Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Southern California races of 2009

With the year coming to an end, and the best of the year lists making their way around, here is my list of the top races I saw in 2009. I covered several disciplines of racing, from late model stock cars at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale to off-road trucks in Lake Elsinore to Indy cars at Long Beach to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars at Fontana, it’s been a busy year for me.

5. The NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale: Matt Kobyluck won the race, even though he was the second car to cross the finish line. Joey Logano and Peyton Sellers, the leaders in the race, crashed on the final turn of the final lap of the race. Logano actually finished ahead of Kobyluck, but Sellers and Logano were penalized for rough driving. Logano, obviously, went from Irwindale to winning rookie of the year honors in the NACSAR Sprint Cup Series.
“It was an unfortunate ending, but this is the All-Star Showdown,” said Kobyluck, who became the first two-time winner of the Camping World Series portion of the Showdown. “Everyone’s just going for it. Minor error there, or maybe it wasn’t an error, who knows? I’m only in control of my car. It looked like Joey overdrove the corner, couldn’t keep the car down, but he was going for the win. Peyton was going for the win. In a deal like this when there’s no points on the line, it’s all a truck, money, and bragging rights, the outcome’s always crazy.”

4. The February NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana: Matt Kenseth won the race and it looked like he was on his way to a great season. Little did anyone know that it would be his last win of the season. Kenseth won the season-opening Daytona 500 and the race at Fontana. He was looking to become the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 1997 to win the first three races of the year. As it turns out, Kenseth didn’t finish well enough in the rest of the Cup races to qualify for the Chase. In fact, Roush Fenway Racing only won one other race all season. Even though the race at Fontana wasn’t the most exciting, it was significant because it was the pinnacle of Kenseth and Roush Fenway Racing’s season.

3. The Grand Prix of Long Beach: Dario Franchitti won the race, a testimony that his place in auto racing is in Indy cars, not NASCAR. (Danica Patrick, are you reading this?) Franchitti won on the birthday of his wife, actress Ashley Judd, and spent a considerable amount of time dedicating the win to his wife. The race was an otherwise uneventful one, except that it saw the return of Helio Castroneves. The “Dancing With the Stars” champion and three-time Indy 500 winner was facing tax evasion charges in Florida, but was acquitted on the weekend of the race. He flew from Florida to Long Beach and made it in time for the race. Roger Penske had three cars in the race, and had to make a tough decision about keeping three cars. Castroneves finished seventh in his first race back. Will Power, the Penske driver who was most likely to be pushed out by the return of Castroneves, won the pole and finished second. Tensions were definitely high in Long Beach that weekend.

2. NASCAR Late Model season finale at Toyota Speedway at Irwindale: Nick Joanides, a driver from Woodland Hills, became the first driver in the history of the track to win the Super Late Model and Late Model championships in the same season. Joanides won the Late Model season finale, only his third win of the Late Model season. It was in the Super Late Model class that Joanides truly dominated. He won 13 races and finished in the top five in all 21 Super Late Model races. Joanides also won the NASCAR Whelen All American Series California State championship and landed a NASCAR Nationwide Series seat. He went to Memphis Motorsports Park, but did not qualify for the race.

1. The NHRA Auto Club Finals in Pomona: The championship in the top fuel division came down to the semifinals of the season-finale at Pomona. Tony Schumacher was in search of his seventh top fuel championship. Larry Dixon was hot on his heels. The two drivers swapped the lead in the standings during qualifying for the finals. But when Dixon lost in the semifinals, Schumacher was in no danger of losing his two-point lead. Schumacher lost in the semifinals too, but it didn’t matter. Schumacher captured his sixth NHRA top fuel championship in a row and his seventh overall.

