The Inaugural Brickyard 400 Starting Field: Where Are They Now? Part 2

The biggest race of the modern Winston Cup-era took place on Saturday, August 6th, when 43 drivers became the first men to run stock cars around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an official race.  The introduction of the Brickyard 400 arguably changed the course of racing history, from the winner (Jeff Gordon, who cemented his status as a "big-time race-winner") to the series (Nascar, which was now inarguably a national sport) to the track itself (IMS, which used the money from the 400 to bankroll the Indy Racing League the following year).  Over 20 years later, the starting field from that race have taken multiple paths--here's where they've led to so far:

In order of finishing position, with car # and sponsor in parenthesis
Bobby Labonte's car from THIS
YEAR'S race--he and Jeff Gordon are
the only drivers to have competed in
every Brickyard 400.

16. Bobby Labonte (22 Maxwell House): The last car on the lead lap in 1994, Bobby Labonte went on to win the 2000 Brickyard 400, the same year as his Winston Cup championship.  Bobby has raced a part-time schedule in 2014.

17. Ernie Irvan (28 Havoline): Ernie looked poised to battle Jeff Gordon to the checkers on this day, but a flat tire relegated him a lap down.  Two weeks later, a practice crash at Michigan International Speedway nearly cost him his life.  Since retiring, Ernie has worked both in the motorsports field (helping his son's career) and out (organizing equestrian events in South Carolina).

18. Greg Sacks (77 USAir): Nascar's "super-sub" was running full-time for D.K. Ullrich in this race.  Since then, he's made his mark helping to start GT Vodka.

19. Jeff Burton (8 Raybestos): Jeff holds the title of the best-finishing rookie driver in the inaugural Brickyard 400 (although, technically, almost EVERY driver was a rookie to the track).  Soon after, "The Mayor" joined Roush Racing, where he'd see his greatest success.  Jeff is currently running a partial schedule while preparing to become a color commentator for NBC Sports in 2015.

20. Joe Nemechek (41 Meineke): "Front Row Joe" narrowly missed out on being the highest-finishing rookie in this race, but would go on to win a handful of races at the Cup level.  Joe Nemechek currently runs part-time in the three touring series, while helping start his son John Hunter's career.

21. Bobby Hillin Jr. (44 Buss Fuses): Racing for the team that would eventually morph into Bill Elliott Racing, Bobby Hillin was years removed from his shocking win at Talladega--one that made him the youngest winner on the Cup circuit.  Since retiring, Hillin has worked in the excavating and petroleum industries.

Richard Petty takes the famed
#43 around IMS during an
early tire test.  Wally Dallenbach
would run a different car in the race
itself--this one was immediately
brought to the track museum.
22. Rick Mast (1 Skoal Classic): Not only did Rick win the pole for this race, but he was also on the pole for the famed 1992 Cup series finale.  Mast raced until carbon monoxide poisoning forced him into retirement.  Currently, Rick owns an environmental clean-up business in his native Virginia.

23. Wally Dallenbach Jr. (43 STP): The son of IndyCar/CART chief steward Wally Dallenbach Sr., Wally Jr. was racing for the legendary Petty Enterprises car in 1994.  After a journeyman's career, Wally moved into the broadcast booth, working for both TNT and NBC Sports, covering both Nascar and IndyCar.

24. Bobby Hamliton (40 Kendall): Having entered Nascar through stunt-driving work for "Days of Thunder", Bobby was still on his way up the Nascar ladder at the time.  After winning a few Cup races, Bobby moved to the Truck series, where he started and raced his own championship team.  Sadly, he died young of neck cancer.

25. Kyle Petty (42 Mello Yello): Finishing just behind his teammate, Kyle was nearing the end of his successful run with SABCO Racing, following it up with a less-successful run driving his own cars.  In addition to his TV work with multiple networks, Kyle also runs the Victory Junction Gang Camp for seriously ill children.

26. Jeremy Mayfield (98 Fingerhut): Racing for Cale Yarborough at the time (who himself raced in the Indy 500 years back), Mayfield would eventually go on to Cup success with Penske-Kranefuss and Evernham Motorsports.  He was later suspended for drug use, a charge he has continued to fight.

27. Derrike Cope (02 Advil): Derrike, the 1990 Daytona 500 champion, was in-between rides at the time, having just been replaced at Cale Yarborough Motorsports by Jeremy Mayfield (see above).  Cope continues to race today for his own Nationwide Series team.

28. John Andretti (14 Bryant): Ironically, John Andretti's finish--two laps down--was the best by a driver with experience racing in the Indianapolis 500.  Andretti, after finishing his Cup career, has worked in broadcasting as well as undertaking charitable endeavors, mostly in the Indianapolis-area.

