Dallas Motorsports: Nascar

Kyle Busch hopes to build off earlier TMS win

November, 1, 2013
One thing Kyle Busch will get this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway is lots of track time. The driver is competing in tonight's truck race, followed by the Nationwide race Saturday and the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.

But before he even climbs into his truck, Busch has plenty of confidence at TMS. He won the Sprint Cup race in the spring, the first race at TMS with the new Gen-6 car. He won the Nationwide race less than 24 hours earlier.

"It certainly went well for us here earlier this year, and we made it a lot of fun," Busch said. "We want to try to have a repeat performance."

Busch won the Sprint Cup's NRA 500 by leading a race-high 171 laps and won the race from the pole. He was up front all weekend.

Busch believes running all three series gives him an advantage in that he gets to see the track in race conditions a few times before Sunday. Busch sits 36 points behind Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth but is fifth in the standings. He knows he's a long shot to winning the title.

"If you have bad luck with the front two then that's going to bring five guys back into it, I feel like," Busch said. But he later added: "I bet you the front two don't."

Jimmie Johnson comfortable at TMS

November, 1, 2013
FORT WORTH, Texas -- Almost from the moment Jimmie Johnson first arrived at Texas Motor Speedway more than a decade ago, he looked comfortable racing around the 1.5-mile oval.

While other drivers needed a ton of laps to figure things out, Johnson and his team quickly discovered a setup that worked, and despite changes to the track's surface, they've made contending at TMS almost automatic. He looks to continue that run in the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday as he attempts to win a sixth championship.

He's got two wins and 15 top-10 finishes in 20 career starts, including nine top-5s. Johnson hasn't started worse than 18th at TMS, and that was back in 2005, when he finished third. Both of Johnson's victories came by winning one-on-one duels. He beat Matt Kenseth in 2007 on his way to a title and Brad Keselowski in this race last year.

"It's a good track," Johnson said. "I feel like we have to work hard for it, which is fine. It never comes easy here. That's one aspect of this track is that you've got to roll your sleeves up and go to work, and that's something our team is really good at."

Johnson is once again in the middle of a championship chase. He's tied with Kenseth on top of the Chase standings with three races to go and will be competing Sunday at a track that he likes. He said Friday that he enjoys the surface and "character" of the track and that he knows all the bumps and dips.

"The driver has more confidence," Johnson said about the track's surface. "The tire-asphalt combination, the way it works, we can slide the car without big penalty or consequence. Some of the newer asphalt, you get a little slip in the tire and it's gone and around and you can't drive the same."

NASCAR 2013: Let's get it started

February, 15, 2013
It’s official ... spring is right around the corner. How do we know?

Practice begins Friday evening for next Sunday’s Daytona 500! (I betcha’ thought I was going to say something about pitchers and catchers reporting! Sorry, nope.) To 75 million fans nationwide, the sound of racing engines, thrilling finishes and lots of hold-your-breath moments are the true sign that winter is almost over!

The season starts with tremendous buzz. NASCAR fantasy leagues are being set. Las Vegas sports books are setting odds on prop bets. A brand new car will debut this year. A new champion is set to defending his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship. We even have two competitors dating each other! This sport keeps surprising even folks like me!

In 2012, the April race at Texas Motor Speedway drew the largest crowd of the NASCAR season -- bigger than even the venerable Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis or the historic Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte. The race was, in fact, the second-largest single-day paid spectator event in the United States. Did you catch that? Of the big racing towns in this country -- Daytona, Indy, Charlotte, etc. – more fans came to Texas Motor Speedway than any other last year. Dallas-Fort Worth is racing territory!

I just wanted to encourage you to pay close attention. The green flag on the 2013 NASCAR season drops in just a few hours. We’re only about seven short weeks away from our NASCAR race on Saturday, April 13! The Wild Asphalt Circus is coming!

Brad Keselowski wins Chase opener

September, 16, 2012

JOLIET, Ill. -- Brad Keselowski raced to an impressive victory in the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, outdueling five-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday.

Keselowski got ahead of Johnson after a crucial pit cycle with about 35 laps remaining and led the final 26 laps in the 400-mile race, holding on comfortably from there for his first victory in a Chase race. He also takes over the points lead.