Photo: Tony Schumacher won the NHRA top fuel championship at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona in November. It was my vote for the top race of 2009. (NHRA)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Johnson voted driver of the decade, AP male athlete of the year

It looks like not only did the NASCAR media get it right, but the Associated Press as well. Jimmie Johnson was voted the NASCAR driver of the decade by the media and the AP male athlete of the year. No race car driver has ever been named AP male athlete of the year in the 78 years of the award.
“We’d been wondering the last few years, ‘When is this going to hit?’” Johnson told the Associated Press. “It seems like the answer is now. The wave is finally peaking and we don’t know where it’s going to take us. The fourth-straight title takes it out of our sport and makes it a point of discussion like, ‘Wow, a race car driver won this thing.’”
To think of all the great drivers who have not won the AP male athlete of the year award. AJ Foyt, Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Rick Mears all have the credentials. Johnson has the benefit of great timing.
He beat out tennis star Roger Federer and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt for the honor. Federer has been and is clearly on the decline. If it was an Olympic year, Bolt might have had a chance.
In all honesty, who else could have challenged Johnson this year? Tiger Woods? Tim Tebow? LeBron James? Athletes clouded in scandal or underachievement, at least this year.
It’s been a great year for Johnson and his four straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championships are a testament to how great his latest streak has been.
It was a no-brainer to select him as the NASCAR driver of the decade. It was a pleasant surprise to see the Associated Press honor him as athlete of the year.
Here is how the media ranked the top NASCAR drivers of the decade:

1. Jimmie Johnson: Four straight Cup championships, 47 Cup wins in the decade and the only driver to make the Chase is all six years of its existence.
2. Tony Stewart: Two Cup championships, one in the Chase format, one in the old format.
3. Jeff Gordon: Only one of his four Cup championships came in the past decade. Although an argument can be made if not for the Chase, he might have two more Cup championships.
4. Kurt Busch: He won the first Chase, by the narrowest of margins, and has been almost a lock to make the Chase every year.
5. Matt Kenseth: Still being blamed for creating the Chase. Too bad this wasn’t a poll for the most infamous driver of the decade.

Photo: Jimmie Johnson was voted as the NASCAR driver of the decade and the Associated Press male athlete of the year. (Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Results: Top NASCAR races of the decade

The results are in for the top NASCAR races and drivers of the past decade. From what’s been Tweeted and posted on message boards, the choices of races NASCAR provided for the media to vote on were not the top races to consider. Most everyone is in agreement that the 2001 Daytona 500, the last, fatal race for Dale Earnhardt, was the top race of the decade. Not only is it the one race everyone remembers, it is the race that led to the development of the Car of Tomorrow and a watershed of safety innovations. The race was the culminating chapter of Earnhardt’s life, but it was only the beginning of his legacy to NASCAR safety.
One of Jimmie Johnson’s wins should have been on this list too. His win at Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 15, 2009 -- his fourth of the Chase, by the way -- made him all but a lock to win his unprecedented fourth Cup championship in a row. Plus it was a pretty good race to boot, despite its place in NASCAR history.

Here is a look at how the media ranked the top races of the decade:
  1. March 16, 2003 Darlington Raceway. Ricky Craven didn’t win many Cup races, but this one was the one everyone remembers. He and Kurt Busch collided on the last lap and Craven won by 0.002 seconds, the closest margin of victory in Cup history.
  2. Oct. 14, 2000 Talladega Superspeedway: This was Dale Earnhardt’s last win. He won only two races in 2000. His racing career was on the decline at this point, although he was still a threat to win races. His Dale Earnhardt Inc. team was on the rise however, the most dominant plate-racing team in Cup.
  3. March 11, 2001 Atlanta Motor Speedway: It didn’t take long for Kevin Harvick to win his first Cup race. Driving in Dale Earnhardt’s car and with his crew, Harvick won the race in Atlanta, only the third Cup start of his career. The number was changed, but the spirit of Earnhardt was riding with Harvick that day.
  4. July 7, 2001 Daytona International Speedway: Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the summer race at Daytona a mere five months after his father died on the last lap of the season-opening Daytona 500. Junior’s win gave Dale Earnhardt Inc. a season sweep at Daytona. Michael Waltrip, in the No. 15 car for DEI, won the Daytona 500.
  5. Feb. 18, 2007 Daytona International Speedway: Kevin Harvick edged out Mark Martin to win the Daytona 500.
  6. Nov. 21, 2004 Homestead-Miami Speedway: Greg Biffle won the race and Kurt Busch won the Chase. The Chase era was ushered in and the championship came down to the last race of the season, just what NASCAR wanted. Busch took home the Cup championship by eight points in the tightest race in the Chase standings. 
  7. March 20, 2005 Atlanta Motor Speedway: Carl Edwards won.
  8. Sept. 21, 2008 Dover International Speedway
  9. Feb. 15, 2004, Daytona International Speedway
  10. May 16, 2009, Lowe's Motor Speedway, (Sprint All-Star race)
  11. May 20, 2009, Lowe's Motor Speedway (Sprint All-Star race)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A NASCAR Christmas for Toyota: A one-act play