AJ Foyt tests his stock car at
Indy--the 1994 Brickyard 400
wound up being his final race.
29. Rich Bickle (9 Orkin): A short-track ace, Bickle was still a few years away from his career highlight top-5 at Martinsville.  Bickle retired from racing (having done so mostly on the local level in his later years) in 2013, and owns several racing-related businesses in Wisconsin.

30. A.J. Foyt (50 Copenhagen): The legendary Foyt, who raced numerous series in his storied career, came out of retirement for the inaugural Brickyard 400, making this his final race as a driver.  Foyt currently owns the IndyCar team A.J. Foyt Enterprises, driven by Takuma Sato.

31. Ward Burton (31 Hardee's): A rookie in 1994 (like his brother Jeff), Ward would go on to a solid Cup career, including a win in the 2002 Daytona 500.  Since retirement Ward has focused his time on conservation efforts related to hunting, while also steering his son Jeb's racing career.

Danny Sullivan pits his car as
Derrike Cope (#02) and AJ Foyt
go by on-track.
32. Jimmy Hensley (55 Bondo): Jimmy ran a long, varied Cup career, though he saw more success in the Busch and Truck Series.  Jimmy currently works in the fire-suppression industry, and is the Western Director of the North Carolina Society of Fire Rescue Instructors.

33. Danny Sullivan (99 Corporate Car): Danny is best-remembered for his famed "Spin and Win" in the 1985 Indy 500.  His Nascar run came near the end of his career (and wound up being his only Cup start), and he has since gone on to work in driver development and the aviation industry.

34. Jeff Purvis (51 Country Time): Jeff Purvis was a southern dirt-track ace who saw his best Nascar runs in the Busch Series.  He was forced into retirement in 2002 after a massive head injury at Nazareth Speedway.  He has since returned on a local-level, and has helped developed "crate" engines for dirt track series.

35. Mark Martin (6 Valvoline): Though in the midst of his successful run with Roush Racing, Mark had a disappointing day at Indy, finishing 60 laps down.  Mark went on to race for a number of other teams, retiring from active competition last season.


The Inaugural Brickyard 400 Starting Field: Where Are They Now? Part 1

The biggest race of the modern Winston Cup-era took place on Saturday, August 6th, when 43 drivers became the first men to run stock cars around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an official race.  The introduction of the Brickyard 400 arguably changed the course of racing history, from the winner (Jeff Gordon, who cemented his status as a "big-time race-winner") to the series (Nascar, which was now inarguably a national sport) to the track itself (IMS, which used the money from the 400 to bankroll the Indy Racing League the following year).  Over 20 years later, the starting field from that race have taken multiple paths--here's where they've led to so far:

Jeff Gordon & crew celebrate in
victory lane (Jeff is holding the
checkered flag).
In order of finishing position, with car # and sponsor in parenthesis

1. Jeff Gordon (24 DuPont): The Brickyard 400 was the second win of Jeff's Cup career, coming in-between his rookie season and his first championship season.  He has scored a total of four Brickyard wins to date.  Jeff is the only driver from the inaugural race still running a full Cup schedule.

2. Brett Bodine (26 Quaker State/NationaLease): The last great run both for Brett and the Kenny Bernstein-owned King Racing team, Bodine's career day was overshadowed by an on-track incident with his brother Geoff (see Geoff's entry for more info).  Brett is still with Nascar, working as the pace car driver.

3. Bill Elliott (11 Budweiser): Bill was preparing to leave Junior Johnson & Associates (he would be replaced by Brett Bodine) to start his own team.  Later, Elliott would win the Brickyard 400 driving for Ray Evernham.  Today he's steering his son Chase's career.

4. Rusty Wallace (2 Miller): A former champion, Rusty was unable to visit victory lane at Indy, despite running for IMS legend Roger Penske.  Today, Rusty works for ESPN as a studio commentator.

5. Dale Earnhardt (3 GM Goodwrench): Dale would have to wait a year, picking up his lone Brickyard 400 win the following season, leading to jokes that he was the first "man" to win the race.  Tragically, Dale was killed in the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.
Darrell Waltrip makes a pit stop.

6. Darrell Waltrip (17 Western Auto): Already in the twilight of his career, DW would see his self-owned team slide in performance, before ending his career with a handful of lower-end teams.  Darrell currently works for Fox Sports as a color commentator.

7. Ken Schrader (25 Kodiak): The next-best Hendrick Motorsports car belonged to Schrader, midway through his lengthy career.  Schrader recently retired from Cup racing, although he continues to run lower-level races.