Kasey Kahne was third. All 12 of the Chase drivers finished in the top 18, with the exception of Jeff Gordon, who went into the wall with about 80 laps remaining. Gordon barely qualified for the Chase to begin with, and his championship hopes are already in serious jeopardy after his 35th-place showing Sunday.

Read more here.

Brad Keselowski takes jab at Hendrick Motorsports

August, 20, 2012
Did we just see a rivalry develop right before our eyes in Sunday’s NASCAR race at Michigan?

I don’t mean between Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Certainly Gordon had said some harsh words over his radio during the race about Dale Jr., and after the race made it clear he wasn’t apologizing. But I’m sure team owner Rick Hendrick has patched things up for two of his stars.

I’m talking about Brad Keselowski and five-time champ Jimmie Johnson.

While Johnson suffered heartache by blowing an engine while leading with only five laps remaining to finish 27th, Keselowski finished second.

As Johnson left the track without speaking to reporters, Keselowski took the opportunity to stake his claim as a title contender and also try to play some mind games with Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports team.

“I can taste the legitimacy of being a championship contender,” said Keselowski in throwing down the gauntlet.

But perhaps he had already done that during the race when he referred to the “tricks” used by Hendrick Motorsports in their set-ups over the radio. Keselowski said six to 12 cars use the Hendrick “tricks” and have separated themselves from the field and upset the balance of competition in NASCAR.

“There’s parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive," Keselowski said of the Hendrick team cars. “Some guys have it, some don’t. There’s a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing (Keselowski’s team) errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty.”

Since June some drivers have complained about the rear end of cars driven by drivers such as Earnhardt and Johnson that appear to move around. NASCAR put a rule in place prior to Indianapolis in late July but drivers said it did nothing to impact the performance of Hedrick’s cars. In fact, Johnson won the Brickyard 400.

Other drivers agree.

“Whatever they’ve got working in the back of their cars is working well for them,” Hamlin said of the Hendrick team.

“Sometimes I think some of those comments are made just because people are getting beat and they don’t like it and they want to bring attention to something that is probably not there,” said Jeff Gordon, another Hendrick driver.

But Keselowski, in claiming his role as a championship contender, also indicated his team has to re-think its position.

“There’s certainly some performance there that we haven’t gained,” he said about the Hendrick teams’ setup. “That’s something we have to evaluate every week that goes by, that those components are permitted to be run. We have to make a re-evaluation of that internally to decide if that’s the right way to go.”

There are only three races until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship begins. You can smell the playoffs as everybody jockeys for position.

Business is about to pick up.

Penske Racing releases AJ Allmendinger

August, 1, 2012
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Suspended Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger was released by Penske Racing on Wednesday.

Allmendinger, who drove the No. 22 Shell Penzoil Dodge, was indefinitely suspended last Tuesday after his 'B' sample urine test supported his original test that was positive for amphetamines.

"I apologize for the distraction, embarrassment and difficulties that my current suspension from NASCAR has provided,'' Allmendinger said in a statement. "As I stated last week, I have begun NASCAR's Road to Recovery program and look forward to using those resources and its completion to compete again in NASCAR in the near future."

For more on the story, click here.

Eli Young Band headlines TMS pre-race show

July, 9, 2012
The Eli Young Band, whose hit single "Even If It Breaks Your Heart" already has reached gold status, will headline the AXE Salute Our Troops Pre-Race Show at Texas Motor Speedway before the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday, Nov. 4.

The country music group will take the stage on the frontstretch at 12:20 p.m. CT and perform an hour-long concert that will lead up to the green flag of the eighth race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at 2 p.m.

Government needs to do homework on marketing

May, 18, 2012
“We’re from the government and we’re here to help you.”

That’s how many nightmares start.

So the people responsible for spending $15 trillion of our dollars more than we have are micromanaging the people that run the U.S. Military specifically on how to market. Or, more specifically, how not to market.

Makes sense, coming from the folks that gave us the $100 hammer.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and has sponsored a $608 billion defense bill that carried an amendment that prohibits the various military branches from sponsoring any sport. The amendment makes specific note, “None of the funds made available in this act may be used to sponsor professional or semi-professional motorsports, fishing, wrestling or other sports.”

So the wise folks in the House, which hasn’t provided a budget for the federal government in more than three years, are now experts on marketing. Amazing.

Kingston, a former agribusiness insurance salesman, said NASCAR, “…is not a good recruiting tool.”

