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Joey Logano tests ARCA RE/MAX at Daytona

He’s only 18, but Joey Logano is about to attempt a rare Daytona double.  Logano, who has never raced at Daytona International Speedway, will make his first two starts on Saturday, Feb. 7th when he races in the Lucas Oil Slick Mist 200, the season opener for the ARCA RE/MAX Series, followed by the Budweiser Shootout All-Star race.
Logano,  who will replace Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing/Home Depot Toyota in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, kicked off a three-day ARCA RE/MAX test with close to 50 other cars as he prepares to pull off the Saturday night double header.
“I’m doing it,” Logano said of his busy Speedweeks 2009 schedule. “I’m running both races and then I’ve got the Nationwide race with the Game stop Toyota and then running in the Cup race with the Home Depot Toyota. Between all that I’ve got my hands full.”
Toss in the Gatorade Duel at Daytona 150 mile qualifying races and Logano  will be racing in five events in the upcoming Speedweeks.  ”I’m just getting in as many laps as I can and learn as much as I can,” Logano said.  “I’ve got a big year ahead on the Cup side…whatever I can do to make myself better.”
Logano, who was signed by Joe Gibbs drive development program in 2005, has generated plenty of buzz since he began racing at age six.  He has already amassed a long list of accomplishments, including most recently winning in his ARCA RE/Max Series debut last May at Rockingham, and winning the 2007 Camping World East Championship.
He’ll next try to add youngest Daytona 500 winner to that list. The current record is owned by Jeff Gordon, who won the Daytona 500 in 1997 at the age of 25 years, six month and 12 days.
During last weekend's ARCA RE/MAX test, Logano was behind the wheel for Venture Motorspoorts and taking his first laps around the legendary motorsports facility.  While waiting out the fog Friday morning he was anxious to get on the track.  “I’m looking forward to it,” Logano said “I’ve been here and watched a ton of races, watched the 500 a hundred times probably.  I just want to get out there and go around Daytona with all the history in this place.
”Just to go out there and make some laps is going to be really cool.  We’re going to learn a lot, as much as we can about the race car and about the track and drafting, and see if we can come back with a good race car.”
On the first day of testing last Friday, Steve Blackburn was fastest in the first session with a speed of 180.955 mph, followed by A J Hendrickson 180.126, and Bobby Gerhart 179.978.  Joey Logano was sixth fastest in the No. 25 Toyota at 179.569.
Since NASCAR has discontinued Cup series testing at all NASCAR tracks, the opportunity to log some laps and get comfortable with the Speeds and drafting at the massive two and a half mile oval should pay big dividends for the young rookie during the upcoming Speedweeks.
Reigning three-time Sprint Cup Champion Jimmie Johnson will return to GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing for the2009 Rolex 24 at Daytona, reuniting last February's all-star lineup of Johnson and fellow champions Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser.  The season-opening Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race takes place at Daytona International Speedway January 24-25.
GAINSCO’s fantastic four led often and finished second in last year's Rolex 24 at Daytona and return in 2009 with the same team and key crew personnel that kept them challenging for the lead throughout the race. The team will be back with the No. 99 Pontiac Riley that finished second in both the Rolex 24, and the Rolex series championship this past season under the leadership of team owner Bob Stallings.
“We were competitive and probably could have won with just a little more luck on our side,” said Stallings “We recovered from a quick Sunday morning gearbox change to finish second and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we have the ingredients in place to win our first Rolex 24.
"Continuity is so important said Johnson who met with the GAINSCO team last Thursday at the Teams Dallas shop. “To know the faces, the car, the equipment, the teammates.  It makes those four days of the race weekend so much easier.”

You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Looking back, 2008 was not one of NASCAR's finest seasons