8. Michael Waltrip (30 Pennzoil): By 1994 "Mikey" was in the thick of his lengthy winless streak (in points races), one that would last until a string of plate-race wins in the new millennium.  In addition to working as a studio analyst (for Cup races) and color commentator (for Truck races) for Fox Sports, Michael also runs his own race team, as well as occasionally racing himself in a very-limited schedule.

9. Todd Bodine (75 Factory Outlet Stores): Running for Butch Mock, it was a banner day for the second-best finishing Bodine brother (Todd stayed out of the family feud).  After dominating the Nascar Truck Series, Bodine currently works as an occasional analyst for Fox Sports.

10. Morgan Shepherd (21 Citgo): Though on the downside of his career, Morgan was still capable of strong finishes for the Wood Brothers.  Morgan has continued racing (albeit mostly in underfunded equipment), and recently set a record as the oldest driver to ever compete in the Cup series.
Look strange?  This is Ricky Rudd's
1993 car at IMS for a tire test. However,
Ricky had already announced that he
and sponsor Tide were forming his own
team in 1994.  Hendrick Motorsports
still wanted to test, though, so they
brought Ricky's car, with all the Tide
decals removed.  Terry Labonte--
who had already been announced as
Ricky's replacement (with new
sponsor Kellogg's)--tested the car.
He had no relationship with Tide,
hence the lack of sponsors.

11. Ricky Rudd (10 Tide): Though Darrell Waltrip was the highest-finishing owner-driver that day, it was The Rooster who'd become the first owner-driver to win the Brickyard 400 in 1997.  Ricky is currently retired and works occasionally as an analyst for NBC Sports.

12. Terry Labonte (5 Kellogg's): Terry's run rounded out a fantastic day for the Hendrick Motorsports team.  Terry currently races part-time on the Cup circuit, and has said that he will retire completely at the end of this season.

13. Ted Musgrave (16 Family Channel): Musgrave's time Cup racing ended without a win, though he managed to revive his career in the Truck series.  Last racing in 2010, he has since worked as a spotter.

14. Sterling Marlin (4 Kodak): Sterling's Indy debut came sandwiched between his two Daytona 500 victories.  He last raced in 2009, and has since returned to his native Tennessee, where he owns a Dodge dealership.

15. Lake Speed (15 Ford Quality Care): One of two drivers to take a Cup points provisional starting spot (Harry Gant being the other), Speed is arguably best-known for his pre-Nascar days as a karting champion.  He currently races vintage karts, having left Nascar after a serious injury.


Jeff Gordon Wins Fifth Brickyard, Immediately Asked About Retirement

Jeff Gordon in 2020
(artist's rendering)
It was a banner day for Jeff Gordon, as he joined Michael Schumacher as the only drivers to win five times at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  And immediately upon walking into the post-race press conference, he was asked about the historical significance of him possibly retiring soon.
"Y'know, it was just a great day all around for the whole Axalta Hendrick team today, I really just want to focus on what we did here today, and not just on the future."
Gordon, who maintained his lead in the points, was asked by a reporter if the win today put him in a better spot for a fifth championship, upon which he may retire as he has stated before.
"Well, ignoring the retirement talk, this really has us in the drivers' seat going into the Chase.  I mean, it's tough competition out there--heck, it's tough competition on my own team!  But if we can keep this up when we roll into Chicago, I'll be very happy and very confident.  OK, so, next question--nothing on retirement!"
After a lengthy silence, a local reporter asked how important the last restart was, and if it reminded him of Elliott Sadler's poor restart a few years back in the Nationwide race, and if the name "Elliott" might have something to do with his future.
"Look, I'm not here to talk about retirement.  I'm here to talk about this big win today for everybody here on this team.  Isn't anybody actually going to ask me about what happened today?  No?  Fine, I'm leaving."
The assembled press corps were said to be surprised with Jeff's attitude, although as least he wasn't nearly as whiny as Kasey Kahne.

