NASCAR’s Brian France Says ‘Sport Is In A Very Good Place’
NASCAR and its stakeholders intend to build on the success of 2011 as the new season begins with the Feb. 26 Daytona 500 and other Speedweeks events at Daytona International Speedway. In his State of NASCAR remarks delivered during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said, “The sport is in a very good place and we’re going to work even harder to achieve the very best things for the sport of NASCAR well into the future.” -- France pointed to initiatives begun a year ago – a simplified points structure in all three national series and a “Wild Card” twist in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup™ that placed a greater emphasis on race victories – which culminated in what France called “a championship battle that will be talked about for decades to come.” --/-- While the 2012 season will be one of continuity rather than major change, NASCAR will introduce electronic fuel injection into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and implement rules designed to restore traditional “pack racing” at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. “We have had a breathtaking number of close finishes at those tracks, but the fans want a mixture of styles including a return to a more traditional ‘pack racing’ and that close side-by-side competition that’s unique to Talladega and Daytona,” France said. “NASCAR and the teams are working hard on this and based on the test earlier this month, we’re encouraged that we’re making progress.”
France also said the sanctioning body continues to operate on a more collaborative method of maintaining and growing the industry by taking into consideration the thoughts and needs of teams, tracks, media partners and especially its fans. “The goal of this effort is to help us better serve our great fans, grow our audience and ensure that our sport stays relevant, vibrant and highly-valuable to sponsors and other partners critical to the health of NASCAR,” said France. “The industry has never been more united in growing the sport.” -- France said the organization is “very encouraged” by increased television ratings across its three national series – NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He also pointed to attendance gains at a number of venues. “While we are still in a tough economic climate that is still difficult, we are pleased with some positive steps we saw last year,” he said. France and Robin Pemberton, NASCAR’s vice president, competition and racing development, touched on how EFI and the introduction in 2013 of re-styled NASCAR Sprint Cup cars from Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota will make the sport more relevant to manufacturers and technology companies. “EFI excites the manufacturers and technology companies,” said France, responding to questioning about NASCAR’s embrace of technology. “To attract new companies (to the sport), we’ve had to take a little different view of that.”
Ford earlier this week unveiled its 2013 Fusion prototype with the other OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) to follow in the near future. A closed test of the cars is scheduled early next month with additional testing to follow before final specifications are drawn. “This is certainly a milestone in our sport,” said Pemberton. “We’ve worked very closely with the manufacturers on the new car and the four new models are simply outstanding. I think the fans are going to love them and it is going to be such a positive step in helping our race cars become more and more relevant with our fans past, present and future.” --/-- Daytona International Speedway President Joie Chitwood previewed next month’s 54th Annual Daytona 500 (Feb. 26 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN Radio, SiriusXM Satellite Radio). He and his staff are committed to building on the enthusiasm of the 2011 season – and last year’s race that made 20-year-old winner Trevor Bayne a household name. “We kicked off the (2011) season with energy and enthusiasm and that’s our goal for this year,” said Chitwood. “We want to produce that kind of event again.”
Daytona’s season begins Saturday with the running of the 50th Annual Rolex 24. The twice-round-the-clock race, most of which can be seen live on SPEED beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET, kicks off the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Series campaign. Thursday’s event at the NASCAR Hall of Fame also introduced the 2012 Drive for Diversity class which will compete in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and at selected NASCAR Whelen All-America Series tracks for Rev Racing. They are Jorge Arteaga, 25, Aguascalientes, Mexico; Mackena Bell, 21, Carson City, Nev.; Trey Gibson, 19, Easley, S.C.; Ryan Gifford, 22, Winchester, Tenn.; Kyle Larson, 19, Elk Grove, Calif.; and Bryan Ortiz, 22, Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Hornish Will Race Full Nationwide Series Schedule
After only running a handful of events in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2011, Sam Hornish, Jr. will run the entire schedule in 2012 thanks to increased support from Alliance Truck Parts and a new partnership with Wurth Group. Alliance Truck Parts will increase its primary sponsorship role on the No. 12 Penske Racing Dodge Challenger from six to 26 events in 2012. Wurth Group, a German-based automotive and industrial supply company, will be the primary sponsor of the car in seven events and an associate sponsor in the other 26. “I’m really excited about this season. Last year was a little difficult to say the least,” Hornish said Thursday. “I was able to learn a lot last year. I just feel like we’ve got a lot of things going for us (in 2012).” Hornish showed he has the skills to succeed late last season at Phoenix International Raceway when be topped teammate Brad Keselowski and a field full of Sprint Cup regulars to win his first Nationwide Series race. He is hoping the momentum from that victory carries over to 2012. “Phoenix has always been good to me,” said Hornish, who earned his first IZOD IndyCar Series triumph at the track in 2001. “We’ve definitely got a lot of things headed in the right direction.”
