2016 is on the track for racing. The ROLEX 24 opened the season with speed, splendor and color at Daytona and the Daytona 500 is rapidly approaching. Speed Weeks at Daytona always showcase some changes but this year there are some differences the casual, tune in and watch’em go fast’ fan might not catch right away.

For the obvious, let’s look at the #24. The famous driver isn’t the driver anymore. Jeff Gordon is out of the fire suit and into the broadcaster suit. Gordon will be in the booth joining the FOX Sports NASCAR broadcast team. He will still be at the track but out of sight, for the most part, as he adds commentary and insight to the broadcast viewers.

In the seat of the #24 will be Chase Elliott. The son of Cup Champion Bill Elliott is taking the #24 for his full time cross over season from the Xfinity series (2014 Champion). Fans will also see NAPA Auto Parts as a major player on the 24 Chevy.

Tony Stewart. It is his final year as he announced near the end of the 2015 season. The kick is he won’t be there to start the season at Daytona or for a good portion of it. He injured his back quite severely essentially in a dune buggy type vehicle incident in January. Stewart is in recovery but the injury presents a long trek back to the track. To start out at Daytona, Brian Vickers has been tapped to drive the #14. Ty Dillon has also been named to take Stewart’s car out when other series do not conflict.

Danica Patrick and the #10. She will still be out on the track as part of Stewart-Haas but the GoDaddy is gone. That easy to spot green is replaced by another major sponsor for 2016. Nature’s Bakery will take the primary location on the #10 Chevy. We’re looking forward to some free brownie snacks at the track!

Clint Bowyer. You may not notice it as the sponsor and the number remain the same for Bowyer in 2016. The #15, however, is off a Toyota and on a Chevy as Michael Waltrip Racing fell under at the end of the last season and Bowyer caught a ride, with his number and 5-Hour Energy sponsor, at the small HScott Motorsports. It is a one year run for Clint as he has also been tagged to join Stewart-Haas for 2017 and take over the #14 as Stewart steps away to engage further in the owner gig.

As for the actual racing there are two changes that will become more obvious as the season gets under way. First and more noticeable will be a little less traffic on the track. NASCAR has cut the running field down to 40 cars from the 43 that had been running for almost 20 years. This means some of those tag-alongs will have to really step up their game to make the field on any given race day. Most of the fans might not even notice the loss of three cars as they are watching the front anyway.

The other change falls on those races that face late race cautions. In the event of a green-white-checkered finish, NASCAR has set a distance marker so it is clear that the start is indeed fair and clean. If the lead car passes this mark the “green” start will be held to race. If their is another caution before the leader crosses that mark then there will be another shot at a clean start. This could happen as many times as needed. Cautions with just a few laps to go are not uncommon so this will likely be put to the test for the drivers and the fans.

Oh…. One more thing while we’re on it. Look for the Wood Brothers and the #21 Ford at every race this season. They will be running a full schedule for the first time in several seasons. Ryan Blaney has the wheel of the Motorcraft #21 as we give a nod to one of the iconic teams in racing.

Go Racing – and try to keep up…

Fans and drivers went to Martinsville Speedway a little bewildered by news of a “new” famous Martinsville hot dog. If you could tell any difference by the checkered flag on Sunday you must have some kind of super sense for processed meat products…

By the time the checkers fell on Sunday and the STP 500 it is a good bet nobody was concerned about hot dogs. Virginia native Denny Hamlin drove the #11 Fed-Ex / Joe Gibbs Toyota to the win and huge applause from the stands.

It was a good day for some and others fell back during the first short track race of the season. Many who tend to do well were caught with mechanical issues, wrecks or just out of the rhythm. Jimmie Johnson and team mate Dale Earnhardt, Jr. suffered issues that put them down several laps. Dale, Jr. was involved in a crash that had him back out several laps later with no front end sheet metal.

Jeff Gordon held the front for a bit and went on to finish 9th but was still hit during the race with a pit road penalty that put him back. Kasey Kahne even lead some and finished 11th.  All in all a split day of results for the Hendrick cars.

Stewart-Haas teams were up front and overall did well but couldn’t manage the end with Hamlin. Kevin Harvick lead a good chunk but couldn’t extend his run of top-2 finishes (8th). Kurt Busch also held the front but fell back to 14th at the end. Tony Stewart ran mid pack early on but by the later laps was up front to challenge but was edged outside and the train went by as he finished 20th. It was Danica Patrick that seemed to get in the groove at Martinsville, avoided some traffic and crashes and finished 7th.