Carl Edwards Leaving Roush-Fenway Racing for Front Row Motorsports

In a long-awaited announcement that was finally made official this morning, Roush-Fenway Racing has announced that they are parting ways with longtime driver Carl Edwards at the conclusion of the 2014 season.  Edwards, when reached for comment, confirmed that he will be staying with Ford Racing by moving to Front Row Motorsports for the 2015 season, citing the team's potential and lack of people who hate him.
"Why don't that bug-eyed dummy,
one-hit wonder, and that girl's
boyfriend want to hang out with me?"
"There were a lot of open rides for 2015, but Front Row Motorsports really had the best to offer for my future career", Edwards said to the assembled media.  "It's been a great ride at Roush-Fenway, and I'll always be grateful to Jack (Roush) for what he's done for my career, but I have to do what's best for me.  And what's best for me is NOT getting punched in the face by Greg Biffle every Wednesday morning at team headquarters."
Edwards said he considered numerous offers from many different teams once it appeared that he would not be returning to Roush-Fenway.
"Well, I had a chance to go to Penske Racing, but Brad Keselowski set up some fishing wire by the team entrance and a bucket of water sitting on a doorway.  Joe Gibbs Racing had a very attractive offer, but apparently it's considered 'unprofessional' to use the term 'Matt KenSUCK' in an interview.  Oh, and apparently some teams have a one-telegenic-jerk-limit per Cup garage--MWR, I'm looking in your direction."
Edwards has said that the sponsorship situation is still up in the air for 2015, but he remains excited about the possibilities.
"Well, we won't be able to keep Fastenal with us, but there's plenty of companies that would love to support me, a media-savvy winner that no other drivers even remotely like.  Besides, if I can pretend to like mushy, mass-produced sandwiches, I can endorse anything."
Current Front Row Motorsports drivers David Ragan and David Gilliland were both unavailable for comment, as neither of them has ever been interviewed pre-race.

Indianapolis "News" & Notes

--After a badly-needed off-week (well, for everybody except Kasey Kahne, apparently), the Nascar Sprint Cup Series returns with all the exciting* on-track action** of the Brickyard*** 400.
(*excitement not guaranteed)
(**most "action" will be teams passing via pit stops)
(***now known as the Some Guy 400 Presented by King Cobra, part of the Indy Super Weekend)
"WHY did I ever go to Petty?"

--Bobby Labonte continues his "Hey--remember when I was a championship driver?" tour by running for a third Tommy Baldwin Racing team.  If he qualifies, he'll join Jeff Gordon as the only drivers to compete in every Nascar Cup race at Indianapolis.  Well, Jeff's still the only one to COMPETE in every race, Bobby's simply participated in about half of them.

--I love how Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Wednesday basically consisted of blowing stuff up.

--Juan Pablo Montoya and the Penske #12 team return this weekend.  Don't scoff--JPM is probably the part-time racer with the best shot to win at a non-plate track this year.  He'll also set a record for difference in on-track attendance from last week (about a dozen Canadians) to this week.

--On Saturday, be sure to check out the Nationwide Series race.  Then, check online for the hundreds of "recaps", 99% of which will deal with how the race should be at IRP, ORP, LORP, or whatever they hell they call that place now.

--Oh, and a reminder--Cup races will be on the ESPN family of networks for the rest of the season.  That means ESPN for Sunday races, ABC for Saturday Night races, and ESPN9 for rain-delayed races.

Race Team Alliance: The Beginning of The End, or the End of the Beginning?

Reverse Reality Paint-Scheme
A few days ago, Nascar's nine "mega-teams" announced the formation of the Race Team Alliance, aka The RTA.  This group, led by Rob Kauffman of Michael Waltrip Racing, claims to have been founded to control costs, improve competition, and form a single voice for the sport's teams.
But is it good for Nascar?
After all, it could be the force that helps to bring Nascar back to the heights it reached in the early 00's.  Or, it could be the force that turns it into a pale imitation of itself in a few short years.  Here's a look at what COULD happen down the road…

February 2015: After months of posturing, the RTA issues its list of demands to Nascar in a document labelled the "Gurney White Paper", since it put Brian France in a Gurney and turned his face pale white.  The RTA threatens to pursue legal action to meet their demands of lower costs, better purses, and more control.

April 2015: Upon completing his recovery, Brian France makes plans to meet with RTA representatives, but cancels when Michael Waltrip is heard saying, "Well, that's not the first time Brian's left rehab!"  Talks degenerate into a war of words with France frequently issuing press releases stating, "Your mom".
"More logos!  More power!  But
mostly more logos!"

August 2015: Amid a season of controversy, things reach a head when Kyle Busch wins his fifth straight Xfinity Series (formerly Nationwide Series) race, after which he is pelted by fans.  No, literally--fans throw other fans over the catch-fence at Kyle's car during a burnout.  Mike Helton's attempts to prevent Cup drivers from earning purse money in lower-level series is thwarted by the RTA, who consolidate power behind Joe Gibbs.

January 2016: In what is labelled as a "power-grab", Brian France announces that for the upcoming season, 25 spots will be reserved in each field for non-RTA teams and drivers.  The RTA teams will be forced to compete for the remaining spots in what becomes known as the "25/18 Rule".  The RTA leadership is furious, noting that France timed his announcement to coincide with Joe Gibbs' appearance in Landover, Maryland for the renaming of the Washington Warlocks.