The scene opens in an office at Joe Gibbs Racing. Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano are writing Christmas cards to fans, sponsors and family. J.D. Gibbs is in the room, making phone calls and answering questions from the drivers.

Kyle: How do you say Merry Christmas in Japanese?

JD: (With cell phone in hand and held to his hear) I don’t think they celebrate Christmas in Japan.

Kyle: Then why am I sending a Christmas card to Toyota?

JD: (Talking into his cell phone) No, dad, it’s just that I don’t think Christianity is that big in Japan. (He covers the mouthpiece and turns to Kyle) We are all signing a card to send to Toyota for the holidays. No need to write Merry Christmas.

Kyle: Well, what am I supposed to write?

JD: (Talking into his cell phone) Buddhism I think. I’m not sure what religion is big in Japan, dad. I just have a feeling there aren’t that many Christians there. (He covers the mouthpiece on his cell phone again and turns to Kyle) You don’t have to write anything. Just sign your name.

Kyle: I need to add something clever, something snappy. I want to say something cool in Japanese.

JD: How ‘bout a simple thanks. (He uncovers the mouthpiece on his cell phone) Can we talk about this later dad? I have to make sure these cards get out today. All right. Talk to you later.

Kyle: Thanks? For what? Giving me a 13th place car?

Denny: My car worked fine, for the most part. It’s not Toyota’s fault you didn’t make the Chase.

Kyle: Fine. You can thank Toyota. I’m not going to do it.

Denny: Why are you so upset? They gave you a championship Nationwide car. You won almost half your truck races. Those were all Toyotas too.

Kyle: Nobody cares about that. All anybody cares about is why I didn’t make the Chase.

Joey: To enjoy success
One must first find meaning in

Kyle: What was that?

Denny: It’s a haiku, a type of Japanese poetry. Joey’s been talking like that for weeks now.

Kyle: It didn’t even rhyme.

Denny: It’s not supposed to. I guess it can, but not always. It’s just supposed to, y’know, be truthful, profound. It’s supposed to be only three lines too. Short and sweet.

Joey: Poetry needs rhyme
Like a shrub needs a loud voice

Kyle: Yeah, a loud, talking shrub. That would be obnoxious. C’mon Joey, help me write one of them haikus for Toyota.

(Joey does not respond. He closes his eyes and starts to hum)

Kyle: What’s he doing?

Denny: Meditating.

Kyle: What for?

JD: If he has nothing to say, he doesn’t say anything. Especially now since he’s speaking in haikus. Takes some time and thought to put those things together.

Denny: He’ll answer you when he’s ready.

Kyle: This is killing me. I’ve got hundreds of Christmas cards to sign. I just need one cool haiku to send to Toyota.

Joey: Greetings Toyota
Let’s build something together
Sincerely, KyBu

Kyle: Perfect!