It was the Joe Gibbs and Penske teams that filled the top 5 at the finish having a good race day in general. JGR cars finished 1st (Denny Hamlin), 4th (Matt Kenseth) and 5th (David Ragan in for Kyle Busch). Penske teams of Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished  2nd and 3rd with Logano starting on the pole.

Others in the top 10 were Martin Truex, Jr (6th) and Jamie McMurray (10th).

For fans it was a big day of racing with 31 lead changes involving 13 drivers and a familiar winner. 16 cautions gave fans a chance to examine their hot dogs for any signs of change.

It could be a momentum changing race for Joe Gibbs Racing and Denny Hamlin in particular.

The Easter break is on and the circus rolls on afterward to Texas then back to closer racing at Bristol (4-19) and Richmond (4-25).

PHOTOS: Friday Practice | Saturday Practice | Kroger 250 | STP 500


If you’ve ever wondered how they follow your favorite driver down the track at speed then it is likely, if you watched the Coca-Cola 600, that you now know…

The same answer also explains why your DVR does not have the last laps of the race…

A camera on cables and wheels is on a motorized pulley system that can run at speed with the cars down the track. The belt that drives the camera down the length snapped and the loose ends feel to the track slicing through the front of the #18 and tangling the drive and brakes of the #9.

Other cars may have experienced other damage from the downed belts and ropes which had to be gathered and removed from the racing area. NASCAR red-flagged the race but also set in motion a rare instance of allowing crews to check and fix their cars. Red flag rules keep teams from working but in this case the stop was unrelated to the racing and was a result of systems in place to show us the racing. (more…)

Jimmie Johnson won the Sprint All Star race. The five time Cup Champion took home the one million dollar prize with the #48 LOWE’S Chevy Crew and goes in the books as a four time winner of the event.

That about sums it up.

Except for the math of adding a million dollars to the ledger…

And the rain delay…  And two “rookies” on the grid…  And two brothers sharing the lead only to fall back…

There wasn’t much on the track for fans looking for chash-n-dash action. There was much hype coming in over rivalries and who might, or might not, bump another into a spin to make that final run for the checkered flag and the bank. For the most part, it was your typical “rubbin’ is racin” brand of driving. A few scraped or bounced or bumped but there wasn’t too much that will set the 2013 race into a “yeah, I was there!” memory. (more…)

Which story would you like…?

The one on Dale Earnhardt, Jr. coming to Martinsville on top of the points, finishing mid-pack and dropping back to number 3…?

The one on Tony Stewart and Joey Logano where an angry Stewart went after Logano post race at Fontana but the temper fizzed by Martinsville…?

How about the one on Danica Patrick…? She qualified at 32, spun early, and still drove to 12th… You want that one…?

Maybe Denny Hamlin out of the #11 with back injuries and Mark Martin, filling in the seat, drives to a top ten finish…?

Or the one on Jimmie Johnson starting on the pole and winning his eighth grandfather clock…?

Did we mention VA Tech football coach Frank Beamer…? (more…)

Qualifying is usually uneventful.

Sometimes there is a spin or a wall scrape. Sometimes things go really off and a car and driver go for an unintentional ride.

At Martinsville it was uneventful.

Except the first time appearance of Danica Patrick… And Mark Martin in Denny Hamlin’s car… And the snow…

First, the snow. It was actually the day and night before. Rain was forecast but the temperatures dropped and 2 to 4 inches of snow fell. It was mostly to the west of Martinsville but flakes fell and it was wet and cold and people were so buzzed up over snow in April. However, the weather changed rapidly with blue skies and temps in the mid 60’s as qualifying began. The practice sessions went on with only a nod to the snow the day before. (more…)

Tony Stewart.

Sprint Cup, Nextel Cup and Winston Cup champion. He holds an IndyCar championship. He holds Midget and Sprint car championships. He owns his own racing team. He owns race tracks. He has had his share of run-ins with NASCAR, media and other drivers.

Beyond any of that, he is a likeable guy. His composure at Daytona following the Nationwide race was nothing less than humble and genuinely concerned for the fans involved in the front stretch mayhem.

Even at Bristol, where an early race tire and crowded track put his #14 into the wall, he kept cool and drove what he could with no chance to get back up front.

Yes… He has been labeled as moody and cantankerous but to meet and speak with him close in and one on one he is quite the fellow. A sense of humor which borders on the mischievous, self-deprecating one liners and a genuine smile with a glint in his eye like he knows something you don’t characterize the man when out of the racing suit. (more…)