The so called “Car of Tomorrow” became the race car of today for the 2008 season. Bad move all the way around.  
When they finally come to their senses and junk this lemon, the epitaph for this dismal failure of NASCAR’s engineering wizards should be the words spoken by Kyle Busch when he won the first race that NASCAR ran with the “Car of Tomorrow” at Bristol in 2007.  Young mister Busch climbed out of the car  and into the glare of the photographers flash bulbs, and the spray of champagne, Pepsi or whatever product they were promoting that day, stepped up to the reporters' microphones, looked into the TV cameras and said.  “This car sucks.”
After a full season of development, tweaking and massaging the NASCAR creation, Kyle Busch’s comments that day in Bristol ring truer than ever today.  Aside from the fact that it is ugly and looks nothing like a car made by any of the major car companies, the higher center of gravity and less down force make for lousy racing.  
Instead of exciting side-b- side racing and frequent passing, more often than not we were treated to the Sunday afternoon parade.   Except for the different grill openings and manufacturers' decals on the front, the cars are all the same.  So strict has NASCAR’s inspection templates become that they have virtually legislated away the creativity of the mechanics and engineers.
Tires remained a  sore spot throughout most of the 2008 season.  The racing team’s strategy was constantly being dictated by having to live within the limitations of the tires' capabilities.   The failure of Goodyear to provide a tire that enabled the drivers to display their talents and skill really came to a head on July 27th in the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.  The tires Goodyear brought to the track would simply not hold up. In practice, the race teams complained the tires were wearing out in 5 or 6 laps.  The solution?  Goodyear brought in an extra 800 tires they had ready for the upcoming Pocono race.  NASCAR officials advised the teams they would throw a competition yellow flag every 10 laps to give the teams a chance to change tires.  
Incredibly that is exactly what they did.  For perhaps the second most important race on the series schedule, NASCAR ran a series of approximately 10 lap sprints and had the audacity to smile and take the fans' money, call it a day and move on  to the next week’s race.  Only after a terrible hue and cry from fans wanting their money back and getting blistered in the media did NASCAR offer a lame apology.
Perhaps the most intriguing story was the dominance of Kyle Busch with 8 wins on the Cup Circuit and a record-setting 21 wins combined on the Cup, Nationwide, and Craftsman Truck circuits, and his total melt down in the Chase for the Championship.
With little passion and  fan excitement, the cool, calculating Jimmie Johnson won his third straight Cup championship to equal Cale Yarborough’s thirty year old record.
You could have gotten big odds in Los Vegas before the start of the season betting that Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick would not win a race all season.  For all the pre-season hype, Dale Earnhardt Jr.  had a solid but unspectacular season in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.
On the Silly Season front, Tony Stewart announced he would be ending his ten year association with Joe Gibbs Racing to become part owner with the presently incarcerated Carl  Haas and head up operation of the newly christened Stewart-Haas Racing for the 2009 season.  
Ryan Newman announced he will leave Penske Racing after eight years to drive the second car for the Stewart-Haas team.  Matt Kenseth and Gregg Biffle have re-upped with multi-year contracts to continue driving for Roush Fenway Racing.  Bobby Labonte, the 2000 series champion, signed a new four-year contract with Petty Enterprises, only to be released from the contract when the team failed to land a sponsor for the famous #43.  At this writing Labonte is looking for a ride for the 2009 season.  DEI has been folded into Ganassi Racing. Bill Davis racing and Petty Enterprises will not be back.
2008 was a breakout season for Regan Smith as he captured the ‘Rookie of the Year” honors.   The good news was short lived as Regan lost his ride for 2009 with the merger of DEI and Ganassi Racing.

You may reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Yarborough steals the show at Jimmie Johson's Coronation