(The scene closes as JD and Denny open their mouths to try  to say something to Kyle, then stop. Kyle writes furiously on his Christmas card to Toyota. Joey sits back, puts his hands behind his head and smiles)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top NASCAR drivers of the decade

In addition to selecting the top NASCAR races of the decade, the media was asked to rank the top drivers of the decade. Jimmie Johnson should win this with a unanimous vote. What he has done over the last four years is something no one in the history of NASCAR has ever seen. The only thing that would be more impressive is if a driver ever notched his 201st career win, surpassing Richard Petty’s 200.
In any event, here is how I ranked the top drivers of the decade:
1. Jimmie Johnson: Four straight Cup championships. Hands down the best driver of the decade.
2. Tony Stewart: The only driver to win a Cup championship the conventional way and in the Chase. Plus starting his own team and making the Chase in his first season doesn’t hurt his credentials either.
3. Kurt Busch: He is certainly not the most popular driver, but no one will ever be able to dispute he won the first Chase. For that he will always be a part of NASCAR history.
4. Jeff Gordon: He only won one of his four Cup championships in the decade. He was the 2001 champ and it was the fourth of his career. His best racing days might be behind him, but wouldn’t it be something to see him win a fifth Cup championship 10 years removed from his fourth.
5. Matt Kenseth: He is known as much for winning the last conventional Cup championship as he is blamed for causing NASCAR to implement the Chase. Bottom line is Kenseth doesn’t wreck race cars. He brings them home in one piece and puts them in Victory Lane from time to time. It probably would have been better for everyone if he put his car in Victory Lane more than once in 2003.

You would think with Johnson winning four straight Cup championships that he would be miles ahead of the next closest driver in race wins. That race is actually pretty tight, all things considered.
Johnson has the most wins of the decade with 47. Stewart is not all that far back in second with 34. Gordon is right behind Stewart with 33. Busch has 20 and surprisingly Kenseth has only 18 in the decade.

Photo: President Barack Obama looks under the hood of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet with three-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson at the White House. (Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Top NASCAR races of the decade

NASCAR is asking the media to pick the races of the decade and the drivers of the decade. The first decade of the 21st century was definitely a head-turner, and sometimes a head-scratcher. It saw the introduction of the Chase. And it said good-bye to Dale Earnhardt. In fact, 2001 might have had the most impact on the entire decade. The year 2004, for better or worse, changed the way NASCAR decided its champions. The decade saw the introduction of the Car of Tomorrow and saw the checkered flag drop on some great tracks filled with tradition.
Here’s a look at how I ranked the top five races of the decade:

1. Ricky Craven’s win at Darlington Raceway, March 16, 2003. Craven won the race by 0.002 seconds over Kurt Busch, the closest margin of victory in the history of Cup racing. The two cars collided on the last lap and were joined at the fenders as Craven crossed the finish line a few sparks ahead of Busch.
2. Dale Earnhardt’s last win, Oct. 15, 2000. Everyone knows his last race, but how many can recall his last win. Fittingly it came at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, where he all but perfected the art of drafting. He won two races in what would be his last season in NASCAR. His other win came at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.
3. Kevin Harvick’s first win, March 11, 2001. Harvick was tabbed to drive for Richard Childress Racing at the Cup level after Dale Earnhardt died in the Daytona 500. It was only Harvick’s third Cup start of his career. Harvick drove the No. 29 right out of the box, and no driver has donned the No. 3 on his car since.
4. Kurt Busch captures first Chase championship, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Nov. 21, 2004. Greg Biffle won the race, but Kurt Busch won the Chase. NASCAR decided to implement a playoff system called the Chase after Matt Kenseth won a lackluster championship in 2003. Kenseth won only one race in his championship season, but built up some a huge lead with consistent finishes that it left little drama in the final weeks of the season. That prompted NASCAR to make changes.
5. Dale Jr. wins at Daytona in July 2001. The Cup Series drivers returned to Daytona International Speedway five months after Dale Earnhardt died on the final lap of the season-opening Daytona 500. Conspiracy theorists cast a suspicious eye to Dale Earnhardt Jr. winning this race. Without question it was an emotional win for Junior. It was also an emotional race for everyone in it, from drivers to fans.

There were three races missing from the choices given to the media. These races had a significant impact on the decade. They might not have been the best races to watch, but they were three of the most important races of the decade.