February 2016: "The Split".  The RTA, with most of the top drivers and all of the top-teams, forms its own racing series, Championship Racing Automotive Productions, or CRAP.  Agreements are made between CRAP and Speedway Motorsports Inc.'s CEO, Marcus Smith, to host a majority of the new series's races.  Bruton Smith, meanwhile, is interviewed by ESPN about where he thinks LeBron James is going.

March 2016: Hindered by The Split, Nascar holds its season-opening Daytona 500 later than ever, a race dominated by Tommy Baldwin Racing's duo of Landon Cassill and Danny O'Quinn.  Meanwhile, CRAP announces plans to start its season on Memorial Day weekend.  The race, sponsored now by USBank, is named the US 600.
Pre-race festivities at the US 600

May 2016: In the first-ever head-to-head battle of the two sanctioning bodies, Nascar scores a decisive win, with Angela Cope scoring a photo-finish win over Travis Kvapil in the Buy ISC Stock 400.  Meanwhile, a stunning 30-car crash happens during the parade lap of the US 600, made even more-stunning when CRAP allows the affected cars to pull out backups for the second attempted start.  Series spokesman Jeff Burton is electrocuted when he attempts to explain that "Well, Nascar did it once."

November 2016: The first season since The Split ends with heavy losses for both sides--lower TV ratings, lack of public interest, and a Sprint Cup championship for Stephen Leicht.  Joe Gibbs leaves CRAP to become the new General Manager of the renamed Washington Warriors.  Roger Penske leaves as well, saying, "I warned ya!  Didn't I warn ya!"

February 2017: In an attempt to reignite interest in the sport, restrictor plates are eliminated in the Daytona 500 presented by Jerry's Bail Bonds.  After a dangerous crash puts leader Norm Benning's car in the stands, remaining fans of the sport are both relieved and embarrassed that nobody died because nobody was in the stands.
"And a reminder that Brooke
Gordon-Townley is still at large"

June 2017: Amid heavy losses and an expiring TV deal with CNNBCBS, CRAP enters peace talks with a noticeably disheveled Brian France.  Having suffered major financial losses as well, France later explains that he has been forced to subside on a diet of Slim Jims and pudding.

September 2017: Upon winning the Sprint Cup Championship, Morgan Shepherd retires.

February 2018: After months of negotiations, CRAP and Nascar come to a merger agreement, with the France family regaining control over the sport.  CRAP spokesman J.D. Gibbs (son of Joe Gibbs, current executive with the renamed Washington Bullets) admits that there were heavy losses on both sides, but that with a little luck--and a lot of hard work--one day the sport of stock car racing might reach the level of IndyCar.

April 2018: Due to a scheduling error, the final CRAP race is held mere hours after a Nascar event, resulting in Danica Patrick-Stewart earning her first stock car win.

Race Team Alliance: The End of the Beginning, or the Beginning of the End? (Part 1)

The End...of The Sport's Mismanagement?

A few days ago, Nascar's nine "mega-teams" announced the formation of the Race Team Alliance, aka The RTA.  This group, led by Rob Kauffman of Michael Waltrip Racing, claims to have been founded to control costs, improve competition, and form a single voice for the sport's teams.
But is it good for Nascar?
After all, it could be the force that helps to bring Nascar back to the heights it reached in the early 00's.  Or, it could be the force that turns it into a pale imitation of itself in a few short years.  Here's a look at what COULD happen down the road…

February 2015: The RTA announces that it has formed agreements with the rest of the sport's lower-level teams, and has finally persuaded Brian France's secretary to let them visit his office.  The meeting is reported to be "positive and productive", though RTA leader Rob Kauffman is said to be surprised at how many pencils are stuck in the ceiling's acoustical tiles.

May 2015: In a press-conference at the Nascar Hall of Fame, Brian France announces the formation of a three-man team to govern and guide the sport, made up of a race-team owner, the previous year's Cup Series champion, and Nascar executive Mike Helton.  Helton then leads the group over to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where they spend the evening pointing and laughing at Bruton Smith.

July 2015: The three-man team is rechristened the Team Owner, Racers & Governors Organization, aka TORGO (nickname: The Masters of the Sport).
Jimmie poses next to his throwback
paint scheme honoring 2017 Nascar
Hall-of-Fame inductee Mike Skinner

November 2015: Fresh off his record-tying seventh Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson organizes a summit between TORGO, executives at Fox and NBC, and Sprint executives.  The results are a groundbreaking number of changes--most of which were long-requested by fans--that see the race schedule lowered to a maximum of 30 points races, all races besides Daytona lowered by a minimum of 50 laps/miles, a hard cap on the amount of commercial time allowed on telecasts, and allowing fans a true open forum to suggest changes.  Fans everywhere are driven to madness as their least-favorite driver makes all their dreams come true.