 NASCAR, founded in 1948, celebrated the completion of it’s 60th season last Friday  night with its  traditional season-ending awards banquet in New York’s  Waldorf-Astoria Hotel’s Grand Ball Room.  The production staff that put together this year's telecast of the banquet should be commended for their presentation.  For the first time in memory, it appeared to have been put together by someone who cares about the sport.   The broadcast ran a bit over three hours, but had a nicely paced tempo and it really did not seem excessively long.   The video clip presentations were interesting and well edited, particularly the historical pieces that surely brought back a lot of great memories for long-time race fans.
 Unlike past guest comedians, this year's comedian, John Pinette,  did not try to put together one of those strained  “NASCAR”  monologue’s that only succeed in producing a few strained laughs and show the comedian's ignorance of the sport.   Mr. Pinette treated the audience to a bit of his regular standup act. He was really funny and it was apparent he loosened up the audience and put a crowd not used to being on stage in a tux and giving speeches in a more relaxed mood.  The rest of the show benefited from his talented presentation.
In contrast to past years, and probably in respect for the tough economic climate, they did not announce the amount of money each of the top ten drivers received from the points fund as they were called to the stage. The one exception was Champion Jimmie Johnson, who  Sprint Communications CEO Dan Hesse stated received a check For $7.4 million.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the evening was the surprise appearance of Cale Yarborough walking out on stage to present Jimmie Johnson with his third consecutive championship ring.  Can you believe Cale Yarborough will turn 70 next March?  It sure doesn’t seem like it’s been thirty years since he was tearing up the circuit.  Another of life’s little reminders that we’re all getting a bit older and creakier.
Followed by a rousing standing ovation, Yarborough presented the championship ring to Jimmie Johnson.  The two champions will be forever linked in NASCAR lore. This season, Johnson joined Yarborough as the only drivers to win three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Championships. Yarborough accomplished the historic feat from 1976-78.
During Yarborough’s incredible three year stretch, he posted 28 wins, 70 top five and 74 top 10 finishes.   “Somebody finally did it,” Yarborough  said. “I set a pretty good record,  didn’t I?  It took them 30 years to tie it. There are only two of us who have done it in the 60 years of the sport. That’s a pretty good accomplishment. You know, I haven’t been to this banquet in several years, but tonight I feel like I got my racing spirit back.  You know all he really did is tie the record.  He still has to break it. He still has some work to do. I want to congratulate  Jimmie,  he’s a great man and a great racer. I know he’s going to win some more championships. Maybe he can skip a year though.”
Yarborough’s famous swagger continues to this day. During his speech, he told team owner Rick Hendrick that if there is a ride open in his stable, he could have the first 70 year-old champion.  
Johnson matched Yarborough’s record with another typically brilliant performance in 2008. Johnson had seven wins, 15 top fives, and 22 top 10’s. “What a surprise and what an honor to have Cale present me with the championship ring,” Johnson said. “I’m pretty much floored.”
The Yarborough ring presentation was the culmination of a night filled with memory making moments.  Earlier in the program, Betty Jane France, widow of former NASCAR Chairman and CEO Bill France Jr. introduced Academy Award winning actor Kevin Costner, who made some remarks commemorating the 60th anniversary season of NASCAR. Costner was later joined on stage by seven-time champion Richard Petty, who spoke on the impact NASCAR has had on his life and the tremendous growth of the sport.
Earlier in the week Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was announced as having been voted the Sprint Cup Series Most Popular Driver for the sixth consecutive year.  Coincidently the driver of his JR Motorsports Nationwide Chevrolet Brad Keselowski was voted the Most Popular Driver in the Nationwide Series.
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email Pete Barber.

2008 Sprint Cup Championship Week from New York

Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is the centerpiece of this week’s annual Champions' week celebration in New York City, a busy and joyful five days that marks the traditional end of the racing season.
   Johnson, who captured his third consecutive title two weeks ago in the series finale at Homestead-Miami speedway, is the first driver in 30 years to win three consecutive series titles. He joins NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough as the only two drivers to accomplish that feat. Yarborough won his titles in 1976-78.
This week’s festivities mark the 28th consecutive year that NASCAR has crowned its Sprint Cup Series champion in New York.  The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel has served as the sports host for each of those years, with its historic Grand Ballroom the site of Friday Night's awards ceremony.
It’s a busy week leading up to Friday Night's banquet for Johnson and his wife Chandra.  The week long celebration got underway Monday with the annual Champions welcome dinner for the Number 48 team representatives.
Tuesday Johnson participated in a Champions week tradition, photo shoots at historic New York City landmarks. Later Tuesday night he appeared on the Motor Racing Networks NASCAR Live show.  
Today, Wednesday, Jimmie Johnson will ring the opening bell at the New York Stock exchange. He’ll then attend the Tissot Countdown Clock event at the Marquee of the Hard Rock Café, attend a March of Dimes luncheon, a media luncheon at Foley’s and the Sprint media celebration at the Sports Museum of America.
Tomorrow, Johnson’s major event is the annual NASCAR NMPA (Motor Sports Press Association) Myers Brothers Media luncheon at Cipiani. He’ll be joined by the rest of the top 12 drivers in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, plus Raybestos Rookie of the Year  Regan Smith, and the other annual award winners.  Following the awards luncheon, Johnson will participate in the traditional Times Square photo shoot outside the Hard Rock Café, and then attend the annual “Stewie Awards” orchestrated by fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion Tony Stewart at the Sirius/XM Satellite radio studios.
Friday is the big day. Johnson, his family, and his Hendrick Motorsports team will participate in traditional photos during the afternoon, before attending the Sprint Cup Series awards ceremony Friday evening in the Waldorf-Astoria grand ballroom.
The news on the economy remains gloomy.  Latest estimates are that upwards of 700 jobs have been lost from the various NASCAR race teams due to the recent economic downturn.  More layoffs are expected as the sponsorship situation for 2009 shakes out.  Former Lowe's Motor Speedway President and General Manager Humpy Wheeler, in conjunction with the North Carolina Motorsport Association, is heading up a Motorsports Employment Task force to address the job loss issue.   “When you count up the small teams that we don’t hear about, the Nationwide teams, and smaller truck teams we likely have over 1000 people losing their jobs," said Wheeler. "Historically those who lost jobs in the past moved back to their hometowns and we lost them from the area.  The main thing is that we don’t lose them from the region. This has a major economic impact on all of the community, including non-motorsports related business.”
The newly formed Motorsports Employment Task Force is working towards the development of a central clearing house that will support the displaced workers with information and steps to guide them in their sudden career path changes. It also will provide potential employees information and access about the benefits of hiring from the industry.
NCMA Executive director Andy Papathanassiou, a seventeen-year veteran of the industry, said that, “In all the years I’ve been involved in racing, it’s always been trending up with jobs, sponsors and support organizations. It’s important to remember that even in those good years, there were still times when teams closed down and sponsors pulled out.  Now with the whole economy in recession, we are bound to be affected and even more aware of the bad news we hear."
 