Really? According to the National Guard, 16,800 individuals cited NASCAR as the source of their interest in joining in 2008. In 2009, 53,740 qualified leads were generated by National Guard’s NASCAR program.

The folks at Sprint, Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch, Pepsi, Miller Lite, Lowe’s, Home Depot, 3M, Office Depot, Ford, Target, FedEx, Shell/Pennzoil, AAA and more -- uber marketers all -- see it a bit different than does the esteemed member of the House (and apparent expert on all things marketing). They pour millions upon millions of dollars in to the sport.

But who would know better, private industry or the government?

Advertising and marketing are important, particularly with an all-volunteer armed forces. How many times have you seen a television commercial from one of the branches of the military or even a commercial during previews at movie theaters? I’m sure that the recruiters from the various military services produce those commercials because they are effective recruiting tools.

So why ban certain types of advertising and marketing? Personal expertise or personal bias?

Oh, one other thing. Rep. Kingston admits he has never attended a NASCAR event.

“I would encourage him to do some homework,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose car is sponsored by the National Guard.

That sounds like good advice for the former insurance salesman.


Tony Stewart has off night at TMS

April, 14, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- It was just off.

That was crew chief Steve Addington's simple explanation for Tony Stewart's worst finish of the season Saturday at the Samsung Mobile 500.

In November, Stewart was shooting off guns in the winner's circle at Texas Motor Speedway. At Saturday's Samsung Mobile 500, Stewart never led, never really threatened -- he was never really there.

Stewart finished an unsual week in Fort Worth with a 24th-place finish.

The week started poorly, too. Stewart struggled in his first practice session Thursday, and things got worse when he wrecked his primary car during Friday's practice.

During the race, Stewart moved up a few spots to 19th. After 100 laps, Stewart fell back and never really moved up or down.

Stewart was optimistic during the beginning of the race because his front end was good. The back end was a different story, though. The heavy winds pushed Stewart even more off balance, but Addington said it wasn't the reason they finished poorly.

"Everybody has to deal with it. That's no excuse for the way we ran," Addington said. "We were just off tonight."

Stewart didn't talk to reporters after the race, but Addington spoke about the problems Stewart's team had getting the No. 14 working correctly.

"It was just off," Addington said again. "If I could explain it I could have fixed it. Everybody worked really hard, we just missed the balance on it."

With two wins on the season, Stewart is still in great shape for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, but Addington's team isn't going to just forget about this weekend and move on.

"We're not going to just sweep it under the rug because we won two races," Addington said. "We have to figure out what we're doing when we come back here."

Stewart apologized to his team for wrecking the primary car, but Addington said that wasn't a good excuse, either. Stewart drove that same backup car to victory in the November win at TMS.

"We win as a team and we lose as a team," Addington said. "We're a good enough team that we should be able to drag a car off the trailer and get closer than we did tonight."

The finish moves Stewart down four spots into seventh place in the Sprint Cup standings.

Travis Pastrana visits TMS before Nationwide debut

April, 14, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- If it has wheels and a motor, Travis Pastrana has probably driven it professionally. The action sports superstar visited Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday to talk about his newest venture -- the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Pastrana was set to make his NASCAR debut last season, but two night before his first race, he broke his right foot and ankle at the Summer X Games. Now he's back and set to race in the NASCAR Nationwide Series 250 at Richmond International Speedway on April 27.

"We've put together a lot of testing," Pastrana said. "I have to thank the Samsung people for sticking with me through all the injuries, but I'm really looking forward to getting back out there and getting in the car."

Pastrana plans to race the No. 99 Boost Mobile Toyota in seven races this season.

"I feel as ready as I'm going to get without really knowing what to expect," Pastrana said. "That's our starting point, and we hope it's higher than lower."

He'll be back in Fort Worth on June 9 for the Global Rallycross Championship race at TMS.

Pastrana will also serve as the grand marshal for the Samsung Mobile 500.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wins O'Reilly 300

April, 13, 2012
FORT WORTH, Texas -- After bizarre lighting problems and a wild late restart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. took home his second win in the first six races of the Nationwide season at the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 on Friday.

While most of the pack went in to get their last set of tires during a late caution, Stenhouse Jr. stayed in the pack.

"[Crew chief Mike Kelley] decided to go with no changes on that last pit stop, which I wasn't fond of, but he knows what he's doing," Stenhouse Jr. said. "That last restart was crazy. I think I spent the whole caution praying for a good restart."