February 2016: Continuing the trend of bold, popular changes to the sport, RTA leader Chip Ganassi announces a new rule barring Cup drivers from competing in lower series events.  In retaliation, Kyle Busch immediately announces his retirement from Cup racing to focus on winning more Truck and Xfinity (formerly Nationwide) series races.

March 2016: After winning an exciting Daytona 500, Jeff Gordon shocks his fans by announcing his retirement, in order to "go out on top".  Broadcaster Darrell Waltrip is soon fired for criticizing Gordon for not "hanging on for 5-7 years running 35th, like all good former champions do".

"Well the new team will keep
me away from Nascar pretty
much all the time, so there
won't be any negative
effect on the sport."
October 2016: It's the end of a banner year for the sport--Carl Edwards becomes the third different driver to win a Cup championship with Joe Gibbs Racing, Chase Elliott (despite missing the first race) wins Rookie of the Year, and Danica Patrick officially retires from racing after achieving her goal of finishing 10th in the season-ending Ford Electric 350.  The only downside comes when Xfinity announces that, due to wanting to refocus on being evil, they will rescind their sponsorship of Nascar's 2nd-level series.  Fans are outraged when Nascar, declining to sign a new sponsor, decide to name the series after it's most successful driver, hating the "lack of tradition" that comes with the new Busch Series.

March 2017: Brian France is awarded the NFL's 33rd franchise, the Los Angeles Condors, and passes control of Nascar to his nephew, Ben Kennedy.  Kennedy is immediately welcomed in by TORGO, upon promising to never use the phrase, "Well, back when *I* was racing…".

September 2017: The opening of a new .75-mile track outside Seattle results in Dover Downs finally losing one of its two Cup dates.  Fans are saddened to learn of this, shocked that it didn't happen 20 years prior.

November 2018: Another first-time champion--Kyle Larson--accepts the T-Mobile Cup trophy at the season-ending awards banquet.  Larson narrowly edged out Jimmie Johnson for the win at the season finale, earning him the championship by a single point.  Media members everywhere praise the Chase format while trying to delete their previous articles about how the Chase Grid sucks.

March 2018: After years of work, TORGO finally solves its biggest issue--finding a way to get rid of the long wait between the first and second races in the Toyota Truck Series.

August 2018: Morgan Shepherd retires.

December 2018: Amid record-breaking ratings and all-time high attendance, Nascar celebrates 70 years in business without a serious work-stoppage.  Mike Helton announces his retirement, to be replaced by longtime Nascar executive Chad Little.  And the RTA is praised for its willingness to work with Nascar, put the good of the sport first, and keep Mark Martin from making another comeback.

NEXT TIME: The Worst Case Scenario

Bruton Smith Celebrates in Victory Lane for Some Reason

Even a late caution couldn't stop the Brad Keslowski freight-train from dominating the race at New Hampshire today.  And in victory lane, he was joined by team owner Roger Penske and track owner Bruton Smith, who was there for some odd reason.
Bruton, prior to inventing baldness
"Being here, this is what it's all about!", Smith shouted out, although no interviewers were near him.  "You know, when I built this track, I knew it would be a place for high-speed, intense racing.  To see a guy like Brad Keselowski--the guy I recommended to The Captain to take over the 2-car--win here, it just makes me smile."
Upon being corrected (NHIS was built by Bob Bahre, and Keselowski was interviewed by Roger Penske for his Cup ride), Smith appeared to completely ignore the suggestions.
"Well, this sport is all about action like the kind we saw at the end of the race, thanks to the Green-White-Checkered that I invented", Smith continued while firmly gripping onto a reporter's microphone.  "Just think--Bad Brad gets to celebrate tonight with lobster and apple ale, which was my idea as well!"
Smith was criticized for allowing 72-year-old Morgan Shepherd to compete in today's race, although he seemed unfazed.
"Morgan's a good friend of mine, which is ironic since I invented being friends with drivers", Smith said.  "In this sport, if you qualify fast enough for a race, you can run in the race.  Oh, by the way, did I tell you that I invented qualifying too?"
Race-winner Brad Keselowski was heard saying "Keep Mr. Magoo away from me", and thus was quickly spirited out of victory lane disguised as a broom.
"Where's Brad?", Smith was heard wondering aloud.  "Oh, he's probably too humble to celebrate--good thing I invented humility too."
"Oh, and screw the RTA."

New Hampshire "News" and Notes

--It's a triple-header weekend for Nascar, with a crucial Cup race at New Hampshire, a competitive Truck race in Iowa, and a pointless Nationwide race at NHIS.