Clint Bowyer and Joe Gibbs Racing headline nationwide series

The stress was visible on Clint Bowyers' face and in his voice the final few weeks of the season as last season's Nationwide Series champion Carl Edwards mounted a fierce assault to take over the points lead and repeat as Series champion.
 After two unsuccessful attempts at a Nationwide Series Championship, Bowyer was determined not to let it slip away this time.
“Man it feels great,” Bowyer said during the Nationwide Series Championship banquet from Orlando this past week. “We tried twice and came up short and to finally get it done and have your name on that championship trophy means a lot.”
Bowyer was runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. in 2005 and finished third in the standings in 2006. The close finishes did more to inspire Bowyer than discourage him.  “I love championships,” said Bowyer. ”I’ve won several of them and I enjoy points racing, I enjoy having a goal to chase after all year. If you’re not racing for a championship, you’re just racing with no cause."
Bowyer’s cause has been evident all season. After a disappointing 25th place finish in the season opener at Daytona, Bowyer reeled off 18 top 10 finishes over the next 20 races, including eight top fives. He took the standings lead from two-time series champion Kevin Harvick after the season's sixth race at Nashville, and never looked back.
Bowyer’s lead over second place grew to as many as 207 points with seven races to go before eventual runner-up Carl Edwards went on a late season tear.  Edwards, the 2007 series champion, finished the season with nine straight top five finishes, including wins in three of the last four races.
“It would’ve stunk to lose it,” Bowyer said “To lead that thing the way we did, with a comfortable 200 point margin most of the season and then all of a sudden that last month, the panic came on.  It was nerve racking.”   He finished with just one victory.  In the end, Bowyer and crew chief Dan Deeringhoff held on to the championship by a mere 21 points. The fourth closest margin in series history. Teamwork carried Joe Gibbs Racing to the Nationwide Series owner’s title.  A good crew chief used to be defined by his work under the hood of a car. Today, it’s the ability to work with different people and personalities that can make or break team’s fortunes. Dave Rogers, crew chief of the No. 20 Toyota, knew that his people skills would be put to the test in 2008 when Joe Gibbs Racing decided to use a collection of drivers to pilot the car rather than assigning a single driver to the car for the season. Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch, Deny Hamlin and Joey Logano each won at least one race for Rogers, who carried the team to the 2008 Nationwide Series owner championship.
“It was a very unique experience,” Rogers said. “Of course, we were blessed with four very talented drivers which made it a lot easier. They all had different needs and different wants and they all brought their own personalities to the table.”
Despite the rotation of driver, Rogers credits the entire JGR team for pulling together for the team’s first Series title. Rogers also credits Jason Ratcliff, crew chief of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Nationwide Toyota, saying the two worked together to build the JGR Nationwide Series program into one of the strongest in the sport.
“We do everything together and make every decision together and it helps us,” Rogers said. “If Jason gives me something I can work on it and maybe make it a little better, then I can give it back to him and he works on it a little bit and makes it better, and we just keep building that way. I think that was key to us not becoming stagnant.”
It’s little wonder that Joe Gibbs Racing won this season's Nationwide Series owners' title; of the 35 races on the schedule JGR cars won 19 of them.  Crew chief Dave Rogers guided the No. 20 Toyota to 9 wins, 16 top fives, and 26 top tens.  Not to be outdone Jason Ratcliff  led the No. 18 team to 10 wins, 16 top fives, and 18  top ten finishes.
You can reach Pete Barber at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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