Owner Jack Roush has had some good luck in the Lone Star State. The win was the fourth in a row for Roush Fenway Racing at Texas Motor Speedway.

"First thing I want to say is God bless Texas," Jack Roush said laughing after the race. "Texas has been really good to us."

In the race's second year under the lights, a few of them weren't quite cooperating. Some of the track lights were malfunctioning around the third turn, causing two cautions and a red flag in the 163-172th laps.

Race officials said it was a problem with one of the breakers, but Stenhouse Jr. didn't seem to mind.

"We went a few laps through there and I thought it was fine. Some people had different opinions," Stenhouse Jr. said. "It was probably safer to stop it and get it back going."

Paul Menard led for 100 laps, but couldn't hold on for a win. In the final laps, Menard went for one last push on the outside of Stenhouse Jr., but got caught in the middle when Denny Hamlin made the track three-wide.

The win moves Stenhouse Jr. into second in the Nationwide Series standings, four points behind Elliott Sadler.

"As soon as you get in the middle of a restart, you lose all of your momentum," Menard said. "I just feel like we let them get away with it."

Rookie driver Austin Dillon's crew also took the gamble not to change tires to try for a bigger lead. He ended up falling back to sixth after the red flag in the 176th lap. After another caution, he opted out of getting new tires again to try and keep his position. He ended up moving into fifth, the highest-finishing rookie.

"We're very proud of that finish, especially with less tires than the other guys out there," Dillon said.

Danica Patrick made a great late move with some new tires to move from 16th into eighth, her best finish of the year.

The action at TMS continues with the Sprint Cup Series Samsung Mobile 500 at 6:30 p.m. Saturday night.

Back-to-back: Can Tony Stewart do it again?

April, 13, 2012

The last time Tony Stewart was at Texas Motor Speedway, he was shooting off the guns in Victory Lane en route to the Sprint Cup championship. Can he do it again Saturday night?

Every week, our stats and analysis team compiles a breakdown of the wrecks at the next track on the schedule. Here's this week's takeaway:

Expect the wrecks at Texas to have even more impact than in your usual race.

Dating back to the start of 2008, there have been 18 wreck-related DNFs at Texas, the highest total of any non-restrictor plate track in that time.

So the stakes will be even higher than normal this weekend, with the high speeds of Texas making a disastrous finish a reality.

For more of Matt Willis' statistical musings on his blog, and The Eliminator's pick to win Saturday night's race at TMS, click here.

Friday schedule at Texas Motor Speedway

April, 13, 2012
8:30 a.m.: NNS Garage & Registration Opens
9:30 a.m.: Gate 4 Opens
9:30 a.m.: Pit Road Open
10–11 a.m.: NNS Final Practice
Noon–8 p.m.: NSCS Garage & Registration Hours
1:30 p.m.: Gates Open (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 11)
1:30 p.m.: Luxury Suites & Victory Lane Club Opens
2–3:30 p.m.: NSCS Final Practice (TV: SPEED)
4 p.m.: Live NASCAR Memorabilia auction benefitting Speedway Children’s Charities (9th floor Speedway Club)
4:05 p.m.: NNS SportsDay Qualifying Day (TV: ESPN2)
5:40 p.m.: NSCS SportsDay Qualifying Day (TV: SPEED)
7:30 p.m.: NNS O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 (200 Laps, 300 Miles / TV:ESPN)

Nationwide picks: Rusty Wallace's winner is ...

April, 12, 2012

Rusty Wallace previews the Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night, including his prediction as to who'll be firing off the six-shooters in Victory Lane.

Thursday's schedule at Texas Motor Speedway

April, 12, 2012
10 a.m.: Sprint Cup Series haulers enter
11 am.-6 p.m.: Sprint Cup registration hours
11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.: Sprint Cup garage hours
12:30 p.m.-6 p.m.: Nationwide Series registration hours
1 p.m.-9 p.m.: Nationwide Series garage hours
4 p.m.: Gates 3, 4 and 5 open
4 p.m.: Pit road open
4 p.m.: Luxury suites and Victory Lane club opens
4 p.m.: Sprint Cup Series Hot Pass in effect
4:30 p.m.-6:30 p.m.: Sprint Cup Series practice
6:40 p.m.-8 p.m.: Nationwide Series practice