--Morgan Shepherd makes his bi-annual journey to relevance this weekend, competing in the Cup race for the second-straight year.  Morgan also competed in the first Cup race at New Hampshire, when he was merely "old", and not yet "too old".

--The #41 team of Kurt Busch has been fined and docked 10 points for failing post-race inspection.  No doubt this elicited a calm, measured response from Kurt.  No, seriously, I'm sure it did--then, a few weeks from now, he'll explode on Brad Keselowski for blocking.

--On the Nationwide side of things, Matt Kenseth picked up Interstate Batteries as a sponsor for Saturday's race.  Finally, it's good to see a young up-and-coming Nationwide Series driver get a fair shake.

--Don't worry about any "lack-of-action" in the Truck Series--John Wes Townley's attempt to run the full schedule should be good for at least one caution per race.

All The King's Men--The #43 After Richard Petty

A long wait for Aric Almirola...a LONGER wait for the #43
UPDATED 7/3/17

When a legend retires from the sport, he leaves some pretty big shoes to fill (or, in this driver's case, cowboy boots).  Nobody has lived up to the level of success Richard Petty had in his legendary #43 "Petty Blue" stock car--although honestly, it's doubtful that anybody COULD.  Here's a rundown of everybody who tried:
Rick Wilson and the re-numbered car

Rick Wilson--1993.  The journeyman driver (best-known previously for running Oldsmobiles for a number of years) actually drove the re-numbered #44 immediately after The King's retirement.  Nascar considered permanently retiring the #43, but reconsidered and the famed 43 returned to the track in 1994--minus Rick Wilson.

Wally Dallenbach, Jr.--1994.  Originally best-known as something of a road-racing ace, Wally moved to The King's ride for the 1994 season.  After a disappointing start, he was let go and replaced by John Andretti for the rest of the season.  Ironically, Wally would work with Richard's son, Kyle, on TNT broadcasts.

John Andretti (see below)

Bobby Hamilton (Sr.)--1995-97.  The hard-nosed Tennessean was better known as a journeyman before he hooked-up with Petty Enterprises.  By the time he was done, he'd posted the most-success of any post-Petty driver in the #43, winning twice.  Bobby left the team following the 1997 season to drive for Morgan-McClure.

John Andretti and The King in
Victory Lane at Martinsville
John Andretti--1994, 1998-2003.  After a brief stint in 1994, John Andretti rejoined Richard Petty for the 1998 season, posting a single win (in 1999).  The joining of the most-famous name in IndyCar with the most-famous name in Nascar would see a slow decline in production in the following years.  Despite a change in sponsor (STP to Cheerios) and manufacturer (Pontiac to Dodge) the team was unable to reverse the slide, and Andretti was released midway through the 2003 season.

Christian Fittipaldi--2003.  The most-bizarre entry on this list, the Brazilian ran a handful of races in the #43 in 2003.  After disappointing results, the nephew of Emerson Fittipaldi moved over to the Petty-owned #44 car.  (NOTE: Road racer Scott Maxwell attempted a single race in the #43--the 2003 race at Watkins Glen--but he did not qualify).

Jeff Green--2003-2005.  Journeyman Jeff Green stepped-in for Fittipaldi and was eventually signed to drive the car full-time.  Green's tenure with the team was unremarkable, and he was let go following the 2005 season.

Bobby Labonte--2006-2008.  Richard Petty made a trio of bold moves to take the #43 back to victory lane before the 2006 season--he sold part of the team to investment group Boston Ventures, he moved the team itself from its ancestral home in Level Cross, and hired former Winston Cup champion Bobby Labonte as his driver.  While Petty Enterprises as a whole hadn't been competitive for some time, Labonte was encouraged by the new money and chance to bring the #43 back to glory.  After a promising start--with three top-5's in 2006--the team regressed in the following two years.  With sponsorship drying up, Petty essentially allowed Boston Ventures to shut down Petty Enterprises, while Richard took his name, a small ownership stake, and his legendary #43, to Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, renamed Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM)
One of Reed Sorenson's many sponsors
during his year in the 43

Reed Sorenson--2009.  With the #43 reborn with RPM, Reed Sorenson was the first driver to drive the famous number under new ownership.  After posting a single top-10, sponsorship issues saw Sorenson racing the car for no-pay near the end of the season.  Sorenson was let go soon after the season was over.

A.J. Allmendinger--2010-11.  The former open-wheel ace Allmendinger was put in the #43 in 2010.  Despite showing flashes of talent, Allmendinger was allowed to leave the team following 2011 as RPM appeared on the verge of shutting down due to majority owner George Gillett's financial issues.  Eventually a last-minute deal by Petty to sell the team to Medallion Financial kept RPM afloat.