Dale Earnhardt’s last race, Feb. 18, 2001. Dale Earnhardt died on the last lap of the Daytona 500 in 2001. His two drivers, Michael Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt Jr., driving for his Dale Earnhardt Inc. team, finished 1-2 with Waltrip out front. Earnhardt was in third place and had the best seat to watch his drivers. No one will ever know if he saw them actually cross the finish line though. He was spun out and crashed head-on into the turn 4 wall, never crossing the finish line himself.

NASCAR races into Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, 2001. This race was originally scheduled for Sept.16 at New Hampshire International Speedway. That of course was five days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania. The race was postponed, as was almost every other major sporting event in the United States that week, and moved to the end of November. Robby Gordon won the race under the threat of snow flurries.

Jimmie Johnson all but clinches fourth straight Cup championship by winning in Phoenix, Nov. 15, 2009. Johnson won the race at Phoenix International Raceway and solidified himself among NASCAR greats. No other driver has won four Cup championships in a row. Only three other drivers have as many as four Cup championships. Say what you want about the Chase, but it shouldn’t take away from what Johnson has accomplished in the last four years of the decade.

Photo: At top, The closest finish in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series history came on March 16, 2003 at Darlington Raceway when Ricky Craven beat Kurt Busch to the finish line by .002 second. (Photo Credit: NASCAR) 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Looking back, Carl Edwards was the favorite to top Jimmie Johnson

Before the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season started, the members of the media were asked to predict the top 12 drivers in 2009. Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, Jimmie Johnson was not the media’s choice to repeat again as champion.
Until someone beats him, he has to be the favorite.
What’s more telling is that Denny Hamlin and Mark Martin did not receive more support. If anything, those two drivers seemed to be the most motivated to knock Johnson off the top.
The media picked Carl Edwards to win the championship. That was a pretty bold prediction considering he didn’t win a single race in 2009 and only finished in the top three three times. The whole Roush Fenway Racing stable needs improvement. Matt Kenseth’s two wins to start the year at Daytona and Fontana and Jamie McMurray’s fluke win at Talledega were the only victories for Roush Fenway in the Sprint Cup Series.
Here’s a look at the top 12 as voted on by the media:

  1. Carl Edwards: 0-for-36 in 2009. His best finish came at Pocono Raceway in June. He was second. He wasn’t particularly impressive in the Chase either and finished 11th.
  2. Jimmie Johnson: He won an unprecedented fourth straight Sprint Cup Series championship. Chase or not, he is becoming one of the greats in NASCAR.
  3. Kyle Busch: Really? He had four Cup wins. Perhaps more telling, he had five Cup finishes of 30th or worse. Incredibly inconsistent.
  4. Jeff Gordon: Think Gordon wanted to see Johnson tie him with four Cup Series championships?
  5. Dale Earnhardt Jr.: It’s easy to see why he is the most popular driver among fans, but there is no excuse for the media to be infatuated with him too.
  6. Greg Biffle: Another underachieving Roush Fenway driver. No wins and 10 top 10s in 2009. How did he make the Chase?
  7. Kevin Harvick: None of the Richard Childress Racing drivers made the Chase. Harvick not only missed the Chase, he might be missing his seat with RCR in the near future.
  8. Mark Martin: Well, at least the media didn’t pick him to finish second, again.
  9. Jeff Burton: This is the perfect spot for Burton. He makes the Chase, but doesn’t push the envelope quite enough to make a run at the championship. Typical Burton.
  10. Matt Kenseth: Roush Fenway Racing got a lot of respect, even though it ended up the team was going in reverse since February at Fontana.
  11. Denny Hamlin: The way he was racing at the end of the Chase this year, it seems like a fire is under him now. This is a bit low and he should have finished better in the poll than Busch.
  12. Tony Stewart: Stewart starting his own team probably made everyone a bit nervous. Everyone, that is, except Stewart.

Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kurt Busch proved the media experts wrong by making the Chase. For Vickers and Montoya, it was their first time. For Busch, it’s becoming a right of fall for him to make the Chase.
It will be interesting to see if Vickers and Montoya fall into favor this year.
What might be more interesting to see is if Dale Jr. falls out of favor.

Photo: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet battles for position with Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 500 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Penn., in June. Edwards ended up with a second-place finish, his best showing of the year, while Johnson was seventh. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Women in NASCAR

Danica Patrick won't be the the first woman to drive in NASCAR, but maybe she can help out in the stats department.
There have been 12 women who have raced in what is now the Nationwide Series. Patrick is going to be the 13th when she makes her first start, perhaps at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana.
Diane Teel was the first woman to start a race in NASCAR's second tier division in 1982. She made 11 starts in five years and posted two top-10 finishes.
Patty Moise made 133 starts from 1986 to 1998 and had four top 10s.
Tammy Jo Kirk made 15 starts all in one season, in 2003. Unlike Moise and Teel, she never finished in the top 10.
The last woman to start a Nationwide Series race was Jennifer Jo Cobb in 2008.
As for women drivers in Cup, there have been 15 of them. Janet Guthrie made 33 starts in five years from 1976 to 1980. She posted five top 10s in those five years.
Sara Christian made seven starts in 1949 and 1950 and managed one top-five finish. She also had two top 10s.
It looks like 1949 and 1950 were boom years for women drivers in NASCAR. Six women made starts at the highest level of NASCAR in those years. In addition to Christian, Louise Smith, Ethel Mobley, Ann Chester, Ann Slaasted and Ann Bunselmeyer started at least one Cup race in 1949 or 1950.
In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and its earlier versions, 13 women have started at least one race. Five of them raced in 2009. Chrissy Wallace, daughter of NASCAR driver Mike Wallace and niece of Rusty Wallace, made seven starts last season.

Ron Hornaday Jr. has a new crew chief

Dave Fuge, a two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion crew chief, will be Ron Hornaday Jr.'s crew chief at Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2010.
Hornaday won his fourth Truck Series championship in 2009. Fuge won two Truck Series championships as crew chief for Xpress Motorsports in 2002 and 2003. Mike Bliss and Travis Kvapil were the drivers in those years.
“For me as a car builder and a former team owner this is a dream come true,” said Fuge, on becoming a part of the KHI organization.  “This team has been able to achieve all the things I wanted to accomplish but was never able to when I was a team owner. Kevin and DeLana started this team the way I did, from the ground up and have watched it flourish. I’m proud to be able to join such a successful organization.”
Kevin Harvick Inc. also introduced Doug George as the crew chief for the team's No. 2 truck which will have a variety of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in it in 2010.
“I feel this is a really great opportunity with a world class organization,” George said. “This company has proven they can win races. To be honest I’m just really overwhelmed with the facility and the equipment they have to work with. I’m really happy to be here and I can’t wait to get started on 2010. I’m looking forward to great things.” 
George recently served as crew chief for Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola for Billy Ballew Motorsports in the Truck Series.
“I think both Dave and Doug will be great additions to our organization,” said KHI co-owner Harvick. “The West Coast connection between all three of our crew chiefs is a really neat tie. Dave comes to us with championship experience and I believe that will continue to be a championship winning team. Doug also comes to us with extensive knowledge of the sport and will be a good match to keep that team competitive. I think the chemistry between all three of our crew chiefs will bring KHI to an entirely new level of success.”
Harvick, Hornaday, George, Fuge, Rick Carelli, the general manager for Kevin Harvick Inc., and Ernie Cope, the crew chief for Harvick's Nationwide Series team, all raced against each in what is now the NASCAR Camping World West Series.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Kimball joins Andretti Autosport