New Poll Says Kurt Busch One Of The Most Disliked Athletes
Kurt Busch knows he’s not loved by all NASCAR fans. But is the emotional, hard-driven, acid-tongued driver really one of the most hated athletes in sports? According to a recent poll, he is. According to Forbes, Nielsen and partner E-Poll Market Research measured public attitudes toward pro athletes. It asked people to describe athletes they “dislike,” ”dislike somewhat,” or “dislike a lot.” At least 10 percent of those polled had to be aware of the athlete for that athlete to make the list. Headlining the list is professional football player Michael Vick, who was jailed for his participation in a dog fighting ring. His dislike score was 60 percent. Busch ranked 10th with a dislike score of 42 percent. Also on the list are golfer Tiger Woods, the NFL’s Plaxico Burress, Ndamukong Suh and Terrell Owens, the NBA’s LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kris Humphries and baseball’s Alex Rodriguez. (scenedaily.com)
Mike Skinner Finds Ride In Truck Series
Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) has announced that 1995 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) champion Mike Skinner will join the team for the season opening race at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 24. The one-race deal will place Skinner behind the wheel of the No. 8 Chevrolet for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 in Daytona Beach, Fla. “Daytona is a bit like a homecoming for me,” commented Mike Skinner, driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet. “Angie and I lived here for 15 years, so we still have a lot of friends and family in the area. I love coming here to race, and I know the equipment at ESR is good. If everything goes according to our plan, at the end of the night we’ll be up front and competing for the win.”
After purchasing assets from Kevin Harvick Inc. following the conclusion of the 2011 season, ESR expected to run three full-time teams throughout the 2012 season. Having Skinner in the No. 8 Chevrolet entry at Daytona International Speedway moves the organization closer to that goal. Eddie Sharp Racing and Mike Skinner are still searching for sponsorship opportunities to continue competing in the No. 8 Chevrolet for the remainder of the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. Anyone interested in expanding their marketing plan to include a NASCAR sponsorship is encouraged to contact Daren Havens, Director of Business Development, Eddie Sharp Racing, at (704) 489-8809. The NextEra Energy Resources 250 from Daytona International Speedway will be broadcast live on SPEED at 7:00 p.m. EST on Friday, February 24. Radio coverage of the 250-mile event will be available on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Channel 90, beginning at 7:15 p.m. Fans can also tune into SPEED to watch practice sessions at 12:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, February 23, and qualifying just prior to the race at 4:00 p.m. EST, on Friday, February 24.
Michael Shank Racing Captures Historic 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona
On his ninth attempt, team owner Michael Shank finally captured America’s most prestigious sports car race – the 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona. The team of Oswaldo Negri, John Pew, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Wilson in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley survived a tight battle for the lead in the final hours to take home the grueling twice-around-the-clock challenge by a 5.198-second margin of victory. “I feel like we deserved it to be honest,” Shank said. “I think we’ve worked hard. I don’t make any excuses for that. We paid our dues for sure and I hope it can take us to new cool places in the coming years.” -- The winning No. 60 car had an average speed of 126.300 mph and turned 761 laps, 2709.16 miles, nearly equivalent of a trip from Daytona Beach, Fla., to Los Gatos, Calif., Allmendinger’s hometown. The number of laps completed by the winning Shank team was one lap shy of the Rolex 24 all-time record set back in 1992.
Allmendinger, who recently signed with Roger Penske in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, drove the final stint in the No. 60 car. It was Allmendinger’s seventh time racing with Shank in the Rolex 24. “I feel very fortunate,” Allmendinger said. “This is one of the reasons why I love this race, because it really kicks off Speedweeks. It’s such a prestigious race. It’s one of those races you want on your resume and you want to say that you were part of a victory. It’s amazing. I’m going to cherish this.” -- Said Negri: “It’s a cool way to start the year. Being with Mike for such a long time, what makes it special is that he wants to win as bad as I do. It’s just so cool. To have a fiery AJ, a very calm and fast Wilson and John Pew on the team, I think we had a dream team this year.” Finishing behind the No. 60 car was the pole-winning No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Ford Riley and Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow, Lucas Luhr, Allan McNish and Enzo Potolicchio. Shank Racing took the final spot on the podium with the No. 6 Ford Riley with Michael McDowell, Jorge Goncalvez, Gustavo Yacaman and Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Driver Challenge winner Felipe Nasr.
In the competitive GT class, the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche with team owner John Potter, Andy Lally, Richard Lietz and Rene Rast were victorious. It was not only the team’s first Rolex 24 victory but their first Rolex Series triumph. “I absolutely knew that we had the potential to do it,” Lally said. “The people that were assembled by John to start Magnus Racing just two years ago were top‑notch guys, and he took direction from some really well seasoned vets, and he steered the ship in the right direction and basically put together a really solid, strong effort.” With just under two hours remaining, Lally, behind the wheel of the No. 44 Porsche, slipped past Leh Keen in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche to take the lead for the final time. “The Brumos car was really strong,” said Lally, who earned 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year honors. “There were lot of really strong race cars out there, and we were a little bit off sequence. I think I had a little bit fresher tires than he did, so I was able to get a little better run out of the bus stop there. The draft here is so huge that I was able to come up alongside. We were really, really close.” The 50th Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona featured the return of 29 past winning Rolex 24 overall winning cars as well as 47 former champions with over half of them competing in the race.