Aric Almirola--2012-present.  Almirola--who briefly raced for RPM in the #9 car in 2010--returned to the team in 2012 on a full-time basis.  In this week's rain-shortened Daytona race, he finally brought the #43 back into victory lane.  Results have varied since then, as RPM itself has struggled with on-track performance of both its flagship #43 and teammate #9/#44 car, eventually shutting down the second team prior to the start of the 2017 season.

Substitutes--2017.  Aric Almirola suffered a back injury in a vicious wreck at Kansas, forcing RPM to put substitute drivers in the famed #43.  At first, "super-sub" Regan Smith ran two races, before Roush Fenway developmental driver Bubba Wallace Jr. stepped into the car for three of the next four races (and the foreseeable future until Almirola returns).  Road racer Billy Johnson piloted the 43 at Sonoma.

Denny Hamlin Celebrates in Victory Lane at Daytona

It was a historic day, as a Petty-owned team found its way to Daytona's victory lane for the first time since 1981.  And Denny Hamlin was more-than-happy to help them celebrate, wheeling the car into victory lane with the 43 team.
Denny's previous collaboration
with the Petty's
"Well, I've never had any issues subbing in for a driver in a car that can win, so I was just glad to help out any way I can", Hamlin said while searching for a Smithfield hat to wear.  I mean, I saw the 43 car sitting out there on pit lane, so I looked under the car cover and saw that nobody was behind the wheel!  I slid myself into the seat, and when the called the race, I was ready to celebrate!"
Hamlin will not be credited with the win, which will go to the driver who started the race, Aric Almirola, in the #43.  Almirola was nowhere to be found.
"Aric, I'm so thankful to him for running such a good race until I got here", Hamlin said, "but he's a little--heh-heh--'TIED UP' at the moment.  Y'see, I said 'TIED UP' because I'm alluding to the fact that he's bound and gagged in a bathroom in the media center right now.  Oh, wait, edit that part out, please."
The rest of the 43 team appeared to alternate between dodging the still-falling rain and wondering aloud why Hamlin was celebrating with him, with the phrase, "What do you mean, 'We?'" being heard numerous times.  Hamlin, for his part, was more-than-happy to celebrate.
"It's not very often that you get to celebrate one of these things at Daytona, so I'm gonna make the most of it--Old Milwaukee all around!"

Daytona "News" and Notes: Bizarre Starting Lineup Edition

Strategy, rain, and a little luck has stocked tomorrow night's race with one of the most-surprising front two rows in recent memory.  Since the top four starters might be a mystery to newer fans, here's some fun facts about these underdogs:

Tomorrow's pole-sitter with his
conjoined twin sister
Pole Position: David Gilliland (38)  Was screwed over by Yates Racing…Still has no idea what "Hype Manufacturing" is…Can eat his own weight in papayas…Has no relationship whatsoever with his biological stepfather.

Outside Pole: Reed Sorenson (36)  Was screwed over by RPM…Has been meaning to clean out that closet with all the Target merchandise for years…Can juggle a single ball for hours…Preferred the replacement Red Power Ranger over the original.

Inside Row 2: Landon Cassill (40)  Was screwed over by Hendrick Motorsports…Once misspelled his own last name on a credit card application…Can do an upside-down handstand…Thinks Toby Gerhart & Bobby Gerhart are related.

Outside Row 2: Bobby Labonte (33)  Was screwed over by Petty Enterprises (and, sorta, by Joe Gibbs Racing)…Allergic to ham…Briefly wrestled as "The Black Viper"…Thinks Brian France smells like vanilla.

Spade Racing Motion Picture Previews: Summer Blockbuster Edition

It's that time of the year when the temperatures are hot, the humidity is thick, and the audio on Nascar broadcasts is choppy.  No wonder people like to hit the movie theaters in droves.  Hollywood picks summer to put out it's biggest movies--here's a few with a Nascar bent:

Horrible Bosses 2: The Guy From Swan Racing and The Other Guy From Swan Racing team up to tell the story of Angela's Motorsports

The Skeleton Twins: Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski bond over a common interest--calling up Tony Stewart and asking for "Hugh Jass"

Fury: Tony Eury Jr. & Sr. each tweak their names a bit to try and mooch further off Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The Good Lie: Rick Hendrick devises a number of schemes to keep Kasey Kahne from knowing that Chase Elliott's getting his ride next year.

The Judge: Re-packaged pilot for proposed TV show, "Mike Helton: Judge, Jury & Executioner of Brian France's Whims"

The Interview: Josh Wise gets interviewed by DogeCoin enthusiasts in way over their heads ("What's it like to drive a Nascar?")