Charlie Kimball, a driver from Camarillo, will race for Michael Andretti’s team in the Firestone Indy Lights Series starting in 2010.
Kimball, 24, finished his rookie season 10th in the Indy Lights standings in 2009. He had two top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 15 starts.
“I’m very excited to be joining AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport for 2010,” Kimball said. “I learned a lot about the Firestone Indy Lights as a rookie this year and am looking forward to leveraging that experience into a run for the championship in 2010.”
Kimball joins Martin Plowman from Emgland on the AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport team.
Kimball has made one previous start for Andretti Autosport, in the A1GP series under the team USA banner in 2008.
“We’re excited to bring Charlie on board with AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport for 2010,” Andretti said. “He is a great guy and a driver that has a lot of potential. He was a pleasure to work with at Zandvoort back in 2008 and we’re looking forward to watching him develop next season.”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Danica isn't the hottest girl in NASCAR

With Danica Patrick officially set to make her NASCAR debut, the big question is when will she win her first race. Time will only tell when that might happen.
As for the questions on the minds of NASCAR fans in 2009, put together a list of the top 10. Most had nothing to do with racing. Two had to do with girlfriends of Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
How NASCAR drivers go to the bathroom was the top question. For the record, they go like everyone else – in a urinal.
Other questions included: What does NASCAR stand for and how do you become a NASCAR driver. NASCAR is the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. As for becoming a NASCAR driver, it’s as easy as buying a late model car, putting in a roll cage and finding a little bullring to race it at. Be forewarned, becoming a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver is no easy feat and racing at your local bullring can easily become a very expensive habit. also compiled a list of questions about the girlfriends and wives of some of the top NASCAR drivers.
If the questions are any indication, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not only the most popular driver in NASCAR, he is also the most sought after.
Here is a list of the drivers who garnered the most attention:
1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Tony Stewart
3. Kasey Kahne
4. Kyle Busch
5. Michael Waltrip
6. Carl Edwards
7. Denny Hamlin
8. Jeff Gordon
9. Robby Gordon
10. Joey Logano
What do you know? Finally list of top NASCAR drivers that doesn’t include Jimmie Johnson.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rick Ren, Kevin Harvick Inc., part ways

Rick Ren, the crew chief for Ron Hornaday's championship NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team, has left Kevin Harvick Inc., according to a release by the team.
“Ron and Rick have been a powerful combination over the last few years in the Truck Series,” said KHI co-owner Kevin Harvick. "With success comes opportunity and we wish him well in the next step of his career."

Ren is expected to pursue management opportunities in NASCAR, according to the release. Ren led Hornaday to his fourth Truck Series championship and a Truck Series record five wins in a row in 2009. Hornaday also won the Truck Series championship in 2007, 1998 and 1996.
“We have put together a solid foundation with our Truck Series program from top to bottom,” Harvick said. “The guy behind the wheel is the catalyst of everything that has turned this into a championship-caliber team and I feel confident that our program will continue to be successful.”
Harvick said he will announce the next crew chief for Hornaday's team as early as next week.

Photo: Ron Hornaday Jr. and team owner Kevin Harvick celebrate Hornaday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship and Harvick's Ford 200 win at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The championship is Hornaday's fourth in the series and the second for Kevin Harvick Inc. (Photo Credit: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Tommy Johnson back in NHRA

Tommy Johnson posted on his LinkedIn page that he will be driving for Don Schumacher Racing's National Hot Rod Assn. top fuel team.
The team has yet to release any information and team sources said the deal is unofficial.
Johnson last raced full time in the NHRA in 2008, when he finished 18th in the funny car standings. He updated his LinkedIn profile on Wednesday to say he is a top fuel driver for Don Schumacher Racing.
Don Schumacher Racing has two teams in the top fuel division. Tony Schumacher recently won his sixth top fuel championship in a row and his seventh overall. Cory McClenathan finished third in the 2009 NHRA top fuel standings.
Don Schumacher Racing also has a three-car funny car team with Ron Capps, Jack Beckman and Matt Hagan as drivers.
Johnson, who has won 10 NHRA races in his career in funny cars and top fuel, is married to NHRA driver and drag racer Melanie Troxel.

Photo: Tommy Johnson posted on his LinkedIn page that is going to race in the NHRA top fuel division for Don Schumacher Racing. (NHRA)