No. 39 Quicken Loans Racing team.
In 2001, in just his third Sprint Cup start while running a partial schedule, Newman shocked the field with an ultra-fast qualifying lap at Charlotte, which earned him the pole position for that year’s Coca-Cola 600. That feat tied Newman with Mark Martin for earliest career Sprint Cup pole.
The following season, Newman once again stunned his competitors when he claimed victory in the 2002 NASCAR All-Star Race in his rookie season. The win was Newman’s first in the Sprint Cup Series, and he won the non-points race in dramatic fashion. On that night, Newman wasn’t even qualified to race in the main event at the start of the night but raced his way in by winning what is now known as the Sprint Showdown.
In the main event, Newman benefited from the inversion of the race field for the final 20 laps. He took the lead two laps into the final segment and never looked back. Although Dale Earnhardt Jr., made a late-race dash, Newman beat him to the finish by .158 of a second to become only the second rookie to win the All-Star Race.
Since that first start at Charlotte back in 2001 when he grabbed the top spot on the starting grid, the South Bend, Ind., native has continued to rack up pole positions at the track. He now has nine poles to his credit at Charlotte – the most of any active Sprint Cup driver. In fact, he is second in all-time poles at the 1.5-mile oval behind the legendary David Pearson, who had 14.
And while he has not recorded a points-paying Sprint Cup win at the racetrack, he does have two wins in addition to his All-Star Race feat – an ARCA victory in 2000 and a NASCAR Nationwide Series victory in 2005.
It’s obvious that the fast, high-banked, oval nestled in the heart of NASCAR country is somewhere Newman feels right at home, which is perfect since Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online retail mortgage lender, adorns the No. 39 Chevy this weekend at Charlotte. Race fans in attendance at Charlotte, as well as those watching at home, will be pushing Newman to “Bring It Home” in the form of a top-five finish in this Sunday’s 600-mile race in hopes that they may be one of the lucky five fans chosen to have their mortgages paid for a month, should Newman be able to accomplish the task.
Consumers can enter the sweepstakes by visiting www.qlracing.com and are encouraged to increase their chances of winning a month-long vacation from their mortgage by entering weekly. Participants also can win additional entries by inviting their friends and family to participate.
It certainly isn’t an easy accomplishment, by any means. The Coca-Cola 600 is the Sprint Cup Series’ longest race, and it requires tremendous mental, physical and emotional fortitude to log 400 laps around Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval.
Newman has proven he knows what it takes to get around Charlotte, despite the fact that a win in a points-paying Sprint Cup race has so far escaped him. Perhaps this is the weekend where he’ll finally be able to “Bring it Home.”
After being sidelined for eight races, Michael Annett will return to the driver's seat of the No. 43 Pilot Flying J Ford this weekend at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Annett was medically cleared today after suffering a broken and dislocated sternum after an accident in the season-opening NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Daytona International Speedway.
The NNS series regular underwent surgery for his injuries after the accident and has been sidelined for three months to allow his injuries to heal. Annett has been preparing for his return by participating in physical therapy over the last three weeks. Medical doctors, along with NASCAR officials, determined he was cleared to drive in the upcoming NNS race at Charlotte Motor Speedway following an MRI on Monday afternoon.